Casual Friday – Week 14, 2016

Another week, another roundup of stuff I never got around to reviewing in full format. This time we’re taking a peek at mostly HOGs but one or two time management games might make the cut! Find out more… BY READING THE POST! Muhahahahaha!

Lost Lands DO - BannerLost Lands: Dark Overlord
(Five-BN Games, 2014)

A tree ate your son. At least that’s what it looked like. Not knowing what to do, you throw yourself the magical portal after him and you end up in a place you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest imagination. A land filled to the brim with magic and fantastical creatures people back home only dream of. Not that it matters, an evil fiend has stolen your son and means to take his body for himself. No matter the consequences, you will find and bring your son back home with you.

Lost Land DO - Screen 1

Five-BN Games does it again. I reviewed the sequel to this game a while back and found the game to be breath of fresh air. It’s also one of the few times I’ve played a game out of order as I hadn’t played this at that time. Not that it matters, the story connections are few, limited to the main character and the world itself. Still, I enjoyed that game so thoroughly I simply had to go and find this game. And now that I’ve finally played it, I have to say… the sequel is better. But this one’s pretty damn good too.

Taking place in an entirely different place than last time, the ideas are pretty much the same. This time around you have far more classic hidden object scenes mixed in with a few more creative ones but that’s fine. Puzzles were never really challenging but they weren’t too easy either, allowing me to solve and proceed at a fairly casual pace.

But what really stands out are the graphics. This game looks just as good as the sequel, part of me even likes some of the graphics better her. The swamp is stunning to explore and the rest of the game has you going through a pretty decent amount of different locales. No detail is left unpolished, it just looks so good.

My only complaint with the game is that there’s a wee bit too much backtracking going on at times and even if REALLY long stretches are rare, they do happen and it kind of takes the air out of the fun. This time, however, the amount of branching paths is kept small and it’s a relatively linear path from beginning to end. That said, I did end up clueless as to how to proceed and it was often a question of figuring what little item you missed and where. Where the last game excelled at drawing your attention, this time around it feels a bit more directionless.

Still, it’s a small complaint as I enjoyed the game from beginning to end. I was going to review it in full form, most Five-BN Games are worth that at least, but the time between finishing it and reviewing it grew too big to be ignored. Therefor, all I can say is: totally worth whatever you have to pay to get it.

BtGWoC - BannerBuilding the Great Wall of China
(Nordcurrent, 2012)

You are… someone and… someone asked you to… come up with a plan to keep your country safe from invaders. Build a wall, get the girl, live happily ever after. There, that’s your story.

I don’t have much to say about this game. I think it was made by Nordcurrent but I’m not sure. I think maybe they’re just the publishers but whatever, close enough.

As you might have figured out from my writing, I have a great, great lack of interest in this game. So much so that I almost wrote movie here because I was sitting here, thinking: “What did China end up inspiring that was more interesting than this game… huh, Young Detective Lee was awesome!” Great movie, go watch it!

Oh, the game? It’s a time management game, that much might be evident from the screenshot, but it’s one that handles the time aspect of it fairly poorly. You can’t queue actions so you’re constantly having to keep track of your peons, waiting from them to get back to base so you can assign them a new task. It REALLY breaks the flow of the game and for me, who likes to build a plan in advance, it’s frustrating to constantly have to go back a few steps and do it manually instead of watching your plan unfold.

It’s really more of a resource management game than it has to do with time, there’s plenty of resources to gather and balancing these out are key to proceeding quickly enough. But even thinking like that, the gameplay is still far too slow for me and I never felt that frantic pressure that you get from good time management games.

But I shan’t say too much, I didn’t finish the game and I’m unlikely to ever return to the franchise. It simply wasn’t my cup of tea and there simply wasn’t enough new to entice a further look.

Sea of Lies MotH - BannerSea of Lies: Mutiny of the Heart
(Eipix Entertainment, 2013)

When a famous pirate is hanged, he dares the world to find his treasure. Intrigued by his challenge, you plan on putting your significant skills as an investigator to the test. But before you can set off on your journey, you’re called to the baron’s home where he tells you he knows of your intentions and that he wants to fund your trip. But it doesn’t take long before it’s obvious it’s not a request but rather an order. With lives on the line you decide to play along for now. But there’s far more to this mystery than is first evident. Are you ready to sail the treacherous seas of love?

(Seriously, I am getting good at the cheesy trailer lines!)

Sea of Lies MotH - Screen 2

Talk about a blast from the past. Way back when I was just getting into these games, I actually played this game. Back before I even knew who Eipix were, I picked this game up when it was new because… well, that’s what I did back then, just picking up the most popular and newest at the time. What a newbie! I’d never do that now!

I actually forgot all about this game at the time. When I later got into Eipix again I went through their library and there it was. Still didn’t recognize it, though, not until I started actively planning to play it again at which point I went “Hey, this seems oddly familiar.” And as it turned out, it was familiar for a reason! Who knew!?

Being one of their earlier games, the game is definitely rough around the edges. Especially during the cutscenes which look really old and REALLY cheap. Whether because it’s old or because the resolution seemed a bit lacking, I’m not sure but for whatever reason, the cutscenes really stood out to me.

The rest of the game is pretty basic. I remember not being thrilled about the game back when I first played it either and there were big gaps in my memories of the game. It took me the entire game to remember if I had actually finished it or not. As it turns out, I had, but very few locations stood out, it was more the frustration with some of the adventure puzzles that brought the memories back. Such as using the crab to cut a cactus leaf… yeah, no, I was stuck on that for a long time the first time I played the game.

Otherwise it’s pretty much standard Eipix stuff. Nothing about the game really stands out as unique, it was pretty and all but… that’s about it. I’ll no doubt forget about it soon again.

Small Town Terrors Livingston BannerSmall Town Terrors: Livingston
(Gunnar Games, 2012)

Waking up alone in a hospital, you’re overcome with a single need: find your daughter and husband as fast as possible. But something has gone horribly wrong in this little town and it appears to be completely deserted. Had you only been so lucky! The town is very much still populated… by the undead. With zombies roaming the streets you must find your family even faster and get out before it’s too late. But where are they and what happened to the town? Aliens, zombies, government conspiracy, during your journey through this small town you’ll get more than you ever bargained for.

Small Town Terrors Livingston Screen 2

Another blast from the past that I started playing again because Infected: The Twin Vaccine reminded me of it. Graphics wise anyhow. But I played it a long time ago, or at least that’s how it feels, as it’s one of those games that I keep coming back to when I think about HOPA. I used to rank it very high on my list which is why it came back so often in my thoughts. That said, however, my revisit was less than good.

The gameplay and graphics remain pretty much exactly what it was all that time ago but the presentation definitely feels lacking. The 3D models used to animate people are downright bad and calling it animation is being very kind. It also ran absolutely horrifically on my computer, stuttering and graphical glitches were less an annoyance and more of the norm. I also dislike the UI, at least the inventory system. In any other HOPA you typically have a journal or diary to keep track of story and the odd news clipping you may pick up. Here you have a completely different inventory for all the stuff you pick up and since chances are you’ll read it once, when you pick it up, then never think about it again, this feels like a wasted effort. It brings nothing to the game but rather takes away as they’ve omitted the journal entirely.

Which is a shame because the game has a lot to offer. Another reason why Infected reminded me so of this one was because it was just pure horror. No window dressing to keep it all neat and nice, the undead are up and walking about and there are more than a fair share of jump scares. But the most unique aspect of this game is the health meter. Yes, you have health in this game and it will will inevitably lead to your death. Well, no, it doesn’t actually add much gameplay in that sense but rather adds another layer to the horror. You’re constantly scavenging for health packs to take you up to certain health levels as some actions can only be done if you have the prerequisite amount of health.

It really is just a gimmick but it does work, in my opinion.

That said, though, I can’t really say the game spoke to me in any significant way. The performance issues really dragged my experience down and it could be pretty cumbersome in its adventuring, being very strict about what went where and how to use items. Even though I suggested a myriad of things you could do to break a window the game only allowed for one specific solution which tattles of a poor design. Don’t give me a bunch of items that could easily do the trick if you’re just gonna accept a single solution.

Detective Quest TCS BannerDetective Quest: The Crystal Slipper
(Elephant Games, 2013)

As a detective, you’re used to dealing with strange cases. But unicorns, dragons, trolls and any number of other imaginary creatures, even that was beyond even your expertise. But when a man claiming to be a prince shows up in your office and needs your help, you’re not one to turn him down. And before long you’re whisked away to a land filled with unbelievable things. But even if you don’t quite believe it yourself, there’s a case that needs solving in fairy tale land.

Detective Quest TCS Screen 1

Not entirely unlike the Dark Parables series, this singular entry is all about putting a new twist on the fairy tales of old. But unlike the Dark Parables, this games mixes a number of fairy tales into a singular story and I could detect story elements from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and inspirations from a lot more than that. Through your journey you’ll encounter several creatures more commonly associated with Greek mythology and other elements, such as a genie, are present as well.

All present in gorgeous graphics that highlights the fairy tale aspects really well. There’s plenty of gorgeous scenery full of a myriad of color and not a single inch of the spectrum is left unused. You’ll go through a wide array of locales ranging from castles to cave to arctic conditions and back again, solve a few puzzles and put things right.

That put things right thing is more apt than you might think. Completely ignoring tradition, this so called HOPA opts to have absolutely no hidden object scenes at all. Instead they have “revealed object scenes”, hidden object scenes in reverse where you start with the objects and have to put them back where they belong. Sort of, anyhow. It’s not an entirely new formula but I’ve never seen a game made entirely out of them but I’m definitely not against it. It was fun and a welcome break from the standard fare. The only real complaint I had was that it was almost too hard to find where things were supposed to go. Though I did play on a harder difficulty so that might not be a thing on lower difficulty.

But what kept this game from becoming a full fledged review, as was intended initially, was that… well, it’s a fairy tale based games but that shouldn’t make the solutions the stuff of legends. We’re talking proper moon logic at times and that wasn’t helped by the fact that some stuff was so hard to spot there were so many times I couldn’t progress because I’d missed a minor, almost insignificant little area of a screen I could interact with. Which was further complicated by the cursor being no help at all, normally changing shape to indicate an interactive area when near it, but here it changed shape constantly since there was a TON of flavor text, all indicator by the same magnifying glass. A big no no. All of that combined with a lot of backtracking and you got yourself a frustrating game for all the wrong reasons.

But if the two positives and negatives cancel each other out then the game fails to really stand out. No franchise came of this so I imagine it didn’t do too well or it was wrapped into another franchise. Outside of pretty graphics and good music, there wasn’t really anything that screamed unique, not when compared to things like Dark Parables. It’s not bad, it’s just… average at best.

And that’s it for this time. What awaits us next time in Casual Friday? No clue, kinda make these up as I go along. But stay tuned none the less.

1 thought on “Casual Friday – Week 14, 2016

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