enfrdeitptrues

Puzzle

  • Darknet (PC/HTC Vive)

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    Game Info:

    Darknet
    Developed By: E McNeill
    Publisher: E McNeill
    Release Date: June 8, 2017
    Available On: Gear VR, Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, PS4/PS VR, Windows (HTC Vive compatible but not required)
    Genre: Puzzle, Strategy
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Violent References, Mild Language
    MSRP: $14.99

    Thank you E McNeill for sending us this game on Windows/HTC Vive to review!

    Darknet is what I would consider the ultimate expression of Hollywood's version of the internet. First, you put on your VR headset (in real life, and it's optional as it works on monitors also). Then you are connected to a virtual computer system, with really neat looking 'tubes' and areas that appears to be what the inside of a computer might look like. Once you choose to start hacking, you are brought inside a virtual dome that represents networked systems. You then hack them with viruses, hydras, exploits, and eventually worms, which you use to eventually get the payload data that you are being paid to retrieve.

    Given that US Dollars are traceable, BTC, or bitcoins, are the currency of choice once you are out of a specific system. However, during a hack, any data that you find can be quickly exchanged for US Dollars, which can then again be exchanged for many of the previously mentioned hacking tools. Each time you purchase them, the cost goes up exponentially in powers of two, so getting those extra viruses or needed exploits can be very expensive indeed, but often necessary for progress.

    Darknet
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very fun and addictive gameplay; great soundtrack; really cool premise
    Weak Points: It can get a bit repetitive; sharp difficulty spike around halfway through
    Moral Warnings: ESRB notes violent references and mild language I did not see myself; hacking is obviously illegal

    The gameplay itself is a deceptively simple puzzle game where your goal is to infect the core with your virus programs. There are various entry points which serve as both places to inject and resistance against viruses. These are all laid out on a hexagonal grid, which is all interconnected to the various points of entry. If a spreading virus hits another point, it will counterattack and subsume the virus twice as quickly as the virus itself can get around. This makes taking care of those entry points extremely important. In order to deal with them, often it's better to just cancel the badly placed ones out with another virus, rather than try to overwhelm the core purely with quantity. After all, it only takes contact with one spreading virus to seize control of the core.

    In the main overview map, there are many systems that you can use as your attack points, including normal nodes, Sentinels, and the goal, the Root. As you choose to attack one, it zooms into the puzzle mode mentioned before. Sentinels are important to attack as they put up firewalls for all nearby nodes, which can really make things a lot more difficult, as the core is then surrounded by protection which must be eliminated with viruses before you can capture the data. Once you get the Root, you will earn the BTC promised, as long as you completed it in the time allotted; if not, you lose reputation (which determines how difficult the levels are) and while news stories might still be updated, you don't earn BTC which means that you can't ultimately progress to the most difficult areas until you earn the money needed to get there. I found that around the 50% reputation mark, the difficulty level spiked dramatically.

    Darknet
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    The game takes place about ten years after quantum computers have become commonplace. There is a news feed, and your actions can update this feed. The things you have hacked are often fed to news organizations as leaks, and it is with these leaks and the resulting news articles that the world that you live in is slowly built around you. It doesn't affect your game, bit it's fascinating to see one person's vision of what a semi-dystopian and corrupt view of the future might look like.

    And as such, the main moral objection might just be that you earn your living through corporate, government, or dark net (private hacker spaces) espionage. Often the information that you learn is best to be in the light, but it can still have unexpected consequences on both public opinion or stock prices. Whether bringing this corruption to light is good is perhaps debatable, but the ends don't justify the means as a general principle. Otherwise, the ESRB notes some violent references and mild language. I did not note these things, but since there are many, many news articles that I had not unlocked, it's entirely possible that I just haven't gotten to them yet.

    Darknet is a very fascinating game that I quickly found myself enjoying greatly. After a while, the difficulty spike was too much for me, and I ran out of patience with the game, but that does not take away from the fun to be had here. I may come back to it at some point soon, since it's so much fun to play in short spurts. I agree with ESRB's assessment on age appropriateness here. It's a really interesting puzzle/strategy game with a great atmosphere and a very enjoyable soundtrack, with graphics styled in a cyber way that is really fun, especially (but not only) in Virtual Reality. Highly recommended!

  • Defend Your Crypt (3DS)

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    Game Info:

    Defend Your Crypt
    Developed by: Ratalaika Games
    Published by: Ratalaika Games
    Release date: July 21, 2016 (3DS)
    Available on: 3DS, Mac, Wii U, Windows
    Genre: Strategy, Puzzle
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Blood and Violence)
    Price: $2.99

    Thank you Ratalaika Games for sending us the game to review!

    Defend Your Crypt is a strategy game that has the player take control of a long-deceased Pharaoh. He has the special ability to activate traps inside different tombs in an attempt to stop thieves from stealing its gold.

    The tutorial stages teach the player how and when to activate traps. Traps come in many different shapes such as trap floors, flamethrowers, crossbows, stone presses, and many more gruesome hazards. Each trap must be unlocked using skulls. You start the level with a set amount of skulls to use, and with each thief that bites the dust, one more skull is added to your total. Once a trap has been activated, it must cooldown for a short period before it can be used again. Each fiendish device is extremely fun to master, as getting multiple kills with one device can make that wave of enemies a little more manageable. If three thieves happen to make their way to the gold it's game over.

    Defend Your Crypt
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The retro Egyptian graphics and music are both charming; Extremely satisfying to 100% a stage; Hours of content with 60 stages total.
    Weak Points: Later levels can seem unfair in difficulty; Music can get repetitive after long play sessions; Some grammatical errors.
    Moral Warnings: Thieves in the crypt are killed in a multitude of bloody ways.

    Each stage has a 3-skull rating system. Completing a stage without a thief reaching the gold will result in a 3-skull rating. Should a thief get to the gold, a skull will be removed. These skulls are needed to unlock much harder versions of the original 30 stages. These harder stages usually have more thieves with almost no room for errors. Anyone that thinks the normal stages are too easy will find these stages to be much more challenging to 100%. If that wasn't enough, there are achievements to unlock for doing specific tasks.

    Naturally, the game has an Egyptian theme to its 8-bit style. The tomb may look cramped on the 3DS' bottom screen, but I never had an issue making out what was going on. The bottom screen is where the action will take place, but later levels can be two screens tall. These levels task the player with switching between levels of the tomb, as the traps can only be activated from the touch screen. These stages become frenetic, but with patience can easily be overcome.

    Defend Your Crypt
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence - 5.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The music in the game is always great to hear when starting a level. There are about five different tracks that can be played when starting a level, and they all blend well with the game's environment. The traps all have distinct sound effects when activated which are clear and crisp. Even the thieves themselves all make distinct sounds upon death depending on which trap they walked into.

    The biggest, and really only moral warnings about this game are the blood and violence. Whether it's a body being squished or a scorpion attacking a thief, blood is always left behind. This is serves as a reminder to the other thieves that they could easily be the next one to die there. To those that don't want to see any blood, the devs actually included an option to turn it off.

    Defend Your Crypt is an extremely fun budget title that is really only marred by some grammatical errors. There's plenty of challenge waiting in this title and I highly recommend it to fans of strategy and tower defense games. For $3 it's not going to break the bank and it's filled with hours of fun.

    -Kyuremu

  • Deltarune Chapter 1 (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Deltarune Chapter 1 
    Developed by: Toby Fox
    Published by: Toby Fox
    Release date: October 31, 2018
    Available on: macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows
    Genre: RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language
    Price: Free

    Deltarune is a spiritual successor to Undertale and the game’s webpage strongly recommends playing Undertale before this title. Many of the Undertale characters make an appearance in Deltarune, so make sure you follow the developer’s advice to get the most enjoyment out of this free chapter. Other than the foul language, my only complaint with this entry is that there’s no word on when or if the second installment will come.

    You play as an androgynous character named Kris. In class, Kris gets tasked with fetching chalk from the school supply closet with a classmate named Susie. Kris is quiet and doesn’t say much while Susie is quite strong and speaks with her fists. Upon entering the supply closet, the door closes behind them and they enter into another world that needs their help to restore peace and balance. In order for Kris and Susie to return home, they’ll have to assist their newfound friend, prince Ralsei.

    Ralsei is a pacifist who wants to settle all battles peacefully while Susie wishes to beat enemies into submission. After learning my lesson in Undertale, I opted to play peacefully though Susie didn’t always follow my orders.

    Deltarune Chapter 1
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny dialogue; fun gameplay; free
    Weak Points: No word on when chapter 2 will be released
    Moral Warnings: RPG violence; language (d*mn, dumb*ss, bad*ss; piss, hell); blaspheming

    In battle, you can attack, act (issue an order for your friends), consume an item, use an ability, defend, or spare an enemy. Once an enemy is in a weakened state, you can spare them to end the battle. On the enemy’s turn, you take control of your heart and must dodge their attacks Shoot ‘em up style. By allowing the attacks to get close you’ll accumulate TP which is needed to use abilities/magic.

