enfrdeitptrues

Puzzle

  • Game Info:

    Dragonester
    Developed By: Tritrium
    Release Date: March 2010
    ESRB: Not rated
    Available on: PC
    Single Player
    Genre: Puzzle, Strategy
    Retail Price: $9.95

    System requirements
    • OS : Vista32/ 2000/ XP
    • CPU : Pentium3 500Mhz minimum
    • RAM : 512MB Minimum
    • More than Available 100M bytes HDD
    • DirectX 8.0 or Higher

    Thank you Gamers Gate for sending us this game to review!

    Dragons and humans have co-existed for a while. Your town flourishes by harvesting dragon eggs and selling them to warriors so that they can raise loyal dragons to fight in the war. There are five dragon variations and you’ll be harvesting eggs from the red, green and blue dragons. At the very end of the game you can create and sell silver dragon eggs. There are also black dragons, but they are evil and will attack and destroy the dragon nests if you don’t move them away in time.

    There are twenty levels and they grow gradually harder as you progress through them. When you first start you only have to worry about selling eggs and repairing nests that get worn out after a lot of use. As the war continues the dragons get involved and they start getting picky about where their nests are. On top of gathering eggs and repairing nests you now have to move nests around so similarly colored dragons are next to each other. Enemies, pirate ships and evil dragons will appear and when you shoot them down, you collect black gems.

    Highlights:

    Strengths: Unique and challenging game play.
    Weaknesses: Dated graphics, annoying controls.
    Moral warnings: Violence but no blood.

    These black gems can be combined with large dragon eggs to make red, green and blue gems. These gems can later be turned into diamonds which are key to creating silver dragon eggs. To make the large eggs, gems, diamonds and silver dragon eggs you need the proper buildings in place. The game gets really complicated towards the end when you have to shuffle dragons around, repair nests, fight off enemies, collect eggs, make gems, create diamonds and silver dragon eggs, and you have to do all of it simultaneously!

    When you complete a level there are three different ranks (gold, silver, bronze) you can receive depending on how quickly you were able to meet the objectives. The higher your rank the more money you receive. Money in this game is used to improve upon the technology to make the eggs, gems and diamonds faster. Reloading your ammunition costs money as well.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score: 74%
    Game Play: 15/20
    Graphics: 6/10
    Sound: 7/10
    Controls/Interface: 4/5
    Stability: 5/5

    Appropriateness Score: 96%
    Violence: 8/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Language: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    You can purchase buildings in your town like a gun shop and a fortress. The gun shop sells weapons and upgrades. The fortress building lets you play challenge levels of varying difficulty. They are usually quick challenges like destroying a certain number of enemies within a couple of minutes. As you progress in the main quest some of the levels have prerequisites which require that your town buildings be upgraded. If you’re short on money you can make some more by replaying previous levels to get a higher rank or by playing some of the fortress challenges.

    There’s a statue in the town that lets you play ranked challenges. This is a single player game so you only compete against yourself and others who use your computer. You don’t earn any money on the ranked challenges.

    Graphically this game is a bit dated. It runs at a fixed resolution, 1024x768. If you have a wide screen monitor, the graphics will be stretched a bit. The 2D backgrounds and sprites bring back Super Nintendo memories. There are two main views in the game. You have the town overview and the playing level. Although the graphics are dated they do the job just fine. I just wish I could run it at a higher resolution.

    The background music is nice but a bit repetitive and the sound effects for the various guns are nice.

    The controls are all mouse driven. You have to drag and drop the nests, eggs and jewels where you want them. The scroll wheel is used to change gun types and the right mouse button is used for reloading. The controls aren\'t that good though - sometimes it takes a few clicks to actually trigger the reload process, for instance.

    With a price point of $9.95 or less there’s a lot of fun to be had here. It\'s a nice little game with plenty of replay value. You can replay the main levels to try to get higher scores, or try to complete all of the fortress challenges or play all of the ranked challenges. If you can multitask and enjoy puzzle games, check out Dragonester.
  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Epic Word Search Holiday Special
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Release date: October 6, 2016
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $7.99

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

    With its dual screen layout the 3DS is ideal for word find puzzles.  Lightwood Games has released several word search type games for Nintendo and mobile platforms.  Epic Word Search Holiday Special is the third in the series and features five massive puzzles with roughly fifteen-hundred words hidden within fourteen thousand characters.

    There are five themed puzzles and only two of them are holiday related.  Besides the Halloween and Christmas puzzles there are others based on love, summer and monsters in general.  While the monster themed puzzle has all of the horror movie monsters covered, I was pleasantly surprised to see ones included from Pokemon and Dr. Who.  Since those are trademarked names they’re referred to as “Catch them all” and “Doctor ?”.   

    Epic Word Search Holiday Special
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of themed words to find
    Weak Points: Pricey compared to word find books
    Moral Warnings: Alcohol, Halloween, demon, and goddess references

    Each of the puzzles has several related puzzles combined into one.  Each section has color coded letters and sometimes the words will span across multiple sections.  Because the puzzles are so huge, you’ll have to use the circle pad to navigate and gain access to different sections.  The words to find will appear on the top screen and will change as you scroll across different sections of the puzzle.   

    Words to find will be frontwards, backwards, and diagonal.  Not surprisingly, the backwards and diagonal words are harder to locate. The words themselves vary in length and many of them I was not familiar with.  Selecting them is done by dragging and selecting the words using the bottom touch screen.    

    Epic Word Search Holiday Special
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Progress is saved automatically and the percentage found for each section can be sent via Street Pass if you want compete against other word search enthusiasts.  Because of the simplistic visuals, this game is quick to load and is ideal for short gaming sessions.  The background music is pleasant to listen to and consists of public domain classical music tracks.

    Like most word searches, Epic Word Search Holiday Special is pretty clean and suitable for people of all ages to play.  There are Halloween and demon references in the puzzles that you would expect to find them in.  The love themed puzzle has alcohol references in having you find words like pub and brewery.  The word hookup is also in that puzzle.  On a positive note, the Christmas puzzle has many words from the traditional hymns along with the secular songs.

    In the end, Epic Word Search Holiday Special is sure to entertain those who love word finds.  It’s not for everyone though.  If it wasn’t for the Pokemon puzzle my kids would have little interest in this title.   Those that do get into the game will sink several hours into it so for them it’s a pretty good bargain.  For everyone else, stick with the $0.99 paperback books.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Escape Lizards
    Developer: Egodystonic Studios
    Published by: Independent
    Release Date: April 10, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle, Action
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $ 15.99

    Thanks Egodystonic Studios for sending us a review code.

    Physics puzzle based games will either be great or horrid; I have never found a in-between yet. Escape Lizards is one of those games that wound up being a terrible experience. It has potential, but when it's marked down by control issues and bad camera, I should not give participation points. This Is Escape Lizards.

    Escape Lizards puts you in charge of rescuing the young of lizard clans hunted down by vile eagles. You do this by rolling lizard eggs along different courses from start to finish. You can change the gravity of each course to find different planes to roll on with the left and right bumpers. Each course also gives you a limited amount of times you can jump with your egg. On each course are a number of coins that you collect to unlock new worlds. Every world has a time challenge as well, when you beat stages within a time limit you win stars that aid in unlocking worlds. You also have the option of smashing eagle eggs in each course; doing so will unlock new skins for your lizard eggs.

    Escape Lizards
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: It has the potential to be a creative take on a old idea of rolling a marble down a course
    Weak Points: The Controls are horrible and half the time you try to solve these puzzles while fighting with camera movement
    Moral Warnings:None

    The biggest problem with this game is the controls. The camera has an option to shut off up and down inverse controls yet not left and right. The game also forces your controller (if you use one) to have a dead zone. The keyboard controls are not better, you'll still have a problem controlling the egg. You don't directly control the egg by the way, you tilt the stage itself to move it. When you tilt the world to move the egg, the camera will move without you wanting it. This will only further aggravate you as you try to play the game. Sometimes a dead zone can make a controller feel more responsive yet that's not the case.

    This game relies on the way you tilt the stage as well as controller movement. When you look at other games that consist of rolling a ball down the course, the controls are tight for a reason, with minimal to no dead zone. Without controlling the egg itself, the game only becomes more frustrating when your controls over the world are either extremely sensitive or unresponsive. Part of this game's challenge is fighting with your own controls.

    Escape Lizards
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 36%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 1/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Escape Lizards doesn't have a lot going for itself. The graphics consist of background images while you roll around on the low-res stages. The UI is extremely cluttered and only serves as a distraction. The music is just small 10 second jingles on loop. I will give some credit to this game for a new approach at a marble rolling game. It gave me the feeling of those cheap marble ball mazes in the toy aisle. Yet those marble ball maze toys are also the kind of thing you pick up for a niece or nephew when you forgot their birthday. That's all this game really is, a last minute birthday gift.

    Other than the very lightly encouraged murdering of eagle babies, you won't find moral issues with this title.

