As hard as it might be to believe, this was a tougher month than most when it came to picking our favorite release. In fact, a lot of what we played in April could easily be called Game of the Year contenders.
Was it Monument Valley – a gorgeous minimalist puzzle adventure that plays like a love letter to MC Escher? Or should it be Wayward Souls – one of the finest action-heavy roguelikes we’ve seen grace the App Store.Or maybe it was Hearthstone, a game that has been available on desktops for a little while now, but really feels like it was designed for this month’s inevitable iPad release.
Yeah… It should probably be Hearthstone.
A free-to-play card game from the masterminds at Blizzard, Hearthstone manages to be as accessible as it is addicting. It’s Magic-the-Gathering Lite, but not in a way that talks down to the player or numbs the need for strategy. And out of all the games we played this month, this is easily the one that ate up the most hours of the Gamezebo crew. (Heck, I’d be playing it right now if I weren’t typing this). What’s more, while the game has been on desktops (both in beta and full release) for a few months now, just one play on the iPad will reassure you of the platform they had in mind when designing this. It may have taken you a while to get here, but welcome home, Hearthstone.
2011’s Mage Gauntlet was fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I was getting pretty damned impatient waiting for the follow-up. Rocketcat Games delivered it this month, and it was well worth the wait. Taking gameplay concepts from Mage, Wayward Souls offers up an SNES quality action game steeped in roguelike elements. Permadeath, randomly generated maps, and plenty of post-death upgrade options could keep you playing this one forever. And to misquote Peter Pan, “forever is an awfully long time.”
If charming, colorful, and deeply satisfying puzzle games are more your speed, Monument Valley delivers on all accounts. The game feels a little like Echochome, only not frustrating and genuinely fun. Players move the environment around in ways that should make your brain ache, but doesn’t. It’s like the impossible geometry of HP Lovecraft come to life. It also tells a story that feels a little like a mystery unfolding, even if it’s not. Am I doing a terrible job describing Monument Valley? Fine. Then just go play it yourself.
Tower of Elements was, by all accounts, one of the coolest genre mash-ups in recent years. Who doesn’t love the idea of match-3 lane defense? Imagine Plants vs. Zombies, but while furiously scrambling to make magic-missile-generating matches. ReignMaker is the sequel to Tower of Elements, and it ups the game by adding in a city-building/resource management side that does a surprisingly great job of complementing the games high-intensity puzzle combat.
Wouldn’t Metal Gear Solid have been cooler if it were a hard-boiled detective novel about a psychic art thief? That’s essentially the premise behind Third Eye Crime – a top-down stealth game that makes us feel good about line-drawing again. Besides, any games about “dames” and/or jazz are reason enough to give them a download. (see also: Jazzpunk)