‘Reviews’

Outlaws Review

Outlaws Featured

Outlaws Boxart

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Platform: PC – GOG*

So, westerns have never really been my “thing.” With that said, I’m surprised at how few video games have ventured into that territory considering how perfect a setup the film genre provides for games. Outlaws plants you in the shoes of James, a retired marshal and family man. As is so painfully typical of these storylines, he returns from a routine trip to find his partner, Anna, dying. He also finds the farmhouse aflame and their daughter kidnapped. James must find where she has been taken and enact revenge along the way.

Once you get over how routinely ham-fisted the storyline is, the gameplay proves quite fun. It’s a FPS based off the same game engine used for Star Wars: Dark Forces. Gameplay is super fast and enemies are everywhere. There’s also a bunch of keys strewn about stages to unlock other parts of each. Outlaws definitely feels like an older style FPS, but the setting is what really captured my interest. And, despite the obvious storytelling, the animated cutscenes sell it effectively.

Outlaws Featured

My biggest issue with Outlaws has nothing to do with the game itself, but with my inability to play more than one stage in a single sitting. It causes my motion sickness to flare up immensely (even with head bobbing turned off). There’s just something about this engine. So, take heed if you suffer from motion sickness as well. It’s a shame, really, because I’ve immensely enjoyed the experience otherwise.

Sometimes it does get a bit tedious. You migh happen to forget where the specific locked door you need is. Other times, cruel cowboys will shoot you from areas you’d never even think to check. But in all, Outlaws is a pretty darn refreshing gameplay experience. That’s really weird to say for a title nearly 20 years old, but apparently it holds up just fine!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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The Royal Trap Review

The Royal Trap Featured

The Royal Trap Logo

Developer: Hanako Games
Publisher: Hanako Games
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

I’ll admit, after falling in love with Hanako Games’ Long Live the Queen I didn’t believe there would be any game in their library able to even come close. As such, The Royal Trap was quite a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, because so much of the story reveals itself upon multiple playthoughs, I’ll just stick with sharing the starting point.

You play as Madeleine Valois. She has spent her life protecting (and effectively raising) Prince Oscar into a proper and well-rounded gentleman. His goal? Get selected by another nation’s Princess as a worthy partner, at which point he’ll no longer require Madeleine’s services. We start off with Oscar and Madeleine visiting Princess Cassidy along with others looking to win her hand. Unfortunately, things won’t play out as anyone expected.

The Royal Trap Featured

As with any good visual novel, the storyline is intriguing and each character brings something unique to the table. In my play time I discovered a handful of typos, but those could easily be resolved with patches (if that hasn’t already occurred). There are also 15 endings to uncover, meaning you’ve got a lot of potential hours of gameplay available. It’s definitely recommended to see The Royal Trap through to conclusion.

The release on Steam is an “HD Version” which of course updated the resolution to 1440×900. Background art has also been redone, though as I never played the original I can’t comment on the upgrade. CG scenes are gorgeous and even a bit steamy at times, which is great! Most of all I love Madeleine’s character. In comparison to most other otome game protagonists, she is truly her own character, rather than a blank slate for players to envision themselves as.

My only real complaint with the game is that there is apparently a recommended order to do the routes in, which I was unaware of going in. By doing so you get the best unveiling of the story/world so definitely check this post out if you intend to play the “right” way. But beyond that, The Royal Trap is a lovely visual novel worth your time.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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JumpJet Rex Review

JumpJet Rex Featured

JumpJet Rex Logo

Developer: TreeFortress Games
Publisher: TreeFortress Games
Platform: PC – Steam

There’s one creature I love more than alpacas… The tyrannosaurus rex. As such, I always adore games featuring dinosaurs of any sort, but JumpJet Rex immediately stood out. Not only did it feature a cute little dino, but it also wears cute jumping boots! The 2D pixelated platformer seemed simple enough, so I jumped right in and found it totally exceeded my expectations.

Unlike most platformers, Rex’s boots allow for infinite jumps. They also allow for horizontal speed boosts, and speedy, vertical rocket jumps. To descend quickly, Rex does a great butt stomp. Levels rely on speed, although it’s not necessary to play things quick if you don’t want to. Your main goal on each of the 40+ levels is to fly through gold rings which unlock an exit. Along the way you can nab gold coins to spend on t-rex customization.

JumpJet Rex Featured

What I like most is that JumpJet Rex gives a taste of speedrunning to folks like me who have no chance at otherwise jumping into that community. Every stage offers players three stars if they can survive without ever dying and also beat their par time. The latter proves quite a challenge, requiring careful Rex control and continual second shaving. After a while I gave up but it was fun to be super speedy while it lasted!

It’s only near the end that the game faltered. I beat the final boss in less than a minute on my first try – awesome! Then came the last stage. No spoilers, of course, but it amped up the challenge more than anything else before and threw in a count down timer and hard to see landscape for added fun. If not for banging around on that stage for half an hour my enjoyment would have remained high. With that said, there’s still tons of the game which was totally worth it.

