Posts Tagged ‘GOG’

Crystal Caves Review

Crystal Caves Featured

Crystal Caves Boxart

Developer: Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

As shameful as it may be to admit, Apogee Software titles were not a part of my youth. Crystal Caves was one of the many game releases by them over the years available in shareware form. The first episode, “The Trouble with Twibbles”, was available for free but episodes 2 and 3 required a purchase. If you buy the game on GOG it comes with all three episodes. How does this collectathon platformer hold up?

Surprisingly well, in fact! At least the first episode does. Crystal Caves’ hero is Mylo, a dude with bright pink clothes and a silly strut. Players navigate him through multiple stages to collect multicolored crystals. Enemies and traps are found in each cave, as well as tricks due to the level layouts themselves. The first chapter isn’t difficult to complete and really amps one up for more adventures.

Crystal Caves Featured

Episode 2 is harder than the first and at times even gets a little annoying. However, with dedication you can blast past it into Episode 3. That’s where it really becomes too much for all but the biggest Crystal Caves fans. At that point the difficulty is cranked up even more. Here things like your limited shots and three hearts get unfairly strained. Luckily, there’s no penalty for death because you’ll die a lot. Somewhere in between these levels it also becomes hard to ignore the precise nature of some jumps.

Crystal Caves is not the prettiest platformer on the block with its garish colors and slapdash monster designs. It’s also disappointing to realize that many of the 47 stages are too difficult for many to complete. Yet, there is an enduring quality about Crystal Caves that makes it enjoyable in small doses. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a lengthy DOS era platformer.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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OlliOlli Review

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Developer: Roll7, General Arcade
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam PSN – PS4, Vita

Where are all the good skateboarding games? For many, the genre of extreme sports titles died out once Tony Hawk games got beyond their numbered iterations. To me it definitely felt like there was a lack of interesting newcomers. OlliOlli first launched on Vita to rave reviews but it took a bit longer for PC players to get their shot. The wait was most definitely worth it.

OlliOlli offers an unique approach to the entire skateboarding game formula. First off, it’s a 2D sidescrolling game. It takes the arcade-y nature of Tony Hawk but also integrates analog stick tricks that were found in the Skate series. What you end up with is a simplistic game that takes a lot of effort to get good at. As many OlliOlli players have discovered, you’ll keep playing stages thanks to the addictive gameplay. Although you can play with a keyboard, it seems hard to imagine given the ease of analog stick-based tricks. As such, this is all written from a Xbox 360 gamepad playing perspective.

OlliOlli Featured

There are a surprising amount of levels to complete. Each also has five extra tasks to complete while running it. If you can finish them all you gain access to the pro version of that stage. If you thought the regular levels were tough enough these prove even wilder. It must be noted that sometimes timing of analog stick flicks versus what’s registered on-screen sometimes feels off. Perhaps there is some latency on the PC port from time to time? Either that or I’m not nearly as good at OlliOlli as I imagine!

As far as skateboarding games are concerned, OlliOlli glides above a great majority of them with ease. This is thanks primarily to the effective controlscheme but also the simple 2D visuals and awesome soundtrack. Honestly, it’s right up there with Hotline Miami’s (another game with ‘outsourced’ music). It’s incredibly hard to put the game down once you play it. Expect to wipe out constantly… and eventually get into the “flow” which makes OlliOlli amazingly enjoyable.


Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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The Chaos Engine Review

The Chaos Engine Featured

The Chaos Engine Logo

Developer: The Bitmap Brothers
Publisher: Mastertronic
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Now, I’d never played The Chaos Engine in the past but somehow the game always stuck with me. Thanks to the ‘remastered’ version on Steam I’ve finally gotten to play this Amiga classic. Although it might not be very in-depth, I found it quite enjoyable, if difficult. Just make sure to not turn on smoothing if you have any affinity toward pixel art.

The basics of The Chaos Engine are that it’s a top down action game. You select from a cast of characters (each with unique weapons) and play alongside a co-op partner. This partner can be a real person via local or online play or simply a computer-controlled buddy. Of course, enlisting a real friend is the best idea.

The Chaos Engine Featured

Apparently this version of the game has been made a bit harder than the original release. If so, it definitely shows. Although it looks like you can go guns blazing through the stage, slow progression is really the way to go. I found myself creeping toward the edges of the screen so as not to be jumped by an enemy. Some ram into you while others shoot bullets and in either case it’s all terribly damaging. For whatever reason, characters start with very low health. It’s definitely a challenging game but enjoyably so.

One change was making the game have “360 degree” shooting. It’s more like 8-way shooting but it works well. You can play on a gamepad (not just of the Xbox 360 variety) as well, which is pretty cool. This ended up being my preferred method of play. My biggest issue with The Chaos Engine is a severe lack of level passwords to return to old stages in online matches. Fans have been clamoring for this for over a year so such an update is unlikely. Overall, I enjoy the difficulty and just wish there were ways to temper it when needed.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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FRACT OSC Review

FRACT OSC Featured

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Developer: Phosfiend Systems
Publisher: Phosfiend Systems
Platform: PC – GOG*, Humble Store, Steam

FRACT OSC is an interesting experience. It is part game and part musical plaything which for some reason is not common in the rhythm/music game genre. Some may not enjoy that, but for me, it was a great way to feel and see music in a fictional space.

