Orwell

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Orwell, in a not-so-subtle nod to George Orwell’s criticism of totalitarianism (*CoughCommunismCough*) 1984. I’ve actually read 1984. It’s not bad. It’s not great, and quite frankly I think it’s more of an observation than a story which in my eyes weakens it. It’s also an incredibly quick read so I do recommend you check it out. On a scale of 1-10? Probably a 7. Amusing, but not the best. Slightly better than average.

Anyway, the gameplay of Orwell is unconventional and reminds me greatly of Papers, Please. Which is another game I should write a review on and I do recommend it. In it you scan documents for information and upload this information into a mega-database which contains details on everyone under investigation (at this time). Presumably, Orwell would be expanded to cover all citizens. In the name of peace, surely! Everyone can trust the government to know every detail about them to make sure that they’re entirely safe!

Light Spoiler Warning: Orwell is a narrative, a visual novel of sorts. I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers.

Throughout the course of Orwell you follow the individuals of an organization called ‘Thought’ named after some German poem. Thought is an alleged terrorist organization. Your job is to follow the members of this organization to prevent terrorist activity. The first person you investigate is a woman with blue hair and problem glasses because of course she is. Which now presents us with our question. What scale of authoritarianism would be acceptable in the name of protecting people? As the game progresses, it gets to the point where almost the slightest connection to someone (perhaps eating lunch or seeing a movie together) is grounds for investigation. Authoritarianism seems to have a very tough job reigning itself in from being conventionally oppressive.

You know, I could not help but giggle with glee as I listened to phone calls of people and other people got blamed for things that I did. It was glorious! And it kept happening! I felt no guilt at all for doing my job. Perhaps that’s the point of the game. Thinking.jpg

The art style is… quirky. Not bad. Just quirky. The music is pretty okay too. My (small) gripe (I guess) is how long I had to wait for responses when it came to monitoring calls and SMS. I get that it’s supposed to be realistic, that’s the point. Not really a point against the game, I just felt that it was sometimes a little long.

Overall, excellent game. Quite a nice length for the price ($10 at the time of posting). Of course, cheaper is always better. I think my first playthrough had a run of about 4 hours and there are multiple endings (all of which, I did not explore). It’s a thumbs up from me. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Orwell

Super Impossible Road

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I write this review as the game is still in Early Access. I say that not because I plan to go easy on the game or something, just as a heads up to those that will consider buying the game. I’ve always maintained that “Early Access” is not an excuse for how good or bad a game is. Once you put it on the marketplace, you’re fair game… in my opinion.

Super Impossible Road is a racing game. There’s really not much to say about racing games in general. You control a ball. You can modify your ball to have the stats that you want it to have but let’s be real here, does anyone ever care enough to min-max perfectly? If you do, please send me a message, I need to know what’s going on in your head.

The tracks have gates on them which fill up your boost bar. Using boost makes your ball go a little faster (obviously). Where this game differs from other racing games that I’ve played is that you can jump off the track to “cheat” your way to finish line faster. That’s why the game’s tagline “Winning is cheating”. Now you can’t just jump off the track and free fall to the finish line for victory. The game would be too easy in that case. Upon leaving the track, you have five seconds to return to the track. If you fail to touch the track in that time, you will automatically respawn at the last boost gate you touched. Which means that you have to be really careful about deciding when to ‘cheat’. Otherwise you may waste up to five seconds. If you see the writing on the wall that you’re not going to make it, you can force respawn early.

The tracks can be fairly complex. At this time, while there are only three ‘tracks’, the tracks are procedurally generated so it’s like having an infinite number of tracks? There’s also a daily track where you can compete with people across the world for the top score.

The game is aesthetically appealing (to me) with that ‘Tron’ feel. I’m not the biggest fan of EDM so there’s only one or two soundtracks that I like but it definitely matches the feel of the game. Excellent job.

While the game does have multiplayer, it seems it only has local multiplayer. Perhaps they will change that as it is still in early access. You can still have CPU racers and you can even race against your ghost. So it has some rudimentary tools.

