[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

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[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

[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

[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