Posts Tagged ‘3.0’

Abomination Tower Review

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Developer: Adrian Sugden
Publisher: Adrian Sugden
Platform: PC – Desura, Humble Store, itch.io

I completely suck at platformers. Even ones designed to be family friendly often give me a run for my money. As such, it makes no sense for me to enjoy Abomination Tower. This fairly challenging platformer is procedurally generated with horrible spikes, fleshy monsters, and shooty globs that kill you in one hit. As you ascend the tower, each stage offers increased challenges to survive. And yet, I found it immediately enjoyable.

Perhaps it has to do with the humor inherent from the get go. The protagonist is an abomination in the most obvious sense. It is a being created by a mad scientist that moves and jumps but has no head. This no head bit actually has a gameplay aspect too. You see, after collecting enough eyeballs you unlock wearable heads. Each confers its own special ability – but you can’t stack heads. Even after unlocking a few more I still found myself sticking with “Save My Butt” since that allows the abomination two hits rather than one hit KOs.

Abomination Tower Featured

The humorous theme thrives thanks to Abomination Tower’s visuals. That aforementioned unlock, for example, actually places a round rump on the abomination’s head. Everything has a nice cartoony vibe despite the blood splatters decorating walls and floors. It’s also great that unlocks remain unlocked even when you die and/or restart. This is important when you (or me, in this case) die constantly.

Issues I noticed were that platforming is not as precise as it could be. Jumps in particular all have a minimum left and right motion, meaning you must account for these specifics when jumping through dangerous sections. Some procedurally generated bits also seemed to offer impossible fragments. Perhaps I’m not skilled enough yet, but they did seem problematic. Abomination Tower offers a quick burst of platforming fun in an inexpensive package.


Score: 3

3 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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Devil’s Dare Review

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Developer: Secret Base
Publisher: Secret Base
Platform: PC – Steam

When I was young all the great beat ’em ups had practically passed me by. Sure, I could still head to an arcade and crowd around The Simpsons Arcade Game, but outside of nostalgia this isn’t looked upon as a particularly good title. As my first “modern” home console was a Nintendo 64 all those arcade ports on SNES and Genesis also went ignored. With my warped perception of the genre, Devil’s Dare does indeed appear to channel the classic beat ’em up aesthetic. You’ve got a choice of four fighters (to start), local co-op, pixel art, and a hefty difficulty. But does that work in today’s market?

Really, it depends what kind of player you are. If you cherish the intense difficulty arcade games presented then you’ll be right at home with Devil’s Dare. It even takes things up a notch by bringing permadeath into the equation. As you battle through four different stages you’ve got just one life. Getting killed means that run is over – unless you’ve accumulated enough money (or a Soul Token) to revive. Such items aren’t hugely common though so expect seeing Game Over often.

Devil's Dare Featured

Another reason someone might cherish beat ’em ups is for the fun they had playing with friends or strangers at arcades. Again, the game hopes to recreate that experience by offering local co-op for up to four players. However, you won’t find any online component. Developer Secret Base stated online play is not in their plans. For some this is no big deal but for others it will prove challenging. Devil’s Dare was designed with multiplayer in mind. When you play solo everything is extremely tough. However, as soon as just two players team up there’s little trouble mowing down most monsters.

One facet I enjoyed a ton were all the references packed into the game. You’ll see obvious jabs at well known horror films, classic video games, and the like. Devil’s Dare most certainly has its heart in the right place. Enjoyment of the game comes down to your adoration for difficult beat ’em ups and whether or not you can gather friends together to play around the computer. It might not be right for me, with my own friendships often tethered by the ‘net, but there’s definitely a fanbase out there hungry to dig in. Devil’s Dare captures the supreme difficulty of arcade games and does it with a goofy grin.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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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.

Always Sometimes Monsters Featured

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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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.

The Chaos Engine Featured

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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Infinite Game Works Episode 0 Review

Infinite Game Works Episode 0 Featured

Infinite Game Works Episode 0 Boxart

Developer: Sakura River Interactive
Publisher: Sakura River Interactive
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

Have you ever dreamed of making your own video games? In Infinite Game Works, Justin has that dream. After joining up with two classmates, Aki and Cleo, the trio work together to create title after title. Along the way your friendships deepen and have the opportunity to become romantic – but they don’t have to either. Infinite Game Works Episode 0 is the start of a fun management sim series.

Players are tasked with creating games through a variety of traits. They must work on areas such as programming, music, graphics, and the like. Once Cleo and Aki join the party they offer artistic and musical talents respectively. Each day is utilized to work on projects, rest, or buy stuff to increase productivity. Sometimes there are story sequences that often come with a choice. Selecting choices might help a character learn a new skill or trigger a specific story path.

