Author Topic: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread  (Read 77476 times)

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #495 on: March 19, 2018, 01:47:34 PM »
The Way easily gets its pedigree from early 90s side-scroller action adventure platformers like Flashback, Another World and Blackthorne, but doesn’t quite live up to the same quality.

We start the game in a cemetery, where you have just buried your wife. A bustling, noisy cityscape looms in the far background, showing that this is a future world. You choke out the words “Why?” in your grief. And then you dig up her corpse and transfer it to a cryostasis pod.

At its core, The Way is about dealing with grief, and about the distances that we will go to as humans to keep our loved ones around. It’s hard to say good-bye, especially when we feel that someone has been taken early from us, and hasn’t lived a full, complete life. We never hear our protagonist really talk, but instead see thought bubbles as he passes various objects. And we learn that he believes he’s found the only way to bring his wife back – by taking her to a mysterious alien world that they had been researching, and finding a lost city with the supposed key to eternal life.

What hit me about the game was the dedication that the protagonist has in his quest, which takes decades. We see him get older and see life advance around him, in the form of animals growing older, and plant life taking over laboratories. He is single-minded in his determination, and his devotion pulls us along for the ride, willing to put up with a diversity of game foibles to gain closure to the story.

Graphically, the game is absolutely gorgeous in its pixelated way, with colors saturating the screen and a diversity of locales. We initially start in the man’s lab, where we have to steal a spaceship to visit a planet that he and his wife were exploring before she contracted cancer and died. Once we find the planet, we must overcome an alien landscape, caverns, underground cities, and more. It all looks incredible.

Which makes navigating these areas so frustrating. You can move left/right, jump and shoot (when you have a weapon); movements are controlled by arrow keys or WASD, while shooting is controlled with the mouse. It mostly works, but you will spend many, many moments dying from falls, or being too close to dangers – the movement just isn’t as tight as I would like. But if I could manage it, most other folks should be able to also.

Attached to that thought is that save points are sometimes very far away, so you may have to replay whole sections numerous times, which is especially frustrating. And finally, the puzzles vary from simplistic to obtuse, and you never know what you’re going to get. I found a walk-through was critical to finishing the game.

The Way succeeds in telling a heart-wrenching story, with two possible outcomes based on what you learn; both are bittersweet in their own way, especially after the journey we have just undertaken. But I feel better for having made the attempt. 7.3 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #496 on: April 02, 2018, 12:21:20 PM »
The Guest is billed as a first-person room-escape adventure, and I don’t normally play those. What it really is, however, is an amalgamation of a diversity of riddles – some simplistic, some brain-straining, and some (to me at least) literally impossible. I’m not a huge puzzle guy, although I can do math problems pretty well, and I had an inkling of how to complete them.

Visually, the game does look good, with items from the late 80s as your background props. My two biggest issues were with character movement, and with the lack of a defined story. You use WASD to move about in first-person, and your mouse to highlight clickable items or features. But the movement was so wonky and slow – I wanted a run button, and I wanted the view not to be so wobbly, which made me nauseous at times.

As far as the story, you’ve been kidnapped and locked up in a “hotel” room, with the expectation that you’ll eventually solve some problems and move along. But we never really learn WHY you’ve been selected, and what is expected of you. It just really wasted the reason for you to be doing all of these actions.

If you’re a puzzle person, you’ll find plenty of challenges here (and thank God no piece-sliding puzzles, which I hate), but if you want a little more meat to your story, you’ll be disappointed. 6.3 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #497 on: April 09, 2018, 10:32:11 AM »
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a splendid example of a point-and-click adventure! One of the best I’ve played in recent years, honestly, with an interesting plot, great voice-acting, logical puzzles, and lots of humor.

The game allows you to play as several various characters, depending upon the setting. Each may have different skillsets that apply to the setting, so you’ll have to play as all of them to complete your tasks.

The game starts in the home of MacGuffin, an archaeologist who has found a hidden treasure that may very well be able to end the decades-long war between the Shadow Army and Free Alliance. But the Shadow Army has learned of this item, and has come for MacGuffin, taking him prisoner. Fortunately, princess Ivo of the elves sees this taking place, and jumps onto the tail of the huge red dragon transporting MacGuffin. Here is where we finally get to start playing.

