IOS

Florence is a game that possesses a level of elegance that is rare in a mobile game. This is of course not the first mobile game to have high artistic aspirations, but it is not often that a project is created with such a pure and simple execution.

Florence is a beautiful mobile game developed by Mountains Studios, and published by Annapurna Interactive.

Equal parts digital comic, and interactive game, Florence tells a story of love that is relatably human, and beautifully artistic. Paired with an incredible soundtrack (which is done by Kevin Penkin) Florence is a truly beautiful piece of art. Deep and moving melodies sweep over the player and transport them into a world where the music takes the place of words, and communicates the experiences and events to the player absent of dialogue. The story is presented to the player through digital comic like frames that feature numerous opportunities for players to interact with the story.For instance when Florence wakes up, and you are able to move a toothbrush around the screen to help her brush her teeth. In one frame she is commuting to work on a bus and the player is able to interact with her social media app on her phone. Little puzzles and interactions like this make the experience of playing Florence fun and whimsical. It should be noted that there is no “losing” in Florence as the story will come to the same conclusion no matter what the player chooses to do. There are a few short puzzles that the player will need to complete in order to move forward, but nothing prohibitively difficult.

My only complaint about Florence is it’s short length. At the end of the game I found myself desperately wanting more of the great experience that I had just walked through. I enjoyed the whole game in one sitting with my wife, which took about 30 minutes or so. Brevity in itself is perhaps not a mark against it, but rather an indication of it’s well executed presentation. It is a short game that wastes no time, and every image and song is a rare form of simple magic. Florence is not one noted as it might seem to be at first glance. Florence explores many aspects of love, self discovery, and the emotions around real decisions that people must make as they grow up. The tone of Florence could be compared somewhat films such as Begin Again, or La La Land, featuring both happy and melancholy moments backed by an exceptional and moving cello soundtrack. Florence is an exceptional example of what great storytelling can be in a digital experience. The specifics of the story are not particularly important as much as the settings and emotions surrounding them.

Because the experience is relatively short it’s hard to talk about the game without giving away too much of the story or showing all the game mechanics. The best thing I can say about it is go get the game, and enjoy it for yourself. I personally really hope that Mountains Studios decides to make more short stories in a similar style but with different settings. Whatever else we get from them in the future, short story or otherwise, I’m sure it will be great.

Florence is currently available on IOS for $3 and coming soon to Android. Next time you want to get lost in a great soundtrack and story, drop a couple bucks and get this great game! The soundtrack is available on Spotify, though I would wait until after you’ve played the game as the songs are listed as all the chapter titles and contain minor spoilers. I’ve been listening for a few days now and thoroughly been enjoying it (seriously, it’s so good!).

Have an awesome day, and Happy Gaming Friends!

Stormbound is a unique battle card game emerging in a sea of competitors. Though it has nowhere close to the amount of content as something like Hearthstone, it has one unique trait that could possibly help it find it’s own dedicated audience, and that is that the whole game is played out on a 4×5 chess like board.

Developer: Paladin Studios

Publisher: Kongregate

Stormbound feels as much like a board game as it does a card game, implementing equal parts deck building and tactical strategy. I’m sure that initially, it is possible that many trading card veterans could be put off by Stormbound’s simplistic look and (relatively) small card library. The addition of units that move and battle on a physical board, however, makes its strategy different enough from similar games to stand out. The only question in my mind at this time however is; Does Stormbound have what it takes to be as fun and compelling for experienced players as it is right now in it’s beginning?

I’m happy to make it no secret that I personally am having a great time with the game. I have a few reservations that I will discuss, but generally speaking, the beginning of this game is really cool. I appreciate the style and execution and find it generally fun, but also challenging to master.

One of the biggest things that Stormbound is missing in its current state is a way to square up against specific other players. There isn’t a pass-and-play option or private online matchmaking. The matches are ranked, but they are always against random players. The campaign is relatively short and is essentially just to help new players learn the game and gain some helpful cards, while also getting a taste for the different play styles of the 4 factions. The bulk of the game is all about online battles; about testing your skills and decks against other players. Since the main hook of the game is competitive online play it seems only natural that the excitement of head-to-head fights would only increase with private matchmaking. Everyone wants their friends to play the same competitive games as them, usually, so they can crush and destroy friends and family, as we all like to do from time to time. That being said the game has ranked matchmaking so that at least you square up against people of a similar strength deck/player level.

