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  1. We do it for Pey'j! And I swear we're gonna find 'em this time! Come check out some more of my first playthrough of #BeyondGoodandEvil right here on #Twitch! And don't forget my #PowerRangers and #SuperSentai emotes are live! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  2. In previous years, pinball on consoles was almost all but exclusive to Pinball FX/Zen Pinball and Pinball Arcade, but now indie developers are thinking outside the box and introducing the genre in pretty interesting new ways. Case in point: Villa Gorilla's upcoming Yoku's Island Express, a game they're describing as an 'open world pinball adventure.' As you might guess, the game isn't just a pinball title -- it's actually a blend of Metroidvania adventure with pinball mechanics. The titular protagonist Yoku is a dung beetle who becomes Mokumana Island's new postman. You'll explore the island, meet its different inhabitants and visit different areas, and in the process help wake its ancient island god, whose nightmares are affecting the island with quakes and storms. Yoku's Island Express certainly looks promising so far, with its hand-made visuals and locations which are said to be inspired by the likes of Studio Ghibli's works. It's currently in the works for PC and consoles, though no specific consoles have been detailed at this time. Expect to hear more about the game over GDC in the upcoming week and in the lead up to its release, which is being targeted for a late 2017/early 2018 launch window. Check out the game's announcement trailer below! Source: Press Release Are you interested in seeing more of Yoku's Island Express?
  3. Marcus Estrada

    Review: White Night

    Developer: OSome Studio Publisher: Activision Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One Release Date: March 3, 2015 ESRB: M for Mature As the phenomenon that is “indie games” continues to grow in the video game landscape it only makes sense that some big name companies have begun publishing more unique titles from small development teams. This March Activision of all people brought OSome Studio“s noir horror adventure White Night to PC as well as modern consoles. In the past, chances are this visually-arresting title would have not received such a wide reach. In any case, now that the game is out there, is it worth playing? Is there more than simply a gorgeous exterior? Well, before we get around to answering that question let“s first explore the basics of White Night. The start is compelling - you control a character who has just survived a car crash. With no knowledge of where you are, or even who you are, the player experiences the same sort of confusion as our protagonist. As he hobbles from the wreck, gameplay features are simply explained. You can look at objects, interact with some items, and listen to a bit of mumblings from the protagonist. There are also journal entries from multiple characters spread about liberally throughout to provide backstory. Point and click adventure gameplay permeates the entire experience. Yes, you actually move the character directly like in a Telltale game, but beyond that it“s a very slow, deliberate experience. There are puzzles to solve, items to manipulate, and loads of exposition. All of that is pretty typical, but you“ll also find action segments. After all, this is a modern horror game… Basically, ghosts permeate the manor you discover and are trapped within. If they spy you then they“ll float angrily toward you. Get touched by one and it“s game over! There are auto saves, as well as the ability to save your progress too (although that is tied to specific areas - literally sitting on couches - within the building). So, ghosts have the potential to be frustrating, but it could certainly be worse. Another classic, and a much maligned, horror trope is limited supply of important items. White Night“s necessary commodity comes in the form of matches. Of course it would be too convenient for this big old house to be brightly lit in the middle of the night! Matches light the way during a large percentage of exploration and run down after a while (or must be put out in order to operate two-handed items). You“ll find more scattered around, but careful exploration means you“ll likely run out more often than you“d like. Given the game“s stark black and white art style it“s nearly impossible to explore in pitch black locations otherwise. Then there“s the story which is forced upon players at every instance. It“s not all that interesting. Sure, it“s cool to see a period piece (set around the Great Depression) but the aspect doesn“t actually play into much. It feels more like window dressing when the core story could have easily be pushed into any timeframe. There are multiple endings, but the big reveal is pretty easy to guess beforehand. My biggest disappointment is with the writing which, at times, felt incredibly steeped in noir sensibilities. Yet, for every cool line there were multiple which sounded super odd. It“s almost as though two folks wrote the game (with no attempt to smooth them together for cohensions“ sake) or that an editor only looked over portions of text. Despite annoyances as far as matchsticks, ghosts, and story are concerned, there“s still one aspect of White Night that exceeds 150%: Visuals! The game looks awesome with its stark art and distinct camera angles. Some of the more extreme camera angles cause issues as far as depth perception are concerned but damn they look good! It would have been cool to see every single room given equal stylized care, but that might have resulted in a more confusing play experience. What we have with White Night is a game that is all style and some substance. Gameplay as far as puzzles are concerned works just fine. There just so happen to be some annoying aspects of classic horror games included. Sure, some can argue things like limited inventory, iffy control, and rote storytelling as integral to a truly classic horror experience, but modern games have shown new ways to achieve the same fearful effects. White Night deserves appreciation for the obvious effort put in, but five hours might be better spent with any number of excellent horror titles. Pros: + Lovingly stylized black and white noir atmosphere + Variety of puzzles to solve, most of which are logical + Large, creepy home to explore Cons: - Matches and saving system are more annoying than tension-raising - Cool camera sometimes leads to control issues - Ghosts are totally unfair at times Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent If White Night“s gameplay was as stunning as the visuals then this would have been a home run for horror fans. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher
  4. Marcus Estrada

    White Night Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  5. Marcus Estrada

    White Night Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  6. Marcus Estrada

    White Night Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  7. Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, iOS, Android Release Date: December 2, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the PC version of the game The whole world is seemingly enraptured by the A Song of Ice and Fire franchise—this, of course, includes the extremely popular TV show, Game of Thrones. Blood, sex, adventure, drama—the show has a bevy of content that“s helped it become a hit. But sometimes fans thirst for even more, especially when waiting for the next season and/or book. Thanks to Telltale Games, enthusiasts of the series can dive into an interactive Game of Thrones world that they are sure to find pleasing. Now, the reason I say Game of Thrones instead of A Song of Ice and Fire as a whole is that Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series is very much based on the events and characters of the show rather than the books. Which means, yes, you will see Peter Dinklage as Tyrion and Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell. The show characters that appear in Game of Thrones – A Telltale Game Series are even voiced by their actors. It“s almost surreal and weird seeing these folks in a video game, but it is also very awesome. Telltale“s usual comic book-y, semi-realistic graphical style suits the world of Game of Thrones very well. As an added touch, they implemented a sort of oil painting style specifically for this game. My only gripe is that there is a weird watercolor effect added to the edges of some things. It doesn“t look right at all. You eventually get used to it, though. Back to the subject of events of the show, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series begins around season three and will end right before the beginning of season five. As such, it is highly recommended that you are familiar with the show itself in order to derive maximum enjoyment from the game (though I“m not sure why anyone would want to play if they“re not a Game of Thrones fan!). Funnily enough, the characters you play as in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series are from a House present in the books, but not the television show. Focus on these completely brand new characters, all members of House Forrester, allows for a fresh experience for fans of both the show and books. So far, the members and royal family of House Forrester seem to be an enticing and interesting bunch. Don“t get too attached to anyone here, however—like the rest of the franchise, anyone can die at any time with no warning. Episode 1: Iron From Ice keeps you on your toes for a good two or three hours from start to finish. And as is typical with Telltale“s games, the ending is definitely shocking and will make you hunger for the next episode. However, as is also typical with Telltale“s games, all the choices you make are superficial and never really make any difference. A few lines of dialogue are changed here and there, but that“s mostly it. It“s becoming somewhat of a tiring formula, but at least there“s (hopefully) going to be an enjoyable story in it. In any case, I definitely enjoyed my time with Episode 1: Iron From Ice, especially being an immense fan of both the television show and books. Though I“m not a fan of episodic games for numerous reasons, Telltale is usually very good with getting episodes out in a timely manner, so I won“t mind the wait between them too much. The first episode showed a lot of promise for the rest of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, so I eagerly await Episode 2! Pros + Story and drama that hooks you from that start + Phenomenal voice acting that includes the television show's actors Cons - As with all Telltale games, choices don't actually matter Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Episode 1: Iron From Ice is a promising start for Game of Thrones – A Telltale Game Series. It's a must-play for fans of the franchise. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher.
  8. Marcus Estrada

    Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

    Developer: The Astronauts Publisher: The Astronauts Platform: PC - Steam Release Date: September 25, 2014 ESRB: N/A (M suggested) Few narratively-focused games begin quite like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Most will talk your ear off or attempt to set some mood, but here, you“re dropped right into a forested area. All you get to know is that you“re a psychic detective named Paul Prospero hot on the trail of the “Ethan Carter” case. With that minute-long introduction out of the way players are free to explore as they see fit. It“s rare to see modern adventure games actually provide a sense of “adventure” when most railroad players down a specific path. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, you“ve given the freedom to explore Red Creek Valley in its gorgeous entirety. Areas such as an old mine, church, and dam are visited during a playthrough. Sure, no one seems to be around, but that lends to the supernatural/creepy atmosphere. Those who have a powerful enough computer to run the game at high settings are in for one hell of a visual treat. The world simply looks incredible. Whether you“re deep in a lush wooded area or crossing a bridge, it“s hard to not stop and admire everything. The game“s painterly style is still present at lower settings but won“t cause nearly as powerful of a response. It“s thanks to the attractive visuals that the main gameplay mechanics - searching and walking a lot - don“t drain on players as much as they otherwise might. With that said, although the scope at first seems immense, you eventually realize a lot is due to smart design tricks. See a heavy bunch of foliage near the end of a path? Yep, that“s an “invisible wall” so there“s no straying too far off the path. Once you look beyond graphics, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter quickly boils down to a simple series of puzzles. As Paul explores, he comes across a variety of objects in the world which can be interacted with. In fact, almost all items you mess with are those necessary for solving puzzles. After uncovering each object connected to a crime in the area, you“ll then be able to “sense” and play back what occurred there. This requires players to place four to five segments of said event in proper order, but usually this isn“t that tough. Luckily, there“s no restriction on how many times you can retry if it gets set up improperly. In a way, it“s a bit disappointing that the game offers little else beyond such simple mechanics. With such an inviting landscape it would make sense to expect more locational puzzles, similar to Myst. Instead they just rinse and repeat the same exact gameplay concept a handful of times over. With that said, this is a great way to invite players who aren“t especially skilled with ”typical“ adventure game puzzles. I certainly appreciated rarely having to wrack my brain to make it through the three to five hour experience. Perhaps the strangest aspect of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is its mystery storyline. No, I“m not going to delve into spoilers or anything, but the whole thing is pretty offbeat. By the end I was still not sure what had happened, what it all meant, and why certain things had occurred, but it was still a neat romp. It doesn“t really appear there“s a need to replay it, either. Considering the short playtime, perhaps it“s worth another playthrough just to get a handle on its story. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter does not overstay its welcome. It deserves credit for offering a large, incredibly pretty landscape to ogle while you explore, too. However, when you get down to the nitty gritty there“s a very samey approach taking to nearly every puzzle in the game. Once you understand the formula you rarely have to worry about exploring too much and getting lost in the process. Now, that doesn“t make this a bad game - not at all. It would have just been nice to see a bit more challenge. Heck, some more non-required objects to interact with would help make the world seem more alive too. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter provides incredibly polished visuals and one unique storyline aside gameplay that doesn“t quite stack up. Pros: + Beautiful scenery + Wide area to explore + Unusual storyline/storytelling mechanics Cons: - Incredibly formulaic puzzle setup - Most puzzles should prove no challenge Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good The Vanishing of Ethan Carter may be one of the most visually stunning adventure games available today; it“s just not the “smartest.” Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher.
  9. Marcus Estrada

    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  10. Marcus Estrada

    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  11. Marcus Estrada

    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  12. Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS Release Date: July 22, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature The Walking Dead: Season Two is moving towards its conclusion, and now, more than ever, we are left with questions. What will become of Clementine and survivors? How many more people will fall to the Walkers or, worse yet, the whims of other people? Episode 4 may provide some answers, but it leaves us with even more as the tale moves towards its final episode. Note: There will be minor spoilers from the previous episodes. This review will not have spoilers for Amid The Ruins. Amid The Ruins starts off immediately after the end of Episode 3, showing you the results of the difficult decision you were forced to make during the previous episode. From there, the survivors escape the hoard of Walkers attacking Carver's base and must deal with a new ordeal: Specifically, the ordeal of childbirth. The majority of this episode actually features a fair amount of downtime, allowing you to catch your breath with the copious action from Episode 3. As Rebecca goes into labor, you have to find some necessities to ease the childbirth, as well as find the remnants of the group that got separated during the escape from the hoard. This gives some characters a bit of time to get their feelings straight, as the last couple of episodes have done little in giving the survivors a respite. It also gives a little bit of time to focus on the newcomers to the group. Jane in particular gets a fair amount of development as she feels a need to help Clementine learn how to survive, and makes her one of the more interesting characters of the season. Bonnie and Mike are unfortunately neglected in terms of character development, but there is a chance they'll get a little more time in the spotlight in Episode 5. If anything, the decisions that are forced upon you this time are a bit disappointing. Many of the choices seem forced, and many of the situations that spawn from these decisions feel half-baked. For starters, there should be little reason that Clementine should be making such important decisions for the group, even with groups showing a fair amount of friction between the two 'leaders'. While this is something that made sense for Lee in Season 1, the simple fact that Clementine is a child (even a greatly matured one) shouldn't give her the ability to be the single voice of reason amongst a group of adults, not all of which are inhibited by injury or the stress of childbirth. Even with the more 'personal' decisions of Episode 4, though, there felt as though there was some inconsistent writing involved. Amid The Ruins has a situation very similar to a sequence in Season 1 that is now well known for making the player feel shoehorned into the story without taking into account their decisions, and it gives the story an unfortunate disconnect that really puts a damper on the experience. The sad part is that there could have been an easy way to solve this by re-writing a few lines or changing the aggressor's motives, but the fact that Telltale didn't care to do so made it a little disappointing. While it is by no means bad, Amid The Ruins is probably the lowest point of The Walking Dead Season Two yet. It does set itself up for an interesting climax, so one can only hope that Telltale really pulls off an exciting climax for this season of their hit adventure title. Pros: + Slower pace sets up for some character exposition and engagement absent from previous action packed episodes Cons: - The disconnect between making decisions and their impact on the tale is shockingly obvious - Too much time was focused on Jane this episode, leaving no room for development for the other survivors Overall Score: 6.5 (Out of 10) Decent Amid The Ruins sets the player up for a suspenseful conclusion, but does little else to stand on its own feet as a two hour gaming experience. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Xbox 360 code provided by the publisher
  13. Marcus Estrada