    The levels are riddled with puzzles and obstacles that require good timing to bypass them without injury. If you go off of the beaten path, you may be rewarded with treasure chests of nicer weapons and armor to equip. The weapons shouldn’t be needed if you’re a pacifist though!

    Be sure to talk to all of the NPCs. The dialogue in this game is hilarious, but often is riddled with curse words or blaspheming. You can expect to see words like hell, piss, d*mn, dumb*ss, and bad*ss. Though there is some violence, most of it is avoidable.

    Deltarune Chapter 1
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 6/10
    Sound: 10/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls: 5/5

    Morality Score - 63%
    Violence: 5.5/10
    Language: 1.5/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 7.5/10

    The pixel art style is very similar to Undertale’s. There’s a good amount of variety in level and character design to keep things interesting.

    Toby Fox has composed another masterpiece. The 40-track digital album is available on BandCamp.com for a reasonable $7. String Player Gamer’s 14-track rendition is available for the same price on BandCamp.com as well.

    If you enjoyed Undertale, Deltarune is worth looking into if you don’t mind some foul language. This game is relatively short, but since it's free, I can't complain. I hope the story gets resumed soon as it ends in a shocking cliffhanger.

  • Desktop Dungeons (Android)

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    Game Info:

    Desktop Dungeons
    Developed by: QCF Design
    Published by: QCF Design
    Released: November 7, 2013
    Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
    Genre: Puzzle, strategy
    ESRB rating: T (violence, blood)
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $14.99 (Steam), $10.00 (Android, iOS)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Greetings and welcome to the wonderful lands of (insert kingdom name here)! You have traveled a long way to get here, and now the people look to you to guide them to prosperity!

    Wait... you're sitting in front of your computer? Well, that works, too.

    Desktop Dungeons offers a fantasy strategy experience in a compact package. You are in charge of a kingdom which you get to name, and in order for it to thrive, you will have to send your flunkies – I mean, brave adventurers, into randomly-generated dungeons. At first, most of the dungeon will be obscured, but your character can move to vacant spaces to uncover what lies around it. You will find spells and treasures, as well as a variety of monsters that want to prevent your hero from bringing said treasures back to your kingdom. Movement is turn-based, but the only thing moving will be your hero – the monsters remain stationary, and only attack if you elect to attack them. Since you will typically only “win” the dungeon by killing the boss, though, you will have to fight. The level of the monster is clearly indicated on the map, and your hero will gain experience with every monster defeated. If wounded – and your hero will get wounded – he or she can recover health by revealing more of the map, but be warned! Any wounded monster also will recover health and magic points.

    Desktop Dungeons
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Quick strategic gameplay; randomly generated dungeons means the game is different every time
    Weak Points: Game can get old; your characters will die frequently; mediocre music and sound effects
    Moral Warnings: Undead and magic use; minor swearing; violence, including blood

    As you complete dungeons, you will discover other fantasy races that want to join your growing civilization, such as halflings and elves. You also will be able to spend money to upgrade buildings or unlock more character classes. Dungeon quests tend to be quick affairs, and can be completed – or lost – in about ten to fifteen minutes. The developers boast that this can be the perfect coffee break game, and with the brevity of the missions, it fits well into the “casual game” niche. 

    Don't get too attached to your heroes, though. Even if your unfortunate lackey survives the delve into the dangerous depths, a new one will be generated at the start of each dungeon.  You will get the ability to grant him or her some starting money or equipment, but the adventurer will always begin at level one. So although there are elements of a role-playing game within Desktop Dungeons, don't expect to find a grand campaign, or even a solid storyline. The only purpose of invading the dungeons is to develop and expand your kingdom, and that's about as in-depth of a plot as you can expect.

    Desktop Dungeons
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 5.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The game offers a hearty dose of humor and takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to its subject matter. Your adventurers sport humorous caricatures in their profiles, and some of the enemies include vampire bankers and familiar-looking cubes of sentient meat. Sound effects are minimal, and music is functional, but not terribly memorable. There is no voice acting to speak of, with one-sided dialogue appearing in the form of speech bubbles.

    Most enemies will leave a large pool of blood behind when they die (unless they have the “bloodless” trait), and undead monsters such as zombies are present. The game has clerics, but is intentionally vague as to what deity or deities they worship. You also can play magic users, and will encounter them as frequent enemies. There are a few minor swear words present, and one is insinuated in one of the spells. Apparently, you also are supposed to beware of the goats. However, this is less a moral concern and more of an advisory from the Travel Bureau of (insert kingdom name here).

    Altogether, Desktop Dungeons can be an amusing time waster in small doses. For those who enjoy fantasy strategy games, they can find this game worth the money. But for those who are looking for a meatier role-playing experience, they will probably find what they want in another kingdom.

  • Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game (Rift)

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    Game Info:

    Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game
    Developed by: Freekstorm
    Published by: Freekstorm
    Release date: July 26, 2017
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Freekstorm for sending us this game to review!

    Doctor Kvorak is an immortal gameshow host who enjoys collecting and obliterating planets in the universe. As a contestant of his Obliteration Game, you must collect all of the pieces of the planet which are scattered throughout the level to save it. By saving it, it merely becomes enslaved to Kvorak’s planetary collection instead of incinerated.

    Besides the planetary pieces, there are fifty other themed items and wardrobe accessories to be found in each level as well. For example, when saving the cheese planet you’ll have pieces of cheese to collect and globs of slime to gather for the slime planet. In total, there are fifteen zones/planets to save with the possibility of creating your own levels and downloading other people’s challenges through Steam Workshop.

    Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny dialogue and fun puzzles to solve
    Weak Points: VR controls are not intuitive; the camera is annoying in VR and non-VR modes; game hangs and has long load times
    Moral Warnings: Planets will be incinerated if you fail to collect all of the savior stones; if you do save them, they’ll still be enslaved; Kvorak gets compared to a god

    The puzzles in the levels range from pushing blocks onto pressure tiles and activating various stairs/walkways to access new areas. The starting character/alien can’t really jump too well and needs to move around platforms to reach higher places. Later on in the game, different aliens with unique abilities become available. All of these creatures must work together to put an end to Doctor Kvorak’s schemes. I like the rapping space hen that annoys him by calling Kvorak out for the monster that he is.

    This game is playable with and without VR. No matter which method you choose you can expect horrible camera angles. You can manually adjust the camera in both modes and it will have to be done often unless you like staring at various walls and obstacles in your way. Some deadly foes require quick thinking and movement to avoid death and the poor camera angles do not help matters. Thankfully, checkpoints are plentiful in this game. You cannot exit and resume level progress though; you’ll have to start fresh from the beginning of the zone.

    The WASD controls in the non-VR mode is functional. The space bar is used to jump, the E button activates buttons and the R button lets you change your alien’s appearance. In VR I could not figure out how to jump since the dialogue described a Vive controller and not an Oculus Touch one. The developers were kind enough to reply to my Steam discussion thread. Triggering buttons is trickier to accomplish in VR mode.

    Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    I also experienced some stability issues with this game. During loading times, Windows would sometimes ask if I wanted to wait or close the software that stopped responding. Because of the long load times with no results, I am assuming that there are no Steam Workshop maps to download.

    Visually, this game is colorful and the characters are cute. The levels are well thought out and don’t take too long to complete if you’re good at solving the puzzles. At the end of a level you’ll see how long it took you to solve it.

    The voice acting is pretty good, with my favorite character being the rapping chicken. If your alien falls, they’ll make a cute noise. Unfortunately, there’s a noticeable delay between the tumble and the noise so it quickly gets aggravating if you fall down a lot. The background music is good and sold separately as DLC if you want to buy it.

    Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game is both funny and (mostly) family friendly. It’s a little rough around the edges, but is still a solid puzzle game that’s fun with and without a VR headset. The asking price is a reasonable $19.99 and hopefully more submissions will appear on Steam Workshop for it.

  • Dr. Mario World (Android)

     

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    Game Info:

    Dr. Mario World
    Developed by: Nintendo
    Published by: Nintendo
    Release date: July 10, 2019
    Available on: Android, iOS
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Up to two online
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: Free to play with micro-transactions

    Thank you Nintendo for sending us a Dr. Mario t-shirt, a stuffed Goomba, and some delicious caramel-filled chocolates!

    Dr. Mario was an instant success when it first launched in 1990. Your objective in the original game is to eliminate the viruses by covering them with the same colored capsules. Most of the time, the capsules have two colors that you have to rotate and arrange appropriately to avoid them building up. To win, you have to eliminate all of the viruses by stacking like colors. The classic game required you to match-4 but this remake only requires you to match-3.

