Backloggin' Fool BigBlueWolf’s profile

Not really active on SteamGifts these days…

Next Batch TBA

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

Epic Gamestore
Not Started

- hours, -/10
No achievements
Beaten: *-Apr-2019


Batch 26 is done!

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West Premium Edition

Beaten
Steam Review
17.8 hours, 7.5/10
40 of 58 achievements
Not enough freedom
Beaten: 5-Apr-2019

Click the "Steam Review" button!
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series

Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series

Completed

12 hours, 8/10
48 of 48 achievements
Valar morghulis
Beaten: 19-Apr-2019

It seemed appropriate to play this now that the final season of GoT has arrived.

This game elaborates on the plight of a minor noble house only mentioned in passing in the novels. House Forrester of Ironwrath are Stark bannermen who control large swaths of ironwood supplies and must contend with the loss of their lord at the Red Wedding. And to make matters worse the Boltons tend to favor their arch-rivals, the Whitehills, to produce weaponry for their armies despite being inferior in their wood-working skills. This sets up a four-pronged story where you deal with politics and deadly games of rivalry between castles Ironwrath and Highpoint; the role of the dead Lord Forrester's squire, Garret, who is sent on a dangerous mission to get help from a mysterious location; King's Landing where one Forrester daughter is a handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell, trying to navigate the backbiting politics of the place to get help for her family from those in power; and lastly to Essos where one Forrester son has been exiled and is called home in hopes of bringing fighters that can help defend Ironwrath.

I give a lot of credit to the writers on this. The game is good despite not interfering with any key events of the HBO series. It draws on the likenesses (and voices!) of the show so the guest performances by GoT regulars are a nice touches during the occasion scene where you have to interact with them -- even if they mostly remind that you are playing in the wings of the theater. The script captures the harsh essence of Game of Thrones and it's often wrenching themes of honor and loss, particularly when your characters suffer for trying to do the right thing. I even had a good cry at one point over the horribleness that followed in the wake of my choices.

However some of the story threads are better than others, and it works best when not trying to be ambitious. Ironwrath and King's Landing are where the real heart of the conflict plays out in brutal power struggles. The squire, Garret, is a neat character whose story often feels too far removed from the others. Exiled son Asher is a charming sellsword whose story is more on the pure adventure side. You could say that's a good thing though, otherwise the entire game would be grim even for a seasoned GoT fan.

What's especially hard is that this season ends with a lot of dire circumstances clearly intended to set up the next game. And unfortunately for House Forrester Telltale Games no longer exists, so any plans that there might have been for another series are dead and gone. The game has also been pulled from Steam's store so it's potential audience will further dwindle.

Based on that I'd say play it if you love the series, but be warned that the ultimate fate of the family is in your imagination. It was a noble effort. Not one of Telltale's best, but engaging enough for this GoT watcher that I would have easily bought season two.

"Iron from ice!"
Grey Cubes

Grey Cubes

Completed

5.8 hours, 8/10
13 of 13 achievements
Chip off the old block
Beaten: 19-Mar-2019

I grew up with an Atari 2600 console and the infamous Breakout that was the classic brick-breaker game of its time. This genre has not seem many modern iterations, but Grey Cubes takes the formula and offers up some interesting variations across 60 levels. In addition to eliminating bricks you get power-ups in varying forms (not so original) but also indestructible barriers that move and hinder access to some parts of the field, roaming teleporters that move the ball in mid-flight to another part of the screen, exploding bricks that send others flying, bricks stacked on top of each other in the depth plane (knocking out the lower ones causes the stacked ones to tumble and spill across the screen. Trigger plates that when hit will affect the play-field, such as turning the bricks indestructible. Also the bricks often aren't a wall but arranged in patterns or just dumped haphazardly by a machine depositing them on the screen. One notable addition -- a magnet that you can occasionally use that will send your ball in a curved arc toward whatever bricks are left. This is really helpful for getting the last couple of bricks when the ball isn't cooperating. All in all a fun game that will keep you entertained for a few hours. There is one minor and annoying bug that sometimes will leave the last brick on the level unable to be destroyed and will force you to restart. But aside from that it's a solid game that would have been nice to have more levels.
Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero

Completed

6 hours, 8/10
No achievements
Take the road less traveled
Beaten: Acts I-IV -- 9-Apr-2019, Act V -- TBD

Marking this one as completed because it's completely linear.

Kentucky Route Zero is pure interactive fiction told through it's scenery and text dialogue -- a visual novel in the truest sense. No mini-games, puzzles or multiple endings, just a point-and-click system to move around, dialog choices, a great artistic look, and a story to tell. Like most stories, you'll either get it and be drawn in, or it won't appeal to you and you might think the game a waste of time. KRZ is not for everyone. But if the idea of a slow-simmer plot in a world of magical realism with overtones of David Lynch is your thing, you might want to give it a try.

You start the game with Conroy, an older man in a truck trying to deliver antiques to an address he can't find in rural Kentucky. As he tries to gather information about where he needs to go to finish the job, he is pointed in the direction of "the Zero" by an old man at a gas station and a young woman, Weaver Márquez, who may or may not be dead. The Zero is a mysterious road winding through the caves beneath Kentucky only some people are fortunate -- or not -- to travel on. He's eventually joined by new characters that become a loose group of traveling companions. As the narrative focus flows between them, either directly or by filling in the blanks with your own choices, you are treated to some sublime and often strange encounters and stories along the way.

The good news for fans of this kind of thing is that the game is really well done even if there are moments when the pace could be a little quicker. The bad news is that the devs are taking their sweet time churning out the chapters. The story is "A Play in Five Acts", but the first four took several years between releases with short "interludes" from the game web site you can download and play locally. The three-man dev team's last post in Oct 2018 indicated that they are really eager to show off the conclusion, but they don't have a solid delivery schedule. Thus Act V will only arrive when they deem it ready.

I've enjoyed the game so far. It's a welcome change of pace. I think I would have been annoyed if I had waited like many fans through the slow process of getting the middle chapters.

