Author Topic: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread  (Read 101512 times)

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #585 on: February 10, 2020, 10:12:56 AM »
Educational games generally have a spotty track record – either they are so simple that they are geared toward 3-year-olds, or they just can’t capture the attention of a teenager. Odyssey: The Story of Science does a better job than most to impart education as well as some gameplay elements, but it is still imperfect.

We start the game as we hear a distress signal from a small Caribbean island. As we tie up to the dock, we understand that the people in jeopardy developed a series of educational tests to keep ill-educated pirates out, but to allow “smarter” individuals in. And then we begin collecting the first batch of notes from a 13-year-old girl, which relates to their experience on the island, including the pirate attacks, but also details the different tests created.

To truly appreciate the game, you’ll really have to put your brain on a 2-part wavelength. First, the 250 pages of notes written by the 13-year-old are simplified for better ease of understanding, but you’ll eventually call BS on how the girl is able to create all these models used for the tests. Second, even though you’ve got all these notes, the key paragraphs of information to run the tests is highlighted. This was appreciated, although it is certainly worth reading the rest to get the full context of the story, which relates to the original scientific method that ancient philosophers and scientists used to determine whether the earth was round or flat, whether the sun revolved around the earth or vice versa, and how gravity affects bodies in motion. It’s all very intriguing and the notes generally helped solve the tests, although I did require a few YouTube breaks to solve several tests.

As a “game,” you get to explore the island chain and an underground cavern, but it isn't super fun from a gameplay perspective. It’s more about doing a test, getting more notes, doing the next test, getting more notes, etc. The ending itself is extremely dissatisfying, but the rest of Odyssey is certainly worth exploring. 7.2 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #586 on: February 17, 2020, 01:23:49 PM »
I’ve played plenty of mature games, but The Dark Inside Me: Chapter 1 seems to be going for the “disturbed just to be disturbed” route. Supposedly coming from a horror movie director, the game truly glorifies violence against women, with lots of full frontal nudity on display, and several rape scenes. Your character also has the opportunity to personally kill women, or to spare them if you so choose.

The Dark Inside Me is a 2.5D adventure game, with lots of pixel-hunting, and back-and-forth between scenes to find objects, or to grab objects once they are needed – all of which I hate as a game player. If I am to possibly need an object later on, let me pick it up the first time I encounter it! The graphics are decent, with some good character models and level design, but they certainly aren’t cutting-edge.

The story is relatively interesting but doesn’t make much sense. The opening cut-scene looks like a Hellraiser rip-off, and then we wake up to your character bandaged in a hospital bed. Once you escape the hospital, you then have a flashback to a character in the Auschwitz concentration camp, which is extremely disturbing with lots of frozen naked bodies all over the place. Although this is probably an honest depiction of the horrors that took place, it seems to still glorify female nudity rather than put the emphasis on the horror element. After the flashback, you somehow zap back to the modern day, and then encounter ghastly creatures in an apartment complex, again emphasizing their nudity.

The main character has a horrible rasp-whisper that he uses to explain things, which was extremely annoying. Supposedly this has an additional 4 or 5 chapters left, but Chapter 1 left me with such a sour taste that I don’t feel the urge to continue the series. 6.6 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #587 on: February 24, 2020, 11:33:49 AM »
Kona was different than I expected, which is always good. Ostensibly, your character has been hired to look into some crooked business dealings in a small community, but you have just been notified that your client is now dead! Since you were already paid for the task, you decide to honor your original commitment to determine what is happening in the community, as well as to solve the murder of your client. So off you trek into the Canadian north-country.

As the game starts, your truck’s windshield wipers push the falling snow away as the heater purrs contentedly. The color scheme is warm and inviting. But then when another vehicle nearly runs into you, causing the truck to slide into the snowbank, you must get out and face the bone-chilling cold. The visual changes in the atmosphere are striking, especially as the longer you remain outside, you’ll see blue ice creeping into the corners of your vision, which ultimately goes red and blurry. Stray too far from warm temperatures, and you will die.

