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.

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.

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.

Night Shift

Developer: Brandon Brizzi | Released: 2014 | Genre: Driving, Adventure

I just completed the driving adventure game Night Shift. That was weird. Seriously weird.

It took me over two hours to complete it, which seems to be twice as long as it should probably have taken me. But it took a while to get used to the general weirdness and what the game really wanted me to do. It wasn’t just driving along the road – in fact, this was not about racing at all.

It was about getting the sun back.

The goal was to get a flame from each of six puzzle challenges which was made extra weird in the way I had to leave roads to find the next one. In between these puzzles there was a gray sphere showing the flames I had collected so far, rotating around it. Imagine finding this sphere first time with just one flame around it, knowing nothing about what’s going on. That’s how the game is.

It wasn’t completely void of tips, though. Sometimes a white ghost was standing around and if I drove close to it, it offered a light tip as a text line in the bottom of the screen.

Screenshot

The challenges themselves typically revolved around lighting street lights with an extra strong beam of light from my first person car. I could also eliminate other ghost cars with this flashing. Glowing butterflies could be placeholder hints, and sometimes I had to align things in a way that never quite got entirely clear (this was the part where trial and error took over). There was even sort of a different realm that the game shifted to whenever I was out of battery power. This was also used in a couple of puzzles.

More power was obtained by driving close to white ghost trees.

Whenever I was on the “right track” the looping music samples built up to get the sensation of things rolling. Both the use of music and the car itself gave a solid 80’s vibe, and completing the game played an animated piece. This animation was very nice, but I had hoped I could have driven up the sun-rising road while watching the dawn grow stronger. I think that might have worked quite well.

The game was weird, the 3D engine with sprites was deliberately retro (it looked like it belonged in the mid 90’s) and the goals frequently confusing, but I could also see that the game had a certain charm.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Night Shift
2014 Brandon Brizzi

2.4h

1

2019-03-31
2019-03-31
6

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

MIND: Path to Thalamus

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Developer: Carlos Coronado | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This was a first person adventure game with more or less surrealistic vistas, and puzzles typically involving moving and dropping “nerve clusters” that looked a little like tumbleweeds. How to use these balls is actually a spoiler, so as always I will discuss the details of this in the spoiler section below.

It took me about 4½ hours to get through it and I liked a lot about it. Especially the way it looked. Just like Deadfall Adventures, the level environments and the graphics were definitely the high note of this game. A few levels were even so pretty it made me forget myself for a minute or two upon arrival. Puzzles were for the most part okay, but sometimes involved some traipsing – and there was no sprint button. It also had a smell like being a borderline mod for an FPS. It had a very basic title screen and there were glitches.

Screenshot

But even so, I still had a good time completing it. The idea of using the balls was cute and made for relaxed puzzles, apart from a few overdone exceptions that I will mention in the spoilers. If I went back in time knowing what I know now, I would definitely play it again.

SOMA

Developer: Frictional Games | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Horror

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

Developer: earrgames | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Horror

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.

Lucy -The Eternity She Wished For-

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Developer: Modern Visual Arts Laboratory | Released: 2016 | Genre: Visual Novel, Sci-Fi

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.