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Survival

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Potato Thriller
    Developer: Samer Khatib
    Published by: Snowconesolid Productions.
    Release Date: June 22, 2016
    Available on: Windows, macOS
    Genre: Action, thriller, horror
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $2.99

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

    Thanks to Black Shell Media for the review code!

    A game selling itself on story will be a hard press for a lot of people. Especially when you delve into the genre of meme games. Goat Simulator seems to have launched this trend. These games can either be buggy and broken yet have wacky physics, or they can be made to make a point against something. Potato Thriller is one of these games. This game was the world's replacement for the infamous demo P.T. which was later discovered to be a Silent Hill game. While that now dead Silent Hill game is gone from the world, let's see if this replacement was worth it. This is Potato Thriller.

    Potato Thriller puts you in a world haunted by the legendary Potato Man, a serial killer who leaves his victims deep fried and crispy. The bounty hunter Quindalin and his son Dexter receive a tip to his location, and they take off in their pear-copter to take him down.

    Potato Thriller
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: None
    Weak Points: It's not a very good game in its  entirety; you play it once and you'll have no reason to play it again; No joke lasts forever.
    Moral Warnings: It's "dark", but bad animations and boring gameplay get in the way of anything being truly offensive. Violence isn't too relevant either, unless you count punching walking noses as offensive.

    This game is a strange one to be sure. It has a mix of horror and combat sections. One moment you could be walking through a dark hallway before a horrible creature gets you, another moment you could be fighting against nose creatures. Combat merely consists of throwing punches at nose creatures if you get the drop on them. That's really all this game has is moving and a pathetic punch. If you want to get through the game faster, just sneak past any enemies. The game does have cutscenes and voice acting, even if it's just robotic voices and unanimated scenes. Yet this game does try its hardest to say something about modern horror tropes.

    I want to get the negative out of the way first with this game. I am usually not one to care about length of a game nor its purpose, yet with this game you have to. When you've heard enough complaints about horror tropes it becomes a trope in itself. Yes, it's strange Five Nights at Freddy's was such a success; yes, jump scares can be lame, I get it. Most people can beat this game in under an hour. Once you beat Potato Thriller, you won't find much reason to play the game again. The message does not hold well; genres change. As it is right now, most people are not talking about Five Nights at Freddy's. The world has moved on from the cancelled Silent Hill game as well. The puzzles are rather simple and the combat isn't very fun either. You can only punch walking noses for so long before you would rather have something else to play.

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

    Game Score - 38%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 3/10
    Sound - 1/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    There is really nothing positive about this game unless you like meme games or you want to see someone's take on a horror game. This game is clear satire, but like with anything running on a joke, if the laughs don't last then no one will stay with you for long. I mean the game works and it does look nice the first time at least. I can appreciate consistent art direction, even if it is ugly art.

    Morality in this game isn't a problem unless  you find paying money for a bad game a sin. It can be violent and it does have a dark story - at least, that's what it feels like it's trying to be. Violence is simply punching nose creatures or a cartoony monster and it vanishes, no blood, no body. The dark story consists of a walking vegetable frying people. 

    Potato Thriller is a noble effort to replace something the gaming world lost, yet this game was something the world didn't really need.

  •  

    System Requirements
    OS: Windows 95b/98/98SE/ME/2000 Pro CPU: AMD K6-3 450 Mhz or Pentium II 400 Mhz RAM: 64 MB VIDEO: OpenGL compatible 16 MB 3D accelerator SOUND: DirectX compatible DirectX 8.0 is required Age: Mature (17+)

    Introduction

    Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare is 4th in a series of survival horror games. The original Alone in the Dark was the originator of the genre that inspired games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and pretty much every other survival horror game. In this review I will look at all aspects of the title.

    Graphics

    Might as well get this out of the way first so we can move on to what actually makes a game good. Like the original three Alone in the Dark titles, TNN uses pre-rendered backdrops with 3D polygonal characters and objects that move about the screen. The graphics run at 640x480 which is adequate but not anything spectacular. This is due to the size of the backdrops, which were apparently rendered at 640x480. It would have been nice if they could have at least rendered them at 800x600, which would have made it a bit sharper and more polished looking. Also, another thing that was not done properly is that the characters mouths do not move when they speak. Minor gripes aside, the graphics still manage to create a pretty terrifying adventure. The manor itself is a pretty creepy place to be. The OpenGL accelerated graphics for the models and visual effects add a nice touch and the flashlight and light effects were superb.

    Game play

    The game play has its share of ups and downs. The game has two different options when you start. You can take on the role of Edward Carnby, who was in the first 3 games or Aline Cedric, who has accompanied Carnby on his trip to Shadow Island to find out who killed his friend, Charles Fiske. Soon, they realize something darker is going on at Shadow Island. Controlling the characters is easy enough, just like the original AITD, but sometimes picking up items is a pain. There was one point in the game where there was a charm of saving that I never was able to pick up. I tried many different positioning of my character but could never get him to pick up the charm. There are only 4 save slots if I remember correctly and you have a limited number of saves, which you can obtain more of when you pick up the charms of saving. Some other reviews have made complaints about the key hunting early on in Carnby?s adventure, but I really didn?t have a problem with it. The atmosphere was heavy and intriguing enough to keep me interested. Also, one more thing, AITD:TNN is able to make a scary game because it presents the enemies in such away that you are actually scared of what could be lurking around the corner, be behind the next door, or even crawling on the ceiling? This is much more effective than survival horror games such as Resident Evil, in my opinion. Overall, the gameplay is pretty good, not at all different from the previous titles in the series.

    Story

    The game has an interesting and engaging story line which you pick up throughout the game through interaction, reading various documents, and solving puzzles. The ending, however, isn?t up to par with the rest of game. While not excessively bad, it could have been a little bit better.

    Offensive Content

    This game is rated Mature. There are a few places that have some explicit scenes, e.g. a dog getting bit by a creature of darkness, a decapitated head, a bloody guy that was seemingly attacked by some creatures. However, the way in which this is used serves to heighten the suspense. These parts are not gratuitous in any way, they added a lot to the game for me. When fighting creatures, there is very little blood. Another point that some Christians may be offended by is the use of magic. Some magic is used in the game and ultimately it is used to save the earth. This was not a big problem with me, as I know this is a fictional adventure. There is one area with a pentagram, the pentagram however is clearly portrayed as something evil. There a few swear words, but this very sparse.

    Overall

    Overall, this is a pretty decent survival horror/adventure title. Some may like it more than others depending on whether they liked the original AITD trilogy. I probably enjoyed it more than a Resident Evil fan may have for this reason. It?s pretty cheap now, so pick up a copy or at least try out the demo.

    Final Ratings

    Game Play: B Graphics: B+ Sound: A Interface: B- Stability: A Offensive Content: C-

    Overall: B

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Conan Exiles
    Developer:Funcom
    Published by: Funcom
    Release Date: Jan 30, 2017
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One, Playstation 4
    Genre: Action, Survival
    Players: 1-100
    ESRB Rating: Unrated (will change when ESRB decides rating.)
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

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

    Early Access, survival, open world: these are scary warning flags for PC gamers these days. Games like Rust, DayZ, and Ark: Survival Evolved will be under extreme scrutiny the day the Early Access tag goes away. I can't blame the developers of these games. Ambitious games will take a long time to complete by even the most skilled game developers. Yet when a game is released it should be judged no matter how brutally. So let's look at brutal barbarism with Conan Exiles.

    Conan Exiles takes place in the Conan The Barbarian universe. You are sentenced to exile for a randomly generated set of crimes. Mine were debauchery, cheating at dice and breaking the fourth wall. You can choose gender and physical features you want to your hearts content. You also choose a religion to start with. Once you do, you're untied from your prison and you're tasked with surviving. You have no help, no friends, and everyone, creatures and fellow exiles, will try to kill you.

    The gameplay is the most important part of any survival game. The combat and movement feels right for a game where you play as a barbarian yet right now it's very basic. You swing whatever is in your hand with the left or right mouse buttons. Mouse movement controls the camera and WASD controls movement. While it is challenging, pushing yourself for survival is a strong part of Conan. It was quite satisfying when I finally had a base built. 

