Whether you find yourself craving the sublime action of Die Hard or the heart-warming fun of Elf, everyone has at least one Christmas film they love to watch time and time again. Unusually however, the popularity of the genre seems to exclusively extend to the mediums of film and music, and those wanting to experience a festive themed game are left with very few options to choose from.
Despite this, we’ve compiled this little list to bring a few often overlooked games you could try this Christmas season.
3: Dead Rising 4
Platform(s): PC, XBOX ONE, PS4
Although the inexplicable departure from many of Dead Rising‘s conventions, including the removal of the series’ time-limit mechanic, may have caused an uproar among series fans, Dead Rising 4 is nevertheless a worthy entry in Capcom’s zombie-fighting franchise.
The large open world of the fictional Willamette Colorado, complete with a colossal shopping mall, is decked out in decor festive in the extreme. With numerous weapons, items of clothing, vehicles and even boss fights entirely Christmas themed, accompanied by a soundtrack wholly composed of popular yuletide songs, Dead Rising 4 makes the absolute most of its November setting.
Although its simple mechanics and lenient difficulty make an experience far too casual for series veterans, for most Dead Rising 4 is actually a shockingly relaxing experience. The almost therapeutic ease with which you can mow down thousands of zombies in a sleigh to an orchestral cover of Jingle Bells makes a game that excellently accompanies a Boxing Day sofa-sprawl and a large tub of Quality Street.
2: Batman Arkham Origins
Platform(s): PC, XBOX 360, PS3, WII U
Developer: WB Games
Recently given away on the Epic Games Store as a freebie, it’s quite likely you already own this one. Set on Christmas Eve, Batman faces off against eight of the most iconic DC comic book villains, including Bane and The Joker.
A third-person beat-em-up, Batman Arkham Origins shares the excellent combat of the WB Games Batman franchise in a much larger, and extremely festive, open world. With a plethora of interesting side-quests to choose from and an exciting main story, Arkham Origins offers a surprisingly rich experience.
Although often, and sometimes unfairly, cited as the weakest entry in its franchise; if you’re willing to sacrifice a small degree of polish found in the other Batman titles for a Christmas setting Batman Arkham Origins is definitely worth a look.
1: Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage
It’s official. Christmas is cancelled.
After a lengthy dispute with the toy-elf workers’ union, Santa finally snapped. This standalone expansion for Viscera Cleanup Detail tasks you with cleaning up the aftermath of Santa’s bloody rampage. Armed with only a mop, a bucket and a pair of rubber gloves it’s time to get to work.
Featuring an enjoyable co-op mode and hours of floor-scrubbing action cleaning has never been so fun. As the cheapest game on this list, Santa’s Rampage is the best option for someone who wants something festive to play, but doesn’t want to shell out a fortune on a game that is only really worth playing for just one or two months of the year.
*Prices are Steam store prices (excluding discounts or sales) as of November 2019.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Killer Chambers was provided free of charge by Village Bench
Killer Chambers is in many ways a wholly unique kind of bullet hell plat-former. Ditching the traditional sprawling arenas that have come to define the genre for minuscule micro-chambers, the levels force you to manoeuvre a highly claustrophobic environment, dodging a plethora of deadly traps as a timer excruciatingly ticks down to your release.
From a game-play perspective, Killer Chambers is relatively simple. You have the arrow keys that control your movements in the cardinal directions, including crouching, and a jump button. These help you evade everything from shooting projectiles to laser beams which are fired at regular intervals in patterns and combinations in each room. With practically unlimited lives (and extremely quick deaths!) the fun of Killer Chambers comes from learning the almost musical rhythm behind each set of traps.
Each stage offers three levels of difficulty which range from somewhat infuriating to downright impossible, and are sure to offer even the most hardened bullet-hell fanatic a tough time. There are five worlds to conquer, each with an incredibly difficult boss fight and a unique visual style.
The inclusion of shops in which you can spend your hard earned in-game gold is a nice addition, allowing you to purchase hats that drastically alter game-play to keep your experience fresh and often providing a slightly easier path to completing rooms.
Despite such items, you will still die. A lot. This is by design and the game deliberately punishes you for failure with a meter that increases each time you die. When full, you’re transported to a dark alternate realm with its own set of unique rooms to beat. Although this may sound particularly annoying, I often found this forced change of level very refreshing and kept repeating the same room over and over again from seeming quite so monotonous.
Further breaking up the experience is the story which is presented through delightful little dialogue boxes in-between levels. Entertaining writing with a cast of surprisingly developed characters and a lot of genuine laugh out loud moments make the short segments of story one of Killer Chambers’ best attributes. Seriously, the writing punches well above its weight and often the wish to see the next cut-scene gave me the motivation to keep going through the most difficult parts of the game.
The comic-tone of the dialogue and characters is complimented by the cheerful chip-tune soundtrack, which although somewhat repetitive at times is certainly satisfactory. It is nevertheless impressive that any music at all managed to be crammed into the game’s absolutely microscopic 85MB download size which, combined with its meagre running requirements, is sure to keep it a mainstay on all of your PCs.
With a great deal of replay value, a huge variety of levels and some of the best writing we’ve seen in an indie title, Killer Chambers is a game that despite its gruelling difficulty manages to be accessible, highly rewarding and extremely memorable.
Did we mention that Killer Chambers has a price of admission lower than your average sandwich? At only £3.99 on Steam, Killer Chambers is an essential purchase for anyone who wants a great value title which is sure to keep them coming back for years to come.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Pathologic 2 was provided free of charge by tinyBuild
Gather ye here around the marble nest”
These haunting words catapult you into the unforgiving world of Pathologic 2. Lashing rain and hooded figures beat at the old windowpanes as you stumble around a decrepit house swamped in death and decay. Your adventure begins here.
A re-imagining of the cult classic thriller Pathologic,Pathologic 2 preserving the excellent atmosphere of it’s predecessor through its unapologetic brutality. In equal parts difficult and rewarding, Pathologic 2 made no compromises for the modern gaming audience. Its open world operated on a strict time limit. Playing through 12 days of finite events created an unbelievably intense sense of panic and dread.
You must constantly choose which events to prioritise and which ones to miss, often times having to balance your need to evade the ever-present threats of starvation and sleep deprivation against the pressing knowledge that if you are absent for a story crucial event, life goes on without you and it is gone forever.
Inspired by Russian folklore, the world of the Steppe is as beautiful as it is bleak. A seamless blend of both Western and Eastern culture presented in a deliberately ambiguous time period, each line of cryptic dialogue and archaic custom has you feeling like a complete outsider. A cultural stranger who is at often times tolerated rather than welcome.
A malevolent plague ravages the town. Every character can and, without your intervention will, die.
With a stand-alone story designed to compliment the plot of the main campaign, The Marble Nest is a welcome return to gaming’s most Gothic world.
You play as the noble scientist Dr. Daniil Dankovsky. Presented with a grisly premonition of imminent doom and destruction. Whether you will fulfil this vision by sitting idly by as world around you to succumbs to the all-consuming plague or struggle against time itself to try and change your fate is entirely up to you. Whatever your choice may be, the game constantly reminds you that there will be “no happy endings”.
Graphically, The Marble Nest is as stunning as the base game. Utilising the same map and sharing many assets means Pathologic 2‘s trademark visual style and its world’s distinctive architecture is completely preserved. The unique visual style is accompanied by a fantastically atmospheric score, filled with tracks of folk chanting and the gonging of funeral bells.
