Archive for the ‘PC Reviews’ Category


Developer: Hitbox

Release: January 2012

Genre: Platformer

Format: PC, MAC (Steam)

Discovering great indie games is something I love doing. ‘Splosion Man, Bastion, and many more, have graced these pages and received praise for being quirky, original, and completely independently developed. This week, I was lucky enough to have a smash hit land on my desk, my very untidy desk. Perhaps I should get one of the Dustforce team to come clean it in style. Do you follow me? No? Continue reading.

The concept of Dustforce is basically what would happen if trainee ninjas from some sort of Ninja Academy didn’t make the grade, so the only way they could make ends meet is by becoming cleaners; very agile and super-fast cleaners. The premise is simple, there’s a hub world filled with doors, some locked, some not. You pick one of the four available cleaners, and control them through various levels behind the unlocked doors. The game plays out like a side-scrolling platformer, with the characters having a skill set similar to Faith from Mirror’s Edge. You can run up walls, double jump, pull stylish moves with your cleaning tool, and link together combos to get from one area to another. The controls require quite adept finger dexterity, and even once you’ve warmed you digits up, it takes some time to get used to. Each level has pathways and animals that need cleaning/sweeping, and it’s up to the members of Dustforce to do this.

The presentation is phenomenal, the art design is beautiful, and the characters move flowingly through the stylish levels. When you unleash fighting moves, the screen shakes, and the strikes leave behind streak marks. And also, when you complete a level by cleaning the last remaining creatures, everything goes into slow motion, Matrix-style bitches! The music is something else entirely, and has certainly caught my attention for review in the future. It’s somewhat reminiscent of chip tune music, while remaining unobtrusive and extremely melancholic.

Another very cool feature is the playback option. When you complete a level, you’re shown the leader boards to see who holds the best times for each level. In the hub world, there’s a log book where you can watch back your attempts at each level, as well as anyone else in the world that has played the level. That’s right, so if you’re stuck on a level, you can watch someone else play through it first and get some pretty valuable advice.

If Dustforce’s multiplayer was online, then this indie game would be an insanely perfect title well worth its price tag. But don’t let that discourage you; it is an extremely exciting, infuriating, addictive, and stylish videogame. I highly recommend this game, along with a gamepad to play it with, unless you’re some sort of keyboard ninja, sweeping your fingers across the keys like a member of Dustforce. This game is bang tidy.

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Developer: Supergiant Games

Release: July 2011

Genre: Fantasy-RPG

Format: Xbox 360, PC

The writer stares at the blank word document. In his mind, he knows that he must write a detailed review for the XBLA game Bastion, but part of him wants to just crack up a beer and call it a day. No, he won’t do that. The readers need to know about Supergiant Games’ debut title and just how it brings something innovative to the fantasy RPG genre. The writer continues to stare at the words he’s already written, and chuckles to himself at his poor attempt to mimic the game’s narration.

Ok enough of that. Bastion is a fantasy RPG set around an unnamed hero, referred to by the narrator of the kid. Now, for those of us who’ve played numerous fantasy-RPG, we know what to expect: a lucrative, yet complex backstory, blank-faced NPCs who yak-yak-yak-side-quest-yak-yak-yak, huge environments to traverse and plenty of button mashing. Well, prepare for the unexpected with Bastion, which manages to flip the genre on its head. That’s right, Bastion is different. It’s completely original, has innovative gameplay, a brilliant story (superbly narrated), and paces itself very well.

Part of what makes this game so innovative – and for the bizarre introduction – is the literal way the game’s narrated. From the first moment you move the on screen character, the narrator says: “He gets up.” From the get go your choices, victories, fights, and failings are spoken out loud by a wonderful voice actor who should be commended for his work. It must be cheaper too, instead of hiring numerous voice actors to play NPCs to tell the story; you have one bloke do it. What’s also great about this design element is that the narrative can be absorbed without breaking up gameplay. You can continue to fight enemies or smash up the environment, all while taking in what the narrator has to say.

While we’re on the topic of the environment, let’s divulge how the levels are setup and how the game works. Bastion is the central hub world, and when you first discover the land, it’s in ruin. The point of the game is to go to other worlds and collect Cores, which can be used to rebuild Bastion. Each level is uniquely themed, and the way they’re designed is intricate and impressive. The world is created around as you move, so when you walk forward the path will slowly be created in front of you. It’s a very clever idea, because it motivates you to play on from the word go, making the game wholly addictive. Combine this with the colourful design, and it’s like being in control of your own game; as if you’re making the world up as you go.

