[Review] A Normal Lost Phone (PC)

Have you ever found a lost phone and tried to get into it to find out whose it is? Ever wondered in a snoopy way what secrets lie within? I haven’t, and am not normally, but I am the curious type who likes to solve a puzzle…

So the game, A Normal Lost Phone, was something that immediately piqued my interest; you find someone’s lost phone, and gain access to its owner’s world. Nothing is off limits – their texts, emails, music, photos, dating app and browser history are there for the telling. There is a tiny bit of puzzling in there, but nothing too strenuous. The game is short (1.5 hours max) and has some achievements to complete.

All I’ll tell you about the plot is the phone belongs to Sam, a teen who is verging on graduating from high school. The rest is up to you to figure out. Be prepared for some reading. The story itself is predictable, however interesting, and unfolds quickly.

A Normal Lost Phone is a decent game. It has interested me enough to purchase its sequel, Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story. It’s fairly cheap on Steam at the moment – pick it up for when you have an hour to kill.

3/5

A Normal Lost Phone
Accidental Queens
2017

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[Review] What Never Was (PC)

Free Game on Steam!!

This year, in case you haven’t noticed, the blog has seen an up-tick in free game reviews! Hey, some of these are walking sims, and really well done (some not so much, and I have spared you from a few I’ve played that didn’t cut muster). When they’re great, they’re great! And when they’re free, I sing from the rooftops! I love me the free ones!

A recent search through Steam came the discovery of What Never Was, a very short, sort of walking sim, puzzle game whose story in some ways could parallel my life over the past year and a half…the protagonist, Sarah, is returning home with the sad task of cleaning out her late grandpa’s attic of her belongings. The attic is tiny, but full of stuff that she must sift through, and in doing so, discovers her Explorer Grandpa has kept some cool and exciting secrets from everyone. He memorialized some of it in a journal whose pages are scattered throughout the attic. She also finds a recording he left on tape for her that also contains some clues. She now is intrigued enough to find every missing page of the journal to find out what her Grandpa has been up to.

What Never Was is a very enjoyable experience. The graphics are clean and the voiceover work is well done (think Edith Finch good). The puzzles you encounter are enjoyable and collecting all the journal pages earns you achievements. All the clues are in the room; you just have to search around. The music is pleasant to listen to.

As mentioned, What Never Was is very short – a half an hour at the most. The game does end abruptly, almost as though what you played was a demo of some sort. Digging deeper, its developer, Acke Hallgren, made this game on a shoe-string in his spare time. The game was meant to be short, but he plans to come out with a second part, which is currently in development. I really like what I see so far and look forward to further releases.

4.5/5

What Never Was
Acke Hallgren
2019

[Review] Alexander the Great: The Secrets of Power (PC)

Recently, I decided to go through my boxed games and thin out the collection. Now that I am on Windows 10, some of these very old school games just don’t cut it. Some of the CDs had such trouble that my PC wouldn’t even show what was on some of them! But, as I was going through them, I remembered my friend Amanda had given me a CD that contained a 6-pack of hidden object games with one game in particular that was really good – Alexander the Great: The Secrets of Power. Time to figure out how to get it to play! And, after some effort, I managed to install the game, and we were on our way!

A parcel has arrived to your flat that contains a letter and a ring from the Rarity Foundation, an Archeological Society that believes you are a descendant of Alexander the Great. The ring holds special time-travel powers unleashed only for a descendant who wears it. The Society has several other artifacts, and would like you to participate in their study. You are provided with a plane ticket to Greece where you are to meet Oscar, a rep from the Society who would guide you to various museums and archeological sites via a cell phone. Blindly, you comply, and the minute you land in Greece you have a target on your back as these artifacts are sought after by thieves and other distant heirs. It’s quite an implausible ride that sees you visit at least 5 different places on the planet such as India, and Ireland.

