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Game Info:

Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~
Developed By: VisualArts/Key
Published By: VisualArts
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Available On: Windows
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Visual Novel/RPG
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $19.99

Thank you VisualArts for sending us this game to review!

After the incredible success of CLANNAD, there are many fans that prefer some of the main character Tomoya's other possible girlfriends and their routes, rather than the canonical Nagisa route and their after story.  There are many possibilities for unexplored after stories, like Kyou, Yukine,  or Kotomi, but many fans really love Tomoyo.  Tomoyo is definitely one of my favorites as well, and I can certainly understand the appeal.  She was popular enough that the creators decided to write an alternative after story for their life together.  This game was the result.

Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~ takes place a few months after the end of Tomoyo's route in CLANNAD.  As such, it is highly recommended that you play CLANNAD and complete her route before starting this game.  We also have a review of CLANNAD.  

Unlike Nagisa in CLANNAD, who is a physically weak person with big heart and a wonderfully supportive family, Tomoyo is in many ways her opposite.  She is brilliant, both mentally and physically.  Her family has a painful history, with her parents having had affairs and various other marital struggles.  Tomoyo had a rough childhood as a result, and became very physically violent towards anyone who stood in her way.  In CLANNAD, you meet her trying to turn the corner and change from that old life of hers.  In Tomoyo After, this transition is mostly complete, as she rarely resorts to violence, and is very kindhearted towards those around her.  She will do absolutely anything for those she loves, even at great cost to herself.  This driven determination, and the relentless pursuit of her goals, is a strong part of the woman she has become.

Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~
Highlights:

Strong Points: Very well written story; excellent Japanese voice acting; very nice art and music; some meaningful choices with a few different endings; some very funny moments, other very touching or sad ones
Weak Points: No controller support; 4:3 resolution
Moral Warnings: Alcohol consumed by several characters, including underage; there is a scene with street fighting; sexual jokes, including homosexual ones; sex before marriage happens (off screen) and is considered normal; main character and his girlfriend are considered lovers; a kiss between brother and sister is played for an inappropriate joke; woman dresses up in stereotypical fantasy attire, like cat girl, teacher and maid; she is also shown in a very revealing bikini; she moves in with the main character before marriage; porn mentioned; jokes about male prostitutes; many foul words used, like 'hell', 'sh*t', 'douche', 'a*s', 'b*st*rd', 'd*mn', 'd*ckh*ad'; references to God or a god/gods; joke about a contract with the devil (who is gay)

The main character, Tomoya, was a delinquent in school (as explored in CLANNAD) and as such, never goes to college.  He gets a job as a repairman and recycler, taking old appliances and equipment and repairing them.  He gets his own apartment, and Tomoyo visits him very often, often helping him with meals.

It doesn't take too long before you are introduced to Tomoyo's younger brother, Takafumi.  He has a knack for showing up at the most inopportune times, and often walks in without even a knock, to hilarious (or embarrassing) effect.  He is also very gifted, both academically and athletically, just like his sister.  He is very skilled with computers, and that is evident through the Dungeons & Takafumis minigame that he wrote for him and his friends to play.  This is accessible through the main menu, or within the story on the second playthrough.

Then there is Tomo.  She is an adorable child, who is in kindergarten, that is the illegitimate child from Tomoyo and Takafumi's father from back in the time when their parents were separated.  They do not know she exists.  In order to protect the fragile peace between their parents, they both decide to hide Tomo from them, and have her live with Tomoya.  Tomoyo basically moves in at that point, and thus begins the main story in Tomoyo After.

Takafumi's childhood ex-girlfriend Kanako suddenly shows up.  She is running away from her mother who wants to get remarried after her own family experienced tragedy, as her father died three years before.  Needing a place to stay, she also stays with Tomoya.  That one room apartment is a very busy place.

