enfrdeitptrues

Adventure

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    The Lost Legends of Redwall: Escape the Gloomer
    Developed by: Soma Games, Clopas LLC
    Published by: Code-Monkeys
    Release date: November 16, 2018
    Available on: Windows, macOS
    Genre: Text-based Adventure
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
    Price: $6.99

    Thanks, Soma Games, for sending us a review key!

    Redwall is a book series and setting known to many. Woodland creatures such as mice and otters live and adventure through medieval forests and towns, protecting the animal citizens from wicked snakes and rats. Festivals and wars punctuate a life filled with difficult battles against all sorts of danger, brightened by scouting missions, feasts, and, in Escape the Gloomer, clandestine treasure hunts. The Redwall series has a history in interactive media, seemingly responsible for Ghost of a Tale, Mouse Guard, and even some works that are officially licensed rather than cribbing the concept. The Lost Legends of Redwall games are unique for being official products of the books’ publisher, and it shows. The action is violent, with dismemberment and character death the norm. Language is flowery and grandiose while still being intelligible to a child. Escape the Gloomer reflects all the inclinations of the Redwall series, for better and worse. The text interface does not hamper or help what would be a straightforward adventure game regardless, but shockingly buggy game logic drags it out longer than necessary.

    Effective voice acting and good scene-by-scene writing elevate the plot, notable for exceptional blandness, to an enjoyable time. I used to think story was paramount in a game like this. I’m not so sure anymore. At least, “story” is too broad a word. Character interactions are well-written, as is scenery description. Flashbacks and narration of a time-lapse were the highlights, writing-wise. The plot itself is weak. An otter named Gillag has been tasked with sneaking into a castle to recover an ancient property deed. The point of entry is a cave guarded by the deranged rat Gloomer. Gillag will need to sneak past Gloomer, into the castle, and back out again. That could be exciting, were it not for one particular cave, where Gloomer lives. This cave has a lake in the middle fed by a waterfall. To the left of the waterfall is a sandy shore and gate leading up to the castle; to the right is a rocky pile. Across the lake is a small island, then a pile of decaying fish. Gloomer is madly chasing…. Oh, I’m sorry; lost myself for a moment. This game described that cave to me a lot. Far too much (albeit in better words than I just used to describe it). Despite the story ostensibly involving sneaking into a castle, most of the game felt like it took place in and around that cave. Finally, Gillag gets into the castle. He shortly finds himself back in that cave. The plot is mostly how to get into and back out of it. Despite good writing on a microscale, the story as a whole was less than gripping.

    The Lost Legends of Redwall: Escape the Gloomer
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good voice acting; quality writing and background art; no fail state
    Weak Points: Shallow plot; little reward for experimenting with different in-game actions; some buggy logic in understanding text input and game progression
    Moral Warnings: Bloody animal violence and drunkenness described

    Escape the Gloomer is a text adventure. Every action, from looking at a door to lighting a torch with a tinderbox, must be typed in. There is no character movement save typing something like “enter tunnel” in its thesaurus-dictated variations. Most areas have unique accompanying art which can be seen behind the text. It's simple but good. What Gillag sees and how the world around him reacts is displayed in text and read aloud. Each character in the story is voice-acted almost as well as the narrator. Unlike old Sierra text adventure games, Escape the Gloomer is proud of having no fail state - the player character cannot die or lose - giving the player every chance to explore the game without risk. It’s unfortunate that there is little to do in the world. Flashback and room descriptions are interesting enough, but player interactions are rarely more engaging than gathering X and putting it on/in Y. The plot may sound fun to read, but most of the time playing it is spent running in circles in a large cave.

    Sometimes the text interactions were glitched. The hint system sometimes advised the use of items and locations Gillag hadn’t found yet or, perhaps, had already made full use of. Typos are critically important to interaction with a text parser and come up more than they ought to, though rarely. When the player is given control of a different person, Gillag is incorrectly still referred to as the point-of-view character. These issues were not a great detriment to the game, but they were uniquely frustrating in a game which only allowed interaction via text. Sound effects are nothing special, and music is forgettable in the few instances it exists.

    The Lost Legends of Redwall: Escape the Gloomer
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    I’m surprised to see the game advertised as “Suitable for ages 13+” on Steam. The hints, the clear voice acting, the story, and the admonitions to use words more creative than “move” seem appropriate for a game targeted at a learning reader. The action includes fighting and death, with some bloody details. However, the writing is not overly explicit. At least one character gets drunk during the story. The background illustrations might be frightening to a young child; however, I don’t think they were gory.

    Save for the developing reader demographic, a good audience for Escape the Gloomer is hard to identify. A Redwall book tends to have a more engaging story, and other adventure games often have better interactivity. The cast of this game should get together and do a Redwall audiobook; that would be a more efficient use of their skill. That said, if Redwall excites you, then this game should be enjoyable. It feels like a true Redwall story, which it is in many ways. Interface and game logic issues are annoying but not deal-breakers if the premise of an official Redwall interactive story suits your fancy.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout
    Developed by: Soma Games
    Published by: Soma Games
    Release date: September 14, 2018
    Available on: Windows, macOS
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
    Price: $14.99

    Thanks, Soma Games, for sending us a review key!

    The Lost Legends of Redwall games turn the well-known fantasy setting of valorous mice and dangerous predators into text-heavy adventure games. When focused on its literary roots, The Scout isn’t bad. The story centers on the Lilygrove Scout Corps, a band of mice with unique personalities and relationships dedicated to protecting the populace. As long as they are the focus, the world is a joy to explore. Alas, the player must eventually leave level one, because The Scout has sneaking, running, and escort gameplay. Pirates attack the land, and the scout runs for the lighthouse. The game is never quite the same from there, and it’s obvious that this officially licensed game has moved from its wheelhouse, storytelling, to the new depths of gameplay. The waters might be a little too deep for The Scout to stay afloat.

    The titular Scout is either Liam or Sophia (the player can switch between levels). These young mice are betrothed, and whoever the player does not control has just finished scout training. The player character begins the game by interacting with the Scout Corps and clearing the final scout tests. The first level plays like the notes on character backgrounds a writer might make before starting a novel. All scouts have their own relationships to the others, and they will happily tell the initiate mouse about them. It’s unrealistic in the way of adventure games. The player has a list of people, events, and locations to ask each mouse about, and conversations play out without anything like a natural flow. That’s okay, though. This first segment can be completed, according to the end-of-level screen, in twenty minutes. I spent about three hours talking to mice, reading mail, and performing the scout tests.

    The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Large amount of worldbuilding text and dialog; good voice acting
    Weak Points: Brief; available moves don’t support stealth and platforming well; reloading the area, such as after a death, does not reset the world correctly; the player mouse can clip through walls
    Moral Warnings: Some blood shown; drinking discussed and shown

    The tests themselves were hit-or-miss. The jump controls were a bit imprecise, and the lack of fine control made the sneaking test difficult. Still, the use of a map and sextant/compass to find collectables was solid and interesting. Despite the kid-friendly setting, this is a game that will use the word “azimuth” and trust the player to understand what it means, given the context. I admire that. The Scent system might be clever if it was used for creative purposes. As it is, the scents floating around are primarily for the player to track enemy movement and to give the player another way to be spotted and caught. After all, rats have a sense of smell, too, and can track the scout if the latter is standing upwind. Scents, along with small herbs and foodstuffs, can be collected for no in-game benefit I could discern.

