Category: Reviews

Witch It – Review

Title card for Witch It. It features a green witch wearing purple robes in a cutesy art style, riding a broom next to the title Witch It!

Developer: Barrel Roll Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Music: Barrel Roll Games
Platforms: Steam (PC)
Released: 22 October 2020
Genre: Multiplayer, Hide and Seek

You’re walking down a seemingly empty street, on edge. Mundane objects catch your attention, a candle, those barrels, maybe even that broken teapot. They’re not doing anything, but that doesn’t ease your nerves. Instead, you launch a chicken at a pile of crates. The chicken starts to crow.

One of the crates moves.

The hunt begins.

Witch It is a fast paced game of hide or seek, where the hiders are witches who can turn into any object within the world, and the seekers are hunters who are determined to save their village from dangerous magics. With an array of abilities, features, maps, hundreds of objects strewn across each map, and a fair amount of chaos, combined with a chunky and colourful art style, Witch It is a bit intense, a bit funny, and a lot of fun.

Witch It is a pretty simple concept. If you are a witch, you’ll have a bit of time to find a hiding spot. But not only that, you can also transform into any object you find. A painting? Book? Rock? Rose? A boat? No problem! You’ll just want to make sure you blend in.

If you’re a hunter, you must use potatoes to find and defeat witches.

But the game throws in a few mechanics that makes this game of hide and seek a bit more… hectic.

As a witch, your health bar changes depending on what you transform into. The bigger the object, the more health, but bigger objects are more difficult to hide naturally. Witches can of course fly on broomsticks, allowing them to reach high areas. But they are also capable of casting spells, one of which is to create a decoy object to fool the chicken.

Hunters also have a range of abilities. I’ve mentioned the chicken. If you find yourself in a library full of books and you don’t have enough time to throw a potato at each one of them, you can throw a chicken, and it will hone in on a disguised witch within a certain distance. It’s funny when you’re a hunter, it’s infuriating if you’re a witch.

In addition, you can utilise a ground pound attack that will damage any witches within a short range. If you’re facing a pile of identical jewels, it’s pretty handy. And of course you can unlock a grappling hook to allow you to reach those hard-to-reach places.

With these mechanics, a very cluttered map, half a dozen players, and a limited amount of time, a match can get pretty intense. As a witch, not only do you have to find the perfect object and the perfect spot, and place yourself perfectly to look as mundane as possible, you’ll need to time the use of your abilities to keep hunters away from you. And if you get caught, you need to think quickly. You might just be able to escape and hide again.

As a hunter, you only have so much time to find all the witches, and the maps you play in are very cluttered. You can run around hoping to spot something that looks out of place, or maybe even move just in the corner of your vision, or use your abilities to hone in on the witches. When there’s only a few seconds left, and the witches are taunting you, well, I ended up throwing a lot of potatoes.

The games are quick and engaging, whether I’m a hunter or a witch. It can be intense, stressful, exciting even. And with a variety of maps, including the ability to create custom maps using their in-game engine, it’s hard to get bored. And there are multiple game modes as well, as variations of the hide-and-seek premise, like trying to collect specific objects before the time runs out, or if you’re found as a witch you join the hunters to find the other witches. And you unlock cosmetic items to make your witch and hunter your own.

It’s not a perfect game, but the flaws aren’t stopping me. I would prefer a more immersive tutorial that wasn’t just video clips and an explanation. And it took me a bit of poking around to figure out how servers work. But these were things I ended up figuring on my own anyway with a bit of trial and error.

The music is a bit goofy, with sort of silly, spooky music that just adds to the fact that this is just hide and seek. And the sound of chickens clucking, witches cackling, hunters body slamming, it’s a lot, but it also becomes a bit scary when you’re hiding and you hear that chaos get closer and closer. But if I’m entirely honest, I wasn’t paying that much to what I was hearing. I was too busy holding my breath because I can see a hunter passing the shelf I’m hiding on.

Look, I enjoyed Witch It. I wish I could play it with friends because I just know that the banter, the good-natured teasing, and the outbursts would be just so much fun to listen to and experience. It is definitely a game with a lot of game night potential, with it being easy to learn, and creative ways to hide and keep yourself hidden, or coordinate your hunts. But even on my own, braving those servers by myself, it was still a lot of fun. I got to play some custom maps with no problem, join servers with a dozen players and servers with just a few.

It has a fun art style and satisfying graphics that scales well when I needed to adjust the graphics, with each game I got just a bit better as both witch and hunter, and I never found myself waiting around for ages for other players.

Witch It is a lot of fun!

Zombies, Run! – Review

Developer: Six to Start & Naomi Alderman
Publisher: Six to Start & Naomi Alderman
Platforms: Mobile (Android and iPhone)
Released: 2011, May 2015 (Free to Play)
Genre: Audio, Apocalyptic, Zombie, Survival, Horror

You’re on your way to Abel Township, taking a helicopter over the zombie-torn landscape. You’re bringing in supplies for the people who have set up a strong, defensive, base known as Abel, but you have another mission. Your helicopter pilot knows something is up, but before you can get into it, well, somebody fires a rocket launcher at you.

From the wreckage you run, your headset feeding you the voice of Sam Yao from Abel, the radio operator who will be your guide, and hopefully guide you to safety.

All you need to do is run.

Zombies, Run! Is an immersive story where you are the main character, with the story told as if you are in it, experiencing it yourself, broken up by your own music playlist of choice. Once you start, you don’t need to stop, you don’t need to look at your phone, and you won’t need to take a specific path or make decisions. A completely auditory experience that places you in this world that is so like ours, only filled with zombies, bad guys, quirky characters, and the voice of Sam forever guiding you. Load it up, pick your playlist, and go. Every step you take is a step closer to unravelling the mysteries and conspiracies that surround you.

Now, Zombies, Run! Isn’t like a podcast, it’s not like an audiobook, and it’s not like your traditional video game. Or a fitness app. It’s similar to all these things, but with award-winning writers at work, a full cast of unique and distinctive characters conveyed through voice acting, and a number of features to help you get immersed in this world, it’s perhaps the only constant that motivates me to move.

It’s really as simple as loading up a mission, picking my playlist, and getting a move on. There is over 8 seasons worth of story, with various storylines, mysteries, villains, friends, sometimes-friends, and look, even romance. Throughout your run you will ‘pick up’ supplies and materials, which you can use to build up Abel, and your music will play in between scenes. And often you’ll be chased by zombies, with a warning and the far-too-close sounds of groaning behind you, you’ll need to pick up your pace regularly to keep ahead of the horde.

Your first story mission involves you getting shot down out of the sky with a rocket launcher. Your second mission is a simple decoy mission to lead zombies away from Abel while the gates are stuck open. Your third mission? Well, I’ll let you find out for yourself. Various characters will come to your aid, help guide you, or maybe just decide that it’s weird that you got shot down and managed to survive, and you must definitely be up to something. You don’t give anything away of course, you’re the strong silent type, just a runner here to help. Maybe. The zombie apocalypse isn’t exactly normal, but you’ll find out just how strange it really is.

During my first run, I went as the sun was sinking. Dark streets, quiet, listening intently to the conversations that were taking place around me. AHH! Oh, just another runner, not a zombie. Phew.

Now, let me tell you a secret. I hate running. I despise it. It feels bad, it’s not fun, I’m really not getting better at it. I’m willing to bet many of you also feel the same way. Perhaps you prefer cycling, or a treadmill. Elliptical, rowing machine, weight training. Or walking.

You can still be an Abel Runner.


You can adjust the difficulty of each mission, so that you’re chased by zombies as often as you can handle, or not at all. GPS is the default way of tracking your movement, but you can also use a step counter, or even just set your pace, and the game will just adjust accordingly. For some of these settings, zombie chases won’t be enabled, but that’s fine. You can play no matter what your exercise of choice is, except perhaps swimming. It may go without saying however, wearing earphones while cycling outdoors, or any other exercise that requires constant awareness of your surroundings, is not recommended. But if you have a stationary bike, well, cycle your little hearts out.

The zombie story is not the only story! There are a dozen side-stories related to the universe, unique virtual races that will take you across the solar system, through mythological stories, and so much more. But perhaps my favourite minor story involves radio mode, where at the completion of each mission you’ll get to listen to Eugene and Jack chatter and banter like your regular radio hosts, who happen to be playing music from your playlist. After a really intense mission, hearing their lighthearted chatter is a nice break, and you get to learn more about the more mundane aspects of living through the zombie apocalypse.

And the final feature, you get to manage the base! It doesn’t actually affect your runs, but it’s a nice visual way of seeing how much you’ve accomplished. You get to see how the materials you’ve gathered have gone towards farms, wind turbines, barracks, and so much more. You can also track how much you’ve run, but I like a bit of city building.

Obviously, music is up to you! I have a few playlists, and the app works… alright with Spotify. You may need to adjust your settings to allow all the permissions to work together, but the app doesn’t know that you’re about to hit the hardest drop of all time. It is not afraid of interrupting your songs to throw story at you. And sometimes the music wouldn’t start up again once the scene ends. When I first started running it interacted a lot better with music saved directly to my device, but after a bit of tinkering it works most of the time.

There is a robotic voice for warning you of zombies on your heels, or to tell you that you picked up something. It’s a bit of an immersion breaker sometimes, when you have the passionate Sam warning you and then a voice saying ‘picked up a sports bra’. But this can also be changed, and I just have it set up to buzz a little when I pick something up. And the sound of zombies approaching behind you sounds awful, in the best way possible. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise up.

But in a scene, the sound experience is great. Initially they are finding their footing, but it’s always good. The soundscape they create, combined with the voice acting, audio effects, I feel a bit like I am in the middle of a movie. It can be extremely satisfying, especially when you get your hands on a rocket launcher yourself.

I love Zombies, Run! I got into it when it first became free to play, and you initially get unlimited access to the first 4 missions, and then a new mission is unlocked each week. I ended up subscribing for an annual fee, to unlock all the missions immediately. Totally work it, and you get a bunch of other bonuses.

But that’s up to you and how quickly you progress. You’ll still have access to simple supply missions, radio mode, and a new mission each week.

It’s not often that something makes me want to try running, and actually makes me feel kinda cool. I just wouldn’t recommend running after dark if you’re the jumpy type. Or just hop on a treadmill! It all counts.

Monster Harvest – Review

Developer: Maple Powered Games
Publisher: Merge Games
Music: Maple Powered Games
Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Released: 31 August 2021
Genre: Farming Sim, Pixel Graphics, Creature Collector

You have grown tired of your life, and your uncle has offered you an opportunity. He once ran a farm you see, but he discovered a wondrous creature called Planimals. And as a man of science and botany, he has taken it upon himself to study these creatures. Planimals come from a fusion of slimes applied to growing plants, bringing them to life much like birds and possums. A town has sprouted around this discovery, leading to a lifestyle adapted to these Planimals and slimes. Slimes can be used as a form of energy, and the Planimals can fight for you, act as livestock, and are a loyal companion.

Now, it may sound kinda familiar, but Monster Harvest is a hybrid meant to fulfill a niche. A cute, pixel game, you have to restore your uncle’s farm, uncover the mysteries of this town, the slime, the Planimals, and the menacing group that seems hellbent on making sure you don’t know what’s going on.

Monster Harvest at its basic is pretty straightforward. Grow plants, fight slimes. Use the slimes on the plants and you’ll grow Planimals! And depending on the type of slime used, and the plant you apply it to, you get a variety of Planimals.

The one you’ll encounter first are Planimals that will fight for you. You can create a party of them, and explore the dungeons with them. You’ll encounter dangerous Planimals in there, but with a bit of strategy, you’ll defeat them, finding resources and treasures.

You’ll need to focus on farming in order to maintain your Planimals, and the fruits of your land will provide you with income. Essential for upgrades, new buildings, and new gear and seeds to grow, leading to new Planimals to discover.

You can also combine slimes together to create more powerful slimes to apply to your plants.

The battle mechanic is pretty straightforward, try to attack the enemy Planimal first with your sword and you’ll get the first hit in with your own Planimal. Once engaged in battle, you’ll have access to some attacks and abilities that you’ll use to fight. If your Planimal is knocked out, you get a resource from their… soul? Life essence? That you can use to upgrade the soil of your farm, allowing you to grow more powerful Planimals. But if your Planimal survives the battle, they’ll gain experience and level up. And you can continue through the dungeon, finding more ore and resources, and stronger Planimals.

Other townsfolk have also raised Planimals, and every Friday you can go to the recreation centre and battle townsfolk, raising your own rank within the town.

So, it sounds pretty solid. And I was interested in the concept, as Monster Harvest combined genres I enjoy. But it’s not doing it well.

The mechanics I described aren’t especially robust. Farming is fine, although the drain on my stamina is quite frustrating. Crafting recipes are unlocked as you level up, and to level up you need to farm, fight, or forage. And the stamina usage limits how much progress you can make. Granted, as you upgrade your gear, and earn enough to buy stamina potions, it becomes less frustrating. But it still takes a while to unlock crafting recipes that are actually helpful. It is fun unlocking and building new buildings, and planting as many seeds as I can afford, and seeing what Planimals I get throughout the seasons.

Battles… aren’t exactly exciting. You have one move unlocked to start with, and whoever wins depends on who strikes first. There is a bit of RNG, and some status effects to keep track of, but you’ll have to do that in your head, because there isn’t really a good UI. Oh no I’ve been poisoned! But I’ll have to remember that, I won’t get a little post-it note. You can’t heal your Planimals unless you sleep overnight, and you can’t switch Planimals around or run away in a battle.


I do absolutely love that the two top members of my Planimal party will walk around the world with me, following my character around.


But my biggest frustration is with the UI, and how this game communicates important things with the player. There is a tutorial… kinda. It just dumps EVERYTHING on you in one go, and you just have to remember that. And there’s not a way to revisit any part of the tutorial. There’s a device that I know I can put things into, but I have no idea what exactly I can put into it, and when I try it just tells me I can’t put this item I’m holding in.

There is a calender and I know that there are festivals. I’ll walk into town and its decorated for… something. And I can’t go into the dungeons while there is a festival. My uncle says I should go enjoy the festival. But I can’t find anyone or anything to do during these festivals. I wander around everywhere aimlessly before giving up and calling it a day.

I think I’m supposed to be able to cook, I can buy salt and sugar for cooking. I have no idea how to cook. And food would be so helpful for my stamina.

There’s a little clock icon at the bottom of my screen, right above my toolbar. It’s not a clock. Not a useful clock. It’s just there for decoration, which took me a while to figure out because it is animated. But it doesn’t mean anything.

And it’s kinda ugly. The game is quite pretty, but the way the user interface is designed is clunky. The font doesn’t fit, literally. Parts of the bars are hidden behind the decorative frames. Navigating my inventory is a pain, it seems to glitch out sometimes, the highlight square doesn’t fit, also literally, and while I play primarily with a controller, I switch to my mouse to move around my inventory and chests.

Music and sound is repetitive, painfully so. The pop sound from picking up things is satisfying, and it can be eerie to hear Planimals making their weird sounds in the distance, but the music is a very short loop. The audio experience means nothing to me except something to numb my mind. I put it on mute and listened to a podcast instead, which actually helped me stay focused enough on this rather shallow game.


I wanted to like Monster Harvest. I like the genres, and it’s quite a pretty game. I could play farming games for days, I love raising a party of creatures to bond with and work with. And Monster Harvest is those genres, it does deliver these things, but in an extremely unsatisfying manner. The entire time I was playing I just kept thinking of other games I could be playing instead.

Nothing grabbed my attention, I wasn’t invested, losing my Planimals didn’t really matter. Farming is alright, but I know a dozen other games that does it better. The story is alright, but it’s nothing new. I essentially predicted it within 3 minutes, but it takes forever to progress through.

There is one thing this game did really well though, and its the fact that a couple of my Planimals will walk around with me and follow me. I mentioned this earlier, but it helped my frustrations to look at my mutanko just standing there. He’s a little guy. I love him.

Black Skylands Review

Developer: Hungry Couch Games
Publisher: tinyBuild
Music: Hungry Couch Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Released: Early Access – 9 July 2021, Estimated Release July – 2022
Genre: Top Down Shooter, Sandbox, Pixel Graphics

Your name is Eva, and you have woken up with all the excitement of a child with a day full of possibilities, joy, and adventure. Appropriate adventure of course. Your father has returned from a lengthy journey, bringing back treasures and wonders from far-away floating islands. And as you run around the Fathership, you are met with this rich, bustling town in the sky, airships travelling from town to city. Above you, sky-squids dart by, and far below you, the giant shapes of flying turtles, drifting by.

You are given your first weapon, a pistol that is barely more than a toy, you ‘borrow’ your father’s airship to retrieve your brother who has managed to get stuck in a box. Along the way you encounter a variety of characters from various backgrounds, all who lend you advice and a smile.

And finally, your family is together, ready to witness whatever it is your father brought back. Something wondrous, something never-seen-before, something…


One swipe from this beast, a panicked reaction. A death.

And everything changes.

Black Skylands is a top down pixel shooter, with bullet hell elements, an absolutely gorgeous world filled with layers of details that are changing and evolving. It has been years since that fateful day, and monsters are ravaging the skylands, and land and resources were already scarce to begin with. To make things worse, Kain, your basically-your-uncle Kain, is now leading bandits and controlling whatever islands they can get their hands on. And your father is gearing up for a desperate attempt to fix his mistake.

It’s up to you, your brother, and the allies you make along the way, to save not only the Fathership, but also Aspya. Your entire world.

There is a lot of detail to this game, a lot to do, and a lot to manage. It’s a top-down shooter, and obviously you have some weapons. An array of guns of course, but also a grappling hook (which is an essential when you live on floating islands in the sky), and with a handy knife, you’ll be equipped to go toe-to-toe with the roughest of bandits. Well, kinda. You’ll need to be strategic about your approach, and not be afraid to retreat. Some of the enemies you run into are pretty tough, and if you get overwhelmed by an ambush it won’t take you long to get crushed.

Gradually, you’ll find upgrades for your weapons, and be able to construct better armour and gear, making you better equipped for the challenges ahead. You can make similar upgrades to your airship, giving you the edge you need in those dogfights. More efficient cannons, a stronger hull, a larger hold, all helpful and essential as you make your way through the skies.

But these upgrades are difficult to work for. You’ll need resources, some of which you can find out in the world, such as wood or ore. Some need a bit more work than that, such as building a farm to grow food, flax, or cotton. Eventually you’ll need a way to process ore into useful metals. It can be a struggle, and often you’ll need to slowly fight your way through an occupied island to find more resources.

It’s a bit exhausting, but when you do clear these islands of enemies, you rescue people and get rewards.

And then you have to continue to defend that island, getting alerts when the rescued people need your help.

And when you’re trying to progress through the story, find and make resources, and fight for upgrades, it’s a lot of work! I sometimes feel like I’m trying to keep a classroom clean and tidy, but my 3rd year students have got their hands on glitter glue and have formed factions.

But you get stronger, you get smarter, you get new weapons and useful abilities, and there is so much to explore and see and interact with in this game that I can take detours from the main story to help out people you find along the way. I can find my grandfather and rescue the moths. Blast asteroids for coal, carefully chip away at the more formidable islands. Discover little pockets of beauty and history and story about the world of Aspya.

Perfect your shots, time your dodges right, and you’ll be able to face down some of the nastier monsters and baddies without too much trouble.

And if you do have trouble, you have your moth friend with you to whisk you away to safety, allowing you to plan and consider a different approach.

There’s a lot of sounds to this game, with immersive music that changes as you roam around floating towns and cities, run into danger, get a little bit too close to those occupied islands. It’s whimsical, beautiful, adding to the sense of wonder and adventure. It has some kinks to work out, with some jarring transitions, but it’s easy to look over. Especially when I discovered how many things I could break. There are few things more satisfying than smashing a crate and getting the jingle of currency in return.

You get the putter putter of your ship’s engine propelling you through the sky. The clank as you repair your airship, build new farms and facilities. It’s pretty satisfying!

If it wasn’t obvious, I love Black Skylands. I have not finished the game, I know I’m a while away from finishing the game, but it has sucked me in. I log off for the night and lay in bed considering how I’m going to approach that boss fight. I weigh up my upgrade options, trying to make the best decisions for my point in the game. The dialogue options are worth considering too, and I’m curious how the outcomes could change. There is so much in this game, so much to do and see and keep on top of, and then there is the fact that at the time of this review, it’s still in early access, with nearly a year of development ahead. This is a labour of love, passion, and care and it shows. Sure there are a couple of buggy quirks here and there but it doesn’t distract from the overall experience, which is that Black Skylands is a beautiful, hectic, busy game that requires patience and a cool head. And it’s probably the first bullet hell game I actually enjoyed.

Evolution: Climate Review

Developer: North Star Digital Studios
Publisher: North Star Games
Music: North Star Digital Studios
Platforms: Steam, Android, iOS, boardgame
Released: 2016 physical, 2019 digital
Genre: Board Game, Card Game, Deckbuilding, Strategy

Here we see a watering hole, a source of life-giving water, an essential site in these harsh environments. All sorts of creatures, big or small, must drink water. Unfortunately, that means competition is fierce for the limited resources that are available, and where there is prey… there are also predators.

Evolution is a card-based board game, where you strategise to make the most of multiple mechanics in order to keep your species fed, strong, and numerous. And with a digital version available, and the new Climate expansion that introduces a changing climate, it’s a challenging, but beautiful, experience. For this review, I’ll be focusing on the digital version of the board game.

Gameplay and the mechanics are rather straightforward. Your species gather at a watering hole, and there are other species there as well. You must establish a source of food, give your species traits that will help them gather, or distribute food, protect them from predators, or give them the upper hand if things get a bit dicey.

And then, once you make your decisions, you’ll have to watch it all play out, as the opposing species have also made their decisions. You may lose members of your population when the food runs out, or you might come out strong. And at the end of the round, you must use the knowledge you have gained in order to give yourself the upper hand. At the end of the game, points are tallied up based on how much food you consumed, the size of your population, and the number of traits you used. Highest score wins!

It’s actually quite a lot to take in, with the traits you have available, and the multiple stages to each turn. Thankfully, there is a nice tutorial to teach you the rules of the jungle, holding your hand to start with before letting you toddle off on your own evolutionary journey. Which is perfect for me, with every board game I often need a round or two to get the hang of things, and I prefer a tutorial to a written list of rules. But trust me, you’ll be on your own soon enough.

The campaign can be pretty challenging, with new cards and abilities being introduced. You can decide to become a predator, or remain a herbivore. Perhaps you’ll make your species climb trees, keeping them out of danger. And once you’re faced off against 3 other species, you’ll have to learn quickly, and put in quite a lot of thought. But if you feel that the game’s AI isn’t challenging enough, you can take your species online, and face off against real life players, who are interested in driving your species to extinction. Adapt, overcome, survive.

And then that brings me to the Climate expansion. Now, you are progressing through time, experiencing vicious cycles of burning heat and freezing ice ages. Now, instead of focusing only on the other species, you also have to take the climate into consideration, using a number of new traits to help you survive, such as heavy fur to protect against the cold, and the nocturnal trait, to avoid the heat. It’s an extra challenge layer to what can be a challenging game.

Now, this is a beautiful game, and it is a digital version of the board game, which has some of the most gorgeous art, in a vibrant watercolour style, that I have seen in a long while. However, they do need to fill in some blanks to translate it to a digital space, and that has led to some inconsistent art styles, and areas of the user interface looks unpolished, especially compared to when the actual board game art is used. And at times there were parts of the tutorial that also lacked polish. But at least when you’re done with the tutorial you’re done. The art… you kinda have to keep looking at it. For the most part you can tune it out, but it’s a bit jarring at times.

The sound experience also feels like it’s been subjected to that same lack of polish. It’s not bad, the music is fine, and there’s some fun little sound effects to compliment the gameplay, but I honestly just put my own music in the background.

Overall, I quite liked Evolution! It’s nice to have this beautiful, fun board game in digital form, and it lets me play it without having to rely on the conflicting schedules of my friends. The watering hole maps are pretty and dynamic, and when I’m focusing on my next move it’s nice seeing the environment adjust to the decisions being made in game. I did not touch the online portion whatsoever, which I intend to change in the near future. Initially I found it more challenging than I expected, and I had to get into the ‘how to crush my enemies’ mindset pretty much immediately. It’s just that there are a lot of ways to open the game, and a lot of ways for it to play out. Which is part of the fun.

Climate definitely adds an extra layer of challenges, with lots of opportunities for clever strategies, without it being hard to learn. It’s a precarious balance that Evolution has mastered. And it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, or an hour. And I do get a bit of a kick out of turning my peaceful herbivore into a ferocious predator that’ll decimate the opposing populations. But be careful! It’s hard to keep carnivores fed when there’s no one to feed on. Just a little tip from my mistakes.

Project Winter Review

Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher: Other Ocean Group
Music: Bob Baffy
Platforms: Steam, Xbox, and coming soon to the Playstation & Switch.
Released: 24th May 2019
Genre: Hidden Role, Survival, Strategy

Have you ever dreamed of a game that combines the survival genre and the classic hidden role board game Werewolf? If so, you share my weirdly specific dreams and I have the game for you! I bought Project Winter on a whim but quickly found myself engrossed by it. It’s an online game that came out just over 2 years ago and created an admittedly small but dedicated fan base.

In Project Winter you are stuck in a frozen landscape and have just received warning of an incoming blizzard set to tear apart everything in its path. Good news: you can single a rescue vehicle to come save you. Bad news: the equipment you need to signal them is broken.  Good news: you aren’t stranded alone, and many hands make light work. Very bad news: two of your fellow survivors are traitorous and want you dead. A typical game has eight players, two of which are traitors, and the rest are survivors. Along with your personal and team goals, you’ll have to maintain your heat, hunger and health. If you don’t make time to gather food and warm yourself by the fire, you’ll be easy prey for traitors. But if you spend too much time on this, you’ll quickly raise suspicion in your more productive teammates.  As well as your team, you’ll also be assigned a role with unique abilities to help you traverse the wilderness. There’s something for everyone whether you’re analyzing crime scenes as a detective, busting bunkers solo as a hacker, or even reanimating the dead as a scientist.

The survivors must escape before the match timer runs out and they freeze to death in the blizzard. To do this they must complete two repair tasks, phone for help, and reach the escape vehicle. Specifics vary to keep games interesting, but tasks can be anything from collecting resources to cracking ciphers. All the while they must survive traitors, dangerous wildlife, freezing temperatures, and their own paranoia. Traitors spend their time slowing down survivor progress, sabotaging objectives, sowing distrust, framing innocents, and picking of people traveling alone. They have a direct communication line with each other and can access stashes of strong gear littered through the world.

When you first pick up Project Winter, it can be a little overwhelming with all the things to consider but there’s a quick tutorial and a collection of simple role guides. If you’re like me though, and refuse to play a tutorial under any circumstances, it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of things. Turns out death waiting around everyone corner is a heck of a motivator to learn! Don’t be alarmed by the looming threat of death, if you do die you aren’t necessarily out of the game. Dead players observe the game as a ghost. They can’t communicate directly but can assist their allies or freeze their enemies. This is one of the things I loved most about Project Winter. Not only do players get to participate the whole time but they still play an important role. Ghosts can save lives, take lives, out traitors, frame innocents, and loads more. The one downside is you always have an audience watching your most embarrassing deaths.

There are two modes of gameplay beyond the base. A simple and streamlined version that’s good for learning the ropes or just a quick match. Also, a DLC mode of play called blackout that incorporates demons, magic and more which shakes the original rules up and keeps things fresh for seasoned players. There’s also continued support and engagement from the developers with consistent events and updates plus a consistent rotation of cosmetics.

No matter what mode you’re playing, sound is key while playing Project Winter and is your best defense against most danger. Footfalls, traps being placed, bears, crates being opened, alarms going off, weapons, combat, objectives, wolves, I could go on. Everything has a distinct sound that fits the world well. All sounds, including the voice chat, are delivered based on proximity which creates the perfect environment for mistrust to breed – with eight people split across a large map, stories will conflict, accusations will fly, and if you’re not careful – no one will hear you scream.

Finding a match online is surprisingly easy. Project Winter doesn’t have a huge player base, but it does have dedicated fans. You do not need to use the voice chat to play Project Winter, but you will be limited if you choose not to. I’ve been through the full range of online voice chat experiences and thankfully Project Winter stacks up pretty well in that department. I’ve found it to be an overall positive, friendly, and welcoming community to play with. There’s a lot of fun to be had playing Project Winter online but if you’re lucky enough to wrangle a group of eight together – playing with friends is extra special. There’s just nothing else like being framed and getting chased through the wilderness by a mob of your closest friends. My friends and I talk about these matches well after they’ve ended, laughing about stupid deaths or cunning plays.

If it seems like I’m reviewing this game just in hopes that more people will start playing on the Australian server, that’s not the case, just a bonus. Project Winter takes the some of the best bits in my favorite genres and creates a unique and engaging online experience. This game deserves more attention and I hope someone reading will see the appeal and give it a go!



The Long Dark – Review

Developer: Hinterland Studio Inc.
Publisher: Hinterland Studio Inc.
Music: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco
Platforms: PS4, XB0, Switch, Steam, Epic Games
Released: 22 September 2014
Genre: Survival

Maybe the apocalypse doesn’t come with a bang, with a virus that mutates out of control, hordes of zombies walking through the streets.

Maybe, the apocalypse comes quietly. With a storm that takes away the power, closes off roads and train tracks. It comes quietly, but surely, as the nights grow longer, and the days become colder, and the people grow hungry.

The Long Dark is an exploration survival game which delivers. With a beautiful, 3D paint-like art style, brutal environments that you need to explore to obtain food, clean water, tools, and medicine, and every danger that mother nature could throw at you, plus some, your solitude will become comforting, the roaring wind will make you despair, and you will have to balance every decision you make.

With multiple game modes, a story mode, and various challenges, there is something for everyone, from survival tourists who just want to check out what’s what, to hardcore survivalists, who are prepared to do whatever is needed to claw through another day.

The Long Dark is not an easy game, and that is reflected in every aspect of this game. You’ll find yourself in the northern Candian wilderness, basically alone. It is freezing, the weather changes from cold, sunny days, to brutal blizzards that you can get lost in, completely disorientated. With a night-day cycle, you’ll have to manage your time effectively, finding time to rest, but also finding time to FIND a safe place to rest. There are dangers around you, such as dangerous terrain that you can injure yourself on, frozen lakes where you’ll have to watch your step. And unusually aggressive bears and wolves, who will find you and hunt you down. You can scare them off if you hold your nerve, but you do not want to get into a fight with them.

You’ll have to maintain your health, exhaustion, body temperature, energy levels, clothing, and so much more. Scavenge for resources and tools, learn how to create snares, simple medicines, repair your clothes, and even craft warmer gear. This game made me track rabbits, find their grazing spot, set up a snare, capture them, and then make the decision to kill it with my bare hands. It doesn’t help that they’re pretty cute, but that rabbit could be the reason I make it to the end of the day. I could scavenge a deer killed by wolves, but that puts me at risk myself.

I get so excited when I find a toilet, because that means free drinkable water right away! I don’t have to gather wood, build a fire, melt snow, and then boil the water to make it safe. I can just grab fresh water right away. I managed to find a gun, a lucky find, but without bullets it’s just dead weight. Should I ditch it so I can carry more food? Or should I hold onto it and my one bullet, in case I’m not careful enough and run into the bear?

There are many game modes and difficulty levels, so if you want an easier time, you can have that! If you want to spend 30 days gathering supplies and barricading yourself before a bear arrives to hunt you? You can also do that. You want to be cursed by a spooky skeletal ghost monster? Well, you can do that too.

The music is minimal, but the audio experience feels as cold, solitary, and distant as this game feels. It’s really quite sobering to have had a difficult day finding food and wood, and to return to your little shelter as darkness falls. You can’t afford to start a fire, so you rest and wait in the dark, with the wind howling outside, the sound grating and exhausting. In those moments, I felt like how my survivor must feel, hoping for the glow of sunlight.

Your footsteps crunch through the snow, a thud can be heard nearby as a deer is startled, darting away. Was that a growl? Or the wind? Wings flutter, letting you know that perhaps a corpse is nearby. You look up to find crows circling. Is the body an animal? Or a human, like you?

It’s all connected, the sounds tell you so much, and you become so attuned to it, a soundscape being built around you. It’s not essential, but sometimes it’s the only warning I get before realising I wasn’t looking around myself often enough, and a wolf is sprinting towards me.

I adore The Long Dark. It can be difficult, challenging, and frustrating. Sometimes I’ll choose a specific game mode, to explore the story and piece together what happened to cause this town, and the communities, to fall apart. Sometimes I feel like figuring out just how long I can survive. How far I can go before I can’t go any further. The impending bear mode sounds easy enough, 30 days to prepare, but just making it through those 30 days is difficult enough, and as each day counts down to the big showdown, my anxiety will grow. And when the day arrives, I better be ready one way or another.

If you feel like you could be ready, then this just might be the game for you.

Wingspan Review

Developer/Designer: Monster Couch/Elizabeth Hargrave
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Music: Paweł Górniak
Platforms: Board Game (1-5 Players), Windows, Mac, Switch & Xbox
Released: September 17th 2020
Genre: Board Game, Card Game, Relaxing Strategy, Turn Based
Age: 10+
Playtime: 40 – 70mins

Wingspan comes in two forms a physical board game, which it’s most known for however it is also known for its video game on Steam that simulates the physical game. First off, I’ll read to you the description on the back of the box. “You are bird enthusiasts – researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors – seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your aviary.”
Wingspan is a card driven, engine building board game that has a medium level learning curve that is why it is recommended for players aged 10 and up. This game is lavishly designed and produced with brightly coloured boards, over 150 cards with stunning pastel illustrations of birds and habitats alike.

You also have a bird feeder dice tower that you assemble which is simple to do so, custom wooden die, cute little eggs and all the rule-books, appendix and other forms of paper are all this wonderful water proof fabric to protect the integrity of the pack. The game is visually charming, it inspires a relaxing environment and a pleasant state of mind. Wingspan is considered in the top board 10 games of 2020.

Now Wingspan is a game where you are trying to do one of two things that you determine before you start playing. You could go the points route or the goals route to determine a winner. Points is just how many points can you accumulate from each round from things such as; eggs, bonus cards, cache food, end-of-round goals achieved and tucked birds. If you were to go the goals objective points are less relevant unless those points are to build towards achieve set goals. For example; the player with the most eggs in nests or the player with the most birds in this particular habitat.
The game is played out over 4 rounds each round giving you less turns as you go. Such as first round you have 8 moves, second round 7, third 6 and so on.
















Each player is given a personal player board at the beginning of the game that is segmented into three different habitats; forest, grasslands, and wetlands. Each habitat has their own unique set of abilities and activating a habitat will grant you bird powers such as; the grasslands will mean you can lay eggs; forest is for obtaining food and the wetlands to draw more bird cards.

For every bird you play onto the board they will most likely have their own unique powers. Which is listed on each card. Those unique powers will only be triggered when you either play the bird for the first time or every time you activate that habitat. On each card is also listed the wingspan of each bird, that’s where the game title comes in.

Now there is a lot to get into with Wingspan and the layers of strategy can get quite complex. Maylee and I took about 45 mins to get the initial handle on things before we started playing actual
rounds. We did also find that the rules around how the bird feeder worked a little confusing. I did eventually figure out how it was supposed to work (thanks YouTube). So, my advice is to reference some player tutorials online if you get stuck.

In saying that when you get the physical game inside the box you receive a 30% off the digital edition of Wingspan on Steam. Which sits around $20AUS. I started playing the tutorial in the digital game and it is the exact same game as the physical one, there are no differences other than the platform. The tutorial helped me get a better handle of the game and definitely felt more hands on. Also, the digital game is just as visually stunning and the UI is easy to follow, nothing is cluttered and you get to hear all the bird sounds of each bird you play not to mention cute little animations bringing to life all the cards from the physical version.

Accompanying the digital version of the game is a soundtrack by Paweł Górniak titled My Realm that you can also purchase as a DLC from the Steam store. The music is cinematic, relaxing and filled with wonderful string and wind instruments taking you on an adventure into the wildness. Whether that be in a calming meadow, wondering the grasslands or exploring the treetops Paweł does a wonderful job of transporting you there with this exquisite composition.

My time with Wingspan is only just starting, as I convince my family and friends to get in on this bird loving action. This game is peaceful, awesomely fun, competitive and invites you to appreciate our natural world. Which is something I think we always need to do.


Abyss of Neptune Review

Developer: Abyssmal Games, Synodic Arc
Publisher: Synodic Arc
Music: Abysmal Games
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Released: 27th April 2021
Genre: Survival, Horror

You’re in the infamous Bermuda triangle, sent by Divers Investigating Various External Signals (D.I.V.E.S. for short) to check out a strange signal in the depths of the ocean. The voice of the AI, D-NA is robotic, and comforting, guiding you through your tasks. It’s hardly routine of course, as you are encouraged to gather dynamite and then use said dynamite to blow up an entrance in an underwater cave.

And as you enter the cave, well, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to realise that caves and explosives don’t mix. You are cut off from the outside, and radio doesn’t work through solid rock. So, now truly alone, you have to continue your investigation into the mysterious signal. And this entire, mysterious, massive underwater facility you have found yourself trapped in.

Abyss of Neptune is a survival horror game that takes place entirely underwater. With a hidden story, freaky monsters, and a fair bit of fear, all wrapped up with a beautiful and rich environment, it’s easy to become submerged in this game.

Abyss of Neptune has a few mechanics to worry about. Other than being able to swim in all directions, and getting the hang of the floaty controls, you of course have to keep an eye on your health and oxygen levels. It’s easy at the start, less so as you progress. Doors and machines within the mysterious facility are often damaged, missing parts, or need power. So there is a fair amount of minor repairs, and battery-seeking you need to do. But I think one of my favourite things is that there are puzzles. They’re small, and not too challenging to solve, but the room you’re in is eerie, dark, and there’s a strange sound that keeps getting closer.
Getting my hands on a harpoon was reassuring to a degree, but the number of bolts you have for it is limited, and using a harpoon isn’t the easiest thing on the planet. If you stay calm you can manage, and I didn’t find myself panicking much, but I definitely was on edge.

So you have to make your way through a partially functioning, maze-like facility that is deep underwater and filled with overgrown coral, damaged machinery, and the remains of the people who used to occupy it.

And the monsters of course.

But you can hide in lockers, so that’s not too bad.