    Valiant Hearts Screenshot 2

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  14. Marcus Estrada

    Valiant Hearts Screenshot 1

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  15. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

    Developer: Big Finish Games Publisher: Atlus Platform: PC (Steam) ESRB: N/A (T suggested) Release Date: May 8, 2014 If you were a fan of adventure games in the early 90s then maybe you“ll remember Tex Murphy. The series focused on a bumbling private investigator named Tex living in a futuristic version of San Francisco. In 1998, the series saw its last game - until a Kickstarter launched in 2012 to bring back the series with a brand new entry. Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure is that game and it“s finally ready for fans and non-fans alike. Having only played a handful of the series before, I“m situated in the middle, and my review reflects that. Tesla Effect starts off with poor Tex getting some serious blunt force trauma to the head. Apparently, he“s also lost his memory. This is a simple but effective method of allowing new players into the world. They know nothing about Tex and his friends and now neither does he! Of course, the storyline utilizes the amnesia trope well rather than as a simple story crutch. In either case, the game wastes no time introducing you to quite the cast of characters. The Tex Murphy series might pull from the film noir genre, but it does so in a very goofy way. Characters are certainly unique, and often feel more like caricatures than actual people with multifaceted personalities. Considering everyone is actually filmed acting out their roles, it“s even odder. Watching the full motion video (FMV) does lend an extra bit of amusement to the experience though. FMV is something that Tex Murphy games have long since been famous (or infamous) for. While most adventure games finally gave it up, this series continued on with it; in 2014, it's hard to think of any other published games that still utilize the style. Tesla Effect“s usage certainly works better than it did in the past. Now the videos are in HD quality (up to 2K resolution) whereas before they were severely compressed files. The high budget visuals still don“t look entirely professional, though. This may make things feel a bit disjointed, but also charming. It“s a shame that the game“s longest level is almost entirely devoid of FMV sequences. Fans of adventure games will probably like this game because it offers a variety of puzzle types over its 8 to 15 hour playtime. Sometimes you“ve just got to grill characters until they give you the right information. Of course, most puzzles revolve around using objects in the right way. These puzzles are all inherently logical. Unfortunately, there are a few rather cumbersome puzzles such as the much-hated picture sliding puzzle. Players can opt to skip over non-object puzzles if some prove frustrating enough. The game goes a step further to aid players who align themselves with the “casual” difficulty setting. In this mode, you can access a sort of in-game walkthrough. The hint section is updated whenever new tasks become available and lists off what has to be done to complete it. Copiously reading the hints does detract from your final score, but that has no in-game repercussions. Players who don“t want to ”cheat“ can simply never open the hint section. One of the weirdest features of Tesla Effect is the rampant amount of fanservice present. Examining certain objects causes Tex to reflect on his past adventures, complete with videos captured from the old games. The first hours of gameplay are filled with these memories and exist to please old fans. Considering they“re not very hidden, and very hokey, these videos will either annoy or intrigue new players. Honestly, some of the more ridiculous videos (and they're all ridiculous) might make new players sad that this game isn“t nearly as bonkers. Tex“s latest adventure is entertaining and filled with (mostly) great puzzles. Over the course of the game there are a few areas to explore and even some story-related choices to make. It“s at these decision points that the game stealthily keeps tally and pushes players toward a specific ending. There are five in all, although two are nearly identical. It“s surprising that an FMV game exists in 2014 but perhaps more surprising is that it“s pretty damn fun. Tesla Effect weaves a somewhat silly narrative that is worth seeing through to the end. Not only that, but puzzles make you think without devolving into convoluted reasoning. Combine all that with useful additions such as hints and auto travel and the game caters well to newer adventure fans. Tesla Effect is an entertaining, and worthwhile, continuation of the Tex Murphy lineage. Pros: + Variety of puzzles that are inherently logical + Great hint system for stuck players + Actors perform passionately for their FMV scenes Cons: - Not many areas to explore - Somewhat unprofessional video quality/effects at times Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Tesla Effect proves that FMV adventure games can be made today and still be ridiculously enjoyable. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher.
  16. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Master Reboot

