enfrdeitptrues

Sandbox

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Birthdays the Beginning
    Developed by: Arc Systemworks, Toybox
    Published by: NIS America
    Release date: May 9, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows
    Genre: Sandbox
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

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

    Birthdays the Beginning is a 3D sandbox game where you can play through the campaign, challenges, or in Free Mode and build up your world from phytoplankton all the way up to humans. The process of evolution requires time, temperature, and proper locations to give birth to new species. God’s way of speaking creatures into existence is much easier by a long shot!

    The story is serviceable as the main character enjoys secretly reading through his/her grandfather’s books. In one of the books is a map of a nearby forest with an “X” marked on it. What kid wouldn’t want to investigate this further? Sure enough, the map leads to a bright light which renders the main character unconscious. Upon waking up, they meet the computer-like Navi who holds them for ransom until they form a new world to their liking.

    Navi teaches the basic controls about raising and lowering the terrain and adding water to adjust the temperature. Changing the terrain consumes health, which can be replenished by switching to the macro view and letting time elapse slowly. Speeding up time is possible, but it too consumes health. Thankfully, as more and more creatures are birthed into existence, your character will level up and get more health.

    Birthdays the Beginning
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Educational and fun sandbox game that encourages you to create and sustain life
    Weak Points: Keeping various species alive requires a lot of micro-management; confusing controls; game does not autosave (despite appearing to do so)
    Moral Warnings: Evolution is heavily emphasized in this game; an alien DLC pack is available

    In order to progress the story you have to meet certain conditions, which is hard to do if you kill off a species unintentionally. Be sure to save your progress regularly because the game will not do it for you despite a saving icon/text appearing. Upon completing a chapter you can earn up to five stars for clearing it in a timely fashion, not using seeds, raising quality specimens, and capturing them all.

    Seeds are shortcuts that allow you to evolve or mutate creatures without meeting the requirements at the moment. If you’re not careful, the newly created species will die off as quickly as it appeared. There are other helpful seeds the allow you to create rivers, moist areas, dry areas, snow, global warming, and so forth. Without the proper terrain, both plants and animals cannot thrive.

    In the macro view as time is elapsing you’ll see a breakdown of the life forms on your world. You’ll see green arrows for thriving and red arrows for population declines. Sometimes a species will re-appear after becoming extinct, but that’s not always the case. You’ll also be notified when a new species is birthed. To celebrate the occasion, you should switch to the micro view and check them out. To learn more about the species, this game encourages you to scan them. Scanning plants and animals will let you know about them and their quality. High quality specimens are a factor in earning an additional star at the end of a chapter.

    If you don’t like the restrictions of the story mode, you can do whatever you want in the free play mode. In this mode you can choose the size of your world and grow whatever lifeforms you see fit. There are no goals, time limits, or objectives to complete. If you’re a goal oriented person, you may enjoy the various dinosaur challenges available.

    Birthdays the Beginning
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

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

    If you don’t mind the theory of evolution being taught, there is a lot to learn in Birthdays the Beginning. Kids who like biology or dinosaurs will enjoy this game. Mating or killing is not shown so this title is as kid safe as they come.

    The overall presentation is cute and this game performs well on the PS4. Sadly, the PC version is an obvious port and many users have had issues running it at launch. The developers have been addressing their concerns and have been making some progress with a recently released patch. The controls may be a bit confusing, but they are usable.

    In the end, my son and I enjoyed playing Birthdays the Beginning on our own terms. The story mode requires a lot of micromanagement and saving in case you really blow it. If you’re looking to get this game on PC, I recommend holding out for more fixes before shelling out $39.99 - or utilizing the refund policy as a worst case scenario. Out of the two versions, I recommend the PS4 one for stability alone.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Empires of Creation
    Developed by: Bundle of Sticks Studios
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Release date: October 1, 2017
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Action/Strategy, 
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $4.99

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

    Thank you, Black Shell Media, for the review key! This review is based on the early access beta.

    "A simple premise" is an overstatement for the setup of Empires of Creation. When you start a game, a small, medium, or large galaxy is procedurally generated in a pretty spiral. Several stars are automatically claimed by existing empires and pirates. The tutorial introduces a small colored dot among the sea of stars. That dot is your fleet of ten ships. You experience a brief fighting tutorial then fly your dot to the star of a habitable system. After setting this system to be your capital, the game lets you go.

    It is reasonable to ask, "Let me go do what?" You and I know a game called "Empires of Creation" is about galactic conquest, but the game does shockingly little to explain how to go about that. When I explain a game mechanic in this review, understand that I had to figure it out on my own. It may have been fun; it may have been boring; it was usually glitchy. Rarely, however, was it explained. The knowledge of the game evidenced in the next paragraph took a couple hours of trial, error, and game-breaking error to collect.

    Empires of Creation
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Battles are fun to watch; arena mode is entertaining; a variety of ships results in a varied, customizable fleet
    Weak Points: Glitchy menus, quest triggers, galaxy interaction, controls, battles and more lead to many game-breaking states; lack of instruction in basic gameplay
    Moral Warnings: While gameplay is highly abstracted, the player is a galactic conqueror without provocation

    The goal of Empires of Creation is to build up a fleet and destroy opposing empires. While this sounds like the standard goal of a grand strategy game, Empires of Creation is centered on the combat. There is little trade, diplomacy, or research to interact with. What's there feeds into combat. You can buy or sell a great variety of ships in different systems to aid you in battles. You can, in theory, recruit allies to join you in fights against other empires. You can edit the rate at which systems under your control produce new ships. Every 10,000 currency units or so, you can buy a colonizer ship to expand your empire. Taking over an empire's colonies lowers their opinion of you. You can take on missions such as investigating a pirate base or recovering stolen supplies. This is virtually all of the grand strategy available, and it pales in importance compared to the space battles themselves.

    Fortunately, the combat is interesting. Battles start when fleets meet in galaxy view or you raid a planet. Retreat at the cost of some ships or fight. If you engage, the game switches to arena mode, a top-down two-dimensional view of the fleets facing off. There might be dozens of ships on each side. They rush to the middle of the screen; lasers, missiles, and debris light up the void of space. The ships put on a remarkably nice show, bobbing and circling each other in a straightforward deathmatch. The noisy blips of lasers and tiny explosions are satisfying, though the background music of the game as a whole is underwhelming. You can set your ships to aggressive or defensive modes, and they react as expected. At any time you can initiate a retreat countdown timer. You can also take direct control of a ship to join the fray. Be aware that you will probably ram into ships more than the AI will.

