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Adventure

  • Alice VR (Rift)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Alice VR
    Developed by: Carbon Studio
    Published by: Klabater
    Release date: October 27, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Carbon Studio for sending us this game to review!

    Unlike the fairy tale, Alice VR takes place in space on a ship experiencing a severe malfunction. The problems are severe enough to warrant being woken up from your cryogenic sleep. In order to make the necessary repairs you’ll have to access various areas of the ship and some of them require shrinking yourself and returning back to your normal size.

    Maneuvering throughout the game is simple enough using an Xbox One controller. The joysticks allow your character to look and move around. Keyboard and mouse support works just as well. The character moves very slowly and this is probably an attempt to avoid inducing motion sickness. Sadly, it doesn’t work. Thankfully, the game is still playable without a VR headset. There is a menu option for increasing the movement speed, and after getting nauseated twice, I opted to play the remainder of the game without VR.

    Alice VR
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Can be played without a VR headset; good graphics
    Weak Points: Gave me motion sickness in VR; game crashes; level and sound glitches
    Moral Warnings: Minor language (hell); women shown in revealing clothing on posters; drug references

    The gameplay is like a 3D first person adventure game. You have to walk around and explore your surroundings and work around various obstacles preventing you from completing your objectives. Once you get off your ship, you’ll need to start collecting a resource called graphene from a seemingly abandoned planet. Some graphene is lying around in canisters though the majority of it is earned by draining it from abandoned technology left behind on this planet. Another way to acquire graphene is by solving puzzles.

    The puzzles in this game are logical which is a pleasant surprise since many adventure games I’ve played have puzzle solutions that totally come out of left field. Since I was able to solve many of the puzzles with little or no effort, many people may find them to be too easy. A couple of the puzzles involve flipping switches in a certain order to unlock the next area. If you do get stuck, there are YouTube walkthroughs available online.

    Most of the gameplay is linear, though there are some collectibles and rewards for going off the beaten path. There are a dozen playing cards scattered throughout the game and if you collect all of them, you’ll get a Steam achievement. According to Steam, it only took me four hours to complete this game. In actuality, it was less than that since Steam doesn’t recognize when I exited out the game it thought I was playing it all through dinner one night. So I’m guessing a more accurate game time is 3-3.5 hours.

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

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Like many games, the story is told through voice recordings of the planet’s previous inhabitants and you’ll gradually learn about their struggles before you arrived. The AI giving you orders doesn’t appreciate insubordination, but it is possible. There is some replayability in making different choices, but with the nausea and game glitches, I think I’ll pass.

    Besides Steam not registering me leaving the game, I also ran into instances of the sound not working and missing story sequences as a result. Since the game relies on checkpoints and is linear, I was not able to backtrack and hear what I missed. My character has been stuck in place and I had to reload my save to get unstuck. I was also stumped on how to leave a certain level only to realize that it was actually glitched after watching a walkthrough. After reloading my save a couple of times I was able to progress in this hallucination themed level. Despite the hallucinations being triggered by a gas, there are still drug references in this title.

    Another issue worth noting is that there are several posters in the city with women wearing sexualized attire. The rest of the artwork and level design is well done and this game utilizes the Unreal 4 engine nicely. When the sound is working properly, the voice acting is well done too.

    Fans of Alice in Wonderland and adventure games will probably enjoy this title. The developers have been doing a good job patching the game, but it still needs some more tweaks. If you looking for a good VR experience you may want to look elsewhere or take some motion sickness medicine ahead of time.

  • Batman - The Telltale Series (Episodes 1 & 2) (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: August 6, 2016
    Available on: iOS, PS3, PS4,
    Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One  |
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRBR rating: Mature for violence, blood, gore and language.
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code!

    Batman - The Telltale Series is a five-part adventure style game that adapts its story based on the choices of the player.  As of this review only the first two episodes are available and they are extremely well written with likable characters and good voice acting.  Like most adventure games you get to examine your surroundings and interact with various objects to gather clues and solve murder mysteries.

    This game earns its mature rating with gruesome crime scenes and harsh language and blaspheming.  Pretty much every cuss word but the F-bomb is used.  A new game mechanic is introduced that lets you link objects together to piece together murders or to plan Batman’s attack.  The battles use quick time events and you have to press the correct key at the right moment to either block or land an attack.

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story that changes depending on the choices you make in the game; great character development and voice acting; new gameplay mechanics to set this series apart from previous Telltale entries.
    Weak Points: This game is not optimized well; even though I took the merciful route the dialogue with other characters suggested that I did otherwise.
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence and language is unavoidable; the player can choose to be vengeful or merciful when dealing with criminals; Catwoman wears tight clothes.

     

    Those who are familiar with Batman’s story will recognize characters like Alfred and the Catwoman.  The main villain (who I will not reveal) looked nothing like the movie rendition I saw when I was growing up.  Bruce Wayne/Batman remains unchanged with his strong integrity and wide array of expensive technical gadgets at his disposal.  The gadget interface color is customizable and purple was the color that I chose.

    The tale of Batman is a grim one with a wealthy boy losing his parents at the age of nine.  As the story progresses, Bruce Wayne discovers that there was more to his parents’ death than a simple mugging.  He also learns that his family’s fortune is built on the suffering of others and that these revelations are hurting the campaign of his friend Harvey Dent.   Harvey wishes to save Gotham City by taking the Mayor title away from the corrupt Hamilton Hill.

    Throughout the story Bruce/Batman will have to answer questions from police, mobsters, and the press.  Silence is an option and it’s one that will be chosen for you if you don’t answer fast enough.  Sadly, that was done for me several times due to technical issues running this game.

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 59%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    On my Nvidia 660M powered laptop I noticed that this game ran poorly and that the voice acting was out of synch and that my mouse movement was sluggish at best and unusable at worst.  Because the cel-shaded graphics looked amazing, I didn’t want to lower them.  I utilized the cloud save feature and enjoyed this game on my more powerful AMD powered desktop.  There are many negative Steam reviews reflecting poor performance issues so make sure that you have a powerful enough system and the latest drivers installed before purchasing this game.

    If you have a powerful enough system and enjoy Batman and/or adventure games then Batman - The Telltale Series is worth picking up If you’re not put off by strong language and violence.  I never get tired of seeing my choices compared with everyone else’s after completing an episode and I'm eagerly waiting for the next three to be released!

     

  • Batman - The Telltale Series (Episodes 3-5) (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: December 13, 2016
    Available on: iOS, PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One 
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB rating: Mature for Violence, Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, and Use of Drugs 
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

     

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us this series to review!

    The first two episodes started to reveal the dark origins of Bruce Wayne’s wealth.  While Bruce is nothing like his parents, Gotham City is rather fickle and he loses the citizens' favor as his family name is being discredited left and right.  It doesn’t help that mayor Harvey Dent is jealous that the woman he cares for (Selena Kyle) is attracted to Mr. Wayne and abuses his power to go after Bruce directly.  

     

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story that changes depending on the choices you make in the game; great character development and voice acting; new gameplay mechanics to set this series apart from previous Telltale entries.
    Weak Points: This game is not optimized well; even though I took the merciful route the dialogue with other characters suggested that I did otherwise.
    Moral Warnings: Optional sex outside of marriage; violence and gore is mandatory 

    The relationship between Selena and Bruce is determined by the player's choices and it is possible to sleep with her.  If that’s the route they take, they’ll be shown in their undergarments.  Bruce Wayne wears boxers, in case you were wondering.  As if losing his credibility and friendship with Harvey wasn’t bad enough, Wayne Enterprises responds to the allegations by asking Bruce to step down as CEO.  While Bruce is understanding of his forced resignation, he’s infuriated and rightly concerned about who they hired as his replacement.  

    Episode four begins after an eventful speech with Bruce Wayne waking up in Arkham Asylum.  As a patient!  Because of his family name he’s given a violent welcome and must choose his allies carefully.  A patient with green hair and a big smile is rather friendly towards Bruce and is willing to help him get out.  Bruce has the option of promising to return a favor in the near future.

    The final episode is not short on excitement as Alfred Pennyworth is kidnapped and Bruce has to locate and save him before he gets beaten to death.  There’s no shortage of blood and language in this finale and there’s plenty of blood splattered crime scenes to investigate to piece together what went down in Bruce’s absence.  

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 59%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Some difficult choices have to be made and I love how this series adapts to the choices you make. At the completion of every episode your choices are compared to everyone else’s and my choices were usually in line with theirs.  Some of the harder choices were choosing to attend events as Bruce or Batman.  Between the interactive choices, adventure style gameplay, and the crime scene investigations, there is little difference between these chapters and the previous ones.

    At $5 an episode this is a mature but fun series to embark on.  There’s a hint of a sequel, and I look forward to donning the cowl and cape again soon.  Hopefully the next Batman series will be better optimized for those running video cards that cost less than $250.  

     

  • Beholder (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Beholder
    Developed by: Warm Lamp games
    Published by: Alawar Entertainment
    Release date: November 9, 2016
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Adventure/strategy
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Violence, Blood, Drug References; Crude Humor, Alcohol
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Alawar Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    In a totalitarian state, Carl Stein has been chosen to become a landlord in a class-D apartment block.  To aid him in his duties, he’s been injected with an experimental drug that suppresses his need for sleep.   When entering the apartment complex for the first time, Carl and his family get a glimpse of the former landlord who was obviously beat up and battered for his poor performance.  The government isn’t messing around and they make their job requirements pretty clear. 

    Your job is to spy on, eavesdrop, profile, and report any suspicious behavior of your tenants.  Reporting criminals who make drugs is a no brainer, but what about people who break the sillier laws?   Do you report your wife who cries over your daughter’s illness?  What about those who are unlawfully reading books, buying apples, or wearing blue ties or jeans?

