PC Games

[Review] Overcooked (PC)

As of this posting, I have been on a well-deserved week-long stay-cation. From day zero, the hubs and I have been obsessed with playing Overcooked on the recommendation of Chris, Myles and Kathryn from @FlockofNerds. We’ve been “cooking up a storm” ever since!

Overcooked is a cooking strategy game where you play as a short order cook trying to fill orders as quickly as possible. You are given a food order with a set of required ingredients. For example, pizza requires dough, tomato, cheese and maybe sausage or mushrooms depending on the order. Each ingredient needs to be chopped. All the while you are washing dirty dishes and watching the oven to ensure your prepared food doesn’t burn. If your kitchen has a mouse problem, you have to contend with your produce going missing.

As you level up in Overcooked, the venue and layouts of the kitchen can change and impact how your character moves through the arena. In one level, your kitchen is divvied up among the back of three flatbed trucks, one of which moves around, and happens to be the only one with the essential ingredients to make your food. The complexity of the food you are making also changes (beef burritos and rice anyone?). You have to watch what is going on the entire time to ensure orders are prepared right and on time. Points are given when orders go through correctly, and lost if you screw them up. At the end of the timed challenges, you are given up to three stars depending on your score. The hubs and I played Overcooked together in co-op and it really got competitive for us: It was “three stars or bust”! The end boss is a real trip – I don’t want to ruin it for you, but let’s just say that it’s one-a spicy meat-a ball!

Overcooked is a very polished game, with cute characters, a neat little navigation map and catchy music. The developers, Ghost Town Games, paid serious attention to the details. Likewise, those that play Overcooked must pay attention. This game reminds us of some practical life lessons in game play, namely, keeping the communication pipeline open with your partner. As in life, it is important to let the other know what you are doing and where you are going. Screwing up is common in Overcooked, so be prepared for failure. And if you have any neuroses about that, you need to remember to take it easy on yourself and your partner, because the game is worth playing together to the end.

We played Overcooked on PC via Steam, but it’s also available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Go on, buy it! And make sure you play with a partner!

Overcooked (PC)
Ghost Town Games
August 2016

[Review] Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PC)

Collaboration post! 1537 and Caught Me Gaming have joined blogging forces to bring you a fulsome review of the game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: I take on the game, 1537 takes on the soundtrack! Please go read his fantastic post here!

About eight years ago, I read a book called, “the World Without Us,” which looks at how planet Earth would manage if humans were to suddenly disappear (Spoiler alert: the world would get on just fine without us). Whenever I hear of games where I explore abandoned towns, this book pops into my head. Without having all the information, a game title like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture conjures up thoughts of this deserted earth. What should I expect? The environment overrun with weeds? Should I bring a machete?

With talks of a rapture, I also thought I would get some doomish church sermon out of it too. Thankfully, there was no such sermon, or talk of Armageddon for that matter. But, this game does leave one with thoughts and questions that last beyond the end of the game.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (referred to as ‘Rapture going forward) is a mystery adventure game that takes the form of a first-person walking simulator. You are dropped in the middle of a small English village where all its inhabitants have disappeared. You are left to wander the town, exploring buildings to get clues as to what happened there. Interactions with phones and radios randomly scattered throughout the village allow users to hear odd messages from Scientist Katherine (Kate) Collins, and her husband Stephen Appleton who both worked at the town’s Observatory and who were trying to find an explanation for the mysterious patterns of light that have suddenly appeared in the sky. With it is a desperation to find a correlation between the light and the terrifying health-related illnesses happening to the local townfolk. The game also delves into the personal lives of Stephen and Kate and their interactions and interrelationships with the locals. Orbs of light are found everywhere within the game, are non-threatening, and very much used as a device of guidance when one gets disoriented. They also invite players to interact with them to trigger cuts scenes that tell a richer story of what happened here.

A walking simulator such as ‘Rapture where there is no threat of attack or enemy is a blissful experience. The scenery in the game was so realistic and lovely. Combined with a beautiful soundtrack that marries an atmospheric opera with minimalistic music, you get a sense of what you would experience playing this game. Yet… there is definitely a creepy, unsettled feeling, walking through this abandoned town, into people’s homes, half expecting to run into someone…and maybe I’ve played too many survival horror games, but I for sure thought a zombie was gonna jump-scare me straight from my relaxed state. The most unsettling had to have been the beep-booping sounds coming from random radios and phones found scattered in backyards and along to streets.

