Deadfall Adventures

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This was an FPS from 2013 with puzzles to be solved by an ancestor of Alan Quatermain. It took place in 1938 in Egypt, Arctic and Mayan ruins, and usually together with Jennifer, a female partner. It was all very Indiana Jones. Together with waves of Nazis, it made it feel like Wolfenstein meets Tomb Raider.

It was also an unremarkable game in many ways, with a B-movie plot featuring cliché-riddled dialog and stereotypical characters. The fights were simple and predictable, but luckily also not quite as common as I expected. There were a lot of calm moments solving puzzles or finding treasures. The latter could upgrade my health, marksmanship or my flashlight, but it honestly didn’t feel like it mattered much.

Screenshot

At the bottom line there were a lot of flaccid elements of this game to give it an equally mediocre score, but at least the level design was almost worth the price of admission. It wasn’t phenomenal – get up close and some circles were octagons – but from a distance, the environments actually looked quite nice.

But the game design wasn’t always solid. There were a lot of cutscenes without interaction for many levels, then about halfway through I suddenly had to hit keys and mouse buttons in what the game considered a typical QTE. That was late for this change of heart. Most puzzles were easy and took only seconds to solve through, but there were confusing exceptions where the solution was pretty obscure.

Same thing about finding the treasures for upgrading my abilities.

Quote of the Day

I can’t play an MMO as a single player game these days. I find it oddly, echoingly lonely to explore a vast world without having the buzz of guild or buddy chat quietly in the background.kedaha, Quarter to Three forums

I’ve been able to solo some of the later expansions of World of Warcraft lately, but I do feel this problem in every MMORPG I touch these days.

In fact, probably the main reason I got so much into EverQuest 2 in 2008 and even tried raiding was that I got headhunted into good guilds that immediately spawned some good chat and companionship. Without that I would probably have given up on the game.

Forward to the Sky

Another really short game. This one took me about 1½ hour.

It was a third person jumping game with a little bit of sword fighting and puzzle themes. The anime look, with the princess protagonist and her silly bows, gave a few Final Fantasy vibes too. But this was a simple game with just six short levels, of which the sixth one was a boss fight in an arena. The fighting itself was incredibly basic. I could mash a button or click another to back off. That’s it.

Every level was a hotchpotch of blocks and stairs with puzzles mostly based on buttons and levers. The princess arrives on a balloon and leaves on one as she finds it, usually at the top. Enemies drop coins and I could get a lot more by smashing secret statues. If I dropped off somewhere, she whistled for the balloon to come grab and drop her off at the latest checkpoint. So far, so good.

What was not so awesome was what happened if the enemies got rid of my health bar. Level restart.

I bought this game expecting it to be a walk in the park. And for the most part it was. The smaller enemies were pushovers, but sometimes a skirmish included a few of their bigger brothers that required many hits to die, and they could get lucky and eat more than half my health bar. After the first three levels I decided not to let myself be frustrated by this and installed a trainer.

Screenshot

Infinite health. No regrets. And peace at mind to concentrate on the puzzles.

Each level had its own gimmick. The first had spears and pushable crates, and the second had blades and spinners. Both took place in daylight. The third level went into nighttime and had windy loops and annoying draft paths that could push me off the edge. In the fourth level, pillars had to be spun around to send dots into crystals that regenerated solid matter to walk on. In the fifth, I could walk on big boulders.

As mentioned before, the sixth level was a boss fight in an arena. I can’t say how difficult it really was as I was still blessed with trainer ignorance, but it felt difficult. The fight had several phases and the princess antagonist shot all kinds of magic fires, crystals and beams, and some of it even seemed to be downright impossible to avoid getting hit by. I sure hope that fight had its own set of checkpoints.

There were a few other things from the basket of pain as well. The protagonist and antagonist had this thing about talking to each other all the time, and just as in games such as e.g. Bastion, I was far too busy with fights and puzzles to pay attention to any of it. The voice of the princess hero was also squeaky and made it painfully obvious that this really was a game for kids.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Forward to the Sky
2015 Animu Games1h 43m 1
2019-02-22
2019-02-22
7

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

SOMA

I completed this first-person science fiction adventure in a little over 12 hours, and it was magnificent.

After a surprising start mostly in a contemporary apartment, my protagonist self was switched to the 22nd century on PATHOS-II, an oceanic underwater research complex. From then on the game felt like the little brother to Alien: Isolation with a smattering of BioShock mixed in.

This is probably the closest I have ever seen a game be an FPS without actually being an FPS. It had all the elements of a good AAA level FPS – a good story, great details, roaming monsters to avoid, audio logs to be found, and computers to be searched and operated. Sometimes I felt the influence of both Half-Life and Doom 3 as well. And it’s all compliments on my part. I don’t necessarily need to shoot stuff too.

