The Fall

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Developer: Over The Moon | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Side-scrolling

March 13, 2020

This turned out to be a side-scrolling adventure game with a smattering of cover shooter. The dark graphics and the strong ambient soundscape immediately reminded me of The Swapper.

I fell to a planet as what looked like an android or a robot, only surviving the friction of the atmosphere due to a nifty antimatter shield. I crashed through the surface and into a dungeon of underground corridors. It turned out the “robot” was actually a suit around a real human, but because he (?) was injured and now unconscious after the fall, the AI of the suit had taken over and was now in charge.

An autonomous suit walking around with a knocked out human inside. That was certainly unique.

The game was mostly an adventure game. I had to turn on a flashlight that could be moved around with a mouse, and only when shining on a hotspot did it go interactive. I could then use this item, use something on it, or use a network action which first had to be activated in my suit at a later time. In fact, the suit had a lot of cool abilities that were restricted and thus turned off at first.

Cradle

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Developer: Flying Cafe for Semianimals | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

Inspired by the update in the previous blog post about The Talos Principle, I have decided I’ll switch to full diary style, adding to the same blog post as I play more sessions of a game. I realize this is quite uncommon – normally blog posts are a one-shot article and then never updated again – but I’ve already had exceptions to this rule.

Another reason is that I’ve never felt that I’ve found a really solid template for writing my impressions about the games I play. This new diary style can thus serve as another experiment in trying to find my voice.

Perhaps needless to say, there will be spoilers in this new diary style.

March 7, 2020

This game was only five years old? The way it started, i.e. in a window, maximum 2K resolution, options all reset and with a tiny menu text, made it feel older at first. For some strange reason the music was also turned down to zero. But other than adjusting all this, it seemed to work fine in Windows 10.

I “woke up” (whoever I was) with an amnesiac hangover inside a small Mongolian yurt, which is sort of a circular tent. Control was in first person with no body awareness. The level of detail in this tent was quite impressive. There was a ton of stuff to go through, picking up some things for my inventory. Left mouse click held an item in my hands at first, and a hotkey then put it away in my small inventory.

The Talos Principle

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Developer: Croteam | Released: 2014 | Genre: Puzzle, First Person

March 4, 2020

I’ve played a couple of hours of this first person puzzle game. It’s quite long – about 15-30 hours depending on your puzzle fu – and I’ve decided that the game is too samey to warrant completing. Also, I’ve heard a rumor that there’s a countdown in the end. Groan.

But other than that, I actually liked a lot about it. I’ve had it a long time in my backlog with comments about it being sort of a spiritual sibling to The Witness, but that’s not quite warranted. It has actually much more in common with the Portal series, spawning and moving stuff in small areas to get the sigil.

Playing as a robot in first person, I was spawned in environmental ruins that looked like the perfect home for Serious Sam. This was not too surprising as it’s the same developer. Using the same type of level design and even the fast walk and sprint speeds seemed a bit lazy to begin with, but it looked good and ran very smoothly in 4K resolution on my five year old PC.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Developer: Starbreeze Studios | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, 3D

This was a cute and easy adventure climbing/puzzle game I wish I could have completed.

UPDATE: This game was so endearing that I actually went out and bought a gamepad so I could complete it. And it was worth it. It had unique fantasy settings and a strong emotional impact. I’ve expanded the blog post.

The premise was quite unusual – a single player coop game. Now how did that work? Well, I controlled two brothers simultaneously, with each there own set of direction-and-action keys. Sometimes they had to help each other, like the big brother giving little brother a hand to reach an edge, or they had to cooperate, like moving something that required them both pushing the same pole.

The game had easy coop puzzles that I could usually figure out on the spot, which was lovingly relaxing. The story was also simple. An adult (probably their dad) was ill and the doctor sent the two boys on a journey to fetch the remedy. This took place in a fantasy world not entirely unlike that of the Fable series. We went through a village, fields, farms, dungeons, rivers, castles, and much more.

The game had a strong caveat from the developer that a gamepad was required. If you know my gaming habits from previous blog posts, you’ll know that I never used a gamepad. Always keyboard and mouse. I’ve completed a few games that were notorious for being neigh impossible without a gamepad, just to prove that it could be done after all – for example, ABZÛ.

However, after about a little more than an hour, I decided to bite the bullet.

Kentucky Route Zero

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Developer: Cardboard Computer | Released: 2013-2020 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

After about 7 years of development, the fifth and last act of this point-and-click adventure game was finally released in early 2020. That was the moment I had patiently been waiting for. I wanted to play all five acts in one go, like binge-watching a television show.