With the cast set, the story goes in several different directions, dealing with the consequences of their pasts, as well as the challenges that lie in their future.  There are both significant victories as well as deep sacrifices that everyone makes in order to do the right thing to help each other and those they care about.  A major theme of this story is the deep love they have between each other and the importance of family.  There is both great joy and deep sadness that Tomoya, Tomoyo, and their friends and family deal with, as well as great inner strength that is both found and developed during this roughly ten hour visual novel.

Dungeons & Takafumis (D&T) is a very silly strategy RPG that is developed in story by Takafumi.  There are a ton of goofy characters as well as CLANNAD Easter eggs within.  You can easily play for another ten or more hours trying to see everything there is to see, or get all of the achievements in D&T.  The game plays simply: You give your characters orders before the round begins, and then you simply watch what they do each turn.  You have no control outside of the directions you gave them before you started.  Each character has their own skills, as well as various class skills and character classes for further customization.  There is quite a bit of strategy and a whole lot of luck needed to win.

Like CLANNAD, there is a fair amount of appropriateness issues to be aware of.  Being a sequel, it has many of the same issues, though it has a bit more 'fan service' that isn't present in CLANNAD.  Tomoyo is seen in various outfits, including a very revealing bikini.  Outside of this, little else is shown.  Now, it has to be said – the original Japanese versions were 18+ and have outright pornographic content.  Thankfully, the Steam release is fine on that front outside of the bikini.

Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 73%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 1/10
Sexual Content - 3/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

Bonus points:
Promotes the importance of family: +3
Delivers a good moral lesson: +3

Also like CLANNAD, there are jokes as well as a few conversations sexual in nature.  Tomoyo and Tomoya are lovers, and their sex life does come up a few times.  You can choose to have sex at least once throughout the story, though giving in to your baser desires almost always leads to bad results.  This all occurs before any talk of marriage.

A few jokes are odd or homosexual in nature.  Sometimes Tomoyo says that she wonders if Tomoya and Takafumi are together since they are so close at times.  One time Tomoyo kisses her brother Takafumi to get back at him for something; that backfires and humor abounds.  In D&T, the Takafumis are male prostitutes, and at least one of the one hundred Takafumis sells himself to the devil who is gay.  There are also jokes that talk about pornography.

Some foul language is used.  There are a few parts of the story where it is more common, and then several hours can go by without any at all.  I noted many words used, like 'hell', 'sh*t', 'douche', 'a*s', 'b*st*rd', 'd*mn', and 'd*ckh*ad'.  A few characters also talk about becoming a god or thanking God for blessings or struggles in life.  Alcohol is used by some characters after a celebration, and an underage girl has a hangover.  There is also a scene where people are street fighting.

Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~ is a very interesting and memorable visual novel that I would recommend to any CLANNAD fans, especially those who really like Tomoyo.  In considering the stories of CLANNAD and Tomoyo After, it's interesting to see how the same person's life can be so dramatically different based on just a few choices, like which girl to fall in love with, or whether you choose strength or fear to make a choice.  These visual novels are designed to help make you a better person – to prepare you for the difficult things in life, and to help you value what blessings you have as you consider how tough life can be, or the inner strength you gain by going through challenges.  Just be warned, that like CLANNAD, you will probably need tissues handy as Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~ may encourage watery eyes, especially in the later parts of the story.

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Game Info:

Stranger of Sword City
Developed By: Experience Inc.
Published By: NIS America, Inc.
Release Date: June 6, 2016
Available On: PC, PS Vita, Xbox One
ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Violence
Genre: RPG
Mode: Single Player
Price: $39.99
(Humble Store Link)

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

In Stranger of Sword City, you find yourself inside of a commercial airplane, when suddenly you are alone and crash onto the surface of an unknown land.  Dangerous beasts threaten to attack you, and some others come to your aid.  They explain that you are one of many Strangers, who came from Earth to this new land in a different dimension, where monsters and special creatures called Lineages threaten everyone's safety.  Once defeated, they leave behind a Blood Crystal, which you must then hand over to one of the three vessels of the Gods of Light, Darkness, or Neutrality.  Doing so unlocks new Divinity skills, and helps steer the future of the world.

Stranger of Sword City is a rather deep and interesting take on the classic Wizardry RPG formula, where each dungeon is displayed in first person, with a grid map that you can refer to.  As you explore deeper and deeper, monsters try to stop you, and you gain experience from each successful encounter, until you finally level up and gain more power and equipment.  Then this cycle repeats until you and your team becomes a force to be reckoned with.  You may become powerful enough to then conquer the one or more Lineage type of adversary which function as the boss of that area, as well as several hidden enemies.  It is quite common to find yourself in a situation that you can't survive; that is why the game offers you a way to run – because sometimes, running is the right thing to do.

The game is definitely challenging.  There is a beginner mode I can't vouch for; I played on normal.  The first dungeon really does a great job of getting you to learn to be careful – and that survival is not guaranteed.  Dying has a high cost – unless you can pay the steep healing prices, you can be without your prized character for over a week in game time as they heal at the hospital, or if you don't manage your life points properly, they can disappear completely.  Thankfully, you can always reload, but lost time and progress is a constant companion until you manage to get your characters powerful enough to handle what comes to them – and even then, you can be very surprised by the simplest enemies, as they perform some nasty instant death critical, or all enemies focus on one of your team members unexpectedly.  As they say, always expect the unexpected.

Each dungeon has one or more enemy that is much more powerful than the rest, and can really mess you up if you aren't prepared.  In the first dungeon, there is one enemy that rarely shows up – but is ten levels higher than almost everything else.  If you don't pay attention to that fact, they can easily wipe your party, or even if they only wipe one character, the setback can be significant.  That is why it is always recommended to create an entire roster of characters, and at least one of each class right away, because if you have someone in the hospital, at least you have a backup.  Team members in reserve do gain a lesser amount of experience, so it's always worth it to fill up your spare character slots.

Creating characters is a fairly involved process.  There is a ton of character customization options, including various talents, attributes, and starting classes.  I say 'starting', because multiclassing is very easy – and very powerful.  You can multiclass at any time, with up to five class changes per playthrough, though it is highly recommended to wait until at least level 13, as you get a skill token at that point.  Skills from previous classes are assigned to those slots, so tokens are indispensable.  Sometimes, the big payoff for a class is gained when taken all the way to level 28 or 30, which can take quite a while.  But in some cases, it's definitely worth it.

Stranger of Sword City
Highlights:

Strong Points: Long and deep dungeon crawling experience; excellent 2D art; great music; fantastic leveling and multiclass system; innovative hiding system for ambushing
Weak Points: 3D rendered graphics are rendered at a low 720p internally; localization is passable but not great; controllers must be on when the game starts, and if they turn off mid-game, you have to quit out before they are detected again; some may not appreciate the quasi-permadeath
Moral Warnings: RPG violence, with some cut scenes showing significant blood and gore; some (rarely used) foul language, like 'b*tch', 'b*st*rd', '*ss', and 'hell'; there are several deities (polytheism), each with their own vessels, which compete for your attention; enemies vary from creatures and humans, to dragons and spirits and the undead, including some 'God' class enemies; has a Satan-like enemy named 'Lucifel'; magic use prevalent and basically required to be effective; a spellbook has a hexagram on it; there is a narcotic-like drug present, whose origin is frankly disturbing (*spoilers* cannibalism *end spoilers*); female humans and creatures have varying levels of clothing, with a small number of enemies basically nude with hair covering the required parts, with other creatures having a nipple bump, but no actual nipple; one scene where you see a female human from the rear with her shirt off and you side the rear/side of her breast

There are several races of humanoids, like short Dwarves, tall and thin Elves, Humans, the dog-like Migmy, and the cat-like Ney. Each race has strengths and weaknesses, which makes them especially suited to certain roles.  A Migmy cleric and an Elven wizard are highly recommended, for example.  Talents, attributes, and age play a big role in how powerful you are as well.  The younger characters have more life points, so they can die more times without requiring a hospital stay.  But, the older they are, the more starting attribute points they get – which can make a big difference.  If they are over 60, they get only one life point, so death is permanent.  Weighing tradeoffs like these are ever present, as levels and multiclassing can have a similar cost, as your ability to hit and do damage with spells is largely affected by level.  Of course, almost any deficit can eventually be overcome with grinding.

And grinding you will do.  You will almost certainly come upon a boss Lineage, or even a random mob, that consistently kicks you to the curb.  What then?  Grind. Or, more precisely, lots of ambushing for both gear and experience.  Outside of a few bosses, weapon and armor drops almost never come from random enemies.  And buying them is pointless, as you can't get anything good.  Loot is gained by sitting in special ambush spots on each level and choosing ambush.  Doing this shows you what you are to fight, and what class of treasure awaits you.  Doing this repeatedly (it costs morale, which is limited but easy to replenish) gives you stronger and stronger enemies, and their improving loot.  If you skip this, you will fail, and fail hard – be warned.  And, the levels gained will help you be more effective as well.

The character and multiclassing system is honestly really well done and helps make the game hard to put down.  Grinding never felt boring or purposeless, because I always had that next thing to strive for – and the experience curves, while hardly fast, are balanced well enough that another level isn't too far away once you find a good spot that works for you.  I spent a good chunk of time grinding once I started down the multiclass path.  It was a bit painful at first, but if you stagger your party rather than doing them all at once, you can grow them while continuing to battle high end content for faster experience.  And they become a lot more powerful with each new class – the grind is worth it.

In Stranger of Sword City, the art style is something to behold.  It's all hand drawn, and simply fantastic.  They do offer two different styles for character portraits, type A and B.  A is the default dark fantasy style, and B is an anime style.  While I love anime, type A is vastly superior in this case.  The music is also excellent.  There are spots where you can tell that the small amount of 3D rendered environments are internally scaled to 720p, and it's a bit ugly there, but honestly it's easy to ignore since the vast majority of what you see is 2D hand drawn art.  There is a GeDoSaTo patch for this, but I was unable to get it to work.  

The music is also excellent.  I really enjoyed it, even with the many choral pieces.  It fits in with the environment really well.  The voice acting is all in Japanese, with English subtitles.  The localization is passable; there are a few moments when the text doesn't really make sense, though most of it is acceptable. Once you figure out what they mean, it mostly falls into place; it's just a shame that it could have been better.

Other things that could have been better include the fact that the default install on Steam does not support Xbox One controllers.  I had to use a (thankfully!) patched beta branch.  It has been several weeks since they published that beta branch, and they still haven't patched the main game for those controllers.  The game is perfectly playable with keyboard/mouse, but it's clearly intended for controllers.  The on-screen prompts are as expected with an Xbox controller; with the keyboard, they simply say 'button 1-10', and it's up to you to determine what those mappings are in the options.  It's obtuse, but could be worse – at least you don't have to quit to figure it out.  And eventually you will need to know this, as the Xbox controller support is not hot plug.  What this means is that if it ever gets disconnected for any reason – distance, batteries, timeouts, etc. - then the controller will no longer work until the game is restarted.  And without a save anywhere feature of any kind, you will almost certainly have to go back to town before you can save, quit, and go back to the controller.

Stranger of Sword City
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 56%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

For most of the game, there is only simple RPG violence, where you issue a command and see it happen on screen, in the form of slashes or other effects over the enemy or character icons.  Spells are similar, in that you simply see an effect on screen as a fire or ice splash over your enemy.  Some of the cut scenes are significantly bloodier and gorier than that.  There is a scene where you see a character impaled, with blood splattered everywhere.  It is not animated, but what is happening is clear.  There is also a monster decapitation in another scene, and some monsters are just floating heads with a small amount of blood.  

