Developer: Rhizome Games
Genre: Casual / Adventure
Price: £5.99 / $8.99
Release Date: 17th November 2015
Developer: Bandai Namco Entertainment America
Genre: Puzzle / Match 3
Release Date: 9th July 2015
Developer: Genius Sonority
Genre: Match 3/Puzzle
Release Date: 18th February 2015
Red Winter are one of my favourite developers, almost solely for the original Dungelot; a roguelike/boardgame fusion that has been copied by nearly every freemium dungeon crawler since. Obviously, they’re unperturbed by heavily influenced games as Lost Viking is clearly an homage to Threes; another game no stranger to copying. There’s a structured campaign to Lost Viking though and it looks to bring a lot of what made Dungelot so great to the table. Hopefully they’ve learned a little from the slightly disappointing but quickly revamped Dungelot 2.
Either way, Lost Viking is available to buy in all regions and is looking great from my point of view!
Developer: No Goblin
Release Date: 18th September 2014 (Steam)
Roundabout is a game all about defying expectations. Many have assumed it to be a Crazy Taxi knock-off, others see it as a top-down racing game. Admittedly, these are obviously the kind of people that skim over press releases but even I went into it envisioning a vastly different experience than the one I received. At best, I was hoping for an entertaining distraction, adequate visuals and a virtually non-existent plot stringing some simple levels together. Never once did I expect I’d be playing one of my favourite games of the year.
My first correction came with the introductory cut-scene, one so funny I genuinely laughed out loud. It wasn’t a one off either, the laughs kept coming with brilliantly shot live-action videos set in the 70s with a pure B-Movie sense of humour. It’s cheesy, sarcastic and ridiculous in every way you’d expect with some great characters emerging from the story. I would dearly love to detail the oddballs that grace the backseat of your limo and their bizarre requests but it would detract hugely from their comedic effect. It’s a certain thing that the adventures of the beautiful and taciturn Georgio Manos will remain ingrained for years to come.
It should come as no surprise really, with the development team made up of some of those responsible for Destroy All Humans, Rock Band and The Gunslinger. It’s the gaming version of watching Mighty Boosh with all the irreverence, silliness and kooky characters.
The second misconception is deconstructed sometime during the first level; the gameplay is anything but derivative or fleeting. If you’ve played either Kuru Kuru Kururin or Cyro (and let’s face it, most people haven’t) then you’ll know roughly what to expect. In all three games, your avatar is an ever-rotating object that you must guide through devious courses, trying to avoid touching the sides. In Roundabout’s case, your avatar is a luxury limo and the course is a sprawling city that’s free to be explored at your leisure between missions. You have no control over your rotation so all the weaving between obstacles is nowhere near as simple as it sounds on paper.
You’re allowed a few bumps between checkpoints before your vehicle is a flaming wreck but a single ding can prove fatal when it ricochets you between object. You need precision at all times but there’s always that nagging temptation to rush when you can see the end ahead. There are also several collectibles off the beaten track that are used to purchase bizarre accessories for your limo. You know deep down that they’re purely cosmetic, but you’ll rarely resist the allure of the occasional detour so you can drive around with waffles and ice cream on your roof.
It’s surprisingly difficult, though rarely frustrating. Navigating could have been a nightmare if not for the very fair checkpointing and bitesize nature of the missions. It almost feels unfair to dub it a casual game, if you want to 100% the game then you’ll need patience akin to that needed for a Super Meat Boy playthrough. You’ll also be best off utilising a gamepad; keyboard controls are certainly adequate but having tried both saw me never returning to the latter option. There’s a slight delay in movement with keys which proves sometimes fatal, an annoyance that can convince you the game is unfair – fortunately not the case in this instance.
The third and final misunderstanding I approached the game with was believing it would possess simplistic visuals. There’s an impressive fidelity to the artwork; crisp and colourful surroundings really relay the 70s setting overlaid with a celluloid fuzz. Even when you’re mowing down pedestrians and reliving Carmageddon, it’s all cheery and comical. I had to double check the requirements at one point which only confirmed the graphically intensive nature far outweighed my expectations. You’re not going to need a heavily-modified rig to run it but it’s attractive enough to sate even the more graphic-frenzied gamers.
Putting all the factors together you get a near perfect package; there’s a lot of hilarious content that’s both addictive and unique. I’d be very surprised for Roundabout to not have a place on my top 10 games of the year, which is a bold statement I wouldn’t make lightly. It’s also one of the few times I’d say the deluxe edition provides far better value than standard – offering early builds, videos, screenplays and the incredible first person Georgio Cam mode all on top of the traditional soundtrack. Any doubts you could possibly have evaporate within the first minute of play and by the end you’ll be enamoured.
Developer: Monster and Monster
Release Date: 31st July 2014
Monster and Monster’s previous releases have mostly involved calm seasonal walks, so a sudden shift towards turn-based roguelike treasure hunting was a surprise departure. Besides the trademark colourful pixel visuals, the main clue that the two-man team are behind this is the wonderfully British sense of humour. You just have to let the credits roll to realise that.
The cutesy visuals disguise a traditional dungeon crawler in the vein of Sword of Fargoal and Cardinal Quest. Each movement consumes a turn in which enemies act in concert; attacking, fleeing, collecting and advancing. Roguelikes tend to be the territory of the RPG-diehard, an impenetrable bastion of permadeath, walls of stats and endless re-rolling of dice to get the perfect hero. Monster and Monster have seemlessly woven a hardcore genre with that of the endless runner, possibly the most casual of experiences and made something as intricate as you wish it to be.
Being an amalgamation of several distinct genres, it’s hard to summarise the gameplay. From tense yet slow-paced back and forths between your diver and the denizens of the deep to frantic tapping to catch fallen bounties, Deep Loot feels nothing if not unique. Digging through the blocky terrain may make Minecraft comparisons an easy choice but there’s no crafting or persistance in the world you inhabit; the next dive session replaces the layout with a literally endless procedurally generated labyrinth. The RPG features are hard to deny but you won’t be finding a new weapon on your travels, that’s left up to the funds earned from recovering treasures that are added to your museum.
With game sessions lasting roughly two minutes, it’s perfect for the snatched spare moments yet you can easily sink a few hours into completing a relic set. They’ve perfectly encapsulated the “need, want” addiction of sticker albums where the next full page could be just one dive away. Much like Animal Crossing’s collection donating, it’s incredibly satisfying to find the last piece and have a complete dinosaur skeleton taking pride of place for all to see.
Deep Loot is an entirely free experience, but unlike most freemium casual games, you won’t feel the not-so-subtle tugging on your wallet to give you an edge on the competition. In-App Purchases are tucked away into a tab you’ll rarely see and social media features are never pushed to the forefront. Whilst you could very easily unlock everything the game has to see without spending a penny, there is a reasonably priced coin doubler that goes a long way to reducing the minimal grind or could be viewed as a premium unlock to thank the developers for their hard work.
Deep Loot can be purchased exclusively for iOS from here: