Category: Reviews

Shapez.io Review

Developer: Tobias Springer 
Publisher: Tobias Springer 
Music: Peppsen  
Platforms: PC (Windows, Linux) 
Released: 21st May 2020 
Genre: Simulation, Puzzle, Strategy, Base Building

Do you remember the carefree days of your youth? Those picturesque mornings spent lounging in your loose nappy while trying to push that yellow triangle shape into that yellow triangle hole? The endorphin rush as it slipped through and you clapped your chubby little hands and smiled at how smart you were? Well, Shapez.io feeds you the same shapes from your youth, with the same chase for endorphins. This is a game, nay, and addiction, that caught my attention when described as Factorio Light”, base builder, puzzle & strategy game, where its light simple interface and relaxing music conceals the insanity of the game within.  

The first few hours of Shapez.io has you extracting shapes from nodes of Circles and Squares and belting them to the hub. The shapes ponderous progression ends as they are swallowed and stashed away to be consumed for glorious levels and upgradesThis progress is marked by a Pavlovian bell and splash screen, a new building at your disposal to firstly cut the shapes in half, then turning them, then learning about colouring them, and oh the colours you will create! From the bright base colours of red, blue and green you will create majestic magenta, cynical cyan, ludicrous yellow and gloriously complex white.  

Now, as the hours pass by in a blur, it is a battle for space as you try desperately to feed shapes into the sixteen mouths of the hub, speeding your progress. The denial builds as you realise that soon you will be tearing down all your work to start over once more. Then – on the horizon – rises our saviour shape, a dearest blue teardrop marked with a pure white circle. Her appearance marks the first evolution, Blueprints. Suddenly complex shapes become a breeze as you can copy and paste structuresyour factory size exploding as efficiency and balance become your bedfellows. The only thing hindering this expansion is the speed at which you can create and store these precious blue tears of divinity, as the size of the structure dictates how many of them you will need to move or copy it.  

20 hours later I had gone through spreadsheets of data, many hours of waiting for shapes to be made and stored, two soft restarts, one day of depression and a race to get to level 20.  

In all seriousness, the ingenuity of the game is glorious. With the infinitely generating map the only limitation is your own imagination, and possibly the speed of your computer processor. I did find it occasionally frustrating that the game could not keep up with my impressively expanding and massive factories. My aging i7 stuttered and lagged even on the lowest settings due to the lack of support for multithreading. For as the game slows so does progression, so there you must walk the tight rope between factory size and efficiency. So, you focus on upgrading your factories, so you process shapes faster and more efficiently.

The difficultyscaling of the different shapes is mostly well balanced with player progression. After level 20 you unlock the sub level of wires, logic gates, and others, culminating in free play mode at level 26. I sadly did not get that far, bowing out at the 26-hour mark as I unlocked the new prospect of wires and switches. One day I may gaze into the abyss of never-ending upgrades and an unending random shape generated level system beyond that. 

Through all the highs and lows you are serenaded to by the hypnotic music of Peppsen. This music has a beat that motivates you, a melody to hum to, and is still chill enough to fade into the background and let you focus. Combined with the satisfying clicks and clunks to punctuate the placement of buildings and belts the soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the hours of gameplay you inevitably invest in this game. 

After the long days of playing Shapez.io and being washed in the relaxing sonic waves of Peppsen’s Rectangle, I am left exhausted and spent. A washed-out husk of the man I once was. But, like the addict that I am, I want more of its blessed bright and colourful shapes. I want to compartmentalise, enhance, balance, and simplify. I want to learn the secrets of wires, buttons and logic gates. I also kind of want my life back. But who knows what the future holds? There’s a patch coming on the November 26th 

Reviewed by Tobi @TobiZendemic on 4th of November 2020

Amnesia: Rebirth

Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Music: Frictional Games
Platforms: Steam, PS4, Epic Games
Released: 20-October-2020
Genre: First person horror

You are Tasi, on a flight with your husband Salim, and he is nervous. Many people are nervous when there’s turbulence. You give him a little monkey plushie, and that seems to reassure him. Until the turbulence gets worse, much worse. Outside you see the world changing, literally, flashing between an ordinary storm, and something… other-wordly. And before you can begin to understand what you are seeing and experiencing…

You crash.

When you come to, you are alone. In the middle of a wrecked plane. There aren’t even any bodies around you. As you step out of the plane into the burning sun, it doesn’t take long for you to realise that something is wrong. Very wrong. And as you follow a trail to a cave, you’ll soon find out just how wrong things are. Amnesia: Rebirth is a first person horror game, with a semi-realistic artstyle, and zero combat. Your only defence is to keep moving, think quickly, and stay calm in an environment designed to make you nervous, stressed, and afraid.

Game play is rather simple. You can interact with objects, push and move them around, open and close doors, chests, and drawers. All these allow you to move around and hide. And you will need to hide. Crouching means you move more quietly. And you will need to move more quietly. There are dedicated buttons to allow you to peer around corners and doorways. All these to keep a low profile, and to be cautious.

And you will need to be cautious.

