Let’s take a look at … – Enola

Enola is a horror adventure game by indie developer and publisher The Domaginarium. First released on Steam back in September 2014, it recent received an update implementing ‘Nightmare mode’ which made the already frightful story deeper and darker.

In Enola you have no weapons in the traditional sense, just your wits that you’ll use to solve puzzles and uncover the disturbing mystery of the nightmare you find yourself in. Let’s take a look.

Be warned that this game does cover dark and twisted themes that might turn some players away.

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The story revolves around a female protagonist, Enola, sifting her way through the macabre world created by Angelica, her lover, learning more about her history and story as she does so. The Steam page states ‘SOME PARTS OF THIS GAME ARE DISTURBING OR CRUEL’ and that warning should not be taken lightly. Enola’s themes are indeed very dark, and touch upon issues of abuse, rape, and a woman trying to find the ability to love and trust again. While I enjoy a compelling story, the material was very descriptive and dark, making it challenging to continue in places. I sometimes found myself detaching from the experience due to its very mature nature.

As you wander through areas like old houses, factories, a cemetery, etc. you have to navigate death traps like floor spikes, and revolving blades that will kill you instantly. Be sure to save often as there are no defined save points. You will always go back to the place you last manually saved. Memory banks appear throughout the game and provide more of the story through snippets of written text. A good portion of that is spoken word which was nice to see the developer take the time to add as it fuels the immersion of the game. It can however sometimes be hard to understand exactly what is going on because you can find these out of order, learning something further in the story before you should have. It’s not game breaking, but it does confuse the timeline a little bit.

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Enemies appear in the form of black mannequins, and need to be pushed off with a series of quick button presses so that you can continue your journey. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t make me jump as they come at you startlingly. I was walking through a garden maze and noticed a black form was following me. Even though they usually won’t kill you, just knowing that you are being hunted, and every time you look back there is something still chasing you, fills me with a sense of unbridled fear that I can feel in my bones. I really appreciated this part as sometimes the game lacks instances of true terror.

Getting down to the look and feel of the game is where everything falls apart for me. The game is mostly linear in terms of where you need to go next, but each area is littered with doors and rooms that are completely pointless and have nothing of interest or value in them. You find yourself looking for “item 1 of 3” in a very large area with multiple doors, some you can go in and some you can’t, and the majority of the environment holds zero information or items of importance. It’s extremely frustrating and was actually my biggest issue with the game; the size of the rooms and corridors. While this might seem trivial, it felt like nothing was built to scale in relation to the character. Everything was so large and exaggerated that it felt rushed and not thoroughly thought out.

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Graphically this game could have come from the 90’s. It felt uninspired, bland and it gave the impression that someone went into the content manager of a 3D modelling program and just grabbed whatever was there. Items like a ladder or crates felt out of place and were everywhere. It’s confusing as a player when you are trying to find the reasoning of the items placed in the environment, only to realize that they are pointless and are just there to block an area, or just for the sake of it. Considering you don’t want to miss any important items or details, you are almost forced to seek out every nook and cranny only to be moderately rewarded with a piece of story or item.

The music never really felt atmospheric as it sounded the same through most of the game. When you are in a new area, and the music changes, it seems to fit for a short while before inevitably swelling for no reason only to repeat and start over. Your character is rarely in danger when this happens, and there is no real reason for this track to be playing giving you a false sense of fear when there doesn’t need to be one. A counter argument would be that it’s there to keep you on edge, which in places it does, but the issue is when you are exploring an area for 30 minutes. This music keeps playing over and over until you finally realize that no matter what you do you’re safe and the point is lost.

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Another big aspect of this game is the choices you have. Let someone live, or let them die. You are given good backstory on the target in question, and you have a choice to either kill them based on hatred for what they’ve done or let them live. It usually comes down to someone who did something terrible, but that terrible thing was not to you or someone you know. They are a bad person, here is what they’ve done, pull the switch or not. While I love this idea, there is no real point to either choice. This is summed up by the final confrontation at the end of the game where you have no other option but to kill, even if you chose to spare everyone else you came across. A choice here would have made more sense. As far as I could tell, the ending is not affected at all by these decisions which made them feel empty.