    Escape Lizards is a game filled with a rolling sense of disappointment and waste. It might be fun for a few people, yet it will just be another game on Steam's release list.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince
    Developed by: Gamera Interactive
    Published by: SOEDESCO Publishing
    Released: December 12, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E (Mild Fantasy Violence)
    Number of players: 1
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you, Gamera Interactive, for providing us with a review copy of this game!

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince takes a mechanic that has appeared many, many times before. You control one character, and the other character mirrors your movements. If you go up, the other ones goes down. You go left, he goes right. It's an elementary puzzle element that has appeared in many other games, including the Legend of Zelda series.

    Where Fearful Symmetry differs is that it takes the idea and forms a whole game around it. The screen is split into two portions. You control the character on the left, and the character on the right mirrors your movements. The characters do not have any life points- if one of the characters falls into one of the many traps or monsters, then both are defeated and the level is lost. You will have to start again from the beginning. Fortunately, the levels are pretty quick to solve, and while some do require quick reflexes to get through, most rely on careful thinking and trial-and-error gameplay. There aren't any random elements to the game, so once a solution is discovered, it will always be the same solution for that character.

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting puzzles with a variety of solutions; fun premise; cute graphics
    Weak Points: Typos and grammatical errors; short game; lackluster music; annoying sound effects
    Moral Warnings: Characters disappear upon death; undead references; female character wears midriff-bearing outfit

    There are three characters to choose from. The first one, and default, is named Hero, and he doesn't have any special abilities. The other two need to be unlocked: Haim, who has the ability to teleport one square away in the direction he is facing; and Nulan, a sorceress who can light things on fire. The main levels can be solved with all three, and with their different abilities, different solutions can be found with each character. Unfortunately, sometimes the solutions are too easy with certain characters. Some of the bonus levels require the use of specific heroes. There are more than 30 levels to complete, and 46 Steam achievements to unlock.

    The graphics are reminiscent of the SNES era and looks a lot like some of the creations using RPGMaker. It comes as a surprise that the game was designed in Unity, a platform more commonly used for 3D gaming applications. The game looks great, but some of the controls when using the keyboard feel a bit stiff. There have been many times when my character refused to move, even when pressing firmly on the arrow buttons, which led to a frustrating death. These errors did not occur when using a game controller, though. The music is largely forgettable, and some of the sound effects annoying. I also came across one bug where a puzzle locked up while one character was stuck, walking in place, and the game refused further input until I returned to the start menu. Other problems I discovered were occasional typos and grammatical errors, and a vague storyline that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

    Fearful Symmetry and the Cursed Prince
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    There are a few moral issues, but they are minor. When the character gets killed, they often spin around and vanish in a puff of dust. The sorceress Nulan wears an outfit that bares her midriff, but the graphics don't provide too much in the way of detail. Finally, some of the enemies are undead creatures, including creepy-looking hands extending from the ground.

    Fearful Symmetry is an interesting puzzle game with some intriguing challenges. The graphics are pleasant, but the story is lacking. The game also is fairly short – it can easily be completed in around 8 hours, possibly less. It is a pleasant diversion, but I recommend waiting for a sale.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Fifty Words by POWGI
    Developed by: Lightwood Games
    Published by: Lightwood Games
    Release date: September 5, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Switch
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $7.99

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

    Word searches are a fun way to kill some time. Fifty Words by POWGI provides sixty puzzles for your solving pleasure. Each puzzle contains fifty words in various directions (forwards, backwards, upside down, and diagonal). The sixty levels are all themed, so solving ones unfamiliar to you may be trickier. The good news is that there are very few wasted letters so most of them (if not all) will be used.

    Unlike traditional word searches, these puzzles are all over the place and are not in the typical rectangular shape. Another feature is that each found word will be highlighted in a randomly chosen color. The end results are very colorful. The colors seem to change for every level so there is some variety in that regard. You can customize the color palette if desired.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of word searches to complete; colorful
    Weak Points: Not really innovative
    Moral Warnings: Rock and roll, alcohol references

    When a puzzle is completed, the time taken to solve it will be saved and you’ll be shown a goofy pun as a reward for your efforts. One example is “I love vegetable puns. They make me feel good from my head tomatoes.” Though you can improve your solving time by redoing a puzzle, the quality of jokes can’t be helped. On average, the puzzles took me close to seven minutes apiece to complete.

    I love the portability of the Switch and being able to play this game on the go is a plus over the PS4 version. You can always resume a puzzle if you have to leave before finishing it. The touch screen is also convenient for selecting the words. The Joy-Cons work just as well though.

    Overall, the interface is easy to use and navigate. I like how you can switch it to a dark theme if you prefer that over the default light one. There are no hints in this title. As long as a letter is still solid black, you’ll have a use for it later.

    Fifty Words by POWGI
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The background music is upbeat and familiar. I’m quite sure I’ve heard it in a previous title from Lightwood Games.

    Morally this game is pretty clean though it should be noted that some puzzles have questionable words and themes. There’s a rock band puzzle that has the Buzzcocks as a word to highlight. There’s also a dating themed puzzle that has the words cocktail, bar, and wine in it.

    If you enjoy word searches, Fifty Words by POWGI has got you covered. It’s colorful, but not ground-breaking. This $7.99 title is bound to keep you entertained for a few hours. Though it has some questionable words, it can be enjoyed by puzzle lovers of all ages.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Fjong
    Developed by: VaragtP
    Published by: VaragtP
    Release date: September 11, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price $1.99

    Thank you VaragtP for sending us this game to review!

    Fjong and his friends are bird-like creatures who cannot fly but wish to do so. If they consume a magical candy, they can float in the air like helium balloons. In order to reach this magical candy, they’ll need your help flinging them there Angry Birds style.

    Surprisingly, Fjong is not available on mobile devices though its control scheme, simplicity, and star leveling system are very similar to most Android/iOS games out there. Mouse controls are available for those without touch screen monitors, but my son and I preferred touch controls. However, some of the levels were very frustrating even with touch controls.

    In total, there are twenty levels and each of them have a couple of Steam achievements that can be unlocked for them. Depending on how many flings it takes to get your creatures to their candy, you’ll be awarded up to three stars. If you have a perfect level, you’ll get a purple star. Steam achievements are earned for each level with a purple or a three star rating. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll be tapping the retry icon for every two and one star attempt.

    fjong
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute graphics; small file size; lots of Steam achievements
    Weak Points: Only twenty levels; frustrating controls
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    At first, you’ll only control Fjong, but later on in the game you’ll have to manage his red and yellow friends too. Each creature flings differently so you’ll have to take that into account. They all have different body shapes and some can fit through places that the others cannot. Many of the levels have pressure plates that need to be triggered in order to open up the bucket filled with magical candy. A few levels have obstacles like cacti to avoid at all costs.

    The thirteenth level was very frustrating for me and my son. This level has a rotating platform that takes some effort to fling the creatures onto in time. As annoying as the rotating platform is, the biggest issue with this level is the touch screen controls. When trying to control one creature in close proximity to the other, the wrong bird is gets moved and tallies up precious movement points. As a result of these poor controls, earning a three star rating is quite challenging.

    Other than frustrating people of all ages, this game is clean enough to be played by anyone with enough patience.

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

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    Visually this game is very colorful and cute. The vertical screen layout is better suited for tablets and phones than widescreen desktop monitors. The black borders didn’t bother me as I’d rather see those than mess around with switching my screen to a vertical alignment.

    With a meager install size of 18MB, I wasn’t expecting much visually or audibly. The sound effects and background music are soothing. The creatures make cute noises and I like the cheering upon completing a level.

    In the end, Fjong is a simple game that won’t take too long to complete if you’ve got the skills and patience for it. It can be a great way to rack up Steam achievements. The asking price is $1.99 but I have seen it much lower during Holiday sales and in bundle packages.

  • Game Info:

    G: Into The Rain
    Released: Month day, year
    ESRB Rating: E 10+
    Available On: iphone, PC
    Genre: Realtime Puzzle
    Number of Players: 1
    online scoreboard
    Price: $.99

    We really appreciate it that Soma Games gave us access to a pre-release version of this game for review.

    G: Into the Rain is the first in a series which is planned to consist of four games: G, F, E, and Arc. This game sets the base storyline, and each future episode should expand on it. The premise here is that over the last 30 years, mankind saw a growing emptiness in the sky, as part of the heavens became obscured. Like a cloud covering the midday sun, they called it The Rain. As it drew near, they began to learn more and more of its nature. What started as fear soon became desire as nations and corporations saw wealth and power. Now that The Rain has drawn near, you are one of the explorers who will chart what riches lay inside. No one is sure what you will find, or how far you will go to find it.

    As an explorer, you can join one of ten different corporations set on exploring The Rain. When you start a campaign, you can also choose whether to play the tutorial, which I highly recommend. In addition to being shown the ropes a bit more for the first time through, you also get to hear more of the excellent voice acting, and the advice tends to be useful. It seems that this setting effects whether or not you hear at least some of the dialog, though I did not complete a second play through with the tutorial off for all of the specifics.