In addition, you have your health to keep in mind, but also your sanity. Witnessing scary or disturbing events will negatively affect your sanity. Looking at dead bodies, falling down, being in the dark for too long. Or being around the monster that pursues you. You will have to keep moving, stay near or create sources of light, and be prepared to be plunged into darkness in order to hide. It is a careful balance of staying physically safe, without allowing yourself to fall into a terrifying mental abyss. You will find yourself travelling through the world you know, navigating caves and rooms, forts and passes. But, with the help of a mysterious artifact, you will be able to travel between worlds. It is eerie, frightening, and dark.

The events that happened are revealed through flashbacks and episodes of psychosis. And slowly you piece together what happened to you and your team, and everyone on that plane. And why you can’t remember these things.

Most of the flashbacks are interesting, helpful, and informative, but far too many of the flashbacks only serve to disrupt the experience and yank you out of your immersion. But so far, that is my only complaint. And I say so far, as I haven’t finished the game yet, but let me tell you, my curiosity is stronger than my fear. But I am still afraid.

Simple puzzles, problem solving, and resource gathering will be how you overcome obstacles. These aren’t hard to figure out under normal circumstances, but when you know something is pursuing you, and you have to balance your own sanity and health with how quickly you make progress, well let me just say, even opening doors becomes incredibly difficult.

It can be quite overwhelming, but you find your moments when you can just relax and take a moment. Your journal helps you keep on track, which is helpful when I find myself rummaging through every chest for fragments of notes. And of course, you, your character, is given a reason to push forward. It’s not only your own survival at stake, but the survival of a potential future. This hope not only pushes you forward, but also grounds you.

And so, armed with a few tools, and your own wits, you must find a way to survive.

Amnesia isn’t only known for its use of visual horror, audio horror is also incredibly important. With the right chords, panic is struck. Musical cues tells you that something is happening, and it adapts to the situation. A mysterious shadow? There’s a sound for that. You’re making your way through a series of rooms? The sound builds and builds until you’re on the edge of your seat, waiting and dreading that moment when the horror MUST reveal itself. These games uses the concept of ‘less-is-more’ to invoke fear, you fill in the blanks, you are told to be prepared, so you become braced for something, anxiety winding up within you like a horrible spring.

Let me address the big question: is Amnesia: Rebirth scary? Yes, it is. It is very scary. It leans on suspense, and the suggestion of ‘something’, rather than simply presenting the monster to you. Although I felt that the constant flashbacks broke my immersion rather often, and that it is possible to figure out a method of surviving an encounter with the monster, I think that is a practical response to a confusing, alarming situation. And as you gain your footing, learn and remember this world, and as you continue to resist the urge to give in to fear and hopelessness, you are rewarded with answers, memories, and a story of a woman who is unwell, struggling, and heartbroken, but continuing to survive because she must. It has a lot of the traits I admire so much in these games, but it is not Amnesia: The Dark Descent, or A Machine for Pigs. It is it’s own, unique story, with its own unique character, and it’s own unique monster unlike anything I have witnessed before.

With a slower pace, lots of suspense, and intrigue into what is going on, I hope to finish this game soon! I’ll just be doing it with the lights on.

Reviewed by Zahra Pending @Degari_rose on 28th of October 2020

Genshin Impact

Developer: miHoYo
Publisher:
miHoYo
Music:
Yu-Peng Chen
Platforms:
PS4, Nintendo Switch (TBA), Android, iOS, PC (Windows)
Released:
28th September 2020
Genre:
ARPG, Open World, Gacha Game

The story begins as two twins who are traveling across the stars end up in Teyvat and discover that it’s in the midst of a war, so the two twins decide to leave however they are caught out by a very powerful god, this god like character captures one of the twins thus separating them from each other (the twin that is captured depends on the choice of you the player). A period of time passes, and you (the twin that was sealed) awaken to meet Paimon who plays the role of guide and tutor. You are then led to the town of Mondstadt after you meet Stormterror of course, a dragon who later becomes the first antagonist you meet (trust me there’s no spoilers with that one). Over time you meet many different characters, encounter world missions, side quests, develop a reputation with the knights of Favonius (protectors of the realm), and create rapport with the people of Mondstadt. All this while you still search to find your missing twin and hopefully find the answers to the many questions that form throughout your journey.

Genshin Impact is a story rich game with many a quest. The Teyvat universe is filled with several different nations, Mondstadt, Liyue, Inazuma, Sumeru, Fontaine, Natlan, Snezhnaya, and Khaenri’ah.  So far you can only play in Mondstadt and Liyue. The game is huge so there is a lot to explore (not to mention download) and aesthetically looks like a fusion of Zelda Breathe of The Wild and the anime series Sword Art Online, It’s visually stunning and is nothing short of a masterpiece.