This first section controlling Ivo gives us an idea of how to use objects, combine them, and move about. From here, we transfer to Wilbur Weathervane, a gnome who works in a dwarven alehouse, but secretly daydreams about being a mage or adventurer.

I won’t spoil the journeys these two (and others) have, but just say it was an absolutely delightful story. About two-thirds in, the plot drags just a little bit, but quickly wraps up most of the loose ends. Wilbur is hilarious, and some of his conversations are laced with callbacks to sci-fi, horror and fantasy stories and movies. On occasion, I used this helpful walkthrough: www.gameboomers.com/wtcheats/pcTt/TBoUT/TBoUT.htm, but for the most part, everything was easy to puzzle out.

I really enjoyed this game, highly recommend it, and will definitely look for the sequels. 9.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #498 on: April 16, 2018, 08:49:02 AM »
I have been eagerly anticipating Firewatch for several years, and my play-through was not disappointing.

Set at a national park in the Southwest U.S. in the late 1980s, Firewatch first engages you with its unique graphical style – slightly animated/cel-shaded, but with warm accents to all the colors. Having worked one summer at a Boy Scout camp in the southern Rocky Mountains, I can testify that the color saturation is really spot on. From the orange and brown glow on the rocks, to the purple and pink sunsets, to the sun rays cutting through a lush green riparian canopy, Firewatch really captures the look and feel of its location.

This is important because the location is integral to the story. You play as Henry, a married man separated from his wife, who unfortunately has early-onset dementia. To escape your situation and regain your own sanity (your wife is back with her family in Australia), you accepted a temporary summer job as a fire ranger in a national park. The only other “person” in your immediate life is Delilah, your sarcastic boss who is located in a far-off fire tower that you can barely see with your binoculars. You never meet Delilah in the flesh, but you carry on some frank and intimate conversations with her over the length of the summer, which deepens into a strong relationship.

Your first day, you are thrust into a number of issues: several campers start launching fireworks – during a posted “no fires” day, you fall down a ravine, you enter a cave with a locked door, and see a mysterious figure in the distance. These situations give you some idea of how to maneuver the terrain, and key items to look for in future travels. At the end of the night, you tuck into bed at your tower and the next day begins.

Starting on Day 2, events begin to spiral out of control, with the same campers starting a campfire in another location. When you go to find them, you unwittingly enter a bizarre conspiracy that will take the rest of the summer to reason out. I don’t want to provide any more details as it is worth experiencing on your own.

As Henry, you have the option of being open and honest with Delilah about your life – I don’t know if I had answered differently whether that would have provided a different outcome at the end, but certainly some areas would be impacted. Both voice actors do an amazing job and really bring these characters to life – I really felt like I knew them by the end of the 6-hour game.

The first-person perspective is great, and I always felt like I mostly had free-reign of what I did and when, as opposed to other “walking simulators” like Dear Esther. There aren’t any Quicktime events – just lots of conversations as you walk from one place to another, and occasionally do some active things like climb ropes, jump over ledges, etc.

About two-thirds of the way, I encountered something that brought tears to my eyes, and I wasn’t really expecting it. I give credit to the game designers for messing with my expectations and making me feel real emotion about these characters. The ending was not as satisfying as I would have hoped, but not everything can be a fairytale ending.

In all, Firewatch really succeeds at painting a gorgeous portrait of the Southwest, while also unveiling a compelling mystery with approachable main characters. 8.7 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #499 on: April 23, 2018, 12:21:49 PM »
Left Alone really doesn’t bring much as a first-person horror-puzzler. The nearly pitch-dark indoor and outdoor areas require a flashlight to navigate, and of course the batteries you constantly need are scattered haphazardly – it really is becoming a tired trope in these types of games.

