Thank you Digerati Distribution for sending us this game to review!
Don't let the "extended edition" in the title fool you, Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition is a visual novel game that can be completed in an hour. That's including the main story and the epilogue. While the price tag is a little high for an hour's worth of entertainment, the character development and dialogue is engaging.
In the main story you play as a twenty-four year old girl named Kelly who is at an abandoned farm in Nebraska. As you hold down the drive button on your controller or keyboard to have her drive home, you'll engage in an interactive phone call/texting session with her estranged family including her mother, father, and brother.
The controls are both simple and annoying. I got tired of holding down the drive key ("D" or Right Arrow), so I taped it down on my keyboard. To progress the dialogue and story you have to press the space or enter key. (I was driving aimlessly for a few minutes before realizing that.)
Most conversations have the option to be polite or snippy with Kelly's parents. Some dialogue segments only give you one response or silence. Sadly, a good majority of the conversations are riddled with swear words and using Jesus' and God's name in vain. For what it's worth, the father who cusses the most is told to put money in the cuss jar multiple times.
Without spoiling the relatively short story, one constant topic of conversation is the bad weather which is portrayed nicely both audibly and visually in this indie game. I like the extras in the game's menu that let you listen to all of the music from the music player, view photographs from Kelly's photography class, and read interesting stories written by her brother.
The epilogue takes place at a bus stop in Minnesota. Again Kelly has the option of talking with her mom and expounding on the hardships her family has endured for the past few months. Unfortunately you have the option of telling your mother that you're living with your significant other, Jessie, who can either be your boy or girlfriend. I made him my boyfriend so I'm not sure how the conversation would have shifted (if at all) if I had said otherwise.
Given the language and sexual references, I don't recommend this game for children to play. Some of the short stories in the extras menu are a little macabre. The stories are good and worth reading though, especially if you want to get your money's worth for the $6.99 asking price.
While I can't wholeheartedly recommend this game for moral reasons, Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition tells a good interactive story. The regular price is bit high for one hour's worth of entertainment, but if you see it on sale it's certainly worth looking into. That is, of course, if you don't mind language and LGBT themes.
Thank you Microids for sending us this game to review!
God vs Humans is a re-enactment of the Tower of Babel through Nordic, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Japanese civilizations. The people are working together to build a tower to the heavenly realm. In the Bible (Genesis 11), God peacefully solved this problem by confusing mankind's language. In this game, you'll play as twenty various gods including Ra, Osiris, Hades, and Thor. Each god has their preferred attack method, and your goal is to destroy the tower without harming the humans.
There are multiple ways to go about attacking the tower. You can go right for the base, in the middle, or stop their progress from the top. When you destroy a level with one underneath, the lower levels will take some collateral damage as the levels above them come crashing down.
In order to take down a floor you have to completely destroy the four support pillars with the attack power of choice. Each deity has a preferred method including fire and lightning based attacks. These attacks cost energy to use so you'll have to plan your display of divine powers accordingly. Divine energy is replenished by human worship, which is only earned when the people are happy.
In order to keep your followers happy, you have to avoid harming them when attacking the tower's pillars. The biggest problem with these pesky humans is that they are everywhere and hard to avoid at times. Thankfully, they don't seem to die when directly hit, but they will hold a grudge. To make the people happier, you can cast a defense spell that can send a pretty lady with little clothing on to distract them for a bit. I guess the pretty lady makes them forget about the zapping incident that happened a few moments ago.
There are over ninety five levels and sadly, most of them follow the same formula where you have to destroy the tower before they reach your heavenly realm. Some of the story mode levels have time limits where you have to destroy a certain number of levels within a couple of minutes. While challenging, this is possible if you can ride a few successful chain reactions. If you like the time attack levels, there's a challenge mode that focuses on that aspect. If you just like knocking down the tower and wish to customize the era, deity, and difficulty level, check out the Free Game mode. If you're new to the game, be sure to check out the Tutorial to learn the basics.
