The Labyrinth of Time Featured

The Labyrinth of Time Review

Developer: Terra Nova Development, The Wyrmkeep Entertainment Co. Publisher: Electronic Arts, The Wyrmkeep Entertainment Co. Platform: PC – Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG Thanks to increasingly powerful PCs in 1993, an entirely new genre (of sorts) was born. People may know them as […]

Always Sometimes Monsters Featured

Always Sometimes Monsters Review

Developer: Vagabond Dog Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform: PC – GOG, Humble Store, Steam Life is unfair. I don’t think anyone can deny that fact no matter their circumstances. Always Sometimes Monsters thrives off that concept as it pushes players into […]

Crystal Caves Featured

Crystal Caves Review

Developer: Apogee Software Publisher: Apogee Software Platform: PC – DOS, GOG As shameful as it may be to admit, Apogee Software titles were not a part of my youth. Crystal Caves was one of the many game releases by them over […]

OlliOlli Featured

OlliOlli Review

Developer: Roll7, General Arcade Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform: PC – GOG, Steam PSN – PS4, Vita Where are all the good skateboarding games? For many, the genre of extreme sports titles died out once Tony Hawk games got beyond their […]

Appointment with F.E.A.R. Featured

Appointment with F.E.A.R. Review

Developer: Tin Man Games Publisher: Tin Man Games Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Direct, Steam The Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks began in the early 80s where legions of readers picked them up. Unfortunately, I missed out on this […]

 

The Labyrinth of Time Review

The Labyrinth of Time Featured

The Labyrinth of Time Boxart

Developer: Terra Nova Development, The Wyrmkeep Entertainment Co.
Publisher: Electronic Arts, The Wyrmkeep Entertainment Co.
Platform: PC – Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG

Thanks to increasingly powerful PCs in 1993, an entirely new genre (of sorts) was born. People may know them as Myst-likes; games where your goal is to explore expansive “3D” environments and solve puzzles. However, it appears The Labyrinth of Time arrived before Myst, so perhaps we should be calling everything The Labyrinth of Time-likes instead?

The game starts off in a depressing fashion as we hear the internal monologue of our protagonist. He speaks about the dull, horrid life they live day after day. However, on the commute home, something striking happens. Suddenly, they are no longer on their regular commuter train but in some complete alternate universe. They’ve been called upon by Daedalus to stop the vile King Minos before it takes control of time and space.

The Labyrinth of Time Featured

It’s obvious the story line is meant to be a big draw but it’s rather silly. Beyond that, you explore a variety of screens to collect items for use later. In keeping with the theme, areas are all given their own time and place. For example, one area is a western saloon while the other is a 1950′s restaurant. Visually, The Labyrinth of Time is gorgeous but that makes sense given the slide show nature of the graphics. Unfortunately, I found myself going around in circles because of it.

As someone who likes weird games, it’s hard to completely discount this one. I really like the art, themed areas, and general odd vibe throughout. However, playing it isn’t particularly fun. The Labyrinth of Time doesn’t stand up to the test of time but it’s a neat little reminder of when developers were willing to experiment.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

Always Sometimes Monsters Review

Always Sometimes Monsters Featured

Always Sometimes Monsters Logo

Developer: Vagabond Dog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC – GOG, Humble Store, Steam

Life is unfair. I don’t think anyone can deny that fact no matter their circumstances. Always Sometimes Monsters thrives off that concept as it pushes players into a more “human” RPG. The game begins by letting you (unassuming) choose the protagonist and then their love interest. Their race and gender are completely irrelevant. If you choose, the game can play out with lesbian or gay love interests at the center. From there, they must live out their dreary lives – and you’ll be right along for the ride.

My experience with Always Sometimes Monsters was extremely odd. At first, I couldn’t help viewing it as a game that was trying too hard with its edginess. After a couple of hours, I warmed up to it and wanted to progress my character through her story. However, progression is actually incredibly dull after a while. Just like in reality you must grind through the days to try and reunite with a past love. Heck, even that storyline is worrisome. I’ve never enjoyed the prospect of “winning back the girl/guy” that is so prevalent in romantic comedies. Sure, the path this version takes is different, but it’s still weird.

