Day 05 - Lock'n'Roll and DiceWars 

Addictive gameplay ahead! I like boardgames and own a few of them, but what usually throws me off is when there is too much luck involved, mostly in form of dice. Yet, there can be discussed so much about a simple random number generator (a normal six-sided die isn't anything else as picking a random number between 1 and 6) and how it is used in games everywhere. Just pick a traditional RPG and you sometimes even might see strange weapon descriptions like "Damage: 1D+5", which is the short form of saying that the weapon makes the enemy lose health between 6 and 11 points.

Lock'n'Roll is a game about colored, four-sided dice and how to combine them in a simple 4x4 grid. Four similar-natured dice (e.g. same numbers or same colors) in a row, a 2x2-block or a diagonal line will give you points, and when the points are high enough, the dice will vanish and you can carry on. It's a simple game with a good portion of luck, but I really can't stop playing it when I want to distract myself.

Popular games are "easy to learn and hard to master", and Lock'n'Rolls is a bit lacking in the "easy to learn" department, as it isn't always clear how the score is calculated. But overall it's my number one time waster nowadays.

Another game that taught me about the virtue of simplification is DiceWars, and it's one of the first Flash games I played a lot, since a decade ago at least. The game is basically the popular board game "Risk", but without all the fancy stuff, like a background story. While any other game presents its entities as part of a story, for example "Giant Rat", "Soldier" or "Tim the Mighty Mage", in Dice Wars you play with dice only, on an abstract landscape. The dice are your 'soldiers' and your enemies, and thanks to the direct representation you always know how strong an entity is.

Of course, the game has its weak points, like a pretty dumb AI, but for a few plays it's quite fun. Other shortcomings, like a slow end game or the inevitable death when the AI got lucky with the distribution of the 'countries', are mostly the same in the physical counterpart "Risk". (They might be game design problems interesting enough for making a better version.)
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Day 04 - Type Rider 

When this game showed up in my time line, presented by the French-German television channel Arte, I was skeptical first. Nearly every second indie game seems to be a platformer, with the typical worn out mechanics and parallax scrolling black silhouette look. But the game was for free on the website and about typography...

I had to force myself to close the window to be able to get back to work! Type Rider perfectly achieved to communicate the history of typography and the love for letters from the first writings in a cave over to handwritten books and chanting monks to Swiss perfection and German minimalists until we finally reach the lol cats Comic Sans Internet use of fonts.

In every chapter you control two physicalized connected rolling balls through levels that are created with the letters of the alphabet and moreover decorated in the style and mood of the century a certain font is from. The game is kind of relaxing with neat little variations for every chapter and extremely well-done tablet controls. I love how the developers brought back all the stuff I learned back in typo class by rolling through the centuries!

Well crafted piece of art not only for typo lovers! Watch the trailer here!

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Day 03 - Cube World (Alpha) 

A lot of people know Cube World, but that's not a reason to not talk about it. It's a game I bought/preordered more or less unseen (there is no free demo) so we - i.e. Jana, two friends, and me - could play it at a local LAN party, and for that purpose it was quite great.

The premiss of Cube World sounds awesome (Zelda + Minecraft + Secret of Mana + a lot more) and the videos and screenshots are pretty enough that I wanted to play it at least once. Altogether we had a lot of fun, even when we constantly died because of some enemies that were too powerful and attacked on sight, like some nasty mages.

Right now I'm not really sure I could recommend it to everybody, though. The game is pure fun sometimes (the presentation really helps, although music is missing), but we didn't have the chance (or skill) to get "deep" into it enough. Heck, all I did was kill some low-level creatures and sometimes cook a meal. We didn't get any pets, crafted meaningful armor, or defeated a boss monster. So it's definitely not a game for a few short hours, and I really wish it would be a bit easier. The good thing is that you can train your character offline and also use it for online playing now and then.

Moreover, the makers are a bit behind with releasing updates, but it seems they finally gave life signals on Twitter after some months of silence. Which is a good thing, because it would be sad if this ambitious game would die.

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Day 02 - Year Walk 

I suppose you already heard about Year Walk. If not or the game didn't catch your interest before, let me try you!
Year Walk is a short horror adventure game by the Swedish developer Simogo, known for games like Bumpy Road or Beat Sneak Bandit. And there is also their latest game – Device 6, that I haven’t tried yet.

But I want to introduce you to their beautiful, dark and atmospheric Year Walk. Named after the ancient Swedish tradition to gain foresight of the own future. This can only be done on one certain day in the year by abiding to rigid rules. Simogo succeeded to create a tense and gloomy atmosphere for the snowy woods you will explore. But the really unique and mind-blowing idea happens after you finished your Year Walk!
For the main game you download a companion app as well, where you can read about all the mysterious creatures you encountered on your dark journey. But you also get a password to unlock the “Making of” blog of the author. Which is not just an ordinary developer's blog and creates another meta layer around the game, which makes it even deeper!

I'm still so intrigued by this tablet game, that made me realize what kind of innovation is still possible in the genre of adventure games. Goosebumps!

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Day 01 - Fibrillation 

The first game I want to write about is Fibrillation by Egor Rezenov - which might be a strange start because it isn't really a game. I would compare it to Dear Esther, but Fibrillation lacks the somewhat tacked-on narrative, although you can hear the protagonist always breathe - which isn't the best part of the game to be honest. Overall it's a very linear experience, but an interesting one, and yes, eventually it tells a story and isn't just an abstract succession of 3D scenes only.

If I remember correctly I got Fibrillation via the Eclectic Delights bundle from Bundle in a Box, and it's one of the few games in a bundle I actually played and played through! Sure, the short length is a factor that helped a lot in this regard, but the first time I played it at some point I had to stop because of real-life, and yet I found the energy to replay it up until this point and then till the end. This got to say something about it.

For me, it's mostly Fibrillation's dense atmosphere, thanks to realistically created environments and mostly good sound design. Some elements are a bit off, especially when you get a good look at them, but overall it's a game I like to recommend when I talk about focused game-design and storytelling. (Also, my experiences may vary from yours, as I played an older version.)

In the very same bundle there was another not-game called The 4th Wall, and this one is far more abstract with some surprises even after it ends. I recommend to play it too, just so you see what's possible with a bit of thinking outside of the usual game-design box. ;-)
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