    On top of dealing with repairs and tasks from the government, you’ll have to find ways to stay afloat financially.  Paying for groceries, utilities, college and medicine is not cheap.  You’ll earn money from the government by profiling, reporting, and completing tasks from them.  There are other ways to make money as well.  You can blackmail, scheme with or against your tenants.  One of the tasks given to me by the government was to influence a recent lottery winner to invest in jellied meat.   Upon doing so I received a nastygram from him stating that he’d like to feed me all of this jellied meat he’s stuck with.  Other interactions with the tenants can turn deadly as I was killed for flipping one of them off and another time I was murdered for destroying a library book.

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A fun game that revolves around spying and making tough decisions
    Weak Points: Long loading times; confusing reporting system
    Moral Warnings: Many opportunities to make unethical decisions, blood and violence; language, crass humor; alcohol, drug, and tobacco use

    Other than the blood, murder, and flipping people off, there is some language in this game as well.  The F-bomb isn’t used, but the rest of the words are.  This isn’t a game for children as it deals with many life and death situations.  Do you dare defy the government while risking the lives of your loved ones? 

    Throughout the game you’ll have the “opportunity” to house known resistance members.  If the government catches wind of this, you could be fined and wind up looking a lot like the previous landlord did when he failed his job performance review.  On the flipside, you’ll also be tasked with housing important government officials and will be persuaded by the resistance to make their stay there an unpleasant one.  Evicting tenants is sometimes necessary. If they don't leave willingly, you can plant illegal items in their apartments and then report them.

    Each decision you make has consequences and with the limited finances, the choices are even tougher.  The easier difficulty, Trainee, pays you more for your tasks and lowers the price of expenses.  The normal difficulty is called Government Elite.  

    The gloomy graphics and bleak atmosphere are fitting for this war themed game.  The characters have a shadow like appearance and their emotions are shown as thought bubbles above their heads.  There's not much voice acting, but the background music and sounds effects are well done.

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

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

    Morality Score - 63%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Like many games, characters have an exclamation point above their head if they have a quest for you.  Though the quests usually don’t pay you, they can establish a relationship which can come in handy later down the line.  For example, you can help set up a doctor on a blind date and in turn he’ll examine your daughter when she gets sick.

    Besides money, you earn reputation points for completing quests and tasks.  Reputation points can be spent to influence tenants to reveal more information about themselves or they can be used to intimidate people to get what you want.  Some situations will require you to spend money or reputation points to smooth things over.  

    Though the tenants and main quests are the same, Beholder is replayable through making different decisions and unlocking various Steam achievements.  There are achievements for keeping your entire family alive or for being the sole survivor.  

    In the end, Beholder is a thought-provoking game that tests your morality and love for your family at the same time.  While there are moments of (occasionally crude) humor and silliness, the majority of the game is depressing with the constant warfare and overreaching government ruining the lives of its citizens.

  • Corpse of Discovery (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Corpse of Discovery
    Developed By: Phosphor Games
    Published by: Phosphor Games
    Released: August 25, 2015
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: First-Person Exploration
    Number of Players: 1 
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Phosphor Games fors ending us this game to review!

    As a medium of storytelling, video games are in a unique position to tell a tale bolstered by player interaction. Even without the potential for branching paths and different outcomes, a video game story that can mesh with its gameplay offers something potentially more memorable than just the story itself. The so-called “walking simulator,” a relatively recent genre, tends to swing heavily on the side of the narrative, often at the expense of the actual “game” part of “video game.” Occasionally, however, whether by design or by accident, a walking simulator can have its gameplay overshadow its story; Corpse of Discovery is one such example.

    A first-person exploration game, Corpse of Discovery has you assume the role of an unnamed Major in the semi-titular Corps of Discovery, a space-faring organization dedicated to exploring and cataloguing unknown planets. Stranded on the planet Tellurus after a heavy spaceship landing, the Major sets out to finish his mission, collect his payday, and return home to his family – assuming the Corps even knows he’s marooned.

    The basic gameplay is just that: the Major can walk, sprint, and jump as he moves to various indicated locations inside the home base and on the planet proper. To start, those three options, as well as a double-jump, are all you have available. Later, the game changes it up a little by giving you some new equipment as you progress – namely, a handheld holo-map that replaces your otherwise ever-present mission indicator, and a limited-use jetpack. Tellurus has low gravity, so the Major’s jumps cover a lot of distance and make platforming simple and enjoyable. Each set of tasks you complete on the planet ends with the Major passing out and reappearing at the base, only to find a new mission, a messier dwelling, and a radically transformed planet await him – whether it’s a dusty Mars-like wasteland or a lush rainy biome, he’s still on Tellurus and there’s still things to be done.

    Corpse of Discovery
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Looks great; more compelling gameplay than your average walking simulator
    Weak Points: Predictable, unsubtle story; major graphical pop-in; some stability issues
    Moral Warnings: Unsettling imagery; brief bouts of severe language; a neutral (if cynical) take on religion

    If the gameplay ended there, it wouldn’t be much of a game; thankfully, there are a few mechanics that make it much more engaging. While the planet itself gets more and more difficult to traverse with each variation, with natural barriers and dangers cropping up with greater frequency, the game also introduces enemies of a sort. After the first planet, the Major begins being hunted by giant, pitch-black, nigh-indescribable monsters that glide through the sky, projecting a searchlight out of their single eye. With no ability to combat them, and with their tendency to congregate around your destination, avoiding them becomes your main challenge. The game thus becomes a balancing act of avoiding the monsters and platforming around the planet, trying to find the best and safest route to your destination.

    The sound design is especially crucial to making the monsters feel like a threat, and is spot-on in that regard. While the music, usually in the form of a soft music box-style lullaby that’s underscored with a hostile droning, certainly adds to the tension, the noise the monsters make is especially effective. Their low-toned chaotic rumblings and wordless whispers start quiet but can be heard from quite far away; if one’s on top of you, it’s practically all you can hear. The Major moves quite fast normally, so the sprint option is mostly to get away quickly – he’ll start loudly panting almost immediately, which only heightens the sense of anxiety when combined with the monsters’ noises. Altogether, the game borders on being survival horror, and makes the gameplay more than the sum of its parts, even if the main premise isn’t exactly interesting.

    Oddly enough, especially in a game that bills itself as a walking simulator on the Steam page, its story brings down its serviceable gameplay. The narrative is presented in two ways: examining objects will flash unspoken subtitles on the screen detailing what the Major is thinking; and each main objective reached will draw comments from your floating, spherical robot companion AVA. The overall plot is rather predictable, and the lessons you’re meant to learn on each planet is presented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. AVA goes on long-winded lectures at the drop of a hat, and her dry, cynical tone can get overbearing real fast. Her voice acting is great – all of the voices in the game are high quality, in fact – but the constant one-sided conversations quickly grow old. In case you still don’t grasp the moral of the section from AVA’s ramblings, it’s presented to you as a cover of a book in your room at the start and as an out-of-context subtitle at the end of each mission.

    In general, the game tells more than it shows. Each object carries a subtitle to plainly state what significance it has to the Major – for instance, optional objectives between each main one will have the Major hallucinating something, like a pizza or his bedroom on Earth, and rather than letting you extrapolate its meaning, the Major will tell you what it means to him. This will also get you berated by AVA, making this game one of the likely few exploration games on the market that will rebuke you for exploring it. By the end of the game, there are no more mysteries to think about, as everything has been explained – even the monsters, whose presence aren’t acknowledged by the Major or AVA outside of their introduction, are given a lengthy explanation, which is made even more unnecessary by the visuals at the time. In addition, there are a few spelling and grammar errors – the most egregious being, upon finding some cakes lying around, the Major declares his fondness for “deserts.” Even with its somewhat overdone but very salvageable concept, the story over-explains itself, and leaves you with very little to think about when all is said and done.

    Corpse of Discovery
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    This is more of a shame considering how well done the visuals are. Each variation of Tellurus is beautiful in its own right, and the way the monsters look and move only add to their imposing presence. There are little details to enjoy as well: the most impressive might be the rain on the second planet, which streams down your view constantly but also splatters on your helmet if you look up. The main portions of the planets are not randomly generated, which is a boon in that it allows for coherent and consistently-traversable geography, though it does diminish the replay value. To the game’s credit, there are no artificial barriers in the form of invisible walls or insurmountable pits; you can walk in one direction forever, enjoying location-appropriate randomly generated landscape that can still hold some pleasant surprises.

    This does come with a tradeoff, mainly in the form of pop-in; even at the highest setting, portions of the landscape will constantly spring into view as you move around. The game doesn’t have to load very often, but it will freeze everything for at least five seconds when it does. Picking up the holo-map for the first time plunged the mostly-stable framerate into the single digits for a good half-minute, though it didn’t happen later in the game or on a replay. Finally, and strangely, opening the menu with the escape key, then closing it with escape rather than the “return” option, will leave the mouse cursor on the screen until you left-click. It all might be a good price to pay for such impressive graphical strength, but it’s a price nonetheless.

    There are a fair few moral warnings about this game as well. The monsters make for some unsettling imagery, along with a few frightening-looking alien creatures. One planet variation has you looking for the corpses of other Corps members, with various effects applied on a few that look like they’re being eaten by insects, though they’re still in their fully-intact spacesuits. AVA goes on a profanity-laden rant near the end of the game, with F- and S-bombs thrown around. The story touches on some heavy themes, death being the principal subject. There is also a section on religion – while neutral, with the moral coming down to encouraging thorough examination of your beliefs, AVA’s typical cynicism makes the tone appear more hostile than it really is. The main theme of the game is the importance of family, and indeed the well-being and happiness of his family is the Major’s ultimate goal, but again, it’s presented a little more aggressively than it needed to be.

