‘PC’

Regency Solitaire Review

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Developer: Grey Alien Games
Publisher: Grey Alien Games
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

Solitaire is one of those games which I can’t help but adore. Ever since its inclusion on Windows computers I’ve played it every so often. However, my favorite renditions of solitaire are games which shake up the formula such as Faerie Solitaire and now Regency Solitaire.

In this title, we’re thrown back in time to 19th century England and placed into the shoes of Bella. Despite being part of a wealthy family, her brother has just squandered away their riches, leaving Bella to marry a despicable fellow aptly named Mr. Bleakly. Instead of sitting idly by for men to decide her fate, Bella works to reclaim the family fortune and also select her own partner.

Regency Solitaire Featured

We help her out in this quest by taking on round after round of solitaire. You don’t need to match card suits, just select cards one above or below your active card. The card layout is unique, more akin to what you see in western mahjong games where multiple cards may need to be uncovered to reveal the bottom one first. You’ve also got a selection of power ups, upgrades, and tasks to complete each chapter.

The best aspect of Regency Solitaire, aside from the lovely visual presentation, is that it doesn’t demand perfection. Fail your mission objectives? You can still continue! My biggest complaint is a current glitch which effectively freezes the game if you press space (which draws the next card) while in a combo. Beyond that, the release is quite fun and offers around 8 hours of gameplay on normal. And yes, you can bump it up to hard for a serious challenge.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Life is Strange Episode 3 – Chaos Theory Review

Life is Strange Episode 3 - Chaos Theory Featured

Life is Strange Episode 3 - Chaos Theory Logo

Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC – Steam PSN – PS3, PS4 Xbox 360, Xbox One

I’ll admit, despite the dramatic flourishes of Life is Strange Episode 2, the episode felt pretty meandering. This phenomenon appears in many episodic properties, though. Things picked up a tad in time for Episode 3 – Chaos Theory. Throughout the approximately two-hour playtime I found myself hooked, even if it wasn’t always for the best reasons.

Information related to Kate, Rachel, and the Vortex Club was left relatively untouched, even after what just occurred in the previous episode. And for reasons unknown, these interpersonal, ham-fisted issues are still more pressing than the impending destruction of Arcadia Bay. With that said, I enjoyed getting caught up in Max and Chloe’s antics even as they increase in severity.

Life is Strange Episode 3 - Chaos Theory Featured

And (spoilers) I’ll admit to advocating very hard for a potential relationship between them. The way Episode 2 ended scared me about who Max’s potential love interest could end up being, as it seems completely wrong with the assessment I’ve made of the characters thus far (headcanon, haha). In any case, the real star of the episode is Chloe. We see more about her life and history which explains her current devil may care attitude. Then, in the final few seconds of the episode, we’re given a huge “shock” and then credits roll. Although the reveal felt like a cheap trick, it did effectively necessitate my playing of the upcoming episode.

I did not appreciate the utter game-y ness at times. Searching for a computer password and an appropriate place to hide keys had me trying every wrong option first. When the real one was revealed it was obvious, but somehow I didn’t notice (or maybe you need to perform other actions before the right one unlocks?). I’ll need to play again to see if that was the case or not, but if so, that’s truly annoying. Life is Strange is about the story, and any amount of frustration to experience more of that is a hindrance to my enjoyment.

Episode 4 looks to be when the Vortex Club party finally occurs, and as such I’m hoping it’s where everything finally amps up – so far the story is weirdly sedate. It’d be impossible to keep all that excitement for the final episode, right?


 

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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eden* PLUS+MOSAIC Review

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Developer: minori
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*, Steam

Most of the time, my reasoning for selecting one version of a visual novel over the other is to get the original, authentic experience regardless of any potential negatives or positives associated with that release. eden* posed a different sort of challenge. For those who aren’t aware, the original version was actually a so-called all-ages release, with more content being added afterward for eden* PLUS+MOSAIC. This review is for that latter version, and it honestly impacted my opinion.

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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

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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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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

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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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