Posts Tagged ‘4.0’

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Part 1 Review

Steve Jackson's Sorcery! Part 1 Logo

Developer: inkle
Publisher: inkle
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS

As a huge fan of visual novels, it will probably come as quite a shock that I’ve barely ever touched any gamebooks. Gamebooks, as their name implies, are books that grant the player some direct control – or gameplay – at many junctures throughout the story. Many have played something from the Choose Your Own Adventure catalog. However, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! is a  huge step above that. Initially a part of the Fighting Fantasy series in the 1980s, developer inkle has smartly re imagined it for the mobile market.

Sorcery! Part 1 is just the first leg of an epic journey and it is a blast to play. The storyline is fairly common: You are a young, inexperienced adventurer who must travel to many dangerous locations to obtain the Crown of Kings. Along your way, there are many choices to make that shift the whole tone of the story that’s unfolding for the player. With so much choice, you really feel like the narrative matches your decisions.

For example, I imbued my hero with a very courageous, smart, and caring personality. She would fight for what was deemed right if it were necessary but not get into battles for the heck of it. When offered food from poor townsfolk, she would refuse it as they needed it much more than her. Any time it seemed a dangerous situation was around the corner I would even tense up a bit, trying to rightly perceive which option would be the right one. It’s all thanks to the great writing that made me invested in my character as well as her quest.

Steve Jackson's Sorcery! Part 1 Screenshot

Alongside the many choices of what to say and where to go, there is also a battle system that is quite neat. When you’re in an inescapable battle the screen switches to show both your hero and the enemy as cool black and white art. It then plays out a bit like rock, paper, scissors where you must determine when they’ll strike hard or when they’re bluffing and only going to defend. It’s not random as the descriptions hint to what will come next. Unfortunately, sometimes the touch controls didn’t function properly which made it hard to switch fighting stances without trying multiple times. This touch screen issue also persisted on the map menu at times.

Although Sorcery! Part 1 is just the first of Steve Jackson’s fantasy adventures, it is still a great start that will last players a good deal of hours (especially considering the likely short gameplay sessions on phones). It comes tremendously recommended if you enjoy those sort of classic fantasy adventure tales as well as gamebooks. If you’ve never played a gamebook before then this is also a great way to start thanks to its superb writing and fun gameplay!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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ef – the latter tale Review

ef - the latter tale Featured

Ef - the latter tale Boxart

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

Playing ef – the first tale was an unexpectedly emotional experience for me. The twenty something hour visual novel was interesting and a far more heartfelt story than most games of the genre ever muster up. As such, I was very excited to see what would follow in ef – the latter tale. If you’ve already played and enjoyed the first, then this one must definitely be played. It somehow manages to surpass its already excellent forebearer.

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DROD 1+2+3 Review

DROD Featured

DROD Boxart

Developer: Caravel Games
Publisher: Caravel Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*

DROD, known more formally as Deadly Rooms of Death, is a tremendously fun (and sometimes frustrating) series of puzzle games starring Beethro Budkin. This fellow is the exact opposite of dashing and explores dungeons, killing enemies and solving puzzles as he goes. The three titles included in GOG’s collection are DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon, DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold, and DROD: The City Beneath.

The first game is the simplest in regards to story. In fact, it’s barely there. Still, the gameplay is practically perfect in the first anyway. It is played from a top-down perspective as you navigate Beethro through various rooms. He’s armed with a sword that can be positioned in eight directions and that’s about it. Moving occurs in a turn-based fashion which is important to note when enemies are progressing near you. If you don’t get your weapon facing them directly before they arrive then you’re dead!

Many rooms have puzzles which vary in difficulty and type. Oftentimes, you’ll have to find out how to hit buttons in the right order (and without getting killed). Puzzles are often very creative which is fun unless you get stuck on one for a long time. At times like this, just try quitting the game for a while before coming back to it. If you still can’t figure it out then you can head to the game’s official forum which serve as a great resource for confused players.

DROD Screenshot

Playing DROD: King Dungan’s Dungeon might seem hard, but you can eventually get into the swing of things with enough perseverance. The sequels continue to ramp up difficulty which is why you may want to play the original first, even though Journey to Rooted Hold and The City Beneath both have a greater emphasis on story. In any case, no matter which game you’re playing they all follow the same basic formula: Solve puzzles and stab stuff.

Visually the games are all quite similar and do not look very pretty. However, the graphics hardly matter because the gameplay is so engrossing. Wracking your brain for solutions to tough sections quickly becomes commonplace but that makes finally solving them all the more rewarding. In a weird way, struggling against the difficulty becomes pleasant too. Anyone who is ready to test their mental mettle will find a worthy opponent in the DROD series.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Jets’n’Guns Gold Review

Jets'n'Guns Gold Featured

Jets'n'Guns Gold Logo

Developer: Rake in Grass
Publisher: Rake in Grass
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

Shooters (not the FPS sort) are one of my favorite genres to play despite my total lack of ability with them. There’s something about attempting to weave tiny ships through enemy bullets, fight gigantic bosses, and somehow come out alive in the end. Jets’n’Guns Gold is a more modern shooter but that hardly stops it from being a contender for the title of classic.

Jets’n’Guns Gold gets so much perfect that it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the screen – and more importantly – your hands from the controls. As with many shooters, the game starts you off by loading players into a fairly svelte ship and forcing them right into the action. Enemies don’t pull their punches, even on easy. And this might make me sound completely weird, but you can almost feel your ship taking the bullets. Shots feel heavy and powerful as they should.

If you keep getting killed then it might be a good time to try swapping out weapons for other equipment. The more stages you complete, the more are unlocked for use. Getting comfortable with certain loadouts is appealing, but it’s worth experimenting as well. Of course, even trying out different ship customization might not be able to help some. I, for one, spent a great deal of time on early levels simply because everything was too hectic! It’s a shame that easy difficulty couldn’t have been actually easy.

Jets'n'Guns Gold Featured

The gameplay is definitely solid and is backed up by an excellent soundtrack and attractive graphics. Although the art itself isn’t completely inspiring, seeing what creative ships and enemy types they came up with is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s just my eyes but everything did seem a bit small though, making some bullets smash into me without ever seeing them approach. On the other hand, the music is fantastic. For some reason, most shooters have excellent soundtracks and Jets’n’Guns Gold is no exception.

Fans of shooters should have already picked this up when it initially launched in 2006. If you somehow missed out on it though then now is definitely the time to jump on board. Newbie shooter fans might want to hold off on a purchase just yet, unless you’re ready to lose a lot before really digging into the experience. Jets’n’Guns Gold is succinctly defined with just one word: Awesome.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Serena Review

Serena Featured

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Developer: Senscape
Publisher: Senscape
Platform: PC – Steam

Are you hungry for video games but short on cash? Out of nowhere, a game by the name of Serena popped up on Steam for the price of only… zero dollars! This was fairly surprising given that it’s an adventure game and not a free-to-play MMO. After finding out it was an adventure game and apparently had references to classic titles, I had to give it a shot.

Serena plops you into a dusty old cabin as a possible amnesiac who reminisces over his homely possessions. He knows the woman he loves is named Serena but she’s not there. Where did she go and why can’t he remember a thing about her? As you play, story tidbits are slowly revealed, giving you a better sense of what’s going on.

The game takes place in a 3D space but is entirely driven by pointing and clicking. By examining objects you can hear the protagonist ramble, sometimes remembering things, other times simply musing. He has a lot to say about each item so it’s definitely worth listening to all of the lines. Some have complaints about his voice acting, but I found it fitting.

Serena Featured

The cabin, despite being small, is rich with mementos and histories worth investigating. Visually, it looks great too. The windows, dirtied with grime let in the light in a truly creepy fashion. Seeing everything in a dark brown and grey helps set the mood as well. Audio outside of voice acting is also nice, if usually transparent. It’s obvious a lot of love went into this project.

After clicking on specific objects, you trigger a new “stage” to begin. No, you never leave the cabin but after events are triggered it leads to entirely new things being said about the items in the cabin. It might seem weird to some but proves to be a very effective way to tell a story. Serena takes most from half an hour to an hour and a half to complete, but still made me feel quite bad after completing it. I just wish the ending hadn’t been as abrupt.

