Do you enjoy logic puzzles? Have you ever solved the clues, filled in the grid then sat back and smiled as satisfaction washed over you? If so, then Return of the Obra Dinn could be the game for you.
Not for the faint of heart, Return of the Obra Dinn is a sprawling interactive logic puzzle, set on the ill-fated ship – the Obra Dinn – in the early 1800’s.
In this game you play as an insurance inspector, tasked with deducing what exactly happened on what is now a ghost ship that has recently drifted back to Falmouth. As you explore the grisly scenes that took place onboard and the tragedy unfolds before you, it is up to you to piece together who is who and what fate befell each of them. Armed with a crew roster, portrait, and a mystical stop watch, you will enter scenes of time past. Using your observational skills and wit, you will gather the clues available to identify all 60 souls.
This game is a triumph of not only detective work, but atmosphere. The old timey maritime aesthetic is complimented by nostalgic graphics – a subtly fantastic design choice simultaneously shielding players from the finer details of brutal scenes while also allowing the player to fill in the gaps of the horrors they are witnessing. The phenomenal sound design paired with the fitting sound track will haunt you in the best possible way, bringing the still scenes that you are inspecting to life. Every scene is filled to the brim with detail, things you may not notice at first but can lead to eureka moments down the line. Finally, the none linear nature of the game structure allows for fantastic storytelling, remaining full of surprises all of the way through.
If this has piqued your interest then I recommend that you don’t read any more about this game and instead jump straight in, knowing that you have a harrowing yet fascinating journey ahead. Also, when you bear in mind that this game was developed by the genius mind that is solo developer Lucas Pope, you may feel as much disbelief as I did that such a feat can be achieved by one individual.
Developer: Lucas Pope Publisher: 3909 Release date: 18th October 2018 Average play time: 6 hours Available on: PC, PlayStation (4, 5), Xbox (One, Series X/S) and Nintendo Switch
Based on what I had seen of Pupperazzi, this game wasn’t high up on my ‘to play’ priority list. I thought it was going to be a ‘meme’ game and not much more. I am very happy to report how wrong I was about that. This game is an absolute delight through and through. I expected a rough experience that would be fun for an hour, but instead it provided multiple sandboxes of endearing, silly (in a great way), exciting, shenanigans and says ‘go wild’. And wild I went.
The atmosphere in this game is unironically electrifying. The summer vibes instantly swept over me and there was no where else I would rather be. In every direction something weird or wonderful was happening and the energy of everything going on around me was in turn feeding me and my shutter finger.
I was so charmed by the rest of the game that I almost forget that I got some serious bugs. I almost quit in the second area because I thought my game was completely broken. It crashed and when I came back, it had kept my ‘follower’ and ‘item’ progress, but it set me back to the beginning with requests, right back to the tutorial. Thankfully I could speed through them, but then the third time I loaded in the game all of my items were gone. Once again, thankfully I could recollect them, but it was touch and go for being game breaking for me, which would have been a travesty. I am not sure how common these issues are, but being scared to quit the game for fear your progress will be lost is always a bummer, providing a background, gnawing anxiety that I must finish the game in this session.
Sometimes the photos don’t register the ‘things’ that is in the picture you took, be it a particular breed, a number of dogs, a background element etc. I have read some frustrations from others online that couldn’t complete requests because of this finickiness. Thankfully that was not my experience. Instead, it created some fantastic comedy moments, which is why I give it a ‘+/-‘ rather than a negative. If you are going completionist then it could also be problematic because it is all about taking photos of all of the different breeds and behaviours. By the time I had finished all of the story requests my Puppypedia was pretty much full so it didn’t get in the way for me fortunately.
+ Stylistic Choices
The way the dogs move is hilarious. The lack of animation in their body is perfect. It isn’t something that I thought I would like, but when you enter an environment full of these goofy dogs, you can’t help but smile. Considering they are stiff as literal boards, they still have so much personality. Their faces and responses are animated giving them a lot of character, and each breed is instantly recognisable.
When you get photo requests from clients, each dog and/or thing that you talk to have their own little Disco Elysium style character portraits. This is another touch that didn’t have to be there but gave me a chuckle when I saw them. As much as I laugh at how silly the game is, it can also be beautiful. The art style provides for some beautiful backdrops, particularly the sunsets. It would be easy to see 5 seconds of footage and think that the lack of animation is ‘lazy’, but I disagree. It only takes playing the game for 10 minutes to feel the joy that the creators have distributed throughout so many different areas. Even the player character is an unexpected but light hearted surprise.
+ The Randomisation
The levels feature a specific kind of randomness. There are dogs in different scenareos and doing different things, but the breed that you get in each of those slots is random everytime you load up the level. The fact that the dog breeds are randomised means for more unique photo opportunities between players. Sometimes it can feel like you have hit a jackpot, having specific breeds for specific moments. Other times, loading back into the level can inspire a shot that you didn’t even consider before. This was a great decision to bring even more joy to a game already filled with it. It allows for a kind of spontaneity that you couldn’t manufacture any other way.
+ The Gameplay
This is a photography game that is actually about the photography. You arent going to be learning to use a DSLR or taking photo of the year, but everything in the gameplay loops back to it. The game is structured around taking photography requests in different areas. Doing so earns you money that you can spend on lenses, filters and other items to increase the tools available to you, allowing you to take more of a variety of photos. Exploring the environment will net you new toys, which you can then use to provide new interactions and yet more photo opportunities. A few other games feature a camera as a way of gathering collectibles, but it is often a means to an end. A way of cataloguing things as opposed to getting creative with the photos. This was the first of it’s type that really made me excited about taking good pictures, by giving me everything I needed to play. The only thing I wish was that film wasn’t also tied to that progression. On one hand, only having limited photo slots forced me to not go overboard and keep them organised. On the other, I would have enjoyed the freedom of snapping away as much as I desired.
+ Using the Camera
I really like how easy it is to jump into the camera. Right click to open camera, left click for photo, mouse wheel for zoom, wasd to move and tab for menu. Nice and simple. If you need to open the menu right as you have got a shot lined up (for example to change your filter or lens) you can do it easily and the action freezes perfectly. You can view the scene while altering your settings and it is exactly how you left it, ready and waiting for you to close the menu to get your shot. I was very grateful for the pause as I would have missed many opportunities and it would have put me off using the filters if it wasn’t so easy.
+ The Extra Things
There are some fun surprises in the game. I am not going to spoil what they are but I appreciated the additions. The final level that I unlocked was the first level at a different time of day, and despite spending a lot of time there, when I went back there was something new that made me smile. They can be small details but they make the game feel complete.
One of my goals this year is to properly learn to use my camera. This game has genuinely made me more excited for this. I have tried having photoshoots like this with dogs in real life in the past, and I am so ready to try it again.
I want to express how sorry I am for judging a book by it’s cover, but I already feel forgiven by the warm love that I felt from all of the wonderful doggos on my screen. If you enjoy dogs, taking pictures, summer vibes, silliness and/or charm, then I recommend giving this one a go. A bite-size delight.
SUPERHOT broke me. It tried to break its way into my mind, but instead, it just broke it. Let me explain.
In case you don’t know, Superhot is a first person shooter. Anyone that knows me will be thinking ‘Noob? Playing a first person shooter? Wut?’. As it turns out, there is a little more to it than that. In this game, time only moves as you move. As a consequence, every move you make has to be deliberate and precise. Stay still and watch bullets moving towards you at a snails pace. Panic though and it’s game over as they speed up and hit you before you can blink. This unique mechanic allows the game to present as a corporeal puzzle game as much as it is as a shooter, which is ironic considering the incorporeal theming involved.
This is a game concept that makes so much sense. Even if you have never thought about it in your life, you hear the explanation of what this game is and think “wow, of course, how come I didn’t think of that?”. And it works! There isn’t another game like it, at least gameplay wise. It is one of those titles that creates something completely new and showcases it to its full potential.
What can be seen as a simple aesthetic actually serves to be a great asset in the gameplay itself. There are three colours. White, red and black. Red = enemies. Black = objects. White = anything else. This completely eliminates any visual clutter aiding even further in the idea that the gameplay IS the game. It is distinctive, it is thematically appropriate and it is everything that it needs to be.
The hitboxes weren’t quite as precise as I would have liked considering this can be a game about millimetres. It could be technical limitations, it could be a choice to be discourage using cover, but bullets being stopped in the air by an invisible corner is frustrating when you feel you have otherwise made a good play.
+ Fast Pace
Levels vary in length but they rarely outstay their welcome. The short bursts that the game gives you allows for going ‘all in’ – getting creative without fear as dying will only set you back a couple of minutes. This can go two ways. On one hand, you can bash your head against the level until you nail it. It isn’t a problem because once you have died you are already back in the game trying again before you even have time to finish any outbursts it may have brought on. As soon as you complete it you forget the struggle, feeling like the baddest ass in all the land. Or alternatively, you nail it first time and truly are the baddest ass in all the land.
– Difficulty Curve
This is where my troubles began. I would say the difficulty throughout the game is sprinkled. Naturally, it starts off simple, but there were some early levels that tripped me up in the same way as some later levels, while there were some later levels I did easily in one try. For some, this will provide an interesting pace. For others, it may be a little more frustrating as it can be difficult to tell if you are improving at the game.
The final level, however, is something else. It is long. Mercifully, it is checkpointed, but that didn’t save me. The previous levels contained more strategically placed enemies, highlighting the puzzle element that I mentioned earlier. This level though is – for lack of a better phrase – on another level. Personally for me, it felt different from all the rest of the game. Yes, it felt climactic, but also it lost a lot of what I enjoyed about the previous sections. I don’t want to say specifically why as that is spoiler territory, but my strategies weren’t working and I couldn’t find a set answer to get through it. This, sadly, marked the end of my Superhot experience. The frustration outweighed the potential pleasure of succeeding and I had my first ever on stream rage quit. As it turns out, I had been probably around 15 seconds from completing the game, but unfortunately I have no desire to return.
I like the story this game is telling and more so the way it tells it. It is brief, it is memorable and it uses the medium well. As you progress an unsettled feeling creeps in and the further you go, the more it grows. It plays with ideas of control and reality, and it was always welcome to check back in at the pc every few levels.
Upon putting it down, I vowed never to go back to this game. As much of a shame that it is that it ended this way, I still had fun in the lead up. The short snappy levels were great fun and when something works out well, it truly feels superhuman. Punching an enemy in the face and catching their gun to then shoot them in the face isn’t something that you get to do very often and while it may be a novelty, it doesn’t lose its appeal for the duration of the game.
SUPERHOT wanted me to complete the game, so in a way, technically, the fact that I quit actually means that means I won. So with that in mind, to conclude.. SUCK IT SUPERHOT. I BEAT YOU.
Moonlighter is a game in which you hunt for treasures by night, and sell them by day. Both of these jobs create two different modes which construct the daily flow of the game. The dungeons you pillage are randomized in a rogue-like fashion. The further you get into a dungeon, the more valuable loot you will find. Kill the main boss to complete the dungeon and unlock the next one, with a new biome and new loot. Throughout the journey you will be fighting creatures, finding notes and organizing your bag in order to maximize your haul. What is the catch here you may be wondering? Well.. If you die you lose the majority of the loot that you have collected that night. It becomes a game of deciding whether you dare go into the next room. There may be enemies that could kill you, but there also may be a healing pool or something worth everything you have already collected combined. Do you want to risk it all? Or are you satisfied to come back another day.
The second half of this game is managing your shop. Almost everything that you find is sellable. Your job is to figure out the optimal price to sell these items. Price them too low and you are missing out on valuable cash, but price them too high and they will not sell or customer demand for said item will plummet. The game kindly provides you with a book that updates automatically to allow you to focus on pricing up the new goods while quickly selling old ones. Another catch? A lot of what you find are also materials that you will need to upgrade your equipment, so you have to make some decisions – managing money vs benefit when it comes to what you sell. My advice? Prioritize upgrading every time. It makes a huge difference as you can spend longer in the dungeons, allowing you to bring even more valuable loot home. And thus, the loop continues.
+ A Good Podcast Game
My favourite thing about this game is that it is a great podcast game. By which I mean, once you are used to the mechanics and know what you are doing, you can easily put on your favourite podcast and listen away.
– The Combat
I am so hit and miss with combat that anyone would be forgiven for taking my opinion with a grain of salt. However, I found the combat to feel really clunky. Hitboxes were strange, it didn’t feel super responsive and I never really got the hang of it. The first thing that I did was rebound the controls (excellent feature I am always happy to see) to feel more familiar which helped some, but the further I got it never felt better. The only thing that helped me make progress was upgrading my equipment. Of course, that is to be expected, but I never felt like I was improving as a player. I was still feeling as frustrated by the end as I was at the beginning. By the fourth dungeon I ended up turning down the difficulty because I just wasn’t having fun with it. Granted, I am used to playing The Binding of Isaac where you can attack in a different direction than you are facing. You can’t do that here and I felt it a lot. It resulted in lots of running into enemies while trying to face them, taking damage in the process.
+/- The Progression
This being a pro or a con really depends on how much you enjoy the core loop. I did enjoy the loop, but I was excited to see how it was going to progress as I unlocked new areas and facilities in the town. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t enjoy the direction it took. The best way that I can describe it is – more of the same but with a few added annoyances. The dungeons and your gear upgrades all follow the same patterns with a couple of changes here and there. That was fine. It was the shop progression that I had a bit of an issue with. As an example, the larger your shop grows, new mechanics are introduced. One of them is a bird flying into your shop. You have to chase it around and catch it by pressing X. It startles the customers and everyone freezes until you catch it. The first time this happened was fine, but it happened around the same time every single day, with the bird flying in the same predictable pattern. It wasn’t a challenge or a delight. It was just a thing that happened to give you something to do and it didn’t add anything. In fact the opposite, it developed to be quite annoying. I do enjoy how the variety of customers grows as your shop does, but I hoped for more in the shop itself.
+ The Ease of Use Features
Simple mechanics such as moving everything to and from chests, easily being able to pick up individual items or stacks, sorting via price, getting rid of items mid dungeon, automatically updating my price book, being able to see my price book easily mid looting, and having a wish list option that highlights crafting materials you need as you find them, were all very gratefully received by me. Often when I thought ‘I wish I could do this’ my thought was cut short because the game had already given me a way to do it.
– Valuing items becomes finicky
To create more challenge and variety, your book doesn’t store item price data if the item is in high demand when it is sold. That means that you can charge more than normal for profit, but the number doesn’t get saved. I wish there was a separate section for recording this data. In addition, it doesn’t save the price for certain customers. This can result in an attempt to figure out the best price of a particular item thwarted because some rich or interested dude bought it. This then gets frustrating becasue you not only have to remember the item and price range that you were working with, but find it again and try another day where it is just as likely to happen again. By the third dungeon I would say around 95% of my prices were not getting recorded and it was really frustrating because figuring out the price boundaries was my favourite part of the game. I loved testing the boundaries, slowly testing the maximum I could get without being too cheeky. This aspect was completely taken away due to the progression of the mechanics and instead turned into annoying robbers and just trying to sell everything as fast as I could. It improved slightly in the fourth dungeon but by then I felt defeated. It had me questioning whether my game was bugged, a question I still don’t know the answer to.
– Some Minor Technical Issues
Every time I pressed X – from entering a dungeon to reading a note – the game would switch my weapons. Which would mean I would run up to punch an enemy only to slowly shoot an arrow in their face because I didn’t realise it had switched. This isn’t game ruining at all, but it was an annoyance that added onto previous ones. I also had some chugging and framerate drops occasionally which felt a little strange in a 2D top down game like this.
+ The Familiars
You can happen upon eggs in the dungeons that after a few days hatch into little friends that aid you during your dungeoneering. I loved this addition. They were cute and had some legitimately interesting perks.
– The Notes
There are notes you can find throughout the dungeons and every time I found one I felt excited. They are there to give the player some hints and add some flavour. I just wish they were a bit more interesting. It didn’t take long at all for them to start repeating and I found them to be quite generic. Occasionally it would be a hint for something that I figured out 2 dungeons ago, and it just ended up feeling very disappointing.
Ultimately, the first couple of hours of was my favourite part of the time that I spent with this game. Where I thought it was going based on those first hours and where it actually went turned out to be a little different, which was unfortunate for me. My favourite part of the game was gradually made worse by strange mechanics rather than staying the same or improving, to the point that I pretty much gave up on it. I started my first few hours wanting to craft every weapon to the highest level, but by the end I was just trying to finish the game. It could be that it is just not for me, but what I really think happened is the niggles that I mentioned above wore me down. The later the game, the more niggly mechanics were added which added to the wear down. I think it is a fantastic, fun core concept for a game that was brought down by a few small things. That all being said, if you go in with the expectations set by everything written above then it is a nice game to keep your hands busy while you listen to podcasts.