Category: Video Games


Forget title

The tree of life.

It is said that any who discover the true heart of its being would truly inherit the power of the gods. The gift of life. It is something so precious that it is nigh unfathomable to even consider the possibility of its creation by almost unusually normal means. But what if…what if it were possible? Just imagine the difference it could make…

In one of the most vibrant, dark and quirky titles that I have played recently, Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden by Cavyhouse and Playism creates a glimpse of a world unlike anything you have ever seen. The view from a small town shop where a young witch performs alchemic experiments, a young boy wishes only to be strong enough to play with the other children, a girl wishes to talk with her cat and a ferret wishes only to feeds its family. That is but a small glimpse of the cast and clientele that come into this particular shop and they all come for one extremely rare and unique ingredient: organs (yes, the human kind – what were you thinking?).

Forget witchIrene’s shop has its own brand of alchemical and magical flair to it in that she has discovered a means of growing organs through a special variety of trees raised carefully in her greenhouse. As her apprentice, Organa, it is your job to care for these trees and harvest organs for the shop while filling customer’s orders. Organs can be harvested in Excellent, Great or Normal form while the scraps make the perfect meals for small animals – let nothing go to waste! However, as with most dealings with alchemy there is always a risk and reward to keep in mind: you may transplant a new organ in a living or non-living being and it may gain new life and/or abilities but it may be at the cost of its original soul.

Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden may be described as a uniquely spirited organ clicking game (or perhaps a very dark humored gardening simulator). As Organa, players will slowly but surely grow and learn to care for this unique garden. Starting with one tree and learning how to water and when to harvest it will then transform into quite the undertaking once the entire greenhouse is filled with various organ plants and other creations (such as a meat mincer and pickling jars). Various animals can be bought to help aid in the process of growing, ripening, pickling and mincing the organs to place various orders of variety, size and quantity that customers request. There is but a small amount of timing actually involved and most of the harvesting can be done at your own pace. As the garden grows and things become more hectic, Irine will often grant Organa new ways to mass water or harvest organs and help make the entire process less tedious.

This all probably sounds quite odd and there is no denying that fact. The various characters that come in and out of the shop  are so very twisted in each of their own ways that it comes full round from psychotic to endearing in a way that you will likely never quite understand. They are a small sampling of stories that truly paint a picture of what having such a resource can do for society – the good and the bad.

In my playthrough, it took me around 20 hours to 100% this game and complete all quests, stories,Forget ferret objectives and both endings (which just let me say, the true ending is adorable). It is a simple concept overall that you will tweak into your own form of perfection in gathering the various qualities of organs needed for quests and moving the story forward. I will forewarn you – it is a point and click grind of soft music and random birds chirping for about 90% of the game. Personally, I enjoyed the weirdness of the story and just overall atmosphere of the game – it is such a brightly colored game and yet the content is something you might hear of in a horror story just before everything goes terribly wrong. It was worth it to grind through the quests and they really required very little thinking to accomplish (i.e. it was perfect to play in the background while listening to music, watching a movie or even just to play by itself in a weirdly therapeutic way I suppose).

It may not be action intense, puzzle heavy or in-depth story driven but it is a unique experience for those willing to give it a chance. Perhaps it is simply a dark and playful side of my spirit that found the charm in this game but it won me over despite its slow start and grinding repetition.

In the end, you have to admit there may be a small part of you that has been missing out on growing life granting organs from trees alongside hummingbirds, lizards and humunculi to fulfill the wishes of your fellow townspeople. Or maybe not, but that is for you to decide.

Forget garden

Notch Main

She runs through the darkened forest with wild abandon. Tree branches slash her face as twigs snap savagely against her ankles, fleeing with hardly a glance towards the ground. Her lungs burn. Her eyes piercingly sting with each tear ripped out by the wind. As she falls to the ground, she wishes with all her might that things would end differently…

In its own corner of the world, a small island village quietly waits for the world to remember – or perhaps, forget – that it exists. A once bustling tourist location, it is all but deserted of visitors from far off lands; only leaving its dwindling number of citizens to carry on its legacy. This is a town that lives forever by its olden ways: there is no true government, simply two rich and powerful families that rule over the town from their far off estates in the forest; there is also no hospital, simply family doctors who tend the ill and injured. The town is peaceful; it’s residents content with life…

Notch Girls

However, when young girls begin showing up mutilated and murdered, the townsfolk hardly know how to handle the situation. With peace shattered and an unknown killer residing in the area, it can be hard to know who to even turn to. But when those we love are brutally taken from us, it tends to strike vengeance and determination into our very core.

…Nanami didn’t deserve to die…

Notch – The Innocent LunA: Eclipsed SinnerS is a supernatural murder mystery Visual Novel developed by Angels Blue Digital Entertaiment and DEZ Studio. The player takes on the roll of the main protagonist: a young man seeking to save the girl he loves after she is slain in cold blood. He sets out to speak with the two ruling families about the murders but uncovers a much deeper rooted cause than anyone could have ever anticipated – mass killings, abusive relationships, families ripped apart, torture, lies, forbidden resurrection, alternate dimensions, pacts with devils and the enslavement of gods.

Notch Sister

To begin with, the story is beautiful, sad and captivating from the basic premise surrounding the main character and Nanami to all of the additional characters met that weave such integral pieces to the tale. The masters of each ruling family try to recover from the murder of their households all the while grasping tightly to dark secrets from nearly twenty years past. Meanwhile, the protagonist comes across numerous intriguing personalities on his journey to save Nanami: the caring and mysterious maid, Hitomi, who works for one of the ruling families; Rika, a dainty mute girl in a tragically abusive relationship; Saki, another almost-victim of the brutal killer; and Misa, a mysterious lolita-esque girl with abilities to traverse dimensions. Throughout the title, in learning their stories they both add greatly to the overall atmosphere as well as create a unique diversity whilst moving the main story along. It draws the player in quickly and does a fairly good job of holding their attention despite one of the game’s main flaws.

Aesthetically, the game provides a beautiful mixture of art and music styles. From anime/manga style drawings of the female characters to almost pastel sketches and water colors; the drastic contrast presents a beautiful landscape in which the story is portrayed. Oftentimes a picture can be worth so much more than words and it certainly rings true in this case. Additionally adding to the landscape would be the soundtrack. Made up of serenading piano arrangements, soft melancholic vocal tracks and even epic rock anthems (a la boss music) provide a near perfect backdrop for a majority of the scenes throughout the game.

Notch Misa

Unfortunately, there is one jarringly disruptive feature that nearly destroys all other beacons of recommendation: the writing. It is understood that translation can sometimes be attributed to sentences being a little off or seemingly simple, but this goes beyond that. Simple wording and sentences can be easily excused; however, it is the unnecessary repetition that is truly insanity inducing. After a few hours of playing the game, the writing became so frustrating that I found myself simply tapping the Enter key non-stop and skimming the lines as they quickly went by. The story is phenomenal, but I understood what was meant the first time it was said…the additional 15 statements trying to explain and send the sentiment home were just overkill. It demonstrates that its fast forward feature simply could never be fast enough. Take for example the following excerpt (keep in mind, this is but a mild example):

“I tried to stay alive…I didn’t surrender in the face of brutal tortures…But you didn’t come to see me…I was waiting for an impossible dream…”

“Don’t cry…I live to atone for my sin…Now I have redeemed my sin…I don’t expect you to forgive me…I am unworthy of being forgiven…I hope you can have a happy life from now on…I am going to die…but you can still enjoy your life in this world…I don’t expect your forgiveness. I just want my inner world to regain peace…I am going to say goodbye to you…I don’t regret trading my life for yours. I can have a chance to say sorry to you..I finally did this…Promise me you’ll have a good life…”

…and this goes on, even still.

Aside from that glaringly (oftentimes obnoxious) detail, Notch – The Innocent LunA: Eclipsed SinnerS is a game that will entrance and mystify. You will truly be drawn in by the art, music and story and yearn to find out more – if you can slog through the endless streams of unnecessary text. Should you decide to give this one a try, the 14 endings that, despite their differences, remain curiously connected will offer plenty of replay value. It is a story that will stay with you – at least in part – long after it is through.

Will the killer be brought to justice or remain free?

Will you be able to save anyone?

Will you be able to save yourself?

Notch Bloody

I hope someday you will forgive me.

If you could go back and change something, would you do it?

Would you risk everything for simply a chance?

Is that truly your wish?

amnesia wall

What could be more difficult than waking up into a world where nothing makes sense? Your work, your school, your friends, your interests, your dreams – why can’t you remember? It seems like there is something you should not have forgotten, no matter what happened. What…or who…could it be?

Opening your eyes for the first time you come across a strange looking boy with horns – a spirit named Orion. Barely remembering your own name, Orion explains that he accidentally crashed into you – literally – and fused with your subconscious, knocking your memories and personality to the winds while doing so. How unfortunate, but luckily he vows to stay with you until your memories can be found and returned. Now, where to start ~

amnesia memories orion

Amnesia: Memories by Otomate and Idea Factory is a beautiful visual novel in which a young girl, the player, returns to her life after an uncanny turn of events and attempts to recover everything about herself that she lost. Reliving the month of August within 5 different timelines – the places remain the same and so do the people around her – but not everything is just as it used to be.

Although waking up with amnesia is certainly terrifying, staying locked inside is probably the worst possible scenario: no outward stimulation means no chance of triggering a memory returning. Only once these precious significant memories are recovered can Orion finally be separated from you and you can begin to live your life as you used to.

amnesia memories suits

Your apartment, your work, the hospital, the theater, the park – these are all places that mean so much to you for various reasons both past and future, yet they always remain static; it is the people you surround yourself with that have the biggest impact, and also provide the biggest danger. There is Shin (the harsh but caring suit of hearts) and Toma (the protective suit of diamonds) that have been your closest friends since childhood; Ikki (the compassionate playboy suit of spades) and Kent (the methodical suit of clubs) who you know from work and school; there is Sawa, who one of your best friends, and Mine who is a younger co-worker and occasionally a friendly rival; then of course there is the manager of your work, Waka, who has unique quirks of his own (military style run maid cafe? Sure, why not). Last but not least there is one other individual (the joker) – his appearances are rare and usually veiled in mystery, yet he almost seems the most important…but why?

amnesia memories others

So you must relive and relearn life as you once knew it five times over; but fear not, although the faces and locations remain familiar, the events that occur within each story arc vastly differ and are never easily overcome.

