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Stardew Valley photo
Stardew Valley

Harvest Moon-like Stardew Valley is out on February 26


Let's go live there
Jan 29
// Darren Nakamura
It seems like it's been forever since we last checked in on Stardew Valley, a pixel art farming life simulator/role-playing game that evokes memories of Harvest Moon in those fortunate enough to have played it in its prime (o...

Review: American Truck Simulator

Jan 29 // Patrick Hancock
American Truck Simulator (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: SCS SoftwarePublisher: SCS SoftwareRelease Date: February 3, 2016MSRP: $19.99  Euro Truck Simulator has quietly worked its way into the lives of many gamers over the years, myself included. I'm not sure why or when I thought I'd enjoy it, but I'm certainly glad the decision was made. These types of games are many things for many people; some enjoy the serenity, others enjoy the realism, and I'm sure there are those who turn their trucks into a replica of Darkside from Twisted Metal and ram into anything that crosses their path. For those veterans, American Truck Simulator is more of the same but in a new region. Calling it "American" seems a bit disingenuous at the moment, since players can only drive through California and Nevada. That's a lot of area to be sure, but hardly represents America. Many will envision a coast-to-coast trek from New York to Los Angeles, or traveling on Route 66 from state to state, but neither of these are possible at the moment. I say "at the moment" because, like Euro Truck Simulator before it, players should understand that they are buying into a platform. Nevada is technically free DLC at launch (and is included in this review), and the development team is working on Arizona as future free DLC as well. As of now there's no definitive DLC roadmap, but SCS Software has stated that "it will take us years to cover the continent," if it is financially viable. For newcomers to the series, or those simply curious as to how this is a real thing, here's the deal. Players assume the role of an American truck driver, making cargo deliveries in California and Nevada. Early on, taking jobs from various companies, using their trucks, is a steady income. As profit increases, players can afford their own trucks and even hire other drivers to carry out jobs. There are only two trucks available at the moment, which is a bit of a bummer. There are, of course, plans to add more, but as of now there are a Kentworth T 680 and a Peterbilt 579. There are variations of the two and plenty of  customization options, which help make them stand out more, but it's still only two models of truck at launch. Drivers will also gain experience and level up as deliveries are completed. Upon leveling, stat points can be distributed to categories like fuel economy, long-distance deliveries, and unlocking new types of cargo. As if making an expensive delivery wasn't nerve-wracking enough, think about delivering explosive or chemical cargo! Increasing these statistics will net the player higher rewards for completing assignments under those categories. The benefits are very detailed to the player, allowing them to make informed decisions when leveling up. While driving, it's important to remember the rules of the road. Running a red light will result in a fine (damn red light cameras), as will speeding. While Euro Truck Simulator utilized speed cameras, here in America things work a little differently. Cops are constantly on patrol, and if caught speeding near one, a fine will instantly be deducted. There's no car chase or even getting pulled over, just cop lights and sirens and $1,000 removed from your bank account. Along the way, players may need to stop for gas, rest, get weighed at weigh stations, or get repairs. These must be done at certain locations and have corresponding meters on the HUD. The biggest concern with these is the time invested, since each assignment has a window in which the recipient expects their items to be delivered in. Just a heads up: if you're driver starts yawning, stop at a rest station! The traffic AI seems to be vastly improved in American Truck Simulator. Cars will stop early at intersections, making those wide turns that much easier. They also rarely pull out in front of your giant truck barreling down on them, though I have had that happen once or twice. Hell, they'll even slow down if your blinker is on to let you move over! Well, sometimes. There are a few different control methods, ranging from very simple to complex. Steering can be done with the keyboard or mouse, and of course the game supports both console and steering wheel controllers. I found myself most  comfortable with the Steam Controller and gyro controls. The biggest gap between the simple and the complex is changing gears manually, though even at its most complex it's not exactly a "hardcore" simulator. There's definitely a lot to manage, especially for me, but people who were looking for more depth in this entry won't find it here. Is it difficult? Well, it's as difficult as you want it to be. Making the controls complex is an easy way to make the game more engaging. Personally, I think the most difficult aspect is parking. When delivering cargo there will be three options. The hardest option yields the most experience, and will ask players to pull some fancy backing up and maneuvering in order to place the trailer where it needs to go.  The second option is much more achievable, while the third option is to skip it entirely and earn no bonus experience. It's a great to be able to say "you know what? I really don't feel like parking this explosive gas tank right now." To help pass time, a good amount of radio stations are available to listen to while on the road, and it is also possible to input a personal music library by relocating some files on your computer. I enjoyed listening to some classic rock stations while "working." I must say, listening to Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" while driving a big rig at night into Las Vegas is something that will stick with me probably forever. That's in part due to the beautiful engine. The scenery is quite a change of pace compared to the European scenery, which helps make this feel like something fresh, despite the mechanical similarities. Cities are also fleshed out more and feel more "alive" than ever before. Google Maps has been used to help create a realistic recreation of the Golden State, so many areas will be immediately recognizable to those familiar with them. Yes, players will begin to see repeat storefronts over and over again, but it hardly detracts from the overall immersion. American Truck Simulator caters to a wide array of people. There's something to be said for the serenity of cruising down a highway at night and obeying all the traffic laws. It's also a great opportunity to enjoy some audiobooks or podcasts while somewhat-mindlessly growing a trucking enterprise.  Those looking for vast mechanical or design improvements in the series won't find them here. The map is relatively small, considering the size of America, but the tradeoff is worth it: the scenery is fresh, accurate, and varied, while cities feel much more realistic. With two trucks and two included states, and another one on its way, American Truck Simulator is an investment into the series' future, but it's not a steep one and easily earns its value with what is already presented. So, while it may not be possible to go from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, it is possible to go from Oakland to Sactown, the Bay Area and back down. And that's just fine. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] 
American Truck Sim Review photo
California love
I live in New Jersey, so I think I know a thing or two about California. After all, I've listened to plenty of N.W.A. and Tupac, plus I've seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Oh, and I've been to California a whole lot to visit my brother and for that one E3 I attended. Does this make me an expert? Yes. Yes it does.

