Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
It’s bittersweet that so many games are doing the XCOM thing lately (not to mention that they’re not doing the X-COM thing). The great thing about the great turn-based, squad-based strategy comeback was it picking up a ball that had been dropped years ago, but now perhaps we’re in danger of the whole thing atrophying. There’s a whole lot more to experiment with there, rather then rest on genre laurels. For example, Frozen Synapse, which does turn-based combat as rapid-fire prediction.
Where the current crop of XCOMlites demand hours of your time and often emotional investment in your units, Frozen Synapse demands minutes. In theory, anyway. You’ll either be high from winning a match or burning for redemption after losing one, so will want to get straight back on the horse regardless.
The thing about Frozen Synapse, other than its quickness, is that you’re not simply deciding where to send your units and what direction they should shoot in, but basing that around educated guesses about what the opposing team will do. There’s this great system where the game will show you how things will theoretically pan out once both sides commit their orders – you tell the game where you think the enemy will be and it will show you the result. When you guess correctly, you feel like superhuman – you’ve intuited exactly what your opponent was thinking. Conversely, there’s plenty of keyboard-slamming and shouting of ‘how did they know? How could they possibly know?’ if you’re on the receiving end of someone’s successful prediction.
It’s an elegant system, and one that gets the heart pounding with tension – not just the need to win, but the need to be right.