Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

Eidolon Review

Eidolon Featured

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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.

Eidolon Featured

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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Gods Will Be Watching Review

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Gods Will Be Watching Logo

Developer: Deconstructeam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Gods Will Be Watching was a very hyped game prior to release. This continuation of fanfare from the Indiegogo success was expected, but even those who didn’t pledge freaked out. The general consensus post-launch is that the game delivered was not quite what people expected. Personally, I had no idea what to expect, and jumped right in. This led to a very intense game experience.

The basics of Gods Will Be Watching focus around it being a pixelated point and click adventure game. Players engage in scenarios and then must interact with objects or people and make choices. Each choice seems important because they often mean the difference between life or death for various characters. In a way, it’s similar to Heavy Rain (but we’ll get back to that…). It even has a Catherine-like element where, at the end of every level, you’re shown what choices most other players made.

All of these segments tie together in an overarching narrative which – spoilers – doesn’t appear to have significant differences regardless of what you do. I don’t want to touch on plot specifics because the entire game is crafted around telling said plot, but it end up falling short of its heady notions. The writing itself is nice, but you end up hearing some of the same conversations a lot after failing. It also may try a bit too hard at times for a “gritty” and “serious” narrative.

Gods Will Be Watching Featured

And, yes, you’re going to fail a lot. You cannot save mid stage so any late screwups start you from the beginning of a stage again. This proved to be a horrendous move with a Russian roulette segment early on. After many players complained about the total unfairness of these random elements, the developer added more difficulties. This way, now most players can actually beat it, not just those willing to suffer through countless replays guessing about what to do when.

It seems that Gods Will Be Watching is one of those “love it or hate it” games. I was left feeling nonplussed about the whole thing but appreciate that it tried something different. I’d be very interested to see what Deconstructeam makes next.

Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Gold Rush! Classic Review

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Gold Rush! Boxart

Developer: Doug MacNeill, Ken MacNeill
Publisher: Sierra, KISS ltd
Platform: PC – Direct, DOS, GamersGate, Green Man GamingSteam

After having recently whet my appetite with 1849, the California Gold Rush has become a topic I’ve found myself more interested in. Surprisingly, there aren’t a ton of games covering the time period. Gold Rush!, originally developed in 1988, is set right before the gold rush in 1848. Instead of being all about panning for gold, the game is more of a travelogue about what it took to actually make your way to California.

This is certainly an interesting approach, and one that many might not expect. You begin the game with a steady job at the bank, a house, and no family to speak of. 11 years ago your brother left town and you haven’t heard from him since – until today. As such, you decide to head out to find him. Of course, rumors have also been spreading about gold in California which means many other people have decided to head West too.

Gold Rush! focuses primarily on the journey from New York to California. Players choose from one of three routes to take: Cape Horn, Panama, or by land. Each route offers a completely different experience and puzzles to solve. Each route also provides copious information about the journey. Sometimes text glosses over harsh realities of the time while at other moments it faces them head on. It was certainly interesting to experience each journey, to say the least.

Gold Rush! Featured

Some modern gamers like to make fun of adventure games with text parsers. In this game, all you ever really have to do is combine an action and object such as “give money” or “take rope” so it’s not bad at all. The graphics are about what you would expect from late 80s tech and the audio is nearly nonexistent (and grating when it chimes in). Still, the journey is quite cool! It’s only once you finally reach California that the puzzles become more challenging, and at times annoying. This weird shift in difficulty was definitely unexpected.

When you consider the time in which it was made, Gold Rush! is a very effective adventure game. It teaches players a bit about the California Gold Rush and offers multiple ways to experience that trip. The Steam release even includes design documents for the game, which are an unexpected treat. Pick up Gold Rush! and see if you could survive the trek to California.

Score: 3

3 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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Lost Civilization Review

Lost Civilization Featured

Lost Civilization Box

Developer: Icarus Games
Publisher: Phoenix Online Studios
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Direct, Green Man GamingSteam

Lost Civilization is a hidden object adventure game with some very unusual story twists. The basic setup is that you’re an archaeologist named Sarah with a husband in the same profession. Things were going along fine until your husband gets kidnapped! Of course, your goal is to save him and also unravel a larger archaeological mystery along the way. The setup is pretty cool although things get really weird by the end.

