I finished chemo on Tuesday, so in celebration here are some recs!
Inside: Hook, Staxel,Tiny Echo
Hook is a nice entry into the ‘relaxing simple puzzle game’ subgenre. Its central conceit is that you have to press buttons to reel in lines and hooks, but can only reel them in when they’re not being obstructed by other lines and hooks. The first half of the levels aren’t really puzzles in the sense that they don’t require a lot of figuring out and are rather straightforward, but new mechanics ramp up the difficultly so that by level 50 they require some decent thought. The whole game only took me 90 minutes, but I paid less than a dollar for it and enjoyed it while it lasted, so if you’re into this type of game definitely check this one out.
I have played several games now that have tried to combine Minecraft and Harvest Moon, and Staxel is not just the only one that’s any good, it’s a lot of fun. I put more than 60 hours into this game (and really have to get back into it because it’s had a major content update since then) and enjoyed every one of them.
Staxel actually integrates the block-building and town/farm-sim elements in a way these games often don’t; to get new shops and villagers, you build their houses so they can move in. I had a lot of fun building homes and shops, and I thought the game was well-balanced so that your farming was lucrative enough that you could progress steadily without being so lucrative that you always had enough money. The game also has a lot of really great community content, so there’s just a ton of building styles and furniture and such that you have to work with. It also has really relaxing music.
When I last played the dev was just starting to implement the more story-heavy elements like friendship events and plots, and are also adding new land masses for you to explore. There’s also underground mines and a museum to complete and just generally tons of content for an EA game. It’s totally worth the sticker price but it also goes on sale with some frequency if that’s a bit rich for you.
Update: Staxel has come out of EA since I wrote this — check it out!
I am so divided on this game. On one hand, it has excellent puzzle design, and competent, never mind actually good, game design is so rare in this genre that I came away thinking largely of what a good game it was. On the other hand, it’s yet another ‘words are for chumps’ pseudo-story where nothing really makes sense and no questions get answered. Weighing my irritation at its struggle to tell a coherent story against my appreciation of how well-put-together it was as a game, I come out on the side of liking its level design more than I disliked how few real answers you get about anything that’s happening. If you want a good-looking, relaxing, actually playable point-and-click, this is definitely worth picking up, but don’t expect to ever really find out what’s going on. I think if you temper your story expectations a good bit what’s left makes for a very positive experience.
That said, wait for a sale. It took me 84 minutes to 100% this game, and it retails for $8, which… no.