Sunless Sea photo
Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea celebrates submarines with a free Steam weekend


Sorry, zubmarines
Jan 28
// Darren Nakamura
Sunless Sea is one of those games I wanted to check out last year but never got around to. I guess I should have, because it showed up on a couple of our personal game of the year lists. This weekend, I have even less of an e...
The Witness photo
The Witness

The Witness has no need for impatient players, and that's awesome


Blow won't hold your hand
Jan 27
// Chris Carter
I've been playing The Witness for the past day or so. Although I don't like it as much as Brett (yet, at least) I think it's pretty damn great, and if you even remotely like puzzle games you should get it -- it's like a modern day Myst. In this era of instant gratification I suspect a lot of people are going to be turned off by it, but for me, it couldn't have come at a better time.
Her Story 2 photo
Her Story 2

Another Her Story is in the works, but it's not a sequel


Her Story 2: The Streets, probably
Jan 25
// Brett Makedonski
Last year's full-motion video indie darling Her Story has more yarns to spin. They won't be tales you've already heard, though; the presentation is likely to be the same, but the content won't have any connection. Her St...
FNaF World pulled photo
FNaF World pulled

FNaF World pulled from Steam, refunds being made available for all


Full game will be free on GameJolt
Jan 25
// Nic Rowen
Following last Friday's apology that he rushed to publish FnaF World too early, creator Scott Cawthon has pulled the game from Steam. Unhappy with the quality of the title (despite positive fan reception), Cawthon is currentl...
Mighty No. 9th delay photo
Mighty No. 9th delay

Mighty No. 9 delayed (again)


'Spring 2016'
Jan 25
// Steven Hansen
Mighty No. 9 had a firm February 9 release date after a series of delays (the original Kickstarter estimate for delivery was April 2015) and then a recent promise that there'd be no more delays. Well, about that... A very hil...
News roundup photo
Also included: Kirby's penis
Another week, another wave of gaming news that’s almost impossible to keep up with! Last week we had dog poo, this week we have Jonathan Blow’s wee. I kind of hope that bodily waste doesn’t become a running ...

Contest: Croixleur Sigma (PS4)

Jan 25 // Mike Martin
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Climb the tower for one of 10 copies
If Kyle's awesome write-up got you salivating, then do I have a treat for you! The awesome folks at Souvenir Circ. and Playism have given us 10 codes for Croixleur Sigma on PS4. Why? To gift to you lovelies, of course. What i...

The evolution of doujin brawler Croixleur

Jan 24 // Kyle MacGregor
To say Croixleur has come a long way since I first encountered the game three years ago would be a massive understatement. The original PC release, or at least the localized version boutique publisher Nyu Media released in January 2013, was light on content and rough around the edges. Inspired by Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, the game initially starred the red-haired Lucrezia, a young noblewoman on a quest to fight her way through a gauntlet of arena battles known as the Adjuvant Trial. While the story was largely inconsequential, the experience of fighting my way up the Nitro Towers and racing against the clock (the story mode must be completed in fifteen minutes or less) was a downright enjoyable, arcadey romp -- and one hell of a challenge. While it certainly took me more (much more) than one attempt to successfully complete the main campaign, once I did, I discovered there wasn't much else to the game other than bonus modes, like score attack and survival, to flesh out the package. It left something to be desired. [embed]336428:61974:0[/embed] That situation improved when Souvenir Circ. debuted the initial version of Croixleur Sigma at Comiket 85, introducing a new playable character, more weapons, a second story mode, two-player co-op, a new challenge mode, voice acting, online leaderboards, and mild visual upgrades. Don't get me wrong, it was (and still is) a simplistic game, but that extra content went a long way toward making Croixleur feel less like a severed bonus mode and more like its own game. The recent PlayStation 4 and forthcoming PlayStation Vita versions improve the experience even more, though, giving the game a dramatic facelift, both in terms of content and visuals. Souvenir Circ. went back and gave the game a completely fresh lick of paint, adding shine and detail to what was once a dull-looking game. Lucrezia and friends certainly clean up nicely. Speaking of those friends, the PlayStation version also includes a pair of new faces, both of which come with 30-minute campaigns that make the original game feel like a cakewalk. Between those and the new 50-floor dungeon mode, the game is definitely no longer hurting for content. And on top of that, there's a myriad of useful new equipment to collect, incentivizing repeat playthroughs. Pulling up the original game and playing it side by side with the new PlayStation release, it's nice to see how far Croixleur has come over the years. And I'm happy to have been along for the ride.
Doujin Dojo photo
From Alpha to Sigma
Doujin Dojo is a sporadic column dedicated to spotlighting independent games from Japan and the people that make them. In the years I've been following Comiket, Japan's biannual indie media festival, one thing ...

Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

The masters of Rhythm Platformer design on the art of controlled chaos


Sup Holmes every Sunday at 2:30pm EST!
Jan 24
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] Recently on Sup Holmes, we...
Dankest Dungeon photo
Dankest Dungeon

Want to hear the narrator for Darkest Dungeon say 'Dankest Dungeon?'


I do, but I'm a child
Jan 24
// Nic Rowen
I've been playing a lot of Darkest Dungeon, and it's been a tense experience. It's a merciless game about horror, stress, and the frailty of humanity. A great deal of the grim tone is established by the grave intonations of i...
Wandersong photo
Wandersong

One more Sup Holmes with feeling, starring Wandersong's Greg Lobanov


Sup Holmes every Sunday at 2:30pm EST!
Jan 24
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Show's over folks...
Lost in Harmony photo
Lost in Harmony

Here's a snippet of that Wyclef Jean song from Lost in Harmony


Out on iOS today
Jan 22
// Darren Nakamura
Yoan Fanise (Valiant Hearts: The Great War) broke from Ubisoft last year to form Digixart Entertainment, and the studio's first game is out on iOS devices today. Lost in Harmony looks like a decent rhythm game/Battletoads bik...
FNAF World photo
FNAF World

Scott Cawthon admits he released FNaF World too early


Is now working on finishing the game
Jan 22
// Joe Parlock
FNAF World -- the JRPG spinoff that is currently intended to be the final chapter in the Five Nights at Freddy’s series -- was initially announced to be released on February 19. However, developer Scott Cawthon decided ...
Unbox photo
Unbox

The Katamari-like Unbox is coming to consoles


PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Jan 22
// Chris Carter
In the far, far future, the postal service has developed self-delivering cardboard boxes. Wait, that's just the premise for Unbox. Developer Prospect Games has announced that in addition to PC later this year, the game is als...
Updatetale photo
Updatetale

Undertale adds mysterious new content in latest update


New dialogue and other changes
Jan 22
// Jed Whitaker
Undertale has received an update which adds new content and dialogue, even though the patch was said to only "fix bugs and increase compatibility."  Since I've yet to play it, it is hard to discern what is and ...
Lovers photo
Lovers

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime hitting PS4 on February 9


Spreading the love
Jan 21
// Darren Nakamura
Released on Steam and Xbox One in September last year, I had already assumed Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was on PlayStation 4 as well. It turns out it wasn't, but it will be soon. Announced today via the snazzy YouTube vi...
Prison Architect console photo
Prison Architect console

Prison Architect heading to PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One


Time to jailbreak your console
Jan 20
// Darren Nakamura
After a long stint in Early Access, Prison Architect finally saw its full PC release late last year. Wasting little time, developer Double Eleven is now porting it to consoles. It should release in spring on PlayStation 4, Xb...
Slain photo
Slain

Slain delayed again, has a sweet new headbanging GIF


Take the good with the bad
Jan 19
// Brett Makedonski
Good things come to those who wait. This quote extols the importance of patience. We've been taught our entire lives to be patient people, to just wait a little longer for what we want. It'll be worth it. Hopefully that's tru...
Consortium: The Tower photo
Consortium: The Tower

'Deus Ex combined with Die Hard' is probably a stretch, Consortium


Sci-fi talkie mystery hopes for sequel
Jan 19
// Steven Hansen
Consortium is back with a Kickstarter campaign for Consortium: The Tower, a follow up to the 2014 original. In my review I said, "It's a little rough -- with the most recent patch, I didn't experience any bugs, though some...
Knuckle Sandwich photo
Knuckle Sandwich

Knuckle Sandwich is another peculiar RPG


Keep 'em coming
Jan 18
// Jordan Devore
I could have sworn one of us had already touched on Knuckle Sandwich, but I guess not. This latest teaser is as fine of time as any to introduce the surreal role-playing game and its prominent noses. The story, at least initially, has to do with a cult and missing people. Could the two be connected? Playing as a dude who is bored to tears of his new job at the diner, it's on you to investigate.
Janitorial adventure photo
Janitorial adventure

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is nice and odd


A clean spaceport is a happy spaceport
Jan 18
// Jordan Devore
My eyes are feeling melty this tired Monday afternoon, but Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor perked me right up with its striking colors and eclectic style. What a curious game. This is an "anti-adventure," one that's centered o...
The Witness photo
The Witness

The Witness is coming to Xbox One too, according to the ESRB


Due next week on PC and PS4
Jan 18
// Chris Carter
Development for The Witness began back in 2008, and now, we're finally going to see the game in action next week when it launches on PC and PS4. But wait! According to the ESRB, it's coming out on Xbox One as well at some poi...
Frogs photo
Frogs

Beautiful Frog is a game about life as a frog


Rrrrrribbit
Jan 18
// Joe Parlock
Monday mornings are one of the least active times in gaming. Seriously, nothing ever happens on a Monday morning. So instead, kick off your week with Beautiful Frog, a cute choose-your-own-adventure game by developer Por...