    Highlights:

    Pros: Works on virtually any computer made in the last 10 years or so; works great for short play sessions; storyline is progressed through surprisingly high quality voice acting; lots of replay value if you\'re trying to get the high score
    Cons: Scope is limited, though what it does it does well; only 50 levels
    Moral Warnings:None to speak of; there are missiles which explode on impact

    This game is all about reconnaissance, though not against an enemy force. Your job is to fire one or more rockets and \'ping\', or fire off a locating signal, near selected points in the sector to help locate precious resources. Speaking of precious resources, you are rewarded based on how few you use to accomplish your task.

    When you launch a rocket, you first set the angle, the launch impulse, and the burn duration. Launch impulse affects how much fuel you use to launch, and therefore the speed, and the burn duration affects how long it burns. You can also use trim thrusters to help guide your rocket towards its target. Physics are mostly Newtonian, so it doesn\'t take much force to keep moving in one direction and inertia strongly resists changes from thrusters. All of this is done on a 2D plane.

    Sounds simple, right? Well, not so fast. If it was just about shooting a rocket at points of interest, it would be easy. But instead, this \'G\' seems to be for Gravity. Gravity plays a huge role in this game. There are several heavenly bodies, both large and small, that are often encountered on a mission. These can be both a help and a hindrance, as your rocket is subject to their gravitational forces, so a rocket can arc any which way as it\'s attracted to all bodies nearby.

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

    Game Score - 84%
    Game Play 15/20
    Graphics 9/10
    Sound/Music 8/10
    Stability/Polish 5/5
    Controls/Interface 5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Another tool given to you later on, as the gravity puzzles get more grueling, is the multi-stage rocket. In the early levels, you set your launch impulse and duration, and that\'s that. Later, you can set up to three separate launch impulse and durations, once for each stage of the rocket. After the first stage, all adjustments occur mid flight in real time, so it becomes more and more difficult to reproduce flights with those tiny variations needed to get that last resource. Fortunately, you don't have to get all resources in one flight; you can use multiple rockets if necessary to reach your goal to tag them all.

    The flight mechanics are convincing, and it\'s fun to watch your rocket fling around the screen, and even off the screen as potentially large rotations occur while attempting to ping your targets. There are also achievements that you can earn depending on how you accomplish the task at hand.

    The graphics are all drawn in nice detail. Not a single graphic is annoying to look at, and it is well polished. It\'s all 2D art, so while it can get a little pixelated at very high resolutions, it overall works well, and even works on the slowest netbooks. The sound effects are very nice and convincing. I especially like the voice acting, as it brings a real character to the game. The music, while appropriately moody and ambient, does get repetitive after a while, and I found myself wishing for some variety here.

    From a Christian standpoint, this game is squeaky clean. I guess the only thing I can think of is that the companies that hire you out seem to push you farther and farther into The Rain, even at great risk. Nevertheless, it's nothing I feel the need to deduct for. The founder of Soma Games is a Christian, and he has the story of the company he started at http://www.somagames.com. While this game doesn't really have a Christian message per se, it offers a fun game play experience and a level of polish that many games lack. Great work here!

    G: Into The Rain is a game that is smart in so many ways. It takes a simple game concept, adds an impressive back story, adds layer upon layer of polish to make it a game to be proud of, and keeps the game within the scope of what a small independent studio can do, and charges the ridiculously low price of $0.99 for a copy each on both the PC or iPhone. What can I say? While it\'s certainly not the best or most mind blowing game I\'ve played, it\'s certainly fun, and it\'s a puzzle game that gets you thinking. It also offers a high score leaderboard online if you\'re the competitive type. And it\'s $0.99. Consider picking this up if you\'re even moderately interested. It\'s in Apple\'s iTunes store for iPhone or iTouch, and it\'s available on Intel\'s AppUp center for Windows PCs.
  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Glyphs: Apprentice
    Developed By: inSPIRE Games
    Published By: inSPIRE Games
    Released: March 16, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: Single player
    Price: $9.99

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

    Glyphs: Apprentice is a puzzle game produced by inSPIRE Games, and if their advertising is anything to go by, they're determined to set your critical thinking skills ablaze. They warned all puzzle aficionados to bring their whiteboards and patience. At least, that's what they claimed you'd need should you enter their latest domain. So what kind of role are you playing in this supposed mental gauntlet? You're an aspiring mystic, studying sorcery in order to create the most potent spells ever known. . . . Oh, boy.

    So how do you conduct these spellbinding tasks? Well first, you need to pick a spell pattern. There are three difficulty levels with three Glyphs each. Each Glyph is made up of anywhere between seven to thirteen pieces, and each piece equals one puzzle. Do the math, and you'll realize there are about sixty-three of these things. Thankfully, the menu is a breeze to navigate. Just choose a difficulty, pick a glyph, then peruse the list of pieces. This format is very serviceable. It's in no way groundbreaking, but easy to navigate. Count your blessings, because you're going to be very thankful for that.

    Your goal in every puzzle is the same. On a graph, you must build an assembly line from a magic generator to an accumulator in order to transform energy balls into the specified shape. To fix up these light balls you are provided an endless supply of tools. Some change its inner shape. Some change its outer shape. Others can bind energies together in various thicknesses, but the tools you'll use the most are the arms. They alone can move energy spheres around and activate other tools. So far this all sounds fine and dandy. It certainly is nothing catastrophic. You know your goal and how to do it. However, you'll find the 'how' is going to wreck your resolve. All that ethereal machinery ain't gonna do squat by itself.

    Glyphs: Apprentice
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Beautiful Design Work
    Weak Points: Taxing Puzzles, Convoluted Gameplay, No Music
    Moral Warnings: Sorcery, Transgender Symbol Present

    When inSPIRE said you'd need a whiteboard to solve their puzzles, they weren't kidding. Do you like programming? If not, sorry. If so, good for you. You've entered the kiddie pre-lesson experience. Each arm is equipped with its own little grid where you need to insert a cornucopia of inputs into the empty slots. The colored squares you place will tell the arm how to move, when to move, and even when to pause. This bit right here is where the difficulty gets real. If energies clash, you fail. If two arms grab the same energy, you fail. On top of that, your mini manufacturing plant has to produce eight finished shapes in nonstop cycles. That last stipulation alone can ruin everything. If one, and I mean one little thing is off, it might work on the first revolution, but come the second lap, it all falls apart and takes a chain reaction of adjustments to fix . . . right up until a new problem crops up. It's daunting. I'd suggest heeding inSPIRE Games' advice and have paper and pencil on hand. 'Cause unless your memory is exceptional, you'll likely need your notes to keep your head on straight. I hadn't had to do that for a game since the Myst series. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on the person. I myself enjoy a good challenge, and the creators definitely didn't skimp on their promise. They get points for honesty.

    However, Glyphs gets unnecessarily nasty thanks to its convoluted layout. The learning curve is steep, like cliffside steep, and it can take hours just to solve the easy puzzles. The more I played, the more I bemoaned its lacking ease of access. You can't readily double check your work on other arms, so it forces you to jump hoops just to program a single arm. Thus, you'll mess up because you miscounted moves, forgot which arm activated what, or which way you had them twist/turn. You'll also wish there was a replay loop button able to isolate specific points in your plan, but no. Glyphs doesn't have that. It says, 'You want to figure that pesky middle part out? Nope. Start at the beginning. If you can't get past that? Too bad so sad. Fix me.' Not only does this sometimes bar you from making that one teeny adjustment that can fix everything, it also renders experimentation impossible. That really bites. Solving those algorithms is mind splitting enough. I shouldn't have fight the game just to test my ideas. Even the tutorial is exhaustive. It taught each tool's function but failed to explain a few input commands that could have saved me a few headaches. Now, I for one love puzzles. I love hard earned accomplishment. It's so satisfying to see my clockwork masterpieces clicking along, but when it's this twisted a labyrinth to actually play, it's a dreaded chore.

    Glyphs: Apprentice
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 54%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 1/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Okay, as for Glyphs' presentation: there is very little to talk about. It seemed nearly all of the creator's efforts were spent on the puzzles. Premise aside, there is no story. The game has one measly sound effect, and that's that. There's no music either. I really disliked that exclusion. Thus what's left is an environment with little to draw from or be drawn into. You'll be staring at those lists, manuals, and graphs the entire time, and it can come across as a bare minimum effort. However, this game's presentation has one saving grace: those spell patterns. They are gorgeous. I've never witnessed such an angelic display of glowing lines weaved with such artistic intent quite like this. The way that sky blue tinge adds a soft texture to those pure white wisps is an especially nice touch. Same goes for the tools and light energy you'll be using. The tiny tangled curves in their designs are all very pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, (aside from a couple game crashes) that's pretty much it. Sounds a bit hollow, doesn't it?