Anyway, at the time of writing, the game is priced at $12. While I do like the game for what it does, I don’t think it’s worth $12 yet. Do it if you want to support the creators but other than that, I’d wait for it to go on sale or something for $5 or $6. I’m not the biggest fan of racing games so I won’t dump too many hours into it, but in my opinion, it does look promising. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Super Impossible Road

JumpJet Rex

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I regret to inform you that I write this review without having finished the game. Not for lack effort, but because it’s just not feasible. I’ll go into why later in the review.

JumpJet Rex is a colourful speedrun game about a dinosaur that collects stars to save the universe. Something like that anyway. There are some 30+ delightful little worlds with each type of world (ice, desolate space base, etc.) seeming to have their own little chiptune to go with it. And these are some damn good chiptunes. I bought the game through Chrono GG so it came with the soundtrack and my god was it worth it. Definitely got some workout tunes out of it (should I ever be finish my selection of podcasts). Really, have a listen to some of them. You can also customize the appearance of your dinosaur, 4 elements. Head, skin tone, shoes, jumpjet particles. But that’s dress-up and I don’t find it particularly enjoyable.

In each level you collect rings to unlock the gate. Pass the finish line and you’ve completed it, you earn a star. You can earn up to three stars per level. One for completion, one for not dying, and one for speedrunning. You need to collect some number of stars to unlock the next few levels. Simple enough. I usually settled for completing without dying to grind stars because I only needed to be careful to progress. But some levels are easy to speedrun if you take advantage of checkpoints (and dying). So I took those too. You can also download ghosts within the game of the top players in the world or people near your skill level to see how they do things. So it provides a good improvement tool within the game, well done.

As the game goes on, and certain elements get added to the levels, I saw some SIGNIFICANT frame drops. Like, we’re talking 2 fps frame drops. The culprits seem to be certain environmental objects. Patches of thorns that disburse leaves and these globules that travel up and down. And it became a real pain on a particular boss fight called ‘Seedmour’ in which the level is full of these thorn patches so after maybe a minute of fighting the boss you’d be unable to do anything for several minutes due to the fps drop. Alt-tabbing seemed to help, but I don’t know for sure. That boss fight was a particularly annoying because after dropping the boss’s health to zero you also had to ground-pound it before it got back up and if you happened to be stuck in 2 fps time when that window presented itself… prepare yourself to have to hit it again because there’s no way you’re going to do it in time. And this is why I haven’t finished the game. Because in the later levels this becomes a constant issue and you kinda need the frames in a speedrunning game if you want it to be fun. (I suspect the issue is some kind of garbage collection or object recycling code).

Other than that though, the game is brilliant. Definitely recommend giving it a go. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

JumpJet Rex

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

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You know, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for Norse stuff. I’m actually wearing my Fenrir necklace as I write this up. There’s just something so… raw and inspiring (and on occasion, messed up) about Norse legends. When I imagine myself a viking warrior, I feel so powerful. I’m a huge Berserk fan, and the word Berserk comes from the Norse language meaning “bear skinned”. Berserkers would wear a bear’s skin to signify that in combat, anyone was fair game. And there’s just something about that I can connect to. So when I saw Jotun, I knew that I would eventually purchase it.

Jotun is the story of a young girl that has died on the seas, being sent to Ginnungagap to prove herself. She does this by going through several worlds, collecting runes, and conquering the Jotun that live there. All of this is for the purpose of “proving oneself to the gods”. There isn’t really any dialogue, just narration that I assume is in the nordic language. I wouldn’t know for sure though, I don’t speak it. The narrators are suitably… husk sounding. Tough sounding. Maybe it’s the language, I dunno.

The game is beautiful. Straight up beautiful. ‘Nuff sed.

The combat feels clunky at times. You have an axe. You have blessings from the gods that give you various buffs when active. You have a fast, weak attack and you have a slow, strong attack. The strong attack feels too slow. I took kendo for a year and the amount of time you spend with your axe above your head for the strong attack is unrealistic. If your weapon is above your head, it’s not protecting your body. This is just unreasonable. It also does less damage than the weak attack does in the time it takes to use. I’d only ever use the strong attack when my enemy was in the air so I could hit them as soon as they land and then switch to weak attack. Freya’s blessing also speeds up the weak attack so it becomes even more useful. You can get Thor’s blessing to power up your strong attack but… too slow.