    Developer: Wales Interactive Publisher: Wales Interactive Platform: PC (Steam), PS3 (PSN) Release Date: October 29, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen Master Reboot launched last year on PC but not that many people appeared to notice. For whatever reason, the intriguing title is one that many PC players have yet to play, even if they did purchase a copy. Now that the game is on PS3 it has another shot to draw gamer attention toward itself. But is this a game that actually deserves a second chance? Most definitely, although there are caveats to this statement. The storyline to Master Reboot is a bit hard to convey but that“s because the game itself keeps most of it under wraps to reveal as you play. However, the basic setup is that there is a company called Mysteri that has invented a new technology called the Soul Cloud. When people die, they can have their mind and memories digitized and stored in Mysteri“s servers. Once uploaded, loved ones can come and “visit” the digital version of their spouses, siblings, parents, and friends. It sounds pretty cool, right? Or maybe it sounds terrifying. In any case, players start the game as someone visiting the Soul Cloud although we aren“t sure as to why. Once inside it appears that things have gone wrong. Certain memory doors are inaccessible while others are. There also seems to be dangerous glitches interfering with the data. Your goal is to make it through various memories, thereby unlocking them all. It“s a bit harder than it sounds. Although some stages operate differently, the goal is usually to solve a handful of puzzles within any one memory. Puzzles range from figuring out how to collect a series of items, arranging objects in the proper way, and a few less obvious ones. Any player willing to put in some degree of effort will find puzzles solvable. This isn“t a classic adventure game with loopy logic, after all. Sometimes you must find the proper path through areas which can be a bit more annoying when you can“t figure out the “trick”. Exploring memories is the coolest part of the game because it leads you to gorgeous, creepy, and just plain interesting areas. For example, you“ll visit a school and playground, but also worrisome locations such as an abandoned amusement park. That“s just the start, though. Things often fly off the rails with far more unique and visually stunning areas. Uncovering new memories is always exciting as you never know what might be right around the corner. Much of the excitement to be had with traversing through memories is thanks to the excellent aesthetics. Yes, Master Reboot has a sort of retro polygonal look, but that works to its advantage. It doesn“t look like a PS1 or N64 game but instead uses polygons as a stylistic choice that lend to the strange world of the Soul Cloud. Chances are, you“ve never played a game that looks quite like this one before. Not every aspect of the game lives up to its fantastic visual design. For one, non-music audio sounds strangely poor at times. Sometimes sound effects also sound too loud or quiet. The audio being unbalanced seems quite odd and can take you out of the mood. There was also a good deal of screen tearing when playing on console which was not appreciated. In certain areas it was fine, but in others (such as a forested area at the very start) it became extreme. There also appear to be issues pertaining to this port exclusively that are due to the PS3 controller. For example, there is a segment early on where you must drive through traffic for a set amount of time without hitting any cars. It doesn“t sound too tough, and hopefully wouldn“t be when having fairly precise control on a keyboard. However, using the analog stick feels floaty and leads to one sideswiping cars far more often than should be the case. There are other times when using a controller feels like the wrong way to be playing. It“s not wrong for a developer to prefer one control scheme over another but it“s unfortunate more wasn“t done to aid the PS3 experience. Is Master Reboot playing? Most definitely. It has an incredibly unique premise and design that definitely deserves attention. However, getting the game on PS3 is not recommended as that“s obviously not the way it was meant to be played. Or, if it ever appears as an Instant Game Collection title you can test the waters there before eventually buying on Steam. In any case, Master Reboot was quite a surprising game and hopefully this recent port will give it some much-needed attention. Pros: + Excellent stylized visuals + Interesting storyline + Puzzles that are not made to confound players Cons: - PS3 controls are imprecise and finicky - Weird audio mix - Some screen tearing on more complex areas Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10) Good Although the PS3 port of Master Reboot leaves something to be desired it still manages to shine through with an excellent concept and artistic vision. Disclosure: This review is based on PS3 downloadable code of the game provided by the publisher.
  17. Developer: Telltale Studios Publisher: Telltale Studios Platform: PS3, 360, PC (Steam) Release Date: March 4, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature The review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game Another month, and another episode of a Telltale story to play. Last month, eager fans finally received the second episode of The Wolf Among Us, continuing the Big Bad Wolf's investigation into a bizarre murder plot, and this month fans of The Walking Dead get to see where Clementine's fight for survival and a place to belong in a zombie-infested world take her. But will Episode 2 bring excitement and conflict to the second season of this adventure game series, or will players be left lacking? Whereas Episode 1 focused on how Clementine has grown since the first season as well as introducing a new set of survivors to get used to, Episode 2 focuses more on fleshing out these new characters. While we were only given a small taste of their personalities in Episode 1, the group of survivors in Season 2 all have strong motives and convictions of their own, and it slowly becomes obvious that these weren't people forced together solely for survival, like the group from Season 1. Episode 2 introduces a new antagonist to the series, and with that brings a new tension to Clementine - the threat of human conflict. In addition to this, the group also meets up with another group of survivors, including (as promised in Episode 2's preview) a rather surprising familiar face. The rest of the episode involves Clementine coming to terms with this situation. She has to juggle the past and present, and decide who and what is more important to her... whether it's this new cast of survivors that have now accepted her into their group, or this (possibly even a shadow of) comforting, solid memory of the past. This rather unexpected plot thread makes all of the decisions in the latter half of the episode that much more difficult, especially when you learn of the mental frailty of some of the characters. A House Divided is far from action packed; most of the episode involves chatting with the survivors and making tense decisions, but the episode is better for that. Since there are few situations where you have to take down Walkers and fight for survival, it gives plenty of time for the various characters to become fleshed out, as well as ample time for the new antagonist to make himself and his power known. This episode also leaves at an interesting point, making it clear that Season 2 is going to be quite different from Telltale's first foray into The Walking Dead canon. There are also little tidbits to help make Episode 2 more fulfilling. Those who played 400 Days will get to see what happened to the survivors at the end of the intermediary episode, though it's unobtrusive enough that those that didn't pick up the extra episode won't miss much for it. Also, later decisions felt like they had a fair amount of weight to them; I personally felt that if I hadn't have made the decisions I had, certain people would have died and would have a long-term impact on the plot. Whether that is actually true is yet to be seen, as fans of Season 1 know of Telltale's way of handling the branching plot there, but for the time being it looks very promising. On the gameplay side on things, everything is as you would expect from a Telltale title: A few quick time events, multiple dialogue options, and sometimes a simple puzzle to solve. Episode 2's 360 counterpart stills suffers from the occasional slowdown and stuttering that console Telltale games have, but it seemed to improve a bit from Episode 1... more than likely due to the decreased amount of actions scenes in this episode. If anything, The Walking Dead Season 2 is shaping up to be an interesting, different experience from the first season. While it is yet to be seen if fans' biggest gripe of the first season will be rectified, seeing the continuation of Clementine's struggle in an apocalyptic world is reason enough to look into Telltale's latest tale. Pros: + Character development helps the player care more for the new group of survivors + The returning character brings a new dynamic to the plot that wasn't possible in Season 1 Cons: - Still feels like the episode is merely setting up for later tension, instead of standing on its own Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great A House Divided sets the stage for a intense and thrilling story for the second zombie-filled season of Telltale's The Walking Dead. A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
