Tag Archives: PC

Review: The Last Door

coverThe Last Door is actually technically two games, as it was released episodically over the course of two separate standalone seasons, but as they both make up a single complete story, let’s just call it all The Last Door for simplicity’s sake.

Anyway, The Last Door is a point and click adventure game by The Game Kitchen (developers of the upcoming game Blasphemouswhich you may have heard of by now).

TLDCE2 2017-07-31 01-05-15-795

Alone in the dark! Wait, wrong game.

This is a very Lovecraftian adventure, where you end up having to do a good deal of detective work in order to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of an old friend, which naturally involves a bizarre cult and unspeakable supernatural beings. In typical Lovecraftian style, it focuses more on building an atmosphere of dread over what strange things lie waiting for you in the various dark and treacherous locations you explore, rather than jump scares or overt images of creatures and gore.

TLDCE2 2017-07-31 21-37-43-968

Come on. What’s the worst that could happen?

You’ll be told many haunting stories, investigate many scenes of terrible death and destruction, and hear many discomforting noises coming from writhing things hiding in the shadows, but you almost never actually witness any of it directly. It’s a credit to the designers and writers that these methods are so effective at creating a creepy atmosphere, especially when the graphics look like they’re straight out of the VGA era of PC adventuring (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

TLDCE2 2017-07-31 23-29-50-929

HAIL RABBIT LORD, ALL-MIGHTY RABBIT LORD!

However, while there are many well-made set pieces and scripted events, more than enough to keep things interesting throughout the eight episodes, I must say that I didn’t find the characters or the core plot particularly memorable. The two characters you play as do a lot of questioning and listening, but don’t have much substance themselves, and the motivations of the secret cult are nothing you haven’t already seen before. Still, it manages to be a compelling game anyway. The well-crafted atmosphere manages to carry it surprisingly far. Not far enough that it will become one of my new favorite horror and/or adventure games, but enough to make the experience a satisfying one that makes me look forward to Blasphemous even more.

2 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Review: The Dream Machine

boxcoverOh, I have been waiting seven years to finally play this game. The Dream Machine is a point-and-click adventure that was released on an episodic basis, with its first episode coming out in 2010 and the conclusion finally just arriving in 2017. It features a fascinating plot about the physical exploration of dreams, but the really interesting thing about it is that not only were the characters and environments entirely made up of clay, cardboard, and some other assorted household items, but this was all done with just a two man design team and only using Adobe Flash.

the_dream_machine 2017-07-26 19-19-50-898

I wish my dreams looked this good.

This is another of those games where screenshots can’t even do it justice, because as nice as it looks in a static image, that’s nothing compared to how impressive it all looks in motion. The sound design is very impressive too, with so many little aural details that help breathe even more life into these already amazing environments. You can really tell why this ended up taking 7+ years to develop. The level of artistry on display here is breathtaking, really.

the_dream_machine 2017-07-26 19-19-07-603

What could possibly go wrong?

The writing is quite nice as well. You play the part of Victor Neff, who discovers strange goings-on in the new apartment building that he and his pregnant wife just moved into. The kind of strange goings-on that are soon found to be the result of the landlord’s strange experiments with a machine that allows people to enter and explore other people’s dreams. This is a bizarre enough premises as it is, but the further you get into The Dream Machine, the deeper it starts digging into some deeply personal and twisted aspects of the human psyche in some surprising and complex ways, to the point where it starts ever so slightly tipping over the line into psychological horror territory.

the_dream_machine 2017-07-27 19-23-00-752

Guess where you’re about to go?

It almost never actually displays outright graphic content though. For the most part, it manages to create enough tension and unease through ideas and the outlandish dream environments (although…there were one or two little parts near the end that people will probably find a bit gross).

Speaking of those environments, again, they go far beyond being just pretty little pictures. The level and puzzle design also becomes increasingly surreal and complex in their design. You may find yourself in a dream world whose physical locations can be entirely re-ordered and altered by finding and placing photographs in different places on a wall, or a world that requires you to change to different sizes to enter and/or solve certain areas in it, and you might even have to find a way to cross over to one person’s dream from inside another’s.

the_dream_machine-2017-07-27-00-40-09-983.jpg

Quick, figure out how to stop dream-tentacle-mom!

