[Review] S.I.M: Sara Is Missing (PC)

After I played A Normal Lost Phone, I got chuffed enough to look into other “phone simulator”-type games, and came across S.I.M.: Sara is Missing, a short free-to-play found-footage horror game developed by Malaysian developers, Kaiju Games.

You find someone’s iPhone and immediately it prompts you to restore its corrupted data. From there, IRIS, the phone’s mobile assistant, texts you and knows immediately you are not Sara. IRIS asks that you return the phone to Sara, but you don’t know Sara and where she is. IRIS reveals she is missing, and judging from the last video she recorded, it appears she is in danger. From there you explore Sara’s phone messages, emails, videos and photos to figure out what happened to her.

While perusing her phone, you learn Sara is a student with common problems of a 20-something: boyfriend troubles…a mom who doesn’t understand her desire to become a para-psychologist… From the messages, we learn the evening she disappeared, a friend of hers had arranged for Sara to meet someone who shares her interests, and from there she vanishes. What happened to her?

Sara is Missing is a unique horror game that does a lot very well. From first blush, you are staring at an iPhone interface and interacting with it like everything is real. Texts between you and others are canned responses, but the game is steered depending on what responses you choose. You are free to look at everything on the phone, but are frequently reminded to keep on track by IRIS. Overall, the hand-holding was ok (it was mostly ignored by me), but others might find it tedious.

The subject matter of para-psychology is where the horror element enters and permeates videos, photos and text messages. It’s been a while since I’ve played a horror game at all (since Fall 2017…), but it felt good easing back into them with this lil’ game. It’s a good time if you are into gore. Sara is Missing does have some good replay-ability too, as there are multiple endings to the game.

Highly recommended!

5/5

S.I.M. (Sara is Missing)
Kaiju Games

 

[Review] Hotel (2010) (PC)

I got a lot of boxed games…and they are begging to be played! Most are point-and-click, and most I’m sure you’ve never heard of! Here is one of them!

Hotel is an obscure point-and-click adventure game from 2010 and quite honestly, I don’t remember where I picked it up from. It was sitting in the back of my boxed PC game collection and decided to give it a go.

Bridget is a New York detective called out of vacation to aid in the investigation of a stolen necklace at an old hotel in France – a favour to her superior, Chief Inspector McCloud. The owner of the necklace is in a coma under suspicious circumstances. McCloud smells a paranormal set-up and since Bridget is experienced in those sorts of things, he asks that she look into it. The hotel itself has a sordid history that dates back to the Knights Templar. Everything about the situation is just weird, and Bridget learns from the beginning that her expertise is definitely not appreciated from the Chief Detective on the case, Matisse. He resents her especially when she refuses to go away after the necklace is found in some bushes and he deems the case closed. In Bridget’s opinion, this case is far from closed! As she investigates, she hears of ghost sightings and some conspiracies associated with the owner of the hotel, Mrs Greenleaf. There is more to this than meets the eye…

For a game from 2010, Hotel wasn’t bad! I was seriously expecting a total mess in the graphics department, and it wasn’t. Gaming mechanics are simple, and puzzles are standard fare, but none of it is terrible.

Now, the plot of Hotel is a convoluted soup of fantasy, conspiracy and ancient history very much akin to the most ridiculous game I have ever played – Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel…and takes a “let’s see what plot element sticks” attitude. It makes me wonder what it was like to be a fly on the wall during those plot drafts…I mean, at one point we have history heavy hitters King Arthur, with Mark Antony and Cleopatra making an appearance here! Let me tell you, I had a good guffaw at the plot!

Overlooking its shortcomings, I though Hotel was pretty fun. I have played pretty bad games in my life, and Hotel is not the “best game everrrr” but, I had fun with it. I doubt this obscure game will ever make it into your hands, gentle reader, but if it does, go install it and play… at least for a good laugh.

3/5

Hotel
Cateia Games
2010

[Review] Emily is Away (PC)

Free game on Steam!

Anyone remember my review of Her Story; the crime-solving game that used a Windows 98 interface?

Emily is Away is a short, interesting, interactive visual novel game that propels you back to the Windows XP days when chat rooms were all the rage. The game tells the tale of your evolving friendship with your friend Emily over a four year span, 2002 to 2006, from Seniors in high school, to Seniors at College. The complexity of your friendship is what is the focus here, and how time and tide, maturity, and maybe a night of alcohol changes things forever…I think anyone can identify with the emotions at stake here.

The coolest thing about this game is the instant messages between you and Emily are presented through a chat client similar to AOL. Upon startup, the interface plays the old XP piano tune, and you get to choose your name, screen name and avatar. It’s a simple set up, but very effective. As Emily types in questions, you are given a set of three canned responses to choose from, and your conversation with Emily is steered according to the responses you choose. The story is linear, and the conversation is fluid.

Check it out! Emily is Away is FREE on Steam, and I highly recommend it. I look forward to the sequel, Emily is Away 2, and Emily is Away < 3 currently in development.

5/5

Emily is Away
Kyle Seeley
2015

[Review] Last Day of June (PC)

Last Day of June was offered up for free on Epic Games and I grabbed it. It looked trippy, and it said “story driven”, so I installed it right away on when else – the last day of June 2019.

