Casual Friday – Week 5, 2016

Is it HOPA? Is it time management? No, it’s both of them!

Alright, time for another roundup and I’ve actually got something different for you this time! The formula is the same, just a bunch of small reviews for you to peruse and get an inkling of an idea what you’re in for!

So, with that out of the way, let’s get started!

The Promised Land BannerThe Promised Land
(Boolat Games, 2012)

I usually start with the story here because that’s cool and it’s a good way to do it but in this case I just can’t. Not because I don’t want to but rather there is no story to talk about. Well, there is but it’s pretty quickly summed: help your settlers build a flourishing little community in the unexplored wilds. Or something to that effect. There is no storyline beyond that, you can care as much or little about the story as you want as it affects nothing. Keep the little buggers alive and keep building stuff, that’s the name of the game!

Well, no… the name of the game is The Promised Land… but you know what I mean.

The Promised Land Screen 1

Like a cross between the Sims and a time management game, you’re in charge of a settlement of settlers eking out a living in the harsh New World. It’s up to you to delegate tasks and make sure everything runs smoothly until there’s nothing left to do. Decide what buildings to build, what research to research, what resources to… uh, resource. Do it well and you’re rewarded with more stuff to build, research and resource. Do poorly and it simply takes a lot longer. And if you’re bored, play the Angry Birds minigame and shoot pirates in the face with cannonballs.

All of this is most easily accomplished by using the mouse and clicking on things. Pick up and drag the settlers to where you need them but be careful because all of them have likes and dislikes which affect how efficiently they’ll do the task. Build new buildings to produce more stuff that you can then either use to build other buildings or produce other stuff that you couldn’t before. Or sell it back to the Old World for profit and reputation so you can then buy stuff that can’t be produced, unlocking even more buildings.

Get into a routine, do as the prompts say and keep progressing for more stuff.

And that’s the review of the game. If that sounds enjoyable to you then more power to you. Personally I found it to become quite boring quite fast as there was no end in sight and the more complicated everything got the more you had to micromanage to get new stuff to temporarily alleviate the boredom. Although the settlers take care of themselves to some degree, never needing your permission to go to the toilet, for instance, to get anywhere fast you’ll need to keep a constant eye on the little buggers or all they’ll do is eat food and talk and not get enough stuff done.

Another problem is that many of the things unlocked quickly become kind of useless. At first you’ll forage for food from bushes but once you’ve unlocked the farm you’ll never need to look at the bushes again. And once you’ve unlocked the kitchen then some of the produce you grow will be irrelevant as they serve no further purpose except maybe being sold. And why would I grow healing herbs when I can just forage for them elsewhere.

However, it may be that the game becomes far more engaging further in but I never got to see it. I got bored pretty quickly after a few hours. It never quite found the right balance between freedom and restriction, making it feel like a highly scripted race to the finish. And you run alone… and no-one’s timing you. It doesn’t have the pressure of typical time management games and doesn’t have the tactical options of a strategy game. In short, it doesn’t really know what it wants to be and spreads itself too thin.

Age of Adventure PTH BannerAge of Adventure: Playing the Hero
(InImages, 2012)

There are times when grabbing a little known game from a little known developer results in something magical. And sometimes you realize it’s not a well known game and studio for a reason.

Age of Adventure PTH Screen 2

Normally I’d go over the story but the game left such a small impact on me I never really got into it. It involved time travel, somehow, and magic and for whatever reason going about rebuilding houses for no real reason but beyond that the plot was paper thin.

As you might have guessed from the screenshot above this is another time management game and it’s a pretty straight up standard one at that. Except for one thing, the fact that you can click on tasks to speed them up, something I absolutely loathed in Brownies and have yet to change my mind on. If anything it’s more aggravating here because you need to click on tasks to speed them up to have even the slightest chance of scoring the gold chalice. And even then, unless you have your task chain perfected and know which task to speed up when, you’re still not gonna have a chance at making it in time.

Add to that that I ran into a bug that prevented me from getting very far into the game and I never really felt the need to troubleshoot the game and find a patch. Even though the game looks good, there’s just nothing there to enjoy. This is one game best left undiscovered for most people.

Northern Tale 3 BannerNorthern Tale 3
(Realore Studios, 2014)

I’m… not gonna bother with the plot for this one. It has to do with marrying off daughters and and evil besieging the countryside, at this point you should have a pretty good handle on these things. There’s a big bad that needs to be defeated and you need to take the least direct route to defeating this evil, rebuilding the lands as you go along.

Northern Tale 3 Screen 2

Northern Tale 3, like its predecessors, is a time management game in the workforce category, meaning your task is to coordinate a number of workers to finish all the objectives of the level as fast as possible. It involves collecting resources, rebuilding and upgrading building and defeating a pretty large variety of creatures, both magical and natural ones. This is all accomplished by clicking on things. Like all games on this blog, clicking is the fastest way to accomplish anything.

With this game they’ve added a number of obstacles that require different¬†solutions. While the method of dispatching them remains clicking on the right things at the right time, the variety definitely helps spice things up and the need to re-prioritize between each level is far more common than in the past. More often than any other time in the franchise’s short history I was forced to rethink my approach.

This is partially because of the new obstacles but also because of a different approach to level design where how you start a level off very much matters in the long run. I also really enjoyed the bonus levels this time around. Partly because they felt like an actual bonus, a bit of a reprieve from the typical stuff but also because they felt like they wrapped the story up bit by bit.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience I plowed through in just a few days. That doesn’t happen to me very often and with around 50 levels, there’s enough challenge to last even the most experienced time management player.

Rite of Passage TPS BannerRite of Passage: The Perfect Show
(Mad Head Games, 2012)

You’re never late. It’s something you take pride in. But the one time you’re late, a young girl you tutor is kidnapped while waiting for you. This, however, is only one of many children kidnapped recently and feeling responsible, you take it upon yourself to find the kidnapper when the police are failing to come up with any clues. But no amount of preparation could prepare you for the truth behind the kidnappings.

Rite of Passage TPS Screen 2

From what I can surmise, this is the first game that Mad Head Games made. At least, if you go by the listing of games on their site and considering it’s from 2012, it’s not a difficult guess. And for a first game, it is damned impressive. So impressive that I doubt this was their actual first game but hey, there’s only so much information to go on.

Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show¬†is a good game and I was totally planning on reviewing it in a full blown review but things got in the way. And now it’s been enough time since I played it that it’s hard to remember details and because of that, I just don’t feel comfortable reviewing it in a big way. But that’s okay because that’s why I created Casual Friday reviews.

So what makes the game good? Well, it’s moody and atmospheric, the graphics are stellar, puzzles offer a decent challenge and there are a few mini thrown in for good measure. Add to that a good musical score and you’ve got yourself something pretty good. It helps, of course, that the story is well written and has some good emotional depth to it. It’s easy to get invested in the story, not because it features children but rather because it has a compelling villain that isn’t motivated with base reasons like taking over the world or some such.

Overall it really reminded me of some older HOPA, there was a genuine detective mystery feel to it and the world was largely open to explore. Rather than strictly linear the game has you walking to and fro while trying to figure out where all the objects go. Though sometimes it did rely a bit on strange logic to progress, not Roberta Williams levels but I’ll admit I was forced to use the hint button to just figure out where to go next sometimes.

But that’s a minor complaint all things considered. Rite of Passage may or may not have been Mad Head Games first game but it’s a good game none the less and holds well four years later. That may sound like a shitty compliment but considering how much the HOPA industry has changed in the last four years, it’s really a sign of quality when it easily could’ve been released last week and fit in just as well with the rest of the HOPA crops.

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