    Okay, so there's not a lot to see, nothing to hear, and the challenges are one step short of calculus. How are its ethics? Putting it bluntly, Glyphs won't be winning prizes in the morals olympics. First of all, there is a transgender symbol in the final spell pattern. That mars that part. Unfortunately, the second problem pollutes everything else. Magic is a tricky topic for Christians. Clearly, I'm not alluding to the likes of Houdini or rabbits in top hats. I'm talking about the bippidi-boppidi-boo, this glass will be a shoe, wand waving. Where does the line from fictitious fun to immoral spellcasting start and stop? Opinions vary wildly, but I find Glyphs cozies way too close to Wiccan philosophy for comfort. Its premise alone disturbed me. Throughout Scripture, God taught we were to seek and rely on Him in all things, but Occult and Wiccan practice is all about empowering self. It's in direct conflict. Sadly, Glyphs not only adopted this worldview but also used it to give players their main incentive. To flavor an adventure with fictitious pixie dust is one thing, but to glorify a sinful practice and its core teaching is another.

    It's about as hard to fully explain Glyphs as it is to play Glyphs. I truly admire the great lengths inSPIRE Games took to conjure up such a challenge (pun intended). How on earth they put it all together without melting their own brains I'll never know. Plus, the art it did have was truly lovely. Kudos to them, but I think they took their goals a bit too far. Puzzle diehards and aspiring programmers are bound to get their fix from Glyphs, but its extreme complexity can potentially turn off everyone else. If they just added or streamlined a few features, it certainly would have smoothed the ride. I'm sure with more time and practice I could get really into it. That is, of course, if I could ignore all that witchcraft its been smothered in. I won't say I was completely repulsed by Glyphs: Apprentice - just disenchanted.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    GNOG
    Developed by: Ko-op Mode
    Published by: Double Fine Productions
    Release date: May 2, 2017
    Available on: PSVR
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for crude humor
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Double Fine Productions for sending us this game to review!

    GNOG is a very unique musical puzzle game with colorful visuals and a mesmerizing art style. Playing in VR is optional, but highly recommended. At the time of this review this title is only available on PS4, but it’s set to come out on iOS and Steam later this year.

    There are nine puzzles that gradually unlock as you solve them. Each puzzle has a theme like the color purple, a candy store, a log, a rocket ship and so on. There are two sides to each puzzle and you can rotate them with the trigger buttons. There is a bit of a story to each one and you’ll uncover your goal by pulling levers, pushing buttons, plugging things in, flipping switches, and solving combination locks. There is no text so all of the combination locks use symbols.

    GNOG
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique art style and soundtrack
    Weak Points: Only nine puzzles which can be solved quickly if you’re good at them
    Moral Warnings: One of the levels shows you a bird regurgitating its food for its young, another level has you assisting  a robber in stealing from an apartment

     

    The puzzles are reasonably challenging and I was able to solve most of them on my own. For the couple that did stump me, I found some YouTube walkthrough videos to point me in the right direction. One of the combination puzzles had a 6 character password that I needed to jot down on paper the old fashioned way.

    When entering into a puzzle and solving it you feel like you’re traveling through a mystical portal. The visuals are vibrant and I like the art style. The music is exceptional as well and it's quite relaxing to listen to while exercising your brain.

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

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6.5/10

    While this game is safe for children to play there are a couple of things worth mentioning. One of the levels requires helping a bird feed its young by aiming its color vomit into the mouth of its hatchlings. Another has you helping out a thief stealing money and valuables from residents of a multi-level apartment.

    Like many PSVR games, I struggled getting my camera properly positioned as it would often move out of place. Even with my camera properly positioned I would sometimes get the “out of play area” error displayed. Both of these issues are not the developer’s fault but are part of the PSVR experience.

    All in all, GNOG is a neat PSVR title that I recommend checking out. Though the game is short, it’s worth the $14.99 entry fee for the mesmerizing experience it provides. The puzzles are just right in difficulty and you feel smarter for each one you complete on your own. If you like puzzles and VR, GNOG is a must-buy.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Gravity Island
    Developed By: ILIKESCIFI Games, Clement Willay Games
    Published By: astragon Entertainment GmbH
    Released: September 21, 2016
    Available On: iOS, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle Platformer
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $4.99 (Steam), free with ads (iOS)

    Thanks to astragon Entertainment GmbH for the review code!

    Did you ever capture fireflies in jars when you were younger? Were you ever sad to see them go when you finally released them? Did you ever get the urge to chase them down to the ends of the earth, stuff them into a lantern, and use them to light your house? If so, Gravity Island may be your ticket to fulfilling that long-lost wish.

    Gravity Island is a puzzle platformer centered on the simple premise of solving mazes while collecting Lumies. These little light-emitting creatures were the pets and lantern of the main character, a small white bear-like being named Shiro. When Shiro accidentally drops the lamp and all his Lumies fly away, he sets out to get them back.

    Gravity Island’s main mechanic is, predictably, gravity. Every level will have blocks with arrows on them pointing in one of the four cardinal directions; touching these will shift gravity as indicated, allowing you to walk on the ceiling and walls. Each of the game’s four worlds introduce a new gameplay element, such as springs or transporters, for you to contend with alongside the gravity. While the path to the level exit might be rather simple, making it there with all three Lumies in tow can prove to be more strenuous.

    Gravity Island
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Tight controls; engaging puzzles
    Weak Points: Short and easy; no way to see the full stage; some bugs
    Moral Warnings: Shiro becomes a ghostly angel when he dies

    The levels are generally well-designed, with your goals easy enough to plan out after some wandering. However, with no pause function and no way to see the entire level beyond what’s around Shiro, some later levels become less about planning and more about trial-and-error. Often, you will be presented with two or more paths, one leading to the exit and one to a Lumie, with no way to discern the two. If you happen to take the way to the exit, there’s a high possibility you will not be able to return to the junction, forcing a restart. In addition, while the game is usually decent in showing you obstacles like spikes on the road ahead, many of them are three or four gravity switches away. You’ll have to contend with the dangers immediately in front of you first, and then try to remember where the spikes were - while coming at them from a different angle. This leads to a lot of leaps of faith, cheap deaths, and otherwise needless restarts.

    Even though this is a rather large design flaw, it amounts to only a minor annoyance most of the time, as each level is short – most come in at under a minute, and a very rare few will take over two. The controls are near-perfect as well, both in responsiveness and layout: Shiro moves exactly as you command using the arrow keys and spacebar (or analog stick and A button on an Xbox controller), making the simple acts of running and jumping quite satisfying. With the level reset button on the enter key (or Y button) and easily accessible at all times, even repeated failures won't keep you out of the game for long.

    While these easy restarts do wonders for the game’s flow, they also highlight its longevity issues. Level difficulty is sporadic, with difficult levels occasionally followed by mindlessly easy ones, but completing the game with every lumie will only take around two hours. Though it tries to add some replayability by displaying the time it takes to beat a level, this doesn’t seem to be saved anywhere in-game – you’ll have to write your times down yourself if you’re aiming to beat them later. The responsive controls do make speedrunning a rather enjoyable affair, but the fun is entirely self-made in this case.

    Gravity Island
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

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

    Presentation-wise, Gravity Island is solid throughout. The levels themselves are rather samey, but the backgrounds are colorful and pleasant to look at – though spikes will occasionally blend in with the scenery. Shiro’s animations are a bit awkward, but competent enough. The tutorials are presented in cute sketches of Shiro performing the indicated action, adding to the game’s lighthearted atmosphere. The music is decent sounding but ultimately forgettable, being comprised of generic children’s cartoon-styled tracks, though the song for the final level stands out from the pack in a good way. The game is marred by some technical issues, however, most notably a rare instance of Shiro sliding through walls upon changing gravity – which can be manipulated to your benefit sometimes. Also, the Steam achievements will randomly fail to activate; according to them, I managed to complete the game without ever learning how to jump.

    Morality-wise, there’s only one real problem of note. Shiro can die if he lands on spikes or burns up in an explosion or fire arrow. The latter has him fall into a pile of ash with cartoonish googly eyes, but the spikes burst him and have his ghostly angel begin flying in whatever direction is currently up. This is especially jarring, as the tutorial sketch just shows Shiro sitting down and crying after hitting spikes; the startling popping noise and rather macabre aftermath in-game came as quite the surprise, especially with an otherwise innocuous experience. Even if Shiro does come right back upon restart, it’s enough to potentially give some parents a pause before proffering the game to younger children.

    Overall, Gravity Island is a game with undeniable charm and solid gameplay, but lacks content; some, maybe even most, gamers could easily beat the whole game in one quick sitting. For those with little time for anything but a quick play session, however, it might be worth taking a look at when a sale rolls around. There’s also a version for Apple devices that is apparently free with some ads, which might be the better choice for playing on the go. Whatever direction you decide to go with this game, it’s at least worth a look.

