enfrdeitptrues

Adventure

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    >observer_ 
    Developed By: Bloober Team SA
    Published By: Aspyr
    Released: August 15, 2017
    Available On: Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB Rating: M for mature: intense violence, blood and gore, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Aspyr/Bloober Team SA for sending us a review code!

    I remember when I was a child, consuming media that came out in the ’80s and ’90s that would talk about the “distant future of 201X” or whatever—featuring flying cars, towers that would reach the clouds, and interstellar travel resembling the daily commute. I’m sure you can all feel the disappointment when we are still nowhere near the fantasies of our minds that came to life on paper or in a film. Usually, these forms of entertainment would look at the future in a positive and hopeful light. Our Polish developers, Bloober Team, take the cyberpunk approach of gazing into the future with >observer_.

    Set in 2084, >observer_ is a futuristic cyberpunk game where detective Daniel Lazarski is part of a corporate-funded police unit. Lazarski is a special case as his kind are known as Observers. An Observer has the ability to hack into a suspect’s mind. As you see, almost everyone in this distant future has augmentations to their body, such as robotic limbs or chips installed in their brain. Before the game begins, Lazarski narrates about how the current world came to be. A large-scale war broke out between the East and the West. It went horribly wrong. After the war, a disease broke out called the Nanophage that killed off a huge chunk of the population. Whoever is left in this crapsack world is now a broken shell of a human being. They desperately try to find any way possible to distract themselves—whether it is drugs, VR, or slapping on so many implants that you barely resemble a human. The world of >observer_ is already off to a bad start and doesn’t show any signs of getting better.

    After resting from a previous investigation, Dan is awoken by his dispatcher, who is checking up on him to see if he is keeping up on his daily medication. Dan is then interrupted by an unknown interceptor over the communications, who then identifies himself as Adam, Dan’s estranged son, who fell out of contact years prior, pleading for Dan’s help. The call was traced back to the Stacks (more or less the slums of this time) and Dan hurries along to see what the issue is. After interacting with the strange and heavily augmented landlord, Janus, Dan enters Adam’s apartment. Unfortunately, Adam is nowhere to be found, but a headless body is found on the floor. Immediately after finding the body, the entire complex goes under lockdown and now it is up to Dan to find out what happened to his son, as well as to why the building is under lockdown in the first place.

    >observer_
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent world design, visuals, and aesthetics; solid voice acting
    Weak Points: Some of the gameplay portions feel tacked-on, and messy as a result; you have to replay the entire game from the beginning if you want to choose the other decisions
    Moral Warnings: Constant swearing and blasphemy, typically f**k and s**t in almost every fourth or fifth sentence, and characters saying things like “godd**mit”; blood and gore shown throughout, with decapitated heads, intestines, and a literal tub of blood being a few examples; some rather immoral decisions can be made during some optional sidequests; a poster is seen later in the game showing a woman’s bare breasts; some email messages read in the game talk about issues such as drugs and drug trafficking, organ harvesting, and other questionable actions; slight instances of racism and sexism in dialogue; Daniel Lazarski, our protagonist, is forced to break police protocol to continue his investigation

    >observer_ is entirely in first person where the majority of the plot takes place within the building. The overall gameplay is similar to “walking simulators” where the narrative and visuals take precedence over interactivity and feedback, with a first-person perspective to further immerse the player into. Dan is freely able to walk about and interact with objects and scenery while keeping up with his Synchrozine medication. Do not fret, there is more than enough of the medication scattered around to not be an issue to any player. Due to his augmentations, he also has the ability to see in three different vision modes. There is the electromagnetic vision that helps point out electronic devices, the bio vision that lets him see blood and wounds more clearly, and night vision. Dan also has the ability to hack into panels to unlock doors or other kinds of passages. Throughout the game, Dan will investigate areas, look into computers, and interrogate the residents to find more clues into his investigation. Even though it is not required to speak with every resident that you can, it’s well worth checking out to find out more of this depressing world and what the people do in it to get by. Also, each of the computers that Dan comes across contains a minigame called With Fire and Swords: Spiders, a rather simple 2D game where the goal is to collect all the 2D gold in a maze and deliver it to a wizard while avoiding or killing the spiders in the way.

    Inspired by Blade Runner, >observer_ looks very depressing, with the game introducing you in the rain, and most of the scenery looking worn and out of shape. Even though >observer_ takes place much farther in the future, it keeps itself rather grounded in the advancements of society, unlike its other futuristic cyberpunk brothers and sisters. It does have the excuse that the people are just coming out from a major war and a severe outbreak so, in hindsight, it does make sense as to why there aren’t flying cars about. The dark and dreary realistic landscape does look really nice, and the few human models in the game look good too.

    The visuals do not stop at the typical cyberpunk fare. As I mentioned previously, Dan has the ability to hack into people’s minds, as long as they are connected to the grid (which nearly everyone is). The moment Dan enters into someone’s mind is when >observer_ starts getting weird—very, very weird. This is also where the horror elements come into play. People hide many things in their subconscious—things that people would rather not have others look at if possible. There is a fine line between reality and the mind, and >observer_ plays with this concept. While the real world is spooky but grounded, the mind of these troubled and insane individuals is when it all breaks loose. The world of dreams is distorted, corrupted, and maddening, almost like a mixture of schizophrenia and a bad acid trip (not that I would know what either of those is like, mind you). The scenery of these dream sequences are not scary in the screaming kind of sense, but more of the unnerving kind that makes you feel like your skin is crawling. As Dan hacks further into the minds of these crazed individuals, it becomes harder for him to distinguish what is and isn’t real.

    When using the different visions, almost all other sounds are blocked out. For example, the electromagnetic vision gives off a digital hum, while the bio vision makes it so that Dan’s heartbeat is the only audible sound. There isn’t much in >observer_ when it comes to musical score, but it makes up for its sounds. The tapping of Dan’s feet when walking through the building, the flapping of wings by the pigeons—it brings the world of >observer_ to life, or, you know, what’s left of it. The sound in the dream sequences, like the visuals, is of a distorted mess—a cacophony of madness. The voice talent is well done, with almost all lines of dialogue spoken by a voice actor. The people sound familiar and real, especially Dan, portrayed by Rutger Hauer. (Blade Runner fans will recognize him as Roy Batty.) Hauer’s performance of Dan is very authentic and captures the role of an aged, beaten man fed up with what the world has become, biting back with sarcasm. There also seems to be a small hint in his voice that he is holding on to something in the world—like he made a promise to upkeep.

    I did come across some issues when playing. There was one moment where, in a dream sequence, Dan got stuck in place and I was forced to quit out of the game. Supposedly it isn’t the only case as other players have reported other instances of them getting stuck too. My biggest issue does actually come from the actual gameplay portions. In some dream sequences, there is a hide-and-seek mechanic. If you get caught, you get a game over. It took me by surprise at first because I thought the strong emphasis on narrative would mean there wouldn’t be any of these instances. It’s not like any of these game overs even mean anything as you immediately start at the point right before the hide-and-seek sections. There’s even one hide-and-seek section that puts you back to the starting point without a game over. It feels tacked-on to me, and the only reason it’s there in the first place (to my guess) is that it makes the achievement for not getting caught much easier to track.

    My second biggest issue is the autosave function, in a way. There is only one save file for the whole game, and it autosaves at most points. Autosaving in itself is not the issue more so than the numerous “points of no return.” >observer_ has collectibles, you see. Now when there is at least half-dozen of these points where you can’t return scattered throughout the game, you understand what the issue with this is? It doesn’t end there either. Once you beat the game, you have to start the entire game over from the beginning. Considering that this is a game where you can make choices to see different outcomes and that you only really have one chance to collect all collectibles, it’s a rather strange, and poor design choice to make. I’m glad I got through my completionist phase or I would have put my head through a wall.

    >observer_
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 45%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    As evident of basically everything mentioned above, >observer_ is not for children in any sense of the concept (not that most children would be interested in the narrative in the first place). Blood is present in rather large quantities throughout the game, either on the floor, on the walls, or in other places. There are dead bodies present, such as a headless body, one guy’s intestines spilling out of his body, a literal tub of blood, and another committing suicide via hanging. You’ll rarely encounter any of these in action—mostly the aftermath of the violence, but it doesn’t make the act any less gruesome. With the gritty atmosphere, there is also constant language and blasphemy uttered, with f**k, s**t, and godd**mit being the words said the most. A few characters aren't the nicest bunch and do say some slight racist and sexist overtones. There are a lot of immoral decisions made by characters in the game explained through text or the dream sequences, and Dan has the option of making a few himself during some of the sidequests. (I’m a good boy, so I made all the ethical ones.) Some of these actions go into organ harvesting and drug trafficking. I also came across a poster pretty late into the game that showed a woman’s bare breasts. At one point in the narrative, Dan is forced to break police protocol to go further in his investigation.

    When I think about cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, or even cyberpunk games like the Deus Ex series, I never get that feeling from any of the mentioned that those situations can ever become real. The most frightening thing about >observer_ is that it really feels like a situation that can happen. With how grounded it keeps itself, how it adds commentary about relatable situations, and how it dives into the fears and worries that we push all the way in the back of our mind. It might, in fact, become our future if we’re not careful about our over-reliance of technology.

    With a boatload of moral issues and concerns, I implore most of you to take a second look at >observer_ before buying, renting, or borrowing from a friend. The story lasts about six to nine hours, and an extra two or four if you’re willing to do a second playthrough for the choices you missed or skipped out on. If you can manage to get past all that, the gameplay issues, and some rather idiotic design choices, you are in for an engrossing, spine-tingling narrative with great sound and visual design that feels all too real.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    A Plague Tale: Innocence
    Developed by: Adobo Studio
    Published by: Focus Home Interactive
    Release date: May 14, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Action, Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence
    Price: $44.99
    (Humble Bundle Link)

    Thank you Focus Home Interactive  for sending us this game to review!

    A Plague Tale: Innocence takes place in France in 1349 during the Inquisition and the plague. You play as Amicia, a 15-year-old girl who is from the well-to-do De Rune family. She has a five-year-old brother, Hugo, who has been seriously ill for most of his life and their alchemist mother is trying to find a cure for him. With her mother tending to Hugo most of the time, Amicia has a closer relationship with her father who teaches her how to use her slingshot to hunt.

    It doesn’t take long for the soldiers of the Inquisition to arrive at the De Rune estate and slaughter everyone in sight. For some reason, they are specifically looking for Hugo and want him alive. I won’t spoil any details, but suffice it to say that the story is quite intriguing and is spread out into seventeen chapters.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Touching story; fantastic visuals; excellent voice acting and background music; frequent checkpoints/autosaves
    Weak Points: The AI characters can get stuck/left behind/killed at times
    Moral Warnings: Extremely gory and violent; with the Inquisition storyline, religion is shown in a negative light as religious figures are depicted as power-hungry and willing to sacrifice others for their gain; blaspheming and colorful language including several instances of the f-bomb; a couple of your party members are thieves

    Amicia, who hardly knows her brother, becomes his caretaker and they befriend other orphans later on in the game. Until then, there are plenty of Inquisition soldiers and rats to avoid making contact with. The rats are afraid of light sources so if you’re near fire or have a torch you’ll be okay. The problem with torches is that they don’t last very long, so you don’t have much time to waste while using one.

    Soldiers are a bit harder to avoid. If they are not wearing helmets you can sling a stone at their head to take them down. They will bleed when hit and may die as a result. Compared to seeing people burned at the stake or eaten alive by rats, the stone to the head is not that gory. There are non-lethal approaches like throwing a stone at a jar to break it or into some armor to get the guard’s attention elsewhere.

    Stones are a limited resource, but in boss battles, they tend to replenish after a short while. Along with stones are other resources laying around that can be used to upgrade Amicia’s equipment or concoct helpful potions that can put guards to sleep or make their helmets acidic so they take them off. Amicia will also learn how to start and douse fires with alchemy. Extinguishing the enemy’s torches makes them vulnerable to rat attacks.

    A Plague Tale: Innocence
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 50%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    If rats make you queasy, you may want to skip this game as they appear in swarms quite often. Other issues to take note of include foul language with every word imaginable and some blasphemy. The Catholic church is not shown in a positive light as one of their leaders is depicted as being power-hungry and willing to sacrifice other people’s lives for his goals. This church leader’s health is not the best as it appears that he’s suffering from the effects of a rat bite. You’ll see him getting blood injections from “volunteer” prisoners. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of bloodshed in this game.

    The visuals in this game are astounding. While there are plenty of grotesque images to make you wince, there are some truly beautiful sights to behold as well. Sadly, many of the towns you visit have been preceded by Inquisition soldiers and have left bodies of animals and townsfolk laying around the street. There are also battlefields covered in bodies. As realistic as this game looks, I’m glad that I didn’t have to smell what I imagined it would have been like.

    The audio portion is equally impressive with an exceptional musical score composed by Olivier Deriviere who has many AAA game titles under his belt. The voice acting with French accents is quite good too. I can see why many people are describing this game as a masterpiece.

