enfrdeitptrues

Puzzle

  • 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.

  • Gravity Island (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Gravity Island
    Developed By: ILIKESCIFI Games, Clement Willay Games
    Published By: astragon Entertainment GmbH
    Released: September 21, 2016
    Available On: iOS, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle Platformer
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $4.99 (Steam), free with ads (iOS)

    Thanks to astragon Entertainment GmbH for the review code!

    Did you ever capture fireflies in jars when you were younger? Were you ever sad to see them go when you finally released them? Did you ever get the urge to chase them down to the ends of the earth, stuff them into a lantern, and use them to light your house? If so, Gravity Island may be your ticket to fulfilling that long-lost wish.

    Gravity Island is a puzzle platformer centered on the simple premise of solving mazes while collecting Lumies. These little light-emitting creatures were the pets and lantern of the main character, a small white bear-like being named Shiro. When Shiro accidentally drops the lamp and all his Lumies fly away, he sets out to get them back.

    Gravity Island’s main mechanic is, predictably, gravity. Every level will have blocks with arrows on them pointing in one of the four cardinal directions; touching these will shift gravity as indicated, allowing you to walk on the ceiling and walls. Each of the game’s four worlds introduce a new gameplay element, such as springs or transporters, for you to contend with alongside the gravity. While the path to the level exit might be rather simple, making it there with all three Lumies in tow can prove to be more strenuous.

    Gravity Island
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Tight controls; engaging puzzles
    Weak Points: Short and easy; no way to see the full stage; some bugs
    Moral Warnings: Shiro becomes a ghostly angel when he dies

    The levels are generally well-designed, with your goals easy enough to plan out after some wandering. However, with no pause function and no way to see the entire level beyond what’s around Shiro, some later levels become less about planning and more about trial-and-error. Often, you will be presented with two or more paths, one leading to the exit and one to a Lumie, with no way to discern the two. If you happen to take the way to the exit, there’s a high possibility you will not be able to return to the junction, forcing a restart. In addition, while the game is usually decent in showing you obstacles like spikes on the road ahead, many of them are three or four gravity switches away. You’ll have to contend with the dangers immediately in front of you first, and then try to remember where the spikes were - while coming at them from a different angle. This leads to a lot of leaps of faith, cheap deaths, and otherwise needless restarts.

    Even though this is a rather large design flaw, it amounts to only a minor annoyance most of the time, as each level is short – most come in at under a minute, and a very rare few will take over two. The controls are near-perfect as well, both in responsiveness and layout: Shiro moves exactly as you command using the arrow keys and spacebar (or analog stick and A button on an Xbox controller), making the simple acts of running and jumping quite satisfying. With the level reset button on the enter key (or Y button) and easily accessible at all times, even repeated failures won't keep you out of the game for long.

    While these easy restarts do wonders for the game’s flow, they also highlight its longevity issues. Level difficulty is sporadic, with difficult levels occasionally followed by mindlessly easy ones, but completing the game with every lumie will only take around two hours. Though it tries to add some replayability by displaying the time it takes to beat a level, this doesn’t seem to be saved anywhere in-game – you’ll have to write your times down yourself if you’re aiming to beat them later. The responsive controls do make speedrunning a rather enjoyable affair, but the fun is entirely self-made in this case.

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

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Presentation-wise, Gravity Island is solid throughout. The levels themselves are rather samey, but the backgrounds are colorful and pleasant to look at – though spikes will occasionally blend in with the scenery. Shiro’s animations are a bit awkward, but competent enough. The tutorials are presented in cute sketches of Shiro performing the indicated action, adding to the game’s lighthearted atmosphere. The music is decent sounding but ultimately forgettable, being comprised of generic children’s cartoon-styled tracks, though the song for the final level stands out from the pack in a good way. The game is marred by some technical issues, however, most notably a rare instance of Shiro sliding through walls upon changing gravity – which can be manipulated to your benefit sometimes. Also, the Steam achievements will randomly fail to activate; according to them, I managed to complete the game without ever learning how to jump.

    Morality-wise, there’s only one real problem of note. Shiro can die if he lands on spikes or burns up in an explosion or fire arrow. The latter has him fall into a pile of ash with cartoonish googly eyes, but the spikes burst him and have his ghostly angel begin flying in whatever direction is currently up. This is especially jarring, as the tutorial sketch just shows Shiro sitting down and crying after hitting spikes; the startling popping noise and rather macabre aftermath in-game came as quite the surprise, especially with an otherwise innocuous experience. Even if Shiro does come right back upon restart, it’s enough to potentially give some parents a pause before proffering the game to younger children.

    Overall, Gravity Island is a game with undeniable charm and solid gameplay, but lacks content; some, maybe even most, gamers could easily beat the whole game in one quick sitting. For those with little time for anything but a quick play session, however, it might be worth taking a look at when a sale rolls around. There’s also a version for Apple devices that is apparently free with some ads, which might be the better choice for playing on the go. Whatever direction you decide to go with this game, it’s at least worth a look.

    -Cadogan

  • Green Game: TimeSwapper (Vita)

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    Game Info:

    Green Game: TimeSwapper
    Developed by: iFun4all
    Published by: iFun4all
    Release date: April 4, 2016
    Available on: iOS, PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you iFun4all for sending us a review code for this game!

    The only way to know the story behind Green Game: TimeSwapper is to read the store page as it’s not mentioned in the game itself.  I’ll save you a few moments and reiterate it here.  You’re the master of time and can set it to the past, present or future with the swipe of your hand.  A self-propelled mechanical bird must gather knowledge of the mysterious and hostile green world.  It’s up to you to have it complete its mission successfully.

    There are fifty levels in total and each of them have three gears that can be collected in any order.    If you miss a gear, you can always go back and replay the level to claim it.  Gathering gears is actually optional since you merely have to reach the end of the level to unlock the next one.  Of course, this is easier said than done.

    Green Game: TimeSwapper
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Challenging game that will push you to your limits and keeps track of how many times you have died
    Weak Points: Experienced a few rage quit moments as the timing and controls are difficult to master
    Moral Warnings: Mechanical violence

    Since the mechanical bird is self-propelled and constantly moving, you must use the environment to steer it in the direction you wish it to go.  

    There are many traps, spikes, and blades that will have to be avoided at all costs.  By swiping the Vita’s touch screen you can control a ray of green light that can activate steam pumps and disarm various traps.  Some of the traps have multiple “states” that are tricky to get just right and sadly, you only have one life per level to get it right. All of your miscalculations will be tallied and prominently displayed on the loading screen.  And no, there are no check points because that would make this game too easy.

    Some levels have temporary modifiers like the ability to slow down the bird’s speed.  Be sure to collect those if you can.  Though it’s usually easier to just avoid them altogether and just focus on getting to the exit point.  In the end it all depends on how much of a completionist you are.

    Green Game: TimeSwapper
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    If you like timing based puzzle games, you’ll enjoy Green Game: TimeSwapper.  Though if you’re easily frustrated, this game may get under your skin after a while.  You will die often, and thankfully there is no blood since the victim is mechanical.

    The graphics are fitting to the game’s name with green backdrops and shadows.  It ran well on my Vita other than the controls taking a few tries to master at times.  The touch screen works well though I wonder how I would have fared with a controller instead.

    The background music is mellow and has a jazz flare to it.  The machinery sound effects and bird’s screeching upon its demise are well done. 

    In the end, this a cute little game that’s best enjoyed in short bursts.  I found it perfect to play while waiting in roller coaster lines at my nearest theme park.  The price is a reasonable $4.99  and it's worth checking out on any platform that’s convenient for you.

     

  • Happiness Drops! (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Happiness Drops!
    Developed By: ARES Inc.
    Published By: ARES Inc.
    Release Date: December 26, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Puzzle
    Mode: 1-2 Players
    MSRP: $4.99

    Thank you ARES Inc. for sending us this game to review!

    Happiness! is a visual novel (that has not yet been converted to English) and an anime series. Happiness Drops! is a spinoff puzzle game which is basically a very cute match-three game, with some magical anime girls from the Happiness! universe. They also talk to each other in visual novel-like segments before and after battles.

    The game itself plays remarkably similar to Puyo Puyo, except that this one requires only three rather than four gems to match, which then causes them to disappear. There are only four color gems: blue diamonds, pink hearts, yellow squares, and green sphere creatures. If you make combos, you can drop gray blocks on your opponent, which they also do to you. You can remove them by clearing adjacent gems.

    There are five difficulty levels, which are very easy, easy, normal, hard, and very hard. I found the first two fairly manageable; you need to make combos to win, but the computer makes enough mistakes where a reasonable player should win most of the time. Hard and very hard are quite challenging, but if you make combos at the right time you have a decent chance, since the computer AI will take risks setting up large combos (which can then wipe you out fast, so be careful!).

