Black Mirror

Black Mirror Review [PC] – An Unfulfilling Ghost Story

“All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.”

Are you a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft? Then listen closely. THQ Nordic have resurrected the old classic Black Mirror for a new and improved version. Admittedly, I have not played the original, so this remake was my first experience with Black Mirror. Let me just clarify this right away for those who might visit the thought; this game is unrelated to the Netflix series!

The story takes place in Scotland, year 1926. Following the death of his father, our protagonist David Gordon visits the home of his ancestors for the first time. But upon taking our first steps onto the property, we quickly discover that the Black Mirror mansion is filled with dark secrets that play with the sanity of those who wish to learn the truth.

David believes that his father killed himself. However, that theory is quickly debunked when you discover that it’s never that simple. The family has a history of deaths at a young age, and as you get deeper into the Gordon family history, one unwillingly ventures into the more supernatural elements that dwell inside the walls of the gigantic mansion. The more we learn about the history of the Black Mirror house, the more we delve deeper into David’s sanity.

Black Mirror
“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” – Edgar Allan Poe.

Storywise, you are immediately thrown into a mystery that feels like one Agatha Christie would enjoy. Having clear inspirational sources from the legendary gothic horror writers Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, the universe include elements of the gothic, romanticism, and the uncanny. As Gordon explores the many rooms of the Black Mirror house, he often quotes the previously mentioned authors. As a big fan of this genre, this alone made the game seem worth playing. What helps fulfill the gothic horror fantasy, even more, is the fact that there are not only living human beings you can interact with and receive help from; you also have to interact and talk to spectral apparitions of the people who died there a long time ago.

On our arrival to the Black Mirror house, one doesn’t have to have watched several horror movies to understand that the tingling coming from your spine means that there is definitely something weird going on. The staff immediately put up a cold front, obviously not telling you everything about the history of the house. The residents of Black Mirror mansion are quick to establish that their relationship with Gordon (our protagonist) is one to be had at arm’s length. Why? Some of the first advice I get is to not leave my room in the late hours, because “ticking clocks are not the worst things I may encounter in the house at night.” You feel that it’s them against you. That you’re the invader. I feel like I entered a very hostile environment.

Black Mirror
“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” – Edgar Allan Poe.

The artstyle and the graphics clearly show that the game originates from an older generation. The camera is locked in a traditional style, forcing our protagonist to move in a given way; which is fairly understandable, considering it’s a point-and-click adventure game. Gordon is a little bit hard to navigate, most likely because of the locked camera. I encountered some glitches here and there, that frankly, should not exist in a remastered game. While the cutscenes are beautiful, I can’t help but still feel annoyed at the bugs I encountered, requiring me to restart the game several times. I was also forced to Google some of the puzzles because I thought I couldn’t solve them on my own – but it turns out that the puzzles were bugged!

With that said, the puzzles are initially fairly complicated and well thought out. You have to search the environment closely and find clues to solve the mystery. The game is pretty fast-paced, depending on how quickly you can solve the puzzles (and if you manage to stay clear of the mentioned bugs). Considering the puzzle and narrative heavy game that Black Mirror is, what was unpredictable was the fact that, if you failed some of the puzzles, the results could prove fatal.

World To The West

World To The West Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Beautiful Adventure

When I learned that Rain Games were fellow Norwegians, I was even more intrigued when I sat down to play World to the West. As an independent video game company, they already have the renowned 2D puzzle game Teslagrad from 2013 on their backs. Placed in the same world as the aforementioned, World to the West is an action-adventure game where you actively play with four different characters, each with their own unique story, which eventually leads them to crossing paths and working together to fulfil a mysterious quest.

World To The West Review [Nintendo Switch]

Playing as Lumina, Knaus, Miss Teri, and Lord Clonington, these are characters with unique personalities, unique abilities, coming from different parts of the world. They come together in lovely harmony. The game is split into chapters, where each of them represents a new part of a character’s story. After playing some levels to get to know the characters and their abilities, they are eventually put together as a powerful team and are set to go out on more adventures.

So, we learn that they are a part of a mysterious quest, they are even pictured together on a totem pole, which functions as a checkpoint as well as a teleporting system. With this, you have the ability to teleport from totem to totem, for more convenient fast-travel around the map.

World To The West Review
“I am the totem pole, and I will be your checkpoint this evening!”

As the different levels usually require using several characters, they are not always as immediately available as I would like. When you teleport one character to a totem pole, the rest of the gang doesn’t automatically follow; and you don’t have the choice to select one or several characters to teleport either – so you have to teleport each character separately. Sadly, this mechanic gets a little bit tedious after a while, and the switching system might be the game’s largest flaw.

Seeing past that, World to the West is a visually charming and beautiful game. The scenery is vivid and alive with colors, and the details are simplistic, yet pretty. The levels underground were a bit challenging because of the lack of lights, and they got a tad too dark at times – I had some troubles seeing where I was going. But all my troubles were gone once I got back on the surface!

World To The West Review
Onward to new adventures, my good fellows!

The story is well-written, and the characters’ commentaries are cute and funny – there’s an emphasis on the personality of each character. In addition to having their own unique skill set, they are fit to embark on adventures, fighting creatures and solving puzzles. It’s not as responsive as I would have wished, however – for example, when I played as Lumina, her dash was often slightly delayed, which meant that solving puzzles became very difficult.

The world is fairly big, so there are plenty of adventures to explore within the game. The cutscenes also grab the opportunity to show the beauty of the world in the game. The scenery is beautiful, and I love the art style. With that said, Rain Games definitely knows how to make a proper gaming title, albeit with a few flaws.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review [PS4] – Episode 3: ‘Hell Is Empty’

“You’re the only one in the world I can trust.”

Ladies and gentlemen, here we are. Each ending requires collecting the loose threads.

We have experienced the quandaries of teenage life with Chloe and Rachel, and now the time has come to end an amazing journey. Before you continue reading, I should mention that this review probably contains some spoilers, because I feel it would be difficult to express my opinions to the fullest without mentioning some important factors in the game. However, I will try and keep the spoilers to a minimum. Also, this will be a longer review, as I will comment on the final episode, as well as the entire season as a whole. Are you ready?

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review

The third and final episode, titled “Hell is Empty,” picks right up where it left off in the previous episode “Brave New World, where we learn that the wife of Rachel’s father is not, in fact, her real mother. As my jaw dropped, the episode ended, so I was more than eager to continue on the final episode. The story of Rachel’s mother is long, dark, and sad – but in short, she got involved with drugs, and continually making bad decisions in life evidently leads to her losing custody over Rachel. Bad parenting is a reoccurring factor in the Life Is Strange-series, and their choices as parents clearly reflect the choices of the teenagers. Chloe and Rachel’s parents have made some bad choices in life, and making amends might be harder than one might think. We get to see several sides of the story as we learn about Rachel’s rough past.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
Sometimes you have to lie in order to protect someone you love.

The episode starts out in confusion, sadness and anger. As a consequence of the reveal of her biological mother, Rachel becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting her. After playing detective, Chloe finds out that this is not necessarily a good idea… But because she is a good (girl)friend, she wants to support Rachel in her decisions; whether they are good or bad. At the end of the road, you are faced with a solid dilemma, where you have to decide what is best for Rachel, and how you can do your best to protect her. The “power” that Chloe has – using words to persuade others in her favor – becomes even more important in this episode, as the outcome of these “verbal battles” decide whether we have to take the easy or the hard way to achieve what we want. Talking about things that one might go great lengths to avoid, is also an important aspect of this universe. Perhaps we might learn a thing or two from Chloe?

I’ve come to learn that when life gets hard for other people, you can count on Chloe to be there for you. Chloe is many things, but she is a damn good friend. Yet sometimes, a good friend can be taken advantage of. Slowly but surely, the player is made aware of all the things Chloe keeps doing for Rachel, without receiving anything in return. As such, the relationship between Chloe and Rachel is, in my opinion, highly romanticized. It doesn’t feel 100% believable, but it is nevertheless a beautiful and strong relationship that I guess everyone would aspire to have. The worst part of it is that it breaks my heart to see them now because I know how the relationship – unwillingly – comes to an end. The beauty of friendship and love seeps through the cracks of the dull and dismal surface, making the hard stuff a little easier to deal with, which I can appreciate. It doesn’t make the issues too heavy, just heavy enough to make the right amount of impact on the player.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…”

Doing and dealing drugs are some of the issues that our teenagers encounter – which often include violence, and this time around is unfortunately no exception. However, as the drama escalates quickly in this episode, we can always rely on a whole new round of Dungeons & Dragons as a nice change of pace. This sequence is even longer now than it was in the first episode, but you’re not going to see me complain about it. This scene made Chloe forget all the grief, despair, and anger that she was going through, if only just for a few moments. And realizing that she had more friends than she thought might have given her the shove she needed.

And one simply cannot make A Life Is Strange review without commenting on the soundtrack. For this season, the developers chose to cooperate with the London trio neo-folk band Daughter to compose the music for this season. They even released an individual album with the songs on their Spotify. The sound of the music has a lot of character that blends beautifully in with the theme of the game, and I have found myself coming back to it repeatedly – the band truly did a great job with the soundtrack, so kudos to them. And if you have only played the first season of Life Is Strange, and you, for some reason, find yourself reading this review, I can promise you that the music aspect of the game will not disappoint you.

Even though this journey is a fulfilling one, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. The game decided to give me a happy-ever-after ending, which I feel was unsatisfactory. Rachel’s fate is far from happy, and I think that the ending of this episode should have reflected that more than it did. I do sometimes enjoy when games give us the opportunity to create theories about what happens, but “Hell Is Empty” rather gave us too much to be interpreted.

The game left a gap storywise between the end of season 2 and season 1, whereas I hoped that the gap would be much smaller. When does Rachel meet the teacher that will inevitably murder her? What happens between Chloe and Rachel in between these events? All we know is what we learn from the first game, which is just bits and pieces told from a broken Chloe. Even though if you wait until after the credits have rolled, you do get to see a disturbing nod towards Rachel’s terrible fate. I just think it wasn’t enough. The second episode was by far the best one, because it had a fantastic build-up, with an amazing plot twist at the end. This was a fairly short episode of approximately 2-3 hours, whereas the previous episode was about 4 hours long.

I also found it interesting that the first half of the series is more about Chloe, but then the spotlight shifts to Rachel. All in all, I love this series, and if you are a fan of narrative-heavy games, I will highly recommend that you play this game. Just remember to play the other one, too.

Finding Paradise Review [PC] – A Fulfilled Life?

Six years ago, a game that would forever change the way I view storytelling in games was published. To The Moon was an emotional rollercoaster, with incredible narrative and musical elements. Now, the time has come for its sequel – Finding Paradise. Kan Gao and the team behind Freebird Games has returned to continue the journey of reflecting upon memories, brilliant life philosophy, and last but certainly not least; putting us in an emotional imbalance.