    I’m spending so much time on the first level because it showcases all the gameplay systems. It is also, without doubt, the best part of the game. Once pirates attack and actual enemies must be avoided, things start to go wrong. For example, the second level requires tailing a few pirates. If they detect the scout, they might never return to their route to continue the level. When they get close enough to the player character, the scout is caught and the last checkpoint is reloaded. Nothing of the capture is shown; the world just resets. Except it doesn’t quite reset. The pirates might still be in an alert state, preventing the level from continuing. Sneaking itself is difficult since the scout is able to do little but tiptoe or sprint. There’s a slingshot used to distract enemies, which I found useful once. The last level is a running chase unlike anything the game requires before. I got lucky that the chasing rat stuck himself on a fallen barrel, allowing me to walk through the rest of the level. The brief time spent escorting civilian mice was remarkably functional. If that sounds like faint praise, you might not realize how poorly most escort missions are implemented.

    The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    The game is presented well. The simple graphics fit a fantasy setting. It’s unfortunate that the underlying pixels show through on occasion, and walls are not always as solid as they pretend to be. The music, while not exceptional, sets the tone sufficiently. Sound effects are boring, but the voice acting is quite good. Gameplay, not design, is the major shortfall of The Scout. There are few moral concerns. Some blood is shown, and combat is discussed. Drinking and distilling make appearances, as those familiar with Redwall might expect. The worst of the language was an exclamation of, “Satan’s snout!”

    The story ends on a cliffhanger, with the implication that more chapters are coming. I would be interested in playing them, assuming they resume the story focus or give the player more stealth options. I suspect the first level felt so fun because it wanted to show off all the systems that will hopefully be used in future chapters. I do hope so. There’s potential here, but The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout doesn’t play to its strengths.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge
    Developed By: Infamous Quests
    Published by: Infamous Quests
    Released: January 26, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Point-and-click adventure
    Number of Players: 1 
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Infamous Quests for sending us this game to review!

    PC gamers in the 1990s may remember the old point-and-click adventure genre; from King’s Quest to Monkey Island, The Dig to Day of the Tentacle, these games offered a wonderful mix of exploration and puzzle solving that has never quite been replicated. Though the heyday of adventure games may have passed, there are still some new gems to be found in the modern era. For those wishing to relive an older age or introduce themselves to the genre, The Order of the Thorne: The King’s Challenge will certainly suffice.

    The Order of the Thorne: The King’s Challenge follows Finn the bard as he journeys in search for musical inspiration. To that end, he enters the Faerie Kingdom to participate in the King’s Challenge – a game of wits and wills devised by the Faerie King and Queen every ten years. This year, the queen has hidden herself somewhere within the kingdom; the first to find her will be crowned the victor. Though the winner of the Challenge is granted one request of the Faerie Court, Finn seeks only to compose the greatest ballad ever written – and live up to the legend of his father, a member of the ancient and mysterious Order of the Thorne.

    The King’s Challenge plays like a traditional point-and-click adventure game: you explore the world around you, finding and completing puzzles along the way to your final goal. The left mouse button moves Finn and interacts with people and objects; right-clicking examines whatever you’re pointing at. Though older games of the genre typically had a list of ways to interact with the environment – look at, talk to, push, pick up, etc. – The King’s Challenge streamlines the process by limiting you to a single interaction that changes depending on the target. The game doesn’t suffer from this lack of options, however, and Finn will always perform a suitable action where appropriate.

    Finn moves at a brisk pace, and right-clicking skips all travel outside of the usually-snappy screen transitions. The game world isn’t the biggest, but it’s varied in layout and appearance. The map fits together logically, and once you get your bearings, it’s easy to traverse to get to where you need to go. Much of your time will be spent in dialogue with other characters, each one having a wide array of conversation topics to choose from. Only a few are ever relevant to a puzzle, but it serves to add depth to the realm of Uir, where the game takes place. Dialogue can be skipped at any time, so there’s little time lost if you misclick or are simply impatient. In addition, a voiced narrator will describe objects and actions; these, unlike character dialogue, require a click to advance, which can be a little jarring at first.

    The Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Expertly captures the King’s Quest feel; great music; not too hard or too easy
    Weak Points: Short; little replay value
    Moral Warnings: Brief, non-fatal violence; generic faerie magic

    Finn will obtain a number of items, stored in an inventory that pops out when you move your cursor to the top of the screen. While there’s a disappointing lack of reaction when you offer other characters items they don’t need, using them on Finn usually provokes some unique response. In addition, as a bard, Finn carries a lute and can play songs; these are primarily used to solve puzzles or to draw more world-building reactions out of the NPCs. The lute has an optional gameplay element that amounts to a game of musical Simon: the lute menu has four strings with four segments a piece, and clicking on the desired song prompts you to play a series of notes by clicking the strings. Additionally, you can turn the game off and have Finn play the song himself with no player input, and using this “easy” mode has no negative implications.

    The biggest issue in the game proper is in its premise: while there’s nothing wrong with the story or the setting, the game can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be leisurely or urgent. Finn is pitted against six other contestants, all of which are purported to be fierce competition, and the game will sometimes remind you that you can’t waste time. However, all six of your opponents are varying degrees of incompetent, and in the few times you see each of them, they are getting sidetracked, confused, or making aggressively poor decisions. There is a single instance of a competitor appearing in the world proper looking for the queen, and if there were more of this, it would go a long way to pushing the player along. As it stands, though, the game moves with little urgency, despite prompts to the contrary.

    Other than that, there is little fault to find in the game’s mechanics. Subtle hints will push the player along if they appear stuck, and the game never becomes unwinnable. In the worst case scenario, the old “use every object on every person” trick will work with no downsides. Puzzles make sense and require no leaps of logic, but are not mindlessly easy. The addition of the lute adds a lot to the game’s open-endedness. There are many objects to examine, each with their own unique narrative blurb – almost too many, as the narrator has something to say for every useless pile of rocks on every screen. Superfluous narration is a bit of a problem – entering the tavern or the monastery in the main city of Crann Naoimh prompts the narrator to declare that you’re entering the building every single time, which is not only pointless but breaks the flow of the game. However, most of the game proceeds at a good pace, with little to bar your path outside of what was intended.

    The game’s presentation seeks to capture the old King’s Quest feel, and does so perfectly. The graphics are practically straight out of King’s Quest V, and is especially appreciated with the current indie game trend of nondescript 8-bit styles. Most characters have high-quality portraits to accompany their dialogue, with each one animated to a slight degree. There are a few instances where the game zooms in on Finn and another character, giving this portrait-level quality to the whole screen, and are always a treat to see. There are a handful of more overt nods to the King’s Quest series hidden throughout the game as well. The whole game is a brightly-colored, well-defined throwback to an earlier time, and is all the better for it.

    The Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The music, fitting for a game about a bard, is of high quality throughout, with many varying themes depending on location and nearby characters. Finn’s lute songs are all distinct and pleasing on the ears. Every character is fully voiced, and the voice actors do a good job of portraying each one. The weakest voice, oddly enough, might be Finn’s due to some odd intonation, but it is by no means bad. There are a few audio errors, mostly limited to some lines cutting out too early or a mishap in editing together separate lines into one text box. These problems are few and far between, however, and as a whole the game is a pleasure to hear.

    Unfortunately, despite all of its presentation, the game is very short, probably lasting no more than five hours. Being a static puzzle game also means that there’s very little replayability. The ending heavily hints at a sequel, and one can gather than The King’s Challenge is the first in a planned Order of the Thorne series, but for now it’s just a single short game, though certainly an enjoyable one.

    Morally, there are barely any problems to talk about. Finn can get attacked and knocked out by wild animals in one section of the game, but there’s no lasting damage and no real fight scenes anywhere. There’s mention of some generic faerie magic, and you see it used a few times throughout the game. As with any fantasy bard worth his salt, Finn’s music is essentially magical in the way it can enact change, though it’s all of the non-violent variety. The game is generally clean, classy, and mostly friendly throughout.

    In the end, The Order of the Thorne: The King’s Challenge hearkens back to a time when video games were slower paced and more thoughtful. Those looking to explore a good-looking landscape, play a competent puzzle game, or simply sate their nostalgia will find what they’re looking for here. Some might find the $9.99 price tag might be a little high for such a short game with such little replay value; for fans of the genre, however, the game is practically a must-buy at any price.