Infinite Game Works Episode 0 Screenshot

You may recall the name and that’s because Infinite Game Works Episode 0 originally launched in 2011. As such, it isn’t entirely comparable to the current age of indie visual novels out there. Yes, there’s a workable GUI but it is somewhat annoying to have to switch between scenes to check various stats and whatnot. There’s also a total lack of voice acting which, depending on your tastes, is a bad or good thing. Sakura River Interactive do intend to remedy old bugs and modernize the title nearer to Episode 1’s release.

There are five games to create in all, which takes three to five hours. As simplistic as the gameplay is I found it very enjoyable. It was incredibly satisfying to work on various parts of the game until each stated it was of “amazing” quality. If only real game creation were so simple! Perhaps it’s a bit too easy though as I ended up regularly having weeks left over to just grind skills further. Finally, make sure you budget early because the game will end if you can’t pay your friends/staff. Give Infinite Game Works Episode 0 a try, and if you like it, stick around for the rest of the series.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Noir Syndrome Review

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Developer: Dave Gedarovich
Publisher: Glass Knuckle Games
Platform: Mobile – Android PC – Desura, Direct, Steam

Do you fancy yourself a detective? In Noir Syndrome, you get to put on your best detective garb and get to work solving a murder before many more victims surface. The supposed Anubis Killer is incredibly smart though, able to lure even the best player around town to dodge arrest. Even so, a good bunch of clues should make it very apparent who the killer is in town.

Noir Syndrome tells one basic murder story again and again but changes the clues and murderer each playthrough. You start off in your tiny apartment with cute cat and (hopefully) a chunk of cash. The player then weaves through various buildings to collect clues, talk to townspeople, and maybe nab a bite to eat. Some characters drop hints about shady locations while others name suspects.

Being a detective apparently makes one quite hungry. After a bit of searching, the game alerts you to a constantly depleting hunger status. Those who ignore it beyond the announcement of “starving” will actually die before solving a case. This, along with a two-week timeline, make Noir Syndrome a bit too difficult. Sometimes finding enough clues and names isn’t possible if you go to one or two “wrong” locations.

Noir Syndrome Featured

Still, the challenge lends itself to a lot of humorous failures. I don’t know how many attempts it took to finally apprehend the correct suspect, but it was always entertaining to try again. After a while I became better skilled at finding food and items, and knowing what items might mean. Items being basically invisible on-screen (requiring constant pressing of the investigate button) is a pretty annoying design choice, though.

If you’re someone who enjoyed The Ship or are looking forward to SpyParty then this is another game to check out (specifically, try Dinner Party mode). Even if you aren’t, it still offers a murder mystery with arcade-style play. The short playtime each case also makes it a good choice for smartphone play. Noir Syndrome is an odd, goofy look at being a detective. Despite the steep difficulty, it’s worth a look.


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.

Paranormal State Poison Spring Featured

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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Shuffle! Review

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

Rin is just your average high school student. He’s no sport star nor is he a straight A student. Despite having nothing special to his name, he finds his world shaken up as two new transfer students appear in his class. According to them, they both met Rin as children and fell in love with him. This love has remained strong all those years so they finally decided to seek him out. Oh, and by the way, they just so happen to be daughters of the Gods of Heaven and Hell.

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Full Bore Review

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Developer: Whole Hog Games
Publisher: Nkidu Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Full Bore is a game about an adorable little boar who digs underground searching for gems. And no, it’s not boring as the name may suggest to some. To bore is to dig by twisting or turning, and that’s exactly what the in-game boar does. It also happily bashes its head on the walls or floor when objects aren’t breakable and somehow that still looks incredibly adorable.

Once one gets past the “aww” factor, is Full Bore an entertaining game? That depends on your interpretation of entertaining, as the digger/puzzler hybrid is quite challenging. There are a wide variety of areas in the mine shafts to explore and each contains its own host of puzzles. Basically, you’ve got to figure out how to get from point A to point B by boring through blocks or pushing things around. This is so you can reach gems, characters, or new areas. Some puzzles are quite simple but other times it takes a good deal of consideration.

Some of the most challenging aspects are when Full Bore asks the player to solve a puzzle quickly. While playing with an Xbox 360 controller I found them especially tough because my boar would run off further than I commanded. The last thing anyone wants when trying to execute a precise, quick puzzle solution is to have the character lack precision. There is a saving grace to this issue though and it is a rewind function.

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At any point you can choose to rewind your moves up to the last save point. This could be just a few steps or a ton and there’s no other restrictions placed on it. The feature is cool, if overwhelmingly overpowered, and saved my hide on many occasions. Still, it would be nice if the boar could have tighter control. Unfair failures are always a tad annoying in games.

Enjoyment of Full Bore is fully dependent on the player digging, exploring, and solving puzzles. Because boar control can be a bit spotty, at least some of this is less fun than it could be. Of course, getting stuck is never any fun either but that is true of all puzzlers. It just seemed that I got into tight situations more often than in other similar games which inhibited the fun of digging around. Thankfully, the silly cast of characters and cute boar kept me engaged. Full Bore is a cute new game that puzzle enthusiasts should look into.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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