The gameplay is that Genshin Impact is an open world action role playing game, so you are free to explore as far and wide as you’d like, running, climbing, swimming, and gliding! Everything is of course limited by stamina which at times I found frustrating and thought maybe this feature would hinder my free to roam experience, however, I didn’t find that to be true as stamina aids in creating an engaging limitation when exploring but also fighting your enemies. Enemies yes! Of which there are many, as you progress through the game there a many different types of baddies that you encounter such as; Hilichurls which are goblin like monsters wearing masks, that run towards you with clubs or shoot arrows, there’s big and small ones of these. There is Abyss Mages that specialise in a particular elemental power and would be considered a much harder enemy to battle. There’s also Fatui which are bosses that harbour elemental powers and are definitely less common, but the most common enemy you’ll fight are slimes which are simple minded big blobs that bounce around either towards you or spitting elemental balls of frost, fire, or electricity.

Speaking of elements, the elements present in Genshin Impact are Anemo (Wind), Geo (Earth), Electro (Lightning), Dendro (Nature), Hydro (Water), Pyro (Fire), and Cryo (Frost). Each element is attached to a different nation of Teyvat and each nation themed after a real-world country such as Mondstadt being in close resemblance to Germany and Liyue to China.

I haven’t mentioned much about the protagonist, yet have I? Well there is just so much happening that I didn’t just want to start there. You the player controls not one but four different characters in a party, that you can switch between even mid combat. You can also upgrade your party members when you collect new characters, each character will have their own element that they specialise in, you can level each character individually, as well as weapons and special items. The big thing is to diversify your party, so you have different elements to switch between as elemental enemies are weaker to certain elements e.g. water hurts fire, fire hurts ice, and so on.

Now getting new characters isn’t just a matter of meeting them, Genshin Impact is still a Gacha game so let me explain what a Gacha game is first. Genshin Impact is free to play but the catch is that if you want certain new characters you must spend some money to receive a randomised item. It works similar to loot boxes. Basically, the Gacha element is there to incentivise you to spend real world money, it’s also how the developers get paid. Now you can get by without spending money of course! But you will be limited in some ways on what characters to play. Some characters that you meet you can only get from the Gacha mechanic while others are gifted to you throughout gameplay. I have spent close to 50 hours playing and not spent a dim and still have had an amazing play experience so don’t feel the need to buy if you don’t want to.

Genshin Impact has so many different quests to go on such as world quests, main plot, side quests and of course daily quests to keep you logging in regularly to get some sweet sweet Mora which is in-game currency that you can spend on cooking ingredients, upgrades for weapons and items, and leveling up characters.

When it comes to healing you cook meals that you then feed your party so that they can regain some HP however it has been a little frustrating to do as you must open your inventory > find the meal you want to feed a character > then select a character > then continues that process again if you want to heal more than one member of your party. miHoYo the developers have said that there will be a small update in November to make some minor improvements with a much larger patch coming in December that will add a whole new zone, touch up some of the UI, as well as provide players faster ways of healing that isn’t so tedious.

Genshin Impact has a gorgeous soundtrack titled The Wind and the star Traveler which was released on the 18th of June 2020 and is tastefully composed by Yu Peng Chen from HOYO-MIX. There are 15 tracks on the album all over which feature in the main game and all of them compliment the in-game experience so well. With orchestral tones and a strong string section inspiring intense and dramatic feelings during battle to a jaunty tune with delightful sounds for exploring the big wide world of Teyvat. This composition is complex, rich and at times feel ethereal with the haunting female hum gliding ever so gracefully through the full body of the orchestra. You won’t want to miss a cutscene or fight sequence with this awe-inspiring soundtrack.

Genshin Impact has truly a captivating visual presence, heart-warming story, and completely deserves it’s success, grossing over $100m in less than two weeks after it’s launch it is the most successful launch for an original IP from a Chinese Developer ever! And is the second highest grossing game globally on the iOS. It is completely understandable that Genshin Impact would leave such an impact and I hope that you get a chance to play to, I mean it is free after all. I hope that your journey through that magical world of Teyvat leaves you with an equally positive experience as me.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 21st October 2020

 

Drake Hollow Review

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Music: Walter Sickert
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
Released: 2nd October 2020
Genre: Base Building, Survival, Multiplayer

The second game I reviewed for ZedGames was Flame in the Flood, a gorgeous survival game by The Molasses Flood. Now it’s my pleasure to review their latest release – Drake Hollow! In Drake Hollow you play as a human transported to a mystical world plagued by feral beasts and dark forces. You are tasked with defending the adorably helpless vegetable folk known as the Drake. This is hardly a burden though; the drakes are incredibly adorable. In addition to fighting monsters, you need to build a home that can support the Drake’s needs, hunger, thirst, energy, and entertainment. Yes, they can literally die from boredom. Search the world for resources to craft with. Fill your base with gardens, beds, wells, solar panels, puppet shows, and pinball machines. Spend an hour rearranging until it looks just right. Repeat. It might be that classic survival game play but it’s distinctly Drake Hollow.

