Fall has always been an overwhelming season for game fans.
Almost every week brings another one of the year’s most-hyped games. And that was before the launch of Apple Arcade, the tech giant’s new subscription service, which in about six weeks has given those who sampled or bought into it more than 75 new games to explore.
We’re here to help, as even the most dedicated would be hard-pressed to keep up. I haven’t, for instance, yet had the time to sample “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” — I’ve been too caught up in playing my way through the already polarizing “Death Stranding,” which will dominate game conversations when it comes out Nov. 8.
With so much to recommend and play this month, here are five games not to overlook.
Like the Night School game “Oxenfree,” a 2016 blockbuster that presaged “Stranger Things” with its mix of teen comedy and light thrills, “Afterparty” jumbles the surreal and the real. Dialogue again is the primary weapon, with a narrative adventure that centers around shifting and tweaking conversational choices to direct the story.
Your mission: to get out of hell, which can be accomplished by outdrinking Satan, which not so subtly makes real life something of a permanent hangover. There’s also an underlying mystery, such as discovering how playable characters Milo and Lola even ended up in hell. It’s colorfully outlandish, and as one of Night School’s founders describes it, something of an interactive Pixar film for adults. Play it and you’ll discover that it doesn’t always take much to spend an eternity with Satan. Example: One character finds themselves punished for repeatedly using the express checkout lanes at grocery stores despite having more than 15 items.
“Afterparty” is available now for PCs, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch release is planned at a later date. Read more about the game here.
2. ‘Luigi’s Mansion 3'
There are ghosts aplenty in “Luigi’s Mansion 3,” and although the goal is to catch them, it’s sometimes preferable to try to get to know them. Clem, for instance, is a maintenance worker with an apparent love for country and folk music and a penchant for flooding the basement of the haunted hotel to relax in a rubber ducky pool float.
“Luigi’s Mansion 3" is loaded with character, and if there’s something onscreen, chances are it can be interacted with. Ghosts are captured with tools such as a vacuum or a plunger, and you can’t help but smile when Luigi uses his vacuum to successfully complete the tablecloth pull trick — sight gags are hidden in practically every scene. Then there’s Gooigi, a green blob of an alter ego that can traverse spikes or slime his way through gates; he often must be used in tandem with Luigi to solve ghost-hunting puzzles.
It’s all spooky fun and, most important, “Luigi’s Mansion 3" puts the emphasis on exploring. This gives us an opportunity to get to know Luigi and see another side of Mario, characters who can sometimes tend toward caricatures to suit the need of the game.
“Luigi’s Mansion 3" is out now for the Nintendo Switch. Read more about the game here.
3. “Manifold Garden”
“Manifold Garden” is an enrapturing, psychedelic head trip that distorts all sense of time, place and being. A weird dream might disorient me but “Manifold Garden” can leave me completely off balance. Yet while playing it, I want nothing more than to restore order to its world, to crack the code of a universe that has my mind feeling caught in the center of a Rubik’s Cube.
Here, the rules of gravity exist but they’re twisted, with perception changing at every press of a controller button or tap of your iPhone screen. It’s a puzzle game that will make you wish you had paid closer attention in physics class. But even if you had, you likely won’t be any closer to understanding its geometry; hallways, windows and stairways appear seemingly out of thin air, and whether you’re right side up or upside down is a matter of perspective.
Taking some inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film “Inception” but leaving out the panic, the game is mostly a nod to the perfectly structured yet byzantine works of artist M.C. Escher, with some light atmospheric sounds present to calm us as we try to figure it out. “Manifold Garden” wants us to think that we’re molding the world, but the world turns with us as we attempt to move through it.
“Manifold Garden” is out now for Apple Arcade and PCs. A PlayStation 4 release will come later. Read more about the game here.
“Mutazione” finds optimism in dire times.
You’ll meet a woman who has taken on catlike qualities, fungi that have grown into humanoids, a bird that serves as the town mystic, people whose toes have grown into claws and others whose heads have swelled to neon-green cantaloupes. We play as Kai, a teenage girl who travels into this Jim Henson-inspired world of slightly twisted yet whimsical oddities. “Mutazione” is part of a small but burgeoning trend of games that shift away from postapocalyptic violence and instead look for strands of hope in our climate crisis. Those who take a moment to invest the time in “Mutazione” will find a game about nurturing the world and learning to live in harmony with what we’re given.
Here, plants grow more readily when given proper care and company and sometimes a song. Playing music to gardens is the puzzle, as it were, at the core of “Mutazione.” These are prods to explore the colorful world and discover the plant seedlings that we too often overlook — or that earlier generations had bulldozed into roads.
“Mutazione” is available now for Apple Arcade, home computers and the PlayStation 4. Read more about the game here.
5. ‘The Outer Worlds’
There’s a slight danger in starting “The Outer Worlds.” You may be tempted to restart it, again and again. Do you envision yourself as a sports team mascot? That will help with your ability to inspire others. Cashiers likewise are coveted for their ability to persuade. Or maybe you’re more of an assistant to a deputy chef, where your prowess with juggling burn-inducing kitchenware has improved your dexterity and reflexes, traits that will be key to survival in a world wrecked by corporate rule.
While far from an ode to the working class, “The Outer Worlds” is something of a warning against deregulating companies. And while skewering corporate America is nothing new for games, which often like to imagine themselves as pop culture’s more rebellious offerings, “The Outer Worlds” doubles down on its capitalistic red flags, showing us a future where humans have been allowed to destroy multiple planets rather than just our own.
So do you want to be a hero and try to rebuild humanity, or simply burn it all down? I’ve just barely scratched the surface of this expansive, time-devouring game, which is likely to gobble up your free time, but part of the fun is in seeing how adaptable the work is to our desires. It can freely accommodate those who prefer to fight their way through conflicts or those who aim to talk through any roadblocks. Either way, strategy rules, as many in “The Outer Worlds” have grown accustomed to a passive, company-run lifestyle and simply don’t understand your grievances.
“The Outer Worlds” is out now for PCs, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A Switch release is planned for 2020.
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