Each of the five arcs hold numerous bad endings, a normal ending and a good ending; which although may seem like a lot (26 endings in total) they truly leave you with a thorough understanding of everything around you. Initially, the first four arcs (heart, spade, diamond and club) may be played in any order; once completed, the final arc (joker) may be played. After viewing all the other stories, the final arc is almost a culmination of aspects the other four possess and represents the place where you truly belong.

amnesia memories heroine

Amnesia: Memories is truly a captivating experience and never seems like you are simply reading the same things over and over again. How you react and the answers you give to those around you can make a huge difference and change how the story plays out in drastic ways. Attempting to hide your amnesia but poorly masking it may lead others to become suspicious of you or even acting so off course to how you used did (which who really knows how that was until someone tells you) may become a good or a bad thing. However, even though you go to and from your apartment and work so often throughout the month, don’t think for a second that it is just an average slice-of-life playthrough. Each route holds its own suspense and in each one there are attempts on your life through various forms of dangers and harassment. Perhaps it is a jealous fan club that wishes you harm for dating their obsession or maybe it is being pushed by an unknown source into an oncoming train or traffic. Orion and those around you try to help as much as possible, but it is never easy to know the future or react fast enough when the time comes.

amnesia memories group

You may think this sounds familiar, and perhaps it is; there is an anime of the same name that follows a similar premise (If you’d like to see my review of that, click Here). However, the downfalls of the anime are almost entirely replaced within the visual novel on so many fronts. For one, the visual novel requires self insertment meaning that you, the player, become the protagonist/heroine and you decide what is going to happen and how to answer; in an anime, the viewer has no input and therefore the heroine became a blank slate with no memories, no personality, no brain (or so it would seem) and was simply frustrating to watch at times. The VN also is able to place far more detail into the story – almost akin to how reading a book and watching a movie based on the book will be similar, but not the same. The VN explains that it was her personality as well as her memories that were pushed out by Orion fusing with her and it also goes into far more aspects of the other characters that simply could not be conveyed in a 12 episode series adaption.

An aspect of the anime that did transfer over from the VN would be the exquisite art style and the beautiful soundtrack. From the ornate and detailed outfits and look of all the characters to their multifaceted eyes, the art style is mesmerizing. The music adds its own opening and closing themes and the instrumental backgrounds that accompany the scenes simply meld perfectly – from gentle, unknown melodies to beautiful piano arrangements to suspenseful rhythms which all somehow never take away from what it actually happening on screen. The voice acting is also superb and really brings the characters to life no matter what change of atmosphere may occur.

amnesia memories shin

One thing that caught me off guard in a good way was how consistent the story remained in its finest details. Many games that have multiple endings will change them drastically and leave you wondering which is truly the correct ending – which one really adds up all the details and makes sense 100% and which ones don’t quite fit right. Within each arc there are 4-5 different endings, yet the story never deviates from its ultimate path. For example, in the heart world you are pushed off a cliff by someone and wake up in the hospital. Shin is suspected of having done so but was let off after many interrogations and your own support to the police claiming that he did not do it. As the story goes on and you, as well as everyone who was present that night, go back to investigate the incident the paths begin to diverge. However, even though all of the endings come to vastly different finales, the culprit who pushed you remains the same…although that may not necessarily be the same person who kills you or attempts to interfere or otherwise. On a larger scale, even throughout viewing the stories of the other worlds so many things remain the same. Each characters personalities never falter even if their type of relationship with you changes, who they are friends with, who you are friends with, the types of dangers and atmosphere at present – they all exist in all of the worlds, it is how they affect you and what you are involved with that changes the outcome.

In the end, Amnesia: Memories is a romance and mystery visual novel with dabbles of supernatural (I mean, you are fused with a spirit after all). I suppose something that should be explained for those who may not know is what a visual novel actually is: it is an interactive fiction game usually using anime style art and still images. For anyone who may have only seen the anime or is interested in this series, I would highly suggest playing the visual novel. It is not a game for everyone, but if it is you will certainly not regret it. Give it some time and let the story truly encompass you. Let the fear, the sorrow and happiness pull you in. Experience the journey. Remember the good and the bad. Simply, feel.

amnesia memories pretty

never alone title

When times are at their worst, often that is when evil will choose to strike. Where blizzards never cease to bellow their wintery wilds and frostbitten winds tear and rage at everything in its path, a young girl ventures away from the safety of her starving village to see what could be causing the devastating weather. The path ahead of her is laden with trials and dangers from the deadly jaws of polar bears to strangers ransacking her village to sinking ice caps and tumultuous waters. With naught but her courage and her new found arctic fox companion, they traverse the dangers together with the aid of helpful ancient spirits to see what lies in wait at the end of the blizzards roar.

never aloneNever Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), developed by Upper One Games, is so much more than just a beautiful puzzle/platformer – it is a collaboration of gaming and Native Alaskan folklore told through an interactive experience. The game, however, was not simply a product of devoted research and interviews; but rather had direct involvement with over 40 Native elders, storytellers and community members of the Iñupiat people creating not only an atmospheric and endearing gameplay experience but also including an informative documentary on the culture.

