Posts Tagged ‘series’

The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Review

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The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Boxart

Developer: Sierra On-Line
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Platform: PC – Windows 3.0, Mac

Once upon a time I played games purchased from the Scholastic Book Club. One of these was The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain. At the time I believed it to be the only one of its type out there, only to later learn “Dr. Brain” was an entire series. Unfortunately, it looks like by the time The Time Warp of Dr. Brain came around that the developers had all but run out of good ideas for puzzling minigames.

There are ten minigames this time around and little else. You’ll find absolutely no story wrapping any of it together. Each puzzle comes with three difficulty options and an unknown (to me, anyway) amount of levels per game. The big issue is that some games are given too much instructions while others receive no instructions at all. Oh, and the fact that it’s just not any fun to play the vast majority of them.

The Time Warp of Dr. Brain Featured

A few of the included puzzles are simply rehashes of existing mental games people play. It’s in these modes based on well-known logic exercises that are at all enjoyable. The rest, such as one which simply requires players to swim without running out of air, aren’t even worth the edutainment moniker. This is disappointing because both The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain and Castle of Dr. Brain were fairly interesting to fuss with.

The graphics and audio are just fine and certainly appropriate for the mid 90s gaming scene. Outside of one or two stand out minigames, however, the game is a total flop. Even Dr. Brain himself acts like he doesn’t care one bit about the player and their success/failures. Anyone looking for a good edutainment title should steer clear.

Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas

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Who Killed Sam Rupert: Virtual Murder 1 Review

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Who Killed Sam Rupert Virtual Murder 1 Boxart

Developer: Creative Multimedia Corporation
Publisher: Creative Multimedia Corporation
Platform: PC – Macintosh, Windows 3.0

It’s pretty obvious that people love a good murder mystery. Why else would we have copious literature, TV shows, and an unfortunate obsession with real life unsolved crimes? That’s why it makes total sense when the earliest FMV-enabled PC games focused on murder scenarios. Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 was just the start of an entire four game series by Creative Multimedia Corporation.

As you might guess, Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 focuses on the murder of a Mr. Rupert. This restaurant owner was well-liked by some and, unfortunately enough, detested by multiple people close to him. It’s up to you to determine who exactly killed the man and why. The game throws a tremendous amount of red herrings at you. However, it’s laid on so thick that most should pick up on avoiding the “obvious” path.

Who Killed Sam Rupert Virtual Murder 1 Featured

In some ways, the game is an early 90’s version of Her Story. However, instead of just getting the FMV stories of eight key suspects, you’re also free to dig through police-collected records as needed. That includes terse interviews with restaurant patrons on the night of the murder, lab details, and more. Many found this utterly dull (according to reviews of the era) but it was enjoyable enough to me.

The key failing point for all this searching to unearth clues is that Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 is timed. There are only six in-game hours to learn about the case and successfully peg a murderer. Because of the arbitrary restriction, you’ll need to play through multiple times. Despite very clearly showing its age with postage stamp sized videos and relatively simple murder/motive, Who Killed Sam Rupert – Virtual Murder 1 is a neat way to spend an hour or two.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Gex Review

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Gex Boxart

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: 3DO, PC – GOG*, PlayStation, Saturn

Gex is one of those games that seems lost to time. As a child I really dug Gex: Enter the Gecko because of its bright worlds themed off real media (cartoons, horror movies, etc). But never before had I played the original Gex. As it turns out, the entire series seems predicated on the notion of jumping into film/television media parody worlds. It’s a fun concept, although the execution is lacking.

One night while Gex is simply watching TV he gets transported to the TV dimension by some evil being named Rez. Once in the world he traipses though increasingly challenging levels all based around genres and locations for films (horror, kung fu, futuristic). Every 2D stage features copious enemies, collectible golden bugs, and lots of ways to die. Like many early 90s platformers it is far more challenging than it seems! The best aspect is how playing as a gecko lets you do things like climb ceilings and walls with ease.

Gex Featured

The biggest issue with Gex is not the inherent challenge but how out of place it feels now. Gex routinely shouts out “witty” one liners in reference to pop culture from around 1994 (when the game first launched on 3DO). Although some of the jokes and references make sense to me, none are particularly funny regardless. Then there are ones that seem completely nonsensical such as Gex grumpily complaining, “when is Grace Jones gonna retire?” What, pray tell, is wrong with Grace Jones?! Weirdly, many of the same lines were reused for 1998’s Enter the Gecko, and they were probably already stale then.