Unusually, The Marble Nest seems geared toward series newcomers and with a greatly decreased difficulty in addition to a much shorter running time, this DLC does seem like the ideal place to start. Its stand-alone plot only loosely ties into the events of the main game and can certainly be wholly appreciated on its own merit. That is not to say it doesn’t hold value to returning players, in fact a more relaxed reintroduction to the Pathologic universe is an excellent way to prompt an additional play-through of the main game.
The Marble Nest is the epitome of short and sweet. An excellent experience despite its condensed length, The Marble Nest presents ample obstacles to overcome, fights to struggle through and dark secrets to uncover to successfully deliver an impactful narrative with enough punch in its poignant ending to stick with you for years to come.
If you’re interesting in picking up Pathologic 2: The Marble Nest in time for Halloween, it is available on Steam later today. You can view it by clicking here.
When it comes to video-gaming, the works of no one developer is quite able to compare avant-garde genius of Hidetaka Seuhiro, a Japanese developer also known by the pseudonym SWERY.
Most well known for his gloriously abstract surreal survival horror mystery Deadly Premonition which, despite perplexing reviewers to the point it even won a Guinness World Record, has gained a sizeable cult following. Despite my love of his sillier titles I find the lesser known The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories to be his very best work yet.
A beautiful and poignant exploration into physiological trauma and struggles with personal identity The MISSING cemented my admiration for SWERY. To be able to cohesively create both the single funniest game I had ever played with Deadly Premonition and yet also The MISSING, which had me crying for hours well after the credits had rolled, demonstrates a sheer versatility that is characteristic of true genius.
I cannot name a single SWERY game that has not been excellent in its own right. As such, I was simply overjoyed when I heard the news that he had successfully crowd-funded a new title, The Good Life, in May of last year.
The Good Life is a third-person heavily stylised RPG that centres around the character of Naomi. In a state of crippling debt, it is her desire to repay this debt that forces Naomi to abandon her snug life as a journalist in New York and move to the fictional English village of Backwoods.
It quickly becomes apparent however that Backwoods, like any rural English village, houses some dark secrets. This includes a gruesome murder which the player must solve and the fact that once a month at the stroke of midnight, everyone in the village inexplicably transforms into a household pet. Yes, really. The Good Life is certainly unmistakably a SWERY game.
Boasting free roaming around a beautifully stylised and, by the looks of it, uncannily accurate village full of unique and charming characters to talk to in addition to a plethora of side activities to pass the time with The Good Life looks to will certainly provide a great deal of things to do.
The game has also benefited in-depth updates published every month since the game was funded and a stream of titbits including character concept art and details of new gameplay additions constantly flowing out of SWERY’s own Twitter posts it is a rare example of an excellently managed Kickstarter project.
Currently available for pre-order, I find The Good Life one of the most exciting and unique concepts to come out of the games industry in certainly the last decade and now, hopefully, you do too.
We’ve already highly recommended Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventureas a perfect option for those who want something more cutesy than spooky to play this Halloween. For those who want to play something genuinely terrifying however, we have made this handy list of a few lesser-known indie titles which are sure to have your hair standing on end in no time.
Developer: Arbitrary Metric
You play as a smuggler in a decrepit world of surrealist corruption and a rapidly collapsing civilisation. Presented through the grimy lens of a corrupted VHS tape your goal is to smuggle contraband goods across a guarded border checkpoint.
With tense and highly atmospheric sections of exploration and dark discovery, Paratropic is a game which doesn’t hold your hand and refuse to provide any clear answers. Spiralling into insanity, you must see through the broken fever-dream world to try and understand what is really going on. Designed to be played in one sitting, Paratropic is accompanied by an hour of superbly composed dynamic music that serves to create a constant feeling of tense uneasiness.
With a short length and a branching plot that warrants one or two additional playthroughs, Paratropic is a game perfectly suited to occupy you on the evening of Hallows’ Eve.
2: DreadOut: Keepers of The Dark
Developer: Arbitrary Metric
Originally intended as a DLC for the first DreadOut title, a game we reviewed many moons ago, Keepers of the Dark finally surfaced as a stand-alone title two years later. Steeped in the lesser known world of Indonesian horror lore, Dreadout: Keepers of the Dark is a title with some refreshingly unique scares.
A short side story in the supernatural adventures of the lost schoolgirl Linda, Dreadout: Keepers of the Dark provides a chilling small set of varied levels to explore, some very good scares and a surprisingly gripping combat system.
It’s short, sweet and with the announcement of a highly-anticipated sequel game in, addition to the release of an officially licensed horror film on streaming giant Netflix, there’s never been a better time to jump back into the world of DreadOut.
1: White Noise 2
Developer: Milkstone Studios
The only multiplayer title on this list, White Noise 2 is an asymmetrical five player horror experience. Four intrepid investigators are pitted against one powerful monster in a frantic race against the clock to collect eight tapes and win.
With a a plethora of characters to choose from both human or monster, each game of White Noise 2 is as unique as it is terrifying. With something for everyone, it’s an excellent choice for those who want something to play that is both simple and scary this Halloween.
Despite being excellently balanced, and overall an awful lot of fun, low player numbers and empty servers do mean that (for the moment at least) purchasing this game with friends who all own it too is unfortunately a necessity.
*Prices are Steam store prices (excluding discounts or sales) as of October 2019.
Have you ever seen those huge Steam key bundles for shockingly low prices on sites like eBay? Obviously, when I saw the listing of a “50 Steam game key bundle” for only £3.99, I knew that for less than 8p per game it was a bargain far too good to be true. With a product showcase boasting a chance to receive games such as Grand Theft Auto V or the latest Call of Duty – two titles, coincidentally I’m sure, ever popular with extremely gullible young children – curiosity got the better of me. And you know what they say about curiosity.
First impressions were surprisingly good with a fast delivery placing the keys in my eBay inbox in under an hour. With forty-eight standard keys and two “gold keys” proudly in my possession I whipped open notepad so as to catalogue my spoils and set to work.
Redeeming the “gold keys” first was probably a huge mistake. Seeing that the very best the bundle had to offer was an unplayable first-person-shooter called Infernales and the mediocre driving game Insane Road set a fairly poor precedent.
Insane Road was definitely the strongest of the two “gold” titles. It’s playable with cheerful minimalist graphics – a little bit too similar to the popular Crossy Road to be original – and repetitive game-play that at least lends itself to a few minutes of enjoyment. Infernales is a generic DOOM-inspired shooter. Or it would be if the programmers had actually remembered to program in bullet collision. As it stands, your projectiles simply glide right through enemies rendering completion of the game impossible.
Unfortunately, the two “gold” titles were certainly the best of the bundle. Redeeming the other keys revealed a plethora of barely functioning titles – predominantly titles quickly cobbled together in GameGuru before being shovelled on to the Steam store en masse.
Highlights included Isis Simulator, which had seemingly been pulled from Steam almost as soon as it was released (I can’t think why), and Make border great again! which seems to involve a super hero re-imagining of US president Donald Trump complete with mask and cape. If you couldn’t tell already, these games aren’t exactly the cream of the crop. In fact, they were all, without exception, unequivocally atrocious to such an extent that I feel wholehearted ashamed to have inflicted them on my account.