Review: Jotun

Jan 17 // Jed Whitaker
Jotun (PC)Developer: Thunder Lotus GamesPublisher: Thunder Lotus GamesMSRP: $14.99Release Date: September 29, 2015 Thora just died an inglorious death and she must now prove herself by battling jotun, giant elementals based on Norse mythology, to enter Valhalla. Along her adventure, players will learn the story of Thora's life, all spoken beautifully in her native tongue with subtitles. Easily one of the strongest and well done female characters I've encountered in a long time, Thora isn't rail-thin, sexualized, or disrespectful of her foes as she cuts them down.  Each level consists of three sections, two of which can be entered and exited at will. These sections each contain a rune that when collected opens up a third area where you'll be battling the jotun. If you're hoping to slay tons of enemies in each level, you may be disappointed, as Jotun focuses on the journey and atmosphere, rather than combat. Most of the time you'll be checking your map and exploring to discover statutes that confer the powers of the gods, health upgrades, and, of course, runes. [embed]333479:61894:0[/embed] A lack of combat isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the levels are drawn beautifully and are well designed. Also, Jotun has some of the best sound design I've heard in an indie game in some time; you'll hear birds chirping, branches crackling, and snow blowing, all while a beautifully-orchestrated soundtrack plays in the background. More so than any other game I've palyed, this attention to detail makes for an atmosphere that sells the "journeying through purgatory all by your lonesome" aesthetic.  If you're hungry for a fight, don't fret, as each level ends with a battle of a gigantic jotun. Jotuns are so large the camera has to pan to the point Thora looks like an ant by comparison. While each battle consists of chopping away at the feet of each jotun with your trusty axe, they all feel different enough to stay fresh. That said, the strategy for taking on each jotun is similar: avoid attacks, look for an opening, attack, rinse, lather, repeat. As there are only six jotun in total to conquer, the formula never gets stale.  Battling these gigantic foes are easily the best part of the game, as each one is hand drawn with an animation style reminiscent of Don Bluth's work from Dragon's Lair. The jotun are as beautiful as they are terrifying.  The difficulty scales well throughout the adventure, as the levels leading up to boss battles ensure each of the game's mechanics is understood and well utilized. The first level requires players to use heavy attacks to bushwhack through a forest level, a skill that is later required to defeat that stage's jotun battle. Another area involves climbing a gigantic tree while a huge bird periodically swoops down at Thora, requiring players to time dodge rolls, which of course is used in the ensuing battle with another jotun.  If you're looking for something laid back, beautifully drawn, and well orchestrated with some intense, but not overly difficult, boss battles, then Jotun is easy to recommend. It's a magical ride that I'm sure I'll revisit from time to time in the future. Even though the whole experience only lasts just over five hours, it is five solid hours. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] Tharsis (PC [reviewed], PS4)Developer: Choice ProvisionsPublisher: Choice ProvisionsMSRP: 14.99Release Date: January 12, 2016
Review: Jotun photo
The opposite of a foot fetish
The response to my review of Freedom Planet was pretty positive, as was the suggestion that I'd be reviewing some older Steam games we may have looked over, so here we are. Jotun slipped us by here at Destructoid when it released late last year, but I'm here to remedy that. This is little game with big heart, big style, even bigger enemies, and strong female lead to boot.