JumpJet Rex brings platforming enjoyment to players of various skill levels and is fun almost the entire way through.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Steven Universe: Attack the Light Review

Steven Universe Attack the Light Featured

Steven Universe Attack the Light Logo

Developer: Grumpyface Studios
Publisher: Cartoon Network
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS

As fantastic as RPGs are, many folks simply don’t have time to play them. They’re long, full of grinding, and sometimes the battle mechanics are more complex than necessary. Steven Universe: Attack the Light distills the turn-based RPG formula into something short, and immediately enjoyable. This is true even if you haven’t watched the show, though existing fans are the target audience.

Steven Universe: Attack the Light positions players in control of a four character party – Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and Steven. Each offers their own attacks and special skills, while Steven serves primarily as support. Fights themselves take inspiration from Paper Mario wherein timing touchscreen presses lends to stronger attacks from your team or weakened hits from enemies. As a fan of Paper Mario it was news of this mechanic which urged me to give the game a download (despite having not watched a single episode of Steven Universe at that point!).

Steven Universe Attack the Light Featured

With that said, even at the price of $2.99 it’s obvious this isn’t as expansive a product. Each dungeon is quick and story interludes are incredibly brief, serving more as dressing than anything else. My biggest complaint is simply that I don’t know what device Steven Universe: Attack the Light is made for. On tablet, the wide distance between areas you’re meant to touch is cumbersome. On smartphones, the radial attack menu is quite small and imprecise. Basically, the game presents a literal strain on my hands after a chunk of playtime when compared to others.

Despite my frustration with the game’s interface, the actual RPG play is easily enjoyable. If not for my troubles I would have blown through chapters far quicker! If you’re looking for a simple RPG to play on the go this is a fine option. Finally, if you’re opposed to paid products, Steven Universe: Attack the Light is a much better proposition than those free games littered with ads and confusingly labeled in-app purchases.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Lexica Review

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lexicalogo

Developer: d3t
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Games revolving around creating or uncovering words are usually just my thing. After all, much of my free time is spent reading or writing thanks to a love of written language. That’s why I finally snapped up Lexica, and expected its semi-hybrid of sudoku and Scrabble to be perfect. As it turns out, I am totally awful at playing it.

My struggles come from the design of the game itself, which apparently are not as easily understandable as other word puzzle games that came before. Each stage presents a crossword-looking screen which you fill with letters until words form. However, each letter connects to a specific row, meaning you can’t place a letter anywhere at all. This is what makes it puzzling, as players must logically determine where to slide letters with few overt clues.

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In Lexica’s tutorial you’re basically told that puzzle solutions require word logic. Players themselves need to imagine what words could be made with the given letters and remove certain letter combinations which make absolutely no sense. The concept is very cool, but when given the almost total freedom of a blank board my mind fails to focus. Instead it just makes up words that fit without considering potential ramifications.

So, for me, Lexica is a serious disappointment. I recognize that some folks out there will absolutely adore it, as the challenge is better than most word games. There are 100 puzzles and 3 difficulties in all but chances are only the most diehard fans will see the game through to completion.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Domestic Dog Simulator Review

Domestic Dog Simulator Featured

Domestic Dog Simulator Boxart

Developer: Surreal Distractions
Publisher: Surreal Distractions
Platform: PC – Steam, Desura

By now many abhor the “funny simulator” fad in gaming. Well, I’m not! Domestic Dog Simulator is a lovely little title I first discovered via Desura and was very excited to see it hit Steam. Having played again after my first foray a bit ago, some aspects have actually changed! However, the main game is still the same. You still play as a randomly generated doggy trying to survive.

Every time you boot up Domestic Dog Simulator you’re treated to a new alien/robot/whatever dog-like creature. Its goals are simple: Stay fed and hydrated, flea-free, get some exercise, and pee/poop on stuff. As you navigate around the tiny town you’ll discover odd, but cute things. For example, the arcade currently features three games to muck around with. The coolest aspect, however, are the secrets hidden right underneath the surface.

Domestic Dog Simulator Featured

At first glance it really feels like Domestic Dog Simulator is an incredibly simplistic, repetitive game. It is certainly repetitive in that you need to constantly refill your meters (lest the dog die), but play long enough and you’ll uncover new areas and other great Easter eggs. Achievements offer slight hints for what to do or where to go, if you need it. My biggest complaint is that every time you close the game you’re saying goodbye to that dog and its run. I don’t have the time to sit and game for hours on end!

With that said, the developer has shown that they are still hard at work on Domestic Dog Simulator. No, it’s not in Early Access but Surreal Distractions continues to add and tweak features in response to players. They’ve even addressed the complaint of new dogs on launch and may offer a solution. Controller support is incoming as well which is great considering the current keyboard controls are iffy. Domestic Dog Simulator might be immensely simple, but sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Toonstruck Review

Toonstruck Featured

Toonstruck Boxart

Developer: Burst Studios
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

Toonstruck is one of those games that, despite being a fan of adventure games, flew totally under my radar until recently. For whatever reason I kept confusing it for the Cool World video game which doesn’t seem too great. In Toonstruck you play as a cartoon animator named Drew Blanc who is just another cog in the machine. He’s been dreaming of creating a new cartoon for years but the powers that be simply want him to produce more of the same.

