Tag Archives: iOS

Mini Metro

mini-metro-gameplay-screenshot-1Explaining how a puzzle game works can sometimes be very esoteric. Someone could be sitting there for an hour listening, and still be a bit fuzzy on what’s going on. As such, it can often make things a lot more understandable simply by wrapping such a game in a real world setting. Mini Metro does this quite well. If one were to say it was a game where players attached lines to shapes so that tiny shapes could travel those lines and get to similar shapes, that would be hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. If one simply says its a game where one creates a subway system, suddenly everything makes a ton of sense.

This is a game with a very minimalist presentation. Stages look like subway maps with simple black or white backgrounds and blue representing water. Each station appears on the map as a shape with three stations present at the beginning of each stage. This is where players start, dragging their mouse or finger from station to station in order to set a train line. Players start with three lines and three trains. From there it’s up to them how their subway system will be laid out.

Don’t waste too much time, though, because passengers are going to start showing up wanting to go places. These are depicted by smaller shapes corresponding to that of the stations. This way players have an idea where passengers are going and can plan out their routes accordingly.

mini-metro-gameplay-screenshot-2Things are simple enough with only three stations, but over time more and more stations will pop up. From there, one must be clever about how their lines are set up. Sometimes a series of loops might be best. On other occasions, straight lines work better. Often, a combination of the two will be in order. At first this isn’t too difficult. However, as time progresses there will be a lot more stations on the map. When this happens, it will become harder and harder to keep up with all of the stations and passengers. This is intentional, though. The game is designed to eventually overwhelm. The player must simply persevere for as long as possible, getting as many passengers to their destination as possible before a station becomes overcrowded with people waiting. When that happens it’s game over.

To give players a little bit of help, they receive an extra train each in-game week. They’ll also be given a choice of a few other bonuses to improve their subway system. These include extra carriages, additional lines, and larger stations among other things. These will help a lot in accommodating all of the people trying to use the subway. It’s always a relief to use these in helping take some of the strain off of a particularly busy line, but one knows it’s only a matter of time before another areas becomes crowded.

mini-metro-gameplay-screenshot-3Mini Metro has quite a few stages to it, each in a popular metropolitan area. These include London, Paris, Osaka, Shanghai, Mumbai, and the like. Each provides their own geographical challenges, especially if they have a lot of water around them. Many will need to be unlocked before visiting, though. This is usually done by managing to score at least 500 on a map or maps preceding it. There is also a daily challenge mode which does exactly what is says on the box. It’s nice when one wants a change of pace from the standard game.

This is a game that can be played in short spurts or marathon sessions. Hop into a map and have at it setting up a subway system. It’s very satisfying to set up an efficient system for getting people around, especially later in the game when one has to deal with huge throngs of passengers. It’s a relaxing, simple enough concept that makes time fly by. This actually makes it a pretty good way to pass the time while commuting on a busy subway, all while making one’s own virtual subway system, which is strangely meta in its own way.

Mini Metro is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam, GOG, and Itch.io. It’s also available for iOS and Android, as well as the Nintendo Switch.

FTL (Faster Than Light)

ftl-faster-than-light-gameplay-screenshot-1Piloting a spaceship through the cosmos can be a challenging endeavor. Doing so while being chased by an enemy fleet all the more so. Add in random attacks from pirates, systems breaking, and answering distress calls, and would be captains will find their hands quite full. These are the sorts of things that players will have to deal with in FTL. It’s a sci-fi rogue-like where players command a spaceship, dealing with these aforementioned challenge. It becomes a matter of managing all of the SNAFUs while improving one’s ship, fighting enemies, and getting away from that nasty fleet.

The premise of the game is that the Galactic Federation has suffered a civil war and the rebels look poised to win. Players pilot a ship loyal to the Federation. They’re carrying data that could turn the whole war around, but need to get to HQ several sectors away. Complicating matters is that the rebel fleet is hot on their tail.

