Cradle is an interesting and imperfect narrative puzzle that may or may not be a tad bit too smart for me.
You know you should prepare your mental faculties for a potentially challenging experience when the development studio is a Ukranian four‐man team called Flying Cafe for Semianimals.
The first game, Cradle, is a first‐person exploratory sci‐fi adventure released in 2015, and a game I find rather difficult to review. One reason is the game’s short length making it hard to avoid spoilers (which I also experienced when reviewing Abzû). But more importantly, I get the distinct feeling that the game had some deeper layers that were lost on me. Regardless, quite a bit can safely be said, and there are a few bones I’d like to pick.
Good storytelling trumps impressive graphics any time.
My game backlog continues to shrink (albeit slowly, having had to prioritize other stuff the last few months), and two more games can now be struck from the list. With one of them being depressingly boring and another being quite short, I opted for one more round of mini‐reviews – which, looking at my current backlog, will probably be the last pair of mini‐reviews in a good while.
Neither gets my unreserved recommendation, but one of them can certainly be worth a closer look.
Another warm summer’s day, another two games completed. (Hey, don’t judge.)
I think the mini‐review format I experimented with in yesterday’s thoughts on Abzû and Manual Samuel worked quite well, allowing me to jot down some thoughts on my experiences with them without having to spend too long writing a proper review critically observing any and all aspects of the games. With a few more fairly short games on my backlog, I figured I’d repeat the format. Today I’ll be looking at a first‐person shooter with a distinct twist, and a first‐person puzzle game desperately wishing it was Portal.
Two great, short and very different games for a rainy day (or a sunny one, I’m not judging).
Having “saved up” games for six months, my backlog of games has started to grow, and while I like to put my thoughts to the paper, I also want to prioritize actually playing games during the summer holidays. Since several of the games are also very short, mini‐reviews seemed to be a good solution.
While not perfect, Owlboy is masterfully crafted on all levels and is well worth experiencing.
Originally announced in 2008 and released in late 2016, Owlboy is a pixel‐art platformer almost a decade in the making. It’s developed by D‐Pad Studio, an indie developer based in Askøy just outside my hometown Bergen, and was very well received by the international game press upon release, with a Metacritic score of 88 – no small feat seeing that Norway isn’t exactly known for internationally acclaimed games (those of FunCom being notable exceptions).
Lest you worry that the developer’s geographical proximity to yours truly will impact this review, do not fret – I will hold this game to the same high bar for what I consider worth spending my time on exceedingly high ethical standards I always have when reviewing games.
Like so many other open‐world games, The Witcher 3 is way too big for its own good.
I’ve long been a fan of Andrzej Sapkowski’s world of The Witcher, centering on the professional monster slayer Geralt of Rivia who tries and utterly fails to stay away from grand politics, intrigue and conspiracies. Having enjoyed Sapkowski’s seven novels and CD Project Red’s first two games in the series, I was looking forward to the much hyped third installment. To quote its product page on Steam, it boasts of a large open world “full of meaningful choices and impactful consequences”, and I’ve traditionally quite liked those kinds of games. What could go wrong?
Despite Telltale’s best efforts, Borderlands is still best enjoyed aiming down the sights of randomly generated guns.
The Borderlands games have managed the impressive feat of carving out a distinct identity and firmly staying put against a tidal wave of ever more monotonous first‐person shooters. The strength of the franchise has been a core of loot‐driven, trigger‐happy run‐and‐gun FPS gameplay with RPG elements, wrapped in a generous helping of wacky humor. This makes Telltale Games’ spin on the Borderlands universe an interesting one, entirely swapping out the FPS mechanics with the now genre‐standard conversation‐driven adventure format. I’m intrigued by a Borderlands game where your strongest weapon is your wit, but while they certainly nail the absurd humor, I could to without the halfhearted attempts at adding drama to the mix.
Republique completely fails to follow through on its solid elevator pitch.
Imagine a high‐tech Orwellian dystopia. A teenage girl known as 390‐H (or Hope, as she calls herself) is caught with an illegal political manifesto and scheduled for “recalibration”, an unexplained but undoubtedly nefarious process. Using a cellphone, she contacts you – the player, a mysterious entity in an undisclosed location – and begs for help. Your task is then to help her escape by jumping between the ubiquitous surveillance cameras in the strange facility, hacking doors and other equipment, and telling Hope where and when it’s safe to go in order to avoid patrolling guards.
The elevator pitch is great, but sadly, Republique completely fails in delivering a satisfying, cohesive experience.
The most natural conversation system I’ve seen in a game combined with excellent voice acting makes this five‐hour experience a worthwhile one.
I’ve never attempted to hide the fact that I’m a sucker for big open‐world games with complex mechanics. But games can be so much more than that. In particular, I’m fond of short and focused games that know what they want and how to get it across succinctly, without pointless filler content. Oxenfree is just such a game.
Life is Strange touches on important topics and, despite some flaws, is well worth experiencing.
Most games lack complex characters with any depth at all. Most games steer clear away from important topics and issues. Most games do not concern themselves with evoking more complex emotions than “I’m having fun”.
Thankfully, Life is Strange isn’t like most games.