Players solve hidden object puzzles, retrieve objects from said screens, and use them to solve item-based puzzles. For the most part, item puzzles are simple and keep the game moving at a quick pace. I enjoyed seeing some different uses of hidden object screens as well. For example, some tell you to place objects where they belong in a scene. Unfortunately, this did lead to trouble when exactly what objects pair with was unclear.

Lost Civilization Featured

Visually, Lost Civilization looks great. The backdrops are well-illustrated as are the characters. It’s just a shame that Sarah’s male model-esque husband only appears a few times. Hidden object scenes are also nicely designed to keep the difficulty about average. Only a few posed issues because of unclear terms (ex: “cone” referring to a pine cone). Puzzle solutions are also sometimes cruel, such as when you’re tasked with lighting a firecracker in the middle of a pigeon gathering just to get them to fly away.

So maybe Lost Civilization’s story gets wrapped up a bit too much like a modern Indiana Jones movie… It’s still a mostly fun experience. Hints are always readily available and help move things along when you get stuck. I totally admit to using the skip function on the final puzzle simply because it was of a higher difficulty than anything else prior. In any case, give Lost Civilization a go if you’ve got two or three hours to spare.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Ether One Review

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Developer: White Paper Games
Publisher: White Paper Games
Platform: PC – GOG*, Humble Store, Steam

Are you someone who enjoyed the exploration of Gone Home but isn’t interested in puzzles that are typically aplenty in adventure games? Are you an adventure gamer who thoroughly enjoys wracking their brains on puzzles? Somehow, White Paper Games managed to make a game for both crowds with Ether One.

Ether One places players in the shoes of a “Restorer”. According to an omnipresent voice, you’re told that this means you enter into the mind of a dementia patient and try to restore their memories. Looking through memories not your own is an interesting concept and manages to overcome the sci-fi technology of it all. The story slowly unfolds and has a pretty heart-wrenching conclusion if you see it through the 3 to 7 hour playtime.

The most mechanically interesting aspect is that players can simply explore and uncover memory tidbits or they can solve puzzles to proceed. Since these are not required, you can simply ignore the ones you come across and enjoy the story that way. Of course, solving puzzles does appear to give you a deeper understanding of the storyline. Choosing to mess with the puzzles, most seemed simple enough, although I didn’t enjoy how a few seemed to require careful backtracking.

Ether One Featured

What ended up being the biggest issue for me was the fact that your player held inventory can only consist of one item. Players bring extra items to home base (accessible with a button press) and place them on shelves. This completely messed with my adventure game instincts of picking everything up because not every object in Ether One is required. All the same, I took everything back home and ended up with very cluttered shelves by the end.

My favorite feature was not the storyline, as it seemed kind of sparse early on. Instead, I was simply awed by the visuals. The 3D world is all hand drawn/painted style textures. It looks gorgeous and will definitely keep the game from looking “dated” for quite some time.

This may not be the best new adventure game of the year, but Ether One is still an admirable attempt. Players of different skillsets should all be able to make their way through the storyline and enjoy it. I just do not understand why they cluttered the world with objects (some unnecessary) and don’t let you keep multiple easily accessible. Still, what an interesting game.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Review

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Featured

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime

Developer: Presto Studios
Publisher: Presto Studios
Platform: PC – GOG*

The Journeyman Project first launched in 1994 by then newcomer developer Presto Studios. Their tale about a time travelling hero hooked many, which led to the creation of a second and third game in the series. After the second, Presto went back and remade their original game as The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime. It was a seriously hefty upgrade and is the version currently available on GOG. Does the game hold up today?

Yes! Although, there are certainly some really hokey things going on.  The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime begins with the lead character going through a dull daily work routine in Earth’s distant future. Of course, everything doesn’t stay routine for long. Something weird is going on and requires Agent 5 to enter into the Pegasus time travel machine. From there, it’s up to the player to travel between times to fix whatever broke the space time continuum.

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Featured

There are only three time periods to really fuss around with, which is a shame when the concept is so neat. In any case, your goal is to correct the wrongs present in these periods. This includes a variety of puzzles to solve, some of which require traversing between multiple time periods before you’re prepared to solve them. It can be tough for some adventure players to walk away from a puzzle, but that’s exactly what you have to do sometimes. Near the end there were also a few puzzles that seemed a bit too reliant on retrying (or maybe I was just really poor at them).