    Happiness Drops!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun puzzle game with a nice presentation; cute characters
    Weak Points: English translation that is so bad it's hilarious
    Moral Warnings: Girls with visible cleavage; girls shown wearing bikinis are rewards for some achievements; 'h*ll' and 'd*mn' used once; magic use mentioned

    I originally started this game on normal, since I tend to be halfway decent (but not great) at puzzle games. This is absolutely a misnomer, and this becomes a massive endurance race as the computer tends to be very conservative with stacking, and will try to avoid dangerous situations, doing their best to keep the stacks low. This means that even with the best of combos, they can survive your combos unless you are a master that manages more than five or six at a time.

    I ended up playing that round of normal for about four hours in one game – with the final single match taking over two and a half hours. My score was incredible, but no matter what I did, I just could not get that AI to die. I would get the stacks up high, and they would use their special skill, which helps clear the blocks, at just the right time. Since I was decently skilled, I would also use my special skill as the blocks neared the top, and I was able to get myself out of these dangerous situations.

    This went on for hours, until finally, my hands and arms started to fall asleep holding the controller (I use an Xbox One controller for most games). I have gamed for many, many years, and I have never had this happen to me before. It was incredibly painful, and I paused, flexed my hands and arms, and gave it some more time. After it approached 11pm and I had to work in the morning, I finally gave up and intentionally lost to the AI. It was frustrating, but I had to - I'd played the game from around 6:30pm until around 11pm, in one sitting - and with no save feature, there was nothing I could do. It was at this point that I dubbed the game:

    Sisyphean Drops!

    Now, the next day, I played it again on very easy, and came to enjoy it quite a bit. The art and graphics are very well polished, the music is saccharine cute and catchy, and the game itself is fun once you get the hang of it. Just do not, under any circumstances, start playing right away on normal. You will regret it.

    Happiness Drops!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability/Polish - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In addition to the story mode, there are also endless and versus modes. Story is the main one, where you play against each of the other girls in succession, until you are the winner. There are silly visual novel sequences in between each match, and afterwards. The English translation is so terrible that it is incredibly difficult to know what they are trying to say. It seems like a machine translation, but even that doesn't explain the use of some words that have not existed in our language for hundreds of years, like 'willn't'. Sometimes it's so bad it's good - in a funny, mocking kind of way. Other times it's just bad. There is rarely a sentence without some grammatical error. Despite that, it's still fun to play.

    Endless mode is more or less what it sounds like - you challenge girls over and over as the difficulty keeps rising, until you are defeated. There are global online leaderboards, both for this and story mode, so there is plenty of impetus to keep trying. Versus mode is where you can play against a local friend or family member who is sitting nearby - there is no online play, but local mode works pretty well. I enjoyed repeatedly beating my son over and over, until he finally beat me - and he was far more excited than I expected winning in a game with a bunch of anime girls.

    For the most part, the game is fairly family friendly, and kid safe. But there are some odd exceptions. For one, on one of the character's routes, a girl says 'd*mn' and 'h*ll'. Other than that, the game is filled with silly, somewhat intelligible chitter-chatter. One girl always wears a witch outfit with ample visible cleavage, and some of the achievements unlock pictures in a gallery that include bikini shots. While the Happiness! visual novel and anime features a cross dressing gay boy, that character is missing entirely from Happiness Drops! Magic use is mentioned, but not shown.

    Happiness Drops! is an incredibly cute match-three puzzle game, that is certainly worth the low asking price. The translation is laughably bad, but of the five playable characters, only one is immodestly dressed (except for in the achievements gallery, where others wear bikinis). If you know your moes from your lolis, aren't embarrassed by that fact, and like simple puzzle games, then you will likely enjoy Happiness Drops!

  • Hello Neighbor (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hello Neighbor
    Developed By: Dynamic Pixels
    Published By: tinyBuild
    Released: December 8, 2017(Microsoft Windows and Xbox One), July 26, 2018 (Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4)
    Available On: Android, iOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle, Stealth
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for Mild Violence
    Number of Players: 1 player.
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you tinyBuild for sending us this game to review.

    Everyone has had that one neighbor who creeped them out. That one person who you’re not really sure who they are or what they do, and whenever you see them outside, they commit strange and ambiguous acts. The developers at Dynamic Pixels play around with the idea with Hello Neighbor: a first-person puzzle-stealth survival horror game.

    Hello Neighbor starts with our unnamed child protagonist (who we will refer to as The Kid), playing ball by himself. He sees down the street his neighbor doing something fairly suspicious, so he decides to get a closer look. He stumbles upon our unnamed antagonist (who we will refer to as The Neighbor) stowing something or someone in the basement, accompanied by screams of anguish. The Neighbor spots The Kid and chases him away. But those screams just can’t get out of his head, so The Kid investigates further to see what the heck is going on.

    Dynamic Pixels takes an interesting spin on the survival horror genre where instead of some kind of monster or beast hunting you, its simply a middle-aged man. After all, humans are the real monsters. Most of Hello Neighbor takes place inside or around The Neighbor’s house, where you must navigate around to either escape or enter into another section of the house. All while this is happening, The Neighbor is patrolling the area trying to kick you out. The attractive feature of Hello Neighbor is its dynamic AI, where it is stated that The Neighbor learns from your moves. If you like to enter through doors a lot, he will set up buckets that will obscure your vision. If you like to enter through windows, he will set up bear traps to hinder your movement. The AI does exhibit these traits, but only sometimes. There is a setting to set The Neighbor to be a “friendly neighbor” where he isn’t as aggressive and doesn’t set traps, but it didn’t seem to work as he still set up traps, and could still see me from an insane distance.

    Hello Neighbor
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Extremely interesting premise; has generally creepy moments
    Weak Points: AI can be pretty frustrating; confusing objective and narrative; no real punishment for getting caught
    Moral Warnings: The Neighbor is a bad person who kidnaps people; might be too scary for especially young children

    The controls are fairly simple, but also strange: mouse to look around, WASD for movement, and E to interact or pick up items. Right click can also be used to place or throw held items. The game doesn’t explain this to you one bit unless you go into the control settings, which is honestly a pretty bad feature. It doesn’t help that the controls feel pretty clunky, as to interact or grab items takes precision, which cannot always happen, especially if The Kid is getting chased around. A tutorial to understand what is going on would have been greatly appreciated, as you’re immediately thrust into the situation with no clear direction as to what to even do. The options are also weird because even though the arrow keys are not used in gameplay at all, they are the means to navigate through the menus. I’ve never experienced something like that for any game that I played, and it can be rather annoying.

    The Neighbor is definitely a creepy looking individual. He has these beady eyes, wonky proportions, and a barbershop mustache to complement the whole package. Unfortunately, the graphics do not complement the setting and feel of the game. Hello Neighbor is supposed to be a horror game, but the cartoon-like style clashes with it very often, and generally scary moments in the game aren’t taken very seriously. I think a slightly more realistic style would have been a better artistic choice. Fortunately, the music does the creep factor some justice in that aspect. As The Neighbor gets closer and closer, ominous music gets louder and louder, to signal that he is near. This is honestly a great approach, as it made some moments generally scary.

    Going back to the AI, The Neighbor can have some pretty frustrating moments. As you get into later acts, his “smart AI” doesn’t really seem to become more dynamic as it just gets a bigger detection radius. I’ve had moments where he detected me when he wasn’t even in the same area and started chasing me down. The Neighbor’s AI can be easily abused as I set up numerous moments in my play through where he would simply loop his actions and fail to catch me.

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

    Game Score - 46%
    Gameplay - 7/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    Later in the game, Hello Neighbor seems to ditch the stealth mechanics in favor of puzzles, and most don’t even make sense. Some items can interact with each other, but hints are never given so finding out how they function is based on trial and error. This is also apparent in that there really is no punishment for getting caught except for starting at the “beginning”, but you keep all the items in the inventory, layouts are kept in the same spot, and all doors and locks stay unlocked. If they wanted to make a puzzle game, I feel they should have simply made one instead of making a stealth game that eventually ignores the stealth mechanics. The physics engine is also wonky as objects don’t act the way they do all the time, and it’s very easy to get stuck on geometry. In a way, how the game turns out, it feels like false advertising as the stealth aspect can simply be ignored and brute force will eventually prevail instead of clever initiation and situational awareness.

    With a game such as this, the only moral issues I’ve come across is The Neighbor himself. It’s pretty apparent that he kidnaps people, and in one of the later acts, The Kid actually gets kidnapped himself and has to find a way out. It’s not exactly a violent game as if you get caught, the screen simply fades to black, and the only way to potentially defend yourself is to throw items at him, which slows him down.

