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Developer: Double Fine Publisher: Double Fine Platform: PC, Mac, Linux (Android, iOS, OUYA in the future) Release Date: January 28, 2014 ESRB: Not Rated (E recommended) Tim Schafer has been responsible both entirely and in-part for some of the most memorable point-and-click adventure games over the last 20 years or so. His work with LucasArts alum Ron Gilbert has been the stuff of legends, with such games as The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, and Grim Fandango being hailed as hallmarks of the genre. Thus it comes with much fanfare that his first adventure game in some 16 years, Broken Age, is finally here. Broken Age follows two seemingly separate narratives - one following a teenage boy named Shay who lives alone aboard a spaceship and is perpetually doomed to live a life of safety and boredom thanks to an overprotective computer that treats him like a child (literally), and the other following a teenage girl named Vella who comes of age and rejects her "honorable fate" as a traditional sacrifice to a large monster that selects maidens to consume from different villages once a year. You can select either storyline at the start, and in an interesting move by Double Fine, you can actually switch between the two stories at any time if you get stuck on one or otherwise want a change of scenery. Like most point-and-click games, you'll need to talk to the different characters you come across in your journey in order to gather information or accomplish certain objectives, all the while making use of various items you collect to help you progress through different areas and situations. For the most part, items have uses that you'll be able to deduce in short time, though there were a few instances where I got stuck before I realized what needed to be done. Both stories, while having similar undertones, actually have a different gravitas or atmosphere to them. If I had to pick one that I enjoyed more, it would definitely be Vella's story; not only does it seem longer, but it also has the more intriguing plot and displays more of the whimsical design and characters that Double Fine is known for creating. Vella herself is also a genuinely likeable character; she's intelligent, funny, and a down-to-earth normal human being like many people, and yet she still believes in her own ideals when no one else does. In contrast, Shay's story is very different in atmosphere. Whereas Vella's situation is much more of an adventure, Shay's is more akin to a mystery that gradually unfolds. You'll gradually discover why the ship is treating him in such a sheltered way and get to explore his surroundings, and the story does a good job of keeping things suspenseful and in the dark until the very end. There also seems to be a bit more puzzle-solving in this arc. Vella's story is more about conversation and finding out certain things while Shay's is more about accomplishing a few objectives, so while they're different in nature, they fill two sides of the same coin nicely. Also, it can't be understated just how good the game's visuals and sound design are. Broken Age is quite possibly the most beautiful point-and-click adventure game I've ever played, with its painterly visuals and storybook-esque edge. It's also fully voiced, including the likes of talented stars such as Jack Black and Elijah Wood. Black's role is actually a cameo but it's in keeping with his zany sense of humor, while Wood puts in a solid performance in the role of Shay. The music is quite good as well, with some especially nice tracks that play during Vella's arc. Ultimately, Act 1 of Broken Age is everything that point-and-click fans could have hoped for; it's a great first half that ends with an interesting cliffhanger. And though it's a shame that we'll now have to wait for Act 2 (which will arrive as a free update), Double Fine assures that it's expected to arrive sometime later this year. Act 1 came out to just over 4 hours of gameplay on my first time through, though I do have to admit I got stuck at one particular point and spent a lot of time trying to solve a puzzle. Still, it's well worth playing if you don't mind only getting half of the story for the time being. And even if Act 2 doesn't live up to expectations, Broken Age has me hoping that it's only the first of (hopefully) many more point-and-click adventures to come from Double Fine. Pros + Beautiful, hand-drawn illustrated characters and backgrounds + Great voice-acting + Story is interesting and whimsical atmosphere is well-done Cons - Some situations might require backtracking or may have you at a loss for how to proceed with little in the way of hints or help Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great Broken Age proves that point-and-click adventure games are far from dead. If you're ever been a fan of the genre or you're looking for a good story, dive in and see what all of the fuss is about. Disclosure: This game was reviewed on PC using downloadable code provided by the publisher
