enfrdeitptrues

Adventure

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    A Rite from the Stars
    Developed by: Risin’ Goat
    Published by: Phoenix Online Studios
    Release date: July 19, 2018
    Available on: macOS, OUYA, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Phoenix Online Studios for sending us this game to review!

    A Rite from the Stars was successfully Kickstarted in 2015 and promised to bring to life a fresh and new 3D point and click adventure game. This title takes place on the island of Kaikala which is inhabited by the Makoa tribe. Although the island is fictional, the tribe is real and this game uses their language and voices for the dialogue in it.

    The main character is Kirm who is about to embark on his rite of passage with the help of his guiding star. His star can talk, but Kirm is mute. There are three paths that he must complete to be acknowledged as a man in his tribe and they are Courage, Spirit, and Wisdom.

    Each of the paths require different skills to complete them and new game mechanics are introduced as well to keep things fresh and exciting. In the courage path Kirm is accompanied by his spirit animal, a meerkat, who also is mute. Not only can the meerkat absorb poison, it can get to areas that Kirm can’t reach. Many of the obstacles require controlling both Kirm and his meerkat simultaneously using both mouse buttons. The spirit path requires avoiding the harmful spirits and receiving a revelation from the heavens. In this section, you have to switch between the spirit realm and the mortal world often. The wisdom path has many puzzles that are typical of point and click adventure games. Some of the puzzles are musical and a few still remain a mystery to me.

    A Rite from the Stars
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Each of the three paths provides new gameplay mechanics and variety
    Weak Points: Though there are plenty of Steam achievements, many of them are nearly impossible to achieve; not enough walkthroughs or discussion forums to provide help if you get stuck; odd game crashes and glitches
    Moral Warnings: This game revolves around the beliefs of the Makoa tribe and their guiding stars; a spiritual realm where the spirits kill mortals who enter it, and the ability to offer a sacrifice to one of their gods; Kirm gets called names by the chief and there is mild cursing (d*mn); males only wear loin cloths

     

    I was able to solve many of the puzzle on my own. If you get stuck, there is a built-in hint system though it usually repeats what the guiding star already told me so I didn’t find it very helpful or worth losing a Steam achievement over. While there are many Steam achievements available, most of them are nigh impossible to earn. There are a few video walkthroughs available but I couldn’t find any in the areas I got stuck in which makes me wonder if other gamers/streamers gave up like I did. It’s worth noting that my Steam discussion thread still remains unanswered so without any walkthroughs or assistance, I won’t be able to progress any further.

    The video walkthroughs I found did help me get through some pretty odd glitches I experienced. For example, there is an area where the meerkat has to climb onto a vine and if you don’t do it within two seconds of stepping on a poisonous flower, it can’t be done at all. While I appreciate the randomness of some of the puzzles, it can be detrimental at times. There are some boss battles that can go south quickly if the random attacks are working against you. During the sleeping dragon boss you have to stand still when its eyes are open. There are also falling rocks which you have to dodge despite the dragon’s eyes being open. So many times I had to choose between having my meerkat die by flaming dragon breath or falling rocks. And just when I got the meerkat safe, a rock would fall on Kirm instead.

    A Rite from the Stars
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 67%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Thankfully, there are plenty of checkpoints that you can resume from at any time. You don’t have to complete a rite from start to finish and you can go back and replay a different area or one you already completed if you wish. Scattered through each of the areas are leaves and glyphs that you can find to earn some Steam achievements.

    Though you can die in this game, it’s not very gruesome or bloody. While I appreciate the tribal culture, I’m not a fan of their gods and prefer not to make sacrifices to them. The spirit realm has evil spirits that consume mortals who dare to enter it.

    A Rite from the Stars has a nice concept and it definitely shines when it comes to the audio and visuals in it. I think the controls could use some more polish and the lack of gamepad support is quite strange given the support for it on OUYA. It’s also a shame that the discussion boards seem to be inactive now as well. I only recommend this game if you enjoy point and click adventure games and don’t mind the heavy spiritual references in it.

  • 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.

  • 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!

     

  • 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 - 56%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    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.  

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman – The Telltale Series
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: November 14, 2017
    Available on: iOS, Android, Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB rating: Mature for Violence, Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Batman has had a number of successful video game titles through the Arkham series. But while the Arkham games have done a great job making you feel like Batman in a combat sense, they have not been able to give you the freedom to choose what kind of Batman you would like to be. Telltale Games has chosen to put their own spin on the Batman franchise, creating a truly immersive experience.

    Games developed by Telltale emphasize choice over action. Their titles are broken up into “episodes” that are released over several months. In each episode, you make a plethora of choices that alter the way the story plays out. Looking up the differences in stories on the internet, it can be staggering how important your decisions are. Though the story has a basic outline that cannot be altered, several important details change based on your actions. But that being said, some people have complained that you don’t really play a “game,” so much as watch a movie and make some choices. While there isn’t much physical activity for your character, there is still plenty of stuff in the game that is dependent on you.

    In this 5-part episodic series, Batman is still relatively new. He has gained a reputation for being aggressive, but very few of his iconic enemies actually exist. This, however, is not an “origin story.” We are given an account of how he became Batman, but for the most part, this is a straightforward (although very dark) modern Batman adventure.

    Bruce Wayne is having difficulty balancing the two lives he lives, as he finds himself regularly beaten and bloody. On top of this, he is funding a campaign for his friend Harvey Dent, who is running for mayor. What follows is an emotionally trying story for Bruce, as he learns over time that his parents were not as good-natured as he thought they were.

    Batman – The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Truly immersive experience makes you feel like Batman; great story forces you to make difficult choices; three-dimensional characters; great music and voice acting; unique art style
    Weak Points: Technical issues with the Switch version; Telltale's graphic engine causes some weird animations; Some characters treat you as cruel even when you choose not to be
    Moral Warnings: Very graphic images, most of them not optional; swearing and blaspheming shows up throughout the dialogue; an optional sex scene; implied child abuse; the story is largely about a drug operation

    Telltale’s emphasis on choices and story over action allows for some truly memorable characters. Two-dimensionality doesn’t ever seem to be an issue for this game’s characters. Even though Batman: The Telltale Series is a game, it is written more like a movie or a TV series. The story might not work so well for the big screen, but it is excellent for putting you in situations that are morally grey. Several times I found myself wondering if I did the right thing or not. I tried to be a “moral high-ground” Batman, but oftentimes, being a better person made life harder. The game wants you to believe that sometimes playing in the dark side yields better results.

    For example, in one scene, Batman is interrogating a sniper by hanging him up. At one point, Batman begins to apply pressure to the sniper’s arm, causing him to slowly feel pain. If you stop, Jim Gordon (who’s a lieutenant in this game) will notice your “nonviolent” approach. But if you break his arm, you will gain more valuable information.

    Because this game emphasizes choices, there is not a lot of movement for your character. There are a few segments that are “point-and-click,” where you basically walk around and click on objects to examine them. This gameplay style is also applied to crime scene investigations, which involve you linking parts of the crime scene together so that you can figure out what actually occurred. As far as action sequences go, there are a number of fight scenes, but these are carried out through a series of "quick time events."

