Games of 2013: Dead Man’s Draw

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2013 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. As I have been doing in recent history, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting about one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2013 posts.

Dead Man's Draw

If there’s anything I’ve found lacking on iOS over the years, it’s been the total wasteland that is card games. I’m not talking trading card games or solitaire or Texas Hold’Em; I’m looking for classic-style card games. Spades, Hearts, Cribbage…everything that tries to provide a sort of classic card game experience tends to look and play poorly.

So imagine my surprise when Stardock – who had never done an iOS game before – dropped Dead Man’s Draw on the world. It’s a new game, but with easy-to-learn mechanics, some deep strategy and risk/reward play, and a very easy to deal with interface. Reminds me a bit, in terms of polish, of Lost Cities, which I gave a small shout out to last year during this series.

Also: it’s full of pirates. I’ve been told people dig that.

But hey, iOS programmers: you want to strike it rich? Card games are a wide open category on the store. It’s largely casinos and solitaire. Design a great card game experience, and you’ll be almost alone in the marketplace. Please. I’m nearly begging you here.

Dead Man’s Draw is available on iOS.

Games of 2013: Battrix Floating Continent

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2013 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. As I have been doing in recent history, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting about one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2013 posts.

Battrix Floating Continent

The genre of the RPG is in an odd state these days. As someone who grew up with 60+ hour slogs through SNES era Final Fantasy games, I know these games are becoming less and less frequent. With mobile platforms on the ascendancy, casual RPGs are becoming more frequent, but many get bogged down with freemium mechanics. So that balance – an RPG with some length and depth, that fits into current platforms without indulging in the more anti-consumer practices – is a tough one to strike.

The closest I’ve found (and it’s by no means perfect) is Battrix Floating Continent. Done by Opus Studio, who brought the world another great RPG twist with Half Minute Hero, Battrix starts with you having just a single square on an expansive world map. To claim a new tile of the map, you fight off monsters in a tap-focused battle system. Towns get discovered, mechanics get mixed up, weapons level up and get upgraded, and eventually the map starts to pull itself together. It’s like any other RPG, just…mobile, I suppose.

It became my perfect subway commute game for a good chunk of the year, and anything I can sink an hour into every morning for a solid month is worth mentioning in this series. RPG fans might want to poke at this one a bit.

Battrix Floating Continent is available for iOS for free.

Games of 2013: QuizUp

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2013 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. As I have been doing in recent history, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting about one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2013 posts.

QuizUp

Last year’s series started in a car with coworkers; this year’s shall as well. These series always tend to start with a game that does one thing fairly well; this year’s shall as well.

We were piled in a rental car today, making the lengthy journey from New York City to Ithaca for a work trip. The miles started to drag across Route 17 as the afternoon wore on.

One member of my team, wondered aloud: “Man, I wish we had a multiplayer game or something.”

I didn’t need to pause to think of a good option – I spat out QuizUp almost immediately.

It is a weird sort of situation that while mobile platforms are becoming increasingly known for social gaming, it’s become less about direct gameplay with a small group of others, and more about nebulous MMO-like elements in whatever the latest Farmville clone is.

QuizUp is a very cleanly designed two-player quiz game. Seven questions, all multiple choice, with response time determining the points awarded. Get more points, win the match. It has a very well-maintained layer of polish (the animations), clever little addictive nudges (a per-category experience system), and generally works very well, even over a cellular connection.

The only place QuizUp needs improvement is in integrating existing friends back into the game’s friends system, where it occasionally struggles to understand that I shouldn’t have to invite someone I’m already GameCenter friends with to play.

Small concern aside, it’s the best the trivia game I’ve played in a while, and perfect for long rides in the back of the car. Check it out.

QuizUp is available for free on the App Store. An Android version is planned.