Author: Sarca

I write, I game, I knit, I watch, I mainline coffee.

[Review] Infected: The Twin Vaccine (PC)

A timely game coming at you!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine is truly a disturbing tale that I never thought could happen in our times, but here we are in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak! Cities are shutting down! Mass panic at the Costco! People are dying! Never had I any idea that we would be living in these times – and what the heck – while I am in social-isolation (at least for the weekend), why not play a game about the extreme version of our reality?

A plague has ripped through Oxford City, killing many of its residents. Patient Zero is a set of twins, Tiffany and Theresa Morrisey. Tiffany didn’t survive the illness, but Theresa made a full recovery. And now she is considered the one with the secret to the cure but she has coincidentally gone missing. Oxford has been under mandatory evacuation, and with residents gone, the authorities want to blow it up, but what if the girl is still in Oxford, hiding? The world won’t have a chance of survival! Could her father have anything to do with her disappearance? And what about Carl, the local hobo who is taking advantage of the deserted town – what is his involvement? You as a doctor must return to the abandoned town and find Theresa before it’s too late.

Infected: The Twin Vaccine is from New Brunswick developers Gogii Games. I have had quite a history with Gogii, reviewing several of their offerings – some good, …some not so good…but Infected: the Twin Vaccine is pret-tay good for a game from 2012.

Some decent production value at the onset as we are introduced to the plot via a very realistic-looking news report. The game itself is the average length of 3 hours and has a variety of hidden object scenes with plenty of item-collecting and some fairly easy mini-games in there for good measure. Overall, I recommend the game for the surprisingly timely on-point story.

About my only complaint about Infected is there is a lot of pixel hunting in the HOG scenes, which is a large portion of the game. The map could have been much better too but at least there was a map!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine was sitting in my Steam library a long time – so long in fact that it’s no longer sold in the Steam Store! It’s too bad because this one has a pretty rich story and the gameplay ain’t half bad. It still lives for purchase via Big Fish Games, though, and I recommend it!

4/5

Stay safe and healthy out there!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine
2012
Gogii Games

[Review] Telling Lies (PC)

From the creator of Her Story, comes one of the more anticipated games of its kind, Telling Lies, an interactive video game. Like its predecessor, Telling Lies has users explore videos on a computer to discover the truth behind David Smith, FBI Agent, and what he has done. A real web is weaved that includes his wife and family back home, his duties as an undercover agent, and other possible lives led in secret. You play as Karen Douglas, a former FBI agent who has stolen a hard drive full of videos she will review to get to the truth behind David’s past. She / You view the videos on her desktop – a sim of a Windows 10 knock-off. By entering keywords, or highlighting them within the videos’ closed captioning, you review dozens of recorded video chats and conversations between David and many key people in his life. You can scroll forward and backward through videos to figure out timelines, and you can also jot down notes using the computer’s “memo app”. You only have a finite amount of time to view material on the hard drive, so you have to move fast.

As a spiritual successor to Her Story, Telling lies does some things well. The story itself stretched out for miles and seemed a bit of a rabbit-hole, which wasn’t bad, just difficult to keep the sequence of events straight; I understand this is a goal to the game. The acting was impeccable, anchored by Logan Marshall-Green’s David (the actor is best known for starring in Prometheus). I really enjoyed the look of the game, particularly being able to see Karen’s face reflected on the computer screen as you view the videos.

However, I have to say I was disappointed in Telling Lies, particularly in its gameplay. As good-looking as this game is, it is simply window-dressing, because the video-viewing is a mess. That’s right, the one thing this game relies on to tell its story is a complete shit-show. Telling Lies uses video chats between characters, but players only see one side of the chat. This could mean you would view a 3 minute video, with most of it having one character nodding back at the camera as they are listening to someone you never hear in the same video…yet you feel compelled to watch in case you miss something important. To watch the other side of the convo, you have to enter the right keyword, and maybe then it will come up. We never see a full conversation side-by-side, and heated discussions are left one-sided, which totally lost their impact; this dynamic really took me out of the story.

Speaking of keywords, entering a keyword brings up every video with that keyword in it. The only thing is, the video starts playing right when that keyword is used, so a 7 minute video could start playing 3 minutes in! One can rewind the video from the beginning, but it’s a very slow tedious process. You can see how there are some serious problems here! The game itself becomes how one can view a lot of videos quickly and there is no fast seamless way to do that! Not fun!