    Visually, the game is a mixed bag. On one hand, Telltale has crafted a beautiful style that looks like it jumped right out of a comic book. But on the other hand, the Switch version features lower-resolution models. This doesn’t seem to change the visuals too much, but it makes some of the side characters look rather ugly. The lower resolution also gives all the characters grey pupils instead of black, which at times can be distracting. Where the real problem comes in is that Telltale’s graphic engine causes some really weird animations. Though the action is, for the most part, well choreographed, sometimes the characters can move very stiffly. In the final episode, I went a whole five minutes where Bruce Wayne’s mouth wouldn’t move for some reason. These technical issues are a bit of a shame given how good the characters’ facial expressions often are.

    Though the visuals have some issues, the sound is fantastic. All of the actors give great performances that really help sell the drama. Some of the actors include Troy Baker as Batman (who, oddly enough, previously voiced him in the LEGO Batman games), Laura Bailey as Catwoman, and Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent. The music is very good, too. All of it is very orchestral and could easily be used as a film soundtrack.

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

    Game Score - 85%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7.5/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 2/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Unfortunately, the Switch version of the game has some technical difficulties outside of the graphics. It has been floating around the internet that a glitch can occur in Episode 4 that freezes the game. Shutting the console down and bringing the game back up will cause your previous choices to become void. I had the unpleasant experience of finding this glitch. The rest of the episode played out fine, but when I started the fifth episode, none of my choices remained the same. Telltale has released a temporary solution to the problem, but it didn’t help my situation. I had to completely restart the game, which was very frustrating. The Switch version does come with one particular benefit, however. Unlike its Xbox and PlayStation counterparts, it comes with all five episodes downloaded onto the cartridge. The other versions have the first episode downloaded, but you had to download the others as they released. Our review to the original release was split into two parts because of this. Outside of having all episodes downloaded, the Switch version allows you to play the entire game with its touch screen like the mobile version of the game, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

    Morally speaking, this game is M-rated for Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Content, and Violence. I would say it definitely earns that rating. Harsh language is spread throughout the game, though most prevalent in the first episode. God***n is probably used more than any other curse word in the game, though there are other less common blasphemies such as “Jesus,” “God,” and “Christ.” The f-word is surprisingly not in this game. However, there are some occasional uses of “d**n,” "a**," “hell,” “s**t,” “p***k,” "b***h," and “b*****d.” Of course, that is all I found in one play through. There’s no guarantee that that is all that is in there as far as language goes.

    You might notice that the Switch version of the game is the only one rated for Sexual Content. This is because it is the only physical version of the game that was released after all five episodes had been finished. The game being rated for Sexual Content, however, is not as big of an issue as it might sound. In Episode 3, you can choose to have sex with Selina Kyle in a scene where Bruce Wayne is in her apartment. I avoided this scene by telling her that she “had the wrong idea” when she rests her head on Bruce’s shoulder. I don’t know if this is the only way to avoid this scene, but it seems to be the safest way to go. Outside of this one scene, there are a couple of innuendos in the dialogue, but nothing that would be deemed too inappropriate for an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Also, both Selina and Bruce are shown underdressed regardless of what you choose. Selina wears a tank top and short shorts, while Bruce is shown in nothing but his boxers.

    This game’s M-rating seems to come primarily from the violence. The game is very dark and violent, though thankfully most of the violence is not caused by you. You can choose to be a violent monster, but you definitely don’t have to. It is a little annoying, though, that regardless of how nonviolent you are, some people will act like you’re brutal. As stated earlier, the game seems to encourage you to act harshly in order to get more immediate results. However, my more merciful approach seemed to have worked out well in the long run. Within fifteen seconds of the game, a security guard gets shot in the head. As the story progresses a few more people get shot in the head and blood shoots out. As you fight people at various points in the game, little bits of blood will fly out of their bodies, sometimes to an unrealistic degree. Perhaps the most disturbing parts of the game, however, involve the crime scenes. There are a few graphic crime scenes you investigate throughout the episodes, though easily the most disturbing is in the first episode. In this scene, we see a man’s exploded remains, a man who’s face has been slashed up, and a man who’s head has a bullet you end up digging out with a metal rod. In a later crime scene, a person is shown with their eyes gouged out.

    Personally, I don’t feel like the violent images are nearly as disturbing as they could have been. Thanks to Telltale’s graphic style, the blood effects will often look weird and the other violent elements will not look very realistic. I still would not encourage anyone under eighteen to play it.

    The entire story is centered around drugs. The drugs in question cause people to ignore their moral filters, which results in them acting violently. In Episode 5, you encounter a torture chamber at the bottom of a suburban house. Inside this chamber are violent drawings, whipping belts, and bloody shackles. You discover that a character was tortured there and left for long periods of time by herself when she was a child. Anytime you examine something, you hear faint cries and screams from this character. Of all the disturbing elements in this game, this was by far the one I had the most difficulty stomaching. Even though not much of this is actually shown, the plot point is of a subject matter I am very uncomfortable with.

    It’s a shame that the game has so many moral issues, because it is such a fantastic game. The whole “be your own Batman” concept has a lot of appeal, and the game executes it incredibly well. I don’t play a lot of M-rated games, but this was one that I personally do not regret playing. Because of some of the technical issues, I would not recommend getting the Switch version over the others. I chose the Switch version because it allowed me to play it with headphones on a smaller screen. Though I was alright with listening to the language and seeing the graphic images, I didn’t want my younger siblings hearing and seeing those things. If you choose to purchase the Switch edition, make sure you maintain multiple save files so that if one corrupts, you can try again without having to restart completely. If you don’t have any issues with the aforementioned moral content, I cannot recommend this game enough! Telltale’s Batman is a fantastic experience that is unique among other superhero games.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: August 8, 2017
    Available on: Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for violence, blood and gore, mild language
    Price: $24.99 (season pass)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code for this series!

    Batman: The Enemy Within takes place shortly after the previous Telltale Batman series. Bruce Wayne is atoning for his father’s crimes and is no longer the public face of Wayne Enterprises. The company has been doing well since he was forced to step down as CEO. Alfred still has trauma from his recent kidnapping by Lady Arkham, but he won’t let that get in the way of aiding Bruce/Batman any way he can.

    The enemies from the previous series are pretty quiet in this one. Lady Arkham is presumed dead, yet her body was never located. Harvey Dent was taken away by GCPD and is either in jail or in a mental institution for his crimes. John Doe/The Joker awkwardly appears at a funeral and depending on Bruce’s decisions he can be friendly or upset with him. John Doe and Bruce share a common foe, The Riddler.

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great story; tough decisions
    Weak Points: Lots of quick time events if you’re not a fan of them
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence, blood, and gore; gambling; language and blaspheming

    True to his name, The Riddler demands answers to riddles in exchange for a chance to survive. One of his riddles is “What question can you never answer yes to?” The answer is "Are you dead?". His methods are cruel and often deadly if answered too slowly or incorrectly. Like the previous series, blood and gore is plentiful in this title. The Riddler likes to use torture/death chambers to trap his targets in until he gets the answers he seeks. In the beginning of this episode, a crime boss is in one of these chambers and takes too long to respond and you get to watch a saw blade remove the tips of a couple of his fingers. Many people get shot and one guy gets his throat cut open. Fortunately, not everyone dies as some people only get tased.

    Lives of people will depend on the decisions that Bruce/Batman makes. Because of some choices I made I spared the lives of some agents while causing deafness in another. Not all of the decisions are tough ones though. Besides being able to chose Batman’s gadget color, you can also select the music he listens to while working in the Batcave. I chose classical over ambient or jazz.

