adventure games

[Review] The Fall Trilogy Chapter 3: Revelation (PC)

The Fall Trilogy is a surreal three-game casual series from 2010 that is one of the best of its kind from that era. If you haven’t checked out my review of Chapter 1: Separation and Chapter 2: Reconstruction from the series, please make sure you do. Chapter 3: Revelation is the last of the series.

The plot of the Fall Trilogy starts with you, a man, who wakes up from a fall in a strange place, not knowing who you are or where you are. In Chapter 1: Separation, you wake up in an ancient temple, while in Chapter 2: Reconstruction, you wake up in a high-tech office building. You solve puzzles and mini-games around your environment to find your way out. At the end of each adventure, you learn a tiny bit about yourself – you are a family man with a wife and young son. At the game’s end you find the exit, only to fall again, which is where Chapter 3: Revelation begins.

In Revelation, you wake up in the hallway of an old house. It’s 1882 and you have been summoned as a doctor to look after an ailing patient in a bedroom upstairs. The patient is a man who is unconscious. You have to draw blood and come up with an elixir that will cure your patient. You explore the grounds of the home, which includes a cellar, shed and greenhouse. Tasks pile up and puzzles are there to solve so that you are able to get the proper ingredients for this life-saving elixir and save this man, who is…familiar somehow…

Full disclosure: I had never played Chapter 3 before, but figured since the first two were so palatable, the third ought to be good, right?

Revelation is the weakest and most unbalanced of the three stories. Although the graphics still looked great, the story was underwhelming. The puzzles started out pretty cool; being a doctor, you had to take blood and the patient’s blood pressure. In another mini-game, you had to look under a microscope at blood cells – that was pretty interesting…However, the majority of them were repetitive and uninspiring, as they boiled down to several instances of just finding all of x in one room, solving jigsaw puzzles or matching objects. What was worse is that your character continuously leads you through the tasks way too much. By the end, it was almost like the developers were as bored with this as I was.

I should also mention this game is short, even though it took me 4 hours to complete, but I blame bad graphic mapping for that. In certain puzzles, I’d click on an object knowing it was the right one, yet the game wouldn’t detect it until I hit the hint button, which slowed down the works…That was frustrating! It expanded completing this maximum 2-hour game to 4 hours!

In an attempt to end the boredom already, I sought a Let’s Play on the goggles to watch how this ended but couldn’t find a single one; obviously everyone who has played Revelation was so bored they couldn’t stand it long enough to complete it. So, I was forced to played this game to the bitter end because inquiring minds need to know why this dude keeps falling…And frankly, the conclusion of the Fall Trilogy was dismissive, simplistic and really just…dumb:

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (highlight with your mouse below)

The man was in a coma as a result of car accident. What is linking him to these weird places are objects found in his hospital room (i.e. a Buddha statuette is found, linking him to the temple). He wakes up surrounded by family. The end.

END OF SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

I was disappointed by Chapter 3: Revelation, and I’m thinking we could have done without it. The plot needed expanding, and the game itself needed more variety of puzzles. Certainly not a favourite…

2.75 / 5

The Fall Trilogy Chapter 3: Revelation (PC)
Kheops Games
2010

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[Review] The Fall Trilogy Chapter 2: Reconstruction (PC)

The Fall Trilogy is a surreal three-game casual series from 2010 that is one of the best of its kind from that era. If you haven’t checked out my review of Chapter 1: Separation from the series, please make sure you do.

To recap on the plot of the Fall Trilogy, you are a man who wakes up from a fall in a strange place, not knowing who you are or where you are. In Chapter 1: Separation, you wake up in an ancient temple. You solve puzzles around the temple to find your way out. At the game’s end you find the exit, only to fall again, which is where Chapter 2: Reconstruction begins.

