puzzle games

[Review] The Other Side: Tower of Souls (PC)

I played The Other Side: Tower of Souls as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Two alchemists lived in a tower and created a gateway to the spiritual world, unaware that evil wanted to pass through to the real world. They attempted to shut out the evil spirits by locking a massive gate, but the evil is busting through. One man sacrificed himself to the cause by using his soul to lock the gate for good. But, it too is failing, and evil is slowly leaching in…

The Other Side: Tower of Souls is from 2014 and looks much older. Get the Swiffer; this one’s really dusty.

Initially, the game needed to download some kind of driver so it would play. Then, it tried playing at 480P cutting off the left and right halves of the screen with black bars. I then had to go into the guts of the game to adjust the scaling so it would play right. But, even after fixing it. the game continued to run like shit; pretty unplayable, actually. The graphics were super fuzzy, and text on-screen was really small; I used the Windows Magnifier consistently while playing. Don’t let these screenshots fool you…

Not only that, the serious tone of the initial story line was downgraded to jokes when we are met with Boris the Cat, a smarmy steadfast companion throughout the game who loved his gags and refused to shut up. Sorry, that is an automatic turn-off. I’ve played games where there is a partner who is in every scene, giving you direction and helping you along. I don’t really dig that dynamic, especially when they have an opinion on every single move you make.

The Other Side got really great reviews on other sites, and I will just have to chalk it up to taste; this one isn’t mine. More filler in the Alawar 6 in 1 bundle…

The Other Side: Tower of Souls
Alawar
2014

[Review] Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood (PC)

I played Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Your boyfriend, Kevin, drops you off after a wonderful evening date. You had worn your red hooded jacket for the occasion. As you enter the house, you find a teddy bear sitting on the hallway table. What’s this? A gift from Kevin? You lift it up to take a better look, and like a disturbed Teddy Ruxpin, it speaks to you in a robotic voice, saying that Kevin has disappeared in the old cemetery. You don’t believe it. You quickly get in your car and drive to the spooky property, enclosed in some rusty gates, guarded by a rabid wolf. Who is this mysterious person? And, why Kevin?

Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood is an older game from 2012, and honestly, Alawar hit it out of the park production-wise: It feels fresh and new, animations are interesting and sharp. There is some high production value here! I found the game relatively short to play (under 3 hours), but there are at least 30 different scenes to explore which include a biker bar, a gas station, a boat, a lighthouse… And best news of all: there is an awesome map! There is a lot of backtracking in-game but the map allows you to warp to different areas instantly with a mouse-click. The mini-games and HOGs in Cruel Games are typical fare and pretty easy to solve (not that it is necessarily a bad thing). There is plenty to do, and I didn’t once feel bored.

Funny bit: in one scene you had to go into a biker bar, and get met with this guy who says, “Leave me alone. I’m drinking my beer.” Haha

When it comes to the Alawar 6 in 1 hidden object bundle, I have to say having Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood included in this collection alone makes it a great deal. It’s good times!

5/5

Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood
Alawar
2012

 

[Review] Panopticon: Path of Reflections (PC)

I played Panopticon: Path of Reflections as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

The famous illusionist Andy Fox, well known for his disappearing acts on stage has gone missing during one of his performances. He had used his invention- a time-travel machine – to make him disappear to the netherworld, but the device is supposed to return him back and something went berserk. Now he is trapped in some unknown place. What’s worse, his assistant Angela is also trapped. You, the famous detective John Perry, have been asked to investigate Fox’s and Angela’s disappearance on behalf of the 18th century town’s police chief. And hey, if you find them, Houdini might come and do an act with Fox!

Panopticon: Path of Reflections is an “okayyy” HOG in this Alawar 6 in 1. It’s an older game (~2014), so I went in with low expectations. What I discovered were some pretty modern graphic scenes. However, the character animations were rendered barrel-shaped, walking around like they took Metamucil and needed to relieve themselves. …Not sure what that was about…

Panopticon is certainly long enough (over 3 hours) with several scenes to explore (at least 12). No map that I could find, but the backtracking was easy enough to navigate. The puzzles were a range of stupidly easy HOG scenes, gathering items to add to other items, and puzzles that gave you vague instructions. Mostly though, I was doing a lot of clicking and pixel hunting. In several instances, I would try to use an item on something I knew I had to – say a screwdriver to loosen a screw – but, the game wouldn’t let me do it. Frustrated, I’d press the hint button, and it was then that I was allowed to perform that action. Why, oh why? Thank goodness the game didn’t keep score on my hints…

One thing I experienced with Panopticon right off the bat was that I couldn’t find the menu button to back out of the game. Now, I have played one or two games in my life where there was absolutely no main menu button, and I’d have to Ctrl-Alt-Delete if I wanted to quit. My first bit playing this, I backed out of the game using the ol’ Windows trick, fearful the game wouldn’t save my progress (it did, all good). If it hadn’t, Panopticon would have received a one-line review and an automatic F from me. Well, Alawar, I’m sorry I doubted your game devs – the menu button was not in a typical spot – it’s a hidden button in the top left corner that toggles down when your mouse pointer grazes the area. All good, nothing to see here…

Overall, Panopticon: Path of Reflections is okayyy. Not the best game, and I likely wouldn’t recommend buying it as a standalone game. So, let’s just consider it filler in the Alawar 6-in-1 Hidden Object pack and move along.

A cautious 3/5

Panopticon: Path of Reflections
~2014
Alawar

[Review] Mexicana: Deadly Holiday (PC)

I played Mexicana: Deadly Holiday as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Katrina and Vitor are vacationing in Mexico during the Day of the Dead festival. On a lark they decide to get their fortunes told by a shaman. But, their future is in question when the card reading goes awry and a spell is cast causing Vitor to disappear into the World of the Dead. Katrina must now brave this strange world by battling evil demons who want her dead, but also receiving a kind helping hand by way ancient gods.

