I had a free trial of Google Play’s Game Pass recently, so had a chance to try out lots of paid games for a change! It’s definitely been a nice change enjoying games that aren’t asking for money constantly, here’s some I’ve had a great time with.
The games are in descending order of “fun”, and might contain mild spoilers:
Knights of San Francisco is a relatively short text-based adventure set in the ruins of SF’s Transamerica Pyramid, with heavy influence from traditional RPGs whilst still remaining accessible.
Personally I generally don’t play text-based games. I find they can require a lot of imagination to really get invested in, but I’m happy to say Knights of SF changed my mind on that! The writing provides just enough information to let your mind fill in the rest, whilst also letting you be “smart” with your conversation choices.
For example, at one stage early on I picked up on a throwaway comment overheard from an Orc and used this to choose my next location, bypassing a particularly deadly encounter. This reward for cunning plays made me feel the game respected me as a player, and I’d have a better time the more effort I put in.
The game removes a lot of the hard work behind text based RPGs. There are no traits, there’s no durability, there’s not even any dice. Instead, most actions have a success chance. A failed “roll” can be tried again by using stamina (basically a combined health / stamina) meter, and is fairly forgiving.
Whilst shorter than I was expecting (I “won” the game in ~1 hour, however there are definitely multiple endings and I haven’t unlocked all content), the game strongly held my attention throughout. There was an initial character creation (I chose Necromancer), but I don’t think this had much in influence in the actual gameplay, with my decisions mattering far more.
Combat was among the most satisfying I’ve experienced in an RPG. Each turn has a large selection of options available (attack parts of enemy’s body, use items, change stance), and each character’s position and injury state impacts the battle. This lets you perform moves like feinting, then stabbing in the side, before taking the target’s weapon off them.
Combat is also not just 1v1 either. You can hire companions throughout the adventure depending on your conversation choices, and as a Necromancer I would often have a slain enemy fighting alongside me.
Navigating around the game’s world is done via a simple map, with your conversation choices determining which places you have access to. When a location’s dialogue has been exhausted to one conclusion or another, the “tick” on the map avoids you wasting time looking for more to do. Similarly, the “clock” icon on past locations that have new dialogue really helps ensure a tight, focused experience.
The game doesn’t have much art (16 total), but what is there perfectly walks the line between detail and stylised. It is used tactically, to mark the occasion you first meet a boss or obtain an artefact. As these are unlockables accessible in the main menu, the brief break from the (very well written!) text feels like permanent progress.
Additionally, you can save and load at any point, and go back to any previous decision to play again from that point.
Finally, whilst writing this review I found the “About” section in the game’s settings. This is an absolutely lovely personal message from the game’s creator, and really shows what a labour of love the project is. The gamemaking decisions and ambitions are described in detail, and I really appreciate this insight into the process and thought behind a truly excellent text RPG.
It’s $2.99, with no in-game ads or purchases. To me this is perfect for such a high quality, albeit short, experience.
- Combat can be unpredictable, but the highest success chance move is usually the best option.
- Look out for any opportunity to hire a helper. They can often finish an enemy if you fumble your move.
- Read the story. You’ll be given all the clues you need to make good decisions, don’t just blunder forwards!
- Eating food restores stamina, keep this as full as possible.
- Exhaust dialogue options, you’ll often learn something valuable or receive an item.
.projekt is a very well presented minimalistic puzzle game, essentially Picross in 3D space. It can perhaps be summarised as a gamified version of this style of typographic sculpture:
I love picross / nonogram games, yet this game makes the unusual choice to hide this mode until 40 levels in! Before this, puzzles require you to build a 3D structure that either has or doesn’t have blocks at each position. This gives you freedom to build your structure however you want, so long as the footprint of it looks correct from all sides.
The levels start off very easy, and slowly ramp up difficulty as well as adding new mechanics every 20 levels. I’ve completed around 50, with the first 20 just requiring fitting the side diagrams, the next 20 rewarding hitting the lowest or highest amount of blocks, and the next 20 introducing number requirements.
Whilst this gameplay is good enough on its own, the overall polish really helps elevate the game. For example, the structure can be swiped to rotate, really helping to place tricky blocks and gain perspective. Similarly, the block placing and removing is reliable and intuitive, letting you concentrate on the actual puzzle.
Completely unexpectedly, it has an augmented reality mode! This is genius, as it suits the 3D-yet-2D gameplay perfectly. It’s a unique gaming experience peeking around a block to place one behind it, so that the structure meets the block requirements. Whilst I realistically won’t use this feature for normal play, it’s a great addition.
Based on the achievements, I believe there are 120 levels in total. Considering how each level has 3 goals (minimum blocks, maximum blocks, picross), this is equivalent to 360 puzzles. I definitely intend to get at least a solution for all 120 (assuming the difficulty doesn’t get crazy!), and possibly 100% completion.
The game even has a dark mode, with all colours inverted!
The game is $1.99, with no additional payments.