If you’re familiar with both of these games, you might also have encountered A Bird Story, a short narrative about a boy and a bird with broken wings. We learn that his name is Colin Reeds, and in Finding Paradise, he has come to the point where his time on earth is coming to an end. A dying old man, he becomes the patient of Dr Eva Rosalene and Dr Neil Watts, two lovable scientists who work for the Sigmund Corporation, a peculiar organization that helps dying people fulfil their lifelong wish. However, not literally. They travel through the memories of a person’s mind in order to make them think that their wish is fulfilled. The task of fulfilling Colin’s wish will turn out to be much more difficult for Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts than they first expected.

The scientists are what they call Memory Traversal Specialists – they travel through a person’s memories ranging from early childhood to late adulthood, to alter them and make them think that they have fulfilled this wish. Through altering the memories, they are able to nudge the person in the right direction, helping them to make decisions that will make their wish come true. With that said, the scientists are on a tight schedule – the patient might pass away at any moment. The clock is an important as well as a recurring symbol, as time is truly of the essence.

Finding Paradise Review
“Some stories aren’t meant to be told… they are meant to be kept.”

Colin feels that he hasn’t lived a fulfilled life, but desiring what you cannot have is perhaps something the majority of us will inevitably encounter during a lifetime. However, in Finding Paradise, one can change that. But only to a certain degree. Consequently, fulfilling one’s desire will ultimately replace another. Questioning the morality behind these patient’s decisions, the game explores both sides of the coin. What if the person you love actually desired a future that didn’t necessarily include you?

To The Moon, A Bird Story, and Finding Paradise all exist within the same universe. Therefore, some of the scenery might seem familiar if you’ve played the previous games. This is a really nice way of connecting the stories and shows good attention to detail. As I started the game, I immediately felt just how much I had missed these two scientists. The brilliant synergy between Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts are as funny and on point as in To The Moon. The dialogue is so incredibly well written, with puns and jokes filled with references to various movies and games. I absolutely love it. Finding Paradise had some hilarious moments where I sat laughing out loud. The two characters become a very nice counterweight to the heavy atmosphere of the game. As we delve deeper and deeper into the mind of Colin Reeds, the turn of events are as absurd and abrupt as the thinking mind itself.

Finding Paradise Review
How are we to live our lives?

“With the right accompaniment… anything can be a melody.” One cannot simply talk about Finding Paradise without talking about the incredible music that embraces this world. Like in all of Gao’s creations, the games are always complemented by a song that becomes a recurring theme. The song and the music compliment the characters in a really special way, and I can’t describe it further unless you have played the previous games because then you know what I’m talking about. Kan Gao’s musical creations are masterpieces that fit perfectly with the games. As a nice way of really implementing it into the universe, some of the characters (except for the scientists) each play their own instrument, and in a nice way, each theme is introduced by the characters themselves. The trailer shows you an example of the music, and when I watched this again, all the emotions I experienced when playing came rushing back to me:

In the end, I think it is also important to take from this that people never really know what they want at any given time. We all want to live a fulfilled life; but how can we define that, when each individual may want something different? The definition of a fulfilled life has faded in Finding Paradise, as we reflect on the fact that we are all dealt different cards in life. The important part is making the best out of what you have, and who you are.

Little Nightmares – Secrets of The Maw Episode 2: The Hideaway Review [PS4]

Even though the universe of Little Nightmares has created a tendency to play with fears (some I did not know I had) I nevertheless jump into the second episode of the Secrets of The Maw DLC with both arms and legs, ready to take on whatever it might throw my way.

In the new episode, appropriately titled The Hideaway, the story of The Runaway Kid continues. Just by looking at the promo picture, it already tells us a lot of what the episode is about; and as you can see, we encounter the Nomes once more. If you’ve played the original game (if you haven’t: what are you doing here? Go and play all the other stuff before reading this!) you might be familiar with the Nomes: tiny, white creatures that hide in every nook and cranny. When we played as Six, they were pretty much only functioning as huggable collectibles. Now, they serve a much greater purpose. As we have done repeatedly in these two episodes of the DLC, we encounter familiar rooms from the original game. As before, I believe they are filled with nods to how the old story might connect with the new. In addition to that, Mr Long-armed-grabby-hands is back. Yes indeed, with even longer and grabbier hands than before… Or, at least, that’s what it feels like.

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Together forever!

Even though the nomes aren’t much larger in size, they certainly are in numbers this time around. Upon encounter, you hug them (as we are familiar with from the original game) and they start following you – and actually being your adorable little companions for this episode. They are important to the different puzzles – which is new, unexpected and a good surprise. And they also serve a purpose in the bigger picture; which is the heart of the ship, the engine. They remind me of the soot-creatures from the movie Spirited Away, the way they are loyal and hard-working in order to make everything function, because that is their role: they bring coal to the furnace that drives the ship. This is how we, perhaps, learn their function, as we all were probably wondering about earlier in the storyline. At the end of the episode, I feel like I turned The Runaway Kid into The Lord of the Nomes. Which was pretty cool.

Continually, this is where my major problem arrives: the graphics and textual bugs. The nomes would get stuck on things, even though they were moving. Because of this, they would automatically stop following me which is central to progress – it’s a very frustrating bug.

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This way!

The Hideaway continues the story of The Runaway Kid with minor succession. What I thought would be an interesting episode with more of the elements I love in this universe would turn out to be a rather disappointing affair. However, it offers some intriguing elements like the opportunity of travelling different roads to reach your goal

Very early on in the game, I encountered an audio bug too, which made the speakers on my TV sound as if they were broken (they weren’t). However, restarting the episode made the bug go away and it didn’t reoccur. Apart from that, the sound feels much more intense and powerful in this episode, which leads me to the use of the horror elements – they were not as present as in the first episode, but this episode definitely used the contrast between darkness and light to its advantage. It’s a creepy touch and creates a sense of paranoia we all know so well from this universe.

