PC Games

[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

Advertisements

[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] Firewatch (2016)

Collaboration post! 1537 and Caught Me Gaming have joined blogging forces once again to bring you a fulsome review of the game, Firewatch! I take on the game, 1537 takes on the soundtrack! Please go read his fantastic post here!

When tragedy strikes in life, often one needs to take stock and re-evaluate. Some run into the arms of family and friends for solace, others crave solitude.

Henry’s life was in an upheaval to such an extent that he felt his soul needed time to heal and be by himself for a while. When a Fire Watch job came up in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, he figured the fresh air, the landscape and seclusion would do him good. It was perfect. And it wasn’t like he was completely alone either – Delilah, a fellow Fire Watch stationed at another post in the Forest a few miles away, was at the ready via walkie-talkie.

Henry’s days consist of watching the landscape and ensuring no fires are started. When Delilah radios in to alert Henry to some fireworks that were being set in the forest, an adventure ensues that develops into an intriguing mystery. Here, Henry is under the impression he is alone…but discovers some mischief afoot – some harmless…some downright frightening…

Firewatch is a very enjoyable first-person adventure game set in 1989. You play as Henry and don’t see much of him appearance-wise other than his hands and feet. Henry is given a map of the forest, which initially is rudimentary, but becomes more extensive as he explores and finds outposts in the park which contain maps that are added automatically to his main map. He also carries a compass, which in conjunction with his map, I found a bit confusing at first. For some reason, I kept reversing East and West (quite common behavior for me to get turned around…I honestly need to tattoo L on my left hand and R on my right to help me remember…). Yes, it was rage-quit central at the House of Sim…BuriedOnMars had to help me initially. Once I slowed down and got the hang of it, it was aces.

There is a lot of walking simulation in Firewatch. Thankfully the game doesn’t have a time limit so you can go explore the forest if you want, which I did extensively once I got the hang of navigating the landscape. The controls were simple to use (WASD keys and mouse), and of course, there was that cross-hair in the centre of the screen so I didn’t get motion sickness whilst playing.

Along with the map and compass, Henry is provided with a walkie-talkie that is used to communicate with Delilah. The interactions with her, whom we never see in person, involve dialogue choices, but none are quick-time events. Your dialogue options determine how much of a relationship develops between Henry and Delilah. My Henry initially was quite aloof and abrupt with Delilah, who tried her best to be friendly and accommodating with him, despite him acting like a bit of a dick to her. It isn’t until several weeks go by in the timeline of the game that their dynamic has changed, and the dialogue choices are more amicable.

Stylistically, I absolutely LOVED Firewatch. The game was awash in hues of faded yellow, red clay and blues. I read that the developers drew from old American National Park Service ads, and I can definitely see the inspiration.

1537 will get more into Firewatch‘s music, but I have to say that I didn’t notice much music until one scene when Henry encounters a couple of teens having some fun in the lake. They had left their boombox blaring to tunes very reminiscent of Taylor Dayne, but it wasn’t…it was poppy, synthy and overall, catchy! Very 80s.

Firewatch can be played in under 4 hours. Available on PC, MAC, Linux, Playstation 4 and Xbox One, this is one game that looks great and plays well and has a great story. I highly recommend it!

5/5

Firewatch (PC)
Campo Santo
2016

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

[Review] Her Story (PC) (2015)

I have played a handful of games that have touched on the subject of criminology, where you play a detective on the beat picking up clues, interviewing suspects and arresting perps. Some games do the subject well and are intuitive (see Cold Case Files: the Game or Unsolved Crimes), while some crime games, not so much (see Crime Scene or CSI: Dark Motives). Never have I had a crime-themed gaming experience like what I had with Her Story. Instead of getting clues at the start, you are using already-collected evidence to come to a conclusion.

Her Story opens with a feeling you have gone back in time to the days of Windows 98, as you are presented with a dusty CRT computer monitor. A database program from twenty years ago is running on-screen. No sound is present, except for the faint humming of overhead fluorescent lights which can be seen reflected in the monitor.

A handful of live-action videos are open and available on-screen for viewing. All are short clips (30 seconds or less) of a woman who appears to be in a room being interviewed. They all seem to be out of sequence. The subject matter of what she says instantly piques your interest as you soon realize this woman is being asked questions about the whereabouts of a man named Simon and her involvement with him.