    Overall, Corpse of Discovery comes closer to being survival horror than a walking simulator; if presented differently, it could have been a solid, thought-provoking experience. As it stands, however, the clumsily-told story interferes with the rich visual and aural information; sometimes, less truly is more, especially in storytelling. Still, there’s a decent game to be found in here that might be worth looking into during a sale, as long as those moral issues don’t scare you away.

    -Cadogan

  • Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (DS)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
    Devloped By: TOSE
    Published By: Square Enix
    Release Date: September 2006
    Available on: DS
    ESRB Rating: E
    Single and Multiplayer (2 players)
    Genre: Adventure
    $15 on LeapTrade

    Those of you who have played Dragon Warrior/Quest games will remember that the slimes are the weakest enemies that you encounter in the series. This is the story of a slime named Rocket who saves his village of Boingburg from the evil plob. The story is pretty simple: Rocket and his friends were playing in the palace garden when they stumbled upon the Warrior Flute. They blew on it, which alerted the plob (mob, get it?) of its location and so the plob kidnapped all the inhabitants of the town and decimated it. Armed only with the broken flute, Rocket must now rescue all one hundred villagers and stop the plob.

    After the opening story, you can explore what’s left of your town and chat with the few inhabitants that remain. The church is where you go to save your progress. The story unfolds as you explore the different areas of Slimenia. Each area has a set number of slimes that need to be found and rescued and there’s a boss creature that must be defeated before you can reach the next area. As you rescue slimes you’ll gain access to new areas of the town including a store, museum, and the library.

    Highlights:

    Strengths:A cute and funny game
    Weaknesses:No real time save
    Moral Warnings:Goddess worship, smoking references, cartoon violence.

    Although Rocket is just slime, he's more of a threat than he might first appear. He can carry up to three objects at a time, but if he\'s fully loaded and you find something else you want to carry there are train carts scattered around that you can unload your findings into and send them off to town. In this game you’ll want to collect everything you find. And I mean everything. Monsters, empty treasure chests, boomerangs, arrows, fruit and anything else you can grab. The items you collect can be used for ammo, or you can combine them into more powerful objects using alchemy. 

    Rocket only has one attack move: the elastoblast. He stretches like a rubber band and flings himself at enemies and objects. If an object is flung into the air, Rocket can carry it if he catches it before it hits the ground. If Rocket is hit by an enemy, all the objects he’s carrying are dropped. Rocket starts off with three life hearts but throughout the game you’ll be awarded some and can find others hidden in the town if you carefully explore your surroundings.

    Rocket’s true power lies within the Schleiman Tank which can be summoned by blowing the repaired Warrior Flute. At first you’ll be in charge of collecting and firing the ammo alone. But later, you’ll be able to recruit friends to help you in the battles. Your friends have specific skills like healing the crew, healing the tank, stealing ammo from the enemy, sabotaging the enemy ship, or manning the cannons.

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

    Game Score - 92%
    Game Play: 18/20
    Graphics: 9/10
    Sound: 9/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls: 5/5

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

    The tank battles are a huge part of this game, and choosing the right kind of ammo is a huge part of winning the battles. You can pick and choose your own ammo or take the advice of your helper. In town, you can create upgrades that boost your tank\'s hitpoints. Sometimes they only cost gold but most of the time, specific objects will be required to upgrade the tank.

    The multiplayer in this game comes in two modes: tank battle and surfing. In surfing mode you have to collect as many coins as possible before the time runs out. Both of these modes can be played using only one game cartridge.

    After you beat the game\'s singleplayer campaign you can keep playing, whether you want to finish collecting monsters, complete some more side quests, or collect extra-powerful ammo for your tank.

    Graphically this game is pretty typical for a Dragon Quest game. Sprites, smiles, and vivid colors. The town and its surrounding areas are very bright and colorful. The enemies are all very unique, including their animations and behaviors. The living statues are quite spooky.

    The enemies have their own unique voices, noises and sound effects too. The music is very pleasant and Dragon-Questy. I was somewhat annoyed that the enemy theme music had an odd loop featuring a person saying/singing “Boom Chicca Pow!”. 

    When it comes to appropriateness issues... where to start. The slimes are not the atheistic globs of muck you might think, as they all worship a goddess of some sort. Holy water and goddess statues are two kinds of ammunition you can use in your tank. The church in town has some catholic references, including a "Mother Gloopierior". The other thing worth mentioning is that the plob father, Don Clawleone, smokes a cigar in a cut scene. The violence in this game is very cartoony and most of it is directed toward enemy tanks. 

    This is an older game so the price is relatively low on Amazon, but it may be hard to find at local retail stores. If you or your kids have a DS and enjoy Dragon Quest games I highly recommend this title, but keep the moral warnings in mind if you plan to buy it.

  • Fran Bow (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Fran Bow
    Published By: KillMonday Games
    Developed by: KillMonday Games
    Release Date: Aug 27, 2015
    Available on windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android
    Single player game
    Genre: Point and Click Adventure game.
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Story-driven point and click adventure games have never attracted me. Maybe it was because I never experienced early PC gaming gems such as the King's Quest series. It could also be that every time I heard about these point and click games, a popular Youtuber ended up playing it and I just watched the story on my own. However, when I saw the Youtuber Jesse Cox play the old demo of Fran Bow, I was enchanted. Something about this game made me want to experience the story for myself, to watch the events unfold without seeing it through another pair of eyes first. Now this question can be answered: was Fran Bow’s enchantment over me a pleasant charm or a terrible curse? I dive into KillMonday Games’ point and click adventure to find out.

    Fran Bow is the story of a young girl whose parents were brutally murdered before her eyes. The only things she remembers is a horned being who murdered her family and her cat Mr. Midnight being taken from her. She is also forced to stay in a mental asylum for disturbed children. As Fran, it is your job to find the correct items and information to solve puzzles and obtain the tools to progress through the story. As you progress through the chapters, the game's mechanics will allow you to travel through alternate planes of reality. Changing realities will allow you to solve puzzles or meet new characters to continue the story. Mini-games break up the chapters every now and then. They are a great break up between the heavy plot elements of the game. If you do not enjoy these mini-games, they can be skipped.

    Fran Bow
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellently written point and click adventure game with a strong horror element.
    Weak Points: The ending may not be for everyone, the game itself may not have much replay value for most people.
    Moral Warnings: You're fighting a war against Lucifer; occult and violent themes are extremely high.

    The art-style of this game is gorgeous. Throughout the chapters of the game I felt like I was watching a moving oil painting. Water effects, lighting, and video game terms were lost to me as it all felt like it was a beautifully painted book that was coming to life as I read it. When I crossed over to the more horrific realities, I was terrified. The terror that was experienced was not the kind of monster that jumped out at you screaming either. This was a fear that stayed and sat, festering in the mind and soul as it raised questions and gave few to no answers. The world of Fran Bow is one of beauty and terror that anyone who loves good visuals will enjoy.

    The sound of the game provides the appropriate ambiance for every section of Fran’s world. The music will fill you with a sense of foreboding curiosity at times, and a joyful childlike wonder at other times. The sound effects of every moment – from meeting the demon that haunts her to interacting with the various denizens of the realities aid in bringing the game to life. While this entire game was made by only two people, these two people lovingly crafted this soundtrack.

    The most important aspect of the game is the story. The best way to describe it (in a spoiler free way) is an exciting journey, built a smooth way to what is the most disappointing and aggravating ending I have ever experienced in a video game. A quote from an anime reviewer named Glass Reflection fits best here: “the ending is paramount.” 

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 54%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 4/10

    The ending to Fran Bow didn't sequel bait, nor tie up any loose ends to know the truth behind Fran and her experiences. The ending was a cop-out. Maybe I wasn't the audience that the developer intended to have, or maybe this game had some deep secret message that didn't hit me. When you judge the game on the story alone without factoring in personal emotional appeal that you felt for Fran, you will be left hungry for more. The final chapter really lets down the whole game. If Fran Bow had replay value, or anything at all to come back to once you've beaten the game, then maybe a bad ending wouldn't affect the experience so much. However it seems that this game has only one ending to speak of. 

    So with morality I'm going to get straight to the point for you fine folks out here. This girl is basically fighting a horrific battle against hell's king itself. Whether it's actually Lucifer or if the girl is a twisted mental psychotic, the ending won't clear it up for you. Violence is extremely common. Occult references are commonplace in the story and you're playing a point and click adventure game where a little girl is going through events that you wouldn't wish on a hardened military veteran. One of the security guards at the mental asylum even tries to force her to kiss him. One of the ways you can change realities is by using a medication. This games imagery is violent and disturbing, Fran Bow is not for the faint of heart.

    On a more general note, don't get this game for children under the age of 16 either. However for those whose faith is unshakable by dark stories then you might find an interesting and thought provoking game in Fran Bow. 

  • Goetia (Mac)

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    Game Info:

    Goetia
    Developed by: Sushee
    Published by: Square Enix
    Released: April 14, 2016
    Available on: Windows, macOS, SteamOS/Linux
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB rating: T (violent references, partial nudity)
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Young Abigail Blackwood passed away in 1902. She never expected to rise from her grave 40 years later and return to her childhood home, Blackwood Manor. Now as a ghost, she finds the place largely devoid of life, but there is a malevolent presence within the dilapidated mansion. Driven by curiosity, she must discover what happened to everyone and uncover a sinister mystery that has been haunting the region for more than four decades.