So you have to do a quick search of the area, including the car that nearly struck you. This search nets some chains to place on the tires and get the truck back on the road. Along the winding route, you’ll see some houses in the distance that you can eventually explore. But first you must visit the abandoned general store and get more information on your client and the surroundings, with a map coming in very handy.

The game includes a mix of play-styles. You’ll need to find A to solve B’s problem, like getting the store’s generator started again by fixing a leaking fuel line, finding a fuse, etc. You’ll need to find materials such as matches, kindling, wood and more to start fires in the frozen locations (interior and exterior) that you visit. You’ll need to solve some environmental problems, like determining where interweaving electric lines go. You’ll need to find X objects to trade for Y. You’ll even need to find a rifle and limited amounts of ammunition to fend off wolves or other wild beasts that you periodically encounter.

The game does offer a wealth of information about the local community, with lots of hand-written letters, notes, and other clues to be found. Eventually you’ll determine who killed your client, and what happened to drive away all the towns-people, but overall, the land within Kona is deserted, and you’ll only meet one other living person. The isolation, coupled with the severe cold weather that can harm you, makes the game feel stark and absolute. So when an element of the supernatural is introduced, it’s a really stunning effect.

I did have a few puzzles that stumped me, and for which I needed to view YouTube walk-throughs, but for the most part, just explore all the places on the map, collect resources, and follow the clues that you find. The ending is unexpected and frantic, and I was only too happy to escape with my life from the land of Kona. 8.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #588 on: March 02, 2020, 11:20:58 AM »
One of the most breathtakingly gorgeous games I’ve played recently is Scanner Sombre. What makes this game so unique is that you are in a pitch-black cave, but you have a “gun” that essentially paints colored dots on surfaces using echo-location. This allows you to “see” what the surroundings look like as you try to return to the surface through a deep cave system. Upgrades to your scanner create “bomb” explosions, allow you to determine the wave and pitch of your dots, and even change the color scheme from psychedelic rainbow to muted browns and greens.

The cave system is incredibly diverse and massive in scale. One of the coolest things – even toward the end of the game – is to look back toward where you began, and you can see the whole route mapped out in exquisite detail! Painting the landscape will show you where the route lies, where crevasses and pits may cause your fall, and where water rushes past. You’ll also encounter various human dwellings, upon which you narrate who these people were, and why they lived so deep within the cave system. And very occasionally, you’ll come across “ghosts” of those previous people. You’ll also remark upon your own family, and your desire to get back to them.

At about the two-thirds mark, you encounter a large underground lake. Painting the lake with color shows the shoreline, but then the dots covering the water eventually dissipate. The lake leads to a stunning underground river, whose ceiling is covered with glowing fungi – it’s absolutely striking, and the music swells orchestrally during this moment. Right before reaching the surface, we come across man-made areas with mine tunnels and even an underground tour.

The ending is poignant and bittersweet, but it all makes sense. Scanner Sombre is a short but heartbreaking adventure, and I am the better for having experienced it. 7.9 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #589 on: March 09, 2020, 10:33:55 AM »
Shadows Peak is graphically acceptable, has diverse surroundings to explore, offers various scares and feelings of horror and trepidation, and the story is interesting. It’s not amazing and it’s not terrible – just kind of inoffensively in the middle. It’s short enough to try out and relatively inexpensive.

If you’re looking for a short, cheap horror FPS, this might suit you. However, the second part of the game that introduces a new character really sucks and increases the difficulty level significantly. I personally stopped that section after about 5 minutes. 7.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #590 on: March 16, 2020, 10:57:37 AM »
Batman: The Telltale Series Season 1 offers probably the best Bruce Wayne story I’ve ever seen, let alone been able to impact with my own choices. This is a more grounded, and earlier, take on Batman, sort of like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The general characterizations of Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Penguin and more make an appearance, but not as the fantastic beings we’re accustomed to from the comics. As an example, Harvey Dent takes a turn to the dark side, but he doesn’t literally become Two-Face in the physical sense.

What makes this 5-episode tale so striking is the deep-dive it takes into Bruce’s history and his family. We’ve all been conditioned to believe certain things about the Waynes, Gotham City, and Batman’s rogues gallery, but what if these stories went a different path? Each reveal is absolutely heart-breaking and awe-inspiring at the same time.

