Where We Find New Games

The Faffin' Five

Our Favorite Games this Month

September 2017

Freeways

Released: Sep 17 2017
Developer: Justin Smith
Price: $3.00

In Freeways, you are a traffic engineer designing intersections. You draw roads, overpasses, roundabouts and whatever else you can think of in an attempt to connect increasingly complicated sets of freeways together. As people might guess from our current project, I’m a big fan of puzzles that have open ended solutions. Freeways, from Envirobear 2010 creator Justin Smith, definitely scratches that itch, with each puzzle in the game offering you a blank canvas to scribble traffic monstrosities onto. In the occasions where you manage to design an intersection that runs smoothly, it’s very satisfying. The lack of time pressure turns into a very meditative, methodical experience that’s up to your discretion. Do you try and make the most efficient roads possible? Or ones that are aesthetically pleasing? Or force drivers into a maddening labyrinth as they try to get to their virtual destination? For me, It ended up varying between each puzzle. I really enjoyed finishing a puzzle and going to look it up online, and then actually learning a new concept. My only real gripe with the game is that there is no way to erase your roads, any small mistake means you have to clear the whole thing and start over. That said, I was more than happy to rebuild roads over and over again till I was satisfied by my work.


Heat Signature

Released: Sep 21 2017
Developer: Suspicious Developments
Price: $14.99

My favorite part of heat signature was that it was only a couple seconds after booting up the game that I got to be boarding ships and shooting guards. My second favorite thing was firing a gun in space to propel myself towards a ship, then matching its speed so I could board it before running out of oxygen. The whole game has a satisfying, zippy feel that you’d expect from the makers of Gunpoint. While there is narrative, and your characters all have procedurally generated backstories related to some of the factions in the game, It’s all secondary to your own enjoyment of the experience. The game can easily just be about guys that board ships, swing space swords and blow up hulls if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s built well for telling your own stories. The player characters have just enough motivation for you as a player to extrapolate from and get attached to them. So when Chantel Whiteblood gets knocked out by a guard, booted into space and bleeds to death, you realize he’ll never track down his daughters killer, and those are fun narrative stakes caused by the game’s perma death. The longer you play as a character, the more you get attached, and the more it feels like a character arc when they succeed or fail. I also like that you can enter Fast-Mo, for people who are impatient. There’s a ton of freedom in what you choose to do. You can choose exactly how you want to get out of a jam using any of the game’s myriad items and weapons in cool combinations. The game doesn’t even force you to choose missions, it’s totally possible to just get in your ship, and roam around until you find a ship to board, although expect to be woefully unprepared for what’s inside it.


Tooth and Tail

Released: Sep 12 2017
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Price: $19.99

I have not played a lot of RTS games in recent years, although I played a lot of the original Starcraft, and Age of Empires when I was younger. Tooth and Tail strikes me as a game that hits a similar vein in terms of how those earlier games felt as formative experiences as I was growing up. It’s a great reintroduction of the real time strategy formula, streamlining a lot of aspects, and I could see it being emulated by console RTS games. The unique mechanic is tying the games cursor to a hero character, who can only command units to their own position. This introduces a “can’t be everywhere at once” concept to the game, where your vision of the map, your until placement, everything is all bottlenecked by your ability to maneuver your general. While I’ve seen some similar types of things in some tower defense games before, Tooth & Tail really commits to and executes on this idea. Your general being killed causes you to have to wait until he’s revived, removing your control while you watch your armies become immediately vulnerable to attack. I really like the tradeoff, where your general has to be put into harm's way often to get your troops where they need to be. I’d also like to mention how much I enjoy the game’s theming, which is incredibly dark and draws from the Russian Revolution. The game revolves around a revolution between talking woodland creatures, with different philosophies on how they should all eat each other. It’s very violent when you think about it, and lends itself well to a game about destroying other armies and building your own settlements on their land.


Hikari's Station

Released: Sep 27 2017
Developer: Jon Tiburzi
Price: Free

I have been known to indulge in some extensive selfie sessions from time to time. Hikari’s Station, made for A Game By Its Cover 2017 Jam, beautifully captures the unbridled satisfaction in taking selfies with friends and strangers alike. In the game, you play a young woman passing time on her way home by taking pictures of herself with the various passengers on board the train. It functions both as a mad dash to get the most points by taking pictures with multiple people in them without annoying your fellow passengers and also as a relaxing selfie simulator. The animations were a big success. Each passenger had unique reactions to having their pictures taken and the train was teeming with character. The background music also made the ride more enjoyable as it developed with each station. I really enjoyed when certain characters would ask you to be in their own selfies and how annoying people would cause them to move to the other side of the train to get away from you. Finally, the game resolves with the player alone as the train reaches its final stop. I liked the inclusion of that time, letting the player run around or sit down or play with their phone, as a way to reflect on the journey coming to an end and bring the player down from the excitement of taking selfies for however many minutes.


Trackless

Released: Sep 12 2017
Developer: 12 East Games
Price: $9.99

Trackless is a modern take on a text input game. It has a really solid atmosphere, complimented by a cult cyberpunk aesthetic. As a seeker on a pilgrimage to a mysterious object, you must complete trials along your journey. The main interactions throughout the game are carried out through one-word phrases typed from your keyboard, and the main UI element is a cell phone in the corner of the screen. As an interesting method for helping players choose the right words to progress, when the player inputs a similar word to the one required, the game gives you feedback, writing out “meh” or “OK.” Any words that get that rating are acceptable to progress while choosing the exact word nets the player a larger reward that can be used to purchase useful upgrades for your phone. This feedback acts both as a hint and makes it harder for the player to become frustrated because they now know they can solve the puzzle if they want. The perfect solutions, by comparison, help the player to immerse themselves in the atmosphere and contextualize what’s happening. I also really enjoyed the use of environmental storytelling throughout the game, which often foreshadowed neat little discoveries. Trackless also uses a striking comic book visual art style that sets it apart from a lot of first person exploration titles. However, at times the high contrast of the art made it difficult to navigate in darker areas. I won’t go into too many details on the story, but I will say that I enjoyed how it rewards exploration and ties up the experience well for those who are willing to discover all this world has to offer.