    That mysterious synopsis is what drives Goetia, a point-and-click adventure game from Sushee. This game drips with atmosphere, from the gloomy backgrounds to the haunting music and spooky sound effects. You play Abigail, represented by an ephemeral, luminescent orb that follows your mouse cursor around the scenes. Left clicking on an object will bring up a menu allowing you to look at objects, try to manipulate them, or possess them. Other keyboard buttons allow you to bring up your journal, look at the documents you've seen so far, or highlight objects you can interact with. The interface is minimal and the controls sharp, allowing you to get drawn into the mystery without getting distracted by the minutiae of game design.

    As you explore the mansion and the environment around it, you are able to learn more about the mansion, the nearby village, the forest behind the mansion, and more. You'll unlock clues about what happened to your family and what they were involved in, and Abigail's role in the events as well. One of the elements that deviates Goetia from other adventure games is inventory management; since you're a ghostly orb, you don't have a backpack or pockets to keep the items you come across. Instead, you can push your essence into specific objects in order to "possess" them for as long as you need. The object will float around and can interact with some parts of the world in order to solve various challenges. While Abigail can float through floors and walls unless they're sealed (more on that later), the object can't pass through solid objects. Sometimes the challenge can simply be to get an item from one place to another while trying to figure out how to get around a locked door. 

    Goetia
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent graphics, sound and music; challenging puzzles; intriguing story
    Weak Points: Some puzzles have confusing or convoluted solutions
    Moral Warnings: Nudity; language; undead references; significant occult presence throughout the game

    There also are a variety of puzzles to solve as well. Some of these are familiar challenges, like trying to rearrange a torn note into its original form so you can read it. Others provide more of a challenge, including trying to match sheet music to a musical score. Some of the puzzles may prove to be too challenging, though – even to the point of making very little sense. I admit that I had to look at the solution to a few of the puzzles, and even with the answers I couldn't figure out the puzzle. This is something that even the author of the walkthrough admitted. Although all the dialogue is text based, you'll need to have a good set of speakers or headphones to solve some of the challenges, since some of them are based on audio clues, including a couple of musical challenges. 

    You'll want to listen to the game, anyway. The eerie sound effects and music do an excellent job of drawing you into the environment. You also can manipulate a slider to darken the game, to further add to the spooky atmosphere (I kept mine brighter since it makes the screenshots clearer to see. It wasn't because I was scared... honest!). This game is gorgeous in its art style – although desolate and decrepit, the details in the artwork are amazing. Even the "Silver Labyrinth," which is an area where you pass through old photographs, look like you are traveling through scratched and speckled black and white photos. The game may be classified as "horror," but the environment is more unsettling than terrifying. There aren't any jump scares, and since you're a ghost, you really don't have to worry about anything killing you. In fact, once you get to a certain point in the game, you can freely explore and solve the puzzles in whatever order you'd like. Backtracking is required, as you'll unlock and uncover different areas, and enjoy the new discoveries in the process. The only plot hole I could find is trying to determine who has been paying for the electric lights in the manor and nearby Oakmarsh long after both locales have been deserted!

    Goetia
    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 - 57%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
    +3 for demonstrating the consequences of messing around with occult practices.

    As beautiful as the game is, though, there are some significant moral concerns which make me hesitant to recommend this game. Of course there are the undead elements, since you are playing as a ghost. More alarmingly, though, is the presence of the creatures inhabiting the house. It seems that your father was a professor of "demonology," and for some reason, five demons are trapped within the mansion. These aren't made-up demons, either – the ones that Sushee selected have historical backgrounds dating as far back as the 15th century. I recognized the name of the first one you encounter – Malphas – but a Google search of the other names revealed that some of these demons have been theorized for a few centuries, including the sigils and symbols that appear in Goetia. In fact, the name of the game itself refers to a work called the "Ars Goetia," which appeared in the 17th century and focused on the identity of demons... and how to summon them. Needless to say, this game is steeped in occult references, to the point where it could be considered a primer in demonology itself. A strong spiritual center is highly advised if you're considering playing this game, and I wouldn't recommend it to children because of its potential influences. Almost as a minor note, there are also language issues, as "Hell" is mentioned several times – for the most part, as a location, rather than a curse word. In one of the journal entries, one of the demons appears as a nude male, and another is composed of three creatures, including a topless woman. A corpse does appear in one location, as well as skulls in another. Finally, one of the puzzles involves the use of a ouija board.

    Goetia is a beautiful game with a powerful story that compels you to learn more. The atmosphere is immersive and the length of the story, combined with the entertainment of the puzzles, makes this one of the more entertaining and intriguing adventure games that I've played. But the significant amount of occult symbolism, combined with how subtly it is presented, should give anyone reason to hesitate. Be firm in your faith if you wish to explore the haunted ruins of Blackwood Manor. 

  • htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (PC)

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    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.

  • Just Ignore Them (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Just Ignore Them
    Developer: Stranga
    Published by: GrabTheGames
    Release Date: April 28, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $ 3.99

    Thank you Stranga for sending us the review code.

    The game we are going to talk about today is filled with pleasant and unpleasant surprises. The unpleasant surprises are actually a good thing though. Just Ignore Them is a game that I thought would be a C- at best but was much more. While the game is extremely dark and frightful, it is definitely not the game you should ignore. This is Just Ignore Them.

    Just Ignore Them puts you in the role of Mark, a seemingly normal guy with a haunted past. One night as a child he lost it all. His mother was murdered in cold blood by the monsters he always saw as a child. While they seemed to be passive as his mother told him to just ignore them, one night he finds her lying in a pool of blood on her bed and his hell begins. You follow him to adulthood as he tries to live a normal life, though everywhere he goes these monsters and death are sure to follow. That is until he meets a girl named Brea at a run-down motel. With the keys in place Mark has a chance at a happy life - that is, if you can solve the mystery.

    Just Ignore Them
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: This is a strong horror adventure, you will get spooked despite the low graphics.
    Weak Points: The short game doesn't effect the story quality, yet it does effect the game's mechanics. Nothing feels completely fleshed out, it felt like the developer wanted to do more.
    Moral Warnings: Despite the low graphics, this is a horrifying, violent, and suggestive story. It is not for young or innocent eyes.

    The first thing I can say is this game kept me gripped tight. It reminded me of a horror game made in RPG Maker called The Witch's House. You don't think it will make you run for the hills, but the game scared many fans and streamers. So going into this game with a positive state of mind helped. The game is like something out of RPG Maker; all you do is walk around and select items, objects and people to get through the story. Other than combining items every now and then to keep the story moving, that's all you get. You don't have any battles or mini games to change things up. The story is all you will get with this game. Now the story won't win any Pulitzer prizes, yet I would watch a movie of it. Some people may think I am not a fan of story focused game's. That's the farthest from the truth, the story just has to catch me and not let me go. The characters might not be complex in this game, however, the games story carries the fun.

    The game mechanic's, however, seemed to want to do more than the game's content allowed. You can combine items you pick up though the game only had me do that three times. The walking animation was slow and annoying to watch especially when you had to backtrack. The art style is cute and charming, but story focused games have to worry about breaking immersion.

    Just Ignore Them
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 28%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2/10

    Every character in this title has the same face. When Mark and Brea look exactly the same it reminds you that this is an indie game on a budget. The game's length seems right for this story at two hours, but filling in more details might have been nice. It could have extended the game's exploration of mechanics as well. The developer is planning to at least add a content patch for Brea's story later. Yet it may just be the same game from a different point of view.

    Without spoiling the story, it is a very brutal, adult story. While it doesn't show any nudity there is some implied sex between the main characters. You'll have a lot of foul language to deal with too. The only reason I am not giving the violence score a zero is because it is a very low graphic pixel game. The monsters that haunt Mark, named Jiwis, are made by trying to create life from the stolen life of others. While the game may have simple graphics, I would recommend this for players that are 18 and up.

    While a brutal story, it is still a gripping horror and thriller. If you're willing to see a man truly haunted by evil and you want to help him find a small ray of sunshine, pick up Just Ignore Them.

  • King's Quest (Chapter 4 & 5) (PC)

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    Game Info:

    King's Quest
    Developed by: The Odd Gentlemen
    Published by: Sierra
    Release Date: October 25, 2016
    Available on: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $39.99 or $9.99 per chapter
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Sierra for sending us this game to review!

    After King Graham chose his bride in chapter 3 they settle down and have twins, Alexander and Rosella.  Chapter 4 begins with the twins fussing and it’s Graham’s turn to feed and change the babies in the middle of the night while avoiding stepping on toys and other objects on the floor.  Once both babies are content, Manannan breaks into the castle and steals Alexander while his parents are helplessly bound by his spell.  King Graham vows to get him back but is unsuccessful until eighteen years later when Alexander comes back to the castle after tricking Manannan.  

    Happy to have his family all together King Graham takes them back to Avalon to show off his relics and to share his story with his son (who likes to be called Caduceus now).  Before they depart King Graham has to fit all their luggage into a small chariot Tetris style.  This is one of the first of many, many, puzzles in this chapter.  Instead of the luxurious hotel reservations they have planned, the family quickly gets separated and must solve several puzzles and riddles to get re-united.  This is the perfect opportunity for Graham and his son to bond and reclaim the eighteen years that they were separated.   

    King's Quest
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great dialogue and character development
    Weak Points: Tricky puzzles that often require walkthroughs to complete
    Moral Warnings: Death and violence

    Though Alexander does things differently than King Graham, he must learn to love his son unconditionally.  There are great moral lessons in this chapter that promote the importance of understanding and loving your family members even during disagreements.

