“Ever since I was first introduced to the tabletop fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering in high school, I’ve spent countless hours of my existence tapping mana, flinging spells, and sending hordes of bizarre beasts onto the battlefield. The Duels of the Planeswalkers spinoff series did a great job of reviving the classic wizard dueling strategy on consoles in recent years, but Magic 2013 is the first installment to hit a portable device, and it’s absolutely fantastic on iOS.”
“The process of keeping the mind sharp and punchy is a lot like going to the gym — except instead of lifting weights and working up a nasty sweat, some of us prefer to engage in a bit of clever wordplay to keep the brain firing on all cylinders. When mental gymnastics are preferable to good old-fashioned physical exercise, the App Store is a hot spot for hunting down the best puzzle games for getting the job done. Get ready to flex some mental muscle and scarf down some tasty word salad with these stimulating gaming apps for the orthographically inclined.”
“Perched atop the bombed out husk of a building, I scan the razor wire fence line and nearby rubble far below for movement through the scope of my M1903 Springfield. Taking aim at a pair of Nazis chatting amidst the din of distant gunfire, I hold my breath, line-up my shot, and pull the trigger. The bullet spins through the air, hanging just for a second in the light, before it erupts through my target’s eyeball in slow-motion and sprays blood, brains, and shattered cranium out the backside of his head — all in gruesome X-Ray vision that provides a sickly intimate view of the grisly noggin slurry as it makes its grand exit.”
“As a kid, I grew up rolling d20s, charting out hand-scrawled labyrinths on graph paper swiped from math class, and concocting elaborate fantasy worlds to explore. And when I wasn’t sitting around a table with my pals debating the finer points of casting Magic Missiles instead of Delayed Blast Fireballs, I spent my free time affixed to a clunky old PC playing games like Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master. Digging into Almost Human’s shiny new take on hardcore old-school dungeon crawlers is a warm fuzzy trip down memory lane, but one of the most impressive things about Legend of Grimrock is the way it showcases how well the classic formula holds up after so many years.”
“The darkest reaches of deep space are colder and more merciless than any dungeon, and in Faster Than Light (FTL) — a rare sci-fi roguelike set in a star-filled realm of intergalactic turmoil instead of a dank subterranean dungeon — death awaits anyone foolhardy enough to rocket into the void. With a well-armed fleet of rebel star cruisers always nipping at my heels, playing FTL feels a lot like walking the plank. I’m doomed no matter how I look at it. But fighting to stave off the inevitable destruction of my ship and crew as we make a mad dash through the cosmos gets my blood pumping every time.”
“Drawing a wealth of knowledge from the good book of 1980s-era dungeon crawling 101, the folks over at Almost Human, Ltd. know their chops when it comes to exploring dank corridors, sticking it to drippy-mawed beasts, and scavenging for scraps of gear needed to survive. The indie studio’s upcoming Legend of Grimrock is absolutely awash in old-school nostalgia, channeling the spirit that made classics like Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master so hard to step away from as a kid. But pushing deep into the monster-filled innards of the game’s ominous subterranean realm during my hands-on time revealed much more to this dungeon crawler RPG than mere retro charm.”
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Skyrim owns you. It is, as they say, everywhere you are. I don’t usually make a lot of time to play games just for shits and giggles in the middle of the holiday season coverage rush, but my craving for nerdy fantasy epicness overruled my better senses. I pre-ordered Bethesda’s latest jaunt in the Elder Scrolls saga on a whim. It arrived. I set it aside for a few days. Then I cleared my schedule for 24 hours, cracked open the cellophane wrap, inserted the disc into my Xbox 360, and BOOM: nerdgasm. Wizards! Glowing axes! Melting people’s faces off with jets of flame from my hand! YES!
But for all its grand quests and diversions, one of the things that I’m enjoying the most about Skyrim is the all the weird WTF moments that pop-up during my travels. With such a vast open world to explore, I’m finding myself prone to wandering around and getting into trouble rather than sticking to the main story line for any length of time. Here’s a short and snappy chronicle of some of my random oddball experiences in the game presented in easily digestible list form.
“Some people like their racing games drenched in cold, hard realism. Me? I’d rather spend my time blasting around the track at absurd speed and pulling off crazy tricks than grinding gears, spinning out on straight-aways, and smashing into guardrails. TrackMania 2: Canyon’s accessibility and addictive arcade racing is a perfect change of pace from the flashy rigidness of the genre’s hardcore simulation leanings. Ridiculous track designs and straightforward stunt racing is the norm on these wild, dusty tracks, but modern polish and saucy new moves make this killer ride a real tour de force.”
“As I thunder along a windy mountainside, barreling full-bore towards a cathartic rendezvous with the failing castle gates of my latest mortal enemy, the thrill of rounding the home stretch and plowing through a few gimpy barricades spurs my profane battle cries. I smash my rotund stone form into the critically wounded doorway, shattering it with a rumble. My doomed foe waiting inside emits a high-pitched squeal of terror right before I squash him, and the resulting “phhhhhttt” sound makes me chuckle. Almost every victory in Rock of Ages ends this way, but I haven’t tired of the spectacle; getting there is where all the fun and challenge is at.”
“For days on end, I’ve been staring at the blue hued corridors of maze-like compounds filled with ugly neon soldiers trying to kill each other. My eyes are starting to hurt, but it’s hard to look away. Every click of the mouse sends my brain swirling with the strategic outcomes that could unfold. Will my grenade take down that sniper or will he have disappeared long before it ignites? Will another foe turn the corner and run head-long into the blast? I have no clue. Each turn you take in Frozen Synapse is a calculated gamble, which makes the constant cycle of second guesses, tactical sneakiness, and erupting chaos in this turn-based shooter intensely absorbing.”