    Conan Exiles
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A quality survival game with the world working against you. It simulates natural survival instincts well.
    Weak Points: Aside from Early Access frustrations, soundtrack is boring and there is not enough done to push a unique aspect of the game yet.
    Moral Warnings: Idol worship, butchery and nudity is abound in this game. Don't expect to do a pacifist run anytime soon. Enslavement is encouraged to become a bigger threat in the world. The world itself encourages you to revel in the brutality of everything.

     

    Every survival game has its unique features. In Conan you can enslave NPCs called thralls to serve you. By torturing them on a wheel of pain, they will benefit you in various ways from blacksmithing to combat. By sacrificing enemies to a god, you can unlock special recipes from that faction. You'll eventually be able to summon avatars, destructive creatures of your chosen religion. They will unleash destruction against enemies in their way. 

    With these types of games you'll want to keep certain things in mind. Conan Exiles is not a game you can pick up and play for a few hours. Consider these games a more intense Minecraft. If it's not other players, Early Access server wipes will eventually wipe out your hoards of treasures. Despite the thrall or avatar mechanics, Conan doesn't have a lot of that early game "wow" that other survival games have. The main appeal here will be the Conan world. Fans will more than likely pick up this game compared to non fans. That isn't a problem though; if the devs can keep a confident community going then they should have a quality survival gem on their hands. The mod support the devs give also adds a lot of variation to your experiences. 

    The soundtrack to the game doesn't add much yet. The game music has intense drumbeats during battle, yet I found I would rather listen to my own music than the game's. 

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 24%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    With any Early Access titles expect a lot of bugs. One bug I was able to recreate is seeing menu selection highlights burned into the screen when the menu is completely off of my screen. I also experience random frame drops. Remember, with Early Access games you can be in for the long haul.

    Multiplayer will be more of the same with the added bonus of players acting as either friend or foe. You might find populated servers with hundreds of grand structures. You might find a few people hiding in the trees. Yet they will either help you, or rob you for your meat and items. The AI is competent enough for a great challenge. So consider starting your journey in a single player server first.

    Sacrifices to idols, bloody murder, and genital customization are in this game. The characters can appear nude, yet there is a option to shut it off. With any game where survival is a focus, the world will force you to do what you must to survive. You can even eat and cook human flesh. This game is designed to appeal to the most brutal of tastes. You can turn the nudity off completely or partially if you so choose. The violence comes from the gory effects alone, the combat isn't the most detailed. The genital or chest expansion seem to be just aesthethic and it wont effect the game world in any way. Its the world and context that adds to the brutality. With everyone fighting first and asking questions never, you get the feeling of that brutality. Also remember you can build a torture wheel to torture npcs to fight along side you. 

    The world can appear cruel, yet with a barbaric determination you can survive in Conan Exiles.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Don't Starve
    Developed By: Klei Entertainment
    Published By: Klei Entertainment
    Released: April 23, 2013
    Available On: Windows, Mac and Linux
    Genre: Adventure, Indie, Simulation, Sandbox
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $14.99
    Version Reviewed: Windows, The End of the Beginning

    Crazy-haired, Tim Burton-esque Wilson has but one mission in life: not starving. While the premise appears to be simple, you will find that you must do everything from following a herd of beefalo to collect their dung to cultivating a hive of bees around your campfire to not starve. At the beginning of the game, Wilson is transported and trapped in a wilderness by a malevolent man with supernatural powers named Maxwell. Wilson finds that he must conquer and understand this strange world filled with bizarre and wonderful creatures in order to survive. This game is like a twisted kid’s book and you will have to learn its eccentric rules to see the next hand-drawn sunrise.

    This sandbox survival game starts the player in a cartoony wilderness filled with resources to collect, animals to cultivate, and monsters to slay. The player views the action from an overhead perspective where you control 2D Wilson with mouse clicks or arrow keys. While you begin with nothing, you quickly harvest logs from trees, flint from rocks, and rocks from… well, rocks. Using these ingredients, you can make your first fire. This is pivotal to survival because when night falls every eight minutes, creepy shadow creatures stalk you and will kill you very easily if you are not close to a light source. Once you are familiar with the basics and keep yourself fed using the resources at hand, you can create more advanced equipment that ranges from a simple backpack to an ice wand. These new toys will help you keep your belly fed longer and also allow you to kill the harder creatures in the game. Death, which is permanent, comes easily in Don’t Starve because there are many ways to die. In addition to dying by starvation if you get too hungry, you must also maintain your sanity in the crazy world you live in. Your sanity is increased when you do “normal” actions like being close to friendly pigs or putting a flower hat on your head (strange but true) and decreased when you do crazy things like eat raw meat or hallucinogenic mushrooms. When your sanity gets too low, you start seeing large shadow creatures that can easily kill you so it is imperative that you manage your sanity just as carefully as you take care of your hunger. If you do happen to die, you are given a consolation prize in the form of experience points based on the number of days you survived. These experience points unlock additional characters that have diverse personalities like the pyromaniac named Willow or an autonomous robot, so replayability is naturally high in this game.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Quirky sandbox survival simulation, amazing art direction, high replayability, permadeath
    Weak Points: Difficult to succeed without using outside guides
    Moral Warnings: Player must use occult objects such as an altar surrounded by pig heads to revive, some mild crude humor, mushrooms cause you to hallucinate

    When you master the beginning wilderness, a special doorway can be taken to start adventure mode. You can take up to four items into this new mode and when you die in adventure mode, you respawn in the normal mode where you can stock up on supplies and try again from adventure mode’s beginning. This mode gives more structure to the game, but plays out in a similar fashion to the rest of the game. The main difference is that the new worlds you explore are modified to be much more difficult than the normal wilderness. While I had few complaints with this game, starting a new game after your character has died is fairly monotonous, but this also gives you an opportunity to play as one of the other characters. Before beginning a new game, you can adjust how many of each enemy, resource, and helpful creature the world spawns with, allowing you to fully customize the difficulty of the game. While this seems like a good addition in principle, there is no penalty for making the world easier or extra experience bonus for playing on a harder world, making the normal mode feel like the only legitimate way to play the game. Additionally, a streamlined or automated way of harvesting resources with late-game equipment would have been nice to look forward to. Thankfully, the game will be updated every 3 weeks with new content for at least the next 6 months.

    The first things that you will notice when you launch Don’t Starve are its excellent hand-drawn-looking visuals and deep sense of character. Being endlessly compared to a Tim Burton movie, Don’t Starve has the same charm and twisted design philosophy as The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride. Each of the playable characters, neutral animals, and enemies are well made and fun to interact with because of how they are animated. Finally, the game does a great job of showing your sanity decline with hazy graphical effects and giant shadow creatures endlessly following you.

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

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 71%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - -10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The sounds in this game fit perfectly with the art. Every creature makes strange and interesting noises, all actions sound like they should, and the subtle but effective music increases the immersion of the game. While I never had any of the music stuck in my head, it definitely added to the experience.

    Unfortunately, there are a few questionable moral elements in this game. First, you can eat mushrooms that affect your sanity and eventually cause you to hallucinate. The player can create a variety of magical items that range from a necklace that will revive the player to a staff that can freeze enemy opponents. You can dig up graves to find valuable treasures. There are several altar-like objects in the game and one in particular is surrounded by pig heads on wooden stakes and will revive you when you die.

    In the end, Don’t Starve is a twisted, magical world that offers a far different survival experience than its closest competitors. Additionally, this game has a great sense of character and new, interesting creatures and items are littered plentifully around the wilderness you must survive in. For those that can accept the moral content, I would recommend this game.

    -ChanBearBeast

  •  

    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:

    Five Nights at Freddy's 2
    Developed By: Scott Cawthon
    Released: November 11, 2014
    Available On: PC
    Genre: Survival Horror
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 offline
    Price: $7.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    What would it be like to work at a place where your job was to survive? Even more, what if cute and cuddly animatronic animals were the monsters you were trying to hide from? Adding to all of this, what if there was more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye, including mysterious shadows, criminal activity and deep dark secrets? Enter Five Nights at Freddy's 2. 

