Thoughts on: Several games I’ve had no time to write about before

[Russian version] 

It is time again to write about a bunch of games I played, some of which I finished, but which didn’t really require a full on exclusive review for them (or even the dual/triple review post, for that matter). The games I will cover here are these: Pony Island, Refunct, Deus Ex: The Fall, Layers of Fear, Dream Machine, Hidden Folks, Clustertruck, Superhot, 2000:1 A Space Felony, Goat Simulator, Environmental Station Alpha, Ori and the Blind Forest and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Yep, that’s a lot of stuff that piled up over the course of about half a year. Let’s get to it.

Games completed:

Pony Island is a simplistic, almost exclusively mouse driven game that mixes a simple concept of «runner» games and 4th wall breaking puzzle solving. There’s a primitive arcade game, that’s totally not built by Satan to torment you forever that you will play, trying to get to the bottom of the situation you got yourself in. It’s surprisingly fun for what it is and is definitely worth checking, especially on discount or in a bundle.

Refunct is a short and pretty looking first person platformer title about jumping, stepping on buttons and unlocking more and more of a rather small map. It’s cute, potentially fun for speedrunning (it was even run on one of the GDQ events) and is in general fun to play around due to the amount of movement tricks you can do. Worth checking out.

Deus Ex: The Fall is probably the worst Deus Ex standalone game out there. While it’s admirable that it tried to put the Human Revolution-like experience on the mobile devices, and in that regard it can at least be respected as marvel of «wow, you cut only most of what made the game good, not all», it was probably very much not worth it. Each zone (between loading screens) is shorter then in Invisible War, which is an achievement in itself, a lot of the events feel meaningless, most of the mechanics are cut down to the very boring basics and the game ends on a «To be continued» which never came to be and never will. It’s sad, bad, adds even less to the series than Mankind Divided and is better avoided completely.

review, обзор, Pony Island, Refunct, Deus Ex: The Fall, Layers of Fear, Dream Machine, Hidden Folks, Clustertruck, Superhot, 2000:1 A Space Felony, Goat Simulator, Environmental Station Alpha, Ori and the Blind Forest, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Layers of Fear

Layers of Fear is a first person story-driven horror adventure game heavily influenced by the now infamous PT (the cancelled Silent Hills teaser). It’s a pretty looking surreal descent into madness and alcoholism told from the perspective of a very unreliable narrator — a tortured mad artist trying to finish his painting. While it has a lot of really nice visual ideas for horror and storytelling, several endings, depending on how you play the game, and pretty much all of the «jump scares» can be avoided and in quite obvious ways (like «don’t go towards a creepy looking hellish room full of black goo») it’s a bit of a boring game, due to how predictable the story becomes and how linear and scripted everything is. It’s still a curious title, but not particularly worth the time.

Dream Machine is a bit sad chapter based game that was in development for 7 years, with new chapters released over the course of development. Sad, because you see if I was writing this about the first 2 chapters, I would’ve been hopeful. «So much potential», I’d write, «such an interesting premise!» But the full game is an utter mess that gets more tedious and boring to play the further it goes. First two chapters establish the premise of a strange horror mystery dream thriller sci-fi tale with not particularly good writing, but one that fits the mood and stop motion looks.

But starting with chapter 3 things start falling apart. Game enforces more tedious walking back and forth, asks for obscure puzzle solutions and doesn’t present a particularly interesting story. Which gets better a bit in chapter 4, but then takes a nose dive and culminates with the ending chapter being just a pointless pseudo-«smart» self-discovery sequences, scene borrowed from Kubrik and an ending quote from Radiohead. It’s not a particularly fun adventure game, with really tedious «puzzles» starting in the last chapters. It’s not a good story, because the storyline falls apart somewhere after midpoint and it’s not particularly well written. And it’s very definitely not worth time it requires to suffer through it all.

review, обзор, Pony Island, Refunct, Deus Ex: The Fall, Layers of Fear, Dream Machine, Hidden Folks, Clustertruck, Superhot, 2000:1 A Space Felony, Goat Simulator, Environmental Station Alpha, Ori and the Blind Forest, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Hidden Folks

Hidden Folks is a mobile and desktop title that mixes «Where’s Wally/Waldo?» picture book ideas with more traditional to games hidden object mechanics into something extremely fun and addictive. It has highly detailed giant monochrome maps full of things and characters for you to find and hints of where you can find them. It’s all accompanied with silly voices doing a cappella music and sounds, cute animations and drawing style. Definitely worth checking out on the platform of your choosing.