Graphically, the game is slightly better than average, but still not outstanding (and you couldn’t see if it were anyways). You start at a campsite, waiting for your buddies, when someone knocks you out. You wander down a road, through some trees and into both an electrical complex and a small shack. I had to backtrack numerous times to finally figure out where to go, which was across a bridge to a school, where your buddies supposedly have been trapped. Again, I couldn’t see where the button was that opens the main gate, despite looking around for 20 minutes in really obvious places.

Once inside the nearly pitch-black school, you have to puzzle out some extremely obscure riddle to obtain a keycode. I ran back and forth in the school for 30 minutes, until I finally called it quits.

Left Alone just feels like a beginner’s effort. There’s some interest in crafting a story, but it doesn’t ever come together. And the puzzles range from obscure to nearly impossible. I did feel some anxiety walking around in the forest and school, but those were never capitalized upon. Honestly, I’d recommend playing Outlast again before giving this a try. 6.0 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #500 on: April 30, 2018, 12:01:15 PM »
35MM is one of the slowest games I’ve ever played – which is mind-numbing for a first-person adventure. Some might call this methodical, and an homage to the lack of hope surrounding a bleak Russian atmosphere, but I call it boring. And then it decides to integrate some gameplay in the last half, so it’s a little schizophrenic in its ambitious design.

Without any background, you start at a shack in the Russian countryside, with a partner that asks if you are ready to walk. You respond yes, and then spend the next – I KID YOU NOT – 45 minutes virtually ambling from the shack along a rutted road, through some farmlands, through a forest (that your guide tells you is quite dangerous!!), to a small power generator, to ANOTHER forest, until finally something happens and you are forced to run for your life into a village. Along the way, you can meander off the path, go check out buildings for possible supplies, etc., but most everything is just empty window dressing for background.

Once at the village, your guide asks you to seek out some water, so you spend the next hour looking through a half-dozen empty homes and a bombed-out church. I finally found a well, which of course required a bucket. So then I had to spend another 30 minutes going back through every house to find that stupid bucket, without luck. [SPOILER: check the maintenance shed just across from the well – You’re Welcome!]

You bring back the water to your buddy, he lights a fire and cooks some stew, and you go to sleep. In the morning, you wake up and start walking again through the other side of the village. You gradually get some idea of what happened in the world, as well as a little bit about your own backstory. Just past the village, you find train tracks with a cart. But of course it needs gas, so back through the village you already just explored to do some more exploring….

The cart journey is bleak (and lengthy), with nothing to do other than push the “go” button and look around at the ravaged countryside. You eventually stop near a larger city, which is where the walking simulator finally decides to wake up and become a game via a bizarre quicktime event. From here, things move a little more rapidly: captured by local thugs, escape with your buddy, enter a new town, lock doors behind you to escape from the military, and enter an underground rail system.

Arguably, the latter third of 35MM is the strongest part. After separating from your buddy, you’ll do some sleuthing of clues for codes, as well as escaping from the military. You’ll need to look at the clues at hand to create a bolt to open a door. You’ll fight a bizarre group of foes in a fever dream, among other things, before finally rising to the surface again.

The final act of 35MM leads to your hometown, and based upon choices you’ve made, you’ll find your ending – all which are bleak, but some less so than others.

I never felt “safe” in 35MM. I always felt like something was just around the corner, waiting for me, so the game designers did a good job of instilling paranoia into the game. Part of that was due to the lengthy times between when anything would happen at the start, and then from the dark oppressive atmosphere in the tunnels. It’s definitely no Stalker or Metro 2033, but 35MM does manage to impart that Russian look and feel.

I regret that the title never really plays into the game at all. 35MM is of course a type of film, and you do have a camera in-game, but other than taking photos for your own enjoyment, and which subsequently show up at the end of the game, there’s no need for a camera. It would have been nice if taking photos of something could have helped solve puzzles, but no such luck.

35MM does have significant promise in several parts of the game, but the lengthy times in between action set pieces – especially at the start when you’re supposed to really hook your audience – bring the score down significantly for me. It’s a mixed bag, because I understand that the game designers wanted to unveil a first-person Russian adventure, but they weren’t able to successfully translate their ideas into what makes a game “fun.” 6.3 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #501 on: May 07, 2018, 11:50:11 AM »
As awesome as the premise is behind Adr1ft – that you are a lone astronaut who survived a massive explosion aboard an international space station – I wish they would have taken a few more chances to develop something absolutely unique. Don’t get me wrong, being stranded in space in zero-G is absolutely cool! Until you do the same exact tasks FOUR separate times through the course of the game.

