Submerged

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Developer: Uppercut Games | Released: 2015 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

Ever wondered what it would be like if you made a game out of just the climbing part of e.g. Tomb Raider or Uncharted? No combat, no complicated quests, no real danger – just climbing on the walls of buildings?

Submerged is pretty much exactly that.

Well, and a bit of traversing a partly submerged city in a boat, just to get from one building to the next. The story is very thin – barely an excuse to go climbing. The young girl in your control has a younger brother that has been injured, and she has to climb those buildings to get food, water, bandages, etc. There are ten larger buildings to find, all with a chest on top with the things she needs.

The game is very easy mode. You can’t fall down from anything and die. Sometimes the girl loses her grip in one hand and dangles for a few seconds with just the other hand, but it’s all show with no consequences. It makes for a very relaxing experience that also involves finding landmarks and collections, but as you might imagine, the easy mode climbing does feel like it’s too much of a good thing.

STASIS: BONE TOTEM

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Developer: The Brotherhood | Released: 2023 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

I loved the original STASIS from 2015. The free expansion CAYNE from 2017 was okay, but not amazing. But it still entertained me and in the end it felt like a decent DLC. So when I learned that The Brotherhood had released a sequel to the first game, I was quite excited. It had received overwhelmingly positive reviews from most users on Steam. I was sure to be pleased with this one.

But not at first. There were problems. In fact, there were a lot of problems.

A lot of features from the previous games were there. It was an isometric point-and-click adventure game taking placed in dilapidated surroundings, sometimes with macabre human corpses to be found. Again, the abundance of PDA and their immense walls of text were there too, but that was also a problem with the other two games. Each PDA found had many tabs and the entries were not always that interesting.

Taking a cue from games such as e.g. Trine and Day of the Tentacle, there were two and very soon three characters to switch between at any point. It didn’t take long before they were separated for the majority of the game, but the quantum inventory still made it possible to share everything they found. At first I was happy to see a lot of banter and comments across the characters. It spiced up the game and the voice acting was terrific. For some reason, they could see what their companions could see.

Return to Monkey Island

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Developer: Terrible Toybox | Released: 2022 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

Ron Gilbert, the creator of the two first Monkey Island adventure games, was back with his own take on a continuation of the bizarre ending of the second game. I had played the original games in the 90’s and then the two sequels in 2000 and 2001. So it was a Return to Monkey Island after more than 20 years.

At first, the game felt a little light on puzzles and the dialog didn’t seem quite up to par in the beginning, but it felt like both the puzzles and the dialog got better as the game went on. Or maybe I just warmed up to it. After the full five parts of the game, I must say that the story ideas and the dialog is right up there with the original games. Lots of twists and many chuckles to be had. Ron Gilbert certainly still got it.

I had my worries about the stylized 2D graphics and even didn’t like them in the images I saw in reviews before playing the game. But when I actually played the game, I immediately accepted it. There’s something to be said about how the animation worked together with the art style. That being said, it’s very much an acquired taste. All I’m saying is you should see it move before you decide.

Lifeless Moon

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Developer: Stage 2 Studios | Released: 2023 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

This was a spiritual sequel to Lifeless Planet which I completed in 2015. This one also had me in control of an astronaut on long treks across rocky landscapes, forests, caverns, an empty city and many other bizarre locations. It didn’t impress me all that much in the beginning. It felt a little cheap with its low resolution textures, especially just coming from Stray which looked amazing.

But the game turned out to be surprisingly varied, frequently coming up with unexpected vistas and set pieces. It even had the jet pack from the previous game for a stretch, although thankfully without having to refill it all the time. I also didn’t have to replenish my oxygen. Removing these two mechanics was a good choice in my opinion. It kept a better focus on exploration and solving puzzles.

Stray

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Developer: BlueTwelve Studio | Released: 2022 | Genre: Adventure, Third Person

Know that feeling when you think a game is going to be in a certain way, then when you finally play it, it turns out to be significantly different? Stray was like that for me. I had the impression it would be sort of a cat version of a walking simulator, barely figuring out how to traverse a city, with lots of platforming and jumping through difficult to find openings. And that would be just about it.

