Time management games are finally having other things than just waitresses in them. Financial sims, and sandbox simulations (such as Build-A-Lot) have now more in common with time management games than the open environment common in hardcore simulation games.
Juan: My pick for last year is a game called Oiligarchy, made by MolleIndustria. In Oiligarchy your role is to be the CEO of an oil company right at the end of World War II. You start in Texas, and you will soon run out of space to drill.
So you participate in the election, making sure your candidate wins and you get the government to participate "aiding democracy" in countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, and Iraq. I'm not kidding.
Oiligarchy is a financial sim with a story tie-in and a very strong political message. It has tons of options but they don't overwhelm the player as all menus are contextual. Very simple and effective graphics.
Best of all, and regardless if you agree with the message or not, next time you have somebody daring to say that video games have no meaning, just open your laptop, fire up Oiligarchy, and tell them to STFU.
Nick: My pick is a web game called Cursor*10 by NekoGames. It's a very simple and sparse game, but I think that it's a nice example of how a genre of mechanic such as time management can manifest very differently in different games.
The goal is Cursor*10 is to reach the 16th level, and to score points by clicking on pyramids. The player starts with a cursor, and clicks on the screen to climb stairs, score pyramids, and push buttons. That cursor has a time limit, and when that limit runs out, the player gets a second cursor to navigate the level.
However, the movements the player made with the first cursor have been recorded and play again as the player uses the second cursor. This repeats 10 times in total, and the player must coordinate the use of the cursors together to get to the top.
What fascinates me about Cursor*10 is that it is literally about managing the way you click with your cursor within a time limit. It's a reduction of time management to its most essential form, and that provides an interesting intellectual and reflex challenge.
Added to this is a clever use of tangential goals: the point-scoring pyramids. Clicking the pyramids is necessary to get a high score, but it distracts the player from the progress goal. The combination of these two elements gives you a challenging, replayable game.
Cursor*10 is a game that shows that it isn't always polish and piles of stuff that makes a game great. The skilled use of a essential core mechanic can be enough to make a compelling game.
Other games worth checking out are:
And that's it! Thank you for reading. We look forward to another great year in Casual Games.