Review: Wheels of Aurelia

Bravo, Santa Ragione and Brava, Lella! This driving sim/adventure hybrid’s a definite Game of the Year contender that will make those who “get” it want to crack open a few books and do some heavy reading and/or thinking.

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Platform: PC (also on Mac/Linux/PS4/Xbox One)
Developer: Santa Ragione
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Release Date: 9/20/2016
# of Players: 1
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Site
Score: A (95%) BUY IT!

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Calling Santa Ragione’s outstanding Wheels of Aurelia a simple “driving simulation” is REALLY selling it short. This brilliantly conceived hybrid game is more of a mature “choose your own path conversation-based adventure that just so happens to take place in a almost constantly moving car” with 16 possible outcomes and more than that many ways to reach them. From the beautiful stylized simplicity of the art, the great soundtrack (buy it!) that captures the spirit of late 70’s Italian radio tracks, and the mature script that may rankle a few overly sensitive types while striking others as flat out fantastic and thought-provoking.


Save for the ride you choose, the game’s opening is exactly the same each time. In 1978, Lella and Olga, two young Italian ladies who met the previous evening at a disco, set out on a road trip to France on the Via Aurelia along the western coast of Italy. Along the way, the pair talk about life, pick up a hitchhiker or two (or none – it’s up to you) and based on the path both the conversation and car takes, the game reaches a conclusion in all of 15 minutes or so. 16 endings at 15 minutes each ends up at 4 hours total playtime IF you’re silly enough to think you’ll see every conversation and character variant possible. The combination of period-era history, frankly spoken dialogue and some VERY interesting hitchhikers make this very replayable as well as a great exercise in storytelling.

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VIRGINIA Is For Lovers (Of Offbeat Interactive Adventure Games)

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Virginia is a first person interactive drama. It is the story of a recently graduated FBI agent and her partner as they seek to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young boy.

 

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Coming September 22 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from developer Variable State and publisher 505 Games, VIRGINIA is a visually stylized, dialog-free modern noir mystery/adventure game that pays homage to surreal entertainment such as Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and Fargo. There’s a great PC demo available now on Steam that leaves more questions swirling in the brain than it gives answers about what’s in store for players, but this is a good thing.

All I can say is it has something to do with a missing teenager, dreamlike transitions from place to place, a possible relationship between the two FBI agents working on the case together, and oh, yeah… a buffalo that pops up at the weirdest moments. Yeah. But it somehow works exceptionally well enough that I’d bet non-gaming mystery fans will want to sit next to someone playing as play brainiac buddy as things unfold.

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Okay, I’ll let you in on more precise details below the jump – I don’t want the suspense to kill you that much… Continue reading

SHINESS: The Lightning Kingdom Gallery

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French developer Enigami has been hard at work on its Action/RPG SHINESS: The Lightning Kingdom for about three years now and with publisher Focus Home Interactive set to bring the game to eager PC, PS4 and Xbox One owners later this year, it’s time to take a look at it in one big video and image gallery. Here’s the most recent gameplay trailer, or more precisely, a story trailer presented at Gamescom 2016:


 

More action abounds in this earlier gameplay trailer:


 

But, wait… there’s more! Continue reading

Metal Gear Survive: A Hideous Nojima Game Coming in 2017

Once again, I fell asleep with my laptop on, a VERY bad thing to do. I popped up my fuzzy head to turn it off, but something told me to go poke at facebook and see what was up before I drifted back off to sleep. Oh… my. This is the second thing that caught my eye (ow!):


(thanks, IGN!) 

Oh. Hell. No. Nope. NEIN. Or in the immortal word of one very dead Sith lord:

(Thanks, CineWeekly!) 

Look. I’m not trying to say the game WILL be awful and YES, judging something by sight alone and not by playing it is ALWAYS 100% wrong. That said, Konami’s way off base treatment of Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima is the sole reason this video has so many dislikes on YouTube. Adding insult to injury, Kojima Productions’ versatile Fox Engine is being used to develop the new game. Yeah, it’s Konami’s property and I’m sure Kojima’s contract stated this somewhere in the fine print. But no Kojima involvement on a Metal Gear game is simply Konami pulling the wool over its own eyes and pretending we won’t notice.

(Thanks, Cinema Source!) 

Sorry, Konami. Even if this zombie-filled multiplayer mash-up is better than the Left 4 Dead games, it won’t win you back the respect of Metal Gear fans, people who love game history (making the beautiful, horrifyingly perfect P.T. vanish forever was one of the most spiteful business decisions next to whatever happened with Kojima) or anyone else who knows you’re trying very hard to show that you’re still relevant as an actual video game company.

Thanks for trying, though. PC, PS4, and Xbox One owners who don’t care and just want a(nother) good-looking shooteminnaface zombie game will eat this one up in 2017. The rest of us justifiable cranky souls will more than likely sit this dance out.

Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom Gamescom 2016 Trailer: The Boy’s A Beast (Well, A Few Of Them)

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Well, wow. The Game Atelier has been busy and quiet for a bit, but there’s the reason why above. Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom is looking even more phenomenal and according to publisher FDG Entertainment, will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One first, followed by PC and possibly, a Nintendo console (according to NintendoLife). No speculation here on that latter point, but at least two versions of this one will be played here at DAF HQ.

