Posts Tagged ‘series’

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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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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DROD 1+2+3 Review

DROD Featured

DROD Boxart

Developer: Caravel Games
Publisher: Caravel Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*

DROD, known more formally as Deadly Rooms of Death, is a tremendously fun (and sometimes frustrating) series of puzzle games starring Beethro Budkin. This fellow is the exact opposite of dashing and explores dungeons, killing enemies and solving puzzles as he goes. The three titles included in GOG’s collection are DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon, DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold, and DROD: The City Beneath.

The first game is the simplest in regards to story. In fact, it’s barely there. Still, the gameplay is practically perfect in the first anyway. It is played from a top-down perspective as you navigate Beethro through various rooms. He’s armed with a sword that can be positioned in eight directions and that’s about it. Moving occurs in a turn-based fashion which is important to note when enemies are progressing near you. If you don’t get your weapon facing them directly before they arrive then you’re dead!

Many rooms have puzzles which vary in difficulty and type. Oftentimes, you’ll have to find out how to hit buttons in the right order (and without getting killed). Puzzles are often very creative which is fun unless you get stuck on one for a long time. At times like this, just try quitting the game for a while before coming back to it. If you still can’t figure it out then you can head to the game’s official forum which serve as a great resource for confused players.

DROD Screenshot

Playing DROD: King Dungan’s Dungeon might seem hard, but you can eventually get into the swing of things with enough perseverance. The sequels continue to ramp up difficulty which is why you may want to play the original first, even though Journey to Rooted Hold and The City Beneath both have a greater emphasis on story. In any case, no matter which game you’re playing they all follow the same basic formula: Solve puzzles and stab stuff.

Visually the games are all quite similar and do not look very pretty. However, the graphics hardly matter because the gameplay is so engrossing. Wracking your brain for solutions to tough sections quickly becomes commonplace but that makes finally solving them all the more rewarding. In a weird way, struggling against the difficulty becomes pleasant too. Anyone who is ready to test their mental mettle will find a worthy opponent in the DROD series.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy Review

Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy Featured

Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy Boxart

Developer: MumboJumbo
Publisher: MumboJumbo
Platform: Nintendo DS PC – Big Fish Games, Steam

The Midnight Mysteries series consists of four hidden object games. The first is The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy, and so far, is the only one I’ve played. As the name implies, your focus is on the famed writer. The “conspiracy” in question is his death. To this day there has never been a definitive cause cited for his unusual predicaments surrounding his death. Midnight Mysteries takes the slant that Poe was murdered – and it’s your goal to figure out who did it.

Gameplay itself is primarily hidden object style. This means that you’re presented with a static screen cluttered with objects and your goal is to find specific things. Unlike most hidden object games, this one sometimes provides strange names for items. I’m not sure why this was done, but it doesn’t enhance the experience any. For the most part, objects are hidden in plain sight very fairly, although a few items sometimes get squished into the very corners of a screen. I wouldn’t look there much, leading to some usage of the hint system.

Hints are plentiful and come in the form of birds. If you see one, just click on it and a new hint will be added to your system! Hints actually just reveal the location of an object. If you get stressed and start clicking frantically, you’ll lose the ability to see the outline of objects for a brief period of time. These outlines are useful when the game gives you a weirdly-named object, or you simply want to see what exactly they’re asking for. Overall, there’s little to stand in the player’s way.

Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy Featured

The biggest issue I had playing The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy was simply that it runs at 800×600. In fullscreen, it made things fairly ugly, and in windowed mode the window was too small. I sometimes had to lean closer to the screen in order to view everything on it. This is all a shame since the visuals are quite nice most of the time. My best solution is to lower your computer’s screen resolution while playing so it’s easier to view the object-filled scenes.

There might be a story in this game but it’s barely important. All I cared about was finding all the objects with as little help as possible. Doing so took around three hours, and it was acceptable. It wasn’t the best hidden object game ever, but the Midnight Mysteries series shows promise. I’ll play the next three soon.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi Review

Wing Commander II Featured

Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi Boxart

Developer: Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

Wing Commander II picks up where the first game left off, with one slight problem… The Tiger’s Claw, which served as your home base, has been destroyed. Despite commendable efforts in the past, everyone thinks you were a traitor and blew it up! As such, this game picks up with your pilot completely disgraced, forced to work dull ferrying missions.

As the Kilrathi step up their attacks, everyone is needed in the fight – even you. As the game progresses, you’re able to show your worth to the crew although some still harbor their suspicions. Things only get worse once a murder occurs and everyone knows there is certainly a traitor aboard. Still, missions are passed down to you to complete, in much the same fashion as the last game.

What’s different this time around is how much attention is paid to story. In the past, story segments were mostly unveiled by talking to pilots in the cafeteria. This was good for getting a feel of each character but not so much for stringing together a truly interesting narrative. Now there are story segments between each mission (alongside mission briefings) which do much better at involving the player in Wing Commander’s world. There were definitely times I was surprised and saddened over events that took place.

