Posts Tagged ‘Steam’

Early Access Preview: Night Shift

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When Night Shift first launched onto Steam Early Access it immediately compelled me, although likely not for the reasons developer Brandon Brizzi intended. It made me recall memories of playing Night Driver on Atari, as if that is something anyone would wish to emulate today. Night Shift is effectively a puzzle game in Early Access because the story needs to be filled out a bit more. Some puzzles may also require tweaking since it seems some players have a lot of trouble with them.

What is coolest about Night Driver at the moment is how it places you inside a car during the middle of the night with no other explanation. You drive in the dark and find lights – and ghosts. Why? This strangeness is immediately compelling. Puzzles relate to messing with light, as they did in Brizzi’s last game 1000 Amps. Ghosts provide vague hints to point players in the right direction but sometimes that isn’t enough.

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On multiple occasions I found myself confused with what to do next. It seemed as if the road repeated continuously with no way to break the cycle. Somehow, it always seemed just as my patience ran out that I would suddenly solve a puzzle. Pressing onward was sometimes a stilted process but it sure felt good to finally solve tough puzzles. Right now there’s at least one puzzle that hopefully gets tweaked, as it relies on watching a pattern that is very hard to see from the car’s angle.

Both from a visual and audio standpoint Night Shift is already 100% ready to go. I am a big fan of the pixelated objects in a 3D landscape. Their stark and simple coloration is pretty stylish as well. As for the music it is an excellent 80s-style selection. If you’re curious, here’s a link to artist Dance with the Dead’s “Out of Body” album page. “Robeast” is by far my favorite track in the game!

I enjoy Night Shift’s quiet, secretive tone. In some ways it worries me that too much exposition might be brought to the game’s final version. Whatever ends up happening this is still a tremendously unique title. Lovers of mysterious games should check it out.

LYNE Review

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Developer: Thomas Bowker
Publisher: Thomas Bowker
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Windows PC – Direct, itch.io Steam

What makes a puzzle game enjoyable? Usually, it’s a heavy focus on one very simple concept that takes skill to master. LYNE follows this principle perfectly thanks to an easy to grasp component of drawing lines. All you have to do is make connecting lines between shapes of the same color. The tricky part comes in thanks to limited spaces in which to draw these lines, as well as the requirement of connecting multiple colors without crossing pathways. Things quickly get challenging, but in a way that facilitates continued play.

I won’t lie, my first attempt at LYNE was superbly pitiful. After barely being introduced to the core components I found myself completely stuck. After frustrated fumbling I closed the game and came back to it later. Lo and behold, that brief time away allowed me to think about the problem from a different angle and solve it. Many puzzle games are like this and it’s that moment once you first start to really “grasp” the core mechanics that you can feel smart while whizzing through puzzles. The more I played, the better I became. Eventually there were even periods that I entered into the “puzzle zone” and seemed to solve many in a row with no issue at all.

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LYNE is a game for people who enjoy these types of experiences, and simply want a playful title to mess with. The price is super low at $2.99, but the amount of puzzles included is frankly astronomical by comparison. Beyond the main selection of hundreds of puzzles there are also daily puzzles. These procedurally-generated puzzles come in different difficulties and are all still quite fun. Although I’ve yet to complete it, there’s probably at least six hours of main-game puzzles to work through. It would be nice if hints were available though to help in those moments where you feel impossibly stuck.

Beyond the enjoyable, and sometimes super difficult puzzle gameplay, it just looks good. The calm colors, paired with some really stylish design, helps it stand out from the puzzler pack. It also functions well, although a few tweaks could help a lot. My biggest gripe is not being able to partially redraw lines on my own terms instead of being forced to undo on their terms. Really, what needs to be emphasized about LYNE is the incredible wealth of solid gameplay you get. This is an excellent puzzle game and players get a huge value for their money.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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140 Review

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Developer: Carlsen Games
Publisher: Carlsen Games
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

One of my greatest loves in gaming is seeing how people create aesthetically interesting experiences. If they have some good gameplay to back it up then that’s just an added bonus. 140 by Carlsen Games is a pretty good, if imperfect example of a game focused on creating a very specific look and feel. It was obvious as soon as the multi-colored menu loads that I would enjoy this game.

The graphics are incredibly minimal. Your avatar is a square/circle/triangle when the mood suits it. As you travel along the 2D stages, sections animate in time with the music. For example, a platform might move with the beat or disappear at that moment. This lends itself to rhythm-based platforming where you must always be on time to make jumps safely. It’s not too difficult, although bosses prove a tougher challenge.

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I can’t get over how much these simplistic, stylish visuals appeal to me. All the color palettes work together perfectly. The shifts of color after collecting orbs, as well as how everything syncs and moves to the music is heavenly. Of course, some of this has to do with my enjoyment of the soundtrack to. To be fair, there don’t appear to be that many songs, but they’re good all the same.