Even though I am still a bit confused when it comes to the story, the ending of this episode was… Intriguing. Let’s just say that my interest is piqued, and I’m excited to see where it ends. So, grab some popcorn and sit down with me for the last episode of Little Nightmares: Secrets of the Maw – this is going to be juicy.

A final score will be given for Secrets of The Maw at the end.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm – Episode 2: Brave New World Review [PS4]

Don’t be surprised, Chloe, if one day I’m just out of here.

It is time to return to Arcadia Bay for the second episode of Life Is Strange: Before The Storm. It’s been approximately two months since the first episode was released, and I’m glad it didn’t take any longer because the first episode left off at a very tense place.

We know more about Chloe, Rachel, and their relationship – and I’m excited to see where their story is headed, and what crossroads they encounter. In the first episode, Chloe and Rachel ditched school and, long story short, they started a forest fire. Now, we see the ramifications of that, as the new episode starts out at the principal’s office.

My actions in the game got me expelled from Blackwell, but I don’t think you actually have a choice regarding that since we already know from the first game that Chloe had been expelled. Luckily, the principal doesn’t know about the forest fire, otherwise, their fates would have had a very different story.

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Chloe, The Exit Wounder.

The new episode is called Brave New World, and that is exactly what Chloe has to adapt to. Along with getting expelled from school, she has to deal with a difficult family situation; the wrath of her mother Joyce and her demeaning stepfather David. Joyce doesn’t know what to do about having a rebelling teenager as a daughter and looks to David for help. Much to Chloe’s despair, he has made the decision to move in. As a result, she drifts even further away.

It’s no secret that our protagonist is leading a challenging life. She repeatedly shows the willingness to sacrifice so much, just in order to feel. Even though Chloe is in many ways the victim here, it is important to note that Chloe continually fails to see that there is actually a world that evolves and exists outside her own. But no, being Chloe isn’t easy. Not at all. Her repeated dreams about her father show how she is still unconsciously dealing with the trauma of losing him. And her dreams are getting more and more messed up.

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Rachel has the main role in The Tempest, a play set up by Blackwell’s students.

On a random note; remember Frank’s dog Pompidou? We get to meet him again! AS A PUPPY! Some quality story-elements right there, folks. However, as a natural yet unfortunate consequence of meeting Pompidou the Puppy, we also have to deal with his d-bag of an owner, Frank.

Being a drug dealer, and messing around with the wrong people, we know that when Frank contacts Chloe, it’s never good news. And this time around is no different. Because Chloe owes him money, she is forced to run some errands for him, which could get her into serious trouble. And it does.

I also want to report that Victoria is still a b- … stupid girl. Teenagers will do whatever it takes to get what they want, and that is shown when the students of Blackwell are setting up a play called The Tempest. However, we end up watching it in a not-so-regular way… because something unpredictable always happens.

Sera, the woman Rachel’s dad is having an affair with, is an ominously recurring figure, and we learn what her role is in Brave New World. A huge secret, which I was not at all expecting, is revealed at the end – it blew my mind. Boom-boom style.

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There is one thing Chloe is particularly good at, and that is speaking her mind. Or in this case, drawing it.

And also, the menu has changed yet again. After the first episode, the forest (which is the background of the menu) was engulfed in flames. After the second episode, the flame has died out, and we see the aftermath of the forest fire. Almost like a calm Before The Storm. Get it?

In all seriousness, though, things are taking off in Arcadia Bay. This is a story about teenagers slipping from the surface, and how they manage – or don’t – to get back up. The dialogue is still cringe-worthy, yet I am still loving it. And the soundtrack… amazing and on point. As always.

I’m very excited for the last episode, yet I am dreading to see the end of it… I am not ready to say goodbye just yet. I feel empty after this episode. I don’t know what to feel, everything is so scrambled and messed up. I’m intrigued, however, and I’m expecting that the game will mess around with my feelings, even more, when the last episode arrives, with as ominous a title as Hell is Empty.

We get to see the many masks that people put up, so they don’t have to deal with the confrontation of their problems. There’s a life lesson to be taken from this: don’t be so quick to judge other people. Everybody’s got some kind of baggage.

Figment Review – A Beautiful Exploration Of The Mind [PC]

A music action-adventure set in the recesses of the human mind.

This is how Bedtime Digital Games describe their new game Figment: if you are familiar with Back to Bed, an adorable puzzle game about guiding a sleepwalking man safely back to his bed, you will quickly see the resemblance. (If the title of the game sounded familiar, you probably remember Chris’ preview here).

The first thing that hits you when entering the game is its gorgeous hand-drawn art style, which was one of the most prominent qualities of its predecessor as well. Starting with a pretty little house, we meet our protagonist Dusty, a careless and pessimistic character, who doesn’t care much for anybody or anything. His companion, the bird Piper, works as great opposition to him – cheery, optimistic, and creating bad puns all day long. Well, perhaps some of them are clever, I guess.

Dusty’s scrapbook is stolen by a dark, sullen creature – and we learn later it’s a manifestation of a nightmare. Dusty’s mind is set on getting it back, no matter the cost, and Piper chirps that “something is wrong with the mind,” and that we need to fix it; as a kind of foreboding to what this whole ordeal is about. And so the story begins, as we venture into the imaginations of the mind.

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The puzzles are interesting, and luckily for me, not too hard.