That said, I can’t believe the game is free. Other short titles definitely exist on the service and have a fee. Since Serena is free it is incredibly easy to recommend. It’s a relatively brief experience, moody, and even those who don’t like it shouldn’t feel “ripped off” by experiencing it. My time with the game was not wasted in the least and I hope others are willing to give it a try too.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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KAMI Review

KAMI Featured

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Developer: State of Play Games
Publisher: State of Play Games
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Steam

Puzzle game fans are not lacking in choice when it comes to games they can play. The genre is simply saturated with games of all varieties, from rhythm/music based puzzlers to a multitude of match-3 titles. KAMI isn’t like most popular games and instead focuses on the task of making an entire screen one color. This sounds easy until you get presented with multi-colored screens with complex patterns and only have a few moves to complete them in. So, KAMI is just the kind of puzzle game some are looking for – one that’s simple to understand but very hard to complete.

At first, it might seem like KAMI is easy. Over the first few stages you are presented with screens that only have two or three colors. It’s not hard to recognize which color you should slap down to make the whole thing one color. Of course, these are just the tutorial stages. After that, the game quits taking it easy and requires a more thoughtful approach. Where should you click and with what color? Most stages require some degree of practice (and a little guessing) until finally figuring out their trick.

The game certainly gives you a hand. At the start of each new puzzle section it always starts off with one that will teach you how to solve later puzzles in the section. Unfortunately, the first puzzle is always the easiest, meaning you’ll need more than that information to complete the rest. Each always requires you to finish at par or one move over it. Anything more and you’re greeted with a big “fail” sticker! There’s a hint function available but unfortunately it’s a little odd. It grants 10 credits every 24 hours which means you’re limited in hints per day. This is simply a holdover from the mobile version, since there is no way to “buy” more credits on Steam.

KAMI Featured

No discussion of KAMI is complete without talk of the visuals. The game is gorgeous! It is styled after paper (“kami” itself is a name of a type of origami paper) and the simplicity is very appealing. When you lay down a new color, the corresponding paper pieces all fold away in unison. It’s a very relaxing experience thanks to the light sound effects and attractive color combinations. Perhaps the only odd part is that no music plays during puzzles. Maybe this was to allow players to focus, but a gentle background track probably wouldn’t hurt.

If you’re not a fan of exerting your brain over games then run far away from KAMI. It’s tough, but satisfying for players willing to get into each puzzle. There are 63 puzzles in all, 18 of which are premium (pay) content from the mobile version. Those who want to buy KAMI should definitely grab it on PC and let their brains get to work!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi Review

Wing Commander II Featured

Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi Boxart

Developer: Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

Wing Commander II picks up where the first game left off, with one slight problem… The Tiger’s Claw, which served as your home base, has been destroyed. Despite commendable efforts in the past, everyone thinks you were a traitor and blew it up! As such, this game picks up with your pilot completely disgraced, forced to work dull ferrying missions.

As the Kilrathi step up their attacks, everyone is needed in the fight – even you. As the game progresses, you’re able to show your worth to the crew although some still harbor their suspicions. Things only get worse once a murder occurs and everyone knows there is certainly a traitor aboard. Still, missions are passed down to you to complete, in much the same fashion as the last game.

What’s different this time around is how much attention is paid to story. In the past, story segments were mostly unveiled by talking to pilots in the cafeteria. This was good for getting a feel of each character but not so much for stringing together a truly interesting narrative. Now there are story segments between each mission (alongside mission briefings) which do much better at involving the player in Wing Commander’s world. There were definitely times I was surprised and saddened over events that took place.

Wing Commander II Featured

Gameplay has changed little. The biggest change is some new ships to pilot with their own special abilities. Beyond that though, everything is much the same. Using either the keyboard or mouse you engage in dogfights with the Kilrathi and try to make it out alive. It’s still as hard as ever, but Wing Commander II retains the ability to “lose” fights and still continue the story. There are only a few occasions where ejecting causes a game over. Unfortunately, when there are a lot of fighters on screen (or meteors), the game slows tremendously.

All in all, Wing Commander II is a great improvement over the original game in the ways I most wanted it to be. It has a deeper story, some improved graphics, and is still a fun experience. The GOG release includes Special Operations 1 and 2 expansion packs as well, although it lacks Speech Accessory Pack which patched in far more voice acting. It’s amazing how well this game still stands up as an action packed and entertaining ride.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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ef – the first tale Review

ef - the first tale Featured

ef - the first tale Boxart

Developer: minori
Publisher: MangaGamer & No Name Losers
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*

High school is a tough time for anyone. Not only are you studying like mad to pass classes, you’re also worried about the ever-approaching future. Then there’s the whole issue of romance… Fall for a classmate, realize they don’t love you back, or maybe it all works out. In ef – the first tale, players are presented with perhaps the most honest depiction of love, and all the trouble that comes with it, seen in a visual novel.