Some might not call this a game, but that's OK. It's doesn't exactly pretend to be one. It's there for you to experience and hopefully enjoy.
Nihilumbra

Nihilumbra

Beaten

5.5 hours, 7.5/10
17 of 24 achievements
Out of nothingness
Beaten: 6-Apr-2019

This is a casual 2D puzzle-platformer where you play a kind of disembodied spirit traversing the world while trying to elude a darkness called "The Void". The game is only mildly challenging in normal story mode with easy to understand controls. You traverse five world segments, each one giving you a new color/power that is strategically spray-painted on the environment to help you navigate obstacles and enemies: blue for sliding, green for bouncing, brown for sticking/quiet movement, red for fire, yellow for electricity. If you want a greater challenge then a harder mode is unlocked after the conclusion that really tests your skills and quick-switching between colors to solve each section. This is a decent game, short, and the platforming element doesn't contain any surprises. The narrator's declamatory style becomes a bit annoying after awhile. But overall it's an interesting experience.
Papo & Yo

Papo & Yo

Beaten

4.1 hours, 8/10
9 of 10 achievements
Familiar demons
Beaten: 30-Mar-2019

Papo & Yo is a casual puzzle adventure game where you play the role of Quico who must navigate the dreamy, maze-like town of his youth along with Monster, his huge imaginary friend. But Monster is a bit of a conundrum. He's content to sleep and only pay attention when he can eat apples, but he's irresistibly drawn to eating green frogs that make him angry and a danger to Quico who then must stay out of his reach or else Monster will hurt him.

The metaphor here is fairly obvious to anyone who has a passing familiarity with the game. What sets it apart from many indie titles is its approach to sensitive subject matter, the beautiful artistry of the settings, and the perspective of the protagonist as a young boy growing up in the poor area of a small Brazilian city.

The game is easy and relatively short at about 3-4 hours with an optional second play-though to get all achievements. There's no goal other than to experience the story while engaging in light puzzle-solving along the way. Released in 2012, it is starting to show its age but is still entertaining.
Quantum Break

Quantum Break

Completed
Steam Review
19 hours, 8.5/10
42 of 42 achievements
Let's do the time warp again
Beaten: 15-Apr-2019

Click on the "Steam Review" link!

Backlog Update - Batch 25

I finally got the itch to delve into my library again and hauled out several titles that I’ve owned for many years and well as a few recent purchases.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation

Beaten
Steam Review
30 hours, 8.5/10
46 of 50 achievements
Everyone's expendable
Beaten: 2-Mar-2019

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Cross of the Dutchman

Cross of the Dutchman

Completed

3.4 hours, 6.5/10
31 of 31 achievements
Giant history lesson
Beaten: 16-Feb-2019

This is a short game based on the true story of 'Pier Gerlofs Donia', a towering man (~ 7 ft/2.1 m) who led a rebellion in the Netherlands to protect his people and family. That being said it's definitely a light version of the early part of his story, follows a linear chapter sequence of goals, and the game mechanics are pretty thin. Basically talk to people to get the story and move around with a mouse and attack with either left (sword) or right (melee) clicks. Attacking is not precise, but easy to get the hang of. The game is not challenging in any respect although there's a few points where you might get overwhelmed running into a crowd of soldiers. I wouldn't recommend this to serious gamers. But for easy-please types and cheevos, it's a mildly amusing way to spend a few hours.
Deadpool

Deadpool

Beaten

11.8 hours, 8.5/10
28 of 50 achievements
Super smart-ass
Beaten: 16-Feb-2019

If you know the character and loved the movies, this game is for you. While it pre-dates the films, everyone's favorite costumed smart-ass with a case of the healz is in top form here. You, "The Player", get to be a part of Deadpool's videogame that he has sorta blackmailed a Hollywood producer into helping him create. Along the way you get to kick -- and shake, and slap -- some serious booty in Arkham-style combat while living out some of D's fantasies including bitch-slapping Wolverine, trying not to be bored by Cable, rescuing a damsel-in-distress (Rogue) and thwarting the evil plot of Mr. Sinister. You are accompanied by swords, guns, grenades and the voices in Deadpool's head trying to keep him from getting too far off track. The results are hilarious. I don't think I've had a superhero brawler make me bust out laughing as many times as this game did.

The unfortunate punch line is that Deadpool is not available in the Steam store any longer, so you only get to catch this joyride if you already own it. And if you do, what are you waiting for? The world needs laughter these days. Play it now!
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Beaten
Extra Playthrough

10.1 hours, 8.5/10
18 of 19 achievements
Super dad-blast
Beaten: 12-Feb-2019

When it comes to visual novel/dating sims it's probably a good idea to be unusual (think Hatoful Boyfriend) to interest would-be players. So what about making a gay-themed sim that doesn't lean heavily on stereotypes and features heart-warming, feel-good wish fulfillment without being crass, pretentious or boring? That would be this game, which manages to take you and the best daughter you could ever imagine through a series of fun-filled social engagements.

You are Amanda's dad. And you've just moved into a home in a cozy cul-de-sac neighborhood that has several other single dads looking to make friends, hang out, and maybe more. In between unpacking and dealing with your daughter's teen-age senior-year anxieties, you cross paths with the guys in a variety of activities aimed at getting you out of the house to have fun. You also cross paths with the other dads' kids as they scope you out and decide if they like you or not. The intersecting plots here aren't terribly deep, but each of the dads has distinct personalities and interests. What could be an opportunity for two-dimensional portrayals and over-the-top sappiness is instead full of remarkably well-written characters with nuance and at times unexpected depth. They are definitely idealized and don't ever allude to the difficulties real gay and bi men face in public -- but hey it's part of the fantasy. And while it's definitely an adult game, it plays like a light-hearted rom-com; the banter between the characters is charming with some wonderfully funny twists and cultural references and zero politics or other heavy subject matter.

Also to be found: various silly and super-easy minigames. A few hidden possibilities of dying in embarrassing ways. A secret (non-canon, horror movie!) ending that you can unlock -- check the guides for it. The game is also full of more dad jokes than you can possibly imagine, but that's a good thing!