    Hello Neighbor? More like goodbye, neighbor! A wealth of interesting ideas and a unique premise that manages to miss most of the marks they have set out to make. $30 is too much of an asking price for such wasted potential. Lots of frustrating and boring moments, weird AI, and a very confusing narrative that is all over the place, it seems like Dynamic Pixels lost their vision halfway through development. I’ve heard around the community that the final product is very different from the beta held years back. The product is generally safe to play, but young kids might find the game a bit too scary; that is if the obnoxious puzzles don’t get to them first. In the end, this neighbor is not worth visiting.

     

  • Hello Pollution! (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hello Pollution!
    Developed by: Steady Mushroom Ltd.
    Published by: Steady Mushroom Ltd.
    Released: August 7, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: 2D physics puzzle
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of players: 1
    Price: 12.99

    Thank you Steady Mushroom Ltd. for sending us Hello Pollution! to review!

    Hello Pollution is a game where you help people dispose their trash. They will tell you what they need you to get rid of and how you should do it. There are a few different people who want you to get rid of their stuff. To lose a level, you have to fill up your attention bar. Your attention bar fills up when you do something wrong. There are a lot of different types of levels. Sometimes there will be levels where all you have to do is bury the trash. Other times you have to bury it in water. Occasionally, you can burn some things, and bury the rest. Often you will get a level where you have to bury barrels of toxic waste, and if you break the barrels, then your attention bar goes up.

    Hello Pollution!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Entertaining
    Weak Points: The price high for the number of levels available
    Moral Warnings: Violence, gore

    There are 14 Steam achievements that you can unlock, but most of them are pretty easy to get. The reason that I said “most” is because there were some achievements that I never would've gotten without using a guide(there are some guides on Steam). For one of them, you had to spot a soda can behind a bush and click on it(I know that sounds easy, but there is only one level that has the can). There was another one where you had to grab a bird and hold it for a while until a scarecrow falls from the sky, and I wouldn't just grab onto a bird for no reason, so that's what makes it hard.

    This game had 38 levels, and I don't think that is enough for a 13 dollar game. The levels don't take very long to beat, too. I think that it should have at least 50 levels and more achievements, and if it did have that, I would probably be happier.

    The game itself doesn't have a story, but every level has it's own sort of story. The characters would tell you how they got the junk and how to get rid of the junk. For example, there is an elderly woman named Christina Weebforth who says that her husband died and wants you to get rid of all of the junk that her husband left behind.

    Hello Pollution!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    It has fitting music, but it is not amazing. The controls are simple and easy when you play on a mouse and keyboard. When you play with a controller, on the other hand, the controls are horrible. The graphics are not bad, but it is just a 2D physics game so it does not need incredible graphics. I did not experience any bugs or crashes, either.

    Hello Pollution! is violent. There is a guy named Jimmy the Red Shoe who is a robber, a murderer, and a criminal. There was a level from him where he wants you to bury snitches. When you bury them, they are still alive, and are moving. You also can burn them with acid, which is what you are supposed to do. There is also one where the research laboratory accidentally creates flesh-eating zombies. In order to beat the level, you have to put the zombies in a meat grinder and then burn the remains. There is another zombie level towards the end. In this one, you have to put them into a pool of acid and wait until they burn. Jimmy the Red Shoe also has a level where he gives you a bunch of money to hide. If you burn the money, your attention meter goes up. If your attention meter is full, then Jimmy shoots you and you die. There are a couple of levels where there is a dead body as one of the items that you need to bury, which does not help matters at all, either.

    This game is pretty fun and time-consuming, even though it does not have many levels. Though you are breaking the law and stuff like that in it, I still think that anyone older than 10 should be able to play “Hello Pollution!”.

  • Hidden World of Art 2 (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hidden World of Art 2
    Developed By: Meridian93 Studio
    Published By: HH-Games
    Released: November 29, 2019
    Available On: PC
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: None specified
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $2.99

    I first want to thank HH-Games for the review key for this title.

    While video games are a form of interactive art, it's not often that the art world and the game is the same, but that's the whole point of Hidden World of Art 2. The whole game is like the "Where's Waldo" of video games, only you are finding things that shouldn't be in the art, not the reverse.

    The game puts you in the shoes of an art restorer who reconstructs vandalized paintings that have been recovered from art thieves. While working for various art dealers in cooperation with the FBI, you must go through several levels restoring paintings to their original forms while removing objects that don't belong. In the process, you are discovering clues as to the actual vandal thieves so they can be apprehended.

    Hidden World of Art 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good memory game for art students
    Weak Points: Some levels hard due to inexact mouse click targets
    Moral Warnings: Some artistic nudity in some levels derived from public domain Neoclassical art

    The gameplay is a point-and-click memory game, where you click on objects on a list of items that should not be in the picture. If you just random click anywhere, you are penalized by having to remove splashes of paint on the picture before you resume. You also can buy hints, but this will lower your score, which doubles as funds to purchase art to decorate an in-game room of your own.

    Graphically, the game uses a lot of public domain Neoclassical artwork for the game levels while using a pseudo-realistic hand-drawn style for the in-game story. Both complement each other nicely. The sound is nothing special by contrast, either musically or sound-effect wise; I found it somewhat distracting for concentration and muted it myself during levels.

    Hidden World of Art 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5


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

    Control is a very simple point-and-click game with a mouse on an image to remove objects that don't belong. I found the controls tend to be a bit inexact at times, as unless you click directly on an object, the item won't remove itself from certain places on the image in some levels. Otherwise, the controls have no issues. Stability, by contrast, is quite good; this title runs on quite modest computers with no issues whatsoever.

    Morally, this title has only one notable concern. The art of the Neoclassical period featured some artistic nudity in the Greek and Roman style, and while the images used aren't super high resolution, it does show up in a few levels. Otherwise, this game is free of moral concerns, even having you play as someone working to restore vandalism and openly supporting law enforcement in catching a bunch of thieves.

    It wasn't my cup of tea, but if you can ignore some minor gameplay issues and if the thought of artistic nudity doesn't bother you, this is an otherwise wholesome point-and-click game any teenager or older would find interesting, especially if they like to study art.

  • Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition
    Developed By: Aardman Animations
    Published By: Aardman Animations
    Released: Oct. 18, 2019
    Available On: Nintendo Switch, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone- Mild Cartoon Violence
    Number of Players: Up to 4 offline
    Price: $9.99

    I would like to thank Aardman Studios for sending us a copy of Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition on the Nintendo Switch!

    It is incredible to think that there are people out there who still enjoy the simplicity of Flash games. Yes, I’m talking about the games that perforated the internet with their simple game design and even more basic graphics, being designed on a nearly obsolete graphics engine displayed with an outdated plugin. We have lost some incredible games to the internet void as many of them slowly phased out of rotation and were lost forever. It’s sad, but some were given a second chance, and Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition is one of those titles.

    As one who used to enjoy Flash games myself, I thought it quite refreshing to see a browser game popular in 2011 receive not only a facelift but an entirely new body. This title is more than a remaster, it is a complete re-rendering of the original Flash game, including such additions as multiplayer mechanics and a completely new party mode. The game itself is based around the beloved UK cartoon by Aardman Animations entitled Shaun the Sheep. Though it does a good job of offering fan service to those who enjoy the show, this game really does provide something for everyone.

    The core feature of this game is the “campaign mode” where you are able to solve puzzles by switching between three separate, and rather unique sheep. The first is the small and compact Timmy, who is able to go through small areas and access places the other sheep would not be able to. There is also the lanky Shaun, who can jump higher and move faster than the rest. Finally, Shirly, the hulking brute of a sheep, can weigh down objects with her girth, and move large obstacles. Each one of these characters, when used together, are able to traverse multiple obstacles to get to their destination.

    Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of puzzles with great mechanics; fantastic multiplayer experience; good music and audio
    Weak Points: Low variation of gameplay; some puzzle may be too difficult for players to complete on their own
    Moral Warnings: Light comic mischief with sheep wrecking things and bumping into each other

    The dynamic between the three sheep is smooth and fluid, allowing for the alternating between each one with a press of the trigger. The problem comes when the puzzle becomes too complex for the player to navigate quickly. For example, in one level Timmy stands on a seesaw-type platform and Shirly jumps down to launch him into the air. It requires almost surgical precision to switch from Shirly to Timmy and jump as Shirly hits the seesaw; and that is one of the easier puzzles in the game! The solution to the problem often lies in the game's co-op multiplayer, which is surprisingly fun and easy to navigate. In the regular campaign, up to three players can control any one of the sheep independently, allowing for quick reactions to the obstacles in place. The result is an often fun, yet rather hectic gaming session with friends as they bark orders at each other to complete the game.

