Capsule Reviews: Rooms of Gloom and Doom and Such

Hey, I’m still here plinking away at a few health issues, but here’s something to read while I’m in recovery mode.

There’s a certain type of gamer I call “Trophy Hunters” who seem to rely solely on video and/or text walkthroughs of certain games in order to snag easy rewards in the form of digital Trophies or Achievements. Yes, this style of play kind of saps the fun factor out of games by breaking them down to into easy to digest “how to” posts. But there’s an odd benefit to this in the net effect of selling quite a few budget to fully priced indie to AAA titles that might normally not even get a sideways glance.

That said, when played as they “should” be, there are a number of these inexpensive titles that are really worth the effort it takes to complete them using one’s brainpower and maybe a pen and notepad for some of the trickier puzzles. Anyway, without further adieu, Here are a few indies that kept my old grey matter cooking that are worth a look:

 

 

PRIX_13Planet RIX-13 (PC/PS4/Vita/Switch): Indie developer 9 Eyes Game Studio (with a big assist from Sometimes You for the console ports) takes it back to the good old adventure game days with this simple-looking and somewhat straightforward sci-fi yarn about a space pilot who crashes on an alien planet and needs to find a way off… or else. Without a walkthrough, the game can be a bit of a mind-bender when you come up against situations where your character is killed and your brain is not wanting those deaths to transpire. The amusing thing here is dying in all the possible ways allowed by the game is a big part of netting those Trophies, so get used to expiring in a few ways as your adventure progresses.

While the game isn’t lengthy at all, it’s replayable if you decide you want to see every choice via playing in a linear manner. As noted, a few of the trickier puzzles may stump those who tend to think to literally or who don’t quite grasp that this isn’t a conventional narrative when it comes to how certain sections play out. For the record, I did cheat on one puzzle because it involved going in and out of a certain doorway in a certain order and yes, I ended up face-palming myself when I looked up the solution and discovered that a number of players had also gotten waylaid by that one spot. Hmmm… I guess there’s something to this trophy hound stuff after all?

Score: B (80%)

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Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Nintendo Switch)

superbrothers switchSuperbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($9.99) is pure brilliance in every area, but the game wisely notes in its end credits it’s probably not going to be for every taste. Still, if you’re wanting a nicely droll, somewhat cerebral, amusing and completely hip masterpiece, you’ll just love what’s here. For example: Right after its opening section (which takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete), a cigarette (or is that a cigar?) smoking character called The Archtype appears and tells you to return later after taking a break as a pair of curtains close and you’re sent back to the title screen. I actually didn’t go back to the game at that point. Instead, I put my Switch back into its dock, turned it off and went to make lunch. When I came back about an hour later, I felt as if that break was indeed justified because the game did such a clever job of getting me hooked in enough that I followed that silly instruction.

That silly instruction turned out to be a lot less so when later on, the game asks you to come back to it when the in-game moon phase is at the right spot to activate a certain task. Again, brilliant. The game is an adventure/puzzle hybrid that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, a bit of Robert E. Howard, Carl Jung and a bunch of neat other things you may or may not see on the surface. Not to sound overly pompous or anything, but here’s a game that cleverly nods and winks at those who get it, but is totally playable by just about anyone who can use a Switch and is a bit curious about what’s in store for them.

 

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Valfaris Demo: Merry, Merry, Quite Contra-ry (Slight Return)

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You’re going to want this, trust me.

Well, wow. Valfaris has a demo up on Steam as we speak (but only until December 31st) and hell yes, it needs to be played, especially if you love pixel art and animation wizardry, ear blazing metal soundtracks and so far, very tight ganeplay for a demo build. That video below shows off a bit more of the game, but as you’ll hear, things may change between now and the launch window. As with the meaty, mighty, and metal-ly Slain, what’s here is visually and aurally spectacular and will only get better as development continues.

 

(Thanks, Digital Uppercut Productions!)

 

Uh, that’s all I have to say, as I’ve paused the demo only to bang this post out and will now go back to that demo and rock some more. Keep an eye peeled for Valfaris on Steam and consoles sometime in 2019.

