Return of the Obra Dinn: See-Worthy Ship-bound Mystery’s A Must-Play

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“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…”

Confession: I’ve never played the multiple award-winning Papers, Please (a game that’s been on my backlog of games to FINALLY get to once I whittle down my other backlog). but a few years ago (and two computers back) I downloaded an in-progress demo build of Lucas Pope’s next game, Return of The Obra Dinn and while it was a bit wonky in spots and not all the ideas were in place (as demos tend to be, well, DEMOS and not representative of the final product, it still made quite an impression. After a few years of hard work, Pope has finally completed and released the game, which is available for $19.99 on Steam, gog.com and the Humble Store.

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“Now please pay attention and listen to me:
Give me some time to blow the man down!”

Check out the trailer and game description below:

 

 

An Insurance Adventure with Minimal Color

 

In 1802, the merchant ship Obra Dinn set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea.

Early this morning of October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. As insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatch immediately to Falmouth, find means to board the ship, and prepare an assessment of damages.

Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person mystery adventure based on exploration and logical deduction.

You had me at that “An insurance adventure…”, Pope. This one’s going to the head if of the line in the backlog, by the way.  Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to get back to my regularly scheduled (ha!) Monday.

-GW

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Lost in Vivo: The Walls, Close-in For Catastrophic Claustrophobia

(Thanks, Akuma Kira!)

 

Back in 2016, I pledged a few bucks to Akuma Kira’s Kickstarter for a new game he was working on called Lost in Vivo all because of the free and superbly devious Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion (Formerly Spooky’s House of Jump Scares), a game I recommend to anyone into horror because it will creep up on them in a surprising manner. In other words, don’t let the initially quite stupidly cute visuals and the rather simplistic but twisty corridors found in the first chunk of floors lull you into a false sense of security. Things get quite bizarre and eventually quite horrific as you descend into the darker, more hellish maps.

Anyway, fast forward to earlier Saturday morning when I got a download link to he completed build of Lost in Vivo from the developer via Game Jolt (an excellent indie site I VERY highly recommend along with itch.io  (the game can be found here) if you love to pore over dozens and dozens of great indies of all genres, many free or quite affordable). You’ll also see this one pop up on Steam soon (well, November 5th, thanks to Steam’s verification process taking longer), but if you need this faster, feel free to grab it from one of the other sites noted above for a measly ten bucks.

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Review: ZARVOT (Nintendo Switch)

Zarvot Switch CubeTrying to nail down ZARVOT (A Game About Cubes, by the way) into a specific niche is, in an amusing way, a waste of time because it’s a perfect example of using a less by the book scholarly critical analysis and more of a “shut up and play it!” approach. While you can (and should) snap this up for the solid multiplayer modes, it’s worth the $19.99 alone for the brilliant Story mode and its blend of adventure and puzzle game elements, droll to laugh out loud humor and straight up surreal nature. It’s also a master class in game design as well as showing off the versatility of the Unity engine thanks to Sam Eng (@snowhydra), who put 4 years into making this great looking instant classic. Oh, and the soundtrack? yep, worth paying for as well.

In a nutshell, cube pals Mustard and Charcoal set out to put together the ultimate birthday present for their cube pal, Red, stuff goes wrong and needs to made right. There’s a lot of laser fire involved in this and saying anything more would ruin a hell of a lot of surprises. When you find yourself putting down a controller to either laugh at the absurdity of it all or pause to reflect on an emotional issue a character is facing (for cubes, insects and other assorted creatures, they’re quite… human, warts and all), you kind of get a better sense of game appreciation. I actually wish this were on a physical game card because it’s one of those keepers that might get lost in the well over 1200 games (and counting) filling up the eShop.

But I’m getting all scholarly and critical here, so let me stop that and dip into the fun stuff…

 

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Head to Head (Sort Of): Fast Striker vs. FullBlast (PS4/Vita)

I can recall a few years back reading in more than one place that the arcade shooter was dead as last week’s formerly fresh fish, but this was really never true. Between numerous indie developers and fans keeping the genre alive through making and publishing and distributing games via digital and retail formats, the good ol’ shmup lives on pretty much anything that can play them. Two of the more recent ones go for the gold and succeed when by being well-made games with excellent price points destined to hang out in your game library for a spell. Let’s take a peek at both, shall we?

