About geelw

Gamer, Writer, Artist, Idea Guy, Mild Curmudgeon With A Long List Of Hidden Talents

Review: Dark Nights With Poe and Munroe (PS4)

They’re baaaaack. Full motion games developer D’avekki Studios has made the big leap to self-publishing with the digital release of Dark Nights With Poe and Munroe,($12.99) which is now available on the PS4, Xbox and soon, Switch. The game comprised of six episodic tales of a somewhat supernatural nature, with ghosts, a werewolf, a hungry painting demon, a bizarre love triangle and more. Although the game features a few toe-dips into light horror, it’s more of a creepy dark comedy where a bit of previous homework with Davekki’s earlier titles goes a long way in explaining some of the quirkier aspects found here.

Poe (Klemings Koehring) and Munro (Leah Cunard) first appeared in 2018’s great little gem The Shapeshifting Detective and they return in this standalone set where we get to know their characters a bit more, but yes, there’s even more mystery going on in the small village of August, which seems to be a magnet for offbeat supernatural occurrences. In “Frankie” the pair need to deal with a persistent stalker with surprising results. Let’s just say Poe has a way with a knife but we haven’t heard the last of Frankie in this game.

“In Bed with Poe and Monroe” is next, and it’s about a 24-hour radiothon where the two characters need to raise funds to keep the station afloat by staying in bed together (not THAT together) while broadcasting live. Well, it’s about so much more, as a sleepy Munro discovers a few times. Poe also makes a few discoveries that are equally revealing as a jealous ghost (Ayvianna Snow) appears to make his love life even more complicated. This episode has a few scenes like the first where shocks drop in and affect the outcomes of paths to wonderfully different results. More of this strangeness will come.

In Episode Three, “Green With Envy”, the pair are racing against time to find a kidnapped and drugged student (Warrick Simon) before his time runs out. Time is of the essence as the duo’s decisions in this chapter affect the ending and all depends on how you choose to investigate the case. There’s a pair of laugh out loud innuendo bits here when Munro visits guest house owner Violet (Aislinn De’Ath) and a little De’ath goes a long way when Munro misinterprets some simple queries before asking her own. Poe gets his way (sort of) with a pretty teacher (Ashleigh Cole) who may be a suspect, but who’s the mysterious Yvette who calls into the show to say she’s the kidnapper?

Episode Four, “Everybody Changes” brings a hypnotist into the studio, Madame Baratsky (Lara Lemon), who puts Munro into a trance where she relives a past life and tells a disturbing tale of murder. As mentioned above, playing that chapter made me go see the Doctor up close and personal (I bought the game last year on the PS4), an experience I highly recommend. In any event, this episode made me want some sort of Doctor Dekker followup, or at least the desire to replay that game again a few more times.

In Episode Five, “Many Happy Returns”, it’s the day before Munro’s birthday, there’s a full moon and a caller rings in to note he may have almost run over a werewolf. Guess where out two intrepid adventurers are headed? If you guessed “Why, to find out if that’s true, but not before a possible time traveler named Kaspar (Vincent Gould) calls, then shows up to the studio!” Well, you need to be in your own game, as you’re psychic. Like all the episodes, there’s a set-up of events and situations here that definitely hints at more. This give players a hint that the sleepy town of August is quite the nexus for bizarre happenings (like the sudden rock, paper, scissors game in this chapter).

Finally, Episode Six gets truly freaky with “It Started with a Wish” where we get a soul-eating canvas demon named Rose (Rachel Cowles) who lives inside a painting. She grants Poe a wish, which he has to pay for by having Munro hide nine capsules as prizes for ‘lucky’ listeners to find. Those capsules are supposed to have museum tickets inside, but (surprise!), they have a less pleasant gift awaiting. You’ll see. Poe’s wish has very huge consequences both he and Munro have to deal with and there’s a sort of David Lynch meets Night Gallery thing here when the characters have to deal with the results.

As noted, the game teases very much that there are many more August takes to be told, and I like that Poe and Munro’s relationship goes where it does in different ways depending on your choices. In terms of production, this one’s pretty solid. Without fancy effects makeup or gore, the game still conveys an eerie, scary vibe when it needs to, But it’s also funny, sexy and mature where it matters. Some may feel the vignette nature of the episodes might be better served as a single story arc. But I found that a game where time travel seems a quiet reality, dryads may actually exist and so many possible outcomes from charming to deadly are at one’s fingers that I’m all aboard for more. Recommended.