Never Alone allows players to take control of both the young Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and the arctic fox either by switching between the two in single player mode or allowing (and encouraging) playing with a friend through local co-op. The playstyle of each character is different enough to keep things interesting and add an extra layer to the puzzles as each cannot always reach places via the same methods. Nuna has the ability to push objects, climb ropes and use a bolas weapon to break through certain obstacles; whereas the fox has a much better jumping and climbingnever alone 3 ability, can fit in small tunnels and also communicate with ancient spirits that aid the two in their difficult journey for survival. The controls are smooth and easy to grasp as Nuna and fox jump, climb, shatter ice and branches, and out maneuver creatures that wish for their demise, though that is not to say there aren’t times where what the characters should do and what they actually do differed (usually leading to a swift, and slightly heart-wrenching death on one part or the other). Luckily, check point saves occur fairly often so there is not much backtracking to be done if a more difficult or timing induced area is encountered.

Aesthetically, the game is absolutely gorgeous. From the airbrushed art style of the main game to the simple sketches of the story’s cutscenes, it all comes together fluidly. Faded out and cloudy edges of the screen give sense of the all encompassing blizzard surrounding everything while soft and vivid tones accentuate danger and safety – a subtle hint that speaks volumes. The overlying story itself is narrated in the Native Iñupiat language almost giving a feeling of listening to a folk tale by the light of the fire as the images come to life in front of your very eyes.

never alone 4Never Alone offers players a unique chance to experience a culture so very few know much about and does so in an artistic way that really brings everything to life. Available on PC and next gen consoles, it is certainly worth at least one playthrough to experience the beauty and artistry of the game and story (although perhaps not for its full price tag). The game may take a couple of hours to 100% and finish with about 30 minutes of documentary unlockables to be viewed as well either during the playthrough or afterwards. For those with Playstation Plus, Never Alone is free to download for the month of April; so do yourself a favor and spend a little time with this one. Between the endearing affection and trust between Nuna and the fox and the overall passion the developers imbued within every moment, it truly speaks for itself.

never alone 2

 Always remember that no matter what happens, you are never truly alone.

evolve title

 

Behold this beautiful living planet! A place unlike any other with an abundance of exotic wildlife and fauna nearly untouched by human population and advancement. There is, of course, the small detail that everything existing on this world has a strong penchant for death and dismemberment – but that’s all just part of the fun! Oh, and let’s not forget the slight problem of enormously overpowered monsters that inhabit the world and aim to make it their own. But enough idle chit chat! Go and enjoy the beauty that abounds under foot, overhead and all around. Keep your weapons loaded and your wits about you. Welcome to Shear, Hunters!

Most people who see the words 4v1 will instantly have numerous thoughts fly through their heads such as ‘There is no way that is fair!’, ‘Someone must think themselves elite as all get out to expect to win solo against 4 people’, ‘This sounds totally AWESOME!’ Well, the creators of the much adored Left 4 Dead series have brought about a new world for fans of cooperative and versus multiplayer to annihilate each other in with Evolve.

evolveInstead of the usual 4 person cooperative against AI or 4v4 matches, Evolve introduces an asymmetrical fps experience that works amazingly well where no matter which side is represented, they will have to use every ability and know how in order to outsmart, out-maneuver and overpower the enemy before they end up gazing longingly at the winners circle just out of reach. Currently, there are 12 possible hunters that can be chosen from to include 3 assault classes, 3 support classes, 3 medic classes, and 3 trapper classes. The beauty of it lies in that each of the hunters all have unique weapons and abilities which can aid their team in different ways (however they do all share the same class ability whether that be a shield, invisibility, regen field, or mobile arena). This allows for numerous combinations and strategy when it comes to completing the objective or destroying the monster for that particular match. The monsters have similar options, though seeing as they are solitary hunters, there are only 3 variances as of right now to include the Goliath, the Kraken and the Wraith – each with their own devastating attacks and abilities.

Before even deciding which hunter or monster is to be played, there is the choice of map and objective which can greatly alter the outcome of the match if not taken into account. Evolve is so much more than simply the hunters and monsters going after each other for the kill. The heart and soul of the game lies in its Evacuation mode – a 5 map alternating circuit where the outcome of each match has the potential for beneficial or detrimental effects going forward for the winning and losing side, finally leading up to a finale where the fate of the planet is decided. Additionally, each map mode can be played on its own or rotating. There is hunt mode – where hunters track the monster throughout a decently large map and aim to kill it before it kills them; Nest – where hunters aim to destroy monster eggs before the monster hatches or kills the hunters in the process; Rescue – where survivors scattered and injured throughout the map must be revived and escorted to the dropship to safety before the monster kills them first; and Defend – where the monster (and its powerful minions) aim to destroy generators and ultimately the power ship as the hunters work to thwart its destruction.

Within each match there are also additional things to keep in mind besides hunters and monster killing each other evolve huntersand trying to complete the main objective. Hunters must be wary of the environment as well as each other as wildlife can easily incapacitate a hunter whether it is by elite albino creature or by man eating plant. Monsters have the additional tactic of up-keeping the games namesake and evolving by consuming fallen wildlife throughout Shear to reach the coveted and extremely volatile stage 3 monster.