  18. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS Vita Release Date: February 11, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature Back in 2010, a game with the name of Danganronpa arrived on Japanese PSPs and never left the region. With the Vita out, Spike Chunsoft decided to bring their title to this newer handheld as well. It“s thanks to this more recent port and NIS America that Western gamers can finally get a taste of the oddball adventure game - and many have been waiting quite a while for the official debut! But what exactly is Dangaronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc? Dangonronpa is a title focusing on a cast of teenagers with incredible skills. Each is the ultimate in their respective interest (such as baseball, business, and programming) and have been selected to go to an incredibly exclusive high school. Hope“s Peak Academy has long been known as the launch point for students that will make them set for life in their future careers. Unfortunately, as the introduction quickly reveals, something has gone seriously wrong at Hope“s Peak. For some reason, aside from the newest entrants into the school, it is completely empty. Windows are covered with massive metal plates, the exit blocked by a vault-style door, and there“s also a weird bear ordering everyone around. This teddy bear-like being, named Monokuma, plainly states that the group of students are to be stuck in school for the rest of their lives. The only way to leave is to kill a classmate - and get away with it. Of course, getting away with it entails fooling everyone during a trial between peers. If they peg the right person then that student is punished with death. However, point to the wrong person and everyone except the murder will receive death sentences. It seems ridiculous which is why no one wants to believe Monokuma is even capable of carrying out his threats! But soon enough they realize that the claims are real and every one of them is in mortal danger. Players take the role of an “average” student named Makoto and do their best to find clues, solve murders, and make sure innocents aren“t killed. Playing Danganronpa reveals a host of varied gameplay modes that mix point and click adventure, visual novel, and a few other things. A lot of the game is spent watching the story unfold as characters discuss topics with a static image showing who“s speaking. On occasions, you have time to freely choose who to chat with or can scour crime scenes for important clues. Segments like these are played from a first-person perspective, although navigating the school is pretty dull. There is a map function to quickly warp between areas, at least. When on the hunt for clues you simply interact with static screens by clicking on objects to learn about them. After watching events transpire and collecting clues, the gameplay shifts into a class trial mode. At this point, all the living classmates gather up and try to decide who among them has committed murder. This is a recurring event and only gets more stressful as the class body dwindles. As everyone presents their ideas (or accusations) it is your job to find the lies or mistakes and expose them. For better or for worse, almost all of your classmates are complete imbeciles meaning it“s on your shoulders to discern what really happened in each crime. In a way it sounds like a Phoenix Wright game. Actually playing the courtroom aspect of Danganronpa shows it as a completely different beast, though. To go with the theme of murder, you are granted “truth bullets” to shoot at incorrect statements being made. During another courtroom event, you“ll have to play a simplistic rhythm game while shooting down lies. Finally, you have to completely reconstruct the series of events around each murder in comic book format to prove you“ve got it down. Most of these elements seem like silly attempts to make the experience more game-like. Honestly, it would have been fine with simple menus rather than the strangely complex system that is eventually build up during these sections. Although there might be reason to gripe with some of the game“s constraints, it“s hard to get too angry about the writing. As it turns out, it is a surprisingly gripping tale filled with unique characters. Each student is completely different and almost all have their own weird quirks. A few characters fall into stereotypes, but it was nice to see more unique members among the students as well. Eventually you“ll find the students you like most and seek to spend more time with them but you never know who might be murdered next. Part of the tension comes from hoping your specific clique will make it out alive…but that is very unlikely. Another high point for Danganronpa is its art and music. The visual design of each character is fairly unique and drawn nicer than a standard RPG. Similarly, there are special scenes and a few animated ones that showcase even better quality visuals than the main game. As for the soundtrack, it is composed by Masafumi Takada who has worked on a great many Grasshopper Manufacture titles over the years. If you liked his music in titles like Killer7 then you“ll almost certainly love the soundtrack here. Danganronpa offers at least 15 hours of gameplay which spans across a handful of murders that must be solved. The main disappointment is that it isn“t all that difficult. Even when you aren“t clear on how a murder occurred, everything is written to lead you directly to the solution over the course of each case. However, an easier difficulty means this game can be enjoyed by many more people which is a great thing. The main reason to play is to watch the story unfold and see if you“re a good enough detective to pinpoint who will be murdered and by whom before it occurs! The game tells a compelling story all the while offering up a totally unique experience to players. If murder mysteries are your thing then you“d be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Pros: + Dark, sometimes humorous writing, sets the tone for a very engaging storyline + Very nice artwork and animation to compliment the large amount of reading segments + Excellent soundtrack that shifts from melancholic to manic Cons: - Gameplay elements feel awkwardly tacked on - Skilled sleuths will find each murder mystery a bit too obvious, especially during courtroom segments - Some of the students are cliched which clashes with the far more interesting ones Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10) Good Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is quite the unusual game but its compelling plot is worth investigating. A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
  19. Developer: Telltale Publisher: Telltale Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, 360, Vita, Ouya Release Date: December 18, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based off the Xbox 360 version of the game, in which a review code was provided by the publisher When the first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead hit our gaming consoles of choice, many people were astounded by the emotional story of a zombie-filled apocalypse. Your choices in the game are tailored to make it look like they mattered (though unfortunately they rarely did), and specifically made you think about your actions and how they would affect Lee and the other survivors. Now, after the conclusion of Season One and a short intermediary episode to keep us busy, we finally have the first episode of Season Two. How well does this first episode prepare us for the drama and teary moments that are sure to come? After a short intro that details the events of Season One and a small amount of exposition afterwards, we are thrust over a year into the future and in control of an older Clementine. The months have not been kind to the girl, but it's clear that she has grown strong and has learned some survival instinct in the interim. Of course, Clementine is still a child, and her frailty does tend to show through at various parts of the episode, despite her overall tough demeanor. This makes Clementine a very compelling character to play as; much like she was a remarkable character in Season One, her charm and general age makes her an interesting contrast to the typical protagonist you would play as in these sort of games. Lee was very much a believable character, there's a definite charm in being a child trying to survive alone in such harsh conditions. Of course, playing as Clementine also brings about a potential snag in the narrative; since she was in fact a non-playable character in Season One, she had an established personality. Since Telltale's games offer you many decisions and choices in what you say and do, and some may feel that certain decisions don't really match her established personality. The lengthy period of time certainly helps ease the player into a "different" Clementine in that regard, but some might find this a bit jarring. Musings on Clementine aside, Episode 1's purpose is twofold. First, we are shown how Clementine has grown over the eighteen months. She's older, tougher, and has gained quite a few survival skills along the way. While she can't survive completely alone, we're quickly shown that Clementine is also not helpless. This early half of the episode really makes you feel her struggles in a different light. For example, while the player would expect Lee to be able to easily brush off some wounds and travel great distances without getting tired, we don't expect the same from a child, and Telltale does a great job of how much more difficult survival can be for Clementine. The second purpose of All That Remains is to introduce a new group of survivors. This new group is tight-knit and cautious lot, and already well-established by the time Clementine shows up. Unfortunately, we are only briefly introduced to the characters before the episode ends, but we are given enough interesting tidbits to see that Season Two will be ripe with some interesting narratives and drama. As you expect, Season Two asks you to upload your saves from Season One and 400 Days before playing. If you don't have all the data, it's fine; Season Two will pick generic choices for the carryover. This implies that we'll see our choices in those titles have an effect on Season Two; unfortunately, there's very little present in Episode 1. As it's mostly an introductory chapter into a new setting, that's somewhat expected, but it's still a little disappointing that not only do you not see any choices from the previous titles take any effect (other than a small quip from Clementine), but even that most of the decisions that you make in All That Remains also seem to have little relevance. However, there is solace in the fact that the final decision seems to be a big one, and even seems to effect a portion of Episode 2 is a big way, but how big of a way is yet to be seen. On the technical side of things, everything is your standard Telltale experience. The user interface is upgraded a little to match the tone of The Walking Dead better, but everything else still plays fundamentally the same. There was some frame stuttering during the more action-y parts of the episode, which can make the quick time events a bit more difficult, but this may or may not be an issue with other versions of the game. Overall, All That Remains is just an introduction of things to come. There isn't a mad, confusing scramble like the first episode of Season One, so many might find this episode a little on the slow side. However, Season Two promises more of the emotional drama and tearjerkers we've come to expect in later episodes. It's a little disappointing that Episode 1 is so mellow (well, as mellow as a game could be in the zombie apocalypse), but it seems that there will be great moments to come. Pros: + Playing as Clementine gives survival in the harsh world a new light + The new survivors bring seemingly interesting new dynamics to the 'human' side of the plot Cons: - Frame rate issues break immersion and make quick time events more difficult - While necessary, Episode 1 is more of a framing episode for the new groups of survivors, so there aren't many big impact moments Overall Score: 7.0 (Out of 10) Good All That Remains sets up for an engaging and interesting Season Two, but on its own lacks most of the emotional moments we've come to expect from the series.
  20. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Beyond: Two Souls