I remember the first 2 hours or so were quickly becoming boring. To be fair to the game I was determined to finish it – which I did. It does get better and start to get pretty crazy compared to the opening couple of hours. Overall I enjoyed the midpoint of the game and getting towards the end, but that joy was ripped away from me once I finished the game and saw how everything I did didn’t really matter. It was an up and down ride throughout, but overall it doesn’t hit the mark for me. This game had/has promise if it’s every revisited and re-done but in its current state it’s not something I can recommend unless this type of story is more important than gameplay.

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Much like Gone Home, if you are playing strictly for the story you may really enjoy this game like many other reviewers have already. If you want a balance of gameplay and story, then I suggest looking elsewhere as this game suffers from many broken mechanics and design flaws.

Tl:dr – Some games give you a solid reason to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and others leave you torn because of the effort or personal story you can see through the games narrative. Enola is such a game where there is heart in the development but it never quite hits the mark. The game can become quite tedious and I struggled to accept the design choices that were made which overall took me out of the elements of this game. Decent story but uninspired gameplay really detracts from the experience that could have been.

Rating – 5/10

Purchase – Steam £11.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – RONIN

Ronin a side-scrolling action-platformer developed by Tomasz Waclawek and published by Devolver Digital. I’ve played games published by Devolver before, all of which are extremely stylized and unique. Ronin does not disappoint, and I quickly fell into the world that this game was portraying.

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The first few levels serve as a tutorial, getting you into the swing of the games play-style. You control your street ninja by jumping, wall climbing and slicing through levels. Complete the 3 optional objectives in each stage (avoid triggering the alarm, kill all enemies, spare civilians) and you’ll earn a skill point which you can then spend on various upgrades to how your character can attack. They call these Limit Breaks.

The most interesting aspect of Ronin is the combination of a turn based combat system with free-flowing movement. Each level consists of a combination of buildings with locked doors, windows and elevators. Each building has computer terminals to hack, and bad guys to kill; it’s your task to work your way through them. The moment you are spotted by the enemy the game switched to the turn-based system, allowing you to plan out your attack. Enemies’ bullets or movements will be reflected as a red line that shows the path they’re going to take to attack you. Once the turn has ended you make your next move by either jumping on them, for stunning purposes, or by cutting them down with your sword. Kill enough enemies and the skills you’re able to purchase come into play as your limit break goes up, allowing you to perform more elaborate sequences. Throw your sword, create a decoy, or even teleport to an enemy to gain the advantage. The odds are often against you, you but with careful planning, and the right combination of skills, every fight is winnable.

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There is a story underpinning Ronin, although it’s a bit cryptic. You aren’t even sure what your name is, or the true meaning behind some of the bigger targets you will have to go up against.  It appears someone did you wrong and you’re on a crusade for retribution. The boss fights offer interesting scenarios, requiring even more careful planning to defeat them and their cronies. Enemies are fairly varied. There are agents with pistols, super agents with machine guns that fire for two rounds and a samurai who is just a PAIN in the ass to kill. There are also civilians that can be killed, but that should be avoided unless you plan on not earning your coveted skill point. If the civilians see or hear you, for example if you break a window near one, they’ll trigger the alarm. They’re almost as dangerous as the enemies shooting at you!

Each level felt familiar but there was enough variance to keep me interested for the 7 hours I played. There are only 2 music tracks, but both are great and really add to the atmosphere. I wasn’t able to finish it as the last mission is real crazy, but I was engaged throughout and really enjoyed my time. Once I finish the game I’ll update on the story more so be sure to check back for that.

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Tl:dr – Ronin is a side-scrolling action-platformer, with turn based combat, that adds a fresh perspective to the stealth kill genre. Great atmosphere, music and combat system allow this game to shine where others have lacked. Currently in early beta access, it feels complete enough to warrant the purchase. With a skill tree allowing new abilities to be unlocked, retribution will be swift on the ones who have done you wrong. I definitely recommend giving this a shot if you are looking for a fresh challenge in this genre.

