Nintendo Labo VR reviewed

As a VR developer, and self-professed Nintendo superfan, getting the Nintendo Labo VR kit was definitely a priority. I had the first couple of Labo kits, but I’ll be honest, I never even put together the giant robot one. (I’ll get around to it someday.)

My daughter and I spent an hour or two putting together the initial headset, and then checking out the 16 or so mini-games that are playable with just that. The headset itself feels a lot like google cardboard, but the larger screen size of the Nintendo Switch means the lenses are also really huge.

I think this also means it’s pretty forgiving in terms of eye placement in the headset. I took the kit to our local VR & HCI meeting earlier this week, and passed it around a bunch. Only one person mentioned they were having problems getting it to line up properly.

My daughter and I have probably also spent another 5 to 10 short (1/2 hr to 45 minute) sessions putting together various other accessories and playing their associated minigames. For some reason that felt quite a bit more satisfying than the original Labo kit, I think maybe because I have a natural tendency to want to only spend a minute or two at a time in 3DoF VR, and so the games feel like they are the appropriate length. And it helps that there are a lot of different experiences.

Additionally, I don’t know how to articulate this exactly, but I cannot stress enough how cool it feels to build your own VR accessory. In a way it feels like switching attachments in Budget Cuts or Cosmic Trip, but IN REAL LIFE, and you build the attachments yourself!

The camera attachment alone was easily an hour of assembly, and the underwater game you play with it (basically just pointing the camera at things and taking pictures) was pretty engaging for a good length of time. We also put together the blaster, (probably more like a 2 or 4 hour activity in total) and I think my daughter would have easily spent at least that long playing the alien shooter game it enables if I’d let her.

In general, I’ve found playing with someone else is a nice way to go about it, because, while in Build mode, it’s nice to have one person folding / assembling the cardboard, and the other person manning the forward button on the switch. And when playing, sessions longer than a minute or two definitely start to make me feel queasy. My daughter doesn’t seem to have that problem, but I’d still like to limit her usage, so taking turns makes sense.

So… I just this morning finished checking out the VR modes in Zelda and Mario Odyssey.

My short review of those: super underwhelming.

The camera still rotates around your character in Zelda, so moving my head at all made me feel pretty sick. You can still control the camera with the right stick, so it was playable if I kept my head still. After like a minute or two, my arms were tired, so I detached the joycons and played with my head tilted back and the Labo VR resting on my face. Made me wish for like a second it came with a headstrap, but it would be terrible, so makes sense that it doesn’t.

The edges of the screen had some chromatic aberration, which was most noticeable in the menus, which float in screen space, so you can’t turn your head to see the edges. Text was hard to read as well (although not as bad as I’d expected).

The whole game is playable in VR, so that’s something. But because the camera is essentially the same as in the normal game, it’s not like you can peer around and find new stuff. The only real novelty is stereoscopic 3D.

Mario wasn’t much better. Their game has the camera at a fixed point, and you HAVE to rotate the headset to look around. This doesn’t make me feel sick, really, but feels like a super low-rez way to play what is otherwise a good looking game. (For some reason, the low rez in Zelda didn’t bother me at all, but I wasn’t checking it out for very long…)

The gameplay in the mario levels (because that’s what they are, new smallish 3D levels, where the camera only rotates from a fixed point) was collecting musical instruments to give to the musicians scattered throughout. To get each instrument was basically the musical-note-fetch-quest that triggers by collecting the first note, (and then a bunch more notes appear to collect before a timer makes them disappear again). This is a mechanic already in the base game, typically with stars as a reward, and was rather disappointed it wasn’t a new game mode entirely. Especially because those are some of my least favorite types of stars to collect. And it’s worth noting you don’t even get stars for them here. You load up these new levels from the main menu, before you even pick a save slot.

You also have the option of playing the new levels without VR. But in that mode you CANNOT change the camera other than using the Nintendo Switch’s accelerometer. I was disappointed with the first level in VR, so I thought I’d try out the second one without it, and it definitely felt worse to me having to rotate the switch around to look anywhere, but without it attached to your face.

Overall, I am VERY pleased with my Nintendo Labo VR purchase. I just wouldn’t recommend getting it to play Zelda or Super Mario Odyssey. But there is a ton of content in the Labo kit itself. I still haven’t built the Elephant or Swan attachments, and I feel like I have a lot more content to explore even without them! I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with Labo VR.

