Thank you Scarlet City Studios for granting us access to episode 2!
Aethasia is still under the rule of Lucky and his evil automatons. In addition to robotic soldiers patrolling the streets, there are now mechanical rams waiting to sink their horns into members of the resistance. The resistance follows the orders of a mysterious Scarlet Man who seems to show up when characters in this steampunk world get into trouble.
Episode 2 focuses on a racing team of two highly competitive brothers: Edmund and Julian. Edmund is a good racer and he knows it. Julian is fast too, but he relies on his wits more than his speed. After Julian crosses the line by breaking the rules, he flees from his brother and meets another person as wily as him. The originating story of Jacob and Esau can be found in Genesis 25-32. I liked the inclusion of Julian wrestling with the Scarlet Man later in the game.
The battles remain the same with a spinning arrow that determines if your weapon of choice will hit, do a super attack, or miss its target. Since all of the enemies are automatons there is no blood or gore to worry about. There is some questionable potty humor as one of the ram attack moves consists of shooting missiles from its rear end.
Crafting is still essential to complete quests and for modifying your weapons to do more damage. Some nice modifications let you add fire, water, lightning, and oil attacks to your weapons. Be warned that as you upgrade the attack power of some weapons, the ability to miss increases along with it.
As expected, the voice acting is still well done with the existing and new characters. If the story wasn’t so linear, I would have left Julian to his own devices instead of putting up with his ungrateful behavior. I like how you can continue to play the game and complete optional quests after the main story is finished. The level cap has been raised in this episode and that’s a good thing since you’ll need every health point to survive against the tougher foes.
Most of the time I fought alone, but occasionally I would have the help of an online player or two. There seems to be a handful of players online at any given time, but there is plenty of room for some more. I like how Scarlet City has added the family pass that sells for $19.99 and lets up to five players connect simultaneously.
Overall, The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance is a fun and family friendly series that teaches Biblical stories in a new and exciting way. I hope that more people check it out since there is a way to try it online for free. Check out their website for more details!
Thank you, Black Shell Media, for providing a copy of this game to us to review!
Most people who know the history of video games will admit that one of the first was a primitive table tennis simulator called "Pong." But the game required two players, and some wanted a version they could play themselves. Thus, in 1976, "Breakout" was created, and appeared in arcades – and Atari home game consoles – since then.
The game has proven to be so popular that it has been imitated and replicated many times over the past four decades. But for the most part, the formula has remained the same – the player controls the paddle and moves it back and forth to try and keep the ball from leaving the playing field, and destroying bricks in the process. Once all the bricks are destroyed, you can move on to the next level, wave, or puzzle.
Magical Brickout does something new with this formula – a move that I would even describe as truly innovative. Rather than moving a paddle back and forth, you actually rotate the entire playing field. The field is circular and, with the possible exception of indestructible metal bricks on a few of the levels, contains nothing that represents a paddle. This simple twist completely changes the formula – and the gameplay – of this familiar old design.
The story behind the game is presented through a series of animated cartoon panels, and some text windows that appear at the beginning of each level. An evil wizard has built a magical castle, and has trapped several fairies inside bricks. Your job is to free the fairies by destroying the bricks and, eventually, the evil wizard's sinister guardians. A gremlin will appear on the levels, and if you manage to whack it with the ball you can score extra points. Some of the bricks also contain power-ups, and others will contain penalties. A few other bricks will appear, which change based upon which stage you're playing. Each of the eight stages contains six levels, for a total of 48 levels, not counting the tutorial.
In addition to the bricks, there are a couple of other mechanics involved as well. Along the sides of the playing fields are two potion bottles. As you destroy the bricks, the bottles fill up, providing the possibility of free balls and multiplier bonuses to your score. If you lose your ball, the potions drain away and you have to start all over. Leaderboards are available, and you can see how your scores stack up against others. My name is in the top 15 as I write this, but given the newness of the game, I doubt it will be there long!