Yeah, it was fun. I played through each ending and was not disappointed by any of them. :)
The Fall

The Fall

Beaten

4 hours, 7/10
15 of 17 achievements
You will comply
Beaten: 24-Feb-2019

An interesting action/puzzle adventure. You are an intelligent combat suit attempting to protect the unconscious human inside you after crash-landing into an unfamiliar base where the other AIs appear to be malfunctioning. Short but with good voice-acting and visuals, the game has really odd, clunky controls. While there isn't a lot of combat, when it happens these controls make it a sub-par experience and the big boss fight at the end really hard to manage and thus artificially difficult. But the overall story is pretty good. It will require two play-throughs to get all achievements.

Good short game if you are looking for something quick and can get it on sale.
Hexcells Infinite

Hexcells Infinite

Beaten

8 hours, 7.5/10
6 of 7 achievements
To three and beyond
Beaten: 24-Feb-2019

Yes, it's the third installment of Hexcells, that re-imagining of Minesweeper but much more strategy-focused. The only caveat is that this outing didn't grab me the way the first two did because there wasn't anything new beyond the random puzzle generator (the "infinite" part of the game), and many of the advanced puzzles forced me into guessing. That made the game frustrating. In the previous titles I think I only ever had to look up a solution once, maybe twice. In this game once into "World Three" and above it was very common to run into a situation where there didn't seem to be enough clues available to predict the position of a cell.

Still fun. Just a bit of a letdown. Also there is a new achievement. Play 60 of the randomly generated games. I played a few but ... nah.
klocki

klocki

Completed

1.5 hours, 7.5/10
1 of 1 achievement
Puzzle line up
Beaten: 15-Feb-2019

A short and interesting little puzzle game that isn't terribly challenging once you get the basic goal down for each of types you are presented. Basically, flip and move different pieces on the face of an object until all lines or shapes are connected and contained within its surfaces. Neat concept. Could have been much more challenging.
Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares

Beaten

9.2 hours, 7.5/10
15 of 22 achievements
Creepy, kooky, spooky, ooky
Beaten: 23-Feb-2019

This horror title delivers big on visuals and atmosphere, even if it's short and relatively easy. The story isn't exactly clear as to why the little boy(?) you play is in this hellish place, but it is clear that survival is the top priority or risk getting killed by the other inhabitants or environmental hazards. The puzzles here are mostly about figuring out how to get to the next area or the right sequence of actions to avoid getting caught when pursued. But where are you trying to get to? And what do you hope to do once you get there? Those questions never really come up. That puts the game in the same narrative space as titles like LIMBO and INSIDE.

This can be a lot of fun when the game is offering a combination of puzzle solving and stealth to remain unobserved. But when there's a lot of "mini-parkour" action or precisely timed jumps the controller actions feel sloppy. The alignment of the camera in the 2.5D space makes this worse by distorting perspective in ways that can make you think you're moving directly toward something you need to interact with and then miss the critical timing to interact with it because your depth perception is off. This mars the experience by failing at something that seems like it should be simple. Re-spawning is also problematic. If you die you'll be sent back to the start of the room you are in, but quitting to the menu and then continuing the game can set you back several rooms you will then have to re-play. I'm not certain what purpose this serves. About the only place you know you won't lose ground is the beginning of each chapter.

If you aren't put off by the controller issues, this game is a great distraction for a few hours.
The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle

Beaten
Steam Review
33 hours, 8/10
37 of 40 achievements
Is it human to rebel?
Beaten: 15-Mar-2019

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone

Completed

5.7 hours, 8/10
35 of 35 achievements
Be there and be square
Beaten: 20-Feb-2019

It's a platformer, yes, and a short and mildly challenging one at that. But the intriguing thing about this game is how the well the narrator brings to life to the thoughts and feelings of this motley assortment of rectangles. Thomas may start off alone, but as he encounters other denizens of his spare, digital world they form bonds and together mature and find a purpose for their existence. It's a charming and funny story with hidden depths... and lots and lots of jumping. Definitely a surprise favorite.

Batch 24 Complete!

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Beaten
Steam Review
14.3 hours, 7/10
17 of 26 achievements
Old West arcade
Beaten: 15-Nov-2018

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Glass Masquerade

Glass Masquerade

Completed

3.8 hours, 9/10
31 of 31 achievements
Delightfully paneful
Beaten: 26-Oct-2018

This is a very casual puzzle game of assembling pieces to complete stained glass clock faces. Fashioned with a "countries-of-the-world" theme, the artwork is gorgeous. There's no penalty for taking your time, just sit back and enjoy working on pretty pictures. It's beautiful, low-key fun!
Hexcells Plus

Hexcells Plus

Completed

10.9 hours, 10/10
6 of 6 achievements
Hexalicious!
Beaten: 17-Nov-2018

This is a great puzzle game, the second in a series, that pits the player against various boards that can be solved with deduction and patience. The game format is similar to Minesweeper, except that instead of avoiding certain cells you are trying to locate and mark them appropriately. The clues are also much more varied giving indications of not only the number of adjacent "pattern cells" but also how they are distributed across lines and area fields. If you haven't tried any of the Hexcells series, they are well worth the effort.
Human Resource Machine

Human Resource Machine

Completed

4 hours, 7/10
16 of 16 achievements
Some assembly required
Beaten: 4-Nov-2018

As a game based around programming in assembly language (low-level machine code) Human Resource Machine actually does a clever presentation of puzzles as the mind-numbing efforts of a wage slave trying to please bosses who are corporate tools. But the interface isn't that great, with programs often taking up a lot more space than is visually available and the decision logic being a mess of arrows that often go off screen because of the limited view. This makes the harder puzzles a lot more difficult than they should be because it's already challenging to keep track of each program's flow. I feel like I also had an advantage over the average player because of my programming background. For the last third of the game I mostly used a guide because the aforementioned limitation plus the subject matter made the effort too tedious.