    Five Nights at Freddy's 2 is an indie point and click horror game made by Scott Cawthon, following the success of the hugely popular "Five Nights at Freddy's." The game is set as a prequel to the original and tells the story of the "New and Improved Freddy Fazbears Pizza." It is said that the "previous location" was shut down due to it being "left to rot for quite awhile." The old animatronics from the old location have been decommissioned and new, more child friendly animatronics were chosen to replace them. These new animatronics come equipped with the latest in facial recognition technology, advanced mobility, and they can even walk around during the day. And night. Speaking of night, that's when this game takes place. You take the job of night guard and must keep an eye on the cameras, check your left and right vents, as well as a huge front entrance with no door, and keep a mysterious music box wound up throughout the night. You also have a flashlight and a mask, but more on those in a bit.

    During your shift you'll start to notice that some of the animatronic characters start to move around at nighttime. Despite their programming, the animatronics were never given a proper "night code." The working theory is that when things get quiet, the animatronics think they're in the wrong room and seek to find where the people are at, and in your case, that's your office. Another glitch in the system is that, when the animatronics see you at nighttime, they'll mistake you for an endoskeleton without its costume on, which is a huge no-no, so they want to stuff you into a Freddy Fazbear suit. When wearing the mask, however, they'll see you as a normal animatronic, so whenever they attempt to enter the room all you have to do is slip the mask on and they'll leave you alone! Problem solved! One of the animatronics (Foxy the Pirate) is a bit buggy though, so you'll have to flash your light at him to get him to go away. To make matters worse, if you don't keep the music box wound up, a strange marionette puppet will sneak out of a box and seek you out to kill you for some reason. 

    Five Nights at Freddy's 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique system of "hiding" from the animals that roam the game's setting, cryptic minigames are used to tell a mysterious story.
    Weak Points: The game is rather short (longer than the first one) and doesn't reward the player enough for completing the game. The difficulty of the game cranks up during the later nights and is incredibly difficult to get past (I personally spent hours trying to get past night 5).
    Moral Warnings: The game can be quite scary, and every time the player loses they are treated to a screaming animatronic jumping at the screen.

    This entire formula sounds difficult to get a handle on, but it's a lot easier than it sounds. Check left, check front, check right, open camera, wind up music box, close camera, quickly put on mask, take off mask, open camera, look around, close camera, so on and so forth. It can get pretty old on the first few nights, but just when it starts to get boring you can be sure a scary cuddly bear will show up to make you jump. Speaking of jump, when you die the animatronic that got you will jump at your screen and give you quite the startle. A few times I was shaking so hard after a jumpscare I could barely continue playing. After awhile the jumpscares aren't as much scary as they are annoying, but for the first few nights nothing will seem scarier than a cute blue bunny lunging at your screen. Eventually more and more animatronics will come after you, which will make the later nights more and more difficult.

    That's where this game starts to get... frustrating. This game includes, in total, eleven animatronics. With the variety of animatronics to fend off, by night 5 you'll be in a constant state of panic, rushing from the camera to the mask and using the flashlight (which drains rather quickly on later nights). The simple control scheme of using the mouse for opening and closing the camera, the mask and checking the vents, as well as using the ctrl key for the flashlight, makes this game a bit easier. However this game will push your limits as you try to survive all five nights. And then a sixth. And then a seventh customizable night. Besides the obvious gameplay revolving around surviving each night, on rare occasions random minigames (inspired by old Atari graphics) will randomly appear. These minigames help reveal parts of the story as well as put pieces of the mysterious lore together.

    Five Nights at Freddy's 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    After you've completed six nights of insane chaos at Freddy Fazbears pizza you will gain two stars for both Nights 5 and 6. After this the game will allow you to customize a final seventh night. You can either choose custom presets which allow for variations of the AI for different animatronics (one preset sets ten of the animatronics to maximum difficulty, yikes!), or you can have your own levels for each animatronic (such as you can set them all to zero, which disables all of them except Foxy, due to his "broken programming"). After completing one of the custom presets (4x20 mode) the player will unlock a third star on the menu. After completing the rest of the custom presets you will get a few different adorable stuffed plushies on your desk, which aren't exactly worth suffering for through 10x20 difficulty.

    Morally, this game isn't very violent. Despite the fact that it's a horror game, the most violent the game ever gets is the jumpscares, which are just animatronic characters jumping at the screen. In one of the mysterious minigames a child is shown to have been murdered outside of one of the previous locations by a mysterious "purple guy", as he has been nicknamed. In some minigames we see what appear to be pixelated dead children, but it's hard to tell due to the Atari styled graphics. This game appears to be rather clean, despite the terrifying atmosphere.

    In conclusion, if you're into scary games this is a great grab. The gameplay is smooth, the controls are easy to get used to, the game pulls you in right from the beginning and the tension rises from the first few minutes of the game. As soon as you know something creepy is going on at this innocent looking place, you won't want to leave the cameras down for more than a few minutes. Even if you don't think this game is scary, it actually plays pretty well as a strategy game. Due to its pretty low price as compared to other games I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Immune – True Survival
    Developed by: Vidiludi Games and Entertainment
    Published by: Vidiludi Games and Entertainment
    Release date: March 25, 2015
    Available on: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Survival, MMO
    Number of players: Online MMO
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $0.99

    Thank you Vidiludi Games and Entertainment for sending us a review code!

    Immune - True Survival was released in 2015 and has fluctuated in pricing and was free for a short while. The price tag is currently a mere 99 cents, but has been on sale for half as much. Like many free or inexpensive games, there are optional micro-transactions available to buy keys if you prefer not to earn them in-game. Keys are used to open chests containing cosmetic items.

    When launching the game you’ll be prompted to select a server and then go through a tutorial that shows you the basic controls. There’s not much of a backstory but according to the game’s website, Immune takes place in an apocalyptic world after the outbreak of a devastating pandemic. In this barren world exists gasmask-clad humans who shoot zombies or survivors in the face without warning. Since the servers are empty, I wasn’t able to interact with live players, but you can attack and loot them or team up with them and take on the hordes of zombies/raiders.

    Immune – True Survival
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Only 99 cents
    Weak Points: Empty servers with lag; dated visuals; horrible controls
    Moral Warnings: Violence against humans, zombies, and animals; blood; alcohol references and consumption; micro-transactions

    No matter how friendly or aggressive you choose to be, your main objective is to survive in these barren wastelands. Like Minecraft, you can harvest wood from trees, meat from animals, and can craft various items including weapons and armor. The types of items you can craft get better in quality as you level up in the game. In the beginning you can craft simple wooden clubs and bandages but later on you can make guns and better armor as long as you have the experience and items on hand. There are some friendly outposts where you can buy food, materials, and most importantly, medicine. Leveling up is done by completing missions assigned at outposts, crafting items, or killing enemies. Some missions will have you rescuing people while others require you to assassinate them.

    When fighting against giant spiders and zombies, you may become infected and have to take antibiotics before your health runs out. As long as you have a full stomach, your health will regenerate automatically. Cows, pigs, and sheep can be killed for food. You may want to stay away from the bulls since they put up a fight. Planting and harvesting potatoes and berries is possible if you prefer going vegan. Various beverages including alcoholic ones are available for consumption as well.

    I have tried both a gamepad and keyboard/mouse controls and found both of them lacking. Killing easy prey like livestock is a challenge with the horrible controls. Cooking food isn’t explained very well and I had to go to the Steam community forums to figure out how to cook raw meat and potatoes. In order to cook food you have to throw it on the ground near a campfire and then wait a few moments. As I was waiting for my raw meat to cook, a feral dog/wolf came by and ate it. Though frustrating, the mutt did turn out to be a helpful companion and assisted me in taking down many zombies. Since the controls are so poor, I hit the dog on accident while attacking on numerous occasions. Sometimes it would retaliate and other times it would not.

    Immune – True Survival
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 56%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    When attacking you will see blood. As your character takes damage the screen will show blood splatters and go dimmer and dimmer until you die. In the event of your death, any items in your backpack (except for gold) will be left behind and can be reclaimed as long as another player doesn’t beat you to them. Since the servers were empty, that didn’t pose a problem for me. However, upon your demise, your character is randomly placed on the map and any active quests are cancelled out.

    To cover long distances there are jeeps that can help you get around quickly. I did learn the hard way that a group of zombies will win against a vehicle so steer clear of them. I thought running them over Carmageddon style would be fun, but I was mistaken.