Thankfully, it is not littered with foul language; I noticed 'b*tch' and 'hell', and the ERSB also noted 'a*s' and 'b*st*rd'.  While present, those words are thankfully rare; I saw them maybe once or twice each during the rather long adventure.  Unfortunately, there is a drug reference that has a significant plot element.  'Poiney Powder' is a narcotic-like drug that has enslaved much of the slums.  The effects, distribution, and ultimately source are significant plot points of the first half of the game.  Without spoiling too much, cannibalism is also present in relation to this.

There are also plenty of options to make female characters with lots of skin showing.  You can choose more modestly dressed women, which I did, but that is not sufficient to avoid it entirely.  A few of the NPCs show off a lot, especially various amounts of cleavage, both from the front or side.  One cut scene has you viewing a topless woman from the back, and you can clearly see her breasts at that angle.  Some of the female monsters are basically completely naked; the succubus and similar wear nothing, with hair appropriately placed to keep the game under an M or AO rating.  A couple of monsters have nipple bumps, but no nipples.  The first half or so of the game, you don't see creatures like this.  It's the later part where enemies like this start showing up, and become more common.  There is no sexual dialog of any kind; only imagery.

Other enemies include creatures ranging from giant rat-like things to dragons to magical and undead spirits.  Magic use is common, and practically required for success (even if magic users are technically optional, good luck beating the game without one).  Healing, attack, and support magic is present.  There is an icon of a spellbook, and it has a hexagram on it.  This is one of the several Divinities you can get, which is a God (the game uses a capital 'G') blessing you.  As mentioned before, there are three competing Gods, and an enemy named 'Lucifel'. Some characters have (or do) try to become Gods at some point in the story.

Stranger of Sword City, despite some unfortunate bugs, is a really enjoyable dungeon crawler.  If you enjoy games like Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey, or just JRPGs in general, then you should definitely give Stranger of Sword City a look.  It's a solid RPG with a great class system, that really encourages replay value with the built-in New Game+ mode.  But before making that choice, please consider carefully the many appropriateness issues.  It's unfortunate that there have to be so many nearly naked enemies late game.

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Game Info:

Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~
Developed by: Liz-Arts
Published by: Sekai Project
Available on: Windows
Release Date: May 30, 2016
Genre: Adventure
Number of Players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $12.99

Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

Resette is a twelve-year-old physician/healer that has been wandering around the forest for days with her feline assistant, Gaede.  She’s getting hungry and stumbles upon an unconscious boy in the woods. Seeing that he has some bread, she eats it as an advance payment for the healing services that she’ll be providing for him.  Some of Resette’s actions are questionable and Gaede is quite vocal when he doesn’t agree with her logic or actions.  

Logic will be required to solve many of the puzzles and contraptions scattered in this game world.  If you’re not working on a gadget to unlock a hidden key, chances are that you’ll be walking around and gathering/combining items in this 2D point and click adventure game. 

Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~
Highlights:

Strong Points: Cute point and click adventure game that has witty dialogue and a thought provoking story
Weak Points: Game breaking bugs and short amount of gameplay
Moral Warnings: Blood and violence; healing magic used

Some of the puzzles are easier to solve than others.  I was able to complete the weights and balance one without any help but some of the others I solved with the help of a YouTube walkthrough.  Sadly, some of the puzzles like the aforementioned weights one glitched out on me where I lost a crucial weight needed to solve it. Be sure to save early and often because that wasn’t the only bug I encountered.  

Even when I saved I still lost some progress and had to re-read some dialogue all over again.  Fortunately, there’s a skip button that I used multiple times.  Despite the glitches and slow downs, I still managed to beat this game in roughly two hours.  

Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 2/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10
+3 for a good moral lesson (forgiveness)

Graphically, this game has a combination of art styles.  The backdrops are water color paintings while the characters are anime themed.  The intro movie/game trailer is well done and is similar to many anime intros out there.  The interface is a little strange and by default this game does not run in full-screen mode.  Activating full-screen is done by pressing the F11 key, but bringing up the menu to exit the game brings it back into a windowed game mode.

