Bad Smell Featured

Bad Smell Review

Developer: Magicdweedoo Publisher: Magicdweedoo Platform: PC – itch.io After a while, top-down shooters start to feel really samey. This doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome – because they are – but it can get a little draining to see the same […]

80 Days Featured

80 Days Review

Developer: inkle Publisher: inkle Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS Around the World in 80 Days is one of those novels that has inspired an incredible amount of creative thought. Somehow, I’m not sure that there was ever a game based […]

Polyology Featured

Polyology Review

Developer: Gridlock Interactive Publisher: Gridlock Interactive Platform: PC – Humble Store, itch.io Sokoban (block pushing) games are deceptively easy. If you’ve never played one, their name basically defines the goal of pushing blocks together or to a certain spot. In Polyology, […]

Abomination Tower Featured

Abomination Tower Review

Developer: Adrian Sugden Publisher: Adrian Sugden Platform: PC – Desura, Humble Store, itch.io I completely suck at platformers. Even ones designed to be family friendly often give me a run for my money. As such, it makes no sense for […]

16 Bit Rally Featured

16 Bit Rally Review

Developer: Proton Creations Publisher: Proton Creations Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – itch.io So, maybe this is abnormal, but I have a serious reverence for arcade-style racing games. Cruisin’ World and Daytona USA are some of my favorites, although there are […]

 

Bad Smell Review

Bad Smell Featured

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Developer: Magicdweedoo
Publisher: Magicdweedoo
Platform: PC – itch.io

After a while, top-down shooters start to feel really samey. This doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome – because they are – but it can get a little draining to see the same template again and again. Bad Smell positions itself within the genre while still offering a fresh spin on things. First off, just look at that art!

The art style seems tremendously like the sort of stuff you’d be able to draw in MS Paint. Yet, as this visual theme remains throughout, it helps to give Bad Taste a distinctly amusing vibe. The bright, cartoony world is very welcoming (and also lulls you into a false sense of security). There are two difficulty settings, normal and hard, though even normal can become overwhelming. In a way the art style hinders things occasionally when it’s simply too difficult to “read” where bullets are on-screen due to visual overload.

Bad Smell Featured

Still, what is offered here is a competent and incredibly unique shooter. Not only are creature designs enjoyable but the music fits perfectly. You can jam out while playing Arcade or Adventure mode. Both offer a mechanically similar experience but Adventure includes themed stages and a few other differences. In either mode you can collect unused bullets back but it’s a fairly slow process. Reloading requires a humorous whack-a-mole minigame, although it gets grating after a while.

Bad Smell stands out in so many ways. Every design choice may not have been for the best, but it’s nice to see someone try different things. It’s a shame that there’s no controller support! If you don’t mind controlling a top-down shooter with mouse and keyboard then Bad Smell should provide a quick burst of colorful, slightly confusing shooter fun.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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80 Days Review

80 Days Featured

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Developer: inkle
Publisher: inkle
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS

Around the World in 80 Days is one of those novels that has inspired an incredible amount of creative thought. Somehow, I’m not sure that there was ever a game based off the classic journey before now. 80 Days places you into the role of Phileas Fogg’s valet – rather than Fogg himself. It’s an interesting role to play as you must both determine what route you travel upon as well as keep your gentleman company.

80 Days falls strongly into the gamebook mold and that’s anything but a bad thing. As each day passes you must choose where to go, who to talk to, what to talk about, and how to best care for Fogg as well. Talking with others not only passes the time (and reveals some great writing) but can unveil new pathways for the illustrious trip. Of course you could simply stick to the default path but that would be the most boring adventure ever. Explore, converse, and enjoy this stunning world inkle has put together!

80 Days Featured

Unlike the novel from which it’s based, 80 Days stick you in a sort of alternate reality where steampunk and sci-fi aspects are everyday. This injects the game with more excitement as you can never be sure what awaits you in the next location. Unlike most mobile games, this one looks incredibly unique. The stylish framing of letters, excellent use of colors, map travel animations, and everything else come together to make this experience as visceral as travelling around the world via your smartphone can be.