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 62%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - -10/10

    I like how you can have Bruce tell the truth or lie to people. I often went the truthful route and actually made some people angry by being honest. Besides lying you’ll see some gambling, smoking, and drinking throughout the game. Gotham is a pretty dangerous town but lung cancer may kill Commissioner Gordon before a bullet does. Foul language is also prevalent in this game and some characters don’t hesitate in taking the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve already covered the violence earlier in this review and because of the gore alone, this game should not be played by or near young children.

    The background music, sound effects, and voice acting are all top notch as usual with Telltale’s games. Visually, this series is very similar to the previous one and it ran great on my GTX1070 powered laptop. The previous installment had performance issues which I have not experienced in this one.

    Overall, this series is off to a great start and I look forward to the next four episodes. If you don’t mind the moral issues in this series or the previous one, I recommend checking it out. Because of the gruesome violence, please don’t play this game around kids. As an adult I cringed several times.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: Finale released on March 27, 2018
    Available on: Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for violence, blood and gore, mild language
    Price: $24.99 (season pass)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code for this series!

    The first of five episodes for Batman Enemy: The Enemy Within released back in August of 2017. We reviewed it here. I won’t spoil the ending of that episode, but I will say that the Riddler was working with several villains that Batman will get introduced to in the remaining chapters. The cast includes Mr. Freeze, Bane, Harley Quinn, and even Bruce Wayne’s potential love interest from the previous game, Catwoman. John Doe finally evolves into The Joker, but what type he becomes depends on the choices made in this story-driven 3D adventure game.

    The Joker I got was the vigilante one as I tried my best to keep John Doe in check. He’s got a big crush on Harley Quinn and easily gets jealous of Bruce Wayne when she flirts with him. Bruce can either reciprocate or deflect her sexual advances. I saw how jealous John got when taking a sip of her Icee so I didn’t push the envelope any further than that. I did, however, get another kiss from Selena/Catwoman. Though after some of the choices I made, I doubt she’ll ever like Bruce Wayne again. I love how at the end of each episode your choices are compared with everyone else’s and my decisions were usually in line with theirs, but not all of the time.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great story; tough decisions
    Weak Points: Lots of quick time events if you’re not a fan of them; game crashed to desktop once
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence, blood, and gore; drinking/drunkenness; language and blaspheming; suggestive dialogue

    A lot of the story revolves around revenge and grudges. You can forgive people or choose not to accept their apologies. Their relationship with you changes by your actions and words. In order to prevent the allied enemies from destroying Gotham City with a super virus, Bruce Wayne must go undercover and join their ranks and earn their trust. Of course, they don’t just take him at his word; they put Bruce through many loyalty tests and avoiding bloodshed is not always possible.

    Blood is unavoidable and along with several civilians, Batman takes quite a beating. While Alfred fixes him up most of the time, the player must assist in a patch-up job that involves removing debris, disinfecting the wound, and stapling it shut. I cringed at each staple put in place. Unfortunately, all of the violence and stress is taking quite a toll on Alfred and he’s on the verge of a mental breakdown if drastic changes are not made. There are lots of tough decisions to be made in the title. There is an option to let online players make the decisions for you if you wish.

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

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    This game looked great with the 3D cel-shaded visuals. There are a lot of action packed scenes and many quick time events where you have to press the Q, E, and/or the Shift key to make or dodge attacks. Thankfully, there are many save points so you won’t lose much progress if an enemy strikes a fatal blow to Bruce/Batman. I did experience one crash to desktop, but didn’t lose too much progress thanks to the generous save system.

    As always, the voice acting is stellar and each character has some great lines. The Joker’s antics cracked me up a lot. Unfortunately, many of the characters cuss and blaspheme throughout the game. One of the John Doe’s favorite hangouts is at a bar and naturally drinking and drunkenness are shown there. I do like how violence can be avoided, but no matter what actions Bruce or Batman takes, there will almost always be collateral damage.

    If you don’t mind the unavoidable blood, language, and difficult law bending decisions, Batman: The Enemy Within packs a lot of action and excellent storytelling in each of the two-hour episodes. The whole series can be unlocked for $24.99 and it also includes a few digital DC comics.

  • boxart
    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.

  • 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

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Developed by: Spike Chunsoft, Abstraction Games
    Published by: NIS America
    Release date: March 14, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Vita, Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
    Price: $59.99 physical $39.99 digital
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    We have previously reviewed Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, but we never covered the second installment Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. The combo pack Danganrona 1-2 Reload comes with the first two games in one awesome bundle.

    Our other reviews were written by different reviewers and this title is a great place to start in the series and I’m glad I finally got around to checking these games out. Since the first title is adequately covered in our Vita review, I’ll be focusing on the second installment, Goodbye Despair. There are many references to the first game so I highly recommend starting with that one.

    Goodbye Despair starts off similarly with the main character, Hajime Hanata, looking forward to attending Hope’s Peak Academy. Instead of a classroom, Hajime finds himself stranded on a tropical island with several other high school students and a pink and white stuffed rabbit for a teacher. The teacher, Usami, is nice enough and encourages peace between the students and to interact with one another and gather hope fragments as a result.

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great murder mystery/adventure game with likable characters, unique art style, and humor 
    Weak Points: The game did crash on me once
    Moral Warnings: Lots of language including F-bombs; blaspheming; blood and violence; gruesome murder scenes though the blood is usually hot pink instead of red; plenty of sexual references though nothing is shown

    By talking to classmates and giving them gifts you’ll earn hope fragments which can be used to unlock abilities that come in handy during the class trials. If you max out a relationship you’ll see some exclusive events, earn a new ability, and receive a unique present as a reward. Money to buy presents is earned by finding hidden Monokuma bears, completing class trials, and by successfully rearing your digital pet.

    One of the biggest changes in this game is the side scrolling perspective. The ability to warp and see where people are on the mini-map is a great improvement over the original game. To discourage you from warping everywhere, the digital pet will grow and reward you for every step you take. You just have to check in on your pet and clean up the poop or it will become full of despair and die. To offset the despair you can give your pet gifts from the market.

    Speaking of despair, it doesn’t take long for Monokuma to appear and insist that the students murder one another in order to leave the island. Naturally, the students don’t want to commit murder, but Monokuma pressures them with different incentives like starvation until somebody finally caves in. Once a murder is committed, the students must investigate the crime scene and gather evidence/truth bullets for the pending class trial.

    Once all of the evidence is collected, the class trial will begin. During the trial the students will ask questions and you’ll have to literally shoot down their arguments with the truth bullets you have obtained. There are several new and improved mini-games since the first installment too. The Logic Dive game has you surfing and answering various questions by steering toward the correct multiple choice answer. The Hangman’s Gambit is fine-tuned and in this mode you have to shoot and collect letters to fill in the blank. The Truth Blade mode is new and you have to slice through arguments with a sword and cut through the inaccuracies. Last but not least, the Panic Talk Action rhythm game is a little different but the core gameplay is the same.

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 42%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    The goal of the trial is to find out who the killer is. Throughout the trials there are many twists and turns and the guilty person is usually a surprise. I like how there is a save break in the middle of the trial. There is even an option to bet your game save and guess who the killer is in advance but I didn’t want to risk it! Once the killer is outed, they will get a dramatic execution from Monokuma. If the wrong person is selected, everyone else will suffer so it’s imperative to solve the cases accurately. If the guilty/blackened person is found innocent, they will graduate and get to escape.

