Five Games to Play During the Summer Lull
Like most entertainment, the gaming industry tends to adhere to a certain cycle. Recently there’s been an encouraging trend where publishers release games in the January to March window, but historically the first half of a new calendar year has been very quiet, especially in the spring and summer months when we’re all apparently supposed to be playing outside. It’s pretty clear we’re in the throes of that spring-summer lull now: triple-A titles are few and far between, a problem that’s exacerbated by the transition to a new generation of consoles. But don’t despair, eager gamer! To hell with the beach, we’ve got a bevy of quality titles to spend some time with while you await the massive holiday rush.
Zeno Clash II
The first Zeno Clash was the very definition of “gem in the rough.” Developed by a small team in Santiago, Chile, the game garnered a cult following for its bizarre narrative and remarkable first-person combat. The sequel continues those traditions in glorious fashion, painting a surreal world of dreamscape settings and populating it with marvelous/hideous creatures to savagely beat about the head (we assume that’s a head, at least). For anyone exhausted with gaming’s standard fare, Zeno Clash II offers a brilliant alternative that’s as engrossing as it is strange.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Speaking of bizarre alternatives, witness Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. The fact that Far Cry 3 is anywhere in this game’s title is misleading: it has about as much to do with the Far Cry universe as The Legend of Zelda. Blood Dragon tells the story of cybercommando Rex Power Colt’s hunt for a rogue colonel in glorious 80s B movie fashion. Set in the far-flung future of 2007, Blood Dragon’s whacky retro-cyberspace aesthetic and knowing direct-to-video style storytelling lend it a unique flavor, and while the shooting isn’t the high point, Far Cry 3’s engine makes it entertaining enough to get us through to the next ridiculous cut scene.
During a long lull, a game that can draw you in and effortlessly suck up hours of your life is a boon, and what genre does that better than MMOs? With its staggering amount of questing, crafting, PvP, and currencies, Neverwinter is a tremendous time drain but, luckily for us, it’s also a ton of fun. Its action combat is not only engaging but demands a certain amount of strategy, and Cryptic has done a fine job of stretching out mechanics and rewards to keep players constantly striving for the next big thing.
Another great way to lose hours of your life in what feels like a blink of the eye: start playing a 4x space sim. Star Drive is exactly the sort of game you find yourself playing bleary-eyed at 4 AM after, at midnight, promising you’d take one more turn and then get some sleep. It’s got all the addictive hooks of a sprawling strategy game with some interesting new hooks, like fully customizable ships and planet-side combat. Also, as space simulator goes, Star Drive is a looker, with cool 3D models for the ships that look especially lovely while they’re exploding. Give it a shot if you’re craving a deep strategy game, or find yourself with a crazy abundance of spare time.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! Extra Crispy Edition
While at first glance you might dismiss Cook, Serve, Delicious! as a cooking simulator, it actually has more in common with rhythm games. Serving a torrent of hungry customers during a lunch rush is tense and exciting, and building a combo by serving a series of perfect meals is really satisfying. Outside of the day-to-day service, the strategic layer is nearly as entertaining, tasking you with building the perfect menu, buying and upgrading kitchen equipment, and fulfilling daily challenges. The Extra Crispy Edition adds new foods, a new breakfast menu, and some other nice bonuses to entice new players, and for $8.95 it’s a delightful little package that deserves your attention.