It’s not as tricky as it sounds though. Sure, there will be a few parts that you’ll almost certainly end up having to look up help for, because it wouldn’t really be a point-and-click adventure game without at least a couple overly obscure puzzles. Most of the time the solutions feel very intuitive and natural though. It may start to feel a bit intimidating in the later chapters, which are noticeably larger and more complex than the previous ones, but their tasks are perfectly manageable with enough time, patience, and thoroughness.

the_dream_machine 2017-07-27 16-49-46-249

Oh, this place looks nice and peaceful. I’m sure it’s fine.

Anyway, The Dream Machine is just a truly impressive feat of video game storytelling and design that somehow manages to be simultaneously charming, disturbing, and thought-provoking. It’s an absolutely top-notch adventure game that I would go so far as to call entirely essential for any fan of the old point-and-click genre, so…check it out!

2 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Review: Monster Bash

bandicam-2017-06-29-23-56-48-914.jpgMonster Bash was one of those early 90’s games by Apogee, former king of weird PC platformers and shoot-em-ups. I think this was about the last game like this that they did before they became 3D Realms and started doing nothing but first person shooters (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Monster Bash tells the thrilling story of Johnny Dash, whose dog has been stolen by the evil Count Chuck, a powerful, vampiric leader of the undead who I guess has nothing better to do but kidnap all the local cats and dogs for…reasons.

bandicam-2017-06-29-23-57-51-209.jpg

Who exactly put these signs here?

You’ll have to slingshot your way through a slew of creepy locations, none of which you can escape from without finding and rescuing every pet first. This is all looks and sounds rather simple, but don’t let Johnny‘s silly pajamas fool you, this game actually gets pretty difficult pretty quickly. There are a lot of strange and deadly enemies trying to stop your progress, but that’s not really the biggest problem for Johnny. No, the greatest challenge is making your way through the maze-like levels without killing yourself on the many, many spikes, water pits, and various other traps, all of which deal out pretty heavy amounts of damage.

There are occasional health refills and extra lives to be found if you take the time to find them in the many well-hidden secret areas scattered throughout each stage, but you’ll need to be careful here as well. Health refills give you your entire life bar back, but their rarity means that you have to be careful to not touch them if you don’t need them yet, or you might end up in trouble later down the line.

bandicam-2017-07-12-01-39-23-059.jpg

Just a quick trip to hell to save a few cats and dogs.

Oddly enough, there’s no way to see how many lives you have left either. You just have to assume that you’re always on your last one and try to get through each level without losing any lives that you haven’t regained before the exit. In fact, you really should probably just play this on Easy and/or use the +5 lives cheat (press Z+F10!), or you’re going to be replaying levels a lot later on, to the point that you may become too frustrated to continue.

Also to be found in the many secret areas are many secret skulls and candy pick-ups. These are all entirely optional and only serve to add to your score (which is also strangely absent from the UI). Don’t be surprised if you find yourself hunting these things down anyway though. Finding all the cleverly hidden secrets in this can be pretty fun and satisfying, despite the lack of any real rewards.

bandicam-2017-07-12-01-40-03-126.jpg

I don’t even know what this place is. Some kind of evil lumber mill?

Also worth mentioning are the interesting backgrounds and monster designs/animations (disclaimer: the screenshots here appear a little smoother than the game actually is due to me using the high quality filter in DOSBox, which does some automatic edge smoothing). The sound and music are also very nice for their time, with fittingly satisfying monster and monster death noises and some really catchy midi tracks.

Overall, it’s not exactly an essential title that everyone should immediately rush out and play, but it’s a nice little classic DOS platformer that is quite effective at scratching that particular nostalgic itch, should you ever find such a need arising.

bandicam-2017-07-05-22-00-06-619-e1499924511975.jpg

“Now I’m in the stew. Oh poo.”

 

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: Pillars of Eternity – The White March

Pillars_of_Eternity_The_White_March_Part_1_CoverWow, has it been two whole years since Pillars of Eternity came out already? And Parts 1 and 2 of the expansion, The White March, have been out for about a year already too? Time sure flies when you’re having all this fun. Anyway, Pillars of Eternity brought us back to the wild world of CRPGs, in the vein of classics like Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, and Planescape: Torment. On top of offering a vast Dungeons & Dragons-ish world, bursting with quests and conundrums, it also boasted some of the best writing to be seen in a game. It made me stop and reconsider my views on the nature of religion, and I’m not even religious.