    These battles are either mindless bloodbaths or strategic engagements. You can see how many ships a planet or fleet has from galaxy mode, and the game displays your odds of winning a given fight as a percentage. Visiting different planets will reveal a range of ships to field in battle. If you want to fill your army with replaceable drones, you can. If you want to make bombing runs, you can. Some ships lay mines; others shoot missiles. All have a rechargeable shield. It can be fun to field a variety of ships, but I have rarely come out of a battle with more than half of my fleet intact. Taking direct control of a ship doesn't help since--understandably--one ship can only do so much. I said battles are mindless or strategic because I honestly haven't figured out which it is. On the one hand, fielding better-equipped ships gives better odds. On the other hand, fights are usually won by a hair, with the victorious side's fleet reduced to five ships or less. It is not very satisfying to limp out of every engagement. Worse, you have a fleet size limit that grows with your empire. This makes for a brutal early game when you will not be able to overwhelm anyone with numbers and must scrape by selectively raiding small outposts. For what it's worth, there is a challenge arena mode that pits a single ship you control against waves of enemies. Power-ups and allied ships drop periodically. It's good, albeit ephemeral, fun.

    Empires of Creation
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 1/5
    Controls - 3/5

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

    Moral issues are limited due to the high level of abstraction. Pirates exist, as do wars and planetary takeovers. It's all presented in the simple graphics of dots attacking each other in space. If you don't mind being the one performing a planetary takeover, there's nothing to worry about.

    If this is what you received by paying $5, it might be worth it, especially for those who enjoy the grand strategy and 4X genres but don't have a knack for them. Alas, this is not what you get. Instead, at this point, you get a glitchy beta. Fights will not begin correctly. Completed missions will not be recognized. Sprites will disappear, causing successful battles to end in retreat. Elements of the interface will disappear randomly and never return. The game will crash. My playthroughs were races to see how much content I could complete before a game-breaking error. I would save to later find that my file would not load--assuming the game let me save at all in the first place. This is why I can't speak to endgame play. I cannot overstate how much of a deal breaker these problems are. Yes, I remember the days of leaving games running because I couldn't reach a save point. Other games I've twisted to avoid game-ending glitches. Empires of Creation is fun, but not that fun. At least arena mode seems to run fine (except for the music, which cuts out completely).

    This review is based on a beta build of the game available in early access. As such, it is possible that, upon full release, the issues discussed may be mitigated or eliminated. I hope so, because a stable build of the current content would be worth the price. I like what Bundle of Sticks has done so far with Empires of Creation. If the developers release a new build of the game, I will happily amend these statements. They haven't, and I can only speak for what we've seen.

    -----------------------------------------------------December Update------------------------------------------------------


    I have returned to "happily amend" my statements. Bundle of Sticks has done a good deal of patch work on this game (to the devs who might read this: thank you). Be aware if you pick it up that it is very much in beta. Empires of Creation is--well, it's pre-release. Audio is glitchy (the battle sounds do not play unless you completely zoom in on a ship, and arena mode has no music), and the tutorial still needs a thorough expansion. I had trouble colonizing a planet; that hurt because colonizer ships are expensive, and colonizing new systems are prominent milestones. However, the game presents its core gameplay and ideas significantly better than it did before the recent patches. Loading past saves is not the issue it used to be, and flickering/disappearing battle sprites have not appeared for me since the patch. I don't know if they tuned encounters as well, but the early game has felt more manageable thanks to enemy fleet size caps. A limit of 20 ships does not feel so bad when one encounters fleets capped at 10. In short, Empires of Creation has grown from a game where glitches are the norm to a playable beta. I've passed the first campaign mission without the game-breaking incidents which used to be so common, and I'm curious to see how my empire fares with more time to grow.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Exotic Matter
    Developed By: Moebius Games
    Published By: Moebius Games
    Released: July 6, 2018
    Available On: Linux, Windows
    Genre: Survival, Open World
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $19.99 on Steam

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

    Exotic Matter is a Minecraft-like sci-fi survival game that transports you to the fictional planet of Xcylin in the year 12039 in order for you to find a substance known as Violex. Once you do find it, you will be able to power your ship’s engine and allow it to go at light speed. However, the game doesn’t try to adhere you strictly to the mission; in fact, it is quite the open world, allowing you to play and explore. You may want to watch your step, though, because fall damage can be taken. When you respawn in the ship in what the game calls a nanochamber, you don’t respawn with full health. The only way to get it all back is to exit the mission and go back into it again, it seems.

    Exotic Matter
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Has aesthetically pleasing voxel graphics; the sky looks pretty at night (or, at least pretty enough that ccgr wanted me to take a screenshot of it); starts off with a tutorial; has nice, ambient music
    Weak Points: The detail of the textures don’t quite match the blocky feel of the game; it looks like a texture pack in Minecraft; there are no characters to interact with, and not very many other entities; controls are slightly awkward
    Moral Warnings: At night, the environment drastically changes to something dark and foreboding instead of warm and inviting, and every sudden movement can make you jump; even the music at night is ominous

    The controls are a little unique, and they certainly take some getting used to for you Minecraft fans out there, myself included. However, Exotic Matter starts you off at the beginning of the mission with a tutorial so you can get used to them. There is a reminder of the basic controls that you will be using the most on the left-hand side of the screen. The UI (user interface) also includes a compass, in-game time of day, a map at the top left hand corner, your health at the bottom left hand corner, your inventory bar, and your equipped items bar. In the inventory menu, I happened to notice that the developers spelled ‘equipped’ wrong and spelled it ‘equiped’ instead. There were also a few occasions where the game crashed on me while it was trying to launch. However, the game is in very early access, so the developers will immediately fix this mistake upon the publishing of this review, I’m sure.

    In the daytime, Exotic Matter’s world is open and inviting, but upon entering the night, depending on how your world generated, the night can become very dark and foreboding. (My first world ended up generating at night, in that dark and foreboding state. If you’re anything like me, that is not a good impression to have!) The music is quite ambient, but can get very, and I mean very, ominous at night. The night’s musical style reminds me of Portal-style music a little. Sometimes you may find robot-like NPCs that wander around placing blocks. (Every time I saw one, I would get jumpscared!) Once the sun rises again, the world returns to its open state. The sky is turquoise and there is a bit of (I’m assuming intentional) fog. There is also a huge moon that looms over the planet during the day.

    The voxel-like graphics of the game look like a texture pack you would find from Minecraft, with the level of detail on the blocks’ textures. It doesn’t look bad, it’s just that the way the graphics were constructed, that looks a lot like a Minecraftian texture pack.