Clustertruck is a simple, but fun platforming game, where you jump from one to the other moving truck towards the goal at the end of the level. Which starts simple enough, but as levels become crazier, with different obstacles and things trying to push you and the trucks away, and a silly integration with Twitch, which allows for viewers (and developers themselves) to change the rules of the game on the fly, it becomes a fun and silly chaotic game. It’s both a fun and hellish speedrun game, since it’s fast, but also full on randomness that means no run will ever go the same. Would recommend checking out for some silly chaotic run and jumping hours.

Superhot is another simple, but surprisingly fun game. It’s an FPS, except in which time moves only when you do (including the camera movement). Because of that, the game constantly puts you in scenarios that would be ridiculous and unfun in «proper» FPS games — since you would die over and over even with quicksaves every few seconds. But works in this game to create some insane and cool situations where you shoot in one direction preventively, hit someone else in the face with the gun, grab their gun and shoot someone else before jumping over a moving bullet and etc. It also has a cyberpunk-inspired dystopian story going for it and a lot of 4th wall breaking, which is sometimes done in a cool way, more often in a predictable silly way, but works for the game perfectly. Definitely worth checking out.

review, обзор, Pony Island, Refunct, Deus Ex: The Fall, Layers of Fear, Dream Machine, Hidden Folks, Clustertruck, Superhot, 2000:1 A Space Felony, Goat Simulator, Environmental Station Alpha, Ori and the Blind Forest, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Superhot

2000:1 A Space Felony is horrible crap, that was released as one of the Humble Monthly exclusive titles. Unfun, unfunny, terrible game that tries to lampoon 2001: Space Odyssey (and other Kubrick movies), without ever being clever or fun, even in surreal ways (like, say, Jazzpunk is). Which is sad, because the basic idea is great and wants you to investigate the situation on the space station with AI gone rogue by finding clues and evidence and using those for questioning the AI with cross referencing what you found. Good idea, but a complete waste of time in the end.

Games not completed:

Goat Simulator — simple, fun, stupid physics-based dumb game where your run around as a ragdoll-heavy goat and try to break everything you see in creative ways. Not really worth the time, but a fun diversion if you somehow got it in a bundle.

Environmental Station Alpha is a fantastic metroidvania, which starts as looking like a simple Super Metroid pixelated demake, but ends up being much more interesting then that. Sadly, though, for me — it focuses not on exploration as much as on action platforming and I suck at it. So I didn’t finish it. I would definitely recommend playing it, but if you also suck at action platformers, you can at least enjoy this good Let’s Play of the game.

review, обзор, Pony Island, Refunct, Deus Ex: The Fall, Layers of Fear, Dream Machine, Hidden Folks, Clustertruck, Superhot, 2000:1 A Space Felony, Goat Simulator, Environmental Station Alpha, Ori and the Blind Forest, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Dream Machine

Ori and the Blind Forest was a huge disappointment for me. Probably because it also focused not on exploration, but instead on very tight platforming. Due to the fact that it’s also not backtracking heavy (the original version. apparently, had no backtracking ways at all) and some things had to be done in one go, I just dropped the game about 1/3 in during the seemingly infamous tree escape after spending about an hour on it, trying to both grab all collectibles and escape and constantly dying to stupid random or lag-based things. People love it, though, so maybe it’s just me.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is another title in the Shantae series I heard good things about and wanted to give a chance. And as with the previous game, I ended up hating it, since yet again it felt as if all the exploration bits were completely unnecessary and the game would’ve worked much better as a plain classic Castlevania and Mega Man inspired linear action platformer. In which case I wouldn’t have even tried playing it, since I don’t like those, but at least the game would’ve been honest with the players about what it is.

And there we have it. Here’s hoping my job doesn’t prevent me from writing a shorter post of this sort in the future, so I don’t have games piling up :D.