Posts Tagged ‘2013’

Numba Deluxe Review

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Developer: Cobra Mobile
Publisher: KISS ltd
Platform: PC – Big Fish Games, Desura, Steam

Fans of puzzle games are absolutely spoiled for choice on Steam – or really, any digital games marketplace. While looking for match-3 puzzle variations I came upon Numba Deluxe. The game presents players with a grid of numbers and simply asks you to line up three or more in some sort of order. As such, it’s a match-3 title which utilizes numbers instead of colored blocks to allow for “patterned” paths.

This means you’ll be able to create paths by linking together multiple of the same number but also match sequentially increasing values (1, 2, 3, 4), even ones (2, 4, 6), odd (1, 3, 5), or even multiples (2, 4, 8). Each can also be matched in backwards order as well. Despite the simple concept I often found myself sticking to the most basic of routes (repeated numbers or even). Of course, to succeed you must utilize all linking styles.

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Numba Deluxe comes with three modes: Classic, Timeless, and Puzzle. Classic and Timeless are the same except, well, the first is timed. Considering the general relaxed nature of puzzle games, Classic isn’t an ideal play style. Puzzle presents a board which requires careful solving to clear. No matter what mode you select there are some issues inherent to the title.

Sure, the music is wonderfully calming but the board itself is lacking in flair. All numbers are the same color, leaving you to “read” each instead of get into typical puzzle flow. Special blocks (fire, ice, etc) change after a certain number of turns but don’t actually tell you how many turns are left. Finally, there’s little pushing folks to keep playing. Numba Deluxe is a competent little time waster but it doesn’t offer much staying power. If you’re in desperate need for a casual puzzle game allow me to suggest Puzzler World instead.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Bad Smell Review

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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.

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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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140 Review

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

One of my greatest loves in gaming is seeing how people create aesthetically interesting experiences. If they have some good gameplay to back it up then that’s just an added bonus. 140 by Carlsen Games is a pretty good, if imperfect example of a game focused on creating a very specific look and feel. It was obvious as soon as the multi-colored menu loads that I would enjoy this game.

The graphics are incredibly minimal. Your avatar is a square/circle/triangle when the mood suits it. As you travel along the 2D stages, sections animate in time with the music. For example, a platform might move with the beat or disappear at that moment. This lends itself to rhythm-based platforming where you must always be on time to make jumps safely. It’s not too difficult, although bosses prove a tougher challenge.

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I can’t get over how much these simplistic, stylish visuals appeal to me. All the color palettes work together perfectly. The shifts of color after collecting orbs, as well as how everything syncs and moves to the music is heavenly. Of course, some of this has to do with my enjoyment of the soundtrack to. To be fair, there don’t appear to be that many songs, but they’re good all the same.

My problem with 140 is not that it becomes challenging or unfair. Instead, I simply had a technical issue that made the timing on a jump nearly impossible. It seems at least one other person out there had the same issue. If not for that I would have completely fallen in love. Still, for most everyone else, I’d say 140 is a must-play.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Snake Blocks Review

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Developer: Spooky Cat
Publisher: Spooky Cat
Platform: itch.io

As a fan of snakes, I could never pass up a game called Snake Blocks. The name might be initially confounding, but it all makes sense once you see this is a puzzle title. Every stage includes 2 to 5 snakes and your goal is simple: Move snakes from their starting position to a goal. However, each snake can only be extended a certain amount of blocks. That’s where the puzzling element comes in. How can you organize snakes so they all reach their destinations?

It’s a lot harder than you might think! At first, only stages with 2 snakes are available and turn out to be fairly easy. Sometimes you must work snakes through blocky obstructions and other times work them around each other. In any case, once those stages are completed you enter the 3 snake arena (then 4 and 5). With more snakes comes far greater challenge. Sometimes you might think a puzzle is easy only to realize every snake but one can reach its goal. Thankfully, there’s no time limit or other factors forcing players into annoying conditions.