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

    Game Score - 71%
    Gameplay - --/20
    Graphics - --/10
    Sound - --/10
    Stability - -/5
    Controls - -/5

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

    Exotic Matter also has something called a construct mode, where you can build structures that can appear in your missions. The construct is flat, and all of the pregenerated blocks have a gray checkered pattern on them. You spawn with all of the ingame blocks and items, with 64 of each, as well as some special tools that will help you build and destroy in the construct space. The special construction tools perform a few different actions, including duplicate, create, and destroying blocks. It’s pretty clear in the clumsy layout of the construct mode that the game is trying to focus on the mission mode, which is the main part of it.

    The dark and foreboding night may be a bit much for some of the younger audiences. However, there are no moral issues in the game itself, it is merely how the games chooses to present itself visually that makes me concerned. Otherwise, if you are the type of person who loves Minecraft and a good sci-fi adventure, then this is the game for you!

    -Kittycathead

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Grand Theft Auto V
    Developed By: Rockstar North
    Published By: Take-Two Interactive Software
    Released: September 17, 2013 Available On: PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Action-Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
    Number of Players: 1 offline, 32 online
    Price: $59.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    If you have even a passing interest in video games, chances are you’ve heard of Grand Theft Auto 5. It’s very likely that you’ve played it, or know someone that has, considering the number of copies this title has moved since initial launch. Take-Two Interactive, the game’s publisher, recently (as of April 4, 2017) reported that the game shipped more than 75 million copies. Knowing all that, chances are you don’t really need an introduction to this game.

    However, the ever-increasing sales figures indicate that new players are drawn to GTA 5 despite its age, meaning plenty of new potential customers would like to read up on the game before taking the plunge. However, most reviews don’t really discuss the subject of morality.

    Before we get to that though, let’s look at the game itself. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a sandbox action-adventure title with an emphasis on player freedom. While the single player campaign does feature a mostly linear main storyline with standard plot progression for a set of recurring characters, players are let loose in a vast and vibrant open world with a host of features to play with, and given the freedom to explore it at their own pace, in their own way.

    The first thing any player will notice about the game, even before the gameplay itself, is the stunning level of graphical fidelity on display, regardless of platform. Comparatively, this is one of the best looking games to grace the 7th generation consoles, while it also makes great use of the upgraded capabilities of the 8th gen systems. Players with high-end PCs will get the best experience though, but be warned – at the time of this writing there literally does not exist a consumer system capable of outputting a stable 60 FPS at 4K ultra settings. 

    GTA 5 sidesteps many of the inherently negative trends seen in AAA games regarding visual language. Instead of dulling colors and using a muted palette, the world of GTA 5 is lively and powerful. We’ve used the word vibrant before, but it really is the best descriptor of Rockstar Games’ rendition of fictional California. The browns and grey prevalent in some other highly popular game franchises take a backseat in this title, which won’t ever come across as bleak or dreary.

    When it comes to actually playing the thing, those last two descriptors still don’t hold up. The majority of GTA 5’s gameplay is divided between playing on foot and sitting behind the wheel, though the game offers a staggering measure of variety regarding what manner of vehicle it is you’re driving. In fact, “staggering variety” was probably emblazoned on the wallpaper of every workstation in Rockstar North’s offices, since GTA 5 offers everything in bulk. There is an immense amount of varied and diverse side-missions to complete, NPCs to meet, collectibles to hunt down, Easter eggs to discover, activities to partake in and locations to explore.

    Grand Theft Auto V
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Extremely polished gaming experience that can last hundreds of hours
    Weak Points: Hackers and loading times can ruin the online experience; no new single player DLC has been released
    Moral Warnings: Lots of intense violence; strong language including every word and blaspheming; explicit sex scenes and nudity; aliens; mystic religions/yoga; drug, tobacco, and alcohol use  

    When it comes down to value-to-cost, GTA 5 is one of the best bets you have. This isn’t a cookie cutter military shooter with a campaign that barely lasts six hours. In fact, you’ll likely go well over 100 hours of playtime before you finish half of what the game has to offer. And even if you do somehow make it to 100% completion, you can always augment your gameplay with the vast array of cheats available in GTA 5, or the community made mods (provided you’re on PC).

    The production quality doesn’t lapse with the audio either. The game offers a wealthy soundtrack full of songs from many different genre archetypes on the radio stations, and the OST tracks are filled with personality as well. The voice acting is superb in terms of quality, and it’s clear the actors really put their heart and soul into these performances. One weak aspect, however, is the sound of the weapons. Audio feedback is crucial in this sort of thing, but each gun in the game feels like a peashooter. Instead of delivering thundering bangs, they sort of just "poot poot" while the enemy’s health bar decreases.

    Now, there might be a ton of things to do in this grand, lively, open world, but the nature of these things, plus that of the story Rockstar wanted to tell, is where it might get a bit uncomfortable for some folk.

    If the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, Grand Theft Auto is about crime, and lots of it. Combat is a major aspect of the game, and you’ll be gunning down a lot of virtual people on your road to 100% completion. Violence is an absolute must when playing this game, as the progression criteria for most missions in the game requires that you kill a number of opponents.

    While there are some tame activities – like yoga, for example – to ones which are significantly less objectionable – racing, hunting and solving a murder – usually anything you’ll be doing will involve using various projectile or melee weapons to snuff out the life of your fellow man. Gameplay also involves an obligatory, interactive torture scene in a single mission of the game, where players must use waterboarding, electrocution, or the forcible removal of teeth to compel an NPC to divulge sensitive information. The player is fully in control during these sections, and every method is shown without censorship. Players may also visit strip clubs with fully modeled nude characters present. What’s more, the game offers a toggle-able first person view, which coupled with the interactive lap dances given by nude NPCs is responsible for highly explicit content.

    Grand Theft Auto V
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 17%
    Violence - 1.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    The storyline of the game reflects these aspects as well. The vast majority of the characters are amoral, dysfunctional, drug using, adulterous, sociopathic, selfish, greedy, mass-murdering criminals, and the plot expects us to identify or even sympathize with them and their issues.

    The plot itself revolves around a trio of criminals whose lives are in different stages of disarray banding together to pull off a string of heists while navigating the intricacies of a corrupt federal agency and their own personal agendas at the same time. While undoubtedly an interesting topic, it would be impossible to explore without treading upon controversial themes – not that Rockstar particularly has a care for tact. 

    The developers have a track record of reveling in controversy and purposefully seeding their games with offensive content which acts both as a challenge to those they consider too stuck-up, and a way to pander to their sizable audience which would consider holding back to be ‘selling out’ at this point in the franchise’s history.

    In terms of immoral content, this game has it all. Violence in droves, inappropriate language, explicit sexual content, gore, the promotion of drug use, criminal activity, and crass humor. Pretty much the only field into which GTA 5 doesn’t tread is the occult, but even this is questionable. The game features a fictional cult built around some made-up religion which on its own might be problematic. However, the game paints this cult as entirely deplorable and evil, with its members only ever appearing as enemies in the game. There is another church in GTA V, but you cannot enter nor do you ever see a priest or anyone going in or out.