    I cannot deny how fun these games are, but they are most certainly twisted and have plenty of moral issues to consider before playing them. Although the characters differ between the games they often fit into typical tropes. The bike gang/Yakuza students cuss constantly and they don’t hold back whatsoever. Although the voice acting is limited, it’s still riddled with swearing and blaspheming. Some of the dialogue is sexualized as well and there are some references to sexual acts. Nothing intimate is shown, but the murder scenes are pretty graphic. Most of the blood is hot pink but one of the rooms in the first game had red bloodstains. Many of the deaths are brutal and bloody.

    Outside of the blood and gore, I really do like the visual style of this game. When you enter an area the objects will unfold into place. The characters have a 2D cut out appearance to them, but still display emotions and gestures in conversations. The dialogue is really funny and worth reading, though you can skip through it if you prefer.

    In the end, I enjoyed my time solving the various murder mysteries in these games. If you like adventure and visual novel games and don’t mind the many moral issues, Danganronpa is worth looking into.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Developer: Spike Chunsoft
    Published By: NIS America
    Release Date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
    Price: $60.00 (PS4/PC) $40 (PSV)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

     

    Thanks to NIS America for providing a review code for the PS4 version! The reviewer bought their own copy for the PS Vita as well to test cross-save as well as technical differences.

    It’s Punishment Time again! Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third main game (not counting the spin-off Ultra Despair Girls) in the Danganronpa series. Danganronpa (a compound word from the Japanese “Dangan” meaning “bullet” and “Ronpa” meaning “refute,” which you can combine into “Bullet refutation”) is a series that fuses elements of mystery fiction presented as a visual novel with courtroom legal puzzles akin to the Ace Attorney series. In these games, a group of special high school students (localized as the “Ultimates” who each have an “Ultimate” talent) are trapped in a prison-like setting and forced to participate in a “Killing Game” overseen by the exceptionally creepy Monokuma. The students are imprisoned until they “graduate.” How does one graduate? By killing a fellow student! But merely killing a fellow student isn’t enough; the killer also needs to survive the Class Trial. In the Class Trial, the students will debate over who they think did it, and if they are correct, the murderer (referred to as the “Blackened”) will be punished (a word which here means brutally executed) and the remaining students will continue to be imprisoned. However, if they are incorrect, all students except the blackened will be punished, and the blackened walks free.

    We don’t have reviews for Danganronpa 1 or 2 on this site (yet), and some familiarity with the game should be assumed to adequately describe the differences in V3. Further, despite being the third main game, the game should be referred to as V3, because there is an anime series already called Danganronpa 3, which has very little connection with this game (save for a few references here and there). V3 represents a series of refinements to the Danganronpa formula that work reasonably well. As such, despite any statements to the contrary, I firmly believe you should play Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair before playing V3. The final chapters of V3 spoil major elements of both prior games, and familiarity with the characters is highly recommended.

    New this time around are the Monokubs, the “kids” of Monokuma. They each have distinct personalities and designs, all of which have a unique color that replaces the black in the black-and-white design of Monokuma. First is Monotaro, the leader the the Monokubs, whose color is red, and has a scarf with a sheriff's badge on it. Next is Monodam, who is the most robotic of the group, and is colored green. Monokid, who is blue, has distinctive features of talking like a rock star, having noticeable chest hair, and carrying an electric guitar. The pink-colored Monophanie is the only female of the group, who wears a flower in her ear and a coconut bra. Finally we have the yellow-colored Monosuke, who wears glasses and flashes luxury items around. Interestingly, Monosuke is apparently meant to be an Osaka stereotype, and he even speaks in the Kansai dialect of Japanese in the Japanese dub.

    The setup is thus: 16 students are trapped in a prison-like complex with only very vague memories of how they got there. The cast of characters is especially diverse this time around, including such folks as Gonta Gokuhara, the large, well-dressed Ultimate Entomologist who speaks a bit like Tarzan; Korekiyo Shinguji, the masked and somewhat-withdrawn Ultimate Anthropologist; and Kirumi Tojo, the prim and proper Ultimate Maid.

    Gameplay consists of three major parts: Free Time, Investigation, and Class Trial. In Free Time, you wander the school, and can talk to characters. If you choose to hang out with them, you can get closer to them. You can also give them a gift (but each character has different likes and dislikes!), which will help strengthen your relationship with them in the form of Friendship Fragments, which are used to buy abilities for the Class Trial. Developing the relationship in this way also gives you insight into their backstory. If you continue to strengthen your relationship with them, you can unlock new abilities for the Class Trial (without having to buy them with Friendship Fragments), as well get a better backstory for the character in question. Hanging out with someone passes the time (a mechanic similar to spending time with Confidants in Persona 5). You only get a limited number of Free Time slots per chapter, so choose carefully! Further, unlike the Confidant/Social Link system in the Persona games, it is impossible to max out everyone on a single run of the game. Some characters will almost certainly die before you can max them out, and because of the limited slots, it is mathematically impossible to complete everyone even if you are playing the game for the second time. However, if you want to complete them all before starting the game again, the bonus mode Love Across The Universe allows you to max everyone’s bonds out and allows you to use their abilities in the Class Trials. Free Time comes to an end when someone is murdered.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Best-looking and sounding Danganronpa game ever, great cast of characters, highly intriguing plot, lots of bonus modes, improved minigame mechanics.
    Weak Points: Sometimes it is not obvious where to click to find the item needed to complete the investigation, ending is definitely polarizing, some bonus modes feel a bit simple.
    Moral Warnings: Intense and graphic violence, partial nudity and skimpy outfits on occasion, many sexual references and jokes, very strong language, some occult references

    Once someone is murdered, the investigation is on! You interact with elements of the crime scene and interview characters to earn clues (referred to here as “Truth Bullets”), and once you have found all of the Truth Bullets, the game will progress to the Class Trial. The Investigation is impossible to fail, but it can be difficult to tell where to go to find clues. Usually a character will tell you where you need to go, or a marker will be placed on your map. Further, your character won’t allow you to leave a room until you’ve collected all the evidence in the room at that time, so don’t worry about missing something crucial, but there will be times you haven’t investigated a non-obvious part of the room and might tear your hair out trying to figure out what you missed. New to V3 (this can be done in any room) is the ability to slap things around. By slapping things around, you unlock monocoins, which you can use to buy presents to give to people during Free Time.

    Then comes the real meat of the game: the Class Trial. In the Class Trial, you must piece together the truth of the murder, including who did it and how. This is accomplished through various minigames and logic puzzles. The first minigame you come across is the most common: The Non-stop Debate. In a Debate, statements appear on the screen as characters talk. Certain statements will be Yellow/Orange, indicating that they are weak points. You will also get a loadout of selected Truth Bullets with which to attack these weak points. To attack the weak point, aim the cursor at the weak point with the selected Truth Bullet, and fire! However, only the correct Truth Bullet and the correct weak point will work, otherwise you will take damage. If you take too much damage, the Trial will end, and you will lose. Additionally, other mechanics come into play here, including White Noise and V-Counters. White Noise is a staple of Danganronpa, where colored text (in V3, it is red) can appear in an Argument, and hitting it with your Truth Bullets will cause you to miss. You can use an alternate fire called the Silencer to dispel white noise. V-Counters are a new thing to V3, where you can hit a specific part of the weak point (indicated by holding the Focus button) and gain extra points. It is wholly optional, but a nice test of skill.