Wing Commander II Featured

Gameplay has changed little. The biggest change is some new ships to pilot with their own special abilities. Beyond that though, everything is much the same. Using either the keyboard or mouse you engage in dogfights with the Kilrathi and try to make it out alive. It’s still as hard as ever, but Wing Commander II retains the ability to “lose” fights and still continue the story. There are only a few occasions where ejecting causes a game over. Unfortunately, when there are a lot of fighters on screen (or meteors), the game slows tremendously.

All in all, Wing Commander II is a great improvement over the original game in the ways I most wanted it to be. It has a deeper story, some improved graphics, and is still a fun experience. The GOG release includes Special Operations 1 and 2 expansion packs as well, although it lacks Speech Accessory Pack which patched in far more voice acting. It’s amazing how well this game still stands up as an action packed and entertaining ride.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Postal 2 Complete Review

Postal 2 Featured

Postal 2 Boxart

Developer: Running With Scissors
Publisher: Running With Scissors
Platform: PC – Desura, DirectGOG*, Green Man Gaming, Steam

For better or for worse, Postal 2 is one of the games that people know about even if they’ve never played it. The original postal aroused suspicion and excitement in the gaming community, but not nearly as much as its sequel would. With an ad campaign proclaiming it was only “as violent as you want to be” it was pretty hard to ignore.

Postal 2 tells the story of Postal Dude’s life from Monday to Friday (and Saturday/Sunday if you play Apocalypse Weekend). He’s got the same problems that we all do. He has to run go to work (and get fired), cash a check (with a long line at the bank), and simply make it through the week without, well, going postal. Apparently you can actually make it through the week as a complete pacifist, but every step of the way the game is trying to make you act violently.

The best method of completing it is also through violence. Otherwise, it just seems an increasingly difficult experience. After completing any task, gun wielding NPCs always come charging in for no apparent reason. Firefights like these are tough to survive without taking down enemies yourself. In any case, the experience is all rather simplistic. Each day you will walk to locations, complete a task, get attacked, and then proceed forward. What Running With Scissors hoped to accomplish was keeping players entertained thanks to the wacky world and characters.

Postal 2 Featured

Paradise, Arizona is anything but its namesake. Instead, it takes on all the worst facets of American culture. Outward racism, extreme violence, homophobia, and more hang around every corner. Quite frankly, it’s incredibly off-putting to me and probably would be to many other modern players. Seeing a shop plainly labelled “Queers”, men in turbans who wreak havoc on a church, and everything else is incredibly disconcerting. In a way, Postal 2 perfectly lampoons how screwed up America can be with hate, but seems to have too much fun glorifying the issues. Jokes pertaining to O.J. Simpson, hanging chads, and Heaven’s Gate are also (expectedly) dated.

Gameplay certainly functions but it’s tougher than you might expect. Honestly, I’d suggest going the cheat code route if you really want to enjoy the game. Otherwise it is quite the chore. Postal 2 Complete offers the Share the Pain multiplayer expansion but good luck finding a multitude of players to use it with. Apocalypse Weekend is a worthwhile expansion if you need more days with Postal Dude. Postal 2 serves mostly as an example of a very strange point in gaming history.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Wing Commander Review

Wing Commander Featured

Wing Commander Boxart

Developer:  Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Consoles – 3DO, PlayStation, Sega CD, SNES, PC – Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Wing Commander is a series that flourished in the 90s and helped bring about a whole new style for space sims to come. The first Wing Commander, released in 1990, was a revelation. The pixel graphics were crisp, the action was incredible, and the dynamic soundtrack kept excitement going. Over 20 years later, the game is still impressive.

You begin as the newest member on the TCS Tiger’s Claw. The crew of pilots are tasked with stopping the alien race Kilrathi’s plans of domination. Over the course of a dozen or so missions, you’ll have to fight against them time and time again. The meat of Wing Commander is dogfights, so you’d best be prepared.

The game is pretty tough. Battles are displayed from the cockpit, meaning less than half the screen actually shows what’s going on in space. However, the cockpit has multiple readouts that are necessary for skillful play. You can fly in any direction, speed up and break, launch targeted missiles, and order your partner about.  If you can’t shoot down the enemy then they’ll take you down. You always have a partner during missions but they can die too, or save your hide.  Whether you win or lose partners, the game continues. This is perhaps the strangest and most “modern” feature.

Wing Commander Screenshot

Shooting is difficult in part because of imperfect mouse control but also because of having to judge where bullets will land. After enough fights you get the hang of it, but sometimes it doesn’t seem correct. At least an audible cue sounds when a bullet collides with an enemy ship’s exterior.

The biggest letdown when playing Wing Commander is that there’s very little story to dig into. Although characters have been set up, they hardly bring anything noteworthy to the table. Instead, the focus is 90% on missions and battles. As entertaining as these are, the game is simply too short. Those who buy the GOG release gain access to the expansion packs The Secret Missions and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade which add more playtime via new missions.