Given that 7 Billion Humans, the next title in the series, promises more of the same thing I'm not planning on buying it.
LiS: Before the Storm

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Completed
Nov '18 Theme Steam Review
10 hours, 8/10
34 of 34 achievements
Subject: Chloe Price
Beaten: 9-Nov-2018

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
LiS: Before the Storm

Metro 2033 Redux

Beaten

18.1 hours, 8.5/10
44 of 49 achievements
Apocalyptic transit pass
Beaten: 20-Nov-2018

An incredibly atmospheric FPS! I finally got the itch to play this, and I wasn't disappointed. You are immediately sucked into the world of post-nuclear war Moscow where the citizens live in fortified subway stations and travel through the underground rail passages. The controls handle well on a keyboard and mouse. Only a few odd glitches, such as aiming throwing knifes seems to have hit boxes that are slightly smaller than the humans you need to take out. But nothing that affects the overall difficulty or enjoyment of the game. Although there are no skills trees here, you can opt to play in "Spartan" or "Survival" mode -- basically run-and-gun or stealth -- and choose your difficulty level for either. To prevent you from going full Rambo in Survival mode, ammo and supplies are supposed to be a lot more limited. I played Spartan as it gave the most options for achievements.

The story is enjoyable albeit not terribly complex. Excellent voice acting (except for the children -- seriously bad) and some interesting people you cross paths with. The characters do a remarkable job of keeping the tension wound tight with nervous banter and attempts to make jokes that fall flat because they can't alleviate the brooding sense of doom. If there was only one nitpick it's that the story leaves a huge question unresolved. Perhaps that will be answered in the next game.

For those who are thinking of jumping into this series, this is the game you start with. Last Light follows. And then it's on to Exodus next year :)

Batch 23 and Spooktober Update

Hey hey! Finished all my monthly challenge games a little early. Might squeak in one more before Halloween. Hope everyone is having a great month! :D

The Cat Lady

The Cat Lady

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8.2 hours, 8/10
25 of 25 achievements
How to use nine lives
Beaten: 7-Oct-2018

Despite being released in 2013, this game looks and plays like a 2D, side-scrolling adventure that was released on Windows-95. The "choose-and-click" interface only uses the keyboard. However it's strength is the story, which is why this game gets such high review marks. You play Susan, a reclusive, suicidal woman who feeds the neighborhood stray cats. But suicide doesn't quite work out, and a supernatural entity enlists her to deal with several murderers who prey on the people in her run-down London neighborhood.

Despite the sometimes lengthy exposition, the psychological tension and horror elements hold together really well, even if there are some unanswered and dangling questions left by the end. Susan is a likable protagonist and is joined later by another likable character. And even though the graphics occupy a weird space mixing hand-drawn, photo-realistic and pixel art, the imagery is incredibly creepy and disturbing. It makes me wonder how much better the game would be if it had a modern graphical front-end on it. It would probably be considered a must-play title of the genre.

On the down side, the game locks out use of your mouse in the Steam overlay, and alt-tab'ing to the desktop will crash the game most of the time. If you need to interrupt play it's best to save the game and exit properly. You will be frozen out of tapping the ESC key to get to the game's options menu for really long stretches, so it's good to save after these points when you regain control. This is critical if you are replaying a chapter for achievements. Otherwise you may find yourself having to repeat these stretches as there's no "fast-forward" key like in some visual novels, only the spacebar that allows skipping character dialog turns but won't affect parts where characters pause, don't speak or perform cutscenes. Its native resolution in 800x600 with no option for windowed mode, but there are some forum posts about getting to it to look good on an HD or 4K monitor.

If you're looking for a good story-driven horror game and don't mind old technology, definitely consider picking this up.
Deadlight: Director's Cut

Deadlight Director's Cut

Oct '18 Theme
Beaten
Steam Review
8.2 hours, 6/10
29 of 32 achievements
2D zombie apocalypse
Beaten: 17-Oct-2018

Click the "Steam Review" button!
Layers of Fear: Masterpiece Edition

Layers of Fear Masterpiece Edition

Oct '18 Theme
Completed
Extra Playthrough
Steam Review
15.6 hours, 7/10
27 of 27 achievements
Make mad art
Beaten: 8-Oct-2018

Click the "Steam Review" button!
STASIS

STASIS

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8 hours, 7.5/10
27 of 27 achievements
In space no one can hear you sleep
Beaten: 5-Oct-2018

A man named John wakes up from stasis aboard a derelict spaceship and proceeds to uncover the unspeakable things going on there. This point-and-click bears some similarities in tone and style to SOMA but is shown from an isometric view. It's technically solid even if the interface is dated. The game play focuses on carefully examining your surroundings to find, combine and use objects to proceed to the next area or chapter. A handful require you to gather codes or info for data entry. Clues are found in various PDAs or displays scattered about, forcing you to read more of the story as told by the observations of the now dead crew members. There were only a few places I got stuck and needed a hint. But despite the gruesome visuals and tense pacing, the story seemed a bit derivative and much of it was predictable. If you are looking for sci-fi horror though it's not a bad way to spend a few hours.
Styx: Master of Shadows

Styx: Master of Shadows

Won on SteamGifts Oct '18 Theme
Abandoned
Steam Review
29.2 hours, 5/10
23 of 33 achievements
Alas, poor Styx ...
Beaten: n/a

Click the "Steam Review" button!

Batch 22 Completed and September Wrap-Up!

I managed to knock out four games in the monthly challenge “Otterly Cute” and two of those were SG Wins!

Click the down arrows for my thoughts and reviews of these games. Hope everyone’s had a great month :D

Animal Lover

Animal Lover

Sept '18 Theme
24/24 (100%) │ 6 hours │ 7.5/10
Five guys, an intern, and a curse
Beaten: 14-Sept-2018

This is the first dating sim/visual novel since I played Hatoful Boyfriend back in mid-2016 (Batch 6). While the tone of both appear light -- human girl in a high school for pigeons versus young woman caring for guys who suffer from turning into animals -- Animal Lover takes itself much more seriously. This was a bit unexpected, and the tone worked really well in some places, but it ultimately couldn't overcome the fantastical silliness of its situation and resolution.

