Software, New Products on the Market
We must admit that we often lean too heavily towards the hardware side of things as far as our reports and reviews’ topics are concerned. So today we decided to redeem ourselves a bit in that department and chose the software-related theme for yet another heads up about the best new products in the market according to those in the know. To wit, we’ll tell you which online games are now considered all the rage. Here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth, the all-knowledgeable horse in question being, in this case, CNet (no offence, just in case).
And let us start with what they think is best for those preferring to have it easy (not that we have a problem with that, especially at these times when “easy” is really a nice change of pace). CNet sees The Jackbox Games as a game seeming to be specifically invented for our current situation, where the interspace between people is king – and for a good reason, considering how quickly, simply and safely it connects everyone who plays it. Firstly, there is no difficulty in mastering it at all (which covers the “easy” part), including learning to stream the thing and let other participants into the proverbial playground. It doesn’t even require an application: any browser on your smartphone (no matter what platform it is based on) will do. Secondly, it allows for a lot of said participants and is compatible with pretty much anything across the board, Win or Mac, Xbox or Nintendo, plus various TV-related gadgets. Then – which is pretty much the point of it all – it’s a lot of fun; there are quipping contests, trivia quizzes, imaginative drawing and many other ways of amusement. Once you buy your chosen set of Party Packs from Steam, just fire up whatever video connection software you use and enjoy. And it now retails at less than a half of its normal price, too.
There is also another CNet’s crown given out for gaming easiness, but in this case the criteria was narrowed: the reviewers chose the winner strictly with the mobile gamers in mind (and with Heads Up lovers, too, for good measure: no idea why they combined the two audiences like that, but perhaps, Heads Up is indeed a paragon of mobile simplicity). This prize has been snatched by Epic Games’ Houseparty, and it is one more item on the list. It is aptly named, as well, because it is a video chat version of a game night with virtual partygoers playing the aforesaid Heads Up, having a go at quizzes and so on. There are no more than eight participants allowed at once, though (who said “Covid limits”?) But take note of a hack scare associated with this title: the hearsay is that, should you use it, your Netflix account may become exposed. On the other hand, the $1m promised by Epic to anyone who can prove it, is still to be claimed.
Now for especially, shall we say, playful among us, CNet recommends the game named exactly that. Yes, Among Us it is, and by the reviewer’s account, this InnerSloth-produced title is perfectly suited for pulling the wool over your unsuspecting buddies’ eyes. The overall plot is set in a spaceship, and the goal is to single out a hostile alien life form with changeling powers, posing as one crewmember after another and constantly crippling your vessel with the aim of killing everyone else aboard. And naturally, it sets everyone else up along the way, so the gamers can get paranoid (or devious, depending on the part played) to their hearts’ content, especially considering that most of the time they have to observe the rule of silence. The only thing that limits the joy of finding virtual but rather realistic dead bodies around the ship is the actual number of participants allowed at one go (which is 10). Plus, smartphone gamers can play this one gratis (but will have to endure the ads, which, for some, will make $5 charged for PC-based playing, look even smaller a price than it seems at first sight).
If, however, you prefer to use your existing video calling / chatting resources as efficiently as possible, there is the winner of the All-in-one / video experience category, called Backyard. With it, you can connect with your playmates via your existing instance of Zoom (or other data communication channel) at no charge. It’s enough to have an Android or iOs-based account to get access and receive a free shareable code (once you set up your own Backyard’s Space) that will unlock for you an array of various online versions of board games. And again, there are no applications involved. (But hurry if you are interested: there will be a charge coming next year).
And now that we mentioned virtual versions board games, it brings us nicely to this very nomination, won by a bit preciously named Tabletopia. But its makers do have some ground for such a claim: after all, there are 900 titles to treat yourself to, and platform is no object: compatibility here is pretty much universal. So is the nature of the available games: whether you are a fan of chess, cards, domino, creating virtual engines or building something new from scratch, you won’t be disappointed. There are variously priced monthly subscriptions to choose from, for further flexibility.
The next category seems to be dedicated, in a sense, to the ultimate gaming experience. It is the “Virtual Escape Room” nomination, and the winner itself is named “The Escape Game”, and we all know that escapism, by and large, is the bottom line of gaming as such. So we are talking the escape for the escapists here. Which, in the CNet’s view, is embodied in cracking online puzzles to break away from an online prison (with the additional excitement of racing against the clock). Which, coming to think of it, sounds a bit paradoxical, taking into account how uncomfortably familiar to our real “settings” of today it all appears. But to each their own. Besides, there are some adventurous surroundings and genres to play with, from heist-mounting to entering the Potterverse.
But if the above nomination’s relevance to current times might be (and most likely is) unintentional, this next one refers to here and now clearly and openly. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been deemed by CNet to be the ultimate “lowkey hangout”, no less, and its social distancing theme is cited specifically as its winning point. And rightly so: what it may lack in compatibility (for it is only available on Nintendo Switch), it makes up for by being practically an object lesson in how to go about allowed activities during a lockdown. The player’s own space is transparently symbolized here by an island where selected mates can occasionally be invited for some outdoor get togethers. Even a Turkey Day option has been recently included to make this virtual piece of contemporary life feel extra real.
Finally, there is quite a set of games hailed for saving time of those who are constantly on a clock. The prize for being well-suited to “time-constrained” gamers is the only one which was divided between several winners – five whole of them, in fact (and they are all, unsurprisingly, mobile: playing in a hurry normally doesn’t go well with notebooks). No big revelations here, mind: Fortnite, Scrabble GO, Uno & Friends remain the favorites, along with Words With Friends 2 and Draw Something. For unaccompanied playing, the site also suggests taking up subscriptions, pointing Apple users towards Arcade and Android crowd towards Google Play Pass.
And that rounds up our today’s “Best of” report. Hopefully, it will somewhat restore the hardware / software balance of your trusty column.
IGN’s Top 10 Most Addictive Online Games [Video]
Video uploaded by IGN on January 9, 2020