As such, players use their jump engines to warp from way point to way point in a sector. There’s generally no way to find out what might be lurking at any of these destinations, though. So players just have to wait and see when they get there. It could be a civilian ship in need of assistance, pirates waiting in ambush, or there may be a merchant eager to do business. All sorts of things could happen.

ftl-faster-than-light-gameplay-screenshot-2A lot of the time, though, it’s someone or something that wants to start a fight with players. As such, there is a lot of combat in FTL. Battles are actually quite involved, but thankfully the game can be paused at any time to issue orders. Ships have a handful of crew members that can be moved around to operate systems. When a fight breaks out, players may want people manning the shields and weapons. Any system with a crew member operating it will function slightly better than leaving it on autopilot.

As battles wear on, players may also have to decide if they want someone staying where they are, or risk a drop in performance because crew are needed elsewhere to repair damaged systems. A balancing act becomes necessary between optimizing systems, repairing damaged ones, putting out fires, and healing injured crew. Then you may be attacked by a boarding party and all of that goes right out the window.

All the while, there’s the whole matter of blowing up the enemy ship. Players will start off with two weapon systems, usually one missile launcher and one beam weapon. From there they must decide what systems to target on the enemy ship. If it has powerful weapons, it makes sense to target their weapons in order to disable them. If they’re trying to escape, target their engines. Different situations will call for prioritizing different systems on an enemy ship, and these may change multiple times over the course of a battle. Players can also control where power goes in their systems, so there may be times where it is necessary to divert power from one area of the ship to another in order to win a battle.

As one can see there is a lot to keep track of during a fight. It’s never overwhelming, though. When things get hectic, just remember to pause the game, take a deep breath, then get the crew doing what they need to do.

Victory often leads to salvaging the defeated ship for fuel, scrap (the game’s currency), and possibly new weapons. From there, players just need to send their crew around to repair damaged systems, heal up, then jump to the next way point to see what surprises might lurk there.

ftl-faster-than-light-gameplay-screenshot-3As this continues and players go from one star system to the next, their ship will get into a more and more precarious state. Fuel may run low, missiles might run out, the ships hull may be almost completely destroyed (once its gone, it’s game over). There is a lot to worry about. As such, later in the game resource management will become very important. There might be times where one can spend a few scrap repairing the hull, but that means not using the scrap for system upgrades. Increasingly, it may become better to avoid fights so not to risk the hull. Then again, if a battle breaks out, that may result in salvaging much needed fuel if victorious. Decisions, decisions.

If one successfully makes it all the way to Federation HQ after all this and defeats the rebel fleet, good job, that’s a win. It’s also one of the ways that new ships can be unlocked. The other is meeting specific conditions during a playthrough. In either case, it opens the door to other interesting, sometimes unusual vessels that can completely change the dynamic of the game. They all have their own goodies that help them stand out from one another. Some of them are really quite powerful.

Visually, FTL is very utilitarian. It has a 2D pixelated look to it that gets the job done. It’s enough to figure out what is going on and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is suitably space game sounding. It’s ambient electronic stuff that is common for games in this setting.

A session of FTL can be a harrowing experience. Between all of the combat and staying supplied enough to get to the end of the game, there’s a lot to keep players busy. Given the rogue-like nature of the game, most sessions will probably end in death. However, those times where one reigns victorious are immensely satisfying. They exemplify why Faster Than Light is such a great game worth trying.

FTL is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG, as well as iOS.

Osmos

osmos-gameplay-image-1There are probably a lot of puns that could be used which describe Osmos as an absorbing game. So, let’s try hard to avoid that. This is a game where players control a circular blob, maneuvering it around a field so that it can run into other smaller blobs and get bigger, while avoiding larger blobs. It’s a simple concept that makes for a very relaxing experience.

Players control a sphere of bio mass with the goal of absorbing other similar blobs, sometimes with specific types that need to be hunted or avoided. As the blob travels around, it will absorb any smaller blobs that it collides with. However, if it runs into a blob bigger than itself that larger blob will begin absorbing mass from the player’s bio matter. If the whole thing is absorbed, it’s game over. Complicating things further is that the blob propels itself by ejecting a bit of its own mass, causing it to shrink, and leaving a stream of tiny blobs behind it. So in order to move, accelerate, slow down, or change directions, players need to risk their blob getting smaller.

This creates a bit of a balancing act. Players need to decide when to be aggressive and when to be patient. There will be times where the game basically forces players on the offensive. This is especially the case on stages where there are a lot of other blobs slightly bigger than the player’s. This necessitates finding suitably sized blobs to collide with all while not bumping into the bigger ones, as well as to do at a fast enough rate to start going after the large blobs before they absorb too many blobs themselves and become insurmountable huge as a result.

