adventure games

[Review] The Beast of Lycan Isle (PC)

Luna and Tara are best friends and traveling buddies who are set to rendezvous on Lycan Island – a normally bustling tourist trap that has turned dark and inhospitable in its off-season. Luna arrives only to find that Tara has disappeared from her hotel room. You go searching the Island for your friend, and find a wolf is on the loose. With the help of Brina, an old woman with special powers to manipulate the wolf, you search the entire island for your friend before it’s too late. Has a wolf got a hold of Tara, or has she turned into one of them?

The Beast of Lycan Isle has been sitting in my Steam library for many years. Obviously, I had forgotten all about it! For the most part I can say this is a game reminiscent in style and feel to Angelica Weaver, right down to the ever present voiceover instructions which can get tedious. There is a lot of leading and hand-holding here, which is perfect for the beginner gamer. Clues are always present but the voiceover is constant. This one is a little low on the hidden object scenes, but high on the puzzles and collecting of items around the environment.

I think others would enjoy the Beast of Lycan Isle, even though there are plenty of elements I did not enjoy about it. On top of the constant hand-holding, I didn’t care much for the look of it, or the characters…and the plot seemed a little odd. Yeah, I didn’t like it, and I would never want to play this again. HOWEVER, the newbie gamer might / would likely get something out of it.

2/5

The Beast of Lycan Isle
Gogii
2012

Advertisements

[Review] Drizzlepath (2015)

From Tonguc Bodur, the creator of Bottle (a game I reviewed last year), comes another walking simulator called Drizzlepath. This one has mixed reviews on Steam, but what the hey, I must have got it for $1 on sale. It was touted as “a relaxing journey to the top of the mountain”. Who else needs a stress-free trip up a mountain? Count me in!

Drizzlepath starts with you amid a landscape of mountains, falls and a lake. You are in the lake treading water and make your way to shore. Immediately you are met with a bale of turtles basking in the sun. Now, this was a surprise! Turtles happen to be one of my favourite animals ever, so I couldn’t help but feel encouraged this game was going to be something special.

You follow a fenced trail around the hillside and eventually you navigate to the top of a mountain. As you traverse, you are met with a drizzle of rain, and a serene landscape. I was excited to encounter more animals along my way, including chickens, frogs, and even lobsters. Several homes dot the landscape along the way, but you can’t access inside of them, and no one is around to talk to.

I’m the type who likes to break the trail and explore the surroundings…I quickly realize why the creator put up fencing along the path: the areas outside it were not graphically developed quite as nicely as along the path. That’s not to say the imagery along the path was overly polished; often, the mountains and grass missed detail; areas were blurry or filled in with streaks of colour. Although not a complete wash, I do wish there was a bit more attention paid to the detail in the landscape, especially when energy was obviously spent on such a minute detail as rendering droplets of rain precisely as I walked along the landscape.

Admittedly, I was disappointed there weren’t more interactions with people, places and things in this game. Perhaps if you were able to pick things up, collect things, read or enter some of those buildings, I would have gained some understanding as to what the goal of Drizzlepath was. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to grasp on to, and the game’s disembodied voiceover wasn’t much help with my enlightenment. I am figuring the narration plays a role in the overall plot, however, the female they got to narrate speaks with a thick accent that I can’t place, and was difficult to understand. There was no closed captioning here to help; where are the subtitles, people?! From what I could understand, most of the dialogue sounded like nonsense: all I caught on to was something about knives and donkeys, and waking “your Apache friends up” (?!). Obviously, the narration of Drizzlepath must be an important element of the game and I didn’t catch any of it at all. I am certain there is a story behind this walk, but I have no clue what it was. Particularly puzzling was the weird and abrupt finale:

[scroll over for SPOILERS]

You find yourself at the end of the path where you find a tent and a roaring fire pit at the edge of a precipice. Three men with their backs to the camera are standing just beyond at the edge looking out into the distance.

[END OF SPOILERS]

Others were saying how relaxing a game Drizzlepath is, but frankly I felt unsettled most of the time. To me a relaxing walk is wide open spaces. Very often in this game, I was wading through thick brush or squeezing through crevasses or walked along very narrow paths. Not to mention the time near the end when I tumbled down into the drink…and I think, died. I made it back to life through a checkpoint in game.

There are other games in the Tonguc Bodur universe, including sequels to both Drizzlepath and Bottle, but I am holding off exploring those for now. Overall the stroll in Drizzlepath was more enjoyable than its younger sim sister, Bottle, but Bodur needs to do much better with making the plot lines in his games much more accessible than he has been, especially if he wants a wider audience. To appropriate a phrase, “man cannot live on scenery alone…” That is pretty much all you get here.

2.5/5

Drizzlepath
Tonguc Bodur
2015

[Review] Theatre of the Absurd (PC)

Theatre of the Absurd is a game I bought on Steam in May 2014 in a Silverback Games gamepack. Silverback Games is a Canadian developer that brought us the great Empress of the Deep series (“The Darkest Secret” got a 4.75/5 from me when I reviewed it September 2014!). And on preview, Theatre of the Absurd looked like creepy fun. What could go wrong?

Scarlet Frost is an expert on the occult who is called to Doctor Corvus’s estate one dark night to authenticate his Habsburg cube, a red box that holds a captured demon. The troubled Corvus loses his temper and throws the cube, shattering it and unleashing the demon who captures and possesses his young daughter. Scarlet is to use her forces of good to save the young girl. She is tasked with exploring Dr. Corvus’s weird “theatre of the absurd,” a massive mansion, to find pieces of a magical bell that will exorcise the demon. Each room is creepy, and demonstrates Corvus’s disturbing obsession with the devil.

I could really buy into the darkness vibe of Theatre of the Absurd. The music was foreboding, and there were some unexpected jump-scare moments not often seen in a hidden object game. However, the story itself was pretty thin and the tasks and puzzles were repetitive and uninspired.

In the first scene, you are having to save Corvus’s daughter by giving her water of Horus, an elixir that would temporarily relieve her of her possession. This could only mean the potion would wear off, and you would have to find more water of Horus to help her. I had enough of this task by the second time…

It didn’t help there were elements of the game that I feel were unrefined. Some of the hidden object scenes were blurry to the point I was reduced to pixel-hunting around and using hints to find certain objects. The puzzles felt ho hum fare (run steam through the pipes). And while I pile on, I also noticed odd errors in navigation in the game: an arrow would direct you to go one way, only to click it once to have you loop back to where you stood!

I tried to forge ahead with Theatre of the Absurd but alas, I found myself losing interest by the third chapter. Maybe someone else will feel this game is fun, but I would highly suggest you try Silverback’s much better offering, Empress of the Deep: the Darkest Secret.

2.5/5

Theatre of the Absurd (PC)
Silverback Games
2012

[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

[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