    -Cadogan

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Shivah: Kosher Edition 
    Developed by: Wadjet Eye Games
    Published by: Wadjet Eye Games
    Released: November 22, 2013
    Available on: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $4.99 (Steam) $1.99 (Android)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you, Sofox, for providing a gift copy of this game!

    "A goy came up to Rabbi Moishe to ask, 'Why do rabbis always answer with a question?' To which Rabbi Moishe replied, 'Why not?'"

    The opening lines to "The Shivah" are not just a Jewish joke, they hold a key element to the gameplay of this point-and-click adventure. "The Shivah: Kosher Edition" is an update to the original game released in 2006, which helped to launch the career of game developer Dave Gilbert and, eventually, the studio Wadjet Eye Games. Gameplay is similar to the original release, only with updated graphics, voice acting, and availability on modern devices and operating systems, including Steam.

    In the game, the player steps into the shoes of Rabbi Russell Stone. The rabbi has been struggling with his temple, as his sermons have been alienating a lot of his congregation. As the bills pile up, he seriously considers giving up on his calling, his temple – and possibly even his faith. In the midst of his despair, he gets an unwelcome visitor – a police detective. Apparently, a man named Jack Lauder, a former member of Rabbi Stone's temple, has been murdered, and in his will, he left the temple $10,000. However, Lauder hated Stone, since the rabbi wouldn't officiate his marriage to a non-Jewish woman eight years previously. Being a suspect for Lauder's murder, Stone decides to do some investigating to find out why Lauder left him the money. Before too long, Stone uncovers a plot of murder, betrayal and faith that will test his own beliefs. 

    The Shivah: Kosher Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting story, good voice acting; thought-provoking
    Weak Points: Extremely short; graphics could be better
    Moral Warnings: Language; violence

    The graphical style of the game is similar to a lot of adventure games popular in the mid-to late-90s, with pixellated figures, and even the text has a highly-pixellated appearance. The portraits in the game are well done, though, with the character's expressions changing depending on their mood and dialogue. Conversation choices alternate between direct lines and attitudes, including a "rabbinical answer," in which Stone will respond to a question with another question. Questions are a key part of playing the game, and often is the best way to learn things that will progress the narrative. The game also includes numerous endings, four of which result in achievements. It is possible for the rabbi to die at several points in the game, which is a change for many adventure games of these days. A player will have to be clever and pay close attention to what's happening in order to avoid an early demise or getting stuck in the game.

    Most of the gameplay consists of a typical point-and-click style, with the exception of accessing computers. To log in, the player will have to type in the proper user name and password using the keyboard. While having to guess a password may stump some players, the game contains an abundance of clues to figure out what the passwords could be. Altogether, the puzzles are not terribly difficult, and the game can be completed in two or three hours, including all the game-ending achievements. There are a few other achievements that are trickier to uncover, but with the short length of the game it shouldn't take too much experimentation to unlock them all.

    Even though the game is short, it does contain an intriguing plot and interesting implications about the nature of faith, especially for those who are called to be religious leaders. It's a big responsibility, with a lot of temptations. Without trying to give away any spoilers, it does raise to mind questions about the nature of spiritual leadership, and the narrow path that needs to be followed. Does one try to adhere to the messages that God tries to give us, even if it makes a leader unpopular? Or should one sacrifice his or her own ethics or standards as laid out in the holy scriptures in order to maintain a position of comfort? In this respect, the messages of the game goes beyond Judaism, and could apply to any religious leadership.

    The Shivah: Kosher Editions
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
    +3 points for providing a good moral lesson

    In this reviewer's opinion, this actually touches a bit on one of my criticisms of the game – even though it focuses on Judaism, it didn't seem Jewish enough. I think it would have been a fascinating way to explore the faith and the cultural elements. The game could have featured a Baptist or Pentecostal or Latter-day Saint leader without much in the way of substantial changes.. But perhaps that was the intention of the author – even though the faith may have been non-Christian, it really isn't all that different from some of the aspects that other religious leaders face, including temptation, corruption and despair.

    There are a few moral concerns to the game. Language issues do occur several times in the game. "Hell" is mentioned several times, as well as both "b-" words. Nothing stronger than that, and the references to God are done in a non-blasphemous fashion (e.g. "Would God approve of your actions?") A few people can be killed in the game, including at Rabbi Stone's hands, if the player so chooses. Blood is depicted as square red pixels, but that doesn't make the murders any less shocking. Finally, the police detective is seen smoking, and a portion of the game does take place in a bar.

    All in all, "The Shivah" is a fascinating, but short, adventure game. To play the game, questions must be asked, and after the game, many questions still remain. Not so much in the game itself, but rather in the player's life and their own spiritual journey. And really, isn't that the ultimate goal of an artist? To create a work in which the viewer is left to wonder about their own nature, or the world around them and their place in it? This brings to mind another question that often comes up in this industry – can video games be considered "art?" In my opinion, because of its thought-provoking nature, "The Shivah" should certainly be considered one of the examples placed into this category.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
    Developed by: Telltale games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release Date: December 20, 2016
    Available on: Android, iOS, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

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

    While I haven’t watched the TV series that Telltale’s adventure games are based off of, I have played and enjoyed the previous two games.  It was quite a ride watching Clementine grow up in a world overrun with zombies.  In these two episodes, she’s grown up quite a bit and is still quite clever.  Sadly, she’s developed a sassy attitude with a foul mouth to go along with it.  Granted life is bleak in in this dire world, and bad attitudes are commonplace.  It was a pleasant surprise to find some characters who appeared to be Christian and offered to keep my character’s family in their thoughts and prayers.

    Clementine isn’t the main character in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier; that position is filled by Javier, whose life was forever changed after the death of his father.  While Javier was late to his father’s passing, he arrived in time to see his resurrection as a walker and turning some of his family members into zombies after biting them.  Since then Javier has been on the run with his niece, nephew, and his brother’s wife.

    The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: New characters are brought into Clementine’s life
    Weak Points: Previous characters killed off in flash-back scenes; episodes are only an hour long apiece
    Moral Warnings: Intense violence as you're smashing in zombie heads with whatever tools/weapons you have available; excessive profanity with f-bombs and blaspheming; sexual references and advances made; one of the characters smokes marijuana and offers you some

    Javier and his family are barely getting by, but they are survivors and they are sticking together despite some personality conflicts.  His sister-in-law Kate is not the best stepmother as she openly smokes marijuana and offers to share it with Javier while the teenage kids are in the back of the van.  On a van ride to scrounge for supplies, Kate and Javier openly talk about the difficulties of raising teenagers and how “boners and bloody underwear” changes them.  When it comes to parenting, Kate tends to be the strict one while Javier is the laid back and cool uncle/father figure.  

    Javier is a good negotiator, but sometimes violence is necessary, especially when running into territorial and trigger happy humans.  Like many other Telltale adventure games, you'll have to quickly press the Q and E buttons to dodge and land attacks. Episode one mostly deals with Javier getting separated from his family and trying to desperately reunite with them.  During his time apart, he runs into Clementine who isn’t very trusting, but at least she’s not too quick to pull the trigger.  

    Besides walkers, many characters die in this episode including some from previous seasons who are offed quickly in Clementine’s flashbacks.  Everything is rather fast paced in these two episodes that only last about an hour apiece.  The character deaths in this episode give revenge as the only reason for living for a couple of the characters.  Not only is this attitude not ideal, it is not Biblical either

    The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 32%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Given the amount of blaspheming in this title, chances are high that the characters in this game are not regularly reading their Bibles.  Other issues worth noting is the amount of blood and gore.  There’s a scene where you must help in the process of removing a bullet and it’s pretty intense. I had to look away from my screen a bit.  The groaning and screams from the patient were believable.  As always, the voice acting is top-notch.

    Like other Telltale adventure games, the choices you make impact how the story progresses.  Many of the responses have a time limit and if you do not answer in time, your response will intentionally be silence.  There is a point in the game where you are a hostage and are told to keep quiet, and even if you do remain silent, you will still be scolded for talking.

    While the writing isn’t as good as the previous two seasons, I still enjoyed it.  Since the episodes are only an hour in length apiece, I cannot recommend paying full price for a shorter game that does not uphold the quality of its predecessors.  Please consider the violence, gore, sexual references, drug use, and intense language before picking up this game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Walking Dead: Michonne
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Telltale Games
    Release Date: February 23, 2016
    Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for intense violence, strong language and sexual themes
    Price: $14.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

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

    While I haven’t seen the TV show or read the Walking Dead comics that Michonne is based off of, I have enjoyed Telltale’s previous Walking Dead entries.  While these games have an adventure game feel to them, there is plenty of action with timed responses for dodging attacks from hostile humans and zombies or responding to questions to make a good impression.  The choices you make determine the game’s story progression and after completing this hour and a half episode, your responses will be compared to everyone else’s. 

    The previous Walking Dead games were longer with five episodes, but this mini-series is only three episodes long. The price is adjusted accordingly at $15 for the entire game.  Those who are familiar with the previous Walking Dead games will know to expect lots of language and blood spilled.    In this episode there was plenty of language with f-bombs and using God’s name in vain.  While no sex scenes are shown, there is an implied relationship between two male characters.

    The Walking Dead: Michonne
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great story that changes depending on the choices you make
    Weak Points: Short with lots of quick time events/button mashing; confusing interface for setting the resolution
    Moral Warnings: Lots of hacking, slashing, and decapitating zombies with blood spraying everywhere;  strong language including the f-bomb and taking the Lord’s name in vain 

     

    Michonne knows how to wield her machete and doesn’t hesitate to lodge it into the skulls or necks of bloodthirsty zombies.   After killing endless zombies and losing loved ones, she’s wondering why she should even bother living anymore.  One of the first choices a player can make in the game is to use her last bullet on herself.     Other choices the players can make is to encourage fighting, killing, or sparing the lives of different characters in the game.  

    When somebody dies in this game, it doesn’t take long for them to turn into a zombie.  The only way to finish them off is to damage their brain with a bullet, pipe, sword, or any blunt object.  It’s always tougher to put down a character that you got to know a little bit. 

     

    The Walking Dead: Michonne
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 46%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - -7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    A good majority of this game takes place on boats which you would assume would be safe from walkers.  I was surprised to see zombies moving about underwater, but they do in this game!  Sadly, it’s not just zombies that you have to worry about.  While some of the people are kind hearted, many of them are desperate to do whatever it takes to stay alive.   

    While the game ran great for me, I did run into some confusion on how to adjust my screen resolution.  In the graphics menu I was able to set the game to full screen (it's windowed by default) and max out my screen resolution.  However, I didn't see any way to apply my settings after I changed them.  After going back to the previous menu and going back to the graphics options, my changes were lost.  The solution is to go back to the previous menu and then back to the main menu before the game prompts you to save your settings.  It's not very intuitive, but it works. 

    Overall, The Walking Dead: Michonne is a fun but mature game that should not be played anywhere near children due to its graphic violence and strong language.  Those who enjoyed the previous Walking Dead games will appreciate this miniseries.  Despite being shorter and having more quick time events than its predecessors, it has a solid story and likeable characters to reel you in.  

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    The Walking Dead: Season 4 - The Final Season
    Developed by: Telltale Games
    Published by: Skybound Games
    Release date: August 2018-March 2019
    Available on: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for intense violence, blood and gore, strong language
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Skybound Games for sending us a review code!

    It was a sad day for gaming when Telltale Games unexpectedly announced that they were closing down in September of 2018. Their popular choice driven adventure game series include Batman, The Wolf Among Us, Minecraft Story Mode, and The Walking Dead. At the time of the announcement, only half of the final season was completed. Thankfully, Skybound Games assisted in finishing up the series so gamers could get some closure on Clementine’s story.

    When the series began, Clementine was just a kid trying to survive in a zombie-infested world. The world was in a post-apocalyptic state with food, transportation, and fuel being hard to come by. Especially for a child. Lee was the main character who took Clementine under his wings and taught her valuable survival skills including how to shoot a gun and keeping her hair short so the undead (or living) could not easily grab it. Unfortunately, Lee got bit and Clementine had to make the hard decision of choosing to kill him before he turned or let him become a mindless animated corpse.

    If you’ve played the previous games, you can import your save/choices and pick right up where you left off. If you played the previous games on another platform, you’ll be asked various questions on what decisions you made in the previous seasons so everything lines up properly in the dialogue.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story and characters; great voice acting and visuals
    Weak Points: Took a while to fully release due to Telltale’s sudden closure
    Moral Warnings: Extreme violence with dismembering and blood spraying everywhere; most of the killing is in self-defense but  there are some instances of murder, every curse word is used along with some blaspheming; the Bible is referenced but pages from it are used for making cigarettes; the story revolves around undead beings and the afterlife (or lack thereof); same-sex dating option available

    Season 4 begins with Clementine caring for a young AJ that she’s known since he was a baby. In the ruined world, these two are forced to grow up pretty fast and have to not hesitate when it comes to killing walkers. On their search for food and shelter, they ultimately wind up at a schoolyard that is run by its former students. There are no adults in this community and Clementine and AJ fit right in.

    As welcome as they feel and finally happy to call somewhere home, everything is not as it seems. When a big secret is about to get exposed, there is some bloodshed and both Clementine and AJ are back where they started, except this time, without a car!

    While on their own, they meet up with a “walker-whisperer” named James who is convinced that walkers are harmless as long as you smell like one of them. Instead of outright killing them, he prefers to distract them by throwing a stone elsewhere to make a noise that will lure them away. With all of the gore and bloodshed, I’ve always welcomed a non-violent option of getting the walkers off of our trail. With that said, I disagreed with him on the zombies having any sentience.

    There’s some discussion on the afterlife and some of the characters are convinced that the dead go to a better place and don’t go into much detail other than that. Leviticus is referenced, but only because those are the pages used in making cigarettes for one of the characters. God’s name is used in vain and there isn’t much reverence for Him in this game.

    The Walking Dead: Season 4 - The Final Season
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 36%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Every curse word imaginable is used and Clementine is asked in a card game which three characters she’d like to marry, *uck, or kill. In the list of names is a female. Depending on how you interact with one of the same-sex characters, you can start a romantic relationship with her.

    I like how I was able to influence AJ’s upbringing and help him atone and make good moral choices. Some of the decisions I made led to character deaths though. I don’t recall seeing an undo button but I’m curious how things are resolved with different choices. Replay ability is an option for sure! I like how your decisions are compared with other players and most of the time, I was with the majority.

    If you are squeamish around blood, then this series is not for you. You’ll have to bash in zombie skulls, hack off their limbs, and even remove shrapnel from living people you care about. Some characters you develop bonds with may die or become a walker depending on the choices you make. The story, voice acting, and visuals are all top notch in this series. Quality-wise I couldn’t tell where one studio left off and the other took over.

    For those looking for closure on The Walking Dead Series, this season finale is worth picking up. Morally, it’s just as violent and curse ridden as the previous games. Pro-LGTBQ gamers will rejoice at the inclusion of a same sex relationship despite the human race being on the verge of extinction.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature
    Developed By: La Belle Games, ARTE France
    Published By: ARTE France
    Release Date: October 30, 2019
    Available On: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android (coming soon)
    ESRB Rating: Teen
    Genre: Adventure
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $15.99

    Thank you ARTE for sending us this game to review!