The game uses some interesting terminology; some of which might seem familiar, but on a very different subject than video games; neurology. Collect endorphins so that the “brain will turn back into yourself again in no time,” pulling you out of whatever it is that’s holding you down. Killing nightmares are a way to release these endorphins – which makes perfect sense since endorphins are basically the stuff that makes you happy. One can also collect endurance neurons, which is basically health points. The game also creates new words such as the “remembrane” – which is a ball of light that represents forgotten memories. They can be collected throughout the game and are also a part of restoring your mind.

The terminology is there for a reason; as the game world itself is a manifestation of the brain, Dusty and Piper has to traverse through the different parts of the brain in order to fight the different nightmares. The right side of the brain is the creative side, and the scenery adjusts accordingly, with instruments decorated as flowers, creating an absurd yet playful atmosphere. The logical part of the brain, on the other hand, is filled with cogs and clocks, with darker colours. There are really interesting concepts concerning the brain that make it into the game, such as the “train of thoughts” which is an object used to solve some of the puzzles in the logical part of the brain. Very well done by the developers – very clever indeed!

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This specific puzzle… I was stuck on it for quite some time. *sigh*

The puzzles get more extensive as you proceed in the game, meaning you need to look around everywhere, backtracking and so on. Some of the puzzles that look dimensional like this remind me of the indie game Monument Valley. However, the puzzles are not too hard, which I liked. I am a fan of progress in games and appreciate not having to be stuck on a puzzle for a longer period of time.

The majority of the game is about solving puzzles, but there’s also a bit about battling enemies or so-called nightmares. In terms of gameplay, Figment shows how the hack ‘n’ slash element can be implemented into a relaxing game successfully. It is simple and straightforward – and patience is key when it comes to defeating your enemies. The nightmares come in the form of human fears, such as disease, spiders, etc, which is interesting, because they are both rational and irrational fears – applying to both parts of the brain!

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The loading screen is a map of your progress, which is pretty handy. And it is gorgeous-looking too. The universe actually reminds me of the painter Salvador Dali and his painting “The Persistence of Memory.”
Do you see the resemblance?

It is clear that Figment is a game that focuses on its musical prowess. And with good reason, too. I loved the sound design in this title. The music changes depending on where you are in the brain and which nightmare you are fighting. The instruments that play in the soundtrack are blended into the scenery in a very beautiful way, and one can clearly see how essential music is to the ethos of this game. It gets better: during the boss encounters they sing songs to you – about what they are, and why they are frightening. The songs are catchy and fun – I really enjoyed them for this reason alone.

Figment offers a unique soundtrack, with specially designed songs – if there ever exists a vinyl of the music, be sure to send it my way, okay? Just sayin’.

Though the game doesn’t contain that much action, it sure is a fantastic adventure game. The levels are imaginative, and gorgeous in an absurd kind of way. Moreover, the way Figment chooses to deal with the distress of the mind is fascinating, and very well done.

As of this moment, the game is only available on Mac, PC, and Linux. Hopefully, it will be available on Xbox, PS4 and Switch soon, because more people definitely need to play this.

Samurai Riot Review – 2D Cooperative Beat’em up [PC]

Samurai Riot was released on the 13th September and is a 2D cooperative Beat’em up/Arcade game made by Wako Factory.

The story revolves around a Civil War – our role is to contribute to it ending. Torn between doing their duty and doing what is right, you have to fight your way through different levels and a boss fight at the end of each one. There is a fight between clans, and you will eventually have to pick a side. Will you stay loyal to your duties, or will you do what is right?

It’s Civil War Co-op

Making choices and encountering moral dilemmas leads to several possible endings of the game. Choose between playing as Sukane or Tsurumaru, two warriors with different traits, personalities, and a highly detailed story behind each character!

With really charming graphics, Samurai Riot offers an anime art style with beautiful scenery from Asian culture. The music is a mix of gorgeous traditional Asian music (if you’ve ever played Tengami, you can draw a reference to that) and combines it with elements of modern popular music so that it creates a certain kind of pace to your fighting, which is nice.

The cooperative system is interesting: you can combine characters’ attacks, creating the ultimate move; which can be used when filling out a shared cooperation gauge. It looks really cool and makes you feel like a total badass… So co-op actually requires working together, and not just playing on the same screen. That being said, when you have those abilities that need a charge-up, it would be nice if there was some sort of indicator, showing the range of the attack and the strength of it. That would help when planning your next move.

Samurai Riot Review
Waaaaa, hiiiiiiyaaaaah! *continuous kung fu sounds*

Multiplayer Woes

Considering that the multiplayer function is the most prominent feature of the game, it is weird, then, that the biggest problem I had with the game was actually setting it up. When I clicked to join as player two, I would start controlling the profile of the first player. After much frustration, we finally managed to enter the game as two separate players.

You can play co-op and make team-based choices, or you can fight against your partner Tekken-style. Even though it is mainly a cooperative game, the single-player version worked just fine. However, the lack of save slots was unfortunate. I could only have one save file at a time, which was inconvenient when I wanted to play by myself but have another save file where I could play with a friend. As the gameplay was highly interesting, the game controls were at times unresponsive, and when playing with another person, the controls on the keyboards became misplaced (ESDF instead of WASD) for some reason. Which was weird, considering the other player was playing on an Xbox controller.

The decisions we make throughout the game are moral questions which have consequences in the final outcome. According to the developers, there are 8 different endings to the game! With this, we can surely establish the replay-value that Samurai Riot has. The need to see every possible ending should work as a great motivator for replaying the game. As if that weren’t enough, the game also offers so-called “fighting schools”: where the more you play, the more you collect points to unlock different fighting schools to get more abilities and improvements for your character.

Samurai Riot Review
Fighting back to back makes you feel unbeatable.