Days are your biggest currency and worry. Get to a location too late, or simply waste your time and you’ll have to spend days before the next mode of transportation arrives. Sure, it’s the player’s fault, but it’s annoying all the same. And, while this is an odd complaint, 80 Days doesn’t feel like a “mobile” game because it is a title you want to play for long stretches at time. In any case, this is a standout title which Android and iOS gamers are lucky to have access to.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Polyology Review

Polyology Featured

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Developer: Gridlock Interactive
Publisher: Gridlock Interactive
Platform: PC – Humble Store, itch.io

Sokoban (block pushing) games are deceptively easy. If you’ve never played one, their name basically defines the goal of pushing blocks together or to a certain spot. In Polyology, your goal is to smush together blocks which bear the same number. You’ve also got to ensure that the number matches the amount of blocks touching. It sounds simple enough but as the game unfolds you discover all sorts of twists.

Polyology grades you on how many “pushes” it takes to complete any one puzzle. Meet the minimums and you have a chance at up to three stars. If you can’t, well, you’re still awarded one star for simply completing a puzzle. Stars are important since they unlock later stages. Eventually you will have to retry previous tough stages to collect more stars.

Polyology Featured

Many levels also tweak the expected sokoban formula in interesting new ways. For example, switch blocks will switch places with the player rather than moving in a regular direction. Sometimes blocks even come in distinct, Tetris-ish shapes. There are a lot of variations which are fun, challenging, and occasionally frustrating. Controls (keyboard and gamepad) are good and you can even undo moves but I still would’ve appreciated a hint function.

The game might not have the fanciest visuals around but they’re serviceable for what’s going on. The colored sphere is cute as its face actually changes depending on what you’re pushing. Polyology also has some fantastic, low-key music for solving puzzles to. There are not an outrageous amount of puzzles but they should keep you busy for a couple hours.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Abomination Tower Review

Abomination Tower Featured

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Developer: Adrian Sugden
Publisher: Adrian Sugden
Platform: PC – Desura, Humble Store, itch.io

I completely suck at platformers. Even ones designed to be family friendly often give me a run for my money. As such, it makes no sense for me to enjoy Abomination Tower. This fairly challenging platformer is procedurally generated with horrible spikes, fleshy monsters, and shooty globs that kill you in one hit. As you ascend the tower, each stage offers increased challenges to survive. And yet, I found it immediately enjoyable.

Perhaps it has to do with the humor inherent from the get go. The protagonist is an abomination in the most obvious sense. It is a being created by a mad scientist that moves and jumps but has no head. This no head bit actually has a gameplay aspect too. You see, after collecting enough eyeballs you unlock wearable heads. Each confers its own special ability – but you can’t stack heads. Even after unlocking a few more I still found myself sticking with “Save My Butt” since that allows the abomination two hits rather than one hit KOs.

Abomination Tower Featured

The humorous theme thrives thanks to Abomination Tower’s visuals. That aforementioned unlock, for example, actually places a round rump on the abomination’s head. Everything has a nice cartoony vibe despite the blood splatters decorating walls and floors. It’s also great that unlocks remain unlocked even when you die and/or restart. This is important when you (or me, in this case) die constantly.

Issues I noticed were that platforming is not as precise as it could be. Jumps in particular all have a minimum left and right motion, meaning you must account for these specifics when jumping through dangerous sections. Some procedurally generated bits also seemed to offer impossible fragments. Perhaps I’m not skilled enough yet, but they did seem problematic. Abomination Tower offers a quick burst of platforming fun in an inexpensive package.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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16 Bit Rally Review

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Developer: Proton Creations
Publisher: Proton Creations
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – itch.io

So, maybe this is abnormal, but I have a serious reverence for arcade-style racing games. Cruisin’ World and Daytona USA are some of my favorites, although there are others on the list as well. 16 Bit Rally doesn’t quite pull from the same deck (it’s pixelated rather than polygonal) but it enthralled in much the same ways.

The best aspect of 16 Bit Rally is the sense of speed and movement it provides. Thanks to a super cool “3D” effect going on with the ground it really feels like you’re moving through the world. This sense of speed is only increased as you continue to play and upgrade car stats. Eventually, vehicles seem impossibly fast but still remain controllable.

16 Bit Rally Featured

Racing against 20 other cars typically means you won’t get last place. Of course, netting a top three result is best as you’ll nab the most points and cash. Points simply tally toward an overall leaderboard while money is used to upgrade or buy new cars. I would have liked to see a few more cars, as the third and final is great until all your teammates finally purchase one as well.

For as fun as 16 Bit Rally is there are a few iffy bits. When you’re in the lead there’s no way to tell how far (or close) opponents are! There’s also a lack of controller support which is a tad annoying but not a game breaker. In any case, I was immensely surprised by how much fun the title was. I worked to complete most of the world racing rally in one multi-hour sitting and that’s saying something when my average gameplay session is an hour or less.