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Goscurry Review

Goscurry Featured

Goscurry Logo

Developer: Holoville Games
Publisher: Holoville Games
Platform: PC – Direct

Some video games make you tense, while others make help players unwind. The question is, is it possible to relax right in the middle of a fast, challenging experience? If you think so, then Goscurry is definitely for you. The game is certainly a bit odd, but also an incredibly cool experience. Just make sure you can relax before giving it a shot.

Goscurry is a sort of rhythmic racing game. Players take control of a small craft and fly above polygonal cities and landscapes via incredibly narrow pathways. These air streets build only a few meters in front of you, so you’re never sure if they will keep extending forward or have tons of turns. Turns aren’t as bad as you might think though, as they only go left or right at 90 degree angles. Of course, cruising down the futuristic one-lane highway reveals other tricks…

Simply making precise turns isn’t all there is! Once out of the tutorial mode, you’ll quickly encounter obstacles in the form of walls and gaps. Short walls and gaps can both be jumped over, while walls in the center of a road need to be dodged. It can be hard to get the timing for these down, at least it was for me. Harder modes even change the orientation of the camera, making the once “easy” task of driving around winding paths incredibly difficult again. This is one hard game.

Goscurry Featured

Unfortunately, there’s not too much to encounter while playing at the moment. There are a handful of difficulties, vehicles, and cities to fly over but it doesn’t feel like Goscurry is quite there yet. All the same, I have had a heck of a time playing it. It’s definitely one of those games that gets you in “the zone”. Once there, it’s possible to rack up higher scores than ever before and beat out (most) everyone on the leaderboard. Secondly, the music is phenomenal and you can purchase the soundtrack for a few dollars more.

Some won’t feel that this isn’t a very feature-filled game and they’d be right. If you need your games packed with content then go elsewhere for now. However, if you’ve ever had a taste for arcade games, experimental rhythm titles, or simply love zoning out with a game then Goscurry is perfect for your needs! Every time I want to put Goscurry down I can’t help thinking “just one more try” and getting sucked in again.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Zigfrak Review

Zigfrak Featured

Zigfrak Boxart

Developer: Entheogen Studios LLC
Publisher: Entheogen Studios LLC
Platform: PC – Desura, Fire Flower Games, GamersGate, Indie City, IndieGameStand, Shiny Loot, Steam

Outer space has been the backdrop for many, many games over the years. The 4x genre thrives there and many other games attempt to utilize the immense landscape to their benefit. Most of these titles end up feeling quite dry, though. Zigfrak has a very different tone and ends up being just the kind of space-based action RPG I was looking for.

Zigfrak begins with you being a new pilot on the side of the humans. As you play through missions, your rank increases and your ship gets decked out with increasingly cool wares. There is a story progressing about aliens and whatnot, but it doesn’t feel tremendously important. This is because the gameplay completely overshadows anything else with how entertaining it is.

Commanding your spaceship in Zigfrak is pretty easy. By using either the keyboard and mouse, or just mouse, you can zip around with little issue. Collecting space junk, cloaking, and other features are also simple to pull off. Many missions result in unexpected dogfights which is where the game really shines. With enemies on you from all angles, it quickly becomes a frantic test to see if you can stand against all of them. The music becomes fast-paced in response and it’s extremely cool to see enemy ships explode in ridiculous fashion.

Zigfrak Featured

Even though I wasn’t enamored with the story, the writing is very well done. Instead of trying to be serious, there is a lot of humor involved. I couldn’t help but laugh at a few missions due to their phrasing. When it seems that a lot of space games lately focus on dull specifics, Zigfrak stands out as simpler to pick up and play. The only issues I had were sometimes being confused by how to complete a mission task. Although the game is very good at writing out the steps, some of them came across as unclear to me.

Overall, I don’t know the last time I had so much fun with an action RPG set in the vast expanses of space. I love that Zigfrak doesn’t take itself too seriously and loads players up with exciting firefights, loot, and amusing mission prompts. If you’d like to test pilot the game first, you can download the demo off the official website.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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