PillarsOfEternity 2017-06-21 00-29-42-265

The White Forge, where you can add new layers of enchantments to your favorite gear

Now The White March doesn’t quite reach the heights of storytelling that the main campaign does, but it still manages to tell a very interesting new tale, filled with many new bizarre moral quandaries for you to agonize over. This expansion brings you to the frozen northern area of the world, where you’ll travel to ten new areas, most of which contain additional sub-areas and/or multi-floored dungeons. Just like the main campaign, these locations are littered with enough quests, battles, and secrets to keep you busy for quite some time. To be more specific, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours of content, depending on how thorough you are.

On top of all this new real estate, you’ll also meet three new companions to recruit, each with fascinating backstories and personal quests to complete. My favorite was Zahua, the filthy masochistic monk that you find hiding in a barrel of brine and fish heads, who gains power from wounds and a healthy diet of magic mushrooms.

PillarsOfEternity 2017-06-25 18-10-02-416

There are new dangers to be found and conquered all over the place

There are also the new soulbound weapons, each of which can be permanently bound to characters and have their own sets of mini-quests that can be done to level them up into very powerful legendary weapons. Naturally, there are plenty of new standard unique pieces of gear to be found too.

Speaking of weapons, the combat is more of the same challenging tactical battles. This isn’t one of those games where you can just click the attack icon and wait for your party’s A.I. to sort it out. Most of the time, especially in the more difficult fights, you’ll need to micromanage your characters and their abilities and apply them both strategically (although there is an Easy mode too, if that doesn’t sound like your thing).

PillarsOfEternity 2017-06-26 00-42-16-448

So many great looking new locations to explore

And beware, some of the optional areas and quests are extremely difficult and it’s usually not very clear that this is going to be the case until you find yourself right in the middle of a nasty fight that you have no chance of winning. For instance, The Siege of Cragholdt quest chain becomes available immediately at the same time as the main White March quests and is apparently intended for max level characters, but it doesn’t tell you this anywhere in-game. If you do like I did and just charge right in there because it’s available first, you’ll find yourself having to fight with everything you’ve got just to barely make it through the initial “easier” groups of enemies, and then if you manage to get past them, get absolutely destroyed by the next section.

PillarsOfEternity 2017-06-26 01-13-06-429

Good luck with this guy

Overall though, it’s a very nice expansion to an already great game, that offers a ridiculous amount of new content compared to the bite-sized little DLC levels that have become the norm for most games today. Good news too, for everyone who hasn’t gotten around to this yet, or just doesn’t do much PC gaming, there’s a new Complete Edition of Pillars of Eternity coming to consoles in August. This is a must-play for any RPG fan, so check it out quick before Pillars of Eternity 2 gets here!

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: Dogolrax

bandicam 2017-06-08 00-40-22-993What is Dogolrax? Well, Dogolrax is game about you, a nameless human guy, being stranded on an alien planet called Dogolrax, which is named after an alien god that is also called Dogolrax. How did you get there? I don’t know. What’s going on with all the crazy aliens there? You know, I still don’t know. What do I know? Well, I know that Dogolrax is one extremely bizarre game.

bandicam 2017-06-07 23-02-24-154

How did I get up here? Why, I crawled into that giant snake’s mouth and up through his body, naturally.

What drew me into Dogolrax, was seeing a YouTube video of it by FunHaus. They were mocking it for how ridiculous and terrible it looked, as they so often do, but I saw something else in Dogolrax. I saw a game that clearly seemed to be heavily influenced by Another World, with a dash of the weird and deadly alien environments of Space Quest 2, and other such ancient PC games. I even saw a little of those delightfully terrible old Bloodlust Software games (if anyone else on the planet even played those besides me).  I saw this comically grotesque freakshow of a game and thought “Cool!”, which I guess probably says a lot about me.

bandicam 2017-06-07 22-53-53-020

Enjoy your gun for the dozen or so rooms you’re allowed to keep it…

The truth of the matter lies somewhere in between though. Dogolrax starts off well enough, very much resembling Another World as expected, with frequent cleverly animated deaths and all. Some of the backgrounds are really quite well done too, if you’re into that kind of thing. The game quickly starts getting even weirder than expected though, with you losing your gun almost immediately after getting it, in what would prove to be the first of many instances of this game trolling the ever living spaceballs out of you.

bandicam 2017-06-07 23-14-27-387

High marks for artistic style and creativity at least.