Fast Striker 01

Pretty, isn’t it? well, it’s also PRETTY FREAKIN’ HARD to an old gleep like me, but I keep playing these shmups because I used to be better at them back in the day.

fast striker PS4First up is Fast Striker ($6.99), a 2010 NEO·GEO MVS/AES vertical shooter getting a new life on current gen systems thanks to German developer NGDEV and publisher Eastasiasoft. Six levels of frantic, gorgeous bullet hell bliss await with four difficulty settings to challenge. Yes, six levels may seem short to some of you out there, but this game makes you earn those high scores and like a solid shmup, you’re going to keep coming back to beat your previous runs or die trying.

There are some basic screen resizing and wallpaper options, but I personally prefer sticking to the more arcade accurate default window than going full screen. Er, not that it helps much given my awful reflexes when the going gets too tough (or okay, a little tough. Hey, I’m getting old!). For example (yipes):

 

 

Yes, I’m THAT bad at this game, but I managed to get through the Novice difficulty and messed with the others (Omake mode is SUPER nuts). I’ll be a saint here and link you to the official trailer just so you can see how a far better player does:

 

 

In addition to the digital release, Online retailer Play-Asia has a very limited edition physical version ($34.99) for both the PS4 and Vita set for a November release. Each is limited to 2200 copies worldwide and will include the region free game, a manual, collector’s box, soundtrack CD and a numbered certificate you can show off if you please. The price difference is yes, because of all that stuff inside the box, but if you’re into packaged games and have the shelf space, it’s a fair enough price point.

fast striiker LE

You’ll want to be a Fast Striker if you need this nifty Limited Edition exclusive from Play-Asia. Better pre-order this now before the scalpers snap them up to resell at ebay prices (ugh).

 

Overall, a pretty solid shmup that’s a trip down memory lane to my former glory days and perhaps yours as well (but I hope you can play better than I can).

Score: B (80%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

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Iris.Fall Hands-On: Shadow Play Works Quite Well in Kinda Goth-Land

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Based on a short demo was only supposed to be about ten minutes long (I was told ten, but I lingered about half an hour or so just to check out every nook and cranny because the level of detail is remarkable), Iris.Fall is shaping up to be a lovely little indie sleeper worth a buy. Developer NEXT Studio has cooked up a charmingly creepy puzzle adventure with beautiful visuals and an intriguing light/dark gameplay element fans of the somewhat forgotten (but memorable) Wii game Lost in Shadow will appreciate.  The demo features an early taste of the full game’s mix of environmental and other puzzles that revolve around Iris’ ability to manipulate light and shadow to progress through areas.

 

 

While simple to pick up, solving puzzles here makes for some fun brain work right from the beginning. Careful scouring of each room for areas where Iris’ powers to be used also reveals objects that can be manipulated or collected to be used with other elements. Foe example, in one room, a pair of marionettes is required to unlock a certain door, but you’ll need to dip into the shadows and light areas, moving things around to create a ramp on one side and then the other to nab each figure. Once they’re acquired, placing  them in the correct spots, then rotating their parts will form a “key” of sorts that allows passage into a new location.

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“I was the puppet, I was the puppet!” A puzzle, in progress (and five points if you get the song reference I made).

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Review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Nintendo Switch)

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No it’s not Last Embrace: The Game, but a worthy adventure finally hitting the Switch.

Switch owning adventure game fans, take note: George Stobbard and Nico Collard are back in action for the first time on that console in Revolution’s excellent Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse. In terms of performance, the games looks and plays like the PC and other console versions and the added behind the scenes features split up into extra content are nice additions to an overall solid package that makes for a fine purchase. What starts as a murder in an art gallery switches into George and Nico getting involved in a bit of globe-hopping world-saving thanks to… oh, you’ll see. The game’s got a corker of a plot that takes time to kick in, but it’s got enough twists and turns to keep you playing until the wee hours.