There is plenty done right in ‘Rapture. For one thing, I have to give props to the devs, The Chinese Room, for creating a game that honours accessibility, particularly for the hard of hearing. Not only does the game have optional closed captioning, but also the ability to make the audio cues visual, as in the instance of a radio making sound, it will show a flashing icon in the direction of the sound. Also, often I get motion sickness with first-person walking simulators without a cross-hair in the centre of the screen, and thankfully, ‘Rapture has that option.

The game was originally made for the PS4, and ported to the PC. Having played the PC version with mouse and keyboard, I have to say it played okay, if it had a few rendering issues with objects appearing blurry at times. But, predominantly my main complaint had more to do with a very fundamental device that was missing from the PC version – a PROPER manual save. That’s right folks, there was no ability to save at will within the game… that is until The Chinese Room heard the ire of fellow gamers who were asking for refunds because of it…. The only time the game would save your progress was when you would find a glowing orb that would change into a cut scene. For a game that is open-world – that encourages the player to wander and explore – it was impractical to walk around and NOT have a manual save state. The first evening I spent in ‘Rapture, I wandered for an hour and a half, but it only saved 25 minutes worth of gameplay. What’s the point? I looked online for a solution, and thankfully, the developers pushed a patch that allowed players to click on framed maps found around the tiny village to save the game manually (this solution was found on Steam in the forums here, in case anyone is interested). Incidentally, this does not seem to be an issue for the PS4 – they have a suspend mode whereby the game can be paused, which was not possible with the PC version. Anyway, props to the devs for fixing this downright annoying problem. Why they didn’t think of this as a problem before, I have no idea.

Overall, I didn’t regret my time spent in ‘Rapture. It’s a gorgeous game, and if walking simulators are your bag, don’t pass this one by!

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
The Chinese Room
2016 (PC) / 2015 (PS4)

Thanks to 1537 for the game suggestion and the idea to join forces! Now go read his review here!

Jessica Curry Everybodys Gone To The Rapture 08

[Review] Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (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!

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull is the seventh installment of the Mystery Case Files collection by Big Fish Games. I have some familiarity with MCF games, having played Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident on the Wii a couple of years ago, as well as Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir on the Nintendo DS. I like the series as every game is unique in its own right, either by its storytelling, or graphic execution. The production value is predominantly top-notch, and 13th Skull is no exception.

Sara and Marcus Lawson move from Ohio into a run-down mansion amid the swampy bayous of Louisiana, along with their daughter Magnolia. Soon after settling in, Marcus goes missing, and Sara calls upon you, a detective, to find him. In the meantime, you must rummage through this dirty creepy mansion, interview rednecks and avoid alligators all in the name of detective work, just so you can locate Sara’s husband. While gathering evidence, you discover that the mansion and town are steeped in pirate history, the townfolk are superstitious and a brigand by the name of Phineas Crown once lived and buried his treasure at the mansion. There is also gossip around town of the curse of the 13th Skull, a spell that is cast on anyone who locates the treasure. Sooner or later, Marcus is found, along with some interesting plot twists. Arr Matey!

13th Skull is a point and click hidden object adventure game that does very well to encapsulate a feeling of the old South with its characters, settings and music. The puzzles in this game are typical, but fun and challenging. What sets this one apart from other HOGs, is the use of live-action interview scenes that the gamer is made to participate in to advance the story. The major characters of the story – Sara Lawson, her daughter Magnolia, their superstitious housekeepers, and some town locals are represented. The game places the full-motion actor within the game’s UI, so it appears as though the actor is living in this virtual world. The interview part is an interesting aspect and enriches the experience. The acting? Well…it’s a bit cheesy and exaggerated, but I liked how Big Fish Games tried to do something different within a hidden object game.

Although the puzzles were challenging in 13th Skull, there happened to be several instances where you would have to scour the game’s numerous scenes, including the bar, swamp, cemetery and the Lawson house’s 10 rooms to find one single object needed to continue in the story. At the end of the puzzle, it was easy to lose track of where you are going and what you were supposed to be doing next. This is a minor critique, and the game comes with a walkthough to help you out, if you are so inclined to use it.

Critiques aside, 13th Skull is a fun game that shouldn’t be missed, and fits nicely within the pantheon of Mystery Case Files games.