Blop, a precursor to 1010! and Hex FRVR

blop_logoInterested, as I am, in the family tree of puzzle games, when I wrote up my post about deconstructing Tetris, (the one where I go a bit into the mechanics of 1010! and Hex FRVR) I’d completely forgotten about this simple little iOS puzzle game from way back in 2009. Predating my own ActionChess by about two weeks in the app store, I remember playing a ton of this simple little puzzle game called Blop when I first discovered it.

The goals are slightly different from our line-making in Hex FRVR and 1010!; this square-grid game is actually more of a match-3 than a Tetris variant. The block shapes that appear are either 4-color squares or an angle made of 3 squares. And where color doesn’t matter in 1010! or Hex FRVR, here, the color is what’s used to remove pieces from the board. The board itself is 10×10, and each level the goal for number of matching colors increases. The first level, as soon as you connect 3 of the same color, they are removed from the board. After you’ve removed a square from each grid space (there is a handy “show” button to show you where you haven’t yet removed one), then the level increases, as does the number of squares you need of the same color.

blopscreen320x480The gameplay is at your own pace, and you do see a queue of the next few pieces, so you can plan ahead to maximize your strategic brain burning. When picking up the game again after all this time, I found it didn’t quite hold my attention the same way 1010! and Hex FRVR have for so many hours. I’m not honestly sure why that is the case. The complexity is about the same, maybe a tiny bit higher, due to the color matching rather than line-making, but I found myself playing the game a lot slower than I do those others.

After being spoiled by the simple and pleasant UI from 1010! and Hex FRVR, I did have a couple of minor UI quibbles as well:
– The squares to be placed appear “hovering” on top of the gameboard. They can and do get in the way of any squares you have already placed underneath them.
– You move the pieces around with your finger, but cannot rotate them this way. Tapping on them does nothing. (There are buttons at the bottom of the screen for rotation, as well as one in the middle to drop the piece.)

I will say, the game has held up remarkably well. It functions just fine after all these years. Notably, it did see an update last back in May of 2013 that added (among other things) multitasking from iOS 4.

Update: It’s perhaps worth noting that I ran into Blop again while looking through my iOS purchases, and it was not the first time while doing so that I thought “hey, this game is actually very similar to this other game”, but I hadn’t recently written about either of those other games. For posterity, they were Unify and Claustrophobia. Zach Gage’s game, Unify, came out in September ’09. It felt to me (at the time, I distinctly remember) like a re-imagining of another early iOS game, that came out in December ’08, by David Leblond, Claustrophobia. I actually remember downloading and playing Unify when it came out, and thinking it was different enough to be its own thing, but that I liked Claustrophobia better. (I have actually written about Claustrophobia once before.)

Game(s) of the Year

I’ve seen a few posts and tweets by game designers about their favorite games of the year. I thought I’d collect those and comment. (Maybe even compile my own list!)

It’s hard to believe that Threes! came out this year. Amazing really, considering how much time and effort was spent thinking about it, re-imagining it, not to mention playing it, of course. It probably gets my vote for game of the year.

I almost didn’t mention A Dark Room because it came out last year, but wanted to say that it’s well worth playing (as are all of these, now that I put it that way). Any game designer will especially like the “extras” that are unlocked after the first playthrough.

I got Stellar Smooch after reading this post, and LOVED it. It’s very short, and I was able to finish it in less than an hour, but everything about it made me happy. I did also pick up Woah Dave! on my 3DS, and played it for a few hours. Don’t think it would make my top 10, but it was worth $.99, for sure.

Monument Valley would also make my list. It was too easy, and I’d have liked MORE, but neither of those are reasons to deny yourself this absolutely amazing experience. It’s the best Escher inspired 2D puzzle game I’ve ever played. (I believe I also played Antichamber for the first time this year, although it came out in early 2013.)

The linked MetaCritic list is definitely worth reading. Cavanagh’s VVVVVV does take slot number one, and I would put it near the top of my list as well. I’d never played the game before (on any of its many platforms) and was absolutely blown away when I downloaded it earlier this year. I’m not even all that huge a fan of platformer games in general, but VVVVVV is definitely a game worth playing for the sheer number of ways platforming is re-invented (mostly around the central mechanic of reversing gravity at will).

