Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

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Developer: The Chinese Room | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This was not just a walking simulator, but also the spiritual successor to Dear Esther from the same developer – one of the games that spawned that genre description.

And this time were were very literal about the first word in this game.

It was made in the same 3D engine used for Far Cry and Crysis. I explored a reasonably big English village totally devoid of people, with abandoned cars, still smoking cigarettes, and hot cups of tea. The game used a peculiar mix of a wide open non-linear town combined with the desire to lead me around in a linear manner, and to help with that, glowing “ghost” spheres were sometimes floating around, guiding me to new locations with more story to unveil.

The story was told in the form of placeholders made of light points representing the humans that originally had a conversion in various spots. Typically just a casual talk, a lovers quarrel or musings about a strange nose bleeding flu taking over the town. Most of these lasted barely half a minute or so and then I was on my way again, looking for the next scene.

Outlast

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Developer: Red Barrels | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, Horror

I played over an hour of this horror sneaker, up until I was given an injection and put in a small cell. That was after the part where I had to restore power in the basement. I’m not a good demographic for horror games anymore, though. It takes a lot to scare an old geezer like me anymore. Sure, the jump scares can get me, but anyone can be surprised by a sudden shout in the neck.

Also, the hiding in the lockers reminded me too much of Alien: Isolation.

But the game was still well done. Good graphics, solid sound work, and the body awareness with hands and all was nice. Armed with only a camcorder, I could film stuff to take notes and switch on the night vision, which was frequently required in the often pitch black mental hospital. Sometimes there was a monster roaming an area, like the cellar where I had to turn on two gas pumps and a main breaker to restore power. Lots of sneaking and running around there.

There was a strange part in the beginning where I had to sneak past a few sitting brutes watching snow on a bloodstained television. They must have seen me, but they ignored me. I’m not sure if the fact that I had to do this was good design. If only I had felt the horror of this sequence.

Dr. Langeskov…

Developer: Crows Crows Crows | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This is probably one of the shortest narrative PC games I’ve ever completed. It barely took 20 minutes for one playthrough. Good thing it was free.

It was made by the same developer that made the hilarious The Stanley Parable, which I enjoyed back in 2014. However, this small spiritual successor was not as funny nor as imaginative. It had a meddlesome narrator again, commenting on my good or bad choices, but there were barely a few rooms to navigate with doors kept closed until it was time to move on.

All right, there were perhaps a few mild laughs from continuously hanging up phones, and the idea of pulling levers and pressing buttons to keep the real video game player behind the curtains busy was a great idea, but the length and the few rooms barely made it feel like a small DLC.

I started a second playthrough to check out the tape recorder and the audition tapes, but they were a little too forced and boring for my liking. I quit the game as I entered the tiger room.

Maybe the novelty of The Stanley Parable has already worn off.

6/10

The Wolf Among Us

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Developer: Telltale Games | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, 3D

It took me precisely two hours to complete the first of five episodes in this cel shaded adventure game from the creators of a similar adventure game for The Walking Dead. It used the same 3D engine and a lot of the same rules and a heavy focus on story and dialog.

I won’t be going into the details of the story much. Fairy tale characters are living in New York, some are morphed into humans, some still resembling the fantasy animals they were. I controlled Sheriff Bigby Wolf, investigating clues found at murder scenes and sometimes pursuing or fighting brutes in action scenes with lots of arduous QTE popping up all over the place.

Bigby himself reminded me so much of Wolverine. They could have been twin brothers.

The dialog is typically around four choices with a timeout of varying length. Sometimes it was too short for me to make a proper decision, making me feel like a slowpoke. A few times I even had a choice of two locations or actions to decide between, and it actually seemed like putting one of the locations on hold had grave consequences.

35MM

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Developer: Носков Сергей | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This game was full of surprises. It started out with a way too long slow walk through a forest, me and a buddy of few words, making it look like a boring walking simulator facile adventure, but after the almost six hours it took to complete it, it had also been a real adventure game with objects to find, puzzles to solve, a railroad trolley to ride, and at times even a genuine FPS with a gun or an assault rifle.

Sometimes the game reminded me of I Am Alive, sometimes of INFRA.

It was a bleak first person adventure with a notebook for keeping tabs of inventory icons. Damage or fatigue had to be fixed with medikits or food and a flashlight needed batteries. My buddy usually dictated the direction to walk, but I was free to break off and explore the areas for loot. I could cut ropes on door handles for access or take completely pointless pictures with an old camera.

Sometimes a rare QTE made me mash buttons to complete a cutscene, like winning a fist fight.

The game honestly had too much exploration of areas for way too little loot. There were sometimes several houses or even floors in buildings where I had to search dark rooms for loot, yet too often it was rarer than finding visitors for this blog. There were also traps. After a few exploding deaths I learned to look for wires in door openings that could be cut with my knife.

After a few levels of solitude, my buddy and I started meeting people. There were no dialog trees, but there were often small talks, letters to read, a puzzle, or a task like finding a car battery to power something.

Then evil people started showing up.

Obduction

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Developer: Cyan Worlds | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This was a non-linear first person adventure made by the creators of Myst and its many sequels. I was a backer when it was announced as a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago. Although Obduction has its own story that doesn’t have anything in common with Myst, it didn’t take long before I discovered that it was very much a spiritual kinsgame. Cyan Worlds didn’t stray away from their field of excellence.

In this game, the big domes replaced the ages (or islands) in Myst, but they were just as environmentally diverse, and the world got bigger and more prone to me getting stuck, the more doors I unlocked.

After a quick abduction I arrived in a sandy canyon with bubbly pieces of human structures from various points of recent human history. A cute network of trolley rails were intersecting it all, and there were a lot of locked doors. No humans, except C.W., who only mentioned very broad tasks through a door window whenever I had made substantial progress. I had to figure out almost everything on my own.

It took me about 20-21 hours to complete this game. It could have been done in about 12-15 hours, but I was stuck for several hours on a couple of occasions. The world got quite enormous when there were three alien domes to navigate between. After unlocking a few doors and getting the trolley running on the rails, the general puzzle mechanic was almost always finding and opening more stuff.

Californium

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Developer: Darjeeling | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This exploration game – or walking simulator as some would call it – was estimated to be ~3 hours long, and that’s exactly what it took for me to get complete it.

The art and color scheme of this game was out of this world and certainly worth the price of admission all on its own. Each of the four levels had a its own time period and distinctive colors to set them apart, and all humans (and later androids) were old-fashioned 2D sprites always turning the same side to you – albeit sharply drawn like were they cut straight out of a comic book. I really enjoyed this lovely style.

Being part of the genre it was, the game itself was light on interactivity. A level typically had 4-5 “rooms” plus the streets in which to find a television showing a roman numerical of white icons to find. Depending on the size of the “room” it could be about 3 to 6 icons. The icons themselves had to be spotted and then activated by holding left mouse button on them for about one second.

Yeah, the good old game of getting warmer.

INFRA

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Developer: Loiste Interactive | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This was an excellent first person adventure game exploring various industrial environments such as e.g. water plants, dam, power plants, factories, etc. As a hard hat structural analyst with a funny accent, I had to take photos of everything that needed to be repaired. Various puzzles (typically electrical in nature) had to be solved to open doors and gain access to the later parts of the locations.

The game had three acts and was enormous. I understand that there was only one act to begin with, and the two other acts were added in sort of an episodic manner. The end result has more than 40 maps made in the Source engine (the same that powered Half-Life 2) and each of them are really big. It took me almost 30 hours to get through the entire game. But it was exquisite almost all the way. The factories and plants were well put together and felt realistic – it wasn’t just random pipes and wires going wherever.

Probably the only thing that annoyed me at first was having to find batteries to replenish my phone camera and my flashlight. Especially in the first area inside a dam I was often running out and had to rummage all drawers and meticulously search control rooms for more batteries. Luckily my supplies eventually got stocked up as the maps went by, although there was a cap of ten packs for each type.

The level design of the game was a mix of open and linear. Each map was a contained area typically with a lot of locked doors. Some had to be opened by finding access cards, keys, or some cute passage around. At one point enough of the facility opened up to offer access to a lot of halls, control rooms, offices, corridors, and staircases. Some maps opened up ever so slightly bit by bit, while others offered almost the entire factory after a door or two. Apart from taking snapshots, some larger machinery often had to be fixed and turned on. It could be getting the water flowing in a plant or moving a big cradle inside a steel factory. But sometimes it also felt like I left incompletely fixed machinery behind as I found a way to the next map.

In fact, optional puzzles and passages were not uncommon in this game. An example of this was a corridor with electricity leading into the shallow water on the floor. Stepping in this would kill me. I had to arrange crates to walk on in order to reach a switch further down, but I could also just walk back to the opposite end, climb up to a roof grating, and then crawl and drop down near the same switch.

These choices were part of what made the game feel so well engineered.

Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This first person game mainly took place in a national forest in Wyoming in the late 80’s. As the bearded and mild-mannered Henry, I was assigned to my own watchtower. A lot of dialog was exchanged between him and his boss Delilah on a walkie-talkie. Sometimes she sent me out to investigate the origins of smoke or some other task, exploring the canyons, forests and lakes.

This game was really blurring the line between a walking simulator facile adventure and a proper one. It didn’t have puzzles and there was a lot of walking (even backtracking) but there was an evolving story, cliff sides to scale, ropes to rappel down from, and even later upgrades that would give access to previously blocked areas such as e.g. keys to a large cave or an axe to cut down a tree for walking on.

My watchtower was sometimes even broken into while I was gone.

I absolutely loved this game. It was totally my thing. It was relaxing, easy, the voice acting for Henry and Delilah was very professional, and although the paths in the valley was sometimes a bit fenced in by rocks and falling trees, it was still great fun exploring. I could check a compass to make sure I was going in the right direction, or look at a paper map (which gave me a touch of Far Cry 2 vibes).

Screenshot

Sometimes I found a yellow cache box. The code was always the same – was a minigame shelved here?

The game started with a sad tale of Henry and his wife that develops dementia. This part was told via big, centered text and two choices for some of them. It reminded me a bit of the beginning of Pixar’s animated movie, Up, and it also had a subtle smell of Visual Novel.

In the watchtower, where the game began properly, the story evolved from looking for two littering drunk teenage girls, a pole wire being cut, calling in a forest fire that generated a lot of smoke in the valley, and discovering a weird surveillance of Henry and Delilah. The latter wound up into quite some tense dialog from especially Delilah, almost freaking out at times with paranoia.

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the details here – but it was definitely never boring.

Apart from a tiny exception in the end, there were never any people to meet face to face. Henry had quite some body awareness with arms and legs shown while e.g. climbing. I did adopt a small turtle (it was cute), saw a raccoon (that Delilah accidentally spooked off on my radio) and got stung by a bee. I was even knocked out at one point, but I still didn’t see an animated face.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Firewatch
2016 Campo Santo4h 47m 2
2019-04-07
2019-04-08
9

Night Shift

Developer: Brandon Brizzi | Released: 2014 | Genre: Driving, Adventure

I just completed the driving adventure game Night Shift. That was weird. Seriously weird.

It took me over two hours to complete it, which seems to be twice as long as it should probably have taken me. But it took a while to get used to the general weirdness and what the game really wanted me to do. It wasn’t just driving along the road – in fact, this was not about racing at all.

It was about getting the sun back.

The goal was to get a flame from each of six puzzle challenges which was made extra weird in the way I had to leave roads to find the next one. In between these puzzles there was a gray sphere showing the flames I had collected so far, rotating around it. Imagine finding this sphere first time with just one flame around it, knowing nothing about what’s going on. That’s how the game is.

It wasn’t completely void of tips, though. Sometimes a white ghost was standing around and if I drove close to it, it offered a light tip as a text line in the bottom of the screen.

Screenshot

The challenges themselves typically revolved around lighting street lights with an extra strong beam of light from my first person car. I could also eliminate other ghost cars with this flashing. Glowing butterflies could be placeholder hints, and sometimes I had to align things in a way that never quite got entirely clear (this was the part where trial and error took over). There was even sort of a different realm that the game shifted to whenever I was out of battery power. This was also used in a couple of puzzles.

More power was obtained by driving close to white ghost trees.

Whenever I was on the “right track” the looping music samples built up to get the sensation of things rolling. Both the use of music and the car itself gave a solid 80’s vibe, and completing the game played an animated piece. This animation was very nice, but I had hoped I could have driven up the sun-rising road while watching the dawn grow stronger. I think that might have worked quite well.

The game was weird, the 3D engine with sprites was deliberately retro (it looked like it belonged in the mid 90’s) and the goals frequently confusing, but I could also see that the game had a certain charm.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Night Shift
2014 Brandon Brizzi

2.4h

1

2019-03-31
2019-03-31
6