asphalt overdriveI tackle the free-to-play driving game, Asphalt Overdrive, with only five minutes of play under my belt and an open mind.

Asphalt Overdrive does everything right, from its stand-out title to its fresh eighties soundtrack. You want pink neon writing? You want palm trees and sports cars? You want to be reminded of dozens of other games without actually playing them? You’ve come to the right place.

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kingdom hearts dream drop distance splash

I love the Kingdom Hearts series. I may not have finished 358/2 Days and I might not have even played Birth By Sleep, but I played the hell out of the main series and beat both the Sora and Riku versions of Chain of Memories. I do realize that the stories are convoluted and emotionally manipulative but I don’t even care: the gameplay is great and there’s always some new mechanic or system to explore from game to game.

When I saw that I had completely overlooked Dream Drop Distance, I immediately picked it up. It took a while to get back into that close-up Kingdom Hearts camera angle and it took even longer getting used to the camera controls (the game is compatible with the 3DS’s Circle Pad Pro but like hell I’m going to buy that) but I’m finally getting a feel for it which is allowing me to really get into the new systems in the game.

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wario ware diy

For those who read my blog way back in the day, you’ll know that I’ve tried my hand at making games. Even if I haven’t done much on that front in the past little while, my desire to make games hasn’t faded in the slightest. So when I saw that there was a way to gamify learning how to make games, I pounced on it right away.

Wario Ware D.I.Y. for Nintendo DS was exactly what I needed. It’s based off the main series in that the games you make are simple minigames, with only one type of input and maybe one or two goals to achieve in a few seconds before the time runs out. The minigames might not look like much, but that’s part of the reason why D.I.Y. is such an effective teaching tool.

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kingdom rushAs some of you know, I don’t like tower defence games. As one reviewer put it, “tower defence gameplay feels more like frantic managerial work than anything else.” With that in mind, I approached Kingdom Rush with a degree of cynicism, expecting yet another stupidly long and boring resource management game where you can die right at the end and lose everything.

Thankfully, I was surprised with how much I engaged with Kingdom Rush the more I got into it. I wasn’t sure why I kept playing and I didn’t bother to stop and think about it. I played through the first eight or so battlefields before putting it down to take a break. When I realized I had just killed three or four hours, I started to wonder what it was that kept me so interested in a genre I usually actively avoid.

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Don't Starve capI have mixed feelings about Don’t Starvethe survival roguelike that I just started playing again (largely because it’s now out on Vita). When I wrote a previous article lauding it’s many virtues, I hadn’t really TRIED to beat the game, or at least to do well at it. I did a lot of research instead, watching gameplay footage and reading wikis. Now that I’ve actually had the time to sink my teeth into the game, I’m finding myself more frustrated than I would have thought.

When I first played Spelunky, I was enthused. The game was fast, quirky, and had funny puppies in it. That being said, it was still hard as hell. It was only when I stopped sprinting off ledges and throwing bombs any which way that I started to really master the mechanics (and I STILL haven’t actually beat the game yet). Still, the frustration I felt when I tried Spelunky for the first time is no match for how much I’m starting to hate Don’t Starve. 

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rogue legacyI’m starting to like roguelikes more and more (see my Spelunky post), but Rogue Legacy has me confused. At first, it seemed like any other Binding of Isaac-esque game where you dungeon crawl procedurally-generated levels while the action amps up, but then there’s this weird currency system, too.

As it turns out, the currency system flips the roguelike genre on its head, changing each dungeon crawl from a “virgin” run (i.e. you start out at the same strength level every time) to more of an RPG-rooted dungeon crawl where each run you take makes you–potentially–stronger. Thankfully, it’s the “potentially” part of that statement that makes the game worth playing.

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hohokum screenshot3

After reading a review on Polygon and sinking a few hours into Hohokum, I’m not sure what I think. One part of me agrees with Phil Kollar when he pines for a decent map system or some new gameplay mechanic after swirling in a circle for the ten thousandth time, but another part of me really loves the way this game just meanders here and there.

One thing that this type of game always brings up for me is the now-exhausted argument of whether or not video games can be considered art and, consequently, whether or not we as a culture should treat them as such. As much as I want the answer to that question to just be “yes, let’s move on,” it really doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case any time soon, especially with the way “comfort food” video games are pretty much the only ones that get mainstream attention. Still, Hohokum was a nice little break that let me philosophize on what it is to play a game.

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Monster Hunter Freedom unite3In a previous post, I talked about how hard it was for me to try to enjoy Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite. I tried and tried to feel like all the times I died or was screwed up by some system that I didn’t know about yet were somehow worth it in order to say that I was good at the game. Ultimately, I gave up on it.

Thankfully, my brother and I later had a conversation about how he was breezing through Monster Hunter 3 and that encouraged me to try to understand the way the game worked before finally deleting it for the extra memory on my Vita. With that little extra effort I put in (along with what was probably a competitive drive, seeing as how my brother is six years younger than me), the game finally opened up to me.

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LexI rarely download word-based mobile games any more. Honestly, they’re usually such a disappointment that I just figure why bother buying yet another Scrabble or Boggle clone? Do I REALLY need to play some new version of what’s already been done to death? Turns out, yes, I really do.

Lex isn’t really the same as Scrabble or word-finds or crosswords, even though I’m sure it’s a copy of some game or other that’s out there (see my article on 2048 vs Threes). Instead of giving you the chance to mull over your words like Scrabble does, it forces you to play before each letter’s individual timer runs out. Instead of giving you a set of letters to choose from like Boggle does, it constantly replaces the letters that you make words out of, showing only nine letters in an unchangeable order at one time.

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RELEASED
Dec 21 2013

PLATFORMS
iOS
Android

DEVELOPER
Magma Fortress

PUBLISHER
Magma Fortress

Simple but surprisingly challenging, Hoplite delivers an incredibly replayable experience while managing to stay fresh every time. 

Hoplite is a great example of how unassuming packaging backed up by solid mechanics and rewarding gameplay can all combine to make a simple game into something I can’t stop myself from coming back to over and over again. The game does everything right, from balanced AI to achievements that actually reward you with something tangible.

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