This holiday season, I upgraded my iPod for the first time in a few years. I finally got to try a bunch of games that my old one had neither the space nor power to run.
What I’ve discovered in my exploration of these games is that there’s a new resurgence in the kind of designs you would have seen 30 or 40 years ago in arcades or on game consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System or Atari. A few of these are available for more than just iPod.
Letterpress — It is kind of like Boggle, Scrabble and Go all mixed together. This is a multiplayer game, intended to be played with a friend or a random person online. You have a grid of randomly selected letters, and your objective is to control as many as possible when the last letter is claimed. On your turn, you simply select the letters that spell a word, and you capture them. The only exception is letters that have been captured and are surrounded by captured letters of the same player. You can only get them by taking the letters surrounding them. You can’t repeat a word twice in one game, either.
That’s it, super simple and addicting. I do worry a bit about how there’s really only a few major strategies to win, but it was fun discovering them and it’s still holding my attention.
Letterpress is free, with a one-time 99-cent purchase to unlock extra features, like playing additional games simultaneously.
Super Hexagon — This game is about as simple as a game could possibly be. You control a triangle by pressing left and right halves of the screen to make the triangle rotate clockwise and counterclockwise around the center of the screen. There are walls that are moving at you at high speed, and you lose if you hit them. Try to not hit them as long as you possibly can.
That’s the entire game. Except, this makes it sound like some stale cashgrab, but it isn’t. The game sucked me in, failure is easy but retrying is even easier.
I poured myself into the patterns and got caught up in the strange ritual of moving lights and pulsing sounds.
Within the confines of the rules it presents, it explores almost every possible combination of things to dodge. This game is pure experience and is utterly amazing.
Super Hexagon can be purchased for $2.99 on PC through Steam, and via iTunes for $2.99 or less.
Ziggurat — The game feels weird to me. It took me a while to actually get to liking it, too. But I’ve warmed up to it and it’s extremely clever — but, as I said, weird. You play the role of the last human in the universe, and the aliens are going to kill you. You stand on top of a ziggurat, an ancient Mesopotamian pyramid-like structure, and you have a gun. If you shoot with a quick tap, you fired a weak bullet that just sort of flops down and bounces but can hit low enemies. You hold down, you charge a blast that flies straight and hits ones in that range.
Like Super Hexagon, the dynamics of play within the limits of the rules can be surprisingly complex, and the second-to-second choices can be both nerve wracking and exhilarating. Every shot fired has to count, and the only score is how many aliens you take out before you inevitably succumb to the horde. But it’s still weird. Weird but good.
Ziggurat is 99 cents on iTunes.
Noah Hinz is an art and game design enthusiast living in Walla Walla. Contact him with questions, game suggestions, playing, or anything else related to games at firstname.lastname@example.org