At its core, Bastion is a hack-and-slash fighter, which is disappointing compared to the aforementioned design aspects. There are numerous weapons for you to collect, melee and ranged, but none of them really give you that much of a tactical advantage. Many enemy types exist, but most can be defeated with a quick combination of bashing the attack and evade buttons. Another disappointment is the ability to explore the dungeons. Despite creating the world as you go, the levels offer very little in terms of exploration, making the game more of a linear action game than an RPG.

However, these are only two things, and considering the game is brief one, it’s not a huge problem. The game has a steady pace, but we’re talking only a few hours until you complete it, plus it’s very addictive, so we wouldn’t be surprised if many of you finished it in one sitting. Bastion may not have brought an innovative combat system to the fantasy-RPG genre, but the way the story is told and how the game progresses will keep you hooked right through to its fruition.

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Developer: Eric Chahi

Release: January 1991

Genre: Cinematic Platformer

Format: PC

Time for a cult classic now with the spectacular Another World, a cinematic platformer adventure game that plunges you straight in at the deep end and makes you work extremely hard to reach the surface.

Developed in 1991 by French videogame designer Eric Chahi, Another World is one of those games that everyone who says they’re a gamer should have played. You are Lester Knight Chaykin, a physicist who has been experimenting with a particle accelerator. During one of his experiments a bolt of lightening strikes his laboratory causing the machine to malfunction and Lester to be transported to a barren alien planet. The game starts straight away, with vicious wildlife, slave trading aliens and natural hazards all out to hurt him.

Since this game was also available on the Sega Mega Drive game, the controls are very straight forward. The skills required to beat this game are quick reactions and a logic approach. A trail and error method can be adopted but this will bore you rather quickly; Lester can only take one hit and when he dies you are taken to the beginning of the level.

The entire presentation of the game is very distinctive for 1991. The mysterious planet looks fantastic with dark sinister colours in the prisons, and bright vibrant colours on the horizon.

Another World: 15th Anniversary has been called the ultimate version of the game by creator Chahi, so if you played this when you were younger you may find a few extra surprises in store. If you’ve never experienced it, do so now!


This article was published in Issue 24 of Thirteen1

All games available at gog.com

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Developer: 2K Marin

Release: February 2010

Genre: First-person-shooter

Format Reviewed: Xbox 360

Other Formats: PC

Rapture, how we’ve missed you. 2K Games’ announcement of BioShock 2’s development was received with a mixture of excitement and cynicism. While some gamers were aching to return to Rapture, others believed turning BioShock into a series would tarnish the sheer brilliance of the first game; it did seem like 2K were cashing in on the success. Was it possible to recreate the indefinable essence of BioShock? Before we continue with this review, we’d like to point out that this is not a comparison test. The game’s antecedent was 2008’s Game of the Year, and that’s big shoes to fill. On the front of it, BioShock 2 looks very much like a companion to the first game; the graphics and overall feel haven’t changed. But within its story, characters, and much needed gameplay tweaks is a nourished and immersive game.

BioShock 2 begins with a non-interactive introduction, and though the impact isn’t as strong as the first game, the message is clear; this is a new narrative, with new characters. Set almost a decade after Jack’s trip to Rapture, we’re placed in the heavy boots of Delta, a prototype Big Daddy. Awoken by the familiar voice of Brigid Tenenbaum, Delta is told he must find Eleanor, the Little Sister he was originally bonded to. Incidentally, if he does not find her then a fail-safe device, which is mentally-conditioned to activate if he wanders too far from her, will kill him. The only problem is Eleanor is the daughter of Sophia Lamb, the game’s antagonist, who has the remaining Splicers, Rapture’s inhabitants, dancing to her utilitarianism philosophy. And if that wasn’t enough, she is reprehensible for the new monstrosities that haunt the creaking halls of Rapture, the Big Sisters. The plot fails to live up to the impact of the ‘Would You Kindly’ twist from the first game, but it is nothing short of enthralling. Unfortunately key plot points are delivered through innocuous lines of dialogue, with no clear indication of what’s important and what’s not. The audio diaries make a welcome return; haunting logs impart integral plot developments, which may sound lazy, but in action they work brilliantly, augmenting the ominous ruin that is Rapture.

