Connor Wake’s Umbra Via is a study in contradictions. It’s a game of steps, bids, tiebreakers, and infuriating balance. Whether that’s a good thing is also a contradiction.
If God really loved dinosaurs so much, the big guy wouldn’t have treated them to an asteroid sandwich. In that regard, Kasper Lapp’s Gods Love Dinosaurs is a piece of revisionist theology. The divine course of history thrown into schism, the natural order turned on its head, all to placate the feelings of dinophiles.
As a plaything, though, it’s reasonably charming.
I’ve played the game all of once. Sorry, The Game. Steffen Benndorf’s The Game. No, not Wolfgang Warsch’s The Mind. The Game.
Except now we’re talking about Ohanami, Benndorf’s attempt to make The Game into a competitive game rather than a cooperative game. Is it an improvement? Well, its title is more searchable, I’ll tell you that much.
Ctrl sure knows how to strut its stuff. Never mind that its stuff is an ill-fitting peg leg, peg arms, and a peg head that keeps falling out and looks so identical to its other peg-parts that nobody can remember which depression it’s supposed to peg into.
It isn’t often that the story behind a game is more interesting than the game itself. If you don’t believe me, try watching that documentary about Twilight Imperium.
Nyctophobia, though, is one of the few games that comes close. Created by Catherine Stippell as a way to include her blind uncle in the hobby — and possibly even grant him an advantage over those with functioning vision — Nyctophobia casts its players as teenagers fumbling through a darkened wood on a moonless night, navigating purely by touch as they scramble to rescue a friend who’s been bound as a vampire’s familiar.
As far as gimmicks go, donning blackout glasses is dang sexy. As a game? Well, let’s talk.
There’s an undeniable allure to the prospect of running your own dinosaur park, sure. Electrified paddocks packed with jumping velociraptors, automated cars humming past jungle exhibits, the occasional goat bleating its location to a beverage-rippling T-rex.
But right away, Dinosaur Island makes one crucial misstep that sends it hurtling into a ravine filled with hungry compsognathus. Because you see, it’s not merely that we want to operate a dinosaur park. It’s that we want to operate a dinosaur park while it’s teetering on the edge of full-blown chaos theory meltdown.
In terms of its table presence and visual sensibilities, Wasteland Express Delivery Service is unimpeachable. Its irradiated plains sprawl with stretches of desert and broken hilltops, cute-as-buttons raider trucks haul their loads wherever the reeking wind listeth, and goodies and baddies alike adorn their outfits, vehicles, and often crotches with tape. So much tape. If one morning every last roll of tape were erased from the surface of the planet, the apocalypse would fall apart. The apocalypse apocalypse.
Wasteland Express Delivery Service has a gritty beauty to it, that much is beyond dispute. But is there a similar grit to its pick-up-and-deliver gig?