-GW

VALLEY Narrative Trailer: Turning Over A New L.E.A.F. Soon


 

With Blue Isle Studios‘ upcoming action/exploration game VALLEY under two weeks away, the strategy of the developer revealing their new game within a short time before it’s available could work for it quite well. Getting gamers to hold out a bit on a day one buy and wait for reviews might pay off in making this an “evergreen” title in the long run, particularly the jaded types out thee who follow games for years and complain about anything and everything as much as possible.

What I’ve seen so far intrigues the hell out of me. But by not getting every drip of development info or wasting time poking around on message boards in Jadedgamerville, I’m more likely to be pleasantly surprised by the end result. Now, will that surprise be good or bad? I’m not telling (well, I have NO clue, kids!), but I can say it’s going to at least be positive on the visuals and constructive critically on the gameplay if there are issues. We shall see. For now, all is right in this game world as far as I can see. VALLEY lands on PC, PS4, and Xbox One August 24, 2016.


 

-GW

Pathologic: Ice-Pick Lodge’s Re-Invention Looks Mysteriously Magnificent

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Back in 2005, Russian developer Ice-Pick Lodge released Pathologic, an unsettling horror/adventure/RPG hybrid that garnered excellent reviews at home, decent to fair reviews in the west, and gathered somewhat of a “cult” following for its unusual, creative art direction, extreme difficulty and distinctly bleak tone. The game’s fan base grew with its gog.com release and subsequent 2012 HD remastering (both of which come with the purchase of the HD Classic version). With a successful Kickstarter to re-imagine the game in 2015 for PC (and possibly consoles) Pathologic’s new path has added even more fans to this weird game’s potential player base. Ahead of Gamescom, IPL has released a nice set of screenshots that show off some lovely, haunting images from the new version.

Let’s take a look now, shall we?


 

Pathologic Artwork
 

While gameplay videos have yet to surface, this 2014 Kickstarter video should give you an idea of what to expect. As the game has no set release date, the waiting period between information drops will no doubt keep fans begging for more. It’s a good thing there’s a board game coming to make that wait less frustrating.

Speaking of more, click below the jump for more about the game (in handy cut/paste/corrected form)…

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DOGOS: OPQAM’s Root Grows Into A Mighty Shmup Oak

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dogos_02 Developer OPQAM’s first game, Project Root was and is a pretty solid modern take on the top down arcade shooter that slowed the pace down and opened up its maps to allow for near total freedom to fly and blast enemies through some fairly lengthy missions. That game really felt like a modern take on Thunder Force II‘s top-down sections, but some critics and gamers didn’t “get” the game’s seemingly languid pacing at all, opting to call it “boring” when this wasn’t the case. To each his or her own, I suppose… but this guy thinks a lot of people got it wrong.


 

Still, it seems OPQAM took the brickbats to heart in creating DOGOS, its upcoming PC, PS4, and Xbox One follow up, set to land soon as another digital-only release. It’s been Greenlit on Steam and looks as if it’ll be a big hit for the Recent hands-on time with a three-mission build shows the developer has hit on a great combination of classic shmup gameplay set in an more structured open map that almost gives the game the feeling of a dungeon crawler. There’s a story here to follow about Desmond Phoenix, a lone pilot tasked with some heavy duty mission work on an enemy-packed planet, but I’ll save that for the full review later. What you need to know is the game controls like a dream so far and the go-anywhere aspect coupled with the ship maneuverability really stand out. Yes, there are bosses and mini-boss ships to face off against with players needing to shoot aerial and ground targets as they fly around each large level. While the camera is generally top-down, OPQAM notes a few cool features in the final product:

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The Technomancer Launch Trailer: Get Your Ass To Mars on PC & Consoles

With the risky and expensive on a few fronts potential of sending humans to Mars (on a one-way trip, yet!) being a big deal over the past couple of years, it’s clear that entertainment focused on the Angry Red Planet is going to be hot for a while. Fresh from veteran developer Spiders and publisher Focus Home Interactive comes The Technomancer, an action/RPG for PC, PS4, and Xbox One out tomorrow. A prequel to MARS: War Logs, the game looks to add to the lore Spiders set forth in that game while introducing new characters, environments and gameplay to players who buy their ticket to the stars.

I’ve been bonked on the noggin with a review code, so I’m going to be off-planet for a bit. Back with some impressions shortly. Oh, by the way: MARS: War Logs is on SALE on Steam for 75% off. Check it out if your curiosity is piqued. It’s got a few rough edges, but makes for a pretty decent diversion that makes The Technomancer all the more intriguing as a prequel. If the new game is even better, will Spiders go forward or back in the timeline they’ve created? That’s a question for sales figures to partially answer, I’d bet.

Valley Update: Deeper We Go (And Things Look Even Better)

Lev7_Temple_BiggerSun_002Blue Isle Studios‘ upcoming first-person action/adventure/exploration platformer Valley is coming along very nicely indeed as you can see in these new screens. As noted earlier, the developer is not slapping together a new Slender game just to cash in on the still percolating jump-scare horror craze.  The richer Unity-powered visuals and more open game world beg to be explored and the intriguing L.E.A.F. Suit’s yin/yang powers of death dealing and life giving should make this quite the interesting game experience.

AncientRuinsSS2_001I have the feeling that this is going to be one of those summer games that gets people to stop and hop in for a slice of thrills they don’t expect coming, but as usual, we shall see. Valley‘s Steam page is beckoning you to wishlist the game, so you go on ahead and do that. Well, after you finish ogling those screens below.

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And don’t forget, PS4 and Xbox One versions are on the way. Blue Isle isn’t letting those console owners have a slow summer either. Back with more on this one soon.

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