This was one of those artsy platform puzzle games with a very distinct style and music. LIMBO was clearly the main inspiration, maybe too much so (it even started immediately too without a title screen) but it didn’t really bother me since it had its own industrial foundation and additional gameplay elements carrying a little brother. The little brother, who broke a leg early, added another layer of complexity to some of the puzzles and also tasted a little bit like the fantastic old PlayStation 2 platform game ICO. The side-scrolling graphics was mostly black and white with a hint of red here and there. Sometimes another color could be seen, like yellow for fire or hot metal.
The gameplay had surprisingly long stretches of barely running and climbing, then a room with a puzzle to break it up. Typically of the sort with platforms to raise or slide along with switches. Darkness and rain was prevalent, and it added another gameplay element regarding the little brother. He was afraid of the dark and could only be parked temporarily below a strong ray of light from a lamp. Trying to drop him in the dark just made him shake his head. The big brother could run and jump higher without carrying him, so that could make a big difference in puzzles. There were also ladders to climb, ropes to swing or shimmy along, boxes and small wagons to push or pull, and buoyancy puzzles.
This was one of those I pledged to on Kickstarter. I played about an hour of this game before I had seen enough. The retro pixel graphics had a wonderful depth of 3D parallax and the atmosphere was generally excellent, held up by weather effects and some nice music. It reminded me a little bit of Forbidden Forest on Commodore 64, and quite a lot of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.
I was surprised about the level of complexity. Although the deer was mostly running and double-jumping, there were blocks to push, skills to put on an invisible action bar, even a quest about finding a monocle for an old man. I had to speed into bushes to see if it popped out of one. Speeding head on into things was also how most animals were killed. Hedgehogs, foxes, pigs, even human hunters – same attack. Or I could just jump over and outrun them. The deer grew older, the longer I went along without dying.
But dying is exactly where the game went wrong and I eventually didn’t bother to complete it. Although it did autosave here and there (mostly at the old mans huts) the distance back was way too long. At the end of the hour I continuously retried the same long trip half a dozen times, and I don’t consider myself all that much of a slouch when it comes to platform jumping. Okay, maybe sometimes, but not enough to warrant being punished by sending me that far back each time.
Developer: Double Fine Productions | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click
I’m tweaking the format once again. Although I’ll keep it organized it in the same way as the last time, I’ll refrain from using headers to split up the review. I’ll also try to keep the smaller paragraphs in the minutia list only.
Here’s an adventure game that really succeeded in warming up and grabbing me in spite of a lackluster first impression. At first I thought it felt too much like a kids game. Bright colors, toys everywhere and a childish dialog. But as the first few hours passed by, not only did it manage to come up with a lot of great dialog, it also had that type of equivocal quality that Pixar animation movies also have – something of value for both kids and adults alike. The adventure game atmosphere became very solid across part 1 and 2, and the art style and animation was truly unique. In my mind there was no doubt about it – when compared to Broken Sword 5 or the Deponia trilogy, this was clearly the superior game. I didn’t even think I had it in me to like an adventure game this much anymore. I thought I had become irrevocably jaded.
As you can see in the screenshots, the art style truly was quite unique. It was also supported by a lot of excellent animations. Eyes blinking and gazing just like in Pixar movies (I love that stuff) and lots of extra details, such as only catching hold of a thing after fumbling around, almost dropping it. One thing I thought they overdid was the head scratching animation when choosing a dialog tree question.
The engine scrolled with detailed parallax and also zoomed very frequently, sometimes excessively when entering a new scene. The music was fully symphonic and of equally high quality. Orchestral music. Voices were delivered by a lot of top actors such as e.g. Elijah Wood, Jack Black, Wil Wheaton and Jennifer Hale. All in all, the presentation was top notch. If I had to put my finger on one thing, it would be the zoom level of characters in cutscenes. It was close up, as if it wanted to cater for the tablet people. On my big widescreen PC monitor, this was a bit much.
Again I’m changing the format a bit since last time. There are now five specific sections, each with a spoiler tag if necessary. Let’s see if this one works.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a game with the kind of puzzles usually found in Tomb Raider games, and The Guardian of Light not only scratched that itch, it also offered challenging enemy fights. Sometimes it felt like an isometric action RPG when the going got tough, but to be fair many of the levels focused mostly on puzzles often based on pushing stone balls or avoiding spear and fire traps. The level design felt very professional and also had a tangible vertical feel to it. It was not uncommon to see several layers of stone bridges below each other, knowing well enough that I would eventually have to go there too.
I only completed the game in single player mode, and as always I only used the keyboard and mouse controls. No doubt the game really wanted a gamepad. I don’t think I’ve played a game that made me reconsider my choice of controls as much as this one, but I made it through so it can certainly be done without. That being said, the isometric nature of the level design often required using two directional keys pressed down while jumping, shooting or rappelling. Death was common – there were set pieces where I died more than five times in a row – but the autosaving was quite fair and I never had to redo much.
Developer: Space Budgie | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, Facile
I just spent the 13 minutes it took completing 9.03m. A blue and slightly blurry tint dominated everything and it was clearly aiming to be cute and artsy. It was also extremely simple. I just had to walk up to black silhouettes of people on a beach, wait for them to fade into a beacon of light on a thing, then rotate the thing to find a small butterfly symbol to click. It then dissolved into a white butterfly that flew away to show the next silhouette. So it was what gamers would normally call a walking simulator. I’m not entirely fond of this description, though. I’ve been using facile adventure instead on GameDeed.