In Adr1ft (no idea why there’s a “1” instead of an “I” – maybe a second game will be called “Adr2ft”?), you are Alex Oshima, the female commander overseeing the space station’s unique mission to prepare space colonies. You awake outside of the station, with debris scattered around you, and must make your way to the nearest airlock to get an improved spacesuit, as well as oxygen. After entering, you learn that all areas of the station have been shut down. To get them back online, you’ll have to find 4 separate mainframes scattered to the four corners, get a new hard disk, and then bring it back to central processing to reboot the station.

At first, coasting through zero-G corridors, gathering oxygen as you go, and collecting little knick-knacks and messages from your former co-workers, is a blast. We haven’t had any games that are fully captured in zero-G – only bits here and there, such as in the Dead Space series. Your spacesuit is somewhat simple to control, but every time you bump into something, you scratch your helmet’s glass, and more oxygen escapes, which requires you to chase down more O2 canisters and get your suit fixed every now and then.

This constant need to find oxygen is annoying, but only on one occasion did I feel threatened that I wouldn’t have enough air. (A couple of times when I blasted off into the void, I knew I wouldn’t find air, so those don’t really count.) Perhaps a greater scarcity of air would have made me feel more at jeopardy?

More importantly, that I had to do the same task 4 times with the only difference being how the route changes from the central core – this could easily have been modified to make the game more engaging rather than monotonous. For example, use Half-Life 1 as an example – you had to turn on this generator, and that water pump, and that nuclear reactor. Something similar could have taken place here, to mix up the gameplay. Maybe you have to turn on a nuclear reactor by delivering a nuclear rod from one part of the station to another. Maybe you have to do a spacewalk with limited air to replace a fuse on the solar panels. Maybe you have to hook up a water hose and uncoil it via spacewalk to a broken part of the station. You do have to turn on an antenna radar, but once you get in place, the computer takes over and does all the hard work.

The overarching storyline is pretty interesting, with lots of people showing their humanity by the significant number of personal problems brought to light. However, you only gain these nuggets when you seek out voice messages and various emails scattered around. The truth does come to light over the exact source of the explosion, and it’s not very flattering. In hindsight, someone should have seen this coming.

Adr1ft does manage to provide the first full-game exploration of a space station in zero-G. And for the most part, it’s a good game, but I left thinking about the game I REALLY wanted to play instead. 6.9 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #502 on: May 14, 2018, 10:41:48 AM »
Probably no modern game is more related aesthetically to the Telltale graphical vision (which uses cel-shading techniques), than the Borderlands series. Through Tales from the Borderlands, Telltale’s vision of this universe looks exactly the same as Gearbox Software’s vision. Most importantly, Tales is the funniest Telltale game in their second generation series of games that started with The Walking Dead.

I honestly had some anxiety about returning to the world of Pandora after playing the below-mediocre Borderlands Pre-Sequel. That game sucked, was boring to play, and was devoid of any true humor. So color me surprised  that I had so many laugh-out-loud moments with Hyperion middle manager Rhys, Pandoran con artist Fiona, and their extended family and friends. I also had a few almost tearful moments as well, which is the true mark of a great story.

Tales takes a back-and-forth point of view from both Rhys and Fiona – and sometimes their story is at odds with each other. The basic gist is that Rhys has been demoted from middle management and seeks to get back at his boss by finding a Vault key; and it just so happens that Fiona is running the con to sell the key. We go from those auspicious beginnings to a tale of backstabbing, backstabbing the backstabbers, and backstabbing the backstabbing backstabbers. Basically in that order… but what a lot of fun to play. Maybe the funniest part of all 5 episodes is when you’re back on the Hyperion space station, and you get dropped into an ambush with dozens of accountants. What follows is the funniest firefight I have ever seen, and I was laughing for hours afterward.

