There's some bullshit here with the second and third puzzles requiring very specific words in certain spots that I really don't feel is fair especially cause there are also synonyms in the same clue list. That said, still mighty fun figuring things out and a decent enough swan song for the game considering this is the final DLC.
This review contains spoilers
I was mostly in the "recommended" side of things for almost the entire game. While the gameplay is very simple and sometimes tedious, the game had a level of sincerity and charm that I really couldn't dismiss. Especially for people who would love a sort of calming experience and wouldn't mind the hide-and-seek type of gameplay, this is still something I'd recommend. The game has a fair few foibles and basically simply requires you to effectively pixel hunt by clicking on so much stuff in the environments but the context of why you're doing it combined with the simple art style and the gentle music got me through most of it even if I was a little annoyed at the ancillary additions like the "grenkins" and the stupid "riddles". There also seems to have been a lot of effort put into the slicing mechanic because it does make for some cool visuals and moments throughout that always impressed me by how they could have implemented it technically.
But at the very final moments, the game just ends. There's a cutscene that plays and until the credits rolled, I thought there was going to be another hide-n-seek environment left, which I do admit didn't thrill me cause I was pretty done with the game by this point. But for a game about death, moving on, and the passing of the torch, I cannot believe that they simply drop the entire premise of the story in such a ridiculous manner and deprive anyone playing of closure of all things. I was left completely gobsmacked at the audacity of not having a final conclusion to the hunting I'd been doing for 5 hours.
I'm ok with stories being left ambiguous and open ended but this game does not deserve, earn or really set up such a thing. The entire game is about a very specific plot point that you're doing and that the game simply stops is such a black mark against it. The gameplay does not make the experience all that worthwhile for me personally and there's not even the simple quality of life feature to go back to earlier levels to reattampt the riddles and grenkins. I am thoroughly disappointed with this game and would go so far as to say it wasted my time.
This is a pretty cool tiny little game that has one specific concept that it executes decently enough. Good sound, excellent pixel art and a fun fire fighting conceit but the artificial difficulty borne from simply denying you vital tools like "shoot water while on a ladder" doesn't really make for much of a difficulty curve. It's fine. It's over in a couple of hours and has some unwelcome faff but it was apparently made by a dad for his kid who loved firefighters so I'm not putting it down any more than this. It's cheap and short.
As a lil' gator trying to persuade his busy big sis into playing with him, our titular protagonist has his work cut out trying to prove that his kickass game is fun and that his big sis is missing out by being all busy with adult stuff. The best way to do that is OF COURSE to play the game that he's set up with his friends with all sorts of wicked adventures all spread out throughout the island. His cool friends have built cardboard enemy cutouts and pots all over the island that are ripe for the breaking and seems like there's also a bunch of potential pals all over with their own short quests to do! Finishing their quests will potentially also give you cool new weapons and gear which, as we all know, MORE gear equals MORE fun! There's also this mysterious monkey who appears in the most unexpected spots to give you these bracelets that let you climb higher and higher! To get to more spots to break more stuff! What fun!
The gameplay loop is essentially exploring every nook and cranny of the island to finish small one-off quests but also to gather the core party to build up a base on the center to get the sister to play with the Lil Gator. While being simple, the game is short enough where it does not wear its welcome out though by the very end of it I was most definitely ready for it to be done. You start off with a melee attack, a slide with your "shield" and two items though these expand as you finish quests for people scattered all over and adds a little bit of flavor as you swing your paintbrush wearing a beret and sporting a massive easel shield that you use to slide down mountains. The bracelets that you get fro the monkey that you can find give you stamina that you use to climb up sheer cliffs though you could pretty much finish the game on a single one considering I had barely any difficulty scaling anything but the highest points on the map.
While the gameplay is simple, what makes this game so enjoyable for me is the MASSIVE dose of charm, earnestness and pure joy injected directly into everything. It reminds me of my own time as a kid being a little scamp, making imaginary games with my friends and making my own fun with the areas around my house. Our troupe of daring ne'er-do-wells would play out all sorts of adventures on various fantasy lands and this taps directly into my nostalgia for that time. The presentation adds so much with its goofy yet lovely character models, a pretty well rendered and pretty landscape and some soothing music that lilts through most of your time.