I liked it though. It had a good pace, nice piano music – one of those games that can give you a silly face stare. And the ending, which I will not reveal here, was very touching. I doubt there’s any point in replaying it though – although I didn’t really try it, it didn’t seem allow much else than find the butterflies. On one spiral stone I even bumped against invisible walls.
I’ll try to change the format a bit starting with this review. There will be a short summary in the beginning followed by two lists of minutia – one safe to read, and another with the usual spoiler-ridden stuff. Everything will also be in past tense. To be honest, I’ve never been comfortable with writing a “real” review and I’m trying to figure out how to put my own personal touch to these gaming posts.
After arriving in a crashed helicopter on a Russian island, this FPS felt a lot like BioShock with movie projectors, big statues, and the same level of dilapidation and dread. It didn’t last long before this feeling crossfaded into solid Half-Life 2 vibes instead. After completing it, that’s what I think the developers really wanted it to be. There was even the athletic girl saving your ass and the old scientist that you visit in his own laboratory. Add to this time travel, weird weapons with unique powers, a blatant copy of the gravity gun from said game, enemy soldiers mixed with zombie-style monsters, and self-opening shop lockers. In the first half, I often found myself completely out of ammo for my starter gun. But the good thing about the game was the way it added new powers and weapons a good once in a while, thereby often changing the way I played it. In the last half of the game, I had no problems defending myself anymore.
Developer: The Astronauts | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, First Person
This sure was a pretty game. I ran it with everything set to high on my new monster PC and still it ran fluently. Lots of details, high resolution textures, wind in the leafs, although some stuff in the distance far away seemed to be affected by an LOD algorithm in a somewhat aggressive manner. I also had a little bit of mouse lag when turning the view. Still, I quickly acknowledged that this kind of modern adventure game was much more up my sleeve than the previous point-and-click adventure game with its 2D retro graphics and pixelated characters. I’ve been spoiled by modern technology, as was probably inevitable.
The game starts with no difficulty selector and no direct save option other than its own autosaves. And boy, is the autosaving indeed rare. Often I had to go through a lot of exploration and solve a multi-step puzzle before I saw it saving my progress. I sure understand the gamers that are miffed about this. However, you can’t die or be caught up in a way that can’t be escaped, so if your system is stable and you can play relatively uninterrupted, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Except perhaps the open and unrestricted nature of the gameplay. It’s possible to completely bypass a puzzle section and later have to backtrack a long way to solve it, as it turns out that it was actually mandatory to complete the game. This could have been improved with some clever gating. For example, there’s a stone bridge across a dam that could have had an iron gate or something. Solve the local puzzle and the iron gate is suddenly opened up for you. This have worked well in other games with puzzles, so why not here?
I got myself a new monster PC two days ago. My previous PC was 6 years old and still running the same Windows Vista that it came with. Although it actually didn’t start rusting apart just yet, I still felt that it was time to upgrade. The hard disk probably wouldn’t keep on working for much longer, and I also wanted to try new technology. Especially a Solid-State Drive, as I had heard a lot of good things about it.
I bought a PC online at a Danish web shop called MM Vision and got it delivered, assembled and ready to go. The old days of assembling my own PC was not something I wanted to bother with again, as long as I could just select the components on a list. So I ended up with the following…
Developer: The Dreamers Guild | Released: 1995 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a point-and-click adventure game based upon Harlan Ellison’s short story of the same title, developed by The Dreamers Guild, co-designed by Ellison and published by Cyberdreams in 1995. The game’s story is set in a world where an evil computer named AM has destroyed all of humanity except for five people, whom he has been keeping alive and torturing for the past 109 years. Each survivor has a fatal flaw in its character, and in an attempt to crush their spirits, AM has constructed a metaphorical adventure for each that preys upon their weaknesses. To succeed in the game, the player must make choices to prove that humans are better than machines, because they have the ability to redeem themselves. Woven into the fabric of the story are ethical dilemmas dealing with issues such as insanity, rape, paranoia and genocide.Wikipedia
I started this game after a recommendation on Extra Credits. I have completed my fair share of adventure games and are quite picky about them these days (I thought the new Broken Sword 5 was downright boring) but I must confess that this classic has some quite interesting adult themes to spice things up. The dialog is well written and it doesn’t hold back from putting you through dark and disturbing issues. There are lots of tasks that are optional or branch out into two or more solutions, and they are of course often based on a moral choice. But even though the game has wonderfully bizarre backgrounds and quite logical puzzles, it still bored me a little in the end. This is very much an adventure game of its time, in spite of the adult theme and the interesting dialog. It’s very possible to get into the dreaded trial-and-error loop where you try inventory items on everything and scrutinize the screen for overlooked hotspots.
After about 4 years of hiatus I’ve decided to try blogging again. This is my second attempt at it since 2011, and just like the last time I have developed my own WordPress theme to go along with it. I have even included most of the posts and comments from the half year of blogging I did in 2011, the ones that may still be interesting to read. There are topics about TV shows, my ventures into various MMORPG, as well as a few other gems. They can all be found before this first post of 2015.