Layers of Fear

Layers of Fear

Someone should really clean up…. Well, don’t look at ME!

Game Name: Layers of Fear (2016)
Developer: Bloober (Observer, Basement Crawl, Brawl)
Platform: Linux, PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Walking Sim, Horror, Jump Scares, On-Rails Adventure, Story Driven, 1st Person, Single Player, DLC, Short, Art House (literally), Disturbing, Multi Ending

May Appeal To: artists, aspiring developers, bargain bin divers, game hoarders, casuals, Let’s Players, horror buffs, and braggart Indie snobs
May Repulse: the anxious, architects, depth cravers, the unsettle-able, young children, the jaded, and braggart Indie snobs that have yet to buy the game

Comparable To: story and other time elements of Braid, Stanley Parable’s maze-like walking obsession and visual pratfalls (sans narration, which this game could have used); Layers of Fear resonates with Amnesia the Dark Descent except for its tension emanating solely from the environment. SOME DEVELOPER played through the Silent Hills hallway demo, for sure! Also SOMA’s dark, desolate shtick is present, though puzzles are absent. (Unless you count a 3 digit numerical lock or rewinding a phonograph to reverse time, which I do not.) 7th guest or 11th hour’s mansion anyone? Continue reading

Bloodborne

Bloodborne

You really don’t want to set your verevolves on fire. Because of the smell, primarily.

Game Name: Bloodborne (2015) aka “Budblorne”
Developer: from FromSoftware (King’s Field, Armored Core, Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls)
Platform: PS4 (reviewed on PS4)
Categories: 3rd Person Action (a Human/Alien/Warewilf ménage á trois), Multi-Ending, Multiplayer elements for PSN+ subscribers, Exploration and Backtracking, Shades of Blue and Gray, Furious Flurries of Melee Combat, Piecemeal Storytelling, Procedural Dungeon Extras, Bloodsports, H.P. Lovecraft Inspired, Top Hats and Canes m’lady

May Appeal To: die-hard Miyazaki fans, PS4 exclusivists, Team Jacob, Team Squidbillies, Cthulhu cultists, and (of course) action/horror survival junkies with a proclivity for the macabre and a hankering for the Souls series to don a new theme.
May Repulse: XBox fanbois, Lovecraftian genre abolitionists, Team Edward, and reasonable people expecting a full game without dropping money on the PSN+.

Comparable To: Demon’s Souls’ sense of pioneering new subject material. If you squint real hard, Bloodborne shares otherworldly traits and story with Darkest Dungeon. Dark Souls has a similar environmental hub to this game and I’d say that Dark Souls 2 is much easier to discern due to visual contrast, though Bloodborne sports a unified style. Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne aren’t identical battle systems though they’re forks off of the same Souls iteration. Monster Hunter has analogous weapon transformations. Continue reading

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

I pissed my pleated, Roman war frock.

Game Name: Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin (2015)
Developer: FromSoftware (King’s Field, Armored Core, Bloodborne, Demon Souls)
Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBone (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Punishing Trial and Error, Nintendo Hard, 3rd Person Action, Western-Style RPG, Open World with “Branches”, Exclusive Multi-Player Messaging and Cooperative Play, Multi-Player Griefing, Medieval Fantasy, Eclectic Story Unraveling, Perilous Platforming, Exploration, Inventory Management, Gritty Visceral Horror

May Appeal To: serious series followers. I mean, if you don’t already know what you’re in for I would advise against this sequel as a launching point.
May Repulse: hollow braggarts, posers, complainers, DarkSydePhil (in a perfect world)

Comparable To: a smaller, harder, more focused and concise Skyrim…. so really nothing like Skyrim and more in the vein of Dragon’s Dogma, though better assembled. This game is super bright compared to Dark Souls and lacks the nuanced professionalism of its switch-backed level design. In a strange way, this environmental choice puts it on par with the ‘levels’ of Demon Souls, which was harder and more thematic. This straightforward game has arguably better story fragments than Bloodborne and I found its iconic vistas easier on the eyes. The Souls games are less King’s Field and more Shadow Tower than most people are aware of – just sayin’. Continue reading

Factorio

Factorio

Assembly lines, production graphs, logistics, resource juggling, electric supply, industrial train schedules, technological research, and so many conveyor belts. It’s not work; it’s play!

Game Name: Factorio (2016)
Developer: Wube Software (no other games at this time)
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux (reviewed on PC)
Categories: 2D, Strategy, Survival, Sandbox, Multiplayer, Supply Line Juggling, Automation, Crafting, Industrial Manufacturing, Extreme Resource Management, Alien Infestation, Tower Defense, Escalating Complexity/Difficulty, Moddable, In Development

May Appeal To: explorers, tinkerers, builders, thinkers, learners, train conductors, civil servants, xenophobic combatants, survivalists, craftsmen, detailists, OCD junkies wanting an acceptable outlet, and transactional efficiency masters. If you’ve ever busted out a red pen and took pleasure in written revisions, you might have the right mindset.
May Repulse: instant gratification chasers, redundancy allergics, ‘big picture’ people, macro managers, and corner cutters. If you’re fighting an addiction to crafting games due to their monotonous and tiresomely open-ended nature, avoid this one at all costs. It’s just too good at what it does.

Comparable To: Starcraft’s zerg and Starship Troopers’ bugs for alien opposition. It bears likeness to Minecraft and Terraria’s resource gathering/processing, has a Sim City attention to zoning and facility management, Anno 2070’s supply lines juxtaposing warfare, a modded Age of Empire map feel, and Space Empire V’s research tree of micro-progress minutiae; Factorio borrows land-based tower defense from the genre at large, and is easier to progress and excel in than Don’t Starve Together’s multiplayer. Continue reading

Pony Island

Pony Island

Why hello there. You’re unsettling.

Game Name: Pony Island (2016)
Developer: Daniel Mullins Games (Grav, Agent Maxwell: Master of Math)
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, Mobile (reviewed on PC)
Categories: On-Rails Adventure, Minimalist Puzzles, Minimalist Sidescrolling Action, Mouse-Only, Dark Comedy, Self-Aware Meta Gaming,  Indie Experiment, Corrupted Nostalgia, Interactive Novel

May Appeal To: tongue-in-cheek gamers, weekend vg jaunters, anyone with ‘meta’ in their vernacular, Steam completionists and hoarders, indie snobs, and those looking for mold-breaking conversation starters about the state of our industry.
May Repulse: not many people actually. It’s short and easy – any opposers to that may have a bad time. The stylized CRT retro-graphics might be a bit rough on sensitive eyes.

Comparable To: Five Nights at Freddy’s in terms of simplicity, tone, and the lore-hungry community over-analyzing every snippet or encrypted character dump that appears in frame. The Stanley Parable’s story and game structure is cognitively similar. Pony Island is infinitely easier than every sidescroller, arcade title, and ‘Escape the Room’ style predecessor that it alludes or emulates. Both GlaDOS and Psycho Mantis approve of the narrator/player interactions.

Continue reading