    That said, the game’s multiplayer mode, GTA Online, features a scene upon the player’s first death showing a stylized afterlife wherein the leader of the game’s fictional cult resurrects the player. On the one hand, this is explanation for the respawning game mechanic, however it also indicates that the cult’s beliefs are true within the continuity of the game, presenting a troubling scenario. 

    At the end of the day, GTA 5 is a technically impressive and marvelous game into which immense amount of effort was put by the developers. This is an extremely polished gaming experience which doesn’t cease to awe on the practical front. However, a deeply rooted and inherent immorality that permeates the very fabric of Grand Theft Auto 5 could make it inaccessible to those potential players to whom this sort of thing is a deal breaker. 

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Happy Birthdays
    Developed by: Arc Systemworks, Toybox Inc.
    Published by: NIS America
    Release date: June 5, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows
    Genre: Sandbox
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

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

    We originally reviewed Birthdays the Beginning on the PS4 and found it to be a flawed, but fun experience. The rebranded Switch version comes bundled with DLC, more creatures, and some gameplay enhancements. Though there is still a lot of micromanagement and waiting, there is less guess work and the gameplay is a bit more streamlined.

    Happy Birthdays is a 3D sandbox game where you can play through the campaign, challenges, or in free play mode and build up your world from phytoplankton all the way up to humans. The process of evolution requires time, temperature, and proper locations to give birth to new species. God’s way of speaking creatures into existence is much easier by a long shot!

    The story remains the same with the main character secretly reading through his/her grandfather’s books. In one of the books is a map of a nearby forest with an “X” marked on it. What kid wouldn’t want to investigate this further? Sure enough, the map leads to a bright light which renders the main character unconscious. Upon waking up, they meet the computer-like Navi who holds them captive until they can create another world capable of sustaining human life.

    Happy Birthdays
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Educational and fun sandbox game that encourages you to create and sustain life
    Weak Points: Keeping various species alive requires a lot of micromanagement
    Moral Warnings: Evolution is heavily emphasized in this game; references to aliens

    A new feature in Happy Birthdays is the ability to choose your starting terrain. For a simpler game you can use the green plains or enjoy the freedom that the stony prairie has to offer. Those looking for a more challenging experience may want to try the scorched Earth/dessert or the frozen world.

    Navi teaches the basic controls about raising and lowering the terrain and adding water to adjust the temperature. Changing the terrain consumes health, which can be replenished by switching to the macro view and letting time elapse slowly. Speeding up time is possible, but it too consumes health. When you level up, you’ll get more health points which lets you do more between macro view visits. Thankfully, as more and more creatures are birthed into existence, star fragments will become available and you can use them to activate powerful skills that impact the terrain, temperature or let you construct impressive monuments.

    In order to progress through the story you have to meet certain conditions, which is hard to do if you kill off a species unintentionally. I like how you can press the right stick to find out what the next evolutionary goal is to succeed in your mission. This is so much better than aimlessly passing time while wondering what crucial species you either killed off or never spawned in the first place. Saving often is highly recommended!

    Seeds are shortcuts that allow you to evolve or mutate creatures without meeting the requirements at the moment. If you’re not careful, the newly created species will die off as quickly as it appeared. There are other helpful seeds that allow you to create rivers, moist areas, dry areas, snow, global warming, and so forth. Without the proper terrain, both plants and animals cannot thrive.

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

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

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

    In the macro view as time is elapsing you’ll see a breakdown of the life forms on your world. You’ll see green arrows for thriving and red arrows for population declines. Sometimes a species will re-appear after becoming extinct, but that’s not always the case. You’ll also be notified when a new species is birthed. To celebrate the occasion, you should switch to the micro view and check them out. To learn more about the species, this game encourages you to scan them. Stars are earned for each newly scanned species. Every one million years is celebrated and star points are awarded after the announcement.

    If you don’t like the restrictions of the story mode, you can do whatever you want in the free play mode. In this mode you can choose the size of your world and grow whatever lifeforms you see fit. There are no goals, time limits, or objectives to complete. If you’re a goal-oriented person, you may enjoy the various dinosaur challenges available.

    If you don’t mind the theory of evolution being taught, there is a lot to learn in Happy Birthdays. Kids who like biology or dinosaurs will enjoy this game. Mating or killing is not shown so this title is as kid safe as they come.

    The overall presentation is cute and this game performs well on the Switch. The controls may be a bit confusing for younger gamers, but I had no trouble moving about in this title.

    In the end, my son and I enjoyed playing Happy Birthdays on our own terms. The story mode requires a lot of micromanagement which may bore some younger gamers. The portability and improvements made in the Switch version make this game the best version available.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Jettomero: Hero of the Universe
    Developed by: Ghost Time Games
    Published by: Ghost Time Games
    Release date: September 15, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Sandbox
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Ghost Time Games for sending us a review code!

    Jettomero: Hero of the Universe was successfully Kickstarted on September 1st, 2017 and was released shortly afterward. This charming space exploration game has a neat artistic style and procedurally generated planets to explore. Jettomero is a huge, indestructible, yet friendly robot who doesn’t wish any harm on the inhabitants yet one wrong step and he’ll destroy their various buildings and wildlife.

    In order to leave a planet, Jettomero will have to collect fuel crystals or utilize an erupting volcano to launch into orbit. There are typically a few planets clustered together along with a wormhole to open up a new part of the galaxy to explore. Along with fuel cells, some planets have replacement body parts for Jettomero to discover. Occasionally, there will be a hostile nemesis that will need to be vanquished in order to save the planet. The boss fights consist of pressing buttons and arrows in the proper sequence.

    Jettomero: Hero of the Universe
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lovely art style and charming background music; decoding the transmissions is fun
    Weak Points: Game only partially saves your progress  exiting mid-game
    Moral Warnings: Boss battles and many planets don’t appreciate your company and will promptly start attacking you upon arrival; minor language (hell)

     

    Once defeated, an encrypted message will become available. By twisting the decoder knob you can shift the letters around in the words to unravel the mystery of Jettomero’s origin and humanity’s struggle for survival. At first there is only one decoder knob and only one letter to decode per word but the decrypting gets harder with each unlocked transmission. It doesn’t take long until you have multiple knobs with some of them changing multiple letters per word.

    I had to leave mid-game and while the parts and decoded messages stayed with me, my fuel reserves and universe area I was in got reset. Thankfully, fuel isn’t too hard to find in asteroids and on land. Most planets' inhabitants will start attacking Jettomero upon landing so his visits are usually brief. The inhabitants don’t seem to appreciate him taking out other gigantic threats and putting out forest fires. I like how Jettomero lets you know when there is nothing else to do on a planet.