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Snake Blocks is full of visual personality. The color combinations between snakes and the striped backgrounds just pops in the best way. Similarly, the stylized block snakes are far more adorable than they have any right to be. I found myself taking screenshots simply thanks to the great aesthetics. An included puzzle editor offers creative players full power to create new stages (and tweak visuals as well).

The biggest issue I had while playing was moving snakes. Although you can move the camera it snaps to certain positions. Often, these angles obscure snakes. As such, I had to click and drag where I assumed a snake’s head was to get it moving into view again. Due to the isometric perspective there were also times that dragging a snake moved it to locations other than intended. Issues like these didn’t destroy my ability to play but did cause moments of frustration.

Check out Snake Blocks if you’re looking to give your mind a workout in short bursts throughout the week. It’s not perfect from a control standpoint, sure, but puzzles are still smartly designed. Beyond all that there’s the aesthetic which is simply too cute to ignore!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Finding Teddy Review

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Developer: LookAtMyGames
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DesuraSteam

When I started up Finding Teddy I really had no idea what to expect. It begins with a view of a young girl in her bedroom. While she’s sleeping a gigantic hairy spider limb reaches through her closet and steals her teddy bear. She wakes teddy bear-less and ponders for a moment before heading into her opened closet. From there, players are transported to some entirely different realm.

This simple introduction really excited me to sit down and play the game all the way through in one sitting. Of course, it’s a fairly short experience (one to three hours) but neat nonetheless. Finding Teddy is a point and click style adventure game with a couple of puzzle types. There are the standard item puzzles which require you to use a certain object with the right thing to make something happen. However, there are also puzzles related to repeating back songs in the right place.

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It’s the musical puzzles that help set this game apart mechanically from others. Each music note stands for one of the letters of the English alphabet (and even have similar shapes). Through music the player conveys words and ideas to the world’s inhabitants. This could mean you ask for “help” from one or tell another to “dig” a hole. I liked this concept and was sad to see how short the game is.

Most puzzles make a lot of sense just as long as you’re very aware of weird bits in the environment. Also make sure to use your fly and/or cat partners once they’re added to the team. Finding Teddy is a brief but very nice adventure game. It’s obviously optimized for touch devices (as you click on edges of the screen to move) but the PC release better showcases the pixel art. Basically, you’re in for a treat regardless of the platform you choose to play Finding Teddy on.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Chaos Engine Review

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Developer: The Bitmap Brothers
Publisher: Mastertronic
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Now, I’d never played The Chaos Engine in the past but somehow the game always stuck with me. Thanks to the ‘remastered’ version on Steam I’ve finally gotten to play this Amiga classic. Although it might not be very in-depth, I found it quite enjoyable, if difficult. Just make sure to not turn on smoothing if you have any affinity toward pixel art.

The basics of The Chaos Engine are that it’s a top down action game. You select from a cast of characters (each with unique weapons) and play alongside a co-op partner. This partner can be a real person via local or online play or simply a computer-controlled buddy. Of course, enlisting a real friend is the best idea.

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Apparently this version of the game has been made a bit harder than the original release. If so, it definitely shows. Although it looks like you can go guns blazing through the stage, slow progression is really the way to go. I found myself creeping toward the edges of the screen so as not to be jumped by an enemy. Some ram into you while others shoot bullets and in either case it’s all terribly damaging. For whatever reason, characters start with very low health. It’s definitely a challenging game but enjoyably so.

One change was making the game have “360 degree” shooting. It’s more like 8-way shooting but it works well. You can play on a gamepad (not just of the Xbox 360 variety) as well, which is pretty cool. This ended up being my preferred method of play. My biggest issue with The Chaos Engine is a severe lack of level passwords to return to old stages in online matches. Fans have been clamoring for this for over a year so such an update is unlikely. Overall, I enjoy the difficulty and just wish there were ways to temper it when needed.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Paranormal State: Poison Springs Review

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Developer: Teyon
Publisher: Legacy Games
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Big Fish GamesSteam

Paranormal State is apparently a TV show about paranormal investigators that has been running since 2007. Having cut cable some point around there, I’d actually never heard of it before. In any case, the game focuses on the team as they’ve been called onto a new case in Poison Springs. A museum built near a historic Civil War battle is experiencing a haunting that only they can solve.