    I completed the game in a little over ten hours. Though the story is linear, there are some Steam achievements available for keeping your eyes peeled for flowers and gifts to collect. I could have done a bit more exploring in my playthrough it seems. Even with my 63% Steam achievement completion rate, I’m very satisfied with my time in this title. As fun as this game is, it does deserve its Mature rating and should not be played by younger children as the imagery could be nightmare inducing.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    A Rite from the Stars
    Developed by: Risin’ Goat
    Published by: Phoenix Online Studios
    Release date: July 19, 2018
    Available on: macOS, OUYA, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Phoenix Online Studios for sending us this game to review!

    A Rite from the Stars was successfully Kickstarted in 2015 and promised to bring to life a fresh and new 3D point and click adventure game. This title takes place on the island of Kaikala which is inhabited by the Makoa tribe. Although the island is fictional, the tribe is real and this game uses their language and voices for the dialogue in it.

    The main character is Kirm who is about to embark on his rite of passage with the help of his guiding star. His star can talk, but Kirm is mute. There are three paths that he must complete to be acknowledged as a man in his tribe and they are Courage, Spirit, and Wisdom.

    Each of the paths require different skills to complete them and new game mechanics are introduced as well to keep things fresh and exciting. In the courage path Kirm is accompanied by his spirit animal, a meerkat, who also is mute. Not only can the meerkat absorb poison, it can get to areas that Kirm can’t reach. Many of the obstacles require controlling both Kirm and his meerkat simultaneously using both mouse buttons. The spirit path requires avoiding the harmful spirits and receiving a revelation from the heavens. In this section, you have to switch between the spirit realm and the mortal world often. The wisdom path has many puzzles that are typical of point and click adventure games. Some of the puzzles are musical and a few still remain a mystery to me.

    A Rite from the Stars
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Each of the three paths provides new gameplay mechanics and variety
    Weak Points: Though there are plenty of Steam achievements, many of them are nearly impossible to achieve; not enough walkthroughs or discussion forums to provide help if you get stuck; odd game crashes and glitches
    Moral Warnings: This game revolves around the beliefs of the Makoa tribe and their guiding stars; a spiritual realm where the spirits kill mortals who enter it, and the ability to offer a sacrifice to one of their gods; Kirm gets called names by the chief and there is mild cursing (d*mn); males only wear loin cloths

     

    I was able to solve many of the puzzle on my own. If you get stuck, there is a built-in hint system though it usually repeats what the guiding star already told me so I didn’t find it very helpful or worth losing a Steam achievement over. While there are many Steam achievements available, most of them are nigh impossible to earn. There are a few video walkthroughs available but I couldn’t find any in the areas I got stuck in which makes me wonder if other gamers/streamers gave up like I did. It’s worth noting that my Steam discussion thread still remains unanswered so without any walkthroughs or assistance, I won’t be able to progress any further.

    The video walkthroughs I found did help me get through some pretty odd glitches I experienced. For example, there is an area where the meerkat has to climb onto a vine and if you don’t do it within two seconds of stepping on a poisonous flower, it can’t be done at all. While I appreciate the randomness of some of the puzzles, it can be detrimental at times. There are some boss battles that can go south quickly if the random attacks are working against you. During the sleeping dragon boss you have to stand still when its eyes are open. There are also falling rocks which you have to dodge despite the dragon’s eyes being open. So many times I had to choose between having my meerkat die by flaming dragon breath or falling rocks. And just when I got the meerkat safe, a rock would fall on Kirm instead.

    A Rite from the Stars
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 67%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Thankfully, there are plenty of checkpoints that you can resume from at any time. You don’t have to complete a rite from start to finish and you can go back and replay a different area or one you already completed if you wish. Scattered through each of the areas are leaves and glyphs that you can find to earn some Steam achievements.

    Though you can die in this game, it’s not very gruesome or bloody. While I appreciate the tribal culture, I’m not a fan of their gods and prefer not to make sacrifices to them. The spirit realm has evil spirits that consume mortals who dare to enter it.

    A Rite from the Stars has a nice concept and it definitely shines when it comes to the audio and visuals in it. I think the controls could use some more polish and the lack of gamepad support is quite strange given the support for it on OUYA. It’s also a shame that the discussion boards seem to be inactive now as well. I only recommend this game if you enjoy point and click adventure games and don’t mind the heavy spiritual references in it.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Alice VR
    Developed by: Carbon Studio
    Published by: Klabater
    Release date: October 27, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Carbon Studio for sending us this game to review!

    Unlike the fairy tale, Alice VR takes place in space on a ship experiencing a severe malfunction. The problems are severe enough to warrant being woken up from your cryogenic sleep. In order to make the necessary repairs you’ll have to access various areas of the ship and some of them require shrinking yourself and returning back to your normal size.

    Maneuvering throughout the game is simple enough using an Xbox One controller. The joysticks allow your character to look and move around. Keyboard and mouse support works just as well. The character moves very slowly and this is probably an attempt to avoid inducing motion sickness. Sadly, it doesn’t work. Thankfully, the game is still playable without a VR headset. There is a menu option for increasing the movement speed, and after getting nauseated twice, I opted to play the remainder of the game without VR.

    Alice VR
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Can be played without a VR headset; good graphics
    Weak Points: Gave me motion sickness in VR; game crashes; level and sound glitches
    Moral Warnings: Minor language (hell); women shown in revealing clothing on posters; drug references

    The gameplay is like a 3D first person adventure game. You have to walk around and explore your surroundings and work around various obstacles preventing you from completing your objectives. Once you get off your ship, you’ll need to start collecting a resource called graphene from a seemingly abandoned planet. Some graphene is lying around in canisters though the majority of it is earned by draining it from abandoned technology left behind on this planet. Another way to acquire graphene is by solving puzzles.

    The puzzles in this game are logical which is a pleasant surprise since many adventure games I’ve played have puzzle solutions that totally come out of left field. Since I was able to solve many of the puzzles with little or no effort, many people may find them to be too easy. A couple of the puzzles involve flipping switches in a certain order to unlock the next area. If you do get stuck, there are YouTube walkthroughs available online.

    Most of the gameplay is linear, though there are some collectibles and rewards for going off the beaten path. There are a dozen playing cards scattered throughout the game and if you collect all of them, you’ll get a Steam achievement. According to Steam, it only took me four hours to complete this game. In actuality, it was less than that since Steam doesn’t recognize when I exited out the game it thought I was playing it all through dinner one night. So I’m guessing a more accurate game time is 3-3.5 hours.

    Alice VR
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Like many games, the story is told through voice recordings of the planet’s previous inhabitants and you’ll gradually learn about their struggles before you arrived. The AI giving you orders doesn’t appreciate insubordination, but it is possible. There is some replayability in making different choices, but with the nausea and game glitches, I think I’ll pass.

    Besides Steam not registering me leaving the game, I also ran into instances of the sound not working and missing story sequences as a result. Since the game relies on checkpoints and is linear, I was not able to backtrack and hear what I missed. My character has been stuck in place and I had to reload my save to get unstuck. I was also stumped on how to leave a certain level only to realize that it was actually glitched after watching a walkthrough. After reloading my save a couple of times I was able to progress in this hallucination themed level. Despite the hallucinations being triggered by a gas, there are still drug references in this title.

    Another issue worth noting is that there are several posters in the city with women wearing sexualized attire. The rest of the artwork and level design is well done and this game utilizes the Unreal 4 engine nicely. When the sound is working properly, the voice acting is well done too.

    Fans of Alice in Wonderland and adventure games will probably enjoy this title. The developers have been doing a good job patching the game, but it still needs some more tweaks. If you looking for a good VR experience you may want to look elsewhere or take some motion sickness medicine ahead of time.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Anamorphine
    Developed by: Artifact 5
    Published by: Artifact 5
    Release date: July 31, 2018
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR, Windows
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Mild Violence, Mild Blood, Drug and Alcohol Reference
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Artifact 5 for sending us this game to review!

    In Anamorphine you see the world through Tyler’s eyes as he witnesses his love interest dive into depression and addiction. There’s very little text and the story is mostly told through visual prompts that trigger memories that you get to revisit and interact in. Depending on your input, you can trigger one of two endings and then go back to try to experience the second one if desired.

    Given the unfinished state of the apartment with a double bed and boxes everywhere, it can be assumed that Tyler and Elena recently moved in together. I don’t recall seeing any wedding pictures of them so I don’t think that they are married. Elena is a cello player that plays in a symphony and teaches children on the side. Her musical career is on the up and up. It’s not clear what Tyler does for a living but he does enjoy bike riding.

    At Christmas, he gives Elena a bicycle and the bike riding sequences in this game are well done (especially in VR!) and break up the slow pace a bit. During a biking adventure, Elena crashes and badly breaks her arm. This severely hampers Elena’s cello playing abilities and she spirals into substance abuse and depression.

    Anamorphine
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting story about depression
    Weak Points: Poor controls and game glitches
    Moral Warnings: Blood; substance abuse

    Most of this game is spent walking through the apartment looking for glowing items to interact with and progress the story. As the apartment falls into disarray, you’ll stumble across many beer, wine, and prescription bottles.

    There are some whimsical environments that are quite beautiful and gloomy at the same time. Other sequences take place at a hospital where you’ll get to walk through many corridors and see Elena’s X-rays and visitors. Other than Elena, everyone else in this title is portrayed as mannequins. Only the significant ones are wearing clothes like a doctor’s lab coat. It’s a unique art style, but it works.

    I was able to see one of the endings with less than three hours of game time. Half of the time was spent in VR and I finished the game without a headset on. Though the warp moving system and shadowing around the eyes helps with motion sickness, I still felt woozy after my first playthrough in VR. I highly recommend sitting versus standing with this game.

    Anamorphine
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    As if motion sickness was not enough of an issue, I also ran into several glitches while playing Anamorphine. I have experienced my character getting stuck during a level transition and the loss of all sound effects. Thankfully, this title has many automatic save states so not much progress was lost in those scenarios. The movement can be a little tricky to navigate at times and it’s not always clear as to what you’re supposed to do at others. The levels that are flipped sideways or upside down are especially tricky and/or slow to maneuver through.

    The background symphony and cello music is well done and sets the mood nicely for the game. The soundtrack is available for purchase on Steam for $7.99 or you can buy it with the game for a slight discount.

    Before picking up the game or the soundtrack, I recommend holding off for a sale. With the stability issues and short amount of gameplay, it’s hard to justify the $20-$28 price tag. Along with the living together and substance abuse, there is some blood in this title, but it’s shown as white instead of red. If you like walking simulators and interesting stories, Anamorphine is worth picking up on sale.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Argonus and the Gods of Stone
    Developed By: Azure Drop Studios; Zojoi
    Published By: Zojoi
    Released: October 8, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: single player
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Zojoi for sending us a review code!

    Greek mythology is always an interesting subject to be tackled in media. It is one of the more known mythos out there, being as heavily documented as it is. Many companies and people also tend to take their creative liberties with Greek mythology ranging from the Percy Jackson series to DC Comics’ Wonder Woman. This time, to the ever-expanding list of Greek mythology in culture, is Argonus and the Gods of Stone.

    Argonus and the Gods of Stone has you take control of Argonus, son of Argus the shipbuilder. One day in 1270 B.C., Argonus finds himself washed up on a beach, the ship Argo wrecked beyond repair, and all of his fellow Argonauts missing. As Argonus explores the beach, he notices these stone statues littered all around—but some of these statues look very familiar. These so-called “statues” are the petrified remains of the residents of the isle, as well as his fellow Argonauts. Shortly after this realization, Athena appears before Argonus and informs him that a blight or scourge has swept this island, with only Argonus being unaffected. Athena gives him the task of finding out who or what caused this blight.

    Like many epics, an epic requires a narrator. The narrator, in this case, is Calliope, the Greek Muse of heroic poetry. Voiced by Betsy Brantley, this was a good casting choice for Calliope, as in Ancient Greek, Calliope literally means “beautiful voice.” Brantley’s performance is soothing to the ears and fits the character well (even though you never physically see Calliope in this epic). As Argonus explores the islands, he’ll come across temples where the inhabitants worship gods and goddesses like Poseidon, Hera, and Hades. Each god and goddess encountered are also voiced, with an echo and boom added to their vocals—fitting for their status.

    Argonus and the Gods of Stone
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The first-person perspective is a nice change of pace to the typical point-and-click style; solid voice acting; interesting story about the folly of both man and god
    Weak Points: Frame drops and stuttering no matter what graphic setting you’re on; ending sequence peters out
    Moral Warnings: Bloodstains and beheaded creatures can be seen about; Athena isn’t the most modestly dressed goddess, showing of a lot of leg and only a cloth to cover her private area; dialogue between two characters in a flashback implies that they had a primarily sexual relationship; supernatural elements and creatures all around such as hydras, griffons, and harpies; Argonus later in the adventure gains the ability to free souls

    AatGOS is displayed through a 3D first-person view and plays like any first-person game would, with the H key bringing up a box at any time to remind you of the controls. Any object that can be interacted with has a circle over it; this can go from the petrified remains of people and creatures, the various scenery or items scattered, and other objects. Objects that have a translucent hand within the circle need an item to be interacted with and items that have a solid yellow hand instead can be stored in your inventory, that can be accessed with the E key.

