Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Inside

Inside is the follow up to Playdead’s very popular, Limbo. Inside takes a lot of the themes from Limbo but re-purposes them enough to make it feel fresh, and not just like Limbo 2.0. Like Limbo the game has a monochromatic look. Everything is in black and white with just a few splashes of color that appear here and there. It is also a 2.5 platformer with a strong focus on puzzles. Beyond that Inside manages to make a name for itself and rise up to be an amazing follow-up to Limbo.

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The story is given in subtle hints and leaves more questions than answers. This is something that Playdead fans should expect. You control a boy who starts in the woods then works his way through various locations. The people he encounters are either a) zombie like people with no free will or b) those controlling everyone from group a. The boy appears to have a certain level of free will making him a target for various people. Beyond just the normal human enemies the boy must escape dogs, as well as a few unknown beings.

The puzzle system is solid. The puzzles range in their variety and difficulty. Some will come to you rather easily, others might take many experiments before you get it right. Beyond that, no two puzzles really felt the same. There were similar aspects to them, but there was always something new, something unique, that helped shape each one. The end result is that everything remains fresh.

I contemplated whether to give this game a mini review or it’s own piece, but it’s sort of hard to discuss at length without debating the philosophy behind the entire game. The ending is disturbing and confusing, and the alternate ending just adds to it. The game is dark, creepy, scary at times, but clever and unique. It remained entertaining from start to finish, all though a bit short. I highly recommend it.

Mini Reviews, Uncategorized, Video Games

World of Warcraft: Legion Review

*This post contains some minor spoilers relating the Legion quest experience.*

It’s been almost 3 weeks since World of Warcraft’s latest expanion, Legion, was released. In that time I have logged 5 days, 2 hours and 6 minutes of max level play time. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Legion gets a lot right. It clears the sour taste from the mouths of those who found Warlords of Draenor unsatisfying. It offers a plethora of choice from practically the moment you log in.

Having completed all of the pre-patch content offered, I began Legion’s launch in Dalaran, the revamped capital of the expansion, waiting with the crowd for the expansion to go live. I had braced myself for the crashes, the disconnects, the lag… and none of that came. Launches, launch week, notorious for all the issues players experience, seem to be a thing of the past with Blizzard compensating for the amount of pressure the servers would be under and devising a clever strategy to funnel players to various parts of the world. More on that in a bit.

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Players begin with a call from Khadgar to move Dalaran – an impressive feat – and are then funneled immediately into their class artifact questline. This is based on what specialisation you’d like to play, with each spec getting it’s own weapon and thus a (relatively) unique questline to achieve this. As I did not play in the beta, I chose my tanking weapons first unsure of how the actual artifact power system worked. My questline sent me to retrieve the claws of the bear god, Ursoc, with the blessing of his brother, Ursol. Without saying much more, I was thoroughly impressed and admittedly very moved with the entire experience. It was something unique, very personal (for someone attached to their class) and a lot of fun. Having done a few other artifact questlines since then, it’s a fun little system that tests you at the specialisation you’d like the weapon for but this feels less like a test and more like something you would innately do because you play that spec.

Additionally, each questline that I completed (and certainly with my initial “launch” decision) sent me off into the older parts of World of Warcraft, lessening the load on the servers and certainly smoothing out the questing experience by implementing a lot of new phasing tech and using single player scenarios to their advantage. Once you’ve acquired your new weapon, the questing experience begins.

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Blizzard chose to take leveling in a new direction with Legion. Normally, players begin new content in a pretty typical way – you’re given a new quest, go to the new area, and begin in the first zone – usually good for a couple levels, then on to the next one. This time, the zones scale with your level – and while this didn’t seem like a huge deal when it was first announced, playing the game with this new system was awesome. Being able to pick one of four leveling zones immediately worked to dissipate even more of the usual traffic. In addition, questlines were phased into stages – you’re not entirely cut off, but there’s not a huge amount of competition. Solving another typical launch day problem, mob “tapping”, Blizzard introduced a faction-tag system for everything on the Broken Isles. If your faction tagged it, you’re eligible for loot and kill confirmations.

While these things don’t necessarily seem like they’re a huge difference, it’s the little things and changes that are really making Legion stand apart from the previous expansions.  Removing the typical launch day woes was a great start in hooking people, the questlines in each zones were amazing, well thought, and peppered with cutscenes that tug at the heartstrings (looking at you, Val’Sharah).

The fun doesn’t end there, though. Hitting 110 (the new level cap) introduces a new zone, Suramar. Here we meet the Nightborne and their ancient city, Suramar (yes, zone Suramar & city Suramar). This gorgeous, twilight-ridden city is plagued by the Legion, let in by their Grand Magistrix. The Nightborne elite are living a life of luxury, while their civilian counterparts are suffering under their new regime. Did I mention they’re all addicted to mana? We ally up with a renegade faction of Nightborne determined to take their city back from the Legion and free up the ancient mana supplies they’re all craving, lest they succumb to the “withering”, becoming mindless, zombie-like withered without much shred of humanity (elfanity?) left.