Many TV shows get the hidden object treatment. Paranormal State: Poison Springs attempts to bring its ghost hunting style into the game with an assortment of ghost-sensing tech. Alongside hidden object segments are special puzzles involved in sensing spirits. These end up as fairly simple minigames. I seriously appreciated that the sliding tile puzzles simply let you pick up segments and place them elsewhere. Actually having to slide picture pieces around has always been my biggest gaming weakness.

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Hidden object sequences themselves are mostly standard. Some objects are out in the open while others require a multi-step procedure to show up. This is kind of annoying at times where the solution seems obvious but doesn’t work out. Of course, hints make this an easier task by casting blue bubbles around what you need most. Hints extend across the entire game. In fact, Paranormal State includes a built-in walkthrough in case you’re ever completely stuck.

There are some great conveniences in this game but it still drags on. Story pacing seems a bit off, with ghosts posing a serious threat one moment to wandering around without much pressure the next. I don’t know how the story compares to ones in an average episode, but it was alright, if hokey at times. It was pretty cool to see that most of lead characters were women and that the player character is never gendered. As for the character art, it didn’t seem the best digital paint work out there but is definitely good enough. The landscapes fare far better.

Paranormal State: Poison Springs brings a serviceable story with four to six hours of gameplay. With a handful of accessible Achievements, handy walkthrough, and additional unlockable chapter, it’s a neat modern hidden object game.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Actual Sunlight Review

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Developer: Will O’Neill
Publisher: Will O’Neill
Platform: PC – Desura, Direct, Steam

Depression is difficult to comprehend for anyone not suffering from it. Even those who live with depression can find it incredibly difficult to pin down in any certain terms. Despite being an affliction that people all over the world suffer from, many even fail to recognize it as a real issue. It’s likely some with that mindset will somehow stumble onto Actual Sunlight. Perhaps playing the game will shift perceptions.

Actual Sunlight stars Evan Winters. He is not a spry, spiky-haired teen nor a grizzled marine as per gaming conventions. He sits somewhere in the middle as a dejected, completely average guy. Every day he heads to work in an office with people who he either dislikes, or likes, but they don’t return those feelings. If you’ve ever felt alone or like a loser then try and amplify that many magnitudes over. Then maybe you’ll have the slightest inkling of how he feels.

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Evan is down and painfully so. Playing the game basically involves interacting with nearby objects and people, most of which gets Evan to discuss the item in question. Usually, this results in spiteful comments about himself or others. Sometimes darkly humorous, it’s easy to see that he’s far from a healthy mental state. Regardless of what he says the reader is left with a tangible feeling of hopelessness. As the game progresses you can see as daily life pushes him further down.

Actual Sunlight tells this story primarily through Evan’s thoughts and the brief discussions he has with others. Interestingly, the visuals recall retro RPGs, with a top-down perspective and NPCs milling about. However, beyond interacting with the surroundings there’s little traditional gameplay to speak of. I’m much more compelled to call this a visual novel, despite the direct control scheme.

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Lately there have been games launching that focus on telling a story directly from the creator – likely sharing very personal details. If that’s not your cup of tea then that’s a shame because you’re missing out. It was hard to play Actual Sunlight to completion, even though it took only an hour. I ached, perhaps for Evan, but in part for my own lived experiences. I was compelled to see how Evan’s plight would play out. I wanted to hear his thoughts and experience second-hand what that kind of life was like for him. Because the narrative doesn’t offer some sort of sappy conclusion it felt all that more real.

