Dogs are one of the few remaining precious things in life. Dogs are good–providing the world with ceaselessly comforting and fiercely loyal companions. Truth be told, we’ve reached a point where not liking dogs just feels a bit, well, wrong–like admitting you hate sweets or can’t stand the feeling of a freshly made bed. Or, more relevantly, that you just weren’t a fan of the cute n’ cozy indie game you had hoped you would love.
Sundae Month’s Pupperazzi is, conceptually, adorable. Set in a world almost entirely inhabited by playful pooches, the first-person photography game perfectly aligns with a growing desire for more peaceful experiences, making it ideal for those looking for cozy games. However, all these warm fuzzy feelings and vibrant world aren’t enough to make up for Pupperazzi’s frustrating lack of variety when it comes to things to do, which ultimately leads to a repetitive gameplay loop.
In Pupperazzi, you play a living camera, equipped with stringy limbs and hands perfectly crafted for giving pets and throwing frisbees. Your photo-filled adventure begins in a small cove beside a lighthouse, where an endearing “sea dog” clad in a yellow fisherman’s jacket greets you with a simple request: Take a picture of him.
The competitive disc-flinging of Windjammers is uniquely appealing. I’ve long heard of its majesty from the anime/alt-fighting game community (and particular game media figures). and a few heated sessions of high-speed dashing, tossing, and lobbing was all it took to be won over. Over the decades, this once-obscure arcade game has gained a reputation and a devoted competitive scene. And now, almost 30 years after the original game’s debut, Windjammers 2 has emerged to show why old and new players alike should explode with excitement over the prospect of throwing a virtual frisbee.
The core concepts of Windjammers 2 are the same as its much-loved predecessor: Take the basics of Pong (throw the disc into an opponent’s goal space to win as they attempt to block and launch it back), add an international cast of characters with unique abilities, throw in a bunch of offensive and defensive options, then toss them all in one of several varied arenas to fight in the most intense, high-powered disc-tossing competition you’ve ever seen. The combination of skills, quick reactions, mind games, and clever movement make for a fast-paced experience with a broad appeal and surprisingly high skill ceiling.
It’s not all the same as before, however. Windjammers 2 adds four new selectable characters to the cast, ranging from the super-speedy Jao Raposa to the hulking disc-chucking powerhouse Max Hurricane. Each character comes with unique super shots to dazzle and confuse opponents. New offensive and defensive maneuvers have been added, such as a button that immediately smashes a disc back at the opponent at high speed, and the ability to jump, intercept, and counter-throw a high-flying lobbed disc. These skills, combined with the unique characteristics and special attacks of each character, add a satisfying new layer of competitive depth and strategy to an already intense competitive game.
I couldn’t help but pump my arm and mutter a “hell yes” as my squad finished up our first successful incursion in Rainbow Six Extraction. Even on the easier difficulties, missions had proven to be brutal. And yet, we’d cleared an incursion without a single operator going down, playing a mission that just an hour before had been too challenging for us to even get a third of the way through. But we persevered after our initial failure. We discussed the pros and cons of our operators’ unique gadgets, made plans to take subsequent incursions at a more careful pace, and promised to stick together until the mission was finished. Teamwork won the day for us–and that satisfying sense of camaraderie is Extraction’s greatest hook.
A spin-off of Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft Montreal’s team-based first-person shooter Extraction doesn’t initially present as your typical Rainbow Six game. In Extraction, select members of international counter-terrorism unit Rainbow are called in to form REACT, a team tasked with studying and fighting against parasitic aliens called Archaeans. This is a bit more otherworldly in comparison to the more earthly concerns that Rainbow usually fights against, but the core gameplay tenets that define the Rainbow Six games are present in Extraction. Yeah, you’re fighting aliens, but a successful mission is still entirely dependent on teamwork, communication, and your ability to adapt to difficult situations. It’s a compelling gameplay loop, one made far more fun if you have two friends to jump into the fray with you.
As opposed to the player-vs.-player engagements of Siege, Extraction is entirely player-vs.-environment. In Extraction, squads of three are sent into “incursions.” Each incursion, a mission into an area infested by the Archaeans, is divided into three sub-zones, with your objective changing zone to zone. As you progress, the difficulty of each zone increases, adding more enemy Archaeans and better rewards for completing objectives. It’s up to you and your team to decide whether you go for broke and complete all three zones in a single incursion, or choose to extract from the mission early.
About midway through Nobody Saves the World, I was getting wrecked. I had bashed my head against a dungeon using my best and strongest forms–switching my shapeshifting hero between forms like the burly Knight and the nimble Ranger–but none of them had Light-based abilities necessary for countering the dungeon’s monsters. The Light abilities I could import from other forms were close-range and I was getting overwhelmed in the scrum. On a lark, I decided to switch to the Snail form, which had a signature Light ability. The humble, unassuming Snail was a form I hadn’t really tried, figuring it was more or less a joke. Friend, let me tell you: That snail ripped through the dungeon like it was wet paper. I was a tiny gastropod avenger, cackling as I choreographed a ballet of monster carnage the likes of which had never been seen. And as I collected my reward, the experience made me appreciate how meticulously developer Drinkbox designed every form, every combat encounter, every moment of Nobody Saves the World to feel great.
The attention to detail in Drinkbox’s take on the dungeon-crawler action-RPG is a quality that becomes apparent from the outset, when you skitter through a dungeon in the form of a Mouse, using your little chompers to shred through enemies. The combat feels fine-tuned and satisfying right from the start, and then builds from there with a host of options and impactful decisions that add layers of complexity while remaining perfectly understandable.
You become a scurrying little mouse after a run-in with Randy the Rad, the cocky apprentice of the powerful wizard Nostramagus. After waking up in a dingy shack with no memory or personality, you visit the Nostramagus’ house for help. He’s gone, but when his magic wand attaches itself to you, Randy takes it as a personal affront and locks you in the dungeon. Hijinks ensue.
Rocket League is a perfect combination of calculated action and unexpected chaos. The idea of playing soccer with cars is itself a good one, but it’s the way that Rocket League feels that makes it so much fun to play. Ludicrous speed, perfectly controlled cars, and goofy, floaty physics interactions turn every play into a melding of intelligent execution and unpredictable luck. Any version of Rocket League on a mobile device would have to capture that same feeling, and it’s remarkable how much Rocket League Sideswipe–a scaled-down, super-quick mobile take on the Rocket League concept–captures exactly what makes its full-sized counterpart so enjoyable.
Sideswipe succeeds in creating a conception of Rocket League that caters to mobile play. This is a platform where time is spent in short bursts and where the best games are those that find a sweet spot between solid control and decreased complexity. For developer Psyonix, that sweet spot is found by taking the fundamentals of Rocket League and flattening them into a 2D version of the 3D game. This is still soccer with cars (or basketball with cars, depending on the playlist you choose), but instead of covering a whole 3D soccer field, you instead only have to deal with all the action on a single plane.
The side-on view of the field means that a few elements of Rocket League work differently in the mobile version. You can’t crash into other cars, for instance–only the ball, the floors, and the wall affect your vehicle in motion. And since goals can’t be horizontal, they instead extend vertically into the air with a lip at top and bottom, requiring you to give your shots a little lift in order to score.