This is my list. There are many like it but this one is mine. While we're most likely going to come out with the authorative guide to the best games of the year in a few weeks, I couldn't resist sharing some of my favorites from 2013. After all, Thanksgiving is coming and you know you want diversions from the inevitable albeit good-natured family dramas.
Brightly colored and sharply angular, Ridiculous Fishing is, well, a little ridiculous. The fundamental conceit is simple enough: you're a career fisherman with an unerring fondness for your job. Each day, you cast your line into the water as deeply as possible in order to be able to snag the largest amount of fish. Each day, you drag your catch through the ocean and send them flinging into the air so you can .. shoot them. It's slightly bonkers but Vlambeer has a knack for making the strange work divinely. Ridiculous Fishing's basic idea is augmented by an appropriately insane upgrade system, a library of fish for you to collect and season with gunpowder, a faux social media service and even a coherent plot.
Hey? HEY! Did you want Zelda? On your iOS? A bit of Wind Waker to take wherever you go? Really? Awesome. Because Oceanhorn is impatiently waiting for you to love it. There's absolutely no way to mistake its influences. Oceanhorn bleeds Zelda from every pore. Except for the part that includes a princess. This action-adventure game has no princess. Instead, Cornfox & Bros will have you working to find your lost father and to learn more about an absentee mom, something that may be more identifiable than service to royalty. It's not without its problems. The soundtrack is superb but the controls are slightly obtuse. The boss battles are deeply enjoyable but conflict with eternally respawning enemy peons is much less so. Still. A Zelda-like. For the iOS.
Bleak, minimal and absolutely unnerving, Year Walk's a stylish first-person puzzle game revolving around the eponymous Swedish myth. The idea behind a Year Walk, in case you were unfamiliar with the lore, is that folk wanting to look into the future will be able to do so if they fast for a day before meandering towards the local church at the stroke of midnight. Of course, such things come with complications. Monsters abound at such hours. You'll end up meeting many of these critters, in fact. Some of them will even demand your assistance in unsavory tasks, something you'll want to do if you desire to advance to your goal.
If, for some reason, you have yet to play Walking Dead, fix this. Fix this now. A five-part point & click adventure that will punch its metaphorical hand into your chest and tear at your heart strings, Walking Dead: The Game is the deeply powerful tale of ex-university professor and convicted murderer Lee. Conveniently freed from incarceration by a car accident and the zombie epidemic, Lee finds himself the protector of the spritely little Clementine. It gets better from there. Or worse, depending on how well you stomach grim-dark situations. Walking Dead: The Game is haunting. The people you meet are disconcertingly real, their dialogue and exchanges heartfelt. You will feel your gut twist if you let someone die.
I loved Ending, as you might already know. It's a turn-based roguelike-like emptied of all pretensions. It's a dungeon-crawler with all the usual suspects but not of the frills. It's a puzzle game where the only goal is survival. Entirely monochromatic, Ending puts you in the role of an alias symbol. The objective, of course, is to make it to the exit without being pulverized by the resident beasties. To do so, you're going to have to outwit the aforementioned monstrosities, all of which are presented by delicate little symbols. While initially simple-looking, Ending moves quite rapidly into brain-twiddly-twisting territory.
iPads are awesome. They let you read books, pour hours of our life that you can't spare into Reddit, check e-mail and play board games. The last bit is the best bit, of course. While I suspect actual CDC officers have a tougher time managing actual disease outbreaks, Pandemic's impressively frantic. It's a game about trying to stomp out four rapidly-spreading diseases. As you might have guessed, it's not easy. Mistakes may lead into uncontrollable outbreaks. Get eight and you will lose, thereafter causing the world to plunge into a pustular, phelgmy demise. No pressure.
If you keen on picking up a Zelda-like game on the iOS but couldn't stomach the idea of forking out money for a pretty knock-off, Ittle Dew might be more up your alley. Armed with an irreverent young protagonist and a potion-chugging fox of questionable temperament, Ittle Dew abounds with homages and pointed jokes, silly little parodies and sharp writing. The visuals are also great, as you can readily tell from the trailer. While the Zelda franchise has always been a marriage of puzzle-solving and action, Ittle Dew diverges from its inspiration by focusing more squarely on the former which is great because the combat here isn't quite as hot.
Do you have an aversion to legs? Because, if you do, you may find yourself terrified of this possibly grotesque but mostly fetching physics game. Incredipede's leading lady is a cyclopean creature named Quozzle. Bright-eyed and green-skinned, Quozzle is almost alarmingly open to the concept of body modification, so much so that the entirety of Incredipede is built atop that willingness to undergo flippant surgical procedures. Which is great because one of the best things about Incredipede is the ability to build Quozzle however you see fit. How do you plan to traverse the river? Will you roll along on fleshy, sinewy wheels or prance across the land on an army of spindly limbs? If you enjoyed World of Goo, it's very likely you will enjoy Incredipede.