The Telltale formula still works well, but continues to show its age at the seams. The dialogue wheel and timer are still effective, but I of course hate not having a long time to make some of these far-reaching decisions. The few quick-time events are spaced efficiently and aren’t onerous to the overall gameplay. And the ending makes me want to see where the tale will lead.

I truly enjoyed the risks that the writers took with this series – on multiple occasions I would find myself stunned at the facts being presented. For a 100-year-old property that has shown little innovation, that’s a pretty exciting reason to play. 8.6 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #591 on: April 06, 2020, 04:17:38 PM »
Flatout 4: Total Insanity starts as a fun vehicle romp with a diversity of tracks, but ultimately flames out when you have to replay those same tracks (both directions) over and over again. Additionally, a perfect or near-perfect run is required to take first place (and sufficient “stars”) to move on to later rungs in the ladder, so you will definitely play tracks 30, 40, 50 times each until you succeed. You also have to grind to gain enough money to purchase upgrades and new vehicles, which isn’t fun because you only want to save good runs. Overall, Flatout 4: Total Insanity is fun for about 6-8 hours of gameplay before becoming a pain. 6.6 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #592 on: April 13, 2020, 05:15:08 PM »
The Uncertain: Last Quiet Day – Episode 1 is an uneven, frustrating first entry into a larger mystery that showcases only robots roaming the earth, having taken over human tasks and roles. Where have all the humans gone, and what happened to them? Unfortunately, you won’t get many answers upon completion of this episode.

Our protagonist RT is a strange humanoid robot who doesn’t get updates from the central mainframe, and lives out in the wilds on his own. It also dwells in the past, scouring up old human tech and replacing gear for other robots in a barter economy. For a robot, it is actually pretty low-tech. So when a flying shuttle crashes nearby, it’s a chance for RT to use some of the arcane knowledge he’s gained.

Movement in this fixed-camera adventure game is achingly slow and erratic, and hard sometimes to maneuver next to various objects. Worthless QTEs also make several appearances. Moving from one side of the screen to the other is an exercise in patience. And a weird flying section is a complete pain in the butt.

But perhaps the biggest complaint I have with the game is that you can only play it in the order that the developers intended. Oftentimes you might highlight several items on a screen, but the object that you really need can only highlight after you’ve exhausted several approaches. The worst offender is a scenario late in the game where you need to hook a ladder outside an apartment. Only after touching all highlighted objects once will the game finally highlight a gas pipe that you need. But to free the pipe, you need a heavy object to break it free. You scour all your highlighted objects multiple times before something new pops up as a highlight. In total, you will spend easily 20 minutes going back and forth between 7 screens at least 5 different times. Hey developers, if I need a tool in the future, let me pick it up the first time, okay?

The latter part of Last Quiet Day does introduce a unique twist, but getting to the meat of this episode is a painful experience. I know a 2nd episode is forthcoming, but I’m not sure if I’ll be interested enough to invest in this series.6.9 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #593 on: April 20, 2020, 02:25:53 PM »
The highly addictive game of Carcassonne is an equal mix of Tetris, Risk and Settlers of Catan. You can play online or solo (and add up to 5 additional bots with different play styles) and games run around 10-15 minutes max.

After an initial tile is placed, 72 tiles are then distributed randomly to players once per turn. Players must then place the tile, ideally benefiting themselves at the cost of harming their opponent. Once tiles are placed, players may then have the option to claim a road, city, field or church. All successive tiles placed that enlarge each of those objects adds to your final point count, with cities getting 2 points per tile, roads and fields getting 1 point per tile, and churches getting up to 9 points total for all touching tiles.

Gameplay has some strategy to develop long-term options, but it all depends on the luck of the draw, and how your opponents play off your tiles. For example, you might place a few tiles to develop a slightly larger city and only need one more tile to complete it, but then an opponent adds a tile that now requires you to add 2-3 more tiles to finish it. If you do somehow manage to do so, you’ll score huge points, but otherwise, you might just be wasting your time in the final count.

This is easily a game you can just open up and play for a short break, and now I’m seeing tiles in my dreams! 9.0 out of 10

 

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