After I read Adam Saltsman’s post in bed a few nights ago, I picked up Alcazar and played it until I fell asleep. Also, I’d completely forgotten that I wanted to buy Framed, so picked that up, as well as Hitman Go, (which I had been resisting, but is on sale currently for $.99).

Saltsman also mentions Michael Brough’s Helix, which I have played for a fair share of hours, and would probably make my top 10 (especially if limited to iOS).

Finally, after thinking about this long enough to write this post, I said:

Here’s the list with links: Threes!, Fantasy Life, Monument Valley, Dream Quest, Hoplite, VVVVVV, Poptile, Helix, Galaxy Trucker, & Catchup.

Hoplite came out December 21st, 2013, but that may as well have been 2014, I think. Galaxy Trucker has been around for years, but I’m speaking specifically of the iOS port that came out this year. We’ve already talked about VVVVVV. Anyway, off to play some more games!

Chessrunner & more Chess Puzzle Games

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.42.54 AMChessrunner
Yesterday, my friend Lloyd linked me to Chessrunner (reddit thread), a web-based, chess-inspired endless runner in which you start with only a king, which you have to move forward on an endless chessboard. As you move, you can capture enemy pieces and make them your own. It’s an inspired idea, and one that apparently only took developer/creator Juha Kiili a weekend to implement (in Unity). There has been plenty of positive commentary on Reddit, and hopefully he’ll flush out the idea and (ideally, IMO), bring it to iOS.

Chessrunner’s “timer” mechanic (making it an action puzzle game) is pretty cool in that the gameboard is both expanded (from the top) and shrunk (at the bottom) one square at a time. The opposing colored pieces take one move after every one of your moves. They will ALWAYS capture your king if you give them opportunity, but they are not smart enough to trap you (yet), so surviving is really all about seeing all the attack lines. And that’s why this game really does a good job (IMO) of feeling like something you do while playing chess.

Have I been remiss?
I’ve written before about various chess-inspired puzzle games. (And of course I hope anybody reading this already knows about ActionChess, which was my first app in the app store.) But I realized when I started writing about Chessrunner that there was no way to find those game mentions! (Now there is a Puzzle Chess Games category.) And furthermore, there are several other chess puzzle type games that I’ve played over the last few years that have not (yet) been mentioned here. So I wrote up some mini-reviews:

IMG_3470Pawn’d (available for $1 on iOS, or in Lite form for free) is a chess & match-3 matchup. I had a very similar design idea for this style of game as a game mode for ActionChess, but I never really put any time into it.

Pawn’d takes the concept in a lot of different directions at once, and looks great while doing it. There are three main game modes, each designed around how the game ends, and each with two more difficult variations called “Blitz” and “Master”. Additionally, there are two introductory modes that have neither variation, one called “Practice’d” (play to a certain # of matches), and another called “Clock’d” (play to a time limit). Each of the modes has its own leaderboards, making something like 22 leaderboards in the whole app. There are also a ton of achievements. Basically, if you like this concept, you can keep playing it for a LONG time without running out of things to do.

This game, possibly more than any of the other ones listed here, is decidedly worth playing, and I’ll cop to getting sucked back into it while writing this.

Chess Tower Defense
Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.41.24 AMI’m fond of telling the story about how, when asked what he thought of ActionChess, my (then 8-year old) nephew Jake replied with “Could you make it a tower defense game?” I LOL’d. Well I think it was less than a year later that you could play Chess Tower Defense over on Kongregate.

It’s graphic design is quite spartan, but the concept is interesting nonetheless. You must survive waves of attacking “things”. (They are not pieces really.) The things don’t attack your pieces, but instead march methodically toward you (downward), passing right through your pawns. Your pawns (and other pieces) can attack them, in the standard directions, and if they don’t, each thing will remove one of your hearts when it gets past your back row. Between waves, you can reposition your pieces, and buy new ones. It’s an interesting concept, and one also worth spending some time playing, if only just to wrap your head around it, I think.