    The last chapter shows King Graham on one of his final adventures when he’s seventy-seven years old.  While he’s sharing this story with his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, many parts of the tale are incorrect or incomplete.  With her help, his adventure is re-told as he explores the same maps from the first chapter.  Some of the puzzles will return including musical ones.  Like the previous chapters, walkthroughs helped me get through the tougher puzzles.  

    King's Quest
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Since King Graham’s health is failing, this chapter takes on a more serious tone and has the least amount of puns compared to the previous ones.  While these two chapters both deal with death, they stress the importance of love and family and leaving a positive legacy to be remembered by.  The deaths in these chapters are handled gracefully and without any blood shown.

    The graphics are unique in the final chapter when it comes to King Graham’s incomplete memories.  The same colorful environments of the first chapter are there, but there are many plain white areas where the memories get “foggy.”  The throwback 8-bit and 16-bit modes add a nice touch and bring out the “feels” for fans of the original King’s Quest games.  Even the voice acting sounded antiquated in those modes!

    Anyone who enjoys adventure games should check out the latest King’s Quest series.  If you don’t like tricky puzzles or riddles, then you may want to skip this one.  In the event that you do get stuck, there are plenty of walkthroughs and videos available to help.  Overall this series has made me groan at its silly puns and got me choked up in the final chapter.  It’s a must play for any King’s Quest fan and a great way to induct new ones!  

     

  • King's Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb (PC)

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    Game Info:

    King’s Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb
    Developed by: The Odd Gentlemen
    Published by: Sierra
    Release Date: April 26. 2016
    Available on: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $39.99 or $9.99 per chapter
    (Humble Charity Link)

    Thank you Sierra for sending us a review code for this chapter!

    King Graham has established himself as the king of Daventry and all is well with his kingdom except for a baby owl that you get to help rescue in the beginning of the game.  Once the baby owl is safe and sound, Graham is showed as a little older and stronger.   Throughout the game he will get many compliments on his bulked up physique.  However, he’s lonely and there’s too much food for him and his pet gerbil, Triumph, to eat.  The villagers are too busy with their lives to join him for dinner and his staff have placed a chair next to his throne to give him a not so subtle hint.  It’s time for King Graham to find his queen.   

    After constructing a dinner guest to join their banquet, the magic mirror reveals a tower to Graham that has his future bride trapped in there.  He must rescue her at once!  Getting into the tower is not very challenging, but once inside Graham quickly learns that the magical barrier has trapped him inside along with the two pretty princesses from Kolyma.  

    Which princess is his future wife though?  That’s up to you to decide, actually.  Depending on your actions and answers a relationship will either blossom or fizzle between the two.  Princess Vee is the more logical one and is considered to be the canon choice if you want to stay true to the original King's Quest games.    Princess Neese is more adventurous, spontaneous, quirky, and is also a good fit for Graham if chosen.

    King’s Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent adventure game with lovable characters and groan worthy puns
    Weak Points: Awkward controls
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy magic and cartoon violence

    With the multiple choices comes multiple endings and you can replay this adventure to get different ones.   The adventure only lasts a couple of hours, so it won’t take too much time to see every possibility. Once you get to know the princesses’ personalities you can tailor your actions and answers accordingly.  

    The third installment is more upbeat than the previous chapter and I enjoy a good romance instead of choosing which starving person to feed for the day.  While I was able to solve many of the puzzles on my own, I did have to resort a video walkthough to guide me a couple of times.  There are musical puzzles along with some frustrating quick-time events.  The controls were irritating at times and I have tried using both a keyboard and controller and was equally annoyed with both options.  I wound up settling on the keyboard for scaling the freezing tower towards the end of the chapter.  The trick is to use both the AW and WD keys to reach areas at an angle.  Thankfully, the game is generous with its auto-saves.  

    King’s Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As with the previous chapters, the 3D cell shaded visuals look great and the characters’ expressions and personalities really shine in this entry.  The voice acting is top notch and I still do like Christopher Lloyd’s silly puns that are plentiful in this series.  

    Like all King’s Quest games, this chapter is suitable for gamers of all ages to enjoy.  There is some fantasy magic use but that’s not uncommon in fairy tales.  There are good messages about love, redemption, and to not judge someone on their outward appearance.  

    If you haven’t played a King’s Quest adventure game, this is a great one to try.  Playing the chapters in their proper order is highly recommended though.  Each chapter sells for $10, but you can buy the entire series for $39.99.  

     

  • Legend of the Skyfish (Mac)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Legend of the Skyfish
    Developed by: Mgaia Studio
    Published by: Crescent Moon Games
    Released: October 4, 2016 (Android, iOS); February 24, 2017 (Steam)
    Available on: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
    ESRB rating: E for Everyone
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $3.99 (Android, iOS); $7.99 (Steam)

    Thank you, Crescent Moon Games, for sending us this game to review!

    The sea's bounty holds innumerable riches, but also great danger. The fishermen of the region learned this the hard way, when their efforts to fish the deepest part of the sea awoke an ancient evil. The legendary Skyfish emerged and mutated the people into hideous monstrosities. One little girl was forced away from her brother and cast into the sea to drown. But fate must have smiled on her that day, because the Moonwhale rescued her. Now, with the help of the Moonwhale, a diminutive flying fish, and her trusty fishing pole, Little Red Hook seeks to destroy the Skyfish and his evil minions for good!

    “Legend of the Skyfish,” from Mgaia Studios, has the player controlling Little Red Hook. She uses her fishing line and hook to latch onto platforms or reel enemies closer, and can swing the pole like a sword to slash her enemies. In each level, she needs to destroy the Skyfish totem in order to advance. Some of the areas also contain upgrades to her hood, pole or hook in order to make her adventures a bit easier. There are a total of 45 different levels, which include three challenging boss fights.

    Legend of the Skyfish
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute graphics; nice music; challenging gameplay
    Weak Points: Little replay value; no Steam achievements or cloud saves
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    The graphics are very cute, with an island/nautical theme. Legend of the Skyfish seems inspired by the early “Legend of Zelda” games, with a cartoonish, 2D isometric perspective. All of the enemies have a fish or aquatic motif, and almost seem as a secondary distraction to the main theme of the different levels – figuring out how to navigate the different platforms and gates in order to destroy the totem pole, which looks like a representation of the Skyfish. The puzzles aren't overly complicated, but require some experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking to solve. The musical score is pleasant as well and fits the mood nicely.

    Some of the puzzles can be tricky to navigate, and sometimes Little Red Hook will take damage. If she takes too much, she will collapse to the ground with a cry of dismay. Not to worry, though – she will pop back up at the last checkpoint or the beginning of a stage. Most of the time, this is a minor setback, and you'll simply have to rethink your approach or your timing on the challenge you face. The game is quite generous with how merciful it can be.

    Legend of the Skyfish
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    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 most difficult stages are the boss battles, but these aren't to an overwhelming extent. However, it's during these times that one of the game's biggest flaws comes to light – the controls. I've played this with both the keyboard and an Xbox controller, with mixed results. Using the keyboard it was easy to move Little Red Hook around, but right-clicking with the mouse could sometimes make it harder to hit your target with the way the screen moves. Using the controller meant having much more control over the fishing line, but then it becomes more difficult to walk around and slash at her enemies. All in all, I preferred using the keyboard over the controller. Since I didn't test the game on a portable device, I can't say how Legend of the Skyfish functions with the tablet controls. The only other potential problems I found was the lack of replay value in the game, and on the Steam platform, the absence of achievements, trading cards, or cloud saving capabilities. With 45 levels, the game is surprisingly short – it contains only three fun boss battles, and can be completed in approximately six hours.

    From a moral perspective, this game is pretty clean. Little Red Hook slashes at her enemies, but they simply disappear in a puff of dust when defeated. Likewise, when she is killed, she simply falls over. There isn't any foul language to encounter – in fact, the only place text shows up is in the menus, the cutscenes, the boss fights and the story boxes upon first entering an area.

    If you're looking for a fun game, Legend of the Skyfish is a good catch. It has some thought-provoking puzzles, fun enemies and boss fights, and pleasing graphics and music. It's too bad there isn't more substance to the game – there is a lot of potential here, and the game will be over before you can get too immersed in its content. Still, at the price it offers, it could be one to reel in.

  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series (Episode One) (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
    Developer: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release Date: April 18, 2016
    Available on: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows, macOS
    Genre: Adventure
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: language, use of alcohol, violence.
    Price: $ 24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code.

    Well, this is awkward isn't it? I never thought I would play a Telltale game, yet today that promise to myself is now officially broken. Since I will be reviewing the entire season of the Telltale Guardians of the Galaxy game I will have to review things differently. You don't have much exploration or gameplay action in these Telltale games. Story will definitely take precedence over other elements. I'll give each episode its own individual score and when the game releases its final episode I'll give it a final score. Hopefully some surprises are left because the first episode left a very poor impression. This is Episode One of Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, Tangled Up In Blue.

    The game puts you in control of Peter Quill, aka “Star Lord”, the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, chasing after the galactic tyrant Thanos. They must stop him from retrieving an artifact named the Eternity Forge. They eventually end his life in the battle for the Forge, and with the Guardians being celebrated as the best heroes in the Galaxy. Soon they begin to drift apart, feeling separate from one another now that they have no purpose. Without Thanos to hunt they have nothing left except to decide whether to give his body to the Nova Corps or the mysterious Collector. However once Quill receives visions of his mother, new parties become very interested in the Eternity Forge and its true power. The Guardians will have to put aside their issues to work together.

    Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: It at least looks good and the environment is a pleasing one for a Marvel game.
    Weak Points: This first episode was a boring one to be sure, the only meaningful choice was to be buddy buddy with the green alien woman or the talking raccoon.
    Moral Warnings: Expect the usual amount of comic shenanigans from over the top violence to a bit of language. This episode also has a heavy drinking party scene. 

    Now let me get this out of the way: this first episode was extremely boring and dry. The characters seem to be built around the movie versions over the comic versions. While that would be ok, they didn't do it right at all. The Guardians in the movie are full of life while the game counterparts are cut and dry. If I didn't read the comics or watch the movie, none of these characters would be memorable aside from Peter Quill. Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Drax and even Groot would be forgettable side characters that almost felt inconsequential. The choices didn't help this at all. Aside from deciding who to give Thanos’s corpse to, every other choice felt meaningless. If I took alternate decisions I feel I would only get alternate takes of the same cutscene. Even with the big choice, the only thing it really felt like it affected for now was whether Gamora and Rocket would like me more.

    As always with a Telltale game, expect gameplay to be minimal. You'll explore areas to learn about the world around you and see certain story points. Peter does have a device that allows him to see what happened in an area a few minutes before he arrived yet that didn't change any choice or dialogue option for me. You can use Peter’s rocket boots to change where he is at in certain locations but that's a scripted option. You can't have any really goofy fun with those boots.

    Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Any action you'll get from the game is in quicktime events only. Don't expect any complicated puzzles to impede progress either. Again, simple physical gameplay wouldn't be such a bad thing, only you have to have a good story to go with it. Right now I want to go read the comics instead or see the second movie. At least the game looks nice and the music is okay too.

    Concerning morality, expect the usual amount of comic book violence and swearing, with episode one I would give it a PG-13 rating at best. You won't have any blood or gory injuries but the violence is substantial enough to give it a warning. You'll get a bit of swearing as well. This episode also has a bar scene or two. Rocket is a bit greedy too; he wants to give a dangerous tyrant over to the collector simply for a better payday then what the Nova Corps offers.

    I am not ready to give up on this game yet but I will wait and see if it impresses me. This first episode hasn't left me excited for the next one that's for sure.  

  • Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series (Episodes 2-5) (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Minecraft: Story Mode
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release Date: March 29, 2016
    Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence and mild language
    Number of Players: (single-player)
    Price: $5 per episode
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us review codes for all eight episodes!

    When Minecraft Story Mode first came out, we played and reviewed the first episode in this (originally) five-part series.  Since then the remaining episodes have come out and three more have been introduced in DLC format for an additional $15.  As of this review, the eighth installment hasn’t come out yet.  

    The season pass terminology describing the remaining episodes is confusing since that term is reserved for having access to all content in games generally speaking.  The $15 needed to conclude the cliffhanger ending in chapter five is a bitter pill to swallow for many gamers and quite a few people have spoken their minds on this matter in the Steam store reviews.  Other than those complaints, the game still has mostly positive reviews and rightfully so since the story telling and character development are both pretty good.

    Minecraft: Story Mode
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good story in a Minecraft themed universe
    Weak Points: The episodes are rather short at roughly an hour each; ends at a cliff hanger
    Moral Warnings: Characters will be attacked by zombies, creepers, ghasts, and skeletons; a couple of instances of d*mn in the dialogue; stealing from other characters is permissible 

    The gameplay is the same as the first episode with the adventure style format with plenty of quick time events required to dodge attacks from various monsters and enemy characters.  Fortunately, there are plenty of check points to respawn from in case your timing is off.  I definitely benefitted from using an external mouse over my laptop’s built in touchpad.    

    Jesse (the main character who can be either gender) wields both a sword and a bow and both will be needed to survive against the wither storm that is destroying the world as they know it.  Throughout the story the legendary Order of the Stone members will be reunited and some shocking truths will be discovered about them as well.  I like how the player has the option of helping to set the record straight about their heroic adventures.  

    The wither storm does not go down easily and the world seems to be a safe place again by the end of the fourth chapter.  (If you want to save money just stop playing from there!)  The fifth chapter focuses on the adventures of the new Order of the Stone and starts a new side story that gives the player an option to forgive, take revenge, or let justice take care of the menacing gang formerly known as the Ocelots from episode 1.  

    Minecraft: Story Mode
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Choices are crucial in this series and the lives of some characters will depend on the decisions you make.  While many characters narrowly escape death, not all of them do.  The character development is as great as ever with the funny dialogue and bickering between the members.  I liked the discussion about the formidable bomb (referred to as the F-bomb) and how people can’t carelessly drop it around.  

    The voice acting is still superb and utilizes the voice talents of many well known actors including Patton Oswalt, Catherine Taber, Dee Bradley Baker, Ashley Johnson, Brian Posehn, and Martha Plimpton.  The sound effects and visuals are nearly identical to those in Minecraft.

    Not much has changed on the moral front since the first episode.  While some of the remaining episodes were curse word free, the D-word showed up in episode four again.  The same undead monsters including zombies, ghasts, and skeletons are present throughout the game as well.  The endermen play a big part in this series too; just don’t look directly at them!

    Overall, this is a fun series that can be completed in less than ten hours for the first five chapters.  The additional three make the full series $40 for roughly fifteen hours of entertainment.  Minecraft fans and adventure gamers are bound to enjoy this game, but I’d recommend waiting for a sale because of how short the chapters are.  

  • Minecraft: Story Mode Adventure Pass (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Minecraft: Story Mode Adventure Pass
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release Date: June 7, 2016
    Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence and mild language
    Number of Players: Single player
    Price: $5 per episode
    (Humble Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us review codes for all eight episodes!

    Minecraft Story Mode was initially released as a five-part series, but has since been expanded with the Adventure pass DLC. Like many Telltale games, Minecraft Story Mode is a point and click adventure game with many quick time events.  The choices made in the game impact the characters' lives and even their feeling towards you.  At the end of every episode, the choices you made are compared against others who have finished it as well.

    The asking price of $24.99 for five episodes bundled into a “Season Pass” is reasonable for the excellent storytelling and character development.  The season pass terminology is confusing since that term is reserved for having access to all content in games generally speaking.  The $15 needed to conclude the cliffhanger ending in chapter five is a bitter pill to swallow for many gamers and quite a few people have spoken their minds on this matter in the Steam store reviews.  Other than those complaints, the game still has mostly positive reviews.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good story in a Minecraft themed universe
    Weak Points: The episodes are rather short at roughly an hour each
    Moral Warnings: Characters will killed and attacked by zombies and other monsters

    Episode six picks up where five left off with some of the Order of Stone members in an unusual world with two moons and tons of zombies.  They find an invitation to go to a mansion and decide to check it out instead of hanging around the zombies.  Upon their arrival they discover that they were not the only ones invited and are accompanied by many popular Minecraft Youtube personalities including: Joseph Garrett as Stampy Cat, Stacy Hinojosa as Stacy Plays, Dan Middleton as DanTDM (The Diamond Minecart), Lizzie Dwyer as LDShadowLady, and Jordan Maron as CaptainSparklez. As charming as these new people are, they start dying mysteriously and the group must work together to find out who is behind these murders.

    While it wasn't a game breaking glitch, I thought that it was strange that Jesse's portrait in the mansion only showed the male version of the character despite my character being female.

    In episode seven, the same Order of the Stone members are back in the hallway of portals.  Their fruitless effort of exploring portals to find the correct one home is taking a toll on them.  Petra is frustrated and Jesse lets her pick the group’s next destination.  They wind up in an automated world that is being run by a computer named PAMA.  The computer’s initial purpose was to optimize the world, but instead it’s taken it over. The Order of the Stone must intervene to get the assistance from the Old Builder who can help them get the Atlus to guide them home.

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Getting the Atlus in the final episode is easier said than done.  In order to win over the other Old Builders, the Order of the Stone members must win the gladiator style games that they’ve been thrown into.  Many choices revolving around trust and forgiveness are provided in this finale.  Can Jesse win over both the contestants and the judges?

    Throughout these final three episodes some of the deaths are permanent while others just respawn without their inventory.  There are examples of cheating and deception and revenge is an option.  On a positive note, I don’t recall any language in the Adventure Pass episodes.

    If you don’t mind the moral content in the main game, the adventure pass is worth getting.  Like the other episodes, the additional ones are relatively short at an hour and a half each.  I have completed the whole series in thirteen hours.  The entire series will set you back $40, but it’s a worthwhile adventure for Minecraft fans.

  • Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~ (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~
    Developed by: Liz-Arts
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Available on: Windows
    Release Date: May 30, 2016
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    Resette is a twelve-year-old physician/healer that has been wandering around the forest for days with her feline assistant, Gaede.  She’s getting hungry and stumbles upon an unconscious boy in the woods. Seeing that he has some bread, she eats it as an advance payment for the healing services that she’ll be providing for him.  Some of Resette’s actions are questionable and Gaede is quite vocal when he doesn’t agree with her logic or actions.  

    Logic will be required to solve many of the puzzles and contraptions scattered in this game world.  If you’re not working on a gadget to unlock a hidden key, chances are that you’ll be walking around and gathering/combining items in this 2D point and click adventure game. 

    Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute point and click adventure game that has witty dialogue and a thought provoking story
    Weak Points: Game breaking bugs and short amount of gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Blood and violence; healing magic used

    Some of the puzzles are easier to solve than others.  I was able to complete the weights and balance one without any help but some of the others I solved with the help of a YouTube walkthrough.  Sadly, some of the puzzles like the aforementioned weights one glitched out on me where I lost a crucial weight needed to solve it. Be sure to save early and often because that wasn’t the only bug I encountered.  