My main complaint with the Telltale system is that these are primarily interactive stories and not “games” per se. Oh sure, every now and then you have to move your character in a direction to avoid a threat, or maybe you have to hammer the Q button to do a task, followed by a quick peck of the E button. But the bulk of the game is to watch the cut scenes, and if a timed text prompt comes up, then answer it quickly from the limited number of responses available. It’s “Choose Your Own Story” on the screen, essentially.

I generally play my characters as well-meaning, but you can certainly go the jerk route. However, I feel like going that route really closes off more doors than it opens. If you talk smack to everyone ALL the time, you’re probably going to miss out on extra story options. But Telltale do allow you to take that path if you so choose.

Tales from the Borderlands, despite my initial misgivings, is one of the more solid offerings from the Telltale studio. I’m eagerly anticipating a second season, if my funnybone can handle it. 9.3 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #503 on: May 21, 2018, 09:19:31 AM »
After game developer Rocksteady created the first successful Batman game of Arkham Asylum, they followed it up with the more robust Arkham City. However, the reins for Arkham: Origins went to another studio with middling results (i.e., it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the first 2 games). So Batman: Arkham Knight, Rocksteady’s magnum opus for the series, needed to be incredible.

Unfortunately, the PC version of the game was initially unplayable upon release – so much so that Steam pulled the game off the service until maximum changes could be made. And six months later, the improved PC version was released, but not before doing inestimable harm to the brand and to Rocksteady’s reputation. It’s a shame, because the final product, now 3 years removed, is actually quite enjoyable and I’ve had few problems with it overall. Oh sure, I get the very occasional slowdown when so much is happening on-screen, but actual glitches are few and far between.

What sets this game apart is that it really does go for broke. Just about all of Batman’s foes gallery make an appearance, each with their own story to tell. The side missions are both dense and interesting, and some require you to put on Batman’s “greatest detective” hat to solve a mystery; others are more of the “beat up all the bad guys” variety, but at least there is variety. And don’t forget the Riddler, as he has scattered more than 100 riddles, puzzles and trophies across Gotham, for you to prove who is truly the smartest.

The main storyline follows Scarecrow’s goal of using a toxin fear gas against the Eastern seaboard. He is aided in his attempt by a new henchman called the Arkham Knight, who seems to know an awful lot about Batman’s own modus operandi. The Knight’s army of bruisers and mercs are augmented by drone tanks, cars and helicopters. If Batman can’t solve this issue, then millions of people will die.

So it seems extremely odd then that Batman wouldn’t accept the help of his partner Tim Drake, who is the new Robin, or even of Dick Grayson’s Nightwing. Batman also leaves Commissioner Gordon and Barbara Gordon’s Oracle in the wind as to what he is doing and why.

Batman: Arkham Knight (hereafter, I’ll call the game “BAK” to differentiate it from the main antagonist) details the longest night of Batman’s career, which has all been building up to this moment. We see a Batman we’ve never considered – one who is meaner, more callous, more cruel in his treatment of his foes. Has he finally snapped and decided to go the way of the “dark side”? Or is there something else at play here?

The twist of this reveal is both stunning and telling – something you could never really imagine, but in hindsight could definitely see as a possibility. For those who haven’t played the game, I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but to those who have, I found this Kotaku re-review of the game especially insightful.

Taken as a whole for the series, and the characters involved, BAK has some really strong moments. One set piece in particular made me especially heartbroken – I just couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Another tied to a side mission involving one of Batman’s main foes absolutely crushed me with despondence. But these wouldn’t have been possible without the full history of the series behind them.

But the game doesn’t end there. It also introduces the Batmobile, and a city built for rushing around within it. I had a more love than hate feeling about the Batmobile; rushing around at top speeds and sliding around corners was always cool, but then when you have to take out tanks and helicopters, it became monotonous. However, the Batmobile also comes in handy for a significant number of Riddler challenges, so … by the end of BAK’s 90 hours, I had reached a compromise.

