Tag Archive: PC


Magical Eyes Title

If you pull the trigger of a gun, knowing full well what it is capable of, that is one thing; pulling the trigger when you do not know what will happen is something of a different nature. Does that make the one who does not realize what they are doing more or less guilty than the one who fully understands? It may be hard to discern between the two at times, but the end result is always the same. The past can never be undone.

When people hear the word “Visual Novel” many will immediately picture an anime style text based game usually falling under the Otome category (Otome translating to “maiden game” and usually being a harem romance themed game targeted towards females). However, this is far from the case as visual novels have greatly expanded their reach both in theme and audience. Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish, developed by Pomera Studios, is but one such example that explores a much darker, mystery atmosphere more than anything else.

Red is for Anguish is but chapter one of a series of games to be released involving confounding crimes and incidents that occur within a particular town. Despite a significantly growing crime rate made up of smaller misdemeanors, the townsfolk remain mostly unaware of what is occurring around them on a daily basis.  However, one particularly violent crime has caught the attention of not only the police, but also of a group known as the Disobeyers. This group works covertly and from an outside viewpoint, all of its members appear just like any other citizen. However, those that know these individuals or perchance see them engaged in combat will notice they are anything but normal: psychic abilities, incredible combat prowess or even an impenetrable armored skeleton make up but a few of the abilities these talented individuals hold. These skills are not used for taking down mere inconveniences or petty thieves, but rather against something almost beyond human recognition – Variants. These variants are superhuman in their own right and will take a human or material vessel to exact their goals; oftentimes being born from an extreme outpouring of emotions such as a death of a loved one or extreme life change.

Magical Eyes Doll

The crime that starts it all involved a simple shop owner who specialized in random knick-knacks and trinkets. After a brutal attack that lost him an arm and left his shop torn to pieces, the only statement he gave police was that a Japanese doll in a kimono was behind everything. Likely the ramblings of a man still in shock over a traumatic experience – or so thought the police. However, there are those who could see the truth in his words…even if it was not the whole truth, and they knew a serious case was on their hands.

The visual novel involves numerous characters but the player will mostly see the story through the eyes of Yuu, a high schooler and elite member of the Disobeyers, and Chiharu, a classmate and close friend of Yuu. Although they make up two very different perspectives of the story, it grants an interesting view of both the business and personal side of all characters involved. From Pops, the disastrously horrific cook of a ramen shop called Noodle Graveyard (which also doubles as the headquarters of the local Disobeyers) to Yuu’s coworkers and younger siblings who each have their own unique sparkle and personality, there is never a sense of dread or boredom when certain characters take the spotlight.

Magical Eyes Mains

Unlike many visual novels that rely heavily on player choice to move the story in a certain direction, Red is for Anguish is more static. All players will reach the same end one way or another but hold the possibility of additional scenes and unlockables by excelling at a small quiz like section called Reasoning Mode. Gaining a perfect S-Rank score during each questioning period will not only help Yuu gain understanding of all the information he has discovered on the case but also serve as a way to show how much the player has paid attention to the story so far.

Without risking revealing too much, the story is really quite well done and has a good balance of mystery, suspense, action and humor to top it all off. In addition to that, the anime style artwork is truly exceptional and the soundtrack accompanying the game moves with the story with cinematic excellence. One aspect that I found particularly well done was the combat sequences – they were thrilling! The music swelled with the action; the words had an air of urgency, acceptance and even fear; and the characters and scenery changed every few screens really demonstrating what was occurring – for a visual novel made up of static images, it made it exceptionally easy to almost picture the excitement happening in live action.

Magical Eyes Fight

Of course, Red is for Anguish did have some flaws; but overall they were fairly minor and did not detract from the overall experience. The writing was very good, albeit with some oddly placed humor at times, but there were a few detractors present mostly in the visual aspect of the words: one was that as scenes would change mid text, all text would disappear and reappear on the screen often adding additional lines which would cause me to re-read things I had already taken in; second was the symbol chosen to indicate the end of a text break – a small animated flower which constantly reminded me of a loading symbol you might find downloading something on a phone or a webpage. It might not sound like much but it was enough to deter my attention for seconds at a time throughout and was something I never did get used to. The only other issue I found was buried in another very strong quality of the game: the music. As I mentioned earlier, the music is phenomenal, but at times would almost carry on its theme just a bit too long and when it stopped fitting the mood of the text it would pull me away from the immersion. Even with these small issues, every other aspect of the game makes up for it in stride.

While the story takes place over the course of a week, the game only takes around 4-5 hours to complete on average. It is a supernatural mystery that will pull you into its clutches until its finale…and even then leave you wanting more. The second chapter, Indigo Blue Heaven, is still in development but surely already has plenty of fans eagerly awaiting its release. Available on Steam, it is well worth spending some time delving into the lives and mysteries of those who Disobey what ordinary humans can only attempt to rationalize.

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

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ffx title

“Listen to my story. This may be our last chance.”

A city dead for a thousand years. A small group of forlorn travelers sit just within its borders around a campfire, their weapons stacked neatly off to the side as if trying to forget – for just a moment – the last leg of the harrowing journey that awaits them. A soft, beautifully haunting piano melody gently threads itself into the hearts of all those who may happen to hear it. This was the first moment players witnessed as they stepped into the world of Spira all those years ago – and it is the first moment that greets them as they now return once again. With an evident amount of effort and care put into the remastered release, it is time to re-explore one of Square-Enix’s strongest entries into their long running series of beloved games ~

ffx tidus yuna

Before diving into the unique qualities each game brings, let’s take a look at what makes this version a worthy addition to any Final Fantasy fan’s collection (even for those, like myself, who still own and could easily dust off the original PS2 games for replay). First-off, this is a game made for newer gen consoles: PS Vita, PS3, and PS4 (actually, it is also available on PC as well now). The stronger capabilities of these systems truly showcase the graphic and audio overhauls put into the game – character facial features, backgrounds, NPCs, and monsters all appear much more vibrant and alive and textures have been enhanced as a whole. While I cannot speak for the PC port, the PS4 version certainly shows off the work put into it masterfully and would be my recommendation! Outside of what the games look like, this is also the first time NA gamers are given the chance to play through the International version of the games. For those who may not be aware, this adds quite a bit of additional content to the games: an expert version of the sphere grid, Dark Aeons, extra mega-bosses to unlock and kill, the short movie Eternal Calm (which bridges the gap between the two games), additional dress spheres, Creature Creator, Field Arena Tournaments as well as the Last Mission (which ties up the finale of the second game). If you were anything like me originally playing these games, by the time all side quests, weapons and extras were finished the final bosses of the story simply went down by you showing up to the party; so let me say that the additional content adds a very welcome challenge! For example, when accidently running into a Dark Aeon in FFX ends up with your party completely annihilated in one hit by a 999k attack, you realize you finally have something worth leveling up for!

ffx group

Final Fantasy X was the first of the series released on the PS2 and it followed in the heavy footprints of some of the series most beloved games: FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX. Even despite that pressure, FFX managed to weave together a heart-wrenching story filled with twists and turns and characters that could be all too relatable. Seen through the outsider Tidus’ point of view, his monologues told a unique perspective and his optimism and determination were hard to hate, even despite his cluelessness. Each character was so unique harboring their own strengths, weaknesses and beliefs and it showed how each one of them grew as the journey continued; as beliefs were questioned, rights abolished and even entire religions shattered. It is a story filled both with tragedy and laughter and is some of the best storytelling to be found.

Gameplay wise, FFX maintained its JRPG heart in a turn-based combat system. While simple at first, it definitely rewards those with a strategic mind later on using advantageous turns, character switching on the fly and a plethora of abilities and attacks between them all to finish off whatever monstrosity the party is up against. Outside of combat, the game is quite linear for about 90% of it and involves talking to people, obtaining quests and items and moving to the next area to further the story along. It does a very good job of never getting the player stuck during the linear part of the game so long as they do not run away from every battle presented to them; even if a tough boss does gives trouble, the ability to backtrack to an area with monsters to grind on for a bit is usually close by. It is a very well balanced system that negates frustration and leaves the level of difficulty up to the player. Of course, there is always plenty of exploration and mini games to do as well (hello, Blitzball!) which now have trophies associated with them for a little extra motivation.

ffx yrp

Final Fantasy X-2 was one of the first direct sequels put out for a Final Fantasy game and while it held plenty of merit, it did receive its fair share of harsh praise as well. Taking place after the first game, players take control of the new and improved Yuna as she and her girl squad (consisting of the ever-so-peppy Rikku and tough-exterior Payne) run around Spira as Sphere Hunters and look for clues about Tidus’ whereabouts. The entire feel of the game is quite different from its predecessor – the somber, in depth story of FFX is no longer present and is instead replaced with a light-hearted, mostly non-serious gallivant around Spira. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and it is a fun, faster-paced game, but the two really cannot be compared in the story department. FFX-2 has it moments of seriousness as they discover a tragic past of two characters remarkably similar to Tidus and Yuna and the story unfolds itself from there, but for the most part it is simply a much lighter story to take in. It is interesting to see how Spira changed after the events of FFX and how people have both divided and come together since then; and of course meeting familiar faces is always fun!

Gameplay wise, FFX-2 also changed things up with ditching the conditional turn-based system and adding in a faster active time battle system. While this might take away some strategic calculations, it allows the characters (and enemies) to act swiftly in executing attacks, switching gears and even interrupting enemy actions. Based off of a time bar, it moves battles along quite swiftly and lets players really think on their feet. The addition of dress spheres and the garment grid system is also quite fun in that each of the three main characters can change their job class on a whim in or out of battle and learn to use skills the longer they use that class. Not only is it fun to see the girls change into their own variant style of dress sphere costume but they are all quite useful by themselves and in combination.

ffx rikku battle

All in all, both games are solid entries into the franchise in story, combat and overall enjoyment. Granted, even playing the remastered edition there is truly no denying that this was once a PS2 game. The controls still have their wonky moments (and forget about using the right joystick to move the camera around) and even though the graphics are greatly improved it still isn’t anything you could compare to what has recently come out on current gen. It is in no way a bad thing though! I want to play the games as they were originally intended – but of course, additional content and a bit of a makeover certainly doesn’t hurt – but it wouldn’t be the same if they completely remade the game, which is why a remastered version is perfect. Being able to listen to a remastered version of the soundtrack on my playthrough was a wonderful addition that didn’t have to be there, but it only made it that much more enchanting as I went through each new area once again.

Whether you 100% the PS2 versions when they originally came out or if you have never even looked at the series before, this is a game that is worth playing. Even I had held off picking this one up because of how much I had played the originals…and I cannot even describe the feelings I got as soon as the opening scenes began and as I replayed through the journey. Every aspect of both of these games – the good and bad – simply culminate into an unforgettable experience. An experience worth revisiting. An experience worth having for the first time.

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming 01/29/2017…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

ENIGMA header

Somewhere off the coast of the mainland is an island that no one has ever heard about. It cannot be found on a map nor do any rumors travel amongst even the most hardened sailors of its existence. However, for those few that find themselves washed ashore to this small refuge, they will discover that Carlyle is just as cut-off from the outside world as the rest of the world is from it. There are no doctors, outsiders are mostly shunned or ignored and a blind eye is turned to even the most world impacting news – news such as the spread of an epidemic known as Enigma, a deadly disease that destroys the body completely from the inside out. Welcome to Carlyle: where quaint island life is the expected norm; where a wandering doll brings death and misfortune in her wake; and where a pure white forest is slowly transforming into a lush green…a forest that is said to devour people. A forest named Enigma.

ENIGMA Envirio

This is where our protagonist, Chester, awakens after a supposed accident at sea left him washed up on the shores of Carlyle. Saved by a young woman by the name of Colette and her brother Lauro, Chester is soon introduced to the island’s herbalist, Greta and given a tour of the small island. Although it is no news to Chester, Greta quickly discovers that he is infected with Enigma and has only a very short time left to live; but since this journey was his last breath of adventure as it was, he figured Carlyle would be as good a place as any to make his final destination. However, he quickly learns that Carlyle is something of a mysterious place that very few outsiders ever visit and of those that have, none ever leave. Chancing upon another outsider that resides upon the island gives Chester an alternative perspective of Carlyle’s everyday life and inhabitants, even mentioning that all of the adults seem to be missing “something” – a certain something that the children still seem to have intact, but he can never quite place it. Yet that is far from the only thing that is strange as the white forest and word of a doll wandering amidst it seems to keep everyone on edge with little explanation. It is from this point onward that the story twists and turns through various outcomes as Chester encounters and befriends different characters, impacts their lives and ultimately reaches the end of his own. The mystery has only just begun…

ENIGMA Play

ENIGMA: is a fantasy mystery visual novel developed and produced by Uzumeya and Fruitbat Factory that leads players through an emotional story driven game where choices can heavily impact the overall outcome. There are 20 different possible endings to encounter and unlock throughout the game; and while that may seem like a lot, every one of them flows synonymously with the story and never feels out of place or too far-fetched. Additionally, the natural flow in which players will discover many of the endings will give insight into particular points of information regarding certain occurrences, settings and characters which will be useful when later endings are discovered – meaning that the game will not needlessly repeat information that the player should have already picked up previously and will assume that it is known by this point. Of course, depending on order that may lead to a particular path being confusing for a time, but as visual novels usually come together once they are fully completed, it will all make sense in due time no matter which order choices are made. So worry not! Now onward to look at what this game is really made of –

Without going into much more detail than has already been mentioned, the story is truly the star of any visual novel experience and the writing for ENIGMA: is extremely well done. Sure, it has a fairly foreshadowing ending no matter what path is taken (the main character is infected with an incurable disease, after all); but it almost becomes more about how he impacts those around him and ultimately reaches that end rather than any attempt at trying to forestall or alter that outcome. The character cast is so diverse and they change and grow right before the player’s eyes through their words, their expressions and their actions. The fantasy and mystery aspects of the story shine through constantly as well with elements of magic, lost tribes, talk of heroes, the people of the island and so much more. Players are given information steadily but will never fully understand the why of everything until the very end and it makes each playthrough hold promise of some knowledge to gain as well as a new outcome.