Different Styles Of Gameplay

Multiplayer and single player each demand different styles of gameplay, which creates an interesting diversity. The boss encounters aren’t as good as they have the potential to be – they don’t require a certain tactic to take down, they simply have more health. Using the characters’ individual abilities to take down the boss would be more fun than just the regular old moves. Some of the units also started to annoy me – the red ranged units specifically. Fighting melee units while these were standing there, knocking me down each time, was annoying, to say the least.

The developers pride themselves on the game being one you can speedrun. But when said problems appear, and my character takes several seconds to get back up when knocked down, it makes my patience wear thin. I will give the game the benefit of the doubt that there is definitely a way of getting good, and that most of my complaints might be debunked if I were good at these types of games.

The dialogue is a little bit cliché, and considering how many samurai/ninja/kung fu games there are out on the market, I wish it stood out a little more. Yeah, “I’m gonna fight for my honour”, and all that jazz.

Samurai Riot is a very pretty game though, with a really interesting take on cooperative beat’em up gameplay. It has high entertainment value and makes the player feel like Jackie Chan at times.

What’s with that fat racoon stealing all my food, though?

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Episode 1 Review (PS4)

As a prequel to Life Is Strange that came out in 2015, Life Is Strange: Before The Storm tells the story of the 16-year old Chloe Price, Max Caulfield’s best friend in the first game. Which, in certain circumstances, I guess they still are. Chloe is a rebel, who forms a relationship with Rachel Amber, the popular girl at school, who is beautiful and is destined for success. However, we already know Rachel’s fate: it is a sad and unfair one. But now she is here: alive and kicking. After playing a whole game searching for her, it is nice to finally be able to meet her. This time around, we get to learn even more about this lost girl. We know she has a secret that will strengthen her relationship with Chloe, that takes their friendship to a new level. Because this is not just a story about Chloe, it is also the story of Rachel. Together, they will overcome their demons in Life Is Strange: Before The Storm.

The time has come for us to return to Arcadia Bay. I choose to believe that many of us have mixed feelings about this. In light of Max’s ability, we rewind time and are now in an Arcadia Bay where Max is in Seattle to go to school and has not moved back to start at Blackwell yet. Chloe tries to get in contact with her (judging from the information on her phone) but is replied with silence and rejection.

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
New adventures ahead!

One cannot talk about the Life Is Strange games without mentioning the fantastic soundtrack – and how the music is used to match the protagonist’s personality. I love how they have adapted the music to fit Chloe’s personality better. Ranging from hard rock to indie, it reflects her mood – even though it fluctuates like the bounce of a ping-pong ball.

While speaking of our protagonist, let me just address the elephant in the room right away. The biggest problem had nothing to do with the game itself – but rather the stuff that happened in the making of it: Chloe’s voice. If you don’t know about this, let me explain: because of the long strike in the Screen Actors Guild, Chloe’s voice from the first game, Ashley Burch (who also gave her voice to Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn and Tiny Tina in Borderlands 2), had to make a heartbreaking sacrifice because of this strike:

“I broke off a little piece of my soul when I did the first Life Is Strange and put it in Chloe”, she says to Kotaku.

Rhianna DeVries is the voice actress who has now given her voice to the 16-year old version of Chloe, and I’ve got to admit… I hear the difference, and I sadly have to say that I’m not a fan. There is something off about the way Chloe says things. And it may just be me that’s being real sensitive about the whole thing – because I really liked Chloe in Life Is Strange. Either way, this is a discussion with a lot of different stories to it and is not something I will discuss further here. There were big shoes to fill, and I guess that the outcome is better than no game at all. Because so far, this is a good game.

Unlike the first game, which had 5 episodes, Life Is Strange: Before The Storm has 3. But in return, they are longer. The game is as beautiful as it always has been. For example, you’ll notice how the main menu changes after you’ve played the first episode! I like little details such as that. Speaking of details, the last game had a butterfly (representing the never-ending cycle of life, and also represents the mind and our ability to change it when necessary) as the autosave symbol. Now, it’s a bird: the symbol of freedom and perspective. Which describes Chloe pretty nicely. While those might be only tiny details – they are interesting changes, and worth paying attention to, I think.

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
Rebel Yell.

There is also a new important feature to the game, which replaces Max’s ability. This was highly discussed among fans when Square Enix announced the release of Before The Storm – Max’s ability was such a big part of the game, so what would they replace that with? Well, instead of rewinding time, Chloe’s ability is pretty obvious if you just think about it: her mouth. Yup. The Backtalk Challenge occurs either when you get in a fight, persuade them, etc. Sometimes, the person with the best argument wins. And other times, the more the comment hurts, the better. The more you explore the scenery, the more information you have to talk about. Gather information from what the other person is saying, only to turn it around and use it against them. It almost felt like a psychology session, where I learned about how humans use language as a weapon against each other.

This episode is a very promising start to a new adventure with Chloe. Life Is Strange is about teenage life, and all the love, hurt, rebellion, conflict, and drama that follows it. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is no different. They are games about life experiences. Even though I was sceptical at first, it has already managed to pull me back into its universe – I am really excited to see what’s next, and how the story of these two girls unfold. Obviously, we know how it turns out, but I am excited to see more of the road that it leads up to!

Just a friendly tip: If someone asks you to play dungeons and dragons with them… say yes.

The Initiate Review (PC)

I wake up in a bedroom, and everything is silent, except for a radio that plays some tunes on the piano. I start to look around, and nothing this bedroom contains actually belongs to me. If this isn’t my room, whose is it? Suddenly, a voice begins to talk to me over an intercom, saying that I have a mission, to use my intelligence and escape. I am on a trial, where I have to unravel the mystery behind my captivity and escape whatever is going on.