    I have never had the chance to read Mary Shelley’s original work, Frankenstein, but having played this game now, I am more curious than ever to read such a seminal work such as this.

    The Wanderer: Frankenstein's Creature is a retelling of parts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, from the perspective of the Creature. It is an interactive adventure, where you point and click where you want him to go. It also supports touch screens, which I found to be a much better control scheme if you have it available. There are occasional choices, which helps define what kind of person you want the Creature to be.

    The first, and most obvious thing you will notice when starting a new game is the abstract art style. While the game does become more and more grounded as you go, there is definitely a fair amount of ambiance, both aurally and visually, that is quite striking. (A high-quality monitor, as well as high-quality headphones, will significantly improve your experience.)

    The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very artistic presentation, with stylish art and music; thought-provoking story with multiple endings; works really well with a touch screen
    Weak Points: Automatic, chapter-level saves only, with loading resetting you to the beginning of the section you are on; short (but replayable); no way that I noticed to speed things up, especially on replays; works better on a touchscreen than with a mouse (both are functional though)
    Moral Warnings: You can choose to be violent; Church and Christians shown in both a positive and negative light; mention of ancient gods and goddesses like Poseidon and Amphitrite; existential and prejudicial aspects of humanity dealt with; word 'h*ll' is used appropriately

    As you make your way out of your mostly-white starting environment, you finally awake in a beautiful forest, where both the joys and perils of life on Earth await you. You get to experience the beauty of the greenery around you, as well as the darker aspects of life, like suffering and death. Eventually, you come to realize how different you are, on both a physical and metaphysical level, and come to wrestle with some very deep and existential issues, like how does a unique creature live in God's world? What responsibility does your creator have towards his creation? And many more.

    It's interesting, because how you choose to interact with the world strongly affects what kind of person you become. You can be violent, or not. Selfish, or helpful. And so on. It's a pretty fascinating journey, that deals not only with the issues previously mentioned, but also others, including acceptance and depression.

    I found the moral aspects of this game quite difficult to evaluate. It's interesting, because the Church is shown in both an incredibly positive light - the Creature becomes a Christian, after all - and also in a negative one, since even Christians reject the Creature when they see him. There is discussion of the ignorance of adults, and the innocence of children; the violence of humans and their eventual rejection once they lay eyes on a creature like this. You can also choose peaceful and violent responses to difficult challenges. There is some blood, though most conflicts do not involve it. I have not noticed curse words. There are outlines of naked males and females, but little more on that front. There is (minor) theft on occasion to drive the narrative forward, like stealing an encyclopedia to learn the local language.

    The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content/Nudity - 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    There are references to demons and devils, and references to the Catholic terminology, including Mass, crucifixes, and for Mary (calling her mother of God). Jesus and the Bible is clearly referred to, as mentioned above; you have opportunities to deal with religious symbols, including righting a crooked crucifix. The classic poem 'Paradise Lost' is directly referenced in the story. There are also references ancient Greek mythology, like Amphitrite, Poseidon, and other gods and goddesses.

    From a technical perspective, it works quite well on everything I ran it on. Whether it was a high-end PC or a smaller computer with integrated video, I had no performance issues. The user interface does seem to prefer a touchscreen over a mouse and keyboard, though both do work once you get the hand of it. A mouse or touchscreen is required; the keyboard is only used for a few puzzles, and optionally so.

    The Wanderer: Frankenstein's Creature is a really fascinating story told in an adventure game format. At first I wasn't sold on this; I thought the ultra-abstract art was a big turn-off for me. But, as I went through more and more of the game, I came to really appreciate it, and came to love the story of the Creature more and more. The main downside I can see is that different endings require you to start over, since reloading a save, other than to continue, is not possible. So you may have to replay the game several times to see different endings. While this is not a very long story, it does offer some replay value, even if most of the game to get to them are largely the same. Despite the short length, if you are looking for something that will really make you think, especially if you haven't read the original story, then I would highly recommend you check this title out. It surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Given the length and price, I would recommend at least adding it to your wishlist.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Tick's Tales
    Developed by: Digital Bounce House
    Published by: Phoenix Online Publishing
    Released: June 9, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac OS X, SteamOS
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $7.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you, Phoenix Online Studios, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    Tick has his heart set on the girl of his dreams, Georgia McGorgeous. In order to win her over, he figures he needs to do something outstanding – like become a knight! So he sets out on a quest to draw the Sword of Blergh from a stone. Will he be able to accomplish this quest?

    That's up to you to decide in this debut game from Digital Bounce House. This adventure game is presented in an 8-bit style. You control Tick as he explores his surroundings and collects items in typical adventure game format. The cursor changes color to indicate something he can look at or pick up. He uses a backpack to carry his motley inventory. He has several dialogue options when speaking to others in the game. It's all familiar territory for those experienced with adventure games. 

    Tick's Tales is written with a sense of humor, but most of the jokes elicited no more than just a wry smile from me. Although amusing, I've seen funnier. I think part of the problem I had is the way Tick goes about his quest. He's striving to become a knight, but in order to complete the puzzles, he needs to lie, cheat and steal – actions you would not expect from a virtuous knight. In addition, he's never really punished for these actions, nor does he seem to learn to be good. In fact, the only remorse he seems to show in the game is when a knight is to be executed for something Tick did earlier in the game.

    Tick's Tales
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Slightly amusing story; familiar interface; no crashes
    Weak Points: Annoying sound effects; crude graphics; railroad plot
    Moral Warnings: Tick must lie, cheat and steal to proceed; one creature explodes; shallow motivations

    His quest seemed shallow to me as well. He's trying to become a knight to win the heart of Georgia McGorgeous, but aside from his pining for her, we don't really know if she is the type of girl worth pursuing. What if she has no interest in him in the first place because he has a tendency to make trouble wherever he goes? I had difficulty getting into the game simply because I couldn't agree with Tick's motivations, nor his methods.

    The music is done in an 8-bit style and isn't too bad... except for an odd popping sound that occurred at intermittent intervals, for no apparent reason. The sound effects are sub-par, though, and in some cases even annoying (such as the times when Tick is trying to avoid throwing up – which is frequent). There is no voice acting to speak of, and the dialogue is presented through colorful sentences which occasionally obscure parts of the screen. As I mentioned above, the graphics are presented in an 8-bit style, which is a throwback to early adventure games. The close-up cutscenes are rather unimpressive, though. In addition, the screen has an odd tendency to sway, for some reason. Fortunately, it's possible to turn this off in the "options" menu.

    Tick's Tales
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The game also is remarkably short. I completed it in around three hours. Some of the achievements are tricky to obtain, but the puzzles aren't too complicated. The average person should be able to complete the game in three to four hours, including all the achievements. But since there are no alternative endings, and only one way to proceed – sometimes in a fashion that seems more like a railroad plot – there is little reason to go back to the game once it's finished.

    I've already mentioned some of the moral considerations. The only other thing I would point out is that one of the creatures does explode into bloody chunks, but the remains do not stay on the screen afterwards. However, there are no foul words or sexual situations in the game, so for the most part it is pretty clean.

    Tick's Tales was created by one person, and for a beginning effort it is pretty good. But when compared to the other adventure games on the market, it falls woefully inadequate on many levels. Still, I hope that the developer learns from his missteps and uses the experiences learned from this game to create something greater down the road.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Torn
    Developed by: Aspyr
    Published by: Aspyr
    Release date: August 28. 2018
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESB Rating: Teen for language, partial nudity, fantasy violence, alcohol references
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Aspyr for sending us this game to review!

    Katherine Patterson is a video blogger who stumbles upon an abandoned (and condemned) mansion. Looking for a good scoop, she breaks into it and starts exploring. Naturally, she gets trapped inside and must go forward. The previous owner, Dr. Lawrence Talbot, was a mad scientist who made some amazing discoveries. He left behind lots of equipment and contraptions that need to be activated to unlock the secrets hidden within the mansion.

