My Week Unwrapped: October 19, 2019 – Bad North, Starbeard, reky, CHEAP_GOLF, Krystopia and More

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Hi everyone, and welcome back to My Week Unwrapped, where I discuss all the games I’ve been playing over the last seven days. Despite being swamped with Apple Arcade games, there were still a lot of free-standing iOS games to play this past week or so. This post is a few days late, but I still wanted to get it out before next week to give these games some attention. I didn’t love all of them, but there’s plenty that are worth your time, so read up to see which ones.

Bad North: Jotunn Edition

When Raw Fury first announced the real-time strategy (RTS) game, Bad North, it was planned for mobile. But it ended up releasing on PC and consoles first, while the rest of us waited. Now, over a year later, the wait is finally over for both iOS and Android players. It also includes the expansion that was recently added to other platforms. I’ve spent a little over an hour with the game so far and am absolutely in love. I don’t play a lot of RTS games, as they can get a bit overwhelming. iOS is especially tricky with them, as they usually involve keeping track of activity over a large area in real time. Bad North keeps things more manageable, though, by giving you control over one small island at a time. It can get hectic, for sure, but not in the kind of way where you feel like you need four sets of eyes to keep track of things. I’ve yet to complete a game, so I can’t say with certainty yet, but it feels much more accessible than other RTS games. It also features a clean and appealing art style, a solid soundtrack and lots of bloodshed. The way it works is you choose an island from the map to protect from Viking invaders and then can take up to four units of soldiers into battle with you. You place the units around the island, usually in a spot that would allow them to take down the boat la of Vikings headed toward the island. Each unit starts with nine soldiers and you can keep moving them as needed, but all the actual fighting is automated. You can also have them rest in a house if you think you can spare them for a bit. All soldiers are replenished after battle, as long as you didn’t let an entire unit die out. You also earn coins depending on how well you did protecting all the houses. You can then use those coins to upgrade your troops, making them stronger and faster. So there’s strategy both with how you decide to use your upgrades, as well as with which islands you choose to defend, since you usually can’t take them all. Each battle is also short enough to make it very mobile-friendly. You don’t need to devote an hour or more to make some progress. I don’t know if the game will satisfy hardcore RTS players, but I’m loving every second. I actually wish I could be playing right now instead of writing this piece! So grab the game now or watch some of my gameplay videos below to get a better idea of how it looks in action.

Starbeard

I’d been following progress of Jolly Good Games’ match-three roguelike, Starbeard, for quite some time, and it finally released a few days ago. I’ve played a good deal of it since — including two hours in bed the other night when I meant to go to sleep early. As a match-three fan, I’m always eager to try new ones that break the mold, and Starbeard certainly does that. Each game has you select a planet and then a battle on the map. The board is made up of a 6×7 grid covered in colored shapes and some enemies. You have a limited number of turns in which to move either your character or one of the shapes. The idea is to match three or more of a shape to power up your skills. Skills don’t take up a move, so you can use as many as you want as long as you’ve build up the energy for them. There’s a lot of different rules and also a ton of strategy involved, not only in each battle, but with the battles you choose to fight, the skills you choose to upgrade, and so on. I can’t explain everything here, but it’s a surprisingly deep game. And it’s of course fully premium without any IAPs, as I have no patience for those. Since it’s a roguelike, each game is self-contained, but you do unlock new characters, skills and enemies by beating the game with each character. I really like Starbeard a lot, despite a few nasty bugs and the occasionally fiddly controls that cause me to drop a shape in the wrong column. But I’ve already beaten the game with all nine characters and got a high score that seems hard to beat by much. So I might return for the daily challenges, but I’m not sure even those will hold my attention for very long. I would love a reason to keep playing, but I don’t see one at the moment. Still, I had fun with it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a deep roguelike that’s good for short and long sessions alike.

reky

I mentioned beyondthosehills’ stylish puzzler, reky, last week but I spent a lot more time with it since. I was actually enjoying it quite a bit once I understood the mechanics more. It does a lot to stand out from other similar games and I even made it to the fourth chapter now. I keep wanting to continue, but there are little choices the developers made that have forced to me to quit. The main problem is that it’s a game that relies heavily on experimentation, but there’s no undo button. That means much of your time spent with it will be restarting the same levels over and over after every little mistake. I badly want to play it, but I have my limits. I wrote more about it here and I hope the developers consider my feedback, as I do think some small changes would make it easy to recommend. As is, though, I would only grab it if you have the patience of a saint. And if you get stuck, I have a partial walkthrough here.

Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

Bounty Hunter Space Lizard is not just a cool name for a game, but also a pretty fun high-score chasing roguelike. You play as said space lizard and take turns moving around the board, chasing your bounties. You have a limited number of bullets to shoot from afar, but can use melee combat as much as you want to attack someone from directly next to them. When you do kill someone with melee, they drop an orb that you can pick up, which gives you three free moves in which no one else moves. The idea is to keep going and kill as many bounties until you run out of lives, at which point you’ll be scored and start over. I am enjoying it, but I keep messing up and getting killed on the bomb levels. Part of the problem is that I sometimes mess up and shoot when I mean to throw a bomb. There’s a lot going on, so one little mistake can really do you in. I’m also not sure I’ll stick with it if GameCenter leaderboards aren’t added. It’s hard to stay motivated and want to improve my score when I can’t see how anyone else is doing. That seems like a big oversight for a high score chaser. If that doesn’t bother you, though, it seems like a solid game. And since it’s free with ads and a one-time IAP to remove them, there’s nothing to lose by trying it out.

CHEAP_GOLF

I was intrigued by Pixeljam’s CHEAP_GOLF when I saw it released on PC, but I never expected to see it on iOS. When it popped up a few days ago for only $1.99, I snatched it up immediately, as it looked right up my alley. I’m not a fan of golf games, but I expected it to be more of a parody of golf games, focused more on story than gameplay. Unfortunately I was very wrong and it’s actually quite a difficult golf game, at least for me. The first few levels were easy, but it ramped up pretty fast with spinning obstacles, moving platforms, right bends, and other hazards I usually don’t expect to see until I’ve at least gotten properly warmed up with a game. I got frustrated a lot sooner than expected and already gave up. My main issue with these kinds of games is that I never truly get a good feel for how much I need to pull back in order to move the ball where I want. Perhaps a guide of some sort would have helped, but going in blind just makes for a stressful experience for me and one that I rather not continue with. If you usually like golf games, you might enjoy it more, though.

Machinika Museum

Littlefield Studio’s 3D first-person puzzle game, Machinika Museum, has been out for a while already, but I only just heard about it. At the moment, there’s only one short chapter, but it’s free and looks great, like it might have come from Fireproof themselves. What makes it unique, though, is that you have a 3D printer to copy objects to use. I don’t know if or when the rest of the game will come out, since it says it was coming early 2019. But it’s still worth playing the few minutes available for free.

Krystopia: A Puzzle Journey

I mentioned Krystopia last week, but it was broken on my device so I couldn’t play much. The developers have since fixed that issue, but then I encountered new problems, this time with the augmented reality (AR) puzzles. I think they may have fixed that now, but I’m not feeling very motivated to continue based on these issues I keep finding. I also don’t like how sensitive the laser controls are, and I can see that becoming an issue as the puzzles get trickier. I find the including of AR puzzles a turnoff, as well. In general, I’m not a fan of AR unless it’s for things like Pokémon GO, basically bringing creatures into our world. I don’t see any good reason to use it for puzzle games like this, though. I’m playing comfortably on my couch and have no interest in getting up to walk around my living room and try to make the puzzle appear on my floor. It’s gimmicky and misguided and doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in the rest of the game. But the first of four chapters is free, so at least try it and see if you like it enough to buy the rest.

Sky: Children of the Light

I don’t have much to say about Sky, but for those of you who don’t mind spoilers, I made a video of some Halloween content in the beta version of the game.

And that’s everything I’ve been playing over the last week — well, other than Apple Arcade games. If you’ve decided not to pay for the subscription or just don’t have access to a device with iOS 13, you can see there are still plenty of new games releasing. Hopefully you’ll find some in this list that will hold your attention. Let me know in the comments section if you do and I’ll be back here with more My Week Unwrapped next time.

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