-GW

VERTIGO As A Game Has My Head Spinning

So this one’s got me divided upstairs but here goes. Microids and veteran adventure game developer Pendulo Studios (Runaway, Yesterday Origins, Blacksad: Under the Skin…) are in the midst of making Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, which is set to launch at the end of the year on PC (Steam), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One consoles and Nintendo Switch. Here’s the first teaser trailer below. No actual gameplay footage is shown, so I take it the developer is taking the whole “master of suspense” thing to a whole new level, ha and ha:


While the plot is completely different, the game will, according to the developer stay close to its source material:

Of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s movie was a major inspiration source, whether it’s about the game’s themes, its narration, or even the visual techniques we used that clearly mirror Hitchcock’s recurrent cinematographic techniques” explains Josué Monchan, Narrative Designer at Pendulo Studios. “Vertigo is not our only frame of reference. For instance, the fact that therapy is at the core of the narrative echoes Spellbound, and some characters resemble protagonists from Rebecca, Psycho, and many more.”

As for the story, Writer Ed Miller came out unscathed from his car crash down into Brody Canyon, California. Even though no one was found inside the car wreckage, Ed insists that he was traveling with his wife and daughter. Traumatized by this event, he begins to suffer from severe vertigo. As he starts therapy, he will try to uncover what really happened on that tragic day.

Game features

  • An exclusive, original story about obsession, memory, manipulation and madness, freely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo
  • Live a powerful narrative experience paying tribute to the visual and storytelling techniques of the thriller genre
  • Investigate through the vision of three characters: everyone has a different story to tell
  • Explore several timelines to cross-check the events and separate reality from deceptive memories

Prepare yourself for a disturbing investigation inside the human mind: the truth is sometimes worse than madness…

Of course, as a longtime Hitchcock Hitchcock fan, I want this to work on every level. So I’ll wait for the final version to ship and not get all Psycho or go into a Frenzy over what little info we have so far. Fingers crossed. -GW

Review: Ord. (PS4)

From ever-busy publisher Ratalaika games and indie developer Mujo Games comes Ord.($4.99), a minimalist adventure game that tells its short stories three words at a time. Split into five tales with a bit of replay value in each (Quest, Dimensions, World, Foul Things and Heist), the game will also have you brain filling in most of its visuals. It’s also part memory test in that there’s a Groundhog Day-like loop to overcome where choosing certain answers won’t advance the story, but instead, send you back to choose differently.

zzzzzzzz

That said, there are no “wrong” answers here. In fact, choosing every option will lead to some surprises and abrupt (sometimes fatal) endings. The minimalist thing in taken to extremes here on both the visual and aural fronts. Other than the title screen, visuals are just text on a black background with some stylistic touches like thunder, lightning, rain, a bit of fog and yes, you’ll want to have a drink in the tavern just to see the blurred result. For me, the sole flaw here in there’s no story tracker, so on a replay, you may get temporarily stuck (a notepad will come in handy here). Playing the game through once won’t take long and those trophies drop pretty quickly once you get rolling.

Overall, Ord. is a pretty decent and nicely experimental bit of fun. Ratalaika’s been on a roll lately with more hits than misses of late. So I’ll have to get to covering more on their interesting titles from it’s rather intriguing lineup shortly.

-GW

Review: Cosmic Top Secret (PS4)

this one’s something else…

Indie publisher nakana io’s latest, Cosmic Top Secret ($9.99, multiplatform) just might be one of the best surprises of 2021.Part historical document, part adventure with a detour into a bit of mystery, the game tells the gripping tale of Trine Laier, or “T” as she goes by in the game as she tries to uncover just what her parents did during the Cold War. Fascinating and supremely surreal, the game is compelling from start to finish and would even make a pretty good true spy film, intentionally goggle-eyed protagonist and all. But don’t take my word for it- take a look at this gameplay:

There are puzzles to solve, loads of clues to gather and enough intrigue here to keep your brain and fingers busy. T navigates the environments by transforming into a paper ball and rolling about. You’ll also need to master a bit of jumping,. which comes in handy when you get stuck and later on you can transform into a plane, which has it’s own uses you’ll discover. The game also had you collect all sorts of specific secrets T needs to unlock other secrets, all while trying her best to get her dad to tell her about the past. Have another trailer, folks:

The visual style is both striking and genius, especially the more humorous aspects found in the work. Early on, you’re told how to skip text using a very lengthy explanation on the Cold War. The game helps out here by cutting off the lengthy text with something like a “Blah, blah, you can find this stuff on the internet” quote. Dossiers and a few machines are used to break codes but a few of the puzzles and some of the trickier movement areas may stump players temporarily. T can also toss grenades and later smoke bombs to find certain secrets, but that can be a bit imprecise until you nail that task perfectly. Also, that sequence with the angry buzzard in one level can be irksome if you roll off the path and fall a few times. Progress is auto-saved at certain points, but you’ll want to manually save from time to time (just in case…). Th game can be completed in around eight hours or so and it’s time well spent because you’ll come away quite impressed at what you learned. I know I certainly was.