    -Cadogan

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Green Game: TimeSwapper
    Developed by: iFun4all
    Published by: iFun4all
    Release date: April 4, 2016
    Available on: iOS, PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita
    Genre: Puzzle
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you iFun4all for sending us a review code for this game!

    The only way to know the story behind Green Game: TimeSwapper is to read the store page as it’s not mentioned in the game itself.  I’ll save you a few moments and reiterate it here.  You’re the master of time and can set it to the past, present or future with the swipe of your hand.  A self-propelled mechanical bird must gather knowledge of the mysterious and hostile green world.  It’s up to you to have it complete its mission successfully.

    There are fifty levels in total and each of them have three gears that can be collected in any order.    If you miss a gear, you can always go back and replay the level to claim it.  Gathering gears is actually optional since you merely have to reach the end of the level to unlock the next one.  Of course, this is easier said than done.

    Green Game: TimeSwapper
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Challenging game that will push you to your limits and keeps track of how many times you have died
    Weak Points: Experienced a few rage quit moments as the timing and controls are difficult to master
    Moral Warnings: Mechanical violence

    Since the mechanical bird is self-propelled and constantly moving, you must use the environment to steer it in the direction you wish it to go.  

    There are many traps, spikes, and blades that will have to be avoided at all costs.  By swiping the Vita’s touch screen you can control a ray of green light that can activate steam pumps and disarm various traps.  Some of the traps have multiple “states” that are tricky to get just right and sadly, you only have one life per level to get it right. All of your miscalculations will be tallied and prominently displayed on the loading screen.  And no, there are no check points because that would make this game too easy.

    Some levels have temporary modifiers like the ability to slow down the bird’s speed.  Be sure to collect those if you can.  Though it’s usually easier to just avoid them altogether and just focus on getting to the exit point.  In the end it all depends on how much of a completionist you are.

    Green Game: TimeSwapper
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    If you like timing based puzzle games, you’ll enjoy Green Game: TimeSwapper.  Though if you’re easily frustrated, this game may get under your skin after a while.  You will die often, and thankfully there is no blood since the victim is mechanical.

    The graphics are fitting to the game’s name with green backdrops and shadows.  It ran well on my Vita other than the controls taking a few tries to master at times.  The touch screen works well though I wonder how I would have fared with a controller instead.

    The background music is mellow and has a jazz flare to it.  The machinery sound effects and bird’s screeching upon its demise are well done. 

    In the end, this a cute little game that’s best enjoyed in short bursts.  I found it perfect to play while waiting in roller coaster lines at my nearest theme park.  The price is a reasonable $4.99  and it's worth checking out on any platform that’s convenient for you.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Happiness Drops!
    Developed By: ARES Inc.
    Published By: ARES Inc.
    Release Date: December 26, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Puzzle
    Mode: 1-2 Players
    MSRP: $4.99

    Thank you ARES Inc. for sending us this game to review!

    Happiness! is a visual novel (that has not yet been converted to English) and an anime series. Happiness Drops! is a spinoff puzzle game which is basically a very cute match-three game, with some magical anime girls from the Happiness! universe. They also talk to each other in visual novel-like segments before and after battles.

    The game itself plays remarkably similar to Puyo Puyo, except that this one requires only three rather than four gems to match, which then causes them to disappear. There are only four color gems: blue diamonds, pink hearts, yellow squares, and green sphere creatures. If you make combos, you can drop gray blocks on your opponent, which they also do to you. You can remove them by clearing adjacent gems.

    There are five difficulty levels, which are very easy, easy, normal, hard, and very hard. I found the first two fairly manageable; you need to make combos to win, but the computer makes enough mistakes where a reasonable player should win most of the time. Hard and very hard are quite challenging, but if you make combos at the right time you have a decent chance, since the computer AI will take risks setting up large combos (which can then wipe you out fast, so be careful!).

    Happiness Drops!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun puzzle game with a nice presentation; cute characters
    Weak Points: English translation that is so bad it's hilarious
    Moral Warnings: Girls with visible cleavage; girls shown wearing bikinis are rewards for some achievements; 'h*ll' and 'd*mn' used once; magic use mentioned

    I originally started this game on normal, since I tend to be halfway decent (but not great) at puzzle games. This is absolutely a misnomer, and this becomes a massive endurance race as the computer tends to be very conservative with stacking, and will try to avoid dangerous situations, doing their best to keep the stacks low. This means that even with the best of combos, they can survive your combos unless you are a master that manages more than five or six at a time.

    I ended up playing that round of normal for about four hours in one game – with the final single match taking over two and a half hours. My score was incredible, but no matter what I did, I just could not get that AI to die. I would get the stacks up high, and they would use their special skill, which helps clear the blocks, at just the right time. Since I was decently skilled, I would also use my special skill as the blocks neared the top, and I was able to get myself out of these dangerous situations.

    This went on for hours, until finally, my hands and arms started to fall asleep holding the controller (I use an Xbox One controller for most games). I have gamed for many, many years, and I have never had this happen to me before. It was incredibly painful, and I paused, flexed my hands and arms, and gave it some more time. After it approached 11pm and I had to work in the morning, I finally gave up and intentionally lost to the AI. It was frustrating, but I had to - I'd played the game from around 6:30pm until around 11pm, in one sitting - and with no save feature, there was nothing I could do. It was at this point that I dubbed the game:

    Sisyphean Drops!

    Now, the next day, I played it again on very easy, and came to enjoy it quite a bit. The art and graphics are very well polished, the music is saccharine cute and catchy, and the game itself is fun once you get the hang of it. Just do not, under any circumstances, start playing right away on normal. You will regret it.

    Happiness Drops!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability/Polish - 2/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In addition to the story mode, there are also endless and versus modes. Story is the main one, where you play against each of the other girls in succession, until you are the winner. There are silly visual novel sequences in between each match, and afterwards. The English translation is so terrible that it is incredibly difficult to know what they are trying to say. It seems like a machine translation, but even that doesn't explain the use of some words that have not existed in our language for hundreds of years, like 'willn't'. Sometimes it's so bad it's good - in a funny, mocking kind of way. Other times it's just bad. There is rarely a sentence without some grammatical error. Despite that, it's still fun to play.

    Endless mode is more or less what it sounds like - you challenge girls over and over as the difficulty keeps rising, until you are defeated. There are global online leaderboards, both for this and story mode, so there is plenty of impetus to keep trying. Versus mode is where you can play against a local friend or family member who is sitting nearby - there is no online play, but local mode works pretty well. I enjoyed repeatedly beating my son over and over, until he finally beat me - and he was far more excited than I expected winning in a game with a bunch of anime girls.

    For the most part, the game is fairly family friendly, and kid safe. But there are some odd exceptions. For one, on one of the character's routes, a girl says 'd*mn' and 'h*ll'. Other than that, the game is filled with silly, somewhat intelligible chitter-chatter. One girl always wears a witch outfit with ample visible cleavage, and some of the achievements unlock pictures in a gallery that include bikini shots. While the Happiness! visual novel and anime features a cross dressing gay boy, that character is missing entirely from Happiness Drops! Magic use is mentioned, but not shown.

    Happiness Drops! is an incredibly cute match-three puzzle game, that is certainly worth the low asking price. The translation is laughably bad, but of the five playable characters, only one is immodestly dressed (except for in the achievements gallery, where others wear bikinis). If you know your moes from your lolis, aren't embarrassed by that fact, and like simple puzzle games, then you will likely enjoy Happiness Drops!

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hello Neighbor
    Developed By: Dynamic Pixels
    Published By: tinyBuild
    Released: December 8, 2017(Microsoft Windows and Xbox One), July 26, 2018 (Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4)
    Available On: Android, iOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle, Stealth
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for Mild Violence
    Number of Players: 1 player.
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you tinyBuild for sending us this game to review.

    Everyone has had that one neighbor who creeped them out. That one person who you’re not really sure who they are or what they do, and whenever you see them outside, they commit strange and ambiguous acts. The developers at Dynamic Pixels play around with the idea with Hello Neighbor: a first-person puzzle-stealth survival horror game.

    Hello Neighbor starts with our unnamed child protagonist (who we will refer to as The Kid), playing ball by himself. He sees down the street his neighbor doing something fairly suspicious, so he decides to get a closer look. He stumbles upon our unnamed antagonist (who we will refer to as The Neighbor) stowing something or someone in the basement, accompanied by screams of anguish. The Neighbor spots The Kid and chases him away. But those screams just can’t get out of his head, so The Kid investigates further to see what the heck is going on.

    Dynamic Pixels takes an interesting spin on the survival horror genre where instead of some kind of monster or beast hunting you, its simply a middle-aged man. After all, humans are the real monsters. Most of Hello Neighbor takes place inside or around The Neighbor’s house, where you must navigate around to either escape or enter into another section of the house. All while this is happening, The Neighbor is patrolling the area trying to kick you out. The attractive feature of Hello Neighbor is its dynamic AI, where it is stated that The Neighbor learns from your moves. If you like to enter through doors a lot, he will set up buckets that will obscure your vision. If you like to enter through windows, he will set up bear traps to hinder your movement. The AI does exhibit these traits, but only sometimes. There is a setting to set The Neighbor to be a “friendly neighbor” where he isn’t as aggressive and doesn’t set traps, but it didn’t seem to work as he still set up traps, and could still see me from an insane distance.