The variances in maps, matches, monsters and hunters lead the game to having over 800 thousand possibilities with no two matches every being quite the same. But wait, there is even more! Each hunter can be leveled up in their unique weapons to become even more powerful and useful to the team; where monsters can do just the same to reach that ever desired Elite status of mastery. An overall leveling system unlocking hunter and monster perks as well as badges and other accolades are also tracked; and lets not forget the bragging rights on how high each class or monster is ranked on the leaderboards.

Looking past the concepts that make up Evolve, its core makeup is pretty solid in itself. Gameplay wise, the controls are smooth and fluid whether it is using the jetpack to traverse cliffs or get a birds eye view of the terrain to switching weapons and aiding teammates in need. Running, jumping and jetpack evasions all but scratch the surface as even the great size of the monsters is attributed in their great leaps and span over the land. Visually the graphics are beautiful from the plants and creatures found on Shear to the harmful effects of acidic gas flooding from destroyed power plants and airships flying overhead. The only problem is taking a second to actually enjoy the beauty all around as you careen across the landscape in hot pursuit of death itself. Evolve is truly a solid gaming experience all around no matter if you prefer playing solo with extremely intelligent AI bots or with friends and strangers through multiplayer rounds.

evolve wraithNow let’s take a moment to explore the more controversial side of Evolve: the reviews! If you look around the Internet, likely you will come across a huge array of reviews having outstanding scores to dismal ones. How could this be possible? Well, there are two sides here – those based on gameplay experience and those based on sales experience. The gameplay experience reviews will likely be the higher of the two in regards to the actual gameplay, graphics, sound, replay-ability, controls, and ingenuity (basically, everything the developers worked hard to implement into the game); the sales experience reviews will be the lower tier, most not even giving the actual game much chance because of disagreement with involvement from a monetary standpoint. What is frustrating is that for those gamers on the fence about trying this game, it leaves them little help in what to think when enough negative reviews may make a large enough impact to scare them away from trying a game they might actually truly enjoy.

So why the money issues when it comes to Evolve? Well, it mostly boils down to the $60 price tag, day one dlc, a season pass and pre-order bonuses. I will honestly say that I can see their point, but I wholeheartedly disagree with where they are coming from. Here are some thoughts on it –

The price tag: yes, it is the full price that most new games retail at. Take into account the amount of time, effort and resources the developers put into creating a game such as this and it does add up. If it is too much, simply wait for the price to go down – it will.

The day one DLC: I agree, it is frustrating to see at times. Why put out a game when there is still additional contentevolve creature that should be implemented into it originally and force gamers to pay extra for something that could have simply been launched from the start? I get it. However, the day one DLC complaints are really not an issue at all because of one simple thing: what could be bought had zero impact or advantage to playing the game. If buying weapon and character skins is really that big of a deal, well then just don’t buy them – they certainly won’t make you play better and is just for those who like to stand out from the crowd a little bit (something that most players will likely not even notice amidst everything else going on).

The season pass: Most games these days are coming out with them, however it comes down to each individual game if paying the extra for all additional content is truly worth the price. Take Borderlands 2 for example, is the season pass worth it? Most definitely! What about a season pass for a game that simply offers a couple extra maps and weapons? Well, maybe not so much. Evolve’s season pass is hard to pinpoint right now as nothing additional has come out for it yet. More monsters and hunters have been announced and speculated and perhaps even additional maps or game modes, but we will just have to wait and see what lies in store.

Lastly, the pre-order bonuses: How this is even an argument baffles me, and yet I have seen it mentioned. In today’s retail world, pre-orders are what guarantee sales for companies and in return they often offer free exclusive content to those purchasing the game. Taking advantage of this benefit is not only held by a particular group of people – anyone can do so simply by pre-purchasing or putting a small amount down on the game before its release date. That said, the bonuses for doing so are non-game changing: skins, extra characters, a map or maybe a weapon. Most games coming out have pre-order bonuses linked to them, and whether people decide to take advantage of it or not is purely up to them.

evolve goliathSo take what you will from media and user reviews and decide for yourself what is truly worth your hard earned time and money. Not every AAA title with great reviews is loved by all and not every low scoring game is a complete waste of time. Play what you want and then make your own opinion of it. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what the game is so long as you are having fun with friends.

Regardless of it all, Evolve is a solid multiplayer experience for next gen consoles and pc that already has accumulated over 100 years time in gameplay since its launch a couple weeks ago. Whether it is fighting and dying with friends and strangers or showing off solo superiority, there is much awaiting on Shear for all.

It is out there. Waiting. Fighting. Hunting. Dying.

Evolving.

Happiness is… ~ Finding Teddy

finding teddy

Remember what it was like to be a child: where scary creatures lurked in the darkness waiting to pounce once the lights went out; where the inhabitants of dark half-open closets and underneath beds held danger with pointed claws and gleaming eyes; and where through it all, that furry stuffed animal became the best friend and protector ever to be had. Remember the overwhelming panic that struck each time that fuzzy comfort evaded arms reach? Imagine if a gigantic spider-like tendril reached from the depths of the closet and snagged that which was most precious? Oh, the horror! It is in those very times that fear must be pushed aside to save what is most important to us – to find and save Teddy!

findingteddy-1Finding Teddy is an endearing point and click adventure game by developer LookAtMyGames in which players control a young girl who sets out into a simple yet enchanting world to brave dangerous creatures, aid them in their troubles and find her stolen Teddy Bear.