    There are other minigames too, which tackle various parts of the Trial proceedings as well. These include a tile-flipping game, a rudimentary driving simulator, and a couple variations on the Argument that spice things up a bit. Part of the fun of Danganronpa is figuring these games out on your own, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but for returning veterans, here’s what you need to know: There is no Bullet Time Battle/Panic Talk Action; instead you get Argument Armament which is a mostly-less-frustrating rhythm section. Cross-Sword confrontations are back, and don’t seem as limiting as they were in Danganronpa 2. The Logic Dive from Danganronpa 2 has been functionally replaced by Psyche Taxi, which involves picking up objects to construct the question, and then answering the questions. Finally, there is a new mechanic added to the debates: lying. By holding the fire button, your truth bullet will invert its meaning, and there are some weak points where you can lie to progress the story. This doesn’t always seem optional, but it is mostly something you don’t need to do aside from a few places. The lying mechanic allows you to progress the trial differently, enabling what is called a “back route” in the trial.

    The story is the main draw to Danganronpa games, and the story in V3 is really something else. Without spoiling too much, the story goes in very unexpected directions (especially near the end) that not all fans may like. I was left speechless by the end of the game, and had to think on it for a few days before I could determine how I felt about it. In the end, I decided that I liked it, but felt like it could have been executed better.

    Once you complete the main game, some bonus modes unlock for you to play with as well. The first of these is called The Ultimate Card Death Machine. This operates a lot like a Gacha game, where you have absurd drop rates for certain rarity cards, and while progressing another mode makes the rates better, it also makes each “pull” more expensive. Next you have Ultimate Talent Development Plan, which is a board game that features all characters from prior Danganronpa games and allows you to level up those cards you got in the dispenser. With them leveled up, you can then proceed to the next bonus mode: Despair Dungeon: Monokuma’s test. This bonus mode is a dungeon crawler that is a pretty standard turn-based RPG. It’s very similar to NES-era RPGs, and you shouldn’t have any trouble with this.

    The final bonus mode is a continuation of prior Danganronpa bonus modes, which allows you to complete the Free Time events for characters you did not have time to complete during the main game. It also adds dating sim aspects. This mode is fun if you like the characters, and allows you to experience Free Time events that would otherwise be inaccessible in the main game. The dating sim portion seems equal parts played for laughs and for fan service.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 26%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    The bonus modes are completely optional, and do not have any impact on the story other than giving you extra things to do once the main game is over. The bonus modes definitely add to the overall package value of the game, but do not worry if you don’t find them interesting; the core of the game is still well worth the price of admission.

    Alright, now that we’ve talked about the gameplay, let’s talk about some of the more technical and aesthetic aspects of the game. The Danganronpa games have always had a very eccentric visual style to them, and V3 continues this trend with vastly improved UI, higher resolution textures, and higher quality sprites. The character designs are excellent, the backgrounds are top-notch, and the overall style is very good. This is the best-looking Danganronpa game yet, especially on PS4.

    Another standout for Danganronpa games has been the music, which always hits the right notes for the situation. Composer Masafumi Takada has done it once again, and created an excellent score that reuses the best parts of prior soundtracks while blending new songs in too. His music serves as great backing to the tense Class Trials, or the relaxed Free Time, and even the brutal Punishments. The music hits all the right notes when it needs to, and it is excellent. On the other hand, voice acting is a more complicated issue. On the Vita version, the audio is severely compressed and clips noticeably while also sounding very distorted. Spike Chunsoft has released a patch that I highly recommend downloading from the PlayStation store, as it gives the game the uncompressed audio it deserves. It’s called Danganronpa V3 - HQ Audio Pack. Meanwhile, the game comes with both English and Japanese audio. I played the game with Japanese audio, and I found it to be a very good experience. English audio in Danganronpa games is a bit more complicated. I think I am in the minority of Danganronpa fans who prefers Japanese audio to English (based on a StrawPoll on the Danganronpa subreddit). The English dub here is fine. Nothing bad, nothing particularly outstanding either in my opinion. In the end, this choice is up to you, and you can’t really go wrong either way.

    One thing I feel compelled to talk about is how the game was localized. The localization of the game makes some adjustments to the text, and if you know a little Japanese or are great at picking up details, you can hear inconsistencies in the dialog in the Japanese audio track and the text being rendered on screen. One character has lines changed that really alters the way their character is perceived, and I’m not happy that they did. Spoilers abound, but the description is here: http://oumakokichi.tumblr.com/post/166327441530/what-do-you-think-about-nisamericas-localization  

    A new feature this time around takes advantage of the simultaneous releases on Vita and PS4. The game supports cross-save between the PS4 and Vita versions, and as I already had the Vita version on pre-order when I was given the review code, I decided to try it out. The good news is: it works! The bad news is: it feels excessively complicated. To transfer a save, on the first console you need to back out to the main menu, select Cross-Save, then select Upload. Then pick the save you want to upload. First, it will load the save. Then you will be prompted again to actually upload the loaded save. Finally, it will upload to the PSN. On the second console, go to the main menu and select Cross-Save. Then select Download, and download the save onto your device. Then you go back to the main menu, and load the save. While there are far worse ways this could have been handled, it still feels unnecessary to go through so many menus to accomplish it.

    Loading times could be a severe issue at certain points in the game. In chapter 4, a new area is introduced that was rife with loading pauses that made that section of the game really drag. Near the end, I also encountered some longer load times when entering and leaving buildings. I did not encounter any serious bugs, nor were there any crashes on the Vita or PS4. The Vita version has reduced texture quality compared to the PS4 version, and pop-in was sometimes noticeable as well, however it was not obtrusive as to ruin the experience.

    The moral content section for this review was the one I was most dreading to write, in part because there are so many things to cover. Please be warned that there will be minor spoilers throughout this section except where more direct spoilers are needed. These will be tagged accordingly, but consider yourself warned.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

     The sexual content in Danganronpa games has always been pretty minimal in my experience, but V3 seriously ups the ante here. Danganronpa games have always had at least one perverted character (someone who has an innuendo-laden response to almost any situation), and V3 is no exception. The main difference this time is that it’s a girl, Miu Iruma, who happens to be the perverted one. She frequently makes references to her and other female characters' breasts, makes jokes about how all the guys are just dying to sleep with her, talks about sex toys and condoms, makes references to her very...unique fetishes, and so on, usually seeming to arouse herself in the process. She flirts with K1-B0, and even gives him some upgrades (which DO have actual uses), but the entire topic is approached in a very innuendo-laden way. I have to admit, it got really tiring. A scene near the beginning involves a female character changing clothes and we see a naked silhouette that isn't too scandalous, but is a little bit revealing. Additional scenes involve seeing characters in their underwear, or naked but from angles such that nothing is shown. Maxing out a bond with a character during Free Time will give you that character’s underwear, and while normally this is not addressed in the segment, in the case of Miu, she uses a device that teleports it off of her and hands it to you during the last Free Time event.  One of the characters mentions being “very in love” with his sister, and while the rest of the cast reacts with appropriate levels of disgust to revelations of incest, the entire sequence where he mentions how much he loves his sister is exceedingly uncomfortable. In fact (tying in with the occult section below), he has been (or at least claims to be) partially inhabited by his sister’s spirit since he performed a seance, and their dynamic is very odd indeed.  