    Jettomero: Hero of the Universe
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Since there are boss battles and armies attacking you, violence is a given. You will see explosions, but no blood. One of the decoded messages had the word hell in it. Other than that, this game is safe for all ages.

    With the randomly generated levels there is plenty to see and do. Perfectionists will enjoy locating all of the different body parts for Jettomero. I like the stats menu that keeps track of all of the trees, buildings, tanks, enemies, and other objects that have been destroyed. Some gamers may find the gameplay repetitive after a while. No matter where you fall in the spectrum, there is no denying this game’s charm with its vividly colorful visuals and lovely background music.

    In the end, Jettomero: Hero of the Universe is a cute space exploration game. The asking price is $12.99 which is reasonable if you plan on collecting everything in it. If you just want to complete the story it won’t take too long if you’re good at decrypting the messages. Many gamers will be finished with this game in a couple of hours and may want to wait for a sale before embarking on this journey to save humanity.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    LEGO Worlds
    Developed by: Traveller’s Tales
    Published by: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
    Release date: March 7, 2017
    Available on: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Sandbox RPG
    Number of players: Up to two players locally or online
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Cartoon violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    My kids and I have been enjoying LEGO Worlds since Early Access. It has changed a lot and has added multiplayer support since its debut on Steam.  While it has a different online experience than Minecraft, there are many similarities between the two games.    In both titles, you have to be wary of the various unfriendly and usually undead monsters that come out at night.  There are also several different biomes, though LEGO Worlds has unrealistic candy themed areas that I wish existed in real life.  Instead of Creepers, LEGO Worlds has cute little green monsters called Trouble Makers that run around with unique LEGO pieces that you have to tackle them for.

    There’s not much of a story in LEGO Worlds, but if you’ve seen the LEGO movie you’re familiar with the term Master Builder, and your goal is to become one of them.  In order to do so, you must collect gold bricks though various quests and Trouble Makers.  As you collect more and more pieces you’ll level up and collect rewards like a camera, a brick gun, and a jet pack.  You’ll also be able to discover more worlds in deeper space as your ship gets upgraded with more and more gold pieces. 

    One of the first tools available to you is the discovery tool, which is used to examine and unlock items to make them available for use.  Some items you’ll be able to scan right away while others only become available after a quest is completed.  The appearance of the quest giver also becomes available after completing a job so be sure to scan them afterwards!  In the beginning, your appearance is limited to a spaceman/space woman.  As you explore more worlds, you can change into a pirate, construction worker, witch, ginger bread man, skater girl, and so on.

    LEGO Worlds
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of randomly generated worlds to explore; gather resources and collect gold pieces to be the become the best Master Builder in the universe
    Weak Points: My resolution kept getting reset to 800x600; some game stuttering as my 290x videocard was getting put through its paces
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; hostile undead creatures including skeletons and zombies come out at night

    Animals are ridable, but to make them friendly you’ll have to give them the treat they’re thinking about and showing in their thought bubble.    You can befriend and ride bulls, cows, dinosaurs, eagles, gorillas, horses, pigs, wolves, and even fantasy creatures like dragons.   Once a creature is unlocked, you can spawn them in a completely different world/biome.

    The key to success is exploring and unlocking everything.  I often had to go back to a previously visited world to bring back requested items that were not available there.  Besides fetch quests, there are also favor based ones.   These include helping trapped characters, or painting/building various items for them.  

    When it comes to building things, you can do so brick by brick or by copying and pasting designs.  You can also use blueprints you find to instantly erect various structures.   Terraforming the environment to your liking is possible using the build tool to flatten and raise land as you see fit.

    With endless possibilities, you would assume that the quests would have multiple solutions.  Sadly, many of them don’t.  Instead of terraforming, I opted to remove the bricks in the way and reunite the characters, but the quest didn’t trigger as resolved until I tried to start it again with my solution already in place.  

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

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    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

    Another annoying quest was to gather five cows (before I had them unlocked after visiting another world).  I had a couple of cows and I scoured the tiny world to bring more back only to find the ones I already brought either jumped out of their pen in fear of or were killed by the nearby snake.  To make matters worse, instead of removing the snake with my discover tool, I accidentally removed one of the cows I worked so hard for!  The moral of the story is that it’s worth your while to come back to finish quests sometimes.  

    Some quests rewards are able to be claimed numerous times despite doing the quest only once.   If there’s a gold brick involved you will only get one though.  Another odd glitch that I experienced is that my display resolution would often reset to 800 X 600.   

    Despite the glitches and drawbacks, I still enjoyed my time in LEGO Worlds.   My kids enjoy it to and it’s neat that they can hop into each other’s worlds now too.  If you don’t mind zombies, skeletons, vampires, and witches, this game is pretty family friendly.  When an NPC gets attacked by a hostile creature they’ll break apart into bricks upon their demise.  

    If you’re tired of spending hundreds of dollars on physical LEGOs, you may want to invest in this $30 game.  There’s plenty of digital LEGOs available without having to search for the one piece buried in thousands.  You also won’t have to worry about stepping on or vacuuming up unused pieces. In the end, LEGO Worlds is a perfect fit for fans of LEGOs and Minecraft.   

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Mighty Monster Mayhem
    Developed By: Rank17
    Published By: Rank17
    Release Date: April 20, 2017
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive or Oculus Rift VR headset required)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Action/Simulation/Sandbox
    Mode: Single Player, with online co-op
    MSRP: $14.99

    Thank you Rank17 for sending us this game to review!

    In our age of early virtual reality (VR) experiences, Rank17 has covered most of the bases. They have their sports game (VR Baseball, not reviewed). They have their wave shooter/melee game (BladeShield), and they have their arcade style game (Super Pixel Smash). They even have a zombie shooter (Armed Against the Undead). And with Mighty Monster Mayhem, they also have their Rampage in VR experience. Thankfully, it covers what is important in that genre pretty well.

    For those not familiar, Rampage was a classic (1985) arcade game where George, Izzy, and Ralph, a giant gorilla, lizard, and wolf, respectively, set about to destroy a town by gobbling up humans and wrecking nearby skyscrapers. There is some kind of story behind it (and even a major motion picture that was released this year starting Dwayne Johnson), but it was always secondary to the action of bashing buildings, eating people for snacks, and knocking helicopters out of the sky.

    There are actually several Rampage clones in VR these days, including one another reviewer played on Oculus Rift, called VRobot. I can’t speak to that game, but my son said he slightly prefers this game over that one.