What appeared to be a simple yet intriguing concept at the start truly became a work of art by its completion. From the pixelated graphics to the midi style music to the puzzles and gameplay – the bright colored world within the wardrobe comes to life before the players eyes as they venture into forests, caverns, cities and graveyards; dying horrifically from tormented creatures and turning their worlds around from dismal gray to colorful happy. Collecting and using items to help these creatures in turn helps the girl move forward; whether it is by adding music notes to her repertoire or granting safe passage to a distant area. By the end, subtle realization hits that the seemingly colorful world that was entered at the start was but a fading glimmer of what it truly becomes by its finale. Speaking only through music and bringing happiness to those that are sad and lonely – it was almost shocking how much insight can be gained from a stolen teddy bear.finding-teddy_graveyard

The game itself may only take an hour the first playthrough but does give enough content to warrant at least a second run once teddy has been saved initially (and perhaps look forward to an upcoming Finding Teddy 2). Although short and sweet, it really speaks volumes in following imagination, finding the best in bad situations and at its core, going out of the way to spread happiness even to those who may not warrant a second glance. It is something the world could certainly use as a reminder at times.

Yes, there may be numerous spiders to be had in this game; but even the most arachnophobic at heart (a.k.a. me) should be able to [almost] find even the biggest and scariest of them to be cute by the final credits. So give this one a try – it may not seem like much, but its magic will strike whether it is expected or not.

finding-teddy-artwork-wasp

Melody Title

Please don’t stop the – Please don’t stop the – Please don’t stop the music!

Moving to the beat of your own music is probably one of the best philosophies that a person can have in life. Whether someone is happy, sad, playful, angry or nostalgic, music simply has a way of impacting people inside and out.

So how awesome would it be to gauge a game off of the very tracks that make up your own music library?

MelodyDoing just that, indie developer Icetesy’s Melody’s Escape is a runner/rhythm PC game that feeds off the music found on your own computer and creates a unique fast-paced quick reflex course for Melody to traverse for each track that is played. From the slowest sonata to the fastest techno beat, each track becomes an instinct based battlefield of directional and specific button sequences for the player to navigate – with perfection being the ultimate goal!

At the end of each music track a rating of 1-5 hearts is given as well as the highest chain sequence and a breakdown of how each obstacle was hit or missed. Additionally, achieving that perfect chain score proves to be no easy task on any of the four difficulties ranging from relaxing to normal to intense and finally to overload!MelodyThumbnailAnimated200px

Similar to other music based games, Melody’s Escape is primarily based on quick eye-hand coordination and fast reflexes. What makes it truly spectacular is that it does not submit the player to its own quirky nondescript electro-beat music but rather utilizes the players own music library – adding not only enjoyment but additional replay value in seeing what new tracks and courses may be created.

Overall, Melody’s Escape is a simple yet challenging and enjoyable game that spices up simply listening to music to experiencing it. The game can be purchased through Steam and played via keyboard or controller.

To see some of my own gameplay, check out the video below: =)

Music: Choir Jail by Suzuki Konomi
Official Site: http://www.melodysescape.com/
Steam store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/270210/

(Only thing owned by me is whatever skill (or lack there of) seen above!)

MMO Game over

Come with me to escape your everyday life and take on a role for a world much different than your own. Where evil abides in numbers, will you stand with those against it or aid to empower the imbalance? Will you join others in the greatest fights of all or will you be confident enough in your own skills to survive the terrors unaided? Venture to a world where you can make a difference in the lives of its citizens; where fierce beasts lay havoc on the lands and wait for formidable adventurers, like yourself, to bring their reign to an uncompromising finale. So choose your weapon, don your armor and take your first step into the adventure of a lifetime…

This is but a general set up for a genre of games called MMORPGS, or Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. It is the epitome of creating your own character, your own legacy and your own story. While this does not discount the establishment that single player RPGs or other genre of games bring to gamers, there is one vital difference that MMOs bring to the table: community. Some of the more notable games of this type that most people will recognize at least on some level would be WoW (World of Warcraft), Final Fantasy XI or XIV, Rift, Tera, Guild Wars and the list continues. They are immensely popular games, some being free to play while other require subscription – yet the adventure, fun and camaraderie has always brought more and more people to their ranks and continued to draw people back in.

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I will admit that I have never played WoW, I know, it seems crazy. However, my first experience with MMOs was years ago not long after Final Fantasy XI launched. I remember the first time I launched the game and saw the warning message telling me to have fun but not to forget about friends, family, work and school. I had always spent a good amount of time gaming on various platforms, but to think something would have to put that message up beforehand just seemed amusing to me. I soon learned why it was there and encountered people within the game that clearly could have taken those words of wisdom a little more to heart.

But here is the thing: MMOs have taken a turn for the worse lately, and it is sad to me. Although I had many large breaks from FFXI due to other things I was doing in life, I probably went back to it on and off for almost 9 years (9 years! That is a good bit of devotion). It clearly had enough content, challenge and fun to keep me going back and accomplishing more and more. Of course, having played since nearly the beginning I was able to see first hand as the genre began to warp into the creature it is today.