The Initiate is a puzzle game with horror elements made by Deceptive Games Ltd. You are playing as Nathan Rockford, whom has lost his memory and has awakened in an unknown house full of traps and puzzles. Discover the truth. The rules are simple: complete the trial, and escape.

The puzzles are the main focus of this game. There are several phases of each trial, and you may only proceed if you have completed the previous phase. There are intricate puzzles within puzzles, and you really have to pay attention to everything around you in order to solve them, as well as listening to every single sound. Make sure you are wearing a headset when playing, or turn up the volume on your speakers. The ambience in the game was surprisingly good if you look away from the repetitive sounds of opening doors and cabinets.

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The story is interesting. You find yourself in the midst of this trial, which is an initiation for a cult named The Enlightened. So either I join them or… what? Solve a puzzle, and you get one more piece of information. The story, in many ways, works as a motivator in this game. Which is fine, because that is just following the rules, but I wish that there was a little more story to it all. I felt that after all my work, I got paid by the minimum.

Considering the game’s main attraction is the puzzles, leaves a lot to be said in regards to gameplay. The Initiate is highly interactive, but I wish that instead of only being able to look at the items, I wish that you could move some of the things around, physically. Because I got stuck on objects a lot. There is the possibility of it being a texture problem because I also got stuck in doorways and cave exits and entrances. However, if you shimmy enough, you manage to get out, eventually. One of the things that really brought the game down for me, was the lagging. Lots of it, from start to finish. Playing around with the graphic settings didn’t help, and with my current computer setup, this problem should not exist.

Peering our view away from that, each room of the house changes as you solve the different puzzles so that you have to rediscover the rooms several times and really pay attention to new details because you unlocked something new about them. It’s a cool detail, and it’s important to acknowledge the awesome job on the level design here.

The narrator guides you through the house (or at least he tries to, with different degrees of success), commenting as you go along. Which is nice, because it breaks with the eerie, whispering ambience, and the voice-actor does a good job in making you feel like you’re doing the right thing… whatever that thing might be. He also works as a nice indicator when you’ve made it to the important parts, which is sometimes difficult to establish in this game. Since it’s kind of a puzzle-inception deal going on in this house, it became too easy to lose track of which ones you are solving.

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A game that characterizes itself as a horror puzzle game should have more horror elements in it than The Initiate has. I wonder about this, because yes, the ambience definitely kept me on my toes, the narrator was a bit creepy. And a small section of the game also plays with claustrophobia. But nothing actually happens. The game never gave me a reason to be scared. Which to a horror-geek like me is disappointing.  

Coming to a conclusion, I wish that there was a deeper, more immersive story here. The Initiate is a game about cult societies, conspiracy theories and mystery, which are all interesting themes. So give us more. I was left with more questions than answers, which always makes me sigh and rub my temples out of a light frustration. Aside from the lagging and getting stuck, we cannot look away from the fact that the puzzles were interestingly designed, with various difficulties – and were extremely satisfying if you managed to solve them. The Initiate should receive high praise for its level design, and its concept – which makes me interested in what Deceptive Games has in store for their next game.

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The Escapists 2 Review (PS4)

Ever since Team 17 released The Escapists in 2014, I have been looking forward to seeing what more they can make out of this universe. After releasing several DLC’s for the first game (some were fun, others not so much), and releasing a Walking Dead-version, it is now time to move on.

I got the awesome opportunity to test both the PS4 version and the PC version, which is really nice for comparison. Because testing both platforms takes time I have, sadly, not had the chance to test out the multiplayer part yet – it will therefore not be included in this review. However, if I manage to test it out in the near future, expect an update on it for sure!

The Escapists 2 is a strategy sandbox game with pretty pixel graphics, offering as much as 10 new prisons with various difficulties for you to twist your brain and escape in new, creative ways. Personally, I’ve only managed to escape from two prisons (no judging, I’m slow, okay!), but I’ve used a lot of time just wandering around the prisons and exploring what the game has to offer.

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Always remember to uphold the prison’s schedule!

While I would normally prefer playing a game like The Escapists on the computer, I was pleasantly surprised when discovering that the game is equally comfortable to play on the PS4. It looks really good on both platforms, and the controls are smooth. Even though the controls (at least on the computer) are a bit different now than in the first game, I managed to adjust after a short while. 

The music of the Escapists 2 is just as catchy as it was in the original game. It changes with different times of the day, which creates a nice and fitting ambience, and a great change of pace. With enough hours played, you’re going to start humming the music like working songs. I love that the prisons have different themes, and music that fits accordingly.

With as much as 10 prisons available, many hours of gameplay await you. As if that weren’t enough, in order to proceed and unlock the different prisons, you have to collect keys – and the way of collecting these keys is to escape the prisons in different ways. There are set ways that you can escape, and you have to do it the way the game was designed to earn the key. I am guessing that you don’t have to play every single prison in every way, but it is definitely a challenge for the achievement hunters out there. You have to get creative, though – some of the prisons are timed!

Deeper character customization is also available, and you unlock more stuff for your character as you play through the different prisons. This is a relevant addition in regards to the multiplayer function, as it, obviously, makes it more fun to be playing against others with your very own customized character(s). It also creates a greater sense of ownership to the character, I think. It’s the little things in life, you know?

If I’m allowed to give some advice, get to know the place first – because each prison has its weaknesses. Get used to the routines of the prison, get a job and earn additional money by doing quests given by the other inmates. There are also ways of getting hints in the game to help you escape… But you have to be observant, and look closely. Remember that each prison is different, and needs a different strategy. Create a facade for yourself. Follow the schedule, don’t make the guards angry, and go do what you gotta do.