 

Like pretty much any other mobile deck building game these days, you can spend currency (in-game “coins”, or premium “gems”), to upgrade cards, so having ranked matches is important. The loop of winning coins and cards to enhance, customize and upgrade your deck gives Stormbound a feeling of progression; an important quality in any trading card game for sure. The player ranks are all reset every month so everyone ranked at #1 will be reset to 30 (which is really much higher as each level has several stages), giving everyone a chance to work towards rank based rewards each month. The downside to all this is that as is the case with most free-to-play games in this genre, the progression can be a slog. Grinding for coins/gems can take forever. The third currency (fusion stones) are used for crafting new cards, and are earned only when players reach higher ranks. This can be difficult for low-level players as the grind for coins is slow and without at least some upgraded cards reaching those higher ranks is much more difficult.

I so far have not spent any money playing Strombound, and am finding that I can still enjoy building relatively diverse decks. There was at one time a welcome card pack you could purchase which if that was available again I think I would consider buying that, but otherwise I feel the game does not force players to spend currency to win, but rather rewards players for spending time with the game, and offers the option for purchasing cards to quickly expand the range of deck strategies available.

Even better news is that the game seems to have a team behind it that are continually adding balancing and quality of life updates. Recently there have been many free gifts to players (Halloween gift, loyal player thanks you, etc…) which is helping with the previously mentioned currency problems. I think that though it might have a slow start, if Paladin Studios continues to add content and support, Stormbound could do quite well. The combination of card collection and tactical army strategy is actually done really well. I’m still having fun playing it, and I sincerely hope that soon we get new cards that further develop the currently implemented gameplay mechanics. If It is going to be able to stay fresh and alive in a competitive market I think continued content additions are necessary. For now I’m gonna keep chasing that 1st place rank with my favorite decks! “Long live the Ironclad Union!”

Strombound is currently available and 100% free to play, and is available on IOS and the Google Play store. We would love to hear your thoughts about Stormbound, please feel free to let us know what you think of the game in the comments section below. And as always…

Happy Gaming Friends!

For those who seek visceral death in bizarre, creepy fantasy lands, look no farther! Badland 1 was a great journey through a machine infested forest, and if you liked that then Badland 2 is the experience you’re looking for!

In 2013 Frogmind released the incredibly fresh and sharp game Badland. The original was compelling, surprising, eerie, and exhilarating. With the Game of the Year Edition bringing the single player level count to 100, I thought I probably didn’t want more Badland. After a few levels of Badland 2, I quickly changed my mind.

It should be noted that Badland 2 has been out for well over a year, but I personally hadn’t spent much time with it until just recently, and I think that it is well worth a mention here as a great indie mobile game recommendation. The game is a little old but still stands up incredibly well and is just as amazing as some of the better mobile games of this year.

Setting: Bizarre lands, familiar and new. The setting of Badland 2 starts off pretty much the same as the original. The unmistakable whimsy of Badland is seen through all the eerie and beautiful levels. The small fragile creature you control flaps through a twisted quiet forest that has been infested with machines. The sharp contrast between nature and metal starts as a familiar, yet effective mood. As the levels continue however the biome of the levels changes, introducing more realized versions of past level variations. Snow levels have new environmental challenges, like ice beams. Fire levels have lava flows, heat lamps, and lasers…so many lasers. And finally the hero (and their many clones) find themselves in an all new sort of void environment, with floating green plasma, new gravity mechanics, and puzzles.

No matter the color and style of the environments and puzzles, Bandland 2 is still very much the same game as the original at heart,  which is perfect. Any large departure from the original game mechanics would likely be a loss. The squeal feels much more like a natural progression from where the first game left off.

Gameplay: New Layers of Paint on the Same, Wonderful Game. For those who have not played the first installation, essentially the objective of any level is to get at least one of the flying (or rolling) creatures that you control to the end alive. Though there are other objectives, which i’ll talk about in a minute, this all the player needs to do to win any given level. There are of course always a gauntlet of spines, explosives, lasers, waterfalls, pits, and lava (to name a few) which the player must carefully avoid on their way to the goal. The controls are super easy to use, just tap the left or right side of the screen to move in that direction and keep from falling for a second. This creates a simple but challenging task as flying through levels usually demands a lot of avoiding things.