The characters are as memorable as those of the first, though the motives of some may remain a mystery. Delta is a tragic figure, forced into the slavery that is a Big Daddy, his past never fully explained. Augustus Sinclair, Delta’s guiding hand, smells fishy from the get-go, but he doesn’t live up to the devious malevolence of Atlas/Fontaine. And Sophia Lamb is no Andrew Ryan, but her character is as stubbornly defiant against the protagonist.

After minutes of returning to Rapture we are awash with familiar feelings of dread, pity, and intrigue. The extravagant halls and corridors are full of the familiar art work and sounds; we smiled when we heard the happy beeping of the security bots and the jingle of the ‘Circus of Value’ vending machines. Despite the familiarity, all the levels are new to the game. Highlights include Ryan Amusements, a propaganda fairground that outlines Raptures creation and meaning, and Siren Alley, the red light district of Rapture, which is home to a religious cult that worships Jack from the first game. Each level has its own story to tell, complete with a controlling character that will either hinder or help Delta.

The gameplay in BioShock 2 is a creative mixture of strategy, lateral-thinking, and action. Being a Big Daddy means Delta has access to some of the bigger weapons we saw in the game’s predecessor. The drill and rivet gun are welcomed additions, alongside the recognizable shotgun and grenade launcher. Different ammo is available for each weapon, allowing you to switch depending on your enemy. For instance, fighting an armoured Big Daddy requires armour piercing bullets, while anti-personal rounds work well against Thuggish Splicers. BioShock wouldn’t be the same without Plasmids, a genetic-recoding liquid that grants Delta active powers, such as Telekinesis, Electricity, and Insect Swarm. Delta can use weapons and Plasmids at the same time, making him a powerful protagonist. The degree of free will in combat is astonishing and well worth the experimentation. Don’t be thinking you can just knock Splicers away with one hand though; they’re evolving too, in to stronger and faster enemies willing to take you on.

The Little Sister’s make an eerie return and 2K Marin has taken these encounters one step further. Just like the original, a particular number of Little Sister’s roam each level, gathering ADAM from dead residents of Rapture. ADAM is the addictive substance that is needed to get more Plasmids, and you must gather as much as possible if you wish to be the ultimate fighting machine. After defeating a Big Daddy, you are given access to the Little Sister, but instead of granting you the option to Rescue, you’re asked to Harvest or Adopt. Adopting a Little Sister means you can use them to gather more ADAM for you, and then you can Rescue or Harvest them once they’ve collected the limited amount. When a Little Sister is gathering ADAM, she attracts a great deal of attention from the Splicers, which means you have to protect her. This is done by setting traps using the aforementioned Plasmids and weapons; trap rivets, mixing plasmids, and trap spears all help to fight off the horde. Once you’ve dealt with every Little Sister on each level, the Big Sister will make her way towards you, her scream igniting fear in your heart as you frantically prepare for her onslaught. The threat of the Big Sister becomes predictable towards the end, and the return of Vita-Chambers means death isn’t a great concern. The armoured girls mean very little to the main story, and are more a gameplay mechanic than a plot development. However, a surplus amount of ammo is needed to put them down, meaning raiding the dead and hacking vending machines is essential. Thankfully the Pipe Mania hacking mini-game from BioShock has been replaced by an oscillating marker that you have to stop in the green area, which doesn’t interrupt the flow of the game.

The multiplayer is an entirely new element that actually has a story and setting of its own. It depicts the civil war that leads up to Rapture’s downfall, and can add a few hours of extra gameplay.

The world of Rapture is presented beautifully by art directors, audio producers, and musicians. The extravagant architecture and 1950s American style mixes perfectly with the occult and ocean flooded additions. Delta’s design is a major let down though; his entire getup is unimaginative in comparison to the other Big Daddy models, for instance the Bouncer or the Rosie. Music man Garry Schyman returns with his entourage of violinists, inspiring dread and tragedy with his evocative compositions. The voice work is professionally delivered through audio diaries and radio transmissions, and the insane drivel spouted by the Splicers is a great effect.

Was it worth revisiting Rapture? Irrational Games created a world that was full of wonder and heartbreak, and it would be a shame to lose so many tales to the sea. Maybe they should have left on a high-note, because BioShock 2 doesn’t capture the essence of its antecedent. However, building Rapture was no easy task, and making a second album with is just as difficult. BioShock 2 builds from the remnants of the first game, but it doesn’t add enough to make it a revelation. It was worth returning, but we left unsatisfied, ironically wanting more like Splicers want ADAM.


