‘Reviews’

Mini Golf Mundo Review

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Developer: EnsenaSoft
Publisher: EnsenaSoft
Platform: PC – Steam

After successful rounds of weird golfing in Golf With Your Friends, I decided to load up another mini golfing game from my Steam library. Unfortunately, this decision came before remembering the game was originally received as part of Bundle Star’s Dollar Mega Bundle. This bundle offered 28 games for $1…

Suffice it to say Mini Golf Mundo doesn’t hold up to Golf With Your Friends, or any other decent golfing game out there. There are only four stages to play with – each connected to a level of difficulty. Each features nearly the same grassy, idyllic locale with cabins and lakes surrounding the mini golf course.

The game ramps from super easy to super challenging over the course of these four courses with no real warning. You’re just suddenly faced with parts of the course disappearing and reappearing. Because you cannot “lock in” the strength of a hit, you’re forced to waste multiple swings hoping to match up the timing.

One neat bit is the final course which offers warp points. These almost add a bit of strategy to the gameplay, but quickly wear out their welcome. There’s absolutely no music in Mini Golf Mundo, either, which further reveals its failed cash grab status. Just don’t play this game.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Eversion Review

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Developer: Zaratustra Productions
Publisher: Zaratustra Productions
Platform: PC – Steam

Eversion is one of those games that it seemed everyone had played back a few years ago. Time and time again, it saw mentions in articles and forum posts about creepy games. I bought it sometime around then, but never ended up playing the darn thing until now.

Mechanically, Eversion is a simplistic 2D platformer with a switching mechanic. It is possible to change the landscape/features of blocks at predetermined Evert portals. Aside from opening up paths through the stage, these also make the game gradually darker and disturbing. Well, as disturbing as a cartoony 2D platformer can be.

Eversion Featured

There’s no doubt that this bait and switch worked extremely well around the time of its initial launch. At this point, however, so many retro-styled “secret” horror games are out there that it’s much less shocking. I did get a feeling of tepid surprise, but not much else. Autoscrolling stages in particular proved far more frustrating than frightening.

I likely did myself a huge disservice by waiting so long to play Eversion. This is a game that worked in a specific time and place. Sure, it only takes about half an hour to beat (if you’re not seeking completion), but the greatest asset of the game now feels stale.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Golf With Your Friends Review

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Developer: Blacklight Interactive
Publisher: Blacklight Interactive
Platform: PC – Steam

Mini golf is pretty fun in real life, but not something I typically get to play very often. Golf With Your Friends brings this simple formula to the gaming world with the right amount of seriousness (that is to say, very little at all). The point is to have fun with a decent simulation of golf alongside a heavy dose of silliness.

The game includes five courses, ranging from the initial slightly realistic one to Egypt, a haunted house, and more. Each course goes from a decent difficulty to wildly challenging with outrageous jumps and obstacles. Golf With Your Friends isn’t exactly going for realism. There’s no option to change golf clubs – all you can do is charge swings (or make the ball jump to cheat some swings).

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Golf With Your Friends, as the name implies, is a multiplayer-exclusive experience. This aspect really shines once you start customizing match options. For example, consider setting the ball to random shapes. If you thought the levels were hard, try doing them with an acorn-shaped ball.

At the time of this writing, Golf With Your Friends is on the verge of leaving Early Access at version 1.99.0. My suggestion is to buy the game now before its price increases with the full launch. It’s already entirely playable and a great time with friends.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles Review

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Developer: EnsenaSoft
Publisher: EnsenaSoft
Platform: PC – Steam

Casual games are great. For me in particular, they grant an escape from playing other games which require more attention, strategy, and skill. Because of this habit, I’m increasingly aware of which games have serious effort into their releases versus those that are simply re-skinned releases.

Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles falls into the latter category. This developer has a handful of puzzle games and they all appear to vary purely by theme. That might not be so bad if not for the fact that the underlying mechanics and interface are totally lacking. There’s also no music! I’ll admit, it’s not quite as awful as the Pixel Puzzle series.

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At the very start, it seems like Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles is painfully easy. You actually get to see outlines of all the puzzle pieces on the game board! These disappear after a few levels, though, leaving players to deal with the digital puzzle much like a real one. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be confusing to tell if a puzzle piece sticks to the board (meaning it is in the right position) or not.