    On a more minor note, one of the characters refers to all of the male characters as “Degenerate males” and doesn’t really let up her slack outside a few Free Time events where you learn more about her. One character is always wearing a swimsuit, but usually also wears an open robe that makes it a little less scandalous than it would otherwise be. In a scene in the A/V room, a character finds what is almost certainly a pornography video. They never show anything onscreen, and the character is clearly very embarrassed that they found such a thing. Further, as part of the Love Across the Universe section, going on a date with someone allows you to select from a range of options, including the ability to read a dirty book together in the library. The content is never explicitly discussed, but it is still something you can do.

    There is also what is sometimes referred to as the “Love Hotel” where you can spend casino coins (more on that in a moment) to buy a key. Using the key at night will give you a random scene with one of the characters. In this scene, you are a participant in that person’s fantasy. The fantasies can take several forms which range from touching conversations to those that heavily imply the two characters slept together.

    Drug content consists mostly of just references, and non-specific ones at that. Miu makes reference to wanting to take some drugs and forget about the situation they are in. Monosuke is sometimes seen holding what looks like a cigar.

    Given all this talk about executions and murders, it's no surprise that there would be a lot to talk about here with respect to violence. Danganronpa games are very violent, and V3 is no exception. Characters are killed in very gruesome ways (*SPOILER TAG*)(one character is killed by having a sickle forced through their neck, another is killed by drowning only to have their body consumed by piranhas, and so on), and blood is often everywhere. One particularly gruesome case involves a body being crushed by a hydraulic press.(*END SPOILER TAG*) Thankfully we don’t witness the actual killing, only the aftermath (*SPOILER TAG*)(with the exception of the piranhas scene, and an off-angle view of the hydraulic press case in video form) (*END SPOILER TAG*). The blood is purple, but it’s still very clearly blood. Executions are just as bad, including such items as: (*SPOILER TAG*)a character being hung by the neck and swung around before being crushed by spikes, a character being forced to climb a spiked rope while being slashed at with saw blades only to fall to their death, and a character being boiled alive in a melting pot. (*END SPOILER TAG*)

    Danganronpa has never really held back in the language department either, and again, this game is no exception. Characters use all manner of curse words from the C-word in reference to female anatomy, F-word, S-word, both B-words, and other swears. The game definitely earns an M rating in this department.

    The occult/supernatural content of this game is a little tricky to pin down. One of the characters claims to be a mage, but her title is magician. All of the stuff she does are normal magic tricks, but she claims it is real and not the illusory stuff. A resurrection ritual is mentioned, but never performed. A seance is held, but does not work. In one of the executions, the character’s spirit appears to leave their body, only to be pelted by salt (injuring them in the process). As mentioned above, (*SPOILER TAG*)one character claims that his dead sister’s spirit has inhabited his body. Further, he has killed girls so that they can be friends with his sister in the afterlife. (*END SPOILER TAG*) One of the characters worships a god (or claims to) called Atua, that she claims possesses her when she makes art. Further, she often claims to speak for Atua, and even manages to convert a few characters to her side for a brief period of time. This character seems to be heavily inspired by Polynesian culture, where Atua is a word often used to refer to plural gods or a monotheistic god.

    Lastly, there are some points to make about ethical content in the game. The big thing to note here is the new lying mechanic. Lying is mostly optional and is not usually needed to progress the story (I only used it a few times when I saw no other way to progress), but lying will give you a different route to the end of the trial. Whether or not this is seen as encouraging it is left as an exercise to the reader, but it is something I believe I should note. Further, at the end of the game, you are left with the impression that lies are not inherently bad, and can lead to hope, while some truths can lead to despair.

    Danganronpa V3 almost feels like a swansong from the developers of Danganronpa. The story and characters are more ambitious than prior games, and the ending is definitely the kind of polarizing that will keep people talking for a while yet. The improvements to the gameplay and aesthetics are proof that a lot of love went into the development of this game. If the content outlined is something you are willing to put up with, you will find a very competent set of murder mysteries with a plot that really wants you to think about the game more. But on the other hand, the ending is polarizing enough that I can also see being massively let down by it. In the end, I can’t really recommend or not recommend this game, as how you will like it is entirely dependent on how you feel about the story developments, and of course, if you are willing to put up with the very large amount of objectionable content in the game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Day of the Tentacle Remastered
    Developed by: Double Fine Productions
    Published by: Double Fine Productions
    Released: March 21, 2016
    Available on: iOS, Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB rating: T (Fantasy violence, suggestive themes, use of tobacco)
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $4.99 (iOS); $14.99 (Humble Store Link))

    In 1993, LucasArts released a sequel to the popular adventure game “Maniac Mansion.” With bizarre graphics and a storyline by Ron Gilbert and Tim Schaefer – now popular veterans in the video game industry – Day of the Tentacle worked its way into the hearts of gamers everywhere. This classic has now undergone the “remastered” treatment, with an updated graphics and interface, to delight and confuse gamers of a new generation.

    Day of the Tentacle features a short purple tentacle who, after drinking some toxic sludge, develops arms and a desire to take over the world. Three teenagers set out to prevent the purple tentacle from succeeding, and they have to use time-traveling port-a-potties to travel back in time one day to turn off the sludge maker. However, an accident forces each kid into three different eras, and they have to use their skills in order to accomplish their goals.

    The game has a keen sense of humor and never takes itself too seriously. The main characters themselves are wacky – lovable nerd Bernard, neurotic med-student Laverne and obese rocker Hoagie are the stars of the game and wonderfully animated and voice acted. The supporting cast also contains bizarre people, including the Edison family, and historical figures like George Washington. Adventure games have to be driven by a good story, and Day of the Tentacle continues to demonstrate how adventure games should be done, with a solid plot and memorable characters.

    Day of the Tentacle Remastered
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Amusing dialogue and puzzles; colorful graphics; great story
    Weak Points: Repetitious music; no lip syncing
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; alcohol and tobacco reference; language; lying and deception (including changing history) required to proceed through the game

    The graphics are reminiscent of Looney Tunes cartoons, with bizarre architecture and skewed lines. The remastered game features hand-drawn scenes and matches the theme of the game delightfully. The voice acting, which was already great in the original, is still fantastic. The background music sets the mood well, but is hardly memorable. One of the songs is repetitious, though, but needs to be played in order to unlock one of the many achievements in the Steam version of the game.

    The achievements – another of the new features of the game – can be tricky to discover without a guide. Some of them can be only accomplished by combining items in an illogical fashion, and in the game sometimes only brings a generic “I don't want to do that” response. That being said, it does award people for experimenting in the fashion that made these games popular in the first place – you'll need out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation in order to solve the puzzles, and some of the most bizarre answers turn out to be the correct ones in order to proceed through the game. For instance, one of the early puzzles has Laverne hanging by her underwear from a kumquat tree 200 years in the future. She can't do anything while there, so you have to figure out a way to get rid of the kumquat tree. The same tree exists 200 years in the past. Hoagie can try to convince George Washington to chop down the tree, but the Founding Father insists that he only chops down cherry trees. A bucket of red paint will solve that problem!