The videos available to you on-screen have been watched…now what? You are given a text box on-screen inviting you to enter random search terms of your choosing. You come to realize you are searching a police investigation database to view the videos. You pull clues from what the woman had said in previous videos and try entering them in the search box. More video results come up based on your search terms. You notice this woman is in all of them, and you learn soon enough Simon is dead and she is a suspect.

Her Story loops around and subtly confuses. Just when I thought I had the sequence of events down, the game pulls a fast one. I take to writing things down in my trusty pocket notebook, like a cop would. More search terms, more videos…suspense ramps up…soon enough, the ending reveals itself…

I am not going any further into the gameplay, except to say Her Story is very much a unique interactive and satisfying experience that I won’t soon forget. Do yourself a favor and get this game!

5/5

Her Story
Sam Barlow
2016

Side note: The “Win 98” desktop shortcuts are .txt files, a trash bin and a game that are active too. You can open them and view them! 

[Review] Glass Masquerade (2016) (PC)

If you’ve been reading Caught Me Gaming for any length of time, you should know by now you can count on me to find games that are a little obscure or off the beaten path.

I had never heard of Glass Masquerade before my “recommended games” queue in Steam pointed me to it, and let me tell you, it is one of the most unique and precious virtual jigsaw puzzle games for the PC I have ever come across. My past experience with this type of casual game has been a succession of cheap-looking, pixelized and badly rendered games (none of which have been worth reviewing as of late…). So, coming across this beaut was worth writing home about.

Glass Masquerade sees you traveling the world – 25 countries, in total – solving a jigsaw puzzle of a clock face designed to represent each country. The clocks are each unique, their puzzle pieces like shards of glass, atypical of your standard jigsaw piece. The goal, of course, is to fit all the shards into the clock face, and they all fit a certain way. These clocks, once completed are absolutely gorgeous: Think an art deco stylization in stained glass is the best way I could describe it.

This game is relaxing and meditative, and what helps achieve such an atmosphere is the moving soundtrack composed and performed by Nikita Sevalnev (Sand Countries is my personal favourite).

Glass Masquerade is fun, relaxing and completely re-playable. It’s indeed a hidden gem, and I highly recommend it!

5/5

Glass Masquerade
Onyx Lute
2016

[Review] Titanic: Adventure Out of Time (1996) (PC)

I don’t know what it is about Easter that inspires bingeing on everything of a similar theme. Last year, Spring 2016, I watched most of the Kurt Cobain themed films and documentaries…This past Spring, I found myself on a massive Titanic binge. I suppose the mood struck ever since I rewatched the 1997 James Cameron Titanic movie in March.

As a gamer, it’s easy to wonder if this epic sinking ship ever was the subject of a video game. Well, my search hit the jackpot, and I apologize in advance, gentle reader, as I have played a few of them now, and will be writing about them in future posts…

It was one of my most intriguing search results that carried me down a techie rabbit hole, so to speak. Among the Android hidden object games and Nintendo DS cartridges, I discovered an old-school Titanic-themed point-and-click adventure game from 1996 called Titanic: Adventure Out of Time that exists and is available for free…I said, FREE, yo! Heck yeah! I’ll give free a try! But, judging from its age, I knew the possibility existed there’d be some compatibility issues with my Windows 10 machine. Not to fear, many people managed to get the game playing, so I decided to give it a try.

The first step was to install something called DOSBox in order to run Titanic: Adventure Out of Time. DOSBox, in the simplest of terms, is a program that emulates old-timey PC games. At first I thought I’d be having to code my way through DOSBox’s installation. Thankfully, it wound up being less arduous than that – thorough instructions exist all over the place, and I have little fear navigating the guts of my computer, so I managed to install and get the game running. I giggled with glee when I first started the program, and the Windows 3.1 window popped up. Just then my husband walked in and said, “You’re running DOSBox? What?! You installed DOSBox to PLAY A GAME?? Wow, that’s hardcore!” Uh, thanks! {Psst, it wasn’t that difficult…}

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time sees you as Frank, an old British spy who failed a mission on the original RMS Titanic in April 1912, and who, having escaped its tragedy, is now living in London in 1942. A bomb hits his apartment and knocks him out, propelling him back in time to 1912, on-board the Titanic, on the fateful night it hit an iceberg. This is where you as Frank can “right some wrongs” by completing tasks assigned by your Superior, Agent Penny Pringle. Some of the missions involve speaking with suspicious passengers and retrieving items which would prevent the two World Wars and the Russian Revolution from ever starting. You are to complete your missions before the Titanic sinks, which, if accomplished, ensure a happy ending of waking up from your knockout, at home, and living in peace. There are different endings too, depending on what missions you completed before the ship sinks. A number of side-missions are available that you can complete that really have no bearing on the game’s outcome, but can allow for a full-bodied experience.