Gods vs Humans was ported over to PC from a tablet version. I would imagine the touch controls being fun to work with, but the mouse controls were easy to maneuver. The graphics are cute and the humans have different class types, abilities, and animations. The personalities and reactions they have to your attacks can be both frustrating and amusing at times. When zapped, the workers get angry and work faster against you. When a supervisor is present, their work efficiency is multiplied. Protectors will thwart your attacks, and the priests can negatively impact your worship rate when they get injured. I like how the game's profile keeps track of how many human you have injured. Let's just say I'm batting over a thousand.
The humans can get a little cheeky and taunt you a bit if you sit back and let your powers recharge for too long. Their voices are cute. The divine power sound effects are spot on as well as the crumbling sound of the collapsing level/tower. The ominous laugh at the end of each level is awesome and puts a grin on my face every time.
The main problem with Gods vs Humans is that it's very repetitive and I can only play it in small doses. Kids may like it for the colorful graphics and silliness. It's pretty kid friendly other than the divine magic, lusting, and pagan religious references. Another issue is that it's more than double the price of the mobile version. The reviews of the mobile versions mention ads despite it being a paid application. While I don't recommend paying full price for Gods vs Humans, it may be worth picking up on sale or in a software bundle.
Let's get this out of the way.
“She's got a ticket to ride... she's got a ticket to ri-i-ide... she's got a ticket to ride... and she don't care!”
There, now that everyone has the song in their head, let's look at the game! Although it bears the same title as the famous Beatles tune, the game has nothing to do with the Fab Four. Instead, this is a video game adaptation of a board game created by Days of Wonder. In it, the players compete to create train routes between cities. The base game focuses on the United States and southern Canada, but other variations are available.
The screen consists primarily of the game board, with small icons to indicate how many railway cars you have left, what kinds of tickets you have, and the routes that you have available. At the start of the game, each player is given a certain number of train cars based on the number of players in the game. They also are given four colorful train cards and three destination cards. The player needs to keep two of these destination cards, and those unused get shuffled back into the deck. Each turn, the player has one of three options: 1) claim a route by placing their train cars on the board; 2) draw two train cards from either the draw piles or randomly from the stack – or just one if the card is a wild card “locomotive”; 3) draw three destination cards and keep at least one. Routes can be claimed by playing train cards of all the same color, and some routes can be claimed with only particular colors. Players score points by claiming routes – the longer the route, the more points they get. The game is over when one player is down to two or fewer train cars – all other players may take one more turn, then the computer tallies up the points. The destination cards are revealed, and the player adds points for each destination they have successfully completed – but they lose points for each destination card they failed to complete!
The computer version of the game plays out nearly identically to the standard board game. It's nice to have the system tally up the points automatically. It also highlights which destination cards you've been able to fill so far, and indicates what cities are on your unmet destination cards as well. Although pleasant, the game is pretty static in its appearance. One problem I've found is that the train cars can sometimes look like a blank route. It can sometimes hamper a strategy to plan on claiming a particular path, only to realize that it had been claimed several turns earlier. A bit more contrast between the train cars and the game board would have been nice. The music is pleasing, but a bit repetitious. The sound effects fit the approach of the game as well, including a train whistle to announce when it is the next player's turn.
The game can be played with up to five people, and competitors can either be found on-line (through Steam or the Days of Wonder Web site) or it can be played in a “hot seat” format, called “Pass and Play,” with everyone sharing the same computer. When playing on-line, the players are connected to others who play through Windows, Mac or the mobile platforms. Those on the Xbox 360, however, are apparently limited to playing against their fellow Xbox players. Games tend to be relatively short – about half an hour, at the most.
Days of Wonder also offers several add-ons, which also are available for the print copies of the game. These include maps for Europe, Asia, Switzerland and the United States circa 1910. Some of these add additional rules to the base game (for example, to claim a route that crosses water, a locomotive card must be used) but they largely play out identically to the core game.
Ticket to Ride can be a fun way to kill some time, especially if a friend or four join in. However, I can't help but think the experience might be better off with a bag of chips, some soda and loud friends. Playing the game on-line may be entertaining, but playing it around a table could be a much more rewarding experience.