3.5/5

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC)
Big Fish Games
2010

[Review] A Spell in the Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! (PC)

For half of 2013 and 2014, the hubs and I spent time in the acrid, dangerous and awesome world that is Borderlands 1 and 2 (written about previously here). We took a hiatus while we awaited the long anticipated release of  the third chapter in the Borderlands franchise, Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! and once released in the Fall of 2014, waited for it to go on sale cheap enough to pull the trigger. Lucky us, we found two cheap hard copies for the PC thanks to a random sale at Best Buy ($10 each). Soon thereafter, we got a hankering to explore a fresh adventure in the Borderlands once again. We began playing together in Co-op via Steam in August 2015 and from there, dedicated at least 37 hours of gameplay, which took us to Christmastime 2015. Aside from a few nit-picky things, it was an interesting trip!

Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! fits right in the middle of Borderlands 1 and 2 in chronology. In past Borderlands games, you played as a Vault Hunter, in search for priceless hidden booty on Pandora, a bleak planet that once housed mining colonies. In this game, you again play as a Vault Hunter assisting on a mission to explore Pandora’s moon, Elpis, and to take over a space station.  In an interesting and surprising turn, you inadvertently assist a well-known villain in the Borderlands canon on their journey from their humble beginnings to their corruption. The plot, quite like the other two Borderlands stories, is secondary to this massive mission-based game, and can be a little confusing to follow if you try to dig too deep.

You will see several familiar faces in the Pre-Sequel, such as ClapTrap (in several iterations), Roland and Lilith, but this round, you are given the option of playing one of four Vault Hunters that were never playable before, but that are familiar in the Borderlands Universe. I played Athena, a kick-ass Gladiatrix who is equipped with a special shield that can block damage caused by enemies by absorbing its energy, then using that energy to attack enemies in return.

This game has a very similar look and feel to its predecessors. The hyper-realism with cel-shaded graphics that players are familiar with is left intact, and I couldn’t be happier! The gameplay mechanics are also similar in this game to Borderlands 2, with some interesting additions. First, weaponry has been upgraded to include laser and cryogenic guns, which can obliterate or freeze your opponent.There is also something called the Grinder, which could be used to obtain weapon upgrades by combining two lower level weapons.

Because you were exploring on a moon (Elpis, Pandora’s moon), you were often dealing with low-gravity environments while in gameplay which provided your character with the ability to make giant leaps over long distances. These leaps were often aided by jump pads that would propel you into the air. This activity was fun and challenging for me as I would often over-shoot my target landing spot, and end up falling into the abyss.

The environment outside also lacked oxygen. Not only were you having to manage your health, weapons, and shields in this game, you were also having to manage your oxygen levels. Along the way, you were able to top up your air or open up oxygen-filled areas. This was fine in the beginning stages as you were leveling up, but, I was half expecting (hoping?) to be able to pick up a self-regen oxygen pack of some type that would regenerate your oxygen permanently; but this never came. This might be a nit-picky thing, but searching and worrying about the oxygen levels got ridiculous by the end of the game.

Because Elpis was rather expansive, you were given the familiar moon buggy of past Borderlands games to traverse the barren landscape. In an interesting twist, though, you were also provided with stingrays – one-person hover-craft rides that propelled on a jetpack. I never got the hang of them, to be honest, and would often respawn after falling off a cliff while riding one of those things. But, it was something different, and it being a one-man ride, you had to rely on your own devices to survive on them.

Although, overall, Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel! is not my favourite in the Borderlands franchise (Number 1 is), it is a familiar and fun game that should be experienced.

3/5

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
Gearbox / 2K Australia
October 2014

[Review] Life Is Strange (XBox One)

Undo. Rewind. Do over.

Don’t you wish sometimes you were given a second chance to go back in time and correct mistakes made, or make right a bad ending? Be careful what you wish for! That is one lesson learned while playing the Square Enix game, Life is Strange!

Max Caulfield moved away from Arcadia Bay, Oregon to Seattle, Washington with her family when she turned 13, leaving behind her best friend, Chloe. Five years later, Max returns to Arcadia Bay to enroll in the prestigious Blackwell Academy on a Photography scholarship.  The geeky and kind Max enjoys spending her time peering through the lens of her Polaroid camera (her chosen medium) and taking pictures of nature. Blackwell Academy, for what it’s worth, is full of the typical cliquey high school drama. Max tries to avoid it, and concentrate on what is important to her – the upcoming Photography contest, and her dreamy teacher, Mr. Jefferson.