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What Final Fantasy XI used to be was what I loved. It was difficult and unforgiving but it gave you a true sense of accomplishment. Level 75 was the max level that could be reached for the first half of the game and it wasn’t something that could be done in a month…it took me years to get there. Quests were mostly to give you gear or items needed to unlock certain level caps or abilities; missions were used for story progression and to increase renown and gain other benefits and rare items; and leveling to 75, well that was something completely different. The fastest method of leveling was made by putting in time, hard work and team effort. Parties of 6 people of different jobs would gather together at a specific place and simply kill enemies until they reached a higher level and needed to move on. At best the enemies may have given 200xp each; however when it takes 18k, 30k or 50k to get one level it can be quite a time-involved endeavor. Other aspects of the game involved hunting extremely difficult bosses for rare items which would only spawn once every few hours or days and could only be claimed by the first person or party to attack them; a death and exp loss penalty for dying; huge maps of which to traverse usually by foot or with some teleportation help from certain job classes of higher levels. Then of course there was the end-game which had numerous events made up of large alliances of people of varying jobs that met multiple times a week and would give great reward for those who were able to put in the necessary time. All of this made for a challenging and beautiful adventure. Unfortunately, it is something very rare to find now.

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Some of the more recent MMOs that have come out the past few years still offer much of the same format, however it is hard to ignore how easy the games have become. The greatest part of the genre was the community aspect: teaming up with random people who may end up as close friends to fight through difficult battles, level, or down huge mega bosses for merit and reward. This is hard to find now. Leveling up can be done completely solo via quests and missions and done within a matter of weeks usually; and most people tend to just do their own thing as opposed to joining forces and getting to enjoy the game with others. Sure the larger bosses and end game events still require groups to survive, but these are likely random people placed together through a group finder who are spread throughout many servers and will likely never see or hear of each other again. It just feels so soulless and empty. Why play an online game geared towards cooperation between people to simply play it alone or only expect the best people to join you so that you can win the first time, every time?

People said the games were too hard, so they changed the format to be more friendly to casual players. Sure, not everyone has countless hours every week to put into a game, that is understandable; but they made the games so that everyone can easily be swept to max level and then carry on with the same mundane and simple tasks, guided by their happy lighted arrows on the map. The adventure and exploration is gone for most people and the magic went with it. People wanted to see results and they wanted them now. They didn’t want to work on something and earn their reward after putting in the time and effort. There are still many who would like the challenge of years ago to remain, but the majority simply want everything handed to them – which makes for quite a boring game in the long run.

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Sure, I enjoyed my time playing Guild Wars 2 or FFXIV and the others, but they maybe lasted me 8 months tops before I felt like anything else I did was repetition and mostly I stayed that long for the friends I had in game. Sure there is new content being put out, but really, it is the same format as everything else but with a different background. The community is still unimaginative and self involved and the challenge is minimal – sometimes only being difficult at the very start until the method is found that will kill the boss easily. They have made the games so that almost anyone can have the best of the best – and when everyone has it, it loses that special something that made it what it is. Sure having the strongest weapon and the best gear stats is great and will help you, but it has lost that accomplishment of “I worked hard to get this and now I have the right to wear it”.

When I played FFXI, I certainly did not ever have the time to get the best gear. It took years for me to get my first job to 75 and I struggled and fought and suffered to get there. I never had time to join groups that did end game events, so I did the best I could and I had fun doing it. I learned to be good at my job and my abilities on there instead of simply relying on getting the best gear to carry me through. Skill is what sets people apart in those games, and sadly they have made it so that even those without skill can look just as good with little effort.

Some people may disagree with this view, but I personally dislike that I can max out level and gear on a job within a month or two of the game being released. What will make me stay? The friends I have with me certainly will for a while, and sure, I will want to work to get the gear to match my skill and usefulness; but after that? The adventure fades, the sparkly new-ness of everything becomes dull and I move on to something else. I understand why companies have shifted to create a larger, more diverse, player base; but at the same time the longevity that would keep people going back seems to be dwindling.

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Times change and people change, it is just how things are. For myself, I will always be on the lookout for something that may be more akin to the type of MMO world I loved; but in the mean time, at least the variety and adventure of gaming can be found through numerous other genres and platforms – and that is something that I know will never fade away.

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The day has finally come. The halls are bustling with anticipation as last minute preparations for the ceremony are underway. A few short months ago she was almost a normal school girl worrying about grades and friends and social gatherings; but now everything has changed. For better or worse she has finally arrived at this momentous day – the day she would become queen. So many people dream of being a princess and living a prosperous royal life decorated to the nines and waited on hand and foot. If only they knew what it took to get to that point; the time, the knowledge and the sacrifice. Adorning her last decoration and examining her attire one last time, she takes her final steps as princess…

queen testLong Live the Queen is a life simulation visual novel created by Hanako Games. Stepping into the life of Princess Elodie, players are given the task of preparing Elodie to take the throne and will quickly discover that every decision made has the utmost importance and consequence. Surprisingly enough, while every issue encountered has a distinct cause and effect, surviving long enough to see her coronation is no easy feat.