Yes, indeed it is!

The really cool thing here is you don’t need a pricey console to play this on as the game is also available on Google Play and the App Store, so you can enjoy this on your even more overpriced phone or tablet, ha and ha. As a exercise in storytelling, the game excels on a few fronts and the overall experience is one that will stick with you for a while. Highly recommended, of course.

-GW

Mail Call, Part 2077…

so far, it’s better than I thought. Ask me again in a week.

So, it was on sale, it was my birthday and I couldn’t resist. Yeah, yeah- I’ve seen some grumpy commentary on the game, but running on the PS5, I’m having quite a load of fun with Cyberpunk 2077, well, so far. I’m only about an hour in, but there’s so much to do (the character creator alone is pretty extensive and that time spent isn’t part of that hour played) that an actual review will be a few weeks away. We shall see where this goes and yes, I’m expecting technical issues galore as the game continues. But I never bought into the pre-release hype train at any point and who knows when (or if) there will be a PS5 port in the future.

-GW

Review: Loot Hero DX (PS4/PS5)

“Surely you joust”, the knight notes, setting off for adventure…

(Or, The Wonders of Dirt Simplicity These Days)

As a well-aged gamer, Ratalaika and Swedish developer VaragtP‘s fun little game. Loot Hero DX ($4.99) really hit a sweet spot here at the home office. I’ll tell youright now, the game won’t be for all tastes. There’s no penalty in place for dying, you earn endless piles of gold to spend even when you’re not playing (more on this later) and like some of the developer’s other casual games, it practically bends over backwards to make sure you’re having a good time. In other words, this ain’t no Demon’s Souls in terms of difficulty, that’s for sure. Take a peek at the game trailer below:

In a nutshell, you’re a knight tasked with dispatching quite a massive number of monsters and a few bosses on your way to the big dragon awaiting you on the final level. Gameplay couldn’t be simpler. Initially, you’ll run back and forth in a stage, leveling up and earning gold to spend in the shops found in each stage on upgrades needed to survive more than a few hits from enemies. Attacking is as simple as colliding with an enemy and surviving, but as levels are gained and you raise your stats, power and speed improve somewhat drastically. Stages that took maybe a minute or two to complete will blaze by in well under ten seconds at higher levels My personal record was about four seconds, but the game really got to me and I ended up playing well past level 100. While it can be completed in maybe 45 minutes or less, the appeal here comes from replaying and getting that knight even stronger and faster in those replays.

only 88+ levels to go…..

And, therein lies the game’s main flaw- it’s far too repetitive. Despite some nice pixel art and some pretty dynamic music, the first level plays exactly the same as the last, but killing the big dragon at the end doesn’t end the game at all. Each time you clear that last boss, you also rescue a miner that automatically throws itself into mining up more gold for you, making subsequent plays even more ridiculously easy. You can blow through the game, come back in an hour and have maxed gold which will be more than enough to boost you stats to incredible levels. At some point, you’ll be laughing at how fast the game becomes, perhaps even cranking the speed down so you can see what sort of damage you’re doing.

Overall, it’s not in the running for any Game of The Year awards, but for $5, you’re getting a fun little throwback that won’t burst your brain cells and tosses rewards your way constantly while doing that bending over backward thing it does so well. Now, about the potential possibility of a Cooking Witch console port, Ratalaika and VaragtP? Lets get on that, please – Halloween is coming up soon an that game would be a perfect fit.

-GW

i

A Shot In The Dark/ A Hole In The Head

So, I FINALLY got vaccinated this afternoon after the city here drove me half crazy trying to get an appointment to no avail. First dose of two and yes, you better believe yours truly made that followup appointment when I made my reservation. So, it’s back to the same spot in a few weeks’ time. Walgreen’s just needs to fix its reservation site so you can choose your shot location. I had to keep reloading the page until the closest store appeared. Until that point. I kept getting sent a few miles from where I wanted to go. Still, it’s better than New York State’s awful “fill out a form and go nowhere fast” system, but they’re offering a free hamburger or a ticket to a baseball game, neither of which I need, thank you much.