The mapping system

What puts this game above a lot of other games during this time period is the graphics. The developers were seeking an authentic Titanic experience, and a lot of care was put into ensuring a complete computer-generated replica of the mighty ship was created. Let me tell you: the graphics are incredible. The gamer is permitted and encouraged to tour the majority of the ship. Every inch, including statues, was represented. Maps are provided of the ship to allow you to port to different areas of the ship without having to walk through the entirety of the ship to figure it out yourself, and you are also welcome to ask around to key ship personnel where certain areas are if you get lost.

Smethells and Penny Pringle: You raannng?

When you first “wake up” from your unconsciousness, you will find yourself on the ship in your sleeping quarters. Your personal assistant, Smethells, is at the ready to instruct you on your first task of the evening. Immediately, you will be introduced to this game’s character animation, which is unexpected. Essentially, the animation consists of multiple photographs of real actors mouthing the dialogue, which has then been strung together in a sort of stop-motion animation. It was quite intricate, and I could imagine by its quality, that it would have taken forever to create! Depending on the character you encounter, you are given dialogue choices which can affect the outcome of your interactions with that character, so you must choose wisely.

Third Officer Morrow

One example where this plays out is when you must gain entry to the ship’s deck so you can access the wireless room and bridge. These areas are heavily guarded by Third Officer Morrow who will tell you to get lost unless you choose the right dialogue and help him out with a tiny side-mission. You’ll figure it out quickly as you cannot move ahead with the game without accessing these areas. The majority of the game is not timed, so you are not rushed through, until a completed key mission triggers the ship to crash into the iceberg, and start the clock. You are then beating the clock to find your way to a lifeboat so you can make your escape.

Hit an iceberg, and the ship floods…

When I started playing this game, I realized quickly that this Titanic game, for the most part, is not obviously linear. I could start a mission and then start another mission as I went. As it can be the case when you don’t follow a walkthrough, I wound up having an abundance of tasks to do ALL AT ONCE, completing tasks out-of-order. I started to write stuff down in a notebook, otherwise, I think I would have been completely lost! And not to fear, this game did not penalize you for starting something out-of-order like some games can. The developers obviously thought that this was a possibility. I mean, if you are welcome to tour the entire Titanic, then certainly you are bound to run into tasks to complete out of sequence.

You can use the fists in the forefront to punch this guy out. Interesting game dynamic

If I were to give any critique to Titanic, I’d say the missions were aplenty with: Talk to this person…Talk to that person…Get this and bring it to that person…Talk again to the person. It got a bit confusing at times, keeping all the dialogues and missions straight. Sometimes the activities did surprised me though, for example, I got to play blackjack, spar in a game of fencing, and punch a guy out – good times! But, no doubt, this game is very dialogue heavy, with at least 21 characters and their stories to keep track of. Get your pen and paper ready; you’re gonna need it!

As great as the graphics were in Titanic, there was still a sense of foreboding, aided by a somewhat creepy soundtrack that looped over and over. Further, not every person you see on-screen is an active character that you are meant to have a conversation with. Those “characters” are basically background and stand about static, but turn to face you, say nothing, and turn back around when you click on them. That was a little unsettling, but I think that sense of dread was the point. You are on the Titanic, and it’s only a matter of time before you have to get off the ship!

Overall, I enjoyed Titanic: Adventure Out of Time very much, and am glad I put the effort into installing DOSBox to play it. If you are comfortable with installing emulators, then this one might just be up your alley. It was quite a unique experience I won’t soon forget.

Gameplay 3/5
Graphics 5/5

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time
Cyberflix
1996

[Review] Victor Vran (PC)

The latter half of 2016 is where I hit quite a dry spell in the gaming department. No time! With a busy time at work and kitchen renos, it just seemed like I couldn’t get there. It wasn’t until Christmas 2016 when I finally got back at it thanks to a stint in the Borderlands again (the DLC’s great) that got the craving flowing, so to speak, for more heavy gaming.