Dogolrax begins to throw some really nasty platforming sequences at you, resulting in gruesome death after death, and then “rewards” you by changing gears entirely and morphing into a collection of unexpected mini-games for almost the whole remainder of the game (all 90-120 minutes of it). It just scrambles back and forth between flying shoot-em-ups, to Super Meat Boy type areas where the camera zooms way out while you try to jump through mazes of buzzsaws and such, to Arkanoid/Break Out clones, and more.

Unfortunately, this is where the cracks start to show. These mini-games mostly range from mediocre to downright awful. They’re a great idea in theory, and the way they’re implemented is usually pretty clever, but they just plain aren’t programmed very well. The controls in many of them are really inconsistent and unresponsive and some of the physics involved, like the balls in the Arkanoid/Break Out clones, are nearly broken.

bandicam 2017-06-07 23-05-22-500

What’s going on down here? Who is that guy? All I know is I’m dead again…

I couldn’t even tell you what the story was. Something about evil alien priestesses kidnapping people and transforming them into monsters so they could invade other worlds, but that’s as much as I could extract from the incomprehensible plot. There are some genuinely funny moments randomly scattered about, but mostly it’s just a bunch of gibberish.

It’s a shame, because I hate to have to say such negative things about a game with such oddball style and charm, where the creators are obviously somewhat talented, extremely creative, and show a lot of potential, but this game is just so out there in theme and so very erratic in gameplay that I don’t think I could recommend it to anyone unless they were really, reeeeeeally into very weird games. It was interesting enough to me that I’d consider checking out future games by Team Shuriken though, if I was convinced that they were tightened up a bit more.

4 Comments

Filed under Reviews

E3 2017: 5 new and exciting things from today’s Microsoft Briefing

Wow. Well, E3 hasn’t even actually started yet and there have already been some pretty impressive reveals. There are already far too many for me to even keep track of alone, so for now I’ll just stick to some personal highlights of today’s Microsoft Briefing.


#5: State of Decay 2 (Xbox and PC)

2013’s State of Decay put a new spin on zombie apocalypse games by being more than just another zombie headshot simulator and focusing more on the act of survival in general through the use of RPG elements and base/community building. State of Decay 2 looks to be offering more of the same, but on a larger, more complex scale.


#4: The Last Night (Xbox and PC)

The Last Night is a game I had heard about a while back that looked very promising, but seemed to have disappeared into development limbo…until now. It seems that The Last Night is still alive and kicking, and getting ready to unleash an amazing looking pixel art cyberpunk action/adventure. Details are still pretty sparse, but what they’ve shown so far sure has a very Flashback feel to it, doesn’t it?


#3: Ashen (Xbox and PC)

Ashen sure looks to be a Dark Souls clone with an interesting low poly art style, and the official description of a dark, sunless world sure seems to support that. Personally, that would still be enough to sell me on it right there, but looking into it further, it seems that Ashen will be setting itself apart by bringing a community building system that encourages cooperation over greedy assassination, and that sounds pretty awesome to me.


#2 Anthem (Xbox, PlayStation, and PC)

The new BioWare IP, Anthem, was teased yesterday, but that sweet, sweet gameplay has finally arrived today. It kind of looks like Mass Effect and Destiny had a child together. A flying alien robot child that explodes a lot. There’s no doubt that this world looks incredible, but…this is an MMO? Hm. I don’t know how I feel about that, having shunned the world of online multiplayer gaming, but if anyone could entice me back in, it’s probably BioWare. We shall see.


#1: Metro: Exodus (Xbox, PlayStation, PC)

Metro: Exodus is a sequel to the post-apocalyptic horror shooters Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Previous games in the Metro series were known for their amazing graphics and atmopshere, and their heavily scripted, and highly linear, single player story campaigns, but it seems that Metro: Exodus is going to up the ante by bringing us an absolutely stunning looking open world. This is the most exciting reveal for me so far, as it seems to combine all my favorite gaming things; sci-fi, horror, first person shooting, AND a massive open world.


And this is only the beginning of what looks to be a very promising E3 week. Stay tuned for highlights of tomorrow’s Sony Briefing and surely a mass of other E3 articles, the likes of which may just blow your most agreeable minds!