Sticking to the familiar point and click style with inventory-based puzzles and snappy, often humorous dialog, this is a game to savor as it teases the brain with its ever expanding mysteries.Both leads are really great at figuring out (well, with assistance from you) how to cope with everything from trapping a cockroach in a matchbook to having to deal with a few near-death experiences where it seems almost unlikely they’d make it out alive. While somewhat lighthearted in tone throughout, things do get much serious as the threat evolves from what seems like a simple art theft gone wrong to all figurative (or is it literal?) hell breaking loose.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is A Good Thing to Have), Part 1

Although horror-themed games are released all year long from developers and publishers of all sizes, the number definitely increases as the Halloween season approaches. I’m currently playing a few quite interesting to downright too damn creepy titles that should keep you up at night if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll divide this into a few parts because my inbox is a bit loaded with what’s looking like some really fun games of varying degrees of scariness. Let’s start with five for now:

The Conjuring House (PC) – Holy #@*+. Well played, Morocco-based RYM Games, well played. Here’s a game that knows what it wants to do (make you too scared to keep playing) and it gets right to it with the scary stuff after an extended opening cinematic sequence that gets your heart pumping before handing you control in the middle of a chase sequence. Gee, thanks. So far, the game is absolutely dripping with atmosphere and the Unreal 4-powered visuals definitely get the job done. That said, the English translation needs a bit of tweaking as some awkward text mars the experience when it doesn’t match the spoken dialog. Still, this is going to be one of those games that sucks players in and should keep them jumping long after they’re done. It’s out September 25 on Steam, so keep an eye peeled (or else). I’ve got my fingers crossed for solid console port (PS4, please) if only to keep further away from the screen. Or: playing this on my laptop has been pretty damn frightening with those blasted creeps right up in my face, yahhhh!

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Review: Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans

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“Once upon a time in the west…” er, wrong movie, but you know what I mean…

Slaps & Beans - coverYep, it’s here and it’s great. As a fan of old-school arcade beat ’em ups, Trinity Team’s excellent Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans ($19.99) does exactly what its meant to do and does it with a ton of love (and many slaps and beans). I’ll give those of you scratching your heads a second to look up some of the duo’s films (here you go) and admit that for some of you, they may not be your to your taste (which means you need to watch a few and become a convert to their brand of international slapstick).

The game is an absurd amount of fun as a solo or co-op experience with a wacky story line, mini-games galore and some really great music that’s worth buying on a disc if you’re a fan of what’s here. While it’s not a terribly long game, it’s one where you’ll replay it either alone or with a buddy because it’s packed with laughs and challenge on the harder difficulties. Personally, I don’t grasp at all people who only play an otherwise solid game one or two times and shelve it away, but such is the current state of gaming where hours seem to mean more than overall quality to some “gamers” out there. It makes me wonder how the deal with heavier entertainment like non-fiction books or serious documentaries. But I digress – here’s some gameplay to ogle from yours truly:

 

(Thanks, Me!)

 

I heard you laughing all the way across the internet with me. This is good. Continue reading

Review: Figment (Nintendo Switch)

Figment SwitchFigment ($19.99) is just about as good as it gets on a number of fronts. it’s visually charming yet quite surreal, a bit edgy in tone, perhaps a tad too challenging for younger kids but a total sweet spot game for those who appreciate solid and well designed indies. Did I mention it’s also got a great musical score and songs during some fights? Well, it does (another thing that makes it great stuff).

All its cranky antihero Dusty wants is some ice for his drink, but that rather quickly turns into a quest to rescue a fractured mind in a impressive hybrid of adventure, puzzle, and action game elements liberally sprinkled with wry humor adults will appreciate. There’s also a deeper psychological thing going on that lends the game a Psychonauts-style approach to storytelling as layers are peeled back and you realize the game’s got a serious side that adds to its depth.

 

 

Dusty (who looks like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat as re-imagined by Dali with a dash of Tim Burton) is accompanied by a super cheery companion, Piper, a bird-like creature who’s a fountain of peppiness. The banter between the pair is pretty amusing because at first, Dusty is annoyed by her constant reminders of his past deeds and sunny disposition. he doesn’t want to get to anything but his beverage and is mighty tiffed that his relaxing time is turning into a big deal that has him venturing into places where others recall his old good deeds.

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The artistic influences here are brilliant if you know your art history. Even if you don’t, the game is a total visual treat.

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Bud Spencer & Terence Hill – Slaps And Beans Now on Consoles

Slaps and Beans PS4

Whaaaaat? Color me totally surprised, ladies and germs!

Huh. Just when I thought this was never coming to consoles, here it is and I’m laughing myself silly because… well, just look:

(Thanks, Trinity Team!)

Hey, it took these guys a while to make and I’ll bet a penny that’s it’s worth a load of replays like any other fun arcade beat ’em up should be, so yeah, it’s worth that price point whether you grab the PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch version. As for those of you who don’t get the fuss, I leave this as a parting gift:


(Thanks, Pump Monkey!)

-GW