Action RPGs are fast becoming an immersive favourite of mine, and I never thought I would get there. I have played several, from Mass Effect, to BioShock, to the Torchlight series and of course, Borderlands, but playing them has always come as a suggestion from the hubs, and never from me. RPGs can have a bit of learning curve – for one thing, you often have to manage your character and weapons quite a bit, and know what you are doing so you don’t die repeatedly. Some of these games give you strict parameters, such as only being allowed to carry a certain number of weapons on your adventures, or penalize you for dying, either by reducing your money or energy. My most recent RPG, Victor Vran, actually got all the elements right and was a fun game to play.

Victor Vran was a game that was sitting in my wish list on Steam for at least a year. Once the hubs and I had finished Borderlands 2, we were searching for another game like it to play together, and came upon this one. It wasn’t cheap – $27.99 to be exact…sorry, too rich for my blood! I put it on a wish list and hoped for a sale. It wasn’t until a Winter sale on GOG saw the price reduce to $12.99 that I took the plunge. It was definitely money well spent.

The fantasy city of Zagoravia has had an evil curse befall it. Vampires, insects, skeletons and zombies are overrunning the city, and the Queen seeks help. In comes Victor Vran; just some demon hunter dude who was passing through and who gets recruited to help find out who is responsible for the curse and why.

Victor Vran, unlike other RPGs, provides a simplicity in practically every aspect that anyone new to the genre could get behind. It has an easily accessible hub / menu system where you can access and swap out weapons with ease. You don’t have to choose a character class to Victor; instead you are given a choice of wardrobe, which in itself will give you more armor, critical hits in combat, or health regeneration, depending on which you choose. My Victor was dressed in the finest Zealot’s outfit, one that provides a high armor rate. Along the way, Victor collects weapons and demon powers in dungeon-crawling and loot drops. Each level offers something interesting and challenging in their venues and boss fights. Most levels offered secret passageways that were difficult to locate, but where you were rewarded with a treasure chest containing bonus gold or other prizes. Each level has a star rating to indicate difficulty. The game challenges the player to ramp up the difficulty within each level by turning on provided hexes that give constraints (such as bosses become more powerful, armor takes longer to regenerate, your health takes a huge hit when under attack…). It’s an additional challenge that can become addicting; seeing a four-star rating at each level across a map gives you a sense of accomplishment!

This game offers what seems like a limitless amount of inventory slots, the likes of which I doubt I have ever seen ever in playing an ARPG. You then have to go through and figure out which ones to equip in your weapons and power slots which can seem like a daunting task. The weapons provided give you varied choice – rifles, bow and arrows, scythes, hammers, and swords – all with their own powers and deficits. My weapon of choice happened to be a Coldsnap Scythe, one with a sharp blade and frosting powers that become more powerful the more I used it.

There is also the ability to add powers to weapons and outfits to make them more powerful by transmutting them, a method by which you would pair the item of choice with a demon power from your inventory. If there was anything that I found confusing, it would have been how to transmute something. I managed to add powers to a few weapons, but the game offered a recipe guide that sort of confused me and I never got that aspect working satisfactorily. But, it didn’t seem to matter in the long run. As long as I had a decent weapon, I got through; everything evened out.

There is some cheesy humour in Victor Vran, from the snide remarks coming from a disembodied voiceover, to some of the enchanted dancers and skeletons that can enrapt Victor, and even get him dancing. One could easily draw comparisons to Diablo 3 and even the Torchlight series in terms of the type of demons you fight and the dungeon-crawling; the similarities abound, which, for those in love with the Diablo canon, may hate on Victor Vran for some of its simplistic characteristics. For others, they might find comfort in finding a game that can tide them over until the next Diablo is released (whenever that happens); your mileage may vary. I, for one, enjoyed this experience, and recommend the game!

P.S. I just learned a few weeks ago that a Motorhead expansion for Victor Vran was in development, and is supposed to be released later in 2017. Apparently, members of the band were consulted. I have no idea what this will look like, but I am definitely interested!

3.5/5

Victor Vran
Dev: Haemimont Games
Released: July 2015