The game opens with Elodie talking to her Father on their return trip from her boarding school to the castle. Her mother’s untimely death has forced her to leave behind her school life and begin preparations to become queen. Although a simple premise at first glance, it does not take long to discover just how in depth and difficult accomplishing that task will be.

The game itself is broken up into two sections for each week that passes. Elodie has 40 weeks of preparation before the coronation andqueen classes each week can be considered a player’s turn. At the start of each week Elodie must choose two courses of study (one for the morning and one for the afternoon) which will boost her skills in that particular field. Easy enough, right? Not so much. There are 14 class categories which range from royal demeanor/conversation/expression to agility/weapons/athletics/animal handling and history/intrigue/medicine/economics/military/faith/lumen. Within each of these categories lie 3 particular areas of study and one is then chosen for morning and afternoon for that week. Elodie’s skills will go up in that category at a rate of 10 per week – though that also depends on her mood. Yes, a plot twist! Elodie is affected by the events that occur to her. Whether she is happy, sad, determined or worried it will affect how she learns certain skills. When determined she may learn military strategy at a much higher rate but if she were sad there would be a penalty. Of course, Elodie could just learn certain areas randomly and gradually increase them all but in all actuality that does not get her very far.

queen skill levelThe second section of each week places Elodie in the role of regent. These meetings and events all force decisions that will ultimately aim Elodie towards a certain fate and it is also where the skills that are selected to be learned become of great value. For example, criminals may be put on trial and the decision must be made on whether they are to be set free, put to work, locked up or executed; but decisions may backfire or they may anger or bring alliance with other nobles involved. Additionally investors may come looking for approval but if Elodie does not have enough economic knowledge she may simply dismiss them rather than bring good fortune to her land via great innovations or aid.

That is the basic setup of the game but the options and outcomes are enormous. One tiny decision made different or the lack of a skill at the right time can send Elodie to her death or can unlock even more elements and parts of the story that might have easily been missed. The dilemmas range from the simple trials and investment offers as given above to more serious political strategy, commoner rebellion, nobility backstabbing, magic, invasion and war. Every decision counts and preparation for the actions and consequences that follow is everything.

Long Live the Queen is a game that seemed intriguing enough to pick up during a sale and give a try. Unbeknownst to me, I wouldqueen death soon be spending hours upon hours retrying my decisions and attempting to open up other avenues within the expansive story line. It was a delightful surprise to find how in depth and challenging the game became and even now after the hours I have put into it I still have things left undiscovered. Available on PC, it is well worth the price for the amount of content. Although it may get somewhat repetitive recounting the same trials over and over to gain new results, the reward is often worth the trouble and many of the scenes can be skipped through and sped up to get to the decision once you have seen them so many times they are devoted to memory. It may seem a bit girly at first but it is a game that anyone can and probably will enjoy. When a break is needed from guns and action or leveling, delving into the strategic gameplay and enjoying the anime style art of Long Live the Queen may be just the right decision.

Long live the queen! Long live the queen! Long live the queen!

queen coronation

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…Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary…

Every story has a purpose.

Think of those classic tales most everyone has heard and loved since childhood: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel or the Princess and the Frog (to name only a few). Each story not only held entertainment value but also had lessons and warnings hidden deep within their pages. Many of these stories were actually written much crueler in their original form and some may be surprised to learn that the princess did not kiss the frog but rather threw it against the wall and that the wicked queen in Snow White was forced to dance in red hot iron shoes at their wedding until she fell dead. Not every fable and fairy tale gets that Happily Ever After, oftentimes all that the audience is left with is surprise.

As the previous four chapters of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us have played out: Fabletown is ripping apart at its seams as a dark mastermind and those working under his watchful gaze begin murdering their own and capitalizing on other fables misfortunes. The fifth and final chapter of the series based on Bill Willingham’s comic book series Fables brings players to the pinnacle of the action as Sheriff Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf) finally meets with those of the inner crime circle and discovers the truth a midst a complicated tangle of lies.

Some might say that the previous episodes of the title did not incorporate enough actual action sequences – well, the final episode makes up for that in leaps and bounds. From hand to hand combat to street chase scenes to taking on more enemies than can be counted in one room, the action is at nearly a constant making use of quick reflexes, aiming and controls. Don’t worry though, when the pace slows down the player isn’t simply left with idle chit chat; what they are left with is making critical and weighted timed decisions and ensuring that justice is given its due. Needless to say, it is two hours of gameplay that seem to take only minutes whilst careening towards the games grand finale.

Telltale Games certainly has had it high and low points throughout the series, but they did not hold back when it came to bringing this story to conclusion. Even after the height of the action and story has ebbed, they leave the player with one final scene which gives some measure of explanation and fills in the gaps while, in turn, also making the player question every decision they ever made. There are many theories on what the true ending to The Wolf Among Us means, but sometimes, figuring them out firsthand is the greatest reward.

So now that the story has met its end (for now), the time to play this title couldn’t be more perfect; or for those who have been keeping up as the episodes are released, perhaps another play through to truly piece the puzzle together may be in order. So discover the darker side of Fabletown and those that dwell within, glimpse the violent crime mystery from a different perspective…see how big and bad the wolf truly is.

You’re not as bad as everyone says you are.

I hope you find what you’re looking for.

I’ll see you around…wolf.