    The campaign mode is not the only multiplayer experience for players to enjoy. There is also a “party mode” with eight separate minigames that allow for up to four players to compete against each other. Each of the party games is based around scenes from The Farmageddon movie, even placing the little alien as a host for the action. The games themselves are rather simple, ranging from running away from a falling haybale to attempting to survive collapsing platforms and a wide variety of obstacles. Though there isn’t much depth to these games, they are often very hectic and provide a great deal of fun for the players.

    One of the most endearing parts of this game is music and sound. Just like the show, Home Sheep Home is a non-verbal game, providing the players with the emotions of the action without actually using words at all. The sheep make little grunts and squeaks when they bump into objects or each other, and obstacles make loud thumps appropriate to their source. Everything sounds very crisp and clean, and coupling this with the charming animated style of the games makes Home Sheep Home a pleasant gaming experience. This title also retains the same familiar soundtrack of the show and movies.

    Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7.5/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3.5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language – 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural – 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical – 9/10

    Unfortunately, nothing places this game too far apart from other puzzle games with similar mechanics. Every mechanic that this game employs has been used before, and the fact that many of these puzzles are very hard to navigate without the help of other players is hard to ignore. Though it does give the players an option to receive a hint that will help them navigate the puzzles, the quickness and skill required to do so may be beyond the ability of the young gamers in which this game is marketed to. Along with that, the level design and visuals do not offer much variation from each other aside from putting new puzzle mechanics in various places. With all of that said, it is easy to get bored with Home Sheep Home.

    True to its franchise and animation studio, Home Sheep Home is a very wholesome game with very few moral issues. The sheep do engage in some comic mischief by tipping over farming implements and blowing up a crate of dynamite, but nothing visceral or gory happens within the content at all. The family can easily enjoy this game together without worrying about any inappropriate surprises.

    Home Sheep Home: Farmageddon Party Edition is a fun puzzle game that will challenge everyone in the room, children and adults alike. The innocent aesthetic of this game is complemented by its calm gameplay and humorous mechanics. The charm of Home Sheep Home lies in its ability to bring players together for a fun time that no one will later regret. Just make sure to have a little patience with your fellow sheep; it’s not easy getting the herd to the finish line!

  • Homo Machina (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Homo Machina
    Developed By: Seven Studios, Darjeeling
    Published By: ARTE France, ARTE EXPERIENCE, ARTE G. E. I E
    Released: May 7, 2018
    Available On: Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Puzzle game
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: 2.99

    First of all, thanks to ARTE Experience for the code for this great game!

    Homo Machina is a game based on an intriguing concept. An educational game designed to teach about the human body, the gameplay takes place inside a human body designed to function like a 1920s factory. It then takes you on a virtual tour through all the body systems as you 'learn' what goes into basic human functions. The game starts in a place called 'Desire Headquarters'. From here you view the factory-like setting that imagines bodily functions taking place in the form of a factory. The center of the body is imagined as an absent-minded boss asking about various functions of the body along with his secretary reporting.

    Homo Machina is a bit awkward to get into at first as it does a vertical, rather than horizontal, setting. It all takes place on a touch screen, which was a bit hard to get used to at first. But gameplay and controls are simple from here. A large hand will direct you to the next section to touch to get working on. You 'power up' individual sections of the human body and then the characters direct you to your first task- opening an eye. As this takes place, the characters direct the action of opening an eye like it was done at a factory line job.

    Homo Machina
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique game; interesting concept and gameplay; easy to understand
    Weak Points: Very short; funky controls (requires viewing the game vertically); annoying soundtrack
    Moral Warnings: Virtually none

    In the intricacies of play, you are directed to solve various puzzles. The second puzzle involves unclogging a nose and it's not clear exactly how you are to solve this from the directions. After a while, I finally figured out you had to direct the factory worker to use a water cannon-like device to clear passages in the nostrils and play around with a hot and cold water pump to move on to the next puzzle.

    The game progresses in a linear fashion, from one puzzle or bodily function to another, and they are all tied together quite nicely, in a way that it's really simple to figure out what's going on. If anything, the game is too simple at times. But as someone who has a background in medicine, that may just be my personal bias. Someone who may know little about the human body might find this fascinating, and it looks to be a game directed for children anyways.

    The soundtrack is a negative. Often it is a repeated loop of simple notes that I found to be very annoying, similar to elevator music. Of course, this is somewhat true to the spirit of the founder on whom this game is based- Franz Khan- but I did not find it enjoyable for a modern audience. Few of the tracks stood out to me. The sound effects, though, are another story. Realistic sounds of breathing and quirky sound effects help breathe life into Homo Machina. There's a sound of a hose when clearing the nasal passages, and the bleeps and blips are authentic to the avant-garde style of the 1920s in which this was based.

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

    Game Score - 71%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3.5/5

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

    Graphic wise, this game is solid. It really does look like the 1920s factory it's marketed as. It is not 3D but the graphics are updated and modern enough so that it doesn't play like an 8 or 16-bit game. The characters don't really stand out though- they are pretty flatly drawn, and speech is done out of speech balloons.

    As for moral content, well, this is a pretty clean game. If you wanted to get really picky, you could pick on Franz Khan and the avant-garde movement being somewhat of a negative reaction to Christianity in a world trying to find its soul after the First World War, but that doesn't affect gameplay at all. There are no overtly atheistic or anti-Christian messages, the characters are covered, and the interactions between boss and secretary don't hint at anything not platonic.

    In conclusion, this is not only a clean game, it's a fun and educational one. Some younger players might not get on board with it, and I will admit it did not immediately draw me in. The soundtrack made my ears bleed though, and it could be completed in under an hour. However, the $2.99 price is a fair one for it, and there's nothing to be concerned with morally. If you want to learn about the human body or are looking for something for your kids that's educational and clean, pick up Homo Machina!


    -Helen

  • htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
    Published by: NIS America, Inc.   
    Release Date: May 18, 2016
    Available on: Windows, PS Vita
    Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Blood, Fantasy Violence   
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks NIS America for the review code!

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a game that makes me happy it's on PC but not as happy as I first thought. This game is a joy with its beautiful artstyle, mysterious story and fun challenge, and it deserved much more attention. Yet porting it to the PC might not have been the best idea. Despite patches and fixes before the full release, the game remains a potential gem with one too many scratches on the surface to truly stay valuable. This is htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary.

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary stars Mion, a girl with tree branch horns who wakes up in a ruined factory with no clue of how she ended up in this place. The only guide she has is Lumen, a fairy that tells her where to go by its shining light. Her other ally, Umbra, a fairy that can only move in shadows, aids her by interacting with objects through the shadows. All you know is that you must go forward.

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: An enjoyable atmospheric, game with a relaxing tone; definitely worth at least one play
    Weak Points: Despite efforts by the devs, the game feels unresponsive at points; with Mion already moving slowly, it can make the game frustrating to move forward with
    Moral Warnings: The game has a story focused around humans trying to play God. You get some mild blood splatter when Mion dies

    You don't have direct control of Mion; by moving Lumen you give Mion an idea where to go. This encompasses everything from climbing ladders to moving objects to picking up items. By right clicking on the mouse you go to the shadow world with Umbra. Time freezes and you can move Umbra along black surfaces towards interactable objects.  Keep in mind that stopping time to go to the shadow world at certain times may give you the answer to a puzzle that you didn't see before.

    The story of this game is special to say the least. The game doesn't tell you what's going on at all other than you need to guide this little girl out of danger. You get story beats if you collect memory fragments, represented as small glowing white plants. This gives you small scenes to interact in and explore. With no dialogue, you're left with your own theories as to what the story is. I am not even completely sure if there was an apocalyptic war or presumably Mion's parents ended the world. As far as I am aware, at this point the developers of htoL#NiQ have not said anything on what their story is. So this game may frustrate people who want a clear story.

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 64%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2/10

    This is a game of patience and precise timing. Some of the failures you'll have with the puzzles will be due to entering the shadow world slowly or moving Lumen too quickly. Mion's response time isn't very quick either. No matter how precise you are with Lumen, you'll feel the delay when she turns and interacts with objects. This makes it difficult to tell if you failed a puzzle due your own skill or the game's response time. This game will take you between 8 to 12 hours. You do have to collect all the memory fragments if you want to access the true final chapter later.

    Morality in this game is a mixed bag. You'll get blood splatters on the screen if Mion dies but you won't see any gore or major injury inflicted on characters. The theme you'll be presented with at the end of the story crosses into the lines of humans playing God I think, though with no clear indication of the meaning of the story I am left with my own interpretation. Other then these points there is little that is morally objectionable.

    It's a good game, yet it may not be for everyone. Mion does deserve some attention for her adventure in htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. Even if I have no idea what's going on.