June and Carl are married and very much in love. They live in a small busy town by the ocean. One day after a picnic, tragedy strikes the couple as they are involved in a car accident, killing June. Carl is left in a wheelchair and now spends his days reliving the tragic events of his wife’s last day over and over in his mind. Then, a puzzle is presented in front of you: with the townsfolk’s activities the day of June death, your task is to change the sequence of events to reverse the tragedy. With each try, you witness what “could have” happened had X or Y occurred. Not to reveal too much, but the couple’s hopes and dreams get mixed in…and there is a baby involved. Yep, there are real feels here.

Although Last Day of June had a compelling story to back it, I have to say…the game itself was boring! You had four townsfolk’s days to play through and try to fix so June doesn’t die, which could be multiple depending if you chose the “right” correction. With each fix, a replay of the last day begins again – in full – without the benefit of a fast forward button. I got through the game, but it was a slog. If I have to see that clocktower one more time…

I had other issues with the game too…Graphically, Last Day of June was very colour-intensive, which I quite liked. However, aesthetically, the look of the characters did nothing for me. The developers modeled their appearance after traditional artist wood models: they had no eyes and a static expression on their faces. For a game where the story is so emotionally driven, the characters’ “wooden” expression was disturbing. There is also no talking anywhere in the game; the dialogue was delivered in groans and whines which did nothing for me.

Even though the story of Last Day of June was compelling, I think the game itself needed to be improved upon.

2.5/5

Last Day of June
Ovosonico
2017

[Review] Widnows01 (PC)


Widnows01
‘s goal is simple: try to print your document in a quasi Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 interface. The start-up tune is familiar (ding…ding…ding…), the blue screen of death, also familiar. And who can forget Clippy who is harassing you with ridiculous questions while you try to get your computer to print for you. Meanwhile, your monitor flickers something fierce.

I completed the game in 1 minute flat, and although it was stupidly simple, I still felt weirdly proud of myself.

Who needs a game like this? Well, in our modern PC environment that is pretty plug-and-play, I am certain the youth of today might find this game a challenge. The average students I see where I work haven’t been taught how a computer works, just what it does. If the printer does not easily connect to the computer through WiFi, they won’t bother with it (they call me instead)… Not like some of us who back in the dark ages had to go into the guts of the computer to get it to talk to the ol’ HP dot matrix via parallel port (remember those?).

Anyway, Widnows01 was found on Itch io, an indie game site where fledgling developers put their games for people to try free, or for a small fee. It was a fun nostalgic minute for what it’s worth.

3/5

Widnows01
Game Reflection

[Review] Answer Knot (PC)

Free game on Steam!

I’ve been finding these really cool walking sim type games lately, and couldn’t be more excited to play them! Answer Knot is the latest, and it was just released in May 2019. The style is very familiar to Marie’s Room, or even my last “free game” review, What Never Was.

To say the plot of Answer Knot is surprising is an understatement. The story unfolds in couple Zach and June’s living room. Zach is stuck at home, while June is trying to get home from work. She communicates with Zach through answering machine messages. You are encouraged to explore the main floor of the couple’s house, and in doing so you get a sense of who they are: they’ve traveled a lot, like to take pictures and they write. Their house is a bit messy with all their interests. Their shelves are full of interesting books and movies. And they have their “couple quirks”: Zach does not like to answer the phone, and June knows it, but gets increasingly frustrated with him on that front, as something has happened over the course of her commute that is both alarming and frightening in equal measure and she can’t get a hold of him. The game ends abruptly with a sense of foreboding and urgency – and it’s surprising.

I loved snooping around June and Zach’s place, taking in what kind of people they are, what interests them…and in doing so, I found some strange parallels between this game and other games I’ve played recently…for example, they have a coffee table book lying around callled “Paul Prospero” by Ethan Carter, which calls back the Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Pics I leafed through were screenshots from familiar games I’ve played recently too: one is definitely from What Never Was (because I took the same screenshot), another looked weirdly like it came from What Remains of Edith Finch, but can’t be 100% sure…At any rate, I’m not sure why developers sniped images from other games, but there it is…

Answer Knot is a short game and its aesthetic is very reminiscent to other walking sims I’ve played recently. But, I have to say I love that hyper realistic style, and the true-to-life feel of it. You do get a sense of anxiety, being locked in the house with something strange happening “out there”.

Give it a spin if you like a short simple plot with a surprise at the end.

4/5

Answer Knot
Naraven Games
2019

[Review] Discolored (Demo) (PC)

Discolored is a walking sim puzzle game currently in development by Jason Godbey for which I received a Steam key for a demo of this game for free! Jason is known for his artwork and most notably, the development of the point-and-click puzzle game The Search. I came upon Discolored by accident, as I often do when browsing games on Steam. An invitation to request a Steam key for this game’s demo arrived, and curious, I jumped at the chance to try it out.

Because Discolored is still in development, the demo is understandably short. You start at a phone booth in the middle of nowhere in a black and white world. The environment is pretty desolate, and devoid of people. Across the street is a diner that appears empty, but open. Around the side of the diner is a well which launches the start of this puzzle. The game consists of finding an object and using it to open, start or disengage something that results in colouring the environment in a monochromatic palette. The demo to the game is not challenging, and gives just enough of a taste of the story to know there is something there that you want to know the ending to.

It’s too early to tell with this demo if the completed game will be successful; however, what I played looks like something I look forward to playing once released.

Discolored (demo)
Jason Godbey
2019