In the bundle I counted six obvious review keys, as designated by the listing of “review bundle” or “review copy”, which was extremely disappointing. Fraudulently claiming review copies to sell on the black market is a serious issue and can deeply hurt the relationship developers have with smaller web-based publications. Activities like these create an environment of distrust and can stop larger publishers from collaborating with the independent sites that need it the most.
Of course, some four of the keys were simply fake strings of numbers or had already been redeemed and quite frankly, I expected nothing less.
Would I ever recommend buying bundles like these under any circumstances? Of course not. If you want to pad out your Steam library with more games, why not pay a little more and buy a Humble Bundle. Humble Bundle is an initiative that aims to bring you top qualities titles for a fraction of the price. It’s completely legitimate and approved by publishers, and best of all it is charity-orientated, so you will not only help the games industry but also those in need.
Las Vegas developer EQ Studios has recently teased some details regarding an exciting upcoming project; Scene Investigators.
If the name EQ Studios rings a bell or two, it’s likely you picked up their previous title, The Painscreek Killings. An incredibly strong debut for the studio, The Painscreek Killings was a deeply stimulating murder mystery set in a deserted rural town. If you want to learn more about The Painscreek Killings, you can conveniently read our glowing review by clicking here.
Promising more mysterious murders, Scene Investigators takes players into the near future where, aided by future technology, a plethora of past cold cases can be meticulously reconstructed and re-examined. The reconstructed cases can be from any time or any place and each present a distinct set of challenges to overcome.
Much like The Painscreek Killings,Scene Investigators tests your lateral thinking and deductive reasoning, with players having to come to conclusions on their own to proceed. By the end of Scene Investigators, players should truly feel like a real detective.
Although information regarding the project is currently scarce, EQ Studios has already demonstrated a clear prowess when it comes to creating poignant digital experiences, and I am excited to see where they go next.
For the latest Scene Investigators news, visit the official site or stay tuned here at Arcadeberry!
Microsoft has not had the best history when it comes to their gaming efforts. Whilst the Xbox One has gained an admirable foothold in the console gaming market, Microsoft’s attempts to capture the hearts of their PC audience have failed miserably.
Some modern gamers will be familiar with the laughably obscure Microsoft Store gaming platform built into every Windows 10 PC, Microsoft’s record of mishaps go back quite a few years prior.
Launching in 2007, Games for Windows Live aimed to bring the social systems of the Xbox 360 to the PC market – a fairly noble intention. Far less noble was the goal to charge PC users annual fees for the use of these basic chat features. Worse still was the price – almost $50 a year. Perhaps the worst aspect of Games for Windows Live was the intention to monetise online game-play, forcing users who wished to play multiplayer games to sign up for the subscription.
Consequently, Games for Windows Live was absolutely despised by users. When it was revealed that Dark Souls would launch with integrated Games for Windows Live features, a petition to have the game released without them racked up over 20,000 signatures in just under five days.
When it was eventually discontinued in 2009, Games for Windows Live was intent on not going down alone, ensnaring and soft-locking many of the games it came packaged with.
Although developers have for the most part tried their best to remove Games for Windows Live from their software, there are still some titles that fall victim to its parasitic influence. Grand Theft Auto IV for example, despite being sold on Steam, is in an almost broken state; leaving the games of many users without the know-how to circumvent the Games for Windows Live login system completely broken.
Luckily, this handy guide is here to save the day, offering the quickest and easiest way to get Games for Windows Live off your back for good.
1: Update Games for Windows Live
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the first step to begin getting rid of Games for Windows Live is to install the latest version. Simply visit the official website and follow the on screen instructions to install the software.
After installing the software, launch your Games for Windows Live enabled game and proceed to the next step!
2: Create an offline account
Despite Games for WindowsLive‘s insistence that you have to log in to your Xbox Live account in order to play your game, this is a bit of a catch 22. Due to server issues, it appears that existing Xbox accounts cannot be used to log into Games for Windows Live, resulting in a soft-lock or an error code.
Luckily, Games for Windows Live contains an “Local profile” which you can use to circumvent this.
With your Games for Windows Live enabled title open, press your keyboard’s “Home” button. This should open a dialogue box at the top of your screen. This will prompt you to log in with an Xbox account.
Press “Create New Profile” and scroll down. At the bottom of the window there is an option to “create a local profile” in blue text as pictured below.
Press this button and complete the account creation process.
3: Enjoy your game!
By following all these steps you should be able to now play your Games for WindowsLive enabled game hassle free!
For those unaware, the Steam next major update has recently entered a beta state, giving eager users a much anticipated glimpse of the long overdue upcoming user library overhaul.
Although this new addition can be cynically attributed to Valve’s new attempts to rapidly modernise Steam‘s features in the wake of the rising popularity of the Epic Games Launcher – perhaps the only game launcher with the financial backing to topple Valve’s market monopoly – it is nevertheless certainly nice to see Steam with a long overdue fresh coat of paint.
Boasting a sleek design, smooth animations and one-of-a-kind automated library management features users have so far been delighted with the new update. If you fancy a guide on how to acquire the new update, simply click here!
Although the update has been applauded by many, there is still one major problem – one that proves to be quite the sticking point for users less than keen to update.
The issue stems from Valve’s change to a new way of presenting game: the new vertical box art. Despite conjuring up some warm nostalgic memories in those old enough to remember browsing rental games in Blockbuster, and being overall more visually appealing, it requires quite a bit of developer input to pull off.
Developers have been encouraged to upload vertical box art and banner images with their games’ media assets for some time now a problem arises when developers won’t. Despite the best efforts of Steam‘s algorithm to generate box-art for every game, using pre-existing banner images, the results are hardly amazing and really detract from the otherwise flawless presentation.
It’s fair enough to understand that with old games, tiny indie titles, or even games where developers no longer have the rights to the product, it is unreasonable to expect a box-art overhaul there are plenty of examples of companies that do have the resources to update assets but simply won’t.
Rockstar Games for example, haven’t bothered to update their Steam releases for years, leaving L.A. Noire and Grand Theft Auto IV in almost unplayable states, and have continued this trend here – with all their past titles lacking the new box-art.
Worse still is when companies update some of their games, but fail to update others (as pictured above with the Sonic franchise). It creates a disjointed feeling and the effect that, through no fault of Valve‘s, the update was in some way rushed or is unfinished.
Whilst some people’s suggestions that Valve should hire an army of interns to sit down and manually create box-art for every single game ever released on the platform are clearly un-achievable, there is a genuinely pragmatic solution quite close at hand.
For some years now, Steam has allowed the creation and sharing of customised user content via the Steam Workshop and it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to have this extended for box-art. There is already a feature implemented to have users be able to create and upload their own box-art to their games locally, so why not expand this facility to downloading and sharing the work of others.
By allowing users to select and download their favourite Steam game box art, or perhaps even just large user-made collections of it, Valve would be able to effectively fix the biggest issue plaguing their latest creation without having to lift a finger.
Admittedly, it’s not the best solution, and is certainly open to abuse (although not more so than the already existing Steam Workshop), it is clear that something at least needs to be done about this problem before the library beta is released to the public; and I for one am very curious to see what this “something” will be.
The much anticipated Steam library update is here, giving Steam a long overdue new coat of paint. Although accessing it right now in its beta state is a little bit of a hassle, we’ve constructed this helpful guide to help you have you new Steam beta downloaded and running in no time. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!
1: Install Steam
If somehow you don’t already have Steam installed on your computer, perhaps you’re just a new user attracted by the buzz surrounding the new update, it is integral that you download Steam before following any further steps in this guide.
