Author - Ripper71

Control Ultimate Edition Review

I loved playing the Alan Wake games back when they came out, I lost hours and days with a flashlight in the dark and just couldn’t seem to get enough of it. Then last year a game came out that somehow I entirely missed named Control and then went on to miss the DLC as well since I wasn’t playing it. It was a little embarrassing when considering how much I like that universe so I’m glad to be able to check out Control Ultimate Edition!

The thing that makes Control Ultimate Edition the “Ultimate Edition” is that it includes the two expansions (The Foundation and AWE) along with a Photo Mode. Everything being placed into one cohesive storyline all at once really makes it feel like one larger experience. It’s true that it can be nice to have more game to look forward to coming out, but that can be frustrating as well. Sometimes you aren’t feeling as strongly about the game due to the time that has elapsed since launch. It’s happened to me before, so I am glad Control Ultimate Edition is the full bonanza.

The story of Control Ultimate Edition actually takes place in the same universe as Alan Wake and has some overlap which is pretty cool but the main story is about Jesse finding The Federal Bureau of Control. It’s been a while since the events of Alan Wake and the world is in danger from a thing called The Hiss. Sounds more like whispering souls (which sounds awesome in a headset) but The Hiss doesn’t mess around in its encroachment into the Oldest House. The Oldest House is a place of great magic that feels like a blend between Inception, The Matrix, and the stairs of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Physics become a toy and a tool when you start to learn powers and get bestowed with a special gun with special metal.

You can then use that gun to blast enemies or most of the surfaces around the building or use a power where you blast at the ground like a destructive Force push. It is then fun to run around and find out just how surprisingly destructive most things are and how their destruction follow a sensible path. Whenever I got a new power or upgrade I immediately went to work on mastering it the best I could because it always sucks to get killed in-between the game’s save points and the combat is rather brutal and unforgiving. It took a surprisingly long time to really get a feel for the gun and the AI enemies are smart, using cover and flanking you when possible. When you come back it is to the last used Fast Travel portal so if you see one out and about check into it! Otherwise you can clear whole sections of the halls just to die without reaching a new control point and you have to run back through. Thankfully, cleared areas stay clear but if you croak in a big room fight you might see yourself fighting through that room again with full enemy count. And don’t forget your powers and any upgrades/enhancements you have active, they can be the difference between an orderly room clear or a trip back you go to the Fast Travel point.

There is a lot to be said for the quality of the sights and sounds of Control Ultimate Edition. There is a disturbing undertone to the soundtrack and especially when you find yourself near The Hiss. The whispered chants are particularly creepy in a good headset with the lights in the room down low. The graphics are next-gen beautiful with lots of detail to be found all over the place. Cutaways and cutscenes are really nice looking but not quite photo-realistic which makes the details like a crooked tooth in Emily’s mouth or a slight blemish might be on Jesse’s skin. Large blocks in the walls come sticking out at various distances for no apparent reason. Picture frames have pictures in them, most of the new Director Jesse herself and computer screens are readable. Then you can use a power to blast it, beat it with rubble or maybe hit it with one of your gun selections, all of it looking beautifully rendered in destruction as well as building.

As the expansions go, The Foundation is literally about the foundation of the Oldest House and by that proximity you go down into the creepier part of Control Ultimate Edition both in location and psychologically. I’m a Halloween fiend and with this season lacking the usual faire of haunted houses due to the COVID breakout, it’s nice to get into the spooky side of games. Admittedly the core game had plenty of creepy parts (Dead Letters, I’m looking at you!) but some DLC digging into the dirt at the foundation of the Oldest House was well in order. AWE is the story about Altered World Events like those that happened to Alan Wake to the point it is thought to be a bit tongue-in-cheek to be an Alan Wake Expansion really. It feels a bit like Wake was brought in because of his name and I was a bit surprised that that part of the storyline didn’t grab me harder. What this expansion does to make up for it is give your gun some seriously fun to use ammo. The DLC name might have actually been “AWE YEAH!” because great fun can be had with destruction. This expansion plays more with light and darkness than the rest of Control which isn’t too surprising when you add Alan Wake style puzzling into the mix.

You can go through the game more than once playing in entirely different styles to try for time runs or completion or maybe just a casual player who liked the Alan Wake lore so picks it up and plays a bit now and then. That last one might be a little hard the deeper you get in case you forget how to do attacks and gun accuracy so a little refresher in the settings as to the controls and a little dying and you can get your legs again quick enough. You can choose when interacting with NPCs how many topics you want to know about toward the game plot but if you are more about gameplay than you are about storyline you can skip them and not open collectibles and you still get the game without feeling time padded by story content. There are also Steam Achievements to be had which I can admit to being a sucker for so I got excited regularly by them. Having so many options gives great replayability as well to a wider audience.

I love how well all the pieces of the Control Ultimate Edition come together so seamlessly that I’m pretty sure I mistook parts of one for the other since it all ties around the Oldest House and just adds sections of it and the stories that lay within. The video and audio are amazing and draw you in then you get to run around destroying what you want and fighting what you have to to help keep the Oldest House and it’s many sections safe. Sections that can spread out and the house can go further out like the Winchester House where for the foreseeable future the Oldest House can keep expanding showing new sights to see.

 

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Presents Madam Satan Comic Review

I have been reading comics since I was a child back in the 1970s and, though my friends were into kid ones like Richie Rich or Casper, I always preferred the darker ones like The House Of Mystery, The Vault Of Horror, and Tales From The Crypt. Any and all of those spooky tales that thrilled me to no end when I read them before bed with a flashlight. They were pretty tame by comparison to most modern day comics, but comics were given a chance to get darker for everything from titles such as Swamp Thing to the most surprising locations such as Riverdale, the fictional home of Archie and his gang. One of the best examples of this is the new was the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Presents Madam Satan.

Archie Comics was founded in 1939 primarily printing superhero comics with the Archie characters appearing in a comic two years later in Pep Comics trying to appeal to fans of Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy movies. Jump way ahead through a lot of history and in 2013 Afterlife with Archie was released with Archie and the gang dealing with a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale complete with the occult, demons and Cthulhu. Following its success we got the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina where we follow the witch through all the trials and terrors of working with witchcraft and occult academy. The darker Archie universe was popular enough to spawn a Netflix series sticking with the title The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina which provides and interesting balance of what a normal teen in school has to deal with and a practitioner of the dark arts would have to deal with.

Sadly the series has been cancelled (thanks again 2020) but luckily the comics are still here and Madam Satan is the latest one-shot for it. Without spoiling too much, the comic covers some happenings in Hell – particularly with one of the comics oldest foes in the Sabrinaverse, the titular Madam Satan. The Madam Satan character has been around since 1941 and these days finds herself bored and unfulfilled. The storyline is dark but not gore-filled, and it definitely fits in the Archie Horror label and manages to tell a complete story while being a teaser for the other Archie Horror titles. Spin-off one shots like this are great for telling the background of a character you don’t normally follow without having to dedicate an entire storyline to it which can be distracting and sometimes feel just squeezed in.

The story is well told but the art is what really brings this comic home. They did a great job creating Madam Satan in her different forms and by bringing up the concept of different looks. New readers going into the Archie Horror universe not only get a primer on the character but see that it is told in greatly artistic pages.

The only real drawback is its about the length of a normal issue of a comic and one shots tend to be longer to make it feel like a larger adventure. The comic is about the right size it could have been used for the Halloween ComicFest 2020 as a freebie but at a cover price of $3.99 it is at least reasonable. Plus possibly due to COVID-19 the ComicFest is shifting towards online ordering of collectables rather than free comics to get new and old readers into the medium. Hopefully it will draw some eyes to the last few episodes of the Netflix series, maybe enough that once the pandemic is under control some consideration to renewing the show can happen.

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Presents Madam Satan is a good teaser in the sense it makes you want to read and watch more from the Archie Horror universe and it arrives at a great time of year to help as a salve for the lack of spooky things happening this year (thanks again 2020). I know I plan to go binge watch old episodes of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and reread Madam Satan a bit more while trying to put together some Archie Horror storylines to dive into. Apparently the one shot cast a spell on me.

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Presents Madam Satan one-shot is due out on October 21st, just in time for Halloween.

Carrion Review (Xbox One)

In CARRION, you play as a creature being studied deep in what looks like some hidden science facility. You creep through a 2D, side-scrolling world full of soldiers and scientists, slowly taking over the lab one dark corner at a time. The Carrion creature you play is a sort of blob, full of tentacles and pseudo-pods that launch out in all directions and keep you floating above the ground. Some of your tentacles will obey commands and help open up door, ducts, humans, that kinda thing. Carrion’s creature looks like a mix between something out of a John Carpenter movie and Meatwad from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force… but with lots of extra mouths and so many teeth. We can’t forget those shiny whites as they chew up everyone in sight!

The main power you start off with is pretty impressive and easy to get used to along with cruising around, getting used to opening things and eating everyone in sight. The learning curve can get a little steep when you get more powers and abilities – especially when some require you to “change your mass”.  This means finding more people to eat to get the creature’s mass up to a size – or – leave part of its mass in a puddle to do things at a smaller scale. After completing the task you needed to shrink down for, you get your mass again and work a bigger skill. Figuring out what you need to do for different parts can be a bit challenging sometimes but it all feels worth it when you show off your powers, tearing a lab and its occupants to itty-bitty pieces.

Enemies ramp up in difficulty, which is to be expected, but a couple of enemies in and you start to hit ones that have shields and flame throwers. They can be killed, after a lot of work, but you can’t consume them to help recover from the fight. I had a decent amount of deaths from a couple of them that were walking a room together and they weren’t even close to being one of the big baddies. Coming back after dinner and getting more play in, I had to get my moves back down again after getting a little rusty from taking a break. It’s worth it though for the satisfaction of using those skills to cause lots of little people on the screen to scream.

Graphics and audio for a game like this could have gotten some grief but the developers played it smart by setting the whole game in a retro graphics style. The music can get intense, the bodies get ripped apart into bits with a little blood and some barely identifiable body parts. It helps make the game silly and fun instead of a serious and repulsive. It can be considered anti-horror in some ways since you are playing the creature who is trying to ensure its future by spreading itself into little pockets all over the station while the guards are looking for you. It reminds me a lot of Universal Monsters films in that way since you can feel somewhat sympathetic for the creatures. Even the name of the creature, Carrion, has a certain stigma to it since carrion is dead and decaying flesh. It makes you wonder if it needs to feed on dead and decaying flesh or is that what it is composed of, just a big wad of red, rotting meat. There may be moments where you change your form a bit to get past some obstacles which makes for a nice change even if the new forms made my skin crawl a bit.

The background is nice and crisp and has a retro look helps add to the creep factor in the game. I also like that there is a decent variety to the rooms – but not quite enough to keep me from getting lost a lot. When I would get lost I would think that I wasn’t lost I just wasn’t changing my mass or entering in a grate in front of me. Then, after wandering around in what just seemed like circles a while, I would find a puzzle I needed to do that I had been missing. My only other issue in the game was sometimes the tentacles didn’t grab what I wanted, I would come into a room full speed trying to flank an enemy and instead of locking onto him the tentacle just kinda went a different way leaving them the opportunity to turn and blast the heck out of me while I made a run back for the grates. I thought it was me at first but after dying a few times only to have it “just work” makes me wonder…

Carrion is a wicked fun game where you get to be the beast instead of the brunch and cruise smoothly along on tentacles eating every scientist and soldier you see. The play time isn’t that long but it has nice replayability where you choose how to clear the halls and make your new home. The 2D retro style adds a lot to the game taking what could be serious horror to a campy feel instead with little puzzles and powers that progress along with you. I know I’ll be playing it again with a big smile on my face as the red tentacles fly.

 

Disintegration Review

In the future, they have discovered a great way to help extend lives and help our climate changing world: get rid of all a human’s organs except their brains. Then, toss that wrinkly-sucker into a big metal ball in a robot’s head. This results in a society where technology is king and the good, the bad and even the ugly all want to control it. Add a vehicle called the Gravcycle and you have the makings of V1 Interactive’s new game Disintegration.

Scientists develop a process called “integration” which even in it’s name sounds like another name for what the Borg do and isn’t too far from the same idea. A militant group called the Rayonne take control and start forcing humans into the process. It’s a very mixed bag in some ways since it will help our climate but then forcing everyone to become cyborgs just isn’t cool. You play as Romer Shaol, a Gravcycle pilot, who leads a resistance group trying to “reboot humanity” by protecting the last bit of human society. It sounds like a pretty heavy story but there is good humor in the game as well.  I wish the solo story was fleshed out a bit more but coming out of an indie house of 30 members the story is long enough.

The gameplay is a combo of RTS and FPS which you don’t see a whole lot of. You pilot a Gravcycle which has a first person view through robot eyes showing the guns on the sides of the screen. It reminds me of a Star Wars pod racer too with their smooth floating vantage and flying and a similar looking design. From this view you command the rest of your team by clicking one of your mouse buttons and the Gravcycle gives you a top down view like an RTS. The other mouse button is for shooting at enemies and healing your group which is strange since you go back and forth between the kill and heal guns. It’s not just run and gun, though the game has moments you can. It give you puzzles and requires you to solve some of them by using your crew and what items you can get your hands on.

The controls on a keyboard and mouse definitely take some getting used to and if you are using a laptop I highly recommend using an external mouse for the best experience. WASD is pretty standard for moving but then the up and down of the cycle are SHIFT and CTRL which just begs for a remapping. Once you have everything setup it’s just a matter of getting in the groove with them. When you set your difficulty level at the beginning of the game it is decided by how much you have to rely on teammates and loadouts, easy being they are decent AI and can handle themselves so you can shoot and go through the story and hard being you can’t kill anything yourself practically, your only way to survive being RTS. You may want to do one run through and get used to things through multiplayer before going hard on this game. If you decide to use a controller the learning curve is shorter and the up and down control is easier but sometimes it’s nice to play a game on a system using a system’s standard controls, in this case the keyboard and mouse. Also I find it easier to make long shots on the computer using the mouse instead of controller sticks. Maybe it’s just me.

The graphics are very nice, particularly the hi-res cut-scenes and despite the heavy subject matter things take place in beautifully rendered daytime as well as night. The voice work is well done and I am thinking of finding a copy of some of the music off the soundtrack to use when walking. Sound effects and ambient noises are clean and crisp.  Combine all that and you have an all around good package. Nice graphics generally mean bad ass looking bosses and there are some nicely wicked looking baddies to be had.

The multiplayer mode looks promising, it has lots of different teams to choose from. I just wasn’t able to find anyone else to play against and each time I tried waiting for a few minutes.  Luckily it does have multiplayer sandbox where you can take on AI ships for practice. Whenever I see a game with a really low multiplayer base it is almost always the result of mismanaged marketing, though in this case I watched the the trailers and found that they were pretty much on point. It’s a shame not getting to see such an interesting idea for multiplayer, the combined FPS and RTS is already uncommon I’m not sure if I have seen them in multiplayer before.

Disintegration is a fun and addictive play, it comes out with a heavy subject but handles it in a way that is still a good time. The graphics are good, the sound and music are great and the AI is smart. Add to that a decent (albeit short) campaign and the only thing missing in the game is a multiplayer community. It has grown from humble roots, time to watch the player base grow. In the meantime let’s jump on the Gravcycle and race around some more.

Vampire: The Masquerade Walk Among Us Audio Book Review

I’ve always been a voracious reader but nowadays it can be hard to fit the time in. I recently began checking out audio books and was thrilled to add them to my daily commute or relaxation time. I have also always loved the World of Darkness setting with IPs such as Vampire: The Masquerade. So, when a Vampire audio book series was announced, I knew I would have to take a listen. So, I began devouring Vampire: The Masquerade Collection Volume One.

When it comes to audio books, production quality can vary as much as the stories being told. I’ve heard books read by Alexa, giving off a strange, robotic accent and I’ve heard books performed with a really large cast of performers and high production values such as musical scores and sound effects. In the end though it all relies on the story and whether or not it is well-told. In this case, Vampire: The Masquerade doesn’t have anything really in the way of production except for having more than one reader, ones for female main characters and another for the male ones. There are no sound effects and no music scores just very clean recordings with very clean pronunciation even when doing accents but this too can serve a purpose. When a recording has lots of sound effects and music scores it sets the mood for the events not with the words as much as an aural performance, the music tenses when it wants you to be nervous, sounds like gunshots bring home the action in the book but doesn’t let your mind choose how loud it is, if it echoes. It’s a sort of less is more argument.

Vampire: The Masquerade Collection One features three stories to take in. In Genevieve Gornichec’s “A Sheep Among Wolves”, performed by Erika Ishii, a clinically depressed girl tries to find some comfort and companionship in her college life that she isn’t getting from her passive roommate and her roommate’s mean and prankish friend. The book shows that embracing your gifts, no matter how deep into the darkness they dwell, can bring a beautifully dangerous freedom. Ishii has a beautiful clear voice that helps bring the words home, the story’s a slow burner concentrating on the actions of the characters to help show transformation of the spirit as well as the body… The read has a nice twist and I even went back listened to it again for hints that it might be coming.

In Cassandra Khaw’s “Fine Print”, performed by Neil Kaplan, Duke discovers that despite being a man of great status and power, when it comes to Faustian contracts he’s as novice as Young Goodman Brown. A tech guru and giant sits in a room full of vampires discussing just what he thinks becoming Kindred will do for him. Somewhere along the way he missed that the life and true power of immortality is blood not technology. It has very strong language for sensitive ears but is a great story of what happens when someone learns they are not a big fish in a small pond but rather a small fish drowning in a puddle of blood. If Duke won’t listen to the concern of friends and fraternity during his “going away” moments then the cautions of vampires fall on deaf ears. Neil Kaplan’s voice really brings the tension of Duke to life while the character struggles to stay calm in the middle of a supernatural deal and a last hurrah to his humanity. Maybe.

And in Caitlin Starling’s “The Land Of Milk And Honey”, performed by Xe Sands, they discuss the ideals and ethics behind “blood farms”, locations where blood sources are kept alive to milk like a cow. The previous stories are from the point of view of humans interacting with the Kindred but this book is about the Kindred themselves and what they think of the beings they used to be. The question definitely comes up where “human rights” stand among the Kindred. The social political implications are timely considering the Black Lives Matter movement being so prevalent right now. The arguments brought up in here could easily be compared to the treatment of Black people in our modern society but it wasn’t done in a preachy, self-righteous manner but instead tells a very interesting story about possible vampire society. Definitely my favorite of the three books I re-listened to chapters just because I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Vampire: The Masquerade Collection Volume One is a nice collection of vampire tales with great story-telling and an obvious love for the source material. It doesn’t use extra productions such as sound effects and music interludes but the sincere, clean readings and well written tales come together to bring the characters to life, even the undead ones. It’s also nice and long to get through commutes, trips, bike rides, walks: you get the picture.

Razer Ornata V2 Hybrid Gaming Keyboard Review

The Razer Ornata V2 Hybrid Gaming Keyboard is meant to fill the gap in between mechanical gaming keyboards and the more traditional, membrane-based ones. It features what Razer has coined “mecha-membrane” switch keys. But what does that mean? A membrane-based keyboard is a traditional keyboard design going back decades. It has a bed of rubber that keys strikes down on to make it record the keystroke. A membrane keyboard is pretty standard and affordable, my wife uses one because she dislikes the mechanical keyboard for the keystroke clicking sounds. I, however, always use a mechanical keyboard, even when my previous board broke and I had to acquire a no-name import one. Nothing makes a gamer appreciate their gear like when they have to use some temporary replacement parts that aren’t quite cutting it, only to upgrade again.

The Razer Ornata V2 Hybrid Gaming Keyboard gives you the quiet membrane of a standard keyboard while also providing the characteristic click of mechanical keys. It works by creating a hybrid key that presses into the membrane but still has the click and key buildup of a mechanical key. The very creative combination results in a keyboard tactically feeling like a mechanical one still but the quiet is just slightly louder than a membrane-only keyboard.

Razer always commits itself to quality as well as forward thinking so you know your gear will be solid as well as effective. You get quality heavy weave material around the USB cable and there are three different directions you can route the cable out from under the keyboard for cable management. It comes with a plush, and detachable, palm rest that attaches to the keyboard via strong magnets. It has an easy-to-navigate media key area in the upper right corner of the board that has play, rewind, and fast forward keys. It even features a ridged media wheel which works great for quick sound adjustments when you are blasting your game or tunes and someone pops in to talk. Better still, it’s also programmable for whatever you can think of!

Razer has also been a champion of lighting effects and the Ornata V2 isn’t any difference. With Razer Chroma RGB’s 16.8 million colors, a bunch of built-in lighting effects, and the ability to reprogram it all giving gamers tons of lighting flexibility, this is a fine-looking keyboard. Reprogramming keys has always been a selling point of Razer keyboards, so you can fully reprogram the keys to make profiles, bindings and macros. It’s even Xbox One compatible giving your console play some shiny good times.

If there is any complaint to be made, it might be that the Razer Ornata V2 could use a few more bells and whistles as it is somewhat more spartan when compared to other Razer boards, probably to help keep the cost at a midpoint. I miss the USB pass through ports which made peripheral management, especially when traveling, so much easier. It does make sense to have the keyboard very user friendly with no learning curve since it is designed to attract users who don’t normally get gaming keyboards and ease back the sound levels for users who want a keyboard that is a bit quieter.

The Razer Ornata V2 Hybrid Gaming Keyboard has made me a believer that you can have a membrane key work great while gaming and have a mechanical key that is quiet throughout the house. There are gamers out there who will remain purists and only play a normal mechanical boards and there will be writers out there that can’t bring themselves to give a clicking keyboard a chance. To all of them I say it’s their loss, this keyboard will just make computer time better!

Review of the Dread X Collection (PC)

One of the wonderful things about horror is that it doesn’t usually take much to take root in your mind especially late at night, alone at home. It can be immensely engulfing or leave you standing back yelling at the screen for someone not to go in there. It’s in this way that a game can be even more immersive than a movie because you are controlling what happens on the screen, you are making decisions that will affect the outcome of the storyline. This storyline doesn’t have to be long to be engaging, the demo P.T put out to tease Silent Hills is a great example. We will probably never see Silent Hills come to be but P.T., which takes place in just a single hallway, will do down as a great horror game even if it is a bit short. It is with the idea that horror games don’t need to be multi-million dollar productions or be 20 hours long that DreadXP has compiled a collection of 10 teaser length projects called the Dread X Collection.

The concept is simply this: 10 different indie video game developers were given the task of creating a game in 7 days with the idea of a P.T. style teaser in mind. The developers were free to do any style of game they want to as long as they complete it on schedule then DreadXP, the sister site to Dread Central, packaged the 10 games together into the selections below.

Rotgut:

The first game I hopped into was one made by the developers of Soda Drinker Pro called Rotgut. The title is done is a sprawling writing that looks like maybe a kid’s writing done with crayon. The game is about going to a rave in the woods and starting to experience things which may be an awakening of bad things… or maybe you gotten dosed and you have to walk it off. This game is a prime example as to why you should always have a buddy system when partying. Deciding that the rave is too boring the player eventually starts walking down a long tunnel covered in weird graffiti. After seeming to walk forever things definitely take a twist as the game slowly builds up suspense. Going for a mix between P.T. with Soda Drinker, Rotgut gets odd if not necessarily scary which is about what you would expect from SDP developers. Definitely have headsets on because the sound plays a big part. In my opinion this is the weakest of the games with glitches tha are fine with a 7 day build but it doesn’t seem to fully stick the conclusion either.

Mr. Bucket Told Me To:

The name of the game kind of loans itself to being interesting, my first thought was of Wilson in Castaway of he had been a sand castle building bucket at the beach. Generally when inanimate objects tell you to do something it’s not a very good thing and this really is no different. Unlike in Castaway though things get a lot less hospitable when the sun goes down and the freaks come out at night. Also unlike Tom Hanks in that movie you have a whole bunch of “friends” wearing drawn on smiley faces like Mr. Towel, Mr. Spear and we can’t forget Mr. Bowl who tells the greatest jokes. You get the picture. Will having more friends make the night’s go by better or just give you more to worry about in the darkness? Liked the ending song too. Short but looks nice.

The Pay Is Nice:

The Pay Is Nice is a very narrative game where you play a scientist working for a clandestine company that apparently got head hunted and offered your current job. What is it? Well you’ll have to play the game to find out, though one thing you can say no matter what: the pay is nice. The narrator is starting his day, storing things in his personal locker, entering high security sections with intimidating doors and low ambient light which brings the impression of underground or at a minimum you are going deeper and deeper into a facility. The character you are playing seems a little odd, he randomly tells you some very personal information which seems to have very little to do with his job where “the pay is nice”. It reminds me a lot of the original Alone in the Dark where you have a downward 3rd person angle of the character that you are moving around in a large dimly lit place. It’s a bit short and really does feel like the intro to a game. If this were a P.T. style teaser for a game I would definitely give the game a play. As long as the price is nice.

Don’t Go Outside:

This game is really unique and learning how to play it is part of the challenge. It has old school Super Nintendo level graphics mixed with a kind of Blizzard Hearthstone card playing game. You cruise around a dark dungeon with a tight time limit using real time strategy movement and playing cards you have been dealt to try to get through it. Using great sound effects and and a slasher style font odds are you will be playing this game a few times over just to get used to the brutal gameplay, and that’s a good thing. You get a feeling of accomplishment doing good in this game. Not gonna say much more about this than I want this teaser to become a game badly.

Outsiders:

This is the game I was anticipating the most, the trailer I saw for it showed it to have an almost P.T. style game while still being it’s own. The graphics are nice quality almost photo realistic as you cruise around a house looking for… something. You find yourself eventually going outside… which the name of the game kinda warns you that you may have wanted to stay inside instead. Making me think of a creepier nighttime version of Children Of The Corn I found myself wishing I had put a baseball diamond in place of the cornfield so that all I only had to worry about old ball players. Make sure you don’t give up after the first time, it changes between playthroughs making it a definite winner for a teaser because if you find yourself playing a demo more than once odds are you would love the full length game. Dear Developers at Mahelyk, please use this as a proof of concept and get a whole game made out of it. Dear Players, make sure you play until the end. This was my favorite of the lot.

Hand Of Doom:

Doooooommm! Gloooooom! How about a magic themed game with a Doom or Wolfenstein 3D level of graphics (bad enough to make the connection but cleaner than their predecessors)and a great creepy soundtrack? Playing it took me back the years to those other games so fast and yet I could appreciate it’s focus on casting instead of shooting which made it smarter than just point and shoot. To open doors you need one spell, to light up something you need another. All spells consist of ETH, ORT, TAL, and IST (possibly a bit of blood here and there too). Their order, repetition and whether or not one is used at all depends on the spell. Basically it’s a fun puzzler dropped into an old school FPS. It easily was my second favorite of these games and had a nice amount of playtime. I really want a game, maybe a series of them, made from this.

Carthanc:

A game that has nice graphics when you can see them, Carthanc is a first person dungeon crawler with an updated puzzle system where instead of shooting a gun you set up a flood light. In a tomb with limited oxygen you need to solve the light and darkness of the dead pharaohs without annoying the screaming, fast-moving spirits. Negotiating this game is hard and fast which might result in more than one run at a section of it, the sooner you are comfortable with this the more you will appreciate working along through some decently difficult parts. Right about the time I got particularly in my groove it was the end. Please make this, it’s definitely a great start.

Shatter:

Shatter starts out with a bit of a different starter screen, it lets you choose an empty slot to save your game to. Some of the other games may have offered different difficulty levels so players can still get the whole story if they aren’t that great with that style of play but want to know the story. I think this is the only one I remember that let’s you save your play which I always appreciate on a game. I might not put the save system to use but I always like knowing it’s there if I decide to, so that say I’m playing at the office on lunch I can save it and finish it the next day.

Of course being able to save gameplay doesn’t matter much if the gameplay isn’t worth coming back to. This game also has an old Wolfenstein 3D low graphic feel as you travel through a maze of destroyed streets, cars, toilets (there is a used full bowl you pass) and the background is destroyed skyscrapers. You find out that “Gods rule everything outside London” in the shape of giant pink murder hornets which I have to admit look kinda scary when they are the size of a house. There is an actual story in this game and missions to complete which is even more impressive considering they only had a week for the entire game.

Summer Time:

This is one of the games I was most looking forward to since I was just about the perfect age for Tiger handheld games when they hit the scene and owned a few over the years, some bought new others at garage sales. Over time they went by the wayside though due to inactivity which made this game that much more inviting.

The screen looks just like one of the handheld games to the point of even having art around the screen and controls on the screen just for appearances. Using WASD you move your little guy across the old school LCD looking screen to collect mushrooms and falling stars while dodging monkeys throwing their poop onto the screen to block you. Bigger badass bad guys show up as you progress all while you are starting to run low on batteries which means game over. It’s fairly simple but quickly addictive and feels like a complete mini game though I wouldn’t mind a longer version coming out with more creepy foes and things to collect. Make sure you play all the way until the end…

The Pony Factory:

This was another title I was looking forward to playing and it didn’t disappoint. It goes for a noir feel right off the top with everything being black and white and lots of dark spaces and tunnels in a basement maze of damaged walls and piles of who knows what on the ground you have to walk on. Just so you know you have a reason to be concerned, also a reason to want to keep your bolt gun close, sometimes the game will allow a little more color… like red for blood. I highly recommend playing it in the dark and with headphones on. Just not before bed though, you might not find yourself getting much sleep afterwards. The game even has multiple difficulty levels and a “Lights Out” mode. Very nice work.

Worth It?:

The Dread X Collection is a great demonstration of using demonstrations as an art form and even with that challenge they only had 7 days/nights to do it in. The results really are both fun and amazing, I have spent more money on far worse games than most in this collection. A couple are a bit rough but when considering the time restriction it’s crazy they aren’t all a sheer mess, yet alone having some real gaming gems in the midst. The price is only $6.99 which is stunning and part of the money goes to Doctors Without Borders dedicated to dealing with COVID19 out in the field. Helping the world and getting some great gameplay for a remarkable price? That should tip the scales in the worth it category if they needed tipping. Now give these developers money so they can take care of the cliffhangers and give us some full length games!

Maneater Review (PC)

I grew up on a commercial bait boat which meant I saw all manner of fish but the two things that always impressed me most were dolphins and sharks. Dolphins I would sometimes see as far as the horizon, jumping and playing together as well as playing with the boat. I would sit and look down to see dolphins just barely staying ahead of the boat flapping their tails from one side of the bow to the other always looking like they were having great fun. Sharks however were more like ocean protectors, checking us out to make sure they didn’t need to come in and chew our asses up for being up to no good. I saw dozens of them, from sand sharks to great whites with even a couple hammerheads in there as well, over the years. Even today when I see them in aquariums sharks still seem to instill a sense of awe and majestic prowess, they never seem to lose that impression of raw power. Now try to think of Spinal Tap talking about sharks instead and you would suddenly find yourself closer to the vibe of Maneater.

Maneater is the story of an orphaned baby bull shark that has to find its way in a world full of dangers both above the surface and below, though that sounds like a fairly heavy premise it really is used little more than the story’s driving force. The story is told from a mashed up point of view between a fishing reality show like Greatest Catch where it follows different shark hunters trying to mount your jaws on their wall to a tongue-in-cheek Shark Week style narration of the shark while it swims around. The end result is surprisingly enthralling, I was paying close attention to everything and enjoying the story a lot which is nice since the storyline could have easily been just a throw away.

Gameplay is sandbox style with controls map styles very similar to GTA or Saints Row. If you have played either one then you will get the hang of the primary controls which move you horizontally as well as vertically like when you fly a plane in those games. The big difference is flying too high in those games won’t cause you to start suffocating, if you hop on the land to eat some folks or jump on deck of a floating boat to make it into a burning one you are quite literally a fish out of water and you have a little corner meter that will show your breath loss until it gets too low then starts subtracting from the health line. As soon as you go back in the water then your breathing meter refills. Otherwise it has a corner mini map that can be pulled full, your cruise around taking out other fish for health or just the fun of it, if you attack too many you kick up your notoriety and they will send out shark hunters when it reaches a certain level of infamy and the greater you get it the bigger the enemies.

Also very much like those games in a good way is the upgrade system or in this case evolution. Who needs millions of years to evolve when you can learn quickly from your environment and develop armor plated skin or electronic teeth? It is pretty funny to evolve your baby shark considering sharks are believed to have hardly evolved since coming on the scene 200 million years before the dinosaurs. That being said you have three different main skill trees to work with and 11 organ upgrades. The skills are Bone Set, Bio-Electric Set and Shadow Set and each set has an upgrade for teeth, fins, body, tail and head. You earn them different ways like beating a shark bounty hunter or collecting license plates (like in the shark in Jaws) but luckily they are all fun if a bit challenging, some also require leveling up (going from baby shark to teen then adult).

It’s kind of weird to compare a game about a man-eating bull shark to GTA Vice City but aesthetically they both have some very vibrant neon colors, when you go in new areas it shows similar fonts on the screen and your mini map marks all kinds of places for missions to take out a certain number of enemies or take on a boss figure or get collectables strewn all over the map. If you are cruising along and see something or someone you want to attack you can go ahead at it. The different areas of the map have different feels and scenery, if you are in the fresh water bayou (bull sharks can live in fresh water) you have to be wary of alligators all over the place while swimming through yellow murky waters, then you head out to munch on a few bathers and you find clear waters and people filled beaches.

There is one big issue in the game and, while it isn’t a game breaker, it does take some getting used to and that is the camera angle and follow system combined with the water surface. If you have played a game where you are flying a lot you rely heavily on your camera to help you stay oriented between the ground and sky. In this game’s case it is the water and the world above the surface that act like your ground and sky but when you are in the water you have very limited view of the surface and visa versa. The results will often be that you will get attacked from underwater without being able to see your attacker below. From below isn’t as bad until you start fighting bounty hunters at which time the camera system really starts to fail. The hunters on the surface can shoot down at you without you even seeing them, all you see is a laser sight focusing in and hitting us with great damage and accuracy. The laser focusing is quick and pretty hard to dodge so that it can be hard getting through the henchmen to get to the boss. To combat this you have to do defensive rolls but at the same time you need to go to just below the boats or above the water to attack the boats which leaves you open to enemy fish and alligator attacks from below the water while you are trying to hit and destroy the boats before getting shot to death then you need to eat the people swimming for shore. If you get tagged too much you either run away really fast to eat some catfish and fix your health or you die and wind up back in your grotto.

If it seems a little hectic it is but mostly because the camera doesn’t like to follow you. I tried using both a keyboard and mouse and a game controller when trying out the game to see if maybe it was designed as a port but I found for the most part I preferred the mouse and keyboard control layout and camera angle control. That doesn’t mean it was still great, I think I have the camera controls pretty well down but when I did my fight with the first boss I didn’t know I had managed to kill him until I got a notice from the game. Since I got it for Epic I will probably stick to keyboard and mouse but both sets of controls could probably use a little shifting in the key and button binding.

Maneater is a really fun game with a huge sandbox environment of sand and water to swim or flop around in. I had high hopes jumping into the waters of this title and TripWire did not disappoint. The tongue-in-cheek over the top narration by Chris Parnell (Jerry from Rick and Morty, SNL alumni) pulls everything together making it a solid outing with lots of hours built in and high replayability, especially with all the different builds you can make. With you behind the controls it won’t be safe in the water, or the dock, the sand, the nearest submersed tunnels. You get the picture, and it is a bloody one.

The Persistence Preview (Xbox One)

In The Persistence, you die. A lot. That’s how the game is designed to go. You go in weak with a weak weapon. You will be able to pick up in game currency, weapons and tokens to improve both your gear and your physical attributes. Then you die and drop all of your weapons. Your currency survives as does your tokens and body modifications but you leave the starting room again and again from the same place into a new map. If you go up into the starting room which is known as Recovery by death or by entering it the whole map randomizes and suddenly all the rooms you explored are reset as are all the zombies. Odds are your weapons, armor and enhancements aren’t good enough to survive yet so you die and hopefully get a little better quality gear and body enhancements such as health or stronger shielding, etc.

The end results are, hopefully, that you have all your weapons up to legendary standards, all the health and shield and other improvements maxed out with a whole bunch of money to buy all the weapons and defenses while still having to play it careful in case a certain area doesn’t allow for shielding or teleportation or such. There are no saves technically, the game does progress saves after mission objectives are met but it doesn’t save your location or weapons only the quality of weapons and defenses and your monetary forms. And by progress saves I mean clearing a really big level or just updating the quality changes on a weapon or body improvements.

The idea behind The Persistence is that the whole space ship crew was turned into zombies except you and the ship AI. So the ship saves your brain and body enhancements and loads them into a new clone to run around with and try to complete missions until you die and the whole process repeats until you get the ship up and going so you and the AI can go home (reminds me a little of Ghost In The Shell). It originally came out on PSVR and is being ported which explains one of the slightly more difficult issues, head aiming. It’s a lot like standard third person shooting style where you aren’t looking down the gun instead you are aiming with a circle. It’s just a little different but you learn it fast because you use it for everything, if you want to pick something up you get it in the circle in the middle of your screen and it’s picked up. It’s also how you open doors, it’s a common VR design and not a problem once you get the hang of it since it makes it so you don’t have to click anything.

The sound and graphics on the game are really nice which makes it so that you can get pretty jumpy while playing it, you know the game is hard so jump scares are going to happen like crazy, there are so many blind corners. Everything is dark and ominous as you try to survive long enough to get a bit more currency (fabrication kits and stem cells) and hopefully some weapon blueprints so that you might last a little longer on the next run in the dark creepy shadows. The only thing that kinda pulled me out from time to time is when I was trying to complete something and I got sooo close with lots of weapons… and died with the objective in sight. That jingled my nerves in a whole different manner but that too is the nature of this game.

The original version of The Persistence had a very interesting co-op mode where they can control different traps and check out surveillance throughout the level by using an iPad! It sounds like an interesting idea that might have a hard time catching on. It reminds me offhand about the better elements of the classic game Night Trap but with an updated flair. There hasn’t been any word whether or not that element will be ported over before the game’s 5/20/20 release date or after or at all but my fingers are crossed, I would be happy running the iPad part for that.

If you like farming or the challenge farming entails then The Persistence is the game for you, if you don’t mind doing a lot of dying because they very much go hand in hand in this title. It’s a nice creepy game and playing this game late at night, struggling to get a little further along but know they are out to there waiting to get you makes for a great play.

Before We Leave Review

Before We Leave is “a non-violent city building game set in your own cozy corner of the universe”. It sounds pretty chill but then how often do you have a hexagonal real-time city builder that didn’t have zombies at the wall or players getting ready to raid you? There aren’t a lot of non-violent city builders out there right now and the ones that are out their have some kind of tension created in aspects of the game like a amusement park simulator needing to have enough trash cans and toilets set up near the fried Twinkies booth or you start getting bad reviews.

The music is mellow, the graphics are shiny with hexagonal clouds and the land on a 3D globe turns this way and that. The folks come up from an underground bunker and start with a well and a will to build on the wasteland the world became. Everything is pretty rudimentary at first, a lot of knowledge was lost while they were underground so first they settle in a bit then you start to learn new things about your world and ways to improve it. Vegetable gardens and potato farms help feed the people and the more the people explore and learn the nicer the items you can build. Like any city building sim the deeper you go into the menus usually the better your experience but this game is also nice if you want to teach a kid how to play by having them follow the instructions and getting a feel for city sims without diving in deep or more importantly stressing getting certain things made by certain times or your whole city might get wiped off the globe. The graphics are very kid friendly too with all their bright colors and the buildings are nice and a little cartoonish without getting silly.

Just like with other city sims you improve technology which helps the town be strong but also helps it to expand. At first the expanding is hexagons opening as they are uncovered but then when it starts to get a little crowded and a decent amount of knowledge has been unlocked then our expansion becomes throughout the solar system. The big dream: a multi-planet settlement. The big nightmare: the mostly non-violent space whales think you did a great job with your planets, heck the whales think they look tasty! Oops! When trying to improve the world you are living in you will also find that when you start to work with the technologies of the old world that ancestral guardians come forth to challenge your worthiness! Just a heads up. Also you got to keep an eye out for such things as pollution, don’t want to make your people unhappy.

Times are stressful right now and usually non-stressful games are either shallow or very all age feeling. Before We Leave doesn’t feel pointless or stupid, it isn’t pandering, it is engaging and smart. There is no rule that you can’t build and chill. Even though there isn’t some fear of zerging you have things you need to do to keep things moving, you want to expand and build because the sky isn’t the limit and who knows what new things you might learn on another planet… maybe you’ll pay a little more attention to your city layout so you don’t have a potato farm planted in the middle of the town square. Rookie mistake!