On the night of a big assignment things get weird – Drew is magically drawn into a TV set which leads directly to the world of cartoons. There he immediately runs into that dream character of his, Flux, and is tasked with saving Cutopia before being allowed back to the human world. As it turns out, you’ll have to collect 12 different mystery items in order to save anyone. Just like any other point and click adventure this involves chatting up locals, solving puzzles, and doing lots of weird stuff.

Toonstruck Featured

In regards to other puzzle games of the time Toonstruck actually starts out quite easily. Puzzles ramp up in difficulty, but not exclusively. Only puzzles related to combining items stumped me thanks to their fairly rare appearance. The most enjoyable aspect is simply wandering around this cartoon realm and seeing the juxtaposition between cuteness and “reality.” Characters in Cutopia are sweet to a fault, but some still manage to make hilariously pointed insults. Despite the necessary cartoony visuals, this is a game meant primarily for teens/adults.

Some of Toonstruck’s jokes don’t work anymore as they might have in the 90s. A few jabs at types of people fell particularly flat, but most of the time I was in awe of how hilarious the game manages to be. Humor is hard in games, especially if you’ve got slapstick cartoon sensibilities in the mix. Even if it were lacking the star power of Christopher Lloyd (and many esteemed voice actors) Toonstruck would still prove a hit.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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No, Thank You!!! Review

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No, Thank You!!! Boxart

Developer: Parade
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*

I am amazed at the continual proliferation of visual novels in the West. With that said, it seems that certain types of titles (eroge, etc) might never be met with the same level of respect. It’s such shame because the content of these games tends to bother people enough to not even give them a shot. In the case of No, Thank You!!! there’s quite a loss as this game delivers a strong storyline and mostly believable cast along with some serious twists.

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AdVenture Capitalist Review

Adventure Capitalist Featured

Adventure Capitalist Logo

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

 The incremental game genre is super weird to folks who’ve never experienced it firsthand before. Basically, these titles are gaming-ness distilled to a very pure form. In AdVenture Capitalist you’re simply presented with a screen of potential businesses for you to buy out and profit from. The lemonade stand is your first business, but soon enough you’ve moved onto a pizza parlor – and then your own hockey team because why not?

All you do is click the business you wish to buy more of and expend some cash. After owning enough of one the speed at which you receive profits from it increases. Upgrades and managers multiple profits further, leading to eventual profits far surpassing the trillions. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek (and simplified!) version of capitalism but the framing makes more sense than Cookie Clicker at least.

Adventure Capitalist Featured

So basically, AdVenture Capitalist is all about clicking icons every so often, closing the game, and letting it accrue funds overnight and then repeating the procedure. Every so often you’ll even want to reset back to 0 businesses in order to gain angel investors. Angel investors add a 2% bonus apiece each restart which means future playthroughs gain immense amounts of cash faster each time.

This incredibly simplistic format is one which most incremental games thrive on and is definitely a love it or hate it sort of thing. If you enjoyed Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes, or Candy Box though it’s worth a download. I don’t find it nearly as charming as my preferred Cookie Clicker (which delves into such wonderfully ridiculous territory), but hey, it’s a free game on Steam for me to indulge on between actually playing games.


Score: 3
3 out of 5 alpacas


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Gex Review

Gex Featured

Gex Boxart

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: 3DO, PC – GOG*, PlayStation, Saturn

Gex is one of those games that seems lost to time. As a child I really dug Gex: Enter the Gecko because of its bright worlds themed off real media (cartoons, horror movies, etc). But never before had I played the original Gex. As it turns out, the entire series seems predicated on the notion of jumping into film/television media parody worlds. It’s a fun concept, although the execution is lacking.

One night while Gex is simply watching TV he gets transported to the TV dimension by some evil being named Rez. Once in the world he traipses though increasingly challenging levels all based around genres and locations for films (horror, kung fu, futuristic). Every 2D stage features copious enemies, collectible golden bugs, and lots of ways to die. Like many early 90s platformers it is far more challenging than it seems! The best aspect is how playing as a gecko lets you do things like climb ceilings and walls with ease.

Gex Featured

The biggest issue with Gex is not the inherent challenge but how out of place it feels now. Gex routinely shouts out “witty” one liners in reference to pop culture from around 1994 (when the game first launched on 3DO). Although some of the jokes and references make sense to me, none are particularly funny regardless. Then there are ones that seem completely nonsensical such as Gex grumpily complaining, “when is Grace Jones gonna retire?” What, pray tell, is wrong with Grace Jones?! Weirdly, many of the same lines were reused for 1998’s Enter the Gecko, and they were probably already stale then.

In all, the framing of Gex proves its most interesting aspect. Having a real reason to adventure through thematically different worlds is kind of neat, and each boss proves cool. Gex himself though is grating and his dialogue is a lazy excuse for actual characterization. The platforming is inspired, but the negatives balance out the positives. Instead of being iconic, Gex is just average.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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