My problem with 140 is not that it becomes challenging or unfair. Instead, I simply had a technical issue that made the timing on a jump nearly impossible. It seems at least one other person out there had the same issue. If not for that I would have completely fallen in love. Still, for most everyone else, I’d say 140 is a must-play.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Blood: One Unit Whole Blood Review

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Developer: Monolith Productions, 3D Realms
Publisher: GT Interactive, Atari
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Blood: One Unit Whole Blood might just be a game with the most redundant title around. It also happens to be a classic FPS from the 90s. Well, classic to some. I’d always heard murmurings of Blood alongside Doom and Quake but never got around to playing it myself – until now. I’ll tell you one thing, it certainly lives up to its name.

Of course a game called Blood is full of bloodstained nastiness but is there more to it than that? There’s a storyline, although it doesn’t seem to convey very much of interest. The scenes instead seem focused on showcasing awesome 3D models and lighting (awesome for the time, that is). Once you get beyond that it basically devolves into your standard older-style FPS.

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Areas are all enclosed, although some are much larger than others. Movement is incredibly fast, almost as if the protagonist is wearing roller blades while decimating enemies. Said weapons are brutal although so are enemies. Even on the easiest difficulty the pace of Blood is fast and never lets up. If you can survive then there are a good deal of “episodes” to play. This is further enhanced by both the GOG and Steam versions including the Plasma Pak and Cryptic Passage expansion packs.

When compared to other games of the time period I feel that Blood was attempting to thematically outdo other games while maintaining a classic aesthetic. It has a neat Gothic feel at times, sure, but otherwise fails to stand out. Blood: One Unit Whole Blood is one of the many average shooters that have graced PCs over the years.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Devil’s Dare Review

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Developer: Secret Base
Publisher: Secret Base
Platform: PC – Steam

When I was young all the great beat ’em ups had practically passed me by. Sure, I could still head to an arcade and crowd around The Simpsons Arcade Game, but outside of nostalgia this isn’t looked upon as a particularly good title. As my first “modern” home console was a Nintendo 64 all those arcade ports on SNES and Genesis also went ignored. With my warped perception of the genre, Devil’s Dare does indeed appear to channel the classic beat ’em up aesthetic. You’ve got a choice of four fighters (to start), local co-op, pixel art, and a hefty difficulty. But does that work in today’s market?

Really, it depends what kind of player you are. If you cherish the intense difficulty arcade games presented then you’ll be right at home with Devil’s Dare. It even takes things up a notch by bringing permadeath into the equation. As you battle through four different stages you’ve got just one life. Getting killed means that run is over – unless you’ve accumulated enough money (or a Soul Token) to revive. Such items aren’t hugely common though so expect seeing Game Over often.

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Another reason someone might cherish beat ’em ups is for the fun they had playing with friends or strangers at arcades. Again, the game hopes to recreate that experience by offering local co-op for up to four players. However, you won’t find any online component. Developer Secret Base stated online play is not in their plans. For some this is no big deal but for others it will prove challenging. Devil’s Dare was designed with multiplayer in mind. When you play solo everything is extremely tough. However, as soon as just two players team up there’s little trouble mowing down most monsters.

One facet I enjoyed a ton were all the references packed into the game. You’ll see obvious jabs at well known horror films, classic video games, and the like. Devil’s Dare most certainly has its heart in the right place. Enjoyment of the game comes down to your adoration for difficult beat ’em ups and whether or not you can gather friends together to play around the computer. It might not be right for me, with my own friendships often tethered by the ‘net, but there’s definitely a fanbase out there hungry to dig in. Devil’s Dare captures the supreme difficulty of arcade games and does it with a goofy grin.


Score: 3

3 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.

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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.

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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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A Golden Wake Review

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Developer: Grundislav Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

The 1920s were a heck of a time – and one that is rarely covered in games. A Golden Wake pushes players into the midst of the era’s many facets by placing them into the shoes of Alfie Banks. Alfie’s just a young man trying to make it in the world. After being fired from his New York job, he heads to Florida where a real estate boom is taking place. There, he hopes to use his patented salesman skills to work toward wealth.

A Golden Wake is most certainly one unique point and click adventure game. As Alfie, you get to experience all the fun of being a real estate agent! Okay, that might sound weird, but the storyline and characters do make it all very interesting. Of course, it’s not long before Alfie’s life takes new pathways. The game spans multiple years from the 20s onward, meaning you’ll get to see a great many important historical events.

Something I didn’t realize while playing was that the whole game is in fact modeled loosely after real events and characters. Coral Gables, the city being created at the beginning, is a real place that still exists in Florida today. The characters, too, are mostly modeled after people of that time. Despite having no clue about all this I still was able to enjoy the storyline, characters, and understand what was going on.

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Puzzle-wise, A Golden Wake  is surprisingly easy (minus one or two puzzles). This is not a complaint! There’s nothing worse than being trapped in an adventure game when all you want is to see the story to its completion. With that said, there were some odd notes in the story progression. Alfie himself seems to have extreme personality changes. Granted, the storyline is supposed to span many years, but the progression of time doesn’t feel particularly obvious.