- You don’t need to complete a puzzle perfectly first time, any solution will do.
- The dots above puzzles on the level selection indicate a bonus objective has been completed.
- If a puzzle seems unsolvable, solve it for 1 side first. Then, you can build the other side from that, removing any duplicates / unnecessary blocks.
- I found rotating the structure a few times when I’m stuck helps ensure my mental model is accurate, and I know where blocks need to go.
|Main game||Picross mode||Augmented reality mode|
Inbento is a very, very cute logic game. It was recommended to me as part of Google Play Pass, and the difficulty ramps up more than expected!
Whilst the cute cat-themed visuals did draw me in somewhat, I was more drawn in by the bento box filling gameplay. The game does an excellent job of guiding you in learning how new pieces work, and the complexity very steadily increases.
For example, you spend the first few levels just placing overlapping “blocks” in the correct order. Just as you’re starting to feel confident, the game throws “swap” tiles into the mix! A few levels later, “move” tiles are added, and this progression really helps draw you in. Additionally, due to the knowledge that every level is building up your skills, every completed level really feels like a success, and not just incrementing a “levels completed” count.
Every 9 levels, there is a very cutesy swipeable mini-comic about the game’s characters. These are completely optional, and realistically doesn’t improve my gameplay experience (but also doesn’t hinder it!). This definitely isn’t a game where levels can be casually completed, at least not after the first couple of worlds, but the thoughtful staring is always worth it when the level complete animation is seen.
There are 127 puzzles across 14 worlds, so far I’m around an hour in with 34 completed. Due to the difficulty ramping up, I suspect each puzzle pack takes 2-3x as long as the one before it.
I got this free on Google Play Pass, otherwise it would be $2.99. With no adverts or in-app purchases this feels a fair price for a polished and thoughtful puzzle experience.
Honestly the game’s tutorial is so well executed that I’m not sure I have many tips!
- When a bento box has only 1 of a tile type, that is a guarantee of where that block will go. This lets you plan your other pieces around it. For example in the screenshot below, I know the green tile HAS to go on the right middle, so I can use that as a starting point.
- I sometimes found just placing the blocks down in a naive way got me halfway there, then iterating on this attempt got me to the actual solution.
“red” is a short and highly stylised puzzle game all about making the entire screen… red.
I’ve seen a few of the developer Bart Bronte’s other games before, but always ignored them because the descriptions were quite vague. However, I decided to finally give one a go and was pleasantly surprised!
The goal of each of red’s 50 levels is to turn the entire screen red. However, unlike most puzzle games, every level uses a completely different mechanic. One puzzle might require “walking” your fingers up the screen, then the next requiring tapping circles in the correct order.
Each of these puzzle can absolutely be solved through pure logic, there’s no luck. However, trial and error will definitely be required, since they are generally impossible to solve without having a little experimenting first. This style of puzzle works really well on mobile, encouraging you to drag, tap, and hold anything you can see on screen.
Additionally, the developer has 6 very similar other games, even down to their branding! However, the puzzles in all are completely unique, and his creativity is genuinely impressive:
The entire game took me around 45-60 minutes across multiple sessions. Whilst I enjoyed working through the 50 levels, there’s essentially no replayability. Once you know the solution, you know it, and unfortunately there are no speed-run / time limit mechanics.
According to reviews, you can watch adverts to read optional hints or pay $2 for unlimited hints.
For my playthrough the hints were all free due to Google Play Pass, and I ended up using them for 3-4 levels that I just couldn’t figure out.
- Every level is different, don’t bother trying past mechanics!
- Tap and drag everything. It’ll make sense eventually.
- You never need to rotate the device / use the microphone / anything weird, all levels are solvable using just the screen.
|Title screen||Level 14||Level 25|
I’m trying something new with this post, and giving a little conclusion on whether I’m still enjoying games from my previous post, since longevity is important!
Uninstalled at level 23.
This got too grind-y in the late game. Whilst earning money and experience was very easy using the techniques mentioned in my post, it’s all a bit pointless. Realistically each run is identical, and there are no surprises after 4-5 hours of gameplay.
Uninstalled at around 20B/sec.
I knew this didn’t have longevity (as it was a beta), and uninstalled it before writing the previous post. Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough depth to make it a long term game.
Uninstalled at level 37, 5.55T/s.
Whilst I enjoyed the Tetris gimmick, that’s all the game really has to offer. I didn’t see any new features since around level 10, and no sign of the “level loop” hinted at in the achievements. Additionally, it had annoyances like popping all my achievements again when opened, unexpectedly playing music, intermittent ad availability, etc.
Uninstalled with first 2-3 packs completed.
This was a real shame. As mentioned in my review, whilst I enjoy the gameplay the sheer quantity of purchasable level packs makes it unappealing. Additionally, there’s no… point to completing them.
I discovered the great “assistant” feature after my last review, which helps find errors & shows you the logic behind your next move. This helped me play it longer than the other games reviewed, but was not quite enough.