The controls to the game are sharp and responsive, and I had no trouble using either the keyboard or my gamepad. The music is pleasant, but gets repetitive before too long. The graphics are cartoonish and cute, with funny signs in the background. They can be a bit distracting at first, but as you get familiar with the level, you can focus more upon the bricks, rather than the scenery. Interestingly enough, the levels aren't randomized. The bricks are arrayed in a fashion that highlight the background elements, and the fairies always appear in the same location. The bonuses and penalties do change location every time a new ball is launched, though, so there is some randomization to keep the levels fresh.
The lack of variation helps with the game, though. Although this is an original spin on the "Breakout" model, that hardly means that the game is easier. This simple difference is enough to ramp up the difficulty significantly. It can often be difficult to tell how the ball is going to bounce off a brick, especially if struck on the shorter end, rather than the broad face. The fact that the bricks don't change location helps immensely, as once you've played a level enough times, you can figure out what maneuvers tend to work the best in removing the bricks in the shortest amount of time, and with the fewest balls lost. You can score one to three stars on each level, and achievements are available for getting stars on every level. There are a total of 44 achievements to unlock, but most of them are not easy to obtain.
From a moral perspective, there isn't a lot to worry about in the game. There are a few references to undead, especially in the "Graveyard" levels, and the décor occasionally features skulls. The game focuses on magic and fairies, but it isn't apparent if you're casting spells. There isn't any occult imagery or language issues to be found here. The gremlin that appears on the levels can be hit with the ball, but simply falls backwards with a stunned expression.
Altogether, Magical Breakout is a tough, sometimes frustrating challenge, but is original enough that it's worth a try. The price is a reasonable $7.99. This is a whimsical, solid game and a fun variation of an old, familiar formula.
Incidentally, if you would like to play a free variation of the original Breakout, go to http://www.google.com. Click on "Images" and then type in "Atari Breakout" into the search field. Wait a few seconds, and then the screen will transform into the game.
Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code!
Batman - The Telltale Series is a five-part adventure style game that adapts its story based on the choices of the player. As of this review only the first two episodes are available and they are extremely well written with likable characters and good voice acting. Like most adventure games you get to examine your surroundings and interact with various objects to gather clues and solve murder mysteries.
This game earns its mature rating with gruesome crime scenes and harsh language and blaspheming. Pretty much every cuss word but the F-bomb is used. A new game mechanic is introduced that lets you link objects together to piece together murders or to plan Batman’s attack. The battles use quick time events and you have to press the correct key at the right moment to either block or land an attack.
Those who are familiar with Batman’s story will recognize characters like Alfred and the Catwoman. The main villain (who I will not reveal) looked nothing like the movie rendition I saw when I was growing up. Bruce Wayne/Batman remains unchanged with his strong integrity and wide array of expensive technical gadgets at his disposal. The gadget interface color is customizable and purple was the color that I chose.
The tale of Batman is a grim one with a wealthy boy losing his parents at the age of nine. As the story progresses, Bruce Wayne discovers that there was more to his parents’ death than a simple mugging. He also learns that his family’s fortune is built on the suffering of others and that these revelations are hurting the campaign of his friend Harvey Dent. Harvey wishes to save Gotham City by taking the Mayor title away from the corrupt Hamilton Hill.
Throughout the story Bruce/Batman will have to answer questions from police, mobsters, and the press. Silence is an option and it’s one that will be chosen for you if you don’t answer fast enough. Sadly, that was done for me several times due to technical issues running this game.
On my Nvidia 660M powered laptop I noticed that this game ran poorly and that the voice acting was out of synch and that my mouse movement was sluggish at best and unusable at worst. Because the cel-shaded graphics looked amazing, I didn’t want to lower them. I utilized the cloud save feature and enjoyed this game on my more powerful AMD powered desktop. There are many negative Steam reviews reflecting poor performance issues so make sure that you have a powerful enough system and the latest drivers installed before purchasing this game.
If you have a powerful enough system and enjoy Batman and/or adventure games then Batman - The Telltale Series is worth picking up If you’re not put off by strong language and violence. I never get tired of seeing my choices compared with everyone else’s after completing an episode and I'm eagerly waiting for the next three to be released!
A couple of years ago, over 200,000 people volunteered to be a part of a one way trip to Mars. Perhaps, if they had played RymdResa before applying, there would have been a lot less applications.