Knight Defense
knight-defense-screen1136x1136Knight Defense (for iPhone or iPad) appeared in the app store about another year or so later. As good as Knight Defense looks, it’s definitely less on the chess strategy end of the spectrum, and closer to the tower defense end. It’s all real-time, so there is no turn based aspect, and you can move your pieces all over the board at will during the game. In each of the squares your pieces could attack in a real game of chess, those pieces may damage enemy pieces. Like other tower defense games, Knight Defense is played in waves, during which enemies will appear at the top of the screen and move toward your king piece, wherever he might be on the gameboard. Though they are shaped like chess pieces, the enemies don’t move or attack like chess pieces, there just run into whichever of your pieces are in front of them, and “damage” them, eventually destroying them. Your pieces can be upgraded to do more damage at once, and to heal them once they’ve themselves been damaged. This is worth playing for chess fans, (especially so for those of you who already enjoy Tower Defense), but it’s not necessarily at the top of my list.

Cheesy Chess
cheesychess_screen1024x1024Cheesy Chess (free with ads for iOS) is not turn-based or action-puzzle at all. It’s more of a static puzzle game where the goal of each level is to get your king to the other side of a small chess board filled with pieces but for one square. In as much of the game as I’ve seen, there were no captures, only moving pieces around in a very cramped and crowded grid. This felt to me like a chess-themed version of Rush Hour (a sliding block game). Admittedly, I’ve played the least of this game. The mouse chess theme is super cute though, and it’s very well-made.

Rymdkapsel review

So I was massively looking forward to the iOS release of Rymdkapsel. (Pictured above.) The game first came out on the PS Vita a while back, and I think I only heard about it when it was announced it was also coming to iOS. (Probably via TouchArcade.) Anyway, it came out last week, and I played it exactly twice. For a little longer than 45 minutes each time. There are several aspects of the game that I think are awesome. The music is great, for instance. I also find the visual aesthetic to be simply amazing. There are also several areas where I think the game falls down, and replayability is definitely my biggest concern.

Rymdkapsel is a Real Time Strategy game where you don’t control your units movement, only their tasks. The twist is that you have to place your buildings adjacent to one another, and they’re going to be shaped like Tetris pieces. There are a couple of points around the tetris shaped buildings where I think the game kinda fails. 1) You have to connect your buildings to a pathway (that you also build out of tetris shapes), but however the game determines where that building has a door into the hallway is flawed. Often the doorways will appear in a space that is not the closest to your resources, meaning your workers have to walk farther to get into the room, which can be very frustrating, especially when there are walls adjacent to the walkway much closer. 2) There are very few obstacles to building your (what is it? city? space station? abstract area?), and so the tetris aspect here is pretty minimal. The placement does factor into how long it’ll take your workers to get from place to place, and you want to optimize for that, as well as getting good coverage with your military buildings, but otherwise there isn’t much strategy (or point) in using tetris shapes for the buildings. It does look damn cool though.

My final nitpick is that the game has a very definite difficulty curve, and there is a point after which you basically won’t be able to play much longer. This in and of itself would not be a big deal… but that is the only mode of play. So the game shares this aspect with tetris also, you play until you die, and then you play until you die again. It is a race for highest points, and that’s it. There are exactly 3 achievements in the game. I would love to have seen a lot more achievements. Or some additional game modes. As-is, I will maybe play this one more time to get the third achievement. Maybe.

In other Tetris-related news, my Tetris google alert is BLOWING UP with news about Tetris Monsters, which EA recently announced for Japanese release. I think it’s gotten enough buzz that they’ll probably look into releasing it here, but I’m guessing it’ll be a while. The game is (as far as anyone can tell from the limited information available) essentially a cross between Tetris and Pokemon. I want some more information before I get excited about it, and frankly, EA’s record for taking a franchise and turning it into a freemium mess isn’t very good right now. So I’m not expecting much.

Global Game Jam 2013 Board Games

Last year I spent a fairly significant amount of time going through all the games created for the Global Game Jam in the Board Game category. I then got about five of those games into a “playable” state by printing their components or whathaveyou. (The standout from last year was easily Saprobiont, which I have probably played at least a dozen times.) I wrote the whole thing up in a lengthy blog post before I’d had a chance to play any of them.