Always Sometimes Monsters Featured

In any case, much of the “grind” boils down to working at a job, getting money, and buying food. The food bit stinks as I’ve never enjoyed having to keep characters eating so they survive. Always Sometimes Monsters’ pacing suffers. It starts slow, picks up, then slows down for a good while longer until the finale finally comes into sight. Had the game continued as it did when my opinion first reversed itself then, well, it’d likely be far more enjoyable.

Always Sometimes Monsters certainly tried to do something different. Using the guise of a classic pixelated RPG it brought a more modern story to players. It also allowed for a surprising array of character choice, which is always appreciated. It just feels like the pace slogs everything down much of the way through. Still, it’s a very unique title and I hope to see more developers follow in Vagabond Dog’s footsteps.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

Crystal Caves Review

Crystal Caves Featured

Crystal Caves Boxart

Developer: Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG

As shameful as it may be to admit, Apogee Software titles were not a part of my youth. Crystal Caves was one of the many game releases by them over the years available in shareware form. The first episode, “The Trouble with Twibbles”, was available for free but episodes 2 and 3 required a purchase. If you buy the game on GOG it comes with all three episodes. How does this collectathon platformer hold up?

Surprisingly well, in fact! At least the first episode does. Crystal Caves’ hero is Mylo, a dude with bright pink clothes and a silly strut. Players navigate him through multiple stages to collect multicolored crystals. Enemies and traps are found in each cave, as well as tricks due to the level layouts themselves. The first chapter isn’t difficult to complete and really amps one up for more adventures.

Crystal Caves Featured

Episode 2 is harder than the first and at times even gets a little annoying. However, with dedication you can blast past it into Episode 3. That’s where it really becomes too much for all but the biggest Crystal Caves fans. At that point the difficulty is cranked up even more. Here things like your limited shots and three hearts get unfairly strained. Luckily, there’s no penalty for death because you’ll die a lot. Somewhere in between these levels it also becomes hard to ignore the precise nature of some jumps.

Crystal Caves is not the prettiest platformer on the block with its garish colors and slapdash monster designs. It’s also disappointing to realize that many of the 47 stages are too difficult for many to complete. Yet, there is an enduring quality about Crystal Caves that makes it enjoyable in small doses. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a lengthy DOS era platformer.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

OlliOlli Review

OlliOlli Featured

OlliOlli Logo

Developer: Roll7, General Arcade
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC – GOG, Steam PSN – PS4, Vita

Where are all the good skateboarding games? For many, the genre of extreme sports titles died out once Tony Hawk games got beyond their numbered iterations. To me it definitely felt like there was a lack of interesting newcomers. OlliOlli first launched on Vita to rave reviews but it took a bit longer for PC players to get their shot. The wait was most definitely worth it.

OlliOlli offers an unique approach to the entire skateboarding game formula. First off, it’s a 2D sidescrolling game. It takes the arcade-y nature of Tony Hawk but also integrates analog stick tricks that were found in the Skate series. What you end up with is a simplistic game that takes a lot of effort to get good at. As many OlliOlli players have discovered, you’ll keep playing stages thanks to the addictive gameplay. Although you can play with a keyboard, it seems hard to imagine given the ease of analog stick-based tricks. As such, this is all written from a Xbox 360 gamepad playing perspective.

OlliOlli Featured

There are a surprising amount of levels to complete. Each also has five extra tasks to complete while running it. If you can finish them all you gain access to the pro version of that stage. If you thought the regular levels were tough enough these prove even wilder. It must be noted that sometimes timing of analog stick flicks versus what’s registered on-screen sometimes feels off. Perhaps there is some latency on the PC port from time to time? Either that or I’m not nearly as good at OlliOlli as I imagine!

As far as skateboarding games are concerned, OlliOlli glides above a great majority of them with ease. This is thanks primarily to the effective controlscheme but also the simple 2D visuals and awesome soundtrack. Honestly, it’s right up there with Hotline Miami’s (another game with ‘outsourced’ music). It’s incredibly hard to put the game down once you play it. Expect to wipe out constantly… and eventually get into the “flow” which makes OlliOlli amazingly enjoyable.


Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

Appointment with F.E.A.R. Review

Appointment with F.E.A.R. Featured

Appointment with F.E.A.R. Logo

Developer: Tin Man Games
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DirectSteam

The Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks began in the early 80s where legions of readers picked them up. Unfortunately, I missed out on this whole world of gamebooks until discovering Tin Man Games. Their digital renditions are tremendously enjoyable, especially Appointment with F.E.A.R. which is a video game version of the 1985 book.

Players begin by crafting a hero to play as. Customization options aren’t immense, but you can select between two genders, races, outfit colors, and superhero skill set. Each superpower tweaks how you’ll be able to react to situations that arise during the storyline. Because you’ll very likely have to play through more than once you’ll be able to see how different heroes handle issues.

Since Appointment with F.E.A.R. is basically a digital book it shares a lot of common ground with typical visual novels. The story is presented via text and there are many points where players choose between a few decisions. All the art is also comic book-inspired which definitely makes the presentation more dynamic. Unlike most visual novels, fights also break out. At this point you select attacks and try to whittle down the enemy’s HP before running out yourself. Weirdly, one fight I encountered glitched out leaving me with 0 HP and stuck in the scene.

Appointment with F.E.A.R. Featured

The storyline is typical comic fare with an evil group, F.E.A.R., planning something diabolical. Your entire goal is to find clues throughout the city in order to find their headquarters and meeting time before it’s too late. With only three days to accomplish this you likely won’t win the first time. Thanks to the enjoyable writing and variety of choices it’s not painful to replay. In fact, it’s tremendously fun to explore new areas or see what would happen if you chose differently.

Some may notice that Appointment with F.E.A.R. is cheaper on mobile platforms than PC. If you don’t mind the mode of play, then mobile is a bargain! However, the Steam version offers nice benefits too via controller support, achievements, and trading cards. Controller supportworks, but a little spotty. During a playthrough my game suddenly stopped showing controller prompts (which highlights a currently selected option). So far it seems Tin Man Games is quickly responding to bugs with patches, at least.

Appointment with F.E.A.R. is a fantastic, goofy superhero adventure that will last you at least two hours to finally beat. Play it via whatever platform you desire and you shouldn’t be disappointed.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review

Untitled-1

DNG2_VITA_US_Titlesheet_900px

Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita

What was supposed to be a peaceful school trip for Hope’s Peak Academy to beautiful Jabberwock Island has suddenly been corrupted by despair. The snarky and evil Monokuma is back causing havoc, and things quickly take a turn for the worse.

Read more »

Early Access Preview: Broforce

Broforce Featured

Broforce Logo

Broforce is one heck of an action game with a title that I must admit annoys me. “Bro” this and “bro” that seems incredibly juvenile but, hey, many people apparently find it amusing. Broforce takes bro-isms to the extreme by letting players control a ton of action movie heroes. As the vast majority of Hollywood action blockbusters star incredibly muscular men, your cast of playable characters is 100% bro. You’ll likely recognize the likes of Rambo, Blade, The Terminator, Indiana Jones, Judge Dredd, and many others. Their pixelated appearances are quite cute.

Players run through 2D levels filled with enemies popping up everywhere. Sometimes these are just puny soldiers and other times they’re gigantic machine gun-wielding men or even machines. Getting hit once kills you so don’t get hit! On every stage there are cages that house a hero. By saving them you obtain an extra life and immediately become that character. Therein lies one of the biggest problems I currently have with the game. You can’t see who the character is before you activate them.

Broforce Featured

This wouldn’t be a big deal if every Broforce character were equally awesome. Unfortunately, some are really annoying to use. It’s rarely the case that most players will become accustomed to every character on a fighting roster and it’s much the same in this action game. Extra lives are great but not when you waste one thanks to a poor character choice.

Despite the lovely explosion-filled pixel graphics, excellent music, and easy to grasp gameplay, Broforce is lacking a real reason to keep playing. In either single player or online modes stages still tend to play out the same way. It just feels like some integral component that incites copious replays still isn’t there. Thankfully this is just the Early Access version. Given more time Broforce may be worth investing in once it launches.