I'm not sure if A Short Hike was an inspiration for this game but it is extremely similar to that in a lot of ways but definitely does its own thing that's clearly more inspired by Zelda. The game brings a TON of charm and heart into a fairly simple exploration based game in a small island making it far more than the sum of its parts and I thoroughly recommend this for anyone looking for a short jaunt through one's childhood adventures.
It's not really a spoiler that the game is a meta-narrative with the developer pretty blatantly screaming at you when you don't follow instructions within the first 15 minutes. This is very much in the vein of something like Pony Island where the fourth wall breaks are the content. But IMO this is a far less interesting and more banal version of this genre. It's not saying anything more than "oh making games is hard" and "I'm an asshole". It's also made pretty weak with the narrator in English clearly not delivering his lines that well and sounding like he's reading from a script. Something like "The Beginner's Guide" is far more engaging and actually has a lot to say. Maybe this was unique at the time cause the game is 7 years old but right now, the genre is fairly crowded.
What really sets the game apart aren't the puzzles but the atmosphere. The fractal based visuals and the atmospheric soundtrack make this one of the most unique puzzle games out there. The endless repetition isn't just for show either since most of the puzzles will require you to fall onto the next iteration of the same level. This might also be triggering for some people because even though most of it is only really happening on a 27 inch screen in front of me, I had goosebumps from my fear of heights almost throughout. Some trippy sequences and areas also gave me this weird fight-or-flight feeling and I was tense through a lot of it but not at all in a bad way. There's really nothing that can hurt you in the game though some of the visuals are meant to be somewhat unsettling. The dev really found an incredible theme here and executed it perfectly. The way the geometry just fades out into infinity makes for some thrilling sights almost every step of the way.
On the puzzle front, the game isn't particularly tough. You're mostly trying to navigate and find the puzzle or execute what you know you want to do more often than figure much of it out. You're mostly interacting with blocks and trying to get them into the right pads and other mechanics that I don't want to spoil. It's a fairly short game and I finished it in about 4.5 hours with minimal help at one point cause I forgot a mechanic but otherwise the most confused you'll be is when looking for what to do next.
I'd recommend this to anyone looking for an FPS puzzler a la Antichamber which this seems to use heavily as inspiration for the structure. The visuals and atmosphere alone are worth the price of admission.
I was very intrigued by the first couple of hours only to be let down by an incredibly mundane and disappointing "mystery" and the remaining hours showed me all the weak writing on most of the other characters. Conceptually, it's quite brilliant but the execution is significantly lacking and I genuinely had more fun hunting for achievements than whatever nonsense was going on with the plot. The game is terribly jank out of VR with dialog audio not properly audible a lot of the time, subtitles not appearing if the characters are inches outside the room you're in, wonky controls and no sprint function, and no way to actually even quit the game cleanly without Alt+F4. I feel like I expected more out of the game and I was severely let down by how average it is.
Way too short and incredibly unsatisfying in the gameplay department. I get that this must be aimed largely at children and is told in the form of a bedtime story but I have to imagine actual children would be far more engaged with mechanics that actually challenged them and made them work for something. As it is, it's such a barebones and unfulfilling experience and I'm not sure I can recommend it to anyone.
An EXTREMELY pleasant surprise and a game I really wasn't expecting too much out of but manages to wring every penny out of its probably meagre budget and elevates itself significantly from its very limited setting to make for something memorable and interesting.
The game isn't that much of a looker and you're confined to a single house for its entirety but it manages to make every part of the house fairly interesting with a bunch of notes and actual environmental storytelling. There's also ways the gameplay itself shapes the house that I'll get into later. The voice acting leaves a fair bit to be desired sometimes but is mostly serviceable. This isn't a theatre play or some grand tale. It's just a bunch of people living in a house for which the voice acting is adequate. There's not much music to speak of and the game is mostly quiet but the ambient sound design works wonders in keeping you fairly tense.