As you progress through the story, you will periodically be transported (along with your drakes and camp) to a different region of the blighted world – each more difficult and rewarding than the last. Each region you visit spans more than a square mile and is procedurally generated so it will be unique from any other! Over the game, you will play through the seasons, each of which painting the world in its own vibrant palette. No matter what season you are in, the visuals of Drake Hollow are magical, fantastical, and unique. It’s a colorful, cartoony world scarred by destruction and dark forces. The blight monsters are a great juxtaposition to the cute drakes but still fit naturally within the world. I couldn’t shake the games aesthetic similarities with Fortnite, to the point I tried several times to chop down furniture for supplies. This isn’t a bad thing though; the game looks great and holds a lot of character in its designs.

Each map you visit consists of 20 or so islands to explore. You set off to find food for your Drakes and find more along the way. Then you want to age them up but to do that, you’ll need to fight monsters or the aether infection to get crystals. Unfortunately, the bigger the Drakes get, the more they need to eat, drink and keep entertained so you’ll need to collect resources and recipes to expand your base. I’ve not even mentioned curio crafting, defending against raids, or just getting across the seas so it’s safe to say you rarely run out of things to do. To secure resources in good number, you’ll need to set up supply chains across the map. Beams of light connect way-points between supply trucks and a base, across any distance. Building my first supply chain was when I discovered one of my favorite parts of this game – you can skate along the light beams! High speed, high altitude highways of light that let me live out my skater daydreams. Hell yes!

One of Drake Hollow‘s main draws is the co-op play. Up to four players can play together, fight together, build together, and explore the realm together. Unfortunately, there is currently no matchmaking service so co-op is strictly BYO but if no one will join you, or you simply prefer to run solo, the developers have made sure the experience is still robust and engaging. Plus, in a world full of adorable magic plant people, are you ever truly alone?

I played through the campaign twice within a week of the games release and was worried I would run out of things to do with Drake Hollow. Thankfully they released the sandbox mode, with cosmetics to unlock and no end to the fun! I adore the character creation in Drake Hollow, I change my look and outfit each time I open the game to play. Honestly, it’s not the most detailed system but the beautiful visuals and choices on offer delight me! Your hair can be in bright colours, available skin tones run the full spectrum, and every option for the characters is gender neutral!

The soundtrack for Drake Hollow is no less than I’d expect from the studio. It’s composer, Walter Sickert crafted several different instruments to create the specific sounds of the hollow! The sound effects mix with the soundtrack to form the magical world of Drake Hollow. The best part is the little noises the Drakes make when you interact with them – adorable chirps and buzzes.


The Molasses’s Floods previous game, Flame in the Flood was a spectacular survival game I fell in love with. So, I’ve been looking forward to Drake Hollow since before it was announced, and they did not let me down. Once again, The Molasses Flood has crafted a magical world, a captivating journey, and an engaging craft system with more on offer in every way. More to explore, more to build, and more cute cute drakes to befriend!

 

 

MO: Astray Review

Developer: Archplay, Rayark Inc
Publisher: Rayark Inc
Music: SIHanatsuka
Platforms: PC, Switch
Released: October 2019 (PC), September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 2D adventure puzzle

It’s dark, shadowy, and you don’t know anything, except how to move, and then how to jump.

And then, how to remember.

A little blob, you make your way through this mysterious world, absorbing memories of other creatures. And like a dream, you awaken from this world, and find yourself in a laboratory. Destroyed, overgrown, and filled with danger.

MO: Astray is a beautiful 2D game, with a gorgeous pixel artstyle, where you play as a memory slime, capable of possessing and accessing the last memories, or the strongest memories, of that creature. Some of them are human, others are not.

Most were once human.

Slowly, through the world and the memories you access, you begin to piece together what was here, why you’re here, and what happened. And as you explore, dodging danger, a voice guides you, lamenting what once was, cheering you on. That voice gives you a name.

Mo.

Gameplay is surprisingly simple! You have the ability to move and jump, but you can also stick to surfaces. So that manages getting around for the most part. But Mo has the interesting ability to possess other creatures, although what you can do once you possess them is limited. You can make them walk, activate buttons, and unlock doors Mo wouldn’t be able to unlock on their own. You can’t directly attack anyone, but you can move them around and manipulate your environment. With a well-timed flick of a switch, you can crush enemies, move boxes around, and open and lock doors. But you’d be surprised by how much you can do by simply jumping out of the way at the right moment.

You move from area to area by solving various puzzles, but believe me, finding the solution and then executing the solution are two separate tasks. It’s rather forgiving, in that if you do die, you simply respawn at the start of the room, so you never lose a lot of progress. But I did find myself having to put my switch down for a quick break after failing a jump for the billionth time.

It’s a challenging game, but not a punishing one.

However, the real bread and butter comes from Mo’s ability to access memories. Throughout the game you find large blobs of memories that give you insight into the past, but also makes you just a little bit stronger. And when you possess a creature, dead, alive, or otherwise, you can see their strongest or last memory.

It’s rather haunting.

As you progress you unlock new abilities, and learn new ways to get around. Jumping from bubble to bubble, learning how to double-jump, and even learning how to clone yourself and control your clone creates interesting and varied ways to navigate these levels, and come up with solutions to puzzles.

