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.

35MM

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Developer: Носков Сергей | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This game was full of surprises. It started out with a way too long slow walk through a forest, me and a buddy of few words, making it look like a boring walking simulator facile adventure, but after the almost six hours it took to complete it, it had also been a real adventure game with objects to find, puzzles to solve, a railroad trolley to ride, and at times even a genuine FPS with a gun or an assault rifle.

Sometimes the game reminded me of I Am Alive, sometimes of INFRA.

It was a bleak first person adventure with a notebook for keeping tabs of inventory icons. Damage or fatigue had to be fixed with medikits or food and a flashlight needed batteries. My buddy usually dictated the direction to walk, but I was free to break off and explore the areas for loot. I could cut ropes on door handles for access or take completely pointless pictures with an old camera.

Sometimes a rare QTE made me mash buttons to complete a cutscene, like winning a fist fight.

The game honestly had too much exploration of areas for way too little loot. There were sometimes several houses or even floors in buildings where I had to search dark rooms for loot, yet too often it was rarer than finding visitors for this blog. There were also traps. After a few exploding deaths I learned to look for wires in door openings that could be cut with my knife.

After a few levels of solitude, my buddy and I started meeting people. There were no dialog trees, but there were often small talks, letters to read, a puzzle, or a task like finding a car battery to power something.

Then evil people started showing up.

Red Trigger

Developer: Maxime Vézina | Released: 2016 | Genre: Puzzle, First Person

This was a free first person puzzle game akin to the genre that Portal and its sequel gave rise to. Just like Parallax, the also excessively white first person puzzle game I tried last month, it was devoid of any story and just felt like a series of training levels. I was actually contemplating leaving it for the same reason, but before I knew it, it was all over. It barely took even an hour to complete its eight chapters.

Each challenge room had a set of red piston surfaces I could shoot for them to slide out. Some I had to walk on, some could push me into the air and maybe onto a platform, another might give me a sideways boost. I had limited energy too, meaning that not too many red pistons could be out and about. Sometimes I had to look back and shoot a few to contract them.

The challenges were quite diverse. Some had me thinking about how to arrange the red pistons for me to traverse the room. Some blocked lethal red lasers. Other challenges had a timer for e.g. resetting doors or pistons, and those were of course my least favorite type. Especially a nasty room with a slowly rising grid of red lasers had me fumbling and dying repeatedly. I almost left the game at that point.

It was clearly the worst room in the entire game.

In the later chapters, a swirling corridor could turn the previous room upside down, although this was barely used twice. And as the game was about to end, a small smattering of a story suddenly appeared by having to shut down a reactor and then flee the electronic lava rising everywhere. Again dexterity was required, but it actually wasn’t that bad. After two or three retries I was past it, and it was often fun. The game also started having checkpoints in the middle of some challenge rooms.

I just wish the developer had also added one in the room with the rising grid of red lasers.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Red Trigger
2016 Maxime Vézina58m 1
2019-05-31
2019-05-31
7

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

Obduction

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Developer: Cyan Worlds | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This was a non-linear first person adventure made by the creators of Myst and its many sequels. I was a backer when it was announced as a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago. Although Obduction has its own story that doesn’t have anything in common with Myst, it didn’t take long before I discovered that it was very much a spiritual kinsgame. Cyan Worlds didn’t stray away from their field of excellence.

In this game, the big domes replaced the ages (or islands) in Myst, but they were just as environmentally diverse, and the world got bigger and more prone to me getting stuck, the more doors I unlocked.

After a quick abduction I arrived in a sandy canyon with bubbly pieces of human structures from various points of recent human history. A cute network of trolley rails were intersecting it all, and there were a lot of locked doors. No humans, except C.W., who only mentioned very broad tasks through a door window whenever I had made substantial progress. I had to figure out almost everything on my own.

It took me about 20-21 hours to complete this game. It could have been done in about 12-15 hours, but I was stuck for several hours on a couple of occasions. The world got quite enormous when there were three alien domes to navigate between. After unlocking a few doors and getting the trolley running on the rails, the general puzzle mechanic was almost always finding and opening more stuff.

Californium

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Developer: Darjeeling | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This exploration game – or walking simulator as some would call it – was estimated to be ~3 hours long, and that’s exactly what it took for me to get complete it.

The art and color scheme of this game was out of this world and certainly worth the price of admission all on its own. Each of the four levels had a its own time period and distinctive colors to set them apart, and all humans (and later androids) were old-fashioned 2D sprites always turning the same side to you – albeit sharply drawn like were they cut straight out of a comic book. I really enjoyed this lovely style.

Being part of the genre it was, the game itself was light on interactivity. A level typically had 4-5 “rooms” plus the streets in which to find a television showing a roman numerical of white icons to find. Depending on the size of the “room” it could be about 3 to 6 icons. The icons themselves had to be spotted and then activated by holding left mouse button on them for about one second.

Yeah, the good old game of getting warmer.

INFRA

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Developer: Loiste Interactive | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This was an excellent first person adventure game exploring various industrial environments such as e.g. water plants, dam, power plants, factories, etc. As a hard hat structural analyst with a funny accent, I had to take photos of everything that needed to be repaired. Various puzzles (typically electrical in nature) had to be solved to open doors and gain access to the later parts of the locations.