I can’t explain it, but this year’s batch of games didn’t have nearly as many that I want to play. I went through the entire list of 124 games tagged as Board Games, and of those, took notes on 57 of them. (Probably half of them were little more than a name, and half again after that little more than a name and a snapshot someone took of their prototype.) Of those 57, after some investigation, I only found 36 that appear to be “playable” in English. That is definitely more than last year’s 19, but I spent less time this year, and may have disqualified more of them if I’d taken the time to really dig in.

Of the 36, last night I had the chance to play 3 of them, and one of them was mine.

  • HeartBurn (my creation) – Two plays of my app/card game hybrid last night. There was lots of giggling, and reactions were positive, but there was no rush to play it again after either game. (Games lasted probably around 2 minutes each.) My new feeling for this game (which was actually echoed in both of the other GGJ games I played last night) was that it’s missing something essential to make it feel more like a “real” game. More (any) meaningful decisions, maybe?
  • Brando – Played a round of this dice game. I was initially intrigued by it, and enjoyed picking out which dice to pit against my opponent, but the game ended up feeling insubstantial. If you like rolling dice to see who wins, this may be more up your alley. My original notes: “Dice game, requires math, looks interesting.”
  • Divide – My notes: “Quite interesting set of rules for a game played with a standard deck of cards, but the suits and numbers don’t matter, only the colors of the card, red or black.” Played a few rounds of this, and my impression was that — again — it’s lacking something to have real appeal. The idea is interesting, and there were a few surprises durring our play. The game can be played by either relying entirely on luck, (the goal is to guess the distribution of red and black cards in your opponent’s hand), or with some careful and calculated deduction.

Here are my notes on the other 34 games that appear to be “playable”:

  • <3 U – Party game where you actually text each other cryptic messages and your team-mate(s) attempt to decypher your text.
  • ACK! The Subtle Art of Geriatric Assassination – Munchkin-inspired card game of player assassination.
  • Barrilete Galáctico – roll & move
  • Beat To Death – 2-player tile and card game where each player controls a monster’s body, and that body directly attacks the opponent’s body.
  • Birthday Suit – “a cooperative edutainment party game that mixes biology, light humour and innuendo”
  • Caloria – Health/fitness theme on a worker placement game
  • Common Causes – Roll & move with political theme. Winning and losing are subjective in this game.
  • Destroy All Men – Draw and play card game. You are a woman who, through the drawing of random cards, gets to either “destroy” or “submit to” a man. Poor design, kinda fun theme. Playable.
  • Escape from Vampire – Card-based game where you are running away from a vampire.
  • Fantabulous Fluffy – Another dice fighting game
  • Fat Food Contest – card game where you try to eat the most
  • Flow to the Heart (Fluss zum Herz) – Complex game based on Parchisi. Extensive rules, and lots of “bits” are needed, as well as a deck of cards.
  • Heart of the Ship – Be the first human to escape your cryostasis and find the escape pod. Sounds pretty interesting. Art is not bad.
  • Heart Rate Speed Date – No-turn (everyone plays at once) matching game for two players. Nice art, silly theme (speed dating), but looks cool.
  • Heartbeat of a Fickle God – Cards, dice used to reprsent the gods’ various emotions (or perhaps minion emotions, not sure). Hidden goals, and open trading. Looks like all phases are simultaneous play. Rules could use work, but it looks like this is probably playable.
  • Heartfelt – Fairly complex rules for a standard-52-card-deck game inspired by Race For The Galaxy and Citadels.
  • Igor, Jumpstart The Heart! – Draw a card and play it to either build your monster or destroy someone else’s monster. When your monster is complete, roll a die to see if you won. For kids.
  • Life of Jo(e) – Dice/card game with a single track gameboard. Players roll a die every turn to determine their actions for the turn. Players are moving live and death tokens on the track (as well as other tokens), and when live meets death, the player who has that section is the winner.
  • Lovespoons the Card Game – Card game about building lovespoons. Looks fairly interesting, but the art is uninspired.
  • Mad Geneticists – Card & dice attack game.
  • Mad Hospital – co-op(?) game where the goal is to keep a hospital running. Cards are not in english
  • Malpractice – co-op game defending a body from disease
  • Milk Finder – Roll & move touching on social/political implications of formula milk
  • Night Hunt – Vampire hunting game
  • Pathogenicocytomitosis – Dice and card game. Decent looking art. Would be expensive to print.
  • Pizza War – Pizza themed roll and move, on a grid, with chess-like capturing
  • Pump The Muscle! – Roll & Move with one interesting optional rule about pumping a balloon to simulate pumping a heart.
  • Racing Heart – Elaborate rules. action point system. cards, large gameboard with spaces representing parts of the body. Innerspace-like theme.
  • Relation$#! – Deckbuilding card game with relationship theme
  • Rest – Dice game. Betting and rolling.
  • Shaman Showdown – Another two-player battle game. This time the players are shamen, and attack each other by sacaraficing animals to cast spells
  • The Capture – Roll & move
  • The King’s Heart – Card and dice game. You are an assassin. Play attack cards and roll dice to attack various parts of the king’s heart.
  • Malpracticeco – Claims to be a cross between Cards against Humanity and Munchkin. Instructions say the rules are intentionally vague. No art on the cards.