  • Hue (PS4)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hue
    Developed by: Fiddlesticks
    Published by: Curve Digital
    Release date: August 30, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

    Thank you Curve Digital for sending us this game to review!

    A scientist named Anne has developed a ring that can alter color and change the way that people perceive it.  The evil doctor Grey has taken the ring and rendered Anne invisible.  It’s up to her son, Hue, to wield the power of color and save her.  

    In the beginning, the 2D world is greyscale but that doesn’t last for long after Hue discovers his first color.   By switching to that color (blue), obstacles of that same color disappear and permit passage through them.  Switching colors makes platforms, crates, and doors invisible when they would have been seen otherwise.  As you add more colors to your palette the gameplay gets increasingly complex, but fun!

    Hue
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun puzzle platformer with great visuals, music, and voice acting
    Weak Points:  Short game with little replay value
    Moral Warnings: Hue can die, there are statues of gods throughout the game

    Like many platformers you’ll be expected to perform many successful jumps onto various objects.  Sometimes you’ll have to jump and switch colors mid-air to land on the previously hidden platform.  Besides jumping, you’ll have to avoid spikes and boulders coming your way.

    Most of the levels in this game are puzzle based.  You’ll need to put your thinking cap on in order to figure out how to move various crates and make your way through tricky mazes.  If you die or mess up, your progress is saved at the entrance of each level.  Vita owners can utilize cross save functionality to transfer their progress back and forth between the PS4 and handheld system.

    There’s roughly six hours of gameplay in this $14.99 title.  To add some replay value, there are twenty-eight hidden beakers to find throughout the world.  Other than re-solving puzzles there’s not much else to do.

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

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

    Despite the short amount of gameplay, Hue is extremely well polished.  The background music is well done and the voice acting is top notch too.  As Hue collects letters from his mother, they are narrated in a lovely British accent. If you like the soundtrack, it is available for purchase on Steam for $6.99.  

    The shadow artwork is nicely done and I like how adding the colors makes you appreciate their beauty throughout the game.  As you traverse the land you’ll see statues of various gods or idols, but you won’t have to interact with them.  The world is a bit confusing and landmarks help you distinguish where you’ve been before.  

    Hue is a family friendly game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  Despite the ability to die and the presence of idol statues, there’s little to complain about.  Some of the puzzles may be too challenging for young minds though.  

    If you like puzzle platformer games then Hue is definitely worth looking into.  On Steam the game plus the soundtrack can be yours for less than $20.  It’s well worth the standard price, but is an even a better bargain if you can get it on sale.  I look forward to more games from Fiddlesticks.

     

  • Human: Fall Flat (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Human: Fall Flat
    Developed By: No Brakes Games
    Published By: Curve Digital
    Released: July 22, 2016
    Available On: Linux, macOS, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1-2 Offline
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks to Curve Digital for the review key!

    Falling dreams: most everyone has experienced at least one in their life. Contrary to the old myth, you won’t die if you hit the ground before waking. Instead, you might find yourself suspiciously boneless and presented with a series of physics-based puzzles. Don’t worry; it’s better than it sounds.

    Human: Fall Flat gives you control of Bob, a normal human construction worker with recurring dreams of falling. When he lands, he’s met with exotic landscapes full of open-ended puzzles to traverse, with his ultimate goal to slip out the exit door and continue his fall. As a regular guy, albeit looking and moving like a semi-featureless blob of clay, Bob’s arsenal includes two feet that can walk and jump, two hands that can firmly grasp any object, and a head that can apply the previous two to work out not-so-obvious solutions. He’ll carry boxes, climb mountains, operate motor vehicles, swing on vines and lampposts, and manipulate electricity in pursuit of the next dream.

    The puzzles themselves usually revolve around a few basic tasks, such as holding down a pressure plate or crossing a large gap. Outside of the first few tutorial levels, however, you’ll rarely come across the same setup twice. Even if you do, there’s often multiple ways around the problem: a clever thinker can work out ways to manipulate objects or Bob’s movement to find shortcuts and skip whole puzzles – and occasionally whole levels. While the game presents you with an intended path with the occasional side route, you’re free to go wherever and complete the game however you can, with the only obstacles being your imagination and the limits of the physics engine. This offers a good amount of replay value as well – and the in-game achievements can point you to solutions you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, or just goof around in fun ways.

    Human: Fall Flat
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Clever, open-ended physics puzzles; great music
    Weak Points: Some puzzles are dull and/or repetitive; the purposefully-loose controls are occasionally frustrating
    Moral Warnings: A single instance of light toilet humor

    The controls are wobbly and strange, but by design: Bob is part of the physics engine as well, after all, and leading his jelly-like form around is half the fun. The keyboard/mouse and controller work similarly: moving and jumping work as you’d expect with WASD and space/left stick and A, looking around with the mouse/right stick, and using Bob’s hands with the left and right mouse buttons/triggers. With the latter, Bob will stick his arms out and grab onto anything he touches until you command him to let go; he won’t accidentally drop anything, no matter what you put him through. While seemingly simple, you can make Bob do quite a lot by moving his hands and shifting his body weight – and watching his boneless dream body sway and bounce around is rather amusing as well. Once you get the hang of it, most everything feels natural; combined with the freedom the puzzles offer, it becomes a blast to play.

    While the majority of the game is enjoyable to run through a couple times, it suffers from a sort of creativity fatigue near the end. The second-to-last level, Power Plant, consists almost entirely of the same “power an object with batteries and wires” puzzle, which is mostly just busy work and boring back-and-forth movement on flat terrain. The freshly-added final level, Aztec, suffers from the opposite problem: it’s busy and convoluted to the point that exploiting your way around the puzzles is often easier than actually completing them. A few of the Aztec achievements are picky at best and broken at worst, as well as occurring more than halfway through and requiring a level restart on failure due to the game’s checkpoint system.

    On a more general level, while trying to get Bob around is half the game, it’s simple frustration when you know a puzzle’s solution and repeatedly can’t maneuver in the right way. It’s one thing to try new things and tweak your failures; it’s another entirely when an intended path is finicky. For example, trying to operate a rowboat is an entertaining kind of annoying that’s satisfying when you work it out; spending a few minutes trying to hook a floating-away raft to a post, not so much. It’s an uncommon problem, to be fair, and perhaps part and parcel of the physics-based gameplay, but fighting the controls can get old quickly.

    Human: Fall Flat
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 85%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

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

    The controls are wobbly and strange, but by design: Bob is part of the physics engine as well, after all, and leading his jelly-like form around is half the fun. The keyboard/mouse and controller work similarly: moving and jumping work as you’d expect with WASD and space/left stick and A, looking around with the mouse/right stick, and using Bob’s hands with the left and right mouse buttons/triggers. With the latter, Bob will stick his arms out and grab onto anything he touches until you command him to let go; he won’t accidentally drop anything, no matter what you put him through. While seemingly simple, you can make Bob do quite a lot by moving his hands and shifting his body weight – and watching his boneless dream body sway and bounce around is rather amusing as well. Once you get the hang of it, most everything feels natural; combined with the freedom the puzzles offer, it becomes a blast to play.

    While the majority of the game is enjoyable to run through a couple times, it suffers from a sort of creativity fatigue near the end. The second-to-last level, Power Plant, consists almost entirely of the same “power an object with batteries and wires” puzzle, which is mostly just busy work and boring back-and-forth movement on flat terrain. The freshly-added final level, Aztec, suffers from the opposite problem: it’s busy and convoluted to the point that exploiting your way around the puzzles is often easier than actually completing them. A few of the Aztec achievements are picky at best and broken at worst, as well as occurring more than halfway through and requiring a level restart on failure due to the game’s checkpoint system.

    On a more general level, while trying to get Bob around is half the game, it’s simple frustration when you know a puzzle’s solution and repeatedly can’t maneuver in the right way. It’s one thing to try new things and tweak your failures; it’s another entirely when an intended path is finicky. For example, trying to operate a rowboat is an entertaining kind of annoying that’s satisfying when you work it out; spending a few minutes trying to hook a floating-away raft to a post, not so much. It’s an uncommon problem, to be fair, and perhaps part and parcel of the physics-based gameplay, but fighting the controls can get old quickly.

  • Hyperforma (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hyperforma
    Developed by: Nord Unit, HeroCraft
    Published by: HeroCraft
    Release date: September 9, 2019
    Available on: Switch
    Genre: Action, Puzzle
    Number of players: 1-2 Players
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Price: $9.99

    I would like to thank HeroCraft for providing us with the review code for Hyperforma!

