Memorial Day in the United States is a time of remembrance and looking back. I took the time to look back at more of my Steam backlog and knocked out a huge chunk of it. With three days of no work, out of town friends and family having made no particular plans I had 72 hours with which to finish my goal of 3 games. At the end of the weekend I had not only beaten that goal but destroyed it with a final tally of 11 games. So without further ado lets quickly recap and get this large section of the backlog cleared out. Presented here in the order I played them.
Developer: Digital Extremes
Release: April 23, 2013
Genre: Third Person Shooter
If you liked: Gears of War, the Star Trek reboot
First up was Star Trek the Video Game and yes I know it’s a cheap movie tie in that is totally crap and why would I buy this game? Well two reasons: 1. Amazon was selling it for half off and I’ve spent 25 bucks on WAY worse. 2. I’ve actually spent more than 25 bucks on Star Trek as I had to see the movie 3 times in theaters between my multiple groups of friends and frankly wanted to see SOMETHING different. Star Trek the video game however is an average third person shooter with very little to offer. It copies the Gears of War formula where Marcus and Dom are replaced with Kirk and Spock and you move from room to room ducking behind chest high walls trading phaser fire with enemies. The interesting twist is that the game is set between the 2009 Star Trek and 2013s Into Darkness so at least it’s an original story. It involves the Gorn (heretofore unseen in this universe and surprise they’re just generic lizard people) who steal the
Genesis Helios device from the Vulcans and plan to use it to destroy worlds. Kirk and Spock must shoot their way through space stations, the Enterprise and the Gorn homeworld to retrieve the device. The story wasn’t amazing and the action wasn’t mind-blowing, however the game was competent. The bugs and glitches that plagued the game at launch barely showed their head during my playthrough and even though I didn’t play co-op my AI partner was never really an issue. What I did enjoy about this game was the ability to walk around the Enterprise and the banter between Kirk and Spock was well done. Other than that it has nothing new to offer so unless you’re a major Trek fan I’d skip this one.
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release: January 22, 2013
If you liked: Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Ron Gilberts Jock
It’s no secret on this site that my favorite game of all time is The Secret of Monkey Island. I find myself constantly going back to that game time and time again to just play through it even though I’ve memorized all the puzzles. So it’s no surprise that I’d be really into Ron Gilberts latest game The Cave. What’s more amazing is I didn’t just beat The Cave this weekend, I finished this game 3 times… in a row. The Cave follows the exploits of 3 characters chose from a pool of 7 as they walk through a cavern that almost emulates a purgatory of sorts for them. Each character is given a specific level of the cave built just for them that showcases some horrible decision they have made in their lives and ultimately they are either redeemed or damned for their actions. The Cave is different from most adventure games in that it’s not a point and click, but rather a platformer. The puzzles are all fun and inventive however there is some backtracking involved and item management can become a hassle because a character can only hold one item at a time. It would have been nice to be able to summon the other characters to one location but this would probably break some of the puzzles so I understand it not being there but it does mean you’ll have to navigate certain areas multiple times as you get your characters through the room. Also in addition to the 3 character specific sections there are 3 static locations you will always visit which can become tiresome. However it’s clear this game was meant to be played multiple times. There are certain sections of the Cave you won’t see depending on who you do or don’t bring, certain combinations of characters can access and complete certain puzzles in multiple ways due to each having a unique ability. I also like the good/bad ending mechanic as it feels like characters who fail to redeem themselves are simply doomed to repeat the Cave while those that learn from their experience are set free, it’s an interesting story. My favorite characters/levels are easily the Twins who murder their family so they may go out and play and the Scientist who launches a nuclear attack on the world. While the characters are silent the real star of the game is the Cave itself which talks to the player and explains what is going on at certain sections of the game. Due to its repetitive nature and forced backtracking I think The Cave will not get the recognition it deserves as a standout adventure title, but for those fans of the genre looking for something different yet still retaining the charm of Gilberts earlier titles you should look no further than The Cave. My ability to play through this game 3 times in a row should speak volumes to my recommendation of it.
Release: May 22, 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
If you liked: Borderlands, Bound in Blood, Spaghetti Westerns
Call of Juarez Gunslinger will be a tough sell and I hope more than anything that it finds it’s audience. Released after the abysmal Cartel which we reviewed here the Call of Juarez series might as well be one foot in the grave. Gunslinger is a budget priced downloadable title with little to no marketing behind it as well. So it’s amazing to me that this game is simply incredible! Techland has ripped a lot from Borderlands for the better here, dropping the realistic art style of previous games for a pleasant cel shaded look. This goes a long way to cover up graphical issues and making the game stand out. They’ve also aped the boss introduction sequences from Borderlands which is fine as it adds some color and personality to the enemies you face. The game follows the tale of Silas Greaves a bounty hunter who sits down at a bar and recounts his tales of working with and against some of the wests most famous/infamous characters. You’ll be breaking out of jail with Billy the Kid one moment and running along a train after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the next. What really stands out in this game is the way that its narrative is structured. It is a story being recounted by the ever more intoxicated Greaves so parts of the story will change as you are playing the level, Greaves will suddenly remember an important piece of information that will cause enemies to appear out of nowhere or entire buildings to fall in front of you, or characters the story is being told to will question it causing the level to rewind in front of you and re-present itself in a completely different way. The effects are fun and interesting and kept me engaged the whole way through. The shooting is far more competent than it’s been in any of the previous Juarez games and there’s even a fun dueling mechanic which is used to defeat most of the bosses in the game. Gunslinger is important not just because it’s a great game but because it’s one of the first games from a AAA publisher to actually be built with a proper budget and released with a sane pricing structure. It’s downloadable only and runs $15. You’d be a fool not to buy this game as it’s better than most shooters on the market that are charging $60 and only run about 4 hours in length. I assumed Gunslinger would be a 4-5 hour affair like most shooters lately but it ended up lasting me 8 hours for the story mode. In addition to that is an arcade and Duel mode though I barely scratched into those.
