- 1. Republique
Republique is the story of Hope, an unsubtly named young woman trying to escape a facility where ‘education’ is more euphemism than academic pursuit. Her only chance is with the help of a mysterious stranger who can use a phone to control nearby electronics – that’s you. You view what’s happening through the video cameras that are dotted around, leaping from camera to camera to get a better view. You can interact with other electronics, but your range is limited – you can only control items within a certain distance of Hope’s phone. To progress, you must guide Hope undetected, tapping to move her around when guards aren’t looking. If detected, she can briefly defend herself, but there’s no combat here as such – it’s all about stealth.
The story in Republique isn’t bad, it’s bolstered by a strong voice cast and pretty (if slightly bland) graphics, but this first episode didn’t draw us in completely – it raises question after question, but ends without resolving even the short-term ones. It hints at intriguing things to come, but lacks a single strong hook. It can also be a bit on-the-nose about the surveillance culture it’s critquing, but that’s okay – it feels pitched more like a young adult novel than1984, and it makes its point.
The biggest issue is simply that it’s fiddly. You have two ‘views’: one that lets you control electronics, and one that controls Hope. It’s easy to make mistakes and screw up a plan and, in this first episode at least, it feels like there’s little scope for ingenuity. But you gain new abilities as you go, so we hope these will allow for more challenging areas in the future. For now, though, Republique is an intriguing idea, made well, but it’s somewhat awkward.
This episodic stealth thriller gets off to a shaky start, but its intriguing dystopian story means it’s one to watch.
- 2. COLOSSATRON
Chaos is the defining element of Colossatron. Your massive, snake-like robot could be a dozen segments long, destroying a city while a barrage of tanks and planes assault it from all sides. It’s lively experience, becoming interesting as you grasp the colour-matching mechanic behind it – segments appear on-screen, and you drag them into place on your beast. Link three like-coloured pieces and they merge into a higherpowered segment; merge differently coloured pieces to form new kinds of segment.
Colossatron’s mechanics are simple and you don’t actively control the robotic serpent (outside of limited power-ups) – you just build it up – so the game initially feels a bit limp. As the action heats up, so does the entertainment, but we quickly whipped through the seven very similar cities in the campaign mode, and there’s not much reason to come back.
Colossatron’s few hours of campaign chaos are amusing, but it’s short on depth and diversity.
- 3. TOCA LAB
Toca Lab is… weird. Brilliant, but really weird. In it, you (or your kids, in theory) perform experiments on adorable cartoon representations of the periodic elements to reveal more elements. You start off with just phosporous, but through using tools, such as centrifuges, bunsen burners and electrolysis, you discover 118 elements. It’s not scientifically accurate, mind, more of a puzzle, but it has a consistent internal logic – to discover a gas from a solid, try using the bunsen tool. And, note, it’s not really a learning tool – there’s no information about the elements, other than where they sit in the table. Really it’s designed as something for kids and parents to explore together, with the learning coming from other sources. We’d like it if the app provided a little more information, but it’s still fun and useful.
We feel like Toca Lab could give more information in the app, but it’s still a hugely fun learning tool