    In this mobile remake the capsule float up instead of down. You can tap to rotate them. The capsules can also be dragged into place even if there is a wall blocking it. If only half of the capsule is used the other half will float upwards and you can drag it where its most needed. There are various helper items like score and skill boosters. Rainbow capsules are extremely helpful since they are universal and work with all of the virus colors (red, blue, green). Additional capsules are available for diamonds. If you run out of capsules you’ll lose the level!

    Dr. Mario World
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay with online matches
    Weak Points: Gameplay has been changed to your typical match-3 puzzle game; internet connection required to play
    Moral Warnings: Be careful with storing your credit card information on your mobile devices as this title can get expensive with micro-transactions; cartoon violence

    Most of the time your objective will be to eliminate all of the viruses on the level. Sometimes they are not visible and you have to break blocks to reveal them. Viruses that are covered in ice or in a bubble have to have their colors matched twice in order to truly defeat them. Occasionally you’ll have to only uncover coins or break all of the blocks to finish a level.

    Like most mobile games, you’ll be awarded between one and three stars depending on how many capsules it took you to complete the level. Unused capsules earn you big points. As you clear levels you’ll uncover new areas and challenges to complete. Online matches are available and it doesn’t take long to find another player to compete against. The doctor you choose to play as will give you an advantage online!

    Mario isn’t the only lab coat wearing savior in Dr. Mario World. There are multiple doctors available and each one has a unique ability at their disposal when their power meter is fully charged. I usually played as Dr. Bowser who can clear two rows at random. As you earn gold from completing levels, you can hire more doctors and assistants help you get rid of all of the viruses taking over Mushroom Kingdom.

    Dr. Mario World
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay: 16/20
    Graphics: 8/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls/Interface: 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence: 8/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10

    The other currency in this game is diamonds which you typically have to pay for. You can earn some by linking your Nintendo and social media accounts, but buying them is not cheap. Twenty diamonds will set you back $1.99 while 1,500 of them are $69.99. During the tutorial levels you have an infinite number of tries/lives. If you want that ability later on in the game, you’ll have to spend 30 diamonds for thirty minutes of infinite continues. Lives are normally maxed out at five and replenish every thirty minutes until it’s maxed out.

    Dr. Mario World is well polished and has lots of various events to keep players coming back. The visuals are vibrant and more detailed than the NES version I am accustomed to. The ability to play as different doctors with unique abilities adds a new twist to the gameplay. The chiptune music is more refined, but still recognizable on the mobile version.

    Though this game is suitable for all ages, I’d recommend not having your credit card information stored on your (or your kid’s) mobile device to avoid the temptation of buying diamonds. Despite the gameplay differences from the original, Dr. Mario World is still fun to pick up and play. Be warned that an internet connection is required to launch and play this title.

  • Dragonester (PC)

    Game Info:

    Dragonester
    Developed By: Tritrium
    Release Date: March 2010
    ESRB: Not rated
    Available on: PC
    Single Player
    Genre: Puzzle, Strategy
    Retail Price: $9.95

    System requirements
    • OS : Vista32/ 2000/ XP
    • CPU : Pentium3 500Mhz minimum
    • RAM : 512MB Minimum
    • More than Available 100M bytes HDD
    • DirectX 8.0 or Higher

    Thank you Gamers Gate for sending us this game to review!

    Dragons and humans have co-existed for a while. Your town flourishes by harvesting dragon eggs and selling them to warriors so that they can raise loyal dragons to fight in the war. There are five dragon variations and you’ll be harvesting eggs from the red, green and blue dragons. At the very end of the game you can create and sell silver dragon eggs. There are also black dragons, but they are evil and will attack and destroy the dragon nests if you don’t move them away in time.

    There are twenty levels and they grow gradually harder as you progress through them. When you first start you only have to worry about selling eggs and repairing nests that get worn out after a lot of use. As the war continues the dragons get involved and they start getting picky about where their nests are. On top of gathering eggs and repairing nests you now have to move nests around so similarly colored dragons are next to each other. Enemies, pirate ships and evil dragons will appear and when you shoot them down, you collect black gems.

    Highlights:

    Strengths: Unique and challenging game play.
    Weaknesses: Dated graphics, annoying controls.
    Moral warnings: Violence but no blood.

    These black gems can be combined with large dragon eggs to make red, green and blue gems. These gems can later be turned into diamonds which are key to creating silver dragon eggs. To make the large eggs, gems, diamonds and silver dragon eggs you need the proper buildings in place. The game gets really complicated towards the end when you have to shuffle dragons around, repair nests, fight off enemies, collect eggs, make gems, create diamonds and silver dragon eggs, and you have to do all of it simultaneously!

    When you complete a level there are three different ranks (gold, silver, bronze) you can receive depending on how quickly you were able to meet the objectives. The higher your rank the more money you receive. Money in this game is used to improve upon the technology to make the eggs, gems and diamonds faster. Reloading your ammunition costs money as well.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score: 74%
    Game Play: 15/20
    Graphics: 6/10
    Sound: 7/10
    Controls/Interface: 4/5
    Stability: 5/5

    Appropriateness Score: 96%
    Violence: 8/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Language: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    You can purchase buildings in your town like a gun shop and a fortress. The gun shop sells weapons and upgrades. The fortress building lets you play challenge levels of varying difficulty. They are usually quick challenges like destroying a certain number of enemies within a couple of minutes. As you progress in the main quest some of the levels have prerequisites which require that your town buildings be upgraded. If you’re short on money you can make some more by replaying previous levels to get a higher rank or by playing some of the fortress challenges.

    There’s a statue in the town that lets you play ranked challenges. This is a single player game so you only compete against yourself and others who use your computer. You don’t earn any money on the ranked challenges.

    Graphically this game is a bit dated. It runs at a fixed resolution, 1024x768. If you have a wide screen monitor, the graphics will be stretched a bit. The 2D backgrounds and sprites bring back Super Nintendo memories. There are two main views in the game. You have the town overview and the playing level. Although the graphics are dated they do the job just fine. I just wish I could run it at a higher resolution.

    The background music is nice but a bit repetitive and the sound effects for the various guns are nice.

    The controls are all mouse driven. You have to drag and drop the nests, eggs and jewels where you want them. The scroll wheel is used to change gun types and the right mouse button is used for reloading. The controls aren\'t that good though - sometimes it takes a few clicks to actually trigger the reload process, for instance.

    With a price point of $9.95 or less there’s a lot of fun to be had here. It\'s a nice little game with plenty of replay value. You can replay the main levels to try to get higher scores, or try to complete all of the fortress challenges or play all of the ranked challenges. If you can multitask and enjoy puzzle games, check out Dragonester.
  • Epic Word Search Collection (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Epic Word Search Collection
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Release date: March 19, 2020
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Vita
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Lightwood Games for sending us a review code!

    We have had the pleasure of reviewing several 3DS word search titles from Lightwood Games. Epic Word Search Collection is the first Switch version I’ve played. Despite the bigger screen, these puzzles are quite large and require a lot of scrolling to view them in their entirety.

    This collection has four themed puzzle collections: Food, Journeys, Animals, and Sports. Each collection is further broken down into sixteen puzzles with close to 100 words to find in each one. Some quick math suggests that there are over 6000 words to be found in this $7.99 title. This game is sure to entertain puzzle lovers for many hours.

    Epic Word Search Collection
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Over 6000 words to find scattered across 64 puzzles
    Weak Points: Some of the words run into different themed puzzles
    Moral Warnings: None!

    The 3DS version utilized both screens nicely with the words to look for on the top screen. The Switch edition displays the findable words on the right-hand side. I like how the list of words changes as you scroll across the puzzles. My only complaint is that sometimes a word may start or end in the properly themed word search, but the majority of the letters are sometimes in the adjacent unrelated word search.

    The words are scattered throughout the grid horizontally, vertically, diagonally, backwards, and forwards. Highlighting the words can be done with the touchscreen, D-pad, or left joystick. Most of the letters are used in the puzzles so it gets harder to find the words as more and more of the grid becomes highlighted. Unfortunately, all of the located words are highlighted in green. Mixing up the highlight colors would have made it easier to sort through in my opinion.

    Chances are that you’ll get stuck finding a word. The built-in hint system will make one of the letters at the front or back sparkle. The only other option worth noting is that the classical background music can be disabled if you desire it to be.

    Epic Word Search Collection
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The visuals aren’t anything fancy, but they get the job done. I like how the completion percentage is shown for each puzzle and once one is completely solved, it will show a star on it in the overview page. The main menu also shows the percentage completed of the four main puzzle games.

    There’s little to complain about morally. The puzzle themes are family-friendly and suitable for all ages. In fact, I learned about many new food items and other terms by playing this game.