Rocket League crowns photo
Rocket League crowns

Rocket League competitive season ending, ranked players will get crowns


Also adding RNG loot
Jan 15
// Darren Nakamura
The next update for my #2 game of 2015 Rocket League is due out next month. With it comes the end of the first season of competitive play, and the better players will net some snazzy bling to show off during season two and be...
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Win one of 15 copies!
The kind folks at Ink Stains Games and their publisher Pinkapps Games, have been kind enough to give me 15 Steam keys for their game 12 is Better Than 6. What am I going to do with said keys? Make it rain. Now, you are probab...

Review: Oxenfree

Jan 15 // Nic Rowen
Oxenfree (PC [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Night School StudioPublisher: Night School StudioMSRP: $19.99Released: January 15, 2016 I say “horror” in quotes because the actual spook-factor of Oxenfree isn't that high. This isn't an Amnesia-style gorefest or a Freddy's jumpscare marathon. Oxenfree trades in unease and tension more than outright scares. Think of it more like It Follows than Sleep Away Camp. It's an effective technique. Since you're not wading through blood and viscera at all times, the few moments of hard-hitting violence and terror are that much more jarring. Oxenfree starts with a group of teenagers having a party on an island tourist trap (and one-time military base) near their hometown. Testing out an urban myth involving radio signals and a spooky cave, they accidentally unleash a mysterious entity that seems to have a strange relationship to normal space and time and nothing but malicious intentions on them. The island destination is rendered in a gorgeous dreamlike art style of watercolors and soft light. The normally smooth picture-book aesthetic of Oxenfree's world makes it all the more unnerving when the entity breaks its way into reality with Tron-like neon colors and sharp geometric shapes hanging unnaturally in the sky. It soaks it all in a phenomenal synth-heavy soundtrack from SCNTFC (Galax-Z, Sword & Sworcery) that perfectly alternates between wistful and unnerving. Let me say it plainly, Oxenfree is very light on gameplay. There are no real puzzles to solve, no panicky QTEs to click on, no last-minute boss fight to clumsily fumble through. This is a game about talking. The single most mechanically meaningful thing you do in the game is respond to dialogue options in Aaron Sorkin-style “walk-and-talk” conversations that alternate seamlessly between sarcastic teen bonding, stick-a-knife-in-it awkward stand-offs, and genuinely touching moments. Each conversation option is represented by word balloons you pick with a touch of a button. The tone of the response is hinted at by the phrase in the word balloon similar to the system used in Mass Effect (and done noticeably better than in Fallout 4, I might add). Unlike the galaxy-saving Shepard however, Alex's (the playable protagonist) dialogue isn't laced with heroic speeches or badass threats. She's a teenaged girl who had a lot on her shoulders before the whole spooky-possibly-haunted-island thing started happening and she carries herself like one. She jokes with her friends, gets freaked out, and argues over pointless trivia, like a real person who suddenly found themselves in an unreal situation would. There is no outwardly visible karma meter or “so-and-so will remember that” comments in the game, but your words have meaning. You dialogue choices will effect how the other kids see you and your relationship with them. Occasionally you come to linchpin decision moments that can take you down alternate paths in the game, but mostly the choices are subtlety baked into the experience. A nice change from the “pick blue for good, red for bad” dichotomy of many game's dialogue systems. These conversations are not done in cutscenes or discrete “talking moments,” they're the life blood flowing through the entire game. You chat while walking to the beach, cutting through the woods, while exploring an abandoned military base, and the conversation follows naturally. Jump across a chasm between two cliffs while idly chatting and your friends won't just keep talking about the weather, they'll stop to recognize how badass/insane what you did just was. Same goes for conversations interrupted by spooky transmissions, or sudden, jarring hallucinations. Its easy to picture this backfiring. If the characters