    Mighty Monster Mayhem
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: You get to wreck buildings as a giant creature; fun sandbox to break stuff in; innovative locomotion method; voice acting is pretty good
    Weak Points: Controls can be wonky at times; military enemies can be challenging to stop if you want to stay alive
    Moral Warnings: The story is a revenge plot; you eat people, and red splurts out of them; people and property destruction is required in order for you to progress

    The backstory on this one is that you take the role of an ostracized scientist who intends to take revenge on those who insulted him and his work. Fully ready for the mad scientist role, you step into his place and you can hear him talk as you smash the town to bits. Some of the voice work is done pretty well, and I had fun hearing it. It does start to repeat after a while though, and he rarely keeps to himself, so some players may find him annoying. I did not.

    Each level has a primary objective of destroying a certain number of buildings, along with some handy secondary ones. These include eating scientists or soldiers, destroying mailboxes, recovering DNA, and more. Doing so can sometimes unlock other characters rather than just the default purple giant cephalopod. There are golems, oni, insects, and reptiles available to round out the roster. And there are several different levels with objectives to complete in each one as well.

    The main thing about a VR game of this nature isn’t the graphics or sound, though those are important, but the mechanics of smashing things. And this is quite good, though not without the occasional bug or misdetection. The mechanics of punching, ripping apart walls, or picking up and throwing things is decent, though not great. What I really enjoyed was the unique approach to movement it took.

    Most VR games 'play it safe,' and have teleport movement only. This means that you point where you want to go, and you are instantly transported there. This works great for many types of games, but not as much for action ones. What they did here is kind of genius. To walk, you click in the grips on the Vive controller, and move your arms in a doggy-paddle like motion. Since you are moving your body, you rarely get sick, and it’s a natural way to move around. I like it. To climb up buildings, you reach up, pull the trigger, and pull down. It’s pretty natural, and well done. You can also leap off of the buildings, which feels crazy since the buildings are so tall.

    Mighty Monster Mayhem
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Of course, with all of that movement, sometimes I found myself slightly motion sick, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to want to stop playing. I drank a glass of water afterwards, and I was fine. The graphics are believable, but nothing special. When picking up people off of the street, they look like the most simple of models, with little more than some face lines drawn on. It makes sense they would be simple given the desire for frame rate over expense when keeping a good experience relies on that more than most other considerations.

    The music and sound effects/voices are actually quite good. I found myself actively enjoying the music, and the voice acting does a great job of making you feel a little crazy given the subject at hand. Hearing him talk about how smelly other scientists are and how he still wanted to eat them was worth a nice laugh.

    Morally, the expected is here. Lots of violence, and you eat people for fun and they splat red, so there’s that. You are actively ignoring (or destroying) the local military and police, as well. The goal is to get revenge against others, which is hardly wholesome. It is notoriously difficult to take good notes while playing a VR game, but I did not catch any curse words to the best of my memory.

    Mighty Monster Mayhem is exactly what it says on the tin – you get to romp around town as a giant monster, and rip apart the town. And you get to do it as a mad scientist, who says many crazy things off-the-cuff. What else is there to say? If that sounds fun to you, then give it a shot – you may just like it.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Minecraft
    Developer: Mojang
    Publisher: Mojang
    Release date: November 18, 2011
    Available on: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Linux, Mobile (Android and iOS)
    Genre: First-person sandbox RPG
    Single and Multiplayer

    Your eyes open. You’re on a beach. You look down at your tattered clothing, and you can’t help but notice that everything you owned, everything you carried, is gone. You have nothing with which to defend yourself from the world around but your two blocky fists. You need to find shelter before nightfall, but you have no shovel, no axe. You see a tree, and walk to it. You need tools, and the key to making them lies in its wondrous square logs. With no other choice, you begin to slam your fists into the trunk again and again. Your knuckles should be bruised and bloody, but your hand-cubes stay strong. In just a few moments, the tree is reduced to mere floating blips on the ground, and with a few odd popping noises they fly into your backpack. Now, with some basic supplies, your adventure may begin.

    These are the first moments of every Minecrafter’s life. There are no real spoilers to this game, because you are free to do anything you want. Fancy yourself a mile-wide castle? Just maintain the patience of gathering materials. Want to discover the riches of your world? Explore the winding caves that snake through the ground under your square feet, or perhaps dig down to the very bottom of the world and mine away to your hearts’ desire. Nightfall brings darkness, and with it come hordes of terrible monsters that will satiate your appetite for adventure. Also available to those who consider themselves warriors is the Nether, a hellish and demented world accessed via a portal, and the End, the aptly-named endgame world featuring legions of Endermen and the fearsome Ender Dragon. There is even the option of growing wheat, pumpkins, and watermelon for those who like to farm, along with animal breeding.

    What really makes Minecraft great is the sandbox gameplay. You can do all of the aforementioned tasks in a “legit” fashion, gathering materials by hand, or enter the game’s Creative mode and receive instant and unlimited access to any material. A quick YouTube or Google search will show both the least and the most imaginative works by people in the Minecraft community: some are content to live in their mud huts, while others prefer a cushier lifestyle in their golden throne rooms. In that respect, the replayability of the game is virtually endless—so long as one can keep the imagination flowing, of course. The gameplay is, sadly, occasionally affected by glitches and bugs, but almost all of them are more than outshined by the fun of the game itself.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Over 200 crafting recipes and a Creative Mode offer endless hours of gameplay, and a thriving community makes playing with others exceptionally fun.
    Weak Points:The game still feels buggy and unpolished at the time of writing; griefers plague many servers.
    Moral Warnings:There's a hell realm, containing vast seas of lava and darker creatures.

    The Minecraft community is an incredible resource for those who get lost at some point in their adventure. Because the game has no tutorial, many have taken it upon themselves to create resources for others. The community is also a vast source of resources with which you may change your game to suit your preferences. Texture packs, adventure maps (downloadable maps with a set task or plot), modifications, and general inspiration for building are all examples of community efforts. People both on the official forums and YouTube have created both visually awe-inspiring and technically impressive creations, and there are multitudes of servers to join others. Multiplayer is an especially important part of the game, for it makes large projects easier to take on and allows others to see your creations in-game. Towns spring up around impressive geological features, and community projects can be awe-inspiring. More importantly, it’s just plain and simple fun. Think of it as grown-up Legos, except filled with things that want to kill you.

    The technical breakdown of Minecraft is where the game begins to show its more frustrating side. The controls are the standard WASD format, though this may be changed via the in-game menu. The game is also quite buggy at times, and much of the gameplay feels unpolished, especially for an official release. Things that seemed acceptable in Alpha or Beta release, which included occasional visual glitches, animals bugging out and shifting over fences, and other minor bugs, plague the game. However, the game is regularly updated and many of these bugs are in the process of being fixed.