    Though Katherine is pretty smart (you control her after all), she won’t get very far without some help. It’s not too long before you stumble upon a moving flash of light that talks with a British accent. By listening to this light, you’ll be able to solve the various puzzles and get to converse with the mind of Dr. Talbot.

    Besides getting the story of your life, your goal is to assist Dr. Talbot by restoring his memories and determine what happened to his wife, Rina. To collect memories you’ll have to trash the rooms by turning every object over. Some objects have symbols on them and you’ll have to keep them for the various circuit puzzles.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great immersion and fun circuit puzzles
    Weak Points: Only 5 hours long; surprise ending; slow movement and the ability to get stuck in walls
    Moral Warnings: Language and blaspheming; homosexuality; smoking and alcohol references

    Throughout the game you’ll be using a wand-like device that can grab items and illuminate circuitry on the walls and ceilings throughout the mansion. Most of the circuits are incomplete and you’ll have to put the correct pieces in that will connect all of the necessary wires.

    Movement is done via locomotion and is a bit slow, but it works. I did not experience any motion sickness while playing this title. It is possible to move through a wall on accident and your view will literally black out. Moving around randomly should get you out of that scenario.

    I really enjoyed the puzzles and story up until the end. Torn is an excellent example of how an adventure game should play in VR. With that said, this game is extremely short at five hours and the $30 price tag is a bit much in my opinion.

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

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 62%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

     

    The ending totally comes out of left field and has moral issues that cannot be discussed without spoiling it. The death of one of the homosexual characters is being investigated throughout the game. The cause is revealed at the very end along with a a another bombshell.

    Other than the spoiler content, you can expect to find alcohol and ashtrays around the mansion. There is some cursing (d*mn, *ss) and blaspheming. Aside from the foul language the voice acting is really well done. The background music is exceptional too.

    Though the production quality of Torn is good, I’m torn recommending it due to its length and moral issues. If you find it on sale it’s worth checking out if you haven’t read the spoilers.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    TSIOQUE
    Developed By: OhNoo Studio, Smile
    Published By: OhNoo Studio
    Released: November 7, 2018
    Available On: PC, macOS, plays very well on Proton
    Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: $13.99 on Steam

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

    TSIOQUE is a point-and-click adventure game about 5-6 hours long, and it follows a young princess, Tsioque, who is the titular protagonist. Her mother, the Queen, has left to go out and fight a monster that is causing trouble outside of the castle, and poor Tsioque (who is revealed to be so young she is illiterate) is left alone. Her father is never mentioned. However, there is a wizard who was left behind in the castle as well, and he is entrusted with keeping the castle in order. But he’s been formulating a plan of taking it over, and he implements it once the Queen is gone by locking up Tsioque in the dungeons, which is where the gameplay itself begins.

    The gameplay is quite simple, and as I’ve found, it works very, very well with touchscreen (possibly better than without it). The controls are simple, and that means there’s no need for a controls menu. Thus, there isn’t one. The player merely uses their mouse to navigate the game’s world, to interact with it, and to progress the story. The menu is found by clicking on the gear on the top right corner. The player’s inventory (bag) is on the bottom right corner, and is always visible, unlike the menu button (gear), which renders itself invisible whenever the mouse cursor moves away from it. There are also different cursors to indicate what the player can do upon clicking an object, which are pretty self-explanatory. Every time the player clicks on something that is not supposed to be touched yet, Tsioque shakes her head to indicate that it shouldn’t be touched yet.

    TSIOQUE
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very interesting and captivating story; engaging, interesting minigames; puzzles are challenging enough to be fun and easy enough to not be frustrating; great music and voice acting; very visually pleasing art style; forgiving workflow
    Weak Points: It’s not always obvious what you’re supposed to do next, so you might get stuck trying to figure that out
    Moral Warnings: The player has to brew a potion (the game calls it an elixir); at one point the player has the possibility of getting eaten (no blood shown); the Evil Wizard puts the castle in danger; a slight amount of necromancy that show up for a few seconds; bathroom jokes; protagonist is temporarily abandoned by mother, who never shows up in-game; father is never mentioned; crystal ball in menu and Wizard’s office; generally, all magic stays within the fairytale realm

    Occasionally throughout the game, there are a few story sequences where the gameplay itself stops and is temporarily replaced with a storybook-like scene. There is one at the beginning to give the player some background info, one in the middle, and one at the very end before the credits. The storybook sequences are written in a poetic format, and are read aloud with stellar voice acting. There is a bit of background music during these scenes as well. It has a dark theme and helps support the voice acting exceptionally well, dramatizing it perfectly.

    The puzzles in TSIOQUE are the perfect level of challenging, and the story is fast-paced and exciting. Timing is quite important in these puzzles, and this heightens the excitement in them. However, if the player does manage to make a mistake and fail a puzzle somehow, they will merely restart the puzzle, wherever that may be, which serves for a very forgiving workflow. (There is no blood, but sometimes the deaths can be very brutal.) There are some more interactive ones as well, such as sewing, putting puzzles together, picking the right key to unlock a door, among others.

    The graphics in TSIOQUE are stunning, as the art in it is hand-drawn animation. The audio is also incredibly good, as the voice acting throughout the game is spot-on, and any extra noises blend perfectly with any other background noises. The music is dark, but fitting for the game’s theme, and everything complements each other.

    There are some things in TSIOQUE that are morally questionable. For example, there is some gross humor in it, the most prominent example being where there is a guard who needs to go to the bathroom quite badly, and part of that puzzle is to give that guard an opportunity to go. Drunkenness is also somewhat visible in the game, as there are several guards seen drinking beer as the player makes their way through the story.

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

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The most prominent thing, though, is the magic. At the beginning, the Evil Wizard is seen performing a bit of necromancy on some skeletons, but said necromancy doesn’t appear anywhere else in the game. There is an invisibility blanket that repeatedly shows up throughout the gameplay. There is also a magic bag that the player has to pick up and fix, and they use it as their bag for the remainder of their time playing TSIOQUE. At one point, the player has to gather the ingredients for a potion (the game calls it an elixir) and brew it using a special machine. There is also a crystal ball on the title screen menu and in the Evil Wizard’s office. However, the in-game magic usage is not based off of any religion that I know of, and generally stays within the boundaries of a fantasy setting.

    If you are looking for a story-centric point-and-click adventure with a touch of darkness, then TSIOQUE is the game for you!

    - Kittycathead

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Unearthing Mars VR
    Developed by: Winking Entertainment
    Published by: Winking Skywalker
    Release date: March 27, 2017 (PSVR) June 22, 2017 (PC)
    Available on: PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence and language
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

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

    Phobos is in pieces on Mars and you’re part of an expedition team to find out what happened there. After traveling for nine months, the trip is delayed even further due to a sandstorm taking place on the Red Planet. The ship’s captain, Katherine, is getting impatient and wants to head down ASAP.

    You’re the nameless co-pilot and get tasked with some menial requests to complete on your descent to Mars. If you complete all of the tasks successfully, you’ll get a Steam achievement for doing so. Out of the thirteen Steam achievements available, I earned twelve of them. I’m not sure what I did wrong in the game to lose one of my crewmates throughout my journey though. Other than going back to save them, there isn’t much incentive to replay this game due to its linear story.

    Unearthing Mars VR
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Neat premise and environments
    Weak Points: Short and linear story; easy puzzles; dull voice acting and the lip-synching doesn’t match the audio when the characters talk; wonky controls
    Moral Warnings: You have to shoot some hostile aliens; language (hell, d*mn, sh*t) and blasphemy

    There are ten chapters and you can play them in any order and how often you like. The chapters are pretty short and I was able to complete this game in less than two hours. Most of the time Unearthing Mars VR plays as an adventure-style game, but there is a level where you have to shoot down aliens from a first-person perspective.

