[Review] Mexicana: Deadly Holiday (PC)

I played Mexicana: Deadly Holiday as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Katrina and Vitor are vacationing in Mexico during the Day of the Dead festival. On a lark they decide to get their fortunes told by a shaman. But, their future is in question when the card reading goes awry and a spell is cast causing Vitor to disappear into the World of the Dead. Katrina must now brave this strange world by battling evil demons who want her dead, but also receiving a kind helping hand by way ancient gods.

Mexicana: Deadly Holiday was quite good in the style department. I really dug how it looked – nice, bright scenes and it also had great acoustic music reminiscent in style to the Gypsy Kings. I have always enjoyed casual games that delve into Latin American history, mythology and mysticism. And frankly, this one is a nice switch-up from the “missing children taken by ghosts” plotlines. The puzzles varied from usual HOG scenes, to collecting objects and finding keys to unlock doors, to rounding out the play with some interesting mini-games. Mexicana was not overly challenging and made for a nice relaxing time. And it seemed to go on and on….and on forever! Well, not that it is a bad thing necessarily, only that the story felt like it went on three chapters longer than it should have…If you weren’t engaging with the plot, I doubt you would have even notice!

Overall, Mexicana: Deadly Holiday was fun, and again I felt I got my money’s worth with this 6-in-1 bundle!

3.5/5

Mexicana: Deadly Holiday
Alawar
2014

[Review] The Lake House: Children of Silence (PC)

I played The Lake House: Children of Silence as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Ann and Henry suffer a break-in to their home. The only thing that was messed with was their precious photo album; pics of the couple are ripped up or Henry’s face is scratched out. A package arrives for Ann, and inside are childhood toys belonging to her brother Tommy, as well as a ripped photo of the old lake house where they lived as children. Tommy tragically drowned there, and the family moved away promptly after, abandoning the property. As Ann assembles the picture, she has a vision of her brother in his favourite mask calling to her to return to the old lake house. She doesn’t know why, but feels compelled to comply. As they search the property, Ann sees the image of her brother just as she is kidnapped by a figure wearing the same mask her brother liked to wear. Now Henry must find Ann and discover who is behind the kidnapping. As he searches, the pieces of information unfold by way of old home movie film strips which shows that there is more than meets the eye with Ann’s family.

Unlike Kronville: Stolen Dreams, The Lake House: Children of Silence is very much worth the $4 I paid for the 6-in-1 bundle. This is a well-made HOG game with all the fixins. The game looks great, mechanics are intuitive and the music was beautiful. Most of all, the plot was engaging for once! The puzzles mostly consisted of collecting items and hidden object scenes. To that end, if there was anything to gripe about, the hidden object scenes changed every time, but the items to search for could have used some imagination; finding a cork, a ribbon or a spool of thread each time can get a tad tedious.

Gripes aside, my version of the Lake House was the collector’s edition which came with a strategy guide, and a bonus chapter which unlocks after you have completed the game. Let me tell you, the bonus chapter turns the story on its head – totally worth it!

The Lake House: Children of Silence gets a 5/5 from me! Highly recommended!

The Lake House: Children of Silence
Alawar
2012

[Review] Kronville: Stolen Dreams (PC)

I played Kronville: Stolen Dreams as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Maisy is a school counsellor with a haunting past who is trying to discover what happened in the disappearance of a dozen students from the little town of Kronville. Maisy herself had a traumatic event in her childhood where one day she returned home from school to find her house in flames. Her dad was trapped inside. Maisy attempted to save him, but he unfortunately perished. This terrible event keeps playing over in her mind…is there a link between this and the disappearances? She takes to sleuthing around Kronville to discover the truth…

I have to say that I was very disappointed in Kronville: Stolen Dreams. For one thing, the game is a glitchy mess that cut out important contextual parts of the story. The first part of the game that I experienced had Maisy climb a ladder to save her father from the house fire, but then abruptly cut to her in an office with a child sitting there at a desk. It took me a bit to figure out what I was doing there and why. I eventually took to YouTube and watched a playthrough where Maisy was supposed to have a conversation with the local sheriff about the boy who was disrupting his class…ok, that’s important information to know! Kronville continued to glitch out cut scenes like this. I was thrown into rooms inexplicably and throughout my experience, I was constantly trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing there; I wasn’t sure if there were serious deficits in plot or what!

Overall the graphics and puzzles were decent in Kronville, which is really too bad because with the glitches, I quit the game mid-way through. Surely (hopefully?) if you were to buy this as a standalone game (available only from Big Fish Games – not Steam), you would likely have a different experience. I can’t imagine Alawar would release a game with so many issues, so let’s blame how it was packaged with the 6-in-1 bundle because in my opinion, Kronville: Stolen Dreams is otherwise unplayable.

2/5

Kronville: Stolen Dreams (PC)
Alawar
2015

[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