Sound, like the environment and art, is beautifully crafted, unifying your experience seamlessly. It is satisfying, descriptive, and immersive, without being distracting, or a hindrance. For this reason, I recommend wearing earphones, settling down, and get ready to get sucked into this world where you know so little, but learn so much.

MO: Astray is a beautiful, challenging, interesting game that is full of heart and care. There is so much detail put into the world that the team has created, with a unique culture, creatures I wanted to understand and get into the head of, and a tone of darkness that thrums throughout the game. I’ve not yet finished the game, but I have enjoyed every moment so far. Even when I would mess up a puzzle a dozen times, I would attempt it a dozen and one times because I need to know more about what happened. Mo and I are on this journey together.

What are these parasitic plants? Why are all humans like this? What was this facility for? Why am I here?

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 Remake

Developers: Vicarious Visions
Publishers: Activision
Music: Collection of Various Artists
Platforms: Original: PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Xbox, Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast, Game Boy, Classic Mac OS, iOS Remake: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Release Date: Original: 19th September 2000, Remake: 1 & 2 September 4th 2020
Genre: Skateboarding Simulator, Sports

Tony Hawk Pro Skater is rated one of the best video games of all time, and not just in the sporting games category but actually of ALL TIME! For those of you who haven’t heard about this epic game it’s essentially a skateboarding video game where you get to pump out cool tricks on a variety of different maps from local skate parks to massive ramps and stadiums. You play as all famous Tony Hawk himself and as you progress in skill you are able to unlock more skateboarding legends as well as heaps of other sick things like, skateboard decks, gear, clothing, and accessories. Most of these unlockable items are from the original game however there is a bunch more added, including appropriately a disposable face mask.

Essentially THPS1+2 Remake is the exact same game as the original but with a whole new glossy look and includes incredible attention to detail when it comes to the maps, everything is lovingly touched by the designers and visually the game definitely doesn’t sell itself short. The characters, animations even the cosmetics look fully sick!

From a gameplay perspective THPS1+2 Remake gives you the power to toggle off and on the original controls if you are a purist as well as the ability to toggle off a bunch of other features including the music (which is silly and you just shouldn’t… don’t worry, we’ll get there). This game has definitely come a long way since my button smashing days of my childhood when I was grateful for anything to happen when I got some air off a ramp however the new default setting of the controls coupled with the not too ‘hand holdy’ tutorials do a fantastic job of letting you take everything at your own pace.

For those of you who have played the original THPS1+2 the remake is structured in the same way where there are tours that you take where you play through a bunch of different levels on each tour. The aim is obviously to try and get high scores, collect points, and perform cool stunts. You can also jump back and forth between games 1 and 2 with ease if you don’t want to do things in any particular order. Something new that’s interesting is the online multiplayer mode where you can play ranked or free skate modes, you can also earn a bunch of cash that you can put towards new gear (mind you I haven’t actually played the online mode yet).

There’s also this awesome feature called create-a-park mode which, you guessed it, you can build your very own skate park and then share those parks online, it’s a great way to explore the possibilities of THPS especially if you’re into world creation. As much as there is in this awesome remake, I spent most of time trying to remember how to do combos and figure where the magical S-K-A-T-E letters are around the streets of New York City and San Francisco.

Now to the music, well where do I begin, there isn’t any singular artist that designed the music for THPS1+2 but a series of bands and artists that make up the playlist consisting of mid to late 90’s garage rock and punk bands. THPS1+2 Remake has all 22 of the original artists featured plus and extra 37 new additions to the mix, you may recognise some of them such as Machine Gun Kelly and Rough Francis, some of the oldies include Anthrax and Rage Against the Machine. All this music coupled with the sounds of skateboards on bitumen and rails makes for an epic afternoon session on the PS4. If you’d like to take a look at the full list of artists from the remake click here.

I’d like to mention that I’m someone who’s only played the original THPS 1+2 I haven’t played 3, 4 or 5, or any of the other 20 something Tony Hawk games so I can’t comment on the progression Activision has had with this series, my understanding however is that things have all been rolling downhill for a while *pun intended* if you’d like a bit of history on that here is a link to an article from Kotaku ranking the best and worst Tony Hawk games.

With that being said this remake has put Activision back at the top of its game *also pun intended* THPS1+2 Remake feels literally like playing the originals for the first time. I am overwhelmed by the stunning visuals, totally transported back to the 90’s with The Vandals and Dub Pistols and not to mention the heaps of fun I had button smashing my PS4 controller and hoping something cool happened. If you’re a THPS fanatic or a newbie, honestly this is a game purchase you won’t regret.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 30th September 2020

Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star Review

Developer: Lorenzo Redaelli/ Eye Guys
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Music: Lorenzo Redaelli
Platforms: PC/ Mac
Released: 14th August 2020
Genre: Visual novel, horror

A fairy tale come to life. A fallen prince from the stars. An instant connection. Romance. Love. Passion. Pain. Guilt. Fear. Anger.

Mutual orbit, spinning out of control.