    Unlike most adventure style games I’ve played, the puzzles in this title are very easy to solve and took little effort in doing so. When you’re asked to do something, the appropriate spot is highlighted and easy to find. The only time this was not done was when the commander’s oxygen was running low and I had to fumble around the ship in order to quickly find a replacement.

    Even with the chapters being short, I was thankful for the checkpoints in the level where I had to drive the rover vehicle. It took me several attempts to get to the waypoint without tipping over the vehicle or getting it stuck in a crater.

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

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 69%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Though the controls are well explained, they are poorly implemented. Oftentimes one of my hands would disappear in the game though the buttons and functions would still work on my controller. Controlling the rover was a bit difficult at times; perhaps it was the same issue there too.

    The environments looked pretty neat and the visuals were decent but a tad outdated. The audio was definitely subpar with the disappointing voice acting and the mismatched lip-syncing didn’t help either. On a positive note, the background music was good.

    There is some cussing (hell, d*mn, sh*t) and blaspheming. Though aliens are shot down, there isn’t any blood.

    Despite the downfalls, I still did enjoy my journey on Mars and look forward to checking out the sequel. Because this title is so short, I would recommend holding off for a sale before picking it up.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Where Water Tastes Like Wine
    Developed by: Dim Bulb Games
    Published by: Good Shepherd Entertainment
    Release date: February 28, 2018
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Adventure
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for strong language
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Good Shepherd Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    You’re a wanderer who happens to stumble upon a card game with mostly bad players. Other than yourself, there is one other worthy opponent who is dominating the table’s winnings. When you get a great hand, you bet all of your winnings and quickly discover that it was a mistake. You’re now indebted to the mysterious character who gives you a job to pay him back. Your goal is to wander around and collect stories, watch them evolve, and string together the greatest tale ever told.

    The default mode of transportation is walking, and it’s slow. Other than the moral issues, that’s my biggest complaint about this game. Thankfully, there are ways to get around faster including whistling to pick up your pace (slightly), hitchhiking, and taking the train. Walking is the only way to have control of where you’re going as the other two methods don’t let you stop at locations to gather stories or sight see. I had some issues with the controls for hopping into a car while attempting to hitchhike. Half of the time, the car would drive away as I was trying to enter it.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent voice acting and background music
    Weak Points: The graphics don’t scale very well and look bland; walking around is extremely slow and boring; poor controls
    Moral Warnings: Every curse word is used including the F-bomb; blaspheming; occult symbolism and various religious practices are described; blood is not seen but referenced during a voodoo ritual; frontal nudity; unethical options; gambling

    Places of interest will have an icon over them. Be sure to check them out to discover new stories or hear retellings of ones you’ve been spreading. It’s fascinating to watch the stories evolve and change like is done in a game of “telephone.” For example, there’s a man who only grows and shares molasses. That tale quickly changes to him only eating molasses.

    The stories are often narrated and have great voice acting. They usually involve you in one way or another. Sometimes they're violent and you're injured during the experience. Oftentimes you’ll have a decision to make which will impact the story’s ending. For example, you’ll come across a dying man who hands you two coins to place on his eyes. You can either honor his request or take the money and walk away. There's a lot of variety in the tales and they're quite engaging.

    Your character has some basic needs like sleep, money, and food. These needs can be met at big towns. In them, you can pan handle or seek out temporary employment. The town stores will be happy to sell you the local specialties. Many cities have a story to collect as well.

    As you explore, you’ll find campfires to join. The campfires move around and have different characters in them. There are about a dozen or so characters to meet and hear their life stories. They will also ask for you to share a specific story genre with them. If you meet their requirements, you’ll gradually open their eyes and they will level up. As they level up, their appearance will change and their story will conclude after a few levels. Their life story can be shared with other campfire characters.

    Where Water Tastes Like Wine
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 42%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 1/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    The stories you collect are stored in a card-like inventory system. Some of the icons and card decorations are worth talking about. One of the card backgrounds features a pregnant woman whose belly is painted like the Earth and her chest is uncovered. Pentacles also appear on some of the cards.

    Various religions are depicted including Native American Indian beliefs, witchcraft, and a voodoo blood offering. One of the characters, Jimmy, is a preacher who talks a lot about his faith. Blaspheming still occurs and every other curse word can be found in the dialogue as well, including the F-bomb.

    I was not impressed with the graphics in the map view. The resolution options are limited and they don’t scale well on bigger monitors. The campfire and story scenes look decent though.

    The background music is really good and I like how it changes for each region you’re in. Sometimes it abruptly cuts off without fading out and can be a bit jarring. Some of the songs are in Spanish, but most of them are in English.

    If you like stories and storytelling, Where Water Tastes Like Wine may be worth picking up if the moral issues don’t bother you. The asking price is $19.99, but I have seen it for as low as $4.99 on sale.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Winds of Change
    Developed by Tall Tail Games
    Published by Tall Tail Games
    Released on August 21, 2019
    Available on Linux, macOS, Windows
    ESRB Rating: None
    Genre: Visual Novel, Point and Click Adventure
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $19.99 on Steam

    Thank you Tall Tail Studios for sending us this game to review!

    Winds of Change takes place in the fantasy world of Alestia, where all characters are anthropomorphized animals and fantasy creatures with humanoid bodies, or, in simpler terms, furries. The protagonist is born with a special ability to see the future, and therefore labeled as a Seer. Their country, Valinorth, is secluded from the rest and is the only one who still believes in the spirit realm and “spirit idols.” It is from these idols that the Seer received their ability. The Seer also has a Scribe, which is their assistant in interpreting visions. This role introduces the protagonist’s childhood friends, Valessa and Fortaime, the former being the Scribe, and the latter being the Scribe-in-training.

    The Seer can, however, be a Seeress. The game gives the player the option of choosing between being a male or a female character, and they can even enter in a name to go by. There is no restriction to this, as it is literally a space for the player to type in a name.

    While Winds of Change is mostly a visual novel, there are point-and-click aspects to it as well. There are several areas where the player is free to explore their surroundings, and they can pick up books explaining the lore of the world. During these explorations, there are also typically options to socialize with other members of your party, as a sort of party system is used. It’s not a strict party system, but it dictates the characters the story focuses the most on. Depending on the area they are in, sometimes the player can talk to others. They can learn more about the area, and some of its history from the more knowledgeable ones. There’s also “Heart-to-Heart Conversations,” which are the most opportune times to develop romantic relationships with all of the characters in your party. Sometimes, there’s “Party Banter,” which is when they talk to each other, and the player can view these scenes playing out. There’s also “Parallel Chronicles,” where it focuses on antagonists and those not yet introduced to help contribute to the story. All of these are optional, but encouraged heavily by the tutorials and tips provided as the story goes along.

    Winds of Change
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Stunning English voice acting; high-quality art; fitting background music; amazing writing; engaging and interesting story; great point-and-click interface; can define protagonist’s personality freely
    Weak Points: Several typos scattered throughout; a few instances where the voice lines didn’t exactly match up with the on-screen text, and were off by a word or two; no drawn background scenes; crashed a few times; when clicking through the story parts, a character’s face sprite is shown for a split second when the speaking character changes; very rarely when you click ahead too fast, two voice files play at once; no matter how you approach the purity and corruption system, the ending stays practically identical
    Moral Warnings: Constant references to drinking and alcohol; in-game romances don’t have to be straight, and the player can therefore flirt with any and all characters they interact with; a little bit of light swearing; implied sex, nothing shown or described; tons of described gore, nothing actually drawn; possession of dead bodies; character is given an opportunity to cross-dress

    As for the story itself, there are tons upon tons of choices, but only ten or eleven of them actually matter, because of the existence of the “Purity and Corruption” system that is in place. Each of the important choices affect the purity and corruption trackers by ten percent, and they are all indicated by a notification bar at the top saying, “This choice will affect the future of Alestia.” These are the only choices that change the course of the story, all the way down to the basic plot line. The other choices will only truly affect the interactions that are made with the other party members in individual conversations that happen during the exploration of the world. However, even the important choices do not affect the route very much at all, as there is really only one ending. The so-called important choices only determine which characters are involved, who dies, and the degree that they are involved.

