Posts Tagged ‘2014’

Always Sometimes Monsters Review

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Developer: Vagabond Dog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC – GOG*, Humble Store, Steam

Life is unfair. I don’t think anyone can deny that fact no matter their circumstances. Always Sometimes Monsters thrives off that concept as it pushes players into a more “human” RPG. The game begins by letting you (unassuming) choose the protagonist and then their love interest. Their race and gender are completely irrelevant. If you choose, the game can play out with lesbian or gay love interests at the center. From there, they must live out their dreary lives – and you’ll be right along for the ride.

My experience with Always Sometimes Monsters was extremely odd. At first, I couldn’t help viewing it as a game that was trying too hard with its edginess. After a couple of hours, I warmed up to it and wanted to progress my character through her story. However, progression is actually incredibly dull after a while. Just like in reality you must grind through the days to try and reunite with a past love. Heck, even that storyline is worrisome. I’ve never enjoyed the prospect of “winning back the girl/guy” that is so prevalent in romantic comedies. Sure, the path this version takes is different, but it’s still weird.

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In any case, much of the “grind” boils down to working at a job, getting money, and buying food. The food bit stinks as I’ve never enjoyed having to keep characters eating so they survive. Always Sometimes Monsters’ pacing suffers. It starts slow, picks up, then slows down for a good while longer until the finale finally comes into sight. Had the game continued as it did when my opinion first reversed itself then, well, it’d likely be far more enjoyable.

Always Sometimes Monsters certainly tried to do something different. Using the guise of a classic pixelated RPG it brought a more modern story to players. It also allowed for a surprising array of character choice, which is always appreciated. It just feels like the pace slogs everything down much of the way through. Still, it’s a very unique title and I hope to see more developers follow in Vagabond Dog’s footsteps.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Appointment with F.E.A.R. Review

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Developer: Tin Man Games
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DirectSteam

The Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks began in the early 80s where legions of readers picked them up. Unfortunately, I missed out on this whole world of gamebooks until discovering Tin Man Games. Their digital renditions are tremendously enjoyable, especially Appointment with F.E.A.R. which is a video game version of the 1985 book.

Players begin by crafting a hero to play as. Customization options aren’t immense, but you can select between two genders, races, outfit colors, and superhero skill set. Each superpower tweaks how you’ll be able to react to situations that arise during the storyline. Because you’ll very likely have to play through more than once you’ll be able to see how different heroes handle issues.

Since Appointment with F.E.A.R. is basically a digital book it shares a lot of common ground with typical visual novels. The story is presented via text and there are many points where players choose between a few decisions. All the art is also comic book-inspired which definitely makes the presentation more dynamic. Unlike most visual novels, fights also break out. At this point you select attacks and try to whittle down the enemy’s HP before running out yourself. Weirdly, one fight I encountered glitched out leaving me with 0 HP and stuck in the scene.

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The storyline is typical comic fare with an evil group, F.E.A.R., planning something diabolical. Your entire goal is to find clues throughout the city in order to find their headquarters and meeting time before it’s too late. With only three days to accomplish this you likely won’t win the first time. Thanks to the enjoyable writing and variety of choices it’s not painful to replay. In fact, it’s tremendously fun to explore new areas or see what would happen if you chose differently.

Some may notice that Appointment with F.E.A.R. is cheaper on mobile platforms than PC. If you don’t mind the mode of play, then mobile is a bargain! However, the Steam version offers nice benefits too via controller support, achievements, and trading cards. Controller supportworks, but a little spotty. During a playthrough my game suddenly stopped showing controller prompts (which highlights a currently selected option). So far it seems Tin Man Games is quickly responding to bugs with patches, at least.

Appointment with F.E.A.R. is a fantastic, goofy superhero adventure that will last you at least two hours to finally beat. Play it via whatever platform you desire and you shouldn’t be disappointed.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review

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Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita

What was supposed to be a peaceful school trip for Hope’s Peak Academy to beautiful Jabberwock Island has suddenly been corrupted by despair. The snarky and evil Monokuma is back causing havoc, and things quickly take a turn for the worse.

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Back to Bed Review

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Developer: Bedtime Digital Games
Publisher: Bedtime Digital Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

After delighting in puzzler RUSH, my attention shifted back toward puzzle games. Back to Bed first intrigued me thanks to an incredibly distinctive art style but it were the mechanics that sold me. Just like RUSH, you guide something (in this case a sleepwalker named Bob) to his bed. And, in a more similar twist, Bob walks in one direction and turns right when running into objects. On its own, is Back to Bed an excellent new puzzle game?