were tiresome, boring, or two-dimensional, a game all about talking to them would be a painful experience. Thankfully, the teens of Oxenfree are refreshingly likable. With an excellent script behind some amazing voice-over performances, the teens never wear out their welcome. They're smart, funny, and surprisingly sensible (they mostly just want to get the hell away from the island rather than work out its mysterious history). While the setup is as off the shelf as it gets, the characters don't fit into the Breakfast Club-defined roles you might expect. Alex is a bright girl trying to redefine herself after a life-shattering loss. Her brand new half-brother Jonas (yeah, she's meeting him for the first time at a kegger, it's as awkward as it sounds) is from a bad neighborhood and is implied to have spent a little time in jail. But, he's deeper and more vulnerable than the smoldering bad boy you might be picturing. Best friend Ren is a weird little guy who deals with stress with (actually funny) humor, harbors at least one secret crush, and may or may not be seeing a therapist depending on how seriously you want to take a few throwaway lines. Clarissa is the group's mean girl, always ready with a sharp barb or cutting remark in what is a fairly blatant display of a maladjusted defense mechanism. And Nona, a shy and seemingly unassuming girl who nonetheless has spent most of the semester in suspension, is probably the least developed of the characters but reveals some hidden depth if you make an effort to engage her. In what may be the game's greatest accomplishment, these kids are actually fun to hang around (other than the possible exception of Clarissa). In most horror movies, I usually end up rooting for the machete-wielding maniac after being introduced to the typical gaggle of jerks and dummies of a horror movie cast. In Oxenfree, I couldn't help but be charmed by the gang. When the supernatural creeps of the island finally started getting rough with them, it put a crinkle in my brow and an uncomfortable bend in my spine. I was tense, unsettled. Oxenfree never had to spring a jump scare on me or splatter the screen with blood to wrap me around its finger. It just had to make me care about the kids. Once I did that, it owned me. Aside from talking, the other main thing you do in Oxenfree is tune through a radio. At any time, you can pop out your handy pocket radio and scroll through the channels, finding static, 1940s big band tunes, and the occasional Satanic murmuring from some hell dimension. How very Silent Hill. Scattered throughout the game are various opportunities to tune into tourist information stations that reveal background about the island (and hopefully clues as to what you're up against), as well as secret audio anomalies that function as the game's de facto collectable. These are broadcasts that seem to be coming from another time or an alternate reality. Call me a sap, but I thought the anomalies were genuinely disquieting. It brought to mind the same spooky quality as listening to a numbers station broadcast, or the Jonestown tapes. This is a laid-back game. The vast majority of the experience is just wandering around with your friends, dialing through the radio for the occasional audio anomaly while chatting about school, gossip, and how utterly screwed up the situation you're in is. It's short. You can probably play through it in a single evening if you didn't care about seeing alternate story paths or collecting anomalies. If you wanted to be dismissive and sneer at Oxenfree as another “walking simulator” there isn't much that could be said in its defense. But personally, I think it is an excellent walking simulator. Oxenfree is a walking simulator that is confident enough in its characters and dialogue to bet that you won't mind just hanging around with them. It believes in the sinister low-ebb horror of the island to worm its way into your mind without having to crutch on a jumpscare every few minutes. It knows that its atmosphere and style will be enough to make you want to wander through its forests and dilapidated military bases. It's a walking simulator you should play. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Oxenfree Review photo
Dark signals
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A group of teenagers head to a remote, nearly abandoned tourist trap for a night of wild partying. Not long after they get there though, odd things start to happen. Unsettling things. ...