    If you know anyone who enjoys word searches, the Epic Word Search Collection is bound to keep them entertained for hours. I can’t imagine playing this game for hours on end, but it certainly may come in handy for long car rides, or doctor visits.

  • Epic Word Search Collection 2 (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Epic Word Search Collection 2
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Released on: July 21, 2020
    Available on: PS4, Nintendo Swtich
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone, Alcohol References and Mild Language
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Lightwood Games for sending us this game to review!

    The Epic Word Search Collection 2 is – you guessed it – a digital compilation of classic word finds. However, the ones in this game are indeed epic, as this eight-dollar game includes only four of them. Considering their size, though, I find it impressive that they were able to compile four of these massive things.

    When starting up the game, you will see four options, as this title features four epic word searches, each with its respective theme: Epic America word search, Epic Monster word search, Epic Rock word search, and Epic Summer word search.

     

    Epic Word Search Collection 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Many different themed word search puzzles within broader topics; entertaining
    Weak Points: Repetitive classical piano music
    Moral Warnings: Alcohol references and mild language

    Now, I will try my best now to convey to you how enormous these truly epic word finds are. When you choose any of the four word searches, you'll be taken to a 16-square grid. Each of those grid squares has its own title, related to the broader topic that you clicked on. Each of these smaller squares is a word search of its own, containing around 100 words each. You can move to another square without officially switching to it, and sometimes words from one word search might run into the one next to it. Words in different colors will start to appear on the word bank when at least one letter of it is on the screen. Mind you, these mini word finds take a long time to complete, and even though I consider myself rather skilled in the realm of word finds and mazes and crosswords and other mind exercises, it took me a few solid days to complete just one section of the sixteen available for that genre. So eight bucks is a great deal if you’re into these types of pastimes.

    While I really enjoyed playing this game, I usually would have the volume muted, even in my own home. I usually enjoy calming classical piano like this game has as its background music, but after a while the songs become awfully repetitive and annoying sometimes. Perhaps this is a personal peeve of mine, but I felt that was something I had to mention, whether you think the same or not. Other than that, I found no issues with the sound in Epic Word Search Collection 2.

    Epic Word Search Collection 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 79%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6.5/10
    Stability - 5 /5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    The controls in this game are very simple, and they do not take long to grasp at all. In fact, at all times during gameplay, under the word bank there will be a review of all the four controls used in the entire game. Hold A while scrolling across the screen to select words, or simply use the touchscreen to highlight a line of letters. Once you let go, if you have formed a word in the word bank it will be registered, but only if the full thing is highlighted. If a letter or two are missing from either side or another is added, it will not register. Hints are also available if you get stuck on a word. Pressing Y will highlight the first letter of one of the words on the word bank that you might be looking for.

    Overall, Epic Word Search Collection 2 is a really well done digital word find compilation. As long as you don't mind the occasional alcohol reference, this game should not bother you morally at all. I found it quite enjoyable, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone into time-consuming puzzles like these.

  • Epic Word Search Holiday Special (3DS)

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    Game Info:

    Epic Word Search Holiday Special
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Release date: October 6, 2016
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Lightwood Games for sending us this game to review!

    With its dual screen layout the 3DS is ideal for word find puzzles.  Lightwood Games has released several word search type games for Nintendo and mobile platforms.  Epic Word Search Holiday Special is the third in the series and features five massive puzzles with roughly fifteen-hundred words hidden within fourteen thousand characters.

    There are five themed puzzles and only two of them are holiday related.  Besides the Halloween and Christmas puzzles there are others based on love, summer and monsters in general.  While the monster themed puzzle has all of the horror movie monsters covered, I was pleasantly surprised to see ones included from Pokemon and Dr. Who.  Since those are trademarked names they’re referred to as “Catch them all” and “Doctor ?”.   

    Epic Word Search Holiday Special
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of themed words to find
    Weak Points: Pricey compared to word find books
    Moral Warnings: Alcohol, Halloween, demon, and goddess references

    Each of the puzzles has several related puzzles combined into one.  Each section has color coded letters and sometimes the words will span across multiple sections.  Because the puzzles are so huge, you’ll have to use the circle pad to navigate and gain access to different sections.  The words to find will appear on the top screen and will change as you scroll across different sections of the puzzle.   

    Words to find will be frontwards, backwards, and diagonal.  Not surprisingly, the backwards and diagonal words are harder to locate. The words themselves vary in length and many of them I was not familiar with.  Selecting them is done by dragging and selecting the words using the bottom touch screen.    

    Epic Word Search Holiday Special
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Progress is saved automatically and the percentage found for each section can be sent via Street Pass if you want compete against other word search enthusiasts.  Because of the simplistic visuals, this game is quick to load and is ideal for short gaming sessions.  The background music is pleasant to listen to and consists of public domain classical music tracks.

    Like most word searches, Epic Word Search Holiday Special is pretty clean and suitable for people of all ages to play.  There are Halloween and demon references in the puzzles that you would expect to find them in.  The love themed puzzle has alcohol references in having you find words like pub and brewery.  The word hookup is also in that puzzle.  On a positive note, the Christmas puzzle has many words from the traditional hymns along with the secular songs.

    In the end, Epic Word Search Holiday Special is sure to entertain those who love word finds.  It’s not for everyone though.  If it wasn’t for the Pokemon puzzle my kids would have little interest in this title.   Those that do get into the game will sink several hours into it so for them it’s a pretty good bargain.  For everyone else, stick with the $0.99 paperback books.

  • Escape Lizards (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Escape Lizards
    Developer: Egodystonic Studios
    Published by: Independent
    Release Date: April 10, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle, Action
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $ 15.99

    Thanks Egodystonic Studios for sending us a review code.

    Physics puzzle based games will either be great or horrid; I have never found a in-between yet. Escape Lizards is one of those games that wound up being a terrible experience. It has potential, but when it's marked down by control issues and bad camera, I should not give participation points. This Is Escape Lizards.

    Escape Lizards puts you in charge of rescuing the young of lizard clans hunted down by vile eagles. You do this by rolling lizard eggs along different courses from start to finish. You can change the gravity of each course to find different planes to roll on with the left and right bumpers. Each course also gives you a limited amount of times you can jump with your egg. On each course are a number of coins that you collect to unlock new worlds. Every world has a time challenge as well, when you beat stages within a time limit you win stars that aid in unlocking worlds. You also have the option of smashing eagle eggs in each course; doing so will unlock new skins for your lizard eggs.

    Escape Lizards
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: It has the potential to be a creative take on a old idea of rolling a marble down a course
    Weak Points: The Controls are horrible and half the time you try to solve these puzzles while fighting with camera movement
    Moral Warnings:None

    The biggest problem with this game is the controls. The camera has an option to shut off up and down inverse controls yet not left and right. The game also forces your controller (if you use one) to have a dead zone. The keyboard controls are not better, you'll still have a problem controlling the egg. You don't directly control the egg by the way, you tilt the stage itself to move it. When you tilt the world to move the egg, the camera will move without you wanting it. This will only further aggravate you as you try to play the game. Sometimes a dead zone can make a controller feel more responsive yet that's not the case.

    This game relies on the way you tilt the stage as well as controller movement. When you look at other games that consist of rolling a ball down the course, the controls are tight for a reason, with minimal to no dead zone. Without controlling the egg itself, the game only becomes more frustrating when your controls over the world are either extremely sensitive or unresponsive. Part of this game's challenge is fighting with your own controls.

    Escape Lizards
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 36%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 1/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Escape Lizards doesn't have a lot going for itself. The graphics consist of background images while you roll around on the low-res stages. The UI is extremely cluttered and only serves as a distraction. The music is just small 10 second jingles on loop. I will give some credit to this game for a new approach at a marble rolling game. It gave me the feeling of those cheap marble ball mazes in the toy aisle. Yet those marble ball maze toys are also the kind of thing you pick up for a niece or nephew when you forgot their birthday. That's all this game really is, a last minute birthday gift.

    Other than the very lightly encouraged murdering of eagle babies, you won't find moral issues with this title.

    Escape Lizards is a game filled with a rolling sense of disappointment and waste. It might be fun for a few people, yet it will just be another game on Steam's release list.

  • Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince
    Developed by: Gamera Interactive
    Published by: SOEDESCO Publishing
    Released: December 12, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E (Mild Fantasy Violence)
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you, Gamera Interactive, for providing us with a review copy of this game!

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince takes a mechanic that has appeared many, many times before. You control one character, and the other character mirrors your movements. If you go up, the other ones goes down. You go left, he goes right. It's an elementary puzzle element that has appeared in many other games, including the Legend of Zelda series.

