If you’ve played Legend of Grimrock, sitting down with Vaporum will practically be second nature. It utilises a tile-based movement system with real-time combat, and focuses on exploration, puzzle solving, monster fighting, and loot collecting. Key differences include a streamlining of combat (spells can be cast with hotkeys instead of inputting specific ruin combinations), the removal of parties (you’re all on your own here), and a switch to a steampunk setting. The latter of those is what really makes Vaporum stand out, with its mechanical arachnids, steam-powered suits of armour, and decidedly old-school weaponry.
GamerGate has developed something of an image problem. When the movement first came into the public eye in mid-2014, it was used to frame all manner of disparate narratives. If you go on any number of popular games journalism sites, it’s likely to be labelled as some sort of hate-fuelled rampage by a bunch of sadistic internet misogynists, primarily targeting women in the games industry. Other sources refute this, claiming that the whole thing is solely about promoting ethics in games journalism. Then, of course, there are all the people who fall somewhere other than these two bounds, muddying the waters even further.
I arrived in town bright and early, and was quickly greeted by a company representative. Almost immediately, they began rattling through their “best practices” list that every new hire has to hear. To be honest, I didn’t really mind; this wasn’t my first run as mayor, but, seeing as I’d been out of the game for a while, it was good to get a refresher course. Something seemed off, though. The rep’s ear-to-ear grin and exuberant shaking of my hand seemed to mask the fact that they were more than a little scatter-brained. Within minutes, they jumped from the acquisition of Lings (citizens of the town) to resource gathering and management, and then into combat and trading.
“But wait, how do I—”
“Aaaaand that’s it! Good luck!” cried the rep as they dived past a Mushface (a race of lumbering mushroom-folk) into the town’s dimensional portal. I looked at the Mushface, confusion and worry plastered all over my face, but he just shrugged and walked through the portal. An auspicious start.
Slow, stamina-based combat? Check. Enemies that respawn whenever you rest to heal? Check. Experience points that get dropped every time you die? Check. No, this isn’t some ill-promoted sequel to the Dark Souls series; it’s an isometric action game by the name of Immortal Planet.
To say that Immortal Planet draws heavy inspiration from FromSoftware’s famous series is an understatement. For the first half hour or so of the game, every time I asked, “I wonder if it does this thing that Dark Souls does?” the answer was a resounding, “Of course!” Thus, Immortal Planet takes place in a semi-open world backed by a largely vague narrative. As a mysterious Awakewalker, you are tasked with restoring the Cycles of the planet, the lack of which has caused it to turn to a frozen wasteland. In your way stand countless enemies with varying attack patterns, all of which need to be analysed and circumvented to succeed.
Randomness in games is an excellent method of promoting custom story generation. The fact that nearly everyone will have an experience that is at least marginally unique means that there’s always something new and interesting to talk about that many players may have never seen or heard of. That’s the goal with The Long Journey Home, a rogue-lite space game that channels FTL: Faster Than Light and No Man’s Sky into a challenging, galaxy-trotting, survival experience.
Snake has existed in one form or another for around 40 years, now, so it would be unsurprising if the classic “eat things to grow longer” formula had worn out its welcome by now. Evidently not, as Sssnakes seeks to add more to the game than just a few extra consonants in the title. Featuring a wealth of stages, new game mechanics, and colourful, updated visuals, the question remains: is it better to leave the classics untouched?
NEO AQUARIUM: The King of Crustaceans is a game about cock-fighting with sea creatures. Did I mention they’re armed with lasers? Well, they are.
Now, chances are those sentences elicited one of two responses: an open-mouthed, “Um, WHAT?!?!”, or a smirk, followed by, “Now this, I’ve got to see”. As you may have guessed, I fell into the latter camp. However, I quickly discovered that NEO AQUARIUM’s scattershot, nonsensical ideas extend far beyond its basic premise. Its gameplay, controls, and even performance are all over the place, making for an often chaotic, unpredictable experience. For this reason, I find it all the more surprising that the whole thing is so painfully mundane.
Those of you who follow my work somewhat regularly know that life hasn’t really been the greatest as of late. Without going into the unpleasant details, let’s just say that there have been many days where getting home from class has involved a dramatic flop onto my bed, an arm draped over my forehead, and a long, heavy sigh. Surprisingly, though, I found something of a cure to this funk: horrifically graphic killing sprees. Thankfully, not in real life (I’m writing this in a Starbucks, not a prison cell or a safe-house), but in the neon-soaked world of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Despite the fact that it’s been awhile since I played the first Hotline Miami, diving back into its world of blood and carnage seemed to be second nature. Unfortunately, part of the reason for this is that Wrong Number is just a little bit too familiar.
I mean, the title really says it all, right? But seriously, I know that it’s been a while since I last posted. If you follow me on Twitter (@Olivigarden, for those of you that don’t know…hooray, self-promotion!), you may have seen my tweets about how everything basically went to hell and back. Well, at this point in my prolific (HA) games journalism career, I feel that it’s probably in my best interests to keep my personal and professional (HAHAHA) lives separate for the most part. Unfortunately, certain events have a way of making it so that focusing on anything (including being a functional human being) is extremely difficult. I’ll avoid going into the gory details, but since February 11, I’ve been dealing with some…ahem…distressing personal circumstances. Don’t worry, nobody died. But, well, something did.
Alice: Madness Returns is a game that attempts to convey the realities of a descent into madness to the player, and in that regard, it is an unequivocal success. Unfortunately, that’s because it is one of the most maddening games that I’ve played recently. It’s a game that feels like it had so much effort poured into certain aspects, while others were left to waste away in irrelevance. And unfortunately, most of the latter were the elements that would make it a compelling and enjoyable game.
Where does one start with a game like The Architect? In all honesty, sitting down to write this review is just giving me traumatic flashbacks to the displeasure that was this game. I wish I had something witty or insightful to say about it, but nothing’s really coming to mind. The music’s okay…I guess? At least, it would be, if there was more than a handful of compositions available. What I’m trying to say is that this could get messy. The unfortunate thing is that this is my first time doing an “official” review, where I was actually provided a key by someone promoting the game. If this is a sign of things to come…oh boy.
Well, it’s officially 2017 around the world. The start of a new year. Which means that everyone’s looking back on the last year and going, “Well that was a bit toss, wasn’t it?” That is, except for the people who are taking the opportunity to look back at their fond memories from the year past, namely when it comes to video games. There were countless fantastic games that got released last year, so many of which I desperately wanted to try out. Unfortunately, as a university student, there are two things that I severely lack in: money and time. As a result, it is incredibly common that I have to watch as new releases are hyped, released, and enjoyed by the masses, while waiting patiently for the day that they inevitably go on sale and I actually have the time to sit down with them. Some of these games have been sitting in my library for months, awaiting their eventual installation. Others are on my wishlist, hoping to one day be added to my ever-growing backlog. Whatever the case, these are (in no particular order) the games that I wish I had gotten to in 2016. You can also consider this to be a “To play in 2017” list, if that’s your thing. Either way, you’ve probably all already played all of these and think I’m a pleb for not looking at them yet.