Tag Archive: death


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

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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

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.

The Gods Among Us ~ Noragami

noragami

“Even if things are painful and tough, people should appreciate what it means to be alive at all.”

A lost cat, a strange encounter and a bus. This is how it all started for Hiyori Iki as she walked with her friends on what could have been any ordinary day. As the three friends stop to look at a small ‘lost cat’ poster of Milord, they joke of Hiyori’s closet martial arts obsession and shake their heads as she completely zones out into her own little world. It is then, as they pass by a beautiful stranger with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, that everything changes. Her friends don’t bat an eye at his passing, but Hiyori notices him and turns to watch as he calls for Milord at the top of his lungs. At sight of the small feline across the street, the young man jumps into oncoming traffic only to be knocked out of the way by Hiyori trying to save his life. Oh, what a day!

Noragami yato

After awaking in the hospital, Hiyori finds the young man in her room and he introduces himself as Yato, a minor god. It turns out, Yato is so minor that not only is his name hardly recognized but he doesn’t even have his own shrine and he works minor jobs (such as saving lost cats) in order to earn money and gain a reputation to match his large ego and dreams. The next time their paths cross, Yato points out that Hiyori is a little bit different since they saved each other at the accident: Hiyori has become a hanyou, a half phantom that on occasion will separate from her own body and walk among the realm of the far shore – the realm of phantoms and gods.

noragami Bisha

From that point on, Hiyori becomes entangled in the lives of the gods – beings that exist alongside humans, although most people do not have the ability to even notice them unless the gods allow it. While many gods remain at their shrines, others go out and seek to eliminate phantoms that have crossed onto the near shore, the realm that humans inhabit. These gods fight with weapons called Regalia – spirits who are found and named by the gods after their death and take on a weapon form to work in tandem with their masters. Yato names a new regalia Yukine, a young troubled youth who wishes only to be alive like everyone else and causes much pain to his new master through his reckless actions.  The three encounter other gods in the area as well as their Regalia which bring friendship, loyalty, vengeance and betrayal – with none more mysterious than the disowned and renounced Regalia, Nora.

noragami nora

Noragami (meaning ‘stray god’) is a supernatural/action/comedy manga and anime that was recently aired running 12 episodes. Providing an entertaining premise and story mixed with a beautiful art style, the episodes keep audiences interested throughout their entirety. While the story line itself could easily be more in depth, the way different aspects and elements are strung together create a riveting and synonymous tale from beginning to end. For the length of the series it is very well done and gives an entertainment value that many fail to do quite so well. As the three somewhat unwilling strangers survive trials and grow ever closer, they all learn much about themselves and each other – even when the darkest of pasts come to light.

noragami hiyori

Despite harrowing circumstances, people can sometimes change each other for the better. Friendships are bonded, loyalties remain, and even gods of war and calamity can find light in their irrefutable darkness.

queen

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

wolf-among-us-cry-wolf-art

…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.

 

year-walk1

Since time began there has been an undying curiosity found deep within every human being. A curiosity towards self; a curiosity towards the world; a curiosity towards time and space; a curiosity towards the future.

Although unknown in origin, in ancient Scandinavian folklore there existed a way to seek out visions, to see the future, called year walking. This practice, while varying on details depending on location, had very strict rules which if not followed directly could prove to not only lead to disastrous results, but to be fatal. Upon deciding to undertake a year walk certain obligations must be met:

First, a year walk could not take place on just any day; but on certain festival days such as May Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve or most commonly New Years Eve.

Second, the individual must abstain from any and all food served on these holidays. A sacrifice of sorts as most of these days were usually accompanied by plentiful feasts.

Lastly, the individual must seclude themselves from all others and remain without fire for the entirety of the day. Locking themselves in dark rooms, away from light and warmth, until the hour reached Midnight – then would be their last opportunity to forgo the year walk. Once outside, there was no turning back…

A year walker’s destination would always be the church, though the journey would be anything but a pleasant stroll through the woods. Numerous supernatural entities were said to be encountered along the way such as The Huldra (a female guardian of the forest said to bring both good fortune and untimely ends), The Brook Horse (most often associated with death and drowning), The Myling (children killed very young, wandering and wailing seeking help or leaving death in their wake), The Night Raven (often associated with disease, the manifestation of an evil greedy man not properly buried) and finally The Church Grim (a sacrifice, guardian and parasite of the church) all of which would potentially cause physical, mental and spiritual strife to the year walker.

Upon arriving at the church and circling the grounds in a specific pattern the year walker would be given visions of the future as well as lure out The Church Grim. These visions could present themselves in a variety of ways such as a procession of people leaving the church, all of which would end up dying the following year or a view of various wedding ceremonies. Life, love and death would all play a part but each journey would leave the walker a changed person forever.

yearwalk

Indie developer Simogo has recreated this haunting experience in their simple yet artistic puzzle/horror game Year Walk. Starting out just before the night begins, the player discerns through a brief encounter that their journey not only lies in seeking the future but ultimately to find if they are truly loved in return.

year walkThe game itself follows much of the history that is given above, and it can all be found within the opening moments of the game if chosen via an encyclopedia. While it is not necessary to read each of the pages before beginning the journey, it adds a certain level of comprehension and depth which may not be taken from the gameplay itself. There is very little dialogue or explanation within the actual game, actually, there is not much direction given at all; but knowing the destination does not always mean knowing which path to travel.