    Hello Neighbor
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Extremely interesting premise; has generally creepy moments
    Weak Points: AI can be pretty frustrating; confusing objective and narrative; no real punishment for getting caught
    Moral Warnings: The Neighbor is a bad person who kidnaps people; might be too scary for especially young children

    The controls are fairly simple, but also strange: mouse to look around, WASD for movement, and E to interact or pick up items. Right click can also be used to place or throw held items. The game doesn’t explain this to you one bit unless you go into the control settings, which is honestly a pretty bad feature. It doesn’t help that the controls feel pretty clunky, as to interact or grab items takes precision, which cannot always happen, especially if The Kid is getting chased around. A tutorial to understand what is going on would have been greatly appreciated, as you’re immediately thrust into the situation with no clear direction as to what to even do. The options are also weird because even though the arrow keys are not used in gameplay at all, they are the means to navigate through the menus. I’ve never experienced something like that for any game that I played, and it can be rather annoying.

    The Neighbor is definitely a creepy looking individual. He has these beady eyes, wonky proportions, and a barbershop mustache to complement the whole package. Unfortunately, the graphics do not complement the setting and feel of the game. Hello Neighbor is supposed to be a horror game, but the cartoon-like style clashes with it very often, and generally scary moments in the game aren’t taken very seriously. I think a slightly more realistic style would have been a better artistic choice. Fortunately, the music does the creep factor some justice in that aspect. As The Neighbor gets closer and closer, ominous music gets louder and louder, to signal that he is near. This is honestly a great approach, as it made some moments generally scary.

    Going back to the AI, The Neighbor can have some pretty frustrating moments. As you get into later acts, his “smart AI” doesn’t really seem to become more dynamic as it just gets a bigger detection radius. I’ve had moments where he detected me when he wasn’t even in the same area and started chasing me down. The Neighbor’s AI can be easily abused as I set up numerous moments in my play through where he would simply loop his actions and fail to catch me.

    Hello Neighbor
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 46%
    Gameplay - 7/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    Later in the game, Hello Neighbor seems to ditch the stealth mechanics in favor of puzzles, and most don’t even make sense. Some items can interact with each other, but hints are never given so finding out how they function is based on trial and error. This is also apparent in that there really is no punishment for getting caught except for starting at the “beginning”, but you keep all the items in the inventory, layouts are kept in the same spot, and all doors and locks stay unlocked. If they wanted to make a puzzle game, I feel they should have simply made one instead of making a stealth game that eventually ignores the stealth mechanics. The physics engine is also wonky as objects don’t act the way they do all the time, and it’s very easy to get stuck on geometry. In a way, how the game turns out, it feels like false advertising as the stealth aspect can simply be ignored and brute force will eventually prevail instead of clever initiation and situational awareness.

    With a game such as this, the only moral issues I’ve come across is The Neighbor himself. It’s pretty apparent that he kidnaps people, and in one of the later acts, The Kid actually gets kidnapped himself and has to find a way out. It’s not exactly a violent game as if you get caught, the screen simply fades to black, and the only way to potentially defend yourself is to throw items at him, which slows him down.

    Hello Neighbor? More like goodbye, neighbor! A wealth of interesting ideas and a unique premise that manages to miss most of the marks they have set out to make. $30 is too much of an asking price for such wasted potential. Lots of frustrating and boring moments, weird AI, and a very confusing narrative that is all over the place, it seems like Dynamic Pixels lost their vision halfway through development. I’ve heard around the community that the final product is very different from the beta held years back. The product is generally safe to play, but young kids might find the game a bit too scary; that is if the obnoxious puzzles don’t get to them first. In the end, this neighbor is not worth visiting.

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hello Pollution!
    Developed by: Steady Mushroom Ltd.
    Published by: Steady Mushroom Ltd.
    Released: August 7, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: 2D physics puzzle
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of players: 1
    Price: 12.99

    Thank you Steady Mushroom Ltd. for sending us Hello Pollution! to review!

    Hello Pollution is a game where you help people dispose their trash. They will tell you what they need you to get rid of and how you should do it. There are a few different people who want you to get rid of their stuff. To lose a level, you have to fill up your attention bar. Your attention bar fills up when you do something wrong. There are a lot of different types of levels. Sometimes there will be levels where all you have to do is bury the trash. Other times you have to bury it in water. Occasionally, you can burn some things, and bury the rest. Often you will get a level where you have to bury barrels of toxic waste, and if you break the barrels, then your attention bar goes up.

    Hello Pollution!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Entertaining
    Weak Points: The price high for the number of levels available
    Moral Warnings: Violence, gore

    There are 14 Steam achievements that you can unlock, but most of them are pretty easy to get. The reason that I said “most” is because there were some achievements that I never would've gotten without using a guide(there are some guides on Steam). For one of them, you had to spot a soda can behind a bush and click on it(I know that sounds easy, but there is only one level that has the can). There was another one where you had to grab a bird and hold it for a while until a scarecrow falls from the sky, and I wouldn't just grab onto a bird for no reason, so that's what makes it hard.

    This game had 38 levels, and I don't think that is enough for a 13 dollar game. The levels don't take very long to beat, too. I think that it should have at least 50 levels and more achievements, and if it did have that, I would probably be happier.

    The game itself doesn't have a story, but every level has it's own sort of story. The characters would tell you how they got the junk and how to get rid of the junk. For example, there is an elderly woman named Christina Weebforth who says that her husband died and wants you to get rid of all of the junk that her husband left behind.

    Hello Pollution!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 83%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    It has fitting music, but it is not amazing. The controls are simple and easy when you play on a mouse and keyboard. When you play with a controller, on the other hand, the controls are horrible. The graphics are not bad, but it is just a 2D physics game so it does not need incredible graphics. I did not experience any bugs or crashes, either.

    Hello Pollution! is violent. There is a guy named Jimmy the Red Shoe who is a robber, a murderer, and a criminal. There was a level from him where he wants you to bury snitches. When you bury them, they are still alive, and are moving. You also can burn them with acid, which is what you are supposed to do. There is also one where the research laboratory accidentally creates flesh-eating zombies. In order to beat the level, you have to put the zombies in a meat grinder and then burn the remains. There is another zombie level towards the end. In this one, you have to put them into a pool of acid and wait until they burn. Jimmy the Red Shoe also has a level where he gives you a bunch of money to hide. If you burn the money, your attention meter goes up. If your attention meter is full, then Jimmy shoots you and you die. There are a couple of levels where there is a dead body as one of the items that you need to bury, which does not help matters at all, either.

    This game is pretty fun and time-consuming, even though it does not have many levels. Though you are breaking the law and stuff like that in it, I still think that anyone older than 10 should be able to play “Hello Pollution!”.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Homo Machina
    Developed By: Seven Studios, Darjeeling
    Published By: ARTE France, ARTE EXPERIENCE, ARTE G. E. I E
    Released: May 7, 2018
    Available On: Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch
    Genre: Puzzle game
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: 2.99

    First of all, thanks to ARTE Experience for the code for this great game!

    Homo Machina is a game based on an intriguing concept. An educational game designed to teach about the human body, the gameplay takes place inside a human body designed to function like a 1920s factory. It then takes you on a virtual tour through all the body systems as you 'learn' what goes into basic human functions. The game starts in a place called 'Desire Headquarters'. From here you view the factory-like setting that imagines bodily functions taking place in the form of a factory. The center of the body is imagined as an absent-minded boss asking about various functions of the body along with his secretary reporting.

    Homo Machina is a bit awkward to get into at first as it does a vertical, rather than horizontal, setting. It all takes place on a touch screen, which was a bit hard to get used to at first. But gameplay and controls are simple from here. A large hand will direct you to the next section to touch to get working on. You 'power up' individual sections of the human body and then the characters direct you to your first task- opening an eye. As this takes place, the characters direct the action of opening an eye like it was done at a factory line job.

    Homo Machina
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique game; interesting concept and gameplay; easy to understand
    Weak Points: Very short; funky controls (requires viewing the game vertically); annoying soundtrack
    Moral Warnings: Virtually none

    In the intricacies of play, you are directed to solve various puzzles. The second puzzle involves unclogging a nose and it's not clear exactly how you are to solve this from the directions. After a while, I finally figured out you had to direct the factory worker to use a water cannon-like device to clear passages in the nostrils and play around with a hot and cold water pump to move on to the next puzzle.

    The game progresses in a linear fashion, from one puzzle or bodily function to another, and they are all tied together quite nicely, in a way that it's really simple to figure out what's going on. If anything, the game is too simple at times. But as someone who has a background in medicine, that may just be my personal bias. Someone who may know little about the human body might find this fascinating, and it looks to be a game directed for children anyways.

