IOS Game Reviews: Hades Star, Oxenfree, Human Resource Machine, Sumisumi

Most of my time I don’t spend on work or exercise or child care is spent playing mobile games, which actually overlaps a lot with child care. Here’s what I’ve been playing lately and what I think about it and how good it is for playing with a baby on your lap.

Hades Star

This is one of those games where you move shipments around from planet to planet and make money. It’s pretty slow-paced which is fine by me because as a gamer, so am I. There’s some fighting in it against NPCs and also against other players if you want (I don’t want). Even the fighting is pretty slow-paced, basically you just set your ship on some route that passes the bad guy’s ship at some point and it’ll shoot at it if it’s close enough. That does involve more strategy than it sounds like but not that much.

As you can see I’ve been playing this way too much because it’s very low-key and doesn’t require a lot of commitment.

It does have guilds (“corporations”) where you join with other players but you can just join a slow one and not try very hard. Ironically enough I spend a lot of time on this game yet I don’t want to encourage any of my friends to play with me because then I’ll feel obligated to show up to do stuff with them which takes all the no-commitment relaxation factor out of it. So don’t look me up.

It’s mostly good for playing with a baby on your lap that you’re trying to get to fall asleep (which is the primary function of mobile games as far as I’m concerned) with the exception of combat.

Combat takes place in a separate star system you jump into which has a limited lifespan (about 15 minutes for red stars, the NPC option), and if you don’t get out in 15 minutes it blows up with all your ships in it. This is the only real-time aspect that kind of throws a wrench in your ability to pause at any time and change a diaper or just put the phone down because the baby is thrashing around too much for you to navigate precisely. Basically don’t do combat unless the baby already went into the crib or fell asleep on you.

Oxenfree

This is like a straight-up point-and-click adventure game with a storyline and nice art and touch-friendly controls. I think you’re probably supposed to play it on a tablet because I have the huge-ass iPhone and I don’t really think I can see enough of the nice art.

Story-wise it’s pretty much like Stranger Things: The Game. There are some teenagers and they stumble on a portal or whatever on an abandoned military base and it’s a little scary.

If you’re a normal person it’s probably actually not very scary but if you’re a fearful dumbass like me who can’t watch the mildest of horror movies then it is kind of creepy. There’s sort of some jump scares and a spooky soundtrack with distorted old radio sounds which I think are really good sounds for being creepy.

Anyway this straight up sucks for critical baby-watching time because it only saves when you go into a new area and the areas kind of take a while to walk through, especially if there’s plot going on. You probably should save it for “me time” or public transportation.

The actual game was fine, I guess, the art was good. There’s not much problem solving to do, it’s more of an interactive story. The story is fine. That seems like really weak praise but I don’t know, you try to find an iOS adventure game that isn’t visually shit and doesn’t look like it was cobbled together by the lowest bid subcontractor. I guess it’s pretty hard to pull off. So at least they did that.

Human Resource Machine

This is sold as a puzzle game but is sneakily actually a game that teaches you to program. When I realized that I thought, “That’s great, but I already know how to program, I will be very good at this,” but apparently I don’t and I’m not.

Anyway it’s a lot of fun. There’s no time limits or anything and you can stop any time and your progress is saved so it’s theoretically perfect for watching kids but I’ve found that it’s not actually so great in practice. The thing about programming is that you have to hold a lot of ideas in your head at once and then when a child asks for something all the ideas fall out and you get mad at the child, or at least I do, which is unfair.

So I have to avoid playing this when watching children because it makes me get irrationally mad at them. But it’s great if the baby is on my lap and he’s drifting off, or he’s settling down in his crib.

I think it probably teaches you something about programming too. “Fun games to learn coding” are really trendy right now so there’s a lot of shoddy trend-jumping shit out there, I mean the majority of it is just absolute opportunistic half-assed crap. This isn’t that! So give it a whirl.

Sumisumi

I mean look at the screen, it’s your basic puzzle match game like Bejeweled or Candy Crush or whatever. The differentiation is that the pieces are very cute.

Otherwise it’s not too special. You tap one piece, it auto-matches any touching pieces of the same color, including diagonal, if you do a lot you get special pieces that wipe out a row or the whole board, yada yada.

This is great for the kids, levels are short, gameplay is pretty braindead, if they jog your elbow and you screw up a level it’s not the end of the world because who even cares it’s just a dumb match game.

If the kids are being real jerks you can even let them make moves for you, I mean it’s not frickin rocket science.

I’m not sure what kind of stuff I’m supposed to put on this website