This article was published in Issue 23 of Thirteen1

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Developer: DreamForge Entertainment

Release: April 1998

Genre: Point and Click Adventure

Format: PC

Long live the point-and-click genre! And long live psychological horror games – as long as they’re done right. And Sanitarium hits the nail on the head.

Sanitarium chillingly tells the story of Max Laughton, a sufferer of amnesia that’s been brought about after a car crash. Horrified to find out he’s been institutionalized, Max frantically searches for the truth behind the bizarre asylum he finds himself in, and must face past demons in order to unveil his identity and ‘the truth’. The game brilliantly captures an ominous mood with dark graphics and eerie atmospheric music. Using an isometric view, Sanitarium takes Max to the very edge of insanity and players will see some pretty mind-boggling events. The game is split into different chapters, each having a different atmosphere and style. The chapters take place in Max’s imagination and the real world, but as the game progresses the difference between the two becomes quite obscure. It’s this obscurity that captures most of the horror in the game.

The overall design of the game is very impressive and each chapter reveals the true skills of the game’s developer, and the choice of an isometric view gives the game a classic RPG feel. Controls are fluid – just simply point-and-click of course – and the non-tiled 2D navigational system is basic and easy to employ.

This game will take you to the brink of insanity, so if you believe you’re cut out for it, we dare you to try and uncover the mysteries behind the Sanitarium.


This article was originally published in Issue 21 of Thirteen1

All games are available to download on gog.com

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Developer: Funcom

Release: April 2000

Genre: Point and Click Adventure

Format: PC

The Longest Journey, that’s no understatement. However, don’t let that discourage you. This Norwegian game is a colourful and breathtaking adventure that is rarely seen any more.

Developed and released by Funcom in 2000, this point-and-click game tells the story of April Ryan, who lives in a parallel universe on a planet, very similar to Earth, called Stark. April believes she has the life of an ordinary 18-year-old student. She has little money, struggles with her art work, and a badly paid part time job. However, recently she has been having peculiar dreams involving another world called Arcadia, where trees talk and dragons fly. As she tries to continue with her seemingly dull life, April finds out that Arcadia is in fact real, and that she is a Shifter who can walk between both worlds. The barriers between the two worlds are breaking, and she is tasked with saving them both before it’s too late.

Funcom have written such an intricate and entertaining script. All the characters are so memorable and well performed that you begin caring about the lives of everyone you meet. Visually, the character models are average, but the worlds are brought to life with rich and detailed graphics. The puzzles don’t put up much of a fight against the average gamer; however one or two can be a little obscure.

The Longest Journey does take a very long time to get into, but please persevere, because it really is worth it. Underneath the magical and complex storyline is an extremely captivating game, with an enormous amount of detail and passion.


This article was originally published in Issue 19 of Thirteen1

All games are available to download at gog.com

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Developer: Péndulo Studios

Release: May 2007 (July 2001 Spain)

Genre: Point and Click Adventure

Format: PC

Pack your bags and fasten your seatbelt, because you’re in for one hell of a road trip with Péndulo Studios’ Runaway: A Road Adventure. This point and click adventure game is one for determined and savvy players who enjoy solving genius puzzles.

Runaway tells the story of Brian Basco, a student of physics who has just been accepted to do his PhD at Berkley, University of California. On his departure from New York he accidentally runs over a fleeing girl who blacks out immediately. Being the nerdy gentlemen he is; Brian drives her to the nearest hospital, where she tells him that she witnessed a mafia murder and is now being hunted by two hit men. Brian reluctantly agrees to help her and what ensues is a chase across country, featuring drag queens, one-eyed gangsters and sleepy ghost towns. During this 12+ rated adventure Brian will witness violent stabbings, smoke narcotics and become possessed by angry ghosts – not the best example of judgment by the PEGI rating system.

Runaway is not the easiest of adventure games. Many times the player will be outwitted by puzzles, which actually have ludicrously simple solutions. Excluding the cut-scenes, the graphical look of the game is impressive for 2001 standards, producers have given the game a traditional cartoon look, whilst enabling real-time lighting and shading effects.

This is an adventure game that will annoy and conquer those who are not familiar with the genre, but with perseverance and a ‘let’s do it’ attitude, some could make tracks rather quickly.

Runaway: A Road Adventure is a colourful and cheerful game that quickly turns annoying and difficult due to some puzzles requiring trial and error methods or unthinkable simple solutions. Patience is a must.


This article was originally published in Issue 18 of Thirteen1

All games are available from gog.com

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