Considering its age, Wing Commander is still an excellent introduction to the series. It offers an incredible amount of replay value (missions change based on your performance) and excellent fight sequences. Just don’t jump into the cockpit expecting a deep storyline. It seems that is only implemented later in the series.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm’s Revenge Review

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge Featured

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge Boxart

Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – GOG*

Over the span of three years, Westwood Studios produced an adventure game trilogy titled The Legend of Kyrandia. The first game was a novel start, the second refined the formula, and then finally came the third title. The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm’s Revenge is meant to serve as the culmination of everything, but does it prove to be a fitting end?

Malcolm’s Revenge picks up primarily after the first game. Yes, there is a connection to it and the end of The Hand of Fate, but that’s so minimal it hardly counts. In any case, this time around you play as Malcolm. In the first game, he was the royal court jester who murdered the king! It’s likely no players really wanted to “see his side of the story” but that’s exactly what Malcolm’s Revenge revolves around. Players get a taste for Malcolm’s self-centered mindset but also see that he might not be completely horrible after all.

Each game coming from a different character’s perspective was basically expected though, as all previous games featured different protagonists. What is far less easy to swallow is the distinct shift in art direction and style. This seems due to the sudden discovery of fancy 3D graphics and polygons. Now there are CGI scenes interspersed throughout the game and backdrop elements from time to time. Most of these scenes look entirely ridiculous today. Even if they didn’t, it harms the charming pixel art that once seemed a hallmark of the Kyrandia name.

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge Featured

Even though most scenes do not employ CGI, the effort on those fronts must have taxed the art team. Pixellated backdrops don’t stand up in the least to Book 1 and 2. They’re uninspired, and at times even ugly. Because of this there’s no longer a way or reason to praise what had previously been very cool fairy tale visuals. At least we have the first two games to return to.

That’s not the only despicable part of the game, though. The worst offender is the writing which seems far less interesting than anything else the Kyrandia series has to offer. Despite being a court jester, Malcolm isn’t very funny. This is made worse by a laugh track that is prompted to play at completely inane moments. It’s rare that anything humorous ever happens to cue the laughter. It’s not even like Book 3 is meant to be a sitcom! On the plus side, the soundtrack is probably the best of the trilogy.

Malcolm’s Revenge is not a complete failure since the puzzles are still interesting, with only some aspects being annoyingly challenging. But when you compare it to the other two games it just feels like the least exciting one. If anything, most Kyrandia players would probably be best served by playing Book 1 and 2 and pretending this concluding volume never existed.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate Review

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate Boxart

Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – GOG*

Westwood Studios crated an interesting adventure series back in the 90s via The Legend of Kyrandia. Spanning three games, it drew in existing fans of the point and click genre as well as pulling in new players. New fans were forged thanks in part to the fanciful visuals and was mostly free of incomprehensible puzzles. For many, The Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate stands as the high point of the trilogy. I’m inclined to agree!

Book Two begins with narration from previous protagonist Brandon. Out of nowhere, it seems that the realm of Kyrandia is slowly disappearing! However, Brandon can’t do a thing about it. This time, alchemist Zanthia must save her beloved home from being zapped into complete nothingness. Zanthia is a far more resourceful and endearing protagonist than Brandon and provides witty banter along her journey. Weirdly, the developers seemed keen on the running gag of Zanthia requiring costume changes at multiple points. At least there’s no pixellated nudity to speak of, since she is able to conjure up new outfits immediately.

In comparison to Book One, Kyrandia is now a much vaster kingdom. You aren’t forced to go through screens that are 75% forest now. Instead, there are now multiple, very different looking regions to explore. Each is distinct and includes different characters to interact with and puzzles to solve. Overall though, Zanthia’s main puzzle mechanic remains the same throughout.

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate

Players must flip through Zanthia’s spellbook/cookbook which allows her to conjure up various spells. So far as spells go it is pretty easy to know when you need to cast what. The issue lies with collecting all the ingredients necessary! Sometimes this can be tough, but usually you can find all ingredients with a little ingenuity. Players won’t have to worry about rifling through massive inventories either because Zanthia regularly empties her inventory when entering a new area, signifying the old objects are not needed from then on. Of course, sometimes you’ll still need to find new items to replace the old ones (such as flasks to hold the potions).

It seems Book Two is so loved because it improves The Legend of Kyrandia in the most important ways. The expanded world looks fanciful and creative, just as it should. With a simplified main puzzle mechanic it’s also easier to know how to resolve most problems. Finally, we have the heroic Zanthia who saves Kyrandia all the while still taking the time to laugh at the entire ridiculous predicament. As far as new fans are concerned, it also serves as an excellent starting point as it only has a slight connection to the first (and third) games.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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