RymdResa is a space exploration game, first and foremost. You get in your ship and fly out towards the far reaches of space to complete your mission. You explore various abandoned spaceships, stations, planets and nebulas: collecting items to equip to your ship, gaining experience and starpoints to increase your Pilot level and purchase better ships respectively. You also die, a lot.
Space is unforgiving and RymdResa portrays just how deadly it can be. Hit the afterburner and you are very likely to crash into a hazard, like a mine field, which will pretty much instantly kill you. You can see it coming yet cannot change course until your burn out, helplessly smashing in to the hazard.
The game is controlled using a mouse and keyboard or a controller. I used mouse and keyboard for my playthrough and found it easy enough to control and manage my spaceship and the various menus.
When I entered my spaceship for the first time I was taken aback by the graphics of the game. Your ships are mostly white silhouettes and the graphics mainly consist of simplistic 2D. Yet, it adds to its charm. Art may be simple in some areas but more detailed in others. Sounds effects are fairly simplistic, yet passable and generally fit with the style of the game. The music, while OK for a short while becomes repetitive and you would be better off playing some of your own music or listening to something in the background while you play.
Health is managed using resources. Each ship in the game has a maximum amount of resources you can carry. Activating your engines will consume resources. Investigating wrecks and planets can also deplete (or add) resources. When your resources reach 0, you die. It’s pretty simple. If you want to live, always keep your resources topped up.
RymdResa has 3 chapters to complete. Unlocking the first chapter will allow you to progress on to the next one. Each chapter has its own mission to complete. In the first chapter you follow a sequence of waypoints and collect specific items. It seems simple, yet is challenge because if you die you lose those items and have to start from the beginning. It feels like a harsh penalty, yet it teaches you to be careful in your fragile starter ship. I found it easy enough to complete after learning from a few accidental deaths.
There is plenty of stuff to explore and collect in the game. Consumable items, to aid your exploration and help protect your ship, research items for permanent upgrades and equippable ship items to enhance the performance of your ship and pilot abilities. Diary pods are poem entries conveying a feeling of loneliness. Starpoints are used to buy new ships, gained by collecting stars littered across space.
By exploring space you gradually increase your Pilot level, split across 4 statistical areas: Exploration, Scouring, Technology and Survival. Each has their own advantages and can unlock additional items found in space, increasing starting resources and new items to aid in your exploration. I found the Technology skill to be useful as it allowed me to use floating platforms to gain additional experience and to refuel my resources.
In the final chapter you will come across 3 boss encounters. On first play I thought it was interesting and a cool concept. I rapidly changed my opinion on the next boss encounter. Each boss encounter provides a sequence of dialogue choices. Choose wrongly and the boss will attack you, causing damage to your ship. Choose the right answer and you may be rewarded with some starpoints and are less likely to be attacked.
The dialogue choices are set in stone, so once you know the sequence of correct choices, the boss fight can be completed easily. For the last 2 bosses I used a guide as I did not like having to travel a great distance each time I made a few wrong dialogue choices.
For those who complete the main mission of each chapter, you can seek out ghost ships. These ghost ships are littered throughout space and are generally far away from the starting area. I never encountered any of these ghost ships but once again there is a community guide available to seek them out. There are optional side missions in each chapter adding to the length of the game, providing more rewards.
Additionally, for those who didn’t quite satisfy their explorer itch, there is a Sandbox mode. Sandbox is much more relaxed. There is no death. Interestingly, each time you start you end up in a random ship. Experience and items do not transfer over from the scenario missions; whatever you accumulate will persist within the Sandbox mode. It adds more play time for those who want to fully equip each ship and explore freely without the risk of death.
I enjoyed my playtime with RymdResa. It has a lot to offer and keep you entertained for many hours, especially if you are a completionist. While death can come quickly, it’s mostly down to the player’s own choice of risk/reward or generally careless attitude. In my experience the risk generally outweighs the reward and it always pays to err on the side of caution. I didn’t notice anything morally objectionable in the game. This is purely an exploration game with no combat. The only minor thing that could be questioned was in the boss encounters, where you had to choose a dialogue option that was a lie and being attacked by roaming alien spaceships when you get too close.
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 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.
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.