Back to Bed Review

Back to Bed Featured

Back to Bed Logo

Developer: Bedtime Digital Games
Publisher: Bedtime Digital Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

After delighting in puzzler RUSH, my attention shifted back toward puzzle games. Back to Bed first intrigued me thanks to an incredibly distinctive art style but it were the mechanics that sold me. Just like RUSH, you guide something (in this case a sleepwalker named Bob) to his bed. And, in a more similar twist, Bob walks in one direction and turns right when running into objects. On its own, is Back to Bed an excellent new puzzle game?

Unfortunately, I feel it falls short of its promise. Perhaps it’s more that the tremendous focus on artistry kept it from becoming a truly engaging experience. After all, the art is lovely as an obvious homage to M.C. Escher, Salvador Dali, and Rene Magritte. When a game looks this great, though, you expect equal parts greatness within the product itself.

Back to Bed Featured

To be fair, Back to Bed delivers a serviceable puzzle game on a first playthrough. The biggest issue was that it was surprisingly simple and fast (taking under two hours to beat). The difficulty complaint is addressed by nightmare modes of the same stages. Completing nightmare stages is tremendously challenging, but rewarding!

My biggest issue was that the game attempts to play with perspective, but does so only sparingly. As such, when it happens you don’t expect it and may fail many times by not being aware of the weird perspective being integral for puzzle solving. Of course, beyond this the puzzle controls themselves are a bit borked. Sometimes you simply can’t place objects where you want them. As some puzzles are very time-limited this leads to annoying failures due to the controls. Problematic controls in a puzzle game are a huge problem.

Back to Bed is an imperfect game with a lovely aesthetic. If they had pushed creativity further it would be worth rewarding those attempts. However, beyond the visual artistry, everything about Back to Bed feels tepid.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system

Cloud Chamber Review

Cloud Chamber Featured

Cloud Chamber Logo

Developer: Investigate North
Publisher: Investigate North
Platform: PC – Steam

Alternate reality games hold a very special place in my heart. This overlooked genre places you – the player – in something that seems much larger than a simple game. By involving you directly in a narrative, often by emailing or even calling you, these so-called ARGs brought games into a new dimension. Unfortunately, there are very few out there. Although Cloud Chamber is not really an ARG, it feels very much like one. So let’s dive into exactly what this game is!

Read more »

Eidolon Review

Eidolon Featured

Eidolon Logo

Developer: Ice Water Games
Publisher: Ice Water Games
Platform: PC – DirectSteam

Eidolon is perhaps the mellowest game I’ve played this year. The premise is simple enough. You’re all alone in a wooded landscape. With nothing on your person, the only thing to do is explore and survive. During your travels you come upon berries, animals, and letters. While the former keep you alive, the latter fuel your journey. After all, it suggests there are others out there somewhere if you just keep looking!

The game initially appealed to me because it seemed a mix of Gone Home and Proteus. Of course, that reductive way of looking at it does Eidolon a disservice. Unlike either of those, I found myself immediately hooked to this calm, beautiful post-apocalyptic landscape. Trees, bushes, and animals are simple polygons but this look definitely works. The way Ice Water Games utilized color particularity is something to behold.

Eidolon Featured

Understanding Eidolon in even a simple sense requires spending time with it. At first you might jump off a cliff only to find it seriously wounds you. For me, my beginning was trashed due to walking straight up to a bear. Unlike other games where I don’t care much for health, I wanted to do everything in my power to stay alive (and safe) here. Eventually I learned to pay attention to nature – particularly birds. Although there is much more that could be said about the game’s mechanics it would spoil the pleasure of working them out yourself.

Although you don’t have to find and read the many notes scattered about this massive landscape it adds another layer to the experience. Being drawn to the story helps add “purpose” to the game where others might not see it. With that said, simply wandering around in Eidolon has become a favorite new method of unwinding for me. I invite others out there to enter this gorgeous digital landscape and uncover its secrets.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system