I’ve been grappling with whether or not I would recommend Telling Lies to others…and I am on the fence. I think some people would get something out it, while others would be frustrated by the gameplay. Your mileage may vary…

2.5 / 5

Telling Lies
Sam Barlow
2019

[Review] Spending a spell in Stardew Valley (PC)


Remember Farmville? I certainly do. Facebook started with these social farming simulators where crops needed to be tilled by a certain time or date, or you had to rely on your friends to give you a hand. I hated it! My crops always died or got weeds – I was much too busy for Farmville; I quit after two weeks.

When the hubs suggested we try Stardew Valley, I balked, “Isn’t that like Farmville? I hate Farmville.” But, I tried it, and it grew on me to the extent I clocked in over 40 hours into it.

There isn’t much to the game really: you got tired of the office grind, chained to a desk and working for “the man”. Your Grandpa left you his homestead in his will, and there arrives your ticket to freedom. You quit your job, and move to the old farm to till the land and be one with nature. It’s a lot of hard work, but fulfilling, and soon you are planting crops, raising egg-laying hens and dairy cows. There are mines on the outskirts of town where you can mine for ore (and convert in to garden tools). You are walking distance from Pelican Town, a small seaside hamlet, where you meet and make friends with the folk, and contribute to some of their social activities. There is an old run-down community centre that is cursed; to break its spell, it needs your help in collecting items from your adventures. Along with farming and mining, fishing and trapping are very much another access point to food and leisure. Time and the four seasons also play into the game; one must always be mindful of what time it is, and only certain crops can be grown during certain seasons. The whole thing is cyclical and I don’t think this game ends until you end it.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my time in Stardew Valley. I often feel frustrated having to micromanage characters, but it wasn’t too bad here. I played the game in co-op with my husband and we took turns looking after certain tasks, but also relied on each other for what we preferred to do. He seemed to prefer the mining (I didn’t care for it), and I liked to fish, which took some time getting the swing of. When it was all said, mostly after my chores were done on the farm, I fished. The days can become routine. If you like things to change in your game every single day, Stardew Valley isn’t that kind of game.

There was definitely a sub-plot where your goal is to find a partner and get married. The hubs and I lived on the same farm in separate houses like we were siblings. in my time in Stardew Valley, I never managed to get a partner, and that didn’t bother me and didn’t seem to matter in gameplay. The social aspect of the game was also somewhat important. You are to befriend people by talking to them or giving them items they like. I tried to give gifts and befriend people, but I didn’t really find a benefit from the interactions (I might have missed something…).

Overall, I found Stardew Valley is what you make it. Like in reality, you carve out a life and branch out. In the end, it’s up to you how you want things to play out. As for me, the game was a delicious slice.

4/5

Stardew Valley
Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone
2016

[Review] Simulacra (PC)

Here is another phone simulator-type game – Simulacra  – available on Steam! I am really digging these types of games as it allows you to safely be a snoop without guilt. Simulacra is the spiritual successor to SIM: Sara is Missing and does many things very well.

You find a phone that belongs to Anna. In it, several apps are available to open and read their contents. Some of the files are corrupted, and upon recovery, you find a shaky fuzzy video Anna pleading for help. Several apps are available, including a browser app, a messenger app (Jabbr), a dating app and an Instagram type app. Through these apps, you learn more about Anna, her family and friends, and what she has been up to. You also interact with some of her friends to get answers or to recruit help in locating her. You suspect one or more of her contacts are responsible, and your interactions with them could have a lasting effect on the outcome of the story. And let me tell you…that ending…

Simulacra is considered a jump-scare horror game, but it is a lot of fun. Really, it is very well made and has re-playability. Unfortunately for you all, my screenshot program wouldn’t work with this game – but all the more reason to just buy it on Steam and try it out yourself! Great game!

5/5

Simulacra
Kaigan Games
2017

[Review] The Other Side: Tower of Souls (PC)

I played The Other Side: Tower of Souls as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Two alchemists lived in a tower and created a gateway to the spiritual world, unaware that evil wanted to pass through to the real world. They attempted to shut out the evil spirits by locking a massive gate, but the evil is busting through. One man sacrificed himself to the cause by using his soul to lock the gate for good. But, it too is failing, and evil is slowly leaching in…

The Other Side: Tower of Souls is from 2014 and looks much older. Get the Swiffer; this one’s really dusty.

