Posts Tagged ‘4.0’

Phrase Shift Review

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

With so many puzzle games out in the world it often seems like there’s no way to create something new. Well, Phrase Shift does exactly that. At first, it looks like someone cut out a small segment of a word search. Each puzzle offers one vertical column and multiple horizontal columns with words intersecting it. You’re also given a clue.

Unlike a word search which has you fill in everything, the horizontal words are already set per puzzle. So your goal is actually to shift the horizontal words left or right until the letters which intersect with your vertical bar form a word which fits with the given clue. It might sound confusing, but all you need is to play a level or two to grasp the concept.

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Once you do, get ready for a ton of enjoyment playing Phrase Shift. The game includes level batches of twenty in different categories: Food, Science, Animals, etc. For the most part, I knew all the vocabulary (even if it took a bit of guessing to bring them to mind). Some sections, such as Movies, might be tough for folks who have absolutely no interest or awareness of American pop culture.

Phrase Shift is a perfect game to come to after a long day at work. It allows you to both turn off your brain as well as give it the reward of solving (mostly) simple puzzles. I’ve enjoyed my time slowly working through the sections one by one. Unlike most games, I desire to play this one to 100% completion.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Contra Review

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Contra Box Art

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Arcade, Console – NES, PC – Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX2, ZX Spectrum

Contra is one of those games folks can’t help but talk about. Comments circle around its high difficulty as well as the infamous Konami code which grants players thirty much-needed lives. The thing is, I never even touched the original Contra before. The closest I came to understanding its hectic 2D action was through playing the spiritual successor Hard Corps: Uprising

Thanks to a shiny new Raspberry Pi 3 in my possession (and watching the “This is the Run” video series on Giant Bomb), I decided it was finally time to take on Contra. Don’t worry, the NES cart is also in my possession. Unlike most players, this meant I was already armed with knowledge of how to defeat bosses and what challenges lie in wait. None of this made the experience a cake walk.

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When people say Contra is hard they mean it. The earlier stages aren’t quite so bad, but once you reach the middle there are bullets flying every which way as enemies constantly run onscreen. The challenge is compounded by one hit kills and a piddly default gun (which resets all power ups upon death). Securing a better weapon such as the spread gun is awesome – but often short-lived.

Contra is also super weird thematically. Despite being named with relation to the Iran-Contra affair, it bears little resemblance to real life events past the introductory level. Very quickly players move beyond the jungle setting with army-looking dudes to huge monsters, alien space ships, and more. None of this detracts from it being a white knuckle, badass experience. Anyone up for the challenge should definitely try their hand at Contra.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Life is Strange Episode 5 – Polarized Review

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

Life is Strange is a series that I’ve been having a real on-and-off relationship with. It surprised me right out of the gate in a fantastic way. However, as the series went on, things felt drawn out. I can’t say I expected the conclusion the game provided right from the start. However, by Episode 4 it seemed pretty clear what DONTNOD Entertainment had been hinting at the entire time.

Episode 5 – Polarized is quite a ride, despite being the shortest of the episodes yet. Or, perhaps it is because of the brevity that they finally cut out all the fluff and provided a high-intensity episode from beginning to end. Now, it’s worth noting that I am not a huge time travel/sci-fi fan. In fact, I have never seen many of the iconic films or read the well-known books on these topics. Because of this I was tremendously impressed with how this game handled the results of Max’s time traveling. It was cool, creepy, and kept me on edge wondering what could possibly happen next.

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One of the weirdest aspects of the series for me is how absolutely dark things got by Episode 5. It’s not that the early game was particularly cutesy and fluffy, but it almost seemed like it would be a fairly typical (if sci-fi tinged) coming of age story. But then things started to get real — too real. Really disgusting stuff was happening to the students of Blackwell Academy. Even though Episode 5 doesn’t go to the lengths I quite though it would, ti’s still a huge tonal shift from the very beginning.

Was I happy with the conclusion? Sure, but (spoilers) I have heard that all that emphasis on choice in the game is actually for naught as far as the final ending is concerned. I could be wrong, but will discover soon enough for myself. I don’t like the idea that choice in this game is nothing more than a means by which to alter a few sentences that characters say to you throughout the episodes. That’s definitely how it felt, though, and hopefully there is at least a little more to it than that even if the conclusion plays out the same.

Would I recommend Life is Strange to others now that I have completed the series? I think so. Even though I was not in love with everything the game did, it provides an adventure game that is unlike most others on the market. Despite obvious inspirations from modern Telltale titles, it moves in its own directions and creates something unique. I’m very curious to see what DONTNOD does next, whether it be a second season (hopefully with a different cast) or something completely different.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Pokémon Shuffle Review

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Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Platform: 3DS, Mobile – Android, iOS

It’s funny how much I’ve begun to embrace the idea of mobile gaming (though I obviously still vastly prefer consoles and handhelds). I used to be extremely against mobile games for a variety of reasons, but I finally caved sometime in the last year or so and begun playing several different ones. Pokémon Shuffle is my most recent mobile game obsession, and for a good reason.