This time, you wake up in a parking garage of a high-tech 20-floor high-rise, still no idea as to you identity, other than you know you are someone’s husband and father. A phone rings for you; the man on the other end warns you there are security cameras everywhere which you need to disable to find your way out. You are then on a search to shut off the security cameras, dodge a guard who is watching the building and solve puzzles so you can make your escape again…to more mystery.

In Reconstruction, you explore three floors of the building which include the parking garage and the upper deck with an incredible view of a cityscape. But, predominantly, your time will be spent exploring the main offices of Spoehk, a mysterious high-tech chemical company that has a full suite of security cameras and its own chemical lab. Once you get all the cameras turned off (a mini-game in itself), you can explore the floor and complete puzzles as you find them. The puzzles are challenging, but mostly engaging and range from solving jigsaw-like puzzles of ripped paper, to cracking security codes, to mixing chemical elixirs, to actual MATH (not so engaging) where you have to add up tokens properly in a vending machine to get cans of soda (ask me if I enjoyed that…).

The graphics in Reconstruction are impressive for a game from 2010. However, as good as they were, I wasn’t as engaged in the environs as I was with the temple setting in the previous chapter, Separation; I think it had a lot to do with me spending my time in an office environment, dealing with security codes and high technology in my professional life all day every day, so that aspect was a bit of a slog. And overall, I enjoyed the gameplay in Reconstruction, but we didn’t really learn much more about our protagonist and what has been happening to him. I suppose this means that one would not need to play Chapter 1 in order to play Chapter 2.

Overall, The Fall Trilogy Chapter 2: Reconstruction isn’t as engaging as Chapter 1: Separation, but it still has plenty of substance to offer to the casual gamer.

3.0 / 5

The Fall Trilogy Chapter 2: Reconstruction (PC)
Kheops Games
2010

[Review] The Fall Trilogy Chapter 1: Separation (PC)

The Fall Trilogy is a three-game series from 2010 that is one of the best of its kind from that era. Back in ’10, I was ripping through a lot of Big Fish Games’ try-before-you-buy-for-an-hour games, and The Fall was one of them. I’ll never forget how unique it was at the time. Of course now I’ve seen and played many more like it, but having replayed the first in the series, Chapter 1: Separation recently, I find it’s still a charming game with a lot of replay value.

In Separation, you play as a man who wakes up after a fall in a weird temple amid an oasis. Initially, you can’t remember who you are or what you are doing there, but early on you begin to piece together a sepia-coloured memory of your wife, Lisa, and son, David. However, you still can’t figure out what you are doing in this place. Soon, you discover the temple is a giant series of puzzles and games you must solve in order to leave…only to soon find out there is more mystery to your story once you exit.

The temple that you must escape is a series of rooms that stylistically marries ancient Egyptian and Hindu sensibilities. Some rooms are accessible, while others require you to complete a mini-game before you can proceed. The pleasant soundtrack is of birds and waterfalls, as well as the occasional crescendo of music when you get close to completing a puzzle. The challenging and fun mini-games range from hidden object, to matching tiles, to collecting items to create or assemble. The game mechanics are solid and not difficult to figure out. There was no timer on any of the puzzles (which added a casual atmosphere), and there were clue and hint buttons if you ever got stuck.

When I started the game, I had to change my screen resolution to 800 x 600, and this was likely due to the game’s age, but otherwise the game worked well with no hiccups. About the only negative review I can give with Separation has to do with the very lame and redundant task list (1. Find out why you are in the temple. 2. Find a way out of the temple. Really? Really??). As well, the on-board map looked like it was drawn in crayon, and did nothing to help you go anywhere.

The Fall Trilogy is developed by Kheops Games, makers of the adventure game, Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina’s Fate (which I have not played). The graphics in Chapter 1: Separation are pretty good for its time; I mean, I have seen and played a heck of a lot worse in games released just a couple of years ago…By the looks of things, each chapter is sold separately and not cheap ($10 on Big Fish Games), but if you are so inclined and find a sale (bogo – the only way I could afford all three chapters…), Separation is solid. This game is distributed through Big Fish Games, so you can always play for an hour FOR FREE before ponying up the $$.