The non-spoiler setup: as a young female veterinary intern (pick your name) you accidentally release a guy from his cursed animal form. After tracking down a few others like him, you have five guys in desperate need of your help because they periodically change back and (for a variety of reasons) can't go back to living their normal lives. Lots of dialogue, hanging out and some "crushing" commences as the game puts you on the path to making sure the curse is really broken and you end up with one of the guys (or none). BTW, the plot has nothing to do with "furries".

A big part of the reason the game falters is because it's REALLY long doing a single play-through during which very little actually happens. I finished the game in just under 6 hours, and that was speed reading through most of the last half of the game.

A huge amount of the dialogue contributes to drawn-out character moments of little value to the overall story. There's a lot of filler text that is either hearing "your" thoughts and mental reaction in monologue-like detail before responding, or the audible reactions of others where there's a lot of "hmm", "uhs", and other interjections that cause the plot to stall while we wait for the "realistic dialogue" to play out. I got so impatient having to read this that I just kept hitting the spacebar as fast as I could through many scenes and don't think I missed much as a result. I also used an achievement guide so I could find the canonical ending and be able to backtrack to pick the guy I liked best. That being said there were some really GOOD scenes sprinkled pretty evenly throughout the story, and that's what kept me intrigued enough to play through the entire thing.

This is not a genre I usually play, but I'm trying it out simply because it seems like it could have a cool premise if a talented writing team was behind it. I'd say this story was between fair and good and could have benefited from being about one-third shorter in length to bump that rating a little higher.

If you are trying to choose between this and Hatoful Boyfriend, go with the latter if you want shorter and funnier!
Botanicula

Botanicula

Sept '18 Theme
53/53 (100%) │ 4.7 hours │ 9.5/10
Bing, hum, whooo!
Beaten: 27-Sept-2018

The most charming game of this batch, Botanicula is a point-and-click adventure that sets five companions on a quest to defeat an invading force of life-sucking spider-like creatures that are encroaching on their idyllic biome that is teaming with other critters. Great visual humor, wonderful sound effects, and not-terribly-hard puzzles encourage exploration and rooting for the little group on their journey. A good portion of game is discovering all the different local wildlife. There are 123 cards to unlock throughout the game, and while the cards themselves are not achievements, getting the first, second and final third will unlock some bonus animation content after the credits. Only a few places where controls felt a little wonky, and it would have been great to have true full screen play area. But lots of smiles and several laugh-out-loud moments playing this one. Fun for all ages without being strictly for kids.
Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Won on SteamGifts Sept '18 Theme
47/55 (85%) │ 12.1 hours │ 7.5/10
Is it your type of game?
Beaten: 8-Sept-2018

Epistory is a typing game where you adventure through a pop-up paper mache world on a quest to figure out who you are and what has happened to the familiar world. It's got a cool aesthetic and can be genuinely fun. However the repetitive nature of the challenges gets a bit boring at times. Fortunately the game isn't overly long. The story is pretty thin, too. But the game is still worth playing because it's gorgeous to behold and stands out because it's game play is challenging (adapts to your typing speed) and so different from anything else.
Hook

Hook


1/1 (100%) │ 1.5 hours │ 10/10
Go on, press the button!
Beaten: 23-Sept-2018

A short, but fun puzzler! Untangle your way through 50 levels of interlocking pins, routers, circuits and release buttons. There are no hidden tricks or strategy, just the ability to follow paths and deduce the order needed to solve the puzzle. Very enjoyable with low/medium challenge. A easy 100% for achievement hunters. Just finish the game.
The LEGO Movie - Videogame

The LEGO Movie - Videogame

Won on SteamGifts Sept '18 Theme
44/48 (92%) │ 16.5 hours │ 7.5/10
Everything is awesome!
Beaten: 21-Sept-2018

This is my fourth LEGO game, and so far I have to say it was the most fun. The variety to the levels and the amount of things you get to do is pretty cool and the story is cute. There were a lot of fun characters, but Unikitty was awesome playing in rage mode. On the downside the controls were annoyingly imprecise and the camera control pretty flaky in a lot of spots. The game also has a lot of lag problems where the screen would repeatedly freeze for a few seconds. It didn't cause any missions to fail, but it was super annoying. Given that my system has a GTX 1080 in it, I chalk this up to bad optimization when porting the game to PC.
Tyranny

Tyranny


32/70 (46%) │ 58 hours │ 8/10
Conquest ... Sauron style
Beaten: 9-Sep-2018

I almost decided not to play this game. I got it shortly after finishing Pillars of Eternity so I wanted to try other kinds of games. But life happened and I kept putting off playing it. So around the beginning of summer with PoE2: Deadfire coming out and a new relationship starting up, I initially moved Tyranny into the "maybe some day" pile.

Then a few weeks ago I said screw it and plunged in. I'm glad I did!

First and foremost, Tyranny is a great game because a) you get to play the bad guy, and b) there's a ton of world-building in this game that completely immerses you in the role. As one of Kyros' Fatebinders, it's your job to enforce the law and keep his top lieutenants (called Archons) on task. The effect you have on The Tiers -- Kyros' last area to conquer on the continent -- can be just as monstrous as the others who hold power, but even if you try to do good there's still a lot of bloodshed and disturbing decisions to be made. The game is fairly unique in that regard. The recruitable NPCs are also varied and quite fun with a lot of background to delve into and multiple skill-trees to specialize according to your wants or needs. I don't think there's a weak link among them, though admittedly I stuck mostly with the first three you meet in-game. There's a loyalty/fear system that plays heavily into how people react to you, but that's not the same as morality. In fact, inspiring loyalty sometimes means doing awful things, and fear can occasionally be the result of trying to do the right thing. Tyranny forces you to think like a ruler who applies power rather than appealing to peoples' better angels. You're not even really an anti-hero; the moral grays are too thick to be the villain people can't help but love. It makes the game a phenomenal departure from all the "I'm here to save the world" tropes.

The true strength of this game comes out in its player choices. There are four possible major endings -- but those are arcs and not nearly as dramatic as the tons of small decisions that make one player's experience very different from the next. Choices really do matter here, making re-playability a huge bonus. It's largely about the flavor and tone of each situation and person and how you interact with them that carries forward in the evolution of the major plot fork that you've chosen.

