Where We Find New Games

The Faffin' Five

Our Favorite Games this Month

October 2017

Opus Magnum

Released: Oct 19 2017
Developer: Zachtronics
Price: $19.99

Opus Magnum is one of my favorite Zachtronics game yet. I've always really loved the open ended nature of their games, like SpaceChem or Shenzhen I/O, (I'm literally making an open ended puzzle game right now) but sometimes I've had trouble keeping myself engaged enough to see the games all the way through. Often, I spend so much time trying to maximize efficiency on one puzzle that I stop progressing through the rest of the game, and sometimes I've left the game unfinished because of it. I think the setting of their latest game does a lot in contextualizing the puzzles for me in a way that I'm invested in what happens next. Being an alchemical engineer is an inherently fun occupation to imagine yourself in, and the narrative explanations for the puzzles are enjoyable and actually make sense if one were to examine the elements used in the puzzle. The world building is also very appealing to me, and I think this game serves, for me at least, as a great example of how narrative can elevate an already great puzzle game. We've been attacking a similar problem with From Light and I hope it turns out just as well as Opus Magnum did for me.


Engare

Released: Oct 23 2017
Developer: Mahdi Bahrami
Price: $6.99

I love the music in this game, I would totally get this soundtrack on my phone. This ties into my favorite thing about Engare, which is how it brings out my interest in geometric patterns, and Islamic culture; two passions I was not really aware that I had. That's the best thing an educational game can do. I tend to have a lot of criticisms of the genre, but Engare addresses almost every one beautifully. The puzzles in the game work by selecting a point on a simple machine. The point traces the path of its motion, and in order to complete the puzzle the player must generate the correct shape. I love that the rewards for successfully completing a puzzle is getting to see the mesmerizing geometric patterns generated by it. I really enjoyed the introduction of the ability to slow down the path of the machines in order to finetune the player's path, but I also feel like the game would have benefitted from a speed up mechanic as well to avoid unnecessary waiting. Even after a few minutes I was learning a lot about the nature of the patterns, and the concepts behind Islamic art & architecture, and I didn't really feel like I was learning at all. I don't think this is necessarily a game for everyone, and it's possible the technical nature of it will turn people off; but if one was on the fence, I would definitely suggest trying it, or borrowing someone's copy. I would also love to get this in front of more kids, I think this would be a great game to be used in schools.


A Hat in Time

Released: Oct 5 2017
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Price: $29.99

A Hat in Time is a fun collectathon that reminded me a lot of Banjo Kazooie. As someone who also works on a small team, the level of polish was really impressive; I can't even imagine the headaches they went through getting the game fully voice acted. Since I thought she might like it, I asked my girlfriend to play while I sat next to her and took notes. This is what she had to say: "With adorable characters (a little girl with a handlebar mustache!) and vibrant settings, "A Hat in Time" feels more like an adventure through alternate dimensions than a set path toward an assigned goal. Players are free to roam their own spaceship, explore various islands, collect diamonds, and interact with a host of entertaining (and sometimes violently-inclined) characters. Although some interactions can be a bit repetitive and goals are sometimes frustrating to achieve, quirky dialogue and satisfying impact sounds make even oft-repeated movement more fun." Hopefully she had a good time! I think while the game might have some rough edges, the cute aesthetic added a lot of heart and soul to the experience, and I enjoyed it overall.


In The Shadows

Released: Oct 20 2017
Developer: Colorspace Studio
Price: $15.99

I am always on the lookout for games that incorporate light into their mechanics; it's always really interesting to line them up against From Light and see what they are doing differently to address a lot of the same issues. I just love the feel of the jump, compared to the slow speed of the character's movement. It's a fun compromise that makes the jump feel extra satisfying, although the camera followed the player a little too tightly. The main mechanic of the game is using light to scare shadow monsters, which transform in useful objects in the light. The story at first seems very minimal, but finding secrets expands upon the player's understanding of the narrative. I really like how the game handles lighting, and the atmospheric touches, like flashes of lighting, and light on the walls from unseen windows look really good.


Of Pith and Pumpkins

Released: Oct 29 2017
Developer: Andrew Wang
Price: Free

Of Pith and Pumpkins is a fun little puzzle game about growing pumpkins with a satisfying attraction mechanic. The game was made for both Darktober 2017 and Elderberry Jam 2017. You play as a Jack o'Lantern trying to attracting ghost orbs to grow prize winning pumpkins, while safeguarding them from evil spirits that would wither them. The player holds down a button to attract both good and bad spirits indiscriminately. This creates a very fun dynamic where the player has to but doesn't always want to attract spirits. Trying to lure evil spirits away, or trying to coax only the good ones by just feathering the button feels very fun. It's a very short game, with only a few levels, which end right before it starts to get challenging. Each puzzle plays with the mechanics in interesting ways, and it's good that the core mechanics are solid and straightforward. I think some games really benefit from avoiding a punishing difficulty curve. With this game, it meant I had more time to enjoy the aesthetic, which as a jam game is pretty simple, but still has a good deal of polish; it really feels like halloween when you're playing.