    I have always been a sucker for puzzle games. I am one of the few people (that I know of) that actually enjoyed playing Minesweeper back in the days of Windows 95. I enjoyed the challenge and the constant feeling of impending defeat. One wrong move could spell disaster if I wasn’t careful, and that “precision puzzling” helped to develop my love for puzzle games of all types. One of my favorite games growing up was a title called Breakout, which was simply moving a paddle back and forth and bouncing a ball off blocks. This game required patience and strategy, and its basic premise has been the inspiration for hundreds of titles like it.

    Publisher and developer HeroCraft, along with indie development company Nord Unit, has created a Breakout-style game that puts a “twist” on the classic block-breaking action-puzzle game. Originally for iOS, Hyperforma is a cyberpunk-inspired title in which you play as a hacker in a dystopian future where the only real place to go is online. Being placed on a “quest” of sorts to reclaim a princess, you must digitally flow through the defenses that are impeding your journey. Each new defensive measure makes up a “chapter”, and there are multiple chapters within the game, each presenting more and more difficult puzzles.

    Hyperforma
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique twist on block-breaker genre; engaging story; a phenomenal synth-trad soundtrack 
    Weak Points: Inconsistent gyroscopic controls; lack-luster 2-player mode 
    Moral Warnings: Light cursing; suggested violence 

    As far as puzzle games are concerned, Hyperformapresents some fantastic additions to the genre. First and foremost are the game mechanics, which take full advantage of the Switch’s Joy-Con controls. The hacker himself acts as the “ball,” bouncing around the field of play while only allowing for limited control. In the center of the screen is a node that the hacker must hit in order to complete the level. It sounds easy, but surrounding that node are various defensive blocks, many of which can only be removed by special abilities used by the hacker. The position of the blocks can be rotated to place certain blocks in the path of the hacker, thus providing that unique twist that I mentioned earlier.

    As fun as this block-rotation idea is, I found that using the Joy-Cons' gyroscopic controls to do so was rather problematic. There are two ways that a player can use the Switch controls, connected or apart in each hand, and the latter uses the gyroscopic motion controls to turn the blocks by twisting the Joy-Con left or right. These controls are very difficult to navigate because the three-dimensional landscape doesn’t give the player a good bearing on what left and right actually is. I tried using the motion controls for a time but eventually went back to the analog sticks to progress through the game. I imagine that I am not the only one who thinks this.

    I am also one of the many people that love the story elements of this game and think that it adds much-needed depth to the title. Unlike other puzzle games, this one actually has a rather engaging story underneath its surface content. Each “boss” within the hyperforma, or the online world, has a real-life counter-part who played a role in transforming the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The player can learn these stories through collecting “keys” that are hidden within the obstacles in each level. This adds an incentive for players to take the “long road” around level completion and claim as many keys as they can.

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

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay: 16/20
    Graphics: 8/10
    Sound: 10/10
    Stability: 4/5
    Controls: 2/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence: 9/10
    Language: 7/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    It is true that this game supports 2 players, but only in a special “versus mode.” I played a couple of rounds with my son and found the action to be quite anti-climactic. Even though it is fun to see who can be a better hacker in a cyberpunk world, I see the 1-player campaign as being much more enjoyable.

    This game presents very little questionable material, but there are aspects of it that I might shield from younger players. The story text uses such tier 1 curse words like “he**” and “da**,” as well as presenting situations of violence and intrigue. The storyline itself feels like a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid that suggests the use of magic, but it turns out to be technology in the end. Overall, the moral issues of this game are minimal, and that makes for a good puzzle experience that won’t push the envelope.

    As an indie game, I was expecting Hyperforma to be an odd experience that really only appeals to a small number of eccentric gamers, but that’s not what I found at all. Through playing this game, I discovered that block-breaking titles can provide much more depth than a simple level by level format. Coupled with a fantastic synth-trad soundtrack and fast-paced action, this game is a perfect addition to anyone's collection of puzzle and block-breaker titles. Make sure to take the advice of the game and use headphones for a more immersive experience; you will be glad that you did.

  • I and Me (Vita)

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    Game Info:

    I and Me
    Developed by: Wish Fang
    Published by: RatalaikGames SL
    Release date: March 5, 2019
    Available on: Switch, Vita, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating; Everyone
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you RatalaikGames SL for sending us this game to review!

    Cats love boxes. If you ever wish to trap a domestic cat, all you need to do is put out a box and wait for them to jump in. It’s as simple as that. Your goal in I and Me is to guide two cats to their boxes while avoiding dangers like bees, porcupines, spikes, and water.

    There are ninety-two levels that are broken down into the four seasons of the year. The colorful artwork reminds me of watercolor paintings. The background music is very calm and soothing which is good for this puzzle-platformer game that will test your wits.

    I and Me
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Ninety-two levels; beautiful music and artwork
    Weak Points: Some of the levels are a bit frustrating so it’s best enjoyed in small spurts
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    Although the premise is simple, the execution takes a lot of patience and skill as you control both of the black cats simultaneously. You will need to pay attention to spikes and be sure to not have any of the cats jump or land into them. Anytime a cat gets hurt, they will let out a sad meow. Thankfully, there isn’t any blood.

    Ledges come in handy and allow you to add distance between both of the cats. At times they will have to be on different levels so prepare for many failed attempts until you get the spacing right. Thankfully, some of the levels have a visual marker like a flower that you can use to accurately space out the cats. If you’re still not sure on what to do, you can press in the left and right triggers and watch a video hint.

    I and Me
    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 - 5/5

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

    I and Me starts off pretty simple at first and gradually gets more difficult. As you complete levels, more will become available, and you don’t have to play them in order. Once completed they will have a check mark on them in the menu. Along with completing levels, you can try and retrieve twenty notes that are scattered throughout them. Often times the letters will require some more effort and time than focusing on the boxes.

    This is a family-friendly title and there isn’t much to worry about morally. People of all ages can enjoy this game and may find it a bit overwhelming at times. I found this title best enjoyed in short spurts. One thing worth noting is that the story is told in cursive. Hopefully, younger people can still read that!

    I and Me was originally released on Steam in 2016 and on the Switch in 2017. I’m glad that it’s available on the Vita now too! The asking price is fair at $9.99, but it is definitely worth snagging if it goes on sale.

  • I Expect You To Die (Oculus Rift)

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    Game Info:

    I Expect You To Die
    Developed by: Schell Games LLC
    Published by: Schell Games LLC
    Release date: December 6, 2016
    Available on: Oculus Rift, PSVR
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence, tobacco and alcohol use
    Price; $24.99

    Thank you Schell Games LLC for sending us this game to review!

    If you ever wanted to be a secret agent like James Bond and think your way out of deadly situations and traps, then I Expect You to Die is for you.  The intro credits song and artwork are extremely well done and are very similar in style to those found in the classic Bond movies.  The voice acting and humor is also top notch in this virtual reality espionage game.

    Like all secret agents, you have telekinetic powers that let you manipulate objects from a distance.  This ability will come in handy as you search around and find clues and the tools needed to get you out of several deadly scenarios.  There are only four missions, but several ways to die while completing them.

    I Expect You To Die
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great tribute to James Bond and Austin Powers movies
    Weak Points: There are only four missions, and the game can be completed in less than an hour
    Moral Warnings: Many ways to die; you can consume alcohol and cigars 

    The first mission takes place inside of a car which is on a plane and you have make it out alive.  Since there’s poison gas surrounding your vehicle, it’s best to stay inside.  You will have to quickly roll down your window to grab one of the screwdrivers needed to access the dynamite launcher that’s tucked away.  Just in case you’re wondering where to find dynamite, you’ll have a couple of sticks of it after disarming a ticking bomb by cutting the colored wires in the proper order.  You’ve always wanted to do that, right?

    Besides driving out of a flying aircraft you’ll also have to neutralize a deadly chemical weapon, escape a sinking submarine pod, and deactivate a deadly machine inside of the villain's hunting lodge in the Alps.  There is no shortage of adventure in this game, and as long as you don’t mind a little timed pressure, you’ll have a blast.  

    You’ll be clocked on how quickly you can complete each mission and there are several optional objectives available as well.  Speed runs are encouraged, but not required.  In fact, you can take your time in solving some of the puzzles, but a couple of the riddles need to be completed expediently.  

    I Expect You To Die
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    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

    Be prepared to restart levels over a few times as you kill yourself in humorous ways.  I have been burned, suffocated, drowned, and blown up by grenades.  Despite the many ways to die, this game isn’t too bloody or violent.  The screen just fades to red as you’re fading away.  Many of the levels have cigars and champagne in them.  You are able to consume both of them.  For what it’s worth, you can also drink coffee or eat sandwiches, which may be moldy depending on the level.

    The Oculus Touch controls work great and this game is well suited for them.  PSVR owners can also enjoy this title with the Move controllers.  Sadly, this game doesn't appear to be on Steam/HTC Vive as of this review.