But it's far from perfect. There are still bugs in the game that are quite maddening (lost saves) or frustrating (really quirky AI) in combat. But as a game that is built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity it is definitely worth playing if CRPGs and wanting to give Sauron's style of rule a chance sounds like your kind of thing. And since it's around 60% of the run-length of PoE, a second or third playthough is do-able in a reasonable amount of time. I'm going to give it another go myself at some point. :)
What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch


9/9 (100%) │ 2.5 hours │ 9/10
Death runs in the family
Beaten: 15-Sep-2018

The folks at Giant Sparrow have created a marvelous game that certainly wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but as far as walking simulators go this one is among the very best, offering an intimate if morbid short story about the Finch family and it's tendency to find death early. Since the game's focus is completely on the story I'm not going to discuss the plot because it clocks in at 2-3 hours, so it's not terribly long. But the ingenuity of the designers to take different chapters and present them in a variety of narrative and mini-game formats is the stuff of masterful design. There's also a great bit toward the end that canonically ties WRoEF with another game Giant Sparrow made for the Playstation. I was completely delighted by the inclusion! From a purely aesthetic point of view, the Finch house is so wonderfully detailed that it's cool to just wander around and look all the things in it's rooms, halls and hidden places. The audio narration and sound ties it all together. If you are a fan of this type of game, it's a must play!

Batch 21 and August Wrap-Up

ABZÛ

ABZÛ


12/12 (100%) │ 4.4 hours │ 8.5/10
Day at the aquarium
Beaten: 7-Aug-2018

An underwater exploration game. Strictly speaking there's really not much game play here. Swimming simulator? But it's crazy beautiful nonetheless. And a tad weird because I didn't understand the machine aspect of the story. Anyway this was made by the people who made Journey for the Playstation, and it's a relaxing cross between mystical ocean meditation and a trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (where I visited two weekends ago :D). Worth playing because it's short and just amazing to look at.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit


No Achievements │ 1.6 hours │ 8.5/10
Life is imagination
Beaten: 4-Aug-2018

Despite the fact that this is a "prelude" to Life Is Strange 2, the story is firmly rooted in an all-too-ordinary Saturday morning in Beaver Creek, OR, where Chris -- all 9-year old with an active imagination -- keeps himself entertained playing superheroes while his alcoholic dad watches TV. There's not much in terms of a game element here besides finding things for Chris to do, but the script is top-notch and the voice-acting utterly convincing as you learn in bits and pieces what family life is like under this roof. I won't say much more because the experience is quite short, but if you are a fan of this series it's a great teaser for the next game.
The Banner Saga 3

The Banner Saga 3

KS Backer
30/50 (60%) │ 29.4 hours │ 7.5/10
Apocalypse now
Beaten: 29-Jul-2018

The end has finally come for this series. Let me start of by saying that I absolutely adored parts 1 & 2. That makes this final game a small let-down because in wrapping things up the writers seem to have undercut a lot of the story elements. This is the number one complaint among the game's fans on the forums, and I have to agree. Even though there is a range of endings depending on your choices, they are so many threads left hanging without even an epilogue to provide the kind of closure needed after struggling and suffering with this incredible cast of characters in this fascinating world. There's a call for this in a game patch, and I'm likely going to wait and see what the devs say about it before attempting my next playthrough.

The combat is still the same turn-based alternating strategy, except for a really nice touch to the wave battles that allow you to trade out for fresh units from your character pool if you successfully clean the board before enemy reinforcements are called in. Unfortunately you have to be really careful at leveling characters to 9 and 10 because it costs a lot of Renown to do so. And despite being able to go to level 15, the key is level 11 where you can apply a Title to a character that has 5 levels on it's own and confers some pretty amazing attack/defense/support buffs that end up being critical as enemies get tougher. In the end, however, my characters still felt tremendously under-leveled for what was being thrown at them. Doubtless this is also a matter of finding the best combos of characters, leveling, and items to use.

All in all this was a good game that needed more attention to the story element, which has always been the series' strong point. Here it felt a little lackluster.
Broken Age

Broken Age

Won on SteamGifts
40/45 (89%) │ 9.6 hours │ 7.5/10
Worlds collide
Beaten: 30-Aug-2018

A very cute game with a fun story behind it. However I have to agree with many other reviewers in that the balance between the two halves is very uneven. The first part focused mostly on story with light puzzle-solving, whereas the last part the kept up with the story but delivered hard puzzles that often had no context from which to figure out what needed to be done and in what order. I had to use a guide to finish. Otherwise I found it very enjoyable and the humor even had my other half chuckling at times. :)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - A Criminal Past

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - A Criminal Past


10/10 (100%) │ 5.6 hours │ 8/10
Augmented undercover
Beaten: 3-Aug-2018

This was a quick return trip to the world of Deus Ex after buying the DLC pack during the summer Steam Sale. A Criminal Past is a good story focusing on Adam going undercover in a prison to retrieve another deep cover agent. Of course, things start going sideways almost from the get-go as there are shady things going on in the prison that complicate Adam's objective. Definitely worth a play-through if you have this add-on!
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail


24/30 (80%) │ 15.1 hours │ 8/10
Cartoon cat assassin
Beaten: 16-Aug-2018

I really wanted to like this game. But while the game-play was solid, the story felt dumbed-down and predictable to a fault. It didn't help that the world was populated by low-budget cartoon characters that looked like they were CGI'd into the beautiful scenery. Fidget was the only character I liked because she had a great personality and all the good lines. Everyone else I wanted to skip past their dialogue after the first couple of sessions. This is definitely worthwhile to fans of platformers because it has some cool combat mechanics in it, although it's no Ori and the Blind Forest. Guess it just wasn't my thing. But high marks for play-ability and the fact that it was mostly designed and programmed by a single guy.
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Maize