There is also no easy means of organizing your puzzle pieces prior to solving the puzzle. Instead you must click and drag them to areas outside the board to organize them as you see fit. The margin is not large enough to make this particularly enjoyable, though.  The cat photos per puzzle are cute – and they don’t appear to be stolen wholesale from various sources. But that’s basically the only good thing about Kitty Cat: Jigsaw Puzzles.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Barnyard Mahjong 3 Review

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Developer: EnsenaSoft
Publisher: EnsenaSoft
Platform: PC – Steam

“Mahjong” is a term which is typically used incorrectly in English-language games. Many use it to refer to the familiar tile-matching concept, which is not the same as traditional mahjong. Real mahjong is a much more strategic, multiplayer experience. In any case, Barnyard Mahjong 3 is of the matching variety.

As the name implies, everything is doused in a barn theme. This includes the backgrounds and the tiles themselves, which feature depictions of fruits, farmers, and farm animals. There are in fact so many different visuals that it often proves tough to quickly survey the screen for potential matches.

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Each level in Barnyard Mahjong 3 features a timer. The amount of time left on the clock determines what you’re graded once finished with a puzzle. These stars are meaningless, though, as even ending with no time left still unlocks the next stage. I appreciate the game’s supremely casual attitude.

What doesn’t work is that the experience is barely enjoyable. The widescreen presentation makes it tiring to click back and forth between different ends of the screen. It’s also quite easy to fail puzzles (the remaining tiles just reset) even on easy. The music is so droll that you barely even notice it exists, and effects are incredibly anemic. Presentation is a huge part of making a mahjong game stand out and Barnyard Mahjong 3 simply doesn’t.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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VOI Review

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Developer: Yunus Ayyildiz
Publisher: Yunnus Ayyildiz
Platform: PC – Steam

Puzzlers have really taken over my life as of late. It’s just really enjoyable to chill out with games featuring one specific thing that makes their puzzles stand out. In the case of VOI, it’s the concept of 1 + 1 = 0. What does that mean, exactly? It makes sense in the concept of the game.

Each stage of VOI features a small stage, a few shapes (triangles, squares), and asks you to use them to create a certain shape as shown onscreen. These shapes require you to move the pieces logically on top of and around each other to create the shape. Where the 1 + 1 bit comes in is in overlapping objects. Once two are on top of each other, they “disappear.” This is a pivotal part of solving puzzles.

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Despite grasping the concept in theory, I still found it challenging to complete some levels. On others, I let my lizard brain do the work as it appeared to magically guide me to solutions with ease. VOI is definitely better suited to folks looking for a challenge based purely on logic rather than twitch reflex or hints.

It’s because of the surprisingly tough nature of the game that I came back to it less and less while in pursuit of a completion. One smart gameplay tweak would’ve been the ability to specify which piece to move when clicking on a space with multiple overlapped pieces. As is, things get a bit muddled and you often end up having to pull everything apart and restart from there. Frustrating bits like this lessen – but don’t extinguish – the challenging appeal of VOI.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Phrase Shift Review

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Developer: Hyper Hippo Games
Publisher: Hyper Hippo Games
Platform: PC – Steam, Mobile – Android, iOS

With so many puzzle games out in the world it often seems like there’s no way to create something new. Well, Phrase Shift does exactly that. At first, it looks like someone cut out a small segment of a word search. Each puzzle offers one vertical column and multiple horizontal columns with words intersecting it. You’re also given a clue.

Unlike a word search which has you fill in everything, the horizontal words are already set per puzzle. So your goal is actually to shift the horizontal words left or right until the letters which intersect with your vertical bar form a word which fits with the given clue. It might sound confusing, but all you need is to play a level or two to grasp the concept.

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Once you do, get ready for a ton of enjoyment playing Phrase Shift. The game includes level batches of twenty in different categories: Food, Science, Animals, etc. For the most part, I knew all the vocabulary (even if it took a bit of guessing to bring them to mind). Some sections, such as Movies, might be tough for folks who have absolutely no interest or awareness of American pop culture.