More to come…

3.5 / 5

The Fall Trilogy Chapter 1: Separation (PC)
Kheops Games
2010

[Review] Drawn: The Painted Tower (PC)

I first reviewed Drawn: the Painted Tower in October 2013, just when I started to gain traction with this blogging thang. Back then I wrote that I had just started playing adventure games three years previous…people, that was 8 YEARS AGO!!

In the summer of 2013, the hubs and I traveled to Barrie, ON to Video Time, where I found, among other dusty games, Drawn: the Painted Tower in box for $5. The artwork attracted me instantly, as well as the fact it was a Big Fish Game which was my main gaming wingman back then! This was not the first time hearing of Drawn…the game was held in high regard as one of the must-play adventure games in the casual gaming community. At its release in 2010, Drawn: the Painted Tower arrived right at the dawn of the casual gaming “golden era” when hidden object adventure games slowly began to show some decent production value with story, graphics, artistry, menu design and…most of all great puzzle play. It was a slow climb from the pixel dregs, but Drawn: the Painted Tower really gave casual gaming producers a run for their money.

Having already played it, I sort of ignored the Steam bundle sales of three Drawn games for one low price that kept popping up periodically. But, then the price of the bundle last summer became way too good to pass up. Having reviewed it over 4 years ago now, I thought it wise to take another look at Drawn: the Painted Tower. Glad it did!

Iris is a little girl who has the ability to make her drawings come to life (sort of like Simon and his chalk drawings, but this game is a lot more elaborate). She is living in an oppressed and evil kingdom, whose king would like nothing more than having Iris’s powers for himself. Her family sends her into exile to protect her. She goes into hiding in a tower she has constructed in her drawings, making even more paintings in the tower to hide in as well. There you are tasked with finding her in the labyrinth of mazes and gorgeous paintings to save her before the king finds her.

From the first title screen, Drawn: The Painted Tower was nothing but beautiful, sad, and absorbing, with a lovely soundtrack to match.

An interesting twist is being able to enter Iris’s living paintings to explore, find necessary tools and solve important puzzles. The gameplay is linear, yet I did find there was quite a bit of backtracking and some pixel hunting. However, hints are given along the way, as well as a task list to complete, so there is no question as to what you need to do next. The puzzles were not your typical fare, and are memorable; one that I particularly loved was where I got to mix paints and then use them to paint a wooden toy and stone carving!

When I originally played Drawn: the Painted Tower, I had written that I finished the game in under two hours…that can’t be right, unless I am losing my touch or they expanded on the story, because this time it was over 4 hours for me, but it was time well-spent. If you ever find the opportunity, play Drawn: the Painted Tower – I recommend it!

4.5/5

Now to play Drawn’s two sequels!!

Drawn: The Painted Tower
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Released: 2010

[Review] Lifeless Planet (2014) (PC)

An astronaut on a mission crash lands on a mysterious planet, loses his crew and wanders around trying to figure out where he is and if there is any life. This is complicated by the fact he has limited oxygen and must frequently find oxygen outlets and tanks around the planet. The landscape has a varied ecology, with desert, mountains, and greenery. He soon discovers utility poles on the horizon, which lead him to a tiny abandoned Russian outpost. He finds clues that at one point this planet was manned by Scientists from the Soviet Union but something bad happened. The astronaut thinks he is the last being on this Lifeless Planet…but then suddenly he isn’t so sure…

Lifeless Planet is a puzzle platformer that is pretty open-world. At first blush, I liked the look of this game. The astronaut reminded me a lot of an animated version of the MTV fella. The planet he explores was well rendered and I did feel a sense of foreboding with its empty landscapes. The premise of Lifeless Planet was also interesting enough to keep me going for over six hours. Maybe it was my endurance, or maybe my stubbornness, because this game has long stretches where nothing at all happens with one or two things that do blow your mind.