    Day of the Tentacle offers a variety of options to play the game as well. You can switch the graphics to a low-resolution, pixellated style reminiscent of the 1993 original. You also can change the user interface to resemble the original as well. And just like the original, Maniac Mansion is hidden within the game and also is fully playable. It is the inclusion of this game that leads to some of the moral issues, as Maniac Mansion does contain some blood, girls in skimpy outfits, and some nude sculptures - albeit at such low resolution nothing can really be seen. These don't appear in Day of the Tentacle, though, so those can be easily avoided except for those trying to get all of the achievements.

    Day of the Tentacle Remastered
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Day of the Tentacle does have its own share of moral issues, however. There is cartoony, slapstick violence, but that's a minor issue. The Lord's name is taken in vain throughout the game, and a variety of other swear words appear as well. “B***chin'” is a word that Hoagie frequently uses to describe things he likes that he looks at, but that's as harsh as it gets. The three teenagers often have to rely on deception and lies, as well as conduct other immoral behavior, in order to save the world. As Bernard says at one point, “to save the world, you have to push a few old ladies down the stairs.” The game also requires the use of a bottle of wine – although no one drinks it – and tobacco use in the form of exploding cigars.

    Being a game that was originally developed by LucasArts, there are lots of references to Star Wars and other LucasArts games, including “Sam and Max Save the World.” For those that have played the original, none of the puzzles or content have changed – the same solutions that worked in 1993 will solve the puzzles here. But this nostalgic trip is worth the price. Those who haven't played the original also will enjoy the game. Although the game can be completed in about eight hours, it can be worth playing again to see what was missed previously.

    Day of the Tentacle is considered to be one of the best adventure games ever created, and it holds up to the test of time well. Just like reading an old, classic novel, it is worth playing again, and for those who haven't played it before, they are in for a real treat with the remastered edition. Don't forget to charge your Chron-O-John before you take a trip through time!

  • 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.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dying Reborn
    Developed by: Nekcom
    Published by: Oasis Games
    Release date: February 28, 2017
    Available on PS4, Vita
    Genre: Horror
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood, violence, language
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Oasis Games for sending us this title to review!

    Dying Reborn is playable with or without VR on the PS4 and can be experienced on the go with the Vita. Each version is priced differently and does not support crossplay. The PS4 and Vita versions have six chapters while the PSVR one has only three. The PSVR version has a Teen rating while the other two are rated Mature. There isn’t much of a story other than your poorly voice acted character named Matthew is looking for his sister, Shirley. After receiving a letter from her asking for help he finds himself trapped in a room with a killer headache.

    There are three escape room scenarios in the PSVR version with the first one requiring you to figure out how to leave your room/cell. The creepy atmosphere is done really well with dirty clothes and cockroaches on the floor, faded pictures and paintings on the wall, and the total absence of bright colors. By exploring your surroundings, you’ll find items like coins, keys, torn pieces of paper, and broken tools that can be used to open up stuck drawers and locked doors for even more clues.

    Dying Reborn
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: It definitely sets the tone for a horror game
    Weak Points: Short game that isn’t very fun; poor quality voice acting; mediocre visuals
    Moral Warnings: Some language (hell, d*mn, *sshole); creepy atmosphere with body organs laying around

    Like any good adventure game, you’ll have to figure out various safe combinations and play a song (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) on a miniature piano. Some of the combinations were easier to figure out than others and I’m grateful for the various YouTube videos and written walkthroughs available online.

    If you’re good at solving the riddles or following guides, you can complete this game in an hour or less. The story isn’t that great and upon completing this game I was left with more questions than answers. Other versions of the game have six sections so perhaps they flesh out the story better than the PSVR one.

    Though the environment sets the stage, the game falls apart everywhere else. While exploring the rooms, I can’t help but feel like I’m a giant with the mixed sized proportions of the objects and doors. Finding items to take and interact with is easy to do and the interface works well enough. I did notice some incomplete puzzles since the PSVR version is a bit different than its counterparts.

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

    Game Score - 56%
    Gameplay - 8/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Throughout the game the “guides” will communicate with Matthew via TV or radio. Their voice acting jobs are decent enough, but the main character’s lines are emotionless. Even the cussing isn’t very believable. The background music and loading music are drastically different and don’t mesh together very well.

    Like many horror games, the purpose is to scare you. There are some weird and loud noises, bugs, mold, and grime everywhere. I don’t recall much blood, but there is a human heart that you have to interact with.

    If you like adventure or survival/horror games, Dying Reborn may be worth checking out on a sale. For better story cohesion, I recommend getting the fuller and longer experience instead of the sliced and diced PSVR version. The regular version of the game is double the price, but I have seen it on sale for $8.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Enola
    Developed by: The Domaginarium
    Published by: The Domaginarium
    Release date: September 18, 2014
    Available on: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Survival/Horror
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99

    Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media is a former advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

    Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!

    In Enola, you play as a female, who goes by the same name, and is searching for her missing lover, Angelica. There is much about Angelica that Enola isn’t aware of, and in order to get to know her better, she must enter into her world of twisted memories and recollections of a horrible night, where she was sexually abused. Between the group rape and a dysfunctional family life, Angelica is quite broken. Can Enola free her from her painful past? The decisions she makes will affect the ending after ten or less hours of gameplay.

    Like many point and click adventure games, there are plenty of items to collect and puzzles to solve. Some of the puzzles are easier to figure out than others. In order to solve some of them you’ll have to read every note and letter that you can find. Unfortunately, the controls are not very intuitive and activating objects like doors and items takes multiple attempts. This isn’t good when you have a murderer that you cannot defeat quickly closing in on you. The save system isn’t ideal either. There are only a handful of save slots, and you can only save at music boxes, which are limited to a few per level. The ability to quick save would have been very welcome, since the distance between these save spots can be vast and between numerous puzzles that are a pain in the neck to solve. I’m very grateful for the Steam walkthrough that’s available; thank you!

    Enola
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Quite scary and creepy; interesting storytelling via letters/notes
    Weak Points: Dated visuals; voice acting is hit or miss; limited saving opportunities; typos; bugs
    Moral Warnings: The main characters are a lesbian couple; frontal nudity and nipples shown; detailed descriptions of masturbation and rape; blood, violence, and murder; option to kill for revenge; language; tarot cards

    The story telling is mostly done through letters and notes left on glowing lamps. Many of the letters are read aloud with voice acting that is hit or miss. Most of it was good, but some of the voice actors were still a bit amateur. What the game lacked in voice acting it made up in spades with the scary atmospheric sounds and background music. This game definitely creeped me out. Survival horror game fans will probably like this macabre world.

    Although the Unreal Engine is used, the textures are bland and very dated. The levels are pretty restricted with obstacles blocking paths, and rooms that are not in use are behind broken doors. Many doors are blocked temporarily until you find the proper key for them. Sometimes the key is just laying about while other times they are in a safe of some sort with a strange combination to figure out.

    Many of the rooms have dolls or mannequins in them. Often times, they are lacking clothes and are in strange positions. There are some bloody murder scenes depicted with both mannequins and naked human bodies. One of the levels takes place at a strip club with revealing paintings on the walls.

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

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 30%
    Violence - 1/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Besides seeing the gory imagery, you get to read about it too in the descriptive notes. There are numerous death accounts told from different perspectives. Some seem accidental; others are in self-defense or cold-blooded murder. In the game, you’ll have opportunities to kill for revenge or to set the trapped perpetrators free. Not all of the notes revolve around death. There are some that discuss regrets, and others talk about masturbation and sexual experimentation.