It was a violent incident one day on campus that made her aware of a new power she had at her fingertips – the ability to turn back time. She soon put her powers to work, changing negative outcomes to more favourable ones whenever the opportunity would present itself. This newfound ability was surprising and unbelievable. Her powers worked well for a spell, and was even fun, but soon, too much turning back father time created a shit storm of negative environmental events which become hard to untangle without risking lives…and timelines.

Life is Strange is a graphic adventure game where the player is provided a set of choices that have consequences depending on the path you take. This was about the only difficult thing about the game – making choices for Max. Thankfully, unlike some other choice-driven games like the Walking Dead, there is no time limit – you actually have time to read and reflect on the decision (in the Walking Dead, they give you, like, 10 seconds for four choices – barely enough time to decode and process what I just read…). The menu system for the game is pretty easy to use and is where you have access to Max’s personal journal (which was interesting, voyeuristic) and her cellphone to receive texts from her family and friends.

Although set in modern-day, this game’s layered sub-plots and relationships between characters brought back a tonne of teenaged memories for me – the friendship between Max and her best friend Chloe, Max’s insecurity about her talent as a Photography student, taking art classes and opining about art, putting up with cliques…I saw a lot of myself in Max. Even decisions having to do with loyalties with friends (who hasn’t dealt with that?).

Let’s talk about the style of Life is Strange: gorgeous. The game’s use of light, shade and tonal gradation to emote a feeling was very effective. I mean, I could stare into those sunsets all day. The game also lingers long and takes its time, using strategic shots to set a scene. Every shot appears to have been thought out and successfully executed. Absolutely awesome.

The version I played was from the Life Is Strange Limited Edition package on the Xbox One – a gift from my husband – and it is awesome! The collection includes the entire game, a scrap book and a soundtrack CD – pretty damn cool. The music is an off-beat mix of atmospheric modern-Indie Folk, alternative and dance; Syd Matters, alt-J, Foals and Jose Gonzalez (to name a few) fill the game’s soundtrack with a sound that pairs well with the stylings of Life is Strange. I know some people won’t like the music, and I can’t say I like all of it, but I think most of it is very good.

This game was the first one I played on the Xbox One, and I have to say I am pleased with the smooth experience. No glitches at all, and everything looked crisp. Overall, I highly recommend Life is Strange. It’s available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and Windows.

9/10

Life Is Strange (Xbox One)
Dontnod / Square Enix
Released: January 2015

[Review] REDRUM: An Eerie Hidden Object Collection (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!

REDRUM: An Eerie Hidden Object Collection

REDRUM was 2011’s boxing day sales find at the local Staples. I have confirmation that Staples in Canada is getting away from selling any games in its stores. Still, today on occasion, the casual hidden object adventure gamer can find some sweet deals on boxed games. This is always a gamble because a lot of these sets contain games that are all kinds of suck.

I had never heard of the REDRUM games before. The compilation consists of two REDRUM games – Dead Diary and Time Lies – as well as two bonus, unrelated and very forgettable games, the Curse of the Witch Crow and the Flying Dutchman. REDRUM, for one, has cheesy packaging, but the price was right (around $2.50), so I took a chance on it. Besides, I was getting 4 games for the price of a mobile game, so even if three of the four sucked, I felt it was still worth it.

deaddiary1

The first game, REDRUM Dead Diary centers around Rose, a girl who has been committed under psychiatric care for hearing voices. Her loaded divorced parents bicker about Rose’s care, but it’s her uncle, a Private I, who knows something is up with her Psychiatrist, Dr. Sigmund Fraud, as he is insisting Rose get the most expensive shock therapy treatments and medications. Of course, he is over-charging the rich parents, and tries to keep Rose in his care by injecting her with green serum that makes her all kinds of high. Things are not what they seem in her world. She sees and experiences some frightening stuff that the gamer must experience as well. Sooner or later, Fraud comes under scrutiny as he cares for other disturbed patients. He is soon under arrest and locked up for good. Rose is free and no longer hears voices.

timeliestitle

In the sequel, Time Lies, Dr. Fraud is somehow given a pardon, and released from the mental institution he was being held in under sentence for the shenanigans he was into from the first game. He is up to his evil tricks as he tries to wreck havoc in lives connected to Rose. Again, with help from her uncle, Rose manages to save the Doctor’s victims from their hell, and exposes the Doctor for the evil Fraud he is. The Doctor is then thrown in jail for good.