    Overall, Immune is disappointing on many levels. Visually this game isn’t very impressive and the open world is very bland and outdated. The sound effects are decent but there isn’t any voice acting or background music to speak of. At least there are cricket noises to let you know how empty the world is. Perhaps this game would be more fun if there more people playing on the servers. If an empty survival world game sounds appealing to you, the price of entry is a mere 99 cents.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Kingdom: Classic
    Developed By: Noio, Licorice
    Published By: Raw Fury
    Released: October 21, 2015
    Available On: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Survival, 2D, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 offline, no online play
    Price: $4.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Kingdom: Classic is nothing short of well, a Classic. But let's start simple: The gameplay.

    Kingdom's gameplay is an amazing mix of build-em-up/survive the night. To start off, you're a king or queen (you can choose after you start the game) who is trying to stay alive. If you lose your crown, the game will end. But we'll come back to this. In addition, this game runs on a currency system of gold coins. In the beginning, you're given an ample amount of around 10 coins. You can build your camp for 3 coins, and that will allow you to recruit members to join it. Now, let me explain how this game works.

    Your world exists on a 2D sidescrolling plane. What this means, is that you can only travel to the left or right of the screen. And, don't get me wrong, this world is large, and it uses this mechanic in a great way. In the (rough) center of each world, is your camp. You can explore a good distance to the left and right of your camp. Along the way, you'll find buildings that can boost your fighters' strength, how fast you build things, upgrades for your buildings, etc. Another thing you can find is a peasant camp. Now, let's explain this mechanic. Every member of your group starts as a peasant. You can give them 1 coin and they'll join your camp. In the beginning of the game, you get 2 peasants at your camp you can recruit. After this, you have to try to find peasant camps to the left or right of your camps, and give them a coin to join your group.

    There are 3 types of members you can have in your group. In the beginning of the game, you have the option to buy a hammer for 3 coins, or a bow for 2 coins. When a member of your camp picks this up, they become a builder, or an archer respectively. Builders, well, build. Builders can build walls (for a price) around the left and right sides of your camp. They can also build catapults, archer towers, farms and more.

    Well, you've recruited 4 archers and a builder. You've built a wall on each side. But, now comes the night. Can you survive it?

    Kingdom: Classic
    The Greed attacking at night
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful pixel graphics, polished gameplay with great music and ambiance
    Weak Points: After 15+ hours of gameplay, it can get a bit stale. Poor AI on some characters
    Moral Warnings:None!

    This game runs on a dynamic day/night and weather cycle. It can rain, it can be cloudy, it can be sunny, and it can turn from day to night. After each day/night cycle, one day passes. In the night however, comes the main enemy of the game: The Greed. The Greed are a sort of goblin-like enemy, that want nothing but money, or your crown. This is how you lose the game. If you're caught outside of your camp at night, there's a chance the Greed could catch you. If you have no more coins in your bag, they'll knock the crown off your head and try to take it. If they succeed, you lose, and the game restarts from the very first day, with nothing built. This is where the challenge of the game comes in. You have to explore, to try and recruit more members, while also making it back home. This gameplay isn't very unique, but it does it in such a unique way that it makes this game a lot of fun, even for a short time.

    Now, how do I earn coins, you might be asking. It's simple. In this game, you earn coins via three different ways. Chests are one of them. At the end of each night, and the beginning of a new day, you'll receive a chest full of around 8 gold coins. In addition, there are chests hidden in the world (usually two) that can give you 10+ coins. You find these by simply walking the world and discovering them. The second way is to kill animals. If your archers kill a deer, you get 2-3 coins from it. They can also kill rabbits, which give 1 coin each. The third way, and the third member of your group, is farming/farmers. Builders can create a farm outside of your farm, and you can recruit peasants, and buy a scythe for 5 coins. When they pick up the scythe, they become farmers. Then, they go to work on the farm planting crops. After a few days, they harvest the crop and give you 4 coins. Usually 4 farmers can operate on one farm.

    Phew, that was a lot of work. Now, let's move on to something more interesting. Those graphics.

    The graphics in this game, are quite literally, pixel perfect. For lovers of the NES/SNES/Genesis style of graphics, this game takes that art style and turns it up to 11. It takes a simple pixel art style, and makes it absolutely beautiful. The hand-crafted foliage and architectural detail make this look great. With amazing animations, clean colors, and entrancing water effects, shaders and light make this game something like a cinematic masterpiece. For fans of games like Hyper Light Drifter or Stardew Valley, you will with utmost certainty love this game, if only for its looks. I'm giving this game a 7/10 for it's looks, but this is my opinion as I love the pixel art style and how detailed it is.

    Time to talk about this game's best feature: The music. Where do I even start with this? Classic's music is an amazing mix of nostalgia, swelling synths, ominous undertones and perfect chords that can change your entire view on this world. After each night, usually a song starts playing, one of the several great songs in this game. It seems that although there are huge differences between each song, they all come together to make your experience even better and more memorable. I said up there that this music feels almost nostalgic, because the composer was so good at this it feels like you already know it by heart once you've heard it. Here's a little example.

    Kingdom: Classic
    Those beautiful graphics
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    In addition, the game's ambiance is good. With little sounds like your horse galloping, the water running, the grass ruffling as you run by it, the sounds of people as you come into your camp; it all comes together to make a strong atmosphere that you can feel and envision.

    The controls in this game are very precise, and simplistic. All in all, you only use 4 keys in this game (5 if you count Escape to pause it). You can choose to use the standard WASD or arrow keys to move and interact with people and objects. The controls have no perceivable input lag and feel very fluid. In addition, controller support for this game is A+. If you're the kind of person that likes to play from a couch, know that this game works fine with controllers. Now, let's get onto the general and moral cons.

    Generally, this game has a slight issue with AI. Sometimes it can work well, and sometimes it seems like your villagers are monkeys with keyboards. Graphically, there are also some issues. It appears that light sources put off an abnormal amount of light that make character sprites look really bright, almost white. While this issue (most likely bloom) was fixed in Kingdom: New Lands, it's still a slightly annoying thing to look at, and as such I will dock a point for it. In addition, the gameplay does get a little stale after your first or second win. There really is a point where the content runs out, and you simply can't find more to enjoy. Kingdom: New Lands has almost 3 times the content of Classic, but it also has even less intelligent AI, when it comes to some characters.

    Morally, I see nothing wrong with this game. There's no language, there's no sexual content, there's no real violence or gore, but you do kill the Greed in self-defense as they want to take your crown and harm your villagers. Its pretty much a clean game. The Greed, I suppose, are the only real suspicious part of this game, as they are sort of dark goblin looking characters that come out of red/purple portals.

    So, in closing, Kingdom: Classic is an underrated gem that combines polished gameplay, dazzling graphical technology, enchanting music and atmosphere to create one perfect package.

    - God's Gaming's Contempt, urging you to play this gem.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Last Year: The Nightmare
    Developed by: Elastic Games
    Published by: Elastic Games
    Release Date: December 18, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Survival/horror
    Number of players: Up to six online
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you Elastic Games for sending us a review code!

    On Halloween night in 1996, a ragtag group of teenagers find themselves trapped on the East Side High School campus. There’s a killer prowling around and to avoid being slaughtered, they must find the means to escape and do so quickly. The high schoolers range from popular prom king/queen to the normally ignored nerds that are tech-savvy.

    There are three maps and each of them have different requirements that have to be met before the escape route is available for any survivors. If the escape gate is opened, the students have only forty-five seconds to get to it. Sticking together is beneficial, but if the killer is near, scattering is your best option unless you have a game plan on taking them down.

    Makeshift weapons like hockey sticks, pipes, and flamethrowers can be found or crafted. Keep an eye out for scrap and crafting kits which can be used to make stronger weapons and helpful tools. Gathering scrap could be dangerous as the killer may leave bear traps or poison gas by them.

    Last Year: The Nightmare
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of people to play with online; nicely detailed maps
    Weak Points: No single-player or bots to practice against; only three maps
    Moral Warnings: Gruesome violence and bloodshed; strong language in-game (F-bombs) and even more so provided by players with microphones

    There are three different killers and they each have a powerful attack that can instantly kill an unsuspecting student. The strangler can use vents to quickly swipe and choke a player. If the slasher is the killer, he can jump down from skylights and get an instant head-shot. The aptly-named giant can smash through walls like the Kool-Aid mascot. When a student dies, they can respawn in a closed room and rejoin the game after someone lets them out. Until then, they can watch the game from another player’s perspective.