    Religion is touched on a bit, and one of the levels takes place in a church environment. As a Christian, I regularly partake in communion as a symbol of Jesus’s body being broken and His blood being shed for my sins. In this game, you’re required to literally eat some flesh and drink some blood to progress. Later on, you get to interact with tarot cards. Last but not least, there is some language and derogatory statements made about some of the characters in this title.

    Given the many moral issues in this title, it’s safe to say that it’s not appropriate for younger and arguably Christian audiences. There are some stability issues and some game breaking bugs worth noting as well. I had to lose progress and exit out of the game due to a bug that trapped me inside of a room with no way out.

    Even with the glitches, dated visuals, and shotty voice acting, I cannot deny that there is an interesting yet dark story in Enola. Sexual abuse victims may want to skip this title, as it may hit a little too close to home. I’m still not a fan of horror games, and this one definitely creeped me out.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Event[0]
    Developed by: Ocelot Society
    Published by: Ocelot Society
    Release date: September 14, 2016
    Available on: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Ocelot Society for sending us this game to review!

    When you first launch Event[0], you’ll be asked some questions to personalize the experience. You can choose to identify yourself as a he, she, or they. You’ll then get to specify your background and make some other choices that will eventually get you into outer space. Once in space, things go horribly wrong and you’ll find yourself stranded. Before giving up hope, your escape pod docks at an out of date space station and your quest to return home begins.

    The space station appears to be abandoned, but there are many terminals with a great AI interface that goes by the name Kaizen. If you agree to help destroy a drive on the ship, it will let you explore the space station. You get to interact with multiple terminals in rooms, hallways, and elevators in the space station. While typing in commands works, full sentences are preferred. Kaizen also appreciates it if you are polite and cooperative. There are multiple endings so your decisions have an impact on which one you get.

    Event[0]
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great computer terminal AI; easy controls; interesting story
    Weak Points: Expensive for short amount of gameplay; long loading screens
    Moral Warnings: Strong language (hell, f*ck) is in the logs that you have to read to learn vital information needed to progress the story

    My first playthrough was completed in less than two hours. If you plan on replaying it, this game may be worth the $19.99 asking price but if you are a "one ending is fine" gamer, then you may want to wait for a Steam sale. No matter your play style and budget, Event[0] is a surprisingly good game with some clever puzzles and an interesting story. If the puzzles stump you, there are helpful walkthroughs online though keep in mind that some of the access codes are randomized so what works for one game may not work in another.

    Finding out the required passwords, memory addresses, and other information can be obtained by reading post-it notes or entry logs on the terminals. Some of the entries are laced with strong language that should not be repeated by kids or Christians ([url=https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5%3A4]Eph 5:4[/url]). It is possible to die in this game and there are references to a murder that took place on the space station.

    The controls are very simple with the left mouse button to move forward and the right mouse button to go backwards. When you’re exploring outside of the space station you’ll use the left and right mouse buttons for thrust and holding your position. When traveling outside, be sure to monitor your oxygen level. Your character will become short of breath and gasp for air when it runs low.

    Event[0]
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The puzzles in this game range from musical ones to logic based ones. To get to the final room, you have to locate a diary with a door access code on it. Finding the diary takes a lot of ingenuity and requires breaking into a room that has retina scanners that you don’t have a match for. Earlier in the game you can bypass the retina scanner but that method won’t work here.

    Visually this game is pretty good as this space station looks believably outdated. The terminal interfaces are nicely antiquated as well. The sound effects and theme song are both well done and fitting to the game’s atmosphere. What impresses me the most about Event[0] is the computer terminal AI and that interacting with it feels natural.

    As neat and as fun as this title is, I don’t think I’d pay the whole price for it since it’s quite short. As long as you don’t mind some strong language, Event[0] is definitely worth adding to your wishlist and picking up on a Steam sale though.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Forgotton Anne
    Developed by: ThroughLine Games
    Published by: Square Enix Collective
    Release date: May 15, 2018
    Available on: macOS, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Partial Nudity, Crude Humor, Use of Tobacco
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Square Enix Collective for sending us this game to review!

    Forgotton Anne is a beautifully animated adventure puzzle game that tells the story of a girl named Anne who lives in a realm of forgotlings. When items are abandoned in the Ether, they get whisked away and given a purpose in this other world which is led by a man named Bonku. Even though Anne refers to Bonku as master, he is more of a father figure to her. To the citizens of this realm, Anne is known as the enforcer because she has the ability to distill or remove their life force from them if they get out of line. Aside from Anne keeping order, there are mirrors placed around town that allow Bonku to keep tabs on things as he’s building a bridge to the Ether so everyone can be reunited with those who discarded the forgotlings.

    Not everyone is a fan of Bonku and his methods. A group of rebels have sabotaged the watchtower and one member even manages to break into Anne’s house and this is where the story begins. Anne will have to interrogate this intruder and decide to let them live or distill them on the spot. The choices made in this game impact the ending so make sure you’re happy with your decisions. There are lots of checkpoints, but no way to reverse a decision once it’s made and the game usually saves right away after making a difficult choice.

    Forgotten Anne
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent visuals, background music, and voice acting; engaging story and puzzles
    Weak Points: Some of the jumping puzzles are inconsistent
    Moral Warnings: Some moral dilemmas and tough decisions; a peeing water fountain statue is shown doing its thing in a bathroom; gambling, smoking, and drinking are shown

    I like that this game lets you decide Anne’s temperament and offers the ability to forgive those who have wronged her. Ultimately, there are two possible endings, but many of the decisions Anne makes are thrown back at her so she’ll have to account for every distilling, necessary or not. Death does come naturally for forgotlings who have been around for a while. Eventually, everyone crystalizes and it’s a peaceful process.

    Thanks to Bonku, Anne has some abilities that most forgotlings lack. With some synthetic wings, Anne can perform higher and longer jumps. The Arca that’s on her hand allows her to absorb anima (energy) from forgotlings or devices that run off of anima. By using the Arca, Anne can re-route power to enable some devices and disable others. Completing many of this game’s puzzles will require anima re-routing skills.

    There are some jumping puzzles and unfortunately they’re a little inconsistent at times. In some cases, Anne can make a jump that’s otherwise not possible in the rest of the game. That’s pretty much my only complaint with this game.

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

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The anime style visuals are superb and nicely animated. The cutscenes look and sound great and the voice acting is well done. Though it’s not worth owning (in my opinion) the background music is fitting and nice too.

    Unlike other adventure style games, you do not have to interact with and combine inventory items. You can, however, collect mementos which tell the back stories of some of the resident forgotlings. There is also a diary, which is automatically updated with the story’s progress and Anne’s current goals.

    For the most part, Forgotton Anne is pretty family friendly. There is an area where drinking and gambling takes place. One of the forgotlings is a peeing water fountain cherub who is shown doing his thing, but nothing is shown.

    The main story can be completed in roughly eight hours and its got a good story with plenty of spoilers which I’ll keep to myself. I highly recommend checking out this game if you enjoy anime, good stories, and adventure games with some jumping puzzles.

  • 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. 

  • boxart
    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. 

  • boxart
    Game Info:

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

    Thanks NIS America for the review code!

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

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

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest Comments

Latest Downloads

About Us:

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

S5 Box

JFusion Login Module

Register