    Every object that can be interacted with is described by Calliope, either talking about the situation at hand or even making references to other Greek mythos, such as Heracles and his Twelve Labors. Not all of the information she says, however, is useful. She’ll even comment on the irrelevance of certain things Argonus interacts with, having a variety of ways of saying “this item or creature serves no purpose,” something I found quite humorous. Like most adventure games, items will act as keys to access later parts and that you’ll need to visit previous places when you gain other items.

    Argonus himself rarely speaks, with the only time with him speaking is through Argonus’ diary entries as Argonus is a historian and cartographer. The diary entries can be accessed through the map with the press of the M key, in which Argonus goes into further detail of the events that unfold. Each entry is displayed through well-crafted hand drawings and it is very interesting to see how Argonus personally views this dreary situation. The Greek isle itself is of a fairly bland color pallet, with clouds covering the skies at nearly all times, the vegetation mostly being of flat brown colors and the lack of people and wildlife making the situation feel that much dire. Graphically, AatGOS does look nice but for a game of its status has an incredibly large draw distance—unnecessarily so. A GTX 970 far exceeds the minimal graphical requirements of a GTS 450 and when looking towards the distance (especially skyward) or any active movement like a waterfall, the frames would drop significantly. Unless you have a fairly modern and powerful graphics card, you might be spending a lot of time looking towards the ground, which is a shame.

    Argonus and the Gods of Stone
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 71%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The music is like what you would hear from other mythology games, with a dynamic score. During more passive moments, the music is calm, yet eerie. During the few hectic moments, the music matches in kind with loud, boisterous instruments.

    Language and dialogue are clean, although there are other aspects to keep watch of. Greek mythology has a lot of supernatural elements in their stories. You’ll encounter griffins, harpies, a petrified hydra, skeletons, and spirits. The latter mentioned in a way caused by Argonus as the second half of the game has Argonus trying to find a way to free the spirits so that they may travel to the afterlife. Since this is a Greek tale, there is the aspect of polytheism and for the gods and goddesses to help you out in your journey, you offer them a tribute in kind. Bloodstains on the ground can be seen on the ground, and early in the game, you’ll come across a decapitated hydra head. A character dies onscreen but the cause of the character’s injuries is unknown. In a flashback, it can be assumed through the conversation that the two characters (names withheld for spoiler reasons) had a sexual relationship. Athena shows off plenty of leg, and many of the female statues show off cleavage.

    Argonus and the Gods of Stone’s progress is separated by five books, not all books being equal in length. The fifth book, in particular, can be the shortest or the longest depending on how you played as it is 99% backtracking. The voice acting is solid and directed well, and the sense of worldbuilding makes you want to find out what happens next. Any fan of Greek mythology will find this decent-length journey (about 3-7 hours) worth the price of admission. People who are unfamiliar with Greek fables may want to wait for a sale as the ending segment dwindles and the requirement to see the ending is vague. While not nearly as crazy as the source material, AatGOS still has aspects to be mindful of. Even with its budget constraints and the lack of the more intricate adventure mechanics like item crafting or fusion, this Greek epic is an interesting story of how the mistakes of both man and god led these Argonauts to their grim fate.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: August 6, 2016
    Available on: iOS, PS3, PS4,
    Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One  |
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRBR rating: Mature for violence, blood, gore and language.
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code!

    Batman - The Telltale Series is a five-part adventure style game that adapts its story based on the choices of the player.  As of this review only the first two episodes are available and they are extremely well written with likable characters and good voice acting.  Like most adventure games you get to examine your surroundings and interact with various objects to gather clues and solve murder mysteries.

    This game earns its mature rating with gruesome crime scenes and harsh language and blaspheming.  Pretty much every cuss word but the F-bomb is used.  A new game mechanic is introduced that lets you link objects together to piece together murders or to plan Batman’s attack.  The battles use quick time events and you have to press the correct key at the right moment to either block or land an attack.

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story that changes depending on the choices you make in the game; great character development and voice acting; new gameplay mechanics to set this series apart from previous Telltale entries.
    Weak Points: This game is not optimized well; even though I took the merciful route the dialogue with other characters suggested that I did otherwise.
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence and language is unavoidable; the player can choose to be vengeful or merciful when dealing with criminals; Catwoman wears tight clothes.

     

    Those who are familiar with Batman’s story will recognize characters like Alfred and the Catwoman.  The main villain (who I will not reveal) looked nothing like the movie rendition I saw when I was growing up.  Bruce Wayne/Batman remains unchanged with his strong integrity and wide array of expensive technical gadgets at his disposal.  The gadget interface color is customizable and purple was the color that I chose.

    The tale of Batman is a grim one with a wealthy boy losing his parents at the age of nine.  As the story progresses, Bruce Wayne discovers that there was more to his parents’ death than a simple mugging.  He also learns that his family’s fortune is built on the suffering of others and that these revelations are hurting the campaign of his friend Harvey Dent.   Harvey wishes to save Gotham City by taking the Mayor title away from the corrupt Hamilton Hill.

    Throughout the story Bruce/Batman will have to answer questions from police, mobsters, and the press.  Silence is an option and it’s one that will be chosen for you if you don’t answer fast enough.  Sadly, that was done for me several times due to technical issues running this game.

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 59%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    On my Nvidia 660M powered laptop I noticed that this game ran poorly and that the voice acting was out of synch and that my mouse movement was sluggish at best and unusable at worst.  Because the cel-shaded graphics looked amazing, I didn’t want to lower them.  I utilized the cloud save feature and enjoyed this game on my more powerful AMD powered desktop.  There are many negative Steam reviews reflecting poor performance issues so make sure that you have a powerful enough system and the latest drivers installed before purchasing this game.

    If you have a powerful enough system and enjoy Batman and/or adventure games then Batman - The Telltale Series is worth picking up If you’re not put off by strong language and violence.  I never get tired of seeing my choices compared with everyone else’s after completing an episode and I'm eagerly waiting for the next three to be released!

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: December 13, 2016
    Available on: iOS, PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One 
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB rating: Mature for Violence, Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, and Use of Drugs 
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

     

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us this series to review!

    The first two episodes started to reveal the dark origins of Bruce Wayne’s wealth.  While Bruce is nothing like his parents, Gotham City is rather fickle and he loses the citizens' favor as his family name is being discredited left and right.  It doesn’t help that mayor Harvey Dent is jealous that the woman he cares for (Selena Kyle) is attracted to Mr. Wayne and abuses his power to go after Bruce directly.  

     

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story that changes depending on the choices you make in the game; great character development and voice acting; new gameplay mechanics to set this series apart from previous Telltale entries.
    Weak Points: This game is not optimized well; even though I took the merciful route the dialogue with other characters suggested that I did otherwise.
    Moral Warnings: Optional sex outside of marriage; violence and gore is mandatory 

    The relationship between Selena and Bruce is determined by the player's choices and it is possible to sleep with her.  If that’s the route they take, they’ll be shown in their undergarments.  Bruce Wayne wears boxers, in case you were wondering.  As if losing his credibility and friendship with Harvey wasn’t bad enough, Wayne Enterprises responds to the allegations by asking Bruce to step down as CEO.  While Bruce is understanding of his forced resignation, he’s infuriated and rightly concerned about who they hired as his replacement.  

    Episode four begins after an eventful speech with Bruce Wayne waking up in Arkham Asylum.  As a patient!  Because of his family name he’s given a violent welcome and must choose his allies carefully.  A patient with green hair and a big smile is rather friendly towards Bruce and is willing to help him get out.  Bruce has the option of promising to return a favor in the near future.

    The final episode is not short on excitement as Alfred Pennyworth is kidnapped and Bruce has to locate and save him before he gets beaten to death.  There’s no shortage of blood and language in this finale and there’s plenty of blood splattered crime scenes to investigate to piece together what went down in Bruce’s absence.  

    Batman - The Telltale Series
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Some difficult choices have to be made and I love how this series adapts to the choices you make. At the completion of every episode your choices are compared to everyone else’s and my choices were usually in line with theirs.  Some of the harder choices were choosing to attend events as Bruce or Batman.  Between the interactive choices, adventure style gameplay, and the crime scene investigations, there is little difference between these chapters and the previous ones.

    At $5 an episode this is a mature but fun series to embark on.  There’s a hint of a sequel, and I look forward to donning the cowl and cape again soon.  Hopefully the next Batman series will be better optimized for those running video cards that cost less than $250.  

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman – The Telltale Series
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: November 14, 2017
    Available on: iOS, Android, Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB rating: Mature for Violence, Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Batman has had a number of successful video game titles through the Arkham series. But while the Arkham games have done a great job making you feel like Batman in a combat sense, they have not been able to give you the freedom to choose what kind of Batman you would like to be. Telltale Games has chosen to put their own spin on the Batman franchise, creating a truly immersive experience.

    Games developed by Telltale emphasize choice over action. Their titles are broken up into “episodes” that are released over several months. In each episode, you make a plethora of choices that alter the way the story plays out. Looking up the differences in stories on the internet, it can be staggering how important your decisions are. Though the story has a basic outline that cannot be altered, several important details change based on your actions. But that being said, some people have complained that you don’t really play a “game,” so much as watch a movie and make some choices. While there isn’t much physical activity for your character, there is still plenty of stuff in the game that is dependent on you.

    In this 5-part episodic series, Batman is still relatively new. He has gained a reputation for being aggressive, but very few of his iconic enemies actually exist. This, however, is not an “origin story.” We are given an account of how he became Batman, but for the most part, this is a straightforward (although very dark) modern Batman adventure.

    Bruce Wayne is having difficulty balancing the two lives he lives, as he finds himself regularly beaten and bloody. On top of this, he is funding a campaign for his friend Harvey Dent, who is running for mayor. What follows is an emotionally trying story for Bruce, as he learns over time that his parents were not as good-natured as he thought they were.

    Batman – The Telltale Series
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Truly immersive experience makes you feel like Batman; great story forces you to make difficult choices; three-dimensional characters; great music and voice acting; unique art style
    Weak Points: Technical issues with the Switch version; Telltale's graphic engine causes some weird animations; Some characters treat you as cruel even when you choose not to be
    Moral Warnings: Very graphic images, most of them not optional; swearing and blaspheming shows up throughout the dialogue; an optional sex scene; implied child abuse; the story is largely about a drug operation

    Telltale’s emphasis on choices and story over action allows for some truly memorable characters. Two-dimensionality doesn’t ever seem to be an issue for this game’s characters. Even though Batman: The Telltale Series is a game, it is written more like a movie or a TV series. The story might not work so well for the big screen, but it is excellent for putting you in situations that are morally grey. Several times I found myself wondering if I did the right thing or not. I tried to be a “moral high-ground” Batman, but oftentimes, being a better person made life harder. The game wants you to believe that sometimes playing in the dark side yields better results.

    For example, in one scene, Batman is interrogating a sniper by hanging him up. At one point, Batman begins to apply pressure to the sniper’s arm, causing him to slowly feel pain. If you stop, Jim Gordon (who’s a lieutenant in this game) will notice your “nonviolent” approach. But if you break his arm, you will gain more valuable information.

    Because this game emphasizes choices, there is not a lot of movement for your character. There are a few segments that are “point-and-click,” where you basically walk around and click on objects to examine them. This gameplay style is also applied to crime scene investigations, which involve you linking parts of the crime scene together so that you can figure out what actually occurred. As far as action sequences go, there are a number of fight scenes, but these are carried out through a series of "quick time events."

    Visually, the game is a mixed bag. On one hand, Telltale has crafted a beautiful style that looks like it jumped right out of a comic book. But on the other hand, the Switch version features lower-resolution models. This doesn’t seem to change the visuals too much, but it makes some of the side characters look rather ugly. The lower resolution also gives all the characters grey pupils instead of black, which at times can be distracting. Where the real problem comes in is that Telltale’s graphic engine causes some really weird animations. Though the action is, for the most part, well choreographed, sometimes the characters can move very stiffly. In the final episode, I went a whole five minutes where Bruce Wayne’s mouth wouldn’t move for some reason. These technical issues are a bit of a shame given how good the characters’ facial expressions often are.

    Though the visuals have some issues, the sound is fantastic. All of the actors give great performances that really help sell the drama. Some of the actors include Troy Baker as Batman (who, oddly enough, previously voiced him in the LEGO Batman games), Laura Bailey as Catwoman, and Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent. The music is very good, too. All of it is very orchestral and could easily be used as a film soundtrack.

