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Game Info:

The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance
Developed by: Scarlet City Studios
Published by: Scarlet City Studios
Release Date: May 5, 2016
Available on: PC/Mac
Genre: Adventure MMO
Number of Players: Single/Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $12.99 for the first episode

Thank you Scarlet City Studios for providing us with an Early Access review code!

An evil usurper named Lucky and his automatons now rule Aethasia.  To make matters worse, they are polluting the land with a poisonous fog.  The fog is used as a power source that the people rely on despite its negative side effects.  A group of rebels led by the mysterious Scarlet Man are forming a resistance and you’re their latest recruit.  Can you help restore Aethasia to its former glory?

When first launching Aetherlight Chronicles, a child’s account and parent’s account have to be created.  I used the same e-mail for both and got notifications for when my child was actively playing and even when they took a break from the game.  I also received an e-mail letting me know when they completed the first episode.  As a parent, I was happy to see that my children’s identity is kept secret and the chat filters are in place and working.  Though some may argue that they work too well since the word “butt” is forbidden.  (The context was that a certain boss kicked my butt.)

Parents and Christians will also be glad to know that this game teaches Biblical stories, but using different locations, names, and let’s not forget, a steampunk universe!  I liked the retelling of the story of Abraham and Isaac and how Alexander had to put his trust in the Scarlet Man.  On the airship, players can explorer the Biblical comparisons even further. 

 

The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance
Highlights:

Strong Points: A fun, safe, and clean MMO game that teaches allegorical Biblical stories in a Steampunk universe!
Weak Points: Upgrading some weapons makes them harder to use
Moral Warnings: Battles against mechanical enemies

Gameplay wise, the Aetherlight plays like a click adventure game with its exploration and inventory gathering, yet it has RPG style quests and battles. When you run into an automaton, a steam cloud will surround your character and the battle will begin.  Nearby players can join you in battle if they choose to.  Besides attacking, you can call for help, or flee from battle if you’re overpowered.

If you flee or die, you’ll be re-spawned in Lukas’ lab.  There doesn’t seem to be any death penalty other than having to trek back to where you left off if you were in the middle of a quest.  Leveling up in this game is done by completing resistance quests.  There is also a level cap of ten for the first episode.  Other than having a higher number floating above your head, I’m not sure what attribute advantages there are in leveling up.  There are no character stats to worry about or adjust.

The battle system is pretty simplistic as well.  In battle you have to select your weapon and target.  Some automatons can only be damaged by a particular weapon.  Many enemies have a unique ability like repairing or a stronger attack.  Usually these abilities take a turn or two to charge up and if possible, you’ll want to take them out before they can complete their desired action.   Depending on the weapon you choose, you can either do a normal attack, a special attack, or miss.  Melee weapons like the whacking stick don’t have a miss option.  I found out the hard way that upgrading my gun increased its power AND chances of missing.     

 

The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 93%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

While fighting enemies doesn’t help you level up, it does provide you with needed parts for building various gadgets and upgrading your weapons.  Depending on how quickly you dispatch your enemies, you can earn one or more items as a reward.  The harder the enemies you defeat, the better parts you can get. 

Parts can also be randomly found and collected throughout the world.   There are plenty of places to explore including the town, a coal mine, a junk yard, an island, and even a mountain top.   The environment is colorful and looks even brighter as you address the fog problem.  There are lots of ways to customize your character’s appearance with the clothes you can find, create, and dye to your liking. 

Since this is an MMO game, you can meet and chat with other players.  Sadly, I didn’t see too many players along on my adventures. I usually ran into at least one player each time I played though.  Even with the lack of players during the early access, I enjoyed my several hours spent in Aethasia.

After completing the main objective in the first episode, the player can still play and complete quests while they’re awaiting the arrival of more content.  While the prices for future episodes are not official, the estimated price point is $15 apiece. I look forward to more great storytelling and products from Scarlet City Studios.  I highly recommend The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance as both a fun MMO as well as a great Biblical learning tool.  I just hope and pray that more players join the resistance.

 

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Game Info:

Upwards, Lonely Robot
Developed by: Random Layers
Published by: Kasedo Games
Released: March 10, 2016
Available On: PC
Genre: Platformer
Number of Players: Single-player story; two player competitive mode
ESRB Rating: N/A
Price: $9.99

Thank you Kasedo Games for sending us a copy of the game to review!

“I think we’re the only ones left.”