Developer: 3909 Publisher: 3909 Platform: PC Release Date: August 8th, 2013 "Papers, Please!" "Wait.....what's this? You weigh 5kg extra? Eh, whatever. *APPROVED*" Congrats, you just let a terrorist into your home country, and they just blew up some of the guards inside. It's the little mistakes like these that really define the monotonous and yet at the same time interesting gameplay of the recent indie hit "Papers, Please". This is not a game for those who don't pay attention certainly. However, I can say with definite certainty that this is a game nearly anyone can learn to love. You start as a random citizen pulled from the labor lottery in your fictional home country, Arstotzka, and you're forced to work at the border letting people in and out of the country. It starts off easy, just look at their passport and if they don't have the correct information you give them the deny stamp or else they pass. As the game progresses though, you really can't trust anyone. An old grandmother claiming her child is on the other side with sufficient papers may turn out to be a bomber and end your day early, giving you less potential pay so you can't feed your family. Keeping relationships maintained with others is a good way to explore the 20 different endings, actually. Siding with certain people, or keeping your family well-maintained can lead to different outcomes. I ended up with just my wife and niece alive, and I escaped Arstotzka (no spoilers) to a hopefully better place. I acquired some of the other endings, but they were all bad endings that ended up with me being killed or imprisoned. One of them was of my character being sent away because my family all died of starvation and illness. This is a moderately difficult game if you don't clearly look at everything on each person's papers so you manage to get paid. Getting mistakes too many times will seriously punish you, and just as equally awful is when you let someone dangerous in. This game isn't afraid to tug at your heart strings, for sure. However, I'll admit that the gameplay is not without fault. The monotonous nature of the job your character takes on even shows through to the player, in my opinion. I was really getting bored after long sessions of playing Papers, Please, (excuse the multitude of commas) and that can't be good. There's some excitement in the game, but it's few and far between I suppose. A lot of the characters seem like repeats, for example. Also, your job is 30 days long- with each day taking anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to complete. Some days are event-less with just randoms being accepted or denied, while others have "fun" characters like the above gentleman (he is seriously the best, I swear) or the heartwarming couple (if you take certain actions like I did). I just wish every day was filled with at least one amusing or serious situation. Perhaps then I could have played through the game in one or two sittings. Aesthetically speaking, Papers, Please is a unique game to look at. The colors are bleak, dull, and there isn't much to look at. Sounds are mostly papers moving around, certain effects like gunfire or explosives, or people "talking". I don't remember any music besides on the endings and in the title screen. However, all of this combined precisely fits the tone and setting of the game, so while it might be a little lazy to have this little technical polish, at least the gameplay is fine-tuned. If this completely makes up for that is up to the player though. Personally I think the pixel art is great but the inclusion of no music is disappointing, though maybe that's just personal preference. Papers, Please does not disappoint, however if you want an experience that will last with you I doubt this would be one. While the story is very interesting and full of both humorous and shocking events, the dull gameplay and unnaturally quiet background noise may be turn-offs, if you enjoy a good adventure game or want to try something unique this is the perfect title to add to your library. I give this game a: 8/10
Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita Release Date: October 23, 2012 ESRB: M for Mature 17+ This review is based on the 3DS version of the game What would you do if your life was on the line? Would you be willing to trust a group of strangers and seek a way to escape from a hellish nightmare together, or would you betray them in hopes of saving your own skin? Such a decision may not be very common to people like us (hopefully, anyway), but for the cast of Zero Escape: Virtue“s Last Reward, this is all too harsh a reality. And such a twisted scenario certainly makes for one suspenseful, very riveting story. Add that to the game“s elegant visuals, fantastic voicework and music, and the very clever gameplay consisting of â€œNovelâ€ sections and â€œEscapeâ€ sequences, andâ€¦ well, let“s just say you may have a hard time sleeping once you get hooked on this incredible visual novel. For starters, Virtue“s Last Reward is actually Volume 2 of the newly-branded Zero Escape series. Volume 1 wasn“t originally called Zero Escape, but rather was the Nintendo DS exclusive 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Now, you may be asking, "Can I play this game if I haven“t played Volume 1 yet?" Wellâ€¦ yes, but you really shouldn“t. Just like with VLR, 999 has an incredible story, and it would serve you better to play it first rather than have its story spoiled in the sequel. Basically, all of 999“s major plot points are detailed in this game, and you would basically be killing much of the story“s magic without having experienced the first game, well, first. The story in Virtue“s Last Reward begins very much like its predecessor: Nine people have been kidnapped by an unknown gas-masked entity known only as Zero, who has hand-picked them all for reasons unknown. These nine captives wake up in a mysterious facility, soon discovering that they have no choice but to participate in what Zero calls the â€œNonary Game.