    As intimidating as the killers are, the students have methods of fighting back with their various classes. The medic can heal injured students, but can’t do much for those who are instantly killed. Scouts can easily spot and highlight traps so others can avoid them. Technicians can build turrets and barricade doors. While any survivor can attack with a crafted weapon, the assault class is the strongest from the get-go. If you’re not happy with your class, you can respawn as a different one as long as the position is not maxed out by other players.

    Last Year: The Nightmare
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 55%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Currently, there are only three maps and each of them is nicely detailed and has lots of places to explore and check out. Hiding is a bit difficult since you can see the outline of other players through the walls. To make matters worse, the killers have the ability to turn invisible and sprint really quickly.

    Not surprisingly, this game is very gory and the deaths are brutal at times. You’ll see teenagers getting strangled, beaten, and hacked to pieces. As a student, it’s your goal to escape and if you’re voted to be the killer, you don’t want any survivors when the time runs out. Along with the violence, you can expect course language from the characters in-game and from those playing it with microphones enabled. This is not a game for young children to be playing. Sadly, on one of my playthroughs there was a very young child playing. I am guessing that this kid was around 5-6 years old and it really saddened me that they had access to this very gory game.

    If you enjoy survival/horror games and don’t mind strong language or violence, Last Year: The Nightmare is worth checking out. This is an online-only game and there are no practice areas with bots to hone your skills on. Thankfully, there’s a quickstart guide available on the game’s website. I had no trouble joining matches with 5-6 players. Hopefully, the online player base stays strong for those willing to spend $30 on this game. More maps would be a welcome addition, but the developers have been busy updating and balancing the gameplay. Currently this title is a discord exclusive, but it will be arriving on other digital storefronts soon.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Niche: A Genetics Survival Game
    Developed By: Stray Fawn Studios
    Published By: Stray Fawn Studios
    Released: September 15, 2016
    Available On: Windows, Linux, and macOS
    Genre: Strategy, Survival, Simulator
    ESRB Rating: No rating
    Number of Players: Single player
    Price: $17.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    [This review was written after the 1.0.6. patch.]

    Thank you Stray Fawn Studios for sending us your game.

    DNA - the strands by which God knit the universe; they are as marvelous as they are fascinating. They determine how someone looks, their physicality, and links them to their parentage. Geneticists have strived to explain how these wonders are passed on or skip a generation, but even with what can be learned, it’s impossible to gain complete understanding of God’s hidden ways. DNA is the most universally recognized source of human diversity. Same truth goes in the animal kingdom. Now, imagine you were in charge of genetic distribution, tasked with the creation of a new species. Which animals would you mate? Which genes would you mutate? Well, Stray Fawn Studios sets to put your biological wisdom to the test with their game, Niche: A Genetics Survival Game.

    Before we dive into this review, let’s take a quick pause, because a basic understanding of genetics is helpful to better understand Niche. Now some of you might recall your old school biology class and remember terms like genes, dominant alleles, and recessive alleles. If that’s you, then great. Feel free to skip this paragraph, but any of you who wants a refresher course, here’s a quick sum up. Genes in DNA are inherited units that define physical traits (hair, eyes, etc.), and alleles are specific kinds of genes that specify the characteristics of said physical traits (long hair, green eyes, etc.). There are two types of alleles: dominant and recessive. The difference results in the commonality or rarity of certain traits. A person only needs one dominant allele for it to be active, but recessive alleles require two. To reiterate, if brown hair alleles are dominant and blonde hair alleles are recessive, then a child would need two blonde alleles to have golden locks, while a brunette would only need one brown allele. If said brunette does posses an inactive blonde allele and marries a spouse who’s the same, then there’s a slim chance for said couple to birth a blonde baby. That’s the main gist. Now, obviously, this topic is actually way more complicated than that, but if this elementary explanation works for you, then you’re well enough prepped for Niche.

    Okay. So with the mini biology course done, let’s talk about the game. Niche has two main modes: story mode and sandbox mode. There isn’t much difference between them, though. Story mode’s itsy-bitsy, non-consequential plot just serves as a decent beginner springboard, and sandbox mode essentially lets you pick which difficulty level you want to begin with. Your goal in either mode is the same. Take an island-bound pair of fictitious animals, one male and one female, and breed a stable species. You can travel from island to island if you want. It is the sole way to experience Niche’s full range of ecosystems, but once you settle, those critters of yours must be able to cope accordingly. Try to stay alive. That said, I think Niche’s setup is excellent. Evolving your own species your way taps into the human desire to personalize. It’s one of the strongest motivators there is. At the same time, the game challenges you to pursue your dream creature and make it work. Form shouldn’t sacrifice function, and in my personal taste, designs that combine beauty with usefulness differentiates a grand design from a good design. Thus, the brilliance of Niche is that it’s the survival challenge itself that actually improves the award. Give Niche’s designers a big hand. That was well thought out.

    Niche: A Genetics Survival Game
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Stellar Gameplay; Relaxing Pace
    Weak Points: Confusing Organization; A Lacking Tutorial 
    Moral Warnings: Forced Mating; Symbolized Violence

    Presentation wise, Niche has a pleasantly simple cartoonish look. Your animals don’t get much in terms of detail or shading, which one would think would be important in a game about evolutionary customization. However, Niche makes up for it with the plethora of stripes, spots, body types, and facial structures you can combine. No two animals are alike. The variances between the islands’ flora and fauna are satisfying too. Ecosystems range from desert savannas to arctic tundras, lush swamps to exotic jungles, or pleasant meadows to mountain ranges. Their color schemes are also pretty simplistic, mostly sticking to solid colors, but the plants have more shading detail done on them. Your current biome will also effect your gameplay with their own unique predators and food sources. Some ecosystems are easy to adapt to. Others house pretty harsh conditions, but we’ll elaborate on survival in just a bit. Niche’s music was noticeably minimalistic. It just repeated a single piece that lacked a clear melody. It’s nice that it added different instruments based on your current island, but it didn’t do much for me. I suppose it helps the whole ‘enjoying nature’ experience not to belt out big instrumentals, though. Overall, Niche did decently. It doesn’t have the most fabulous scenery or models, but there’s a lot of both for a dense number of possibilities. Think of it as a matter of quantity over quality.

    Niche follows the turn-based strategy game formula. Each day acts as a single turn, and as previously mentioned, expanding the family tree isn’t the only important matter. Hazards from weather conditions to predators must be answered, and there is berry collecting and hunting to be done. Now, it’s important to consider your critter’s lifespan - yes, their lifespan. Animals age and will die after so many turns, so it’s crucial to avoid attacks, illness, and starvation. Otherwise, their life is shortened by one day, and an island full of bones equals Game Over. Day to day survival needs will vary. However, there must be at least one piece of food per animal per day in your food counter. That fact is invariable. You’ll also need to collect at least ten bits of tall grass for a nest to birth your babies in. Your animals can only accomplish tasks within their reach, so you can move mammals like chess pieces around your island. Take note, though, that what can be done in a single day is limited. Each animal, depending on their age, will have one to three gems on their chest that indicate their action tally. Have a critter move, pick fruit, fight, etc. and its gem will dim. Once all gems go out, that animal will fall asleep until the next day. This restriction certainly asks the player to weigh their choices carefully, but it doesn’t rush them, since the day won’t end without the player’s say-so.

    Alright. That covers the bare basics of the survival mechanics, but as we’ve established, animals grow old and die. To put Mr. Stork on hold for too long spells failure too. Multiplying and surviving requires equal attention. So, about wildlife breeding - your first instinct would likely say (Papa + Mama = Baby) times ten. Clearly, mating your Adam and Eve is an obvious must. Fact is, though, tiny tots become big tots, and big tots need mates too. That’s where your family tree can tangle into an overripe mess. You don’t want desirable genes fading out nor unwanted genes infecting your gene pool. The key is to: (A.) know what your animals need; (B.) know what they inherently have; and (C.) pair ideal couples that optimize genes of interest. Now, different attributes impact your animals in various ways. Some attributes, like body types, can naturally enable side effects like heightened senses, temperature resistance, camouflage, and so on. Other attributes determine your animal’s abilities. Got digging claws? They can unearth roots. Born with strong jaws? Nuts are theirs to crack, and it’s possible for a baby to have more than one attribute at the same time. However, that’s just talking about what they can do, not how good they are at it. That’s why all abilities are graded with a number. These numbers inform you on how effective that animal is at that specific job. (Can they pick more than one fruit at a time? Is their attack strength strong enough for big prey?) The higher the number, the better the ability. Of course, achieving higher numbers in a desired gene can be done by simply mating similarly attributed animals. That will work, but to pair animals that are best in their business is the far more efficient option.