    Batman – The Telltale Series
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 85%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7.5/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 2/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Unfortunately, the Switch version of the game has some technical difficulties outside of the graphics. It has been floating around the internet that a glitch can occur in Episode 4 that freezes the game. Shutting the console down and bringing the game back up will cause your previous choices to become void. I had the unpleasant experience of finding this glitch. The rest of the episode played out fine, but when I started the fifth episode, none of my choices remained the same. Telltale has released a temporary solution to the problem, but it didn’t help my situation. I had to completely restart the game, which was very frustrating. The Switch version does come with one particular benefit, however. Unlike its Xbox and PlayStation counterparts, it comes with all five episodes downloaded onto the cartridge. The other versions have the first episode downloaded, but you had to download the others as they released. Our review to the original release was split into two parts because of this. Outside of having all episodes downloaded, the Switch version allows you to play the entire game with its touch screen like the mobile version of the game, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

    Morally speaking, this game is M-rated for Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Content, and Violence. I would say it definitely earns that rating. Harsh language is spread throughout the game, though most prevalent in the first episode. God***n is probably used more than any other curse word in the game, though there are other less common blasphemies such as “Jesus,” “God,” and “Christ.” The f-word is surprisingly not in this game. However, there are some occasional uses of “d**n,” "a**," “hell,” “s**t,” “p***k,” "b***h," and “b*****d.” Of course, that is all I found in one play through. There’s no guarantee that that is all that is in there as far as language goes.

    You might notice that the Switch version of the game is the only one rated for Sexual Content. This is because it is the only physical version of the game that was released after all five episodes had been finished. The game being rated for Sexual Content, however, is not as big of an issue as it might sound. In Episode 3, you can choose to have sex with Selina Kyle in a scene where Bruce Wayne is in her apartment. I avoided this scene by telling her that she “had the wrong idea” when she rests her head on Bruce’s shoulder. I don’t know if this is the only way to avoid this scene, but it seems to be the safest way to go. Outside of this one scene, there are a couple of innuendos in the dialogue, but nothing that would be deemed too inappropriate for an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Also, both Selina and Bruce are shown underdressed regardless of what you choose. Selina wears a tank top and short shorts, while Bruce is shown in nothing but his boxers.

    This game’s M-rating seems to come primarily from the violence. The game is very dark and violent, though thankfully most of the violence is not caused by you. You can choose to be a violent monster, but you definitely don’t have to. It is a little annoying, though, that regardless of how nonviolent you are, some people will act like you’re brutal. As stated earlier, the game seems to encourage you to act harshly in order to get more immediate results. However, my more merciful approach seemed to have worked out well in the long run. Within fifteen seconds of the game, a security guard gets shot in the head. As the story progresses a few more people get shot in the head and blood shoots out. As you fight people at various points in the game, little bits of blood will fly out of their bodies, sometimes to an unrealistic degree. Perhaps the most disturbing parts of the game, however, involve the crime scenes. There are a few graphic crime scenes you investigate throughout the episodes, though easily the most disturbing is in the first episode. In this scene, we see a man’s exploded remains, a man who’s face has been slashed up, and a man who’s head has a bullet you end up digging out with a metal rod. In a later crime scene, a person is shown with their eyes gouged out.

    Personally, I don’t feel like the violent images are nearly as disturbing as they could have been. Thanks to Telltale’s graphic style, the blood effects will often look weird and the other violent elements will not look very realistic. I still would not encourage anyone under eighteen to play it.

    The entire story is centered around drugs. The drugs in question cause people to ignore their moral filters, which results in them acting violently. In Episode 5, you encounter a torture chamber at the bottom of a suburban house. Inside this chamber are violent drawings, whipping belts, and bloody shackles. You discover that a character was tortured there and left for long periods of time by herself when she was a child. Anytime you examine something, you hear faint cries and screams from this character. Of all the disturbing elements in this game, this was by far the one I had the most difficulty stomaching. Even though not much of this is actually shown, the plot point is of a subject matter I am very uncomfortable with.

    It’s a shame that the game has so many moral issues, because it is such a fantastic game. The whole “be your own Batman” concept has a lot of appeal, and the game executes it incredibly well. I don’t play a lot of M-rated games, but this was one that I personally do not regret playing. Because of some of the technical issues, I would not recommend getting the Switch version over the others. I chose the Switch version because it allowed me to play it with headphones on a smaller screen. Though I was alright with listening to the language and seeing the graphic images, I didn’t want my younger siblings hearing and seeing those things. If you choose to purchase the Switch edition, make sure you maintain multiple save files so that if one corrupts, you can try again without having to restart completely. If you don’t have any issues with the aforementioned moral content, I cannot recommend this game enough! Telltale’s Batman is a fantastic experience that is unique among other superhero games.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: August 8, 2017
    Available on: Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for violence, blood and gore, mild language
    Price: $24.99 (season pass)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code for this series!

    Batman: The Enemy Within takes place shortly after the previous Telltale Batman series. Bruce Wayne is atoning for his father’s crimes and is no longer the public face of Wayne Enterprises. The company has been doing well since he was forced to step down as CEO. Alfred still has trauma from his recent kidnapping by Lady Arkham, but he won’t let that get in the way of aiding Bruce/Batman any way he can.

    The enemies from the previous series are pretty quiet in this one. Lady Arkham is presumed dead, yet her body was never located. Harvey Dent was taken away by GCPD and is either in jail or in a mental institution for his crimes. John Doe/The Joker awkwardly appears at a funeral and depending on Bruce’s decisions he can be friendly or upset with him. John Doe and Bruce share a common foe, The Riddler.

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great story; tough decisions
    Weak Points: Lots of quick time events if you’re not a fan of them
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence, blood, and gore; gambling; language and blaspheming

    True to his name, The Riddler demands answers to riddles in exchange for a chance to survive. One of his riddles is “What question can you never answer yes to?” The answer is "Are you dead?". His methods are cruel and often deadly if answered too slowly or incorrectly. Like the previous series, blood and gore is plentiful in this title. The Riddler likes to use torture/death chambers to trap his targets in until he gets the answers he seeks. In the beginning of this episode, a crime boss is in one of these chambers and takes too long to respond and you get to watch a saw blade remove the tips of a couple of his fingers. Many people get shot and one guy gets his throat cut open. Fortunately, not everyone dies as some people only get tased.

    Lives of people will depend on the decisions that Bruce/Batman makes. Because of some choices I made I spared the lives of some agents while causing deafness in another. Not all of the decisions are tough ones though. Besides being able to chose Batman’s gadget color, you can also select the music he listens to while working in the Batcave. I chose classical over ambient or jazz.

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 62%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - -10/10

    I like how you can have Bruce tell the truth or lie to people. I often went the truthful route and actually made some people angry by being honest. Besides lying you’ll see some gambling, smoking, and drinking throughout the game. Gotham is a pretty dangerous town but lung cancer may kill Commissioner Gordon before a bullet does. Foul language is also prevalent in this game and some characters don’t hesitate in taking the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve already covered the violence earlier in this review and because of the gore alone, this game should not be played by or near young children.

    The background music, sound effects, and voice acting are all top notch as usual with Telltale’s games. Visually, this series is very similar to the previous one and it ran great on my GTX1070 powered laptop. The previous installment had performance issues which I have not experienced in this one.

    Overall, this series is off to a great start and I look forward to the next four episodes. If you don’t mind the moral issues in this series or the previous one, I recommend checking it out. Because of the gruesome violence, please don’t play this game around kids. As an adult I cringed several times.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Batman: The Enemy Within
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release date: Finale released on March 27, 2018
    Available on: Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for violence, blood and gore, mild language
    Price: $24.99 (season pass)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Telltale Games for sending us a review code for this series!

    The first of five episodes for Batman Enemy: The Enemy Within released back in August of 2017. We reviewed it here. I won’t spoil the ending of that episode, but I will say that the Riddler was working with several villains that Batman will get introduced to in the remaining chapters. The cast includes Mr. Freeze, Bane, Harley Quinn, and even Bruce Wayne’s potential love interest from the previous game, Catwoman. John Doe finally evolves into The Joker, but what type he becomes depends on the choices made in this story-driven 3D adventure game.

    The Joker I got was the vigilante one as I tried my best to keep John Doe in check. He’s got a big crush on Harley Quinn and easily gets jealous of Bruce Wayne when she flirts with him. Bruce can either reciprocate or deflect her sexual advances. I saw how jealous John got when taking a sip of her Icee so I didn’t push the envelope any further than that. I did, however, get another kiss from Selena/Catwoman. Though after some of the choices I made, I doubt she’ll ever like Bruce Wayne again. I love how at the end of each episode your choices are compared with everyone else’s and my decisions were usually in line with theirs, but not all of the time.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great story; tough decisions
    Weak Points: Lots of quick time events if you’re not a fan of them; game crashed to desktop once
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence, blood, and gore; drinking/drunkenness; language and blaspheming; suggestive dialogue

    A lot of the story revolves around revenge and grudges. You can forgive people or choose not to accept their apologies. Their relationship with you changes by your actions and words. In order to prevent the allied enemies from destroying Gotham City with a super virus, Bruce Wayne must go undercover and join their ranks and earn their trust. Of course, they don’t just take him at his word; they put Bruce through many loyalty tests and avoiding bloodshed is not always possible.

    Blood is unavoidable and along with several civilians, Batman takes quite a beating. While Alfred fixes him up most of the time, the player must assist in a patch-up job that involves removing debris, disinfecting the wound, and stapling it shut. I cringed at each staple put in place. Unfortunately, all of the violence and stress is taking quite a toll on Alfred and he’s on the verge of a mental breakdown if drastic changes are not made. There are lots of tough decisions to be made in the title. There is an option to let online players make the decisions for you if you wish.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    This game looked great with the 3D cel-shaded visuals. There are a lot of action packed scenes and many quick time events where you have to press the Q, E, and/or the Shift key to make or dodge attacks. Thankfully, there are many save points so you won’t lose much progress if an enemy strikes a fatal blow to Bruce/Batman. I did experience one crash to desktop, but didn’t lose too much progress thanks to the generous save system.

    As always, the voice acting is stellar and each character has some great lines. The Joker’s antics cracked me up a lot. Unfortunately, many of the characters cuss and blaspheme throughout the game. One of the John Doe’s favorite hangouts is at a bar and naturally drinking and drunkenness are shown there. I do like how violence can be avoided, but no matter what actions Bruce or Batman takes, there will almost always be collateral damage.

    If you don’t mind the unavoidable blood, language, and difficult law bending decisions, Batman: The Enemy Within packs a lot of action and excellent storytelling in each of the two-hour episodes. The whole series can be unlocked for $24.99 and it also includes a few digital DC comics.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Beholder
    Developed by: Warm Lamp games
    Published by: Alawar Entertainment
    Release date: November 9, 2016
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Adventure/strategy
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Violence, Blood, Drug References; Crude Humor, Alcohol
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Alawar Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    In a totalitarian state, Carl Stein has been chosen to become a landlord in a class-D apartment block.  To aid him in his duties, he’s been injected with an experimental drug that suppresses his need for sleep.   When entering the apartment complex for the first time, Carl and his family get a glimpse of the former landlord who was obviously beat up and battered for his poor performance.  The government isn’t messing around and they make their job requirements pretty clear. 

    Your job is to spy on, eavesdrop, profile, and report any suspicious behavior of your tenants.  Reporting criminals who make drugs is a no brainer, but what about people who break the sillier laws?   Do you report your wife who cries over your daughter’s illness?  What about those who are unlawfully reading books, buying apples, or wearing blue ties or jeans?

    On top of dealing with repairs and tasks from the government, you’ll have to find ways to stay afloat financially.  Paying for groceries, utilities, college and medicine is not cheap.  You’ll earn money from the government by profiling, reporting, and completing tasks from them.  There are other ways to make money as well.  You can blackmail, scheme with or against your tenants.  One of the tasks given to me by the government was to influence a recent lottery winner to invest in jellied meat.   Upon doing so I received a nastygram from him stating that he’d like to feed me all of this jellied meat he’s stuck with.  Other interactions with the tenants can turn deadly as I was killed for flipping one of them off and another time I was murdered for destroying a library book.

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A fun game that revolves around spying and making tough decisions
    Weak Points: Long loading times; confusing reporting system
    Moral Warnings: Many opportunities to make unethical decisions, blood and violence; language, crass humor; alcohol, drug, and tobacco use

    Other than the blood, murder, and flipping people off, there is some language in this game as well.  The F-bomb isn’t used, but the rest of the words are.  This isn’t a game for children as it deals with many life and death situations.  Do you dare defy the government while risking the lives of your loved ones? 

    Throughout the game you’ll have the “opportunity” to house known resistance members.  If the government catches wind of this, you could be fined and wind up looking a lot like the previous landlord did when he failed his job performance review.  On the flipside, you’ll also be tasked with housing important government officials and will be persuaded by the resistance to make their stay there an unpleasant one.  Evicting tenants is sometimes necessary. If they don't leave willingly, you can plant illegal items in their apartments and then report them.

