Wednesday August 20, 2014 20:50
METRICO Released on Aug. 5 Developed by Digital Dreams For PlayStation Vita Rated E (Everyone); mild fantasy violence
Every puzzle game walks a fine line between posing a challenge and frustrating players. Metrico, a puzzle game for Sony’s Vita mobile console that’s occasionally a victim of its own novelty, toes this line more delicately than many of its peers.
This is a platform game in the Super Mario Bros. tradition, with a fresh twist on established patterns of running and jumping over things. Playing it gives you the sense that the game’s small indie developer was implored to use every conceivable feature of the Vita hardware. You have to tilt the console at odd angles to solve puzzles, tap the front and back touchscreens to jump and to shoot projectiles in quick succession, and even turn the device’s camera toward different light sources to move platforms late in the game.
It’s not easy to appreciate Metrico, however, because the strangeness of some controls can make otherwise entertaining puzzles unbearably difficult. New ideas may not always sit well at first, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not worth pursuing. Metrico conducts so many wonderful experiments that the final game feels like a treat, even if some puzzles fall flat along the way.
HOHOKUM Released on Aug. 12 Developed by Honeyslug For PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita Rated E (Everyone); fantasy violence and crude humor
Hohokum is one of the strangest video games to come out in a long while. At its core, it’s about touching a world and puzzling out how its elements interact.
You control a kitelike character that can bump or glide into or through inanimate objects and living things, changing colors and making pinging sounds as it does. Everything in the game is shot through with so much charm – from the super-flat art style to the catchy, reactive electronic music – that you’ll find it hard to stop playing.
You’ll sometimes need to ferry Hohokum’s weirdly cute people-creatures on the kite being’s long, undulating back. As they float past symbols, you’ll eventually figure out the item that will need to go inside a particular nook or cranny. Hohokum explains very little, nudging you along to see what transpires. There’s a mysterious brand of cause-and-effect at play – doing Action A to Thing B makes Result C – but its exact nature is intentionally muddy until the epiphanies happen. The opacity results in a blooming sense of discovery and wonder that recalls heartwarming, childlike play.
KIM KARDASHIAN Hollywood Released on June 26 Developed by Glu Games For iOS and Android Rated 12+ (Players 12 and older) for infrequent/mild profanity, crude humor and mature themes
A satire on celebrity culture, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood invites its players to do everything they can in the name of becoming an A-list celebrity. This pursuit includes parties, photo shoots and the latest fashions – all of which sound like fun, except that players’ actions essentially equate to tapping blue bars until they fill up. And this free-to-play game limits how much you can do in a single session without spending real money.
Despite this design, the game is fascinating. It inspires musings on celebrity life and on Ms. Kardashian herself. And it’s easy to get sucked into the drama that comes with the absurd people you meet in your attempt to gain millions of fans. Even Kardashian haters might find themselves sharing screen shots on social media, or at least chuckling at how the game isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself.
ROAD NOT TAKEN Released on Aug. 5 Developed by Spry Fox For PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Mac; Vita forthcoming Rated E (Everyone); no description provided
Road Not Taken is a successful brew of the fairy tale adventure and the deep, deep puzzle game. The combination is as pleasing as it is punishing.
Contextually, Road Not Taken is about a person who lives in a village, makes friends and then heads out into the wilderness year after year to reunite lost children with their mothers. It is a dire, one-move-per-turn game played on a grid, designed for you to step carefully and not fail twice, lest you have to start over.
The game puts your hero on one square on a six-by-eight grid and allows you to do just a few things: move up, down, left, right; pick up almost anything; and hurl the item you picked up as far as it will go in a straight line or carry it at the cost of one digit of life energy for every step you take until you put it down. You’ll carry logs and goats and trees and different-colored spirits. You’ll hurl people to save them.
Crucially, you’ll come across some 200 things in Road Not Taken’s world, and you’ll learn that many of them can be made into other things. There are hidden recipes waiting to be discovered. The game is devilishly tough because little is explained.
Road Not Taken is a strange throwback to the mysteriousness of titles like the first Zelda, yet also a game that can demand concentration while inviting the mobile reflexes of a skilled Bejeweled player.
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