To do this, simply visit Steam and press the “Install Steam” button handily circled above. Once the file has been downloaded, run it and follow onscreen instructions. After you have done this, open Steam and log in. If you do not have a Steam account you will need to create one by following onscreen prompts.
2: Locate the “Settings” tab
The top of your Steam window will look something like this. Press on the “Steam” drop-down label in the top left.
Select the “Settings” tab within the drop-down box.
3: Change “Beta participation” to “Steam Beta Update”
In the dialogue box opened by the previous step, select the “Change” button under “Beta participation”. Open the drop-down box in the popup and select “Steam Beta Update”.
This will prompt your Steam window to close and download an update, when the update completes and the tab reopens you will be treated to a fresh new look.
Pillow Castle‘s upcoming puzzler Superliminal debuted at E3 this year and, ironically contrary to the meaning of its title appears to be completely outside of the gaming’s collective consciousness.
Superliminal is a bizarre take on the puzzle genre that first captured my interest when it debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Game Show under the far lengthier title Museum of Simulation Technology. Although just a proof of concept, the 2013 demo showcased some of the mind-melting potential the game’s perspective puzzles could present.
Almost 6 years later and things have definitely started to take shape in a new trailer which showcases the same excellent game-play structured around what seems to be a more narrative based experience newly clad in a fresh minimalist art-style.
The trailer reveals some more information on the game’s setting, some kind of dream therapy based treatment program, and presents the character of Dr. Glenn Pierce whose soothing Scottish tones will presumably accompany you throughout your surreal wanderings.
The flashes of blood drenched corridors shrouded in static towards the close of the trailer do cast Pierce’s presence in a more sinister light and highlights what could be an intriguing mystery surrounding his true motivations.
The trailer is currently sitting at around only 12,000 views on YouTube, which certainly seems unfairly low, given the booming popularity of other quirky puzzlers in the past. With 2019’s trend towards the ultra-profitable all-consuming “live-service” model for our games, it seems we need to try hard to nurture these seemingly dwindling independent creative titles.
If you want to help support a more artistic approach to gaming, you will be able to pick up a copy of Superliminal when it launches to the Epic Game Store later this year.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Gibbous – A Ctuhulhu Adventure was provided free of charge by Stuck in Attic
Summer is practically over and as everyone knows, it’s now time for humanity to celebrate it’s customary spooky season by scaring the hell out of each other with spine-chilling stories, frightening films and ghostly games. If however the current state of the environment/politics/imminent global conflict etc. has you terrified enough already it might be wise to stick to things more funny than fearsome. That’s exactly where Stuck in Attic‘s point-and-click Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure comes in.
The plot of Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure centres around a weary student trying to revert his newly enchanted cynical talking cat to a state of silence by undermining the work of a charmingly inept cult, rescuing a kidnapped detective all while saving the world from certain doom while he’s at it. If this sounds a little bit mental – it really is.
This story is told through the perspective of three interesting protagonists; the kidnapped detective Don – armed with his delightfully cliche gravelly tones and spouting constantly lamenting dialogue, the half-Romanian student Buzz and the imaginatively named cat Kitteh. You are given a good amount of time to get to know each character, and when the game eventually end you’ll find yourself quite sad to see them go.
As the name would suggest, Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure is heavily inspired by the works of horror legend H.P Lovecraft and the dialogue delights in making references to the source material – even lovingly cracking a few jokes at its expense. Despite its clear influences Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure feels very stand-alone, and thankfully avoids the over-reliance on its source material – an easy to fall into pitfall that has ruined many parodies. This is thanks to the great deal of work that has clearly gone into crafting a solid plot and presenting a unique and engaging world.
Rather than taking the easy route and lazily rehashing a Lovecraft setting, Gibbous draws from the overriding themes present in the locales of his work and transfers them to the new setting of the developers’ homeland; Transylvania. From the ancient tightly-nit houses of Kingsport to the isolation and decaying wooden walkways and huts of Innsmouth your favourite Lovecraft motifs are still here, but presented with the reinvigorating dash of a new cultural influence.
Artistically, the whole gameis a marvel. With beautifully hand-drawn background stills showcasing moody Gothic interiors bathed in softly glowing candlelight leading out onto mazes of arched houses under a rich dusk sky. Cut-scenes are too hand-drawn and extremely reminiscent of Disney animations in all the best of ways.
The voice acting is also, for the most part, superb; with the few times where it wavers actually helping to add to the point-and-click charm.
One unfortunate area where the game’s overall visual excellence falters would certainly be character’s mouth animations which seem to bare very little correlation to what is actually being said. Although a minor gripe, seeing characters’ mouths flap open and closed wildly like an excitable goldfish for a couple of seconds before a line has started and after it has ended is a little distracting.
Gibbous triumphs as a successful comic work. Although the art of laughter is certainly subjective, there are many moments throughout that I feel could bring even the most hardhearted individual into a guffaw. The fast-paced delivery and the fact that almost every line of dialogue is jam-packed with jokes and pop-culture references one after another keeps things from becoming too awkward when the lines occasionally fall a little flat.
In typical point-and-click fashion, the game is structured with occasional puzzle solving throughout. With a small item pool in your inventory and (very unusually for a point-and-click game) developers that actually understand how trains of human logic run, these puzzles can be solved with no real hassle. I’d say they were even a little too easy – even for a person as embarrassingly bad at puzzles as I am. I was actually a little shocked that by the credits of the game I hadn’t needed to look at a tutorial even once. This certainly isn’t a game for those yearning to self-inflict pain trying to solve incomprehensible dilemmas Monkey Island style.
Despite it’s lacklustre puzzles and slightly bumpy edges, Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure successfully tackles an ambitious blend of H.P Lovecraft’s hair-raising cosmic horror and the campy comedy characteristic of the ongoing rival of the point-and-click genre with an admirable level of finesse. For Lovecraft fanatics playing this is a necessity and, thanks to its accessibility in the fields of both comedy and puzzle design, it’s a title I would recommend to casual players looking for a game to play this Halloween – one that’s a little more sweet than scary.
Definitely give Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure a look on the Steam Store by clicking here!
The latest trailer for 2K Games’ latest entry in their NBA 2K basketball series dropped as of a few days ago and has united series’ fans and non-sports gamers alike in a wave of collective disgust and condemnation.
The trailer, which you can watch above, showcases quite a lot of the new mechanics 2K is introducing to the franchise’s MyTEAM mode, none of which seem to have the faintest connection to the actual sport of basketball around which the series is allegedly centred.
Viewers are presented with a plethora of flashy slot machines, a ball-dropping mini-game based on the infamously addictive Japanese pachinko game and vibrant text emboldening words like “WIN!” and “TOKEN MANIA!”.
If the trailer wasn’t already reminiscent enough of dodgy YouTube gambling advertisements, eagle eyed viewers quickly spotted that in much of the blatantly staged webcam footage 2K uses throughout the trailer, which shows NBA community personalities supposedly rejoicing at their latest wins, the production team couldn’t even be bothered to turn the players’ controllers on!
Most egregious of all is the fact that despite NBA 2K20‘s apparent focus on gambling, the game received the “3+” age rating from PEGI in Europe and the “E – Everyone” age rating in the US. The low age rating combined with the game’s vibrant box art and the fact that sports games are generally enjoyed by a younger game demographic helps highlight what seems to be a thinly veiled predatory attempt by 2K Games to opportunistically exploit vulnerable children into haemorrhaging reams of money into their game.