Rating – 8/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99 (Early Access)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Magnetic: Cage Closed

Repulsively Fun

Magnetic Cage closed will immediately feel familiar to you when you first load it up.  Yes, It’s basically Portal but it’s different enough to call itself it’s own game in a genre that there isn’t much competition in.

You wake up in your personal cell in a place called Facility 7.  A maximum security prison where you quickly learn your sentence is to take part in some weird experiment they have devised to test their prisoner’s in a game of life and death.  As you look around there are cameras everywhere that follow your movement.  “Someone” is always watching you.  You are greeted by the Warden and are instructed to continue forward where you transported to a room that holds the Magnet Gun perched on its alter.  You are given some time to experiment with the functionality of the Magnet Gun and then your trial begins.

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The Magnet Gun functions much like you would expect.  The Left Click will Repel and the Right Click will attract.  You can also change the power of the repel or attract function by scrolling up and down on the mouse wheel.  This comes into play as you may want a stronger force or weaker depending on the challenge.

As you progress through the levels, Portal fans or even those who are able to think “What would I do in this situation” will blaze through these first 10 levels or so as the challenge isn’t all that daunting.  You’ll see the all familiar “cube” that will play an integral role in most levels and some panels and contraptions that will be new to you.  Some are recessed platforms that can be pulled and pushed.  Others are circle panels on the walls and floor that allow you to pull yourself toward at a faster rate, or jump really high by repelling yourself away from it.  There is also no fall damage… thankfully.

Every so often you’ll be brought to a room that isn’t like the others.  You’re faced with a challenge but there is no skill involved, only a choice.  Magnetic: Cage Closed mentions that no play through will ever be the same and they hold to that.  Your choice will set you down a different path each playthrough and will open new rooms dialogue, and endings.  There appear to be nine different conclusions.

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The story follows an expected pace and then gets crazy.  I want to say I expected this to happen but I was surprised when it did as you can’t assume anything in this game.  Many times it felt random enough to keep me guessing.  There are however some issues with the game that did detract from my experience such as the Warden’s voice-over.  His dialogue and ominous tone get old pretty quick.  It felt like the actor tried to hard to create a hard-ass sounding warden who occasionally tries to joke with you.  It falls flat many times and I found myself not caring when he would talk.  The female voice actor who appears during the “choice” sections of the game does a great job and feels right in line with the setting.

The other glaring issue that just kept taking me out of the game was the level transition.  You come through a door, finish the room and exit to the next.  Once the door opens, you have to crawl through a very small hole into the next room.  I understand the purpose of this process is to start loading the next level assets but it drove me insane with the time it takes to crawl into the next room.  I wish they would have come up with a still screen or something while the next room loaded instead of this process.  A simple gripe but overall it did detract from my experience.

My first two hours with game felt too familiar.  Many puzzles were too easy, it was just getting the timing right. Some of the choices I had to make didn’t feel weighted.  Much like go left or right instead of life and death.  As I played I honestly started to get a little bored until the game shifted to a new setting. To avoid spoilers, this will make more sense when you play it.  As I continued the puzzles began to get really creative and I started to really enjoy these harder rooms.  This section of the game honestly turned me around from almost writing a bad review.

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If you start to feel a bit bored, give it some time and at least complete the game once.  I believe you will come back to experience more of the story, puzzles, and satisfy your curiosity.

My first playthrough took a little over 3 hours but after finishing the game once, I’m convinced that there is more too this game than being a love letter to Portal.

Bottom line, if you like Portal, you will really enjoy this game.

tl:dr – Portal fans will find a very familiar and enjoyable experience in Magnetic: Case Closed.  Aside from some bad voice acting and level loading choices the experience of being trapped in a prison, forced to take part in strange experiments was really enjoyable especially towards the end of my first run.  The repel/attract functions of the gun work well and provide a brand new challenge in the arena of first person puzzle games.  With over 9 different endings and tons of new rooms to explore on each playthrough, no run will be the same.

Rating – 8/10

Trailer –