If you have been following our blog for a while, you probably know that we occasionally write about games that we enjoy. The reason we post these reviews is because while this blog focuses on educational resources for kids, we believe that parents need some time off too.
This week, we have three dark and thrilling games to show you. But first, a word of warning: these games are quite intense, so we don’t recommend playing them with your kids -- unless your kids are old enough and into macabre, then by all means. We do, however, recommend playing them alone, possibly with the lights off and your headphones on.
We start off the list with a straight up horror game from indie game developer team Simogo. Previously known for their cutesy, cartoonish titles like Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit, the Swedish duo went a different direction with their fourth release by creating a first-person horror adventure that is Year Walk.
Drawing inspiration from Swedish folklore, this thrilling game puts you in the shoes of a distressed lover who undertakes an ancient mystical rite to catch a glimpse of the future — the “Year Walk” of its title.
This bizarre practice involves fasting in a dark room for full day, and then heading out to a church alone at midnight. Along the way you try to solve a series of puzzles that hint at the things to come, and sometimes deal with horrifying, otherworldly creatures that test your mental fortitude.
A truly evocative game, Year Walk is unlike any other game I have ever played. It has no UI, no tutorials, and virtually no hints. Right from the start you are left to figure things out on your own, including how to navigate through the game’s bleak, wintry landscape.
All this unguided searching may be frustrating at first, but once you get used to it, you probably won’t want to put the game down. The eerily beautiful graphics and atmospheric soundtrack also immerse you further in the game.
The game takes full advantage of the device capabilities; you will find yourself tapping, swiping, pinching, and sliding things with your fingers. There is also an instance where you have to rotate your device to solve the puzzle at hand. One advice that I can give you is to keep a pen and a piece of paper at all times, and possibly a pillow to cushion your iPad should you drop it in shock.
Finally, an interesting bit is the existence of a companion app, which provides some backstory about the creatures you find in the game, and a way to unlock an additional cut scene that further explains the ending.
THE SILENT AGE
In an age where arcade games and first-person shooters dominate the App Store, it is nice to see some developers bringing more variety to the table. One fine example is the Denmark-based indie studio House on Fire who debuted their episodic point-and-click game The Silent Age earlier this year.
The first episode introduces Joe, an ordinary janitor who works in a secret government building in 1972. On one fateful day, Joe heads down to the basement lab to clean, only to find a trail of blood that leads him to a dying time traveler from the future.
The time traveler warns Joe that a catastrophic event is about to take place, and the only way to stop is to prevent a younger version of himself from going back in time the first place. He hands Joe a device that enables him to hop back and forth between 1972 and a desolate 2012, and then dies. Before Joe is able to comprehend this sudden turn of events, the police arrives to arrest him.
From here on, you are tasked to carry out the cryptic mission given by the time traveler, starting by making your escape from the police station. This involves solving a series of puzzles using various items found along the way. These puzzles are not so tricky in my opinion, but the way the game incorporates time travel into the equation is clever.
By allowing players to move between two different timelines, the game essentially opens up twice as many locations and options. An item from the past may be essential to clear out an obstacle in the future, and a path blocked in the future may be open in the past. Exploration is key here, and it is impossible to finish the game without moving back and forth in time multiple times.
Another aspect where the game shines is in its presentation. Although the game lacks audible dialog, Joe’s often humorous commentaries really bring life to the story. The graphics are simple yet effective, and the haunting soundtrack only further emphasizes the eerily quiet environment.
If there is one shortcoming in the game, it is its length; it only took me around an hour and a half to finish. The story also doesn’t progress much, so you’re left with many unanswered questions. That said, Episode Two is currently in the works and it will be the final, concluding episode. For now though, you can enjoy The Silent Age Episode One for free.
The final game on this list is BADLAND, which, to sum up quickly, is the most badass-looking iOS title I have played this year. Described as an “atmospheric side-scrolling action adventure platformer”, this quirky title is definitely something special.
The game premise is simple: using one-tap control, you are tasked to guide a winged fuzzball from one side of the forest to another. The thing is, the forest is a scrolling labyrinth filled with buzz saws, mines, spikes, and other booby traps ready to slice, squish, explode, and pierce your fuzzy hero.
But as you go deeper into the game, BADLAND gradually reveals its marvellous complexity. Navigating through levels requires more than just flexible fingers; it also demands keen observation as many paths seem impassible until you find a hidden element within your surroundings to help you escape.
There are also various power-ups that may shrink or enlarge you, boost your speed or slow time down, make you sticky or bouncy, and so on. A notable power-up even spawn clones for your character, which you should escort safely to the end of the game. These power-ups can either help or hinder you, depending on the hazardous path ahead.
All of this all may sound intimidating at first, but BADLAND is terrific at keeping things balanced. It is never really too hard that you want to chuck your iPad across the room, but on the other hand it always keeps you on your toes; just when you think you have it all figured out, there is a new trial or a new power-up to throw you off your game.
Aside from single player mode, the game also includes local multiplayer mode where you can pit your skills against as many as three other players. It’s a whole lot of dirty fun — as the developer explains it: “It’s completely okay to push your rivals to spinning circular saws in order to survive.”
BADLAND currently has 40 levels split into four stages: Dawn, Noon, Dusk, and Night. These levels are part of Day 1, and the developers are currently working on a free update that will begin Day 2 levels.
One final thing that I would like to mention is that BADLAND is available as a Universal build. It supports iCloud, so you can have your progress synced across all your iOS devices.
Well folks, we hope you enjoyed this post. The three games that we reviewed above are amongst the best that we have seen so far on the App Store, and we can‘t recommend them enough. If you enjoy thrilling games, these three will be right up your alley. But even if you aren’t so keen about the dark theme, we still urge you to try them for their unique gameplay.
Other apps you might like: