Friday, February 12, 2021

Adventure & Puzzle Game Round-up

Over the past few months, I've really been going all-in on Community Game-Along events on my Twitch channel. I've found they're a fun way to keep my queue varied and interesting. The previous two month's themes, #AdventureGameMonth and #PuzzleGameMonth, smoothly flowed into each other to provide 60+ solid days of putting my brain through its paces!

Here's a roundup of mini-reviews for all 7 games I streamed for these events:

Day of the Tentacle


As someone who really enjoyed other Lucas Arts adventure games such as Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island series, I've been meaning to play this classic title for quite some time. Once I started playing, I was immediately struck by the distinctly 90s cartoon aesthetic and sense of humor that reminded me of shows such as Animaniacs and Hysteria. The gameplay, however, took a while for me to get my head around. Switching between controlling 3 protagonists exploring the same environment in 3 different time periods made for some novel puzzle designs but also made it much easier to get stuck than in a more conventional point-and-click adventure game. As a result, I found myself alternating between having fun engaging in cartoon antics and being frustrated when I kept having to wander around the same locations over and over to figure out what the game wanted me to do next. That being said, I'm really glad I played this but it hasn't displaced Monkey Island and Grimfango among my favorite Lucas Arts games.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐



Nina Aquila Legal Eagle (Chapter 1)


This one was a real curiosity for me. Essentially, Nina Aquila is an indie developer's recreation of the gameplay of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney using the RPG Maker engine. While Nina Aquila still looks and feels like an RPG Maker game, I was quite impressed with how well Tanuki-sama Studios managed to work the engine to create a game with the same general structure and mechanics as Ace Attorney. As for the content of the game, the court case itself is entertaining but much more straight forward than Phoenix Wright. Nina Aquila was released episodically on itch.io and the first chapter that I played during #AdventureGameMonth was an effective proof-of-concept that has me looking forward to trying out the subsequent chapters in the future.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐
Note: The first two chapters of this game were included in the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle 

Call of the Sea


Taking a break from my usual indie and retro games, I decided to check out this highly regarded Xbox Series X launch title via Xbox Game Pass for PC. As you would expect from a brand new game first-person adventure game, it featured beautiful and lush environments that were really cool to explore. I also found the 1920s Lovecraft-inspired story to be quite interesting. The game's puzzles featured a good range of difficulties, however, there were one or two that just didn't make sense to me at all and I ended up having to look up the solutions. Unfortunately, the overall very positive experience I had with Call of the Sea was marred by some pretty serious performance issues despite my PC comfortably meeting the system requirements. This is a game I'd definitely recommend playing, but on Xbox Series X, since supposedly that version runs much more smoothly, or waiting until the PC version has been out longer and gets patched.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐
Note: This would have been an easy 4-star game if not for the technical issues. 

Carto


Another recent Game Pass release, this indie puzzle adventure game stars a character who can edit the game map, thereby changing the layout of the world around her. Throughout the game, you collect new map pieces that you can fit together in different ways to create new environments, solve puzzles, and help various NPCs. It's a short and sweet game with a unique hook, cute graphics, and a quirky sense of humor. I definitely recommend checking this one out.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Manifold Garden


When I first saw previews of this game, I immediately knew it would be a must-play. Manifold Garden is a first-person puzzle platformer that, at first look, might seem similar to Portal. However, only a few minutes of playing it reveals that it's a completely unique experience. For starters, your character cannot jump but can instead instantly change the direction that gravity pulls, suddenly making walls, ceilings, and the surfaces of any object in the environment traversable. On top of that, each level is a maze of surreal Escher-inspired environments that loop back upon themselves This means that if you fall into a pit, you'll soon find yourself falling through the sky rather than hitting the bottom of the level. Manipulating the gravity and exploiting the looping level design leads to some really interesting puzzle scenarios. In addition to the mechanics, I really loved this game's visual design which increased in intricacy along with the puzzles. Overall, this was easily my favorite game that I streamed during both #AdventureGameMonth and #PuzzleGameMonth and in general, is one of the best puzzle games I've played in a long time.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Caution: If you are at all prone to motion sickness, there is a strong chance that this game could trigger it.

Witchway


Compared to most of the other puzzle and adventure games I played, Witchway was pretty simple and straight forward. As a witch with telekinesis, you navigate a Metroidvania-style world by moving blocks around to create platforms and activate switches. While not anything particularly revolutionary, it sported great music, adorable pixel art, and just enough puzzle complexity to fit its 3-hour run time. This game did what it set out to do and was a nice break from the meatier games I tackled during #PuzzleGameMonth.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐
Note: This game was included in the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle 

Hue


My last game for these events was another 2D puzzle platformer, but with a bit of a twist. Hue takes place in a mostly black and white world with few key interactive objects rendered in bright colors. The protagonist has the power to change the background color of the levels which makes any object in the environment of the same color disappear as it blends into the background. By carefully switching colors in the right sequence, the player can navigate obstacles and avoid deadly traps such as spikes and lasers. I found that the way this game brought a unique mechanic to otherwise traditional puzzle platforming gameplay was enough to set it apart from other games in the genre. I also really liked the game's crisp high-contrast aesthetic and very well-balanced puzzle difficultly. 
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Putting my puzzling skills to the test for two consecutive months was a real challenge and a lot of fun! That being said, I feel like my brain earned some much-deserved rest. Time to go watch some anime!

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