Unfortunately, I feel it falls short of its promise. Perhaps it’s more that the tremendous focus on artistry kept it from becoming a truly engaging experience. After all, the art is lovely as an obvious homage to M.C. Escher, Salvador Dali, and Rene Magritte. When a game looks this great, though, you expect equal parts greatness within the product itself.

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To be fair, Back to Bed delivers a serviceable puzzle game on a first playthrough. The biggest issue was that it was surprisingly simple and fast (taking under two hours to beat). The difficulty complaint is addressed by nightmare modes of the same stages. Completing nightmare stages is tremendously challenging, but rewarding!

My biggest issue was that the game attempts to play with perspective, but does so only sparingly. As such, when it happens you don’t expect it and may fail many times by not being aware of the weird perspective being integral for puzzle solving. Of course, beyond this the puzzle controls themselves are a bit borked. Sometimes you simply can’t place objects where you want them. As some puzzles are very time-limited this leads to annoying failures due to the controls. Problematic controls in a puzzle game are a huge problem.

Back to Bed is an imperfect game with a lovely aesthetic. If they had pushed creativity further it would be worth rewarding those attempts. However, beyond the visual artistry, everything about Back to Bed feels tepid.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Eidolon Review

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Developer: Ice Water Games
Publisher: Ice Water Games
Platform: PC – DirectSteam

Eidolon is perhaps the mellowest game I’ve played this year. The premise is simple enough. You’re all alone in a wooded landscape. With nothing on your person, the only thing to do is explore and survive. During your travels you come upon berries, animals, and letters. While the former keep you alive, the latter fuel your journey. After all, it suggests there are others out there somewhere if you just keep looking!

The game initially appealed to me because it seemed a mix of Gone Home and Proteus. Of course, that reductive way of looking at it does Eidolon a disservice. Unlike either of those, I found myself immediately hooked to this calm, beautiful post-apocalyptic landscape. Trees, bushes, and animals are simple polygons but this look definitely works. The way Ice Water Games utilized color particularity is something to behold.

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Understanding Eidolon in even a simple sense requires spending time with it. At first you might jump off a cliff only to find it seriously wounds you. For me, my beginning was trashed due to walking straight up to a bear. Unlike other games where I don’t care much for health, I wanted to do everything in my power to stay alive (and safe) here. Eventually I learned to pay attention to nature – particularly birds. Although there is much more that could be said about the game’s mechanics it would spoil the pleasure of working them out yourself.

Although you don’t have to find and read the many notes scattered about this massive landscape it adds another layer to the experience. Being drawn to the story helps add “purpose” to the game where others might not see it. With that said, simply wandering around in Eidolon has become a favorite new method of unwinding for me. I invite others out there to enter this gorgeous digital landscape and uncover its secrets.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Room Review

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

In 2012, The Room launched on iOS and quickly gained attention. There was something about this puzzle game that attracted players. Without access to an iOS device, I sat dejected and waited for an eventual Android port. And yet, when that came, my attention was elsewhere. It is only now, with the Steam release, that I’ve finally gotten to spend time with The Room.

I think it was well worth the wait. The Room begins in a room with a large, ornate box at the center. There’s a letter on top of the box which is more than a bit cryptic and taunts the player into action. Can you solve the puzzles of this box and whatever lies within it? As such, you set to work by examining every keyhole, button, and doodad in hopes of figuring out its mysteries.

This puzzle game keeps things fresh by providing a host of puzzles all across the box. Once you solve them all then it’s time to move onto a new chapter. With new features of the mechanism to solve your brain is constantly being stressed to solve every last aspect. Many puzzles just require paying attention. Some require a bit more thought, though they rarely become a huge annoyance. If so, there’s a hint function available to save players from stressing out. Personally, I felt quite comfortable with the difficulty setting and imaginative puzzle types.

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The biggest difference between The Room’s mobile beginnings and Steam release are the visuals. Now every facet of the mysterious box looks absolutely stunning. Puzzles have also been tweaked to suit mouse controls. Still, a few puzzles felt obviously geared toward touch screen functionality. For example, one puzzle requires the player to click and drag for a fair bit of time to solve it. If you let up for even a second then the puzzle resets. It would be much easier to accomplish this constant “dragging” by touch controls.

The Room on PC costs $3 more than its smartphone brethren. If beautiful graphics are of most importance to you then it’s definitely worth the additional fee. However, if you don’t mind and want the best puzzle interactivity then it really seems mobile is the way to go. In either case, The Room is a great puzzle game. I wish it didn’t end so soon.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Pretentious Game Review

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Developer: Keybol
Publisher: Bulkypix, Plug In Digital
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Armor Games, Steam

Pretentious is a word that many have used to describe the indie game community as of late. To some, video games that attempt to tell depressing, unique, or otherwise non-normative stories are purely seeking attention. They are quite pretentious. Although I don’t agree with the sentiment I was very intrigued to play a game with the gall to call itself Pretentious Game!