â€ This â€œgameâ€ revolves around the number 9, and each participant wears a bracelet depicting a certain number. As they play Zero“s little game, these nine people must try to find a way to escape their prison, lest they become trapped their forever or wind up dead. Unlike in the first game, this Nonary Game is different, having the subtitle â€œAmbidex Editionâ€ tagged onto the end. Also unlike the first game, the bracelets depict not only a number, but either the word â€œsoloâ€ or â€œpair,â€ as well as both word and number being one of several different colors. These colors determine who goes in which group of three, with pairs joining with solos of a different color in order to go through â€œChromatic Doorsâ€ by combining their colors and forming whatever colors the doors are. For example, a red pair can go with a blue solo and enter the magenta door while a blue pair can go with a green solo and enter the cyan door. Meanwhile, the green pair goes with the red solo and enters the yellow door. Once a team enters a Chromatic Door, an Escape sequence commences and they will need to solve various puzzles as they â€œseek a way outâ€ of the room they become locked inside. These puzzles are often very complex, which may tempt you to switch from hard mode to easy mode so that your partners can throw you some hints. But if you desire the extras you can receive for completing an Escape sequence on hard mode, that option becomes less desirable. Once you do complete an Escape sequence, you receive a pair of key cards and enter another Novel section (this is a visual novel, after all), wherein the characters must use these cards to participate in an â€œAmbidex Game.â€ This portion of the Nonary Game involves the pair-solo teams entering an Ambidex Room, or AB Room, and making a tough choice. The pairs must enter separate AB Rooms as their solo partners, however, and their tough choice is whether they want to â€œallyâ€ or â€œbetrayâ€ their teammate(s), similar to what is known as the prisoner“s dilemma. Whatever they choose will result in each team member either gaining or losing points on their current bracelet value. This aspect is where the true nature of the Nonary Game is shown, as participants can only escape the facility by accruing a total of 9 Bracelet Points and opening a Number 9 door. Conversely, if someone“s BP were to reach 0, needles within their bracelet would inject them with two different drugs, causing them to drop dead. With such a horrible fate being a possibility, trust becomes an issue, especially when one of the nine players might be Zero himself. And it“s because of this very issue, coupled with your own choices, that allow this game to split into many, MANY possible outcomes. There are 24 total endings to this game, with nine being more important than others. And to make things all the easier to track in this regard, a flow chart has been implemented into VLR, allowing the player to jump into other timelines to make choices they hadn“t made originally. And to help speed things along in your quest for endings, fast-forwarding is allowed during parts you“ve already witnessed, such as the little CGI rabbit known as Zero III explaining things in different accents (play the game to find out what that means). Virtue“s Last Reward is a visual progression from its predecessor, which featured nothing but 2D artwork. This time around, characters have been delightfully rendered with 3D models and backgrounds are, for the most part, 3-dimensional as well. The 3D backgrounds certainly help to give the game more depth, especially when playing the 3DS version, but the characters themselves are given even more depth as they show more expressions and deeper, more emphasized reactions. And there are also times when the game shows off even more of its beauty in the form of full-motion cutscenes. With all these things combined, it“s obvious just how much of a visual improvement this game is from 999. There is also a noticeable audio progression from the first game, as both the music and voice acting are insanely good. The soundtrack of this game is incredibly moody and keeps you on edge while the voices are just a big treat. Gone are the days of hearing nothing but bloops while reading walls of text in 999, as Virtue“s Last Reward features voice acting for all characters (save for Sigma, the protagonist) during all Novel sections. You may find it disappointing that no Escape sequences are voiced, but it really isn“t a problem when you consider how much less dialogue there is and how much more emphasis is placed on just solving the mind-boggling puzzles. And not only is there voice acting in this game, but this is some of the best voice acting any game has ever had. Seriously, props to the VLR voice actors. Of course, no game is without flaws. Perhaps one of the most popular of these flaws is the 3DS version“s infamous save-corrupting bug, an unfortunate pain that might cause people to go with the Vita version. Other unwanted pains within this game include moments when the 3D effect of the 3DS version just doesn“t work, some minor text-related hiccups, and a few bits of sloppy visuals scattered throughout the game. None of these issues really stunt the experience, however, and so long as you don“t save during Escape sequences, the save file problem can be easily bypassed. If you“ve played 999, you“ll have an idea of what to expect from its sequel – a riveting, twisted story full of suspense that you will likely lose sleep over once it pulls you in. If you haven“t played 999, it“s recommended that you do so before immersing yourself in Volume 2 of the newly-branded Zero Escape series. There are a few flaws dotted throughout this game, sure, but once you brush those aside, the wonderfully dark magic it exudes becomes fully realized. With some fun-to-solve and appropriately frustrating puzzles, beautiful visuals, and some fantastic audio work involving some of the best video game voiceovers around, Zero Escape: Virtue“s Last Reward is one incredible game, and as far as visual novels go, quite frankly, it doesn“t get much better than this. Pros: + A deep, twisted, and very exciting story + Plenty of clever gameplay elements + Very elegant visuals + Remarkable voicework and soundtrack + A 30+ hour addiction Cons: - The 3DS version has a save-corrupting bug - A few visual and text-related hiccups Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Regardless of which version you pick up, Virtue's Last Reward is among the best of its class, surpassing its award-winning predecessor in nearly every way possible to make this a truly fantastic experience.
