Refunct

Developer: Dominique Grieshofer | Released: 2015 | Genre: Platform, First Person

If you want a game with small and relaxing sessions to do once in a while, this is a great choice.

I did one session that took just a tad below half an hour, and it was easy and delightful. It’s a first person platform game with no story attached to it. Usually platform jumping doesn’t always work that well in first person, but it actually works reasonably fine here. Also, you can’t die in this game.

The purpose is to jump on a few pylons and step on a big red button to raise a set more from the sea, including another red button among them. Sometimes another pylon has a red cube to munch up. There are sometimes yellow elevator platforms or jump pads, and the wall jumping from pylon to pylon feels right. It is also possible (and sometimes necessary) to dive down into the water.

When all red buttons are activated, stepping on the last yellow one zooms up the camera for a view of the entire cluster. And if you also touch all the top surfaces (marking them with grass) you get fireworks.

To spice things up further, there are sometimes tubes that can swoop you to the other side of it, and some red buttons may be slightly hidden and require crouching or swimming up from below. However, they always have a red beam pointing into the sky so they’re always easy to spot.

The game is designed to be replayed. Maybe I’ll do it again later.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Refunct
2015 Dominique Grieshofer~30m 1
2019-06-07
2019-06-07
8

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

The Swapper

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Developer: Facepalm Games | Released: 2013 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

This was a platform puzzle game with very little dexterous jumping, at least across gaps. It was focusing on the story and the interconnecting puzzles, sometimes with more than one puzzle chamber available at a time. The goal was usually to obtain a few orbs from these puzzles to turn on something and proceed.

It had incredibly convincing graphics. Together with the overuse of blurry, out of focus surroundings and the strong echo/reverb on the sound effects, it made for a very dark and creepy atmosphere indeed. There were no monsters, but those from Aliens would have felt right at home here. No doubt about that.

Handcrafted art assets and clay was used to create the game levels.

Screenshot

I could clone up to four versions of myself that moved like I did, and I could swap my point of control with the other mouse button. Pads had to be stood on, crates pushed, red lighting prevented swapping, cyan lighting prevented cloning, and magenta lighting prevented both. Sometimes there were also air shafts. These rules created puzzle chambers that were sometimes quite challenging. It was also not uncommon that I had to clone and swap in a timely manner, usually while the clone was in midair.

There was a light story where I sometimes briefly spotted another astronaut that said a thing or two, I could pass by strange stones that “thought” a few lines of text to me, and apparently it all took place onboard an enormous spaceship. However, I didn’t play much more than 1½ hours until I abandoned it. Somehow the game made me feel uneasy, like I couldn’t relax and have a good time when I played it.

UPDATE: I went back and completed the game after all.

Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers

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Developer: Black Pants Studio | Released: 2012 | Genre: Platform, Third Person

This really was a paradoxical game for me – one I both loved and hated, all at the same time.

The game had absolutely charming art and sound. The graphics reminded me of a cute amalgamation of Borderlands and Psychonauts, and the music cassettes that could be picked up turned on the suitable band music. Tiny and Big had their grunts while the dialog was presented in black bubbles.

In short, Tiny was chasing Big who had stolen grandpa’s magical underpants.

The basic rules of the game were pretty simple. Climb and explore using three tools – a laser to cut up stones, a rope to pull towards me, and a sticky rocket mine to throw and detonate. To help with the pulling, I could also push like Lara Croft, only even bigger things. Cutting up stones was by far the most novel and ingenious thing about the game. A marker line could be twisted and then triggered for laser action.

Screenshot

Corners could be cut for walking where jumping was inadequate, or big poles could be cut and then pulled for creating makeshift bridges. Fully fledged physics were part of the 3D engine, making it important to be careful about how things tumbled down. This part of the game was so much fun, and the pulling and pushing added the perfect extra touch. It made it easy to tweak and adjust for jumping.

Throwing rocket mines was less useful. Sometimes it could help shifting a wall or a pole, but to be honest, I think I could have completed the game without that tool.