    Where Fearful Symmetry differs is that it takes the idea and forms a whole game around it. The screen is split into two portions. You control the character on the left, and the character on the right mirrors your movements. The characters do not have any life points- if one of the characters falls into one of the many traps or monsters, then both are defeated and the level is lost. You will have to start again from the beginning. Fortunately, the levels are pretty quick to solve, and while some do require quick reflexes to get through, most rely on careful thinking and trial-and-error gameplay. There aren't any random elements to the game, so once a solution is discovered, it will always be the same solution for that character.

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting puzzles with a variety of solutions; fun premise; cute graphics
    Weak Points: Typos and grammatical errors; short game; lackluster music; annoying sound effects
    Moral Warnings: Characters disappear upon death; undead references; female character wears midriff-bearing outfit

    There are three characters to choose from. The first one, and default, is named Hero, and he doesn't have any special abilities. The other two need to be unlocked: Haim, who has the ability to teleport one square away in the direction he is facing; and Nulan, a sorceress who can light things on fire. The main levels can be solved with all three, and with their different abilities, different solutions can be found with each character. Unfortunately, sometimes the solutions are too easy with certain characters. Some of the bonus levels require the use of specific heroes. There are more than 30 levels to complete, and 46 Steam achievements to unlock.

    The graphics are reminiscent of the SNES era and looks a lot like some of the creations using RPGMaker. It comes as a surprise that the game was designed in Unity, a platform more commonly used for 3D gaming applications. The game looks great, but some of the controls when using the keyboard feel a bit stiff. There have been many times when my character refused to move, even when pressing firmly on the arrow buttons, which led to a frustrating death. These errors did not occur when using a game controller, though. The music is largely forgettable, and some of the sound effects annoying. I also came across one bug where a puzzle locked up while one character was stuck, walking in place, and the game refused further input until I returned to the start menu. Other problems I discovered were occasional typos and grammatical errors, and a vague storyline that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There are a few moral issues, but they are minor. When the character gets killed, they often spin around and vanish in a puff of dust. The sorceress Nulan wears an outfit that bares her midriff, but the graphics don't provide too much in the way of detail. Finally, some of the enemies are undead creatures, including creepy-looking hands extending from the ground.

    Fearful Symmetry is an interesting puzzle game with some intriguing challenges. The graphics are pleasant, but the story is lacking. The game also is fairly short – it can easily be completed in around 8 hours, possibly less. It is a pleasant diversion, but I recommend waiting for a sale.

  • Fifty Words by POWGI (Switch)

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    Game Info:

    Fifty Words by POWGI
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Release date: September 5, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Switch
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Lightwood Games for sending us this game to review!

    Word searches are a fun way to kill some time. Fifty Words by POWGI provides sixty puzzles for your solving pleasure. Each puzzle contains fifty words in various directions (forwards, backwards, upside down, and diagonal). The sixty levels are all themed, so solving ones unfamiliar to you may be trickier. The good news is that there are very few wasted letters so most of them (if not all) will be used.

    Unlike traditional word searches, these puzzles are all over the place and are not in the typical rectangular shape. Another feature is that each found word will be highlighted in a randomly chosen color. The end results are very colorful. The colors seem to change for every level so there is some variety in that regard. You can customize the color palette if desired.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of word searches to complete; colorful
    Weak Points: Not really innovative
    Moral Warnings: Rock and roll, alcohol references

    When a puzzle is completed, the time taken to solve it will be saved and you’ll be shown a goofy pun as a reward for your efforts. One example is “I love vegetable puns. They make me feel good from my head tomatoes.” Though you can improve your solving time by redoing a puzzle, the quality of jokes can’t be helped. On average, the puzzles took me close to seven minutes apiece to complete.

    I love the portability of the Switch and being able to play this game on the go is a plus over the PS4 version. You can always resume a puzzle if you have to leave before finishing it. The touch screen is also convenient for selecting the words. The Joy-Cons work just as well though.

    Overall, the interface is easy to use and navigate. I like how you can switch it to a dark theme if you prefer that over the default light one. There are no hints in this title. As long as a letter is still solid black, you’ll have a use for it later.

    Fifty Words by POWGI
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The background music is upbeat and familiar. I’m quite sure I’ve heard it in a previous title from Lightwood Games.

    Morally this game is pretty clean though it should be noted that some puzzles have questionable words and themes. There’s a rock band puzzle that has the Buzzcocks as a word to highlight. There’s also a dating themed puzzle that has the words cocktail, bar, and wine in it.

    If you enjoy word searches, Fifty Words by POWGI has got you covered. It’s colorful, but not ground-breaking. This $7.99 title is bound to keep you entertained for a few hours. Though it has some questionable words, it can be enjoyed by puzzle lovers of all ages.

  • Filament (PC) (Preview)

     

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    Game Info:

    Filament
    Developed by: Beard Envy
    Published by: Kasedo Games
    Release date: April 23, 2020
    Available on: Windows, Switch
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $16.99

    Thank you Kasedo Games for sending us an Early Access preview code!

    In Filament you find yourself aboard The Alabaster, a spaceship which is unusually vacant and it’s up to your character to rescue the trapped crew members. Between you and your shipmates are over three hundred puzzles that have to be solved. The ship has many sections with groups of puzzles that need to be completed to advance to the next area. You can solve many of the puzzles in any order you choose.

    I found out the hard way that if you quit the game before completing a whole section, you have to redo the puzzles in that group that were previously solved. The first time I left the game early, it was my own doing. The second time I got penalized for not completing an entire section was due to multiple game glitches. On one of my playthroughs, the main character ran out of cable and the game menu would not recognize my button presses to return to the main menu. Hopefully, these issues will be addressed before the game releases.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Challenging puzzles; good music and voice acting
    Weak Points: Ran into a couple of glitches 
    Moral Warnings: Mild language (d*mn)

    Normally, your character has an endless supply of cable, and to clear a room/puzzle you have to have your cable touching all of the pillars to open up the exit. The pillars are gray and often illuminate to white when they come in contact with your cable. You have to plan your moves so that you don’t block access to an exit or another vital area in the room.

    The angling of your cables is vital and changes as you connect different pillars. To help, you’ll have some posts and fences that you can use to guide your cabling. Some of the pillars are connected by circuits and you’ll be able to open up closed doors by illuminating the connected pillars. Many of the pillars have a column on one or multiple sides limiting where your cable can touch them. Some puzzles have only one solution.

    Filament is played from an isometric perspective. The puzzle rooms usually have a monochrome look to them while the rest of the ship is very colorful. As you’re spreading the thick white cabling across the pillars it looks more like toilet paper than cable.

    Filament
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay: 15/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Stability: 3/5
    Controls: 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence: 10/10
    Language: 7/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    This game prides itself on being challenging and it doesn’t take long for the difficulty to ramp up. It is quite rewarding to solve a puzzle that’s been stumping me for several minutes. I also welcomed help from people watching me play. I appreciated the relaxing background music that was both futuristic and soothing.

    From what I’ve seen, there’s little to complain about morally. The word d*mn was used in the dialogue. As of this preview, this title has not been rated by the ESRB.

    If you enjoy puzzle games and spaceships, Filament is worth checking out. The game has lots of promise and I look forward to its stable release.

  • Fjong (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Fjong
    Developed by: VaragtP
    Published by: VaragtP
    Release date: September 11, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price $1.99

    Thank you VaragtP for sending us this game to review!

    Fjong and his friends are bird-like creatures who cannot fly but wish to do so. If they consume a magical candy, they can float in the air like helium balloons. In order to reach this magical candy, they’ll need your help flinging them there Angry Birds style.

    Surprisingly, Fjong is not available on mobile devices though its control scheme, simplicity, and star leveling system are very similar to most Android/iOS games out there. Mouse controls are available for those without touch screen monitors, but my son and I preferred touch controls. However, some of the levels were very frustrating even with touch controls.

    In total, there are twenty levels and each of them have a couple of Steam achievements that can be unlocked for them. Depending on how many flings it takes to get your creatures to their candy, you’ll be awarded up to three stars. If you have a perfect level, you’ll get a purple star. Steam achievements are earned for each level with a purple or a three star rating. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll be tapping the retry icon for every two and one star attempt.

    fjong
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute graphics; small file size; lots of Steam achievements
    Weak Points: Only twenty levels; frustrating controls
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    At first, you’ll only control Fjong, but later on in the game you’ll have to manage his red and yellow friends too. Each creature flings differently so you’ll have to take that into account. They all have different body shapes and some can fit through places that the others cannot. Many of the levels have pressure plates that need to be triggered in order to open up the bucket filled with magical candy. A few levels have obstacles like cacti to avoid at all costs.

    The thirteenth level was very frustrating for me and my son. This level has a rotating platform that takes some effort to fling the creatures onto in time. As annoying as the rotating platform is, the biggest issue with this level is the touch screen controls. When trying to control one creature in close proximity to the other, the wrong bird is gets moved and tallies up precious movement points. As a result of these poor controls, earning a three star rating is quite challenging.