    Developer: Quantic Dream Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Platform: PS3 Release Date: October 8, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature David Cage is an incredibly diversive man in the gaming community. Some have loved most or all of Quantic Dream“s output, while others have labeled them as ridiculous. If you fall into either camp, it should still be easy to tell that the developer has certainly been refining their output with each new game. From Omikron: The Nomad Soul to Heavy Rain, it“s obvious that Beyond: Two Souls is their most ambitious project to date. But is that enough to wow players everywhere? Beyond: Two Souls is the story of a young woman by the name of Jodie Holmes. Although there are many mysteries surrounding her, we know that she was scientifically observed from a very young age because of a strange power she exhibited. This power is actually a spirit name Aiden and he is mostly under Jodie“s control. At some point, she was turned over to the CIA to begin training with them. After all, her spiritual skills would make her an incredible asset in infiltration and war. None of this is a spoiler, but the hows and whys are. Instead of presenting the story in a “typical” fashion, we“re given insight into Jodie“s world in small chunks. Each memory chunk serves as a chapter and is also presented to the viewer in a nonlinear fashion. Nonlinear narratives are nothing new, but it may surprise some players since it is a tactic not often used with video games. Although there is a point to this narrative device (driven home very rigorously in the conclusion), it doesn“t seem to be the most effective way of getting players engrossed in Jodie“s world. Instead, it feels more hectic and annoying. At least it isn“t very confusing to tell what comes when in her life“s timeline. If you“ve ever played Indigo Prophecy, or better yet, Heavy Rain, then you already have a pretty good concept of how Beyond: Two Souls is played. There is such a great deal of focus on the cinematic presentation that player control is relegated to a simplistic format. Sometimes you can move a character around an environment and interact with specific bits. Other times, you“re mostly tasked with hitting button prompts for QTE events. New to this title is a new type of QTE which shows no prompt at all and hopes you“ll understand the direction to push based off what is happening on screen. For example, Jodie may be running and need to duck under a high tree branch. The game will slow down, signifying this is a moment to press the thumbstick in one of four directions. It“s simple enough to assume that down is the direction to press because she needs to duck. At times, this can become confusing as Jodie“s body moves backwards but her arms move forward, or at other junctions. Jodie is pretty tough, though, and will usually survive through multiple mistakes on the player“s part without repercussions. If you find this frustrating, then turning the difficulty down to “easy” will add on-screen prompts to these sections. Beyond that there are also a variety of choices to make. These are usually related to conversations that Jodie has with other characters. By choosing one, you are possibly tweaking the relationship between the two characters, or simply prying into their lives. Although the point of choices is to change the narrative, it seems that many still result in the same conclusions. For example, early on there is a moment where you can choose to dance with/kiss a boy who seems to like you. Whether you go through with it or completely rebuff his advances, he will still end up calling Jodie a ****. Is this incredibly biting social commentary or the limitations of choice in games? It“s likely the latter. However, because the game does not allow for multiple saves, Quantic Dream has made it harder to immediately compare the differences between choices to see what actually affects plot points. The most notable feature of Beyond: Two Souls is that players control both Jodie and her spirit friend Aiden. Aiden can only be used at certain times, but you“ll know when because Jodie will begin barking orders for him. In this mode, everything is vaguely blurry around the edges and objects that can be interacted with are highlighted. Sometimes it is just objects which need to be pushed or thrown, and other times Aiden can possess or kill humans. Possessions often end up resulting in killing too, but are a bit cooler. There are some out there who discount Quantic Dream“s latest endeavors because they are not enough of a “game”. This is a silly thing to say, of course, but my mind did wander a bit when considering what Cage ended up directing this time around. I kept being reminded of FMV games on the Sega CD and 32X. Back then, developer Digital Pictures (best known for Night Trap) created multiple games which often related to a story playing out that the player had to interact with from some sort of control room. It was hard to not feel the similarities as Jodie called out to Aiden (effectively “you”) for aid manipulating the environment. With that said, it is still an incredibly cinematic experience and is not hindered by its FMV and adventure style. It“s a reminder that maybe these types of games didn“t need to go away after all. As far as calling Beyond: Two Souls cinematic goes, one must also consider the fact that two big name actors are a part of the game. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are both present, although Dafoe is a secondary character. Seeing Page rendered in 3D is incredibly odd for a while and you can never really shake that it“s her playing Jodie. This happens often with certain actors in films as well, and as fun as it may be, it detracts from the storyline. We aren“t completely wrapped up in Jodie“s tale because all the while we are reminded that this is Ellen Page playing the lead role in Cage“s Beyond: Two Souls. It may be for this reason that it was hard for me to become involved in the narrative. That“s not to say Quantic Dream doesn“t try extremely hard to make you feel for Jodie and her struggles. Oh, they try, and they try hard to appeal to a viewer“s simplest emotions. Everything becomes dramatic to an extreme degree because that“s apparently what Cage views as skillful storytelling. It does seem to be more practiced than any of his previously directed projects, but there is still a ways to go. After all, drama for drama“s sake can work maybe once or twice in a storyline, but is not to be relied upon time and time again. It can easily exhaust the player and effectively drain them of emotional reaction after a while. Another likely result of the famous involvement was that other characters had far less attention paid to them. Almost everything is Jodie, Jodie, Jodie, and by the time the narrative switches back to someone else, it has far less impact. We get to know Jodie, but everyone else is merely an acquaintance. Even after setting my heart on one of the characters, it was with a shock that I realized late in the game I didn“t even know his name. To be fair, the story does have some interesting interludes. Perhaps the most interesting were Jodie“s experiences outside of the CIA. The paranormal stuff as a whole might get a little overwhelming at times, but if Cage has showed anything over his career, it“s that he is really interested in spirits and alternate realities. If you absolutely hate that sort of storytelling then stay far away. However, those who are not biased against ghostly stuff may be able to appreciate the story. Of course, he has also repeatedly shown an interest in “adult” content. His reasoning for this is always to push the medium of games closer to films, which are far less restricted in content than games. However, his method of pursuing this artistic freedom seems to betray his explanation. Players are treated to two shower scenes and both seem to exist to briefly view parts of Jodie“s body, since she herself doesn“t even seem fussed with actually cleaning herself. Instead, she stands around with her eyes closed or leans forward for inexplicable reasons. On the other hand, a possible romantic encounter is incredibly stilted and awkward. Perhaps Cage is still worried that pushing that boundary too far would get his game censored in North America again. Then there's the whole romance aspect of the narrative. Jodie has her choice of a few guys, but it seems very apparent who Cage hopes to pair her with. Unfortunately, the man in question is pretty terrible and gives little reason to make him any more appealing except for the fact that the game constantly gives you the choice to say yes to him and his advances. It's definitely weird and just another example of how player choice is still heavily controlled by the developer's overall vision of how it is supposed to play out. With all this said, there is nothing wrong with players getting invested in Beyond: Two Souls. It is a graphically impressive and well-acted story that takes us to a multitude of locations. Jodie is strong, if conflicted, and it is exciting to see her presented as a capable protagonist. And even if Cage is not as fantastic as he believes his work to be, he is still trying to create something interesting which is more than can be said than most other developers. I could definitely see players attracted to the game for that very reason - it“s something that is rarely available in the gaming medium. But just because Quantic Dream was trying something “new” doesn“t mean they instantly deserve nothing but praise. I appreciate that Beyond: Two Souls exists but the execution leaves much to be desired. If you“re in it for a standard action film-like experience with paranormal elements then this will definitely fit the bill. It is fun and even offers up choices that can be quite hard to make. Still, I couldn“t help but keep running into the borders of the world which showed how much Quantic Dream is still restricted in their presentation. Much of the choice is shallow and gameplay (for those looking for it) is extremely light. But if you“re interested in seeing a bold, imperfect attempt at storytelling in the gaming medium then Beyond: Two Souls is a worthwhile experience. And honestly, most who play it are probably looking for exactly that. Pros: + Gameplay usually serves narrative well instead of getting in the way of it + Jodie“s journey takes many twists and it is interesting to see what comes next + High quality visuals and soundtrack + Has a good deal of replayability if you“d like to see how things play out differently at critical junctures Cons: - Paying attention reveals the many aspects where the game fails at its grandiose goals - Narrative relies on excessive, sometimes borderline silly, drama to strong-arm an emotional reaction out of players - It appears most game choices don“t affect much - People other than Jodie are left undeveloped and feel like types rather than compelling characters Overall Score: 6.0 (out of 10) Decent Beyond: Two Souls strains at the seams of what a video game narrative is “allowed” to be and falters. Still, it serves as an interesting experience which will entice some players with its paranormal storyline, cinematic flourishes, and accessible control scheme.
  21. DrPixel