Puzzle Up, async tetromino action

I spent some time this morning writing up some feedback for a relatively new game in the app store that seemed at first like it would definitely be right up my alley. It’s called Puzzle Up, and is essentially an async version of a game where you fit a given set of tetrominos into an empty bunch of squares on the gameboard. I’ve played a few different versions of this type of game over the years, I think Zentomino was the first one I played (it hit the app store in August 2010, and was by the makers of a very popular Tangrams app at the time, TanZen), followed shortly thereafter by Doodle Fit. (Which must have done well, because they eventually made a Doodle Fit 2.)

Anyway, here’s what I wrote in a TouchArcade forum post about Puzzle Up:

I don’t feel like I have a good enough sense of what is transpiring on the other end of the game. I would like some kind of replay of their fumbling through the puzzle I sent them. (Ideally sped up, so I don’t have to sit through a seven minute animation if they took the whole time.) I know this would be difficult, but it would really help, IMO. At the very least, I think there should be an intersticial view before I start the puzzle they sent me that tells me how they did in the puzzle I sent them. There may be this screen already, but it doesn’t include the puzzle I sent, (I don’t think), and only includes their time.

Another thing is that, after a game ends, it seems like we just start another game right away, which is super confusing, and leaves me with the impression that this thing just goes on forever, and why would I continue to play it? At the very least, the app should definitely ask you if you want a rematch with the other player, maybe giving you some stats on that screen about your plays against that player. (Check out the game over screen in Lost Cities for an incredibly well done example of this.)

I’m always a big fan of stats in games, so I’d love to see more of them in general. The gamecenter leaderboard for number of victories is a good start.

In general, I think this could be a really fun game with a bit more polish. It’s like an async version of Zentomino or Doodle Fit.

I hope that wasn’t too harsh. The developer was looking for feedback. I do think showing your opponent’s turn is an important part of any asynchronous game experience, and you even see it ignored in some pass and play game modes (if there’s no hidden information, this may be excusable, because everyone could be looking on while you take your turns, but I’ve seen this problem in games with hidden information too).

As I said, Puzzle Up does have potential, but it feels like slapping asynchronous single player onto a game that pretty much already exists. Incidentally, this is pretty much what Zinga did with their recent release Gems With Friends. (Essentially, it’s an async version of TripleTown.) Puzzle Up even has some similarities to Gems With Friends in that the game is split into 3 “turns”, with each turn resulting in a score. You sum total of all three turns is your score for the game, and whoever has the highest score at the end wins.

There’s one other game that deserves a repeat mention here, and that’s Dawn of Play’s fabulous Dream of Pixels. Dream of Pixels also has a game mode similar to this style of gameplay, (it’s called puzzle mode), but the difference is that you’re still constrained by Dream of Pixel’s primary game mechanics, (which are out of scope for this rant, so I’ll let it suffice to say that you should check it out if you haven’t already). This is so much more satisfying to me, because it doesn’t feel like a game I’ve played before.

I’m neck-deep in Apple’s GameKit code to support turn-based asyncronous play in my next game, so all of this thinking is definitely relevant to what I’m doing these days.

Android Tetris Variants

quantroI spent some time today searching for an android Tetris variant I had seen a long while back called Quantro. I couldn’t remember the name, and searching for Tetris in the Google Play store (for this particular app) is an exercise in futility.

