Posts Tagged ‘episodic’

MISSING: An Interactive Thriller – Episode One Review

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Developer: Zandel Media
Publisher: Zandel Media
Platform: PC – Steam

MISSING: An Interactive Thriller – Episode One is the first in (hopefully) a series of point and click “escape the room”-style games. As you can probably tell from the images, it also happens to be chock full of full motion video (FMV). I don’t know what exactly spurred this sudden FMV resurgence, but I’m definitely into it.

In any case, it starts you out right in the thick of things as you’re presented with a dude chained up in a room. Without getting much more context than that, we know what to do: Get those cuffs off! This is just the first of a dozen or so puzzles that you’ll need to solve in order to get out of this incredibly strange situation.

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Puzzles are incredibly simple for the most part, with at least one that left me frustrated. Mostly, that was due to my own overthinking of the darn thing, though. The story is a bit disturbing in what it implies, the acting is fairly good, and the scenes are shot well. The biggest issue is that it only took me about half an hour to complete it.

I’m hoping that the relative brevity of MISSING: An Interactive Thriller – Episode One will mean new episodes release frequently. However, it could be quite a while before we can check back in. In any case, the inaugural episode was a neat little game and I look forward to checking out later episodes as they release.


Score: 3

3 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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Life is Strange Episode 4 – Dark Room Review

Life is Strange Episode 4 - Dark Room Featured

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

Life is Strange Episode 3 – Chaos Theory left me feeling a little strange. It seemed that DONTNOD were on the precipice of something either really cool, or were set to completely lose me. Luckily, I enjoyed Episode 4 – Dark Room far more, though it wasn’t without some oddities. First off, it really feels like the ending of Episode 3 failed to play out in a significant way here.

Without spoiling anything, it was a very underwhelming resolution. Episode 3 made it seem like this event was a huge wrench in everyone’s plans, but then there’s very little issue to actually get back on the “main” storyline. Perhaps it’ll come back into play in Episode 5, but as of now it seems nothing more than an emotionally manipulative detour.

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So, as for Episode 4 – Dark Room itself. Things are finally getting serious — far more serious than I ever expected when Life is Strange began. Although there’s a lot of melodrama, it’s easy enough to fall right into the tale. Once everything takes a turn for the creepy I was really involved and being led right down the path that DONTNOD wanted. That reveal right at the end? Yep, I seriously had no clue it was coming.

There were definitely low points to be had between the more climatic sections. For one, you’re forced to put all the clues together in one multi-part puzzle. At this point I simply wanted to get up and go, not sit around and finagle with what was ultimately a very easy set of puzzles. Playing with a controller made it more cumbersome than needed, but that’s my own stubborn fault for not switching to a mouse during the segment.

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Finally, there’s the matter of how choices “pay off” in Life is Strange. Here’s an example with a spoiler. Victoria believed me when I spoke with her at the party. Why? Because I didn’t add insult to injury after dumping paint on her in Episode 1. The fact that she specifically referenced this act of pseudo kindness did not excite me. It just revealed the utter game-y nature of this video game. My choices should impact the story in ways that feel natural. This just seemed contrived.

I am still looking forward to Life is Strange Episode 5. For one, I’m ready to see how this story comes to a close. Not only that, but I’m anxious to see just how differently things do or don’t play out when two players have made completely different choices along the way.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Life is Strange Episode 3 – Chaos Theory Review

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

I’ll admit, despite the dramatic flourishes of Life is Strange Episode 2, the episode felt pretty meandering. This phenomenon appears in many episodic properties, though. Things picked up a tad in time for Episode 3 – Chaos Theory. Throughout the approximately two-hour playtime I found myself hooked, even if it wasn’t always for the best reasons.

Information related to Kate, Rachel, and the Vortex Club was left relatively untouched, even after what just occurred in the previous episode. And for reasons unknown, these interpersonal, ham-fisted issues are still more pressing than the impending destruction of Arcadia Bay. With that said, I enjoyed getting caught up in Max and Chloe’s antics even as they increase in severity.

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And (spoilers) I’ll admit to advocating very hard for a potential relationship between them. The way Episode 2 ended scared me about who Max’s potential love interest could end up being, as it seems completely wrong with the assessment I’ve made of the characters thus far (headcanon, haha). In any case, the real star of the episode is Chloe. We see more about her life and history which explains her current devil may care attitude. Then, in the final few seconds of the episode, we’re given a huge “shock” and then credits roll. Although the reveal felt like a cheap trick, it did effectively necessitate my playing of the upcoming episode.

I did not appreciate the utter game-y ness at times. Searching for a computer password and an appropriate place to hide keys had me trying every wrong option first. When the real one was revealed it was obvious, but somehow I didn’t notice (or maybe you need to perform other actions before the right one unlocks?). I’ll need to play again to see if that was the case or not, but if so, that’s truly annoying. Life is Strange is about the story, and any amount of frustration to experience more of that is a hindrance to my enjoyment.

Episode 4 looks to be when the Vortex Club party finally occurs, and as such I’m hoping it’s where everything finally amps up – so far the story is weirdly sedate. It’d be impossible to keep all that excitement for the final episode, right?


 

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Life is Strange Episode 2 – Out of Time Review

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

Life is Strange Episode 1 managed to hook me quite well. Despite a super dramatic, and not particularly “realistic,” reality it worked. I wanted to see what was in store for Max next, and with Episode 2 – Out of Time we get another sampling of this world. But, because we’ve already visited it once, some of the initial charm has worn off.

At first it felt like the episode dragged. Interpersonal teenage angst is something I’d rather leave behind, of course, DONTNOD Entertainment manage to infuse it with enough attention that you care about certain characters – and absolutely loathe others. Despite mostly solid writing, some aspects did bother me, though.

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It seems weird that right after the ending of Episode 1 that Max and her old buddy Chloe are super-duper buddies again. Sure, real life friendships might resume perfectly after a long pause, but the ham-fisted nature of their BFF-dom is a little eye-rolling. With that said, I’d much rather Max end up with Chloe rather than dating her needy guy friend. Please don’t go that route, Life is Strange!

There’s a lot of down to Earth sequences in Episode 2 but a few also drive home the impending disaster that Max continues to see. A few choices really stressed me and at least one part may have huge ramifications on the story. If you dug Life is Strange’s look into the life of an unsuspecting teenage hero then keep playing – things are slowly amping up.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Willy Bear Beach Episode 1 Review

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Developer: Artdecade
Publisher: Artdecade
Platform: PC – itch.io

As a fan of visual novels, I’m more than pleased to see how they’ve gained so much acceptance in the past few years. Even so, eroge titles tend to continue slipping under the radar instead of getting much recognition. However, it appears itch.io may become a method for indies to distribute them! The first I’ve seen on the platform is Willy Bear Beach Episode 1 by Artdecade. It’s cute, furry, and a nice bit of fluff between the more dramatic or dull visual novels out there.

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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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Cloud Chamber Review

Cloud Chamber Featured

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Developer: Investigate North
Publisher: Investigate North
Platform: PC – Steam

Alternate reality games hold a very special place in my heart. This overlooked genre places you – the player – in something that seems much larger than a simple game. By involving you directly in a narrative, often by emailing or even calling you, these so-called ARGs brought games into a new dimension. Unfortunately, there are very few out there. Although Cloud Chamber is not really an ARG, it feels very much like one. So let’s dive into exactly what this game is!

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Infinite Game Works Episode 0 Review

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Infinite Game Works Episode 0 Boxart

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

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

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

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

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


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Part 1 Review

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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.

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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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