The actual gameplay relies on simple left/right/forward/back movements in addition to clicking the mouse to interact and carry objects (yes, carry objects – there is no such thing as an inventory. Additionally, it is recommended to not solely rely on the map to get around as carrying certain objects will not allow it to be viewed). Aside from that it is basic exploration and getting to the right place at the correct point in the storyline as subsequent supernatural beings are revealed. Many puzzles and clues can be found scattered about the map as well, but not all of them will be solved, nor even make sense, until after the first playthrough. The puzzles themselves vary greatly from simple button presses and sequences to open doors and pathways to listening to distinct sound pitches to find the correct path out of a darkened maze. Oftentimes, many of these puzzles will have no immediate clues on how to solve them while others require some backtracking to discover exactly what must be done. There is a hint option that can aid the player if they simply have no idea where to start but otherwise a little bit of note taking may be all that is necessary.yearwalk6_2490317b

While the gameplay is not very intense nor intricate, the artistic flourish resonating throughout the title is what truly makes it
stand out. The dark, almost cut from a story book, visuals are like walking through a painting but it is far from the beauty one might find gazing at a quiet cabin in the woods brimming with life and quiet. It is a changing scenery emanating with an eerie stillness as nightmarish creatures take to their true forms and pristine snow becomes tainted with blood. The music that accompanies these images and puzzles is often mysterious but calm – serenading piano melodies and haunting vocal tracks blend into the background almost entirely unnoticed until realization hits that something has changed.

All in all, Year Walk is not a long game nor is it terribly involved; yet it holds within it an intriguing story rich in nearly forgotten folklore. While it is not without a few small jump scares it mostly relies on its haunting and isolated atmosphere to give its horror-esque touch. It has been recently remastered for PC (which is this version played) but originally debuted on IOS, both versions staying fairly similar but with a few additions and adaptions for PC implemented. It is a small and mostly unheard of title, but anyone with an interest in olden folklore or dark legends will surely find this one worth its price.

“To see if they would be wealthy”

“To see if they would be happy”

“To see if they would live”

“To see if they would be loved”

 

brothers tale

Life is one of the most precious gifts a person holds; yet every so often we are reminded just how fragile and fleeting this vibrant and cherished thing is. To take risks and make sacrifices for all that we love, is it truly worth it in the end? Most would like to think so…

Developer Starbreeze Studios and publisher 505 Games have created a beautiful and emotional journey in their newest title Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons. From the game’s first moments, players are met with tragedy as the youngest of the brothers mourns the memory of their mother’s passing to the great depths of the sea some time previous.  Interrupted by a shout from his elder sibling, he rushes to where his brother is holding up their ailing father and the two quickly rush him to the town’s doctor. Finding no immediate cure, the only way to save their father’s life comes with making a long, arduous journey across the land to a tree which harbors healing waters that may be their only hope in keeping what’s left of their family together.

brothers 12With only a map in hand and the company of each other, the two brothers set out on their fantastical tale, encountering many obstacles and people in need along their way. Whether it be assisting an outcast rabbit to join its brethren or comforting a man close to suicide after the loss of his family; the two brothers remain close by each other’s sides, ensuring their combined success and ever pressing onward to their ultimate goal.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this game lies within its simple yet engrossing gameplay element that allows the player to control both brothers separately and at the same time. In essence it is a co-op game played with but one controller; where the left joystick and triggers control the movement and action of the older brother and the right joystick and triggers control the younger sibling. Although many times the brothers are moving in tandem, there are numerous occurrences where each must set to their own paths and actions in order to allow the other to progress along certain paths and through obstacles. Timed levers, movement, and joint actions are the only things that allow the two to continue their journey as they do; a feat that would be nigh impossible as a solo traveler.brothers scene

While there is not an extreme amount of difficulty to the gameplay and it is easily accustomed to, what truly makes this play style special is that it creates a bond with both characters. The player does not simply control one and have the other follow or switch as they are needed, but is in complete control of both throughout the entirety of the game. The story is certainly the highlighted aspect of this title, yet somehow the gameplay mechanics draw you into it that much more and truly instills an emotional connection with everything the brothers are going through.

The lands traveled across during this fairy tale like adventure are beautiful and vast, and players will often find themselves sitting the brothers on benches strewn throughout the land simply to marvel at the gorgeous backdrops they are about to traverse. From sun touched mountainsides to underground mechanical troll lairs to snowy tundra and bloodied battlegrounds of giants, players will hardly feel limited despite a linear path being laid out for them. Oftentimes much of the environment can be manipulated as well to clear the way for the brothers to travel, adding a bit more than simply following along a designated line to get from point A to point B.

brothers-tale-sons-sad-tale-night-raqwe.com-06The story is beautiful, joyous and tragic and every feeling strikes deep within and remains. It is a feeling almost akin to playing Ico or Journey, where it does not take a known language to understand what is going on or feel the deep connection to everything that is happening to and around the brothers. They speak in their own tongue to each other and those around them and the devastation, fear, and laughter is almost tangible. It is an experience that will stay with you long after the credits finish, where the haunting soundtrack lurks within your mind and their tale stays buried deep within your heart.

Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons is a simple game on the outside with an underlying beauty and depth to be discovered. It is not action intense or even drawn out, but rather a beautiful story driven experience. Its 8 chapters can be completed within about 4 hours and is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 via download. This type of game is certainly not for everyone but I would encourage many to at least give it a try if not incorporate it into their library permanently. It is an excellent example of how games can create the same impact as books, movies or television shows – if not even taking it to another level entirely.

The most amazing part of a journey is not knowing how it will end, or how it will ultimately change who you are.

So take that first step; and let nothing be taken for granted.

“A person who cannot give up anything, can change nothing.”

Attack on titan wall

One hundred years ago humanity was thrust into a one-sided conflict against incredible giant humanoid Titans; a devastation that would result in a majority of the population being wiped out – without remorse, without reason. Since then, peace has been found within the safe and well defensive confines of three ginormous walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and the center-most Wall Sina. During this time, many people have lived their lives happily without ever laying eyes on a Titan; but peace can only last for so long uninterrupted…

In the year 845, the outermost wall containing the Shiganshina district would experience this terror once again and numerous citizens and military personnel would invariably lose their lives and lay witness to a massacre and evacuation that would not soon be forgotten.

Within this area called home to so many, three youth connected by difficult experiences and dreams of the outside world go about attack on titan legionstheir day as if it is any other. Eren Jaeger and Mikasa Ackerman make their way home while completing chores and stop to see the return of the brave but war-torn Survey Corps; one of three branches of the military that go beyond the walls in hopes of quelling the Titan onslaught and gathering intel – though usually at the cost of many lives. As people insult and disgrace the men and women as they return home, Eren is enraged, hoping to one day join their ranks and help gain humanities freedom. Along the way they also run into a close friend named Armin Arlert, a sweet and intelligent young man who would do anything for his friends.

It is after a brief visit home that all hell breaks lose upon Shiganshina as a giant Colossus Titan appears as well as another variant known as an Armored Titan break through Wall Maria and let lose an onslaught of Titans onto humanities doorstep. Peace has ended and blood swiftly begins to flow down the streets of destruction and terror. As military personnel try their best to defeat the 3 to 15 meter tall titans overtaking the city and evacuate as many citizens as possible via boat to the inner walls; the three youth make their way to safety but it is not without tragedy or heartbreak. As refugees to the inner Wall Rose, Eren vows to join the cadet ranks and enter the fight personally to kill any and all Titans that have torn his life asunder. At this proclamation, Mikasa and Armin also agree to enlist in order to help protect Eren as well as accomplish their own motives.

attack-on-titan titanThe next 5 years follows the three through harsh military training: vigorous regiments, classes, hand to hand combat and mastering the core weapon used to down their most formidable foe – 3D Vertical Maneuvering Equipment. This equipment sits at the belt and is comprised of a storage vessel for blades on each side connected with a trigger hilt which not only houses the sharp swords for use but also triggers the maneuver part of the gear. The maneuvering allows the user to be versatile in air combat via gas supply by extending two separate hookshot-esque lines into walls, building, trees and Titans – and is invariably the only method that allows reach to the Titans true weak point: a death stroke to the back of the neck. Most other attacks will simply allow the Titan to regenerate injuries and lost limbs within a short amount of time.

Attack on Titan, or Shingeki no Kyojin, is a 25 episode anime that follows humanities fight for survival against the fearsome Titans. Staying close to Eren, Mikasa and Armin, as well as the other cadets in their graduating class, they are thrust headfirst into battle and bloodshed, unknown circumstances and enemies and even distrust within their own ranks. As they watch elite members of the guard fall time and again, they must somehow find the strength to carry on with their mission…no matter what the cost.

attack on titanIt is an action intense, dramatic anime that will keep attention throughout. With a decent amount of character growth within the first season, it brings forth many different elements and truly accentuates the fact that there is rarely an easy or correct decision. A good leader must be willing to risk everything to gain results, and this is truly the mindset that becomes impossible to ignore. Although many of the ‘shocking’ moments and realizations can be estimated beforehand, it does not take away the intensity and want to keep watching. There should be some warning though as it does contain a large amount of graphic content from horrific and bloody deaths to the harsh language one would expect to accompany such atmosphere. The anime ends with just as many questions as it begins with, if not more; but that leaves plenty of room for the oncoming second season to pick up with.

At one point in the series a character states that, “It takes great courage to go against the tide. I respect that.” In difficult times it can be easy to simply cower in fear and run with the crowd, but it is those who stand up to fear that show their true strengths when it really counts – and it is those that make all the difference.

“They are the prey and we are the hunters!”