Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

Blackwell Deception Review

Blackwell Deception Featured

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Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

After Blackwell Convergence, both Rosa and Joey have grown into their roles. The duo has officially set up a spiritual business so they no longer need to discover ghosts on their own. Now, people can simply point them in the right direction. Things are looking up! Well, at least they are at the start.

Blackwell Deception is the longest game in the series yet and that’s because it takes the story in exciting and frightening directions. For one, things that were barely alluded to in the past are finally explained. It also seems that a far more menacing enemy makes their way into the story. What had once been a slightly silly jaunt through a medium’s life has definitely shifted in tone.

I like it. With more cases to solve in a longer span of time, there’s a lot more to discover. For those who prefer adventure games with puzzles, well, they have finally been bulked up as well. It’s not a lot, but there are at least a few instances that require careful thinking. In a way, I don’t appreciate this as it might create a barrier to those who were previously completely able to enjoy the games. Well, at least walkthroughs exist!

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One issue with previous Blackwell games was that you always had to go back to Rosa’s apartment to look something up. By Blackwell Deception, she’s finally caught up with the times and has a smartphone! Now you can simply pull it up at any time and perform searches, call characters, and review case notes. This simplification removes most of the tedium which is a very welcome change.

The story has been something worth looking forward to but it is only with the first and fourth game that it seems to have been a truly excellent experience. Even though mysteries are resolved by the end, there is no longer a feeling of peace. Blackwell Deception feels like it’s leading to the climax whereas the middle titles just seemed to be lollygagging around. At this point, it’s hard to wait for Blackwell Epiphany but let’s hope it lives up to the high expectations formed by Blackwell Deception.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Blackwell Convergence Review

Blackwell Convergence Featured

Blackwell Convergence Boxart

Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Blackwell Unbound was an odd change of pace to the Blackwell series, which is why I’m glad to report that everything shifts back to the present with Blackwell Convergence. This time around, we’re back with Rosa and Joey as they help free various restless souls. Unfortunately, it seems that this time there’s far more danger afoot.

Strangely, it didn’t feel like the previous games had many moments of urgency. This changes with Blackwell Convergence somewhat, as there is now a greater mystery that must be solved, instead of just solving the cases of a few spirits. Even so, this chapter failed to leave as strong an impression as the original game did.

Blackwell Convergence Featured

Perhaps that has to do with the fact that, after playing the three games in a row, the concept has lost its freshness. I still have hope for what comes next, but it seems that there is often a lull in the middle of episodic series. Something larger might be forming under the surface, but as of right now, the plot isn’t ready to delve headfirst into it.

Something that I forgot to praise previously was the music for the Blackwell series. It is quite good and I find myself routinely considering checking if the albums are for sale. There’s definitely a great vibe from the music to match the noir-ish vibe. Of course, the visuals are fitting too although I can’t help noticing the subtle art styles from game to game. As a whole, Blackwell Convergence is still better than Blackwell Unbound, but not quite as good as I was hoping for. Well, onto Blackwell Deception!


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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BloodNet Review

BloodNet Featured

BloodNet Boxart

Developer: MicroProse
Publisher: Tommo
Platform: PC – GOG*

Ransom Stark is a New York native with quite the unique problem. At the very start of the game he has a fateful run-in with a vampire which leaves him as one as well. The only thing that is now stopping Stark from feasting on citygoers is an implanted nanomachine in his body that can stop his vampiric transformation – but only for a few days. Will he be able to find a cure before then?

BloodNet is one strange title. It meshes a cyberpunk aesthetic with classic tales of vampires. The city is fueled by technology, drugs, and a giant corporation known as TransTechnicals. Of course, the company is shady as is always the case with corporations in these types of stories. As Stark, you must investigate both in the real world and online to save yourself as well as others you’ll come to meet along the way.

The game could be considered both a point and click adventure and RPG, but most would probably just learn toward the RPG definition. Most characters have a lot to say and offer you quests. Unlike some games, the quests make a lot of sense don’t just sound like elaborate fetch quests (even if they are). This is thanks to the excellent writing. Some may find it drags on and on but I enjoyed getting into the strange world.

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Fights break out sporadically but you might have a hard time figuring them out. You see, there are NPCs throughout the city you can recruit to your team to add muscle, but that’s not all there is to it. You’re also going to want to fashion weapons from existing parts you have (and be sure to equip some to teammates as well!). None of this is explained very well and the fighting system is unusual as well. The player positions their team before initiating a strike, but then it takes on a turn-based battle structure.