ENIGMA Happy

In relation to the story, one feature that really stood out was how you truly come to know the characters through their interactions with each other. Take for example a small moment from the game in which Chester meets with a newly introduced side character named Lyona. In but one short conversation, players not only discover a depth to Lyona’s character but also see a glimpse of how quickly Chester can relate and make a significant positive change in that character’s life and viewpoint.  It doesn’t have to explain why Lyona is there or what makes Chester special, it just happens and the player can feel it effortlessly. Much like the entire story itself, the characters are so much more than simply two-dimensional. They may appear as one thing at first, but as Chester begins to interact with them more, their personalities seem to blossom and their true intentions come to light – whether that be for better or for worse. An overprotective younger brother may come to understand his shortcomings and learn to stand up for himself and embrace his yearning for knowledge and adventure or perhaps a misunderstood individual grows into a most trusted companion and friend with a quirky sense of sarcasm to accompany his mysterious nature. Even Chester, with his constant smile and positive outlook, holds far more troublesome secrets than just his swiftly deteriorating life force. The characters are beautiful, fun, mysterious and adoring and their personalities speak for themselves without anyone ever having to point them out. Bringing characters to life so naturally can be a hard thing to come by; but in the end, the characters not only became a joy to experience throughout the game, but remained long after it was over as well.

Another aspect that can aid in fully encompassing you into a story lies within its music and art style. From serene and haunting piano melodies dancing throughout the piece to slower, darker tones as the mood requires to playful wind and string accompaniments that easily fit within a fantastical forest setting; the music seamlessly transports the player directly into whatever setting the characters are currently in. Additionally, the opening and ending themes are simply magical and capture the essence, beauty and emotion of the game perfectly (and bonus: they are included as a mini soundtrack when you purchase the game). There are a few different art styles utilized throughout the game as well and they all meld wonderfully from the main in-game character and background designs to the full CG scenes. Softer anime styles are used at times as well as almost tribal, dreamlike images and despite the content varying from comedic to quite gore intensive it never feels out of sync with the overall feel and style of the game as a whole. The gallery holds over 5 pages worth of CG art to unlock throughout all playthroughs of the game and every single piece of it is worth discovering!

ENIGMA Gun

Keep in mind this title is rated Mature for a reason. There is quite a bit of colorful language throughout its entirety, but this rating shines through in other aspects even more prevalently. It weaves a beautiful and emotional tale and while a majority of the content remains at a more moderate level, it is within the endings that there is a drastic shift from sweet and sad to truly dark and twisted. However, while there is no doubt in my mind that this rating is deserved, the content earning this warning is never thrown directly into the players face; oh no, it is expertly implied in a way that leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what truly has occurred. It is written in the characters dialogue and in the expressions on their faces. The player knows exactly what is about to be revealed. When the CG scene at the end finally shows up it never depicts the entirety of the truth, but it is always enough to solidify whatever guesses were made as fact. It is extremely well done and there are a few endings in particular that have stayed with me long after they finished simply because of how they were executed – disturbed expressions, shifting eyes, an eerie calmness and it all built up to that final scene that perfectly set it all into place. A truly rewarding – and at times disturbing – experience that makes every twist, turn and replay of the story well worth it.

ENIGMA War

Sometimes it takes someone who is dying to make others realize their own potential to survive and truly live. Death is something that takes us away from our lives against our will – a step into the unknown that even those who have come to terms with it may never be truly unafraid of. Who would have thought that a war-torn soldier who felt he spent his entire life running away could have such an immense impact on those around him – more than he could ever know. In the end, ENIGMA: offers a truly enchanting experience with plenty of replay value (taking around 12-15 hours to 100%) and will be available on Steam November 15th with achievements and trading cards.

Come and listen to a story: A story of strangers and friends drawn together by death and life. All waiting for the day when a true hero would arrive; and knowing when that day came that they would be there to guide them.

“Those that remember me…will keep me alive.”

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming 11/14/2016…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

 

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.

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!)

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