World quests replace the typical dailies, going with the “pick your own adventure” feel of the expansion. These are quests activated by entering the area they’re in, rewarding anything from gold, to gear, order hall resources, or raw materials for your professions. They also award a small amount of rep toward their assigned faction. You’re given an emissary quest each day asking you to complete 4 world quests for the faction RNG gives you that day. If you wanted to complete all your world quests that day, you’d be there for a long while.

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With the plethora of content to work on – be it questlines, professions, PvP, or PvE progression, Legion looks incredibly promising in it’s early days. Patch 7.1 has been announced and while it also looks like it will deliver some really great content, I am happily sinking my teeth into all Legion currently has to offer with no signs of slowing down.

-Tenneiyl

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: The Moon Sliver

The Moon Sliver released in October 2014 and seems to be a pretty lesser known horror indie game. The game itself focuses mostly on story, as such I don’t want to give away too much. You play a person that wakes up on a dilapidated island. Four people live on the island, but three are missing. You have to wander around the island searching for clues as to what happened to the other three, and who you are.

The clues themselves are revealed as you interact with different things in the environment. There are a set number of clues to find, some you have to, others just give you more information about the game. It’s worth taking the time to actually try to search out everything in the game. While looking for clues you need to keep your flashlight charged and search for ways to get into locked areas. The locked areas often give you the biggest progression in the mystery.

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While the game starts off with a dark feeling, it’s not until you reveal more of the clues that you realize that someone, or something, is the cause of the disappearances, and that it won’t stop until it gets you. Searching tells you more about the people from the island, what The Moon Sliver is, why the island is falling apart, and what exactly happened.

This game does a lot right. It is incredibly well written, the mystery itself is compelling, and the music is spot on. Each of the four people on the island has a reason to have turned on the others, so piecing together the story keeps you interested and guessing. The game is also a master of suspense, it doesn’t take you long to figure out that something is coming but you aren’t sure when. It forces you to go forward into darkness and areas that just scream “nope” all the while revealing a truly creepy story.

The problem with this game is it’s short. It should only take an hour or two to complete, and is not really worth playing again and again. After playing it once it would be fairly challenging to even really enjoy it. To make up for that it’s fairly cheap, and often goes on sale.

For those that like horror I highly recommend this game. It’s smart, enjoyable, and intense. I also can’t stress how well written it is, and how compelling the story is as a result. It made me want to check out other projects by David Szymanski (developer).

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream was a short story written by Harlan Ellison in 1967. In 1995 Cyberdreams worked with Ellison himself in order to turn it into a point and click adventure game. I Have No Mouth is a dark story and game. AM is a super computer who has taken over earth destroying everyone but five people. Five people he has kept alive and tortured for over 100 years. In the game you play as each character as they are put through another trial by AM, and must confront their own character flaws and the reality of who they are.

Gameplay is solid for a point and click adventure game. It is challenging, but not so much that it feels impossible. The biggest challenge as with many 90s point and click games is getting on exactly the right pixel in order to interact with certain things. It can be annoying and can get some players stuck, when in reality they simply aren’t getting the mouse exactly right.

Where the game truly shines is the story. It is a well crafted story, that tackles many ethical issues. It is dark, unsettling, horrific, and challenging. Yet in spite of that with the right ending it’s also rather hopeful. Instead of being a straight interpretation of the story, Ellison and the developers worked to craft a unique story for the game. The characters and overall plot are from the story, but the details are new to the game and well worth the time in the game.

Overall if you like point and click games, and can handle the intense story, I would highly recommend this classic. It can be heavy at times, but worth it for the complex story.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Murdered: Soul Suspect

Murdered Soul Suspect was one of the earlier 8th generation games, not a launch title, but within the first year. In it you play Ronan who was on the hunt for the Bell Killer in Salem. He gets close to cracking the case when he is murdered, he continues to work the case from beyond the grave, unable to pass on until he does. He teams up with Joy, a young medium who’s mother has been caught up in the middle of the case as well. The case itself is interesting, bringing in many supernatural aspects without going overboard.

Gameplay and story are largely focused on crime solving, slightly similar to the investigation process in LA Noire. This aspect of the game works well and is solid. It’s also a nice change of pace from other games out there. Unfortunately this aspect of the game is bogged down by the demon fighting sequences. In the middle of investigations Ronan will randomly run into demons and be forced to sneak up on them to destroy them. These sequences are annoying, and try to add “action” to the game. Not only does the game not need it, but it doesn’t really work in execution. It seems almost as though the developers were afraid that just a straight up investigation game wouldn’t work, and so shoe horned in the demon fights to add something else.