Initially, the game needed to download some kind of driver so it would play. Then, it tried playing at 480P cutting off the left and right halves of the screen with black bars. I then had to go into the guts of the game to adjust the scaling so it would play right. But, even after fixing it. the game continued to run like shit; pretty unplayable, actually. The graphics were super fuzzy, and text on-screen was really small; I used the Windows Magnifier consistently while playing. Don’t let these screenshots fool you…

Not only that, the serious tone of the initial story line was downgraded to jokes when we are met with Boris the Cat, a smarmy steadfast companion throughout the game who loved his gags and refused to shut up. Sorry, that is an automatic turn-off. I’ve played games where there is a partner who is in every scene, giving you direction and helping you along. I don’t really dig that dynamic, especially when they have an opinion on every single move you make.

The Other Side got really great reviews on other sites, and I will just have to chalk it up to taste; this one isn’t mine. More filler in the Alawar 6 in 1 bundle…

The Other Side: Tower of Souls
Alawar
2014

[Review] Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood (PC)

I played Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Your boyfriend, Kevin, drops you off after a wonderful evening date. You had worn your red hooded jacket for the occasion. As you enter the house, you find a teddy bear sitting on the hallway table. What’s this? A gift from Kevin? You lift it up to take a better look, and like a disturbed Teddy Ruxpin, it speaks to you in a robotic voice, saying that Kevin has disappeared in the old cemetery. You don’t believe it. You quickly get in your car and drive to the spooky property, enclosed in some rusty gates, guarded by a rabid wolf. Who is this mysterious person? And, why Kevin?

Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood is an older game from 2012, and honestly, Alawar hit it out of the park production-wise: It feels fresh and new, animations are interesting and sharp. There is some high production value here! I found the game relatively short to play (under 3 hours), but there are at least 30 different scenes to explore which include a biker bar, a gas station, a boat, a lighthouse… And best news of all: there is an awesome map! There is a lot of backtracking in-game but the map allows you to warp to different areas instantly with a mouse-click. The mini-games and HOGs in Cruel Games are typical fare and pretty easy to solve (not that it is necessarily a bad thing). There is plenty to do, and I didn’t once feel bored.

Funny bit: in one scene you had to go into a biker bar, and get met with this guy who says, “Leave me alone. I’m drinking my beer.” Haha

When it comes to the Alawar 6 in 1 hidden object bundle, I have to say having Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood included in this collection alone makes it a great deal. It’s good times!

5/5

Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood
Alawar
2012

 

[Review] Panopticon: Path of Reflections (PC)

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

The famous illusionist Andy Fox, well known for his disappearing acts on stage has gone missing during one of his performances. He had used his invention- a time-travel machine – to make him disappear to the netherworld, but the device is supposed to return him back and something went berserk. Now he is trapped in some unknown place. What’s worse, his assistant Angela is also trapped. You, the famous detective John Perry, have been asked to investigate Fox’s and Angela’s disappearance on behalf of the 18th century town’s police chief. And hey, if you find them, Houdini might come and do an act with Fox!

Panopticon: Path of Reflections is an “okayyy” HOG in this Alawar 6 in 1. It’s an older game (~2014), so I went in with low expectations. What I discovered were some pretty modern graphic scenes. However, the character animations were rendered barrel-shaped, walking around like they took Metamucil and needed to relieve themselves. …Not sure what that was about…

Panopticon is certainly long enough (over 3 hours) with several scenes to explore (at least 12). No map that I could find, but the backtracking was easy enough to navigate. The puzzles were a range of stupidly easy HOG scenes, gathering items to add to other items, and puzzles that gave you vague instructions. Mostly though, I was doing a lot of clicking and pixel hunting. In several instances, I would try to use an item on something I knew I had to – say a screwdriver to loosen a screw – but, the game wouldn’t let me do it. Frustrated, I’d press the hint button, and it was then that I was allowed to perform that action. Why, oh why? Thank goodness the game didn’t keep score on my hints…

One thing I experienced with Panopticon right off the bat was that I couldn’t find the menu button to back out of the game. Now, I have played one or two games in my life where there was absolutely no main menu button, and I’d have to Ctrl-Alt-Delete if I wanted to quit. My first bit playing this, I backed out of the game using the ol’ Windows trick, fearful the game wouldn’t save my progress (it did, all good). If it hadn’t, Panopticon would have received a one-line review and an automatic F from me. Well, Alawar, I’m sorry I doubted your game devs – the menu button was not in a typical spot – it’s a hidden button in the top left corner that toggles down when your mouse pointer grazes the area. All good, nothing to see here…

Overall, Panopticon: Path of Reflections is okayyy. Not the best game, and I likely wouldn’t recommend buying it as a standalone game. So, let’s just consider it filler in the Alawar 6-in-1 Hidden Object pack and move along.

A cautious 3/5

Panopticon: Path of Reflections
~2014
Alawar