    Other than frustrating people of all ages, this game is clean enough to be played by anyone with enough patience.

    fjong
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Visually this game is very colorful and cute. The vertical screen layout is better suited for tablets and phones than widescreen desktop monitors. The black borders didn’t bother me as I’d rather see those than mess around with switching my screen to a vertical alignment.

    With a meager install size of 18MB, I wasn’t expecting much visually or audibly. The sound effects and background music are soothing. The creatures make cute noises and I like the cheering upon completing a level.

    In the end, Fjong is a simple game that won’t take too long to complete if you’ve got the skills and patience for it. It can be a great way to rack up Steam achievements. The asking price is $1.99 but I have seen it much lower during Holiday sales and in bundle packages.

  • Forgiveness: Escape Room (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Forgiveness: Escape Room
    Developed By: Chaos Minds
    Published By: Chaos Minds
    Released: Feb 28, 2019
    Available On: Windows 7
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Chaos Minds for sending us your game to review!

    Sin is too harsh a word for some people. Now, we have no problem admitting no one is perfect. We have little problem saying everyone has done, said, or thought something wrong. What’s this conniption then with the word sin? Some just think sin is too dirty or uncomfortable a term, and thanks to Scriptures we know exactly why. To sin is to admit the existence of laws that shouldn’t be broken. To be a sinner implicates someone’s unstoppable urge to break important rules, and to have sinned is to acknowledge that there is a higher authority you have to fess up to. Thus, the word ‘sin’ leaves no room for excuse. It’s inescapable. As for Forgiveness: Escape Room by Chaos Minds, it’s a puzzle game that asks its players a similar question. Can they escape threatening rooms any better than their own sins, or can they not?

    Before I played this game I had heard of real escape rooms before. Perhaps some of you readers have experienced them, but for those of you who haven’t, let me explain. Escape rooms are basically giant puzzles. You and your buddies are locked in a space and given limited time to figure your way out. It’s kind of like Myst if it were limited to one room, and for this big Myst fan, I was excited to try Forgiveness. The one thing I’m less a fan of is the game’s scary atmosphere. Fortunately, Forgiveness seemed tame enough for me. When you first begin, the game will start you in the prologue level. You wake up in a decrepit medical room. Your abductor, Dr. Benjamin Smith, unveils his disdain for you and society under no uncertain terms. According to him, people reek with sin. They are stupid, hopeless, and selfish, so he’s decided to play judge, jury, and executioner. However, despite how much he hates your awful personhood, he begrudgingly offers you a chance at forgiveness. You must prove you deserve a second chance by escaping his seven trap rooms and face down your seven deadly sins.

    Forgiveness: Escape Room
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nails the creep factor; The Wrath room was well conceived
    Weak Points: Mediocre puzzles; A couple bugs; Mishandled theming
    Moral Warnings: Crude language; Disturbing visuals; Blood

    The game will offer two mode options. ‘Normal’ will let you solve the puzzles at your own leisure and include a hint system. The hint system basically ‘dings’ whenever you find a significant clue. ‘Extreme’ mode, on the other hand, limits you to a half-hour and bars you from hints. It’s great that they gave a non-timed option. I for one don’t enjoy trying to beat the clock. On the other hand, I also prefer winning without hints. Now, you’d think I’d be dissatisfied with this and argue for better options. However, while I do prefer an official way to independently turn hints off, I found the perfect workaround. I just muted the SFXs in the options menu. Having or not having those sounds didn’t hinder my gameplay anyway, so for that reason, I feel I can let this one slide. It’s also nice that there really isn’t a linear story here. As a result, you can choose to play any room in any order you want. It’s nice to switch rooms when you’ve hit a wall. Of course, if you’re an indecisive sort, you can take a quiz and be sent to the room associated to your main sin - or at least the sin the quiz designates to you.

    Once you’re in the room, it’s time to observe, observe, observe. Walk around using the ‘W’, ‘A’, ‘S’, and ‘D’ keys. Crouch with ‘C’ or ‘Ctrl.’. Jump with the ‘Space Bar’. ‘H’ will pull up a hint if you’re ever stuck. Pick up items with ‘E’, and inspect objects closely with a click of the mouse. I personally appreciated this minimal control scheme. It doesn’t distract. There are puzzles to solve after all, but therein lies the big question. Are the puzzles satisfying? To me, the best puzzles aren’t necessarily hard but clever. They’d take advantage of human assumption to hide obvious solutions. Sadly, Forgiveness: Escape Room didn’t really impress me all that much. It mostly felt too easy. Now, it’s not like I wasn’t challenged at all. There were a couple of genuine toughies. The Wrath room was the best one, but some of the others felt more unfair than hard. I say unfair because there were times I inputted the right answer but didn’t receive clear enough confirmation. Then there were a couple of instances when the game bugged out and simply didn’t do what it was supposed to. That last issue certainly put everything I did into question. To gain a fairer perspective on the game’s difficulty, I watched other players online. To my surprise, some were genuinely challenged and liked the puzzles, so who knows? Maybe you’d get more out of Forgiveness: Escape Room than me. To be clear, I’m not that smart, but the only thing I can figure is maybe I’m just too practiced at this. After the tough nuggets I’ve solved in the Myst and Professor Layton series, it’s like running a mile after acing a 10k marathon. Once you’re conditioned, the first challenge loses its teeth.

    Forgiveness: Escape Room
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Now, for Christians, dividing sins into categories and the very idea that there are only seven is silly. First of all, sins naturally blend and mix together. Second, sin is basically any way of living that’s self-serving and contrary to God’s character, but for the sake of this review, let’s note the specific vices these rooms are themed after. Their presentation kind of depends on it after all. The ‘classical’ seven sins are pride, lust, greed, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Thus, each labeled room has the grimy decor to match. Lust appears to be a male predator’s female torture chamber. Greed’s room is an opulent if rundown casino. Pictures and fashion magazines line the dingy Envy apartment. You get the gist. However, while I agree most rooms fit their themes pretty well, the Wrath room didn’t make much sense to me. How on earth do you connect a warehouse to anger? With all that being said, I do think they’re rendered well. The colors are earthy if a bit too dark for me to see, and the music, despite its awkward pausing, cinches the eerie atmosphere. There are a few odd visuals, though. Moonlight shines through blocked windows. A shadowing effect looked odd on a door. Some objects blend into other objects. Regardless, Forgiveness: Escape Room’s visuals did a decent job. While not outright frightening, the presentation still succeeded at triggering my heeby-jeeby sense the longer I played. (Thank the Lord for my iPod. I needed it on a few occasions.)

    Dr. Benjamin is not a nice guy. Not in the slightest. Even without his megalomanic double standards, he doesn’t pull verbal punches. I’m thankful he only speaks once in this game. S***t, d*mn, and b***s***t crop up whenever he does, and your failure is met with a ‘Game Over’ and papers calling you a smart***. A trivia question also asks what you would do if someone *ahem* ‘cheated’ on you. Then there’s a painting of a mostly naked guy being baptized. As for the rest of the game, it sure loves the macabre. Every single room is like a haunted maze you’d find at Halloween. Blood on the walls, a dead kitchen rat, and a gross ending to a particular puzzle are just a few ways Forgiveness will yucky up your day. Now to the game’s credit, Forgiveness: Escape Room could have been so very much worse. No Lovecraft-ian abominations hunted me. I half expected body parts or eyeball jars to be lying around but found none. It really didn’t push the gore ticket that hard. Does that negate the game’s issues? No. But at least, you now know what level of horror to expect. It’s not rated R bad. I’d call it a PG-13. However, I cannot excuse how the developers mishandled the topic of sin. On the one hand, they were correct. Mankind is sinful, hopelessly so, but they failed to finish the story. The Son of God, who never sinned, sacrificed his life to give us hope. He paid our price, so repentant sinners can be cleansed and redeemed into a new life with Him. The game had ample opportunity to mention that crucial element. They even showcased Bible verses that countered the sins in question, yet they omitted the single most important detail in history! Now, I’m no idiot. Not for one second did I expect the game to mention our means of salvation. Nevertheless, it’s really hard to excuse the game when it recites, “ . . . but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me,” yet does not tell you who the ‘Me’ is that’s speaking. Guess it’s up to Christians like me to tell you. His name is Jesus. He’s alive, and His is the forgiveness that frees you.

