Thursday, 20 December 2012

Anna - Review

Anna is a first person horror style adventure game which is very similar to point and click adventure games in that you need to search the environment for items and hints to what you need to do. It's created by Dreampainters and it's available on Steam. It focuses heavily on the exploration side of things.

The levels are quite small and focus on a lot of puzzles within these limited areas. It's a nice touch as you get to really explore an environment which makes it feel like a much deeper world rather than running through an environment so quickly you don't notice most of it. It's also nice to discover things you must have walked past many times and never noticed.

Unfortunately my view of the game get worse from here on in. Maybe it's not my type of game, or maybe years of mainstream run and gun games have reduced my patience so much that games like this lose their charm on me, but you should know I appreciate what this game tried to do, I just don't think it worked.

Some of the puzzles are, as far as I'm concerned, impossible to figure out with any kind of logic. It may work with the weird fantasy setting but I couldn't get my head around it. You could argue it comes with a guide and there's plenty of help online, but I don't think that can really be used in it's defence as if it's too difficult you have to use the guide for half of the puzzles (like I did) then it's less playing a game and more following instructions.

I found the inventory system to be awkward and unintuitive to use, which became a problem when you have certain areas of the game where you have to use one item after the other about 30 times in a row.

I'm now going to talk about the horror aspect. As horror is always better when you don't know what's happening I'm going to put up a spoiler warning and let you know when it's over, so here goes.

***Spoiler Warning***

The horror works well, and is done well for saying there is no real enemy there to be scared of. The sound effects nicely set an atmosphere and hint at the story but after wandering around the environment for a while (and you will be) you notice the noises being repetitive and come to realise they are just ambient sounds that don't mean anything.

The few appearances of 'other beings' come quite rarely, which I like as it really made me jump when they happened. I recall one in particular which was some kind of bush with arms reaching out of it which then moved towards me quickly which made me jump, but as far as I could tell there wasn't any link to the main storyline and this disappointed me.

***End of Spoiler Warning***

A problem I found with the ending of the game, without any spoilers this time, is that there is multiple endings which I usually like but I felt absolutely no connection to the main character and didn't really follow the story until I get right to the very end of the good ending and by that point I had completely lost interest.

There is one more thing that you need to do to get the good ending which really got my back up, so I'm going to hit up another spoiler warning while I have a rant.

***Ranting Spoiler Warning***

To get the good ending you need to get to the end of the building you spend the whole time in. The game gives you a key, so I used it on the door that had remained locked while I was in there and the game suddenly ended after some text that I didn't really understand. I can accept this, even if it is a bit annoying as there is no auto-save feature and I hadn't saved in a while. That was my own fault.

It would have then been fine to say, if you had looked harder you would have discovered this and got the better ending for actually exploring the environment. But that's not the case.

The bit that annoyed me was that I checked the guide to look for the best ending, the guide stated that you had to hang around in the attic for some time before the room changed and new options became available. Apparently this scales depending on how long it took you to complete the rest of the game. I found it took around 10-15 minutes of doing nothing but waiting before it randomly revealed itself to me. If I'm incorrect about this fact feel free to correct me, but I did nothing special and all of a sudden it changed.

This really annoyed me as it was impossible to figure out, even with the guide I questioned the fact that I was doing the right thing.

***End of Overly Long Ranting Spoiler Warning***

Also the hands... the stretched hands. As an artist they pained me a little inside.

In conclusion I would recommend this game to people who like point and click adventures or need a break from shooters and are willing to spend some time searching corners. I wouldn't play it again and would think twice before buying their next game, but I do appreciate what they attempted with the game and wish them all the luck in the future.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Ib - Review

So as we have broken up for Christmas I though it would be a good time to play some different games as I get on with work. The first of these is Ib.

Ib is a game created in RPG Maker where you play a young girl who travels with her parents to an art museum when things start to take a strange turn where the art takes on a life of it's own and she gets trapped alone in a world where strange things are commonplace.

The game is a mixture of puzzle solving in a strange and weird environment and jump scares. It makes exploring the world interesting as it is a very unpredictable game and by the end I felt myself feeling for the characters much more than I though.

The levels are well thought through and know how to make you cautious and certain set pieces are amazingly clever in a way that completely freaks you out. So I have to applaud some of the puzzles. Unfortunately I cannot say that for them all. While I may not be the best puzzle solver there were a few moments where I had to check a guide as it was just confusing or hard to find the exact part where the player was expected to do something. This was not a problem too often however so it wasn't game breaking.

Although I am not a jumpy person when I get scared the game got me a few times during the game when things suddenly attack you or jump out of hiding.

The endings are also nice and varied and I won't ruin them here. The endings are not entirely different and there isn't any major plot twists you can miss, it just depends how much you care about what happens to the characters. Needless to say I got what I would consider the worst ending, clearly I need more practice at these games. I obviously researched the and some of the endings certainly leave a nicer after taste but the only thing that really changes is what happens to Ib herself.

The art work within the game is well done for saying it is an RPG Maker game although I have to point out that the player character Ib looks much older when she is walking around than she is meant to be, this game as a sudden shock when I was already quite far through the game and looked into a mirror, showing a piece of artwork of my reflection.

The music within the game is a nice touch and it's used well to build tension and to warn of the arrival of something sinister. It certainly adds a whole new level of immersion to the experience.

I feel like I'm going to be saying this a lot for these indie title reviews, but you really must play it. It is not exactly a ground breaking game but you're sure to enjoy it and a review really cant get across how good it is even if I fill the review with spoilers.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Schuld and Cry

At the risk of sounding like a stuck up guy who only plays indie games I'm going to talk about Schuld today. I do play mainstream games too, but everyone talks about the new Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty and personally I find indie games to be much more interesting...the good ones anyway.

I think it is probably the focus on story over gameplay in indie games which appeals to me as I have always been big on games with stories, hence why the Final Fantasy series is still home to some of my favourite games ever. I'm now wondering why I haven't done a blog post of Final Fantasy, maybe sometime soon.

Back on topic, I recently watched Cry play Schuld over on his Youtube Channel. Cry is another amazing youtuber who does lets play videos and while he isn't as downright hilarious as PewDiePie he brings a totally different quality to his videos. He has the best narrating / acting voice I've heard on youtube and he brings an air of seriousness to the game, but always stops to have fun along the way. Watching him play a game like Schuld is perfect as he carries the weight of the serious story but still lightens the tone with the odd comment or two.

As for the game. It's once again a story based puzzle game similar to The Witch's House although I don't think the story is as strong as during certain parts of the game the character suddenly decides to do something drastic and often out of character to advance the story. But the dark themes and the things it forces the player to come across along their journey are interesting and horrifying in equal measure.

The ending seems particularly abrupt. Suddenly changing setting and introducing new characters which are essential to the story and you are supposed to have strong feelings towards them, which is difficult when all you have to go on is the word of the confused player character and this blank slate of a character you have just been handed. During the ending sequence I also got the feeling that the player character is as bad as the enemy, although the game never really explored that and just assumed you were still the good guy which I think is a massive shame as an ending which took such concepts on board could have had a more powerful ending than The Witch's House.

I'm aware that all I have said is it's like The Witch's House but not as good, but trust me it is still a good game and one that everyone should at least check out even if it's not your kind of game.