The thing about BloodNet is that it’s very set in its ways but is unwilling to explain much of it to players. This goes for the narrative as well as the gameplay functionality. Because of that it definitely is not something you can just pick up and play. It’s a shame because there is a very unique world to explore but it will take most some real effort to get into it.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Blackwell Unbound Review

Blackwell Unbound Featured

Blackwell Unbound Boxart

Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

After playing through The Blackwell Legacy I jumped right into Blackwell Unbound. Much to my surprise, the game actually positions itself as a prequel to the first. Instead of playing as Rosa this time around you’re Lauren Blackwell, the aunt. She also lives with spirit guide Joey although she appears to have long since come to terms with her ghostly partner.

As Lauren, your goal is to investigate two apparent hauntings in the city.  This time around there are two ghosts needing help (of course, they don’t realize it themselves!). You can tackle either situation first and neither takes particularly long. Apparently, this leads to a shorter game overall as it didn’t require two hours to beat.

Blackwell Unbound Featured

Although the game is shorter, it still sheds some interesting light into the whole spirit guide and medium dynamic. We also get to learn more about Lauren from when she was living and actually quite a shift form Rosa’s more reserved nature. Unfortunately, we likely won’t get to see more of Lauren since she’s gone by the time Rosa meets Joey.

Perhaps it was due to the even shorter length, or the less interesting storyline overall, but Blackwell Unbound felt like a step back. After all, my hopes were set on progressing Rosa’s story rather than fussing around with an other character. Perhaps the stories showcased here will come back as important points in Blackwell Deception or Blackwell Convergence. If they don’t, then this game may very well be skippable for casual Blackwell fans.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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The Blackwell Legacy Review

The Blackwell Legacy Featured

The Blackwell Legacy Boxart

Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

The Blackwell series by Wadjet Eye Games is one of the most notable independently published adventure games out there. In fact, in 2006, it was part of a very exclusive club as “episodic” titles hadn’t really broken into the mainstream yet. In anticipation of the final game in the series, Blackwell Epiphany, I’m playing through the previous four. My mission begins with The Blackwell Legacy.

The story begins as we meet a woman named Rosa releasing the ashes of her aunt over a bridge. Rosa seems confused, unsure of how things will play out now that the only family she had has passed away. However, she soon learns from her aunt’s doctor that the family may have an unprecedented issue with hereditary dementia. Shaken and distressed, Rosa returns home where she comes face to face with her worst nightmare – a ghost. Has her cognitive ability already started its decline or is this ghost real?

The Blackwell Legacy Featured

She quickly steels herself with the decision that the ghost – named Joey – is real enough. Using his 1930s vernacular he explains how the previous Blackwell women also had Joey tag along with them in their waking lives. He doesn’t even know how it happened but he has become something of a legacy to the family line. According to Joey, as long as he’s around, the two of them must help wandering ghosts come to terms with their own death. By acting as a medium, Rosa will be able to finally set their spirits free.

The Blackwell Legacy certainly spins a good yarn. As far as gameplay is concerned, it’s pretty standard point and click adventure fare. However, it’s incredibly easy and that was something I really appreciated. There are no ridiculous puzzles and only a few bits of deduction necessary anyway. Mostly, you’re safe to guide Rosa and Joey to various destinations and see how things unfold.

Since the series includes five games, the first is incredibly short. I devoured the experience in one two hour sitting and wished for more. Of course, there was, as I have the other games too! In any case, The Blackwell Legacy proves to be a very promising start to a long-running series. I look forward to seeing what happens next!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review

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

What the heck is Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc?  Its name doesn’t reveal much, and it’s actually quite misleading. You see, it’s a murder mystery visual novel of sorts with a bunch of various elements from other genres mixed in. Its like the Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, and Persona series had a crazy baby. And this baby is really awesome.

As Danganronpa relies on its story as its primary appeal, I won’t go into it too much lest I spoil anything! I’m sure you’re intrigued about what the basic premise is, though. Basically, incredibly talented “Ultimate” students from various fields are chosen to attend a prestigious school known as Hope’s Peak Academy. Unfortunately for these students, they quickly find out that they’ve actually been trapped in this school and must kill each other if they want to leave. When these killings do happen, you’re forced to take part in class trials in order to figure out who murdered your fellow classmate.