    The soundtrack is a negative. Often it is a repeated loop of simple notes that I found to be very annoying, similar to elevator music. Of course, this is somewhat true to the spirit of the founder on whom this game is based- Franz Khan- but I did not find it enjoyable for a modern audience. Few of the tracks stood out to me. The sound effects, though, are another story. Realistic sounds of breathing and quirky sound effects help breathe life into Homo Machina. There's a sound of a hose when clearing the nasal passages, and the bleeps and blips are authentic to the avant-garde style of the 1920s in which this was based.

    Homo Machina
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 71%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3.5/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Graphic wise, this game is solid. It really does look like the 1920s factory it's marketed as. It is not 3D but the graphics are updated and modern enough so that it doesn't play like an 8 or 16-bit game. The characters don't really stand out though- they are pretty flatly drawn, and speech is done out of speech balloons.

    As for moral content, well, this is a pretty clean game. If you wanted to get really picky, you could pick on Franz Khan and the avant-garde movement being somewhat of a negative reaction to Christianity in a world trying to find its soul after the First World War, but that doesn't affect gameplay at all. There are no overtly atheistic or anti-Christian messages, the characters are covered, and the interactions between boss and secretary don't hint at anything not platonic.

    In conclusion, this is not only a clean game, it's a fun and educational one. Some younger players might not get on board with it, and I will admit it did not immediately draw me in. The soundtrack made my ears bleed though, and it could be completed in under an hour. However, the $2.99 price is a fair one for it, and there's nothing to be concerned with morally. If you want to learn about the human body or are looking for something for your kids that's educational and clean, pick up Homo Machina!


    -Helen

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
    Published by: NIS America, Inc.   
    Release Date: May 18, 2016
    Available on: Windows, PS Vita
    Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Blood, Fantasy Violence   
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks NIS America for the review code!

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a game that makes me happy it's on PC but not as happy as I first thought. This game is a joy with its beautiful artstyle, mysterious story and fun challenge, and it deserved much more attention. Yet porting it to the PC might not have been the best idea. Despite patches and fixes before the full release, the game remains a potential gem with one too many scratches on the surface to truly stay valuable. This is htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary.

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary stars Mion, a girl with tree branch horns who wakes up in a ruined factory with no clue of how she ended up in this place. The only guide she has is Lumen, a fairy that tells her where to go by its shining light. Her other ally, Umbra, a fairy that can only move in shadows, aids her by interacting with objects through the shadows. All you know is that you must go forward.

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: An enjoyable atmospheric, game with a relaxing tone; definitely worth at least one play
    Weak Points: Despite efforts by the devs, the game feels unresponsive at points; with Mion already moving slowly, it can make the game frustrating to move forward with
    Moral Warnings: The game has a story focused around humans trying to play God. You get some mild blood splatter when Mion dies

    You don't have direct control of Mion; by moving Lumen you give Mion an idea where to go. This encompasses everything from climbing ladders to moving objects to picking up items. By right clicking on the mouse you go to the shadow world with Umbra. Time freezes and you can move Umbra along black surfaces towards interactable objects.  Keep in mind that stopping time to go to the shadow world at certain times may give you the answer to a puzzle that you didn't see before.

    The story of this game is special to say the least. The game doesn't tell you what's going on at all other than you need to guide this little girl out of danger. You get story beats if you collect memory fragments, represented as small glowing white plants. This gives you small scenes to interact in and explore. With no dialogue, you're left with your own theories as to what the story is. I am not even completely sure if there was an apocalyptic war or presumably Mion's parents ended the world. As far as I am aware, at this point the developers of htoL#NiQ have not said anything on what their story is. So this game may frustrate people who want a clear story.

    htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 64%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2/10

    This is a game of patience and precise timing. Some of the failures you'll have with the puzzles will be due to entering the shadow world slowly or moving Lumen too quickly. Mion's response time isn't very quick either. No matter how precise you are with Lumen, you'll feel the delay when she turns and interacts with objects. This makes it difficult to tell if you failed a puzzle due your own skill or the game's response time. This game will take you between 8 to 12 hours. You do have to collect all the memory fragments if you want to access the true final chapter later.

    Morality in this game is a mixed bag. You'll get blood splatters on the screen if Mion dies but you won't see any gore or major injury inflicted on characters. The theme you'll be presented with at the end of the story crosses into the lines of humans playing God I think, though with no clear indication of the meaning of the story I am left with my own interpretation. Other then these points there is little that is morally objectionable.

    It's a good game, yet it may not be for everyone. Mion does deserve some attention for her adventure in htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. Even if I have no idea what's going on.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Hue
    Developed by: Fiddlesticks
    Published by: Curve Digital
    Release date: August 30, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

    Thank you Curve Digital for sending us this game to review!

    A scientist named Anne has developed a ring that can alter color and change the way that people perceive it.  The evil doctor Grey has taken the ring and rendered Anne invisible.  It’s up to her son, Hue, to wield the power of color and save her.  

    In the beginning, the 2D world is greyscale but that doesn’t last for long after Hue discovers his first color.   By switching to that color (blue), obstacles of that same color disappear and permit passage through them.  Switching colors makes platforms, crates, and doors invisible when they would have been seen otherwise.  As you add more colors to your palette the gameplay gets increasingly complex, but fun!

    Hue
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun puzzle platformer with great visuals, music, and voice acting
    Weak Points:  Short game with little replay value
    Moral Warnings: Hue can die, there are statues of gods throughout the game

    Like many platformers you’ll be expected to perform many successful jumps onto various objects.  Sometimes you’ll have to jump and switch colors mid-air to land on the previously hidden platform.  Besides jumping, you’ll have to avoid spikes and boulders coming your way.

    Most of the levels in this game are puzzle based.  You’ll need to put your thinking cap on in order to figure out how to move various crates and make your way through tricky mazes.  If you die or mess up, your progress is saved at the entrance of each level.  Vita owners can utilize cross save functionality to transfer their progress back and forth between the PS4 and handheld system.

    There’s roughly six hours of gameplay in this $14.99 title.  To add some replay value, there are twenty-eight hidden beakers to find throughout the world.  Other than re-solving puzzles there’s not much else to do.

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

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Despite the short amount of gameplay, Hue is extremely well polished.  The background music is well done and the voice acting is top notch too.  As Hue collects letters from his mother, they are narrated in a lovely British accent. If you like the soundtrack, it is available for purchase on Steam for $6.99.  

    The shadow artwork is nicely done and I like how adding the colors makes you appreciate their beauty throughout the game.  As you traverse the land you’ll see statues of various gods or idols, but you won’t have to interact with them.  The world is a bit confusing and landmarks help you distinguish where you’ve been before.  

    Hue is a family friendly game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  Despite the ability to die and the presence of idol statues, there’s little to complain about.  Some of the puzzles may be too challenging for young minds though.  

    If you like puzzle platformer games then Hue is definitely worth looking into.  On Steam the game plus the soundtrack can be yours for less than $20.  It’s well worth the standard price, but is an even a better bargain if you can get it on sale.  I look forward to more games from Fiddlesticks.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Human: Fall Flat
    Developed By: No Brakes Games
    Published By: Curve Digital
    Released: July 22, 2016
    Available On: Linux, macOS, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1-2 Offline
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks to Curve Digital for the review key!

    Falling dreams: most everyone has experienced at least one in their life. Contrary to the old myth, you won’t die if you hit the ground before waking. Instead, you might find yourself suspiciously boneless and presented with a series of physics-based puzzles. Don’t worry; it’s better than it sounds.

    Human: Fall Flat gives you control of Bob, a normal human construction worker with recurring dreams of falling. When he lands, he’s met with exotic landscapes full of open-ended puzzles to traverse, with his ultimate goal to slip out the exit door and continue his fall. As a regular guy, albeit looking and moving like a semi-featureless blob of clay, Bob’s arsenal includes two feet that can walk and jump, two hands that can firmly grasp any object, and a head that can apply the previous two to work out not-so-obvious solutions. He’ll carry boxes, climb mountains, operate motor vehicles, swing on vines and lampposts, and manipulate electricity in pursuit of the next dream.

    The puzzles themselves usually revolve around a few basic tasks, such as holding down a pressure plate or crossing a large gap. Outside of the first few tutorial levels, however, you’ll rarely come across the same setup twice. Even if you do, there’s often multiple ways around the problem: a clever thinker can work out ways to manipulate objects or Bob’s movement to find shortcuts and skip whole puzzles – and occasionally whole levels. While the game presents you with an intended path with the occasional side route, you’re free to go wherever and complete the game however you can, with the only obstacles being your imagination and the limits of the physics engine. This offers a good amount of replay value as well – and the in-game achievements can point you to solutions you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, or just goof around in fun ways.