    It’s not an especially inspiring game musically, but the sounds fit with the overall feel of the game. Most of us who have played the game have come to love the satisfying “thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-POP” of mining and the odd crunch of grass under our blocky feet. There are musical records that can be obtained in-game, and these can be played on player-crafted record players to add additional atmosphere to the game. 

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls 5/5

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Graphically speaking, Minecraft doesn’t have much room to boast, either. It must be remembered that the game is intentionally blocky and sometimes even cheesy: even the watermelons grow into cubes. That being said, the graphics are still fairly unimpressive nonetheless. This is especially annoying when the fairly steep system requirements are taken into account. When I bought the game, my laptop was under six months old. However, I had to keep the render distance on “short” so the game wouldn’t lag. Toning down the graphics settings can drastically help this, but such an action detracts from an already lacking aspect of the game. One’s visual experience can also be improved through the use of community-made texture packs and mods.

    As for family-friendliness, I would say that Minecraft can range anywhere from Legoland-Innocent to Fighting-Cartoonish-Monsters-Violent. There are monsters, undead and otherwise, that live in caves and spawn on the surface at night. However, all of these can be removed from the game by changing the difficulty setting to “Peaceful.” You don’t even have to kill animals for food if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion, provided you grow watermelon and wheat.

    There is no sexual content or swearing in the game, but multiplayer experiences may vary. Some servers have very lax rules and do not regulate players' language or behavior, but there are a number of Christian servers available to play on, including ours, which can be found at http://mc.ccgr.org

    Occult references don’t exist in the game per se, but there is an accessible dimension called the Nether. This can only be accessed by gathering Obsidian to make a portal, which then must be lit with fire to activate, so it is entirely avoidable. It is essentially a hell realm, containing vast seas of lava and darker creatures than are found in the normal game world. Magic is also present in the game, but is only used to enchant some items and to craft potions.

    This game has given me more hours of gameplay that most of my other game purchases over the last few years combined. I would actually be reluctant or embarrassed to release my total numbers of gameplay, but that is an evidence of the addictive nature of the game. It was around 20 dollars when I bought it at Alpha release—it is now around $26—and it has given me more satisfaction than most of my 40 or 50 dollar game purchases. All in all, when deciding on whether to purchase this game, consider this: if you need a structure, a plot, or even a basic structure in a game, avoid this at all costs. However, if you have an active imagination, have a mind for construction, enjoy flexibility and freedom, or even just want something to kill time, Minecraft can offer something for everyone.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Staxel
    Developed By: Plukit
    Published By: Humble Bundle
    Released: January 23, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Sandbox
    ESRB Rating: Pending
    Number of Players: 1 offline, online player amount depends on server
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Plukit for sending us this game to review!

    Staxel is a game with Minecraft-like graphics designed by Plukit, and the first version was released on January 23, 2018. The game, like Minecraft, lets you create worlds, which are not infinite, but you can adjust the world size. Staxel can never really be beaten - although there is an underlying story, it is very basic. The game has a character creator which lets you adjust different aspects of your character (gender, hair color, eye color, race, etc.) and you can change it at any time from the Character Editor which can be accessed from the pause menu. Each time you create a new world you have to create a new character, however, the starting character is the last one you created.

    While the game is like Minecraft, it's different because the developers made it a point to center the game around farming and village life. The graphics aren't quite the same; they're more detailed but still pixelated, and the controls revolve around right click rather than left click. Staxel focuses more on farming and responsibility, while Minecraft focuses more on survival.

    Staxel
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Presents a farming simulation from the ground up; you can create your own character and customize many aspects of that character;  the villagers have unique personalities; you can perform tasks for them and you can do your own thing with the village if you wish
    Weak Points: Village is small; there aren’t many villagers and they seem to be recurring to an extent
    Moral Warnings: Some of the outfits available for girl characters are very revealing and a character could technically take off their clothes and run around in their underwear; references to a haunted barn and Magic Water which lets plants grow instantly

    After you create your character, you’re greeted by someone named Farm Fan who leads you through the basics of farming and tours the town with you. After touring the town, you get the option of choosing a cat or a dog as a pet, and you take on the responsibility of building a barn and taking care of the animals after turning in a “Farm Registration Letter.” The farm animals do poop, and the game simply calls it “Splat.” The barn needs to be built using materials that are crafted from raw wood which you receive by chopping down trees.

    There is, however, a Creative Mode, where you have access to all the items in the game, and it makes it a lot easier to take care of the animals as well as the tasks the villagers want you to complete. The villagers’ tasks may want you to memorize a blueprint, and when you click to memorize it, it simply says, “Blueprint successfully learnt!” and you don’t get to see what the blueprint looks like. Every time you advance in the basic story and/or complete a villager task, in the bottom left corner it says that your journal has been updated. The journal, as far as I can tell, isn't accessible.

    Villagers’ houses have wardrobes where you can change outfits using clothes that are in your inventory. Your house has one too, but it’s on a shelf so you can place it wherever you would like. The houses do have toilets, but they are treated like chairs and flush when you leave them. You can go to the town’s general store and purchase supplies that you need if necessary. As you go about your days there is a calendar on the top left showing you the season and day of that season. The game lets you do various activities, like fish or catch bugs, and you need to water your plants or they will not grow. There is, however, Magic Water, which grows a plant instantly, and there is a joke that is mentioned that the barn is haunted, but other than that the game is pretty realistic in its physics and logic.

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

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The controls are fairly simple; they are very similar to that of Minecraft and can be customized. There is a control hint screen that can be accessed from the pause menu, and controllers are supported. Most controls are done with right click rather than left click, and, again, this can be customized to fit your playing style.

    The music in the game is catchy and comes on at random times (incidentally, the music seemed to start playing at the perfect times). The soundtrack can be bought on Bandcamp for $7 an album (there is a volume 0 and a volume 1). As you move and your perspective changes, the sounds around you distort themselves as if they are changing position.

    When you exit the game, there is a window that pops up where you can write feedback or bugs you’ve encountered and send them to the developer. There is a multiplayer feature, and the number of players depends on the amount of players that can be on any given server at one time. The servers are locked with a password, so random people can’t just invade the server and start griefing people, for example. There were players online on the servers, but I couldn't get into the servers due to password lock.

    All in all, the game is pretty fun with lots of opportunities available to do your own thing, while keeping a safe environment as you cannot hurt anyone or anything physically. I personally enjoyed it, the story is pretty lenient, allowing plenty of room for the sandbox part of the game to flourish. I would recommend it to everyone who likes Minecraft but is looking for a sandbox alternative.

