Homesick

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Developer: Lucky Pause | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, First PersonSpoilers: Puzzles

This first person adventure looked crazy good. Yes, it was mostly gray and samey corridors and dilapidated apartments, but the level of detail was marvelous. In one of the bigger halls, the wallpaper was coiling off the walls in the most convincing manner, I have ever seen in a video game.

It was also relaxing for the most part, although it wasn’t just a walking simulator facile adventure.

I woke up in a bed in an apartment complex where the sun coming through the windows was unpleasant. Getting too close oversaturated the light in a hurtful way. Some corridors had too many windows and thus were impossible to traverse. The dilapidated state of everything made it look like something straight out of Pripyat near Chernobyl. Of course none of the switches or faucets worked.

And to make matters even worse, the papers and books found everywhere were written in gibberish.

RiME

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Developer: Tequila Works | Released: 2017 | Genre: Adventure, Puzzle

This charming third person adventure came very close to making me relive the pure fondness I had for PC games almost two decades ago. Now I understand why Nicouse found it so enchanting.

In fact, it was so beautiful and imaginative that I just can’t for the life of me understand why so many of the professional review sites mashed it down to typically a rating of 6-7. It’s a crime, plain and simple. A typical complaint is that the game feels too much like boring busywork solving puzzles barely challenging at all, but that’s not fair. Although it’s true that many of its puzzles were fairly pedestrian, the game really did its best to vary the rules and surroundings, and the level graphics were often epic and jaw dropping.

I wonder if some of those cynical game reviewers weren’t just worn down veterans?

The story was quite simple, almost non-existent, until the final hour of the 6+ hours it took me to complete it. A boy was washed ashore on a small island and I had to run around, shouting at figurines to make their energy empower an avatar in the middle. There was no dialog. It’s true what they said – the inspiration of games like Ico was quite apparent, and the climbing was virtually Tomb Raider.

Beyond Eyes

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Developer: Tiger & Squid | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

Regarding brightness, this game was the polar opposite of Among the Sleep. Here white was consistently dominating the screen. It was short – about two hours, including one level restart because of a bug.

Rae, a little girl blind after an accident, had to go look for her friend, Nani – which was an orange cat. The game was quite unique in the way it used her blindness as a gimmick. I was walking her around removing white “fog of war” that was drawn depending on being in close vicinity. Sometimes, a noise in the distance could temporarily show a hotspot, like a woodpecker working a tree or a church bell. There were also permanent hotspots created by constant sounds such as a streaming river or a waterfall.

Most of the game was about finding my way through fields and a village, uncovering white fog. Sometimes she was smelling the cat thus showing where to go next, and there were very light tasks such as throwing bread for seagulls to get out of the way, or fetching a ball for another girl.

Among the Sleep

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Developer: Krillbite Studio | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Horror

This was a short first person horror adventure in control of a little toddler that could barely walk. After a birthday cake from mum and a later put to sleep, the majority of the game went through surrealistic set pieces with elements from the house itself. Most of the game was very dark with a lot of walking/crawling, sometimes with light puzzles like dragging a chair to climb on or finding “memories” for a portal.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again – I’m not really fit for horror games or movies anymore. I’ve become completely numb. I really should stop touching this genre.

Nevertheless I bought the game and I am trying to work through my backlog.

But in spite of the absence of screaming in my apartment, the game did its best with a spooky atmosphere, it didn’t go crazy with cheap jump scares, and the ambient sounds were really good. Humans that can still experience the feeling of horror may find a lot to like here.

Corpse of Discovery

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Developer: Phosphor Games | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

Although this was another one on the brink of being called a walking simulator facile adventure, it had enough exploration with jump puzzles, goals in the distance, and the rare searchlight monster to avoid, to just about make it a proper first person adventure.

I was an astronaut alone in a small space station, which was a series of tubes with a blurry holographic communicator for messages from the wife and kids. There were also the typical lab, the greenhouse, the computer room and the briefing room. This part of the game was certainly facile. I could merely click a few hotspots for explanations and get a briefing for exploring the planet outside in a space suit.

The game had a smattering of Groundhog Day about it. I explored the vast areas of a planet running around, double-jumping – later using a jet pack that had to recharge after a few seconds – running towards goals that were each about a kilometer away. After finding about half a dozen of these, the space suit ran out of oxygen and I awoke back in my bed in the space station. After getting the next holographic family message, it was off to explore the next planet.

And so it adhered to this template for a total of six planets.

The Beginner’s Guide

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Developer: Everything Unlimited | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This was a short walking simulator facile adventure again by the same developer that also created The Stanley Parable. His style in level design and narrative was unmistakable right from the first few sentences. But where his previous games had a conscious focus on humor and sarcasm, this game was a little more serious. A least most of the time.