Some of my favorite times with Badland 2 (and 1 for that matter), are levels that incorporate a lot of the pick-ups that change speed and slow time. These are often combined with cloning pick-ups will split and duplicate the little creatures. There are some incredible moments in Badland 2 particularly that give the player a brief feeling of being out of control. Having  50 clones tear across an open map full of saws at super speed, then dramatically slowing time just before they all die is an example of the kinds of things that this game will impose upon it’s players. One new addition to the squeal is the occasional ability to stop time, which makes for some amazing moments. There are also pick-ups that will make the clones sticky, bouncy, fat and heavy, or tiny and fast. This makes for tons of crazy combinations that are tricky but always fun to experiment with.

Difficulty: Change your goals to change difficulty. Though the main goal of any given level is always to get at least one clone to the end, levels always have secondary objectives like getting a certain number of clones to the end, losing no clones, or finishing the level in one try. This challenge based objective system allows players to progress through most levels simply attempting them multiple times, while also allowing experienced players to challenge themselves by aiming for more specific (and much harder) goals. This allows Badland to be what the player wants; An atmospheric immersive experience, or a tight difficult set of challenges.

Badland 2 is not really new anymore, but it still holds up as one of my personal favorite mobile games. If you decide to get into the greatness that is the Badland games, bigger screens if available are recommended along with headphones. The game’s soundtrack is subtle but all the sound design blends together to make for a great audio experience. Badland 2 is available on Android and IOS. I believe that the only difference is that the IOS version is $4, while the Android version is free but plays ads unless you pay to remove them. Badland 1 Game of the Year edition is available on Steam for $10, with controls and levels adapted for PC. This Steam version also features a 4 player mode to play with friends!

The Badland games are some of my favorites for playing in my spare time and I defiantly recommend them to anyone at all interested!

As always, happy gaming friends! 

Causality is one of those rare games that is so tight and clean, so well executed that even if it’s not exactly your thing, you have to recognize a level of excellence in it’s construct. Simple, beautiful, unique, and challenging as hell, this is a must-have for puzzle game champions.

Causality, a fresh puzzle game by London based game company Loju challenges players to guide several astronauts through simple mazes to color coded exits. Players will quickly discover the complexity of Causality as they are forced to navigate space AND time, rewinding and fast forwarding the timeline in order to time all their paths correctly. The cosmic explorers themselves can travel back and forth through time, helping their past and future selves, making for a tight, complicated, puzzle game.

Causality is not the first puzzle game to use time mechanics. Jonathan Blow’s “Braid” used similar elements. Causality is unique however in that the player is asked to manage several units and move them all to an exit rather than a single protagonist. If one unit moves into a time warp the others will continue on their first timeline, unaffected by the time shift, makes for interesting possibilities and path combinations.

I got this game relatively recently and found it to be harder than I anticipated. I’m not necessarily a champion at puzzles, but I’ve defeated my share of tricky games. I played through the first 4 Myst games (well, up to the end of 4) back in the day and have found a handle full of newer puzzle games like INSIDE, the Portal series, and Laura Croft GO to be exceptionally compelling. Causality,is simple, but becomes rapidly difficult. By the time you’ve overcome the challenges that face you in the first world the levels seem to grow exponentially difficult. There is some variance in difficulty, and since you always have at least 2 level options it is possible to skip levels that give you a special kind of torture. Sometimes I’ve had to skip levels entirely, but then found I could beat the next one without too much trouble.

The best thing this game has going for it by far is the time teleporter mechanic. Though it is always fun moving the timeline forward and backward at will, things really get interesting when you can move a character forward in time (causing him to appear already walking as soon as his past self has a path that will eventually lead him there.), or jump them backwards in time, giving you more “turns” to solve the puzzle. Future and past characters can get in the way, or aid each other as they can activate switches and remove obstacles. Be careful not to induce paradoxes in space and time on your travelers though! Getting an astronaut stuck in a time loop will prevent you from finishing the level! That along with a smattering of other dangers and obstacles make the best levels!