The game had three acts and was enormous. I understand that there was only one act to begin with, and the two other acts were added in sort of an episodic manner. The end result has more than 40 maps made in the Source engine (the same that powered Half-Life 2) and each of them are really big. It took me almost 30 hours to get through the entire game. But it was exquisite almost all the way. The factories and plants were well put together and felt realistic – it wasn’t just random pipes and wires going wherever.

Probably the only thing that annoyed me at first was having to find batteries to replenish my phone camera and my flashlight. Especially in the first area inside a dam I was often running out and had to rummage all drawers and meticulously search control rooms for more batteries. Luckily my supplies eventually got stocked up as the maps went by, although there was a cap of ten packs for each type.

The level design of the game was a mix of open and linear. Each map was a contained area typically with a lot of locked doors. Some had to be opened by finding access cards, keys, or some cute passage around. At one point enough of the facility opened up to offer access to a lot of halls, control rooms, offices, corridors, and staircases. Some maps opened up ever so slightly bit by bit, while others offered almost the entire factory after a door or two. Apart from taking snapshots, some larger machinery often had to be fixed and turned on. It could be getting the water flowing in a plant or moving a big cradle inside a steel factory. But sometimes it also felt like I left incompletely fixed machinery behind as I found a way to the next map.

In fact, optional puzzles and passages were not uncommon in this game. An example of this was a corridor with electricity leading into the shallow water on the floor. Stepping in this would kill me. I had to arrange crates to walk on in order to reach a switch further down, but I could also just walk back to the opposite end, climb up to a roof grating, and then crawl and drop down near the same switch.

These choices were part of what made the game feel so well engineered.

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.

Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This first person game mainly took place in a national forest in Wyoming in the late 80’s. As the bearded and mild-mannered Henry, I was assigned to my own watchtower. A lot of dialog was exchanged between him and his boss Delilah on a walkie-talkie. Sometimes she sent me out to investigate the origins of smoke or some other task, exploring the canyons, forests and lakes.

This game was really blurring the line between a walking simulator facile adventure and a proper one. It didn’t have puzzles and there was a lot of walking (even backtracking) but there was an evolving story, cliff sides to scale, ropes to rappel down from, and even later upgrades that would give access to previously blocked areas such as e.g. keys to a large cave or an axe to cut down a tree for walking on.

My watchtower was sometimes even broken into while I was gone.

I absolutely loved this game. It was totally my thing. It was relaxing, easy, the voice acting for Henry and Delilah was very professional, and although the paths in the valley was sometimes a bit fenced in by rocks and falling trees, it was still great fun exploring. I could check a compass to make sure I was going in the right direction, or look at a paper map (which gave me a touch of Far Cry 2 vibes).

Screenshot

Sometimes I found a yellow cache box. The code was always the same – was a minigame shelved here?

The game started with a sad tale of Henry and his wife that develops dementia. This part was told via big, centered text and two choices for some of them. It reminded me a bit of the beginning of Pixar’s animated movie, Up, and it also had a subtle smell of Visual Novel.

In the watchtower, where the game began properly, the story evolved from looking for two littering drunk teenage girls, a pole wire being cut, calling in a forest fire that generated a lot of smoke in the valley, and discovering a weird surveillance of Henry and Delilah. The latter wound up into quite some tense dialog from especially Delilah, almost freaking out at times with paranoia.

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the details here – but it was definitely never boring.

Apart from a tiny exception in the end, there were never any people to meet face to face. Henry had quite some body awareness with arms and legs shown while e.g. climbing. I did adopt a small turtle (it was cute), saw a raccoon (that Delilah accidentally spooked off on my radio) and got stung by a bee. I was even knocked out at one point, but I still didn’t see an animated face.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Firewatch
2016 Campo Santo4h 47m 2
2019-04-07
2019-04-08
9

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

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.

Parallax

Developer: Toasty Games | Released: 2015 | Genre: FPS, Puzzle

Played about 30-40 minutes of this one, enough to complete up to and including chapter B-4.

The game was actually well made and with a an interesting puzzle mechanic. Although in the vein of first person puzzle games like Portal, there was no gun. Only running, clicking buttons and jumping. Interactive buttons could flip round portal mirrors (of which only one side could enter the negative realm) or bridges. In chapter B, speed boost pads were introduced. No doubt other cute gimmicks were awaiting in the later chapters, but after B-4, I decided to abandon the game.

As mentioned, it wasn’t the game – it was me.

The game was monochrome (black on white or vice versa depending on the realm) and had absolutely no story whatsoever. This was just level after level of short puzzle areas with hovering walkways. It made it feel a lot like a “VR training” feature in an extra menu option of a much larger game, and I’m usually yearning for more than that in the games I play. A story, an atmosphere – some kind of an experience.

Screenshot

I also had trouble creating a “mental image” of how a chain of flipped portal mirrors would open the way to the goal. I was afraid this might mean a lot of tedious trial and error awaiting in the later chapters.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Parallax
2015 Toasty Games

5h

1

2019-04-02
2019-04-02
8

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