Let me tell you though, the gameplay to Lifeless Planet left a lot to be desired. You wander this astronaut around the planet using your mouse and keyboard, and overall, it’s a pretty frustrating and uncomfortable experience. The options menu was very pared down (at least in the PC version), with not much in the way of customization. This isn’t a problem if the developers make things easy on the gamer, but unfortunately that wasn’t my experience with this game. Try navigating your little astronaut around and have the perspective change on a dime from being able to see your astronaut far away, to an extreme close-up of the back of his head. Who can play a game like that? The gameplay was a pretty nauseating experience as a result. Open-world games can make my stomach flip at the best of times, especially if there is no option to add a cross-hair to the centre of my screen to help curb my stomach-flipping, and that option was not there in this game.

Lastly, the safe points in Lifeless Planet were false! I’d reach a safe point…or so I thought. Every time I’d return to the game, I would be sent back to the start of another level; I’d never start at a safe point. This was not just some odd glitch – this happened most of the time! And after the six hours of gameplay, with no progression in the storyline, and after repeating a level for the third time, my patience ran thin. I decided there was more excitement on my own planet, and walked away from Lifeless Planet. So it goes.

The game is available on PC, OSX, PS4 and Xbox One. Hope you have an better time than I did!

2.5/5

Lifeless Planet (PC)
Stage 2 Studios
2014

[Review] Adam Wolfe (2016) (PC)

This past Spring, I picked up the game Adam Wolfe on a Steam sale. At first glance, what immediately struck me was how similar this game’s name was to a favourite game of mine:

Familiar? Yes, indeed; in appearance, and in initials (A.W.)! And the similarities go further – both games use aspects of the paranormal in their story. (Both A.W.s are different in genre, however: Alan Wake being more on the survival horror spectrum, while Adam Wolfe is hidden object adventure).

More to the point, the paranormal as a plot device in games is a familiar one. Adventure games in particular have used it repeatedly. I am quite familiar with it having played games like Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can, and Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, among many more. Some gaming studios have taken the device to dead horse flogging territory, using it over and over again (looking atchu, Big Fish Games…). You would think by now I would avoid games like this… but there was just something about Adam Wolfe that pulled me in.

Adam Wolfe is a paranormal investigator with the San Francisco Police Department, responsible for cases that are too “out there” for run-of-the-mill detective work. First order of business is to chase down a firebug who is wrecking havoc in the Bay area. He mantracks the perp and discovers there is something supernatural about the dude.

In this scene, the perp just melts on screen – literally!

Meanwhile, Adam’s sister mysteriously goes missing, and he soon discovers the firebug case he is investigating and his sister’s disappearance are interrelated. This leads Adam into the seedy underbelly of San Francisco, face to face with a strange cult whose leader claims he has the secret to eternal life on Earth. Along the way, Adam discovers a watch that allows him the ability to turn back time to a period when crimes took place; helpful to Adam who uses it in his investigation to get a better grasp of what happened. Using a cellphone, he is able to GPS his way around the city, and call his partner, Marv, back at the station, for information needed to further his investigation.

Over the four-part game, Adam Wolfe draws you into an intriguing story that infuses suspense and horror into the plot successfully.  There are indeed some scary moments in the game that made me jump out of my seat, which isn’t normally expected in a hidden object game. Granted, the plot devices of missing relatives, turning back time, and the supernatural is totally cliched in hidden object adventure games, but I forgive Adam Wolfe as there are bigger standouts that trump the negatives. For one, the quality of the graphics in this game are unparalleled when compared to other hidden object games I have played as of late.  The gameplay is taut and the puzzles are varied and challenging, including clear-picture hidden object scenes, and picture scrambles. Most interesting is the game gives opportunities to be a part of Adam’s police work: take crime scene samples, shoot Adam’s gun, beat up perps with fists, and drive Adam’s motorcycle through the streets of San Francisco…all in a day’s work!