No Achievements │ 3.7 hours │ 5/10
A little too corny
Beaten: 24-Aug-2018

[Sad trombone...] The comedic setup sounds good -- an isolated farm when sentient corn has been created. Unfortunately, the game fails to deliver much in the way of game-play or an engaging story. With only two mini-game exceptions you pick up objects in an area and combine/use them, but nothing about this is remotely challenging. A good story could have made up for this shortfall, but it never got past cute, missed a lot of potential, and many jokes (like the teddy bear, Vladdy) got tiresomely repetitive. Thankfully it was short because it couldn't have gone on much longer without becoming tedious. Still, it's bound to leave many people feeling unsatisfied like myself. Unless you are really motivated by the premise your time is better spent on something more entertaining.
Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

No End

69/90 (77%) │ 95 hours │ 8.5/10
Call me Mr. Mayor
Beaten: 14-July-2018

Since C:S can go on indefinitely, I had to set a goal for myself. Yesterday I reached the "Metropolis" achievement (100K population) and today unlocked all but one monument (didn't get the Medical Center). As it turns out the remaining four achievements from the base game would require me to start a new city anyway based on the posts I was reading about how to approach them. That finalized it in my head. I've completed a single play-through and beaten C:S!

Of course there's tons of stuff in the game I haven't really tried yet, and I'm a pretty casual player who will nonetheless spend a lot of time fussing over little details instead of advancing my city. Take the 95 hours with a grain of salt because I've been playing it off-and-on since November 2015. It's such a well-done city simulator that I will pick it up again eventually. I have all the DLC except for Park Life. There's also a ton of options to play with in the Steam workshop. A mayor's job in never really done! ;-)

My last game for the next month or so… this one is definitely a high recommendation if you own a PS4!

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

PS4

1/2/5/56 (100%) │ 58 hours │ 9/10
Good sci-fi!
Beaten: 24-Jun-2018

This game's reputation as one of the best of the current console generation is well-deserved. Everything about it: the deep story, amazing art direction, high-level graphics and entertaining game play have been polished like glistening metal! Although it doesn't beat The Witcher 3's sheer size, ambition, and level of detail, HZD manages to craft a mesmerizing and beautiful world of its own. And while many a game has been set in a post-apocalyptic setting, HZD immediately establishes a unique, fractured world of primitive human civilization that exists alongside amazing working technology in the form of robotic animals that roam the countryside. Machines are dangerous, feared, respected, and hunted. Scrap metal and pieces of machines are valuable commodities for building materials, clothing, armor and trade. You play as Aloy, a young outcast girl from a highly religious tribe. The primary quest is tracking down a group of cultists who are responsible for a deadly attack on the tribe's lands, but this task takes on much larger dimensions that leads to the discovery of what destroyed Earth's civilization and why robots are everywhere in the world now. (Minor spoiler: thankfully, aliens have no role this time.) If you enjoy open-world games this is a must-play!

Batch 20 and Monthly Theme Report for May

Conquered a lot of games in this batch. I now only have two gift games I haven’t played yet. This was a great theme idea! Somehow this batch ended up being heavily titled toward puzzle games. So the next things I play are probably going to break from that unless they are short! :)

 Blockwick 2

Blockwick 2

 

12/14 (86%) │ 8/10 │ 27 hours
I need that over here, dammit!
Beaten: 11-May-2018

This game is a spin on the classic puzzle where you have a set of movable blocks in a grid that only leaves a few open spaces to slide them around in the attempt to unscramble a picture or pattern sequence. However in B2 you only have to arrange same-color blocks so that they all connect. And while that may sound pretty easy -- and is at Level 1-- it gets a lot more tricky when new kinds of blocks are introduced: blocks permanently fixed to a position, multiple blocks that are not connected but move in tandem, blocks that form chains moving like a caterpillar, rolling blocks whose color is what is currently face up, blocks that are only movable after the same color touches them, "hypnosis" blocks that make color blocks immobile if they touch them, and sticky blocks that can only be moved by blocks attached to them and have to be peeled off using other surfaces. Combine a bunch of these and you can have a real head-spinner in front of you. Not to mention some puzzles are so tightly packed or have blocks with such odd shapes that getting enough space to move larger ones is very challenging. There's also a bonus win scenario called "illumination" where the color blocks are arranged properly but also cover three glyphs on the puzzle. This usually involves quite a bit more experimentation to position the blocks correctly.

I did most of these on my own, but there were many where I had to go to a guide because I didn't want to spend hours trying to figure them out. The game can be a little frustrating in that regard, but there's also a means of skipping a puzzle if it's too hard so you can come back to it later.

If you like puzzle games I highly recommend this, although it will take a LONG time to finish if you are a completionist. The main game has 10 levels and 160 puzzles, but there is also a "Basics" section that adds 144 more, albeit less challenging puzzles. I didn't bother finishing them because after 27 hours I had my fill! However at a retail price of $7.99 USD you more than get your money's worth even when not on sale.
Consortium

CONSORTIUM

 

28/39 (72%) │ 8.5/10 │ 12.5 hours
Bishop interrogates pawn
Beaten: 5-May-2018

Initially tried this some years ago and put it down after an hour or so, but I always felt a nagging need to return to it. Now I know why. I was drawn to the story but wasn't in the right head-space at the time to give it the attention it deserved. I'm glad I finally returned to it. It's like an episode from a science-fiction TV series. The game even references Star Trek in banter. The Consortium is a multi-national peace-keeping force. You are a type of Special Ops officer aboard one of its command ships (the Zenlil) in the year 2042. You are also harboring a secret -- you are actually a person on present-day Earth playing a VR video game that has replaced the mind of this officer unbeknownst to the crew. The plot then leaves you to navigate events as best you can as the ship is thrown into the middle of a raging political conflict between multiple factions and the omnipresent Consortium A.I. known as "The King".

There's a lot of exploration, talking, investigation, and some FPS play during combat sequences, complete with inventory and a few different kinds of weapons to swap between. It also has wide-ranging choices in the branching narrative. Your decisions really do matter here. And that makes it pretty intriguing because if you are enjoying the story you'll want to go back to see how alternative choices play out. It's definitely worth a play-through if you enjoy story-rich games, and it's not a massive time sink since a single run will probably be about 4-5 hours if you don't stop to backtrack. The voice acting is a little uneven with some actors doing a much better job than others, but overall the characters hit their marks well and are both engaging and interesting.