    Niche: A Genetics Survival Game
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability -5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    However, breeders beware. Evolutionary risks are always involved when chromosomes combine. Even with the perfect couples, you aren’t guaranteed a prime specimen. There’s a random factor to it. Sometimes the new tyke won’t augment their parents’ primary skills at all, or they’ll at least maintain them as a recessive allele. In other cases, a good gene might lose effectiveness without a complimentary gene. A gifted bottom feeder, for example, is largely useless if they can’t swim. Then there’s the chance of accidentally overlooking a bad allele. Oh, yeah. Those exist too, and these DNA dangers can severely handicap your pups. Deformed paws are a nasty deficit, since they can’t accomplish anything. There’s also blindness, and infertility can stump a family branch altogether. However, the absolute worst thing you can possibly do is mate two critters with similar immunity alleles. These genes matter so much, that if you get a baby with a doubled immunity strand, it leaves them chronically sick and doomed to a halved lifespan. (*Sigh* Oh, the sins of rampant inbreeding.) Good thing there are often other wandering animals with their own genes to contribute in your group. Just feed them five foods, and they’re all in. I sure wish the human adoption process was that simple.

    Niche’s mechanics don’t end there. It also empowers players to choose an animal’s status and activate mutations. An animal’s status can be flipped between alpha, beta, and omega. Their rank determines their share of the rations during food shortages. The alphas will get first dibs, but the omegas will lose out on the munchies followed by the betas if it’s really bad. Lower ranked animals can be exiled by their superiors too. Sad to say that it renders omegas especially banish-able. Boy, it stinks to be the runt, huh? At least your critters can’t boot each other without you knowing. Now, there are a few cases where it may benefit the whole clan to sacrifice one or two. An infertile member with two deformed paws would be nothing more than another mouth to feed. Personally speaking though, I tried avoiding that option. It can improve some situations, but I find it too cruel for my taste. As for your second tool, the mutation mechanic helps further your genetic control. All animals have an accessible mutation sub-menu. There you can select a gene to mutate to boost its chance of passing to that animal’s offspring, yet your options aren’t limited to genes they currently have. It’s possible to use it to gain entirely new traits your animals need. There are three catches, though. You can only do this twice to any given animal. A mutated gene cannot be restored, and some genes must first be unlocked via certain in-game requirements. Now, because Niche has portrayed genetics quite well so far, I partly want to ping it for misrepresenting the mutation process, since that actually removes genetic information instead of adding it, but the far bigger issue was Niche’s neglect to fully explain this mechanic. The tutorial didn’t teach me how to use mutations. The onscreen information said zip about it. I had to outsource to online guides to understand its purpose at all, and while I’m on the topic, the game doesn’t let you know which alleles are dominant and recessive either. Some specifications would have been nice, Stray Fawn. Still, Niche did great at showing me everything else. It just so happened to skip that step.

    Everything is controlled by the click of a mouse. Panning the camera around can be done with arrow keys too, but I considered clicking and dragging to be more intuitive. Selecting an animal will show you their action options in the spaces around them, and their picture will appear on the bottom left corner of your screen, along with a few extra icons. These clickable icons let you see their rank, abilities, active and inactive genes, genealogy diagram, and mutation sub-menu. They can help you track who is who and who can do what - with mixed results. I still experienced difficulties keeping tabs on my animals, but in fairness, Niche without these features would be an organization nightmare. Plus, I couldn’t figure out a solution to curb the issue myself, so what the designers have done will do. On the right screen corner sits the final set of icons. They record the amount of collected food, gathered nesting materials, and current number of animals you have. Last and most importantly of all is your sensory settings. You can alternate between your animals’ senses to see all that they see, smell, and hear. I personally really loved this mechanic. It was immensely helpful for detecting food or danger I’d otherwise miss.

    Time to address the elephant in the room. I’m sure some of you find the mere mention of evolution uncomfortable. Just say the word, and sparks tend to go flying. Okay. First off, please remember that this article is just a game review. It is not an essay on the creation vs. evolution debate. However, it’s also important to remind ourselves that this is a Christian game reviewing site. Which means, we, the staff, are to judge games based on a Biblical worldview. That means we’ve chosen to support God’s Word as entirely true without compromises. So, with that in mind, how does Niche’s scientific stance stack up from a Biblical standpoint? Pretty well actually. That would likely surprise some of you, so let me explain. There are two types of ‘evolution’ that tends to get used interchangeably. ‘Macro-evolution’ (changes across species like a fish to a monkey) is what’s most commonly thought of as ‘evolution’, but there is also ‘micro-evolution’ (changes within animal kinds like a wolf to a poodle). The Bible, as it is written, cannot support the macro side of evolutionary theory. However, micro-evolution not only compliments the Biblical foundation, it’s also a provable theory that explains why we have so many animal varieties today. Knowing that, what kind of ‘evolution’ does Niche promote? I’d say mostly ‘micro’ evolution. While the animals you’re breeding are fictitious, they are pretty mammal-like, and most evolutionary options in the game stay close to the mammalian gene pool. However, one option, namely gills, is very suspect, since gilled mammals have not been discovered. It’s a debatable point, though. Niche’s animals are fictional to begin with. Thus, they could be their own unique ‘kind’ of animal and technically not mammalian at all. Anyway, it’s something to think about. Other moral questions may include the whole male-female mating thing. Not to worry, parents. The impregnation process only shows little hearts floating around the happy couple. No birds and bees talk is necessary, but it is worth mentioning that an ugly mug rogue male might *ahem* ‘force’ himself on one of your feminine critters if she’s unprotected. Lastly, violence isn’t violent either. Attacks register as little red scratches or blood drop icons, and bones appear wherever an animal dies. That’s pretty much it.

    Niche: A Genetics Survival Game is an interesting case. It’s both daunting and approachable. Daunting in the sense that its science is complicated and can be laced with harsh difficulty. Approachable in the sense that it doesn’t force itself upon its players. If raising furry families appeals to you, Niche won’t shove you off the easy islands. You can stick around as long as you want, but if you want Niche’s ugly side, it’s just a hop skip and a puddle jump away. I loved how it *mostly* avoids macro-evolution. I loved the sensory mechanic. I loved the low-key pace, and though it didn’t avoid disorganizational confusion completely, the developers’ efforts alleviated most of the trouble. The main mistake Niche makes is that it forgot to explain in-game mutations and assumes most people are familiar with genetics. It’s a good thing I retained basic memories of the study. Otherwise, I’m convinced I’d be lost. Lost or not though, I truly did enjoy Niche, despite its few scientific missteps. Creative thinkers would delight in it, I’ll bet. Like I’ve said, customization is a powerful selling point, yet Stray Fawn studios avoided an easy designer’s pitfall. They didn’t rely on one enticing motivator and call it a day. They ensured the goals encouraged gameplay, and gameplay enriched the goal. That’s quite the ‘circle of life’ in a genuinely fun game if you ask me.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Resident Evil HD
    Developed By: Capcom
    Published By: Capcom
    Released: January 19, 2015
    Available On: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC(Steam), Xbox360, XboxOne
    Genre: Survival Horror
    ESRB Rating: M for mature (Violence, Blood and Gore, Language)|
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $20.00
    (Humble Affiliate Link)

    Enter, the survival horror. These are the words you are greeted with upon entering the eponymous Spencer Mansion. (cuz it’s a residence….with evil in it...get it?...Yeah I agree Biohazard does sound cooler but what can you do?) This terrifying yet campy sentence perfectly sums up the experience of this game. This game is an HD remastering of a 2002 remake of the original resident evil, the game that coined the term “survival horror.” Many of you may be asking, “What is survival horror?” Well read on. Don’t worry I won’t bite... but the zombies will.