On the gameplay side of things, you're working in first person and working your way through snippets of the events that transpired in the one house before something pivotal happens. You're required to investigate a timeline and see the sequence of events that led to what happened and also explore what happens when you force changes in some of the decisions. The game is pretty much strictly this so if you've played something like Tacoma then this would be right at home. I found a good deal of polish in how you navigate through the timeline, especially the cool way in which it shows you all the events that are changed by the decision you just made which was a massive help. This even changes the placement and presence of items in the house, for example, you could have posters up on the wall in the present depending on if you asked the landlord to clear the stuff from the old tenant away which is neat-o. There are a fair few issues here though, especially the lack of a conversation log, requiring you to continually walk up and down the house, no playback options for the events and some minor lack of polish with triggering them. I found it quite annoying how much walking I'd had to do and wish there was an easier way to get around the house and view the events.
The story itself is not a particularly complicated one. It's mostly the lives of a few distressed folk who're trying to get by and you sort of have a hand in how they're going to react to the situations they end up in within the house to try and make their "ending" better. Most of the conversations flow naturally and feel like people talking rather than any stage direction though the voice acting does let it down in spots. It's a simple story told in a complex way but the delivery makes it much more engaging to discover all of it. It's also just fun to watch the characters sometimes since most of them are very likeable and have a fair few things going on.
I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did, especially when the initial hour is a bit of a slog and the timeline looked extremely daunting. But the game lets you in slowly and I found myself entertained all the rest of the way. If you're a fan of games like What Remains of Edith Finch and Tacoma, this is a solid recommend from me.
Going in, I'm not sure I knew what exactly I was expecting but I came out of it quite impressed. While I'm not sure I totally bought into the mystery ever, the game does a fair few cool things with the medium and has a pretty likeable and entertaining cast that keep you going throughout.
Visually, the game looks excellent. It might look basic to some but I was very taken in by the beautiful character art juxtaposed with the real world 360 degree photos that were slightly toonified. The characters are very expressive during the dialog rather than behave as static head pieces and move around in the actual space. It's especially really cool that they use the camera panning across the 360 degree photos in pretty effective ways though it doesn't happen that often. There's no voice acting though which I feel would have elevated a fair few scenes but the music sets the mood fairly well throughout.
Being a story heavy game, there's not much I really want to discuss without giving away spoilers but what I will say is, while the core mystery and the horror didn't really grip me, the characters and the plucky ways in which they try to deal with a very unique and tense situation is pretty cool. A lot of info is dumped on you constantly and I found it very engaging to try and piece it all together. It's a very tangled web of history, family and conspiracy and it's fun trying to pull at the threads on your own.
I would pretty safely recommend this to anyone considering for a VN it's pretty short and a fairly straightforward mystery thriller without much fluff associated with the genre. It's unfortunate how this was given almost no marketing but I'd like to see more people play this and hope the team gets to put out more in the series if they want to return to this fairly interesting world.
It's basically just Sludge Life except with more indoor exploration than the last one. There's more achievements and more items but the map size is pretty much the same. It's a bit funnier. Honestly there's not too much to say. It's grimy, disgusting and everything you expect from a corpo-dystopia satire. If you liked the last one, you might like this too
The game is far too in love with its movement system and doesn't consider that it's incredibly cumbersome to make precise actions which are required for multiple puzzles that get super annoying. There's also many places where they strip half your moves and expect you to hobble into solving some puzzles. There's also tons of minor annoyances like how much time it takes to pet your eagle, having to aim at every single talisman all the time (which probably single handedly used up the lifetime of my RT switch), the massive environments that don't really have much going for them, how time slows when you use detective vision, the completely unnecessary stealth sections and so on. The puzzles also really aren't particularly challenging or complex. One boss battle in particular is also incredibly irritating to get through and requires that you know that you don't always have to fill the arrow bar to shoot and hit the target. The story is also nothing to write home about and is bog standard, tropey, hero's journey through and through.
That said, it's a beautiful, well scored and fairly engaging open world puzzle platformer that's mostly pretty good. None of my complaints are offensively bad and I was invested enough to keep going. If you're just looking for a relatively short, open world, checklist type adventure game then this might be for you
Coming in from AI, which was a pretty goofy but fun and intriguing mystery game, I suppose I didn't really know what to expect. I came away feeling like this was the worst of both VLR and ZTD with ZTD's boring mystery, plot and characters and VLR's incredibly goofy and badly executed plot twists making this a thoroughly underwhelming playthrough. Only once it dropped all pretense of being a mystery game did I finally begin to have fun with it and I rode the goofiness of the end to a somewhat satisfying conclusion but that doesn't excuse the remaining 80-90% of the game where I was bored to tears.
Getting it out of the way, the presentation is largely exactly the same as AI. They're serviceable with the fun character designs and goofy low-fi animations and extremely small environments. They're not trying to win you over with the graphics and that's perfectly fine. The music is great as ever with a lot of the same tracks from the first game but also a fair few new ones. I played it on Japanese and the voice acting is entertaining and I do hear good things about the English dub which was excellent in the first game.
In terms of gameplay, you're still largely just following a VN story for most of it, punctuated by the Somniums which are the "escape room"-esque sections where you need to solve puzzles in moon logic to try and make sense of a subject's dreams to find things out about them. I largely enjoyed AI's Somniums so color me very surprised when I realised that the Somniums this time around almost all hilariously easy or unreasonably frustrating. There was ONE Somnium that was good, one that was decent. The rest were either walks in the park with incredibly obvious solutions requiring next to no thought or logic, or unreasonably frustrating with instant death mechanics and lots of frustrating trial and error. Most of the Somniums, save the one good one, don't really have puzzles any more. You're not really figuring out anything. You are given almost the entire solution right from the get go making large portions of some of them extremely linear affairs where you're just doing the next singular thing. I'm also really not a fan of the many times you are essentially forced into protracted sequences that reduce your time but give you no option to use the timies which is a huge departure from the first game. The Somniums were a serious downgrade in my opinion.
And unfortunately, coming to the story, I did not like most of what was on display. The writer of this game, Kotaro Uchikoshi, loves his sci-fi and loves his plot twists. Unfortunately, in this case, the twists hurt the storytelling to the extent that it doesn't allow you to explore the characters and their tragedies which left me very unsympathetic to their situations and I cannot elaborate further without going into massive spoilers. The story structure is centered almost entirely around the core twist which leaves so much of the game shallow and bereft of any sense. Characters simply refuse to talk to you and elaborate on what they know, nonsensical explanations have to prop up and hurriedly stitch closed massive plot holes, characters aren't given the room to breathe and let their stories grow and so on. None of it hooked me until the very end when the game just lets loose in a blaze of unabashed and shameless glory and revels in the chaos. Rather than try and make sense, I really wish the game leaned more into how incredibly stupid it is. But the game is not really a mystery game and people who want an actual mystery to try and figure out, akin to a detective novel, will be thoroughly disappointed.
While I did not enjoy myself playing this game, I am very glad it exists and will definitely pick up whatever the team makes next. I did not find myself enjoying the game as I played it but I am still glad that I played it, if for nothing else than to experience the sheer madness of these titles. There's truly nothing else quite like it.
I am thoroughly baffled at the amateurish puzzle design, map and general lack of polish on this title. It could have been pretty good since the puzzle design is pretty good sometimes but this is sorely missing a TON of polish
I have not 100% finished it but I'm done with 7/9 "worlds" and the "ending". While a fair few puzzles are intriguing and genuine thinkers, the variance between "baby block easy" and "what is even going on" is wild and unhinged. There's whole areas dedicated to childish, incredibly straightforward puzzles that barely take any time (ruins, graveyard and orchard). But then some areas have some true head scratchers (garden and half of mansion) and you're left wondering where the balance is in all this. I also found it incredibly annoying to get around the world. There's no permanent map so many times I just run in random directions with a vague idea of where to go. The placement of the teleport stones is utterly baffling and none, save one, are situated inside the puzzle areas they're supposed to represent with most of them being either just outside the area or in some arcane location that you have to dig yourself out of every time you go there making the fast travel system utterly pointless. The map being the way it is also means that you will end up at the very end of a puzzle sequence without any preamble as to how to solve it which means you will have to go out of your way to find the "teaching" moment that tells you what the puzzle even means.
The puzzles are pretty fun in some of the areas (mine, mill and the shrine) which saves it for me. The game is also mercifully short and the whole map is pretty small so even if you're lost, going from one end to the other barely takes a minute which is a saving grace. While I don't feel I wasted my time, I don't think this was particularly good.