The background music is fitting and pleasant to listen to.  There is no voice acting, but the dialogue is funny and clean enough for children to enjoy this game.  The plot is a little dark and deals with people blindly following the law no matter the cost.  There are some violent scenes and blood is shown as a result.  Despite the violence, there is a theme of forgiveness.

While the story of healing and forgiveness is good in Resette's Prescription ~Book of memory, Swaying scale~, I have a hard time recommending this short game at full price.  It’s definitely worth picking up on sale and hopefully the glitches are addressed before a discount becomes available.  In the end, any anime or point and click adventure gamer should keep an eye out for this cute game.  

 

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Game Info:

Minecraft: Story Mode
Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating: E 10+ for fantasy violence and mild language
Number of Players: (single-player)
Price: $5 per episode
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Telltale Games for sending us review codes for all eight episodes!

When Minecraft Story Mode first came out, we played and reviewed the first episode in this (originally) five-part series.  Since then the remaining episodes have come out and three more have been introduced in DLC format for an additional $15.  As of this review, the eighth installment hasn’t come out yet.  

The season pass terminology describing the remaining episodes is confusing since that term is reserved for having access to all content in games generally speaking.  The $15 needed to conclude the cliffhanger ending in chapter five is a bitter pill to swallow for many gamers and quite a few people have spoken their minds on this matter in the Steam store reviews.  Other than those complaints, the game still has mostly positive reviews and rightfully so since the story telling and character development are both pretty good.

Minecraft: Story Mode
Highlights:

Strong Points: Good story in a Minecraft themed universe
Weak Points: The episodes are rather short at roughly an hour each; ends at a cliff hanger
Moral Warnings: Characters will be attacked by zombies, creepers, ghasts, and skeletons; a couple of instances of d*mn in the dialogue; stealing from other characters is permissible 

The gameplay is the same as the first episode with the adventure style format with plenty of quick time events required to dodge attacks from various monsters and enemy characters.  Fortunately, there are plenty of check points to respawn from in case your timing is off.  I definitely benefitted from using an external mouse over my laptop’s built in touchpad.    

Jesse (the main character who can be either gender) wields both a sword and a bow and both will be needed to survive against the wither storm that is destroying the world as they know it.  Throughout the story the legendary Order of the Stone members will be reunited and some shocking truths will be discovered about them as well.  I like how the player has the option of helping to set the record straight about their heroic adventures.  

The wither storm does not go down easily and the world seems to be a safe place again by the end of the fourth chapter.  (If you want to save money just stop playing from there!)  The fifth chapter focuses on the adventures of the new Order of the Stone and starts a new side story that gives the player an option to forgive, take revenge, or let justice take care of the menacing gang formerly known as the Ocelots from episode 1.  

Minecraft: Story Mode
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 76%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

Choices are crucial in this series and the lives of some characters will depend on the decisions you make.  While many characters narrowly escape death, not all of them do.  The character development is as great as ever with the funny dialogue and bickering between the members.  I liked the discussion about the formidable bomb (referred to as the F-bomb) and how people can’t carelessly drop it around.  

The voice acting is still superb and utilizes the voice talents of many well known actors including Patton Oswalt, Catherine Taber, Dee Bradley Baker, Ashley Johnson, Brian Posehn, and Martha Plimpton.  The sound effects and visuals are nearly identical to those in Minecraft.

Not much has changed on the moral front since the first episode.  While some of the remaining episodes were curse word free, the D-word showed up in episode four again.  The same undead monsters including zombies, ghasts, and skeletons are present throughout the game as well.  The endermen play a big part in this series too; just don’t look directly at them!

Overall, this is a fun series that can be completed in less than ten hours for the first five chapters.  The additional three make the full series $40 for roughly fifteen hours of entertainment.  Minecraft fans and adventure gamers are bound to enjoy this game, but I’d recommend waiting for a sale because of how short the chapters are.  

