free game

[Review] S.I.M: Sara Is Missing (PC)

After I played A Normal Lost Phone, I got chuffed enough to look into other “phone simulator”-type games, and came across S.I.M.: Sara is Missing, a short free-to-play found-footage horror game developed by Malaysian developers, Kaiju Games.

You find someone’s iPhone and immediately it prompts you to restore its corrupted data. From there, IRIS, the phone’s mobile assistant, texts you and knows immediately you are not Sara. IRIS asks that you return the phone to Sara, but you don’t know Sara and where she is. IRIS reveals she is missing, and judging from the last video she recorded, it appears she is in danger. From there you explore Sara’s phone messages, emails, videos and photos to figure out what happened to her.

While perusing her phone, you learn Sara is a student with common problems of a 20-something: boyfriend troubles…a mom who doesn’t understand her desire to become a para-psychologist… From the messages, we learn the evening she disappeared, a friend of hers had arranged for Sara to meet someone who shares her interests, and from there she vanishes. What happened to her?

Sara is Missing is a unique horror game that does a lot very well. From first blush, you are staring at an iPhone interface and interacting with it like everything is real. Texts between you and others are canned responses, but the game is steered depending on what responses you choose. You are free to look at everything on the phone, but are frequently reminded to keep on track by IRIS. Overall, the hand-holding was ok (it was mostly ignored by me), but others might find it tedious.

The subject matter of para-psychology is where the horror element enters and permeates videos, photos and text messages. It’s been a while since I’ve played a horror game at all (since Fall 2017…), but it felt good easing back into them with this lil’ game. It’s a good time if you are into gore. Sara is Missing does have some good replay-ability too, as there are multiple endings to the game.

Highly recommended!

5/5

S.I.M. (Sara is Missing)
Kaiju Games

 

[Review] Emily is Away (PC)

Free game on Steam!

Anyone remember my review of Her Story; the crime-solving game that used a Windows 98 interface?

Emily is Away is a short, interesting, interactive visual novel game that propels you back to the Windows XP days when chat rooms were all the rage. The game tells the tale of your evolving friendship with your friend Emily over a four year span, 2002 to 2006, from Seniors in high school, to Seniors at College. The complexity of your friendship is what is the focus here, and how time and tide, maturity, and maybe a night of alcohol changes things forever…I think anyone can identify with the emotions at stake here.

The coolest thing about this game is the instant messages between you and Emily are presented through a chat client similar to AOL. Upon startup, the interface plays the old XP piano tune, and you get to choose your name, screen name and avatar. It’s a simple set up, but very effective. As Emily types in questions, you are given a set of three canned responses to choose from, and your conversation with Emily is steered according to the responses you choose. The story is linear, and the conversation is fluid.

Check it out! Emily is Away is FREE on Steam, and I highly recommend it. I look forward to the sequel, Emily is Away 2, and Emily is Away < 3 currently in development.

5/5

Emily is Away
Kyle Seeley
2015

[Review] Answer Knot (PC)

Free game on Steam!

I’ve been finding these really cool walking sim type games lately, and couldn’t be more excited to play them! Answer Knot is the latest, and it was just released in May 2019. The style is very familiar to Marie’s Room, or even my last “free game” review, What Never Was.

To say the plot of Answer Knot is surprising is an understatement. The story unfolds in couple Zach and June’s living room. Zach is stuck at home, while June is trying to get home from work. She communicates with Zach through answering machine messages. You are encouraged to explore the main floor of the couple’s house, and in doing so you get a sense of who they are: they’ve traveled a lot, like to take pictures and they write. Their house is a bit messy with all their interests. Their shelves are full of interesting books and movies. And they have their “couple quirks”: Zach does not like to answer the phone, and June knows it, but gets increasingly frustrated with him on that front, as something has happened over the course of her commute that is both alarming and frightening in equal measure and she can’t get a hold of him. The game ends abruptly with a sense of foreboding and urgency – and it’s surprising.

I loved snooping around June and Zach’s place, taking in what kind of people they are, what interests them…and in doing so, I found some strange parallels between this game and other games I’ve played recently…for example, they have a coffee table book lying around callled “Paul Prospero” by Ethan Carter, which calls back the Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Pics I leafed through were screenshots from familiar games I’ve played recently too: one is definitely from What Never Was (because I took the same screenshot), another looked weirdly like it came from What Remains of Edith Finch, but can’t be 100% sure…At any rate, I’m not sure why developers sniped images from other games, but there it is…

Answer Knot is a short game and its aesthetic is very reminiscent to other walking sims I’ve played recently. But, I have to say I love that hyper realistic style, and the true-to-life feel of it. You do get a sense of anxiety, being locked in the house with something strange happening “out there”.

Give it a spin if you like a short simple plot with a surprise at the end.

4/5

Answer Knot
Naraven Games
2019

[Review] What Never Was (PC)

Free Game on Steam!!

This year, in case you haven’t noticed, the blog has seen an up-tick in free game reviews! Hey, some of these are walking sims, and really well done (some not so much, and I have spared you from a few I’ve played that didn’t cut muster). When they’re great, they’re great! And when they’re free, I sing from the rooftops! I love me the free ones!

A recent search through Steam came the discovery of What Never Was, a very short, sort of walking sim, puzzle game whose story in some ways could parallel my life over the past year and a half…the protagonist, Sarah, is returning home with the sad task of cleaning out her late grandpa’s attic of her belongings. The attic is tiny, but full of stuff that she must sift through, and in doing so, discovers her Explorer Grandpa has kept some cool and exciting secrets from everyone. He memorialized some of it in a journal whose pages are scattered throughout the attic. She also finds a recording he left on tape for her that also contains some clues. She now is intrigued enough to find every missing page of the journal to find out what her Grandpa has been up to.

What Never Was is a very enjoyable experience. The graphics are clean and the voiceover work is well done (think Edith Finch good). The puzzles you encounter are enjoyable and collecting all the journal pages earns you achievements. All the clues are in the room; you just have to search around. The music is pleasant to listen to.

As mentioned, What Never Was is very short – a half an hour at the most. The game does end abruptly, almost as though what you played was a demo of some sort. Digging deeper, its developer, Acke Hallgren, made this game on a shoe-string in his spare time. The game was meant to be short, but he plans to come out with a second part, which is currently in development. I really like what I see so far and look forward to further releases.

4.5/5

What Never Was
Acke Hallgren
2019

[Review] 2048 (Android): Somebody Stop Meee

Has anyone NOT heard of the crazily addictive FREE game simply called 2048?

(Photo: Google Play)

I first learned of its phenomenon when my in-laws came to visit this past May. My casual-gamer Mom-in-law loves to play Facebook social games, but one night after dinner, I noticed that instead of being glued to her laptop, she was busily playing some sort of numbers game on her phone. Curious, I asked her what she was playing, and all she said was, “2048.” My father-in-law was also found to be playing that game. The two were engrossed in it all evening.

Not long after their visit, I was at work and found a colleague playing 2048 on her lunch break. Another colleague was also playing this game on her phone. What is with this game?!?

This casual game is FREE to play, and is basically ported to every mobile device, on every platform, on every OS, including iOS, Blackberry and Android. Flash versions also exist online.

(Photo: ironyca.files.wordpress.com)

The basic premise is you are given a simple blank 4×4 grid. Two tiles with a ‘2’ appear. You slide the tiles around the grid to pair them to create a 4 tile. With each movement of a tile, another tile with a 2 or 4 pops up on the grid which you will need to find pairs for. Two tiles of 4 become an 8 tile, two 8 tiles become a 16 tile, two 16 tiles become one 32 tile, and so on until you have paired up to the elusive 2048 tile. And, 2048 is quite difficult to achieve, but not impossible if you’re patient and figure out a strategy (and I am sure there is one). I never hit 2048, but can figure with practice and time on my hands I would get there. One final instruction: don’t allow the entire grid fill up with tiles  – that will signal GAME OVER.