SOMA made me feel at home, back when video games did so much more for me.

The game switched to PATHOS-II after a peculiar time jump explained by the brain data of our protagonist having been recorded and then reused. The game then takes place among several ocean complex buildings that I had to explore, and sometimes walk across the ocean floor to reach the next complex.

Screenshot

After a few eerie encounters with robots believing they’re humans, I found one self-aware exception in the form of Catherine, which I uploaded to a handheld omnitool I was always carrying around. From then on I could sometimes attach the omnitool to a computer panel and she would appear on a monitor, complain a little about the sensation of awakening like this, and then talk to me about what to do next.

The game was pretty much linear, with many doors to open and obstacles to bypass. Sometimes monsters appeared roaming a dark area, and just like in their previous game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, I then had to stealth around it. Luckily I had chosen the safe difficulty setting so they wouldn’t be able to just kill me over and over. I never once regretted this decision.

The overall goal was to find a vehicle (or an alternative way of transportation) to reach the deep abyss and launch something called the ARK into space using a rocket. Yes, from the bottom of the sea.

Trifles: Click

Going into details. There are spoilers here.

  • Meeting real humans was very rare. The only “real” encounter was in the beginning, back in our time, where a guy in a blue shirt instructed me to take a seat.
  • Just as in Amnesia, I had to click and hold things like doors and drawers then move the mouse to open them. It quickly felt so natural that I was wondering why this wasn’t more common in video games.
  • Sure were a lot of chairs in my way when approaching desks that I had to move away. I get why they had to be there, though. I guess it couldn’t have been any different.
  • Sometimes windows had to smashed through, and only a fire extinguisher could be used for this.
  • Lots of audio logs. Sometimes by “sensing” past dialog when clicking corpses or on wall recorders. At other times there were audio logs on the computer, or an old fashioned tape recorder in a drawer.
  • In the beginning of the game I sometimes had problems understanding when I could jump and crouch versus clicking the edge of something that the protagonist would then climb.
  • Most of the ocean floor sequences were pretty much walking simulator territory. Sometimes a cute spheroid-type robot would tag along and open a door by welding it. It reminded me of ABZÛ.
  • Tables or desks in the more “important” rooms typically had a few photos or documents I could zoom up and rotate with the mouse. Almost all of them were only to satisfy the player’s curiosity.
  • Being exposed to the water of the ocean was a surreal experience at first. I was wondering why I suddenly had some sort of diving suit on. It later turned out I was kind of a cyborg, but still.
  • Health rechargers sometimes occurred as organic sphincters that I had to put a hand into. I did that after e.g. a drop, but I’m not sure if it was ever necessary because of the safe difficulty setting.
  • Did those surveys really matter or were they just a waste of time?
  • In the flooded vessel complex I had a hard time bypassing a monster type with light dots scattered on his face. I decided “starface” would be a lovingly fitting name.
  • Sometimes the game made me feel bad by turning off life support to a “human” connected up with fungus and electronics. At one point I even had to use a stun baton to zap a robot and get its chip.
  • I liked the puzzle where I had to turn an antenna to match up lines on a radar panel in order to call a zeppelin. The rail track area itself was a bit confusing at first, though.
  • Searching Catherine’s room (while she could comment on it from a computer panel in another room) brought a smile to my face. I bet she was secretly furious about it.
  • The first attempt at entering the abyss was by using a vehicle called the DUNBAT, but when we finally found it, it had merged with human intelligence and agonizingly destroyed itself. Think Robocop.
  • There was a cute part where we had to put the chip of a human consciousness into a computer, then also simulate his surroundings and his girlfriend. He wouldn’t calm down and give us info until then.
  • That computer where modules had to be toggled and rebuilt really had me confuzzled at first. In hindsight I don’t even think it was a bad puzzle. Just… so very unexpected.
  • In a maze of rooms, a “humpback” monster was roaming around. A computer could lock doors and I tried for a long time to lure it into a room. However, I think it was cheating with teleportation.
  • In the meantime, I was stuck for too long in that maze because of not understanding how to plug a chip into a door panel. For some reason I didn’t catch at first that it had to sit behind two small levers.
  • There was as a part in the game with a bit too many blind monsters around for my liking. I was afraid the rest of the game would then be like this, but luckily the developers backed out of it.
  • Nice touch with those spheroid ocean floor cages.
  • After collecting three important components, I had to sit in a chair and transfer my consciousness to a deep dive suit. This let to a duality problem with great philosophical implications. I loved that part.
  • After a long elevator ride into the abyss, I had to follow blue lights in a “storm” of rivers featuring a big fish monster. When I finally got inside, the hero said, “Never been happier to be inside.” So very true.
  • In the abyss complex, I met a roaming “oil human” that just followed me around in a creepy manner. I also found the very last human, a woman tied to a machine that I turned off. She asked me to do it.
  • I found the ARK container and sent it away on a monorail. I tried to follow it but the corridor was blocked. I was stuck here for way too long before I found a small opening to a cave.
  • This led to an organic “heart” where “starface” wanted me to put a hand into it and kill it. It’s was not even a boss fight, but it did eat my mechanical hand. Then “starface” got eaten by the fish monster.
  • Another nice touch was how I climbed ladders with only one good hand. Lots of rung hugging.
  • I sat in a chair, moved the ARK into a rocket tube, then launched it into space while transferring our consciousnesses to it. I think it was meant to gain speed through a tube all the way up to the surface.
  • Then came another duality situation I probably should have anticipated coming. We were still left behind while our second selves were in the ARK too. Our hero was absolutely not happy. Bad ending.
  • After the surprisingly short credits, a good ending had me in control of my ARK counterpart walking out of a cave and into grassy surroundings with birds singing – then finally meeting Catherine.