The story itself is not particularly amazing, and wraps up really suddenly, but what makes it worth experiencing is the ridiculous actors. Each character has a FMV sprite and overact with incredible devotion. If you pay attention, you can even see their eyes move subtly as they read their lines while acting out. I love games that have such overwhelmingly silly acting and The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime definitely provides in this respect.

It is not a very long experience, but it is mostly entertaining and unusual. Now I want to check out what the sequels have to offer!

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Moebius: Empire Rising Review

Moebius: Empire Rising Featured

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Developer: Phoenix Online Studios
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Platform: PC – DirectGamersGate, GOG*, Steam

In 2012, beloved game designer Jane Jensen started a Kickstarter campaign for her own development studio named Pinkerton Road. Money was raised for Moebius and Mystery Game X (which was later revealed as a Gabriel Knight remake). I backed the project because of my longstanding love for her work and waited impatiently. We’re finally at that point. Moebius: Empire Rising has launched and it does not disappoint.

Malachi Rector is an antiques dealer with more than just a keen eye for detail. For reasons unknown, he has incredible powers of deduction that allow him to “see” things not apparent to normal people. Because of his talent, his antiques business is quite successful, but there’s not much else to his life. This changes once Malachi gets wrapped up in a very unusual murder and subsequent investigation.

Moebius Empire Rising Screenshot 1

A mysterious government agency takes him in and asks him to comply with very strange requests. They want to use his power to match living people with the historical figures their biographies most mirror. Both Malachi and the player are initially in the dark, but agree to the request. Even if you’re not a history buff you’ll leave Moebius with a great deal of new information thanks to an interesting puzzle system.

Most of the game plays as a standard point and click adventure. From a third person perspective you click on objects to look and interact with them. Inventory is kept in check to keep it from getting unwieldy, and there’s always the option to look at hints if you get stuck. Where Moebius diverges from the crowd is in asking you to identify characters as people from the past. After gathering clues about their lives, you sort through a list of pre-determined historical names to see which is the best match. In doing so, you get a huge dose of information about these people and their contributions to society, whether positive or negative. It’s not all based in “literal” history either as names like Medea make an appearance.

Moebius Empire Rising Screenshot 2

One of the most exciting aspects of Gabriel Knight for me was always the amount of history intertwined in the storyline. Moebius attempts the same goals although I feel it doesn’t do so with quite as much tact. Yes, the storyline revolves around it, but you are still “taught” a lot directly through the identification puzzles.

As has always been the case, any game involving Jane Jensen has stunning backdrops. In this specific instance, areas appear hand drawn and are expertly designed. Colors are bright or dulled as need be and bring locations to life. Unfortunately, the character models do betray their gorgeous setting somewhat. Mostly, that’s thanks to the incredibly off animations on display. Malachi shambles weirdly around, stopping and going with no regard for actual human movement. Eventually you get over it and stop noticing (at least I did) but it was an unfortunate note to start off on.

Moebius Empire Rising Screenshot 3

All of that is fine and good, but what of the story? Moebius was anticipated for a reason and it should stand proudly as another great tale by Jane Jensen. Malachi has a dry wit that endears us to him and the other characters have wonderfully distinct personalities as well. The way the story intertwines between everyone is intriguing and urged me to continue playing despite sleep, work, and other tasks. On the rare occasion I got stuck in a puzzle, it would frustrate me primarily because that meant I couldn’t yet get to the next part of the story.

Adventure fans who have been waiting for this game should feel secure in purchasing it immediately. Moebius offers an immensely engaging story, great characters, and a neat mechanic. There are points where it stumbles but they can mostly be forgiven. It’s a shame the package couldn’t be a bit more polished, but even then Moebius: Empire Rising still shines through as a must-have title.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Harvester Review

Harvester Featured

Harvester Boxart

Developer: DigiFX Interactive
Publisher: Merit Studios / Night Dive Studios
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*, Steam

Harvester, along with a few other FMV adventure games, paved the way for ridiculous violence in the 90s gaming scene. Of course, this was right around the time that people began to express concern and attempt to enact legislation about violence in video games. Instead of taking on the issue in a professional manner, developers rushed to make the most foul media possible. Harvester is a tremendous product of that era and somehow still manages to be shocking.