I couldn’t care less about droll storylines that get pumped out in games continuously because they impart no emotional impact. Games like Actual Sunlight need to continue hitting the scene. Maybe we’ll eventually see other developers test the waters.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Super Lemonade Factory Review

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Developer: Initials
Publisher: Initials
Platform: Mobile – iOS Ouya PC – Direct, IndieGameStand, Itch.io

Everything seemed like it was turning around for married couple Andre and Liselot when Andre’s father decided to turn his lemonade factory over to them. All they have to do to prove their worthiness is venture through the entire factory. What sounds easy becomes quite the challenge as the factory is sure designed in an inefficient, puzzling manner!

Of course, that’s to be expected as Super Lemonade Factory is a puzzle platformer. In this game you control both Liselot and Andre (or, if playing in two player mode, just one of them) and help them through each level. Andre can sprint, breaking large blocks while Liselot can double jump and talk to the factory workers. There are some 72 levels in all and working through the latter third of them is quite challenging.

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Visually, Super Lemonade Factory stands out. Yes, it’s done in pixel art which is common in the indie scene but the color palette is quite pleasing. Each character design is also cute, although Liselot could have done without her frightened-looking run. Music is a different story. It certainly sounds retro, befitting the graphics, but doesn’t always sound particularly melodic. All in all, it’s a mixed bag.

Really that could be said for the rest of the game as well. The concept is solid but it doesn’t feel like it invigorates puzzle platformers in a way that makes it notable. Similarly, it is not the pinnacle of the genre to make it stand out regardless of sameness. Take into account some niggling design choices that can only be resolved with a stage reset and the game becomes much easier to put down. Super Lemonade Factory is cute and serves as a neat little time waster for yourself (or you and a friend) but is mostly forgettable.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage Review

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Developer: RuneStorm
Publisher: RuneStorm
Platform: PC – Steam

Are you the type of gamer who can perform the same sort of menial task over and over again? Does it sound like fun? Although this might seem weird to many, it definitely can be fun and that is proved by playing Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage. In this game, you’re tasked with cleaning up the mess Santa has left behind after a murderous rampage at the North Pole. All you’re armed with is a mop, bucket, and sensor to detect bloody bits and trash.

If nothing else, this is a pretty unique game. First-time janitors might find it a bit confusing, but there’s not much to it. After starting the job, you can choose to start mopping up the blood or disposing of bodies, bullets, and the like. No matter what you decide on, the beginning is pretty rough. Mopping requires water buckets dispensed from a machine but the water quickly gets overwhelmed with blood. Sometimes, you’ll knock the bucket over and cause a huge new blood spill. Oh, and stepping in blood at all will have you leaving a trail of fresh bloody footprints throughout the cabin.

Picking up bodies and trash aren’t exactly any easier. Although you can grab a biohazard bin from the dispenser, it has a habit of dumping out bloody bits of bodies instead. In any case, carrying that around to pick up small meaty chunks and shell casings is easier than running them one by one to the fireplace. Oh, speaking of the fireplace, that’s where you dump all the trash. After a few seconds of sitting in the fire any object will disappear. Of course, the game tells you none of this and hopes you can figure it out on your own.

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Beyond these mechanics, there’s not much to it. There is no goal beyond the one you setup for yourself, which usually is “clean/destroy everything“. Unfortunately, there are some glitches right now that make it impossible to finish. For example, TNT explosions can cause objects to be lodged behind walls which means you’ll never be able to reach them. This happened in my first complete playthrough and was a bit disheartening!

Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage is under $3 and a ridiculous time-waster so it’s hard to bash it too much. I recommend playing with a partner to make the mess more manageable, although you might need to run a program like Hamachi to do it. All in all, it was a weird three hours spent cleaning digital messes and I was glad to have done it. My hope is that RuneStorm’s final product, simply titled Viscera Cleanup Detail, will expand on the concepts found in Santa’s Rampage.


Score: 3.5

3 out of 5 alpacas


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