When I finally decided to download and try 2048 one evening on my Android tablet, the first thing I noticed was there are a lot of 2048 clones out there, and all appear to be similar. I don’t recommend playing this game on Android tablets, as I had to turn the tablet vertically to play, which I found a bit awkward. But, this is great on a smart phone, and probably what it was meant for.

(Photo: Cheezburger)

2048 is so simple, yet addictive and time-wasting. An hour went by easily while playing it which I found extremely dangerous! I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. Just make sure you start playing when you have time on your hands, otherwise your spouse/ kid/ boss might start complaining you are negligent!

2048
Released: 2014

 

[Review] Mystery Manor (Android) – Can I Play the Game Already?

How much harassment can one person handle to play a free game? Go ahead and ask me.

Last month, I downloaded Mystery Manor, a hidden object adventure mystery game for the Android tablet, free on Google Play. It really had some promise. It had a good-looking starting title, the graphics looked great, the music wasn’t bad at all. In this game, Mister X is hiding somewhere in the labyrinth that is his mansion, and you are tasked with finding him. So, in it, you search through rooms via hidden object scenes. Even the hidden object scenes were fun, and often would provide an interesting twist. In one scene, the power was out, and you had to use a flash light to search an area. The flash light was provided by you moving your index finger around the screen, as though you were directing the flash light. Really it isn’t a bad little game to start…

So, what’s the problem?

The game is theoretically free, but uses a credit system that is tied to your energy level. Everything you do worth a damn in this game requires energy. If you are running low, you can either wait until your energy recycles, or…YOU CAN PAY FOR EXTRA ENERGY. The packages start at $3.99, so I can see how this game could get expensive.

Very early on, I got what this game was “about” and I’m not much of a fan of it, especially when it tried incessantly for me to link the game to Facebook and Twitter. I don’t like “social” games like Farmville and the like, and this game is one of these. You can play without linking your profile, but expect some pressure along the way by way of pop-up ads.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not naive to think that I could possibly play a free game without ever seeing so much as a pop-up ad. BUT! What if they get in the way of the gameplay??

First, there was this pop-up…

Screenshot_2013-08-30-22-11-38

A new version is “availiable”? (Nice proofreading…)

Then, after I completed a hidden object scene…

Screenshot_2013-08-30-22-11-54

Then these two popped up one after another…

Screenshot_2013-08-30-22-14-53

Screenshot_2013-08-30-22-11-48

And that was just four of 7 pop-ups that appeared playing the first chapter…

Nothing diverts your attention like incessant pop-ups. I’m not going to say Mystery Manor blows, because, well, it doesn’t; at least not in terms of the game itself. But, I have to say tying it in with all the other promotional stuff it tries to push really turns some gamers off. I’m certainly out…

Mystery Manor
Publisher: Game Insight
Released: 2011

[Review] Epic Adventures: Cursed Onboard (Android) a Sinking Ship

A media tycoon contacts you to investigate a ship that set sail with a family in tow in 1979, but that since went missing up the Amazon. As you look for clues you discover there is a mystery that involves a very disturbed child that possibly murdered her family. You then have to cut through weeds and search through the same hidden object scenes to find the same clues and items to help you find out what happened. That is the premise of the free version of Epic Adventures: Cursed Onboard, a game I played on my Android tablet.

Cursed Onboard had promise. From the beginning, the voice-acting was top-notch, the music was atmospheric, setting the tone for a creepy good time, and a story that included a missing ship whet my appetite for a decent game. But, the game didn’t live up to expectations. Hidden object puzzles – which looked like something a high school graphic design class would create – were repetitive and not challenging; and what continues to challenge my eeePad Transformer Android tablet, the gaming controls were awkward and sometimes unresponsive.

I have played other games with the premise of missing/ ghost ships (calling the Mystery of the Mary Celeste), and Cursed Onboard was uninspiring. There are better ones out there.

Epic Adventures: Cursed Onboard
Developer: Urchin Games / Publisher: G5
Released: 2013 (Android)