Score: 3.5
3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Puzzler World Review

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Developer: Ideas Pad
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Most of the puzzle games I play are based around a single (or few) concepts that you utilize time and time again. Puzzler World takes a different stance by offering a collection of different puzzle types in one package. How many in all? Oh, it’s like something over 1000 different puzzles to play. Yep, this is one game I’ll be working on for a good long while.

Puzzler World includes the following classic puzzles: Crossword, Spot the Difference, Sudoku, Word Search. There are also Codeword, Fitword, Link-A-Pix, and Silhouette which may be classics in their own way but I’d never really played games like them before. Sudoku is pretty odd because (at least in the first 200 puzzles) it doesn’t offer a typical 3×3 grid and instead is 3×2. Perhaps they’re just trying to introduce the concept to unfamiliar players?

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I expected to dislike puzzles such as Link-A-Pix, but really ended up digging them. This one in particular makes you connect similar-colored numbers via a chain of squares (which match up to the specific number). It sounds confusing but is very logical and fun once you get a hang of it. Codeword is probably the worst because I simply am terrible at solving alphabet codes and just use up my hint coins on these.

The presentation of Puzzler World is simple and made for smaller screen resolutions. At 1920×1080 it’s a bit of a mess, but better than the 800×600 windowed mode which makes Link-A-Pix puzzles tough to see. With that said, the collection of games is impressive and you can play them in any order you choose (and even ignore certain types!). Puzzler World is outrageously cheap for the amount of puzzles provided and often goes on sale for even lower.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Spelunky Review

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Spelunky Boxart

Developer: Mossmouth
Publisher: Mossmouth
Platform: PC – Steam, PSN, XBLA

There was a point in time where I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom a lot, but only for a brief moment. After that childish love affair with Harrison Ford ended, the VHS went back on the shelves to collect dust. The concept of adventure in forests, caves, and the like were great for a film but it seems they would be able to easily translate into games too. No, this isn’t a post about the various Indiana Jones games that came out over the years, but Spelunky.

Spelunky is an incredibly fun game. You start out as a little adventurer person (there are many to choose from, some who you find along your travels). They explore the caves and you must keep them alive by defeating enemies, dodging traps, and also making sure you don’t fall too far – or onto spikes! Along the way, you’ll gain valuables which are exchanged into currency at the end of each stage. If you find a merchant, they’ll usually sell you something helpful, unless you decide to steal from and/or kill them.

What makes Spelunky so fun is largely due to how simple the game is to understand. You must get from the start of the stage to the exit in a certain amount of time without dying. Do this a handful more times and you’ll work through the whole thing. Controls are also spot on for the (sometimes) careful maneuvering needed. Good luck getting through the game in one go though. The whole thing is diabolically hard at points. Usually, the player’s own impatience works against them.

Spelunky Featured

The original free Windows version of Spelunky had cute pixel art, but the current art appeals to me even more. Listening to the game’s soundtrack is also fun although there aren’t quite enough tracks available. The biggest negative I perceive is the simple fact that there’s no online multiplayer option. At this point in time, I (and many other people) don’t really get to have get- togethers for gaming. But online gaming nights? Oh, that’s much easier to organize.

With randomized stages leading to infinite replay value, I have started my adventures hundreds of times. And yet, when I have nothing else to do all I want is to play even more Spelunky. It creates an enjoyable hold on players and is definitely worth the purchase if you’ve never played.


Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Pathologic Review

Pathologic Featured

Pathologic Boxart

Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Publisher: Ice-Pick Lodge
Platform: PC – GOG

Pathologic is one of the strangest games I have ever played. This isn’t due to the content, which is entirely understandable, but because its ability to shift from extremely good to annoyingly difficult in the span of playing for a few hours. This is a game that has earned a lot of acclaim over the years – enough to warrant a Kickstarter-funded remake! Even after finally playing it myself it’s hard to distill my complex reaction into a simple “I love/hate it” response.

Certainly, there’s a lot to love about Pathologic. The game allows you to play as one of three characters (third unlocked after a playthrough) entering into a slowly dying town. A plague has swept the area which leaves no one safe – not even you – from its grip. Visually, the world already looks dead with its desaturated browns, blacks, and greys. You hope to help people survive but that’s a massive task to accomplish.

It’s hard enough to save yourself. This is a survival game in the truest sense where you must think three steps ahead for what you need. Food, medicine, and the like are necessities and not just health boosts. If you can’t buy them you can always attempt to barter with townsfolk… or steal their stuff right out of their homes. There’s not a hyper obvious “good/bad” pathway, but characters will react with hostility, fear, or kindness based off what people are saying about you.