This isn’t the first time 2K Games has been eager to fill their wallets at the expense of the consumer, with their recent decisionto include unskippable advertisements for real life products before matches in their previous title 2K19 receiving a great deal of community backlash.
Unsurprisingly, it seems players don’t enjoy being force-fed ads in a game which they could’ve potentially spent upwards of £80 for a copy of.
The NBA series seems to be rapidly turning into a case study on how far a company can apologetically milk their player’s wallets dry of as much cash as humanly possible and, seeing how the game is still selling well in-spite of this, looks to be the tip of the hellish iceberg.
Believe it or not, we all make mistakes. Mistake making is one of the defining characteristics of humanity. Believe it or not, Game developers are also human, and that means they can make mistakes. Unlike the rest of us however, the smallest mistakes on their end can have absolutely huge knock-on effects.
Although it is certainly through making mistakes we learn, sometimes it can be quite fun just to look back at some painful memories and reminisce about our (or others’!) mistakes. This is exactly what we’ll be doing here by coming together to point and laugh at 3 examples of tiny developer mistakes that had catastrophic repercussionson their games.
3: Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing – Forgetting to make the truck move
Developer: Stellar Stone
When it comes to Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, it’s quite hard to find part of the game that isn’t a mistake. It’s a veritable buffet of errors. Everything from the missing textures on maps to the strange behaviour of the “physics engine” and the non-existent collision detection for your vehicle aims to hamper this would-be racer.
After many hours (40 seconds) of careful deliberation however, we have decided that the most egregious error is the fact that the developers seem to have forgotten to make your opponent’s lorry move. That’s right; Big Rigs is a racing game – without the racing.
What’s worse is the fact that the developers could has programmed in your oppositions movement. In an official patch version that surfaced online some time after launch, your rival actually moves! They don’t finish the race of course, just stopping short of the finish line (sorry if I got your hopes up). At least it’s something I suppose.
2: Team Fortress 2 – The crate that crashed a market
By 11 years old I had already made plenty of mistakes. In Team Fortress 2‘s almost 12 year career however, it had very few under its belt. After over a decade of clean updates that would put other titles to shame, Valve was long overdue a major muck-up and, sure enough, in the last few weeks it finally arrived.
Ironically, it wasn’t a large-scale update that finally broke the game; but the simple addition of a new crate. It should have been an easy task. The TF2 team was just getting ready for a nice summer break and just needed to add a few new cosmetics in a groovy summer box before they could kick back and relax. They’ve added literally hundreds of different crates over the game’s long lifetime; everyone thought nothing could go wrong.
Everything went wrong.
Some strange coding mishap resulted in the game’s most valuable items; the highly coveted “unusual” hats to drop guaranteed from certain crates. This naturally tanked the game’s thriving SteamCommunity Market based economy and cost some hat traders losses hundreds of pounds in real world cash. The long term effects of the mistake are still unknown, but the market seems to have stablised in the last week. At least the community seems to have taken the glitch well, with countless hilarious memes appearing on the game’s subreddit.
1: Aliens: Colonial Marines – Giving the aliens lead poisoning
Platform(s): PC, XBOX 360, PS3
Developer: Gearbox Software
Gearbox Software is no newbie when it comes to controversy. Although this year’s trend seems to be to victimise the company for their allegiance to the Epic Games Store they have fallen victim to the internet’s disdain on many previous occassions. One such occasions was the release of the highly anticipated Aliens: Colonial Marines way back in 2013.
Freshly burned by the company’s previous disaster; the absolutely dreadful Duke Nukem: Forever, many fans and critics were quick to notice that Aliens: Colonial Marines was bad. Quite bad in fact. The title was critically panned with one of the main criticisms directed at the enemy aliens’ utterly incompetent AI.
What would have been an already mediocre horror-FPS became completely farcical with enemies that got stuck in walls, jammed in corners or otherwise just failed to acknowledge your existence. It took 5 years for a strangely dedicated modding community to pin down a problem with the AI. It wasn’t that the alien’s were inherently badly programmed, but rather that their programming was jeopardised by a typo.
Believe it or not, a mere typo managed to absolutely decimate a modern AAA game. Correcting “PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachXenoToTether” to “PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachPawnToTeather” in one of the game’s files exponentially improves the enemy’s AI.
I’m not going to pretend that fixing this error makes the game that much more enjoyable, but it certainly makes it at least playable.
*Prices are Steam store prices (excluding discounts or sales) as of August 2019.
Anyone who has even glimpsed gameplay of Remedy‘s Max Payne knows that face. The iconic look of a man having just eaten a lemon that appeared plastered over protagonist Max’s polygonic profile throughout your playtime. A facade so iconic it’s endured two console generations, a mobile port and even been poorly replicated in a Mark Wahlberg film. It’s a pretty perfect profile for a violent vigilante but did you know that this physiognomic phenomenon actually has an amusing anecdote attached.
To understand the origins of Max’s mug it’s important to know something about the climate of game development way back in the mid to late 90s when Remedy‘s ideas for a new third-person shooter title first arose. In a world where the multi-million dollar budgets of your entertainment seem to increase year on year it’s hard to remember a time where game developers were not corporations with thousands upon thousands of employees but rather a small group of guys and gals on a hamstring budget trying to cobble together the best game they could.
That’s not to say they didn’t do a good job. In fact, developers in the 90s with their miniscule budgets managed to make games that are a damn sight better than the titles today into which millions upon millions is poured. For a particularly relevant example, just look at Max Payne 3. Max Payne 3 cost over 115 Million US$ and although it is undeniably a great game, it just can’t compare to the first in the series accomplished with a mere 3 Million2.
The development of the first Max Payne was a very careful game of compromise. One of the biggest compromises was made with the cut scenes which, although intended to be rendered in-engine, became real life photographs filtered and set out in the now iconic comic-book style.
Whilst using photos is visually more impressive and far cheaper than rendered cut scenes it did open up the need for models to portray the characters. As the comic panels were static images, and had narration placed over the top of them, it allowed the studio to skip out on hiring professional actors. Why spend all that extra cash hiring someone to model stills when you can come up with a far more creative solution.
Enter the Remedy staff who, along with their friends, families, distant long lost relatives and pretty much anyone they could convince to come along with them, ended up becoming the game’s impromptu models. The game’s lead writer, Sam Lake, took the starring role as the titular hero and, looking at the end result, it was a match made in heaven.
A even lesser known is the fact the game’s villain, Nicole Horne, was Lake’s mother which puts a new and slightly uncomfortable spin on the hero-villain dynamic.
Although only a character model, with Max’s voice portrayed by the excellent James McCaffrey, Lake’s impact on the character is palpable. It’s safe to say that Max Payne just wouldn’t carry the same B film charm without him.
How useful is this information? Not very. I suppose it could save you quite a fright if you bumped into Lake while you’re holidaying in Finland and thought that your childhood videogames were somehow coming to life; perhaps as a twisted form of revenge for all those years you never cleaned the discs. No, more than anything this little story into Max Payne’s development highlights a sense of humanity that may have been lost in the modern age of game development – an age where games no longer come with anecdotes.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Morphies Law: Remorphed was provided free of charge by Cosmoscope GmbH
To say Cosmoscope‘s Morphies Law fell victim to Murphy’s law would have been a fairly ironic turn of events – and it was very much almost the case. In spite of a lacklustre Nintendo Switch launch, Cosmoscope admirably kept hard at work acting readily upon player feedback and nurtruing the game’s strong core fanbase. Almost one year later and Morphies Law has finally relaunched (or Remorphed) and accompanying it’s new PC release is a whole host of fantastic new features.