Milky Way Prince is a unique visual novel game about abuse in relationships, mental illness, and intimacy. With a combination of 3D environments and 2D characters, with a simplified colour palette, it is beautiful, haunting, horrifying, resulting in an experience that has left me thinking and feeling, mind turbulent.

I won’t go into detail in this review, but the game does delve into emotional abuse, self harm, suicide ideation, and the difficult ugly sides of mental illness. It’s rough. I had to take breaks between chapters to go hug my cat. But it is a beautiful game, it explores these themes in a way that was unique, thought-provoking, and jarring.

In Milky Way Prince, you play as Nuki, a young man with stars in his eyes, obsessed with the stars that litter the night sky. You learn of a fairy tale, where a prince from the stars falls to Earth. A beautiful romantic tale.

Nuki spots a falling star in real life, and follows it to find a man who is crying. He is Sune, and this is your first meeting.

What follows should play out like the fairy tale. And in a way, it does. But the brightest stars are the most unstable, and as beautiful as they are, to get too close is to invite disaster. But like a moth to a flame, Nuki is drawn.

He has stars in his eyes, and Sune is his prince.

Game Play

Most of the game functions like your standard visual novel game. The characters have some conversations, and you are able to select dialogue options to respond to the situation. There aren’t any wrong responses, but they change how the game plays out. Whether that prevents catastrophe, destroys you, or otherwise, it can be hard to tell with option will lead to which conclusion. And that’s kinda the point of the game. Sometimes, in life, and especially in abusive situations, there aren’t any safe responses, there aren’t clear ways out, and there aren’t tidy resolutions. Sometimes, all you can do is react.

There is a beautiful mechanic involving intimacy, where you swear an oath before engaging. With elements of BDSM, interesting symbology, and the ability to decide on which of your senses you will use in this situation, it gives you insight into this relationship between Nuki and Sune. It is intense, displaying both vulnerability and guarded nature of Sune. He is someone who gives so much, but withdraws in an instant. Who bombs Nuki with affection and love, only to immediately put up walls and become reclusive. Hot and cold. Light and dark. Opposites in a single person.

In a binary system, orbit is mutual.

At times, the game throws you into high-stress situations, where you experience an impending explosion, and you have to defuse it before it happens, a dozen times over. There are moments where the game will make you jump with how quickly things can change.

You are kept on edge, uncertain, afraid, but wanting to push forwards, to push through. To help Sune.

It’s kinda the point.

Music

The music is of the electropop variety, and it can be quiet at times. But even the music will lash out at you, throwing sound at you, lending an auditory punch to the visual hit. When things are calm and good, the music is nice, pleasant, kind almost. But when things are bad, when the situation is spiraling, when you watch Sune fall apart, it becomes painful, attacking your senses, overwhelming you. I became very stressed and anxious when I heard those discordant chords.

At times though, the audio is overdone, and it does become almost comedic. Sometimes it’s just not necessary, and just becomes annoying. Not in a good, adding-to-the-experience way. But in a ‘I am now clicking as quickly as possible to make that sound stop because it sounds like a rubber balloon’ way.

Overall Experience

Overall however, the game is jarring, it is beautiful, it is horrifying, it is frustrating, it is a lot.

Many people are aware of mental illness, and what it can do to the person. It can be exhausting, difficult to understand and explain, hard to live with. It can be managed, with the hope of being able to thrive one day.

But a lot of the time, it can be ugly, destructive, not just for the sufferer, but also for those around them. Those people can remove themselves from it at least. But what happens if you don’t? If you don’t understand? If you’re poorly equipped, unprepared, and if the person with the illness doesn’t want your help?

What happens when two stars are locked in orbit? When those stars spiral out of control, closer to each other?

One of the features of the game I really appreciated, after feeling like I just wanted to grab Sune by the shoulders and shake him, was that you can experience the game from his point of view, for a little while. You see through his eyes, see his thoughts, his reasoning, his logic.

You begin to understand.

I appreciated that.

Ten Candles Review

Publisher: Cavalry Games
Released: December 2015
Genre: Tragic Horror, Tabletop Gaming,
Players:
(1 GM, 3-5 Players)
Suitable for:
Single Sessions.

Ten Candles is a tragic horror tabletop RPG with zero-prep and a story focus. It is one of the most unique role-playing games I’ve ever played, notably (but not only) because it’s played in the dark, lit only by candlelight. Very little of the world is set in stone, most things are decided by players as play progresses. The only similarities between sessions are an unnatural darkness that smothers the world, the evil force known as “them”, and the inevitably of your death. Not the possibility, not the probability, the certain, inescapable death that marks the game’s end.This might sound strange for a survival horror game, but Ten Candles is specifically a tragic horror game.  It isn’t a game about fighting monsters, saving the day, or even just survival. Ten Candles is a game about people pushed into darkness and despair. It is about finding hope and meaning where none remains.