Despite not really caring for the demon fights, I was still over all very impressed with this game, and very disappointed it was not more well received. Ronan and Joy are both interesting characters, and the main case is well written and keeps you intrigued. The side cases that Ronan can do are also well done, and give a little something else. It’s a game that is worth checking out, not a life changer but entertaining and solid.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Lili: Child of Geos

It’s hard to explain exactly what type of game this is. It’s part adventure, part RPG, and part puzzle game. You play as Lili who lands on an island with living wooden people. She uncovers a plot where in evil creatures control the wooden creatures and force them into servitude. Lili agrees (or disagrees if you choose) to help them out. In order to fight the demons Lili hunts them down, jumps on their backs, and removes their flowers. If that sounds strange to you it really and truly is.

Despite the strange gameplay, the story itself is rather interesting, and the characters are extremely well written. Each of the wooden people have a totally unique personality, and are frankly worth playing the game for alone. Lili herself is not too bad either. She is a reluctant hero, but as she develops friendships with those she is helping, she herself becomes more confident and more worthwhile herself.

Gameplay is average at best, the idea is solid enough. It’s not really enjoyable, but it’s not bad either. Plucking the flowers can be challenging, but manages to be playable all the way through. Simply put you aren’t going to enjoy the game for the gameplay though. Really gameplay is something to simply get through in order to meet new characters and further the story.

It’s a rather enjoyable little indie game, and a fairly unique experience overall. I would highly recommend it.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: The Way of the Samurai 3

The Way of the Samurai is apparently to be confused, frustrated, and more than a little lost, at least if this game is right about it. The game has you as a wounded samurai who is rescued, and you are given the choice to really follow your own path. Each time you die the game ends, but you get to carry over items, some weapons, and any upgrades you’ve purchased to your next game. This allows you a lot of freedom within the context of the game to grow, seek out different paths, and find how you want to play. The problem is the game is so small that unlimited freedom in it means almost nothing. There are exactly two factions in the game, 8 or so main characters, and roughly 7 areas. Every single path will have you interacting with those same characters over and over and over, with limited, or even no change.

There is also no guidelines in the game at all. It seems like this was implemented to further the freedom, the reality though is that you will get lost, stuck, and in a cycle of doing the same things without any progress. There are over 20 different endings which is pretty amazing, but they each only take a few hours to get, and you have to be very specific about the order you do things. Go to one area out of order (and again you have no guidelines to help you) and you’ll be locked out of certain endings. So the harsh truth is the game becomes repetitive trial and error.

The basic idea of the game is rather clever. Death meaning a game over so your character keeps developing and growing is kind of interesting. The number of endings, is great. The problem is the game is so small, limited, directionless, that it just becomes tedious as opposed to enjoyable. I found myself struggling to unlock more endings instead of enjoying and embracing the new things in the world. I wanted so badly to enjoy the game and it did have its moments. Truly there is a lot of potential it just didn’t execute entirely.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Blackwell Epiphany

Blackwell Epiphany is the 5th game in the Blackwell series. In the series Rosa ends up working with a ghost in order to help spirits pass over to the other side. She also uses this ability to communicate with ghosts in order to help the police solve crimes. Joey is her spirit, a ghost that has been with the family for awhile.

The gameplay is point and click style. The gamer switches between controlling Rosa and Joey in order to progress forward, solve crimes, and help the spirits you meet. Epiphany combines a more retro style art direction and audio in order to compliment the gameplay. It gives the feel of a 90s point and click game, with more of the polish of modern games.

Overall the experience is rather nice. The story is solid, gameplay is fun, however the voice acting and ending leaves something to be desired. It’s not the worst ending, but it feels a little disappointing and rushed, especially for a series. Rosa can also come across as rather flat. However in spite of this it’s an enjoyable experience, especially for fans of point and click games. I would recommend playing the rest of the series first though.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Octodad Dadliest Catch

Octodad exists in the realm of games that SHOULD in all logic be bad, but somehow seem to work so well. It’s a physics game in which you control an octopus leading a “normal” life as a husband and father. No one knows he’s an octopus, and he’s extremely difficult to control. You have to move his arms and legs independently, and the words “extremely frustrating” don’t even begin to describe the experience. Yet somehow in spite of how hard it is to play the game is extremely fun.

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The completely unbelievable plot offers a lot of humor. The fact that the wife somehow fails to notice she is married to (and has two children with) an octopus is pretty comical in and of itself. Add to that the interesting translation of how Octodad talks, a sushi chef hunting the main character, and just the over all zaniness and you have a pretty entertaining story.