The developer himself narrated consistently all the way through the less then two hours it took to play it through. He told about his friend Coda and the small first person games he created, each presented in a linear manner with usually nothing to do but move forward and listen. Sometimes there was one door switch puzzle that was sometimes repeated, and I even had a rifle two times for a very short time.

There were 17 chapters (including an epilogue) and the levels were amazingly varied.

The Fall

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Developer: Over The Moon | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Side-scrolling

March 13, 2020

This turned out to be a side-scrolling adventure game with a smattering of cover shooter. The dark graphics and the strong ambient soundscape immediately reminded me of The Swapper.

I fell to a planet as what looked like an android or a robot, only surviving the friction of the atmosphere due to a nifty antimatter shield. I crashed through the surface and into a dungeon of underground corridors. It turned out the “robot” was actually a suit around a real human, but because he (?) was injured and now unconscious after the fall, the AI of the suit had taken over and was now in charge.

An autonomous suit walking around with a knocked out human inside. That was certainly unique.

The game was mostly an adventure game. I had to turn on a flashlight that could be moved around with a mouse, and only when shining on a hotspot did it go interactive. I could then use this item, use something on it, or use a network action which first had to be activated in my suit at a later time. In fact, the suit had a lot of cool abilities that were restricted and thus turned off at first.

Cradle

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Developer: Flying Cafe for Semianimals | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

Inspired by the update in the previous blog post about The Talos Principle, I have decided I’ll switch to full diary style, adding to the same blog post as I play more sessions of a game. I realize this is quite uncommon – normally blog posts are a one-shot article and then never updated again – but I’ve already had exceptions to this rule.

Another reason is that I’ve never felt that I’ve found a really solid template for writing my impressions about the games I play. This new diary style can thus serve as another experiment in trying to find my voice.

Perhaps needless to say, there will be spoilers in this new diary style.

March 7, 2020

This game was only five years old? The way it started, i.e. in a window, maximum 2K resolution, options all reset and with a tiny menu text, made it feel older at first. For some strange reason the music was also turned down to zero. But other than adjusting all this, it seemed to work fine in Windows 10.

I “woke up” (whoever I was) with an amnesiac hangover inside a small Mongolian yurt, which is sort of a circular tent. Control was in first person with no body awareness. The level of detail in this tent was quite impressive. There was a ton of stuff to go through, picking up some things for my inventory. Left mouse click held an item in my hands at first, and a hotkey then put it away in my small inventory.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Developer: Starbreeze Studios | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, 3D

This was a cute and easy adventure climbing/puzzle game I wish I could have completed.

UPDATE: This game was so endearing that I actually went out and bought a gamepad so I could complete it. And it was worth it. It had unique fantasy settings and a strong emotional impact. I’ve expanded the blog post.

The premise was quite unusual – a single player coop game. Now how did that work? Well, I controlled two brothers simultaneously, with each there own set of direction-and-action keys. Sometimes they had to help each other, like the big brother giving little brother a hand to reach an edge, or they had to cooperate, like moving something that required them both pushing the same pole.

The game had easy coop puzzles that I could usually figure out on the spot, which was lovingly relaxing. The story was also simple. An adult (probably their dad) was ill and the doctor sent the two boys on a journey to fetch the remedy. This took place in a fantasy world not entirely unlike that of the Fable series. We went through a village, fields, farms, dungeons, rivers, castles, and much more.

The game had a strong caveat from the developer that a gamepad was required. If you know my gaming habits from previous blog posts, you’ll know that I never used a gamepad. Always keyboard and mouse. I’ve completed a few games that were notorious for being neigh impossible without a gamepad, just to prove that it could be done after all – for example, ABZÛ.

However, after about a little more than an hour, I decided to bite the bullet.

Kentucky Route Zero

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Developer: Cardboard Computer | Released: 2013-2020 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

After about 7 years of development, the fifth and last act of this point-and-click adventure game was finally released in early 2020. That was the moment I had patiently been waiting for. I wanted to play all five acts in one go, like binge-watching a television show.

Kentucky Route Zero is one of the most atmospheric adventure games I’ve ever played. It was also one of the easiest. While I wouldn’t call it a walking simulator, it was virtually void of puzzles.

I have seen a lot of comparisons to Another World, but that only relates to the graphics. The gameplay was of course completely different. The game really wanted to twist the hackneyed point-and-click adventure game concept on its ear, and it was refreshing to me. It used flat-shaded 3D polygon graphics and mostly scrolled sideways, but there were exceptions where the scenery was rotated in place or zoomed in.