Thank you Moon Spider Studio for sending us this game to review!
Gabe is an expert prankster and angel in training at Guardian School. He is very gifted such that learning comes easy for him; he has never had to study or work hard yet. Seraphiel Malakh (Sera for short) is a student as well but also the daughter of guardian angel Raziel, the school's most prized family. It's the end of the school year and the final exam is at hand. The test is to protect and aid human runners in a series of races. The student with the highest GPA will earn a scholarship to Archangel Academy. Since Gabe is already head of the class, he only needs to finish 3rd to get the scholarship. That's no problem for Gabe. He's got this scholarship in the bag. As the students are paired with their humans, there's a slight glitch in the system. At first it looks like Gabe's getting the bodybuilder but no! He gets Harold, the skinny weakling who wears thick glasses. The other students realize they now have a chance and ridicule Gabe and Harold. Gabe understands that he needs to put some effort into this now and vows to get that scholarship.
Harold is a single player 2D side-scrolling racing platformer puzzle game where you play as Gabe the angel who controls Harold the human in a series of increasingly challenging races. While most racing games have you directly control the racer, your only real control of Harold is his jumping ability. The majority of the control is manipulating the obstacle course for each race. This is accomplished by the means of interacting with movable ramps, platforms, bridges, swinging on ropes or vines, and controlling simple mechanisms.
Scattered throughout each course are wingrings. Two wingrings charge a whole puff power. A puff power is used to strike lightning on Harold to encourage him to briefly run faster, as he runs much slower than the other racers. Puff powers also serve as an extra life. These can be lost by mistiming obstacles whereupon Harold will vanish in a puff a smoke only to reappear at the end of the section. Thus running out of all puff powers during a race means game over.
To unlock each race, passing the practice session is required. This is for good reason. Each session introduces a new set of obstacles that must be learned in order to prepare for the actual race. Stars are also earned in these practice sessions based on time. Collecting all the stars yields a bonus puff power at the beginning of the race. Early in the game, you gain the ability to interfere with the other racers in order to help Harold get ahead. While interference follows the same manipulation techniques, timing is important such that Harold is the only racer who gains the advantage. Later on you also acquire the ability of foresight. Foresight allows you to "look ahead" as the screen advances one frame. By the use of interference here, you sabotage the obstacle course to cause the other racers to stumble thus slowing them down. A successful interference on a racer acts the same as gaining a wingring; it charges a puff power. There is a hidden shortcut in each race. Discovering the shortcut quickly propels Harold ahead of the pack, which is a great advantage since he always begins in last place. A challenge mode is unlocked after each race as well. Here Harold runs fast through the entire course collecting stars. There are no puff powers in this mode. Any mistiming where Harold fails results in retrying the entire race again.
The tutorial teaches how to play the game using the controller. Mastering just when to time manipulating the environment, however, may take a lot of practice. Although Harold only needs to finish 3rd to advance, it is where he ends up most of the time anyways due to the difficulty. Even on one frame, multiple things can be happening at once where it depends on the player to set each obstacle as an advantage for Harold. When everything works, the game plays like a cartoon with all things occurring right after another, but getting there takes quick thinking on the controls and coordination to pull it off successfully. Continued frustrations will eventually take its toll on the player especially when you run out of puff powers and have to start the race over or finish out of contention. While some players may enjoy having to retry races over and over again, others may lose patience quickly.
The music is very positive and upbeat. The developers call it gospel music due to the background choir. There are a lot of chants encouraging Harold to keep running and not give up. Since there are four different themes to the 12 different races, the music changes accordingly. The soundtrack reminded me of a Disney movie. I applaud the composer. This is one of the better soundtracks to a game I've heard. The sound effects have a cartoon quality and are funny.