    Each decision you make has consequences and with the limited finances, the choices are even tougher.  The easier difficulty, Trainee, pays you more for your tasks and lowers the price of expenses.  The normal difficulty is called Government Elite.  

    The gloomy graphics and bleak atmosphere are fitting for this war themed game.  The characters have a shadow like appearance and their emotions are shown as thought bubbles above their heads.  There's not much voice acting, but the background music and sounds effects are well done.

    Beholder
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 63%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Like many games, characters have an exclamation point above their head if they have a quest for you.  Though the quests usually don’t pay you, they can establish a relationship which can come in handy later down the line.  For example, you can help set up a doctor on a blind date and in turn he’ll examine your daughter when she gets sick.

    Besides money, you earn reputation points for completing quests and tasks.  Reputation points can be spent to influence tenants to reveal more information about themselves or they can be used to intimidate people to get what you want.  Some situations will require you to spend money or reputation points to smooth things over.  

    Though the tenants and main quests are the same, Beholder is replayable through making different decisions and unlocking various Steam achievements.  There are achievements for keeping your entire family alive or for being the sole survivor.  

    In the end, Beholder is a thought-provoking game that tests your morality and love for your family at the same time.  While there are moments of (occasionally crude) humor and silliness, the majority of the game is depressing with the constant warfare and overreaching government ruining the lives of its citizens.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Beholder 2
    Developed by: Warm Lamp Games
    Published by: Alawar Premium
    Release date: December 4, 2018
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Alawar Premium for sending us this game to review!

    In Beholder 2 you play the role of Evan Redgrave, the son of a recently deceased worker for The Ministry. It’s highly unlikely that your father fell out of a 37 story window on accident, so who murdered him and why? He was a well-respected ministry worker, but the totalitarian government is very heavy handed and does not tolerate any mistakes. In fact, you’ll get to witness the public executions of many of your co-workers. Your goal is to rise to the top and to find out what got your father killed. Climbing the corporate ladder will not be easy and you have to fight for your promotions either by backstabbing or by earning your boss' favor with menial tasks.

    Some of the jobs given are illicit in nature. One of my bosses had me throw a party by securing the food, liquor, and prostitutes for the occasion. During the party, you’ll see people drunk, using drugs, and partaking in orgies. Even with the blurred censor box, it’s pretty clear what is happening behind it. By doing your deskwork or boss’ tasks, you’ll earn reputation points. With reputation points, you can access conversation arcs that would not otherwise be available. As you get to know your coworkers, you’ll discover their dreams and weaknesses to use to your advantage. If you discover that they are doing something illegal, you can report them and earn favor with the leader while witnessing their public execution. The executions can be pretty bloody. For example, one of the floors has a giant shredder that grinds subordinates to a pulp.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Multiple options, paths, and endings; tough (often unethical) decisions to make
    Weak Points: Never enough time to do everything; autosaves don’t help if you make a bad choice and it saves after the fact; the desk job work can be confusing  
    Moral Warnings: Blood; violence; you can backstab your way to the top; every cussword imaginable is used; blaspheming; unavoidable and optional adultery; prostitution; drug and alcohol consumption; wild parties/orgies shown with a token censored box (you can still see what’s happening)

    If you do your job well you’ll earn some money and reputation points. However, with a new bill to pay arriving almost every day, your money doesn’t go very far. Illegal jobs are tempting if you want to be able to support your family. Another expense is paying to watch different television shows to open up starter conversions with your various co-workers. Alternatively, you can hack into their workstations to dig up some dirt on them. In order to hack into workstations, you’ll need to read books on hacking and that takes time.

    You have a limited amount of time per day to complete various tasks. It pays to check bushes, carts, and file cabinets as they often have useful documents and other valuable items in them. Eavesdropping on conversions can provide some helpful insight as well. Be sure to save time for getting work done to meet your quota and being able to pay your bills on time.

    Talk to everyone you can. Find out what shows they like and what their family situation is. Ask them about your coworkers and their aspirations. With the information gathered, you can backstab or convince them to leave voluntarily. There’s an office phone on every floor that will tell you how many more reputation points are needed for your next promotion. There is also a competition available on every floor to get promoted ahead of your coworkers.

    Beholder 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 32%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 1.5/10

    Though this game autosaves, I highly recommend using multiple save files. I made the mistake of using one save file and did something that got me killed. The autosave happened after my poor choice and was not very helpful. I do like that there are multiple paths and options, but be sure to manually save when doing something new and risky.

    Visually this game is very similar to the previous game except that it’s now in 3D. At first, it’s black and white but other dreary colors gradually seep in. The dystopian atmosphere is well executed in this title.

    Though most of the dialogue is gibberish, there is some English voice acting. The bad ending I got was nicely narrated. With all of the language and blaspheming, I’m glad that the dialogue is mostly gibberish. Pretty much every curse word is used, even the f-bomb. God’s name is used in vain too and sometimes it’s not even capitalized.

    If you enjoyed the first Beholder game then you will probably like this one. The gameplay is similar yet fresh. Morally, this series has gone downhill and make sure that you’re okay with the sexual content, language, and blaspheming before considering it. Though there are plenty of choices to make, morally questionable ones are not always avoidable.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Captain Bible in Dome of Darkness
    Developed By: Bridgestone Multimedia Group
    Published By: Bridgestone Multimedia Group
    Released: 1994
    Available On: MS-DOS
    Genre: Adventure/Educational
    ESRB Rating: None specified
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: Freeware (Special Edition, regular not sold anymore)

    Note: The Special Edition is recommended for those who wish to play this game, if only because it's confirmably freeware.

    A lot of Christians play video games, but not many video games are explicitly FOR Christians. Sure, a lot of games have Christian themes, and many have moral lessons suitable for Christians, but few explicitly adhere to the Bible.

    The problem is half practical and half for reasons of creativity. A strict hewing to the Bible makes it hard to make a lot of creative license regarding the source, and for practical reasons, games involving a strict reading of the Bible cannot introduce elements that would run counter to the morals of the Bible; otherwise they are merely Christian-themed, not Christian-specific. For example, most fantasy games are very hard to keep biblically aligned if you strictly follow God's laws on depictions of magic, which he explicitly forbids for humans to practice.

    Undeterred by this, Bridgestone Multimedia Group decided to make a game following the Bible as much as possible; hence, Captain Bible was created. Unconnected to the "Bibleman" series (save some common themes), it's a game that still features a hero whose weapons are spiritual and his enemies are the enemies of the Spirit in a literal Christian sense.

    The gameplay is simple enough. You are the main character, dispatched by the Bible Corps to infiltrate a city held siege by a tower holding the people inside under a deception field, which has turned them all astray from the Word of God. You must free the seven people inside the tower who can shut off the field while defeating the various robotically enhanced foes further augmenting the deception field.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good usage of the Bible as in-universe material for better equipment and game progression
    Weak Points: Slightly wooden controls; Limited music; Samey environment detail
    Moral Warnings: Mild if bloodless violence against robotic beings

    The game is an isometric adventure game where you collect various Bible verses, and when you encounter the various "Cyber-Liars", you counter their deceptive responses with the right Bible verse to spike their lies. If you succeed, this triggers an over-the-shoulder combat mode where they try to lash out because their lies have been seen through, and utilizing a sword and shield (a game metaphor for spiritual warfare), you defend against the Cyber Liars' attacks and strike them down, allowing Captain Bible to progress further until you have brought down the tower.

    The game has rest points in chapel areas where your faith (health) can be restored, and some mild RPG elements can enhance your equipment (based on the Armor of God as described in Ephesians, and finding the proper verses to unlock them is required) to make the combat sections easier. The other half of the game is a clever mnemonic device for memorizing Bible verses in disguise, as you must use the best verse possible to counter the Cyber Liars. You will also have to use said verses to open up new areas, where your knowledge will be tested.

    By the standards of 1994 DOS games, the graphics were quite good and still hold up. The game has a sci-fi motif featuring a lot of crisp-looking colors, and the Cyber Liars feature a lot of interesting designs. The cutscenes feature a lot of well-animated sequences that resemble a lot of the better Sierra adventure games, though the exploration can get somewhat tedious and boring due to the prevalence of tight corridors and samey design in the exploration areas. These areas have a penchant for monochrome shades, which can also make evaluating your progress hard without frequently checking your map. There are a few hazards like electrical fields you have to navigate, and these sections are a tad hard to pass unless you get the timing down, though you can save anywhere to minimize the annoyance.

    Sounds are not very varied, and music is somewhat sparse and repetitive, though what you do hear does the bare minimum of setting the sci-fi atmosphere. Controls are a mix of adventure games and a limited-action RPG model, and while the latter is generally responsive, the former tends to be slightly stiff since your character moves between corridors every time you press a directional key, and this can be annoying in the more samey-looking areas, where it's possible to quickly get lost.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 106%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10 (+6 for teaching Christian morals and showing the wickedness of evil)

     

    Game stability is quite excellent for a 1994 MS-DOS game. While it runs fine on the actual OS it intended for, the age of the game means many will either be running it in a virtual machine, DOSBox, or via web browser (where this game has been embedded on some sites for play), and I am pleased to say it works well in all three cases provided you can easily run those mediums.

    Morally, this game has very few issues. Language and sexual content are entirely absent. There is some mild violence against robotic beings that is devoid of blood and gore but given they are a game metaphor of spiritual warfare, it still remains very tame in the depiction. Occult and supernatural influences are basically absent; this is a game designed to condemn such activities. Any elements deemed even remotely magical are shown either to be illusions meant to lead people astray or are gifts granted your character as a result of prayer to God, who is, given the theme, an explicit force for good. Culturally and ethically, this game lines up explicitly with Christian values, and Christian morals are a constant theme of both gameplay and narrative.

    It is worth mentioning, however, this not a game easy for non-Christians to get into. This game has a clear theme of teaching those who already believe in God common verses to defeat spiritual deceit. This doesn't mean a non-Christian would find it hard to play, but it's more aimed at the converted than a game for convincing the unconverted.

    It does have flaws, but from a gameplay perspective, it can be fun if the nigh identical corridors and wooden adventuring controls don't annoy you. Aside from the very mild violence mentioned, its basically as morally upright as it's developers could make it while adhering to a strict hewing to Biblical precepts.

    In essence, if you want a purely Christian-aligned game, this is a gaming classic worth giving a look, especially if you love old time-adventure games.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Corpse of Discovery
    Developed By: Phosphor Games
    Published by: Phosphor Games
    Released: August 25, 2015
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: First-Person Exploration
    Number of Players: 1 
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Phosphor Games fors ending us this game to review!

    As a medium of storytelling, video games are in a unique position to tell a tale bolstered by player interaction. Even without the potential for branching paths and different outcomes, a video game story that can mesh with its gameplay offers something potentially more memorable than just the story itself. The so-called “walking simulator,” a relatively recent genre, tends to swing heavily on the side of the narrative, often at the expense of the actual “game” part of “video game.” Occasionally, however, whether by design or by accident, a walking simulator can have its gameplay overshadow its story; Corpse of Discovery is one such example.

    A first-person exploration game, Corpse of Discovery has you assume the role of an unnamed Major in the semi-titular Corps of Discovery, a space-faring organization dedicated to exploring and cataloguing unknown planets. Stranded on the planet Tellurus after a heavy spaceship landing, the Major sets out to finish his mission, collect his payday, and return home to his family – assuming the Corps even knows he’s marooned.

    The basic gameplay is just that: the Major can walk, sprint, and jump as he moves to various indicated locations inside the home base and on the planet proper. To start, those three options, as well as a double-jump, are all you have available. Later, the game changes it up a little by giving you some new equipment as you progress – namely, a handheld holo-map that replaces your otherwise ever-present mission indicator, and a limited-use jetpack. Tellurus has low gravity, so the Major’s jumps cover a lot of distance and make platforming simple and enjoyable. Each set of tasks you complete on the planet ends with the Major passing out and reappearing at the base, only to find a new mission, a messier dwelling, and a radically transformed planet await him – whether it’s a dusty Mars-like wasteland or a lush rainy biome, he’s still on Tellurus and there’s still things to be done.

    Corpse of Discovery
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Looks great; more compelling gameplay than your average walking simulator
    Weak Points: Predictable, unsubtle story; major graphical pop-in; some stability issues
    Moral Warnings: Unsettling imagery; brief bouts of severe language; a neutral (if cynical) take on religion

    If the gameplay ended there, it wouldn’t be much of a game; thankfully, there are a few mechanics that make it much more engaging. While the planet itself gets more and more difficult to traverse with each variation, with natural barriers and dangers cropping up with greater frequency, the game also introduces enemies of a sort. After the first planet, the Major begins being hunted by giant, pitch-black, nigh-indescribable monsters that glide through the sky, projecting a searchlight out of their single eye. With no ability to combat them, and with their tendency to congregate around your destination, avoiding them becomes your main challenge. The game thus becomes a balancing act of avoiding the monsters and platforming around the planet, trying to find the best and safest route to your destination.