Pretentious Game is actually a series of four games (first released as Flash games online) that features simple graphics and gameplay. You play as a square, sometimes two, and platform in a 2D space toward completion. Much of what makes Pretentious Game is how it tweaks the long-established platformer formula.

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Each stage features a bit of text and this hints directly at how to solve each stage’s “puzzle” aspect. For example, an early stage suggests that flying would be neat. Lo and behold, your block can suddenly glide through the air for that level! Sometimes the hints are a bit more convoluted, as are the methods of activating them, but it still doesn’t take long to run through each one. It took me a little under an hour to beat Pretentious Game 1-4. Each tells its own vignettes and these were more interesting than expected given Pretentious Game’s own title.

Right now there are only four chapters and each is free on Flash game portals. Mobile devices offer the first for free and then ask for an in-app purchase to unlock the rest. In comparison, Steam’s $4.99 fee seems a bit steep. The graphics are improved and you get access to all future chapters, but if you don’t require PC play then mobile’s your best bet.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Real Shanghai Mahjong Review

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Developer: Smilkobuta
Publisher: Smilkobuta
Platform: Mobile – Amazon, Android

Mahjong is a game of skill that usually has multiple players and utilizes tiles with text or graphics on them. However, in the West many people know of mahjong as a tile-matching game. I enjoy tile-matching myself since the actual rules of mahjong are beyond me. So, we’ve got to get this out of the way first: Real Shanghai Mahjong is not “real” mahjong.

Real Shanghai Mahjong is another tile-matching game. However, unlike some, it’s got a sense of progression. There are six stages and each has ten mahjong boards to clear. Puzzles start off very easy and progress in difficulty. At the start you just need to match and things almost always turn out well. Once you get to later stages simply matching the first tiles you see likely won’t work out.

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While playing you learn to think more than one step ahead, as well as strategically whittle away at tile piles. Some are simple but the further you get the more extravagant the layout becomes. This is important because players can only match open titles (tiles with at least one side not touched by other pieces). Although I played on a 7″ tablet, some elaborate designs were too small. I would have appreciated the option to zoom in. Finally, why is there no background music at all?

There also isn’t much to do once you beat all the stages. Yes, there is an online leaderboard (which requires registration) and local board but neither entice me. It also took around four hours to finish. That’s not bad if you only play briefly every week but there’s still not much replay value. Real Shanghai Mahjong might be fibbing with its name but there’s still enjoyment to be had playing it.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Quest for Infamy Review

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Developer: Infamous Quests
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Platform: PC – Steam

Of all the classic adventure games of yore, the Quest for Glory series is remembered fondly by many. I was indeed a member of team Sierra in the past but somehow completely missed out on the entire series. Quest for Infamy definitely comes from a similar design mindset and as such is immediately liked by fans. But what of someone like me who has no built-in nostalgia for the Quest games?

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Fist of Awesome Review

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Developer: I Fight Bears
Publisher: I Fight Bears
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Ouya PC – Humble Store, Steam

For better or for worse, sidescrolling beat ’em ups have mostly disappeared from the modern gaming landscape. It’s up to indie developers to keep the genre alive with unique twists. Fist of Awesome attempts to reinvigorate audiences by punching intelligent future/past bears. It’s weird, wacky, and fairly short but a neat little brawler.

The star of Fist of Awesome is lumberjack Tim Burr (yep!). Things start out all lovely with his flannel-clad family celebrating something or other when things go completely wrong. Suddenly, Tim is alone and his fist has grown in size and begun talking to him. This apparent future fist explains that the present has been destroyed by time-travelling causing bears to take over the world. How can you set thing straight? Just punch all the bears!

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Fighting is incredibly simplistic. You can kick, punch, jump (kick), and a teensy bit more. By holding down on punch you charge a special fist attack. There is an upgrade system in place but increasing your attack or speed doesn’t change much. All in all, levels blend together really quickly as you rarely need to switch from rapidly pressing the punch button. You pound on groupings of bears before reaching a boss. Each stage is short which means the game takes under two hours to beat. After that, you can try out arena mode or a harder difficulty.

As simple as the fighting mechanic is I had fun trying to punch and kick my way through each chapter. I appreciated the lanky pixel art and definitely enjoyed the soundtrack. Fist of Awesome is definitely a simple game and as such may be better purchased on Android or iOS for $3.99. That way you can get your bear-punching on the go and at a lower price!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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