-GW

 

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Okay, we DO need another hero, after all.

Capsule Reviews: It’s A Puzzlement!

Not every game needs to go for epic length status or terminally flashy visuals to be enjoyable. I tend to gravitate to puzzle games when I need a break from other genres  and there have been a few really cool ones this year. Here’s a quick look at a some of the ones I liked a lot:

 

solar flux switchSolar Flux (Nintendo Switch, $9.99): Firebrand Games’ great space-themed puzzler may look simple, but it riffs on classic arcade gameplay with homages to Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Puzzle Bobble, a bit of Star Castle and probably a few other titles my brain can’t recall in a really fun, challenging manner. While it’s at heart, a supremely soothing experience, the reliance on touchscreen-only controls combined with limited fuel and the need for precision movement of your very fragile ship means you’ll be getting a game that won’t easily be mastered in one sitting. Yes, the music is ear-pleasing and completely chill, but if you’re easily flustered by even the tiniest of mistakes, the gameplay can get pretty tense if you’re not able to tip-tap-steer your way out of trouble. Practice makes perfect, folks.

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That challenge ramps up geometrically during the 80 missions set across 4 galaxies, but nice looks and all, you’re not here to do any sightseeing. Getting the best times as things get complicated is somewhat tricky (but rewarding). So expect a few retries and perhaps a few times when you’re just putting the game down for a bit and coming back later if you lose that zen-like concentration. Don’t worry, though. Those assorted suns you need to recharge will be there when you return. All is good in this universe, just relax and it’ll be quite the thrill.

Score: A (90%)

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Review: Iris.Fall (PC)

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Do you love challenging puzzle games with a mysterious vibe? Well, Iris.Fall ($14.99) is waiting for you with open arms to tickle your brain for a spell. Developer NEXT Studio had crafted a lovely and often deviously designed game where your brain will get quite the workout and playing at your own pace is welcome. This isn’t any sort of action or platforming game where you’ll need to worry about enemies and assorted hazards. Nope, what you have here is a well crafted gem that plays with some of those conventional elements by adding them to the game as puzzles that need to be solved in order to progress.

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Not a place to lose a contact lens, that’s for sure…

 

After awakening from a dream, Iris follows a black cat into a dilapidated theater, traveling back and forth through a strange labyrinth of light and shadow. As the story unfolds, Iris begins to realize that everything in this theater seems to have some kind of hidden connection to herself.

 

The story is played out wordlessly and is a bit vague at the start, but things fall into place as you play and pay attention to each reveal as well as interact with certain objects. I won’t go into detail because the game’s more of a “play it and see where it goes” deal and it’s also a relatively brief experience that feels like a bedtime with a somewhat unsettling tone. Puzzles start out simple enough, but ramp up to be some pretty solid brain twisters that require a bit of deep thought. Most of them will have you scouring the lovely artwork looking at and for clues to progression, but some are variants on classics found in plenty of point & click adventures. Connecting wires in a circuit box or shifting parts of a puzzle inside a small box, for example, and there’s a multi-part sort of Rubik’s Cube-inspired sequence in one area that’s a cool diversion while it lasts.

 

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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP: So Far, So Good

Way back in 2011, I spent about five minutes with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery on a friend’s tablet, but I liked the tiny sample I played enough to keep that memory socked away in the brain files. Seven years later, I’m playing it on the Switch and so far, it’s quite an impressive experience. This isn’t a review (yet), but more of a recommendation if you’re looking for a game that’s quirky, amusing, and yep, maybe a bit pretentious (but in a good way provided you “get” its humor). Oh, and the soundtrack by Jim Guthrie? Perfection. That and it’s a mere ten bucks, people.

It’s been quite a good year for these sorts of indie games, so I’m pretty pleased that this one’s out in the wild and seeking new players as well as those Switch owners who’ve played one of the previous versions. Go get it, I say. Review incoming in a day or two, if you feel the need to wait.