To play you’ll want a GM, 3-5 players, paper, ten candles, and a butt-load of dice. The physical rule book can be purchased from the publisher online but if you’re okay with digital, the PDF is all you need! Supposedly a session plays in 2-4 hours but every session I’ve played sat between 4 and 5. That might be the game’s fault or the fault of me as a player, but it was still good fun the whole time. In ten candles the game master takes control of everyone and everything that isn’t a player character. Despite being responsible for every danger the players face, and deciding the consequences, they do not act as an opposing force but as a neutral facilitator of the story. The characters will die, there’s just no rush to get there. For the most part players only control their characters but, between chapters, everyone has a chance to direct the story. This is done via chanting; in case the game needed a stronger occult aesthetic. THESE THINGS ARE TRUE. THE WORLD IS DARK. AND WE ARE ALIVE. The number of decisions is directly tied to the number of candles so a lot can be done early on, but at the end only one truth remains. THE WORLD IS DARK. AND WE ARE ALIVE.

Characters are also made collaboratively in the games setup, choosing strengths, flaws, goals, and the darkness within. These traits are key to your (temporary) survival as they can be used to turn the odds in your favor, a failure to success. Each trait can only be used once though, and when they are, you burn that part of your character sheet away. You know you will fall eventually, but not now, not this moment, and that defiance lights up the increasingly dark room with brief hope. The candles aren’t just for aesthetic and burning things, they serve as a countdown for the story and its chapters. The game consists of ten scenes, each ending with a candle snuffed out. This means that, as the story turns darker so too does the actual space, you’re playing in. In the final scene of the game, only one candle will remain, offering weak light for your characters last stand. They can fight as long as possible but inevitably the flame will go out. At the end of every game I’ve played, I’ve been left with a strange, slightly bittersweet feeling. I just spent hours with a character fighting against the odds to live and now they were dead, the game was over, and I would move on. It’s a good feeling though, the one that fuels my love for TTRPG, and the one that keeps bringing me back again and again.

If this review has been particularly intense, it’s because there’s no other way to discuss Ten Candles. It’s a game, but it’s also a collaborative story, a terrifying world, and an occult ritual with friends. Ten Candles delivers the best of tabletop RPG (atmosphere, emotion, high stakes), which many systems can’t offer in entire campaigns, in just a single gaming session. Even if you’ve never picked up a tabletop RPG, Ten Candles is simple enough to understand and interesting enough to win you over. If you’re a fan of survival horror or any part of my review piqued your interest, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Reviewed by Maylee Flannery @MayleeFlannery on 16th September 2020

Metamorphosis Review

Developer: Ovid Works
Publisher: All in! Games
Music: Ovid Works
Platforms: PC, PS4, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch
Released: 12 August 2020
Genre: Adventure puzzle

Ugh, you wake up with a hell of a hangover, you, Gregor, and your best friend Joseph had way too many drinks. But you’ve got work, and you need to go find your friend. It sure was nice of him to let you crash at his place. Now to go wake up your friend.

Except… the rooms are getting bigger… no, you’re getting smaller. Your body shifting, changing, suddenly you have more limbs, books tower over you, and your day becomes very surreal.

You’re… a bug.

And as you enter a letter, that is the least of your problems.

You must get to Tower for any hope of regaining your humanity. You must find and help Joseph, caught up in a trial for a crime no one will explain. Two very big problems, for one very small bug.

Your journey isn’t an easy one, with multiple pathways, colourful and bizarre characters, and a surreal, whimsical world, you need to find out why you were turned into a bug, what is going on, why is Joseph on trial, and what is Tower?

Metaphorphosis is a world inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, and it is a beautiful, detailed adventure puzzle game, with a hand painted aesthetic. You are Gregor, now a bug, and you need to figure out what is going on.

You’re a bug. So you get bug powers! If your feet are sticky you can climb up vertical surfaces. You have to get creative with how you can navigate the world, in some ways you’re very capable as a bug! You’re rather speedy, you can jump quite far, and walls aren’t much of an issue. But you are small, and it’s very easy to drown, miscalculate and fall to your death, or get crushed by a book. It’s very easy to get lost or overwhelmed by the sheer scale of things, but there is a helpful feature that allows you to get a fly-eye’s view of the world, allowing you to see your destination and goal, and to make your decisions.

You’ll have multiple paths, not just physically, but also with your decisions. Some are obvious, some are easier than others.

And the game has a lot of fun with the fact that you’re a bug and you’re bug-sized. Interesting pathways, unique obstacles, fun and creative ways to get around. There is a sense of wonder and joy as you navigate this world. I am reminded of when I was a child and I’d imagine being a mouse, sailing down the gutter on a ship made of leaves. And the world built at the bug level is delightfully detailed, populated with a variety of insects, speakeasies, and even its own form of government. Many of us are familiar with the frustration that comes with bureaucracy, don’t worry! It is well-recreated here. But even with all that, with everything that’s happening, you find yourself in a forest of mushrooms, or on a tiny ship sailing through the air, or surfing on a supply request form.

It’s beautiful, with a touch of magic and whimsy.

The sound is extremely immersive, you hear your own skittering, changing depending on the surface, the human giants around you chatting through walls, their voices garbled but deep, resonating through the walls. Machines whirring, drawers opening and closing, and a lawyer droning on and on, doing a great job at explaining absolutely nothing. It makes the world feel very big, and you very, very small.