Pathologic Featured

The biggest problem with Pathologic is that it does so much to dissuade you from falling deeper into its world. First, the translation is pretty rough which means an English-speaker simply can’t get the full understanding of what’s going on (and may even be confused). The larger issue is the high barrier to entry for surviving in the game very long at all. Then there’s the combat which is primarily a test of patience than skill.

Despite these issues, Pathologic creates one stunning experience. It was far more innovative in 2005 than many games are today. Its experimentation may not have worked out perfectly, but it’s still a game worth playing. Here’s hoping the remake will fix the original issues without destroying its spirit!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Early Access Preview: Night Shift

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When Night Shift first launched onto Steam Early Access it immediately compelled me, although likely not for the reasons developer Brandon Brizzi intended. It made me recall memories of playing Night Driver on Atari, as if that is something anyone would wish to emulate today. Night Shift is effectively a puzzle game in Early Access because the story needs to be filled out a bit more. Some puzzles may also require tweaking since it seems some players have a lot of trouble with them.

What is coolest about Night Driver at the moment is how it places you inside a car during the middle of the night with no other explanation. You drive in the dark and find lights – and ghosts. Why? This strangeness is immediately compelling. Puzzles relate to messing with light, as they did in Brizzi’s last game 1000 Amps. Ghosts provide vague hints to point players in the right direction but sometimes that isn’t enough.

Night Shift Featured

On multiple occasions I found myself confused with what to do next. It seemed as if the road repeated continuously with no way to break the cycle. Somehow, it always seemed just as my patience ran out that I would suddenly solve a puzzle. Pressing onward was sometimes a stilted process but it sure felt good to finally solve tough puzzles. Right now there’s at least one puzzle that hopefully gets tweaked, as it relies on watching a pattern that is very hard to see from the car’s angle.

Both from a visual and audio standpoint Night Shift is already 100% ready to go. I am a big fan of the pixelated objects in a 3D landscape. Their stark and simple coloration is pretty stylish as well. As for the music it is an excellent 80s-style selection. If you’re curious, here’s a link to artist Dance with the Dead’s “Out of Body” album page. “Robeast” is by far my favorite track in the game!

I enjoy Night Shift’s quiet, secretive tone. In some ways it worries me that too much exposition might be brought to the game’s final version. Whatever ends up happening this is still a tremendously unique title. Lovers of mysterious games should check it out.

LYNE Review

LYNE Featured

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Developer: Thomas Bowker
Publisher: Thomas Bowker
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Windows PC – Direct, itch.io Steam

What makes a puzzle game enjoyable? Usually, it’s a heavy focus on one very simple concept that takes skill to master. LYNE follows this principle perfectly thanks to an easy to grasp component of drawing lines. All you have to do is make connecting lines between shapes of the same color. The tricky part comes in thanks to limited spaces in which to draw these lines, as well as the requirement of connecting multiple colors without crossing pathways. Things quickly get challenging, but in a way that facilitates continued play.

I won’t lie, my first attempt at LYNE was superbly pitiful. After barely being introduced to the core components I found myself completely stuck. After frustrated fumbling I closed the game and came back to it later. Lo and behold, that brief time away allowed me to think about the problem from a different angle and solve it. Many puzzle games are like this and it’s that moment once you first start to really “grasp” the core mechanics that you can feel smart while whizzing through puzzles. The more I played, the better I became. Eventually there were even periods that I entered into the “puzzle zone” and seemed to solve many in a row with no issue at all.

LYNE Featured

LYNE is a game for people who enjoy these types of experiences, and simply want a playful title to mess with. The price is super low at $2.99, but the amount of puzzles included is frankly astronomical by comparison. Beyond the main selection of hundreds of puzzles there are also daily puzzles. These procedurally-generated puzzles come in different difficulties and are all still quite fun. Although I’ve yet to complete it, there’s probably at least six hours of main-game puzzles to work through. It would be nice if hints were available though to help in those moments where you feel impossibly stuck.

Beyond the enjoyable, and sometimes super difficult puzzle gameplay, it just looks good. The calm colors, paired with some really stylish design, helps it stand out from the puzzler pack. It also functions well, although a few tweaks could help a lot. My biggest gripe is not being able to partially redraw lines on my own terms instead of being forced to undo on their terms. Really, what needs to be emphasized about LYNE is the incredible wealth of solid gameplay you get. This is an excellent puzzle game and players get a huge value for their money.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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