It’s not hard to say the concept behind Morphies Law is a very unique one. You shoot your enemies, or even your allies, to absorb their mass and grow and you lose your hard earned mass when hit. It sounds extremely simple, but the gameplay houses a surprisingly great deal of depth.
For one thing, matches are inherently self-balancing. The best players of either team will naturally become the biggest having absorbed the most enemies. A bigger body makes them bigger targets and a bigger target is one that can be hit more easily by a less skilled and less accurate player. Every match of Morphies Law plays quite a lot like the Call of Duty series’ Juggernaut gamemode, and it’s an awful lot of fun.
The goal of a match isn’t always just to gain the most mass either. Your aims vary drastically between game modes; from the most basic “Morph Match”, a weight based take on a common deathmatch, to the manic “Head Hunt”, a pandemonic bid to capture your team’s misplaced giant head.
Mass also affects the capabilities of your “Butt rocket”, a rectal take on a jetpack, which, on the contrary to my basic understanding of physics, seems to become far more effective the heavier you are. Your size can also change the routes available to you while you navigate your environment. Huge morphies can jump to high vantage points and even trample over powerful fans which would send less fortunate lighter players flying to their deaths. Being small also has some perks, allowing you to dash in between the legs of enemies and find hidden tunnels through which you can scurry like a pesky neon-painted mouse.
The extremely fun gameplay is accompanied by a set of fantastically designed and delightfully varied maps. Although in the original release a few of the maps were veering a little towards the annoying side – seriously, as cool as fighting on an oil-flooded tanker sounds, the sliding around did get pretty infuriating – the Remorphed update has addressed this, and even added a few new sites to explore.
The refined version of the original maps and the all new ones added in Remorphed each bring their own unique set of hazards and a distinct theme. One match you could be exploring an ancient Aztec temple whilst the next takes you to a western town that is constantly sinking into quicksand.
Although very different, each map still adheres to the game’s great overall art style; a colourful day of the dead pastiche with plenty of cacti and neon lighting. The game’s soundtrack is a fittingly over-the-top mix of Mexican melodies, which can be pretty catchy at times. If your character’s stock aesthetic of full skeletal body paint is a little too subtle for you, can dive into the game’s host of extensive customisation actions.
One can change the body and face paint with presets, or even use the more in-depth editor to mix and match to create your own whacky design. Even animations can be customised by choosing new emotes or match introductions. Most impressive of all is the weapon customisation system, which has you combining two parts (a primary fire and a secondary fire) to create a gun that is utterly unique to you. Additionally, the new weapons added in Remorphed all make solid additions to your arsenal and are certainly appreciated.
Levelling up grants new weapons and piñatas, which are the game’s crate system. By hitting open piñatas you can obtain cosmetics. You’ll be pleased, no doubt, to hear that there are absolutely no microtransactions in sight as the crates and currency, metal nuts, can be gained solely by levelling up completing quests.
On a technical level, optimisation is good with the game running well on the Nintendo Switch whilst looking decent and running extremely smoothly on PC whilst looking a little nicer. The menus look good and are easy to navigate and UI is clean and can be understood readily at a glance. One thing I would change is the game’s current hit sound. The current one is a tad underwhelming – being a little twinkling noise – and something with a little more “oomph” wouldn’t go a miss.
The game supports cross-play between the PC and Switch which is good at bolstering player numbers. For when you want a little alone time; you can always have a blast with the game in configurable offline modes with bots.
Overall, although the original Morphies Law was a good idea hampered by a lack of refinement; Morphies Law: Remorphed is a good idea perfected. With very strong and unique gameplay, that has only improved through the frequent developer updates, Morphies Law: Remorphed is a constantly evolving shooter that you won’t want to put down and gains a strong recommendation from me.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of BIGFOOT was provided free of charge by CyberLight Game Studio
“Bigfoot” is a name that will certainly strike fear into the hearts of hikers, park rangers and anyone who has ever accidentally flicked on to the Discovery channel after midnight. The ancient ape has been the star of numerous media exposés over the years, most famously with the TV masterpiece Finding Bigfoot which, even after 12 seasons, is yet to live up to its name. It’s only natural I suppose. Bigfoot is, of course, far too elusive to be caught, as evidenced by his successful evasion of the hordes of armed rednecks, I mean, highly qualified Bigfoot researchers that have been relentlessly pursuing him for decades.
I am only jesting of course; Bigfoot is undeniably fictitious – a fact of which I am certain that, deep down, even the most ambiguously qualified Discovery channel “Bigfoot specialist” is aware. In spite of this fact, it’s still undeniable that to wonder about the existence of the impossible is fun and to search for it is even more so. Perhaps it’s simply down to mankind’s primal desire to hunt something truly dangerous, or maybe just an act of escapism to try and free ourselves from the cushy constraints of suburbia with which we are bound throughout our lives.
Whether performing daring bank heists or fighting aliens in invincible power armour videogames have always been an excellent medium with which one can experience the impossible. It seems a miracle that until Cyberlight Studio‘s 2019 title BIGFOOT, no videogames have capitalised on Sasquatch hysteria and presented audiences with a way to truly accomplish the impossible; a way to capture Bigfoot.
In BIGFOOT, intrepid investigators are tasked with locating four missing persons and foiling Bigfoot’s hijinks in one of two fictional National Parks: the densely forested Ross Lake in Arizona or Alaska’s snow-drenched Glacier Bay. Players can venture out on their quest alone or join up to four friends in an online match.
Taking out Bigfoot is not an easy task but, luckily, if players choose the Ross Lake map they are accompanied by a groovy and appropriately Scooby-Doo-esque camper van which is decked out with the very latest anti-Sasquatch gear. Hunting rifles, tacking bullets, flare guns, traps, tents and night-vision goggles are all there as you would expect although far more interestingly you are also provided with a set of eight motion-detecting remote cameras, a pilotable drone and a tablet with which to control them.
These high-tech gadgets form the crux of BIGFOOT‘s gameplay, which has you exploring a huge map in order to locate the missing, who have been unsurprisingly brutally murdered, whilst also hunting local fauna to make bait and setting up cameras and traps. It’s important to not get too carried away on your scout’s adventure however, losing track of the time and getting lost after nightfall is definitely not something you want to be doing.
Once back at your campervan you get to huddle up in your corner of choice and sit watching the cameras through your tablets on tenterhooks to see if your day’s preparation will pay off. Things actually get quite scary, as the sheer quietness of the surroundings, with only the crunch of leaves and the creaking of trees, begins to slowly but surely put you on edge. The camera’s beeps, which sound upon any detected motion, will send you scrambling in a panic to your tablet to desperately try and flick through the feeds in order to find the source – usually just a stray squirrel.
Things are even scarier still at Glacier Bay, which has players begin with almost no starting gear and, worse still, no comforting camper van. Instead, players have to venture into the forest completely unable to defend themselves in a mad rush to find as much equipment as they possibly can in the various desert log cabins strewn about the map.