    Human: Fall Flat
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Clever, open-ended physics puzzles; great music
    Weak Points: Some puzzles are dull and/or repetitive; the purposefully-loose controls are occasionally frustrating
    Moral Warnings: A single instance of light toilet humor

    The controls are wobbly and strange, but by design: Bob is part of the physics engine as well, after all, and leading his jelly-like form around is half the fun. The keyboard/mouse and controller work similarly: moving and jumping work as you’d expect with WASD and space/left stick and A, looking around with the mouse/right stick, and using Bob’s hands with the left and right mouse buttons/triggers. With the latter, Bob will stick his arms out and grab onto anything he touches until you command him to let go; he won’t accidentally drop anything, no matter what you put him through. While seemingly simple, you can make Bob do quite a lot by moving his hands and shifting his body weight – and watching his boneless dream body sway and bounce around is rather amusing as well. Once you get the hang of it, most everything feels natural; combined with the freedom the puzzles offer, it becomes a blast to play.

    While the majority of the game is enjoyable to run through a couple times, it suffers from a sort of creativity fatigue near the end. The second-to-last level, Power Plant, consists almost entirely of the same “power an object with batteries and wires” puzzle, which is mostly just busy work and boring back-and-forth movement on flat terrain. The freshly-added final level, Aztec, suffers from the opposite problem: it’s busy and convoluted to the point that exploiting your way around the puzzles is often easier than actually completing them. A few of the Aztec achievements are picky at best and broken at worst, as well as occurring more than halfway through and requiring a level restart on failure due to the game’s checkpoint system.

    On a more general level, while trying to get Bob around is half the game, it’s simple frustration when you know a puzzle’s solution and repeatedly can’t maneuver in the right way. It’s one thing to try new things and tweak your failures; it’s another entirely when an intended path is finicky. For example, trying to operate a rowboat is an entertaining kind of annoying that’s satisfying when you work it out; spending a few minutes trying to hook a floating-away raft to a post, not so much. It’s an uncommon problem, to be fair, and perhaps part and parcel of the physics-based gameplay, but fighting the controls can get old quickly.

    Human: Fall Flat
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 85%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    The controls are wobbly and strange, but by design: Bob is part of the physics engine as well, after all, and leading his jelly-like form around is half the fun. The keyboard/mouse and controller work similarly: moving and jumping work as you’d expect with WASD and space/left stick and A, looking around with the mouse/right stick, and using Bob’s hands with the left and right mouse buttons/triggers. With the latter, Bob will stick his arms out and grab onto anything he touches until you command him to let go; he won’t accidentally drop anything, no matter what you put him through. While seemingly simple, you can make Bob do quite a lot by moving his hands and shifting his body weight – and watching his boneless dream body sway and bounce around is rather amusing as well. Once you get the hang of it, most everything feels natural; combined with the freedom the puzzles offer, it becomes a blast to play.

    While the majority of the game is enjoyable to run through a couple times, it suffers from a sort of creativity fatigue near the end. The second-to-last level, Power Plant, consists almost entirely of the same “power an object with batteries and wires” puzzle, which is mostly just busy work and boring back-and-forth movement on flat terrain. The freshly-added final level, Aztec, suffers from the opposite problem: it’s busy and convoluted to the point that exploiting your way around the puzzles is often easier than actually completing them. A few of the Aztec achievements are picky at best and broken at worst, as well as occurring more than halfway through and requiring a level restart on failure due to the game’s checkpoint system.

    On a more general level, while trying to get Bob around is half the game, it’s simple frustration when you know a puzzle’s solution and repeatedly can’t maneuver in the right way. It’s one thing to try new things and tweak your failures; it’s another entirely when an intended path is finicky. For example, trying to operate a rowboat is an entertaining kind of annoying that’s satisfying when you work it out; spending a few minutes trying to hook a floating-away raft to a post, not so much. It’s an uncommon problem, to be fair, and perhaps part and parcel of the physics-based gameplay, but fighting the controls can get old quickly.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    I and Me
    Developed by: Wish Fang
    Published by: RatalaikGames SL
    Release date: March 5, 2019
    Available on: Switch, Vita, Windows
    Genre: Puzzle platformer
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating; Everyone
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you RatalaikGames SL for sending us this game to review!

    Cats love boxes. If you ever wish to trap a domestic cat, all you need to do is put out a box and wait for them to jump in. It’s as simple as that. Your goal in I and Me is to guide two cats to their boxes while avoiding dangers like bees, porcupines, spikes, and water.

    There are ninety-two levels that are broken down into the four seasons of the year. The colorful artwork reminds me of watercolor paintings. The background music is very calm and soothing which is good for this puzzle-platformer game that will test your wits.

    I and Me
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Ninety-two levels; beautiful music and artwork
    Weak Points: Some of the levels are a bit frustrating so it’s best enjoyed in small spurts
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence

    Although the premise is simple, the execution takes a lot of patience and skill as you control both of the black cats simultaneously. You will need to pay attention to spikes and be sure to not have any of the cats jump or land into them. Anytime a cat gets hurt, they will let out a sad meow. Thankfully, there isn’t any blood.

    Ledges come in handy and allow you to add distance between both of the cats. At times they will have to be on different levels so prepare for many failed attempts until you get the spacing right. Thankfully, some of the levels have a visual marker like a flower that you can use to accurately space out the cats. If you’re still not sure on what to do, you can press in the left and right triggers and watch a video hint.

    I and Me
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I and Me starts off pretty simple at first and gradually gets more difficult. As you complete levels, more will become available, and you don’t have to play them in order. Once completed they will have a check mark on them in the menu. Along with completing levels, you can try and retrieve twenty notes that are scattered throughout them. Often times the letters will require some more effort and time than focusing on the boxes.

    This is a family-friendly title and there isn’t much to worry about morally. People of all ages can enjoy this game and may find it a bit overwhelming at times. I found this title best enjoyed in short spurts. One thing worth noting is that the story is told in cursive. Hopefully, younger people can still read that!

    I and Me was originally released on Steam in 2016 and on the Switch in 2017. I’m glad that it’s available on the Vita now too! The asking price is fair at $9.99, but it is definitely worth snagging if it goes on sale.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    I Expect You To Die
    Developed by: Schell Games LLC
    Published by: Schell Games LLC
    Release date: December 6, 2016
    Available on: Oculus Rift, PSVR
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Puzzle
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence, tobacco and alcohol use
    Price; $24.99

    Thank you Schell Games LLC for sending us this game to review!

    If you ever wanted to be a secret agent like James Bond and think your way out of deadly situations and traps, then I Expect You to Die is for you.  The intro credits song and artwork are extremely well done and are very similar in style to those found in the classic Bond movies.  The voice acting and humor is also top notch in this virtual reality espionage game.

    Like all secret agents, you have telekinetic powers that let you manipulate objects from a distance.  This ability will come in handy as you search around and find clues and the tools needed to get you out of several deadly scenarios.  There are only four missions, but several ways to die while completing them.

    I Expect You To Die
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great tribute to James Bond and Austin Powers movies
    Weak Points: There are only four missions, and the game can be completed in less than an hour
    Moral Warnings: Many ways to die; you can consume alcohol and cigars 

    The first mission takes place inside of a car which is on a plane and you have make it out alive.  Since there’s poison gas surrounding your vehicle, it’s best to stay inside.  You will have to quickly roll down your window to grab one of the screwdrivers needed to access the dynamite launcher that’s tucked away.  Just in case you’re wondering where to find dynamite, you’ll have a couple of sticks of it after disarming a ticking bomb by cutting the colored wires in the proper order.  You’ve always wanted to do that, right?

    Besides driving out of a flying aircraft you’ll also have to neutralize a deadly chemical weapon, escape a sinking submarine pod, and deactivate a deadly machine inside of the villain's hunting lodge in the Alps.  There is no shortage of adventure in this game, and as long as you don’t mind a little timed pressure, you’ll have a blast.  

    You’ll be clocked on how quickly you can complete each mission and there are several optional objectives available as well.  Speed runs are encouraged, but not required.  In fact, you can take your time in solving some of the puzzles, but a couple of the riddles need to be completed expediently.  

    I Expect You To Die
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Be prepared to restart levels over a few times as you kill yourself in humorous ways.  I have been burned, suffocated, drowned, and blown up by grenades.  Despite the many ways to die, this game isn’t too bloody or violent.  The screen just fades to red as you’re fading away.  Many of the levels have cigars and champagne in them.  You are able to consume both of them.  For what it’s worth, you can also drink coffee or eat sandwiches, which may be moldy depending on the level.

    The Oculus Touch controls work great and this game is well suited for them.  PSVR owners can also enjoy this title with the Move controllers.  Sadly, this game doesn't appear to be on Steam/HTC Vive as of this review.

    As well polished and great as this game is, my only complaint is the short amount of game time you get for $25.  Because I Expect You To Die can be completed in less than an hour, I recommend holding off for a sale before purchasing it.  It is a solid VR experience no matter how much you pay for it though.  I highly recommend this game to any fans of James Bond movies.

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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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