    Even when I saved I still lost some progress and had to re-read some dialogue all over again.  Fortunately, there’s a skip button that I used multiple times.  Despite the glitches and slow downs, I still managed to beat this game in roughly two hours.  

    Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10
    +3 for a good moral lesson (forgiveness)

    Graphically, this game has a combination of art styles.  The backdrops are water color paintings while the characters are anime themed.  The intro movie/game trailer is well done and is similar to many anime intros out there.  The interface is a little strange and by default this game does not run in full-screen mode.  Activating full-screen is done by pressing the F11 key, but bringing up the menu to exit the game brings it back into a windowed game mode.

    The background music is fitting and pleasant to listen to.  There is no voice acting, but the dialogue is funny and clean enough for children to enjoy this game.  The plot is a little dark and deals with people blindly following the law no matter the cost.  There are some violent scenes and blood is shown as a result.  Despite the violence, there is a theme of forgiveness.

    While the story of healing and forgiveness is good in Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~, I have a hard time recommending this short game at full price.  It’s definitely worth picking up on sale and hopefully the glitches are addressed before a discount becomes available.  In the end, any anime or point and click adventure gamer should keep an eye out for this cute game.  

     

  • RymdResa (PC)

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    Game Info:

    RymdResa
    Developed By: Morgondag
    Published By: Morgondag
    Released: 20 August 2015
    Available On: Mac OSX,
    SteamOS, Linux, Windows
    Genre: Adventure, RPG
    ESRB Rating: NA
    Number of Players: 1 offline 
    Price: $11.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    A couple of years ago, over 200,000 people volunteered to be a part of a one way trip to Mars.  Perhaps, if they had played RymdResa before applying, there would have been a lot less applications.

    RymdResa is a space exploration game, first and foremost.  You get in your ship and fly out towards the far reaches of space to complete your mission.  You explore various abandoned spaceships, stations, planets and nebulas: collecting items to equip to your ship, gaining experience and starpoints to increase your Pilot level and purchase better ships respectively.  You also die, a lot.

    Space is unforgiving and RymdResa portrays just how deadly it can be.  Hit the afterburner and you are very likely to crash into a hazard, like a mine field, which will pretty much instantly kill you.  You can see it coming yet cannot change course until your burn out, helplessly smashing in to the hazard.

    The game is controlled using a mouse and keyboard or a controller.  I used mouse and keyboard for my playthrough and found it easy enough to control and manage my spaceship and the various menus.

    When I entered my spaceship for the first time I was taken aback by the graphics of the game.  Your ships are mostly white silhouettes and the graphics mainly consist of simplistic 2D.  Yet, it adds to its charm.  Art may be simple in some areas but more detailed in others.  Sounds effects are fairly simplistic, yet passable and generally fit with the style of the game.  The music, while OK for a short while becomes repetitive and you would be better off playing some of your own music or listening to something in the background while you play.

    RymdResa
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Expansive universe to explore; plenty of collectable items for completionists
    Weak Points: You can die very quickly and easily; repetitive music and boss encounters 
    Moral Warnings:None

    Health is managed using resources.  Each ship in the game has a maximum amount of resources you can carry.  Activating your engines will consume resources.  Investigating wrecks and planets can also deplete (or add) resources.  When your resources reach 0, you die.  It’s pretty simple.  If you want to live, always keep your resources topped up.

    RymdResa has 3 chapters to complete.  Unlocking the first chapter will allow you to progress on to the next one.  Each chapter has its own mission to complete.  In the first chapter you follow a sequence of waypoints and collect specific items.  It seems simple, yet is challenge because if you die you lose those items and have to start from the beginning.  It feels like a harsh penalty, yet it teaches you to be careful in your fragile starter ship.  I found it easy enough to complete after learning from a few accidental deaths.

    There is plenty of stuff to explore and collect in the game.  Consumable items, to aid your exploration and help protect your ship, research items for permanent upgrades and equippable ship items to enhance the performance of your ship and pilot abilities.  Diary pods are poem entries conveying a feeling of loneliness.  Starpoints are used to buy new ships, gained by collecting stars littered across space.

    By exploring space you gradually increase your Pilot level, split across 4 statistical areas:  Exploration, Scouring, Technology and Survival.  Each has their own advantages and can unlock additional items found in space, increasing starting resources and new items to aid in your exploration.  I found the Technology skill to be useful as it allowed me to use floating platforms to gain additional experience and to refuel my resources.

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    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

    In the final chapter you will come across 3 boss encounters.  On first play I thought it was interesting and a cool concept.  I rapidly changed my opinion on the next boss encounter.  Each boss encounter provides a sequence of dialogue choices.  Choose wrongly and the boss will attack you, causing damage to your ship.  Choose the right answer and you may be rewarded with some starpoints and are less likely to be attacked.  

    The dialogue choices are set in stone, so once you know the sequence of correct choices, the boss fight can be completed easily.  For the last 2 bosses I used a guide as I did not like having to travel a great distance each time I made a few wrong dialogue choices.

    For those who complete the main mission of each chapter, you can seek out ghost ships.  These ghost ships are littered throughout space and are generally far away from the starting area.  I never encountered any of these ghost ships but once again there is a community guide available to seek them out.  There are optional side missions in each chapter adding to the length of the game, providing more rewards.

    Additionally, for those who didn’t quite satisfy their explorer itch, there is a Sandbox mode.  Sandbox is much more relaxed.  There is no death.  Interestingly, each time you start you end up in a random ship.  Experience and items do not transfer over from the scenario missions; whatever you accumulate will persist within the Sandbox mode.  It adds more play time for those who want to fully equip each ship and explore freely without the risk of death.

    I enjoyed my playtime with RymdResa.  It has a lot to offer and keep you entertained for many hours, especially if you are a completionist.  While death can come quickly, it’s mostly down to the player’s own choice of risk/reward or generally careless attitude.  In my experience the risk generally outweighs the reward and it always pays to err on the side of caution.  I didn’t notice anything morally objectionable in the game.  This is purely an exploration game with no combat.  The only minor thing that could be questioned was in the boss encounters, where you had to choose a dialogue option that was a lie and being attacked by roaming alien spaceships when you get too close.

  • Scéal (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Scéal
    Developed By: Joint Custody
    Published By: Joint Custody
    Released: October 27, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Indie, Casual
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: $4.99 on Steam

    Big thanks to Joint Custody for sending in their game!

    What is Scéal? In Irish Gaelic, the word itself means 'story', and to Sandro Magliocco from Joint Custody it's a means to emote his childhood memories. Inspired by Celtic fueled films like The Secret of Kells, he wanted to recapture the quaint charms of an Irish village much like the one he grew up in, and with his team's support he set out to do just that in video game form. Released in 2016 on Steam, Sandro's pet project set out to carry us away to the Emerald Isle, but are there more than Celtic knots to mangle God's Truth?

    You start the game, and an old book opens to begin its tale. You play as a young girl who has died - quite recently in fact. Problem is, you don't know how you died, who you were, nor where you lived. To make it worse, you have to know this stuff in order to enter the afterlife, which is kind of difficult when your'e an amnesiac. Thankfully, the guardian of the dead, a crow called Branna, has a solution. It presents to you an enchanted book that you must re-paint, and inside are hidden three magic feathers. Find the feathers, and you'll find your memories. Then and only then will you pass on.

    At first glance, the story sounds interesting and is hyped up as the game's focus. It's even in the title for pity's sake. The way it's told in rhyme is nice if occasionally forced. Unfortunately, what's being told is anything but epic. This tale is as basic as you can get with nothing remotely unique about it at all. True, there are three possible endings to add variety, but these finishers left me un-entertained and confused. Two out of the three made absolutely no sense, and the real kicker is that the downer ending was the logical one. Now, don't misread me. For the most part, the story itself is passable. By no means is it a catastrophe, but for a plot that is touted as a big selling point, it's nowhere close to meeting the lofty expectations they garnered. The story isn't bad. It's just nothing special.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Pleasant visuals; Music captures the Irish vibe
    Weak Points: Simplistic Story; Unengaging Gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Magic Windstones; Mixed-up Portrayal of the Afterlife and the spiritual world in general

    Scéal's structure is divided into three chapters. You might think that isn't much, and you'd be correct. You could beat a single chapter in under five minutes, and each one carries the same basic pattern: paint buildings, find villager, paint designated objects, pick up feather. That's pretty much it. The last chapter does alter the cycle a little but not enough to write about. Now, being a short game with a simple structure isn't a bad thing in itself. Brief runtimes are prone to high replay-ability, but Scéal's preset tasks make reruns an unrewarding rehash. If the developers thought to randomize feather locations, buildings to paint, or even just let you paint whatever you wanted it could have fixed the problem and strengthened the need to explore. Unfortunately, this isn't the case, so Scéal is more like an actual book than an interactive game in that regard. (Also, there are no save files, so you'll have to finish the entire game if someone else wants a turn.)

    The controls are pretty straightforward. Click, hold, and point your mouse in the direction you want to go and scrub your brush back and forth to paint/change objects. Sounds simple, right? Well, sort of. At times, I had to click and re-click to get the ghost to listen, especially when switching paths or going uphill. Apparently, being able to float doesn't make you very mobile. Additionally, Scéal goes overboard in telling you what to do. There's no real invitation to look around for yourself. They spell out where the hidden items are, spoiling the idea of 'searching,' and clouded buildings are tagged with obvious icons, as if the fog covering wasn't already a giveaway. I also don't know why the developers bothered to call swiping at fog 'painting.' You can clearly see the building's actual colors underneath, so it's more like wiping frost off of your windshield than adding color. It shouldn't be that big of a deal, but similar to my complaints about the story, the advertising wasn't accurate. If they say I'm gonna paint, I should feel like I'm painting. On a similar note, there are two occasions where your little ghost transforms into either an angel or a banshee. You'll then be asked to either brighten or darken the environment around you, but your actions don't differ from the usual fare. You just rinse and repeat. Later on, you possess a villager (more on that nugget later), but all this involves is double clicking a person and walking around. It's obvious that this game didn't intend to be a challenge, and that's okay. I just wish the kinks were smoothed out, and they didn't treat the players like idiots.