Fair warning, though. The game ends on an unavoidable cliffhanger that's a setup for the next title Consortium: The Tower, which is currently in Early Access! :)
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

PS4

1/8/6/4 (100%) │ 7.5/10 │ 9 hours
The end of the world as we know it
Beaten: 24-May-2018

Played this one as a free title I got through my PSN Plus membership (but is also available on Steam). This game is another gorgeous walking simulator from the same team that made Dear Esther. However this title has a lot more story going for it as you wander through the idyllic village of Yaughton in Shropshire, England, where the town's residents have all vanished. The story plays out as you encounter points where re-enactments of events are triggered to show the experiences of five different people involved in the story. At the center of it all is Steven and Kate, a scientist couple who work at the radio telescope observatory nearby and may in fact be responsible for setting into motion the reason behind the disappearances.

In addition to the obviously beautiful sightseeing tour, the story is fairly good in large part due to the quality of writing, the excellent soundtrack, and the voice talent that brings the characters to life. Only voices are used here. People are represented as figures giving the vaguest impressions of their physical selves. The tale is appropriately bittersweet as it focuses more on the personal relationships between the characters and the effect the unfolding events has on them as their family, friends and neighbors grow more skeptical of official explanations and succumb to the "vanishing". While clearly not everyone's type of game, for those who enjoy the discovery a story piece-by-piece in a non-linear fashion it's a nice experience to get lost in. It's playable in 3-4 evenings, exploring around one area per session.

As a side note, many people take issue with the slow speed of the player's movement. Holding down R2 on your controller (or Shift on your KB) will ramp up movement from a walk to a jog. This feature was not published in the game control description and will help cut time somewhat. Despite this, EGttR will still be a sticking point with anyone who isn't patient with the pace it sets.
Obduction

Obduction

Gift May '18 Theme
15/15 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 10 hours
Not to be myst
Beaten: 29-May-2018

A great first-person puzzle game from the creators of Myst and Riven. The game play is quite similar but with a full 3D environment, no "hot spot" hunting, and a new story in a different setting. You are almost immediately transported to an odd world that looks like a part of the Arizona desert has been transplanted into a bubble on an alien world. And it turns out you are the most recent in a long line of abductees from Earth spanning nearly 200 years. But what is the intention of your captors? And where is everyone else? It looks like people have been living there for a long time with something resembling normal lives -- albeit rustic -- based on the things left behind. It's your job to solve the various mechanical puzzles that will open new areas, rooms, and ... other places ... containing clues about what it going on. Overall a fun game with challenging puzzles, but nothing that you can't figure out with experimentation and keeping track of anything interesting you come across. Fortunately there is an in-game camera that helps in this regard since you don't have an inventory. Want to remember something you saw? A code, some notes, a map? Take a picture of it. The only problem I had with this game was that trying to do it with my Vive left me feeling queasy in a very short amount of time, so I gave up on that. Which is too bad.

This game was a gift from a co-worker that I helped with a major project. Thanks, Donna! :)
Refunct

Refunct

Gift May '18 Theme
9/10 (90%) │ 8/10 │ 1.9 hours
Blockstacle course
Beaten: 2-May-2018

A simple but fun game. Basically a parkour-style "race to the next location" maze where each new goal is revealed when you hit the button marking the latest goal. The maze never changes, so you can get more familiar with where to go and improve your time, which is necessary for unlocking some of the achievements. Also each ground section will turn color once when you first touch it, marking places you've already been. This is for tracking on other achievements. Despite the fact that the game is short and is the same thing on each run, it still quite enjoyable going through several times to get a better score. It doesn't pretend to be anything else and the simplicity is refreshing.

This game was a surprise gift from a SG user I don't remember who liked the fact that I gave away a lot of good games.
The Room Two

The Room Two

Gift May '18 Theme
7/7 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 2.9 hours
Clever contraptions
Beaten: 18-May-2018

Much like it's predecessor, this game is visually gorgeous and intriguing. Continuing the story from where it left off, you are tasked with solving not just puzzle boxes but whole rooms that the puzzle boxes sit in. As the player it appears you have no choice as these rooms are linked and there is no way to go backward. Prodded on by the notes of a mysterious traveler who might be just ahead of you somewhere, you'll ponder all kinds of devices, switches, hidden compartments and secret messages that help you solve each space bit-by-bit. The game is fun and short, especially with the hint system turned on. There's no penalty for that, but if you want more of a challenge turn the hints off in the Options menu. And once you've made it to the end, ponder what other deviousness must certainly await when The Room Three is released!

Many thanks to Downward Concept who gifted this to me! :D
Undertale

Undertale

Gift May '18 Theme
No Achievements │ 5/10 │ 2 hours
Didn't impress
Abandoned: 11-May-2018

I'm all for giving a new spin on old ideas a try. But in the course of around two hours of play I missed the charm that so many others found in Undertale. More's the pity, too, since it was a gift from over a year ago from a fellow SG user. I was trying for the Pacifist play-through and didn't quite finish the Snowdin level, often having to refer to a guide about how to beat certain enemies without attacking them. It's cute, I'll give it that. But the repetition and monotony of the random encounters using the "avoid getting hit" mini-game burned through my good will and patience. Perhaps I should have given it more of a chance, but finally gave up because I really wasn't enjoying it like I thought I would. :(

No batch this time, but two more games off the backlog!

Got a lot of other things going on right now, so gaming is taking a backseat for awhile. Hope everyone is having a great spring!

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Edition

My Review
66/113 (58%) │ 7/10 │ 45.6 hours
Arkham Grand Prix
Beaten: 14-Apr-2018

No performance issues that plagued the launch of this game, but I consider it the low point of the series. Review on Steam! (link above)
Hexcells

Hexcells

 

6/6 (100%) │ 8/10 │ 3 hours
Reverse Minesweeper
Beaten: 19-Apr-2018

Not a lot to say here except that it's a fun little puzzle game that inverts the classic Minesweeper, plays on a hex grid, and introduces some new ways to give hints about what the hidden cells contain. Fun!