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These class trials are reminiscent of Ace Attorney games, though they’re done quite differently. They are composed of four different parts: Nonstop Debate, Hangman’s Gambit, Bullet Time Battle, and Closing Argument. Nonstop Debate is the main portion of class trials, and it’s where you use “truth bullets” (evidence) that you’ve gathered against contradictions in the arguments being thrown about. There are also times when one remark that is being made during the discussion must be used against the contradiction. The way that the Nonstop Debate mode is laid out is pretty interesting and unique!

Hangman’s Gambit simply involves shooting letters to form a word that is relevant to the trial. Bullet Time Battle is a rhythm minigame that feels extremely unnecessary and is probably my least favorite part of class trials (and I love rhythm games). Lastly, the Closing Argument section is a kind of puzzle where you put the correct image in the blank spots of a comic book in order to retell how the murder went down. It’s kind of annoying how tiny the images are, which makes it difficult to figure out what exactly is going on in it.

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The characters of Danganronpa are definitely what make the game shine. At the very beginning, I honestly couldn’t see myself liking more than one or two of the students. As Dangaronpa progressed, however, I grew to love most, if not all, of them. And to my surprise, the people that I thought I would like the least ended up becoming my favorites! They’re an eccentric, lovable bunch that had me laughing constantly.

Being a game that relies on its “craziness,” Danganronpa is full of twists and shocking moments. The way the murders are carried out can be quite predictable, but you’ll be on edge throughout the whole game that it doesn’t really matter in the end. Like a good book, you’ll want to get through it from start to finish in one sitting and won’t want to put it down.

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It’s hard to keep myself from babbling incoherently about Danganronpa because I enjoyed it so much. I’m in love with the story, characters, music, and mostly everything about it. So I can’t stress enough how much I recommend it for Vita owners. Grab yourself a copy, play it, and savor it. Then you can wait patiently (or impatiently) for the recently announced Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair!


Pink Score: 4.54 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

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Developer: Young Horses
Publisher:
Young Horses
Platform: 
PC – Steam

Octodad has been doing a fine job so far assimilating himself into a life with a normal human family. Nobody suspects a thing! Unfortunately, things don’t stay perfect for long. In Octodad: Dadliest Catch, you’re in charge of keeping up the charade.

It’s anything but a simple task, though, considering Octodad’s eight slippery appendages. The main grab of Octodad: Dadliest Catch is its controls. When you want to walk around, you move each “leg” one at a time. Grabbing things and whatnot is done by maneuvering your right arm and executing those sticky suction cups. It’s as hard to describe the whole process as it is to actually perform at first, but it becomes manageable quickly enough (hint: use a controller if at all possible!). With the crazy physics and controls, there is some frustration with getting to certain points and platforms, but that’s what makes Octodad: Dadliest Catch so fun.

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The other half of Octodad: Dadliest Catch‘s appeal lies in its story, writing, and characters. As mentioned previously, as Octodad, you must get through events in his life while maintaining his persona as a normal human. This means going to the grocery store and taking your family to the aquarium (the latter of which Octodad thinks is a crime against sea-manity). All of it is just as wacky as controlling Octodad.

Your initial playthrough in Octodad: Dadliest Catch will probably only last you about two or three hours. Thankfully, there’s always co-op mode, which allows two players to control Octodad, and a plentiful amount of mod levels on Steam Workshop to keep you busy!

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I had a lot of fun during my time with Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Despite my frustrations with getting Octodad to get where I wanted him to go, the humor and fresh concept kept me going and kept me entertained.


Pink Score: 3.53 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Serena Review

Serena Featured

Serena Logo

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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Broken Age Act 1 Review

Broken Age Featured

Broken Age Boxart

Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Platform: PC – Steam

Once upon a time, point and click adventure games were king. Then something happened – shooters became popular. With shooters, and many other genres, video games were pushed further, with more interactivity and better graphics. The point and click games of yore fought on, but fell out of favor with most people over the years. Then, Telltale Games made waves with The Walking Dead and the genre was cool again. Finally, innovative developer Double Fine ran a Kickstarter for a new adventure game and garnered an amazing 3.3 million bucks. It appeared adventure games were no longer dead.

Finally, the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter has borne fruit via Broken Age. However, only Act 1 is available right now, with the second act still being worked on. So what can be said about a game that was so tremendously anticipated by many? It likely won’t live up to your expectations. That doesn’t make it a bad game, of course! Well, let’s get into this review already.

Broken Age is split into two halves. One is the story of a young woman named Velouria (shortened to “Vella”) and a teenage boy named Shay. Players choose which story to begin with and jump right in. Although it is possible to swap between them at any time, it doesn’t seem to serve much purpose. It’s easiest to just play one story first and then go for the other, which is what I did. Vella’s part appears the longer, and much more interesting, half.