    Resident Evil’s story entails members of a SWAT like unit of the police called STARS, (Special Tactics and Rescue Squad) as they’re sent in to investigate a string of mysterious murders in the woods. They’re attacked by rabid dogs and forced to seek shelter in the abandoned Spencer mansion. Little do they know that this mansion holds within it the plethora of terrifying biologically engineered monsters, everything from car sized spiders, to half reptile men and of course, countless hungry zombies. As if that weren’t bad enough, the entire mansion has crazy logic puzzle security measures that will test the player’s wit and grit. Getting out alive is the daunting task before you, but if you’re cautious and don’t panic, you’ll get out alive and well.

    Resident Evil plays using fixed third person camera angles and tank controls. For the uninitiated, tank controls work in such a way that when you press forward it moves your character forward in the direction they are facing, and pressing left or right makes them slowly turn in that direction relative to where they are facing rather than dashing off immediately like most games. This allows you to continue moving as the ominous third person camera watches you from odd angles that keep you from seeing very far ahead. It may feel clunky at first but these two features absolutely sell the horror atmosphere.

    Resident Evil HD
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Loads of replay value; balances atmosphere and gameplay well; adjustable difficulty and challenges catering to both pros and newcomers alike; unique style of gameplay.
    Weak Points: Controls will be a put off to some; It also occasionally pokes fun at itself and that might take some out of the experience.
    Moral Warnings: Violent and frightening to many; Some language (d*mn, h*ll, b*****d, s**t, and the lord's name in vain once ); Optional fanservicey costumes; Some background pinup posters in one room; Gore, lots of gore.

    The most important aspect of Resident Evil is resource management. Your character has a limited amount of health, ammo, inventory space, and even saves. This means you have to constantly keep track of what you have and try and guess when you can afford to heal or save or even shoot. What makes this game so much better (in this reviewer’s opinion) than other horror games are two key factors. 

    Rather than making you absolutely powerless and forcing you to run from everything, this game gives you just enough ammo to do some damage but not enough to remove all danger. Meaning you have got to painstakingly decide when a situation is too dangerous and you need to take out these monsters versus when you think you have just enough health to make it back to that save room without dying. Which leads to the second great thing about Resident Evil: saves are a limited supply item and they take up inventory space. Yeah, if you want to save you have to give up an item slot that could be used to hold key items or more ammo or a healing item. This creates yet another brilliant layer of risk versus reward that builds even more tension for the player.

    The story of Resident Evil isn’t exactly of Tolkien level quality, but it perfectly fits the sort of campy zombie movie aesthetic the game is going for, and the intentionally awkward voice acting actually really helps break some of the tension the gameplay causes. The entire game has a very distinct look with largely pre-rendered backgrounds against 3D models. It may not be of top fidelity, but the art direction lets this game hold up over a decade later. Despite being initially scary, the game gives way to a sort of enjoyable mystery thriller plot as it goes on.

    Resident Evil HD
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 72%
    Violence - 1.5/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
    +3 The traitor gets their due

    This shift from a subtle horror to a more proactive fight is empowerment in gaming done right. It also lends itself well to the replayability. Each time you beat the game, many different replay options come. These include: real survivor (super hard mode), knife only, under three hours, invisible enemies, different costumes and an unlimited ammo rocket launcher. All of these provide a quality challenge of the player and made going for 100% completion a real treat and a fun challenge. That’s not even mentioning the tons of other replayable incentives, such as two different characters whose stories vary slightly, different paths, and choices each can take throughout the game, as well as twelve different endings.

    As much as I’ve gushed about this game, it would only be fair to point out the few flaws that are there. For one, the game can be tense and frightening, it’s rated M for a reason. That being said, I had some friends who are very sensitive to violence play it with me and they said it wasn’t as bad as other games, so your mileage may vary. Still, I would probably not let younger children play it to be sure. Beyond that, there is the occasional curse word, nothing you won’t see on daytime television, but that’s something to keep in mind.  Finally, there are some small (but odd) sexual inclusions in the game. This includes a scantily clad pinup poster in the break room. There is also a brief instance of artistic nudity (female breasts) involved in a puzzle. Even more curiously is the inclusion of breast physics on Jill (the female lead) that was not present until the HD remake. It’s not super pronounced but when you notice it, it feels very out of place. The extra costumes on the women can be a bit questionable but nothing too racy (and they are 100% optional). While the player never kills another human, a traitor does shoot and kill other humans.

    Resident Evil HD is a near perfect experience in the gameplay department. It is the pinnacle of its' genre, and manages to do exactly what it set out to do and then some. That being said, the blood and gore might be cause for concern, as well as some cursing scattered throughout. This is a mature rated game, and it is important to keep that in mind when considering your purchase. If you are not bothered by the moral issues you will find a well crafted experience with lots of replayability. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go eat a “Jill sandwich.”

    -Dallen Malna

     

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Count Lucanor
    Developed by: Baroque Decay
    Published by: Baroque Decay
    Released: March 3, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac OS X
    Genre: Survival horror, puzzle
    Number of players: 1 (offline)
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you, Baroque Decay Games, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    Many children dream of running away from home, and young Hans is no exception. His father is away at war, and his mother has no money to even buy him a present for his 10th birthday. Determined to find a better life for himself, he runs away from home. As night falls, however, he finds himself trapped in an eerie castle filled with bloodthirsty monsters and an enigmatic kobold with just one question: "What is my name?"

    Thus is the premise of "The Count Lucanor," a spooky stealth game with strong survival horror influences. You control Hans as he tries to solve the kobold's riddle in order to gain access to the hidden count – and hopefully, the count's treasure. Hans has no weapons to fight off the weregoats or robed monsters that stalk the halls. Instead, he must rely on candles to light the passages, and tables to hide beneath to avoid their notice. He also must solve a variety of puzzles and obstacles in order to open treasure chests containing letters to the kobold's name. 

    The gameplay is demonstrated in a top-down isometric fashion, and sports an 8-bit graphic style. The action happens in real-time, and the hooded figures have the ability to pull Hans towards them in order to attack. The controls are basic, with the standard WASD set-up, and action keys and inventory keys tied in as well. There is an option to change the controls to whatever the user would like, as well as support for a variety of gamepads. Unfortunately, the controls don't seem as sharp with my Logitech controller, with Hans continuing to drift for a few seconds after letting up on the buttons. This can be especially problematic when trying to avoid enemies. 

    The Count Lucanor
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Atmospheric, spooky game with well-done survival horror elements; clever puzzles; support for multiple languages
    Weak Points: Some control issues with game pads; relatively short
    Moral Warnings: Blood, occult imagery, blood, violence, blood, language, and more blood

    The atmosphere of the game is indeed dark, with shadows encroaching on the candles you place on the ground. There is a limit to the number of candles you have as well, so careful planning is needed to avoid being trapped in the dark with monsters or deadly traps. Fortunately, it is possible to find food that can replenish your health. Like the candles, there is a limit to the number of food items in the game. Gold also can be found, which can be used to purchase items, or to save your progress with the raven perched atop the fountain in the center of the castle garden. The save mechanism is called "save soul," and creates a save point which you can return to at a later time, if you desire. 

    The music adds nicely to the game as well, being a spooky chiptune version of organ music reminiscent of vintage horror films. The sound effects are mixed, though. The hooded figures sound like they're whispering backwards, which makes them all the more frightening. But Hans' yelps sound more like a wounded chipmunk, and is irritating. There is no voice acting in the game, with all the dialogue presented in text boxes. Several languages are supported, though.

    The game's stealth elements are well done. The hooded figures have a tendency to linger around the table you're hiding beneath, creating a sense of unease and dread. One special figure has a tendency to taunt you whenever you're in the same room, and his bloody visage adds to the fearsome element of the game as well. Although there aren't any jump scares in the game, the horror elements are definitely present. 

    The Count Lucanor
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 49%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6.5/10

    As can be expected, there are some moral considerations with a horror game like this. The hooded monsters have circular shapes similar to pentagrams appear at their feet when they attack. Although sporadic, there are some language issues, including a few instances of the s- word (including in one of the game's achievements). One of the characters spends the entire time naked – he crawls around on his hands and knees, and the graphic style prevents things from being too detailed. There also are elements of toilet humor, especially in the form of a donkey. Hans also lies about his origins when he meets the kobold – something he does end up regretting later.