    “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It was one of the earliest Bible verses mini-me ever learned right after John 3:16. It’s a clear exposé of the human condition. Too bad Forgiveness: Escape Room was most decidedly unclear, both in story and gameplay. The plot’s message turned up half-baked. Most puzzles were either too easy, unfair, or far left field. Bugs even made making right answers a shaky affair. You might get a decent challenge from Forgiveness: Escape Room. However, I doubt you’ll leave satisfied if you’re a Myst veteran like me. As I explored the rooms, I saw books titled ‘The Holy Book: But Not the Bible’. That alone sums up Forgiveness’s biggest flaw perfectly. As sinners, we like harvesting parts of Scripture that fit our agenda but then omit the parts that don't. We want the truth but don’t want its source. Unfortunately, whether they meant to or not, the game’s developers mistreated God’s Word in the same exact way. They took what they wanted. They got their theme prop then threw Christ’s message of love out the window. Sorry, Chaos Minds. You probably thought no one would notice or care. Well, this gamer cared. Without Jesus there’s no forgiveness. Because you can’t be forgiven without the Forgiver.

  • G:Into The Rain (PC)

    Game Info:

    G: Into The Rain
    Released: Month day, year
    ESRB Rating: E 10+
    Available On: iphone, PC
    Genre: Realtime Puzzle
    Number of Players: 1
    online scoreboard
    Price: $.99

    We really appreciate it that Soma Games gave us access to a pre-release version of this game for review.

    G: Into the Rain is the first in a series which is planned to consist of four games: G, F, E, and Arc. This game sets the base storyline, and each future episode should expand on it. The premise here is that over the last 30 years, mankind saw a growing emptiness in the sky, as part of the heavens became obscured. Like a cloud covering the midday sun, they called it The Rain. As it drew near, they began to learn more and more of its nature. What started as fear soon became desire as nations and corporations saw wealth and power. Now that The Rain has drawn near, you are one of the explorers who will chart what riches lay inside. No one is sure what you will find, or how far you will go to find it.

    As an explorer, you can join one of ten different corporations set on exploring The Rain. When you start a campaign, you can also choose whether to play the tutorial, which I highly recommend. In addition to being shown the ropes a bit more for the first time through, you also get to hear more of the excellent voice acting, and the advice tends to be useful. It seems that this setting effects whether or not you hear at least some of the dialog, though I did not complete a second play through with the tutorial off for all of the specifics.

    Highlights:

    Pros: Works on virtually any computer made in the last 10 years or so; works great for short play sessions; storyline is progressed through surprisingly high quality voice acting; lots of replay value if you\'re trying to get the high score
    Cons: Scope is limited, though what it does it does well; only 50 levels
    Moral Warnings:None to speak of; there are missiles which explode on impact

    This game is all about reconnaissance, though not against an enemy force. Your job is to fire one or more rockets and \'ping\', or fire off a locating signal, near selected points in the sector to help locate precious resources. Speaking of precious resources, you are rewarded based on how few you use to accomplish your task.

    When you launch a rocket, you first set the angle, the launch impulse, and the burn duration. Launch impulse affects how much fuel you use to launch, and therefore the speed, and the burn duration affects how long it burns. You can also use trim thrusters to help guide your rocket towards its target. Physics are mostly Newtonian, so it doesn\'t take much force to keep moving in one direction and inertia strongly resists changes from thrusters. All of this is done on a 2D plane.

    Sounds simple, right? Well, not so fast. If it was just about shooting a rocket at points of interest, it would be easy. But instead, this \'G\' seems to be for Gravity. Gravity plays a huge role in this game. There are several heavenly bodies, both large and small, that are often encountered on a mission. These can be both a help and a hindrance, as your rocket is subject to their gravitational forces, so a rocket can arc any which way as it\'s attracted to all bodies nearby.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Game Play 15/20
    Graphics 9/10
    Sound/Music 8/10
    Stability/Polish 5/5
    Controls/Interface 5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Another tool given to you later on, as the gravity puzzles get more grueling, is the multi-stage rocket. In the early levels, you set your launch impulse and duration, and that\'s that. Later, you can set up to three separate launch impulse and durations, once for each stage of the rocket. After the first stage, all adjustments occur mid flight in real time, so it becomes more and more difficult to reproduce flights with those tiny variations needed to get that last resource. Fortunately, you don't have to get all resources in one flight; you can use multiple rockets if necessary to reach your goal to tag them all.

    The flight mechanics are convincing, and it\'s fun to watch your rocket fling around the screen, and even off the screen as potentially large rotations occur while attempting to ping your targets. There are also achievements that you can earn depending on how you accomplish the task at hand.

    The graphics are all drawn in nice detail. Not a single graphic is annoying to look at, and it is well polished. It\'s all 2D art, so while it can get a little pixelated at very high resolutions, it overall works well, and even works on the slowest netbooks. The sound effects are very nice and convincing. I especially like the voice acting, as it brings a real character to the game. The music, while appropriately moody and ambient, does get repetitive after a while, and I found myself wishing for some variety here.

    From a Christian standpoint, this game is squeaky clean. I guess the only thing I can think of is that the companies that hire you out seem to push you farther and farther into The Rain, even at great risk. Nevertheless, it's nothing I feel the need to deduct for. The founder of Soma Games is a Christian, and he has the story of the company he started at http://www.somagames.com. While this game doesn't really have a Christian message per se, it offers a fun game play experience and a level of polish that many games lack. Great work here!

    G: Into The Rain is a game that is smart in so many ways. It takes a simple game concept, adds an impressive back story, adds layer upon layer of polish to make it a game to be proud of, and keeps the game within the scope of what a small independent studio can do, and charges the ridiculously low price of $0.99 for a copy each on both the PC or iPhone. What can I say? While it\'s certainly not the best or most mind blowing game I\'ve played, it\'s certainly fun, and it\'s a puzzle game that gets you thinking. It also offers a high score leaderboard online if you\'re the competitive type. And it\'s $0.99. Consider picking this up if you\'re even moderately interested. It\'s in Apple\'s iTunes store for iPhone or iTouch, and it\'s available on Intel\'s AppUp center for Windows PCs.
  • Glass Masquerade (Xbox One)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Glass Masquerade
    Developed by: Onyx Lute
    Published by: Digerati
    Release date: February 6, 2019
    Available on: Android, macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $11.99

    Thank you Digerati for sending us a review code!

    Glass Masquerade was originally released in 2016 and came to consoles in 2019. The Android version is free with in-app purchases and the Steam version sells for $4.99. I’m not sure why the console version has a premium price tag of $11.99, but it is fun and worth picking up if you don’t have access to the Steam version. I have seen this title on the Microsoft Store in an indie bundle for $7.99, so finding it on sale is possible.

    There are twenty-five puzzles inspired by stained glass artwork from countries around the world. There are five levels of difficulty and the game starts off with puzzles at the middle range. I’m surprised it didn’t start off at the easiest level and work its way up. The difference between the difficulty ratings is how many pieces you have to work with. The more pieces there are, the harder it is to put back together.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun puzzles; relaxing music
    Weak Points: Some of the puzzle pieces are not scaled properly; Steam version is only $4.99
    Moral Warnings: One puzzle shows Sherlock Holmes with his iconic pipe; another puzzle features the Hindu god, Ganesha

    At the beginning of each level, there are some red glowing pieces that line up with circles on the watch’s face. If you don’t like this head start, you can disable it in the options menu. Just like jigsaw puzzles, I tend to do the edges first and work my way to the middle of the puzzle.

    As the title suggests, you’re working with broken pieces of stained glass. The puzzle pieces are quite different and vary in size, shape, and coloring significantly. Have you ever tried to reassemble a dropped and broken glass? If so, this game is for you!

    Depending on the puzzle difficulty, the levels took me between three and forty-five minutes to complete. I enjoyed the soothing background music and found it quite fitting for this game. The completed puzzles are quite detailed and colorful. Sometimes I didn’t recognize the theme until I was finished.

    Glass Masquerade
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay: 15/20
    Graphics: 8/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Controls: 5/5
    Stability: 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence: 10/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/ethical: 9/10

    Though this game is family-friendly there are a couple of levels worth mentioning. Britain’s puzzle features Sherlock Holmes with his iconic pipe. India’s puzzle has the elephant god Ganesha on it.

    While this game ran fine, the only issue worth noting is that some of the pieces don’t seem to scale very well and I had to solve some puzzles with the process of elimination. That's because I couldn’t figure out where some pieces could possibly go.

    If you enjoy puzzles and stain glass artwork, Glass Masquerade is worth looking into. Because the PC version is a lot cheaper, I’d recommend going that route first if available. This game is bound to keep you busy for a few hours. In regards to replayability you can disable the red pieces to add some challenge, or you can replay the puzzles to beat your previous times. I look forward to checking out the recently released sequel.

  • Glyphs: Apprentice (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Glyphs: Apprentice
    Developed By: inSPIRE Games
    Published By: inSPIRE Games
    Released: March 16, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: Single player
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you inSPIRE Games for sending us this game to review!