The town of Harvest is stuck in the 50s. Women are obsessed with the PTA bake sale and little else while men appear to have their own fascination with meat. Everyone is in love with the mysterious Lodge. Steve wakes up in Harvest with no memory and realizes the townsfolk are completely out of it. He finds his supposed wife-to-be Stephanie is also aware of the disturbing nature of Harvest. Steve decides to join the Lodge in hopes of finally leaving this ridiculous town.

As this is an adventure game, there’s a ton of puzzles to solve as you point and click your way around the small town. Most aren’t too difficult but some do seem to expect solutions without ever hinting at them. One nice feature of Harvester is that it won’t let the game progress if you’ve missed out on any key items. There are a good deal of colorful townsfolk and you’ll want to talk to most of them each day, although some are best left alone (nuclear base, anyone?).

Harvester Screenshot 1

The real meat of the game is simply talking with the townspeople and seeing what ridiculous event transpires next. Everyone is just so odd that they captivate you for the hours it takes it beat the game. I was perturbed by certain characters because things have changed over the years.

Is it really a great gag when the firemen are all lisping interior decorators? No, not really, nor are other characters who refer to them in derogatory ways. There’s also Stephanie’s proclivity to wearing lingerie and nothing else multiple times during the game. If aspects such as these were left out the experience would be easier to recommend. And even so, Harvester lends itself to a car crash reaction, where you can’t help but explore it entirely despite its inherent nastiness.

Harvester is beyond the B-movie. It reaches Troll 2 levels of ridiculous and that’s why it makes you need to beat it, just to see this all through to the end. As it turns out, Steve isn’t nearly as much of a kidder as DigiFX Interactive were. Playing Harvester takes one back to an absurd era of gaming where developers would rather give legislators the finger then ever tone down their games.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Review

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Featured

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Boxart

Developer: MicroProse
Publisher: MicroProse
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

If we were to be transported back to the start of the 90s we’d see that adventure games were still king. The two main combatants in the ring were Sierra and LucasArts, although many others tried to emulate them. One of MicroProse’s adventure game efforts was Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. With its own brand of adult humor, it actually does succeed in certain respects, although it falls apart in others.

Our star is Rex Nebular,  an apparently for-hire thief, who regales a very strange tale that took place as he attempted to recover something for a mission. While searching through the galaxy his ship is intercepted by hostiles who shoot him down, landing him on their planet. As is quickly revealed, the planet seems inhabited purely by women. The Great Gender War proved women the dominant gender thanks to their incredible biochemical skills, which wiped all dudes from existence. Rex is set to either be killed or used as livestock to keep the population growing.

Although that might sound like some sort of tawdry sci-fi lit, Rex isn’t exactly enthused at either prospect. What he cares about most is his mission and heading home. Of course, puzzles slow his adventure. Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender has multiple difficulty settings which dictate how many of the puzzles a player has to deal with. Although none are impossibly obtuse, some are a bit mean. Inventory management is downright horrible as you must scroll through an ever-increasing list of items to find the one to use. Anyone who relies on guess and check for puzzles will be in a world of pain here.

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Featured

Most point and click adventures that weren’t from the big companies had a hard time with humor. This game actually manages to (mostly) nail it. Jokes are ridiculous and silly without resorting to gendered jokes as I expected would be the case. Honestly, the whole “Gender Bender” thing seems overblown in an otherwise relatively tame adventure experience. Women in the game are routinely depicted as strong as they are the leaders of society and inhabit a great many roles. The biggest issue is that all the women fit a stereotypical Western depiction of beauty, minus one who is used as a completely useless sight gag.

So while it is actually a pretty funny romp, it is short and far less interesting than the name implies. The story feels like the beginning of a series of (as of yet unseen) Rex Nebular adventures. Rex just wasn’t cut out for that. Despite excellent writing overall, Rex himself is mostly a blank slate with a dash of machismo. Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender is best for adventure game lovers who can handle anything as long as it has snappy writing.

Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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