Basically, Pokémon Shuffle is a match 3 puzzle game. You must match the same Pokémon in order to deal damage to your opponent and beat the stage. Pokémon Shuffle keeps things interesting by allowing you to use a bevy of different Pokémon on your team. Furthermore, you must keep in consideration the attack power, types, and skills of your Pokémon in order to assure victory and high stage rankings. Some stages are pretty simple and easy, especially in the beginning. However, they eventually become more complex and require a bit of critical thinking due to opponents creating “disruptions” that can make things quite hectic. There are also “expert stages” that are timed, and as such, really test your puzzle skills and dexterity!

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Now, I tried to play the original version of Pokémon Shuffle on the 3DS, but I just wasn’t feeling it after trudging through the initial tutorial stages. I decided to give Pokémon Shuffle a second chance when it released for mobile devices, and boy did I instantly like it much more on my phone than 3DS. Maybe it’s because of the vertical one-screen layout, or it could be because it’s easier to use a mobile device’s touchscreen versus the 3DS’s. It’s also way more gorgeous and vibrant.

Unfortunately, the mobile version of Pokémon Shuffle retains some of the same annoyances that were present in the 3DS version. For one, the wait time between regaining hearts (or energy) is ludicrous at 30 minutes. Another issue includes absolutely ridiculous stages and capture rates that pretty much require you to spend your precious coins on power-ups and great balls. Alas, this is a freemium game, so such problems are expected and have to be tolerated.

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Even weeks after release, I’m still fervently playing Pokémon Shuffle. It’s just too addicting and fun, and has me hopeful for Nintendo’s future on mobile platforms.


Pink Score: 4
4 out of 5 alpacas


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Regency Solitaire Review

Regency Solitaire Featured

Regency Solitaire Logo

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.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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Life is Strange Episode 1 – Chrysalis Review

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

I still find it hard to believe that after all this time the thing which brought point and click titles “back” was one of Telltale Games’ licensed games, but it’s hard to complain. Since The Walking Dead, it seems many have followed in their footsteps to create titles with a similar feel. Life is Strange definitely has that sort of vibe, but manages to be its own unique creation. At least, that’s how it feels by the end of Episode 1 – Chrysalis.

You play as Max, a teen who just turned 18, loves photography, and attends a private high school. Her day starts out as bleak as usual until she witnesses a murder. Terrified, she reacts and amazingly manages to rewind time. Thus begins Max’s incredible journey from regular teenager to “everyday hero.” Unfortunately she still has to deal with annoying peers, cliques, and school security.

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Much of Life is Strange plays out like a typical modern adventure title. You walk around in third person, examining objects and talking to others. Where it diverges is with the time rewinding mechanic. For example, you may talk to someone and say the “wrong” thing. Instead of living with that issue, you can simply rewind before saying it and choose another response instead. Oftentimes it seems there is no best choice – but it’s still neat to see how every option plays out.

Things are off to an intriguing start in Life is Strange, although most characters feel ‘2D’ and events incredibly staged. Perhaps that’s just the result of integrating gameplay components. Despite these small detractions I’m interested to follow the game through its 5 episode series.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Pix the Cat Review

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Developer: Pastagames
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC – Steam PSN – PS4, Vita

Pix the Cat launched on PS4 and Vita last year as one of those PS+ Instant Game Collection titles. At that point I heard tons of people expressing just how good it was! Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to playing it during that time frame. Instead, my waiting resulted in being rewarded with a Steam release. For those who haven’t already played it on PSN, let’s jump right into what it’s all about.

Players control a blue, square-shaped cat named Pix and must collect eggs, which hatch into chicks, and deposit them in little warp holes. The play field looks a bit reminiscent of arcade classics like Pac-Man with a 2D board and twisty rooms. After collecting eggs, the chicks follow directly behind Pix in an increasingly long line. You cannot run into this line – or walls.

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As such, Pix the Cat takes on a fast-paced arcade vibe with heavy puzzle inspirations. While playing you’ll need to discover the most efficient ways around each room to maximize chick drop offs and points. It’ll likely take multiple run throughs to develop said strategies, but the gameplay is enjoyable enough to keep this from becoming monotonous. The only issue I really had was how slow Pix starts off as the most enjoyable gameplay comes when you’re rushing through stages with the timer nearing zero.

Beyond this main mode there are more thoughtful, puzzle-y sections as well as a local multiplayer mode. I’m not a huge fan of the additional modes as the “classic” one is most enjoyable. With that said, Nostalgia mode has outrageously cute visuals so check that out at least once! Pix the Cat is cute, challenging, and a great new take on arcade style.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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HuniePop Review

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

I never would have thought that HuniePop was going to be a game that I’d be playing for over 11 hours until 2 in the morning. At a glance, it looks like your typical mediocre anime dating sim. There are plenty of those floating around, so why bother with HuniePop?

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