Graphically the game looks impressive yet whimsical. Animations are hand-drawn, which reminded me of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The action is fast-paced as Harold is always running. Races are themed to a jungle, desert, arctic, or beach backdrop. Within each frame there is a lot to see. First there is Harold and the other racers, then the obstacles that require interaction, then the environment itself. My only issue with this is the racers themselves. Since there is so much happening at once, the frames are zoomed out making the racers very small in detail. It is beneficial to have a larger monitor.
Out of the six racers, five are male and one is female. Each racer is drawn as a caricature. There's the short military looking man, the bodybuilder, the dancer, the tall athlete, and the stocky everyday man. Then there's Harold who stands out the most. From the wild red hair, to the large thick glasses, to the skinny legs, every detail about him is greatly exaggerated. Harold is drawn to look weak and should have no business being in a race. Although the ultimate underdog, I took great issue with the way he is portrayed. In one of the game's trailers, Harold is called, "slower, shorter, and dumber." A small cutscene accompanies each race featuring Harold. In several, he is portrayed as observant, humble and a man of good sportsmanship. He is ridiculed by the student angels as well as those in authority. Whatever the look may be of someone, it's really the character that counts.
Another issue I took with the game is the premise. As previously discussed, the story is about the student angel Gabe attempting to get the scholarship to Archangel Academy. Sera's father, Raziel is a guardian angel and former top student. He takes a liking to Gabe and teaches him the interference technique. Raziel states that the act of interfering with other racers is warranted and welcomed. Although Sera has her own shortcomings in taking shortcuts, her father Raziel takes Gabe under his wing, infuriating her even more. While I won't spoil the rest of the story, I must state that these are "angels" who act more like humans.
For a game that has an excellent soundtrack and fabulous graphics, it's a shame that the entire premise is based on stereotypical judgment of others who are different as well as a belief that angels are allowed to misbehave. Angels are holy representatives of God. It is insulting that the game lowers them to our human level while insinuating they are here to guide and protect us. In fact the only angels I know who acted inappropriately were banished from Heaven and sent to Hell. Although it is a light-hearted game that looks kid-friendly, looks can be deceiving since it reinforces negative stereotypes and sends the wrong message. As a Christian who wears glasses and has been teased, I found many aspects of the game offensive. I presume Guardian School never taught these student angels ethics or morals. You need to question what exactly these angels were taught that warrants them to behave badly. Angels should never act in this manner and neither should humans in real life.
Ever since the original movie came out in 1985, I've been a fan of this series. The movies detail the adventures of a young man, Marty McFly, as he travels through time using a machine created by his friend Dr. Emmett Brown. The series helped to bolster the careers of Michael J. Fox (who played McFly), Christopher Lloyd (who played Brown) and director Robert Zemeckis. Today, car enthusiasts continue to seek out old DeLoreans and convert them in order to look like the time machine that appears in these movies.
So when I found out that Telltale Games was working on a sequel to the trilogy, I was interested. When I found out that the writers of the game were consulting with Bob Gale and Zemeckis, the original writers of the movie series, and that Christopher Lloyd would be reprising the role of Emmett Brown, I was ecstatic. For fans of the movies, this was finally the sequel they were looking for!
Unfortunately, when it was first released, my old computer was showing signs of its old age. It couldn't run the game – or pretty much any game – without the fan rattling like a blender with a cracked blade. So I had to wait until I got my current machine – a 2012 13” MacBook Pro – to play the game. And for Back to the Future: The Game, it was well worth the wait!
The game starts a few months after the events of the movies, with Marty McFly at the home of Emmett Brown. The doctor has been missing and presumed dead, so his estate is preparing to sell off all his possessions in order to pay off his debts. As Marty goes outside, the DeLorean appears, with Brown's dog, Einstein inside – but no sign of the doctor. Marty is confused – the time machine had been destroyed... hadn't it? The player controls Marty as he first needs to puzzle out where in time Brown went, and then travel back in time to 1931 to free him from jail... with the help of a much younger Emmett Brown!