I had problems switching to a lower resolution. The game took up part of the screen with the desktop still being visible in the rest of it. I had to override a high DPI scaling in the compatibility settings to fix this.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
SOMA
2015 Frictional Games

12.3h

5

2019-02-12
2019-02-18
9

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Into The Gloom

It took me a shade under 1½ hours to reach the first ending of this one.

It was a first person horror adventure game with exploration and puzzles. As you can see in the screenshot, the graphics were very lo-res and sparse, but to make up for that it was incredibly atmospheric. The scary ambient background sounds and the dark corridors did a splendid job at that.

Another positive surprise was that jump scares were actually very minimal. The developer relied mostly on the atmosphere and the puzzles, which was a sensible choice. However, not all was awesome. Too much time was spent checking locked doors ad infinitum. A visual hint there would have been nice.

Apart from exploring and finding tablets with info, or keys and cards to open locked doors, there were a few puzzles too. A safe in the beginning had a 3×3 slider puzzle I had to solve using a riddle. The inventory could even combine two items, which actually felt a bit much for such a simple looking game.

Screenshot

A surprisingly exhaustive puzzle, the one that took up most of the playing time, was flipping tiles on a wall table using buttons to change the layout of a maze. Connecting the corridors to go from top to bottom was only part of this puzzle. I had to connect to obscure dead ends too in order to find an item I needed elsewhere. Good thing a tip on another wall mentioned this, or I would have been stuck.

I guess the developer knew it was a bit of a stretch and needed a solid hint.

I finally left the hospital and entered the second floor of an apartment complex where I had to get an elevator going. This led to a basement parking where I was handed both my ass and a bad ending – the first of five. The title screen had an overview of the five endings available, showing that I had unlocked one.

Had this been 15-20 years ago, I would have been all over getting all endings. Luckily I’m a bit more casual about this today. Besides, there’s still a lot of other games in my Steam backlog to check out.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Into The Gloom
2015 earrgames1h 26m 1
2019-02-11
2019-02-11
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Quoting: Caesar’s Last Breath

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This was a book by Sam Kean I read on my iPad in December 2017. Although now more than a year ago, I made quotes back then so it’s still possible for me to create the same kind of blog post I started recently with Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

Book Cover

To quote the introduction:

It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell.

In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it.

It’s too late now for my detailed opinions about the book, but I did like it a lot at the time and also gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads.

Lucy -The Eternity She Wished For-

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Completed this visual novel in three sittings and about 4-5 hours, including a small extra story.

Apart from a brief experience with a Phoenix Wright attorney game some years ago, I’ve never really tried a visual novel before. I always wanted to though, to see what all the fuss was all about. I finally decided upon this one because of its science fiction theme, and because it had received a user rating of overwhelmingly positive on Steam. Also, I bought it cheap in a sale.

I must say right away that although the story and dialog was well written, the game itself was too easy and non-existent for my general liking. I want some more influence over my games. I think this visual novel was close to be called kinetic, i.e. you just advance the dialog and make no choices. This one did have a rare choice once in a while, but it felt like 98% pure storytelling, advancing self-typing dialog lines.

Click, click, click, click, click, click, choose option #2, click, click, click, click, click, click.

The story was about me, a teenager in 2050 (which looked exactly like today only with androids) who finds a hi-tech female android in a garbage dump, gets it repaired, and brings it home to spend some time with it. Originally he hates androids just like his father, but Lucy Valentine, as the android is called, is remarkably well engineered and soon changes his mind.

Screenshot

It’s only a superficial dating simulator and doesn’t have any sex. There’s even some philosophical dialog at times, usually as the teenager thinks to himself, or in long debates with the android so eager to please her master. The father, however, absolutely despises androids and instigates several quarrels with his son. Without spoiling too much, the story has a sad ending that even moved a mountain like me.

