Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa – I don’t often have patience for games that take place in real time, with the characters texting you throughout the day, forcing you to take breaks. I usually forget about the game and move on. So when I stick with one to the end and eagerly await notifications from it, you know it’s good. Telltale Games and Night School Studio teamed up to make Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa, a tie-in to the USA network TV show about a group of hackers starting a revolution. Having watched the show, I could really hear the characters’ voices in my head when I read their texts. The writing is superb, and I enjoyed playing as a social hacker, trying to get people to give me information I needed. You encounter some pretty despicable characters, too, which is in line with the show. I had a few issues with the game but still enjoyed it immensely and hope to see more like it.
Blackbox – think outside the box – Ryan McLeod has created a pretty unique puzzle game with Blackbox. It has a sleek design consisting of lots of little boxes on one screen. Tap on one, and there will be some visual hint as to what you need to do to light it up. But the solutions do not involve touching the screen. It could be rotating your phone, charging it, shaking it, or even changing something in your settings. It’s a very creative game and it’s free to try, with some extra levels you can purchase, as well as hints. There’s even the occasional update with free levels, and the App Store update descriptions themselves are entertaining. So give the game a download if you haven’t yet!
Exploding Kittens – Exploding Kittens is the digital version of the card game by The Oatmeal. It works surprisingly well on an iPhone or iPad, even against strangers. True, it’s probably more fun in person with a group of friends, but this is a great alternative for us recluses! One of the things I love about the game is that you play for the fun of it, not for any rewards or high score chasing. The game doesn’t try to pull me back in with some meaningless perk. Instead, I play because it’s fun. I’m enjoying the game at the moment I’m playing it, and when it’s over, I can choose to play another game or not. But each game is self-contained and I like it that way. There’s no penalty for losing, so it helps keep the game pure without people trying to game the system.
Tsuro – Thunderbox Entertainment’s digital adaptation of the board game, Tsuro, is another great fit for touch screens. I’ve had a lot of fun with this one, both against the AI and against Facebook and GameCenter friends. It’s a relaxed game in which you take turns placing tiles, trying to either make the longest path, the most loops, or stay on the board the longest. The different game modes keep it from getting stale too soon. It’s a great game to play while multitasking. The only reason I don’t play as much as I used to is that I have few friends still playing and the game takes too long to load up just to make one move and then wait for a friend. So right now I tend to just ignore notifications that a friend made a move. Hopefully that one aspect can be streamlined a bit so I feel more inclined to keep my games going. It’s definitely more enjoyable if you have friends to play against, but the single-player mode is robust as well.
Hidden my game by mom – This is a quirky little room escape game that I really don’t think needs much explanation. Just try it. It’s free.
Crashlands – I had some issues with Butterscotch Shenanigans’ open world survival game, Crashlands, but having spent sixty hours in the game and loving much of it, I couldn’t not mention it. It definitely could have used some quality of life improvements, as I felt a chunk of in-game time was wasted on silliness, but there was enough to keep me hooked for hours and hours, and it’s obvious a lot of love went into the game. Also, I got to run around with a pet I named Killer Condom, so really, come on! I haven’t played since I beat the game, but I believe it’s gotten a few updates since then, some that may even resolve a few of the issues I had with it. If you don’t mind sinking a lot of time into a game, give Crashlands a try!
Color Glide – Color Glide is a block-sliding puzzler that uses the Threes! mechanic of the entire board shifting with each swipe. I love the presentation as well as the puzzles themselves. I even like it enough to come back every day for the daily puzzles, even if some of them are a bit on the easy side. I don’t think the game’s getting nearly enough attention, especially since a good chunk of it is 100% free and the rest of it can be either earned over time or bought with credits you buy with cash. If you like relaxed, one-handed puzzle games, give Color Glide a go!
Gunhouse – I bought Necrosoft Games’ Gunhouse on a whim because I just loved the artwork I saw in the screenshots. The developer also mentioned that it’s a puzzle game and I like puzzles, so why not? It turned out to be a fast-paced match-four puzzler combined with tower defense. The puzzle part is how you power your weapons, and then you shoot the oncoming hordes of enemies when you run out of time to match more. It starts off pretty easy and I was breezing through it, but once it ramps up you have to play fast and smart to make sure your guns are strong enough to take down the bosses. Luckily, the game is very generous with the in-game cash and upgrades, so there’s usually something you can try differently if you’re having trouble with a specific boss. I don’t know that the game is for everyone, but I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit.
Zenge – Michal Pawlowski’s Zenge is another relaxing puzzler that just lets you solve things in your own time. It gradually adds new elements to increase the difficulty, but nothing ever gets too frustrating. It’s a very zen experience that I enjoyed, even if it didn’t tax my brain too much.
Kathy Rain – Raw Fury and Noio’s Kathy Rain is a throwback to story- and dialogue-heavy classic point-and-click adventure games. It’s lighter on puzzles than the other adventure games I played, but the few puzzles it does have are story-related and feel important, not just used as filler. Usually they’re used to help you uncover new information to help you solve the mystery. It doesn’t hurt that the whole game is fully voice-acted and that the writing is solid, never cringe-worthy. It does get a bit weird at the end, and I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. But I do hope Kathy Rain gets to go on more adventures.
Pokémon Go – I stopped playing Niantic’s Pokémon Go after they broke the tracking and some other things. The real wakeup call, though, was finding myself on the floor of an AT&T store charging my phone because even my backup charger wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s great that the game got so many people, including me, running around on foot instead of sitting inside playing. It was great fun during the summer. But after the initial excitement wore off, I realized I was mostly just wasting my time due to how the game is designed — and more importantly my battery — just to catch more and more of the same Pokémon. The game itself is just too shallow right now, and is hollow without the fun of bumping into other players. I hope one day the game becomes something that’s more user-friendly, and won’t require the phone to be on constantly in order to track things. I also can’t see myself running around to catch Pokémon in the winter, even if Pikachu has a Christmas hat. For now, I won’t let myself get sucked back in, but I’m hoping one day the game will be worthy of my time again.
Whew! Ok, I’m exhausted now. I hope you enjoyed this rundown of all my favorite games of 2016 and found some new games to pick up. Here’s to another fantastic year of games in 2017!
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