I was pleasantly surprised by this REDRUM package! The cover of the box doesn’t evoke confidence that this is gonna be any good…but the games were quite enjoyable! A nice mix of puzzles, from hidden object, to match the mosaic tile, to virtual jigsaw puzzles… I never got bored! Backtracking was a breeze when utilizing the easy-to-follow map provided (A+! Love maps!). The gameplay was challenging, but not frustrating. If we have to pick favourites between the first and second game, the sequel, Time Lies offered more game time, but both are good games.

I didn’t think I would find an equally good and scary hidden object game to Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, but I found it in the REDRUM franchise. Some scenes are indeed shocking and difficult to look at. I would not recommend this for children because of the haunting imagery. Imagine having to play through a puzzle with this staring back at you:

deaddiary5

BAH!

The soundtrack was equally jarring. Overall, this would be a great game to install for Hallowe’en. I know I am talking as though both games of the REDRUM series is one, but really, both fit comfortably together. Time Lies, the sequel game was a bit longer, and had more puzzles, but both games are worth checking out. If you spot this box anywhere, I highly recommend you pick this one up! It’s a keeper!

Now, a word on the bonus games…

The Curse of the Witch Crow was a match-three game (like Bejeweled and Candy Crush) that looked and sounded okay, if a little dated, but nothing to really write home about.

Curse of the Witch Crow

Curse of the Witch Crow

The Flying Dutchman, unfortunately refused to load properly on my PC, even adjusting the resolution to 480, and changing the Windows compatibility settings. I couldn’t get past the load screen, which looked like a dog’s breakfast.

The Flying Dutchman's load screen

The Flying Dutchman’s load screen

REDRUM: An Eerie Hidden Object Collection
Anarchy Enterprises
2011

[Review] Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer (PC) Blows Goats

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!

Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer is a point-and-click crime adventure game, and a sequel to Art of Murder: Deadly Secrets, a game I had reviewed waaay back in Fall 2013. That game was terrible, and this one was no better. You might think I am a glutton for punishment…trying to play a sequel to a game I had given my precious “This Game Blows” Seal of Disdain to. But my long-term memory failed me, and my need to clear out some of my boxed games is a priority, soooo here we are.

In Deadly Secrets, we saw Nicole Bonnet, NYC FBI detective investigating a murder. In Hunt for the Puppeteer, she is in France investigating a murder that might be related to a string of murders that have taken place in New York. The Gendarme are on the scene, as a body of a ballerina has been found in a studio, posed in a similar fashion to artist Edgar Degas’ (1834-1917) painting Waiting (1880-1882) by using wires suspended from the wall and ceiling. Nicole, posing as a guest to the Gendarme, comes in to investigate in secret, as the police don’t really want her tampering with the crime scene. Somehow, she manages to build an evidence dossier using plastic document protectors, pencil lead and tape at hand, but not until she and the gamer consult an in-depth walkthrough on the internet.

degas ballet

The Waiting by Degas

Okay that last part of sentence isn’t quite true. I consulted an in-depth walkthrough….thanks Gamezebo.

The game looks pretty good, and collecting equipment to have at hand in your inventory is fairly easy. What isn’t is actually using your equipment…did you know if you join a stapler and a pencil, you can easily cut a pencil in half? Or how about using a match stick and cotton to make a q-tip? But, wait, why couldn’t I just use that pencil tip and cotton as a swab? Several choices in items you use to investigate didn’t make sense to me, and were not intuitive. And once I got my evidence, I thought we could just move along in the game past the first chapter. I was wrong.

Truthfully, the first time I played this game was about five years ago. I quit after the first chapter because I could not progress in the game, even after consulting walkthroughs. My gaming chops were not grown in yet, so I figured I would get more gaming under my belt. Since then, I have played many adventure point-and-click games, including Broken Sword and Syberia – both excellent games! I’ve played Mass Effect for chrissakes!

I have the chops, yet Hunt for the Puppeteer eluded me. I could not get Nicole Bonnet to leave the crime scene. She kept saying she had more to investigate. I tried again with a new gamer profile…following step-by-step instructions on everything Nicole was to do. Still, somehow there was more to investigate.

puppeteer hell

I don’t know what I was doing wrong or what I was missing. But, forget it folks, daylight is fading and who gives a shit. I am out! Detective Nicole Bonnet will be solving this one on her own! Au revoir!

2/10

Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer
City Interactive
2009