Because the game is so dense, levels can be headache inducing. Part of the charm of Causality though is it’s simple and clean presentation. There is no story, no reason for your missions, not even an intro video. But that’s OK. Sometimes games can try too hard to make themselves more complicated when the part of the game that’s fun is just the actual game itself. (Or in this case fun and often brain-smashingly hard). I only have two criticisms of the game in it’s current state:

1. The game does not take advantage of it’s most fun element enough (the time-teleporters, some levels don’t have them at all).

2. The game has only four areas which are not terribly large, but very hard. I would have liked to see the difficulty curve not spike so fast, but then again, I do appreciate that Loju stuck with what makes their puzzles stand out; which is complicated, nuanced levels that implement time-travel.

Causality is available on Android and IOS for $2. Honestly with the level of excellence that Loju has brought to us It should probably be more expensive, so for 2 bucks? totally worth it! I am yet to have beaten it, but plan on at least trying to finish all the main puzzles, which if I put some time into it, I’m sure I can do. If you have any thoughts about the difficulty or other elements of Causality, please leave a comment below, and as always…

Happy Gaming Friends!

Looking for a great, original space action shooter available on PC, Consoles, and IOS? Well then my plasma pistol wielding, astro-exterminator friend, it’s time to rise to the occasion, and become… The Bug Butcher!

Your chunky space transport slowly touches down on a wintry planet, you know this will be just another day at the office. Maybe a science research project had gone horribly wrong, maybe someone touched a glowing meteor, or maybe it’s was just a really bad alien moth problem… but no matter what, the cold metal of the plasma pistol in your hand will soon be glowing hot with the hazy blue inferno of battle! Someone has called you; Someone has called The Bug Butcher, and that means that you were their final hope, their only chance… you won’t let them down!

The Bug Butcher is a whacky vertical shooter by Awfully Nice Studios and published by Noodle Cake Studios

TheBugButcher intro

Setting: Humorous space cartoon action! 

The setting is not essential to the gameplay or story, as the game is an arcade shooter at heart. Nevertheless, the backgrounds and visual elements are compelling and creative additions to the world of The Bug Butcher. The player progresses through various levels of a remote outpost, seeking to exterminate the alien vermin that are attacking. All the enemies, weapons, and levels possess a certain cartoon/sci-fi element, reminiscent of a “spaceman spiff” sort of vibe. Each new area of the outpost has different environmental elements and new enemy types that require specific strategies and attack patterns to conquer!


As could be expected from an arcade shooter, there is no real storyline progression but the story isn’t really crucial to the game, since it really is just a reason to shoot alien bugs with energy weapons. Then again, who really needs much of a reason to shoot aliens? Cause you know… some aliens are just dicks. The game has a satisfying amount of new environments and levels without being distracting or reducing the focus on gameplay. The game is half a zany cartoon and half shoot-em-up. This combination is a perfect balance of both and makes for a simple, compelling, and at times humorous adventure. It’s well worth checking out.

Gameplay: Classic 2-button vertical shooter + gravity.

The Bug Butcher has humorous dialogue scenes and awesome cartoon graphics, but at its core, it’s a high score chasing, combo building, bullet blazing arcade game! The game mechanics are simple; the hero can walk or sprint back and forth, but can only shoot up, while enemies have a tendency to bounce, fly, or fall down, attacking from above. Some enemies split, some follow paths, and some can’t be slowed by bullets, causing various combinations and patterns to form, which are unique to each level. This creates a sense of fluidity and keeps the player learning and forces them to get better.


The game does feature an in-game currency which is used to buy new weapons, upgrades, and perks. Progressing through new enemy types unlocks new weapons which help with the increasing difficulty of the levels. Rockets, lasers, Gatling guns, and even a “lightning gun” are all at your disposal when facing the galactic hoards. Also for your use are speed boots, invincibility, ice bombs, and homing missile packs to level the playing field when backed up against a wall (or the floor!).

Difficulty: challenging but attainable. 

If you’re into climbing the high score chart and achieving 100% on every level this is a good game for you. Building combos without getting damaged will build your score multiplier, which you will have to rack up pretty high to achieve 3 stars on each stage. Every level is a multi-faceted challenge. If the alien insects don’t kill you, every level has a timer that exterminates everything in the chamber when it hits zero (including you!). The player must balance speed, attack, and defense to master all 5 floors of the complex.