    The sound design is especially crucial to making the monsters feel like a threat, and is spot-on in that regard. While the music, usually in the form of a soft music box-style lullaby that’s underscored with a hostile droning, certainly adds to the tension, the noise the monsters make is especially effective. Their low-toned chaotic rumblings and wordless whispers start quiet but can be heard from quite far away; if one’s on top of you, it’s practically all you can hear. The Major moves quite fast normally, so the sprint option is mostly to get away quickly – he’ll start loudly panting almost immediately, which only heightens the sense of anxiety when combined with the monsters’ noises. Altogether, the game borders on being survival horror, and makes the gameplay more than the sum of its parts, even if the main premise isn’t exactly interesting.

    Oddly enough, especially in a game that bills itself as a walking simulator on the Steam page, its story brings down its serviceable gameplay. The narrative is presented in two ways: examining objects will flash unspoken subtitles on the screen detailing what the Major is thinking; and each main objective reached will draw comments from your floating, spherical robot companion AVA. The overall plot is rather predictable, and the lessons you’re meant to learn on each planet is presented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. AVA goes on long-winded lectures at the drop of a hat, and her dry, cynical tone can get overbearing real fast. Her voice acting is great – all of the voices in the game are high quality, in fact – but the constant one-sided conversations quickly grow old. In case you still don’t grasp the moral of the section from AVA’s ramblings, it’s presented to you as a cover of a book in your room at the start and as an out-of-context subtitle at the end of each mission.

    In general, the game tells more than it shows. Each object carries a subtitle to plainly state what significance it has to the Major – for instance, optional objectives between each main one will have the Major hallucinating something, like a pizza or his bedroom on Earth, and rather than letting you extrapolate its meaning, the Major will tell you what it means to him. This will also get you berated by AVA, making this game one of the likely few exploration games on the market that will rebuke you for exploring it. By the end of the game, there are no more mysteries to think about, as everything has been explained – even the monsters, whose presence aren’t acknowledged by the Major or AVA outside of their introduction, are given a lengthy explanation, which is made even more unnecessary by the visuals at the time. In addition, there are a few spelling and grammar errors – the most egregious being, upon finding some cakes lying around, the Major declares his fondness for “deserts.” Even with its somewhat overdone but very salvageable concept, the story over-explains itself, and leaves you with very little to think about when all is said and done.

    Corpse of Discovery
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    This is more of a shame considering how well done the visuals are. Each variation of Tellurus is beautiful in its own right, and the way the monsters look and move only add to their imposing presence. There are little details to enjoy as well: the most impressive might be the rain on the second planet, which streams down your view constantly but also splatters on your helmet if you look up. The main portions of the planets are not randomly generated, which is a boon in that it allows for coherent and consistently-traversable geography, though it does diminish the replay value. To the game’s credit, there are no artificial barriers in the form of invisible walls or insurmountable pits; you can walk in one direction forever, enjoying location-appropriate randomly generated landscape that can still hold some pleasant surprises.

    This does come with a tradeoff, mainly in the form of pop-in; even at the highest setting, portions of the landscape will constantly spring into view as you move around. The game doesn’t have to load very often, but it will freeze everything for at least five seconds when it does. Picking up the holo-map for the first time plunged the mostly-stable framerate into the single digits for a good half-minute, though it didn’t happen later in the game or on a replay. Finally, and strangely, opening the menu with the escape key, then closing it with escape rather than the “return” option, will leave the mouse cursor on the screen until you left-click. It all might be a good price to pay for such impressive graphical strength, but it’s a price nonetheless.

    There are a fair few moral warnings about this game as well. The monsters make for some unsettling imagery, along with a few frightening-looking alien creatures. One planet variation has you looking for the corpses of other Corps members, with various effects applied on a few that look like they’re being eaten by insects, though they’re still in their fully-intact spacesuits. AVA goes on a profanity-laden rant near the end of the game, with F- and S-bombs thrown around. The story touches on some heavy themes, death being the principal subject. There is also a section on religion – while neutral, with the moral coming down to encouraging thorough examination of your beliefs, AVA’s typical cynicism makes the tone appear more hostile than it really is. The main theme of the game is the importance of family, and indeed the well-being and happiness of his family is the Major’s ultimate goal, but again, it’s presented a little more aggressively than it needed to be.

    Overall, Corpse of Discovery comes closer to being survival horror than a walking simulator; if presented differently, it could have been a solid, thought-provoking experience. As it stands, however, the clumsily-told story interferes with the rich visual and aural information; sometimes, less truly is more, especially in storytelling. Still, there’s a decent game to be found in here that might be worth looking into during a sale, as long as those moral issues don’t scare you away.

    -Cadogan

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash
    Developer: Mages. Inc.
    Published by: XSEED Games
    Release Date: April 10, 2019
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Mature
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you XSEED for sending us this game to review!

    Here's the thing with games that rely on the story alone, they have to be reviewed in a much different sense than most games. I can name several games that have a cruddy story that have great gameplay to me as well as games that have a fascinating story but horrid gameplay. Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash has no gameplay elements to speak of beyond basic visual novel fare and a story that's more niche than the main series games.

    Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash, also known as Corpse Party 2U takes place during Sachiko Shinozaki's birthday. The vile child spirit that haunts this school grounds has decided to task all the poor souls she's captured with putting on a romantic comedy for her amusement. You go through different chapters, making choices to try and get to the clear end to progress to the final chapter. While these kinds of series usually should be played in order, you aren't really missing anything if you skip this game.

    Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: It is made for fans. If your invested in the series you'll enjoy it.
    Weak Points: If you're not a fan or you dont like the style of humor, despite being a cannon story for the series, you wont get any enjoyment. 
    Moral Warnings: Lewd and sexual jokes, language and images. Violent imagery, supernatural elements.

    There isn't any gameplay mechanics to speak of in this title. While the main Corpse Party games all have some kind of mechanic as you explore areas in the haunted school. This game is purely a visual novel. You can't progress to the next chapter without getting the right or clear ending either. While Corpse Party is famous for its shocking bloody endings if you mess up, the endings in this game are more tongue in cheek than shocking.

    If Japanese-style humor isn't your thing then you probably won't get much enjoyment out of this title. It’s also harder to put these characters in a comedy setting if you're a fan of the main games. At the end of the day, they are still stuck in an eternal loop of reliving death over and over. It's a bit weird to smile and laugh along to a break from a hellish torment. I appreciate Corpse Party as an intense horror story. If I was in the mood for anime comedy, I'd subscribe to Crunchyroll.

    Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 10%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2/10

    As far as morals go, it's a Corpse Party game so don't expect much. Plenty of supernatural elements and cruel violence at the expense of poor teenagers. Since this is the comedy game you can expect a few bikini shots and lewd or pervy jokes as well. Along with the lewd language is some cursing including the f-bomb.

    Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko's Hysteric Birthday Bash is as niche as you can get. If your a hardcore fan of the series and you love Japanese comedy then maybe you'll get some enjoyment out of this? Yet for most people it's going to be wind up being a mediocre experience.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Developed by: Spike Chunsoft, Abstraction Games
    Published by: NIS America
    Release date: March 14, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Vita, Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
    Price: $59.99 physical $39.99 digital
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    We have previously reviewed Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, but we never covered the second installment Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. The combo pack Danganrona 1-2 Reload comes with the first two games in one awesome bundle.

    Our other reviews were written by different reviewers and this title is a great place to start in the series and I’m glad I finally got around to checking these games out. Since the first title is adequately covered in our Vita review, I’ll be focusing on the second installment, Goodbye Despair. There are many references to the first game so I highly recommend starting with that one.

    Goodbye Despair starts off similarly with the main character, Hajime Hanata, looking forward to attending Hope’s Peak Academy. Instead of a classroom, Hajime finds himself stranded on a tropical island with several other high school students and a pink and white stuffed rabbit for a teacher. The teacher, Usami, is nice enough and encourages peace between the students and to interact with one another and gather hope fragments as a result.

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great murder mystery/adventure game with likable characters, unique art style, and humor 
    Weak Points: The game did crash on me once
    Moral Warnings: Lots of language including F-bombs; blaspheming; blood and violence; gruesome murder scenes though the blood is usually hot pink instead of red; plenty of sexual references though nothing is shown

    By talking to classmates and giving them gifts you’ll earn hope fragments which can be used to unlock abilities that come in handy during the class trials. If you max out a relationship you’ll see some exclusive events, earn a new ability, and receive a unique present as a reward. Money to buy presents is earned by finding hidden Monokuma bears, completing class trials, and by successfully rearing your digital pet.

    One of the biggest changes in this game is the side scrolling perspective. The ability to warp and see where people are on the mini-map is a great improvement over the original game. To discourage you from warping everywhere, the digital pet will grow and reward you for every step you take. You just have to check in on your pet and clean up the poop or it will become full of despair and die. To offset the despair you can give your pet gifts from the market.

    Speaking of despair, it doesn’t take long for Monokuma to appear and insist that the students murder one another in order to leave the island. Naturally, the students don’t want to commit murder, but Monokuma pressures them with different incentives like starvation until somebody finally caves in. Once a murder is committed, the students must investigate the crime scene and gather evidence/truth bullets for the pending class trial.

    Once all of the evidence is collected, the class trial will begin. During the trial the students will ask questions and you’ll have to literally shoot down their arguments with the truth bullets you have obtained. There are several new and improved mini-games since the first installment too. The Logic Dive game has you surfing and answering various questions by steering toward the correct multiple choice answer. The Hangman’s Gambit is fine-tuned and in this mode you have to shoot and collect letters to fill in the blank. The Truth Blade mode is new and you have to slice through arguments with a sword and cut through the inaccuracies. Last but not least, the Panic Talk Action rhythm game is a little different but the core gameplay is the same.

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 42%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    The goal of the trial is to find out who the killer is. Throughout the trials there are many twists and turns and the guilty person is usually a surprise. I like how there is a save break in the middle of the trial. There is even an option to bet your game save and guess who the killer is in advance but I didn’t want to risk it! Once the killer is outed, they will get a dramatic execution from Monokuma. If the wrong person is selected, everyone else will suffer so it’s imperative to solve the cases accurately. If the guilty/blackened person is found innocent, they will graduate and get to escape.

    I cannot deny how fun these games are, but they are most certainly twisted and have plenty of moral issues to consider before playing them. Although the characters differ between the games they often fit into typical tropes. The bike gang/Yakuza students cuss constantly and they don’t hold back whatsoever. Although the voice acting is limited, it’s still riddled with swearing and blaspheming. Some of the dialogue is sexualized as well and there are some references to sexual acts. Nothing intimate is shown, but the murder scenes are pretty graphic. Most of the blood is hot pink but one of the rooms in the first game had red bloodstains. Many of the deaths are brutal and bloody.

    Outside of the blood and gore, I really do like the visual style of this game. When you enter an area the objects will unfold into place. The characters have a 2D cut out appearance to them, but still display emotions and gestures in conversations. The dialogue is really funny and worth reading, though you can skip through it if you prefer.

    In the end, I enjoyed my time solving the various murder mysteries in these games. If you like adventure and visual novel games and don’t mind the many moral issues, Danganronpa is worth looking into.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Developer: Spike Chunsoft
    Published By: NIS America
    Release Date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
    Price: $60.00 (PS4/PC) $40 (PSV)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

     

    Thanks to NIS America for providing a review code for the PS4 version! The reviewer bought their own copy for the PS Vita as well to test cross-save as well as technical differences.

    It’s Punishment Time again! Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third main game (not counting the spin-off Ultra Despair Girls) in the Danganronpa series. Danganronpa (a compound word from the Japanese “Dangan” meaning “bullet” and “Ronpa” meaning “refute,” which you can combine into “Bullet refutation”) is a series that fuses elements of mystery fiction presented as a visual novel with courtroom legal puzzles akin to the Ace Attorney series. In these games, a group of special high school students (localized as the “Ultimates” who each have an “Ultimate” talent) are trapped in a prison-like setting and forced to participate in a “Killing Game” overseen by the exceptionally creepy Monokuma. The students are imprisoned until they “graduate.” How does one graduate? By killing a fellow student! But merely killing a fellow student isn’t enough; the killer also needs to survive the Class Trial. In the Class Trial, the students will debate over who they think did it, and if they are correct, the murderer (referred to as the “Blackened”) will be punished (a word which here means brutally executed) and the remaining students will continue to be imprisoned. However, if they are incorrect, all students except the blackened will be punished, and the blackened walks free.

    We don’t have reviews for Danganronpa 1 or 2 on this site (yet), and some familiarity with the game should be assumed to adequately describe the differences in V3. Further, despite being the third main game, the game should be referred to as V3, because there is an anime series already called Danganronpa 3, which has very little connection with this game (save for a few references here and there). V3 represents a series of refinements to the Danganronpa formula that work reasonably well. As such, despite any statements to the contrary, I firmly believe you should play Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair before playing V3. The final chapters of V3 spoil major elements of both prior games, and familiarity with the characters is highly recommended.