Kentucky Route Zero is one of the most atmospheric adventure games I’ve ever played. It was also one of the easiest. While I wouldn’t call it a walking simulator, it was virtually void of puzzles.

I have seen a lot of comparisons to Another World, but that only relates to the graphics. The gameplay was of course completely different. The game really wanted to twist the hackneyed point-and-click adventure game concept on its ear, and it was refreshing to me. It used flat-shaded 3D polygon graphics and mostly scrolled sideways, but there were exceptions where the scenery was rotated in place or zoomed in.

Short Sessions, Part 1

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During my time on Steam, I’ve received the odd game here and there that didn’t necessarily align with my own taste in genres. It may have been free games, games given to me by a friend that had several keys of the same game to give away, or games that for other reasons just kind of popped up in e.g. my Steam library without me knowing how they ever got there in the first place.

Instead of just discarding these game straight away, I thought I might at least play them for about half an hour or so, now that I have them anyway. Who knows, maybe one of them would turn out to be a surprise that I would actually want to finish.

This will be the first in a series of blog posts.

The Book of Unwritten Tales

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Developer: King Art | Released: 2009 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

I played roughly the first two and a half hours of this one before I called it quits. It was an oldskool point-and-click fantasy adventure with good voice acting and excellent backgrounds. It was also quite easy. You could hold down space to reveal all hotspots, and although inventory items were aplenty, the cursor only went red when something could be combined or used on a hotspot.

This also got rid of the dismissing comments for trying everything. Everybody wins.

In fact, the adventure game was so charming and relaxing that I understand all the praise it has received in reviews. I know this is starting to become a cliché, but had this been 15-20 years ago, I would have swallowed this game whole. But today, I’m worn out on adventure games and it has to offer something really special to keep me in the zone. And that was the problem with this game. Although it did have its moments of inspired ideas, there were not enough of them, and the dialogs were missing a little more of the reckless quality found in the classics.

In other words, the game was missing a bit more bite.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

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Developer: The Chinese Room | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This was not just a walking simulator, but also the spiritual successor to Dear Esther from the same developer – one of the games that spawned that genre description.

And this time were were very literal about the first word in this game.

It was made in the same 3D engine used for Far Cry and Crysis. I explored a reasonably big English village totally devoid of people, with abandoned cars, still smoking cigarettes, and hot cups of tea. The game used a peculiar mix of a wide open non-linear town combined with the desire to lead me around in a linear manner, and to help with that, glowing “ghost” spheres were sometimes floating around, guiding me to new locations with more story to unveil.

The story was told in the form of placeholders made of light points representing the humans that originally had a conversion in various spots. Typically just a casual talk, a lovers quarrel or musings about a strange nose bleeding flu taking over the town. Most of these lasted barely half a minute or so and then I was on my way again, looking for the next scene.

Outlast

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Developer: Red Barrels | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, Horror

I played over an hour of this horror sneaker, up until I was given an injection and put in a small cell. That was after the part where I had to restore power in the basement. I’m not a good demographic for horror games anymore, though. It takes a lot to scare an old geezer like me anymore. Sure, the jump scares can get me, but anyone can be surprised by a sudden shout in the neck.

Also, the hiding in the lockers reminded me too much of Alien: Isolation.

But the game was still well done. Good graphics, solid sound work, and the body awareness with hands and all was nice. Armed with only a camcorder, I could film stuff to take notes and switch on the night vision, which was frequently required in the often pitch black mental hospital. Sometimes there was a monster roaming an area, like the cellar where I had to turn on two gas pumps and a main breaker to restore power. Lots of sneaking and running around there.

There was a strange part in the beginning where I had to sneak past a few sitting brutes watching snow on a bloodstained television. They must have seen me, but they ignored me. I’m not sure if the fact that I had to do this was good design. If only I had felt the horror of this sequence.

Dr. Langeskov…

Developer: Crows Crows Crows | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

This is probably one of the shortest narrative PC games I’ve ever completed. It barely took 20 minutes for one playthrough. Good thing it was free.

It was made by the same developer that made the hilarious The Stanley Parable, which I enjoyed back in 2014. However, this small spiritual successor was not as funny nor as imaginative. It had a meddlesome narrator again, commenting on my good or bad choices, but there were barely a few rooms to navigate with doors kept closed until it was time to move on.

All right, there were perhaps a few mild laughs from continuously hanging up phones, and the idea of pulling levers and pressing buttons to keep the real video game player behind the curtains busy was a great idea, but the length and the few rooms barely made it feel like a small DLC.

I started a second playthrough to check out the tape recorder and the audition tapes, but they were a little too forced and boring for my liking. I quit the game as I entered the tiger room.

Maybe the novelty of The Stanley Parable has already worn off.

6/10