Developer: XII Games
Release: June 19, 2012
If you liked: Gemini Rue, Blackwell Series, Sci-Fi Action
Resonance is the latest adventure game from publisher Wadjet Eye Games who have been making increasingly better and better titles. I gushed over Gemini Rue last year and couldn’t wait to get my hands on Resonance. This is a traditional point and click adventure though the twist is that you’ll eventually be controlling 4 characters at the same time. This does cause some issues with inventory management as you have to shuffle certain items back and forth between characters even when they’re in the same location. Resonance also has a neat mechanic where you don’t just use items to interact but literally anything in a room can be added to your short-term memory, this is in essence for items that you can’t pick up. For example if you see a computer mainframe in one room, you can add it to your short-term memory and then speak to someone about it later in another room. This cuts down on the number of physical items you have to carry around and opens up the puzzles to allow for great numbers of solutions as you’re no longer simply rubbing two items together to resolve everything. The real star of the game though is its story. I don’t want to spoil anything but there were some major events that occurred midway through that I did not see coming and drastically changed the whole way the game plays. The four main characters are all individuals with likable personalities and quirks. There are multiple endings to see depending on how you resolve the final encounter. The pixel art in the game is just fantastic and the voicework isn’t bad either. Once again Wadjet Eyes releases a serious adult adventure game that is definitely worth your time.
Developer: Monolith Productions
Release: October 18, 2005
If you liked: Doom 3, Half-Life, Creepy Kids
F.E.A.R. is one of those games that has just been a blind spot in my gaming career. Released in 2005 I had heard good things about it but just never gotten around to playing it. I bought the whole series at some point in a steam sale and they just sat there never being touched. After all the adventure gaming I had done earlier in the weekend I needed some action to break it up and figured now was as good a time as any to try F.E.A.R. You play as Point Man a guy with a ridiculous name and as much personality as Gordan Freeman. You are tasked with hunting down Paxton Fettel who apparently broke out of some facility and ate his guards. What follows are your standard shooting gallery levels as you constantly chase and barely catch up to Fettel before he escapes at the last second. What makes F.E.A.R. different though is that you are an enhanced soldier who can slow down time (Hey, it’s the mid 2000’s of course there’s bullet time) which gives you an edge over the clone enemies you face. Enemy AI was decent, they react well not to just you shooting them in the face or throwing grenades but also to spotting things like your flashlight coming around the corner which is a nice touch. The other most notable thing about this game is that it will be constantly messing with your head as you are tormented by the little girl Alma. She will appear throughout the game walking in the distance, casting shadows in the dark and giving you visions of gruesome scenes. These are little more than jump scares but they work to create an effectively creepy atmosphere. I was reminded most of Half-Life while playing through this game, as the shooting feels similar and the way you’re fighting through an office building with mercs and security guards hunting you felt similar as well. The scary atmosphere helps elevate this from generic to at least more interesting and while I enjoyed my time with it, it’s certainly past it’s prime and there’s little reason to bother with it now.
Developer: TimeGate Studios
Release: October 24, 2006
If you liked: F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. Extraction Point was the first expansion created for F.E.A.R. and it is supposed to be a quasi sequel picking up immediately where the original game left off. Your helicopter crashes in the middle of the city with Alma on the loose and you need to get yourself to the extraction point. The game immediately makes itself ridiculous by bringing back Fettel who you had killed in the original game as an excuse to turn the enemies back on as they could only be conscious as long as Fettel controlled them. He even remarks that it makes no sense that he is alive, but it is what it is. What follows are six levels of more of the same action. There are a couple new guns and some new enemy types but nothing groundbreaking and as this was developed by TimeGate and not Monolith who were working on the actual sequel it’s not even canon. As there’s little reason to play F.E.A.R. these days, there’s even less reason to bother with this expansion.
Developer: TimeGate Studios
Release: November 6, 2007
If you liked: Literally Nothing
F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate is the second expansion from TimeGate and is actually worse than either of the two preceding titles. It somehow manages to look worse than the base F.E.A.R. game and runs like crap. Even on my current gen high-end gaming PC it chugged at all times. I had no problem running either of the previous two games at full settings but this expansion could barely keep up. I believe this is due to the addition of ally NPC characters who probably have shoddily hacked in AI that drags the whole thing down. If you shouldn’t bother with F.E.A.R. then you should definitely avoid this completely inferior expansion.