Anyway, after I got my shot, The pharmacist told me to hang out in the store for about 15 minutes in case I was going to have some sort on negative reaction, which had me seriously thinking of Frederic March for some reason. Well, nothing bad took place and I’m fine a few hours later, but I did make a fun discovery in the store while wandering the aisles:https://www.walgreens.com/store/c/how-to-wash-hand-soap-fragrance-free/ID=300400645-product

Who knew there was soap with instructions on it out there? I bought two bottles and yes, I’m now a fan. Funny how that works, isn’t it? To me it’s a nicer version of a De La Soul song from their first LP:
This stuff is great

-GW

Go Ask Alice… Then Turn to Page 38

I’ve gotten a few more paperbacks since last we spoke, all fantasy themed, as usual. Most have been fun to dip into for a spell, but I’ve had the most fun with Johnathan Green‘s Alice’s Nightmare In Wonderland, published by Winged Hussar and Ace Gamebooks. I had to go buy a deck of playing cards at Dollar Tree, but if you have those, or a pair of dice handy, plus a pencil with a good eraser (plus a notepad so you don’t have to deface the book). you’re good to go.

Yes, this is a fine choose your own adventure novel clocking in at 328 pages, and there are plenty of lovely illustrations by Kev Crossley that look like vintage art from the early 1900’s. In fact, the art charmed me so much. I’m sorely tempted to get back to drawing myself, and soon. Fortunately, the plot is pretty good and indeed, this is quite the page turner, with multiple scenarios for everything from deadly combat encounters to fancy tea parties, Mad Hatter included. There’s a bit of hiariously gory content when things go wrong, but if you got a chuckle out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you’re pretty much all set here.

The only drawback to this book is it really, really wants you to write in it, making loaning it out a bit tricky, Now, you can do what I did and transcribe certain stat charts to that notepad and pass the book for a friend to play, but that’s up to you, of course. Looking at Ace’s selection of other Gamebooks, I’m tempted to pick another one up to play one of these days, well. once I whittle down the pile of work I’m slowly getting to. Uh, anyone want to borrow a book?

-GW

DVD Review: Odds Against Tomorrow

Every so often, the cable company here moves the channels around and it becomes a bit of a chore hunting for formerly favorite stations. What’s worse, is a few times, I’m waiting for the cable box to load the channel guide after a router reboot and I have to fly blind for a few minutes, which in this particular case, turned out to be a pleasant surprise indeed. I was looking to find where TCM went to and found it after some work, but the channel guide wasn’t loading and there was a film I’d never seen before playing. It turns out that it was a Robert Wise-directed film from 1959 called Odds Against Tomorrow and it had me on the edge of my seat until the somewhat explosive finale.

The film is a rather bleak noir with a heist plot, the crooked, disgraced crooked cop who devises the plan (Ed Begley) and the two desperate men he’s picked to assist him.There’s Robert Ryan as Slater, a rather hateful ex-soldier and convict and Harry Belafonte as Ingram, a handsome musician with bad luck with the horses. Both men meet with Burke separately and it’s quite an interesting study in contrasts. Slater insults a little girl, ignores a jovial elevator operator trying to make small talk and is in general, just has a pretty big chip on his shoulder about everything. Ingram rolls up in a flashy sports car a few minutes later, offers a few kids money for watching his car, makes that elevator operator laugh as he rides up, and is generally a pretty nice guy- minus his crushing gambling debt.

Both men have don’t meet until later in the film, but let’s just say, Slater is none too pleased that he’s going to be partnered with a black man and quits the job. Ingram also leaves the job, but his negative dealings with his bookie throw his life into danger and he’s back in on the job after a bit of a breakdown at the jazz club he plays at. Slater’s hiatus lasts until he decides he’s had it with his girlfriend (Shelly Winters!) and wants to get out from under her clutches. The heist goes, in true noir fashion, very awry, to say the least. No more will be said here, save for this is a film well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. There’s a great score, every actor here is superb, and the bleak ending is about as downbeat as it gets. In a way, this one’s like Raoul Walsh’s classic White Heat, and Kubrick’s The Killing, but this feels like more of a hidden gem. Go check it out on tcm.com or go find it for sale here.

-GW

Book-ish

Minus four or five books not shown, I was a bit busy reading to keep sane in 2020.

So, a few days late and no dollars short, here are most of the books that have shown up from a few small to large publishers last year when I was holed up and locked down. There are a few missing from this photo, as a friend needed some emergency reads and I was more than happy to oblige. I don’t think I’ve read this much fantasy and sci-fi in a row since high school, so it was a pretty interesting few months.

Then again, when you have two strokes, survive and need to teach yourself to read and write again, it’s definitely a good thing I was able to enjoy this lot of novels, albeit a bit slower than I used to. I was a bit of a speedy reader back in the day and when these books started showing up last year, it was a bit daunting at first. But the as the amount increased, I became quite determined to get through them all. So, yes – it helped with all these books showing up. Hooray for mailing lists, and sure, I may write a few short reviews on some of these down the road a piece.

-GW