"Gamedec is so obsessed with the idea of sex that I have trouble finding words to convey it. Starting right from the beginning as you take your first mission in the Alpha, you're assigned to investigate a billionaire's underage son who has hired an adult prostitute to have sex with him and his friend in the virtual world. The dialogue almost immediately devolves into what I can only describe as a 13-year-old boy who has never talked to a girl thinks flirting is. Gamedec's idea of "flirting" is an adult man telling an adult woman that her boobies are big and squeezable. It's not a one-time gag - the dialogue got even more cringey as the Alpha build went on. Gamedec is quite serious about how excited it is about the prospect of sex. The complete dedication to making Gamedec a male power fantasy was surprising to me, as I have seen no indication that this is what the game was supposed to be on the Kickstarter page.
Of the 20 or so characters I met, every single woman was a prostitute. No exceptions." -- an article on the game's preview sent out to reviewers.
Maybe bury this game in the ground, six feet deep.
I was playing Solitaire on my comp and then realized I hadn't played much Minesweeper and now it's something I live and breathe, as I look up new tactics, RNG mitigation, strategies to speedrun, multiplayer io parts where it's a race to get mines, and somehow it has become this idea of bending Minesweeper to my goddamn will until I come out the otherside without exploding and cheer like a maniac when I got lucky on the unluckiest draw possible of 2 spaces that are impossible to figure out which one has the mine.
I'll have a real, full review analyzing this game at some point. I'm not up to the task yet, but until then..
I'm now singlehandedly responsible for an entire Discord server I'm on getting into Minesweeper and the pandemic has spread. I am Patient Zero.
I'm not sorry.
Hey there! Have you ever wanted to play a game that in every shape of the word is a spiritual adaptation of The Prisoner? You know, that British sci-fi show with the 1960s era spy fiction tone, a brainwashing/mind control surveillance conspiracy, and experimentally stylish as all hell? You are? Cool! Is it ok that it’s on mobile iOS only and kinda pricey? And most of the game is text with puzzles interspersed? No?
Welp, now you see my predicament in recommending this game.
DEVICE6 is a love letter to The Prisoner from my favorite game company, Simogo. The company prides itself on “never making the same game twice”, which in that sense has them going everywhere from horror depressing “walking sim” to a weird but stylish interactive “rhythm” game. The latter, “Sayonara Wild Hearts”, has thankfully shone a bigger spotlight on the company thanks to its showing at The Game Awards, but unfortunately DEVICE6 never got the same treatment outside of insular mobile game awards that showered it with awards and promptly booted it out the front door to the…. “Mobile game market” that cares more about a game you can play in short spurts and on the go rather than one that requires you to get out a pen and paper so you can piece together the puzzles.
Alas, this is the latter.
DEVICE6’s gimmick is how it uses the mobile interface to read through text that will require you to move the phone every which way, from upside down to vertical, horizontal, and sometimes even asking you to use a mirror. Sometimes the text even splits into branches for you to follow, and the text is both the story and what leads to the meat, the puzzles. Puzzles in the game are centered around audio logs you stumble across, visual paintings that you pass by, sometimes even from previous statements from the text. It is a game where the pen and paper is your friend, not your enemy. While the game is not as tricky to put together as, say, La-Mulana, it isn’t easy either.
The premise, on the other hand, is simple. A lady finds herself in an abandoned castle without memory of how she got there, and stumbles around trying to find answers of where she is and why she’s there. Without spoiling, what you end up with is a meta device between the main character and you, and a conspiracy surrounding the namesake of the game… and people in black. Puzzling!
Speaking of puzzling, to give an example of a puzzle in DEVICE6, I’ll use the first chapter. In the chapter as you’ll explore the area through text, you’ll find a screen without battery, a machine asking for a passcode, a machine with buttons L and R, a display that cycles through cameras around a building, and an audio log describing the answers to only one of the previous with vague clues such as “where red meets yellow in a frame” and a framed number between “hope and lies”. It requires you to go back through the text for clues and images around the area. And to me, the puzzles are pretty ingenious in their relative simplicity while still forcing you to wrap your brain around the answers, as well as a dedication to paying attention to what you read.
The game also oozes with style and atmosphere. There’s a reason the game asks you to use headphones, not just for its audio logs, but to help immerse yourself in the atmosphere that never reaches horror but always keeps you out of your depth. You can see what I mean by “The Prisoner” vibes. The sound effects are in-house from reality to add more to it, and there’s numerous references throughout the game, for better or for worse. The trailer for the game should make it very clear what you’re getting into.