But it was much more than that.

The game was also an adventure game with chain-like quests, it had a floating robot called B-12 to translate text and communicate with robots, there were genuine stealth sequences, running for a while from chasing enemies, even some combat. Yes, the actual shooting kind. At the same time, the game constantly awed me by how fantastic it looked. The lighting and the amount of detail was staggering.

So many of my screenshots taken of the game could be framed and put up on the wall.

A Short Hike

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Developer: adamgryu | Released: 2019 | Genre: Adventure, Exploration

This was a charming little exploration game on an island with steep cliffs. As the blue bird Claire, I could run around, get simple quests from other people, collect coins for buying golden feathers, and float – no flying upwards! That would be cheating. Golden feathers had to be collected to be able to climb steeper cliffs. The goal was to climb to the top and receive a phone call there.

The game sported a pixelated retro look, but it was possible to change the size of the pixels. I made them as small as possible, making for a sharper look. The excellent music added to the already quite charming atmosphere. I also played with a gamepad – a lot better than using the keyboard.

It didn’t even take me two hours to get through it. However, I saw in screenshots on the internet there were locations I never found, and I also never watered the sprouts. So it does have some replayability.

Call of the Sea

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Developer: Out of the Blue | Released: 2020 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

A lovely first person adventure game made in the Unreal Engine. I was in control of Norah in 1934 looking for her lost husband Harry on an exotic island. It didn’t take long before it delved deep into an epic fantasy story with light Myst-like puzzles. Norah was carrying a notebook with her and drew important clues into it, so it was rarely necessary for me to write down my own notes. There was no inventory either.

The puzzles were not too difficult yet not a walk in the park either. The wonderful fantasy settings involving ancient alien temples and even diving under water as as sea creature kept the story intriguing all the way through. The voice actor for Norah was great, and she was commenting on everything I found. There must have been thousands of lines of dialog just for her.

If you like first person adventure games, this one is definitely recommended.

Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut

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Developer: inXile Entertainment | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Turn-based

Even though I never played much of the first Wasteland game, I still backed this one. It looked really promising, but the reports of it being difficult kept me postponing it – until today. And I’m happy to say that even playing it so late to the party, I was still grabbed by it and found it really atmospheric.

At least until California.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, it felt like much more of an earnest successor to Fallout 2 than the games Bethesda produced after buying the rights to the franchise.

I played with the preset party featuring Pills, Slick, Bear and Cold-Eye. It started with General Vargas giving my party their first assignment as Desert Rangers – figure out how Ace died while putting repeater units on three radio towers in the wasteland, complete his job, and optionally revenge him. I made sure to accept Angela Deth as my fifth party member, and into the wasteland we ventured.

The atmosphere was excellent. The music and the ambient sounds were spot on, and the random radio calls from someone asking for help an excellent detail. In between the settlements I was traversing a larger map and it was important that our water supply would suffice. This is also where random encounters could happen, or we had to cross nasty clouds with radiation.

In the settlements themselves, it was typical party management and turn-based combat. It felt like I was allowed to move around further each turn than in other turn-based games, which was great for reaching cover behind crates or stones. I won’t get into too much of the story here, but the dialog with NPC’s were well written and their settlements had interesting quests and tasks to do.

Sable

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Developer: Shedworks | Released: 2021 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

This relatively fresh third person adventure game had a really stylish drawn style that reminded me a lot of European graphic novels, particularly those by Moebius.

In fact, that was the reason I got interested in it.

I controlled a teenager coming of age as she achieved the ability the float slowly downwards, which came in handy when climbing things and jumping across long distances. I was given a hover bike to navigate the big desert, looking for points of interest to explore. There was no combat of any kind, but RPG-style quests.

And it wasn’t just quests about obtaining a specific object or finishing some kind of collection quest. Some of the later quests involved the trope investigation chain and even breaking someone out of jail.