Is Knightmare Tower what you call a vertical artillery game or is it a launcher game? Who knows? And who cares. What I am certain of, however, is that Knightmare Tower is alarmingly engrossing. Give it a few minutes and it will most likely consume an hour of your day. Like the rest of Juicy Beast's portfolio, Knightmare Tower hinges on easy-to-master gameplay, attractive graphics and a proliferation of items to buy. The premise is absolutely delightful too. You play as a knight charged with the task of rescuing a king's many daughters. To do so, you're going to have to brave the insides of a deeply dangerous tower. While most knights would accomplish this by riding up on a white steed, you go about your quest by bouncing on monsters. After sailing upwards atop a rocket, of course.
Benjamin Rivers' Home isn't without its problems. A point & click adventure that strives to be quietly unsettling as opposed to a chain of loud, empty shocks, Home will leave you properly unnerved the first time around. Subsequent playthroughs? Not so much. This is problematic because you're likely to want to go for seconds. The discreetly menacing Home that Rivers built invites exploration. Instead of constructing an immovable narrative, Home lets you decide what happens. Sort of. The main character, as he struggles to piece together the nascent mystery of why he is in a house that is not his, will routinely ask for your input. Did this happen? Did that happen? What transpires from all this questioning is a story rather uniquely your own and building a collaborative horror with a conglomeration of pixels, ignoring everything else, is kinda worth the game's price tag already.
Fondly regarded by many as "that game with a million DLCs", Magicka for the PC was an absolute blast. Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet? Also a complete riot. Like its PC predecessor, Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet has a deeply irreverent tone and a paper-thin narrative. In another game, this might be a thing to warn against but the Magicka franchise has never been about emotionally fulfilling journeys. It's always been about slightly mean-spirited, moderately arcade-y fun. (Unless you count bloodthirsty as an emotion. Then, yes. It's incredibly satisfying in that regard.) Magicka: Wizards of the Square's dynamic combat system is a bit of a treat. Even though getting everything to work the way you want it to can be a challenge, the ability to mix and match elements in order to toss lightning-laced fireballs before chucking rocks at people makes the whole ordeal so worthwhile.
868-HACK is a roguelike-like masquerading as a hacking game masquerading as a neon-licked bit of raw, low-fi insanity. Like any good iOS game, 868-HACK operates on a simple idea: you need to get through eight data sectors. From there, things get harder. A siphon might provide you with the resources and abilities necessary to get to your destination but they will also summon enemies upon activation. You could attempt to take the easiest route out but that would guarantee exile from the leaderboards. Which is where you want to be, right? If so, you're going to want to solicit as much enemy attention as possible, a decision that can often prove fatal if you don't know what you're doing.
Don't own it on the PC? You should. It's glorious. And hard. Gloriously hard. However, if you're disinclined towards picking up a relatively stationary version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis Games has you uncovered. The iOS version is most certainly more expensive than most of the games you'll find in the Apple Store. However, I can assure you that every single one of those dollars will be well spent. A turn-based experience, XCOM: Enemy Unknown puts the fate of humanity in your hands. With the help of your troops and scientists, you must organize research and root out alien invasions. The thing about XCOM, though, is that it will make every loss hurts. Unlike most games, which allow you to resurrect characters without so much as a batted eyelash, XCOM demands you be frugal with your risks. Make a mistake and your best Sniper will be lost forever. As will Earth, most likely.
Enough with the doom and gloom and apocalyptic undertones. Here's something saccharine yet snazzy. Slayin' is a love letter to all things retro, an "endless action RPG" that uses only three buttons and a single screen. You won't be going anywhere fancy in Slayin'. All of your adventuring and eponymous death-dealing will be conducted within the space of that single screen. More arcade extravaganza than traditional RPG, Slayin' will demand you hone those twitch-reflexes because enemies come fast and furious. Timing is everything. As is unlocking all the upgrades and purchasing all the bloody gear. All of it.
The original Ravenmark: Scourge of the Estellion reminded me strongly of Fire Emblem except instead of simplifying the formula, they compounded it. At its core, Ravenmark has a "rock/paper/scissors" sensibility but that is also laced with the need to juggle ideas like flanking, formations, standing orders, and remembering the order in which everything moved. Because, really, there's nothing more embarrassing than sending your infantry after people who are not longer there. With Ravenmark: Mercenaries, there's more of the same. However, rather than have you on the heels of a sprawling plot, it focuses on letting you fully experience the joys of such an intricate strategic experience. Build your brigades. Fine-tune your troops. Level up your commander and equip them with perks best befitting the army you've assembled. As an added bonus, you even get to kick your friends' respective derrieres in asynchronous multiplayer.
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