Once you’ve finally trapped Bigfoot a couple of times, and unloaded about two hundred rounds of rifle ammunition into his posterior, his huge health pool reaches zero and it’s time to tie him up and triumphantly drag him back to your spawn area where you’ll be able to cage him and ship him off to tour zoos around the planet and be gawked at in disbelief by generations of tourists to come.
One of BIGFOOT‘s best gameplay qualities is that it does a great job of letting you know that you’re never really safe. As a player you’re always open to attack and your precious camper van or cosy little tent can’t do very much in the way of protecting you against an eight-foot tall beast. Your fear of the creature is further heightened by the solid map design, with dense forests that are very good at shielding him from view – often leaving you with only a brief glimpse of your furry attacker.
The blood-soaked human remains that can be found in buildings around the map are also an excellent way to provide a minor scare and help build a high level of suspense which, by your first encounter with Bigfoot, has reached almost tangible levels.
On the graphical front, BIGFOOT looks good. You are surrounded by lush and rich green flora, accompanied by some excellent sun effects and a set of sharp textures all powered by Unreal Engine 4. The game’s optimisation has also constantly improved throughout the title’s course of early access and the game runs very well without experiencing any sudden crashes even in multiplayer matches.
Slightly less good are the game’s animations which, although satisfactorily conveying the actions that they aim to convey, seem a little stiff at times and could use a little more work. In a similar way, the text in the game is also a little bit off, whilst there are no egregious errors and it conveys everything it needs too, the UI and loading screen text is sometimes phrased a little weirdly. Do bear in mind that the game is still in Early Access and due to the developer’s track record of frequent and very substantial updates, I am certain that these minor issues will be resolved by the time of a full release.
With an excellent premise, demonstrably great gameplay and positive developer input that helps moves the game forward every few months, BIGFOOT is an excellent title to pick up even in early-access. With friends or solo the gameplay experience is the pinnacle of gripping, delightfully tense and overall an awful lot of fun.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends was provided free of charge by Hendrik Felix Pohl
Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends places players at the foot of an insurmountable mountain and has you both struggling to climb innumerable obstacles and battling a challenging set of deliberately obtuse controls all in an attempt to drive you to new physical heights and new emotional lows.
Pogostuck isn’t the first title of the rejuvenated mountain-climbing genre, taking clear inspiration from 2017’s surprise mountaineering hit Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. For those who choose to abstain from being battered repeatedly by the latest online fads, or are otherwise just somehow unaware of its rise to fame, Getting Over Itcentred around a man stuck in a pot attempting to climb a mountain with the world’s slipperiest hammer, accompanied by an equally slippery control scheme. The game could potentially last forever, provided you could never master it enough to finish, and with no way to save your progress, it cruelly required completion in a single sitting.
Inevitably, the game was a huge hit with internet content creators with avid fans flocking to see their favourite YouTube-rs or Twitch streamers torture themselves with the impossible task. The game was after-all at its most fun when played with someone else; seeing the highs and lows of the journey but without requiring the commitment to sit down and finish it in one go. Not to mention that, despite the occasional bit of in-game narration, playing Getting Over It solo was a pretty lonely experience: just you and your pot for company.
Whilst it would be easy at surface glance to dismiss Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends as a meer rip-off, swapping out the pot and hammer combo of Getting OverIt for a small man and pogo-stick, that would be giving Pogostuck a grave disservice. Pogostuck is actually more the natural evolution of Getting Over It‘s gameplay.
Pogostuck takes the original concept behind Getting Over It, first seen in an old gamemaker game entitled “Sexy Hiking”, and presents it with a new unique spin. Whilst you are still indeed scaling a mountain, you are doing so on a pleasingly springy pogo-stick which, when you get the hang of it, turn out to be far more fun to manoeuvre than the hammer ever was.
The game is easier than Getting Over It and Sexy Hiking although that’s not to say its “easy” per-se, and you’ll still be faced with a steep challenge (pun intended), but it certainly feels fairer and much more balanced. Although the difficulty curve is still practically as steep as the mountain, being permitted the ability to quit the game after a particularly annoying missed-jump and then relaunch it to continue seamlessly after your anger has deflated days later certainly makes the experience more relaxing. This sense of relaxation is further boosted by the cute, colourful art-style and soft cartoon-like sound effects. Although the ingame UI is at first pretty obtrusive, taking up most of the screen, it can thankfully be configured and disabled in the options menu.
The main draw to the game is of course the multiplayer. Pogostuck is inherently far less lonely than its counterparts. Even if you don’t have a friend with the game to connect to directly and try and race to the top, the game is always online – and you’ll constantly be running into other players who are too trying to make their way up the impossible hill. Whilst there is no way to directly interact with other players, it is always fun to run into someone, exchange a few courteous greeting jumps before starting a mad dash for the next disembodied ledge.
This multiplayer element also feeds into the excellent progression system, which grants XP for every inch of mountain you climb. This XP accumulates and unlocks various cosmetics. With plenty of sticks, trail effects, clothing and headgear to choose from, there are plenty of combinations which will both flaunt your progress and help you stick out from the crowd.
Although it’s certainly not as hardcore in its presentation or gameplay as other games in its genre, Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends, is still a good challenge. A challenge that is elevated by a solid progression system and the glittering potential for endless enjoyment in online gameplay creating an experience which is deeply rewarding. If you were a fan of Getting Over It or Sexy Hiking, or want a lighter introduction to the world of relentlessly hard games, Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends is an essential purchase.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Executive Assault 2 was provided free of charge by Hesketh Studios Ltd
The first Executive Assault is certainly one of my all time favourite indie titles. An ambitious blend of both the first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres, having you building and maintaining a sprawling base on a planet you’re trying to conquer. This is aided by your ability to design and deploy robotic troops. Victory is quite skill-based, like any good RTS and requires a careful management of resources, supply and demand and production lines.
Battles occur on a very grand scale, often with hundreds of combatants as well as some really massive mechs. Unlike most real-time strategy games however, you’re not constrained to just watching your battles from above, like a wistful child pressed up against a window of a toyshop, but are rather given the option to jump into direct control. This shifts the perspective to that of an FPS, allowing you to participate in battle.
Whilst your contributions to the huge unfolding battle were certainly insignificant, and the shooting mechanics a little bit janky, the sheer novelty of being able to observe your battle unfold in person really adds a great level of reward to the hours of, although still perfectly enjoyable, simply less exciting management that had led up to that climax.
Despite suffering a little in the visual department, although personally thought the clanky models just added to the charm, Executive Assault was a top-notch title and a fantastic experiment that I would certainly recommend any fans of the RTS or FPS genres check out.
Thanks to my love of the first game, I was delighted to see a sequel was in the works. Considering the already perfected concept showcased in the first title, Executive Assault 2 is certainly standing on all the required foundations for a great follow up.
Much like its predecessor, Executive Assault 2 has you stepping into the shoes of the CEO of your own customisable company. The customisation options have also pleasingly been streamlined and expanded upon from the first game, allowing you to pick the gender of your CEO, name your company, choose the nature of the goods you produce and even select a custom logo from your PC’s files to be displayed on flags and screens throughout the base.
Whilst the customisation options still aren’t particularly extensive, and a character creator would certainly be a nice addition, they are perfectly sufficient and succeed in adding a pleasing extra layer of gameplay – even if it is admittedly quite a thin one.
In terms of gameplay, Executive Assault 2 is still the excellent blend of FPS and RTS that was presented in the first title but with some key additions and improvements. Visually, the game looks much better; with shiny surfaces and a sleek new UI design – it’s certainly not cutting edge graphics by any means, and the admirably low running requirements can be attributed to that, but at least now the series doesn’t look very noticeably outdated.
These new visuals are accompanied by improved gunplay and a much improved set of weapon models and animations. The overall scale of everything has also been greatly increased. Whilst in the first game you were fighting for the control of a somewhat small portion of a singular planet, now you’re aiming to dominate an entire galaxy.
From your modular floating space base, which you can fully upgrade and customise by adding a plethora of rooms including factories, security centres and ship docking stations, you construct and manage a hugely customisable fleet of ships. This ships are used to scout out and collect new resources as well as keeping a close eye on your enemies.
Despite the new addition of spacecraft, which now take up the brunt of the player to player combat, the iconic robots from the first game do return, although after a good visual overhaul and in quite a different role. The robots function as your ground teams, being able to board the enemy base and helping to defend the stretching corridors of your own.
Another thing to note is that Executive Assault 2 is currently in early access and frequently receiving content updates and patches. Everything runs smoothly and in my time with the game I encountered a notable lack of any major bugs. The only time you really notice that the title is early access is in mission select screen which lacks a campaign and contains only one scenario. This scenario can either be played single-player against rival AI CEOs or multiplayer facing off against either a friend or randoms in an online lobby.
Although more levels have been promised, and will certainly be a nice addition, they aren’t entirely necessary. This singular scenario is perfectly sufficient and has a whole host of configuration options, even an included and easy to use map editor. For an early access title, especially one in its infancy, there is more than enough content provided to satisfy. In an age where the term “early-access” has become synonymous with low effort cash-grabs and unfinished garbage, it’s very refreshing to see a game that could very easily, with a little extra polish, be a full release title.
Overall, Executive Assault 2 receives a wholehearted recommendation. The extremely unique core gameplay of its predecessor is accompanied by an ever increasing array of customisation options that createa fantastically engaging experience; one that provides the perfect fix for both FPS and RTS gamers alike.
Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of The Painscreek Killings was provided free of charge by EQ Studios
A cold case investigation takes you, the journalist Janet Kelly, to Painscreek where four years prior, in the summer of 1995, the mayor’s wife Vivian Roberts was brutally murdered. With all leads dead, the police investigation over and the town laying abandoned it is your job to solve the mystery once and for all before the truth is lost forever.
The Painscreek Killings makes a bold claim when launched: a promise of “neither helpful quest markers, nor any form of handholding throughout the game”, which is certainly a delight to any frequenters of the visual storytelling genre.
Surely I can’t be the only person who faces nightly flashbacks to that glow-y ball thing in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, the thing that would lead you down long country lanes with the promise of plot revelations only to suddenly and arbitrarily decide that “whoops! No plot could be found here and now you have to walk all the way back”.
Regardless of how many sleepless PTSD-ridden nights you have been granted by that petulant guiding glow it’s refreshing to see a narrative experience that taps into the genre’s inherent tranquillity and lets you explore the world at your own pace.
Past a very brief and excellently well integrated tutorial sequence which runs you through the basics (it’s not too complex, basically you just walk around and look at things) there is a distinct lack of handholding. Some clues you find do naturally hint a locations you should probably visit next, but you’re never under any obligation to follow up on them. In fact you get the option to leave at any point.
As funny as the idea of a reporter driving hundreds of miles out to a town only to turn right back around and go home is, it would be fundamentally missing the game’s real juiciest meat.
That meat comes in the form of the variety of locations you are able to explore throughout your investigation. From wandering the eerily empty town streets, rummaging around the mayor’s colossal mansion or avoiding the terrifying hospital at all costs. The hospital I should probably mention, for the sake of saving you a potential heart attack, houses the game’s only (sort of) jump-scare.
In these locations you collect notes, characters’ personal journals and snap quick photos. Whilst doing all that, it’s well worth making a personal journal of your own. The game recommends that you take frequent notes, and record the details of what you uncover and for good reason as this notetaking is pretty much essential to the experience.
Whilst the game does do its best to record anything you do pick up, some passwords or post-its you find simply aren’t saved. Although it would be nice to have the option to record things in an in game notepad, you can never beat pen and paper. The extra level of effort exerted by the physical recording of you evidence does however work in the game’s favour, helping significantly with your deductions rather than simply becoming an extra annoyance.
There is certainly a lot of satisfaction to be felt in the deductive reasoning of The Painscreek Killings. It feel just right; I never felt stuck or completely stumped, and while some of the deductions you do have to make do seem like a bit of a stretch, I never found myself frantically Googling solutions as I would with other frankly less well made titles.
The level of immersion felt while playingis sublime, and easily on par with the likes of Gone Home and Return of the ObraDinn, the very best of the visual novel and investigative genre respectively.
This immersion is assisted by the game’s voice acting which is, for the most part, excellent and the overall level of visual flair with which the game is presented. Not being a fan of bloom and motion blur, I was happy to see the option to turn them both off. Once they have been disabled, and the world no longer appears viewed through melting wax, things look absolutely lovely.
The town, when you disregard its emptiness, looks cosy and warm, surrounded by a lush forest and shimmering spectral river. I almost regret the fact the player is given the ability to sprint, for it can stop you soaking in the brilliant atmosphere as you really should. Then again, Everybody’s Gone to theRapture (which can’t seem to catch a break today) showed us how, rather ironically, a “walking-simulator” that confines you to walking alone quickly becomes an absolutely traumatic experience.
A small thing to note here is that The Painscreek Killings is excellently optimised. It offers you three visual settings: “good”, “beautiful” and “fantastic”. Most shouldn’t have any issues running it on its lowest visual settings. Whilst normally I would be against such a pretentious naming scheme I do have to concede that the different configurations do indeed look very “good”, extremely “beautiful” and completely “fantastic” as described.
One thing that looks less “good”, “beautiful” and “fantastic” than the rest is the game’s main menu. The background video that accompanies the plethora options you see upon starting the game would set the mood perfectly, however it is simply just too choppy and is compressed to the point where it looks like porridge.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned much detail surrounding the plot, and that’s a very conscious choice. The plot is central to the experience of the game and I’m a little wary of spoiling anything. What I will say is that things aren’t as simple as they seem. The mystery goes much deeper than a single murder, and is supported by a cast of characters that, although you never see them face to face, are excellently written and feel fully-realised.
The main mystery is joined by a couple smaller optional side-mysteries. These are usually more obtuse and don’t serve much purpose in the wider narrative but are a nice little bonus for anyone who wants to grasp the complete picture of life in Painscreek. They also give you a bit more time to appreciate the game’s soundtrack.
The music comes in the form of a few light piano melodies that are wholly pleasant if not slightly forgettable. The audio mixing does seem a little bit off however and on the default settings has the sound effects for certain actions, like opening doors, set far too loud. Thankfully this can be adjusted without much hassle.
Despite a few extremely minor niggles, The Painscreek Killings is a fantastic experience and one I would certainly recommend jumping in to. It has a compelling story that is elevated by the authentic glimpses into the lives of entirely engaging characters through which it is told. Not to mention the fact it’s coupled with a set of stunning visuals and a good soundtrack. It is unapologetically a superb example of games as a viable medium with which you can convey a complex and immersive narrative.
If you liked the sound of anything I’ve said, or just feel like playing detective yourself, you can check the game out on Steam by clicking here, where it is on a generous 60% off sale until the 9th of July.