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Game Info:

FourChords Guitar Karaoke
Developed by: Musopia
Published by: Musopia
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, SteamOS/Linux
Genre: Edutainment
Number of Players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $14.99

Thank you Musopia for sending us this game to review!

I really enjoyed playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band when they first came out.  When multiple instruments were introduced, I still stuck with the guitar.  Even though my mom and brother knew how to play guitar, I never expressed interest until a video game offered to teach me.  That game is FourChords Guitar Karaoke.  

Unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you will not be playing in five minutes if you’ve never played a real guitar before.  Before you can play any song you will have to learn at least three chords and have your fingers prepared for the strain that will be placed upon them.  Not only will your fingers be stretched in new ways, they will also endure some pain by holding down metal strings repeatedly.  It will take a few weeks to develop some callouses on them.    

If you’re okay with the time and pain requirements, there’s a lot to like in FourChords Guitar Karaoke.  Since this game is in early access, it’s hard to say what the final version will have, but bundled into it at the time of this review are one hundred and ten songs broken into four categories. All of the songs are available from the start and you don't have to unlock any of them. 

 
Highlights:

Strong Points: Great way to learn how to strum and play guitar; instructional videos from JustinGuitar.com are integrated into the program
Weak Points: Computer generated songs without vocals are used
Moral Warnings: Some of the included songs have mild language (hell/d*mn) and suggestive themes; drinking references

The categories are Traditional/Starter, Country Starter, Rock Starter and Pop Starter.  The song selection is pretty good and there should be something for everyone to enjoy.  The mobile versions are free and allow the users to build up their music library by purchasing songs of their own choosing.  I’m curious what DLC offerings will be available for this title down the road.  

The song list can be filtered by the chords you know, but I also enjoyed playing songs that I liked even though I couldn’t play them fully yet.  When selecting a song, you will see the chords and have the option of seeing a tutorial video (courtesy of JustinGuitar.com) for each of the chords used.  There is also a fingering chart for chords, and one and three string finger positions.  You can also view and learn the strumming technique and change the BPM to your liking

Some songs like Amazing Grace, House of the Rising Sun, and I’m Yours have a simple down strum technique while other songs have more complex ones.  The Holy Grail Strum (down down up up down) is used by many songs including Get Lucky, Counting Stars, Born to Be Wild, Don't Stop Belivein', and Sweet Child of Mine.  The song Royals (known by me as Weird Al’s Foil) uses Basic 16ths strumming (down down up down down down up down down down).  An intermediate 16ths strum (down down down up up down up down down down up) is used in Me and My Broken Heart and Higher.  Even though Oh! Susanna has three chords, it’s a rather fast song at 160BPM and has a unique strumming pattern called Shoot em' ups (down down down up down up).  I recommend focusing on learning and transitioning chords and sticking with simple down strums at the beginning.   

FourChords Guitar Karaoke
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 84%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

Some of the songs listed above  have moral issues worth mentioning.  I love Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours, but it does have the word d*mn in the lyrics. Other songs like Get Lucky and Me and My Broken Heart have sexual references in them.  Last but not least, House of the Rising Sun talks about drinking and gambling.  Amazing Grace is in the song list so they’re not all bad.

The songs are computer generated and are not what you hear on the radio.  There is no actual singing as the game expects you to do it!  Singing is purely optional and I just focused on playing the guitar.  No matter how well you play or sing, the game will say that you rocked upon completion.  If you're into Steam trading cards, they're available in this game.  

Even if you don’t care for the Karaoke aspect of this game, it’s an excellent teaching tool and I highly recommend it for any aspiring guitar players out there.  The Early Access price of $14.99 is very reasonable.  The free teaching video series by JustinGuitar.com is excellent and run by a donation honor system.  I recommend learning the G, D, and C chords from there so you can play a few of the songs from the get go.

 

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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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