In all, the framing of Gex proves its most interesting aspect. Having a real reason to adventure through thematically different worlds is kind of neat, and each boss proves cool. Gex himself though is grating and his dialogue is a lazy excuse for actual characterization. The platforming is inspired, but the negatives balance out the positives. Instead of being iconic, Gex is just average.

Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Review

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Developer: Pinkerton Road Studio, Phoenix Online Studios
Publisher: Pinkerton Road Studio
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers arrived on PC back in 1993 courtesy of Sierra On-Line. It hit the scene as a more serious point and click adventure game than most. Although I never played it way back when, I did eventually play and adore it. Now, a (little late) 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is out and leaves me feeling quite perplexed. Did this classic game truly need a remake?

As far as I’m concerned, the storyline is still as intriguing as it was back in the 90s. It stars Gabriel Knight, a writer with a trashy series as his best work. He runs a book store in New Orleans along with Grace Nakimura but even that endeavor flounders. This dull, cash-strapped life takes a turn when a series of “Voodoo Murders” occur. Do the crimes actually have any relation to Voodoo at all or is something else at play? As curious authors are apparently wont to do, Gabriel sticks his nose into the mystery and gets far more than he bargained for.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Featured

Gabriel is definitely an odd protagonist. Early on he acts incredibly sleazy and is full of eye-rolling comments, especially when contrasted against excellent characters such as Grace. Thankfully, he loses most of his revolting nature once things get serious. This is important considering how much dialogue Sins of the Fathers has. There’s a ton. The vast majority is also voiced by a new cast. The most blessed change is Tim Curry’s awkward New Orleans accent finally being put to rest.

As for gameplay, much of the game remains the same as it ever was. This is still a point and click adventure with a hefty inventory and loads of puzzles. A robust hint feature proves to be the best change. Unfortunately, much of inventory management and item usage continues being problematic. For example, many items suggest players “take”, “look at”, and “operate” them even when some options are impossible. It is funny to hear the narrator chide Gabriel if he considers taking a gigantic object, but this will also prove annoying to modern adventure game players. It’s surprising item and inventory usage weren’t redesigned.


Outside of new voice actors the biggest change comes from completely revamped visuals. Now things have a hand-drawn, painterly look instead of pixel art. Personally, I continue to adore the original Sins of the Fathers’ for its gorgeous aesthetic. I don’t feel that the new 3D models will stand up to the test of time, although backdrops and cutscenes look lovely. Despite the tweaks, one facet that remains between both versions is its intriguing tale which hooks players.

I don’t feel there was a need for this remake, but on the other hand, it serves as a way to introduce new players to the world of Gabriel Knight. If they won’t pick up an “ancient” PC game perhaps they’ll give this gussied-up version a go. All in all, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is as good as it ever was even if nothing can quite ever replace the original.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Pretentious Game Review

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Developer: Keybol
Publisher: Bulkypix, Plug In Digital
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Armor Games, Steam

Pretentious is a word that many have used to describe the indie game community as of late. To some, video games that attempt to tell depressing, unique, or otherwise non-normative stories are purely seeking attention. They are quite pretentious. Although I don’t agree with the sentiment I was very intrigued to play a game with the gall to call itself Pretentious Game!

Pretentious Game is actually a series of four games (first released as Flash games online) that features simple graphics and gameplay. You play as a square, sometimes two, and platform in a 2D space toward completion. Much of what makes Pretentious Game is how it tweaks the long-established platformer formula.

Pretentious Game Featured

Each stage features a bit of text and this hints directly at how to solve each stage’s “puzzle” aspect. For example, an early stage suggests that flying would be neat. Lo and behold, your block can suddenly glide through the air for that level! Sometimes the hints are a bit more convoluted, as are the methods of activating them, but it still doesn’t take long to run through each one. It took me a little under an hour to beat Pretentious Game 1-4. Each tells its own vignettes and these were more interesting than expected given Pretentious Game’s own title.

Right now there are only four chapters and each is free on Flash game portals. Mobile devices offer the first for free and then ask for an in-app purchase to unlock the rest. In comparison, Steam’s $4.99 fee seems a bit steep. The graphics are improved and you get access to all future chapters, but if you don’t require PC play then mobile’s your best bet.

Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Boxart

Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
Platform: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Metal Gear is a longstanding franchise which gains a larger audience with each and every release. By this point, fans have been aching for Metal Gear Solid V but that’s still a ways away. As a way to tease fans (and make some extra money along the way) Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes launched. This, apparently, is just a sampling of the “next generation” gameplay and visuals. Oh, and it also introduces a bit of the storyline which will pick up again once V comes out.

As someone who at one point considered themselves an avid Metal Gear Solid fan, my experience with Ground Zeroes was immediately disappointing. Oh, no doubt it looks astonishing (mostly). Yes, there is excellent music. Controls also handle with ease and precision. But none of that could compel me to have much interest in anything that was going on. Fans like to praise Hideo Kojima’s wacky, twisting narrative sensibilities but at some point it just seems unintentional parody.

It was all thanks to a (since removed) interview with Metal Gear Solid 2 translator Agness Kaku that these thoughts first entered my mind, but now with Ground Zeroes I can clearly see what she meant. Kojima has an obvious love for Hollywood action films and, by effect, our government affairs. Injected in these action-genre sensibilities are his own concepts but these concepts no longer appeal to me. For example, early on you meet a character named Skull Face. And guess what? His face is horrifically burned and white – just like a skull! Maybe for some this seems completely awesome but at some point the mishmash of wannabe serious military narrative and ridiculous flourishes become too much.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Featured

This is only further compounded by the fact that (spoilers?) the introductory chapter takes us to a fictional section of Guantanamo Bay. Is it possible to have Metal Gear silliness in such a serious location? Maybe, but it would take incredible skill. I do not feel that is demonstrated in Ground Zeroes. Snake mutters about how he “kept you waiting” but this was not the game I was waiting for. Thankfully, it took only an hour and 45 minutes to finish. Apparently it was only at 7% completion but there was no drive left to attempt to unlock more.

At one point I would have made the ideal candidate to review a Metal Gear Solid game, but that time has apparently passed. Those who know and love everything that Kojima does will likely enjoy this too, even though some of the more obvious wackiness has been toned down. Snake may have a new voice actor but this game still follows down the gameplay path that Metal Gear Solid 4 brought about. With that said, it was not fun for me to play at all, which makes it impossible for me to recommend.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Shuffle! Review

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Developer: Navel
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*

Rin is just your average high school student. He’s no sport star nor is he a straight A student. Despite having nothing special to his name, he finds his world shaken up as two new transfer students appear in his class. According to them, they both met Rin as children and fell in love with him. This love has remained strong all those years so they finally decided to seek him out. Oh, and by the way, they just so happen to be daughters of the Gods of Heaven and Hell.

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The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Review

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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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Blackwell Deception Review

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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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Escape Goat 2 Review

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Developer: MagicalTimeBean
Publisher: MagicalTimeBean
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Escape Goat is a wonderful puzzle platformer that I finally had the pleasure of playing late last year. As a newfound MagicalTimeBean fan it was tremendously exciting to know that Escape Goat 2 was coming at some point in the future. Now it’s here! How does the game hold up against its predecessor?

Escape Goat 2 follows the hooves of the original, although diverges in unique ways. First, let’s go over what is the same. You’re still a purple  goat who platforms around increasingly complex puzzle stages to unlock the exit. A little mouse is also able to aid you at many junctures. Features that the mouse had before, such as a transportation ability, are back as well.

Puzzles have been given new twists and you’ve been granted new abilities to make everything more interesting. For one, the mouse now has an ability to spawn multiple versions of itself across a stage. It’s quite odd, but also handy! Stages now have branching paths as well. You can ascend the castle as quickly as possible, or take the time to veer off course to save more sheep. Personally, I made sure to visit every side area to get as much puzzling goodness as possible out of it.

Escape Goat 2 Featured

Puzzle games often add and tweak a few things upon their next iterations. The biggest change though might just be the art style. No longer is the game comprised of pixel art that looked at home on Xbox Live Indie Games. Now it has an attractive cartoonish glow about it. The soundtrack is as good as (if not better) than the first game. All in all, it might not look exactly like the Escape Goat you already knew but it certainly feels like it.

The puzzle platform genre is packed full of games but few are as uniquely entertaining as Escape Goat 2. If you’ve never played the original you’d be safe to jump right into the new game first. If you end up loving the purple goat’s adventures then you can always go back and buy the game that started it all after!

Score: 4

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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