-GW

Capsule Reviews: Mega Cats, MagiCats, and Other Critters of Note

Yes, we’re playing a bit of mega-catch up here, but it’s a weird and wild season on a few fronts and staying in an entertaining mood is quite tricky when the walls and floors are moving constantly. Anyway, here’s a few quick takes and hearty Holiday Gift Guide recommendations, kinda retro games division. Buy them all if you’re into what they bring to the table:

little-medusa-sega-box Little Medusa (Sega Genesis/NES/SNES): Mega Cat Studios has been pumping out some truly excellent retro content for those who still own either original hardware or the means to play cart games on those newer retro consoles. Little Medusa is a tough little number that will have fans of the classic puzzler Kickle Cubicle grinning and grimacing in equal measure as they play through this colorful, challenging update to the Irem arcade and later, NES hit.

As Artemiza, a young goddess transformed into a Gorgon by the escaped Titans, you’ll need to turn enemies into stone using her steely (stony?) gaze and quickly push them into place in order to clear five tricky levels of increasing difficulty. This one works best if you’ve a trusty, well-used controller or a new one that’s super responsive. Like plenty of classics from the 8 and 16-bit era, expert players can whip through this in a lazy weekend, but the thrill of a good game is always having it handy no matter how many times you’ve beaten it, so all hail Mega Cat for getting this out in physical form at a few price points so that collector side is satisfied.

Score: B+ (85%)

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Smoking Wallet Alert: A Few Black Friday Deals

Yes, it’s going to be total shopping frenzy for some of you out there in internet land and sure, you can go nuts looking for deals and getting elbows to the forehead at the local mall if you like. Me, I’m going to just sit comfortably at home and silently drop a few fine deals in your laps and let you deal with them as you see fit. Feel free to supplement those with other deals you find while poking around and you can pretty much sleepwalk through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, International Empty Wallet Day or whatever other day you want to whip out that credit, debit or gift card. If you’re into constant deals any time of the year, a handy app such as RetailMeNot will help out in tracking all sorts of deals whenever you’ve the urge.

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Does whatever a spider can? Hah! Spiders don’t make anywhere as much moolah as this game has this year, that’s for sure.

PlayStation Deals! Sony’s got a fantastic set of sales happening from now until November 26. Start here for some great deals on a new PS4 Spider-Man bundle, two different PSVR bundles (I’d go with the PSVR+ Moss/Astro Bot deal, but if you prefer Creed: Rise to Glory and Superhot VR, it’s your call) and Dual Shock 4 deals (get a few of those at that price). There’s also a Black Friday Sale on digital games and other downloadable content that should have some of you stocking up on a few titles at temporary bargain prices. Oh, and for those of you with PS Plus or those interested in renewing the service at $20 off the standard price, that $40 deal for a yearly sub is not to be missed.

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If you’re going to go all in with PSVR, go with two of the best titles VR titles on the system.

There are also Black Friday-related game deals on individual digital titles on PSN as well as plenty of in-store retail deals to check out, so feel free to poke around online or even pop into that nearby retailer if you’re so inclined.

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The Textorcist: Somewhat Devilish Bullet Hell Coming in 2019

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“Forget about the check – we’ll get hell to pay!” seems like a fitting caption for this image…

File this under “Now I think I’ve seen everything, I gotta play this one!”  division. Headup Games and developer Morbidware are currently hard at work on a crazy indie called The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia and yep, it’s looking like a hell of a game experience (pun absolutely intended). Check out the rather astoundingly cool trailer below:

(Thanks, Headup Games!)

I’ll admit to laughing so hard with the concept and execution above that it took me a few minutes to realize I’m going to be VERY bad at this game. Thank goodness for that casual mode noted at the end because it’ll at least let me see more of this one than if I tried to play it normally. Oh, I’ll post the hilarious press release below the jump so you can see what you’re in for when you pick this up nest year.

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Iris.Fall Takes A Slight Release Date Spill

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December 7, 2018 is the new release date for indie developer NEXT Studio and publisher Zodiac Interactive’s Iris.Fall. While you’re waiting for this gorgeous and atmospheric puzzler, here’s a new trailer that’s still more of a tease but still manages to be too tantalizing:

While the delay is slightly disappointing, any time spent adding more polish to a game that already looks spectacular is more than welcome. Keep an eye peeled for this one next month.

-GW