Posts Tagged ‘point and click’

Blackbay Asylum Review

Blackbay Asylum Featured

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Developer: TAD Productions AB
Publisher: KISS ltd
Platform: PC – GamersGate, Steam

I play a lot of games. Many of them are indie, and some are certainly odd. With that said, I don’t think any other game has been this weird while still managing to grip me this year. Blackbay Asylum defies expectations, messes with convention, all while being a point and click adventure game. Well, let’s dive right in and try to define this strange creation.

Blackbay Asylum focuses on a murderer named Doug. He arrives at Blackbay Asylum after finally being caught. However, once he arrives everything goes absolutely wrong. This game has very little to do with the whole “inmates running the asylum” trope. Instead, this place becomes an apparent portal to hell. Lovely!

Despite all the gore, death, and creepiness around him, Doug feels perfectly at home. He makes jokey quips at pretty much anything early on. Jokes pummel the player so much that at least a few stick. As you explore the asylum you engage in a multitude of puzzles. Many are easy, a few are complex, and sometimes they feel annoying. For the most part they seemed fair.

Blackbay Asylum Featured

The dressing of Blackbay Asylum is all very odd, but one design change completely surprised me. For the first few chapters the game is presented from a top down perspective. But after that, it shifts back and forth between that and first person perspective. Why? I’m honestly not sure! In first person you’re given an up close look at puzzles that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with a top down view. Neither view feels like a last-minute decision, either.

Graphically, the game definitely feels behind the times. This is true of the audio often as well as some jokes. Still, the incredible oddness of everything kept me playing. I just had to see where the story went and if anything else unexpected would occur (as continued to be the case). Blackbay Asylum is definitely not for everyone, and probably asking too much at $20, but it certainly hooked me.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Gods Will Be Watching Review

Gods Will Be Watching Featured

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

Gold Rush! Featured

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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Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can

Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can Featured

Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can Boxart

Developer: MumboJumbo
Publisher: MumboJumbo
Platform: AmazonBig Fish Games, MumboJumbo, Steam

Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can is an unusual point and click title. As with many modern games of the genre, your main goal is to solve a handful of puzzles alongside hidden object segments. Interestingly, the hidden object aspect is really downplayed in favor of a bevvy of puzzles and an overarching story that spans centuries.

You play Angelica Weaver, a special agent on the Chicago police force. She’s on the trail of a murderer who appears to be mimicking a series of historic London slayings. Because of Angelica’s unusual ability, she is able to actually travel to the past and connect the clues to help solve the modern day crime.

Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can Featured

The story is unique but unfortunately Angelica is not the most interesting protagonist. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Nancy Drew’s game persona, but Catch Me When You Can’s lead feels a lot more self-serving. Once she “solves” mysteries there is a distinct pleased gloating in her voice and words. It’s weird how she stops to praise herself in the midst of a murder investigation, but maybe I’d praise my own intelligence too…

Puzzles are not too difficult for the most part, although there are some cumbersome sections. Piecing together 30 pieces of a dress (without a reference image) is one of those moments. Thankfully after a minute or so of time these puzzles are skippable. Hint chances are also very numerous. Still, I just don’t find the mystery all that intriguing. The biggest mystery to me is Angelica’s obsession with dreamcatchers. That, and the fact that the game is called “Catch Me When You Can”.


Score: 2

2 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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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!

Blackwell Deception Featured

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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