Alexander the Great: the Secrets of Power is an excellent and fulsome hidden object game. For a game from 2012, the graphics are vivid and defined, and it has a great soundtrack. Although the storyline is out there, the game itself mechanically speaking was very enjoyable, providing a nice variety of hidden object scenes and puzzles that keep you interested. Some might guffaw at the animations, as characters just move their lips open and closed (probably so that the game could be adaptively dubbed into other languages), but, I didn’t find it that bad. I was most pleased that the game was all in proper English, with English-speaking actors (hey, a Christmas miracle!).

Interesting to note, the developers continue to add some Canadiana into the hidden object scenes! This time, how about indicating the old Canadian 50-dollar bill?

I had a lot of fun with Alexander the Great: the Secrets of Power. It was one of those games I looked forward to playing at the end of a long day, and was just as good as I remembered it. Dare I say, it is entered into my pantheon of best hidden object games ever! I am surprised it hasn’t made its way to Steam yet (and it really should)! But, it’s on Big Fish Games, if you’re so inclined to check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

5/5

Alexander the Great: The Secrets of Power
Playrix
2012

[Review] The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC)

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has been sitting in my Steam library for a few years, and as I have been into walking sims lately, what the hey, let’s fire this one up.

You are Paul Prospero, Supernatural Investigator who is looking for clues as to the whereabouts of a young boy named of Ethan Carter. You begin at the mouth of a railway tunnel in the middle of a forest. As you exit, you narrowly miss getting hit by a flying booby trap. Being psychic, you are then invited to inspect the trap using your medium capabilities; this is a device that is used throughout the game as you go exploring, gathering clues and using your psychic powers. As you collect clues, you discover Ethan and his family were involved in something violent.

The environment in this game is beautiful, and is what is truly enjoyable in Ethan Carter. You start the game in the bush, and almost want to pitch a tent there. Beautiful screenshots abound here, and there were a lot of parts that reminded me of growing up in Northern Ontario. Because of this, I spent a lot of time just walking around…

Ethan Carter lets you know at the very start that this game will not hold your hand. Initially, I thought: GREAT!  After having that stifling experience with the Beast of Lycan Isle this past Winter, I welcomed the freedom to go it alone a little to make my own discoveries. The game is open-world, so you can go anywhere and do anything out of sequence. But, this freedom ultimately was my downfall with this game.

Alright, here is the deal: I didn’t finish Ethan Carter. I walked around that gorgeous landscape looking for clues and would randomly find a piece of paper here, an object there and wonder…hm. Am I going the right way? What is going on? No hand-holding, so I’m going to expect this game will let you go any which way you want in any order and solve things as you go.

It turns out, as games go, you do have to follow a certain order to trigger happenings, simply so the story makes some damn sense. I discovered this while getting totally lost (because, OF COURSE, I DID!). I took the confusion as it came for a good long while. I even went back to old haunts when I was stuck to see if I could restring the thread… But I got fed up and reluctantly broke my momentum to check a walkthrough. Sure enough, I missed some integral stuff over there yonder that was supposed to tell me something enlightening to progress the story. BLAST!!

That’s ok, honestly, what I played of the game (over 3.5 hours worth) I found unsatisfying. I am discovering that these open-world directionless but story-filled games are not really in my wheelhouse… I don’t find I get what others get out of them. That said, I might return to the Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but I think I’ll let Ethan stay vanished for now.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Astronauts
2014

[Review] Marie’s Room (PC)

FREE GAME!

The best free walking sim on Steam right now is Marie’s Room, a short, but interesting look into friendships and the ties that bind.

Back in the day an unlikely high school friendship was formed between Marie and Kelsey. Unlikely since both come from seemingly different backgrounds. Marie had a relatively stable home life living with her father, while Kelsey’s abusive alcoholic mom had her seeking refuge at Marie’s house for a prolonged stay.

Through Kelsey, you are brought back to that time in high school at the threshold of Marie’s room. You are permitted to enter and snoop through Marie’s things to learn of events that unfolded during that time that were tragic and seriously strained the friendship between Kelsey and Marie. Kelsey and this room have all the answers; it’s up to you to discover the clues in Marie’s belongings, including journal entries, that lead to the answers.

