Never Alone

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Developer: Upper One Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

This was a cute puzzle platform game with a small Eskimo girl and a white fox. It sometimes felt like it was inspired by both ICO and Limbo. It could be played either as a true co-operation game, or single player by alternating the two characters. The latter worked well enough on its own.

The game itself was a side-scrolling puzzle platform in very convincing icy landscapes with a cold blizzard sometimes delivering gusts of wind that made it necessary to crouch down. Jumping and climbing was very easy for a while, in fact so much that it felt like it almost belonged in the facile adventure genre.

It didn’t last – it became plenty challenging.

Without spoiling too much, I was fleeing an ice bear on several occasions, a bad guy throwing fireballs, there were cooperation puzzles, even swimming through tunnels. The girl soon got hold of a bola to throw at targets – like ice to break it down or fragile wooden boards – which was also the only use of the mouse to aim her arm in the direction she wanted to hit. Everything else were keys only.

Layers of Fear

Developer: Bloober Team | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Horror

This game was a mixed bag. It had a lot of clichés and was really too repetitive, but it was also pretty and atmospheric. It had enough of the latter to see my through to the end – about 3½ hours later.

It was a horror adventure that took place in a dark and of course haunted mansion. There were enough opening doors to mock it as being a door opening simulator, and it was also not very original. It reminded me of other horror adventures such as e.g. Outlast and even used the popular interactive gimmick of dragging the mouse to open doors and drawers.

It was quite linear and frequently used the trick of changing the rooms and hallways. There were too many jump scares and ghostly transformations, while actual puzzles were easy and far apart. This, together with the linear nature of the game with no real dying, made it feel like a haunted funfair attraction.

And it had an abundance of almost pitch black rooms.

What I did like about it was the idea of having to find six objects, each time returning to a small atelier to continue a painting with this object. The protagonist, which was a man barely visible in blurry mirrors, had a limp and walked to the rhythm of a heartbeat. After a stretch of uninspired hallways I also found a set piece in the office that suddenly turned into a vertical challenge hunting down ringing telephones.

This part even gave me vertigo – it was unexpected and made it worth persevering.

7/10

Event[0]

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Developer: Ocelot Society | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

That was a really cool game. Sure, it was pretty short – I completed it in about 2½ hours – but it was also very atmospheric and often fascinating. And to think I’ve postponed playing it for the longest time because I heard rumors about having to deal with a psychopathic computer AI. It made it sound like an excruciating experience. Like masochism – or sadism – however which way you want to look at it.

But it wasn’t like that at all.

Instead it was a sweet first person adventure where I sometimes had to talk to the computer AI, Kaizen-85, using oldskool terminals, in order to make it open doors, show logs, or move an elevator for me. It could get a little stubborn a few times, but it was friendly and usually approved of my request. That being said, I did decide to roleplay a very friendly and forthcoming attitude. Lots of asking using the magic word.

Gemini: Heroes Reborn

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Developer: Phosphor Games | Released: 2016 | Genre: FPS, Adventure

Time for something I haven’t played in a while – an FPS. The ironic part is the third letter in the abbreviation as there wasn’t much shooter about it on my part. Sure, I had powers, but I still missed a rifle like crazy.

The game took place in the Heroes universe but was its own story. I played Cassandra, a young girl entering an abandoned structure together with a male friend. Soon they discovered it wasn’t that abandoned after all. Her friend was kidnapped by a couple of soldiers, Cassandra discovered she had time shifting powers, and off I went searching for her friend – as well as some information about her past.

It was one of those game with powers getting more diversified and powerful as the 15 levels went by. In the beginning I could only shift between two time periods – the past (2008) where the facility was new and undamaged, and now (2014) where it was in ruins. Think Soul Reaver, only without any color filtering. Also, time shifting was not possible if the location was inside solid stone in the other time period.

What Remains of Edith Finch

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Developer: Giant Sparrow | Released: 2017 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This is probably the best walking simulator facile adventure game I have played so far. The variation of the minigames told through the stories of the family members was out of this world, as was the detail of the abundance of small prefabs inside the house. A lot of love went into this game.

The game told the story of the Finch family, as the protagonist moves through the many rooms of a house with strange protruding expansions on top. At first it felt a lot in the vein of Gone Home, which also moves you through various rooms of a house, telling a story. But this one was superior because of the individual stories of the Finch family. It turns out all of the family members are deceased, and most of their stories explain how their death came about. It was often weird or dramatic.