The game is in 2D but the characters have 3D hitboxes. This becomes especially frustrating in boss fights with enemies that stand (so, almost all of them). because the hitbox when they’re standing is half the size of the one when they’re on the ground. Which, sure, it’s realistic, but it can become difficult to judge whether or not your strike will hit because the hitbox is so weird. The devs were nice enough to show us a shadow of our character when it’s behind a boss, but they weren’t nice enough to show us shadows of things falling from the sky that are behind the boss. So quite a few deaths of mine were caused by attacks I literally could not see coming. Not to mention that if your character is where a titan will stagger, it will get knocked back into those hazards you were avoiding. Extremely annoying.

Overall? Great game even if some fights are exceedingly frustrating. Definitely recommend. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

Titan Souls

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Titan Souls is not Dark souls.

So Titan Souls is a game in which the only enemies that you’ll find are bosses. If there are any non-boss enemies, I never found them. If there is a story, I was unable to discern it from the various clues given throughout the world. But that’s not a problem because if the game isn’t trying to sell you a story, you don’t have to judge it on its story.

You only have one attack, a ranged one. You fire an arrow from a bow. You have to be stationary to do it. You also only get one arrow, so if you happen to miss, you’re going to want to get your arrow back. If you press the fire arrow button, it’ll actually come right back to you, and the use of this mechanic is necessary to kill at least one boss but helps with a few others. You die in one hit no matter what, but that’s okay because every boss does as well. The boss fights themselves are very well-done, with few exceptions. They’re all creative in attack patterns. But remember that you only get one hit. Your margin of error is zero. Which means whenever you fight an unfamiliar boss, with few exceptions, you’re going to have a bad time. Sometimes I feel like death is necessary to learn the attack pattern and formulate a plan for the weakness.

The graphics are fabulous, but the game suffers from the same issues that (visually) isometric games often have. The problem of dealing with height. As a rule of thumb, if your game is only visually isometric, height should not be a factor. Ever. It’s too difficult for the player to discern height. The usual trick for players in visually isometric games is to watch shadows. Which becomes even more difficult when your enemy is coming from underwater. This is needless difficulty that doesn’t enhance the game.

I feel bad for the music designer. They probably put so much effort into these godly soundtracks, with a different one for each of the 20-ish bosses. But you only get to hear the first ten seconds of them, because you die so fast if you’re not prepared. But sweet jesus. Seriously. Listen to this stuff. I might actually prefer to have bought the soundtrack than the game itself.

Overall, an enjoyable game, but incredibly frustrating. I definitely recommend playing it though. Perfect speedrun bait. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Titan Souls

Empire of Angels IV

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I’m starting to wonder whether or not I should continue writing these reviews immediately after finishing the game. Maybe I should stew on them for a few… but then I might forget about the game… blah

So Empire of Angels IV is a game about a bunch of grills on a quest to collect the four Lord Souls Whoops did it again. You collect the four Menhir (or attempt to anyway, spoiler) and you have zany adventures along the way. The plotline makes little sense, even when it’s explained to you and I can’t figure out how the characters wind up in the situation that they’re in. I feel like several situations were disastrously contrived. It’s almost like the developers had a checklist of things they wanted to shovel in. Here’s your rival, here’s your betrayal, here’s your feels trip, the list goes on. And as noted before, they don’t connect well. On top of that, it was hard for me to invest myself in the characters and I think that may be because of presentation. There wasn’t really much of an underlying story to connect me to them.

There are some fantastic CG shots that I just absolutely adore. Holy smokes, they’re beautiful. While the CG shots are beautiful, the rest of the game is far from it. Its graphics remind me of Tales of Symphonia in which the characters could make only one face. Granted in this game, the characters can make a surprised face, the graphics still look incredibly similar. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the class upgrade screen in which the already scantily-clad women became even more scantily-clad.

The game also thinks that it’s Fire Emblem but is a little worse for combat. Every attack has an element (even basic attacks which I found to usually be fire type) and if you happen to… I dunno, fight a fire type enemy, you’re going to have a bad time. The elemental triangle is up to the player to discover. There are many components of combat that had limited use. The lockpicking skill is used… four times(?) in the game and three of those times were in one level. There’s also a change terrain skill which is only really needed for like three levels in the game. It helps in the later stages when you’re in the volcano levels (because of course that’s where the finale takes place) but other than that, kind of a waste.