Mexicana: Deadly Holiday was quite good in the style department. I really dug how it looked – nice, bright scenes and it also had great acoustic music reminiscent in style to the Gypsy Kings. I have always enjoyed casual games that delve into Latin American history, mythology and mysticism. And frankly, this one is a nice switch-up from the “missing children taken by ghosts” plotlines. The puzzles varied from usual HOG scenes, to collecting objects and finding keys to unlock doors, to rounding out the play with some interesting mini-games. Mexicana was not overly challenging and made for a nice relaxing time. And it seemed to go on and on….and on forever! Well, not that it is a bad thing necessarily, only that the story felt like it went on three chapters longer than it should have…If you weren’t engaging with the plot, I doubt you would have even notice!

Overall, Mexicana: Deadly Holiday was fun, and again I felt I got my money’s worth with this 6-in-1 bundle!

3.5/5

Mexicana: Deadly Holiday
Alawar
2014

[Review] The Lake House: Children of Silence (PC)

I played The Lake House: Children of Silence as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Ann and Henry suffer a break-in to their home. The only thing that was messed with was their precious photo album; pics of the couple are ripped up or Henry’s face is scratched out. A package arrives for Ann, and inside are childhood toys belonging to her brother Tommy, as well as a ripped photo of the old lake house where they lived as children. Tommy tragically drowned there, and the family moved away promptly after, abandoning the property. As Ann assembles the picture, she has a vision of her brother in his favourite mask calling to her to return to the old lake house. She doesn’t know why, but feels compelled to comply. As they search the property, Ann sees the image of her brother just as she is kidnapped by a figure wearing the same mask her brother liked to wear. Now Henry must find Ann and discover who is behind the kidnapping. As he searches, the pieces of information unfold by way of old home movie film strips which shows that there is more than meets the eye with Ann’s family.

Unlike Kronville: Stolen Dreams, The Lake House: Children of Silence is very much worth the $4 I paid for the 6-in-1 bundle. This is a well-made HOG game with all the fixins. The game looks great, mechanics are intuitive and the music was beautiful. Most of all, the plot was engaging for once! The puzzles mostly consisted of collecting items and hidden object scenes. To that end, if there was anything to gripe about, the hidden object scenes changed every time, but the items to search for could have used some imagination; finding a cork, a ribbon or a spool of thread each time can get a tad tedious.

Gripes aside, my version of the Lake House was the collector’s edition which came with a strategy guide, and a bonus chapter which unlocks after you have completed the game. Let me tell you, the bonus chapter turns the story on its head – totally worth it!

The Lake House: Children of Silence gets a 5/5 from me! Highly recommended!

The Lake House: Children of Silence
Alawar
2012

[Review] Kronville: Stolen Dreams (PC)

I played Kronville: Stolen Dreams as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Maisy is a school counsellor with a haunting past who is trying to discover what happened in the disappearance of a dozen students from the little town of Kronville. Maisy herself had a traumatic event in her childhood where one day she returned home from school to find her house in flames. Her dad was trapped inside. Maisy attempted to save him, but he unfortunately perished. This terrible event keeps playing over in her mind…is there a link between this and the disappearances? She takes to sleuthing around Kronville to discover the truth…

I have to say that I was very disappointed in Kronville: Stolen Dreams. For one thing, the game is a glitchy mess that cut out important contextual parts of the story. The first part of the game that I experienced had Maisy climb a ladder to save her father from the house fire, but then abruptly cut to her in an office with a child sitting there at a desk. It took me a bit to figure out what I was doing there and why. I eventually took to YouTube and watched a playthrough where Maisy was supposed to have a conversation with the local sheriff about the boy who was disrupting his class…ok, that’s important information to know! Kronville continued to glitch out cut scenes like this. I was thrown into rooms inexplicably and throughout my experience, I was constantly trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing there; I wasn’t sure if there were serious deficits in plot or what!

Overall the graphics and puzzles were decent in Kronville, which is really too bad because with the glitches, I quit the game mid-way through. Surely (hopefully?) if you were to buy this as a standalone game (available only from Big Fish Games – not Steam), you would likely have a different experience. I can’t imagine Alawar would release a game with so many issues, so let’s blame how it was packaged with the 6-in-1 bundle because in my opinion, Kronville: Stolen Dreams is otherwise unplayable.

2/5

Kronville: Stolen Dreams (PC)
Alawar
2015

[Review] Discolored (Demo) (PC)

Discolored is a walking sim puzzle game currently in development by Jason Godbey for which I received a Steam key for a demo of this game for free! Jason is known for his artwork and most notably, the development of the point-and-click puzzle game The Search. I came upon Discolored by accident, as I often do when browsing games on Steam. An invitation to request a Steam key for this game’s demo arrived, and curious, I jumped at the chance to try it out.

Because Discolored is still in development, the demo is understandably short. You start at a phone booth in the middle of nowhere in a black and white world. The environment is pretty desolate, and devoid of people. Across the street is a diner that appears empty, but open. Around the side of the diner is a well which launches the start of this puzzle. The game consists of finding an object and using it to open, start or disengage something that results in colouring the environment in a monochromatic palette. The demo to the game is not challenging, and gives just enough of a taste of the story to know there is something there that you want to know the ending to.

It’s too early to tell with this demo if the completed game will be successful; however, what I played looks like something I look forward to playing once released.

Discolored (demo)
Jason Godbey
2019