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: 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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Wii U Quickies: PONCHO, Meet Severed

With the Wii U seemingly in its final year of being a viable console to some pundits and players, it’s very important to note the console has in fact been the recipient of a number of incredible indie games over the past few months, most recently through the eShop Nindies selection.

Sure, first party titles are always key and should be on any console worth its salt. But the indie scene on Wii U is chock full of cool titles that Wii U-only gamers have either gotten in the past, are getting now or have been popping up as improved ports over versions previously released on PC or other consoles. Most are well worth an instant buy for those who want to support both Nintendo and the dev teams that cook up these gems. Here’s a quick look at two of the best you can buy (in no particular order, of course):

poncho-screenshot06 poncho-coverPONCHO (Rising Star Games, via Nintendo eShop, $9.99): Delve Interactive’s gorgeous, highly challenging side-scrolling platformer’s best tricks are the unique gameplay that has you hopping between different planes to progress through levels, and how surprisingly tough yet slyly meditative the game can be.

While a nice retro vibe is indeed here to be felt by nostalgic minded gamers, the lovely pixel visuals get kicked up into the modern age thanks to plenty of tricks older hardware couldn’t pull off so fluidly. The open world mixes in plenty of surprises to discover, with no lives system in play to drive you batty. That said, prepare to leap of faith your way in some cases where you have no other options but to cross your fingers, toes and anything else save for your eyes because you need to kind of stick that landing.

Jumping like mad through foreground, middle, and background elements like a champ, chatting up cute to not so cute robots who have a lot on their metal mind cases and overall, spending a good long time in this rich, intriguing game world learning what’s what makes this one a keeper of a sleeper. And yes, the music is pretty much perfect, emulating and enhancing its 16-bit inspired tunes that drive the action onscreen.

Score: B+ (85%)

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