4 Comments

Filed under E3, E3 2017

Review: Blood 2 – The Chosen

blood2cover

For some reason I never got around to Blood 2 back in the day, or any day since. Perhaps its bad reputation had been subconsciously swaying my opinion about it? Who can say? Whatever the cause, I figured it was time to finally give it a shot and see if what they say about the game is true.

I literally had not taken a single step in Blood 2 before I ran into my first problem. Upon starting the game, it immediately and unceremoniously dropped me into a subway train and told me to track down Gideon. What? How did I get on this train? Who in the world is Gideon? What is going on?

I felt like I had missed something. Maybe I accidentally skipped an intro cutscene somewhere, so I quit and started again. Still nothing. I tried YouTube and sure enough, an intro scene existed (though it didn’t explain a whole lot more), it just wasn’t playing for me at all for some reason. Oh well, there couldn’t be that much story in a game like this anyway, could there? I continued on.

bandicam 2017-05-30 18-13-55-465

I…don’t think that’s how blood works…

As it turned out, there was a good deal more story to this one than the original game, but unfortunately it was almost entirely as vague and incomprehensible as the beginning. Gideon is the new head evil guy, and you have to stop him because…he’s evil and stuff, and then one of his lieutenants, I couldn’t tell you which one since they never bother naming them, tries to shoot you with an experimental singularity gun, which instead of killing you causes a portal to open and this person jumps out. You apparently know this person and call them Gabriel, but she corrects you and says to call her Gabrielle, then immediately runs away. Do I know this person? Did they just change gender for some reason? What the hell is going on?? This is a story?

Characters just pop in and out like this on a semi-regular basis, with no explanation whatsoever of who they are or whose side they’re on or what their motivation is. Once, a new character was introduced by him suddenly teleporting into the scene next to me, where he just started talking to me like we were old friends, yet no name or explanation was ever given, we just shared some cryptic banter for a minute before he disappeared just as suddenly as he had appeared and things carried on like nothing had happened. The only thing these characters seem to have in common is that your character interacts with them as if they’re very familiar to them and as if the audience should be very familiar with them too, but I don’t understand how. Later I finally came to realize that these mystery characters were the other members of the group that you were with in the very first cutscene of the original Blood, one where they all died and were never seen or mentioned again afterwards. Oh. Great.

bandicam 2017-05-30 19-12-22-720

“Oh boy, a boss fight!”…is not something you’re going to be saying while playing this.

Other aspects of the game followed in a similarly confusing and frustrating fashion. While the core gunplay was fun enough while it was working, it was often tarnished by bizarre bugs like leaping enemies jumping on your head, and I mean they would literally jump up and stand there on an invisible platform atop your head and just be walking around up there until you finished them off. There was also some really bizarre hit detection going on, with enemies who would sometimes take seven sniper rounds to the head to finish off, but sometimes if you just shoot them once in the leg they’d instantly die.

Then there’s the level design. Boy, I sure hope you like office buildings, warehouses, alleyways, and sewers, because that’s 90% of the game, just the most generic, uninteresting locations imaginable. I would expect this from G.I. Urban Action Force 5 or whatever generic military shooter of the nineties, but not from a sequel to a game that was entirely made up of horror movie references. In fact, there are almost no horror references to be seen here either, and instead of spitting out Evil Dead quotes, Caleb has now taken to making bizarre references (I hesitate to call them jokes) to 1950’s pop culture, such as Howdy Doody and Frank Sinatra.

bandicam 2017-05-31 22-48-12-051

This is the head evil guy, Gideon. I don’t even watch wrestling, but I’m 99% sure that that’s just a picture of Ric Flair…

I just don’t know what they were thinking with this game. I had hoped that its bad reputation was exaggerated due to it being a little technologically outdated compared to other shooters of the era, but it seems that history was not wrong about Blood 2. Without all the clever level design and iconic horror references that made the original a classic, all that remains is an unrecognizable, generic mess that’s mediocre at best, if you’re feeling really generous. The developers have apparently long since admitted that this game was rushed out in an incomplete state in order to compete with Half-Life and Unreal and all the other much better shooters coming out in the late nineties, the logic of which is utterly baffling. Fortunately, Monolith survived as a developer and seems to have learned from this mistake, as they’re still around and still producing quality games today, but this misstep would prove to be the death of the Blood series, and a gruesome death indeed. R.I.P. Blood!

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews