Let’s take a look at … – Bulb Boy

Classic Lucas Art’s point-and-click games, such as Maniac Mansion and Grim Fandango, are a unique style of game where you solve mysteries by finding items, talking to the right people, and visiting the right locations to progress the story. They usually require a lot of thought on what items to use and when, and can be somewhat tedious as a result, even though the story might be the real payoff. Bulb boy is a short, simple point-and-click adventure game that doesn’t rely on story to make it fun, the gameplay and overall silliness of the game do that just fine.

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You start off in a room with your flying dog and grandfather. You’re “bulb boy”, and you see your grandfather get taken away by a monster, of sorts, and have to find a way to get him back. This starts off a room-by-room, point-and-click puzzle adventure that lasts about 2 hours. Each item you find will be used in the room you are currently in and doesn’t require a lot of inventory management which I found to be refreshing. You use the items in logical ways to solve the room puzzle and then move on to the next.

Most rooms are comprised of roughly 5-6 interactions that usually include a boss fight. Finding a way to not get killed while you hunt the room for items to use it is key. In one instance, you fight a walking turkey that will eat you immediately upon seeing you. If it starts to come close, find one of the various hiding spots in the room to hide your glowing head, and it will walk right past you allowing you to explore more and solve the puzzle.

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The art style is very twisted though adorable. Bulb boy is a little guy that glows to illuminate the room around him, revealing monsters and death scenes that are mildly gruesome, but not distasteful. I laughed a few times, and cringed at others, but I was charmed by this game even though it was so short. I really enjoyed the flashback scenes in where life is grand and no monsters loom. They still function as a point-and-click mechanic but don’t involve the fear of death and having to restart.

I wanted to mention lastly that the game does save for you in pivotal points so if you do die, you won’t have to restart the whole level. It’s a great feature.

Tl:dr – Bulb Boy is about a 2-hour point-and-click adventure game which was a successful Kickstarter project that launched late last year. It’s charming, creepy, and gross, but overall adorable in the way it presents itself. Even though it is short it provided a lot of fun and a decent challenge to make it worth playing. Though it’s hard to say if it’s worth the admission price of roughly $10.00, I would definitely recommend playing it, especially if you are looking for a less stressful point-and-click adventure game.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam £6.99/$9.99

Trailer  –

Let’s take a look at … – STASIS

STASIS is a sci-fi point-and-click adventure game from The Brotherhood. Kickstarted back in 2013, STASIS received $132,523 of its $100,000 target, and today launches on both Steam and GOG. Inspired by the game Sanitarium, and made by a one-man-band Chris Bischoff over the past five years, STASIS promises a true, horror sci-fi experience. Let’s take a look.

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STASIS starts with an awesome, movie-like introduction, showing a ship flying through space. The music, art, and direction show clearly already that the title is not lacking production value. You wake up on an abandoned ship, fresh out of a stasis chamber, with no recollection of what’s happened. The last thing you remember is you, your wife, and your daughter were heading to Titan.

You are alone. Not only on the ship, but in regards to gameplay and problem solving; you are truly on your own. There are no goals, no objectives, and no tips on where to go next. Only through meticulous exploration of your environment, and taking careful note of your surroundings, and the scraps of information provided, will you be able to progress.

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Gameplay is typical of point-and-click adventure, and the isometric environments help pull you into the environment. The art utilizes pre-rendered 3D environments, with a gritty, film-grain like layer atop. It creates a very grungy atmosphere, that when coupled with the ambient backing track, and the terrifying sounds the ship makes, creates a very tense and uneasy feeling.

The music and sound in STASIS go a long way, and thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter campaign, two world class musicians, Mark Morgan and Daniel Sadowski worked on the project. Same goes for the excellent voice acting. The Kickstarter funds also allowed professional voice actors Ryan Cooper, and Rebecca McCarthy to join the project. All interaction is excellently narrated which goes further in immersing you in the experience.

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The game starts somewhat slowly at first. You’ve taken damage and are ill, so can’t move too fast. Your first task is to find medical help. You come across an old machine that can help, and the first puzzle presented is to get it up and running. This is a great example of how the game doesn’t molly-coddle you, and leaves it up to you. There are no prompts on where to go. No suggestions on how things work, you just have to work things out. There is a circuit breaker on the wall, and to learn how to use it you have to press all the buttons and see what happens. It’s authentic, and the sense of adventure and the unknown is great.

Information is gained by exploring items, and reading computer terminals. Often, things like this can feel disjointed from the task at hand, and somewhat superfluous. Asif you’re going out of your way to learn extra, non-critical information, but not with STASIS. Everything is relevant to the storyline, and you need to gather the information in order to continue. It’s just you, the operating system that runs the ship, and your intrigue.

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After more delving, and puzzle solving, you discover that you appear to be on a scientific research ship that’s been running for 50 years. How long you’ve been here for god only knows. As you explore the ship further things start taking a turn for the macabre. Corpses lie in empty corridors, screams radiate throughout, and shadows of creatures scurry past the edges of your vision. I’ve also come across another human, and have been instructed to leave the area I’m in immediately. Things are ramping up, and I’m looking forward to seeing where they’re taking me.

Narrative plays a large part in what makes STASIS great. Diligent reading and exploration will yield the greatest results, and you’ll get out of it what you put it. I think if you rush through it, just solving the puzzles in order to move forward, you might have a lesser experience.

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I’m about an hour and a half into STASIS, and it’s clear that a rich and well produced journey lies ahead. A grungy and rich aesthetic makes the environments real, and the excellent voice acting brings the characters to life. I love the fact that the game really leaves you in your own. It’s a true adventure game, not ‘Go Here, Do This, Collect That’. If you don’t have a sharp mind and approach the environment diligently you won’t get too far. For fans of adventure games, STASIS is a must-play.

Tl:dr – STASIS is a sci-fi, horror, point and click adventure game. With great production value, including the effort of great musicians, and professional voice actors, a fitting world is created to host the rich narrative. It doesn’t hold your hand, and it requires a sharp mind and key eye to progress. You’ll get out of it what you put in, and if you invest in it you will be rewarded with a great experience.

Rating – 8.5/10

Purchase – Steam £18.99 | GOG £18.99 (£15.29 with launch discount)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … Ori and the Blind Forest

Every so often a game comes along that pushes the boundaries of video game visuals and art direction. Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios is one such game. It transports you to a world full of beauty, danger, exploration, and emotion like no other. It’s a game in its own category.

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Within the first 10 minutes I was almost in full tear factory mode. You become invested immediately, and what Ori does to the player within the opening scene is what “UP” by Pixar did in its opening scene. It grabs you so hard you are forced to continue to find out what might come next.

You play as Ori, a small nimble creature (a forest spirit) that traverses a beautiful, naturalistic, and unfamiliar world in which he finds himself thrust to learn more about his origins. The only thing to do is move forward, but it’s not without its perils. To slap the genre of MetroidVania on this title would be fairly accurate, but it’s also heavy on platforming and RPG elements such that you learn new abilities via an experience points system. They can be chosen from 3 different branches depending on what your play style is, and can be maxed out by the end of the game.

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Being a fan of Metroid style games, I was immediately at home with Ori. I would see something in the distance that I knew I couldn’t get, learn a new ability and come back to claim my prize.  Thankfully the game allows you to learn abilities that make these items show up on the map, so no guesswork is involved in finding them. It was refreshing to see a developer put the time in to letting the player have more fun and worry less about writing everything down, or trying to remember what locations they would have to return to.

In addition to the painting like scenery, the soundtrack was equally as amazing. Tranquil music would play while exploring the world, and then ramp-up during a scene of particular importance, or when the situation takes a dire turn. It raises the tension well, and then gently calms the player down, allowing them to focus on exploring. It’s beautiful, and adds to your investment in the game and its environment incredibly well.

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All in all, Ori and the Blind Forest was everything I could have wanted in a game of this genre.  With beautiful music, well thought out move sets, gorgeous visuals, RPG elements, and a world that comes together seamlessly… there isn’t much more you could ask for.  It’s truly a remarkable game and experience.

Tl:dr – Some people buy games based on story, art direction, or gameplay. Ori and the Blind Forest offers all 3, and brings them together in majestic harmony to create of the better games by an indie studio that I’ve played in years. It’s full of emotion, visual brilliance, and gameplay that shows the dedication and talent that Moon Studios put into this game. It’s a no brainer that if you like MetroidVania style games, or are just looking for a good platformer/RPG, Ori and the Blind Forest will satisfy your every need and leave you wanting more.

Rating – 9.5/10

Buy – Steam £14.99/$19.99 

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Breach and Clear: DEADline

Breach and clear: Deadline is a zombie A-RPG/tactical strategy simulation from Mighty Duck Studios and Gun Media. A follow up to 2014’s Breach and Clear, Deadline offers a new setting for the franchise, with the enemy this time around being a swarm of nasty-ass zombies. The original B&C got great reviews, I haven’t played it myself, and so does the second instalment deliver? Let’s take a look.

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Breach and Clear: Deadline starts with a really nice tutorial mission. It introduces all the combat aspects of the game, but isn’t overpowering as a lot of tutorials are. There is plenty of action, and lots covered. Gameplay is broken in to 2 distinct phases, free movement mode, and command mode. In free movement move it plays like a standard ARPG. You have a squad of 4 characters, and at any one point you are in direct control of 1 of them. Your other teammates will either follow, or stay put, depending on the commands you given them.

Command mode is where things get real, and the strategy aspect of the game comes into play. In strategy mode you gain control over the flow of time, and your view retracts to give a view over the entire situation. You now have unlimited time in order to plan the individual movements and actions of each squad member. Members have a stack of up to three commands, so you can move them into position, set them to use an ability, then open fire as an example. Once all your soldiers have commands you’re happy with, hold space to advance time and watch how the action unfolds. If at any point your movements aren’t working out, you can stop time and set new orders, clearing the previous queue of unexecuted commands.

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The ability to switch between the two at will is great as it means the pace of gameplay is not broken. If you’re working your way up a street, and there are 3 enemies in front, you don’t have to enter combat mode to kill them. You can just continue on your way in real-time combat. When you approach an area and the game automatically kicks into command mode, that’s usually a sign that shit is about to go down, and command mode is probably where you want to be.

At the start of the game you get to create your squad, and this includes picking each member’s speciality. For example, on my squad I have a Fireteam Leader, Scout, Explosives Expert and a Medic. The makeup of your squad is important, and will determine what skills you have available. Each soldier has skills that match their class. So my Explosives Expert can lay mines, and throw satchel charges, while my scout can tag enemies. Getting the right squad makeup to match your play style can really help. Each squad member also has a skill tree with skills from each tree available. You can put skill points onto any tree you want. So if I wanted to fill out the scout skill tree on my explosives expert I could.

These skills unlock better abilities, and like standard RPG skill trees, the more you commit to a single class, the better skills you unlock. Skill points are earned by levelling up, which is a natural progression as you complete quests and kill enemies.

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As a squad of 4 elite soldiers, it’s your job to stop the spread of a deadly new breed of human monsters. You travel across multiple environments, completing main and side quests, collecting gear and levelling up. It’s a very traditional RPG experience. I especially like how much control you have other your kit. For each weapon and piece of gear you can rename it, upgrade it, and add attachments to make it more powerful. This is all done back at headquarters, where you have a workbench to perform your upgrades, and a locker to store any gear you might want later.

Weapons are upgraded using scrap, which is a resource dropped by zombies. It’s essentially the currency of the game, and can also be earned by scrapping weapons and gear that you don’t want. Gear also come in a range of levels, ranging from common to, what I presume is, legendary or something akin to that. I have collected white, green and orange named weapons, with the orange weapon being worth a lot more scrap than the others.

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The environment feels free and open, and you feel totally in control of what you do. There are main quests, with a linear progression, but aside from that you are free to move wherever you want, searching for loot, side quests, or just kicking zombie ass to farm scrap and upgrade your weapons. The map is big, and movement speed is slow, so there are bus terminals scattered around key locations that allow you to fast-travel. This menu is one of the ones that need immediate attention. You go from a nice looking game, to a menu that looks place-holder. One of the uglier parts of the game.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, but it’s an ARPG. You spend most of the time zoomed out, so the graphics are fit for purpose. Nothing special, but nothing particularly bad. Some of the UI could use some work, as it feels a little un-polished in places, but overall it’s nice. The music is great also. High temp tracks when you’re getting down to business get you into the mood for a fight, and compliment the combat experience well.

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From what I’ve seen so far, I think B&C:D looks and plays great. The UI for the most part is nice and easy to use, some areas are shocking and need immediate work, the graphics are up to par for what you’d expect from an A-RPG, and the gameplay is lots of fun. Yet, if you head over to the steam page, it’s sitting on an underwhelming mixed review average with 66% positive reviews, and lots of that points towards bugs and issues with multiplayer. I have 6 hours in the title, and I can honestly say I haven’t run into a single significant bug. Sure, I’ve seen a few textures flicker every now and again, but that’s hardly game breaking, and happens so seldom that you could easily forget about it. Multiplayer on the other hand is a different story.

At first I simply couldn’t find a multiplayer game open to join. Not a great start. I decided to host one, and jump into the game. Your single player save works on multiplayer, you just open the lobby up to others, which is nice. I played for around half an hour, and forgot I was hosting a lobby until the game paused on me for some reason. When you play online, and the other person pauses the game, it pauses yours also! It’s horrible. The person that joined my lobby just sat paused meaning I couldn’t do anything. Sure I could have kicked him, but I want to play online with someone!

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I eventually had someone join and stay, but he left pretty quickly, and that was the end of my multiplayer experience, no-one else joined. Other have reported big problems with it, and the developer has since released an update saying a reset of the servers fixed a lot of issues. I wish I could say more, but I just haven’t seen enough of it. My experience as it took a while for people to join, and when they did I just ended up sitting on a pause screen. If you’re looking to play online with friends, I’d wait until people are confirming that the multiplayer issues are sorted.

Steam reviews almost unanimously give tales of bugs and an unfinished product. I understand this regarding the multiplayer, but I’ve not encountered a single significant issue in the single player in my X hour play time. My only complaint is that the characters move too slowly. Hardly a big deal. Maybe I came in after they had been fixed, but the Steam reviews don’t reflect the experience I have had so far. I’ve really enjoyed the 6 hours I have in the game, and will be back for more. I’ll also be buying the first tile in the franchise.

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Maybe I missed the launch issues and they’re now fixed, or I’m a lucky one. But Bread and Clear: Deadline to me is a fun A-RPG, which great depth of control and good gameplay. Multiplayer is currently lacking and a feels empty, so take that into consideration if you like to play online a lot. I had fun with my team and look forward to finishing it.

Tl:dr – Breach and Clear: Deadline is a fun zombie ARPG, with a great tactical combat system. Graphics and sounds help deliver a good experience, and despite current Steam reviews I found no bugs or crashes. Multiplayer is both empty and flawed at the moment, so if you’re buying it solely to play online I’d hold off until it’s definitely sorted. I’ve really enjoyed playing the game, I currently have 6 hours in the title, and will be finishing it off.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £14.99 (£10.04 until August 3rd)

Trailer – 

Let’s take a look at … – The Spacials

The Spacials is a space colony management sim from the Carrasco brothers over at Weird and Wry; a small indie studio developed in 2014, Barcelona. It’s their debut title, and what an entrance. The Spacials is probably best described as Roller-coaster Tycoon in space, with a dynamic and randomly generated world around you. The game has been available in Early Access through their website, but today it lands on Steam as a full release. Let’s take a look.

The Spacials is set in a not too distant future where the human race is trying to establish itself out in the Universe. It’s your task to build a team of officers, explore the Universe around you, gather resources and build the most bad-ass space tourism spot you can to bring in as many visitors as possible and keep them happy.

It’s a fun and friendly implementation of a genre that has before put me off by its very nature. It’s not bogged down in numbers, meticulous details or terrifyingly complex interfaces, it’s all action and is presented in a succinct manner. This is further enforced through the aesthetics which are very light and cartoony, it’s a very nice style and compliments the gameplay and overall casual feel of the game well. Same goes for the soundtrack throughout. Its light ambiance feels perfectly at home in the game.

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The core of The Spacials is to gain resources and use them to build and maintain the best space tourism spot you can. Resources come in many shapes and sizes and are collected by completing missions on planets in the systems that you have unlocked, bounties and contracts. Once you complete a mission on a planet you unlock its resources and supply lines. The missions come in a variety of difficulties, so if you’re finding things a bit easy you can crank up the difficulty for a greater challenge.

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Combat when on these missions is rather unique, and is where the bulk of the action comes from. All combat is squad based. When you are selecting a mission, you will chose the officers that will comprise your squad. There are 5 classes of officer in the game, Strategist, Scientist, Diplomat, Engineer and Doctor, each with their own roles. For each mission there’s a slot available for 1 officer from each class, 5 total. So you pick your quad of 5 and start the mission, teleporting you to the planet in the process.

From this point on you’re on your mission on a randomly generated planet. The goals of the missions, at least all the missions I’ve played, are simple and along the lines of ‘Find X’, ‘Destroy X’ and don’t take too long to complete. You click the ground to move, your whole squad moves as one unit, and when you find an enemy you spam click the hell out of it; there’s no auto-fire. At first this bugged me, but after playing the game for a while I came too really like the combat.

Each officer has a special skill that gets mapped to the hot-keys 1-5. Having these different types of abilities really offers some verity to combat and your squad. Each of these abilities, and your officers’ weapons and passive abilities, can be changed and upgraded, so you can kit your squad out however you like and create some crazy combos for weapons and abilities.

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Once you have your resources you can return to you base, tend to your officers’ needs and work on your space tourism base. The goal is to get as many visitors as possible, and to keep them as happy as you can. The visitor screen will give a breakdown of all visitors currently at your base, and how happy they are. You use this to expand your base to accommodate the needs of your visitors. As you attract more visitors you need to provide a wider variety of accommodation and attractions, so you will have to pay a visit to the tech tree; the upgrade system of The Spacials.

Throughout your exploits on other planets, you will earn research points. These are spent at the technology tree on unlocking new build types, and there’s lots to choose from. There’s no rules on how you create and customize your base, so it’s really just down to your imagination.

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Once you have your resources, and whatever you want to build unlocked in the tech tree, then it’s time to start designing your tourism base. The building controls are easy and nice to use, although I think the UI surrounding it could do with some more polish. In fact, the UI and polish everywhere I think are a few patches short of being where they could be.

There is a nice tutorial that covers lots of the introduction to the game, but I think in general the UI and self-intuitiveness of it could be improved. Example. It took me ages to work out how to remove someone from an Embassy pots. (You can put your officers into the Embassy of a system to gain more resources from it). To remove someone from an embassy position, you have to assign an empty slot the position. I realise you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work that out, but a remove button would have just been that much easier.

And that’s the focus of my criticism. There’s a whole bunch of tweaks that could be made to make it that much easier and just add a touch more polish. Things like tool-tips when you’re hovering over buttons, some of the UI overlaps in places when you do certain things, you can’t move items once placed, and the inventory system is somewhat cumbersome when it comes to kitting out your officers. Only small things, but given the genre, and especially the fact that this is a casual implementation of the genre, I think self-intuitiveness and UI design should be as perfect as can be and for me there’s still a bit of room for improvement.

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What I love most about The Spacials is that it makes the genre accessible. I’ve seen plenty of space sims before this, but they’ve always seemed like too much hard work! The Spacials captures the essence of a good sim without letting it get in the way of itself. Yes, I think there’s some issues with the UI and general self-intuitiveness of the interface in places and some of the actions, but these are minor. I think The Spacials is a great casual entry into the genre, and an awesome debut title from Weird and Wry.

Icing on the cake, it’s only £8.99; a nice cheap price for the amount of content and hours you will get out of the game. There’s also a launch sale, where the game will be 25% off until April 7th. Will you be playing The Spacials? We hope so. If you do, let us know what you thought of it in the comments.

Tl;dr – The Spacials is a fun and friendly implementation of a genre that has before put me off by its very nature. It’s not bogged down in numbers, meticulous details or terrifyingly complex interfaces, it’s all action and is presented in a succinct manner.  I very much enjoyed it. For those accustomed to their space sims this will be a nice casual experience, and for those like me that are new to it it’s a great entry point.

Rating – 7/10
Purchase – Steam £8.99 (excluding 25% launch sale until April 7th)