Human life is near extinction. You are a robot, created to search for any remaining intelligent life. Every day you climb new towers, with seemingly no progress in your search.

Successfully climbing a tower unlocks a recorded message. These messages help bring insight into the world and your surroundings. I found the overall story to be quite interesting and I anticipated reaching the top of the towers to listen to new recordings. They are all voiced well and help keep you entertained. 

The whole premise of the game is to climb to the top of the towers. Of the 75 story levels included in the game, each one is slightly different than the last, varying in tower height and thickness, enemy selection, hazards, and so forth. As you progress, new mechanics and hostile robots are introduced into the game, adding to the difficulty and varying up the gameplay. Your robot also has a charge bar that must be attended to; if it fully drains, you lose the level. Scattered throughout the levels are a variety of fruit that will help fill it up and keep you alive. There is also an in-game timer located at the bottom of the screen, but none of the levels have a time constraint. There are a variety of unfriendly robots and other various hazards that will slow your progress and decrease your charge. Some levels also have a purple cloud that slowly destroys the tower underneath. You must carefully and speedily navigate the tower in order to successfully reach the top. 

Upwards, Lonely Robot
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fun arcade-style gameplay; interesting voice acted story; pleasing visuals
Weak Points: Gameplay can feel repetitive; nearly no change in scenery
Moral Warnings: None!

The game has four difficulty levels: easy, normal, hard, and very hard. I played through the story levels in normal difficulty. Most of the levels only took me one try, but some proved to be a bit more difficult and required multiple attempts to master.

There are three extra upgrades that your robot may be given at the start of the level. These include a double jump, high jump, and teleportation, which allow you to phase through the platform directly above and below your character. I found all the extra abilities to be fun additions to the core gameplay.

Apart from the main story levels, the game also includes other modes. Climber mode allows you to set up your own level from a variety of presets included in the game. Infinite mode challenges the player to reach new heights as you race against the purple cloud in an endless level. If you select certain level presets, your score will also be uploaded to the leaderboards to compare with other players. Finally, duel mode is a one-on-one split-screen battle between you and your opponent. The winner is decided by whoever reaches the top of the tower the quickest or whoever stays alive the longest during the match. As like the previous modes, you can choose the size, difficulty, upgrades, and so forth of your tower to keep the gameplay varied. The competitive mode works both locally and online.

Upwards, Lonely Robot
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

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

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

Visually, the game looks really nice. The towers are well designed and have lots of detail. Unfortunately, there isn’t all that much change in scenery, as all of the towers look nearly identical. The music is also enjoyable and bursting with energy. Again though, the game lacks variety, and you will find yourself repeatedly listening to the same tracks. 

The controls in the game are tight and responsive. I tried playing with both an Xbox 360 controller and a keyboard, and found both to work well. The game runs smooth and I had no significant performance issues.

Upwards, Lonely Robot is an interesting platformer that’s both well designed and engaging. The game does suffer from a bit of repetitiveness, but the extra modes, increasing difficulties, and leaderboards do offer a fair bit of replay value. So climb on lonely robot, and hope that one day, you’ll find a friend.  

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Game Info:

Beat Da Beat
Developed by: 2 players
Published by: Nekki
Release date: March 10, 2016
Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Windows phone
Genre: Shoot 'em Up
Number of players: Single-player 
ESRB Rating: E 10+ For mild cartoon violence, comic mischief, mild language 
Price: $7.99

Thank you Nekki for sending us this game to review!

On a quiet night a couple was enjoying time together watching the stars and appreciating the city’s skyline.  Suddenly, a spaceship appears and kidnaps the girl after a brief fight between the boy and the aliens.  The main character then hops into his ship and chases after her.

Like many bullet “heck” games you have to dodge the many bullets that are making a beeline towards your ship.  The bullets vary in speed, shape, and size.  Like the enemies, they move in time with the pumping dubstep music in the background.  The bullets and enemies can brush against your ship, but a health heart will be removed if they touch your tiny hit-zone.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Great music and choreography
Weak Points: No controller support
Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence; mild language (bad*ss)

Each of the ten available spaceships starts off with only two health hearts, but they can be increased if you pay to upgrade them with in-game currency.   A few ships can be unlocked with money, but a few of them only become available after beating the game on a specific game mode.  There are four difficulty levels (casual, normal, hard, bad*ss).   