DrPixel posted a blog entry in Pixels N' Stuff"Thirty Flights of Love"......now what exactly does that mean? I'm not too sure really, and I doubt any of you reading are either. I could truly care less actually! That's not what this is about. ....or is it? Confusion, espionage, backstabbery (I hope that's a word), good-heists-gone-wrong; Any of these words or phrases could be used to describe this game, but I'll just use a basic one: adventure. This game is an adventure with cheeky, modern-looking Quake II engine graphics, catchy music, and a confusing story presented to you in a confusing way. That's all good though, as this is a game that relies on confusion and no dialogue or UI to present an interesting and even funny at times short story to the player. As I said, this game really does go out of the way to be confusing. Honestly, it does! I even went back and played through with developer commentary on as I was curious to why the developers, Blendo Games, did some things, and it answered many of my questions which was nice. The game plays out to you with no instructions or tasks given to you at all. You basically just have to aimlessly find your way through the game, though it IS done in a linear manner, which solves any problems of not knowing where to go. Not just the game's progression but also its story is confusing. At times you seem to be just about to accomplish something or are in serious trouble, but then it suddenly goes to another scene. It's a unique and interesting mechanic that is heavily used in the game, and works well. I personally liked it a lot, although some people may feel that without a definite conclusion to events the game's story is garbage. I won't delve into any details of the game's story, but just know that it will surprise you and may get different emotions out of you....depending on how you take it. I personally sort of kidded around the whole game and that made it very enjoyable for me but I can see how someone may just think it's stupid if they take it seriously. Graphics-wise, I have no clue at all how this game looks so good! It runs on the Quake II engine yet has moderately pretty graphics, so there must have been some extra modifications done to the engine I guess. Anyway, everything looks nice and crisp, and as with Blendo Games' last game like this, Gravity Bone, everything looks bright and colorful. The music is suave and fitting for such a game. Overall, I'm sure that I can definitely recommend this game to someone, but it's definitely not for everyone. The $5 price point is a little high in my opinion, but if it were a bit lower I probably feel more positive about the game. That and the length are my only two major problems with it I think. I give this game a: 7.5/10 It's a tough game to recommend because of how unique it is honestly. If you don't like short or weird games, you may want to stay away. However, if you want a nice little experience that may just make your day a little more joyful, get this! A sale may be best unless the price drops, but otherwise if you're willing to take a chance with it the game will reward you with a good time. It's entertaining and fun, and that's what games should be! __________________________________________________________________________________ Thank you Brendon from Blendo Games not only for the review copy, but also for the two Steam copies to give away! Yes, that's right folks, you can have a chance to win a copy of this amusing and quirky game! Entering is as follows: -Leave any comment on this blog of any sort! Really, I want some! [+1 entry] -Post this on Twitter (with a link to here please, if you want mention me at @drpixl). [+1 entry] -Take a picture of yourself and another person (can be anyone) hugging OR crop someone else into a picture of you if you have nobody to hug. ( ) [+2 entries] Make sure if you tweet about it or do the picture entry you post a link to it in your comment! Enjoy, and good luck! This ends Wednesday, August 29th, 2012, at 4:00 P.M. PST. Once again, thank you Brendon from Blendo Games for allowing me to do this awesome event!