We got the chance to check out games on mobile, consoles and PC for this edition of Gamebox 2.0, including arguably one of the best PS4 games of the year, a crazy test of reflexes and some fantastic hacking.
Clustertruck: Clustertruck has an incredibly simple premise, jump your way from semi-truck to semi-truck and reach the goal but things quickly escalate as the trucks start crashing and rapidly shifting direction, requiring pinpoint reflexes to navigate. The game feels perfectly built for Twitch and speedrunning, as the main goal besides progressing through the levels is improving your time in each level. The game has instant restarts, which adds to the “one more time” mentality that will make you stay in the game for way longer than you intended in the best way possible. If you’re looking for a platforming challenge, definitely check this one out right now on Steam.
Journey: Journey was one this past month’s PS4 PS Plus games and so I finally had the opportunity to play it and it mostly lived up to the hype of when it launched on the PS3 a few years ago. The game looks incredible and does a fantastic job of subtly implying what you need to do in each new area, whether it’s freeing friendly fabric creatures or building fabric bridges and the way people hop in and out and you can either go along with them or just ignore them is very unique and cool. There are some annoying aspects that I don’t remember people mentioning, like some lite stealth when you run across ancient guardians who can tear your scarf (which ties to how far and long you can hover) that are, at least to me, almost unavoidable, especially when you enter a wintry area toward the end. I don’t have a deep interpretation of the story like some think pieces online but I was mostly impressed by the environment and gameplay. If you see this before September ends and you have a PS4 and PS Plus, definitely grab Journey and experience it for yourself.
Mainlining Demo: Coming from a team led by Sam Read, Mainlining is coming in October but there’s a demo available right now on Steam. Playing the part of an agent for MI7, you investigate cybercrime by hacking illegal websites and gathering evidence to get a real life arrest of cybercriminals. The demo tasks you with getting real life details of the member of a file sharing site and the game makes you really feel like you are investigating, as you have a number of command line codes you can use in the game’s Windows XPesque GUI and you go down a rabbit hole of one website leading to another leading to a file that you can download before you submit a warrant that feels kind of like the old Carmen Sandiego games, as you have to have the right piece of evidence and the right location for the right suspect, or else they walk and you get reprimanded. There have been other hacking games that offer up more options and complexity but the narrative, look and gameplay make this one stand out and seems like one to definitely keep an eye on next month.
Agenda: Agenda is a game that will let you indulge your evil, Illuminati fantasies as you control a shadow group trying to secretly take over the world through various means. There are five areas where you can influence various regions and you have to balance all five and build them up through operations, like gun running or propaganda, to expand into neighboring areas. The gameplay feels a lot like Plague Inc, the popular mobile and PC disease spreading game, as you are earning points that you can spend on abilities and then trying to expand your reach around the entire globe. The game is in Early Access, so there’s a lot that can change but I think an actual tutorial might help things a lot. There’s some tool tips and a legend you can refer to but you’re kind of just dropped in and not really sure what you’re supposed to do. You’re also just clicking through menus, so if you’re looking for a dynamic gameplay experience, this might not be it.
The Virus: Call for Help: The Virus: Call for Help is an adventure game for your mobile device that puts you in contact with Hannah, a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a zombie viral outbreak. You’ve somehow gotten into various radio frequencies, one of which is Hannah’s, and you help her make decisions to figure out what is in a mysterious suitcase she’s found and escape the military forces hunting her. At logical points, like when she’s sleeping, Hannah will go dark and then you’ll get a notification on your phone when she’s back. The first chapter of the game is free and then you can unlock the rest for $1.99. It’s a fun choose your own adventure style game and perfect for when you have a quick couple of minutes on your phone to kill.
Ernie vs Evil: Ernie vs Evil is available on Android and iOS from Goodnight Games and it’s a fantastic shooter/tower defense game where you play as Ernie, who must take on possessed townspeople under the control of evil spirit Bob. You start with just a pistol but can upgrade and build Ernie’s arsenal as you progress and there’s a great mechanic that encourages more controlled fire as, the more rapidly you fire, the weaker the bullets get, so you can’t spam the shooting, at least not in later levels. The game also has a great old school look that is different from a lot of the other throwback/pixel art games that have come out recently. It’s $1.99 and definitely worth checking out.
Streets of Rogue: Currently in Open Alpha and free, Streets of Rogue is a “Roguelike RPG Stealth Co-Op Game” from TinyBuild that lets you basically play however you want in the procedurally generated city you are dumped into. There are a ton of characters that all offer up different play styles and you can try and accomplish the various missions that pop up anyway you want, whether straight in guns blazing, bribery, stealth, hacking, etc. There’s a lot of humor and personality (a ninja and a gorilla are some of your character choices) and it actually reminded me of a DOS game I loved back in the day, C-Dogs, which offered up similar gameplay and had a similar look as well, although C-Dogs had specific, distinct missions as opposed to Streets of Rogue’s open world.
Ratchet and Clank: Based on the movie based on the game, Ratchet and Clank reimagines the original Ratchet & Clank with next gen graphics and cutscenes pulled from the movie that was critically and commerically panned this past spring (I still haven’t seen the movie but plan on it at some point, despite the low ratings and box office). The game looks incredible, with the actual game looking like or maybe even better than the movie cutscenes and it has the classic Ratchet & Clank run and gun gameplay that I’ve adored through two console generations. The game does feel like the easiest entry in the franchise but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. It’s sort of like how the various Lego games aren’t the most challenging but are a ton of fun. There are a bunch of old and new weapons, the defining feature of the Ratchet series, with my favorite probably being the Pixelizer, which turns whatever it’s shot at into old school, 8-bit looking versions of themselves, even the bosses, and of course mainstays like the RYNO and Groovitron are back as well. If you’re a fan of the Ratchet series, this may not be the best entry but it is a lot of fun.