As a roleplayer, I have a genetic predisposition towards buying dice of all sizes, shapes, colours and functions. It’s not that I need all of them; heaven’s above, no. But I can’t resist anything that has shiny, shiny dice in it (even if the dice aren’t actually all that shiny in and of themselves).
So it was I found myself attracted to Zombie Dice, by Steve Jackson Games. I’m an utter wuss when it comes to horror movies, zombie ones included, although I did enjoy “Sean of the Dead” and “Pontypool”. But it’s a dice game, so how could I not buy it? And it’s from SJG, sainted doyen of the gaming industry, who brought us GURPS, Car Wars and Munchkin, to name but an illustrious few.
What you get for your dosh is a cardboard dice cup with a lid, a set of incredibly short but perfectly clear rules and 13 dice (3 red, 4 yellow and 6 green). Each die represents a human victim that you, as the zombie, are shambling after. Shake the full cup of dice, take three out without peeking, roll them and see whether or not you’ve got juicy, juicy brains for tea (a brain), a mouthful of dust (running feet) or a shotgun in the face (BOOM!). The winner is the person who manages to get 13 brains in total.
But it’s not quite that straightforward; despite the apparent simplicity of the mechanic, there’s a great deal of tactical play to be had (AKA pushing your luck). Each of the different coloured dice has a different ratio of brains to feet to shotguns, with red being the toughest, having only 1 brain and 3 shotguns (the exact opposite of the green dice). If you’ve rolled brains or shotguns on your turn, those dice are taken out of play and you must decide whether or not you dare try for more dice. If you get three shotguns in total, you’re dead and your score for that round is nothing. It’s trickier than you think and sometimes having nerves of steel is rewarded with an amazing streak of brains. But not always.
You will need some sort of counters to keep track of how many brains you’ve scoffed throughout the different rounds; jelly babies would be quite good fun, because at least at the end of the game you could bite their heads off with a triumphant cry of “Braaaaiiiinssss!”. You might feel a bit sick if you tried that with all 13, though.
If you’re more technologically minded, or just want a taster of what’s in store for you, then SJG have kindly done both a superb free app for the iPod Touch and iPhone, and a 59p upgrade with a few more features such as multi-player gaming. The app zombies have awfully punny names and do try to encourage you to get shot, the mechanic isn’t quite so transparent and the music will drive you mental if you leave it on (perhaps that’s the point) but may I remind you, it’s free!
All in all, it’s a fast game that is highly portable (in either format), great fun and incredibly silly. So do shuffle along to your friendly local game/app store and get your fix of yummy, scrummy brains…
I am understandably sceptical about games that are part of advertising campaigns (this one is for chewing gum) but the Nightjar had three reasons that made me bother to download it from the app store. Interesting gaming concept, the new Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) doing the voice and its free. The premise – on an abandoned spaceship you must escape using only sound. Of course you are not alone.
Picture me ready to play, sitting in lowlight with large headphones and my iPad. The intro starts and my heart is in my mouth. It reminded me of the new breed of rollercoasters, where you sit in the car and they throw story at you in the dark, then whoosh! You’re off. Or not if like me, you haven’t updated your iTunes and iPad software recently. Crash city.
Take two and this time I get into the game proper. The only controls are walking forward and turning right and left. Seems simple? It is for the first few levels. Listen to the noises, head in the right direction. Though you might be wishing you had bothered to use that volume limiter on your music player or not attended so many loud concerts when you realise your hearing is that of an old man. There are fourteen levels in total and it was at seven that I started having problems. I would love to tell you how much harder it gets, but I can’t. I’m stuck on level eight. Is it ironic that I keep dying in the human waste room?
Atmospherically The Nightjar is right on the money. Aliens is one of my favourite films, imagine how much more terrifying it would be for Ripley if she couldn’t see anything at all, just hear the approaching xenomorph horde and the helpful computer calling out their increasing numbers. And she hasn’t got a gun. Downsides – there is a limited amount of narration which isn’t tailored to what you do in the game. Die from standing still and you still get the ‘don’t move too fast or you’ll die’ advice and for a game on the iPad you have to double size the iPhone version, making the menus slightly blurry. If you have a choice, play it on the iPad – the larger screen makes your movements far easier. I would also recommend the quiet, darkened venue. It helps you concentrate and adds to the tension. No need to be embarrassed in front of other commuters when you jump out of your skin and rip off your headphones. Thank goodness for volume control.
Extrapolation tells me if you play through it all first time it will take you about an hour to finish, but that’s a big if. You can’t skip forward to levels you haven’t unlocked yet and with names like ‘deep space’ and ‘exit pursued by an alien’ they do not fill me with confidence of successful completion. Did I enjoy playing it? Surprisingly yes, though i didn’t appreciate the increased heart rate. I doubt I would play it again if I ever did get to the end as the game does not have additional challenges. There is no score, you are either dead or alive.
Overall for me it was a fun and scary experience, fantastic for a free game, and a great use of the touch screen on the iPad. The campaign promises ‘a sensory overload in different areas of gaming, music, art, film and fashion’. If the other elements are of a similar quality then they might be worth investigation.
As soon as I get out of this septic tank.
I have to admit, I never thought that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would be my sort of game. I spend a lot of my gaming time on FPS’s and RPG’s and I haven’t played a point and click adventure in a long while. Also, it’s about lawyers…which didn’t seem like the most exciting premise. However, Capcom were offering the first Phoenix Wright game on the iPhone for 59p so I thought I would give it a go. I now find myself having completed the game, it’s sequel and am now well into the 3rd game in the series.
I have been completely won over by Ace Attorney.
The game is divided into 2 sections; Investigations, where you explore crime scenes and question witnesses and Trials, where you cross-examine and navigate through conversations in order to find contradictions. Once you’ve found a contradiction you can present evidence by yelling “Objection!” None of this remotely resembles a sane legal system. But the game does demand you to think critically from time to time about how the case fits together and is pretty engaging.
But, it wasn’t just the gameplay that endeared me to this game, although the twists and turnabouts and ridiculously dramatic moments as witnesses unravel on the stand are a joy to behold. Mainly, I fell in love with the writing. It can be pretty cheesy at times but each character is a very original creation written with depth and humour. Some you may only meet the once and others recur in the sequels but it’s quite hard to forget any of them. The originality of the characters also holds true for their appearance and animations. Each character has only a few expressions but I can’t help but be impressed with how much personality and emotion was infused into these few sprites.
This game made me laugh out loud more times than any other game I can remember playing since Secret of Monkey Island. It made me wonder why I spend so much time playing as silent, grim heroes. Phoenix Wright’s colourful world of flashy blackmailers, Steel Samurais, haughty prosecutors with tragic pasts, spirit channeling teenagers and old ladies who will just not stop yelling at you was like a breath of fresh air.
I should take this as a lesson and expand my gaming horizons more often. I’ve been guilty of sticking to my preferred genres too long and I wonder what other gaming delights I might have let slip me by.