    -Kittycathead

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Worlds Adrift
    Developed By: Bossa Studios
    Published By: Bossa Studios
    Released: May 24th, 2017 (Early Access)
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Survival, Sandbox
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Online Multiplayer
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Bossa Studios for sending us a preview code!

    Worlds Adrift is an online multiplayer game about people exploring a world in the sky. This world has some medium sized floating islands sprinkled around, but is mostly empty and full of sky. In Worlds Adrift, you can jump from island to island with ships. Ships are built by you, through the use of a "shipyard." But before we talk about that, let's talk about some basics in the game.

    Worlds Adrift is a survival and crafting game. You craft things by finding resources in your world and scavenging them. But there are some other things you'll need in order to make most parts. Knowledge is the first requirement. Knowledge is gained by finding things in the world and scanning them with your Scan Tool. By doing this, you'll receive a certain amount of knowledge depending on the item. By gaining knowledge, you'll be able to keep that knowledge and use it towards unlocking objects such as engines, and wings, that you can use to build ships. And yes, you need both resources and knowledge to be able to craft an object.

    You can research four classes for crafting: engines, swivel guns, wings and cannons. Each of these categories have several specific items you can research. Generally only the first item is necessary; the rest are sort of upgraded versions. In addition to learning how to make something, you can also find schematics in the wild on how to make them. These bypass the knowledge requirement and allow you to craft them without needing points. Some are rarer than others, with better benefits. Going back to the scavenging, you find these items in chests or storage crates hidden in the world. So I can get it out of the way now, you also get resources from the islands, such as ore from rocks or wood from trees. Now let's talk about my favorite part of this game: the world design.

    Worlds Adrift is a semi-open world game. The islands are beautifully created, and have great detail, foliage and architecture. They feel empty, but yet in a way that makes you feel like it isn't. Anyone who's played games like Breath of the Wild understand what I mean. And while I'm not saying it's close to being as good as BotW, it still gives me a similar feel. Worlds Adrift also has a dynamic day, night, and weather system, which adds to the feeling of an alive world. The game has a mechanic where you can fly around the world with a sort of hook. It's like Spider-Man meets Attack on Titan, and it's so much fun to use. Combined with the big and tall islands I've found during my playtime, it's the most fun I've had with the game.

    Worlds Adrift
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great world design; good performance
    Weak Points: Poor server performance; low player-base; somewhat boring gameplay
    Moral Warnings: Some violence and blood

    Now when it comes to the graphics... Worlds Adrift isn't the prettiest. It's not a horrible looking game, but it definitely handles its aesthetic better than its graphics. It looks pretty, but it also looks very low poly, like the world is made of clay. This creates a very smooth look that I don't really like. I understand it fits the "cartoony" aesthetic of games like Fortnite, but I just can't seem to enjoy that art style.

    Story wise, there isn't much to this game. It's very vague and I'm not quite certain of it myself, so here's a short write up from Wikipedia: "The game hints that the floating islands distributed throughout the game were once part of a planetary crust, but a cataclysm shattered the planet, forming the islands that float through the atmosphere. The islands float due to an 'Atlas Crystal' that is embedded in the islands' impenetrable rock. Atlas crystals were minerals once mined by the ancient civilizations in Worlds Adrift, which can be used for its anti-gravity properties. A previous race that built the various in-game ruins is hinted at, but there is no contact between the players and their predecessors."

    Moving on to the audio, this game isn't half bad at it. It creates an atmosphere of loneliness. The music is hollow, but can also create a sense of adventure. The sounds of the wind blowing, rocks cracking as you salvage them, trees making a... uh... what do you call the sound of a falling tree?

    Now before I move on to the cons, I'll talk about the controls. And they're alright. Whether it's due to server lag or actual input lag, they just don't feel very fluid. Everything you do seems to have a bit of delay behind it. One thing I haven't mentioned yet, but will talk about more in the cons, is that Worlds Adrift is a physics-based game. What this means is that it tries to have "real" gravity, movement, speed and so on. Now coming from Bossa Studios, the company known for janky physics games like I Am Bread and Surgeon Simulator, this is to be expected. However, the problem is they are known for being mostly just janky, and this game is no exception.

    I'm going to go about this systematically, in the order which I first talked about the topic. Following that, let's talk about gameplay. Personally I didn't enjoy this game's main mechanic, which is the shipbuilding and fighting. It feels a bit too shallow and complicated. You need to have knowledge for pretty much most shipbuilding techniques and parts, and I constantly forgot to scan things for it. Somehow I had an engine design already in my inventory, which for some reason wouldn't work until I built up some knowledge to create a power generator. I only found out about this through the wikis, as I don't remember any kind of tutorial for using these things.

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

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In addition, one big part of this game is the multiplayer aspect, where you can find people in the world and fight or align with them. However, I've literally never seen anyone, nor any indication that people were even in this game. It felt more like a single-player game with servers than a MMO. This is mostly due to Worlds Adrift's incredibly small player-base, with a peak of usually 250 people, and an average of 130. Now, this sounds like a decent amount, until you realize that this is in a huge world with dozens of islands, maybe even hundreds. And to segment it even further, there are several different server regions, with their own worlds! So there may be only 20 people on at once in my server, in one of the dozens of islands. This gives you the feeling of a single-player game that hasn't been polished, or a multi-player game that's just too big for its own good.

    The performance in this game is good; I got a very smooth picture at 1440p with high settings, but then again there isn't much graphically demanding content in this game. Server performance, however, I was disappointed with. Whether it was my connection or bad servers, I had a lot of lag spikes. Now, for something like a RPG or a shooter, this isn't awful. But when you're on a giant floating ship in the sky, and the game suddenly decides that the ship should keep going, but you shouldn't, as you fall to your death, losing the inventory you gained over the last 30 minutes, you might find it a bit annoying. Also, since I've started this review, I haven't been able to get back into the game. I would try to connect and lag out, or the servers would be down for maintenance. Maybe they knew I was going to be pretty critical...

    When it comes to moral warnings, there isn't much to say here. There's no language, nudity or occult themes. You can shoot some enemy humans and creatures with guns, however there are only some minor blood splashes, and depending on what you shoot, not even red blood. I'm going to give this game a 5/10 on violence, as you can still kill enemy players you find in self-defense.

    Now, I don't want to make this game seem all bad. Despite what I listed here, I still had a good time. Through the dropped connections, confusing mechanics and sometimes boring gameplay, this game still brought a smile to my face. The amazing design and beauty of this world made it generally enjoyable. However, I only really can recommend this game if you enjoy exploring on your own or have a group of friends to play with. I'd also like to remind you that this game is in Early Access, and is likely to only get better as time goes on, and I look forward to it doing so.

    - Remington

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

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