    New this time around are the Monokubs, the “kids” of Monokuma. They each have distinct personalities and designs, all of which have a unique color that replaces the black in the black-and-white design of Monokuma. First is Monotaro, the leader the the Monokubs, whose color is red, and has a scarf with a sheriff's badge on it. Next is Monodam, who is the most robotic of the group, and is colored green. Monokid, who is blue, has distinctive features of talking like a rock star, having noticeable chest hair, and carrying an electric guitar. The pink-colored Monophanie is the only female of the group, who wears a flower in her ear and a coconut bra. Finally we have the yellow-colored Monosuke, who wears glasses and flashes luxury items around. Interestingly, Monosuke is apparently meant to be an Osaka stereotype, and he even speaks in the Kansai dialect of Japanese in the Japanese dub.

    The setup is thus: 16 students are trapped in a prison-like complex with only very vague memories of how they got there. The cast of characters is especially diverse this time around, including such folks as Gonta Gokuhara, the large, well-dressed Ultimate Entomologist who speaks a bit like Tarzan; Korekiyo Shinguji, the masked and somewhat-withdrawn Ultimate Anthropologist; and Kirumi Tojo, the prim and proper Ultimate Maid.

    Gameplay consists of three major parts: Free Time, Investigation, and Class Trial. In Free Time, you wander the school, and can talk to characters. If you choose to hang out with them, you can get closer to them. You can also give them a gift (but each character has different likes and dislikes!), which will help strengthen your relationship with them in the form of Friendship Fragments, which are used to buy abilities for the Class Trial. Developing the relationship in this way also gives you insight into their backstory. If you continue to strengthen your relationship with them, you can unlock new abilities for the Class Trial (without having to buy them with Friendship Fragments), as well get a better backstory for the character in question. Hanging out with someone passes the time (a mechanic similar to spending time with Confidants in Persona 5). You only get a limited number of Free Time slots per chapter, so choose carefully! Further, unlike the Confidant/Social Link system in the Persona games, it is impossible to max out everyone on a single run of the game. Some characters will almost certainly die before you can max them out, and because of the limited slots, it is mathematically impossible to complete everyone even if you are playing the game for the second time. However, if you want to complete them all before starting the game again, the bonus mode Love Across The Universe allows you to max everyone’s bonds out and allows you to use their abilities in the Class Trials. Free Time comes to an end when someone is murdered.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Best-looking and sounding Danganronpa game ever, great cast of characters, highly intriguing plot, lots of bonus modes, improved minigame mechanics.
    Weak Points: Sometimes it is not obvious where to click to find the item needed to complete the investigation, ending is definitely polarizing, some bonus modes feel a bit simple.
    Moral Warnings: Intense and graphic violence, partial nudity and skimpy outfits on occasion, many sexual references and jokes, very strong language, some occult references

    Once someone is murdered, the investigation is on! You interact with elements of the crime scene and interview characters to earn clues (referred to here as “Truth Bullets”), and once you have found all of the Truth Bullets, the game will progress to the Class Trial. The Investigation is impossible to fail, but it can be difficult to tell where to go to find clues. Usually a character will tell you where you need to go, or a marker will be placed on your map. Further, your character won’t allow you to leave a room until you’ve collected all the evidence in the room at that time, so don’t worry about missing something crucial, but there will be times you haven’t investigated a non-obvious part of the room and might tear your hair out trying to figure out what you missed. New to V3 (this can be done in any room) is the ability to slap things around. By slapping things around, you unlock monocoins, which you can use to buy presents to give to people during Free Time.

    Then comes the real meat of the game: the Class Trial. In the Class Trial, you must piece together the truth of the murder, including who did it and how. This is accomplished through various minigames and logic puzzles. The first minigame you come across is the most common: The Non-stop Debate. In a Debate, statements appear on the screen as characters talk. Certain statements will be Yellow/Orange, indicating that they are weak points. You will also get a loadout of selected Truth Bullets with which to attack these weak points. To attack the weak point, aim the cursor at the weak point with the selected Truth Bullet, and fire! However, only the correct Truth Bullet and the correct weak point will work, otherwise you will take damage. If you take too much damage, the Trial will end, and you will lose. Additionally, other mechanics come into play here, including White Noise and V-Counters. White Noise is a staple of Danganronpa, where colored text (in V3, it is red) can appear in an Argument, and hitting it with your Truth Bullets will cause you to miss. You can use an alternate fire called the Silencer to dispel white noise. V-Counters are a new thing to V3, where you can hit a specific part of the weak point (indicated by holding the Focus button) and gain extra points. It is wholly optional, but a nice test of skill.

    There are other minigames too, which tackle various parts of the Trial proceedings as well. These include a tile-flipping game, a rudimentary driving simulator, and a couple variations on the Argument that spice things up a bit. Part of the fun of Danganronpa is figuring these games out on your own, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but for returning veterans, here’s what you need to know: There is no Bullet Time Battle/Panic Talk Action; instead you get Argument Armament which is a mostly-less-frustrating rhythm section. Cross-Sword confrontations are back, and don’t seem as limiting as they were in Danganronpa 2. The Logic Dive from Danganronpa 2 has been functionally replaced by Psyche Taxi, which involves picking up objects to construct the question, and then answering the questions. Finally, there is a new mechanic added to the debates: lying. By holding the fire button, your truth bullet will invert its meaning, and there are some weak points where you can lie to progress the story. This doesn’t always seem optional, but it is mostly something you don’t need to do aside from a few places. The lying mechanic allows you to progress the trial differently, enabling what is called a “back route” in the trial.

    The story is the main draw to Danganronpa games, and the story in V3 is really something else. Without spoiling too much, the story goes in very unexpected directions (especially near the end) that not all fans may like. I was left speechless by the end of the game, and had to think on it for a few days before I could determine how I felt about it. In the end, I decided that I liked it, but felt like it could have been executed better.

    Once you complete the main game, some bonus modes unlock for you to play with as well. The first of these is called The Ultimate Card Death Machine. This operates a lot like a Gacha game, where you have absurd drop rates for certain rarity cards, and while progressing another mode makes the rates better, it also makes each “pull” more expensive. Next you have Ultimate Talent Development Plan, which is a board game that features all characters from prior Danganronpa games and allows you to level up those cards you got in the dispenser. With them leveled up, you can then proceed to the next bonus mode: Despair Dungeon: Monokuma’s test. This bonus mode is a dungeon crawler that is a pretty standard turn-based RPG. It’s very similar to NES-era RPGs, and you shouldn’t have any trouble with this.

    The final bonus mode is a continuation of prior Danganronpa bonus modes, which allows you to complete the Free Time events for characters you did not have time to complete during the main game. It also adds dating sim aspects. This mode is fun if you like the characters, and allows you to experience Free Time events that would otherwise be inaccessible in the main game. The dating sim portion seems equal parts played for laughs and for fan service.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 26%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    The bonus modes are completely optional, and do not have any impact on the story other than giving you extra things to do once the main game is over. The bonus modes definitely add to the overall package value of the game, but do not worry if you don’t find them interesting; the core of the game is still well worth the price of admission.

    Alright, now that we’ve talked about the gameplay, let’s talk about some of the more technical and aesthetic aspects of the game. The Danganronpa games have always had a very eccentric visual style to them, and V3 continues this trend with vastly improved UI, higher resolution textures, and higher quality sprites. The character designs are excellent, the backgrounds are top-notch, and the overall style is very good. This is the best-looking Danganronpa game yet, especially on PS4.

    Another standout for Danganronpa games has been the music, which always hits the right notes for the situation. Composer Masafumi Takada has done it once again, and created an excellent score that reuses the best parts of prior soundtracks while blending new songs in too. His music serves as great backing to the tense Class Trials, or the relaxed Free Time, and even the brutal Punishments. The music hits all the right notes when it needs to, and it is excellent. On the other hand, voice acting is a more complicated issue. On the Vita version, the audio is severely compressed and clips noticeably while also sounding very distorted. Spike Chunsoft has released a patch that I highly recommend downloading from the PlayStation store, as it gives the game the uncompressed audio it deserves. It’s called Danganronpa V3 - HQ Audio Pack. Meanwhile, the game comes with both English and Japanese audio. I played the game with Japanese audio, and I found it to be a very good experience. English audio in Danganronpa games is a bit more complicated. I think I am in the minority of Danganronpa fans who prefers Japanese audio to English (based on a StrawPoll on the Danganronpa subreddit). The English dub here is fine. Nothing bad, nothing particularly outstanding either in my opinion. In the end, this choice is up to you, and you can’t really go wrong either way.

    One thing I feel compelled to talk about is how the game was localized. The localization of the game makes some adjustments to the text, and if you know a little Japanese or are great at picking up details, you can hear inconsistencies in the dialog in the Japanese audio track and the text being rendered on screen. One character has lines changed that really alters the way their character is perceived, and I’m not happy that they did. Spoilers abound, but the description is here: http://oumakokichi.tumblr.com/post/166327441530/what-do-you-think-about-nisamericas-localization  

    A new feature this time around takes advantage of the simultaneous releases on Vita and PS4. The game supports cross-save between the PS4 and Vita versions, and as I already had the Vita version on pre-order when I was given the review code, I decided to try it out. The good news is: it works! The bad news is: it feels excessively complicated. To transfer a save, on the first console you need to back out to the main menu, select Cross-Save, then select Upload. Then pick the save you want to upload. First, it will load the save. Then you will be prompted again to actually upload the loaded save. Finally, it will upload to the PSN. On the second console, go to the main menu and select Cross-Save. Then select Download, and download the save onto your device. Then you go back to the main menu, and load the save. While there are far worse ways this could have been handled, it still feels unnecessary to go through so many menus to accomplish it.

    Loading times could be a severe issue at certain points in the game. In chapter 4, a new area is introduced that was rife with loading pauses that made that section of the game really drag. Near the end, I also encountered some longer load times when entering and leaving buildings. I did not encounter any serious bugs, nor were there any crashes on the Vita or PS4. The Vita version has reduced texture quality compared to the PS4 version, and pop-in was sometimes noticeable as well, however it was not obtrusive as to ruin the experience.

    The moral content section for this review was the one I was most dreading to write, in part because there are so many things to cover. Please be warned that there will be minor spoilers throughout this section except where more direct spoilers are needed. These will be tagged accordingly, but consider yourself warned.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

     The sexual content in Danganronpa games has always been pretty minimal in my experience, but V3 seriously ups the ante here. Danganronpa games have always had at least one perverted character (someone who has an innuendo-laden response to almost any situation), and V3 is no exception. The main difference this time is that it’s a girl, Miu Iruma, who happens to be the perverted one. She frequently makes references to her and other female characters' breasts, makes jokes about how all the guys are just dying to sleep with her, talks about sex toys and condoms, makes references to her very...unique fetishes, and so on, usually seeming to arouse herself in the process. She flirts with K1-B0, and even gives him some upgrades (which DO have actual uses), but the entire topic is approached in a very innuendo-laden way. I have to admit, it got really tiring. A scene near the beginning involves a female character changing clothes and we see a naked silhouette that isn't too scandalous, but is a little bit revealing. Additional scenes involve seeing characters in their underwear, or naked but from angles such that nothing is shown. Maxing out a bond with a character during Free Time will give you that character’s underwear, and while normally this is not addressed in the segment, in the case of Miu, she uses a device that teleports it off of her and hands it to you during the last Free Time event.  One of the characters mentions being “very in love” with his sister, and while the rest of the cast reacts with appropriate levels of disgust to revelations of incest, the entire sequence where he mentions how much he loves his sister is exceedingly uncomfortable. In fact (tying in with the occult section below), he has been (or at least claims to be) partially inhabited by his sister’s spirit since he performed a seance, and their dynamic is very odd indeed.  

    On a more minor note, one of the characters refers to all of the male characters as “Degenerate males” and doesn’t really let up her slack outside a few Free Time events where you learn more about her. One character is always wearing a swimsuit, but usually also wears an open robe that makes it a little less scandalous than it would otherwise be. In a scene in the A/V room, a character finds what is almost certainly a pornography video. They never show anything onscreen, and the character is clearly very embarrassed that they found such a thing. Further, as part of the Love Across the Universe section, going on a date with someone allows you to select from a range of options, including the ability to read a dirty book together in the library. The content is never explicitly discussed, but it is still something you can do.

    There is also what is sometimes referred to as the “Love Hotel” where you can spend casino coins (more on that in a moment) to buy a key. Using the key at night will give you a random scene with one of the characters. In this scene, you are a participant in that person’s fantasy. The fantasies can take several forms which range from touching conversations to those that heavily imply the two characters slept together.

    Drug content consists mostly of just references, and non-specific ones at that. Miu makes reference to wanting to take some drugs and forget about the situation they are in. Monosuke is sometimes seen holding what looks like a cigar.