Often times, though, it’s better to just wait it out. Simply allow your blob to slowly float across the screen, casually absorbing smaller ones. If one is smart, they’ll pick out an advantageous trajectory early on for their blob. Then all they need to do is let it keep going, getting bigger with ease.

osmos-gameplay-screenshot-2Osmos is actually very relaxing game as a result of all this. Blobs take a while to get moving or change directions. Their slow, fluidic nature is downright soothing to behold as a result of this. Often times, one doesn’t feel rushed to do anything, and can just enjoy watching their blob move around, absorbing others and getting bigger.

This is further amplified by the game’s aesthetics. The various blobs have a soft, warm glow to them, their illumination becoming brighter as they grow. All the while they appear to be floating along the surface of some sort of otherworldly intergalactic petri dish. While this is happening, tranquil ambient music is playing. As a result, much of the game culminates in providing players with a very relaxing experience.

Osmos is the sort of game that is great to spend some time with before bed when trying to unwind, or if one needs a brief oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic day. Just let it pull you in and enjoy the experience.

Osmos can available for Windows, Mac, and Linux (via Steam), as well as iOS and Android.

Downwell

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-1Boots have always been popular attire in video games. Often times they have special abilities imbued in. They might let players do all sorts of things be it walk on ceilings, or jump super fast, or run faster. One type of boot that never really got explored was one with a gun on it. Sure, it sounds good on paper. However, the practicality of such a wondrous device was always a question.

So, when Downwell came along it turned a lot of heads. It took a simple concept and made it extremely fun. Players would control their little on-screen dude as he jumped down a well, blasting monsters in his way with his trust gun boots. Gun Boots! They just make sense in a game that has nothing but vertical environments.

Basically, players want to get to the bottom of the well in order to win. So, from the surface they jump down and begin their journey. As they continue to plummet downward, the denizens of the well will begin to attack. Controls simply allow for moving left and right, jumping, and firing the gun boots. As such, players will leap from ledges and rocky outcrops, then either attempt to maneuver through all of the monsters trying to attack, or blasting them to bits with their boots.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2At first, things aren’t too hectic, but after a few stages the pace really picks up. Players begin to strategize on the fly, figuring out the safest path to fall, when to go on the offensive, constantly monitoring how many charges the boots have left. The last bit there is important because if players are trigger happy, the current clip of ammo in the boots will run out. When that happens, players won’t be able to shoot again until after they land on a ledge. At that point, the boots automatically reload.

Downwell has some roguelike qualities to it as well. Each playthrough, the stage layouts are a little bit different. There are themes to different sections of the game, which remain consistent (the first few stages are caverns, followed by catacombs, etc), but where the ledges, bonus rooms, shops, and monsters show up change with each run. At the end of each stage, players will also get to choose from three power-ups to help them on their journey as well. These can range from health boosts, to improved accuracy, bullets blasting out of bricks that are destroyed, and a bunch of others.

With each playthrough, progress points are accumulated and as milestones are reached various goodies are unlocked. Some of these give players new styles they can utilize in the game. For instance, one causes far more weapons to spawn in a run, but reduces the likelihood of shops appearing. Another gives players more hit points, but there will be less power-ups to choose from between levels. It’s also possible to unlock new color palettes over time. These give players all sorts of options for how their game can look if the red, white, and black default isn’t to their liking.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2Aesthetically, Downwell goes for a very simple, retro look. Stages have very catchy chip tunes playing, and the visuals have a fairly minimalist pixel styling. What it lacks in fidelity, the game more than makes up for in personality. The way players’ character waves its arms around trying to stay balanced on the edge of a ledge is adorable. Meanwhile the game’s shopkeeper comes off as quite cordial in a way that makes it clear he’s happy to take your money.

Since the game first released in 2015, it has gradually been ported to a number of different platforms. It is available digitally for the PS4¬†and soon the Nintendo Switch as well. There are iOS and Android versions, and the game is also available on Steam, of course. Downwell takes a very simple, but also very unique concept that makes for an extremely enjoyable experience. It’s great for both people who just want to kill 10 minutes and those who want to get sucked into a game and lose themselves for an hour or so.