Review: The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

Jan 15 // Ben Davis
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human (PC)Developer: YCJYPublisher: YCJYReleased: January 19, 2016MSRP: $9.99 The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human tells the story of the last surviving human being, thrown into an unknown year in the distant future via a wormhole. All that is left of our civilization on Earth has been entirely submerged under the ocean. Crumbling cities, broken machines, and other remnants of human civilization are still present, slowly decaying in the sea. The world is now thriving with sea life, as huge fish swim about the dilapidated structures and aquatic plants grow out of control. The only clue about what happened in the past are holo-tapes containing the last recorded information of humanity from the year 3016. This is not a story of hope. As the last one left, you have no way of repopulating the world. Humans had their time, and it's over now. The only thing left to do is try and figure out what happened and live out the rest of your days attempting to make the most out of your present situation. [embed]334534:61880:0[/embed] The player character passes the time aboard a submarine, exploring the serene ocean depths, floating among the thriving sea life, and looking out at remnants of the past. There seems to be very little danger in the surrounding waters; groups of angry giant clams here and there, some pipes spilling out corrosive gases, a few floating sea mines, but for the most part it's smooth sailing. That is, until the last human encounters The Worm. Much like Shadow of the Colossus, there are very few threats in the world of The Aquatic Adventure aside from the bosses. The game compensates by making every boss fight unique, challenging, and memorable. Conquering these massive sea beasts will require puzzle-solving skills, strategy, quick reflexes, and most of all perseverance. The submarine will most likely be destroyed many times before a boss will finally be defeated, but with enough observation and planning, any obstacle can be overcome. Thankfully, the submarine's abilities will take some of the edge off of the difficulty of boss fights. A damaged hull will slowly repair itself automatically over time, so as long as the sub stays out of danger long enough, it can come back full force in the heat of battle. Upgrades can also be found scattered throughout the sea, offering new weapons, tools, improvements to the hull, and more. So if a player is having a particularly rough time with a certain boss, a little exploration might result in better equipment to make the fight a bit easier. There are eleven boss fights in total, but most of them can be fought in any order the player chooses. In the vein of Metroid, new areas can be opened up with upgraded equipment. Every time a new item is acquired, it's usually a good idea to fully explore the map to figure out all possible options for progress and decide which boss to take on next. Although there are a few instances where the player does not have a choice, and the only option for escaping is to fight their way out. The real heart of The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human comes from the graphics. While the thought of exploring a large map with very few threats may seem uneventful, I almost didn't even notice most of the time due to the entrancing sprite art covering every inch of the map. The environments and sea life are so detailed and well animated that they seem to come to life in movement. Everything looks painstakingly hand drawn, with personality oozing out of every object. I had to spend a few moments in each new area just admiring everything around me, from the tangles of seaweed and peaceful (yet sometimes startling) sea creatures to the ruined edifices and malfunctioning electronics. While it looks beautiful even in screenshots, I honestly don't think still images do this game the justice it deserves. To add to the whole charming ambiance, the wonderful electronic soundtrack helped to capture the beauty and strangeness of an underwater world, while also ramping up the tension during boss encounters. Other visual effects added to the charm as well, like how the screen slightly tilts depending on the direction the submarine is moving, the subtle flickering of text to indicate it's being viewed on a monitor of some kind, and what looks like handwritten text which appears upon arrival to a new area. All of these little details add up to give The Aquatic Adventure its own unique flair. If I could offer suggestions for improvement, I do think there needs to be more map functionality. Especially for a game where backtracking is important, it would have been nice for certain obstacles to be highlighted on the map, like green lines to indicate vines which need to be chopped or grey bars to specify doors that can be opened. Of course, obstacles leading to secret areas can be kept hidden from the map, so that only the keenest explorers will find them. I might have also liked a manual save option, for those instances where I was killed by a part of the environment, requiring me to navigate large parts of the map all over again to get back to where I left off, although the fast-travel system did help with that somewhat. Lastly, I did encounter a few annoying bugs while playing, but thankfully they were fixed very quickly. I really enjoyed my time with The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human. It may be a bit on the short side, especially for players who are able to take down the bosses with relative ease, although most players are probably looking at about six to seven hours of playtime. But in that short amount of time, it manages to pack a satisfying amount of action, tranquility, and exploration into a concise, captivating adventure. Just don't be afraid to dive too deep into the ocean depths, no matter what horrors might lurk in the dark abysses below. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Aquatic Adventure review photo
Steve Zissou will outlive us all
Unlike many others out there, underwater environments tend to be some of my favorite areas in video games. So when something like The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human comes along which takes place entirely underwater, I ca...


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