    Given all this talk about executions and murders, it's no surprise that there would be a lot to talk about here with respect to violence. Danganronpa games are very violent, and V3 is no exception. Characters are killed in very gruesome ways (*SPOILER TAG*)(one character is killed by having a sickle forced through their neck, another is killed by drowning only to have their body consumed by piranhas, and so on), and blood is often everywhere. One particularly gruesome case involves a body being crushed by a hydraulic press.(*END SPOILER TAG*) Thankfully we don’t witness the actual killing, only the aftermath (*SPOILER TAG*)(with the exception of the piranhas scene, and an off-angle view of the hydraulic press case in video form) (*END SPOILER TAG*). The blood is purple, but it’s still very clearly blood. Executions are just as bad, including such items as: (*SPOILER TAG*)a character being hung by the neck and swung around before being crushed by spikes, a character being forced to climb a spiked rope while being slashed at with saw blades only to fall to their death, and a character being boiled alive in a melting pot. (*END SPOILER TAG*)

    Danganronpa has never really held back in the language department either, and again, this game is no exception. Characters use all manner of curse words from the C-word in reference to female anatomy, F-word, S-word, both B-words, and other swears. The game definitely earns an M rating in this department.

    The occult/supernatural content of this game is a little tricky to pin down. One of the characters claims to be a mage, but her title is magician. All of the stuff she does are normal magic tricks, but she claims it is real and not the illusory stuff. A resurrection ritual is mentioned, but never performed. A seance is held, but does not work. In one of the executions, the character’s spirit appears to leave their body, only to be pelted by salt (injuring them in the process). As mentioned above, (*SPOILER TAG*)one character claims that his dead sister’s spirit has inhabited his body. Further, he has killed girls so that they can be friends with his sister in the afterlife. (*END SPOILER TAG*) One of the characters worships a god (or claims to) called Atua, that she claims possesses her when she makes art. Further, she often claims to speak for Atua, and even manages to convert a few characters to her side for a brief period of time. This character seems to be heavily inspired by Polynesian culture, where Atua is a word often used to refer to plural gods or a monotheistic god.

    Lastly, there are some points to make about ethical content in the game. The big thing to note here is the new lying mechanic. Lying is mostly optional and is not usually needed to progress the story (I only used it a few times when I saw no other way to progress), but lying will give you a different route to the end of the trial. Whether or not this is seen as encouraging it is left as an exercise to the reader, but it is something I believe I should note. Further, at the end of the game, you are left with the impression that lies are not inherently bad, and can lead to hope, while some truths can lead to despair.

    Danganronpa V3 almost feels like a swansong from the developers of Danganronpa. The story and characters are more ambitious than prior games, and the ending is definitely the kind of polarizing that will keep people talking for a while yet. The improvements to the gameplay and aesthetics are proof that a lot of love went into the development of this game. If the content outlined is something you are willing to put up with, you will find a very competent set of murder mysteries with a plot that really wants you to think about the game more. But on the other hand, the ending is polarizing enough that I can also see being massively let down by it. In the end, I can’t really recommend or not recommend this game, as how you will like it is entirely dependent on how you feel about the story developments, and of course, if you are willing to put up with the very large amount of objectionable content in the game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Day of the Tentacle Remastered
    Developed by: Double Fine Productions
    Published by: Double Fine Productions
    Released: March 21, 2016
    Available on: iOS, Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows
    Genre: Adventure
    ESRB rating: T (Fantasy violence, suggestive themes, use of tobacco)
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $4.99 (iOS); $14.99 (Humble Store Link))

    In 1993, LucasArts released a sequel to the popular adventure game “Maniac Mansion.” With bizarre graphics and a storyline by Ron Gilbert and Tim Schaefer – now popular veterans in the video game industry – Day of the Tentacle worked its way into the hearts of gamers everywhere. This classic has now undergone the “remastered” treatment, with an updated graphics and interface, to delight and confuse gamers of a new generation.

    Day of the Tentacle features a short purple tentacle who, after drinking some toxic sludge, develops arms and a desire to take over the world. Three teenagers set out to prevent the purple tentacle from succeeding, and they have to use time-traveling port-a-potties to travel back in time one day to turn off the sludge maker. However, an accident forces each kid into three different eras, and they have to use their skills in order to accomplish their goals.

    The game has a keen sense of humor and never takes itself too seriously. The main characters themselves are wacky – lovable nerd Bernard, neurotic med-student Laverne and obese rocker Hoagie are the stars of the game and wonderfully animated and voice acted. The supporting cast also contains bizarre people, including the Edison family, and historical figures like George Washington. Adventure games have to be driven by a good story, and Day of the Tentacle continues to demonstrate how adventure games should be done, with a solid plot and memorable characters.

    Day of the Tentacle Remastered
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Amusing dialogue and puzzles; colorful graphics; great story
    Weak Points: Repetitious music; no lip syncing
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; alcohol and tobacco reference; language; lying and deception (including changing history) required to proceed through the game

    The graphics are reminiscent of Looney Tunes cartoons, with bizarre architecture and skewed lines. The remastered game features hand-drawn scenes and matches the theme of the game delightfully. The voice acting, which was already great in the original, is still fantastic. The background music sets the mood well, but is hardly memorable. One of the songs is repetitious, though, but needs to be played in order to unlock one of the many achievements in the Steam version of the game.

    The achievements – another of the new features of the game – can be tricky to discover without a guide. Some of them can be only accomplished by combining items in an illogical fashion, and in the game sometimes only brings a generic “I don't want to do that” response. That being said, it does award people for experimenting in the fashion that made these games popular in the first place – you'll need out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation in order to solve the puzzles, and some of the most bizarre answers turn out to be the correct ones in order to proceed through the game. For instance, one of the early puzzles has Laverne hanging by her underwear from a kumquat tree 200 years in the future. She can't do anything while there, so you have to figure out a way to get rid of the kumquat tree. The same tree exists 200 years in the past. Hoagie can try to convince George Washington to chop down the tree, but the Founding Father insists that he only chops down cherry trees. A bucket of red paint will solve that problem!

    Day of the Tentacle offers a variety of options to play the game as well. You can switch the graphics to a low-resolution, pixellated style reminiscent of the 1993 original. You also can change the user interface to resemble the original as well. And just like the original, Maniac Mansion is hidden within the game and also is fully playable. It is the inclusion of this game that leads to some of the moral issues, as Maniac Mansion does contain some blood, girls in skimpy outfits, and some nude sculptures - albeit at such low resolution nothing can really be seen. These don't appear in Day of the Tentacle, though, so those can be easily avoided except for those trying to get all of the achievements.

    Day of the Tentacle Remastered
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Day of the Tentacle does have its own share of moral issues, however. There is cartoony, slapstick violence, but that's a minor issue. The Lord's name is taken in vain throughout the game, and a variety of other swear words appear as well. “B***chin'” is a word that Hoagie frequently uses to describe things he likes that he looks at, but that's as harsh as it gets. The three teenagers often have to rely on deception and lies, as well as conduct other immoral behavior, in order to save the world. As Bernard says at one point, “to save the world, you have to push a few old ladies down the stairs.” The game also requires the use of a bottle of wine – although no one drinks it – and tobacco use in the form of exploding cigars.

    Being a game that was originally developed by LucasArts, there are lots of references to Star Wars and other LucasArts games, including “Sam and Max Save the World.” For those that have played the original, none of the puzzles or content have changed – the same solutions that worked in 1993 will solve the puzzles here. But this nostalgic trip is worth the price. Those who haven't played the original also will enjoy the game. Although the game can be completed in about eight hours, it can be worth playing again to see what was missed previously.

    Day of the Tentacle is considered to be one of the best adventure games ever created, and it holds up to the test of time well. Just like reading an old, classic novel, it is worth playing again, and for those who haven't played it before, they are in for a real treat with the remastered edition. Don't forget to charge your Chron-O-John before you take a trip through time!

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Defunct
    Developed By: Freshly Squeezed
    Published By: SOEDESCO Publishing
    Released: Jan 29, 2016
    Available On: PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure, Racing
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone: Users Interact
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $9.99 (PC); $14.99 (Console)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Freshly Squeezed for sending us a review code!

    “What would happen to the world if we humans were long gone?” some may ask. Over the course of humanity, we’ve accomplished so many significant feats in that span. If humanity ever reaches its demise, will all of our progress be lost in the wind? Sometimes, when movies or games like Defunct come into my life, I tend to think about weird situations like this.

    Defunct stars an unnamed uni-wheel robot who, shortly after activating for an unknown cause, falls out of the ship it is stored in. The robot must now traverse a land without humans to get back to the ship. In an interesting sense, the title can both describe the state of the humans, as well as the playable character, as it is a one-of-a-kind machine. It is a rather simple premise, but how you get there is up to your skill level. As the robot is rather old looking, not all of its functions work correctly, and it must utilize gravity and other external sources to gain momentum and speed. The robot has access to a Gravitize engine, which allows it to affect the gravity around itself. Going down a hill will have a greater effect as opposed to going up a hill, as well as accelerating your descent when airborne.

    Defunct
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Accommodating to players of all skill levels; great sense of speed; simple premise with a surprising amount of depth
    Weak Points: Camera can get pretty screwy at times; very short
    Moral Warnings: One achievement is called “Aah, H*ll No!”; post-human world, possibly post-apocalyptic

    A and D keys will steer left and right respectively. W can be used in a pinch to give yourself a slow, steady, consistent speed to make it uphill. Space bar is to jump and double jump. Left mouse button is to activate your Gravitize engine, and right mouse button to allow you to stick to metal objects. S can be used to brake, as well as reverse in case you come into contact with a dreaded wall or obstacle. Left shift activates your boost, if you have any available, that is. Tricks can also be done with the press of the E key. The controls are rather simplistic, but due to how interacting with the world works, they do take some time to get used to. They are not bad controls, however.

    The world of Defunct is a world where humans have long since passed. Even though the graphics are rather standard, and truthfully look like something to come out of the sixth generation of gaming (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube), the aesthetics and scenery pick up the slack due to the vast areas and active environment. As the robot ventures through the world, it will come across canyons, forests, valleys, other unique biomes, and even other more advanced looking robots. Unlike most large-scaled areas, Defunct isn’t actually filled with empty space for the most part. Freshly Squeezed were very kind to their audience as there are always multiple ways to complete objectives, and alternate pathways to take. They are very accommodating to players of all skill levels. If a player simply wants to take a more casual route with only some moments of speed and absorb the world around them, they can do that. If a player wants to show off their “wicked sick” skills and pretend they are a certain hedgehog without a care in the world, they can go right on ahead.

    There will be a point where everything finally starts making sense, and at that exact moment is when you really start to appreciate Defunct. Very few games actively make me want to get good at them; thankfully, Defunct is one of those games. The first time you see that little robot go fast, it’s like a shot of pure endorphins right into your brain, and it feels good—real good. There were sections that I replayed multiple times to find ways to go real fast. Sometimes the strange camera work would get in the way from accomplishing that, like when I would collide with an obstacle or when a fellow robot was way too close. They weren’t too common to come across to ruin my enjoyment. Taking the pathways I previously didn’t and mixing them around does make any repeated situation feel new.

    Defunct
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 83%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7.5/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Ambient music is what will mostly complement the journey back home. A sense of mystery and calm fit the tone that the world is trying to set. There is a rather soft and isolated feel to many of the tracks in my opinion. Most of the music will stay in the background as opposed to the sounds our little robot makes using its various functions to scurry on. When the races or speedy sections occur, the music changes to a more dynamic style, to match the fast-paced movements and actions. The way it all fits is like that one puzzle piece to match that missing space.

    Defunct isn’t a violent game as there are no enemies to fight, nor is there an antagonist to best in battle, unless you want to count being slow as an antagonist. I did come across a few things. One of the achievements, specifically the one where you obtain all platinum medals, is called “Aah, H*ll No!” This is only apparent in the PC version as the achievement for the console versions is appropriately named “Aah, Heck No!” The whole post-human world is also something worth pointing out, as it can potentially be post-apocalyptic, but as there is literally no narrative to be spoken of in Defunct, that assumption is simply pure speculation on my part.

    I enjoyed my time with Defunct, even though my initial playthrough with it was about one hour. Because of how the game encourages you to improve your skill, I eagerly came back to play more. After the campaign, time trials are unlocked and you can earn from bronze to platinum medals for the levels. There are even collectibles scattered throughout and I now have the option to gather the missing ones. These aren’t just for bragging rights, they also unlock various features such as skins, tricks, and other secrets. A very short game for $10 may not be seen as a worthwhile investment for many, but Defunct commonly goes on sale for as low as $1. If you 100% it, you can easily get 4-5+ hours out of it, and the alternate pathways and arcade-like experience encourage multiple playthroughs. If you like going fast, Defunct may just give you, your kids, or your friends that sense of speed and thrills other games lack.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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