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TheMG42

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  1. A follow up to the previous game: Decay, Decay: The Mare is an episodic, first person, point-and-click adventure, horror game played from the perspective of Sam, who was recently institutionalized for drug abuse in a place called "Reaching Dreams". After taking some medicine that was left in his room and going to bed, his first night goes off the rails and Sam finds that his dreams and reality are slowly starting to run together in a seemingly endless nightmare. As the player, you'll spend 3 episodes controlling Sam as you explore the dark, decrepit, dingy environments that are very reminiscent of the early Silent Hill games where the graphics are kind of muddy, visually noisy and hard to make out clearly. The core gameplay loop revolves around pointing-and-clicking your way through static environments that mostly feel abandoned, derelict and creepy. You can also control Sam with the directional pad, making him turn left, right and behind him. The images are have a muddy, old-school VHS overlay to them and feel satisfactory in overall quality, if a bit sparse and lacking details. You move your mouse cursor around to try and find hotspots that you can inspect for clues, items, coins (which serves as the game's collectibles) and newspaper clippings for backstory. You can also combine certain items, such as a metal block and hammer handle, to create a sledgehammer that will break down a brick wall, so you can find a clue to progress the plot. There's also puzzle solving mechanics that, while not overly challenging, were still satisfying to solve and represent the only sort of "traditional" gameplay in the Decay: The Mare. In regards to clue and item hunting, you'll be backtracking through various rooms a lot and it can be a little disorienting and tedious at times, since it's largely the same hallways and rooms you're navigating through. There's not much in the way of animations, save for some cutscenes and a few in game moments. There's also not much in way of voice acting, save for the narrator who delivers lines rather flatly and monotonously. This is contrast the game's musical score, which is actually quite good. Specifically during the game's introduction and subsequent cutscenes. Overall, Decay: The Mare falls into a lot of horror clichés which doesn't help it stand out from the pack in any significant way. It has some genuine horror moments and doesn't rely too much on cheap jump scares (I counted maybe one per episode), which is perfectly fine. The game can be completed in about 2 hours, so it's not an overly hefty adventure. There's also a binary, good ending and bad ending choice you can make at the end of the game that provides an unambiguous conclusion either way. If you can pick up on sale like I did for about $7 CAD, then Decay: The Mare can provide a short, satisfactory horror experience. I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  2. Full disclosure, I genuinely dislike talking about political themes in games. It's not something I'm particularly well-versed in and such discussions can result in a lot of shit-slinging from multiple parties. In my experience, a lot of political agendas in games come off as heavily contrived and are often met player backlash as a result. With Black The Fall, however, I sort of have to get into the politics of the game since it plays a big part in it's striking theme. The game is an indie, puzzle platformer game that's set during the oppressive Communist regime in Romania. Further research turned up that the face of Romania's communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is displayed on giant TV's throughout the game and you can even find a subtle outline of the country in the main menu, just off to the bottom right of the bike. The game supposedly draws a lot of references to Romania's dark past and provides an interesting "what if" scenario regarding the Communist regime not being overthrown in 1989: the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's term as Communist leader. The core gameplay loop revolves around using stealth and puzzle solving solutions to navigate through factory floors, secret passage ways, an abandoned wasteland, a prison complex and ultimately escape. Throughout the game, you'll experience just how far an oppressive regime will go to squash any dissenters and maintain order as NPCs are forced fed propaganda and are worked to the point of exhaustion and sickness. I felt that the games graphics were well done. The dark, imposing atmosphere that covers every colour on the grey spectrum do a great job of creating this drab and dreary environment that you want to escape from and never look back. The game also leverages the colour red to indicate security measures, which presents a threat to the player. Funny enough that the colour red has also been associated with Communism (the infamous "Hammer & Sickle"). The game's runtime on a single play through is about 3 hours with very little replay value. Despite the shorter run time, the game still tells a pretty compelling story about refusing to no longer be a cog in an oppressive regime and plotting an escape. The game has a pretty demoralizing ending, considering everything the player has to go through to get to the end. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  3. BJ! We need you defending us with the MG42!