Taking an adventure game trek through the highs and lows of a bygone era was tremendously entertaining. A Golden Wake nails the atmosphere with its visuals, music, and architecture. I just wish it could have been longer than the four hours it took me to beat it. With a little more fleshing out it would have been even more memorable. Still, A Golden Wake should prove to be quite a pleasant surprise for the adventure gaming community.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Realms of the Haunting Review

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Developer: Gremlin Interactive
Publisher: Interplay, KISS ltd
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Realms of the Haunting was a game trying its best to straddle two worlds. First, it most certainly wanted to tell a good, creepy story like a classic point and click adventure. However, by 1996 that was a tricky proposition. As such, the title is a first-person shooter although it still maintains many hallmarks of the adventure genre. Everything begins when the protagonist’s father dies.

After this death, his son then seeks to discover what exactly might have been going on before his father’s untimely demise. This leads him to a mansion where the father’s spirit is apparently trapped. You must help to free this spirit by, basically, taking on the great many evil powers which have taken up residence there. Of course you do this with a liberal dose of puzzle solving – and shooting demons.

Puzzles aren’t particularly tough on their own. What makes them a challenge is that players require keen observation skills while exploring. Oh hey, see that slightly discolored tile in the corner of a room? Click it! Players must also pay attention to the fact they can tilt the camera up and down as well. Often, items are hidden below the “forward” line of sight. As long as you’ve got a keen eye it’s possible to make it through most chapters.

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Of course, Realms of the Haunting also has a variety of FPS segments shoved in for good measure. These aren’t usually difficult, especially with large caches of ammo hidden around. It’s worth noting enemies are weak against certain weapons over others. So if one takes a zillion blasts with one weapon try switching to another. Despite all this shooting business, I still feel that the game is primarily steeped in adventure game concepts. This is furthered by the copious FMV cutscenes and dialogue present throughout.

FMV games are often laughed off but in this case the sequences are actually fairly compelling. The story is simplistic but the acting isn’t bad at all. I found myself even looking forward to seeing what would occur next. With that said, it does drag on as it’ll take somewhere around 8 to 10 hours to complete. Realms of the Haunting feels very antiquated with its tank-style control scheme but there’s a pretty intriguing game lurking underneath the surface.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Finding Teddy Review

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Developer: LookAtMyGames
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DesuraSteam

When I started up Finding Teddy I really had no idea what to expect. It begins with a view of a young girl in her bedroom. While she’s sleeping a gigantic hairy spider limb reaches through her closet and steals her teddy bear. She wakes teddy bear-less and ponders for a moment before heading into her opened closet. From there, players are transported to some entirely different realm.

This simple introduction really excited me to sit down and play the game all the way through in one sitting. Of course, it’s a fairly short experience (one to three hours) but neat nonetheless. Finding Teddy is a point and click style adventure game with a couple of puzzle types. There are the standard item puzzles which require you to use a certain object with the right thing to make something happen. However, there are also puzzles related to repeating back songs in the right place.

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It’s the musical puzzles that help set this game apart mechanically from others. Each music note stands for one of the letters of the English alphabet (and even have similar shapes). Through music the player conveys words and ideas to the world’s inhabitants. This could mean you ask for “help” from one or tell another to “dig” a hole. I liked this concept and was sad to see how short the game is.

Most puzzles make a lot of sense just as long as you’re very aware of weird bits in the environment. Also make sure to use your fly and/or cat partners once they’re added to the team. Finding Teddy is a brief but very nice adventure game. It’s obviously optimized for touch devices (as you click on edges of the screen to move) but the PC release better showcases the pixel art. Basically, you’re in for a treat regardless of the platform you choose to play Finding Teddy on.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Bad Mojo Redux Review

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Developer: Pulse Entertainment
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment, Night Dive Studios
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Bad Mojo is one of those games that was deemed one of the last noteworthy adventure titles (before their more modern resurgence). Despite owning a copy of the re-release, Redux, near launch, it seemed too difficult and weird to get into. I’ve finally run through the unique experience and found it very much worth playing.

The game opens with a man who has apparently just committed a robbery or two and is about to leave town. His plans change completely when looking at a locket from his mother zaps him. After regaining consciousness, he finds himself within the body of a cockroach. From there, players must navigate the dangerous apartment rooms to solve puzzles and hopefully return to human form.

Exploring is a disgusting, interesting feat as you come across dead roach and rat bodies, bloodied half-prepared fish, and general yuckiness. It’s incredibly surprising to realize a form of this game launched in 1996 since the visuals are still as gross as ever. Puzzles involve looking everywhere and figuring out what exactly to walk over or push to cause a reaction. If you need help, other creatures will speak of hints in vague tones.

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Bad Mojo Redux is a visual upgrade to the original game and my GOG copy ran just fine on my Windows 7 64-bit computer. Buying via Steam or GOG nabs all Redux bonus videos (developer commentary, making of, hint videos), manual, soundtrack, and other goodies.

The acting in Bad Mojo is pretty hokey, but if you can get past that the experience is incredibly different from an adventure game standpoint. You might find the finale a bit tricky though, as I did. Save often! Performing different actions during a playthrough result in different endings. Although the endings might be hindered by the story and acting, crawling your way through is definitely enjoyable. Check Bad Mojo (Redux) out as long as you’re not the squeamish type.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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