Players begin by being unceremoniously dropped into a polygonal 3D world. When I say that I mean that the entire landscape is large, rough cut polygons. Everything is big, blocky, and angular but not in an unattractive way. The alien landscape is beautiful thanks to simple but effective architecture and a great color scheme. Purple, pink, red, and blue/green hues saturate the landscape with a digital glow.

Gameplay is revealed through a gentle series of tutorials. After meandering a bit to places that seem important, you learn how to manipulate various objects. Upon doing so, machines and buildings become active. Sometimes this creates musical cues and usually involves lights strobing or changing. Solving puzzles and exploring are the main brunt of FRACT OSC unless you enter the Studio.

FRACT OSC Featured

The Studio starts with all featured locked. Progressing through puzzles unlocks things although you can choose to unlock everything if you just want to mess around immediately. Players can interact with an unexpectedly proficient synthesizer and related musical tools to create their own music. There’s even a button to export your new masterpieces to Youtube. The original soundtrack by Mogi Grumbles is already awesome, but it’s wonderful to see a game based around music giving players the tools to create their own stuff.

It was hard not to fall desperately in love with the unique landscape of FRACT OSC. The way the music and world mix is incredible, as are the included musical tools. It’s a shame the entire experience weren’t longer, or perhaps made it easier to sidestep some tough puzzles. Still, many players should be able to experience all that this game has to offer.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Redline Review

Redline Featured

Redline Boxart

Developer: Beyond Games
Publisher: Accolade, Tommo
Platform: PC – GOG*

Were you looking for a hyper violent, ridiculously bloody shooter in the 90s? The market was simply saturated with this stuff! As such, it took GOG’s recent release of Redline for me to even realize this game existed. It appears Redline slipped between the cracks for many players out there. It’s a bit of a shame because the game is actually pretty fun as far as FPSes are concerned.

You start off in the dystopian future of 2066. At this point the world is completely destroyed leaving various factions to fight for supremacy. Without much rhyme or reason, you seek to join one specific gang to help them achieve victory. Doing so involves a ton of firefights over the course of 12 levels.

Redline Featured

Stages are pretty large and often this is to grant access for car use. Aside from running around on your feet as per FPS conventions you can also hop into empty vehicles and drive around. Crushing enemies with your car or utilizing its various weapons add some much-needed uniqueness to Redline. Weapons themselves are not the most creative on the block but do burst enemies into bloody bits.

There’s a bit of story between stages but nothing very enthralling. Visuals are also par for the course of late 90s video games. Controls also fit in with that time period which means they are imperfect. You can rebind them, but that didn’t fix my issue with mouse control. It seemed to not offer complete freedom of aiming which I had to get used to. Perhaps that was just a personal setup issue, though.

Redline will last you at least 3 hours with FPS and vehicular combat fun. It is not the best of its class, but certainly better than some of its bargain bin peers.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Ether One Review

Ether One Featured

Ether One Logo

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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SiN Gold Review

SiN Gold Featured

SiN Boxart

Developer: Ritual Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Platform: PC – GOG*

SiN is a very unusual game with an interesting history. Back in the 90s, people were quickly being spoiled with first person shooters. Little did players of the time realize that a landmark title was about to launch in 1998 – Half-Life. Poor SiN also wanted to be that next great game but knew they would have to compete against Valve’s creation. So, they rushed to complete the project and ship it just a few days before Half-Life’s launch. Despite that, it was SiN that ended up as a footnote in FPS history.

It’s a bit of a shame considering SiN did a lot of neat things. The storyline is mostly adequate, dealing with a main character named John Blade, corporations, and evil people with power. Yeah, it’s not the most incredible tale ever but it handles itself well as a hokey b-movie style creation. Most of what makes it impressive is purely gameplay-based.

The shooting is solid and even shows the specific damage inflicted on enemies (mostly). For example, shooting a guy in the chest will tear off a bit of the shirt and cause a mess. Shooting in the legs will make them crumple as if their legs were really injured. Overall, firefights are intense but fun. It also helps that there’s a wide variety of weapons to mess around with. Another very neat feature is the level of control given to players for accessing computers to mess with security systems and otherwise hack stuff. It doesn’t feel like a minigame so much as actually interfacing with a simplified computer which is weird but very neat.

SiN Gold Featured

As with many FPSes of the time, SiN utilizes its own random control scheme. Okay, it’s not random, but would not be considered standard today. Buttons are mapped often to correlate to what letter the word starts with. For example, the action of talking to other players being mapped to T. However, this applies to most of the functions meaning you’ll have to learn the goofy specific controls. Or, you can rebind any and all keys but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth to just get accustomed to them.

Although it was once available on Steam alongside SiN Episodes, it can now only be purchased digitally via GOG. On that storefront it includes the Wages of Sin mission pack. There’s a lot that feels really weird about SiN Gold but it’s also a pretty competent shooter. Those who love the genre today owe it to themselves to check out more obscure titles such as this one.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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