  4. It's a first person interactive story that's told through the perspective of two different characters: Caleb Pearson and Madeleine Stone where you explore the subterranean medical research facility called The Assembly. The game's overarching narrative about exploring morals and ethics in medical research is interesting enough and it comes across as a game that could be preamble to a larger scale disaster/survival game. The game's graphics are kind of hit and miss. There are some objects that have a low, pixelated texture quality, it's very clear they only made like two NPC models and just copy and pasted them throughout the game, only making changes related to skin and eye colour. The NPC all have the lower half of their faces obscured by masks and hair obscured by a balaclava that make them look like Scorpion or Sub Zero rejects from the early Mortal Kombat games. As such, facial animations are borderline non-existent except for blinking. This is in contrast to the lab's environment design being perfectly satisfactory and one particular section where Madeleine and Caleb's stories intersect for the first time. Madeleine is lead into a suspended laboratory above a chasm, a giant monitor on one side with a map of the world displayed and a series of computers on the other. The setup is very "Hollywood" and it really does a nice job of illustrating that The Assembly really is an underground secret medical lab. Oddly enough, this is where the game presents it's most interesting puzzle element. Sure, there are others before and after it, but they're almost insulting easy and barely worth mentioning. It's a classic doomsday, viral outbreak scenario where you, as Madeleine, need to parse out resources in order to keep loss of life below acceptable limits. It's the most though-provoking puzzle of the game and it's underlying message is all too real. This culminates into the game's peak for me and it's most memorable moment in my play through of this game. The voice acting is also kind of hit and miss. Madeleine's voice acting is perfectly fine in terms of conveying emotion and temperament, whereas Caleb's is a bit more monotonous. By in large, it works well, but there are some scenes where Caleb's voice needed to emit more emotions. Between the two stories, Madeleine's story is the stronger of the two. Her's features more traditional gameplay elements, an exploration of her backstory and better voice acting. Caleb's is more akin to wandering around rooms, opening draws and cabinets and then finding an object to progress the plot. The game apparently has four different endings and at a play time of roughly 2-3 hours, you can burn through the game pretty quickly. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  5. The interesting thing about Observer is that, in theory, I really like it: you play as a detective or "observer" with mind hacking and augmented vision to analyze your surroundings. The Observer is voiced by the late Rutger Hauer who is tasked with solving a murder case and it's all done against a Bladerunner-esque backdrop. In practice however, it's just a baffling experience. The game world is well done and has a fantastic atmosphere. It's a dark, dystopian, cyberpunk style where the events of the game feel like it would be going on in the background of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game. It ultimately left me wanting to see more of the world, beyond just the apartment complex that the game is largely set in. The game also nails it in the horror department. Between dismembered and eviscerated bodies and other grotesque scenes, Observer clearly understands horror. The investigative/crime solving mechanics are pretty rudimentary. It's just a matter of cycling between your two augmented vision modes and waiting for a clue to light up which allows you to scan and analyze it. The mind hacking part is where the game really loses me, which is unfortunate, since that's a decent chunk of the core gameplay loop. They're incredibly trippy and obtuse sequences that are just really tedious after a bit. It reeks of style over substance. The game's frame rate is also pretty up and down. Sometimes it runs buttery smooth, other times it drops below 30fps and just chugs along. The game is also on the shorter side in terms of run time and can really only be experienced once. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Love/Hate.
  6. The best way to describe Layers of Fear is that it's akin to riding the haunted house ride at any amusement park or county fair that you've ever been to: get railroaded down a linear path full of scary and/or horrifying set pieces, it's dark a lot of the time, get jumpscared several times and then the ride is over. You play as a tortured artist who returns home to complete his masterpiece. He enters his studio, paints the first layer of the painting and then begins to suffer from hallucinations. As you explore the artist's home, you unveil horrifying secrets about the artist's life. As you discover more secrets and clues about the him, you begin experiencing more twisted and dark hallucinations. You eventually learn that the artist was once a loving father and husband but his relationship with his family deteriorated over time when he distanced himself from his wife and daughter to focus more on his paintings as well as developing a drinking problem. The game's art direction nails the "horror" aspect rather well, particularly the final painting that I got at the end of my playthrough as well as the discovery of certain clues and the narrations that came with them. Some of the environments in the game's last half hour or so also nailed the "horror" aspect really well. The one thing I wish the developers would've done is to create some sort of cutscene for the clues you uncover, even if it was only a slide show of a few still images, because there was some REAL potential to create some fucking hard-to-watch moments out of those. This is likely why the game's story wasn't really capturing me since it's given to you in short voice over segments and flavour text that break up the tediousness and repetitiveness of explore dark corridors and rooms. The game's frame rate is terrible; plenty of stuttering, streaming and lag issues at various points throughout the game. It's a shame because the game's environments are well rendered but trying to pan across to look around while dropping frames kind of kills it for me. One suggestion for Ross when he gets around to playing this game: turn head bobbing off because my god is obnoxious! I had to disable that option after about 20 mins of gameplay because I felt like I was going to be sick. Layers of Fear does some things well with it's great horror set pieces and general art direction but it's story wasn't really grabbing me because it was mostly fed to me through narrations and text dumps, the game's pace felt like a bit of slog and it relies a bit too much on jumpscares for it's "scariness". It also reminded me that it was such a shame that Silent Hills got canceled, since Layers of Fear's gameplay borrows heavily from it's teaser. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Pass.
  7. TheMG42

    Kona

    Kona does a great job of establishing it's environment. It takes places in the backwoods of Quebec in 1970. It's freezing cold, snowy, white-out conditions and gale force winds are whipping at your face. This is a downright hostile survival situation that will claim any victims who aren't highly prepared for it. This is a game that I would love to explore in VR at some point. The game is a first-person, detective, survival game which also features some supernatural forces at play. You play as Carl Faubert, a private investigator from Montreal who initially gets called in to investigate a case of vandalism at the General Store. Carl shows up on location and the vandalism case quickly escalates into a murder investigation. You travel around the town and search houses for clues (documents, journals etc), tools and crafting materials (to help you solve puzzles) and as a means of shelter. Your primary threat is freezing to death, so seeking out shelters and making campfires is your only way to combat that element. You may also have to defend yourself from wolves. This is where you have the option of exploring the game's combat mechanics, which are really clunky and awkward to use. There's no hit markers and you really don't get the sense you're connecting with anything. You're better off just throwing a raw steak at them or firing off a gun shot into the air to scare them. There's also a stress metre that can increase if Carl is dealing with an unpleasant scene, such as having to kill wolves, crashing his car or being exposed to the elements for too long. You decrease your stress metre by smoking cigarettes, taking pain pills or drinking water or alcohol. The game doesn't really hold your hand when it comes to puzzles, controls or clue hunting. Although the game's plot funnels you down a linear path, how you go about commuting through the level to carry out your investigation is up to you. There's no invasive HUD elements; you're given a map and that's it. One thing that kind of stood out to me, and it was only via a second play through that I caught it, is that a bit of flavour text briefly brings up the Anglophone vs. Francophone divide that was highly prominent in Quebec during that time. Although it's not nearly as extreme now, it still has relevance in Quebec to this day. I won't dive into that, since it's not really my area of expertise and I'd rather stick to gaming. Performance wise, the game runs pretty smoothly without crashing on Xbox One. My only gripe is the mid-game loading screens that can last several seconds when you're about to enter a new area of the map. It happened nearly a dozen times through both of my play throughs and it really breaks the immersion for me. The game's ending us where I really dislike this game; it feels rushed, tacked on and incredibly anti-climatic: There's an exposition dump that says a lot without really saying anything, there's an asinine chase sequence that's incredibly slowly paced that comes to an awkward conclusion, in fact, I'm convinced it's broken. Then you just escape and the game ends. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Love and Hate.
  8. The game is beautifully rendered; I particularly enjoyed the opening and closing cut scenes as well as the times where you could stare out the windows and into the depths of space. The game is primarily a walking simulator with some light puzzle elements. The game's premise is very similar to Tacoma, another game on this list, which I thought was fantastic. You board an abandoned space station orbiting in outer space that has suffered a malfunction to it's systems. As the investigator, you need to piece together what happened to the crew via audio logs, emails and other flavour text. Unfortunately, The Station's story didn't really capture me like Tacoma's did. It felt much more hollow and less developed, despite both games having a similar run time. The characters in The Station also feel really underdeveloped. All I took away from any of them is that two of them were in a love affair, but even then, the game wasn't doing much to make me even care about it. The voice acting also really didn't do much for me. It wasn't bad per se, but it really didn't help immerse me in the story at all, create any character arcs or get me invested in these missing astronauts. On the technical side of things, the game's frame rate can be a bit laggy on Xbox One and the loading times are a bit of an ass. When I initially picked up The Station I felt that I was going to be playing a similar game like Tacoma: A short, story-driven game with a good twist at the end. But by the end of the game, I felt that all I played was a Unity engine tech demo. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Doubt.
  9. Bought this game for $4.23 CAD about a month or so ago and overall, I would say it's okay. The game takes place during Christmas time, so I guess now was as good a time as any to play it! You play as Calvin, a low level scientist at a research institution in a fictional city in New Hampshire. He checks into work one day, is lead into a testing room where he plays some bars by Bach and Beethoven on a piano before blacking out. He awakes sometime later to learn that an experiment being conducted in the institution has gone off the rails, leaving some characters dead, some who have gone insane and leaves Calvin questioning his own mental state. It's then up to him to find out what's happened and shut the experiment down. Overall, the story ends up being just alright, the writing is also just alright and there's no voice acting, so you're fed dialogue through text dumps. The game also has dialogue options, most of them don't matter, save for a few encounters towards the end of the game. The art direction is well done, even though it's pixel art, they were able to render some truly horrifying and unnerving scenes such as a guy blowing his brains out with a handgun, to a guy hanging himself with Christmas lights, to a person being lit on fire, among other things. The pixel art environments are highly detailed and the lighting and piano-heavy, musical score create a dark and unnerving atmosphere. While the game is a 2D side-scroller, it also borrows some classic point-and-click adventure game mechanics as well; hunt for items, use item or combine items to use on objects to solve a puzzle and progress the story. The game features a lot of monotonous backtracking through mostly the same science lab environment to find the items you need. I found the puzzle solving to be kind of frustrating, since the game doesn't really hold your hand with any of it. This was a huge drawback for me and it made me realize this part of the game is definitely not for me. The game also has some survival horror elements as well where you can sometimes find yourself being chased by a crazed cenobite-looking, machete-wielding murderer and your only options are to run, hide or die. I really wish this game expanded on it's story and it's world a lot more than it did. The game gives you some brief moments of this when you're walking outside or talking to people in a diner or store, but then it drops you right back into the same science lab environments with item hunting. The Long Reach's art direction and music certainly drew me in and enticed me to keep playing, but the game's tedious backtracking through samey environments, item hunting and puzzle solving left me feeling more frustrated than rewarded. Couple that with a story that's just okay, underdeveloped characters that I had no investment in and it's roughly 2 hour run time that left the world feeling kind of underdeveloped and overall, I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  10. Refunct is a first-person, minimalistic platformer game. The game is very cathartic and serene; it's just you and a bunch of platforms and walls that you parkour across to traverse the environment. The music is very calming and ethereal, in contrast to the fast-paced parkour action. It reminds me of a rudimentary version of Mirror's Edge. The goal of Refunct is to restore life to the world around you by jumping on platforms, turning them from grey concrete to green grass. The world starts off small, limiting you to just a few platforms that you jump up in order to hit a button that opens up the next sequence. The more buttons you press, the more the world opens up around you. The game is very short, even when I took my sweet time taking in the experience, I was done in about 20 minutes. My fastest run lasting only 8 minutes 25 seconds. Refunct is a calming, chill, fun, short platformer that I can certainly recommend. Fire it up and do some simple parkour for a bit. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Good/Great.
  11. Claire takes the "Silent Hill" and "Outlast" style games and adapts it to a 2D, side-scrolling, pixel art style. The game's overall art direction is well done, especially for pixel art. The environments are very dark and horrifying. You are given a flashlight and a lighter to help navigate through the levels, but you can only see a few feet in front of your character, which adds to the unnerving and scary environment the game creates. The devs ability to render hanging bodies, monsters, sinew and other scary or horrifying elements using pixel art is well done. There are no combat mechanics in the game, so your options are either run and/or hide. Monster encounters can effect Claire's health as well as he mental fortitude. If it gets too low, she begins losing health and will eventually die. Certain health items can restore her mental state, as well as resting at a lantern in save rooms. The game also has some puzzle elements that were pretty straight forward; the puzzle revolving around the 5 stages of grief was well done. I personally wasn't a big fan of the tedious, meandering hallways that made up the levels. You do have to explore these hallways to find rooms that contain side quests, health items or mainline story items. You are given a map, but not much else in terms on wayfinding. The game has multiple endings that are contingent on how many other people you're able to help throughout the game. My overall play time was about 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is fine with me. Any longer and the game would've become pretty monotonous. Overall, Claire has some great art direction that helps create a truly scary and horrifying game but the constant meandering and back tracking through rooms and hallways became a bit repetitive and immersion breaking. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Love/Hate
  12. First thing I noticed about We Happy Few is it's retro-futuristic art direction, akin to the BioShock games. We Happy Few pulls this off well enough and it creates a nice looking game world. Sadly, the game's art direction is about the only positive experience I can relay about the game. The game's open world feels rather soulless and lacks any sort of personality. NPC's walk around the streets and that's it. No conversing or interacting with other NPCs and will only interact and talk to you if you engage them. The game's open world also feels unnecessarily large, a good chunk of the game's run time is just tedious commuting, until you unlock fast travel areas. The game crashed on me, well over half a dozen times, kicking me back out the Xbox One dashboard. The game's loading screens are unforgivably bad, lasting nearly a minute in some instances. The traversing of the open world environment also triggered slightly less long loading screens while still being in the same level area. This happened well over a dozen times and then I stopped counting. The game also has a serious issue with texture loading and streaming. Some textures would fail to load altogether, leaving a garbage bin to look like a blurry mess or a sign on some one's desk looking like the raised dots and dashes of brail. Some textures would pop in well after a second or two, others would slowly load in over time. The game's AI is among the worst I've ever seen. In one case, I was choking out a police officer who was not more than 2 feet away from his buddy and his buddy kept walking on like nothing was happening. There were also times where I was clearly trespassing in an area, stared right at an NPC a few feet away, and nothing happened, no reaction at all. The NPCs essentially have no peripheral vision and can't see past their own nose, so they're easy to cheese, run around and pick off. The game is also just a buggy mess. There's at least one area of the map that I can reliably clip through and see underneath the world. Several times an NPC's walk cycle **** up, so they just looked they were gliding around on rocket skates. One of my favourite moments was a woman NPC moonwalking backwards while doing the "happy strut" and then clipped through a building. The game relies on survival crafting elements for health, food and drinks, clothing, weapons etc, which weren't bad, but just took a back seat to all of the criticisms listed above. We Happy Few is a game that has some nice ideas that were poorly executed, serious optimization issues and various bugs and glitches. I bought this game for 50% off and still feel like I overpaid for this game. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Pass.
  13. TheMG42

    ABZÛ

    I'm hesitant about calling ABZU a "game", however it's an absolutely beautiful experience that's worth playing through. The game's overall creative direction is really well done; I love the colourful, vibrant, stylized art direction of the environments. One thing the game really nails is the sense of scale within the world around you. It does a fantastic job of making you realize just how small you are and how large this ocean ecosystem is. Nothing like swimming next to an Orca to make you realize just how small and insignificant you are. The game's musical score is also well done. It syncs up well with the game's art direction. Serene music to go with the colourful, lively environments and utter silence and greyscale when in environments that you have to restore to their former glory. Overall, I'd give this a rating of Fantastic.
  14. The game reminds me of What Remains of Edith Finch or Firewatch, except in outer space. It's a narrative driven, storytelling game where you play as Amy Ferrier, a sub-contractor working for Venturis, who is assigned to the Tacoma space station to investigate why the 6 person crew had to abandon the station. You uncover bits of the story through the Tacoma's AR device that allows you to re-create events that happened on the station leading up to the evacuation by super-imposing the player into those events as if they were there with the crew. You travel from one station module to another through the main hub area and uncover more clues and information about the crew and their lives on the station. I won't spoil the ending because ultimately, I'm going to recommend you play this game, but the idea of a setting where megacorporations having a major influence on society (such as space travel/habitants and augmented reality) with the mentality of gaining political power, profits and pushing their own personal agenda at all costs, is all too real and insidious when you reach the game's conclusion. The voice acting in the game is well done. The performers do an excellent job of coming across as real people with genuine emotions, despite the character models looking like colour-coded, low-polygon creations. This is another game that I would love to explore in VR, specifically the hub area where you're floating around in zero gravity. Tacoma tells a really great story, despite it's length (you can finish the game in about an hour and a half) and putting it at the forefront was a smart decision that paid off. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Fantastic.
  15. The game is primarily a Lovecraftian-style walking simulator with a few puzzle solving elements. Some of the puzzles are perfectly straight forward, but there was a calligraphy based one and a light based one that were both rather inane with the clues not being a whole lot of help. From a visual standpoint, the game is equal parts beautiful and creepy. It does a great job of building an eerie and mysterious atmosphere as well as nailing the subtly in it's horror elements through it's visuals and audio design. The development of the game was done by 3 people, so I'm impressed the game looks and plays as well as it does. The publisher is only 13 people strong, so good work all around. The game is rather short, I completed my play through in a little under 3 and half hours. The game is also very linear, occasionally a branching path will pop up as a means to find a collectible, but then it's right back onto the main path. The main character's voice acting is pretty brutal, which is unfortunate because the game's sound design is well done. Funny enough, the game offers a "Silent Mode" which doesn't allow the main character to provide commentary throughout the game. The game has two endings and I'm not a fan of either one of them. The endings are separated by making a binary choice and then solving an extra puzzle. They both end the game rather abruptly and come across as fairly ambiguous as to what's concluded within the story. Overall, I think this game straddles the line between Hazy and Good/Great
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