Quoting: The Singularity is Near

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I just completed reading Ray Kurzweil’s non-fiction book about AI and the future of humanity.

Book Cover

To quote Wikipedia:

Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computers, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards he predicts intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe. The Singularity is also the point at which AI and humans would merge.

It was a great read and abound with fascinating predictions, but also felt aggressively so. Many paragraphs are spent contradicting critics and naysayers with various obvious proof and facts, some of which have barely begun being explored. There are many predictions that refer to technology yet to be conceived, yet Kurzweil manages to link to something that has already been achieved in the same area.

I won’t dispute the credibility of all these statements, but as an entertaining piece of reading material, that sometimes made for a strenuous read.

Another thing that had me regularly frowning with doubt was Kurweil’s repeatedly strong belief that the human brain will be reverse engineered, and soon. I would love this to happen as well, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be quite that easy. The human brain is extremely complex and have trillions of connections between its billions of cells.

And what about consciousness? We still don’t really know what that is about.

Nevertheless the book was still an intriguing read and full of quoteworthy stuff. I’ve thought about writing blog posts quoting what I found interesting in the books I read, and I have decided that Kurzweil’s book will finally be the one where I try this out. So, here goes.

Dreamfall Chapters: Book One

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Completed the first book of five which took less than 5 hours. Maybe I’ll settle with that. Not sure yet.

I completed The Longest Journey and Dreamfall back in the day, but it’s been way too long. 12 years. I could barely remember the cliffhanger in the end of the previous one. The beginning with Zoë Castillo in a coma made me question why she ended up like that, as did Kian Alvane in jail.

At least I remembered April Ryan’s fate all too well. I was hoping she somehow survived that. 🙁

Book One was a relaxing and very easy third person game with mouse look. There were few inventory items, and they could be combined. Dialog choices were floating words with thoughts read out loud when hovering on them. There were also decisions to make that were clearly inspired by Telltale Games. Lots of finger-shaking indications about how this earth tilting choice would be remembered for all eternity.

I had a journal where experiences were dotted down, a sheet with profiles (which wasn’t updating quite as much as I would have liked it to) and RPG style goals in the side. Beautiful music too.

The graphics were excellent. Most of the first book took place in an open small city section of the cloudy Europolis where I could walk around and marvel at the busy life. No detail was spared, from colorful neon ads to overhearing discussions and wishing I could walk further than the force fields at the end of certain streets. It almost felt like being dumped into Deus Ex Light.

Screenshot

If anything, I was almost missing some more interaction in the city. I could access a cowboy street map or get a few words out of vendors, but not much more than that outside of quest tasks. It’s funny how this is a balancing act. Lots of things to do – Assassin’s Creed – and it’s too much. Too little and the city could risk getting stale and boring fast. It must be difficult getting this just right.

ABZÛ

Completed this one yesterday. It was short – just shy of two hours.

It was a marvelous underwater diving adventure, swimming among fish, whales, squids, jellyfish – all the ocean can offer, and lots of it. I was often more or less engulfed in an explosion of color and life. It was also very easy. If it didn’t happen 99% underwater, many might call it a walking simulator.

Apart from exploring the oceanic areas, I could free small bots that could later help me remove an organic net to a passage. I could click on ocean floor pools to free a specific species, or collect shells. Even meditate on a statue. The only action marginally resembling using my brain was that some areas needed me to use two gadgets to open a door. Typically spinning chains attached to each side.

Sometimes I could also hang onto a larger creature for a bit of speed (usually wasn’t much of an advantage) or hit schools of fish in the flow of a tunnel. These tunnels popped up between areas from time to time.

Screenshot

One thing that surprised me a little was that it actually had a shred of a story and purpose. It wasn’t just an ocean floor simulator. I found portals leading to a ghost temple where offering a light sphere grew a coral stalk and opened a door, I started encountering mechanical triangle structures, and I even befriended a big white shark. It was all subtle and fit in well with the rest of the game.

Except perhaps the exploding triangle mines. I could have done without those.

Apart from the nature of our hero – which I won’t spoil here – probably the biggest surprise in the entire game was that I could get up and walk around in temples toward the end of the game. Not much – typically just to activate something and then back into the water. But still. Didn’t expect that one.

The music was absolutely flawless. Symphonic and often with choirs. Sometimes the strings reminded me of old Tomb Raider games, at other times I thought of the adventurous encounters in The Abyss.

I completed it using a mouse and keyboard. Sometimes I fumbled up and down, but otherwise it was fine.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
ABZÛ
2016 Giant Squid1h 52m 1
2018-12-08
2018-12-08
9

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.