Quantro claims to have 4 different game modes, but at least one of them involves what are essentially two games of Tetris played one on top of the other. I’d definitely like to give it a go at some point.

What’s frustrating about Quantro for me is that it’s Android only. The app’s description even includes this text: “Quantro is an Android exclusive tetromino and tetracube game, built from the ground-up for Android phones and tablets. Don’t settle for a poor-quality iOS port!” I’m not sure what we should be reading into this description. Has the app been cloned in iOS? (Quite possibly, but if so, I haven’t seen it.) Are the devs just Android fanboys? (Also quite probable.) I don’t have any android devices, and while I’ve always kinda wanted one just to play with, (and for checking out Android exclusive games like this one!), I haven’t succumbed to that temptation quite yet.

Apparently the Tetris Holding Company isn’t sending cease-and-desist letters to apps on Android the same way it does on iOS (or google is taking a harder stance against that sort of bullying, not sure). But whatever the case, there are tons of tetris clones for Android. Here are some other interesting looking games I stumbled onto while searching for Tetris in the Google Play store:

tower-defense-tetrisTower Defense Tetris Classic – Yes, this is actually what it sounds like. A hybrid Tetris & Tower Defense game. Essentially you have tetris blocks with towers on their edges. You build a structure out of them, and the waves of minions or whatever walk through the structure you’ve built. The gameplay video is actually pretty compelling, and made me want to play.

It will no doubt amuse my friend Jason to find that there is a My Little Pony themed Tetris clone for Android.

Tetris Dungeon – appears to cross Tetris and a 2D platformer. It’s two-player only, one person plays the blocks, another plays a little guy presumably trying to escape from the dungeon, as well as avoid any full tetris-style rows the other player makes, as they will blow him up. Either way, it reminded me immediately of Blocks of Explosive Dismemberment (which you can read more about over at Indie Static). BoED is a 3-D version of pretty much the same thing. I think the platformer character plays in 1st person. Anyway, the graphics in Tetris Dungeon are not very exciting, but I’d definitely like to check it out anyway. (Another interesting point about Tetris Dungeon is that it’s open source, and the code is up on Github.)

I’m sure there are more in the literally 20 pages of search results for Tetris that look interesting. (I found all of the above in the first 4 pages.) The 20th page appears to be an arbitrary Google Play Store limit, actually, so I have no doubt that other creative searches would find many more interesting tetris-like games. Perhaps someday I’ll get a device so I can enjoy them.

iPad Game Recommendations

A friend of mine just picked up a new iPad, and he’s totally new to the world of iOS gaming. He wanted some recommendations, and I spent some time coming up with a list of what I’m playing regularly. Keep in mind these are all iPad or Universal games. (The list would be different for my iPhone.) Also, it’s clear my tastes are pretty short-attention-span. I have some longer-form games on my iPad, but I almost never sit down to play them.

Without further ado: these are the games I’m most often playing right now:

Three of the most innovative puzzle games I’ve played in the last year or so (these are must have, IMO):
– I Love Squares
– Slydris
– Dream of Pixels

Pick these up if you like word games:
– Letterpress
– Spelltower
– Puzzlejuice

My “sit down and play for an hour” favorites of the moment:
– Minigore 2 – A really well done dual-stick-shooter
– Ski Safari – Pretty fun/addicting skiing game
– PunchQuest – really fun game in the “endless runner” vein, I think they call it an “endless puncher”.

You should check out Spaceteam, because it’s such a neat concept (and is free), but keep in mind that it’s multiplayer (local, real-time) only. Super fun even if there are only two of you, but it plays up to 4.

Oh, and I almost forgot the board games I’m playing right now:
– Carcassonne – probably the best implemented iOS board game of all time… they are releasing a new in-app-purchasable expansion for it sometime in the next couple of weeks
– Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer – quite fun deck-building game, also playable async, highly recommended
– Qin – fun but simple-rules type abstract strategy game, playable asynchronously, (let me know if you pick it up as I’m not playing with anyone I actually know right now)
– Cafe International – card game that won the Spel Des Jahres like 10 years ago. (ditto on the async want to play people I know thing)

Let me know if you have your own list how it differs from mine!