adventure games

[Review] Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale (PC)

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is another offering from New Brunswick-based Gogii Games. I played its predecessor, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret, in 2014! Back then, I recall it being a damn fine HOG with an adventure element. Gogii does produce a half-decent sequel in Part 2, in graphics and gameplay, even while the storyline itself is a little strange.

In the Darkest Secret, Anna discovered that she is the Empress of the Deep – her sister Pandora was jealous of her and had her locked under sea in a tomb, asleep. Pandora destroyed the tomb, and Anna narrowly escaped with her life. Now in Song of the Blue Whale, she is being summoned to the Temple in the Sky to find the four Children of Light and save them from Pandora’s evil clutches. In this temple she must also seek the animal guardians who will free the children and restore harmony. Yes, a lot of responsibility on Anna’s shoulders!

The sequel holds the Empress of the Deep canon well. My memory might be fuzzy on the past, but I think Part 2 might be stronger than its predecessor. It certainly has a lot to offer… The puzzles are engaging and varied; I found the hidden object scenes clear and interesting, but easy. The game is short (it took me under 3 hours to complete), but there are plenty of scenes to navigate. If I am to offer any critique, it would have to do with being given a map that I had difficulty deciphering, and that there seemed to be quite a bit of backtracking which made me lose my place a lot.

Mostly though, I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this game – the beautiful soundtrack, the odd soundbites of children talking and the serenity of water falling. Like its predecessor, there are aspects of the game that give a feeling of peace, similar to the Fall, or even Myst. And one takes pause at the calming pace at which the voiceover of Anna is delivered, acted by none other than Lucy DeCoutère (Trailer Park Boys). Gogii chose rightly here; just perfect!

Overall, Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is a fine compliment to the first set, and often goes on sale on Steam – I highly recommend that you pick it up when it does!

4.75/5

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale
Gogii
2011

[Review] Bury Me, My Love (PC)

“Bury me, my love” is a Syrian phrase that loosely means “take care on your journey; don’t die before I do.” Lately, the plight of Syrians has been all too real, with the civil war continuing to rage, kill and destroy the country, forcing millions of people to escape to safety. For many Syrians, fleeing their country is a double-edged sword; as at the heart they love their country, but they know it’s too dangerous to stay. Their pilgrimage to a better life comes with a foreboding sense of peril and excitement.

There is no better game out there that I’ve played that gives witness to the plight of a refugee escaping conflict better than Bury Me, My Love a phone simulator-type game that is more “Choose Your Own Adventure” than a phone-snooping operation. Its premise is relevant, and the stories are realistic and immersive.


Nour and Majd are a married couple from Homs, Syria. Nour is a Physician who leaves Majd behind to seek asylum in Germany. Meanwhile, Majd is a history scholar who teaches, runs the family shop part time and looks after his mother. You play as Madj, who communicates with Nour via a Whatsapp-type of text messaging app. Majd is there to provide encouragement, and advice through Nour’s daily strifes. Nour is also an independent woman who scoffs at wearing a hijab in public, even though Majd encourages her to for safety. Nour’s journey begins as she waits for a cab ride to the airport to catch a plane to Turkey, but the anxiety begins immediately when the cab is late. Most text messages are sent by your character automatically. Every once in a while, you will have to choose from two responses which will have an impact on the outcome of Nour’s story. Squabbles, jokes and loving conversation string the bleak and palpable uncertainty of Nour’s living experience as she constantly has to decide between two equally shady decisions with unknown consequences.

There are apparently at least 19 endings to Bury Me, My Love, each uniquely different, so I felt free to experiment with situations just to see how Nour’s story could end. I replayed this game at least eight times – some with a very happy ending, some with shocking consequences. The conversations feel real, and you’ll find yourself vested in Nour and Majd’s story enough to want to try the game again.

Overall, I was quite impressed with Bury Me, My Love‘s localized language. I don’t know about the other languages (French, Arabic, etc), but this game was like I was reading text messages from a couple from North America. No broken English here, and it was appreciated, because I’ve played some games from devs who have not taken the time to get a proper translation. There were even funny autocorrects, missing words and misspells that are common among us all in texting; so the conversation felt natural, and well paced.

This game is not without a few glitches. When I first fired up Bury Me, My Love, for some reason I couldn’t get my mouse or keyboard to work with it at all. I couldn’t even exit out of the game without the usual ctrl-alt-del method. I am guessing something updated because I started the game this week and my mouse worked fine. Who knows why…I also experienced some unexpected crashing a couple of times; it was fine since this game autosaves (hooray!) so I was able to get back into the swing of things easily.

I did notice a wee bit of a continuity gap in a couple of the story lines where money and ID were stolen from Nour, but were miraculously back in her hands three text exchanges later, or she had ID and now doesn’t. Maybe 19 endings is too much for the developers to keep track of?

In any case, Bury Me, My Love is an immersive experience I won’t soon forget. It’s also available to play on iOS and Android. I highly recommend it!

5/5

Bury Me, My Love
The Pixel Hunt
2017

[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] 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] 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

[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

[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