My true issue with BAK was the sheer number of buttons you had to attempt to maintain, incorporating combos and special equipment. I honestly just went with block, attack and a few others, so I felt that I was wasting all the great things that went into the background of the game.

The GOTY version also includes the season pass, with tons of new content, including 6 new single player missions using Red Hood, Nightwing, Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Robin. Most of these were “beat-em-ups”, but the Batgirl mission in particular had some weight to it. And of course, the season pass also added lots of new challenges and costume changes, so those were fun.

Regardless of the long wait to finally play BAK, the sheer volume of content made the game a fully glorious experience. To avoid player exhaustion, I’d maybe prefer something half the length, like Arkham City, but I figure if you’re going to go for broke, do it. And BAK definitely goes for broke. 9 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #504 on: May 28, 2018, 10:27:04 AM »
I thought I’d include a round-up of 7 free games available on Steam. Most are quick to play and are recommended to at least give them a shot.

Ley Lines – December 2016
Ley Lines seems more like a student project or proof-of-concept, but it does introduce some unique powers to your protagonist in this third-person adventure. Your bow can shoot an arrow into blocks and columns carved with special glyphs, releasing powers including anti-gravity bubbles that you can jump through, slowing time, lifting and freezing glyph-covered objects in place, and creating bridges. The first two areas serve as demo zones to try out the new powers and see how each power works in practice, while the last few zones take place in relatively large caverns and require some thought to move through. Unfortunately, the final area doesn’t do much to use all the skills you’ve learned and felt disproportionate to what you had just undertaken. Regardless, this has some creativity in its design.

Deus Ex: Breach – January 2017
Since I love the Deus Ex brand, I thought I’d give this free game a try. However, after about 2 hours, I just wasn’t motivated to play. The concept is interesting in that you’re a hacker trying to glean data off lots of different servers. And the look itself is unique, reminiscent of “being in the matrix.” But the game’s downfall is that while it does feature lots of small levels, they’re extremely repetitive, with only minor changes in each one. Since I don’t like to play the same thing over and over again, it killed whatever momentum the story might have brought along. I did see some complaints that the game required you to pay real-life money to get upgrades to take down bosses, but I honestly never got that far along in the storyline to find out.

Breathe – February 2018
Breathe was created over a day and a half and mostly just shows off some artistic design of an island and surrounding reef with sharks and other wildlife. There is a hint of a story in that the island has a closed door surrounded by four skulls. If you search the area, you’ll find a number of treasure chests – some of which have matching skulls, and some that are just for show. This was a mostly relaxing short game, with some pretty decent design choices.

Forever Space – March 2018
Forever Space succeeds as a very short adventure game, and has a really interesting twist at the end. You have volunteered to go to the international space station to help monitor radio feeds aimed at distant stars. It’s pretty monotonous work, but you soon realize that you can’t remember anything that happened in the past 2 years. What happened to your memory, and is anyone else impacted? The mystery binds the various characters and their stories together for a killer ending.

Friday the 13th Killer Puzzle – April 2018
This Sokoban-type puzzle game features Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th horror series in 100+ levels including camp, prison, city, etc. You have to maneuver Jason into various locations on the map to kill or frighten your quarry. This used some very clever design elements. As you progress, you can change out weapons or trade them in for new options. You also can get hints or even full solves for each map by asking your Momma for help.

Logout – May 2018
This game explores how social media impacts the lives of citizens in a large city. Everyone is “plugged in” to the system, except that you have somehow gotten “logged out”. And you now can use emojis for rage, happiness, sadness and fear to get around the guards who are in the way of you and saving your brother. The art design isn’t great, but it works to get across the point. I liked the timely and interesting use of the emojis as a way of solving (or starting) conflict, and would actually be interested in a larger world, provided the game’s visuals were significantly improved.

After Dreams – May 2018
What happens when we die? After Dreams explores this question. Level design is pretty basic but isn’t as optimized as I would like. The voice acting is well done, and the story of how your death affects those left behind is mostly interesting but you can read the ending a mile away. I would like to see more from this author, and he indicates that he’s learned a lot from the feedback to this title.