    Pixel Reviews: MirrorMoon EP (PC)

    Developer: Santa Ragione Publisher: Santa Ragione Platform: PC Release Date: September 4th, 2013 Can endless content justify a repetitive game? Well, in most cases, sure! There's plenty of randomized games out there that are forced to seem somewhat repetitive due to their generation system having a limited number of stuff to chug in. However, if the core gameplay that makes up a randomized game isn't very fun, the satisfaction of achieving something is lost quite a bit. MirrorMoon EP makes this huge mistake, and though it is satisfying to contribute to something larger, which is the game's "cool" feature, the path getting there is filled with either confusion, utter ease, or boredom. MirrorMoon EP is a game about exploring....solar systems! Players pilot their spaceship (don't worry, it just automatically flies there for you, after a delay depending on how far away your destination is) to whichever star they want to embark upon. After they finish, the player is allowed to name the star whatever they want. Sounds pretty neat, right? Unfortunately, this game gets stale fast. If you aren't initially confused for hours like I was, you're probably wizzing by, naming every blank star in sight, and by the time you get to my playtime I would assume you are bored. Each "puzzle" consists of the player collecting items or moving over certain checkpoints for the end goal of finding some sort of egg-like device you merely have to touch. Each star is randomized of course, so some have really tough puzzles and others are incredibly easy. On my 4th star I visited I actually had the egg right in front of me and I essentially finished the star in just a few seconds! However, I'm not completely against the game's basic puzzle system. It also luckily incorporates some certainly unique manipulation of light in the puzzles. I absolutely loved that you could move the moon adjacent to your planet/star to provide light or darkness so you can see certain things you need. It's something I think that's never been done before in a game and it's very fascinating! Another thing to mention is that the game gives you extremely minimal instruction and you are left to your own curiosity to discover what to do to progress and achieve the end goal of leaving your footprint in dozens of stars. As I said earlier, I was completely confused as to how I actually got to other stars for quite a while and so I almost gave up on the game entirely! Going back to give it a second and then later third chance was probably a good idea though. MirrorMoon EP really does have some very interesting ideas in place that would be neat to check out later down the road. In its current state though, this is an explorative game of discovering new content through player co-operation, just not in the traditional sense. You don't physically encounter anyone else in the vastness of space, but seeing that they already did some of the work for you is very neat. Aesthetically, MirrorMoon EP is a curious one. The game's setting of....well, the unknown reaches of space causes the graphical style to take on a much simpler form. Using shapes and structures that even small children could recognize really shows that we as humans know next to nothing about the great space beyond our humble planet. The colors aren't strict reds, blues, or yellows, but more so blends and shades of these. It's also worthy to note that the game's randomized style also involves each planet/star's appearance. There can be odd plant-like things swaying in the wind, rays of light all over, or even rain. I would have loved to see more different variations in each locale, but unfortunately I will admit my patience was lacking so I didn't explore more. The music shows a sense of new, unknown thoughts. Using ambient, peaceful tunes was a good idea on the musician's part. Since the game is about exploration and discovery, this fits pretty much perfectly. The player really has no clue how huge or small each star is and because of that they don't know what native sounds may be in the background. It isn't overly impressive, but the soundtrack for this game is fairly good at capturing a sense of ambient exploration. I wasn't a huge fan of MirrorMoon EP, but I'm sure there are those out there who adore it. If exploring very basic planets and trying to solve randomly-generated worlds primarily via item collecting and manipulating light sounds fun to you, this is the perfect game for you. For casual puzzle or adventure fans though, this might be a tough game to grasp. It certainly was for me, and I just couldn't really get into it as others really have. Bold creativity and some neat ideas sadly did not hold up to the somewhat dull gameplay, in my opinion. I give this game a: 6.5/10
  22. DrPixel

    Pixel Reviews: Shelter (PC)

