Considering that the app “Draw Something” has been downloaded over 50 million times since its release, it was, of course, inevitable that other developers would try to take their own stab at the concept, and reap the considerable rewards of the apparently huge market that exists for that style of game.
Yet unlike the many “Angry Birds”knock offs out there, there really isn’t much creative freedom in trying to duplicate “Draw Something.” As indicated by the title, it’s a game where you draw something, people take a guess at what subject it is you are trying to draw, and the world rejoices at the fun had by all in the process. It’s not exactly a concept that is easy to capitalize off of without directly copying the original idea. While this would usually be a breath of fresh air, creatively speaking, it’s truthfully kind of sad that no one has found a way to take the basic idea present in that game (user created trivia with your friends) and find a fun new direction to take it in.
That’s why I like the new app “Sing It, Say It.” Instead of relying on a visual for the trivia question, “Sing It, Say It” instead uses audio clues. Specifically, you are asked to record a movie quote or song lyrics, provide the answer in a limited character space, and share it with up tofour other players (random, or grouped through you) to see who can match the sound to its source. The gameplay is enhanced by the ability to acquire tickets by winning and achieving other goals like winning streaks, or being the fastest guesser in your group. These tickets work as in game currency to unlock bonuses that range from more recording time, to voice modifiers (and also serve as a nice change of pace from a game requiring actual currency to unlock things).
If it sounds simple that’s because it is, and that’s thankfully why the whole things works. As so many of us are children of the multimedia age, our minds are backed up with movie quotes and song lyrics that were previously only useful for the occasional misguided karaoke adventure, or casual slip in to everyday conversation. “Sing It, Say It” provides a competitive forum for that knowledge, and does it with a simple system that never hinders your experience. While that is an experience that I find is best enjoyed with a group of personal friends as opposed to a random online gathering (much like a “Rock Band” session), if you have that group of equally pop culture obsessed buddies available, it’s incredibly fun to find yourself in a forever-ongoing back and forth of “spot that reference” with a well implemented reward system furthering your efforts.
While it would have been easy for “Sing it, Say it” to be a soulless “Draw Something” knock off, instead it feels like an idea that was spawned by a simple gathering of friends wanting to share a game of trivia we’ve all played before with others as well. It’s not quite as dynamic and addictive as the mega hit “Draw Something,” but that casual fun feeling that frames the entire experience is more than enough to have me singing this apps praises, and saying that it’s my app of the week.
As the Summer of Arcade kicked off in 2011 for Xbox Live, one of the headline games was a title called “Bastion.” Like just about every other indie title ever made, it arrived without much hype and drew little more than curiosity based on the tantalizing art style. But as soon as it hit the marketplace, both critics and fans found themselves completely immersed by a game that realized that sometimes there is an inherent value in style over substance, if you happen to be the most stylish thing in the room. It went on to post impressive sales figures, and find itself on short lists everywhere for game of the year.
And now it’s coming to iPad.
If you never got to experience “Bastion” originally, it’s a story of a protagonist known only as the kid who awakes one day to find that an event known as the “Great Calamity” has wiped out just about everything he’s ever known. His only hope is to search out a communal safe haven, known only as the bastion.
“Bastion” is an action RPG in the style of “Diablo.” From there, it immediately defies categorization. Letting the simple and addictive style of the genre take care of that burdensome concept known as gameplay, “Bastion” instead focuses its considerable efforts on…well just about everything else. You’ll immediately be drawn in by the games art style, which features well rendered hand painted environments and characters. Color has seemingly abandoned video games as a whole, and to call “Bastion’s” style a breath of fresh air contradicts the fact that the only way to really describe the look of the game is breathtaking.
Coupled with this graphical onslaught is some of the best sound design ever put in a video game. This is mostly due to the games gruff narrator who manages to comment on just about everything in the game, whether scripted or otherwise. What initially seems gimmicky, and could get annoying, instead becomes vital as it contributes to the game a unique storytelling style that reminds you of a storybook fantasy tale. When not being entertained by the narration, you may take the time to notice that the music is not only appropriately atmospheric, but also stands well on its own accord.
For its critical transition to the iPad, little is lost. All of the game’s content is available, and looks and sounds great. The controls could have been an issue, but by using a minimal amount of touch buttons, the developers have managed to make things as painless as possible, and after the first few levels you will rarely find yourself fumbling with the controls. In fact, the only reason I couldn’t recommend the iPad as a platform for “Bastion” is because when everything in the game (the addictive action, the stunning look, and the encompassing sound) all come together, it’s very easy to get swept up in the title and thus lose track of the world around you, making “Bastion” something of a public hazard. Also, much like the original title, you may find yourself wishing that you had an invisible narrator commenting on your every action through the day, only to be continuously disappointed there isn’t one.
There doesn’t exist enough games with the simple beauty of “Bastion,” and there are even fewer on the iPad. In 2011 “Bastion” for the 360 was a candidate for best game of the year. In 2012, it’s still got enough going for it on the iPad to be my app of the week.