The Escapists 2
Get to know the people around you.

Personally, I don’t like the autosave function on a general basis. Therefore I get a tad annoyed when a game like The Escapists 2 has that feature because I have a need to be able to save when I want, not when the game decides to. My wish is that the game would enable a manual save feature.

I would also like information about the items you can craft in an update. Either a short description of what the item is or perhaps a little hint as to what you can use it for. I found myself stuck a couple of times because I didn’t know what to make and I didn’t know what they were for. Sure, I could’ve just tested it out, and figured it out on my own, but resources are pretty valuable in The Escapists, and I didn’t want to use my hard-earned resources for nought.

The recipes for the items and how to use them are different now than they were in the first Escapists-game too. For example: in the first game, one could hide the fact that you were digging a hole in the wall by placing a poster in front of it. Now, you have to make a fake wall out of paper maché – which is more logical, I guess, but it requires more resources and more work. It just took a heck of a lot of time to figure that out. However, it is the little things like that that makes The Escapists 2 feel quite different from the first game.

All in all, The Escapists 2 is a great game with a lot of potential, but there’s room for improvement with small things such as a manual save function and more information on items. The online and multiplayer function creates an even bigger replay value to the game, which is a huge plus.

The Escapists 2 offers new ways of escaping, more prisons, character customization, multiplayer (versus and co-op mode) plus online, new items to craft, more stuff to do. In short, the new Escapists is bigger, better, improved. It offers levels that are fun, but also challenging. Strategy is required, and it gives you a great sense of accomplishment if you manage to escape. It is a game that will definitely make the hours fly by, and is as addicting as it has always been.

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Starsceptre Review (iOS)

Developer: 8BitMagicGames

Platform: iOS (iPhone, iPad)

Price: $1.99 (App Store)

Updated 17.08.2017

In our original review of Starsceptre, there were some issues with certain aspects of the game. The developer has now released a big update, dealing with all of these issues. Looking at the new product, we feel that an updated review is needed.

One of the more important updates that Starsceptre recieved was the change to the shooting-mechanic. Autofire is now implemented, and it is oh, so beautiful. Our thumbs are saved from carpal tunnel and cramps because of the incessant tapping on the screen. It is also possible to toggle the autofire on and off if you so wish.

Another crucial change was made to the cutscenes, where the game would skip them after each level – making us lose a big part of the story. Now, they are coming right on queue after the levels are completed. There has also been an addition to the main menu where each cutscene has been made available – so you can watch the whole story in one go. Pretty neat!

As minor improvements go, we really like the additions to the main menu. Along with the availability of the cutscenes, the settings button is a very valued one in our book. Here, you can toggle the autofire, as well as adding or removing scanlines. Even though it’s minor, they really come in handy.

The game might not be perfect, but it has definitely made some great improvements. Considering the one-man business behind this product, it is definitely something to be proud of. We have decided to up the score to a 4/5 as a result of these changes.

Original review:

Starsceptre is a retro Shoot ’em up game by Richard Morgan, the man behind 8BitMagicGames. It was made solely on a programming app on the iPad, when Morgan was commuting to and from work. Seeing the result then, consider me impressed.

The story is simple – an evil race named Draxses is conquering planets, robbing them of their resources and enslaving their occupants. The Starsceptre is the only thing that can stop them, and with the help of Onalee, “the chosen one” to wield the Starsceptre, and Ensign Rook, the pilot of your spaceship, we must battle our way through the galaxy to defeat the Draxses.

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“My game is all about skill and luck,” says Richard Morgan, “and as a gamer through and through I want people to win games on how well they play, not how deep their pockets might be.”

The twist in this game is that you don’t use traditional controls. To shoot, you have to tap the screen repeatedly, either with one or both hands. In order to move the ship, you have to move your device (in this case, my iPad) by tilting it to the respective side. Tilting the iPad towards you makes the ship loop backwards, and comes in handy for dodging – several boss fights require that you use this mechanic. Even though it takes a few minutes getting used to, one quickly adapts and it suddenly feels like a very natural way of playing.

The way the game is designed creates a highly immersive style of gameplay. However, even though the controls work well, they are perhaps too sensitive at times. The spaceship would flip repeatedly even though I did not order it to do so, which would ruin the flow of the game.

The game looks awesome by the way – it truly feels like you are in an 80s or 90s arcade game, and the music definitely fulfils this feeling. Starsceptre is by no means simple – easy to play yes, yet very hard to master. At the end of each level, there is a boss fight which requires certain tactics to defeat.

According to the developer’s home page, the game is being referred to as a “Tilt and Shoot” type of game, introducing a new hashtag: #tiltnshmup. Yeah, it’s got a nice ring to it.

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Tilt ‘n’ Schmoop!

I don’t think the developer spent much time on the voice-acting and dialogue, which was not good. At all. Luckily, this isn’t a big part of the game, because the dialogue would often get so cringe-worthy that I found it hilarious instead (maybe that was the idea?). I also encountered some trouble launching the cutscenes, where the game would just skip them, leaving me empty-handed storywise.

“Infinite chances to save the galaxy,” is the catch-phrase of the game, and for good reason: there is no game over. If you die, the Starsceptre will rewind time so you can give it another go. This function works really well with the flow of the game.

The game also receives both thumbs up from me because there are no microtransactions at all, “offering the full game for a one-off cost of less than a cup of coffee. All updates and all updates will be for free.” In other words, what you pay is what you get, and that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.