One complaint personally is that the game is not terribly long. It is highly repayable, especially for those who did not get 3 stars on the first go at each level. There are 5 floors, with 6 levels each, the last of which is always a boss fight. with only 30 levels, each of which have  timer that is less often less than 5 min, presumably a skilled player could finish the game in around 2 and a half hours. This is my only complaint.

If the game is too easy or too hard, you can switch to any of 3 levels of difficulty at any time. Conquered all levels at 100% on normal? Seek those golden medals of mastery on hard mode for a real challenge! Don’t like fighting alone? If you’re playing on PC you can battle against friends too! Unfortunately the current IOS version of the game does not have a multiplayer mode, but hopefully they will add this in an update.


The Bug Butcher is available on Steam for $8, and  IOS/Android, for $4. The game is not super long but, still well worth the price. If you love arcade shooters, I recommend you check this one out. I’ve really enjoyed my time playing it and will keep it around on my phone for when I need to kill some time (and consequently, some galactic vermin!)

Final Score: 8.5/10

Happy Gaming Space Friends!

The last decade has brought an amazing amount of high quality indie games to PC and consoles, providing a vast variety of games to pick from. But sometimes you might want something a little different than the many “pay-to-win” mobile games available when you are on the go. The struggle is real when it comes to finding great quality mobile games that are complete in themselves and that don’t lean heavily on in-app purchases to be fun. Everyone knows that Minecraft has had a mobile edition for quite some time now, but here are a few that you may not know about. This is my list of the top 5 best indie games that have pocket editions, so you can take these high quality games with you when you are waiting in that long line at your next concert or convention.

1. Downwell

Downwell gets the first slot on this list for a few reasons. first of course, it’s just a really great game that I think more people should know about. But secondly, it’s the perfect mobile game due to its fast pace and simple gameplay. Though sometimes it is nice to have a more complicated gaming experience on mobile, or perhaps a narrative based adventure, for those times that you need a quick burst of bullet-shoe, high-score, well-diving action Downwell has your back. Perfect for waiting in lines and killing time, but still a compelling game for Saturday night. Downwell is a simple game to learn, and truly a challenge to master. Any arcade game lover needs to go get addicted to this ASAP! It is available on on IOS and Android for $3

2. Crypt of the NecroDancer

WOW. This game is so unique and clever that I tell people often to check it out on the PC. Now that it’s available on IOS you can take the dungeon-crawling dance party with you! This one will be harder for people with smaller phone screens, but this shouldn’t be much of a problem since every phone these days looks like an iPad Mini. Even so a larger screen will be helpful as you have many enemies and items to view the farther each run takes you. Essentially this is a rouge-like that is played to the beat of the music. There’s a good number of items and weapons to discover along the way to dance-move mastery! Crypt of the NecroDancer is extremely well made. This title is currently available on IOS devices for $5.

3. Bastion

Bastion brings a gaming experience heavy in environment and brilliant story telling. The hero is accompanied in his journeys by a narrator who speaks about player in 3rd person, recalling your past while also commenting on present actions. This is tricky story telling medium that Supergiant Games nails in this title. Bastion is great because it actually transfers over to mobile pretty naturally. As with other titles you will need to have a decently sized screen for optimum gameplay, but Bastion should play well on most mobile devices. It’s a lot of fun, and tells a moving and beautifully imaginative story. The experience is well worth the low price of $5 on the apple app store, especially since on Steam it’s $15.

4. Transistor

Transistor is another title from Supergiant Games. This title takes place in a sci-fi, almost cyberpunk universe, and like Bastion, Transistor also has a great aesthetic and brilliant storytelling. In a world where people’s consciousnesses can be downloaded, city covers all you can see. The player takes the role of “Red”, an unlikely enemy of the government who escapes execution with an unexpected friend, a circuitry sword that is occupied by the consciousness of an old friend. The game can be played in real time, or in planned out turns where Red uses her highly customizable array of moves and weapons to take out her enemies in the most efficient way possible. Transistor truly is a unique game that borrows very little from other titles. Transistor is the most expensive game on the list at $10, but Supergiant Games seems to keep their games the same on mobile devices as on PC, so it’s still kinda like getting 50% off, as it’s priced at $20 on Steam.