I don’t think I have played a more vertigo-inducing game than this, or if I have, it’s sure to be in the top five along with the worst from the likes of e.g. Tomb Raider. The many vertical levels with thin walkways or tipped pillars often made me lift my shoulders.

This is the kind of game I’m not sure I would ever go VR for.

Grow Up

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Developer: Ubisoft Reflections | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Platform

The sequel to Grow Home was much more of what made the first one so charming.

It was clear that although it was expanded in almost all directions, it was still built upon the same code base. Same climbing, same growing star plants, same graphical style, same rag doll animations. But where the first one took place on a small island and you grew one star plant into space, the sequel took place on a spherical planet with lots of floating islands around it, and four star plants could be grown.

However, growing star plants was not the objective this time around. M.O.M., the spaceship computer, had its parts spread all over the planet after a meteor storm, and I now had to find the crash sites. To help me a new assistant, P.O.D., could be used to view the planet from above, and it moved M.O.M. parts to a small moon using a magnet that I had to align like a seasoned oil worker.

P.O.D. looked like a satellite and sometimes also came with tutorial tips and observations.

Screenshot

Crystals could still be found for upgrading abilities, but these abilities were now initialized by finding “tubs” with expanding red parts. It made B.U.D. more of an Inspector Gadget this time around. The dandelion was now permanent and didn’t lose petals. Rocket jumping could be improved with crystals to actually lift me upwards, and the glider could be expanded with a jet boost.

I could also become a rolling ball but I didn’t use that one much.

You could argue that these improvements made the game too easy, but honestly it was essential now that so much more landmass had to be explored. Without the ability to glide and rocket boost around without the help of growing star plants, it would have gotten stale fast. So it was all good with me.

Grow Home

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Developer: Ubisoft Reflections | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Platform

It took me just a couple of minutes past 4 hours to complete it, and I loved it.

Such a charming climbing game, with the low polygon style making for great vistas with almost all of the grown stems and floating islands in view. The goal in itself was simple – find red flowers on the massive star plant and grow them towards energetic islands. Connecting to all of these special islands would grow the mother plant itself. Reach 2000 meters and its main flower opens, grab a star seed from it and win.

Implementing this required a lot of climbing with left and right mouse buttons, which reminded me a lot of the old arcade game Crazy Climber to begin with. The robot in control, B.U.D., was essentially a rag doll and it made for deliberately weird climbing at times. Keep on rollin’, baby.

Screenshot

A side goal was to find crystals growing on islands and in caves. This wasn’t just for collecting as it also increased my powers; jumping, a zoom-out camera, and a limited rocket boost. B.U.D. made cute winning sounds whenever I managed to grab a crystal. Another side goal was to drag plants, fruits and animals into one of the checkpoints for analysis. This gave more text to read about them in a data bank.

Cute, but not all that important. Crystals and growing was the main concern.

Helping with the climbing, I could also grab a dandelion and use it for floating as a parachute. The flower slowly lost its petals while floating, so it was a limited ride. Later a leaf could also be used for gliding, but I preferred the dandelion. Jump off an island, float back towards its side, then grab hold and climb.

Forward to the Sky

Developer: Animu Game | Released: 2015 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

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.

Closure

Developer: Eyebrow Interactive | Released: 2012 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

Played a few hours of this one.

It’s a colorless puzzle platform where only stuff being lit has substance. Darkness means falling and dying. The goal is simple – reach a door somewhere else, and sometimes bring a key to unlock it too. To help me out with lighting I can bring light orbs, place them in pedestals that sometimes move the orb somewhere else, turn hinged spotlights to shine elsewhere, and more. No enemies to dodge.

And sometimes I had to swim through water, but no oxygen was required.

After a brief tutorial with a four-legged creature, I came to sort of a hub with a choice between 3 x 24 doors with levels. Some static, some bigger and thus scrolling when needed. For each hub, the creature turns into someone else. One looks like a miner, one a woman, and one a small girl that even starts out in her room in a house. Music was much better than I expected – no chiptune stuff here.