There is a lot of visual atmosphere to this game, with dark rooms, foreboding shapes made of coral and destroyed equipment, and strange, eerie sounds. But, I understand this might not be the most popular of opinions, but I found it soothing at times. The sound of water bubbling, and my movement through the water, combined with the visuals of my air bubbles drifting away from me with each exhale was kind of relaxing. Probably not what they intended, it is a constant reminder of the fact that you’re very much underwater, and the quiet doesn’t help, so if you have some fears of cave diving, spelunking, or deep water, this probably isn’t the game for you.

I haven’t finished this game yet, and I understand it to be a rather short game, with about 2-3 hours of gameplay. But I’m a cautious scaredycat, so it is taking me a little bit longer than that. But I am really enjoying the atmosphere, the amount of detail the team put into this game, and the usage of less-is-more in appropriate areas. I love finding the remnants of emails from the people who worked in this facility, and piecing together what happened. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it is fun. And they’re not dragging out unnecessarily, which I really appreciate. It would be very easy to stretch this out for hours longer under the guise of forcing the player’s mind to work against them, but that can be boring and exhausting. So I enjoy the pace it has set. It’s a good balance for a small game.

And, this is the thing that gets to me, this game is free. Is it perfect? No! No game is. But it’s well-made, has a great atmosphere, and a good balance between suspense, puzzles, and action.

So, why not dip your toes into Abyss of Neptune?

Beyond Blue Review

Developer: E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
Music: Curated Playlist
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, Linux and Mac
Released: 17th April 2020
Genre: Adventure, Educational, Simulation, Indie Game

“Beyond Blue takes players into the near future, where they will have the opportunity to explore the mysteries of our ocean through the eyes of Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist. She and her newly-formed research team will use ground-breaking technologies to see, hear, and interact with the ocean in a more meaningful way than has ever been attempted. The game features an evocative narrative and exploration of an untouched world.” – E-Line Media Game Description

Beyond Blue is evocative and heartfelt in its design. E-Line Media have a statement that says, “Inspiring Players to Understand and Shape the World.” And that is exactly how I felt about Beyond Blue. This wonderful ocean research game was inspired by Blue Planet II and you really do feel the passion and love for the ocean throughout its narrative and educational aspects.

You as the player Mirai love whales and spend time with a family of sperm whales with their new born calf Andrea. You follow Mirai on her personal journey above the water as well as her professional life underwater where she hosts live streams called OceanX Streams, collecting samples from the ocean floor, tracking marine life and of course discovering the mysteries of the ocean. All this to help educate the wider world about the “blue heart” of the planet.

There are in total 8 dives each one lasting anywhere between 15 minutes and upwards of 45mins depending on how much you like to explore. Mirai has her home base which is a futuristic submarine that she returns to examine findings and complete reports. It’s also where Mirai contacts her sister back on land where she is trying to help support her sister in taking care of their grandmother. This ties closely to the research Mirai is conducting on a family of sperm whales, the pod has a new mother and daughter duo whose family also consists of a grandmother.

Beyond Blue is so educational that while I was playing, I learnt that sperm whales live in family units and that the females will stay together forever while males will leave until they are of breeding age. Sperm whale females build strong and lifelong bonds with each other and those bonds will transcend generations. Grandmothers will pass on valuable knowledge to their younger family members. Mirai intends on studying the baby sperm whale well into adulthood and throughout her life to understand more about the species.

The voice acting is fantastic, all the characters really come alive with the phenomenal voice work of Anna Akana (Ant-Man), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Pirates of the Caribbean III), Ally Maki (10 Things I Hate About You), and Mira Furlan (Babylon 5). These talented actors really help bring the educational elements of Beyond Blue to life.

In between dives quotes from researchers, marine biologists, oceanographer and underwater explorers also known as aquanauts appear throughout the game. There is also this incredible video feature that you unlock throughout the game that is called ‘Ocean Insights’ which are a series of short videos from the real world based around real scientists sharing their love for the ocean, it’s secrets and most importantly sharing their discoveries about our natural water world.

The great thing about these Ocean Insights is that the videos you unlock usually relate to something you have discovered on a recent dive. Honestly unlocking these little mini educational videos was my biggest driving factor for completing a dive. I wanted to hear more from people like Dr. Sylvia Earle the founder of Mission Blue and resident explorer for National Geographic not to mention a bunch of other awesome National Geographic residents you get to hear from.

When exploring in game I found the mechanics to be surprisingly intuitive and the UI Hud to be so smooth an effective. Beyond Blue is considered to be an indie development however the player movement and visual design would suggest a much bigger production. It might not be high graphics but it certainly doesn’t need to be with such a smooth interface and wonderfully designed player movement.

I did have a minor issue with loading a saved game however, when I first logged back in after taking a break the game froze when I selected ‘continue’ so I did unfortunately have to get task manager involved to close the game and start up again this time opting to load a previously saved game instead. I’m not sure if this is an issue isolated to windows versions of the game or my PC just sucks but keep that in mind if you stumble across the same problem.

The music gives off ethereal ocean vibes while diving, creating this really paced atmospheric energy peacefully guiding and encouraging you explore further into the depths. When you are onboard the sub however you get this exceptionally curated playlist of ocean inspired music from a variety of different artists as well as the ability to unlock more tracks throughout game play.

Beyond Blue is touching, awe inspiring, educational, and also a challenge for us to rise to the occasion and protect this vulnerable underwater world. There is so many wonderful things to appreciate about our little blue planet and its vast seascapes and Beyond Blue has done an exceptional job of bringing the ocean closer to us so that we may learn and engage more with our ocean environment. If you are lover of the planet, get Beyond Blue you will almost certainly learn something and experience the vastness of our oceans.