DEVICE6 is a brilliant mobile game that I wish was more popular if it wasn’t stuck solely to one platform that not a lot of gamers play (whether from stigma or justifiable problems with the industry) and had a somewhat sizable price point for that platform to boot. I highly recommend watching the trailer for it to get a real sense of what the game has in store, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with what you find, creepy doll notwithstanding.
All hail DEVICE 6.
(Thanks to Ash for helping me with this review!)
In a few Discord servers, I've stated, usually in very chide one-off statements, that this game sucks. I've never actually spent time elaborating why it sucks, and I realize that just saying it does doesn't really help any conversation whatsoever, or really have anything new to put forth.
Because, to be honest, to say this game is all bad is missing the mark just as much as saying “anime is for weebs”... which is largely true but still missing some information that could point a different direction..
So what is DDLC? It’s a very, very short VN that lampshades what happens in most VNs, where you meet a handful of characters and deal/handle their personal issues, except without a lot to say about it. It uses its runtime to poke fun at the laughable traits of the worst of VNs while then proceeding to put some valid criticism of unconditional attachment, while peppering its runtime with enough shock value to make streamers freak the fuck out and thus become a touchstone of Twitch culture with its reaction and memes such as “just Monika”. I highly doubt that all of that was intentional, but the impact can’t be disregarded, because it did become a part of online video game culture as a whole… for better or for worse.
There is something I need to outline. While I agree usually that a game should not be based on its toxic fanbase, DDLC is so big that it’s tough to ignore. It is extremely hard to detach the community and fanbase as a whole from the game. We can agree to disagree from there.
Let’s be clear, the shock value fucking works for one key moment. I am a wimp and autistic and find very emotional attachment to video games that is borderline unhealthy, and thus the very infamous first shock rolled me over like a lawnmower and I still have nightmares thinking about it. If there’s one thing to give credit to DDLC, it is that it’s very unpredictable, although at the expense of pacing or having a good kind of shock value past the first moment.
Everything else is very standard and frustrating to go through, particularly a moment where you have to “auto-skip” for a moment that abuses its time to the fullest extent. I don’t care if it’s not supposed to be fun, it’s nauseating. It doesn’t have anything to gain for its inclusion OTHER than shocking the player and to hammer harder how messed up Monika is, which would have benefitted from a tighter pace. Subversion, especially when it’s creatively done like DDLC, is fine, but its pace and execution despite its concept hampers this to an extreme.
DDLC’s good, however, comes in two things: a general and well done understanding of depression and the pain it causes through its first introductory character arc, and the danger and toxicity of parasocial relationships represented via Monika’s rampant fascination with the player. The latter unfortunately…. is not even knee deep. It does not deconstruct how it comes to exist but rather comments on its existence, which is fine but doesn’t leave a lot to take away.
So what anecdotal interactions poison the game for me? It is that it has massively poisoned talking about VNs and the Western reaction to VNs as a whole. The game is definitely pointing at a very particular subgenre of VNs, but its popularity has created a vacuum of using the game as a point to how “all VNs are bad” and how ridiculous the genre is. Yes, people can sometimes be dumb and stupid, as can I, but I’ve seen it happen EVERYWHERE.
I’m not an expert on VNs (in fact I’ve only started recently to delve into the genre with games like Umineko, The Silver Case, and Nekojishi), but it’s insane how much DDLC has colored VN’s image that the games themselves have been not at all what’s expected. I don’t even… know of any game DDLC is really pointing out here. In the end, it feels like it has a blanket “VNs bad” side to its conversation around the medium where the tropes it is subverting in its runtime a mainstay more for anime as a whole rather than VN dating sims instead. Am I missing something? Maybe I need to play more VNs.
Trust me, it’s not that there aren't bad VNs. I can go to fucking TOWN on Nekojishi for its disgusting moments with its true ending and in the end having zero to take away from other than… the tiger guys are adorable.
The biggest struggle comes from where, when I enjoy a VN (or when other big friends of mine do), it’s tough to recommend, because the image that DDLC has created in popular culture casts a big enough web to catch SUVs. There are other barriers to entry such as price and it not being as “video game” as other genres, but this to me has been the biggest barrier now.
My hope is to understand where I come from now when I say “Fuck DDLC”. It’s partly the game but way more because of the culture that surrounds it.
At least it’s free.
Have you ever wanted to play 2001 A Space Odyssey where you're a detective investigating the aftermath of HAL's shenanigans, assuming HAL was never killed?
No? Well too bad. That's what this game is, although in its most humorous moments it will remind you that this has absolutely no relation to the movie whatsoever.
What belies in the product is a sort of detective game where you investigate the aftermath of what appears to be a AI gone rogue (with the charisma of a discount GLADoS), taking pictures of dead bodies and evidence in space to then confront the AI Ace Attorney style (who apparently always tells the truth when you contradict them). Coupled with it is a few humorous digs at the obvious source material and somewhat funny narration.
Unfortunately, this game never goes beyond its proof of concept, and that doesn't just extend to the gameplay. The game graphically is very much "made in Unity" as if it was rushed out, which actually makes the mystery worse than it should: because everything isn't detailed and blocky, you'll miss a vital hint for later that makes a argument point infuriating to figure out.
But let's talk about the gameplay. You sorta travel around in space around a spaceship (that definitely doesn't look like the ship from 2001), with... really weird controls that takes figuring out and because the game is actually REALLY short (it takes less than an hour), by the game you get comfortable, the game is almost done. To collect evidence, you have to take pictures, and while sometimes it's obvious what you need to take a picture of... sometimes it's not. You might be stumbling around in the dark. When you confront MAL, you have to connect evidence where you present a photo you've taken and then MAL will feed you their response, for which you have to contradict with another photo. Finding the photo to contradict MAL is not done well, in that it doesn't.... logically flow at all. For a part of it, I was just contradicting by trial and error. Ace Attorney this is not.
Also, if you've seen the movie, you will enjoy some of the comedic references to it (such as the classical music "MAL" loves to play), but it'll also be infuriating when you obviously know what happen but it takes an hour to find what you're looking for. If you're really a movie purist, you might balk at some of the new additions added for the sake of making the game somewhat longer.
If you haven't seen the movie, you might find the mystery interesting on a surface level, maybe even find MAL endearing. But it's too short and again, it never goes further than its proof of concept. The ending is also a big "WTF" for both audiences. It could be humorous, but instead it feels like a middle finger to the player. All that for... that?
Avoid unless you want to try it for dirt cheap, which you can as it's "name your price". I suggest avoiding.
SPOILER WARNING: SPOILER REVIEW
Gear up, this is somewhat of a long one, and my first big review on this website! :D
I just "finished" Talos Principle about half an hour ago, and by finished I mean I got two endings: the tower one and the stars one. I'm still not done, I'm going to go back and 100% complete the game and see the easter eggs I missed next week when I have free time, and I'll update this when I do so, but for now here's my thoughts.
Go for the tower ending. It's an absolutely fantastic closer to the story, which is I found to be extremely heartfelt and packed in with a lot of nice philosophy (which some admittedly goes over my head, I'm not very smart on this subject) and extremely hard-hitting moments. There were some extremely heartfelt and depressing moments that had me in tears, even when it was just text on a screen. The problems with the story, though, are the narrative pacing. A lot of its best moments are packed in with a lot of weaksauce allegory squished in between (that some also went over my head), though despite that, uncovering the secrets of the world you inhabit and what's actually going on is still a great experience, whether it's through Elohim, a snarky talker, good text logs, or the fantastic audio recordings (Alexandria's VA was so good!). Some of the QR codes were also funny and nice worldbuilding (and even lead to a nice out-of-world puzzle :D).
The "characters" are also good, specifically the computer AI and Elohim, though I think the computer AI needed some work. Part of his routine is to make you think about the world and ask you questions, but you have pre-ordained responses to him. I believe it's intentional, because of the nature of the world that it's built (commented meta-wise through text logs aware that it's a game), where it has specific responses you can use to eventually gain true independence. That being said, it's frustrating to be unable to answer questions in the way you want to, or to add nuance when the AI gives edge cases and you want to say "there's a line", or it's "context-dependent", which are not available answers. I still like it and the reason it exists, and the snarks are hilarious. Though I also think the AI could've been... a LITTLE less pretentious.
Also on the stars ending, it's not worth it. I think it's neat to potentially be a "helper" for future players that are in your friends list, but I think the QR paint code is already more interesting interaction (I got freaked out by a few of them lol). The helpers also come so late by the C-world, and from what I've gathered there's usually not that many puzzles left, unless of course they've been skipping sigils, but I think most people playing this game will go out of their way to do a lot.
The gameplay, especially the puzzle design, is top-notch with some rough patches. The difficulty curve is really good, especially with the grey puzzles and the think outside the box stars, though it has problems where by the C-world I found the main puzzles too easy, save for a few exceptions (the prison break one and Tower 5 AAAAAAA). The stars are GREATLY challenging and I appreciate their existence for the most part, though you do notice patterns eventually after solving a few (I like to say your brainwaves match the devs and you realize how they craft them). The way you think outside the box is great, especially with the signposting.
I had so many "a-ha" moments, which I think is my favorite part about playing puzzle games. I had a lot of them through Worlds A and B. I also think it's great how open-ended it is to go do puzzles while having some hard ones gated off, keeps the difficulty curve nice for most of the game. Elohim also pushes you to do other puzzles when you're stuck so you don't get tunnel vision, which is great.... but I'm super persistent and refuse to let a game BEAT ME! Got an achievement for it :3
Platform usage is also really cool but underutilized. Some reflector puzzles using great spatial awareness, especially the ones when you have to realize their multiple uses, are GOAT. Almost every puzzle requiring smart usage of multiple jammers were my favorite puzzles by far, especially ones asking for smart observation skills. The recorder also had some great puzzles. It's so much fun when it first shows up and you find out what it records over time, that's wild. The fans are also great for great 3D up-down awareness puzzles, though it can be a little frustrating when what you think the fan gives to solve isn't what it actually is (maybe fan distance signposting?).
Exploring to find stuff is neat, but... I feel like the process of knowing where the stars are is annoying, at least parallel to how little I think the stars ending is worth. I feel like a "path" signposting would've been nice to see where they are but give no help to solve it. There were 2 stars that were outright BULL and I don't even want to talk about them.
Some other frustrating mechanics I want to talk about include the recorder. While I love its use in puzzles, it's SOOOOO SLOWWWWWWWWW. I wish there was a way to speed it up instead of having to stand on a platform for so long because I don't trust myself to be speedy. The mines and turrets are also TOO GOOD AT THEIR JOB. I think they're way too scary. Made me dread every time I came close to them, or had to do a puzzle with them. I had to use a messenger on one with a mine because I didn't want to do it because SCARY... and that's when I found out they don't solve it for you, so I had to do it anyway. ;_;
Getting the axe and then having to painfully go through elevators to open up new entrances was a bruh moment. Block sigil puzzles are also STUPID AND I HATE THEM. 2D topography awareness is my kryptonite along with geometry. Figuring out where one stupid block goes in the square drove me nuts. They also had an annoying difficulty spike around Tower Level 3 in runtime.
Not a fault of the game, but I do wish this game was more accessible. The messengers you can unlock do give neat guidance, but I wish they were more helpful and plentiful. Having a tiny amount makes you never want to use them, though I think it was the devs' intention of wanting you to solve it by yourself (especially with the ARE YOU SURE)... but the hints they give aren't that great either. They're a good step to help, but they're not amazing from the two times I used them (just for achievements hehe). But again, this is a nitpick.
Some other nice things. Finding the dev room was super nice, and I'm excited to find other easter eggs when I go back to 100% finish. I was warned that the game would not be wise during current time right now, but I actually found the coronavirus timing to be both hilarious for some things and.... made other stuff hit harder. I don't think the current global situation is a barrier to entry, but it's worth thinking about..
The aesthetic is nice, though it really hits when you find the sacred grounds. The music for messenger rooms are godlike. The general OST is pretty good, though I started tuning it out (save for sacred grounds) by the C-worlds. Long times spent on puzzles and the OST not being that gigantic does eventually make you grow tired of it, and it's not THAT amazing an OST to replay constantly, unlike Celeste imo (though they're both completely different games).
When I'm eventually completely finished with Talos Principle, I really want to break down how each puzzle teaches the mechanics of the world. It reminds me of Portal but it has more depth to its teachings, and I think in the future that's going to be a big passion project for me... when I have time. I'm doing a lot of things at once.
Anyway, really good game. I don't have the time for a TL;DR right now, and these aren't my true final thoughts as I still need to complete it all! But I enjoyed it still. Thinking 8.5/10
(Thanks to SGS for the game rec!)