Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series – Episode One: Tangled Up in Blue Review (Cubed3)

579950_20170524192200_1Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Played on: PC
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Time Played (Steam): 3.4 hours
Played with: Mouse & Keyboard
Paid: $0 (Key provided for review)

Telltale Games cut their point-and-click teeth on comedy, with Sam & Max and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People becoming early breakout hits. As time went on, though, they headed in a more drama-focused direction, with the most publicized catalyst being the first season of The Walking Dead. Its focus on life-changing decisions made under tight time constraints created an emotional rollercoaster of an experience, with a plethora of scenarios whose outcomes were a far cry from black and white.

With this pedigree behind it, Guardians of the Galaxy: Tangled Up in Blue feels like a huge step back. That’s not to say that it’s a wholly worthless experience, but it feels like a game that largely ignores the developments made by its predecessors.

Read the full review here [Cubed3]

OVIVO Review (GameSpew)

597700_20170519203239_1.pngDeveloper: IzHard
Publisher: IzHard
Played on: PC
Release Date: May 12, 2017
Time Played (Steam): 111 minutes
Played with: Keyboard
Paid: $0 (Key provided for review)

From its opening moments, OVIVO gave me a sense of déjà vu.

After getting briefly stuck, I learned that pressing the space bar caused my character to flip to the other side of the floor, turning what was once empty space into a new plane to slide along. Immediately, a slew of “yin-yang platformer” flash games came to mind, and I was worried that OVIVO would end up feeling like a generic clone of a tired (though still enjoyable) concept. Thankfully, it revealed itself to be a pleasant, bite-sized game that uses clever mechanics and clean visuals to create a thoroughly compelling experience.

Read the full review here [GameSpew]

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

225080_20170314210219_1Developer: Starbreeze Studios AB
Publisher: 505 Games
Played on: PC
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Time Played (Steam): 3.1 hours
Played with: Xbox 360 Controller
Paid: $4.49

As a storytelling medium, video games are something of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, their interactive nature has the ability to create far more visceral and engaging experiences for players.  However, this also brings with it some inherent drawbacks.  Budgets need to be allocated not just to production design, but also to programming, QA, and more.  Bugs and glitches may spontaneously occur, sucking up massive amounts of time and energy.  I bring up this comparison, because Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stands as a prime example of both.  It is hampered in many areas by the restrictions of the medium, with bugs, technical problems, and gameplay issues taking me out of the experience on a number of occasions.  Despite this, it manages to feel like a near-perfect pairing of story and gameplay, where each is able to complement and enhance the other. Continue reading

Refunct Review

406150_20170319205821_1Developer: Dominique Grieshofer
Publisher: Dominique Grieshofer
Played on: PC
Release Date: October 16, 2015
Time Played (Steam): 25 minutes
Played with: Mouse & Keyboard
Paid: $1.64

Generally, when one game adapts ideas from another, it will expand on them. It will add variations and extra wrinkles to the gameplay that were impossible when the original game came out. Sometimes, it will even throw in entirely new ideas that profoundly change the way the core mechanics work. I therefore find it interesting to see a game like Refunct, which seems to draw inspiration from an assortment of free-running games, but particularly Mirror’s Edge. Now, Mirror’s Edge is a game that I played through quite a while ago, but I remember that some of my biggest problems with it were just how big it was. The levels were large and complex, often requiring complex sequences of actions to traverse effectively. There was a lengthy story mode, which meant that some missions felt padded with unnecessary combat sections and other irritating set pieces. It was a good game at its core, but there was just too much of it. Then there’s Refunct, which strips away all the complexity and leaves only the bare necessities. While this scaled-back approach may seem counterproductive at first, I feel that it actually elevates Refunct to be a far more enjoyable experience. Continue reading

ABZÛ Review

384190_20170311221002_1Developer: Giant Squid
Publisher: 505 Games
Played on: PC
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Time Played (Steam): 2.8 hours
Played with: Steam Controller
Paid: $6.59

Full disclosure: it is entirely possible that playing ABZÛ was very much a case of “right place, right time”, where this particular point in my life was the perfect moment for me to experience it.  Certainly, having a pleasant, zen-like gaming experience is not something that I’m opposed to at the moment.  With that out of the way, ABZÛ is one of the most wonderful video game experiences that I have ever had the pleasure of being immersed (heh…heh heh) in. Continue reading

Reigns Review

474750_20170105220650_1Developer: Nerial
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Played on: PC
Release Date: August 11, 2016
Time Played (Steam): 3.4 hours
Played With: Mouse & Keyboard and Steam Controller (about 50/50)
Paid: $1.11

Simplicity in design is something that can be truly magical for games.  Sure, it’s possible to keep things fresh with complex, deep mechanics and ever-changing rulesets.  However, experiences that are equally enjoyable (or sometimes moreso) can often come from games that focus on a single idea and do it extremely well.  Reigns is a perfect example of this philosophy; the gameplay amounts to little more than “rule a kingdom via Tinder”, yet it still manages to be engaging and intriguing through much of its duration. Continue reading

Jazzpunk Review

250260_20161230193415_1Developer: Necrophone Games
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Played on: PC
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Time Played (Steam): 4.0 hours
Played With: Mouse & Keyboard
Paid: $14.55 (Multi-game bundle)

Absurdist humour is something that can be very difficult to pull off.  If you push things too far, you risk alienating your audience, with the potential exception of the “lol, so random” crowd.  If you don’t go far enough, most, if not all of the jokes will just fall flat, since (as the name implies), their humour comes from how utterly absurd they are.  Add into the mix the complexity inherent in interactive media, and you have the delicate balancing act that is Jazzpunk. Continue reading