    And there is blood. So much blood. Rivers of blood – in one case, literally. Some of the characters you converse with are actively bleeding – including the severed head of a shepherd (he doesn't have any problems being a severed head, by the way). When attacked, Hans will have digitized blood leap from his body, and it remains on the ground until you leave and re-enter the room. Blood is found on the walls and floors near traps, and that can include bones from prior victims. When the hooded creatures attack, they remove their masks, and tentacles of blood – or possibly blood veins – leap out a few feet to latch onto Hans. Some cutscenes show an abundance of blood as well. If it weren't for the pixellated graphic style, this could easily be one of the most gruesome games I've played. 

    The Count Lucanor does have several endings and many achievements to obtain. Although the game can be completed in about five hours, multiple playthroughs are needed in order to obtain all of the endings and achievements. There are many secrets to discover, and those who are completionists will find quite a bit to strive for in this game. 

    There are many elements that make The Count Lucanor entertaining. The survival elements are well done, the story is entertaining, the pacing is solid and the music and sound effects add to the atmosphere well. The game is undeniably creepy, though, and the violence and gore present makes it hard for me to recommend this game to fellow Christians. If such elements don't bother you, then perhaps you should also delve into this terrifying tale, and see if you can find the count's treasure. Don't misplace your candles, though - you do have a limited supply, and there are monsters in the darkness.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Flame In The Flood
    Developed by: The Molasses Flood
    Published by: The Molasses Flood
    Release date: February 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac, Xbox One
    Genre: Survival
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood and violence
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Molasses Flood for sending us a review code!

    Have you ever wondered how long you would survive in the wild with no supplies?  If The Flame In The Flood is any indication, chances are I wouldn’t last a week.  There are two game modes: campaign and endless.  The goal in both is to survive in the post-societal wilderness by scrounging for and crafting resources and staying ahead of the coming rains.

    All that the main character, Scout, has is a backpack (with never enough space!), a raft, and a helpful dog that sniffs out items that are worth grabbing.  Despite selecting the dog Daisy, it still shows up as Aesop in the game’s inventory menu.  The beginning of the journey takes place at camp Pinewood where you can read instructional signs about filtering water, temporarily scaring away wolves, and the usefulness of campfires. 

    There are only four stats to worry about: hunger, thirst, temperature, and rest.  Keeping those levels high relies on luck as each adventure is procedurally generated and your scavenging success is never guaranteed.  After you leave the first island you have no idea how far the next one will be and what hostile life forms await you there.

    The Flame In The Flood
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun rogue survival game that keeps track of how many days and how far you can travel before you die in the harsh wilderness.
    Weak Points: Sometimes you’re unlucky when it comes to scavenging; no matter which dog you choose its name appears as Aesop in the inventory screen.
    Moral Warnings: You can die in many ways and some of them are bloody.

    Some islands have caches that reward you for completing tasks like going to church.  Sadly, the churches and most of the other buildings and vehicles are deprecated and abandoned.  Many of them can still be looted for useful items like rags, flint, fishing hooks/wire, and medicine.  Throughout my journeys I have gotten mauled, broken bones, drunk, poison ivy, and a staph infection. 

    I have also died numerous times of starvation.  Finding food is hit or miss; sometimes you can gather plants like corn, yucca, and mulberries but there’s no guarantees on what will be awaiting you on your next stop.  There could be rabbits that you can trap if you have to proper supplies, or deadly bears, wolves, or boars could maul or scare you off the island.  While stashing food is good in theory, it does go bad in a few days unless it’s ash cake which is made from corn.  Some foods like dandelion tea will replenish both your hunger and hydration.

    Occasionally I have come across ready to use items like sewing kits, campfires, and warmer clothes.  If you are wet or cold, you will have a penalty until you rectify the problem.  Also be sure to keep your raft in working order by stopping at the marinas to do repairs.  I learned the hard way that if your raft breaks, you’ll drown.  The kicker was that I was one meter from the marina when it happened.

    If you’re playing on the survivalist difficulty, your deaths will be permanent.  The default traveler difficulty has check points and more supplies available.  I was struggling to stay alive in the traveler mode so I haven’t bothered trying the survival mode.  I like how the dog’s inventory carries over into the next campaign.

    The Flame In The Flood
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The Flame In The Flood is built on the Unreal 4 engine and graphics do not disappoint.  The scenery is well detailed and everything looks run down as intended.  The art style of the characters is rather unique and they are well animated.  Since this game was funded on Kickstarter the dog models used are those of a couple of backers who paid extra.

    The sound effects are very believable, especially the rain and thunder.  The acoustic background music is pleasant to listen to and sets the camping mood nicely.

    Other than the ability to be mauled by wildlife, this game is relatively tame.  The character’s portrait gets bloodied the more she gets attacked.  The staving death sequence is pretty dramatic and drawn out as well.  Because of the various ways to die it’s not recommended for younger children to play.

    If you’re looking for a challenging survival game, The Flame In The Flood is sure to deliver.  I was pleasantly surprised how fun this game is despite me being bad at it.  The price is a reasonable $19.99 and is sure to entertain for hours on end due to its randomly generated environments.  

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Weeping Doll
    Developed by: Tianshe Media
    Published by: Oasis Games Ltd.
    Available on: PS4 (PSVR required)
    Release date: October 27, 2016
    Genre: Horror, Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violent references
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Oasis Games for sending us a review code for this title!

    Weeping Doll is the first horror game I’ve played in VR and it’s pretty tame in all honesty. I thought VR would make me more susceptible to jump scares, but I didn’t feel on edge or get startled in my couple hour playthrough of this $10 title. If you’re looking for a game that is scary and has thought provoking puzzles, then you’ll want to look elsewhere.

    While Weeping Doll isn’t scary, it is creepy. The dolls scattered around this haunted mansion are disturbing. For some reason your nameless female character has been called to the mansion and is quickly locked inside with no cellphone reception. Your only choice is to explore and figure out what is going on here.

    On multiple occasions, you’ll hear the story about twin sisters where one has a lot of toys and the other with a facial birthmark is treated very poorly. As you look around the house and touch certain objects, you’ll see some flashbacks about the parents withholding meals from the daughter they dislike. The despised twin is locked in her chilly and empty room all day. All that she has to keep her company is a doll with a similar birthmark on its face.

    Weeping Doll
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Logical puzzles that aren’t overly difficult to solve; checkpoints to save your progress or restore from in case you lose a required item to complete the game
    Weak Points: Short game that really isn’t that scary
    Moral Warnings: References to child abuse and murder; violent acts done by dolls

    At first, many of the areas of this house are blocked off. As you interact with objects, more places become accessible. For the most part, the title plays as a 3D adventure game where you can hover over objects with your PSVR headset and use the controller to manipulate them. Moving around is done via teleporting your character around the rooms. Many of the rooms are locked and you’ll have to locate keys to either get out of a room that you’re suddenly locked into, or to enter a room in the near future.

    Sometimes the keys are laying around, but more often than not you’ll have to solve a puzzle to locate them. In one instance, you have to reassemble a toy train and activate it to reveal that there’s a key hidden in the bridge. After the train goes through the bridge, the key will be on top of it. None of the puzzles were tricky enough for me to seek the guidance of an online walkthrough.

    Learn from my fail and store keys in the inventory system until they are needed. I was holding onto a key and went upstairs to unlock a room only to find that the key was misplaced along the way. With the dark and dreary house décor, I couldn’t find the key for the life of me. I was pretty close to the end too. Fortunately, I was able to restore from the most recent checkpoint and continue on my merry way and see the violent ending played out by dolls. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it does involve a murder.

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

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    You don’t see the murder in real time, but there are some puddles of blood. With all of the doll making supplies in this house, it could technically be paint. Either way, this game is still rather dark with the child neglect and murder references. It definitely earns its Teen rating from the ESRB.

    One technical issue I encountered was that the game launched to a black screen until I ran a calibration on my PS4 camera. In the end, I believe the room was too dark for the camera to track my headset properly. Once the game launched, I did received a few “out of play area” messages. The controls can be a bit clunky at times, but worked for the most part. The most difficult thing was combining items. I guess I’m spoiled by point and click adventure games on the PC.

    If you’re looking for a creepy PSVR game, Weeping Doll may entertain you for a couple of hours. I doubt that it will scare you or make you think too hard. Since there is not much replayability I would wait for a sale rather than parting with $10.

  • 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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