    As well polished and great as this game is, my only complaint is the short amount of game time you get for $25.  Because I Expect You To Die can be completed in less than an hour, I recommend holding off for a sale before purchasing it.  It is a solid VR experience no matter how much you pay for it though.  I highly recommend this game to any fans of James Bond movies.

  • In Between (Xbox One)

     

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    Game Info:

    In Between
    Developed by: Gentlymad
    Published by: Headup Games
    Release Date: June 8, 2016
    Available on: PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle-platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $11.99

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

    Death is inevitable and sometimes people die in an undeserving manner.  The nameless protagonist in this game is diagnosed with a type of terminal cancer that is unusual given his lifestyle.  He’s struggling with anger and depression as he’s coming to grips with his diagnosis.  Throughout the sixty levels you’ll get to relive some of his fondest memories in his life.

    At first the puzzles only have gravity defying challenges.  The main character can walk along walls and float up to the ceiling to avoid the spiky areas that will kill him (in a bloodless manner) upon impact.  The death effect is like a shattering of glass with all of the fragments spreading across the screen.  I got to see it more than one-hundred times and even got an achievement for dying so much.

    In Between
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Challenging puzzles; neat visuals; great story, background music,  and voice acting
    Weak Points: Some of the levels are very frustrating with not enough checkpoints
    Moral Warnings: This game revolves around the main character dying and reminiscing on his life; many bloodless deaths will be experienced while attempting these puzzles; drinking references

    Other achievements are earned by watching all of the memories and completing the life sections on depression, anger, denial, and bargaining.  Throughout the game you’ll get to relive the character’s interactions with his father, mother, wife, and daughter.  As great as the story is, it takes a lot of patience and persistence to get through it. 

     I enjoyed the puzzles until the timed ones appeared.  While there isn’t a timer that’s counting up or down, there is a darkness that creeps up on the player that can only be temporarily thwarted by facing it.  Since you only have a limited amount of time before it catches up with you, you’ll have to be quick and precise with your movements.  Sadly, there are not enough checkpoints to reduce the amount of frustration that have caused many gamers to rage quit on this title.
    In Between
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    I watched some helpful YouTube videos on how to solve some of the puzzles in the levels that were stumping me.  Even with the guides, I lacked the agility and patience to complete the trickier levels.  Before purchasing this game, I highly recommend checking out the demo on Steam or watching a YouTube video or two to see what’s expected of you.

    If you like challenging puzzles and platformer games, In Between is well polished and has a lot to offer.  The art style is neat and the levels have a lot of variety to keep things interesting.  The background music is pleasant and the voice acting is well done.   While nothing is shown, the game talks about drinking and drunkenness.  Though this game is clean enough for kids to play, I can’t imagine them having the patience needed to complete these trials.  The regular price on the Xbox store is $11.99, but I have seen this game for less than $5 on Steam and for that price it’s worth looking into.

  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
    Developed by: Steel Crate Games
    Published by: Steel Crate Games
    Released: October 8, 2015
    Available On: Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, OSVR
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of Players: 2 or more
    Mode: Local co-op
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    “Hello, this is the bomb defusal hotline; how may we assist you today?” This was my friend Bob (all names changed). Over the speaker phone we heard Sara’s answer: “Hi, I seem to be locked in a room with a bomb.” She was down the hall with my laptop, a phone, and no idea what to do.

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “Could you describe the bomb, please?” Bob and I had no idea what we were doing, either. This was our first time playing Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. In the next five minutes we would experience the stress of communication troubles, logic puzzles, and a pressing timer. With five seconds left, we also felt the thrill of triumph. The bomb was defused; Sara was saved.

    Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a cooperative PC game in which one player, the Defuser, is stuck in a virtual room with a bomb on a timer. The rest of the players, called the Experts, have a manual; inside are instructions for defusing the bomb. The Defuser can’t look at the manual, and the Experts can’t look at the bomb. They all have to keep talking to save the Defuser from a digital explosion.

    This game requires different resources than the average PC multiplayer setup. There is no single-player mode. Players need a computer for the Defuser, a way to communicate with the Experts, and a manual. My first game used a phone, but players can just as easily sit in the same room as long as the Experts keep their eyes off the computer screen. The manual is available for viewing and download from http://www.bombmanual.com/. I recommend printing for the best experience. While the manual can be viewed on a phone or tablet, a paper copy allows faster page flipping and note taking, tasks essential to the Experts’ role. There is a VR version of the game and manual available via Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, OSVR, and PS VR. Although I have not had the opportunity to try the VR experience, gameplay is identical in all versions.

    Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Team/communication skill building; short levels mean mistakes don’t hurt for long; only one copy needed for multiplayer; simple controls
    Weak Points: Brief overall; no single-playe moder; repetitive without resorting to community-made levels; puzzles are less challenging once players become familiar with the game
    Moral Warnings: Centered on bombs; within the world of the game, the player, not the character, "dies" when you lose

    The bomb can have anywhere from three to eleven separate modules that need solving. They range from the basic—a yellow button labeled "Disarm"—to the complex—a maze with invisible walls. There are wires, passwords, symbols, Morse code, and more. Each module has a corresponding page in the manual. The Defuser might see a box with five wires. Which should be cut? Only the Experts can answer, using the page titled “On the Subject of Wires.” As the Defuser describes the bomb and Experts figure out what to do, time leaks away. If the players make a mistake such as cutting the wrong wire, they get a strike, and the timer ticks down faster. If the timer hits zero or the Defuser gets three strikes, the bomb explodes.

    At its heart, this is a game about communication. The Defuser describes what he sees, and the Experts give instructions. The manual is filled with mini logic puzzles such as, “If there are no yellow wires and the last digit of the serial number is odd, cut the third wire.” The manual is clever and obtuse. "On the Subject of Complex Wires" features the most convoluted Venn diagram I've ever had to use. "On the Subject of Who's on First" exploits homophones to great effect. Generally, the puzzles would be trivial if one could see the bomb and the manual. The fun is in the division of information between the two groups. For example, one module is a keypad with four random symbols. It is the Defuser’s job to make the Expert see the symbols without looking at them.

    Defuser: “I see a weird six, a spider with a shield, a smiley face, and an X on an I.”
    Expert: “Wait, an Eye?”
    Defuser: “No, an I.”

    Gameplay is tense. Everyone can hear the timer beeping away, and it prevents players from being entirely certain they are making the right move. You will get lots of laughs from Defusers pressing the wrong button, Experts making simple mistakes, and everybody deciding it's just time to pick a wire and hope. Even when things are going well, you feel the race against the clock. Every successful defusal is a rush.

    Upon playing, you will likely learn how the other players communicate, think, and act under pressure. You will certainly have fun. It is everything office team-building exercises want to be, and levels average only five minutes. Gameplay is inherently rewarding and might forge new friendships. Though there is one Defuser, there can be as many Experts as you want. Keep Talking, which naturally draws people in (how often do you hear someone shout, “Cut the red wire”?), can easily expand to about five players.

    Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
    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 - 5/5

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

    There is no story here unless the players role-play. The tutorial is a two-minute affair which teaches how to use the mouse to interact with the bomb. The controls are easy and responsive, and this tutorial pulls off the difficult feat of teaching people who are not used to three digital dimensions how to rotate the bomb. The graphics are modest, making the information on the bomb easy to parse. When I play in a public area, I make a habit of asking random passers-by if they have five free minutes. Almost anyone who plays can manage the controls and understand the manual. Keep Talking takes the uninitiated and turns them into competent players in minutes. It’s a great party game.

    Simplicity is a strength and a weakness, however. There are few levels and limited modules. Every level is randomized each time you play, but all randomization takes place within the confines of the manual. Over time, players develop codes and procedures for modules. The Defuser rattles off the information he knows the Expert needs; then he just waits for an answer. In short, the more proficient players become at communicating within the game, the fewer surprises and laughs the game can offer.

    Don’t let that stop you from trying this game out. The Steam Workshop has additional modules and manuals which players have added to the base game, should you want to mod it. If not, the solution to rote play is bringing on fresh players and mixing up the roles. The fun will return when the newcomer says, “There’s an abort button. I’m pressing it.”

    If the premise of the game is not a moral concern, nothing else about it will be, either. The “explosion” is limited to a stock sound and the screen turning black. The game takes place in a small room that shows slight damage from previous explosions. The game is first-person; it is you, not some character, who explodes when you lose. There is music typical of a spy thriller that slowly builds as the timer counts down. Stress builds, too, and it can cause conflicts amongst the players if they let it. Then again, so can office team-building exercises.

    I highly recommend Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The price is reasonable for the fun you can have as a group. The game is lightweight and can run on a laptop. If you are close to anyone who hasn’t tried a video game before, buy this game and ask for five minutes of their time. You will be glad you did.