5. Don’t Starve 

Don’t Starve is a brutal, crafting survival game set in a Gothic/Victorian setting. This game is both addicting and maddening. It’s very different from the other games on this list as a standard game of Don’t Starve often takes a long time, and being a rouge-lite game with no linear narrative plus perma-death, it is less fitting for killing time and lifting boring moments, but is better for sitting down for longer periods of time to focus on it. The PC version of Don’t Starve has been out for some time, but if you haven’t enjoyed the brutal sanity draining adventure yet this is a great way to try it out. There does not seem to be any additions to the pocket edition yet (no “Reign of Giants”, or “Don’t Starve Together”), but but hey, you can play in an airport now. As with the other games, the pocket edition is much cheaper at $5, as it’s $15 on Steam.

That’s my list of my top 5 indie games with pocket editions. I know there are some other good ones out there too, but these happen to be my personal favorites. If you have a different favorite indie title with a pocket edition leave a comment, or let us know on our Facebook or Twitter page!

As always, Happy Gaming Friends!

– Jacob Tillson

80 DAYS – AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNEY INTO A STEAMPUNK 19th CENTURY –

As one might suspect, the name 80 Days is a reference to the famous Jules Verne adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days. In this game You will do just that, try to circumnavigate the globe, beat your deadline, settle a bet, and defend your honor as a gentleman!

This game is a beautiful combination of the original vision of a world dominated by British colonialism and connected by modern technology, and a brilliant imagining of a 1800’s vision of the future. like all good and subtle science fiction, the main focus of the game is not on the tech, but rather it adds to the rich environment of the game, making the story even more unique and interesting.

Story & Setting – A Pocket Watch, Earl Grey, Airships, and Automatons.  The actual story is at times fairly similar to that of the original story, but with several clever differences. Since you can essentially choose most of the places you go and how your characters proceed,  the story can be different and new through many playthroughs. Since the original setting has been altered, the world you will circumnavigate has both recognizable countries and cities, but it will also features many factions, governments,  and a history that is new and imaginative.

Gameplay – 1000’s of possible routes woven into a single story. The strength of this game is undoubtedly in the story. In many ways, though you have a goal that you can succeed or fail at,  80 Days is in many ways, a collection of short stories about a single pair of adventurers as they travel the world. All the odd characters and small adventures that you and your master Phileas Fogg encounter build into a single story that will conclude with the success or failure to meet your deadline. Since the game is mainly a text adventure the decisions you make are primarily between several choices provided to react to each situation that you are confronted with. You are provided with a globe to plan and reflect on your journey, and in markets you can pick items to buy or sell. The point of the gameplay that I found to be the weakest was probably that you have to do a lot of micro managing with finances to keep yourself well funded, which I did not find to be particularly interesting. Since most items are only for the purpose of selling in a different city, I felt that they served a fairly one dimensional role.

Difficulty – 80 days is a challenging deadline. I personally found it difficult to make it back to London in the allotted time. Because every train, car, and airship has it’s price, you need to make sure that you have enough money to travel. You are allotted a limited amount of money to travel with, and if you want more you must sacrifice time by waiting at a bank at least a full day. This adds a challenge which is good, though I still felt at times that funds could have been a more diverse and dynamic part of the game. The game itself is not hard to play or even to enjoy, but to complete your goal of 80 days you will have to plan carefully and react to unexpected difficulties cleverly. 80 Days is a game that is probably better suited for those who like good art in any form but who do not consider themselves a “gamer”, and is also appealing to a variety of ages. I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading fiction.

This game is one of my favorite mobile games. I personally had a great time with it and am sure I have not played through it for the last time, ( I sill haven’t explored East Africa or Russia).  Also being someone who has read the original I can say I feel though it takes many liberties in it’s interpretation, Inkle did a wonderful job of preserving the feeling and nostalgia of the Verne classic, which also creating something greatly original. Though I have some minor complaints about the game mechanics (primarily those related to items and funds)  80 Days is a wonderful adventure and a clever game that I would highly recommend! It is available on the App store, Google Play, and Amazon Apps.