The level scaling is rather annoying, and you should expect to make a few grind stops later in the game. And I complain about this because my allies were level 35 (even with some grinding) around the time that the level 40 enemies started showing up. And it ramps up drastically over the last few story missions.

As you complete story missions you can upgrade your characters to advanced classes. As noted earlier, there’s a bit of eye-candy when that happens. However, referring back into battle, some classes are just useless. There are two types of mages, which for the purpose of this review we’ll call the lightning mage and the fire mage (I call them this because these are the skills I used the most often on them). Well, lategame enemies are fire type, so that sucks. And the third offensive skill on the fire mage is more situational and very difficult to use effectively. So why bother with it? Just use the lightning mage which ultimately was the better DPS. Units overall become incredibly powerful lategame, able to kill in two hits or with huge AoE that destroys enemies. It’s beautiful.

So what’s my call on this? Humph. I think the game drags on a little bit longer than it should, and I can’t actually invest myself in its story. I can’t invest myself in the characters. And maybe it’s my fault. This is the fourth game in the series (presumably) so I wonder if that investment I can’t come up with comes from those games. But that’s not really much of an excuse. I think I’ll have to give it a pass despite the fanservice. Certainly not for full price ($15 at the time of writing). Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Empire of Angels IV

Alicemare

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Alicemare is a delightful adventure game made by the same guy who made LiEat which you may remember because I reviewed that one as well. I knew it instantly when I saw the art style and program icon. Or at least, I was highly suspicious of it until I verified it. Anyway, on to the review.

Alicemare is an adventure fortunately with very little adventure game logic. Adventure game logic is the primary reason that I generally tend to dislike adventure games. You play Allen (though you’ll spend half the game being called Alice). You’re at some kind of boarding school(?) where you hang out with other problem children with horrors in their pasts. Apparently this “Nightmare Syndrome” is killing people in their sleep. You… somehow… find a way to enter the dream world. Then you adventure game it up to solve puzzles. As you solve these puzzles, you are rewarded with little cutscenes that tell you the backstory to the other children at this boarding school. It’s a good design choice for character exposition because instead of an exposition dump you get to live the life through the child’s eyes. Almost makes you feel sorry for the kids, as they all have somewhat uncomfortable backgrounds. But hey, the game has “Horror” as a tag, so ya get what you saw on tin, amirite?

There’s a white rabbit and a cheshire cat but that’s really about where the similarities with “Alice in Wonderland” end, after the name.

Honestly, I don’t like the execution. The art for some of the maps feels a little too “RPG Maker-esque” if that makes sense. Not only that, but some of the maps themselves feel a little too “RPG Maker-esque”. I remember there was this one time where I had to walk through an entire maze which was pretty much copy/pasted rock sprites. I would’ve been more satisfied with a solid looking wall. The guy did LiEat as well and there was a maze section in the game that could’ve been handled better too. But if I recall correctly, that was something like a series of wooden floors with a black background and glowing lights. It had more ambience than this.

The game is filled with little puzzles. There was a literal copy/paste of the Wolf-Lamb-Cabbage bridge puzzle. There were a couple of math puzzles. A murder mystery with very little mystery. A spot-the-difference game, can you believe it? I think of these as gimmicks that serve only as barriers between me and story progress. The adventure game puzzles were a better way to progress.

Let’s see, since I know the guy’s past work LiEat, allow me to compare the two. First – the characters in LiEat were far more interesting. I think if you contrast Alicemare to LiEat, you get a game that’s about a setting rather than about characters. In my opinion, LiEat is the far superior one. While the battles were kind of a waste of time, I feel like the characters and story are better explored in LiEat than they are in Alicemare. On top of that, the deduction game was a better way to move me between set-pieces than a stupid spot-the-difference game. LiEat had more interesting characters overall.

The game is short, and I’ll edge on the side of the recommend because it does have its appeal. The art direction and music are well done. I guess My problem is that the story just feels so weak and even at the end I wasn’t satisfied. Maybe a sequel will come out, as it did with LiEat. The characters are forgettable, possibly because they were flat characters upon introduction with the purpose of being fleshed out during gameplay. But nothing really stands out. There’s nothing that says “Yes, this character had this happen to them and that’s why they’re a massive tosser”. There’s just “I am a tosser and this happened in my past”.

Overall, I give it a pass but only just. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Alicemare