These events are just in the first episode. The other four chapters detail trips back and forth from 1931 to various alternate 1986s, the results of McFly's attempts to correct things in the past and interfering with the history of Emmett Brown. It's a wild, exciting romp through the history of the series, and it's a joy to interact with the characters that fans have come to love – or loathe, in the case of the Tannen family – in a game format. Each episode only takes two to three hours to complete, so the game is relatively short. It took me 15 hours to solve all the problems, but some of that was due to exploring things and trying to find all the dialogue options I could.
As with most Telltale Games, controlling the characters can be done with either clicking on the screen or steering with the arrow keys. The player can click on objects on the screen in order to interact with them or put them in Marty's inventory. Figuring out which inventory item works with what on-screen object or person serves as the primary form of puzzle to solve in the game. Some maze navigation and dialogue trees serve as the bulk of the rest of the challenges the player has to solve.
The voice acting is superb in the game. Although Lloyd does sound a bit older, he does a great job with the role of Emmett Brown from 1985. Arnold Taylor voices the younger Emmett Brown, and A.J. Locasio handles the voice of Marty McFly so well that it's hard to tell that the character is not voiced by a younger Michael J. Fox! Claudia Wells returns to voice Jennifer Parker (from the first Back to the Future movie – the character of Parker was actually played by a different actress for the sequels). It's too bad that Tom Wilson couldn't return to voice the Tannens, but Andrew Chaikin does a decent job with the character. Michael J. Fox does do some voice acting in the final chapter, but not as Marty McFly.
However, it's the voice acting that leads to one of the issues with the game itself. The characters are stylized in amusing caricatures of their on-screen appearances and look very nice... until they open their mouths to talk. Their faces move in a rubbery, artificial fashion that, at times, slips into “uncanny valley” territory. That's hardly the only flaw in the game. Some of the dialogue has audio problems and changes volumes at intermittent times and, based on the closed captioning, some of the dialogue is missing entirely. Not only that, there are occasional graphic quirks as well. For example, in one instance young Emmett Brown will be conducting tests with a flying machine and have equipment in a gazebo in the park. The flying device will end up on the roof of a building and Emmett will leave the equipment behind and climb on top of the building. The player can then have Marty tinker with the equipment in the gazebo... only to be stopped by Emmett standing right in front of it. The next moment Emmett is back on top of the building.
During the gameplay, I had each episode crash to the desktop at least once. It seems to me that the game may have been released with a few too many bugs, and that the beta testing wasn't fully completed by the time they rushed it out for digital downloads – at least for the Mac version of the game. Those playing the game on different platforms may have a different experience.
There are many elements of the game that may lead to moral quandaries as well. Pretty much every swear word is spoken at least once during the course of the game, with the possible exception of the f-word, and that's only because the character speaking it is interrupted in the middle of it. This includes one character who takes the Lord's name in vain as part of his “send off” dialogue, so that phrase has to be repeatedly heard. There is violence in the game, including gunfire and one character actually being killed in a hit-and-run, but aside from one small pool of blood (which is actually a plot point) there isn't any gore to be seen. Alcohol references are frequent, especially with some segments taking place in a speakeasy (which also includes gambling and prostitution references). Also, in order to proceed, the player needs to lie frequently. Pornography makes minor plot points as well, including naked pictures of one of the main characters. However, in the one photo that the player gets to see, anything that might be construed as titillating is comically obscured by a gigantic moose antler. One chapter's goal is accomplished by repeatedly violating the laws of Hill Valley and flaunting authority. In essence, if you found things questionable about the movies, you'll find it even moreso in the game.
As with the more comedic offerings from Telltale Games, there is no real way to lose at these games. Even with the urgency of a high-speed chase, the player can potentially spend hours trying to solve the puzzles and there is no danger of the opponent reaching his or her destination before Marty can accomplish his task. This also means that each episode has only one ending, so once everything is completed in the game, there is little reason to play it again.
Altogether, Back to the Future: The Game is a delightful gem for fans of the original trilogy who have wanted a sequel for years. For others who are simply looking for a solid adventure game, or aren't familiar with the movies, they may find more enjoyment from some of Telltale's other offerings.