Games

Glorious scene and city builders in a non-traditional sense

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve stumbled across some fantastic builder games in the guise of TownScaper, Islanders, Cloud Gardens and FlowScape. They are “games” that forgo the typical tropes of achieving a high score, slaying some overpowered, ridiculous looking boss, looting some rare resource that drops once every one hundred tries, or going for the headshot from a thousand yards away. Instead, the goal is to install a feeling in you and create an experience with you. When there is no wrong way to play, you simply enjoy the ambience.

All of these “games” create the same enjoyment as snapping Lego together. When you click to place a house in TownScaper, or start a new land section, there is the satisfying splash of the water, the burst of color from the house, the amusements as the birds come to roost, and the excitement and anticipation of placing the next block in the sequence.

Even if you have no artistic flair, you are still creating something beautiful and entertaining to look at. It will be unique, colorful, and artistic no matter what you do. You are in the hands of a great teacher who won’t let you fail. There is a true sense of accomplishment with creating something of your own, not just following a map or exploring caves someone else put together.

And these are the types of game you can play for a few minutes or a few hours. You won’t be penalized for not having twitch reflexes. You don’t have to worry about high score. You don’t have to grind for days, or weeks to reach the “end game.” Technically, there is no end game. The world can go on forever, or be restarted as many times as you want.

I love the fact these games exist. Not only are they a pleasure to play, but they introduce news twists for gameplay. The offer fun changes and allow people to experiment with ideas without investing hundreds of dollars in a game and thousands of dollars in computer hardware.

I bought FlowScape this weekend and jumped in with both feet to try it out. I watched a couple of tutorials, watched what some others put together, then clicked through the selection of objects available and started dropping trees, rocks and water into place. Before I realized it, two hours had gone by. I was so engrossed with the action on the screen, and so riveted with trying “the next thing” that I lost all track of time.

It was so incredibly satisfying and that’s exactly how games should be.

A bit of fun with plants in FlowScape

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Dressing up an overpass sign in Cloud Gardens

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Townscaper – Beautifully quirky

I found Townscaper the other day and within minutes I bought my own copy from Steam. It’s a game that’s not really a game at all. It’s somewhat of a city builder, but there are no people, no money, no goals, no achievements, just the fun of laying out a gloriously colorful city.

But as you will soon see, it’s not the average city builder. Buildings change depending on how they’re placed, how many are placed, if they’re stacked or touching another building. They also change based on how high they are, what they connect to, and several other factors. Also, the grid isn’t square, so you get wonderful curves and angles.

It’s like building a 3D puzzle where all the pieces fit no matter how you place them. It’s very easy to play for just a few minutes, or absolutely lose yourself in it for several hours.

It’s great fun and I can’t wait to see how the game evolves. But, even if stays just as it is, it will be very satisfying. Check out other reviews, other screenshots, and other intriguing designs, then grab a copy of Townscaper from Steam.

Townscaper

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Back to playing the dirtiest game I know

Perhaps it’s the great collection of trail running/rock crawling maps I’ve found. Perhaps it’s the stalwart Humvee, that in the words of Jimmy Broadbent, “is an absolute weapon!” Or perhaps I like living on the edge, of a cliff.

Either way, I’m having a glorious time in MudRunner again. I’ve played it on and off ever since it came out, but now, something has really clicked. Despite how it sounds, delivering logs has been a great way to spend the evening. Or a few dozen in my case.

Now that the standard content is complete, I’ve latched on to a slew of new maps, built specifically for rock crawling and trail running. And I’ve found a couple of great trucks to use.

First is the Humvee. One of many I’m sure. But it is brutally powerful and seems to be able to travel over anything and everything.

Second is “Snot Rocket”, a green counterpart to “Agent Orange”, which is an out of control buggy that has kicked me out of the saddle more than once.

They are total opposites, but my goodness, they are a ton of fun to play with!

With summer fast approaching, now is a great time to jump into MudRunner, listen to the chirp of the birds, the rush of the water, and the awesome power of a smoke billowing assault vehicle!

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Nothing can stop me now!!

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Ok, this is not the first time this has happened. Good thing I brought a winch.

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Pocket City – A great little city builder for Mac

I was a huge fan of Simcity 2000. I thought Simcity 3 was quite enjoyable. Then the music stopped and I skipped all the subsequent versions. But with Pocket City on the scene, I can now experience the same joy of city building.

Pocket City is a new game I just picked up over the weekend. And once I got started, I invested several hours into the venture. It has all the game play elements that made Simcity great. You set up residential, commercial and industrial zones. You need to play fire and police stations. To keep citizens healthy, hospitals need to be placed. To keep it all feed and watered, power stations and water towers need to go in. And things keep building from there.

I love the style of the game. The UI is easy to understand. There are the advisors to help you build and plan. If you miss the old days of Simcity, Pocket City needs to be added to your collection. And for $3.99, it’s a steal!!

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Pocket City for Mac

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A whirlwind of doom and gloom comes for my little city

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Well, didn’t see this one coming

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Racing along in Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally

While they share a common name and perhaps even a common code base, Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally are indeed quite different in their play style, graphics and implementation. As such, it’s not quite fair to pit the two against each other as so many people do.

Dirt Rally is focused on the precision and unforgiving nature of rally racing. Career mode starts with lower end, two-wheel drive cars and progresses to the more powerful four-wheel models. But, through it all, the goal is to drive as fast and precise as possible, as every second counts, resets are limited and costly, and misjudging a corner will lead to more damage and repair time than your team can afford.

Dirt 4 takes many of the previous Rally traits, but blends them with the arcade feel of Dirt 2 and Dirt 3. The tracks are still technical, the cars are still fast, the misjudged corner can still lead to disaster, but Dirt 4 doesn’t have the same punishing, and admittedly, the same lonely feel as Rally.

Like previous editions, Dirt 4 has head to head competition in Landrush, and offers more vehicle types such as the trucks and buggies seen in Dirt 2. It also offers a “gamer” mode, geared toward those who want an arcade experience versus a simulator feel.

I have both games and enjoy them for different reason. Despite the reviews, they both  have pleasing graphics. Rally is far more technical and will test your nerve, daring you to go faster, but handing out stiff consequences for cutting it too fine.

Dirt 4 is has a wider variety of tracks, vehicles and courses. While still challenging, it feels like you can recover from an early mistake. Yet it still offers the challenge of how much time can you spend repairing the car and still be competitive. And like Rally, you can’t keep clicking Reset until you get the perfect run.

During the Steam sale, the bundle price of both games was less than cost of each individually. I picked up Rally in the previous sale and grabbed Dirt 4 in the latest one. After playing each for several hours, both had me in the grip of white knuckle driving.

Dirt 4 should be compared to Dirt 2 and 3, and by that mark has many advances. I still enjoy Dirt 2, except for the Gymkhana events, which I can do without. Dirt 4 has plenty of challenges, a nice selection of vehicles, and even when mistakes are made, I feel I’m still in contention, if not for the stage, but for the overall standings.

However, with the sales going on, I wholeheartedly feel racers should get both. They are a challenge in different ways. They have their own play styles and satisfy for different reasons.

Both games are excellent, and continue building on a fine franchise. Dirt Rally is a slight departure, but offers plenty of thrills and a more simulator styled experience. Dirt 4 offers a wider variety of racing, and gives an edge of the seat racing experience. Rally will keep you on the edge of your seat as well, but time is the ultimate enemy.

Dirt 4 eschews the glamour of the X-Games style racing of it’s predecessors, but still have the same showy feel. Dirt Rally throws it away all together and your only gauge for how well you’re doing is the tone of your co-drivers voice.

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