Developer: Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture
Release: November 9, 2012 (Steam)
Genre: Bullet Hell Shooter
If you liked: Ikaruga, Other Bullet Hell titles?, Suda Joints
Sine Mora is an interesting little shooter. The game has a seriously wacked out story told from two perspectives about a war that wiped out an entire race of people. Half the story is told before the war and the other half after it. There is a father who is seeking vengeance on the army that killed his son for not following orders and survivors of the genocide going back in time to try and stop it from happening. The story is weird and all over the place but the ending was shocking and kind of sad in an ironic inevitable sort of way. If you beat the game on the hardest difficulty it unlocks another perspective but I ain’t got time for that. The gameplay is interesting in that unlike most shooters you don’t die when you get hit and you technically don’t have a health meter either. Each level is timed with a countdown, every time you get hit you will lose seconds on the clock. However every time you kill an enemy you will gain seconds on the clock, so fast firing ships will be able to come back from near defeat. It makes the game forgiving even though some of the boss attack patters can be downright insane. Fans of shooters like this would feel right at home as it has decent challenge and the story is better than most shooters get. Casual fans will at least be able to finish the game, though I don’t know that there’s much here for them after that fact as they won’t be able to beat the hardest difficulties and score attacks won’t have much pull for them.
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Release: December 23, 2006
If you liked: Other Wadjet Eye games, LA Noire, Ghost Whisperer
The Blackwell Legacy is the first in a series of Wadjet Eye games, who I’ve already pimped out enough here. It was started as a small project by Dave Gilbert who then expanded it, added voice acting and released it as a full title. The game revolves around Rosa Blackwell who it turns out is a medium. We are told at the beginning of the game that her mother went insane and her aunt was a very strange woman who walked all over town at all hours of the night and passed out occasionally before going insane as well. The Blackwell Legacy turns out that these women were all mediums who are chained to a ghost named Joey. Joey and Rosa are tasked with finding ghosts and helping them move on to the afterlife. This involves figuring out who the ghost is (as they usually have no idea who they are or that they are dead) and then finding out what their unfinished business is and solving it. The first game in the series is short which is understandable but it’s actually quite refreshing as the game is so small it makes the puzzles more straightforward than most current adventure titles. The game also has a unique mechanic of Rosas notepad allowing her to write down information that she overhears and then using those ideas as items in conversations or combining them to create entirely new information. The overall game feels a lot like LA Noire as each ghost has a case that must be solved independently of the other. You really get a feel that you are working cases, finding clues about who these people were and why they are still here in this world. The game ends by tying both cases together into a single finale that is satisfying. It’s short length and easier puzzles make this a good entry into the Wadjet Eye catalog or for anyone looking for a quick adventure game fix. The story is strong enough to stand on it’s own so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Release: September 4, 2007
If you liked: Other Wadjet Eye games, LA Noire, Ghost Whisperer
Blackwell Unbound is actually a prequel to The Blackwell Legacy. This time we get to see the exploits of Rosas aunt Laura and her spirit guide Joey. This game follows the same formula as the previous one though the cases here are more interesting as is the setting. The game fits nicely into the series as a lot of what we are told about Laura in the previous game is shown here in this one adding color to the world and lore of the Blackwell series. The game is set in the 70’s and has an equally cool soundtrack to match. Once again the cases that you solve are tied together in the end with an overarching story to complete the game that is very satisfying and adds even more depth to the series overall. There are 2 other entries currently in the series with a new one set to release in 2013, I can’t wait to see where this series goes but fans of the genre definitely shouldn’t miss it.
Developer: Action Forms
Release: May 6, 2009 (Steam)
Genre: First Person Survival Horror
If you liked: Penumbra, Amnesia, Ice
Cryostasis is a first person survival horror game set aboard a stranded Russian tanker ship. You board the ship which has been trapped in the ice for years and try to figure out what happened to it. Of course you have some sort of super powers that allow you to jump into the bodies of the dead you see and can intervene in their past to save them from dying. This is usually used to clear bodies blocking doorways and other such things. The biggest enemy in the game is the cold as you don’t have a health meter but a heat meter. When you enter super cold areas your heat will dissipate and you replenish it by warming yourself by fires, lamps, engines, whatever you can find that radiates some heat. There are zombie type enemies in the game that you have to fight with some rudimentary melee abilities and later on some guns with limited ammo so it’s best to just fight them when you can. The biggest problem with this game is how damn slow it is. I know they were trying to create a spooky atmosphere and give you a feeling of crampedness but the main character moves so sluggishly and the melee combat is so loose it’s just unbearable. The game succeeds in it’s atmosphere and the story is decent but the gameplay is just too rough to get through and I wouldn’t recommend this one.
So there you have it. 3 Days, 11 games, a huge chunk of my Steam library gone. In the middle of all this I managed to make some progress in other games and start some new ones which we may see here soon. Hopefully I can be equally productive this Independence Day.