The gameplay is frustrating at moments, but manages a weird version of balance. There are enough challenges that you can get through fairly easily, while others will take a lot of patience and retries. The game ends up giving you just enough reward to keep you wanting to progress, but is still very challenging. Each area of the game is also fairly short, and different enough from previous areas in order to keep the gamer interested. At the end of the day you end up frustrated, entertained, and compelled to keep playing. It’s not the best game you’ll ever play, but it’s compelling in it’s own way. There are things to nit pick with the game, but honestly it’s an enjoyable experience.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: The Cat Lady

The experience of The Cat Lady is hard to put into words. Beautifully disturbed, might be the best way to phrase it if forced to. You play as Susan who attempts to kill herself. She is offered a trade by an unknown being. Susan will have eternal life and happiness, but in return she has to kill certain people for the being that calls herself The Queen of Maggots. Once you agree and take control of Susan you control her as she goes about her day, while searching for serial killers so that she can kill them herself. The game play is done point and click style, and has a variety of interesting puzzles and challenges.

It’s violent, dark, depressing, horrible, and yet wonderful. The characters that Susan meets are well thought out, the art style is unique and perfect, the gameplay is engaging, and you are stuck wanting to play more, despite feeling pulled down by the themes it presents. It’s such a hard game to play, dealing with many themes that are hard to face. Yet despite that it has a message that can be very positive, and is so compelling. It’s one of the most conflicted experiences a gamer can have, the desire to push it away and not deal with the topics it brings up, yet the want to keep moving forward and see it through. Beautifully disturbed.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review- Lucius

Lucius is a great twist on the normal “horror” game. Instead of running away from a killer you play the killer. The game is basically The Omen in video game form. A boy is born on 6/6/66, he doesn’t speak and doesn’t seem normal. Once his sixth birthday roles around everything starts to fall apart. You control Lucius as he gains power and kills people to sacrifice them to the devil. The game is interesting, gory, and pretty fun (though it will bring out the sadistic side we all have).

Overall the game is entertaining with just a few flaws, and only two major ones. The graphics could be better, and the voice acting splits between on point and completely over the top. Both of those things can be dealt with given the age of the game and the fact that it’s an indie. The two bigger flaws though are harder to ignore. Controls need work, they are clunky and often times don’t make sense. Using inventory is just a mess, and switching powers is not really as intuitive as it needs to be. The other big issue is many of the “kills” need more guidance as far as what to do. Now I am not saying all games should hold your hand, but at a point walking in circles because there are no clues and you can’t find what you are looking for gets boring.

In the end though it’s a pretty great little game. Enjoyable and a good spin on “horror”.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: My Bones

My Bones falls under what I like to refer to as the “micro” horror story/game. They are horror “games” focused almost completely on story. The premise is simple, there are a set number of points you must reach, usually items, each one revealing a bit more of the story. There is no saving, the game is meant to be played in one sitting. It’s a good concept but it lives or dies based solely on the story.

My Bones dies because of the story. It suffers from atrocious grammar, and has terrible development. The story is basically a few short shock moments and nothing else. There’s some gore and surprises to get from point a to point b, yet it’s entirely underwhelming. The foundation of the story is solid enough, but it’s just so poorly executed. For such a short game it’s really a struggle to finish it.

The “micro” horror has it’s place. When done right it’s amazing (see The Moon Sliver). The issue is if it’s not done very well it’s just going to be written off as bad. My Bones can be written off as bad. Despite how short it is, I consider it a waste of time. Given how short, and poorly done it is, add on that it costs, and I was down right angry. Skip this game, there are better games like it out there.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Goosebumps the Game

Over 20 years ago R.L. Stine introduced the world to Goosebumps and changed horror, and children’s literature forever. He managed to take themes and elements normally reserved for adults and put them into horror for a younger audience. It managed to be scary for kids without being too much for them to handle. Over the years the series has spun off into tv show, spin off books, movies, and games.

The latest game is a point and click adventure game, that follows the general plot of the movie. The creatures from the books have escaped, and it’s up to you the gamer to solve the mystery and get them trapped again. It’s a cool concept though feels more than a little incomplete. There are a LOT of little cookies from the books that show up in the game, but none of them are really fleshed out. You interact with a character from the books for a few short seconds then move on. It’s more than a little disappointing, just a few characters with more detail would have been a better direction.

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There also seems to be some confusion over the audience. The game is clearly meant to be kid friendly, as the books are. Though it seems all the details are meant to appeal to adult audiences. The puzzles themselves are also slightly difficult to solve at times. It leaves a confused feeling because the game is not enough for the older adult audience, but might be too much for kids.

Yet the game is still enjoyable. It’s nice to even have the small interaction with the characters from the books. The story is interesting enough, and if you like point and click games the gameplay is solid. It’s short and feels a little incomplete, but enjoyable. The new generation of potential Goosebumps fans should enjoy it, while there is nostalgia for older players.