    Story, structure, and gameplay may be subpar, but I cannot deny the effort put in Scéal's presentation. The visuals capitalize on Irish artworks' emphasis for crowded yet finely blended details, but then the creators at Joint Custody took it a step further. First, they accomplished the storybook feel with flat structures that pop up whenever you're nearby. Second, they allowed the art to breathe by having the scenery change around you. As an angel, you bathe the world in sunshine, and summer blooms. As a banshee, villagers flee from your cold shadow, and winter dries the plants in greyscale. They even included night and day cycles with transitions to boot. That meant the artists had to paint Scéal's world no less than nine times! Now that's a feat! I paused often just to sit back and drink it all in. Our ghost's fluid movements and alternate forms were lovely too. For music, professional Irish musicians recorded Scéal's score in Dublin, and their tunes, often sung in Gaelic, were pleasing to the ear. The only presentational nitpicks I have are that the villagers' walk cycles looked a bit unnatural, and there were awkward pauses between music cycles. I may not have enjoyed playing Scéal, but I loved being in it.

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

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Sadly, I did stumble upon some technical difficulties. I first tried it on a laptop: with the basic requirements, and it started off really choppy. I resorted to the lowest resolution and had the game windowed just to get it to playable conditions. If you have a stronger system than mine, I'm certain you won't have a problem. On a side note, there were a couple times the villager AI malfunctioned. One got caught in a road sign twice, and several others, while straining to follow my lead, began rapidly flipping directions in some jerky dance. It was indeed hilarious but needs a tuneup. Lastly, Scéal's biggest programming blunder were the three times the camera zoomed in too close to a church for me to paint. This hiccup was so major it forced me to quit the game and restart. I guess that one slipped past quality control.

    To discuss Scéal's moral integrity is tricky. On the one hand, it's upfront about its intent to showcase Irish customs and folklore. Thus, no Christian should be surprised by its inaccurate portrayal of the spiritual realm. I then considered Scéal's possible use as a teaching tool for mythology classes, but after investigating, I found very few similarities between its elements and actual recorded myth. However, educational or not, there are spots where I take serious issue. For one thing, this game fell into the basic 'follow your heart' trap. Then it had you answer a woman's prayers by restoring magic wind stones, and when you, the dead person, possess a living human it's treated as a good thing. Worst still is the implication that the nightmarish banshee isn't an evil creature as it's traditionally depicted. It's not that I don't believe God can and does use evil according to His perfect will for the ultimate good. It's the fact that the hellish banshee is presented as a fully aware agent for good that I've got a beef with.

    In conclusion, I'm conflicted over Scéal. Half of it I liked. Half of it I didn't like. My judgments on the game itself were only further complicated thanks to Joint Custody's misplaced advertising. Due to Scéal's unimpressive narrative, lackluster gameplay, and short campaign, it felt as flat as their backgrounds. Yet because of its beautiful art style and gentle music, I can't call it a total waste. A a result, Scéal is comparable to a bedtime story. It's a diversion for tired minds and not intended to be psychoanalyzed. Within its mindless tasks, Sandro Magliocco did capture those relaxing Irish vibes. However, I'm still uncomfortable with letting an impressionable child into its morally mixed up pages. If you're seeking a sweeping narrative or a test of skill, move along; there's nothing for you here. But if you want to indulge your Celtic thirst, this could suffice. Otherwise, Scéal is more or less an ornamental goblet. It's lovely to see but ultimately hollow.

     

  • Shadow Complex (Xbox 360)

     

    Release Date: August 19, 2009
    ESRB Rating: Teen for mild language and violence
    Available On: Xbox Live Arcade
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: 1
    Retail Price: $15 (1200 Microsoft Points)
    Strong Points: Fantastic gameplay with a classic design; equally impressive graphics; likable protagonist in a great setting
    Weak Points: Narration is somewhat sparse; occasional graphical glitching; all good things come to an end
    Moral Warnings: Use of guns, explosives, and hand-to-hand combat to kill a great number of threatening humans, robots and machines; a few instances of mild profanity

    Have you heard of Shadow Complex? If not, you\'re missing out. I\'m not usually one to give away the ending, but I\'m making an exception for Shadow Complex. If you have an Xbox 360 and internet access, Shadow Complex is easily one of the best uses of $15 bucks you could spend on a video game. But if you were looking for a fanboy\'s praise for a game, you would have looked elsewhere. Instead, a fair and proper review seems in order, so let\'s get right to it.

    First things first, Shadow Complex is in every respect what many gamers would call "metroidvania adventure" set against a backdrop of political conspiracy based on Orson Scott Card\'s novel, Empire. If you\'ve ever played a 2D entry in the Metroid or Castlevania game series, then you know what to expect from a metroidvania game design. But I\'ll go ahead and assume for the sake of explanation that you are not particularly familiar with either series and unpack the design a little bit.

     

    The gameplay in Shadow Complex is fairly straightforward in design: work your way through a maze of rooms with subtle puzzles to put a stop to a great evil, acquiring a host of tools to make your work easier along the way. While the concept is straightforward, the actual gameplay is nowhere near as linear. The complex (pun unavoidable) that serves as the game world is deep and complicated. New upgrades open new paths. Areas that were closed off at the beginning of the game end up a necessary path to a given goal later in the game. A lot of backtracking can take place, but a detailed in-game map makes the necessary path clear, and the execution is enjoyable in the name of exploration.

    The game is designed to reflect classic 2D platforming designs. The emphasis on exploration is evident in the twisting corridors, the hidden pathways, and the items that are just out of reach at first. Thankfully, in addition to a host of explosive items to help clear paths, you are equipped with a flashlight that reveals destructible objects in a color-coded highlighting, each color representing which tool is needed to clear the way.

    Your toolset starts small, with nothing more than a pistol and a flashlight, but you eventually gain a considerable array of tools. Some of these upgrades are offensive, including grenades and missiles, while others are strictly useful for exploration, such as jump boosters and a mask that allows you to breathe underwater. To give depth to the game, it is necessary to use multiple tools in conjunction with each other to reach a hidden area or bring down particularly nasty opponents. This is particularly good since the run and gun combat of shooting standard infantry could easily grow stale. Thankfully, the combat varies with the circumstance, and it is very common to have to think before shooting when entering a room for the first time lest enemies take advantage of their surroundings better than you.

    And it makes sense that the enemies would have the upper hand, seeing as you are the one invading their hidden facility. As mentioned earlier, Shadow Complex is set in the world of Orson Scott Card\'s novel, Empire. In the game, you play as Jason Flemming, the son of a prior government agent who refused to take up his father\'s profession. While out on a date with your girlfriend, Claire, in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, she is kidnapped by agents of a militaristic group intent on overthrowing the US government (as strongly hinted at in the game\'s opening sequence involving the assassination of the vice president). While the premise suits the gameplay perfectly, and the setting and characters are good, the narrative aspects of Shadow Complex are not on par with the novel it is based on.

     

    For better or worse, the gameplay does not hinge on the narrative, so the somewhat sparse narration is permissible. Pleasantly, this is Shadow Complex\'s greatest flaw. Overall production qualities are positively exceptional. The graphics are nothing short of wowing. It\'s unsurprising to find that the game uses the Unreal 3 engine in light of this, but it\'s easy to be taken aback by the fact that the graphics here are better than a great number of retail games. The models are detailed and fluid. Explosion and other effects are quite solid, but the use of lighting and screen filters is very impressive. There is no slacking in the audio department, either. Sound effects, voice overs, the works; they all come into play quite well. The soundtrack is not particularly memorable, but it remains solid.

    The game even fares better than most in the realm of moral matters. Countless insurgents (which are fully armed and armored) are killed in self-defense, but blood and gore is left out entirely. Pleasantly enough, Jason is presented as someone who fights because he has to, not because he wants to. An early cinematic reveals this as he turns down his father\'s advice to become an agent. Nevertheless, many are killed by gunfire and explosions. There is nothing to say about sexual or occult material as it is entirely non-existent. There are a few, fairly minor, profanities used in the narrative. The worst is a single use of "ba----d," but a couple uses of "hell" and "d--n" make their way into the game, too. On the positive side, the narrative shows that violence should be a last-resort measure; it also promotes selflessness to the point of sacrifice for loved ones and country.

    When all is said and done, this exceptionally well-made game (derivative as it may be in many places) is easy to recommend to most people. Only to those put off by the violence and few profanities would I hesitate to recommend Shadow Complex. But for just about any other gamer, this is not a game to be missed. The blend of action and adventure comes together perfectly with a pacing that makes the next goal urgent while still allowing you explore every nook and cranny (and doing so yields great rewards) your gear will permit you to. The game even includes some time trial missions for extra play time, not that you\'ll be done with the game simply because you beat it once. Hands down, this is not only the best game on Xbox Live Marketplace, but it also holds its own against a host of retail games, and it is worth every last penny.

    -Kenny Yeager ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
    http://www.kennyyeager.info

    Game Score - 47/50
    Morality Score - 43/50

    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls 5/5

    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

     

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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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