The Old City: Leviathan

Developer: PostMod Softworks | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

Time for another short one that took me approximately two hours to complete. It was a thoroughbred walking simulator facile adventure where all I could do was explore by walking – or light running that was actually just faster walking – open doors, read typewritten letters mostly glued on walls, and sometimes listen to a sentence or two by… myself? A friend?

That was sometimes hard to tell, but his audible acting was excellent.

Most of the time it was borderline pretentious nonsense, but there were exceptions where he aired a philosophical opinion that was actually interesting for once. Like the stuff about depression and suicide, for example. And then it was back to “truth having to be compatible with itself” and blah blah blah.

Fortunately the surroundings were often detailed and pretty, although also infected with reusable prefabs such as conspicuously dead rats and an abundance of littered soda cans. It did start out with samey rooms, corridors, pipes and factory stuff that perhaps overstayed its welcome, but it soon meandered into surreal crypts, medieval architecture, a beach with flooded trains, a subway, and the return of an enormous Minotaur statue. And several of the total of 11 chapters ended by me leaping into nothingness.

Sometimes it felt like sort of a surreal version of INFRA.

Apart from just walking around, I sometimes found and unlocked a cube. I found a total of seven of these. I don’t think they served any other purpose than as a collection to see if I explored thoroughly. Most of the levels had multiple paths around the facility. Having to accept missing out on a hallway or two was not uncommon. Later I learned to postpone opening doors clearly marked as the exit.

7/10

NaissanceE

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Developer: Limasse Five | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, First PersonSpoilers: Medium

June 19, 2021

I’ve played almost 4 hours of this exploration adventure game today and it is probably the most egregious example of a game I have a strong love/hate relationship with. It has the most epic levels with an expanse I haven’t seen probably since Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria. I’m a drooling sucker for such things, and when it also have really interesting architecture like it did here, I’m definitely in for the long run.

Unfortunately, the wonderful walks or casual jumping was sometimes spiced up with demanding jumping puzzles, some of which were downright sadistic. I don’t think I’ve been cursing and shouting like this at a game for years. Sometimes I was wondering if the developer was secretly hating its audience, especially during a tunnel sequence on a long rotating shaft.

But I get ahead of myself.

Etherborn

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Developer: Altered Matter | Released: 2019 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

Another short one. Took me less than 3½ hours. Not that I mind – I like short games these days. I’m trying to dry out my backlog, so it’s usually either that or a sample for my blog series about short sessions.

Etherborn was a third person puzzle platform game with a beautiful art style. The rules were actually quite simple. I could change the direction of gravity by walking around certain curved edges, changing floors into walls or ceilings. Gems picked up could be put in placeholders to e.g. slide out a bridge, swoosh in a piece of additional level structure, or raise a set of stairs from a pool of acid.

This was the second game I played with my Xbox One gamepad. The subtly tilted or skewed camera angles didn’t work well with keyboard and mouse. Good thing I’ve found my peace with gamepads.

For the most part I enjoyed this casual game. Apart from the brilliant graphics and a generally good feel of controlling the transparent silent protagonist, the music was also exquisite. I especially liked how the music moved into complex jazz chords in the the most intricate parts of the fourth level. That was fitting.

The game did have some issues, though.

Journey

Developer: thatgamecompany | Released: 2020 | Genre: Adventure, 3D

Being a PC gamer I’m quite late to this exploration game, but now that I’ve played it, I sure understand why everybody have been so excited about it. It was pure bliss. Like playing in an interactive series of the best wallpaper art you can imagine. No words – just amazing violins and cellos.

The basic rules were as simple as the controls. I could move (sometimes glide down sand dunes) and gain a limited floating ability by touching strips of living cloth. A strip on my back worked as an energy bar for it. Sometimes I reached and chimed at an altar and watched a history emerging on a wall.

I could meet other players too. There was no exchange – they were just sort of there.

The art, the level design and the lighting was fantastic. The hot desert in the beginning had layers of sand rustling across the dunes. As I got closer to a mountain, snow took over. There were even blizzards where I sometimes had to seek cover to avoid a setback. Later I also had to sort of sneak past big rock birds. If their spotlight found me, a laser beam blasted me backwards. There was no dying in this game.

It took me less than 2 hours to reach the end. Short, but definitely worth it.

10/10