Hey. What’s up?
So, this is my last month at Pocket Gamer. I’ve been here since 2010 and have had lots of titles – news editor, features editor, deputy editor, editor, editor at large. I’ve said editor so many times that the word feels funny in my mouth.
Boy, has the industry changed in that time. When I started, the iPhone was just finding its feet. The App Store had been open for about two years and everybody was experimenting with new ways to play.
We started to see games like Fruit Ninja and Flight Control, that really took advantage of the iPhone’s giant touchscreen. And games that toyed with location, and the accelerometer, and the camera, and simple – but elegant – games you could play with one hand while riding the subway.
Developers were also experimenting with how to sell games: a few studios tried this weird idea, imported from Asia, where you give the game away for free, but charge money for stuff inside the game. I don’t think it really caught on.
Over the years, I tried to make Pocket Gamer a place to help make sense of the App Store and Google Play – places where hundreds of games are released a week.
Look, I’m not one for sentimentality or big goodbyes. Lemme just say see ya, thanks for reading, and here are my five favourite games of 2016 so I can share my pro-premium, pro-indie, pro-puzzle game bias one last time.
If it wasn’t totally passé to call things “the Dark Souls of,” I’d call Snakebird the Dark Souls of puzzle games. Simply because you’re going to be hitting your head against the brick wall that is this game – until you finally have that uber rewarding breakthrough.
Instead of fighting titanic dragon monsters, you’re trying to route tubby snakes to some fruit. Easier said than done, when their stiff movement will lead to them getting stuck, going headfirst into spikes, or toppling off the side of the level.
Ultimately, you’ll have to think laterally to win – reconsider what you know about the game’s oh-so basic rules and come at them from a different direction. When you do, and when you win, the game is electrifying.
A turn-based stealth game shouldn’t really work. Sneaking around is about the tension of nearly getting seen, and the spontaneity of reacting to guards and cameras – right? How does that work if you can sit and plan in peace?
Just play Invisible Inc. When you’re pulling off capers, and sneaking past sentries, the game still finds ways to keep up the tension. Perhaps with dozing guards who’ll wake up in two turns, or the alarm system which keeps ratcheting up the resistance.
Like turn-based classic XCOM, Invisible Inc is designed to be played again (complete with procedurally generated stages), as you hone your skills and take on tougher and tougher challenges.
Super Mario Run
Nintendo making games for mobile is like LeBron James starting a pick-up game in a school playground. There’s no competition.
Super Mario Run is responsive, sharply designed, highly considered, and confident. It does more with a single tap than some games can do with 22 buttons.
Whether you’re ripping through Toad Rallies in a psychedelic star rush, besting Bowser in a tense finale, or chasing down that last, tricky black coin, this is a game bursting with imagination and interstellar craftsmanship.
Nintendo might be doing this as an advert for the 3DS. It might be doing it to get investors off its back. I don’t know. Doesn’t matter: it’s gold.
Human Resource Machine
I’m an absolute sucker for games that mimic the art of programming. Because, believe it or not, but coding is the secret best puzzle game ever. A wildly complex riddle with endless solutions – and a huge sense of satisfaction when you find one.
Games like Spacechem hide the fact that they’re about code, but Human Resource Machine goes all in. You’ll be writing loops, logic statements, and null-terminated strings. But don’t be alarmed – it’s all done visually to clearly show what’s going on.
This all makes for a fantastic puzzler, full of headscratchers and eureka moments – and oodles of charm delivered by Tomorrow Corporation’s trademark style.
It’s true that the touchscreen isn’t the perfect input method for some games. Trying to represent an Xbox 360 controller on a slab of touch-sensitive glass is never going to work very well.
So it’s up to designers to come up with new games that do suit the screen: and Severed is one of them. To defeat enemies you must slash, poke, prod, and tickle to lop off arms, slice through eyeballs, and stagger foes before they explode.
Meanwhile, the game’s got dungeons to explore in clunky old-school first person. As well as a stylish and trippy art style – though, what else do you expect from the studio behind Guacamelee?
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