    Glyphs: Apprentice is a puzzle game produced by inSPIRE Games, and if their advertising is anything to go by, they're determined to set your critical thinking skills ablaze. They warned all puzzle aficionados to bring their whiteboards and patience. At least, that's what they claimed you'd need should you enter their latest domain. So what kind of role are you playing in this supposed mental gauntlet? You're an aspiring mystic, studying sorcery in order to create the most potent spells ever known. . . . Oh, boy.

    So how do you conduct these spellbinding tasks? Well first, you need to pick a spell pattern. There are three difficulty levels with three Glyphs each. Each Glyph is made up of anywhere between seven to thirteen pieces, and each piece equals one puzzle. Do the math, and you'll realize there are about sixty-three of these things. Thankfully, the menu is a breeze to navigate. Just choose a difficulty, pick a glyph, then peruse the list of pieces. This format is very serviceable. It's in no way groundbreaking, but easy to navigate. Count your blessings, because you're going to be very thankful for that.

    Your goal in every puzzle is the same. On a graph, you must build an assembly line from a magic generator to an accumulator in order to transform energy balls into the specified shape. To fix up these light balls you are provided an endless supply of tools. Some change its inner shape. Some change its outer shape. Others can bind energies together in various thicknesses, but the tools you'll use the most are the arms. They alone can move energy spheres around and activate other tools. So far this all sounds fine and dandy. It certainly is nothing catastrophic. You know your goal and how to do it. However, you'll find the 'how' is going to wreck your resolve. All that ethereal machinery ain't gonna do squat by itself.

    Glyphs: Apprentice
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful Design Work
    Weak Points: Taxing Puzzles, Convoluted Gameplay, No Music
    Moral Warnings: Sorcery, Transgender Symbol Present

    When inSPIRE said you'd need a whiteboard to solve their puzzles, they weren't kidding. Do you like programming? If not, sorry. If so, good for you. You've entered the kiddie pre-lesson experience. Each arm is equipped with its own little grid where you need to insert a cornucopia of inputs into the empty slots. The colored squares you place will tell the arm how to move, when to move, and even when to pause. This bit right here is where the difficulty gets real. If energies clash, you fail. If two arms grab the same energy, you fail. On top of that, your mini manufacturing plant has to produce eight finished shapes in nonstop cycles. That last stipulation alone can ruin everything. If one, and I mean one little thing is off, it might work on the first revolution, but come the second lap, it all falls apart and takes a chain reaction of adjustments to fix . . . right up until a new problem crops up. It's daunting. I'd suggest heeding inSPIRE Games' advice and have paper and pencil on hand. 'Cause unless your memory is exceptional, you'll likely need your notes to keep your head on straight. I hadn't had to do that for a game since the Myst series. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on the person. I myself enjoy a good challenge, and the creators definitely didn't skimp on their promise. They get points for honesty.

    However, Glyphs gets unnecessarily nasty thanks to its convoluted layout. The learning curve is steep, like cliffside steep, and it can take hours just to solve the easy puzzles. The more I played, the more I bemoaned its lacking ease of access. You can't readily double check your work on other arms, so it forces you to jump hoops just to program a single arm. Thus, you'll mess up because you miscounted moves, forgot which arm activated what, or which way you had them twist/turn. You'll also wish there was a replay loop button able to isolate specific points in your plan, but no. Glyphs doesn't have that. It says, 'You want to figure that pesky middle part out? Nope. Start at the beginning. If you can't get past that? Too bad so sad. Fix me.' Not only does this sometimes bar you from making that one teeny adjustment that can fix everything, it also renders experimentation impossible. That really bites. Solving those algorithms is mind splitting enough. I shouldn't have fight the game just to test my ideas. Even the tutorial is exhaustive. It taught each tool's function but failed to explain a few input commands that could have saved me a few headaches. Now, I for one love puzzles. I love hard earned accomplishment. It's so satisfying to see my clockwork masterpieces clicking along, but when it's this twisted a labyrinth to actually play, it's a dreaded chore.

    Glyphs: Apprentice
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 54%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 1/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Okay, as for Glyphs' presentation: there is very little to talk about. It seemed nearly all of the creator's efforts were spent on the puzzles. Premise aside, there is no story. The game has one measly sound effect, and that's that. There's no music either. I really disliked that exclusion. Thus what's left is an environment with little to draw from or be drawn into. You'll be staring at those lists, manuals, and graphs the entire time, and it can come across as a bare minimum effort. However, this game's presentation has one saving grace: those spell patterns. They are gorgeous. I've never witnessed such an angelic display of glowing lines weaved with such artistic intent quite like this. The way that sky blue tinge adds a soft texture to those pure white wisps is an especially nice touch. Same goes for the tools and light energy you'll be using. The tiny tangled curves in their designs are all very pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, (aside from a couple game crashes) that's pretty much it. Sounds a bit hollow, doesn't it?

    Okay, so there's not a lot to see, nothing to hear, and the challenges are one step short of calculus. How are its ethics? Putting it bluntly, Glyphs won't be winning prizes in the morals olympics. First of all, there is a transgender symbol in the final spell pattern. That mars that part. Unfortunately, the second problem pollutes everything else. Magic is a tricky topic for Christians. Clearly, I'm not alluding to the likes of Houdini or rabbits in top hats. I'm talking about the bippidi-boppidi-boo, this glass will be a shoe, wand waving. Where does the line from fictitious fun to immoral spellcasting start and stop? Opinions vary wildly, but I find Glyphs cozies way too close to Wiccan philosophy for comfort. Its premise alone disturbed me. Throughout Scripture, God taught we were to seek and rely on Him in all things, but Occult and Wiccan practice is all about empowering self. It's in direct conflict. Sadly, Glyphs not only adopted this worldview but also used it to give players their main incentive. To flavor an adventure with fictitious pixie dust is one thing, but to glorify a sinful practice and its core teaching is another.

    It's about as hard to fully explain Glyphs as it is to play Glyphs. I truly admire the great lengths inSPIRE Games took to conjure up such a challenge (pun intended). How on earth they put it all together without melting their own brains I'll never know. Plus, the art it did have was truly lovely. Kudos to them, but I think they took their goals a bit too far. Puzzle diehards and aspiring programmers are bound to get their fix from Glyphs, but its extreme complexity can potentially turn off everyone else. If they just added or streamlined a few features, it certainly would have smoothed the ride. I'm sure with more time and practice I could get really into it. That is, of course, if I could ignore all that witchcraft its been smothered in. I won't say I was completely repulsed by Glyphs: Apprentice - just disenchanted.

  • GNOG (PSVR)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    GNOG
    Developed by: Ko-op Mode
    Published by: Double Fine Productions
    Release date: May 2, 2017
    Available on: PSVR
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for crude humor
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Double Fine Productions for sending us this game to review!

    GNOG is a very unique musical puzzle game with colorful visuals and a mesmerizing art style. Playing in VR is optional, but highly recommended. At the time of this review this title is only available on PS4, but it’s set to come out on iOS and Steam later this year.

    There are nine puzzles that gradually unlock as you solve them. Each puzzle has a theme like the color purple, a candy store, a log, a rocket ship and so on. There are two sides to each puzzle and you can rotate them with the trigger buttons. There is a bit of a story to each one and you’ll uncover your goal by pulling levers, pushing buttons, plugging things in, flipping switches, and solving combination locks. There is no text so all of the combination locks use symbols.

    GNOG
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique art style and soundtrack
    Weak Points: Only nine puzzles which can be solved quickly if you’re good at them
    Moral Warnings: One of the levels shows you a bird regurgitating its food for its young, another level has you assisting  a robber in stealing from an apartment

     

    The puzzles are reasonably challenging and I was able to solve most of them on my own. For the couple that did stump me, I found some YouTube walkthrough videos to point me in the right direction. One of the combination puzzles had a 6 character password that I needed to jot down on paper the old fashioned way.

    When entering into a puzzle and solving it you feel like you’re traveling through a mystical portal. The visuals are vibrant and I like the art style. The music is exceptional as well and it's quite relaxing to listen to while exercising your brain.

    GNOG
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6.5/10

    While this game is safe for children to play there are a couple of things worth mentioning. One of the levels requires helping a bird feed its young by aiming its color vomit into the mouth of its hatchlings. Another has you helping out a thief stealing money and valuables from residents of a multi-level apartment.

    Like many PSVR games, I struggled getting my camera properly positioned as it would often move out of place. Even with my camera properly positioned I would sometimes get the “out of play area” error displayed. Both of these issues are not the developer’s fault but are part of the PSVR experience.

    All in all, GNOG is a neat PSVR title that I recommend checking out. Though the game is short, it’s worth the $14.99 entry fee for the mesmerizing experience it provides. The puzzles are just right in difficulty and you feel smarter for each one you complete on your own. If you like puzzles and VR, GNOG is a must-buy.

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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