Screenshot

I had trouble running it in 3840×2160. It showed a quarter of the screen with menu controls out of reach and I had to edit a configuration file to fix it. I then settled with a resolution of 2560×1440.

Most of the levels were reasonably easy and could be completed in a minute while some had me stumped for a few minutes. The game had a creepy atmosphere and I was constantly afraid of exploring with a light orb and suddenly falling. Hitting a lower level never meant death (no matter how far down) but falling into the black abyss meant retrying. It was also possible to lose a key or a barrel, forcing me to restart.

One thing I thought was very cute – definitely the charming gimmick about the game – was the way I could walk or stand on wall structures that were only partly lit. Because the continuation of the wall piece was in darkness, it didn’t exist and I could pass through. It took some getting used to, especially when having to follow an orb transitioning to somewhere else.

I never found out what the clock I sometimes found meant.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Closure
2012 Eyebrow Interactive

8h

2

2018-12-05
2018-12-06
8

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

Inside

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Developer: Playdead | Released: 2016 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

Spoiler warning! I will pretend that you have already played the game.

This game was so permeated in atmosphere it was almost dripping from it, but it also helped that it was the very first game I played on my new 32″ Acer Predator XB321HK monitor, and in 4K of course.

It was very similar to Limbo, the previous game by the same developer. So much so that it almost felt like Limbo II. Again it was a platform puzzle game mostly scrolling to the left, and again I sometimes had to run for my life from evil men in a story without a beginning. It even started in exactly the same way – here’s the kid; now go. No backstory or tutorial for you.

Screenshot

Where Limbo was almost all black and white, Inside had a very faint use of color. The kid in my control was wonderfully animated, especially considering that he didn’t have a face. Music was rare. Most of the time it was a humming ambient sound to complete the feeling of an amazing atmosphere. And the controls were incredibly sparse. Move, jump and interact. Sometimes interacting in a direction.

Spate

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Developer: Ayyo Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Adventure

Another Saturday, another shorty. This one lasted barely two hours and turned out to be one of those art games with more mood and style than gameplay. It was constantly raining hard, the grass was waving, and the 3D engine added multiple layers of surrealistic shapes. I was controlling an alcoholic detective yearning for his lost daughter, and he was narrating both this story as well as various findings on my way.

There are several good things to be said about balancing tough challenges with streaks of nothing to gear down, but this game felt like it was overdoing it a lot. The game was for the most part easy and only offered more or less dexterous jump puzzles. Sometimes a cannon had to shoot a seesaw to get it in position or I could fly a small airship for a while, pressing one button to thrust it upwards past the saw blades.

But then as a sequence of this was done, our hero was merely wandering along for minutes and minutes, no jumps, no nothing. Maybe a very long bridge or past a small town. This is typically where he started narrating a lot about his miserable past and how he deserved his fate. These passages were so long that it made the game feel like part platformer, part walking simulator. It was too much of a good thing.

The Cave

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Developer: Double Fine Productions | Released: 2013 | Genre: Platform, Adventure

This was much more of a platform game than I thought it would be. Descriptions of it led me to believe it was very much an adventure game with just a tiny bit of rare platform action required, kind of like some of the first polygon versions in the Broken Sword series. But platform action turned out to not only be quite prevalent, it also made the levels feel bigger than they really needed to be. The platform action was very light, as in definitely not difficult, but there was a lot of walking up and down ladders, jumping ropes, and pushing objects. It often felt a little overwhelming.

Three switchable characters had to be navigated independently, adding a lot of backtracking. Sometimes the two others automatically joined across certain level thresholds, but most of the time I was yearning for some kind of “recall party” or “follow me” function. The collaboration between them was quite good, though. There were lots of puzzles where two or three characters were required in different locations to make it work. Because of the big levels and the abundance of ladders and corridors, there was a long stretch between the few NPC that lined up what needed to be done in that particular area.