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #505 on: June 04, 2018, 09:23:03 AM »
Mini Ninjas, surprisingly, comes from IO Interactive, the same developers as the Hitman series. The two couldn’t be any more different, as Hitman is a very realistic style of game with bloody corpses, while Mini Ninjas has a simplistic, cartoony art style and lots of fluffy animals. However, one of the hallmarks of Hitman is the ability to change your disguise, and Mini Ninjas allows you to change your character to one of six ninjas.

As the story begins, Evil Warlord Samurai intends to take over the world by converting forest animals into an evil samurai army. The Ninja Master sends out his oldest ninja to find out what happened, but after several weeks with no contact, he sends out the second oldest. The second doesn’t return so he sends out the third, and then the fourth. Finally, only you – Hiro – and another ninja are all that remain – both of you the youngest with the least amount of training. But Ninja Master has no choice – someone has to learn what happened and stop the Evil Warlord Samurai from his plans.

Mini Ninjas is an open-world third-person action game similar to a Mario World. Your character (you start with Hiro but eventually can use all the ninjas after you rescue them) can attack, defend, strong attack, and use a special attack. Hiro also knows magic and will collect scrolls along the way to help him out. There is no blood in this game though, as all your attacks result in the evil samurai warriors turning back into cute, cuddly forest animals. So yes, this game would be great for kids.

Levels are large and sprawling, with great design aesthetics. Several standouts include a large waterfall map that you can climb both under and over to get to the top, a set of rapids that you can float through (using your rice bowl hat), an extremely aggravating but also challenging avalanche map where you zip through the snowy landscape at top speeds, and a burning building that you must navigate.

Within each map, you can seek out special items, free trapped animals so that they aren’t converted into evil samurai warriors, and find magic scrolls. You’ll occasionally take on an inspired boss fight, which is primarily prompted by quick-time button mashing.

I really enjoyed this one, and if you’ve got little ones in your house, they’ll probably want to get in on the fun. 8.5 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #506 on: June 11, 2018, 09:20:28 AM »
For some reason, I thought I had already reviewed Solarix, but I guess not! I had originally started the game, and then was having some computer issues and never returned to it. But then I got its “sequel/ancillary” Planet Ancyra Chronicles, and figured I should give the first game a shot.

Solarix does have a System Shock/Thief/Deus Ex feel to it, but never integrates them efficiently. It’s sort of got the horror and dread of System Shock, incorporates sneaking and a light gem a la Thief, and even allows you to use a hacking tool like Deus Ex. But not quite as good as the originals.

Your name is Walter and you awake in your room. Several voices start talking to you: A.M.I. – the artificial intelligence overseeing your colony; and Betty – a crass, brash woman. Upon leaving your room, you see the results of a horrific killing spree, with blood and bodies everywhere! You need to escape your dorms, but the power is down. Betty indicates where a battery can be found, and then A.M.I. counsels you about a doomed soul walking the hallways. Since you don’t have a weapon, you have to sneak past, hiding in the shadows until you can make your move to the elevator. If you’re seen, your foe will take you down with several swipes.

After escaping the dorms, you enter a series of compounds guarded by infected soldiers. You eventually retrieve a stungun (or “electronic blackjack”), which allows you to take out soldiers if you sneak up from behind and tag them in the back of the head. Most of the time it works, but occasionally, I would get too close, or they would start turning around, and then it’s curtains.

The basic story is that your colony found a crashed alien ship, and inside was an object that researchers called the “EYE”. Not long after its discovery, people started acting funny, with several getting murdered over silly arguments. An infection sprang up and ran through the colony in a matter of weeks, killing and disabling most everyone. And a group of mercenaries arrived to make things even more intense. Your goal is to find out what happened, try to stop the infection from reaching Earth, and get past the mercenaries.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good in the Unreal 4 engine, but there are some niggles here and there. Level design is sometimes sprawling and hard to know where to go, even with a map that you can pull up. But I was especially impressed with the creative design of the settings and buildings.

The voice-work of the main characters is very well done, and the story – as told through several main characters, and by reading many different private messages – is pretty intense overall.