Phrase Shift is a perfect game to come to after a long day at work. It allows you to both turn off your brain as well as give it the reward of solving (mostly) simple puzzles. I’ve enjoyed my time slowly working through the sections one by one. Unlike most games, I desire to play this one to 100% completion.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Contra Review

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Contra Box Art

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Arcade, Console – NES, PC – Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX2, ZX Spectrum

Contra is one of those games folks can’t help but talk about. Comments circle around its high difficulty as well as the infamous Konami code which grants players thirty much-needed lives. The thing is, I never even touched the original Contra before. The closest I came to understanding its hectic 2D action was through playing the spiritual successor Hard Corps: Uprising

Thanks to a shiny new Raspberry Pi 3 in my possession (and watching the “This is the Run” video series on Giant Bomb), I decided it was finally time to take on Contra. Don’t worry, the NES cart is also in my possession. Unlike most players, this meant I was already armed with knowledge of how to defeat bosses and what challenges lie in wait. None of this made the experience a cake walk.

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When people say Contra is hard they mean it. The earlier stages aren’t quite so bad, but once you reach the middle there are bullets flying every which way as enemies constantly run onscreen. The challenge is compounded by one hit kills and a piddly default gun (which resets all power ups upon death). Securing a better weapon such as the spread gun is awesome – but often short-lived.

Contra is also super weird thematically. Despite being named with relation to the Iran-Contra affair, it bears little resemblance to real life events past the introductory level. Very quickly players move beyond the jungle setting with army-looking dudes to huge monsters, alien space ships, and more. None of this detracts from it being a white knuckle, badass experience. Anyone up for the challenge should definitely try their hand at Contra.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Review

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The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Boxart

Developer: Sierra On-Line
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Platform: PC – Windows 3.0, Mac

Once upon a time I played games purchased from the Scholastic Book Club. One of these was The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain. At the time I believed it to be the only one of its type out there, only to later learn “Dr. Brain” was an entire series. Unfortunately, it looks like by the time The Time Warp of Dr. Brain came around that the developers had all but run out of good ideas for puzzling minigames.

There are ten minigames this time around and little else. You’ll find absolutely no story wrapping any of it together. Each puzzle comes with three difficulty options and an unknown (to me, anyway) amount of levels per game. The big issue is that some games are given too much instructions while others receive no instructions at all. Oh, and the fact that it’s just not any fun to play the vast majority of them.

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A few of the included puzzles are simply rehashes of existing mental games people play. It’s in these modes based on well-known logic exercises that are at all enjoyable. The rest, such as one which simply requires players to swim without running out of air, aren’t even worth the edutainment moniker. This is disappointing because both The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain and Castle of Dr. Brain were fairly interesting to fuss with.

The graphics and audio are just fine and certainly appropriate for the mid 90s gaming scene. Outside of one or two stand out minigames, however, the game is a total flop. Even Dr. Brain himself acts like he doesn’t care one bit about the player and their success/failures. Anyone looking for a good edutainment title should steer clear.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Who Killed Sam Rupert: Virtual Murder 1 Review

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Who Killed Sam Rupert Virtual Murder 1 Boxart

Developer: Creative Multimedia Corporation
Publisher: Creative Multimedia Corporation
Platform: PC – Macintosh, Windows 3.0

It’s pretty obvious that people love a good murder mystery. Why else would we have copious literature, TV shows, and an unfortunate obsession with real life unsolved crimes? That’s why it makes total sense when the earliest FMV-enabled PC games focused on murder scenarios. Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 was just the start of an entire four game series by Creative Multimedia Corporation.

As you might guess, Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 focuses on the murder of a Mr. Rupert. This restaurant owner was well-liked by some and, unfortunately enough, detested by multiple people close to him. It’s up to you to determine who exactly killed the man and why. The game throws a tremendous amount of red herrings at you. However, it’s laid on so thick that most should pick up on avoiding the “obvious” path.

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In some ways, the game is an early 90’s version of Her Story. However, instead of just getting the FMV stories of eight key suspects, you’re also free to dig through police-collected records as needed. That includes terse interviews with restaurant patrons on the night of the murder, lab details, and more. Many found this utterly dull (according to reviews of the era) but it was enjoyable enough to me.

The key failing point for all this searching to unearth clues is that Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 is timed. There are only six in-game hours to learn about the case and successfully peg a murderer. Because of the arbitrary restriction, you’ll need to play through multiple times. Despite very clearly showing its age with postage stamp sized videos and relatively simple murder/motive, Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 is a neat way to spend an hour or two.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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