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Vella’s story starts as something called a Maiden Feast is about to start. It is quickly revealed that the town fears a  huge monster named Mog Chothra and that the only way to sate it is by offering up the best girls of the village. Unfortunately, Vella was chosen to take part. Unlike the others who all seek to be eaten, Vella recognizes the inherent wrongness of the situation and wants to fight back! Along her journey she meets many characters and solves a good deal of puzzles, although almost all of them could hardly be considered puzzles.

Shay has a completely different life. He lives by himself in a space station with only a sentient, overly-watchful computer and machines to interact with. For all intents and purposes, his world is a foil of Vela’s. Instead of the looming fear of death, he is protected completely from any and all danger. Shay’s life of repetitive nonsense is interrupted one day and finally his story starts to become interesting. Unfortunately, there are even less puzzles in this section and even less characters to meet.

One of the most exciting things about adventure games is the witty and intriguing characters you’ll come across while playing. Many point and click games fail in this respect, but since Tim Schafer was at the helm here, most expected something great. Somehow, Broken Age manages to not be that funny. The writing is good, but it doesn’t feel all that special in most cases. It seems like personalities are very subdued, when they exist at all. Thankfully, the voice acting is phenomenal which makes it so that listening to dialogue is never a chore.

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The most impressive aspect of the game is the visuals. Simply, this is one incredible-looking title. The art style makes everything seem like you’re watching a pretty picture book come to life. Animations are smooth, if sometimes repetitive, and help bring the experience to life. Locations have a great sense of design and fit with the themes of Vella and Shay’s stories. If I had to guess where a lot of the Kickstarter money went, I’d say it went into art.

As was hinted at earlier, though there are a lot of puzzles, most aren’t particularly difficult. Some players have lamented this point but it doesn’t seem bad to me. This is an adventure game being marketed to a massive audience – many of whom probably have never played a classic adventure game. Making puzzles as easy as possible keeps players moving and free of frustration. Just know that if your enjoyment of point and click games comes from intriguing puzzles that Broken Age will not scratch that itch.

All in all, Broken Age offers a meandering first half of an experience that becomes interesting right near the end. The story ends just as things start to get interesting and there’s no specific date for when we’ll get to play act 2. As gorgeous as the game is, there seems to be a distinct lack of personality. By that I mean the characters are mostly transparent task givers rather than true “characters” in the sense of being memorable. Perhaps we’ll see that change in the second half. Mostly, I just want to see how this story resolves itself. I’ve got my theories about what will happen, but we must all wait on Double Fine to see how everything turns out.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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American McGee’s Grimm Review

American McGee's Grimm Featured

American McGee's Grimm Boxart

Developer: Spicy Horse
Publisher: Kiss Label
Platform: PC – GameTapGOG*

American McGee’s Grimm was an interesting experiment when it launched in 2008. The 23-part episodic series came out in three seasons and was presented by GameTap. It was part of their “original content” lineup, which I don’t think has seen much attention since. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that the gaming world was quite ready for episodic games at the time. The product will hopefully get a second wind once it launches on Steam.

American McGee apparently really loves fairy tales. After all, his best known products are based on one (the Alice series). American McGee’s Grimm doesn’t focus on one story but a whole heaping bunch of them. Each episode tackles one from Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ expansive literary library. As a fan of fairy tales and their history, I was quite eager to give the game a shot.

As it turns out, the gameplay is very minimal. Mostly, you explore the worlds as a gross little gnome monster named Grimm. His goal is to change stories by dirtying them up. Because he is such a stinky, yucky fellow, all he has to do is wander over the fanciful landscape to turn it dark. Townsfolk and cute critters will attempt to clean the world as you do so, but once you have enough power even they are changed into disgusting/scary versions of themselves.

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Mainly all you have to do is walk and “paint” the world. The more things get turned, the stronger Grimm’s powers become. Eventually, he can transform everything around him. However, each stage usually just wants you to reach a certain level of yuckiness before proceeding on to the next area. Everything gets reset at that point and you go at it again.

If you don’t want to simply enjoy the landscape, stories, and ruckus caused by Grimm then this won’t be a fun game at all. However, if you like seeing fairy tales reverted to more crude and dangerous versions then it’s worth the time. Maybe. Playing through all three seasons takes over a dozen hours and there are points where the repetitive play is too much. American McGee’s Grimm looks great and offers an entertaining story to play along with.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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