Although it was annoying to get caught by the infected, and sneaking past them in the darker corners was slightly tense, I never really felt the horror coming through as a game like Dead Space or Outlast offered. Regardless, Solarix is a solid game with some interesting concepts. 7.2 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #507 on: June 18, 2018, 10:09:31 PM »
You’ve got to hand it to the developer of Planet Ancyra Chronicles (PAC) – they certainly know how to reuse their game assets! PAC leverages the game design of Solarix [just reviewed here], but instead of making an action-sneaker, they have opted to create an adventure-walking simulator.

The first part of PAC has you retread ALL of Solarix, but without any foes. So I ran through each map, redid all the same objectives, and finished up in about 45 minutes what originally took 6 hours. The last half of Solarix is a retread of another game the publisher put out called De-Void (which I haven’t played). In this section, you go BACKWARDS, in the sunlight, through everything you just did in Solarix!!! So the game designer used the same general layout, made it sunny instead of dark, and took out the enemies. Brilliant!

But it’s still buggy and overlong in several sections. The worst offender is toward the end of the second half, when you are stuck at the edge of a desert. You’re supposed to mosey all around and find a bunch of recorded messages, but it literally would take an hour, running at top speed to visit each site. That’s when I found the cheat codes “ghost” to go ethereal and “walk” to land back on ground again, and I cut that traveling down to about 25 minutes. The developer has argued that you can simply return back to the forest and skip the whole desert, but when I attempted to do so without visiting the recorded messages, I never got the text to allow me to move to the next objective.

Personally, I feel like PAC is a very lazy retread of two previous games, and just reversing the direction and adding sun doesn’t make the game innovative either. It’s not a bad game on its own, but after having played the original Solarix, I felt the developer was just doing a money-grab by reusing their assets. 6.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #508 on: June 24, 2018, 11:53:03 PM »
Kairo is a first-person puzzle game but I could only get about halfway through. You enter a number of large landscapes, many with creatively designed features and structures, and then have to solve puzzles made of sound, physics and logic – or all three in some cases. Generally, you start in a pod with a number of different exits; go into the first one, solve the puzzle, and then you can tackle the next exit of the pod until you’ve solved enough puzzles to move to the next pod.

The puzzles ran the gamut from somewhat simple to esoteric, and if you got stuck, the game has a built-in hint system to tell you what to do next.

Puzzles started to get too abstract for me, and although it was cool to solve some of them on my own, I just wasn’t having any fun and decided to quit. 6 out of 10

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« Reply #509 on: July 02, 2018, 09:38:15 AM »
There’s no denying that Dark Years is a bad game. I played about 45 minutes to give it a fair shake, but then left a puzzle and got stuck in the furniture and couldn’t move. The only way out was to start the game all over again, and I just didn’t want to waste any more time.

Dark Years is set in the early 1950s and follows the coup d’état that Great Britain and the United State implemented to remove the democratically elected leader at the time (bet they’re rethinking that strategy now!!) – all to get at Iran’s oil reserves. Supposedly the game gets to Iran (it was produced by an Iranian game company), but I never made it past the city of London – well, an “alley” of London, to be honest. It’s supposed to be an action-adventure, and in my short time, I was able to collect some items and join them together, later using them to interact with a locked door.

Graphically, even though it offers an “ultra” option, the game still looks like something that came out in the late 1990’s. The ground is flat with no height differences, the up-close textures on everything are blotchy, the character’s mouths don’t move, and the layout was very linear. And the mouse control is absolutely bonkers and way over-stimulated, with no option to lower the speed in the menu.

Writing is atrocious, voice-acting is worse (probably a Russian speaking English), and the whole thing is just pitiful. I spent forever trying to find a house, clicking on every door I came across in the whole first level until of course it was the very last one, with nothing to distinguish it from all the others. You never know if you can interact with anything unless you manage to walk right next to the correct item.

When I entered the house, I found a body and a safe. As I clicked on the safe, it required the combination, which I didn’t currently have. As I exited the view of the safe, I emerged inside the framework of the bed, and couldn’t escape.

Don’t get stuck in bed! Avoid Dark Years at all costs! 4.1 out of 10

 

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