Since the enemies and their movements have the same patterns throughout the nicely choreographed levels, the only different between the difficulties is the number of bullets.  Bullet-fire will come from all directions: top, bottom, sides, all at once, you name it.  The starting ship has the ability to slow down time, Matrix style, and it’s very useful when you’re overwhelmed with bullets.

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

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

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

Bosses appear on every other level and they are pretty challenging.  If you’re able to beat them before their song is finished, you’ll unlock the Steam achievement “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.  There are other achievements for pimping out all of your spaceships and for completing the game on various difficulties.    There are also global leaderboards for each of the difficulty levels.  

The retro pixel graphics are decent and I must admit that the bullet are as beautiful as they are deadly.  I like the guy in the corner that dances, head bangs, or plays air guitar along with the music.  There is an epilepsy warning and it should be heeded with all the flashing that happens during gameplay.   

I really enjoyed the dubstep music and you can check it out on SoundCloud.  If you like rhythm and bullet heck games, Beat Da Beat is a dream come true.  If you don’t mind the mild language and spaceship violence, there is a lot of fun to be had here.  I'm hoping that it gets controller support soon though.

 

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Game Info:

Sydney’s World
Developed by: Wise Dad Games
Published by: Sydney & Snowball DGBL
Release Date: February 1, 2016
Available on: PC
Genre: RPG
Number of players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $4.99

Thank you Wise Dad Games for sending us a review code for Sydney’s World!

Role playing games are very fun and they are quite popular as a result.  The trouble is that many RPGs are not suitable for children to play.  Sydney’s World strives to change that with its DGBL (Digital Game Based Learning) format.  While there are some battles involving vampires, zombies, and other dark creatures, they are all intentional and not randomly placed.  Some battles can be avoided, but many cannot.  

The story begins with Sydney getting tucked in by her dad who is a powerful wizard.  Despite being protected by her dog, Biscuit, she is whisked away to another world by an evil mage named Nilrem.   Sydney is not alone as she’s accompanied by her toy elf, Snowball. He is actually alive in this other world.  Sydney is voice acted by the daughter that inspired this game and her voice is adorable.  Many of the characters are voice acted, but not all of them.  I wasn’t fond of all of the voice talent, but most of it was decent.

Sydney’s World
Highlights:

Strong Points: Good story telling and moral lessons to be learned
Weak Points: Dated and inconsistent graphics; partial voice acting; F12 exits to the title instead of taking a screenshot
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence and magic use; pentacle symbols used in magic spells; vampires and zombies; potty humor

The 2D graphics are sprite like and typical of any game made with RPG Maker.  The characters are cute and cartoon like while the monsters are more evil looking.  Many of the enemies are dark in nature and the zombies you’ll be fighting were former allies and soldiers of the king.  Magic can be used for healing or attacking and some of the spells used by the enemy wizards show pentacles on the screen while they’re being cast.  

Despite the dark elements, gameplay wise this game will be easy to pick-up and play for kids.  The lack of random battles lowers the difficulty significantly.  However, without them there’s not much of an opportunity to grind and get stronger.  Fortunately, there’s an ample amount of elixirs and revive potions placed in treasure chests scattered across the map.  The final bosses were pretty challenging, but the regular battles were not too difficult.  

While I wasn’t a fan of the many random search quests, the story telling was good and there are some   nice moral lessons to be learned.  There’s even diet and health advice if you discover a certain building in the game.  There are many bookshelves in the game and they have quotes from Taleb, La Rochefoucauld, and Kahneman.  In the game’s credits a Buddhist book was referenced, but the quotes I’ve glanced over seemed to be faith neutral.

Sydney’s
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 13/10

There are spirits in this game and you get to talk and interact with them as part of the game’s story.  One of the spirits is trapped in a purgatory like world until something is accomplished and they can ascend to Heaven.  

I beat this game in roughly ten hours and a good portion of it was spent searching for invisible doorways and finding a correct staircase out of many.  If you get stuck, the developer has an active thread on the Steam discussion board and responds to each question within 24 hours.

The $4.99 price tag is reasonable and the game is getting updates.  There’s mention of advanced battles being available soon, so I look forward to hearing more about that.  The game’s music is well done and there’s been a lot of thought and effort put into this game and it shows.  If you don't mind the dark monsters and magic used, this is a relatively decent RPG to start kids on.  Perhaps children will have more patience with the many searching quests than me.  They’ll appreciate the fart and butt jokes in the game regardless.  Every kid loves those.