    The protagonist has no voice acting, or even a speaking text box. There are several occasions where the player has the opportunity to choose how they respond to a greeting, each one with a different symbol next to it, to show the different personalities or moods that they represent. Their face is never shown, leaving their looks up to creative interpretation. Some scenes only have one possible response to a situation, and even then it’s shown as a button that needs to be pressed. However, the lack of description for looks and personality allow for the player to define their own personality for their protagonist, which is an approach that seems to be quite uncommon.

    As Winds of Change is a game about a war, there is lots of described blood and gore. None of it is drawn, but the details are very specific in the writing. Surprisingly enough, there are only a few light swears ever uttered, which were h*ll, d**n, and suck. As a sort of relief from the stress of battle, there are also several scenes where the characters are in a tavern, and sometimes those scenes are inevitable. One of the romance routes can only be fully achieved when drinking with that character. The scene is started with the first Heart-to-Heart Conversation with that character, and is finished in the second one, when the player character enters their dorm and they drink a little bit more before the writing implies that they had sex. Nothing is shown, or described, but it says something along the lines of “We let out our passion.”

    When I was playing through Winds of Change, I noticed a few things that ruin the otherwise clean polish shown throughout. There are several typos displayed in the text spaces throughout the course of the story, and even an instance where the writers didn’t know how to spell a word properly, and seemed to be unaware of their mistake. (The word was “pendant,” and they wrote it as “pendent” in-game.) Every time the speaker switches, a flash of the first character’s face sprite appears for just a split second before switching to the new one’s sprite. There were also a few lines that were recorded slightly differently than what was shown on-screen. Once or twice, there was a line that used the male gender pronoun, and I was playing a female character. The line on the screen, however, used the proper pronoun. It also happened the other way around once too. A few times, I clicked too fast and two voice files played at once.

    Winds of Change
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 45%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The background music is very fitting for the style of the game, and all of the art is very high-quality. The story is written very well also. However, there are very few sound effects outside of the voice acting, and there are plenty of moments where said sound effects could have been implemented.

    Winds of Change isn’t completely stable, either. Saving and loading is slow, and if the player clicks around too much, the game will crash. There was also a time when it crashed on its own. Hopefully these issues will be fixed in a later patch, and the developers will continue to bug-fix until it’s at polishing perfection.

    All in all, Winds of Change is a great game for anyone looking for a good story or just a furry visual novel. It’s not a kids’ game in any way, shape, or form, but the general high quality shown makes Tall Tail Games one of the better English visual novel developers on the market.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Yesterday Origins
    Developed By: Pendulo Studios
    Published By: Microids
    Released: September 29, 2016
    Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Windows/MacOS
    Genre: Point and Click Adventure Game
    ESRB Rating: M
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $14.99 Digital on Game Website

    Thank you Pendulo Studios for the game!

    Yesterday Origins is the prequel/sequel to Yesterday, a point and click action adventure game developed by Pendulo and released back in March of 2012. This explores the background to John Yesterday, and what happened to him after the prior story. Don't worry, though, you don't need to have played the prior game before playing this one it is its own self-contained adventure and story. Suffice it to say, I had no idea this game was even a sequel to any game until I was writing this review. This did not take away from my enjoyment of the game at all, if anything it makes me want to play the original game to get more of the character of John Yesterday. There are clues scattered throughout that lean back towards the original game, such as achievements for using prior character names among other nods that I was confused about but upon learning it was a sequel gave me a huge light bulb moment!

    Speaking of light bulb moments, this game is filled with them. The game is ultimately a puzzle game and the times I finally figured out a puzzle was worthy of celebration in and of itself. For the record, I am terrible at them. I enjoy them for the most part, though. The game is narrative-driven so each puzzle will help you move on to the next chapter of the story. There are six in total and they can vary in range based on how quick witted you are in regards to the puzzle. If you know what you're doing, it'll take about an hour or so per chapter. It took me an hour to figure out what to do in regards to the first puzzle, my biggest hint would be click [i]every[/i] option. Make sure you don't miss a single one because that will be your last resort to get everything together. It might take the longest, and sometimes you'll just intuitively figure it out, but sometimes you just gotta rely on your brute forcing.

    Yesterday Origins
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting art style, interesting story
    Weak Points: Buggy towards the end, can get really annoying if you haven't played in a while and can get lost, slow start
    Moral Warnings: Mentions of pornography, strong language, blood and gore, sexual themes, violence, occult imagery

    The gameplay feels rather standard run of the mill when it comes to a point and click style game; playing it for the PlayStation 4 it took a while to scroll through some options. I'd have to press down on the directional pad and wait for me to go to the option I desired. Sometimes, it just went straight where I needed it to, however that wasn't all the time and it [i]did[/i] start to get on my nerves after a time. Other tiny annoyances were at times during the later part of the game, it would glitch and I was unable to talk to anyone to advance the story so I would have to restart my game. During interactions sometimes you will want to click on something but the selection highlights two options, or the controller might be a little on the lightweight side and quickly switch to an option because you tapped the joystick a bit too hard, but in regards to the dialogue options the controller worked for me rather well.

    The sound design in the game however, is phenomenal and I actually could just let it play in the background just for the music alone. It's ominous and really aids in setting the tone for the rest of the game. I'm also just a complete sucker for that kind of music though. The music really helps bring you into the world and is honestly what kept me going because I enjoyed the music enough that I wouldn't even realize how much time had passed. Although sometimes that wasn't for the best, but it was certainly good enough to keep me invested in the story. The voice acting did feel a little off at times, but sometimes I wonder if that was intentional at times. In one particular case near the end, John's girlfriend sounds a bit air-headed but I am certain that was intentional. There was another part where John tells someone to scream as if he was actually being tortured, but the person supposedly being tortured is just stuttering quietly. Not enough to take me out of it, since I had to run through that room enough times for me to be incidentally okay with him not screaming at the top of his lungs all the time.

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 32%
    Violence - 2/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10
    +3 for having the option to forgive someone who has wronged you

    Something to always keep in mind when it comes to narrative driven games are the characters. The characters in this game do not feel weak in the slightest, each one having distinguished goals and recognizable personalities. You can even control how the characters act and feel in regards to each other. There's a fight between the main character and his girlfriend at one part and something I personally enjoyed is that you could argue for both, and the game gives a hefty dose of repentance opportunity. I wanted to take that option but the game thought I meant to say I hated the guy, so that was relatively annoying.

    The morality of the game is rather dark overall, a lot of cursing, occult imagery, being called the Son of Satan. The hero character, in a past life, had been engaged with a woman in extramarital affairs and had nearly convinced the woman to run away with her. The affair seemed to come of the husband's lack of sexual prowess, which is seen as something unforgivable and not something that she should work through. During this life, he was actually a monk for the church in Ireland. So he was a priest who was cheating with the local noble lord's wife. He gave her a ring to show his love for her before they planned to run away together. During the beginning, to showcase your girlfriend's immortality, she kills herself in the bathroom.

    Playing as John Yesterday, who had been called the Son of Satan, the moral issues of this game are vast and numerable. The occultism spread throughout the game among the murders, blood and gore, cursing, among many other things, I cannot bring myself to justify recommending this game to my fellow believers. The game itself, however, is enjoyable and watching the mysteries unfold is rather entertaining.

    -Dabuddah453

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About Us:

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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