  • Kill The Bad Guy (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Kill The Bad Guy
    Developed by: Exkee
    Published by: Exkee
    Release Date: May 28, 2014
    Available on: Linux, Mac, PC
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Exkee for sending us this game to review!

    Kill The Bad Guy is a unique and violent 3D puzzle game that puts you in a secret society that kills criminals that the justice system has left on the streets.  Many of these bad guys have a fictitious and gruesome back-story that justifies their need for a bloody death.  One of the back stories is said to be true about a murderer that castrated, sexually abused, eventually killed and ate the child victims and wrote to their parents explaining the gruesome details of their death.  While it’s not right to seek vengeance (Romans 12:19), as a parent, I don’t mind letting a tree fall over and kill this guy.

    Not every story makes your blood boil like that example.  One of the missions has you take out a guy that does the back stroke in crowded public pools.  The unlockable mini-games are pretty light hearted as well and let you kill groups of zombies or fling Rottweilers at bad guys Angry Birds style. 

    Kill The Bad Guy
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Creative but violent puzzle game with over 60 levels
    Weak Points: Not much replay value or flexibility on how to kill the bad guys
    Moral Warnings:Plenty of violence, gore, graphic details and language

    The main game consists of sixty increasingly difficult scenarios.  There isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to orchestrating the demise of the bad guys.  Many levels only offer one or two ways to kill the criminals.  It’s bad enough when the bad guy can see what you’re up to and flee, but later in the game you have to be discreet enough to avoid cameras and eye witnesses.  While it is not condoned, killing of innocents is possible, but you will fail the level for doing so.   

    Like many Steam games there are various achievements including one for merely launching the game.  Other achievements can be earned for failing, killing the bad guy, or pedestrians a lot.  With each successful kill you get to watch a replay of it and have the option of sharing a screenshot on social media sites.  

    Each level has a primary and secondary objective along with a hidden passport and each of these items earns you a star for completing or finding them.  Another star can be earned for collecting the golden tooth that flies out of the bad guy as he dies a creative and bloody death.  

    Kill The Bad Guy
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 48%
    Violence - 1/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 1.5/10

    Some killing methods include dropping a piano, running over, flinging objects (including a dead dog), impaling with a javelin or burning with fire.  Since there are not many ways to kill per level, there is not much re-playability other than to locate the hidden passport or killing the bad guy on the first day for more points/stars.

    Other than the obvious violence, there is some language in the scenarios and rap music playing in the background.  The bad guy even says “Dah fu..”when he sees something fishy.  There are several sexual and graphic details in the back stories.  Lastly, some of the levels allow you to distract the bad guy with porno magazines.   

    Kill The Bad Guy will entertain you for a few hours and the price is a reasonable fifteen dollars.  This game hasn’t been rated by the ESRB and if it was, it would earn a Mature rating.  With the gratuitous violence and language, this is not a game that should be played around or by children.

  • Light Tracer (PSVR)

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    Game Info:

    Light Tracer
    Developed by: Void Dimensions
    Published by: Oasis Games
    Release date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: PSVR, Windows
    Genre: Platformer, Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Oasis Games for sending us a review code!

    A mysterious princess is in need of your assistance. Her kingdom is suffering from a serious sickness and she needs to reach the top of the Tower of Bellbatis to find the cure. As a helpful deity-like being, your job is to guide her by showing her the path she must take to save her people.

    To play this PSVR exclusive 3D puzzle/platformer, you’ll need to have two Move controllers. The controller on the right is in charge of illuminating the princess’ path while the left controller rotates the tower to get a better perspective. Like many platformer games you can make the princess jump across moving platforms and collect floating gems/coins along the way. Some of the platforms are controlled by you using circular and up/down/left/right hand gestures.

    In total, there are eight chapters with five levels in between them. Each chapter unveils new terrain and challenges to master. In the beginning, you’ll have green grass and stony ground, but later you’ll need to contend with slippery icy surfaces and gravity flipping platforms. In the event that the princess falls off of the tower or comes in contact with an enemy or dangerous object, she’ll be teleported to the last checkpoint. Thankfully, the checkpoints are plentiful in this title.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, challenging, and fresh concept in a flooded VR marketplace
    Weak Points: Some rage-quit inducing puzzles; the world rotating may cause motion sickness
    Moral Warnings: Mild fantasy violence

    Despite the numerous checkpoints, many of the puzzles are frustrating to get past. To make matters worse, it takes a while to get everything positioned properly to attempt a difficult jump or avoid injury from enemy attacks. If you have past bouts with motion sickness, you may experience it in this title with all of the world shifting and standing position required to play this title.

    Because of the difficulty of this game, I don’t recommend it for gamers who are easily discouraged. It is pretty tame morally speaking with the possibility of the princess plunging to her death or being attacked by enemies and bosses. At first, the princess can’t attack and has to rely on defensive only maneuvers.

    Dexterity is a must to successfully climb this tower. Your left and right hands will have to do different tasks and one wrong move will put the princess in harm’s way. If you can multitask, then you’ll do well in this unique VR game.

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    The visuals are colorful and the variety between the chapters is good. The level design is solid if not cruel at times. Throughout the game you’ll learn several new tricks and maneuvers to keep things interesting.

    From an audio standpoint this game is decent. There’s a fair amount of background music variety and the voice acting is good. Given the high levels of frustration some more soothing music would have been appropriate here.

    In the end, Light Tracer does a lot of things right but can easily frustrate some gamers. Like other PSVR titles, I ran into some controls/tracking issues but when I repositioned myself they were corrected. If you’re looking for a unique and challenging VR puzzle/platformer, Light Tracer is worth adding to your PSVR library with a reasonable $14.99 asking price.

    **Steam Version Update**

    The content on the PC version of Light Tracer is virtually identical to the PS VR release. The graphics are a bit sharper, and if you use a higher resolution headset, quite a bit sharper than on PS VR. The PC/Steam version was originally designed for HTC Vive, and even though I was using it with an Oculus Rift S (which did work fine), all of the button prompts and tutorials were written and designed around the Vive controllers. For example, when it says you need to touch the touchpad, you instead need to push in on the joystick. Pushing in on the joystick to simulate pressing the touchpad to rotate platforms and such works, though it was a bit unwieldy until I got used to it. You could just touch and direction on the right controller to encourage our friend to walk, and was much easier to do than moving things around.

    The company logos were double-vision blurry when starting the game on the Rift S (they were actually clear if I crossed my eyes, which I can do on demand) but there were no other graphical issues that I noticed during gameplay; it looked crisp and sharp. The most important control, the pointer, worked just fine, which is a big improvement over PS VR's easily glitched tracking. Even with the more accurate controls, the game is still a bit cumbersome, and falling off is quite easy to do on accident.

  • Link-a-Pix Color (3DS)

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    Game Info:

    Link-a-Pix Color
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Release date: January 18, 2018
    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!

    We have reviewed several titles from Lightwood Games and Link-a-Pix Color is a bit different from the rest. It’s still a grid style puzzle game, but you have to draw lines connecting the similarly colored numbers. The numbers represent the length of the line. The colored lines can be straight, but that’s not always the case.

    Link-a-Pix Color
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: One hundred and twenty puzzles to solve with many of them taking over an hour to complete
    Weak Points: Simple visuals and background music; experienced a glitch where one of my moves wasn’t registered and had to redo it to complete the puzzle
    Moral Warnings: None!

    In total, there are one hundred and twenty puzzles to solve and they come in various sizes. As expected, the smaller puzzles take minutes to complete while the largest ones took me over an hour to finish. The puzzle sizes are 10X15, 20X30, 30X45, 40X60, and 50X75.

    The game will keep track of the time spent on a puzzle and will resume it if you close out of it. If you’re not happy with your time you can retry it and see if you can solve it faster. There is an error checking feature that will let you know if there are any invalid lines drawn. You can have it automatically remove the errors, but if you do that, you won’t get a gold medal on the solved puzzle. Unsolved puzzles have question marks while the finished ones show the final picture.

    Link-a-Pix Color
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    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 are pixel art styled and not the most detailed, but you can usually figure out what the final image is while you’re solving the puzzle. A few of them I didn’t get until the very end. The background music is upbeat and chiptune themed. I didn’t mind the background music, but more variety would have been nice. The swooshing sound for drawing lines was fitting.

    Not surprisingly, there’s little to complain about morally in this title. The images are all family friendly and there’s nothing objectionable here.

    If you like Picross styled puzzles then you’ll probably enjoy what Link-a-Pix Color has to offer. With all of the bundled in puzzles you’ll have several hours worth of entertainment. If you want to try example puzzles in your browser, you can check out Conceptis’s website.

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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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