    Developer: Might and Delight Publisher: Might and Delight Platform: PC Release Date: August 28th, 2013 There's just something about nature that captivates and intrigues us as humans. Perhaps it's because nature represents the unknown, with each and every bush or tree potentially hiding an undiscovered species of plant or animal.. Or maybe it's because we can't quite fathom what it is truly like to be a wild creature living in the brush. Anyhow, games about nature as a central theme are very few and far between. The recent game about taking care of badgers who are your children (yes, seriously), Shelter, is one of these extremely rare games dealing with the topic. Certain things happen in nature, and developer Might and Delight captures this to.....an okay extent. I'll explain. So, in this game, you play as a mother badger merely trying to protect her young from harm's way. There's plenty of harm in this game, from hungry eagles to raging waters and even to the "king of rebirth" in nature, fire. If protection of your children is your primary goal in the game, I have one simple question- why isn't the game more open-ended? This game is pretty much near perfect except for the fact that your path is linear and your experience will be the same generally beyond a few certain things you do each playthrough. By that, I just mean getting your badger babies killed. "SPOILER!" you might shout, but really, this is a game about life, just not with humans as we are used to. The only changing element in this is who dies and who doesn't by the end of the journey. Is this a bad thing though, having an extremely linear experience? Generally in games, no! Most modern AAA titles now are 6 to 8-hour romps through the same locales with the same missions each time anyway. Those games aren't panned for being linear, and yet they're panned for other reasons. Unfortunately, I really do regret to say that this game's only downfall in my opinion is not having the option to, well, do MORE! I would have loved to have actually lived as a badger, doing badgerly sorts of things! Even if the game still has the same length, a short-yet-sweet 2 hours or so, I would have been pretty much fine with having more freedom. Instead we get a great, but bland, short, but not outliving its welcome type of game. I'm sorry if that came across as blatant slandering of this game. Truly, I do, because this is a fairly good game still. The crisp, distinct art style and lovely ambient score will keep you fully immersed in the small amount of time you put into Shelter, even if the fairly "point A to point B" gameplay will turn you off. Even the little things like insects flying around or docile animals roaming around really help draw the player in to make them feel like they ARE the badger mother. I know, it sounds weird, but it's great! Truly nothing like this has really been done before and for that I'll give Might and Delight credit. It's a unique experience and if you are someone who likes to play very interesting games this is not one to miss. If spending $10 to feed your children and brave the seemingly vast (yet invisible wall filled) expanse of a typical gorgeous forest and the dangers within doesn't sound like something you'd want to do, I wouldn't blame you. However, take my word when I say that this is a game you will not want to miss at least playing once in your lifetime. It's not something that will come again for a long time I bet, and for that it's very special. A sale would be preferable to get it in as that would be a perfect price to purchase it at. Otherwise, I just wouldn't justify buying it more expensively at $10 unless you think this would be the game for you. Just be aware of its limitations and the length of the experience. Shelter is a good game, but sadly not a great one because of some major gripes present. I give this game a: 7/10
  23. Developer: KING Art Publisher: Nordic Games Platform: PC (Steam, Web) Release Date: July 23, 2013 ESRB: N/A (M suggested) A download code was provided by the publisher for this review. In the current generation of gaming there are only a few developers still focused on creating new adventure games. Only ones such as Telltale Games are embraced by the masses though. Developers such as KING Art are the outliers - catering to the hardcore adventure fan. Of course, they seem to have a bit of a rocky history, with their previous title Book of Unwritten Tales faring poorly with some reviewers. Is The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief an excellent new brand or a forgettable experience? As far as I“m concerned, this seems like a nice new face in adventure gaming. The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief is an episodic series consisting of three episodes. Right now only the first episode, The Eye of the Sphinx, is available but the others are said to arrive in August and September. For the first episode, not only do we get introduced to the world but also tread knee-deep into the story. The first chapter provides 3 to 6 hours of gameplay, depending on your puzzle skill level. The game begins at the scene of a museum robbery. Despite the best efforts of the night security, a criminal snags a priceless diamond right from under their noses. We catch a glimpse of this thief in the darkness. They“re dressed in all black and wearing a raven mask. Yes, this is the titular "Raven," who is a criminal mastermind. From there, we jump to a train which is carrying incredibly precious cargo. The diamond at the museum was only half of the famous Sphinx“s eyes and the train has the other one. What would otherwise be a leisurely cross-country train ride is now a high-stress situation as it is expected The Raven will strike again. However, players do not take the role of The Raven. They aren“t even assuming the role of a famous detective. Instead, they jump into the shoes of portly and cheerful Constable Anton Jakob Zellner. Part of the Swiss police force, you are assigned to help take care of things while the train travels through your jurisdiction. As far as Zellner is concerned, this is going to be just another train ride. Of course, the proceedings become incredibly dangerous. Story is certainly the biggest factor in any adventure game and The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief provides quite the interesting one. Although it may be treading expected territory, it does so in a refreshing way. The characters are an interesting bunch, even if some of them seem to fall under classic mystery novel tropes. Funnily, as this game was not made in North America, there is even a very stereotypically presented American character who emerges late in the story. With an intriguing story, the next important aspect of adventure games is their actual gameplay! If one can“t offer up reasonable puzzles and clicking interface then the whole project might as well just resign itself to obscurity. Most of the puzzles in here are easy enough to understand. There are a few times that you might be unsure of what to do thanks primarily to bad hotspot triggers. For example, you might want to touch an item but find that the area you want to click doesn“t result in anything. Instead, you must radiate out from where you think the click trigger is and find that it“s actually assigned to a different, unexpected part of the object. The game offers up hints as well as hitting the spacebar to pull up all hotspots on the screen. Unfortunately, utilizing either of these newbie-friendly tools spends points. These points accumulate with progress and you begin with a ton of them but some players might still run out due to abusing the hotspot check. This is easier to do than you might expect primarily because the hotspot notification itself is very subtle. There were multiple occasions that I pulled it up to check an area to find that I could only catch one hotspot graphic for the few seconds it was active, if that. Other aspects of the interface are odd as well. Until you get used to it, discerning how to use objects with each other as well as observe versus talk, you might feel confused. There also happens to be a very cool but also slightly complex book which keeps track of all story information. As neat as it is to have a character chart to refer back to, the interface is kind of annoying to navigate when you know what you want to look up but don“t know where to look. Visually, The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief really stands out among its brethren. It doesn“t seem to ooze any particular style, but it does look fantastic. Areas are bright and colorful or dim and creepy. The 60“s setting also lends itself well to the attractive design aesthetic of the train, character outfits, and the like. The world might not be one of fantasy, but is still fun to investigate. Even the voice acting is pretty darn good. You might not expect it from a German developer but they manage it incredibly well. There are a host of voiced languages available from English to German to Russian and I played through in my native English. Characters all have their own accents but they are easy to understand. They also appear to (mostly) grasp the concept of voice “acting” and emote appropriately. If there“s anything odd about their speech patterns, it may be that some characters talk rather slowly. With understandable puzzles, great visuals and voice acting, what really is there that could hold this game back? Like previously stated, the controls are a bit awkward for an adventure game veteran so one must wonder how they fare for newbies. Then there was the bad choice of locking hints away to points when some people may really need continuous access to them. Finally, and most importantly, the game is just so incredibly slow. Although the story is interesting, it drives along at a snail“s pace. So too does poor Constable Zellner. Sometimes you can double click to leave the screen immediately but other times you have to watch him walk all the way across a room. Beyond that, the puzzles are often incredibly tedious rather than entertaining as they should be. Sure, there is room for some tedium, but not when the majority of puzzles fit under that term. If all you want is an entertaining and mysterious tale, then The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief definitely delivers. If you want to experience an adventure game with high production values that isn“t The Walking Dead then this is a good choice as well. However, if you can“t stand tedium then look elsewhere. For all the good that The Raven offers, it shoots itself in the foot with pacing. Only at the tail end of Chapter I do we get that rush of adrenaline which leads directly into a cliffhanger. Here“s hoping that Chapters II and III pick up the pace because that would help make the game an easy recommendation for many. Pros: + Intriguing characters with their own stories + Attractive 60s era backdrops and designs + Hints available to struggling players Cons: - Why are hints tied to a point system? - Story drags on so slooowly - Somewhat awkward interface Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10) Good Although there are some glaring pacing issues with The Raven, it still stands out among its peers as a worthwhile new adventure game.
  24. 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