There is even some vinyl in this game

What a beautiful game Marie’s Room is; I enjoyed every minute of it. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of Life is Strange or Gone Home. The graphics are bright, and the music ties it all together. It’s very short (30 minutes) and is made to be played in one sitting. The best part is it’s free!

Give Marie’s Room a spin; a very enjoyable experience.

4/5

Marie’s Room
like Charlie
2018

[Review] Escape the Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh (PC)


A young family takes a trip to Egypt to visit Aunt Amy who is curating an Egyptian museum in the latter stages of prep before its grand opening. The museum is teaming with ancient ruins…and unbeknownst to anyone, is on top of an old tomb that contains an ancient Pharaoh curse. It was daughter Emily’s bright idea to bring Jinxie, the family cat, on this trip. When it escapes in the museum, the kids run off after it. Suddenly, the ancient curse is activated and locks the family in the museum in separate areas of the building. The family must separately, then collectively, find a way to escape the museum and ultimately the curse.

Escape the Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh from developers Gogii is a game from 2012 that has been sitting in my Steam library since 2014. I really enjoyed it, particularly the dynamic where you have the choice to play as one of four family members. Each member is armed with a helpful device that aids in solving puzzles. A helpful map is provided, and you are told when you have cleared an area. The game is under 3 hours long, and mostly consists of hidden object scenes and collecting items on your route.

Although a decent game, I must say Escape the Lost Kingdom does have its faults. It holds up pretty well graphically, but I am positive some will find it difficult to see certain smaller objects. Interestingly, this game boasts a 3D mode where users with the old red/cyan 3D glasses can play the game in “3D”, and I can only imagine what that looks like. The music is a bit caciphonic depending on what room of the museum you are in and some may be annoyed at the slightly stilted voiceover acting between family members, but I personally thought the dialogue was cute in a Treasure Seekers sort of way. On a funny note, no one can get a consensus on how the cat’s name is spelled: is it Jinxie, Jynxie, Jinxy, or Jynxy? Inquiring minds want to know!

The game ended on a major a cliff-hanger. I was particularly puzzled when I still had items in my inventory as a black slate went up saying “Game Over”! I read other reviews on Escape the Lost Kingdom, and found out its Platinum Edition provides another chapter that rounds out the story perfectly. That is unfortunate…what happened to Jinxie/Jynxie/Jinxy/Jynxy? What happened to the curse? The Platinum Edition isn’t available on Steam…At this stage I’ll never find out!

I’ve dealt with other Gogii games that end weirdly (Voodoo Whisperer) and I hate to turn the stink-eye towards them…but dude, finish your games! I don’t want to out and out thumbs down Escape the Lost Kingdom, but it is disappointing to see an incomplete ending because the rest of the game isn’t bad at all. Developers, complete your story, then use the Platinum Edition as a bonus for gamers to unlock.

Overall, Escape the Lost Kingdom: the Forgotten Pharaoh is pretty good. Just ignore the confusing ending!

3/5

Escape the Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh
Gogii
2012

[Review] Bird Watcher (PC)


A young girl lives a lonely existence with her aunt. She spends most of her time in her room in solitude. She often looks out of the window and watches her neighbour across the way  spending his time on the roof of his highrise tending to pigeons. The girl notices it’s been several days since she last saw him and is concerned for his well-being. She decides to sneak out and see if he is ok. She navigates her way through apartment corridors, rooms and eventually rooftops to locate the “Bird Man.”

Bird Watcher is a very short walking sim I found on Steam. The overall graphics are decent, and the gameplay enjoyable, but the voice-over work is abysmal. I could barely understand the plot through the broken English. Even the captions are poorly written. This game has something going for it that I think is worthwhile – if only the developers paid a little money for a proper translation!

Do I recommend Bird Watcher? Sure…The walking around part is pretty good. Don’t pay any more than $1 for it.

2.5/5

Bird Watcher
First Game Studio
2018