The music is well composed, and a lot of fun, highlighting exciting moments, displaying the scale of the world. I would find myself feeling very nervous at times, as I felt exposed and vulnerable at times. The music contributed to that, but it also lent to the whimsical nature of this bug society you find yourself falling into. The wacky characters you’d run into, the things you’d see and experience.

I am not the biggest fan of bugs, but I found myself charmed and intrigued by the world Ovid Works had created. There was the human world that I was aware of, my best friend was on trial for something, and I watched the roadblocks and issues he went through. Gregor is invested in that world. But the bug world is just as intriguing, interesting, filled with vibrancy and character and wonder. And you have your own problems to deal with. So I found myself stressing about my tasks and trials, but also I just had to stop and look around. I wanted to observe and interact with this world. There were towns and groups and even a little cult to check out. Hidden areas, little secrets, a dozen paths to a single goal.

The world is so big, and so detailed, and it made me want to explore. The gameplay was creative, fun, and made me think and plot my path. And the ending… well, I’m not sure where you’ll end up, but it is one I want to revisit later. There are multiple paths, and I feel guilty about the one I took.

It’s kinda weird that as a bug you’d have so much control over what happens, it’s an awfully big responsibility. But the game makes you capable of it.

Fight Crab Review

Developer: Calappa Games
Publisher: Calappa Games
Music: DEKU
Platforms: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, itch.io/Booth (PC)
Released: 30-July 2020 (PC), 15-September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 3D fighting game

You are a crab.

A simple crab, you find yourself thrown into the ocean with a single purpose, a single goal, and a single thought:
You must fight.

A 3D fighting game, Fight Crab takes you through battle after battle, flipping your opponents onto their back.

However, like crabs, your task isn’t all that simple. As a decapod crustacean, you must master control over your armoured body and 10 limbs. You not only battle in the ocean, facing other crabs, but you also take to the streets, castles, cities, determinedly focused on flipping every single opponent you encounter, whether they be crab, lobster, or otherwise.

But… does your tough shell hide a soft interior? Technically, yes! But emotionally, it’s all crab all the way through.

This is a fun, chaotic, broken-but-it-feels-right sort of game.

The game mechanics are cluttered to say the least, deliberately so. The controls make sense, and they’re easy to learn (it’s easiest if you use a controller!), but they’re difficult to master, and that’s part of the fun of it.

You’ll find yourself flailing your claws around, scuttling over obstacles, wielding anything your pincers can grab a hold of. Your body is a weapon, and so is your environment, and your enemy is also a weapon. The weapon your enemy is holding could be your weapon as well.

Punch your enemy, block your enemy, grab onto them, forcing them to yield to your crustaceous superiority. Who cares if you’re facing a lobster with a knife and gun, it could be your knife and gun if you’re crab enough.

You can level up your crab, perfect it’s form to your style. You unlock new crustaceans and weapons, and you also earn abilities and power ups. Are you ready to surge with righteous crab power, pummel your opponent, and then blast them away with pure, crabby energy? Well, you better be!

If at first, you feel you’re mashing buttons, that’s ok. Crabs also need to learn the ways of tactics, finesse, and controls. You and your crab will grow together. Soon you will be in sync with each other.

Outside, you may be human. But inside, emotionally, it’s crab.

Sound effects are standard for a fighting game, your claws sound satisfying, you can hear the energy of the blast as you’re blown away. There’s an announcer telling you your next opponent is arriving.

Now the music is good. It’s powerful, it’s futuristic, energising, and enjoyable to listen to. And it pushes the whole game experience to the limits. This is an absurd game, it’s silly, it’s like a joke that’s played seriously. And there were genuine moments when I thought ‘oh actually, that’s pretty cool’.

The music ties it all together.

I was a little nervous about playing this game, I have a history with our crustacean friends, and I worried I wouldn’t enjoy this game. I thought it would be too goofy, with minimal effort for a laugh. And the UI and menus reinforced that, they look very ‘serious’ but I couldn’t understand a lot of it initially. Parts of the game could’ve done with a lot more polish. So, I was a little apprehensive.

I am happy to say I was proven wrong.

I don’t know if it’s a great game, but it definitely was a fun game. And I am astounded by how well this was executed. The controls were easy to learn, the game actually automatically locks onto your target and manages parts of your controls so you’re not overwhelmed. You’re given so many weapons, power ups, and abilities that I just could not wait to use whatever it was I grabbed. It’s a tree? Ok! A coconut crab has appeared with a hammer? I’m not going to back down, onwards I go! A lobster with rockets attached to its claws? Who thinks of these things, this is brilliant! I’m having an absolute whale of a time. I can’t wait to crack open this sweet game at a party with friends.

Maybe the UI leaves me crabby, I felt like I was going crabwise with the layout and navigation of the menus, and maybe I felt like I was being thrown into boiling water with the battles as chaos reigned.

But that doesn’t matter much.

Because I am a crab, and I must fight.