 *5-3-2016 Update: The developer has removed the instances of "OMG" in the dialogue so we have updated the language and overall moral score. 

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Game Info:

Herding Dog
Developed by: xixgames
Published by: Black Shell Media
Released: December 25, 2015
Available on: Windows, Mac
Genre: Simulation, action
ESRB rating: E for everyone
Number of players: 1
Price: $2.99

 

Thank you, Black Shell Media, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

It's been said that the dog is one of the hardest working animals on a ranch. It's their job to patrol the territory, round up stray animals, and chase off predators. In fact, it sounds a lot like the popular book series "Hank, the Cow Dog," doesn't it?

Herding Dog, by xixgames is not "Hank the Cow Dog: The Game." But I would imagine that it would be fairly similar. 

In the game, you control a dog that looks roughly like a German shepherd. You need to click on the terrain – or drag the cursor around while clicking, in order to steer your dog from a top-down perspective. Pressing the spacebar will make your dog bark. The goals vary from level to level – in some, you'll have to try and direct piglets, goats or cows to a specific location. In others, you have to drive off birds or predators. And yet in others, you have to track down and collect various treasures, like bottles of milk or sacks of dog food. In many of these, there will be a combination of all the goals. 

Herding Dog
Highlights:

Strong Points: Cute graphics; good music; low price
Weak Points: Short game; quirky GUI; terrible pathing issues; not every game controller supported
Moral Warnings: Animals can be killed; UFOs appear; farting goats (and other animals)

That's the whole premise of the game, but it doesn't need too much more. Although the levels can be difficult at first (expect to lose the entire herd the first few times a wolf appears!), once you learn where to direct the flocks and how they behave, the levels get easier as you replay them. Each time you play a level you are graded on your performance, ranking from A to D. I'm not entirely sure how the grading process works, however – one time I managed to save only a single sheep, but still managed to pull off a "B" grade. 

Despite the simplicity of the levels, the game is made unnecessarily difficult at times due to some of the odd glitches. For starters, the GUI is surprisingly counter-intuitive, with occasional buttons that don't actually seem to do anything when you click on them. At times, the windows actually get in the way of trying to control your dog – the first time I played, I accidentally clicked off the music player, and there was no readily apparent way to bring it back. It was too bad, too – the music is nice to listen to, even if some of the tracks don't quite match the action on the screen.

The second major issue involves pathing. The animals you're trying to direct have a tendency to run head-first into walls and stay there, convulsing for several seconds, trying to find a way through or over the wall. At times, the only way to solve this issue is to walk away from the animal and hope that it decides to wander away from the wall so you might be able to control it easier. In one particularly egregious example, one level resulted in chickens spawning underneath the terrain, with only their heads poking out of the ground, and two of the cows somehow managed to wander off the edge of the world to climb up an invisible slope – of course, in a place where my dog couldn't follow. As a result, the level was impossible to win, even with the wolf confined to its "pen." Possibly related to the pathing issue, the camera occasionally swings to odd angles, making it difficult to see.

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

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 92%
Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

Speaking of difficult to see, the terrain can be difficult to determine, due to the camera angle and lack of contrast in the different levels. Often, identifying the initial goals can be a challenge as well. A few playthroughs in each level will solve these issues, as you'll learn how the levels are laid out. The creatures may change with different levels, but the basic terrain remains consistent through the 21 levels.

Although the game says it supports game controllers, Herding Dog didn't register a single button press from my Logitech controller. Other game controllers may work better, but I was disappointed that there wasn't any response with mine, nor was there any apparent way to remap the control schemes.

The game tends to be short. Once you complete a few of the tutorial levels, you can access the world map to get to any of the levels, including ones you haven't played before. The game isn't terribly difficult, either – once you're able to confine the predator, you can take your time to chase the herd animals to their goals. Fortunately, with the low price of $2.99, you can still feel like you're getting your money's worth.

For the moral considerations, there isn't too much to worry about here. If an animal is killed from a predator, it disappears in a puff of octagonal smoke clouds. Barking at the herd animals will cause them to dash in the direction they're facing – typically with a farting sound and brown clouds behind them. Finally, UFOs appear on some of the levels, and are attracted to the cows (which apparently are their natural prey).

Herding Dog may have its quirks – sometimes significantly so – but it also has a quiet charm about it as well. If you're looking for a challenge, you may find the game too simplistic. But at $2.99, it's an inexpensive addition to the game library that can provide some entertainment for a while.

 

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About Us:

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

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