Having played dozens of hidden object games in my life, Adam Wolfe is one of the better hidden object adventure games going, and is definitely worth your attention. Available on PC, Mac. iOS and Android, I highly recommend you pick this one up.

4.5/5

Adam Wolfe (PC)
MadHead Games
2016

[Review] Journey (2012) (PS4)

It was a Sunday night whim that got me playing the game Journey for the PlayStation 4. The hubs, BuriedOnMars, had tried playing this game earlier in the week and dropped it. But, he encouraged me to try it out to see how I liked it. I knew nothing about it going in, except that it was a type of walking simulator, which I very much enjoy (Firewatch, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture).

In the first scene of  Journey we see an expanse of desert sand and a hazy sun in the sky; a sweeping violin music sets a melancholic mood. A star falls from the sky, and what we see rise up is a striking robed figure which is the character you maneuver. You lead this character across the sandy plain to come upon hilltop stone markers with bits of ripped cloth tied to them, blowing in the breeze. A high mountain presents itself in the distance, a bright beam of light shining at its apex. This is your destination – your destiny – as you traverse the desert. The bits of cloth are your life line. You play a tiny chime and the rags come to life by extending yours, and by chiming in, your character develops a scarf-like garment that flows behind them in the wind – an important garment that allows your character the ability to jump and fly to great heights.  This trait is important as it gives your character the ability to complete brief but important tasks to allow you to pass on to the next level.

Along the way, you encounter other figures like yourself – these are actual gamers in their own game networked in through the PSN, who like you are trying to reach the mountain. At this point you encounter a handful of companions that help you complete levels and get to the end. The game takes under two hours to complete.

The first thing that drew me in was the graphics and the music. The game had a middle-eastern flavour, which I particularly liked. The music was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of Glass Masquerade as it really gave the game that mystery flair. I am also a sucker for odd-looking characters with a mysterious past, and Journey‘s main character certainly fits the bill. The game looked great. The controls were simple enough: using the PS4 controller, besides the sticks, you really only had two buttons to worry about – X and O – which I can definitely get behind. Great music, neat-looking characters, gorgeous graphics, easy gameplay…what’s not to like?

Well…I kept wondering what the punchline to Journey was…what was the end game…the point?

Was I leading this character from birth to death? …The harsh landscape they must travel to reach higher heights…the fluidity of relationships as people enter the game and depart just as quickly. The symbolism is palpable which wasn’t the issue for me – I could actually get behind the theme. I had one serious problem with an integral part to the gameplay: I did not like the fact other players could enter my game to “help” me.

I encountered about 6 other players while in Journey, and found most to be a nuisance. Aside from one guy who stopped by to chime “Hi” and disappear, the majority walked in and took over everything, completing important tasks in the game before I was given a chance to even figure out what I was supposed to do. They were just too damn fast for me! I remember turning to BuriedOnMars and saying, “WTF? Get the eff out of my game! Whose game is this supposed to be anyway??” I was trailing behind these strangers like some pathetic chump while they leveled us both up.

I didn’t get that sense of accomplishment obtained by completing the game myself. This goes beyond co-op: when the hubs and I game, we are doing things together and taking turns on tasks that make sense for a multi-player game. Borderlands is a great example of co-op done well. Journey, on the other hand, had one linear task to complete at a time, and tasks that were really only meant to be completed by one player. So when you have two people, and the stronger player completes all the necessary tasks like they were trying to beat the game in record time, what am I left with?

I don’t like feeling inadequate when gaming, let alone in my life. I know myself well enough to know Journey‘s multiplayer component did not match my will at all. I am stubborn, I have endurance, I am passionate, and I am fiercely independent. If anything, my journey in playing this game highlighted those characteristics in me. So, I suppose I can say then that Journey has the “metaphor for life” analogy nailed down…especially when you’re dealing with me.

3.5/5 graphics

2.75/5 the rest

Journey (PS4) (available for the PS3 too)
thatgamecompany
2012