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Unravel photo

Here's nine minutes of new Unravel gameplay

Sit back and just unwind
Nov 24
// Joe Parlock
IGN has released nine whole minutes of brand new gameplay footage for the utterly lovely Unravel. It feels weird seeing Yarny without his nervous, friendly creator Martin Sahlin gently guiding us through it, but it’s ...

Review: Armikrog

Oct 06 // Caitlin Cooke
Armikrog (PC)Developer: Pencil Test StudiosPublisher: Versus EvilReleased: September 30, 2015MSRP: $29.99 The game opens with a spectacular bang, showcasing an animated sequence of our hero Tommynaut and his sidekick Beak Beak crash landing into Armikrog, a strange complex on planet Spiro 5. Within its walls there are puzzles to explore, secrets to unlock, and history to discover as Tommy and Beak Beak make their way through the desolate alien buildings full of various oddities to find a way home. From the onset Armikrog contains the charming, silly humor you’d expect from a TenNapel game, and of course throwback themes that reference The Neverhood. Gameplay rests on your ability to explore and figure things out on your own, moving from room to room collecting items that will come into play later. The age-old point-and-click rule of thumb “click on literally everything” especially rings true as each area contains various puzzles which you (hopefully) put together to make it through to the next building in the complex. There’s not much life to Armikrog save for a few adorable fuzzy blocks, raptor-like creatures on wheels, and alien octopi who speak in a strange tongue – but it’s up to you to figure out why. A statue of a wise-looking man appears in different rooms from time to time and talks to you in a whimsical manner imparting general advice, but that’s about the most interaction you’ll have besides chatting with Beak Beak. Just like being in The Neverhood, for the most part, you’re on your own. At any given time you can switch between controlling Tommy and Beak Beak with a simple click. Beak Beak’s abilities allow him to fit into small doors and occasionally fly around which prove useful when finding various items, however that’s generally the extent of the dual-character system. Tommy doesn’t really have any special abilities going for him (besides being the protagonist, if that counts). It’s fairly obvious when you need to use Tommy vs. Beak Beak, like when a button needs to be pressed or stood on, but the tricky part is understanding the order of when these things need to happen as contextual clues are virtually non-existent. The gameplay mechanics are quite simple since there’s not much to the action besides clicking on things and moving from room to room, however it’s the complication of the controls which may throw players off. Old-school game logic is very much prevalent – I often took an extremely long time to figure something out only to realize I wasn’t in the exact spot for it to trigger. There were also moments when the opposite was true, and actions were far too fluid – like a traveling cart that can send you flying in various directions if you’re not careful. Puzzles range from straightforward to insanely obtuse, and there were a few interesting ones in between that hit the sweet spot. I particularly enjoyed a music-based puzzle that popped up from time to time which had me placing little adorable nursery toys in a certain order. For the most part, puzzles rely on your ability to keep track of certain themes and recall various symbols and patterns throughout your journey. Unless you want to rely on GameFAQs, keeping a notebook and pen handy are pretty much key. Armikrog didn’t hold my hand and indicate what I’d done right or wrong, so blindly guessing and forging through by clicking around was a common strategy. I found myself backtracking through rooms multiple times to see if I had missed anything, but more often than not I just had a general misunderstanding or difficulty navigating puzzles. Some puzzles have a distinct or unclear order to them that won't register if done incorrectly. I also had trouble with certain color-specific puzzles – some feature yellow and orange, or blue and purple pieces that I found to be nearly indistinguishable from each other. Those who have a hard time with colors may have difficulty getting through these puzzles as well. The lack of an inventory, although a callback to The Neverhood, was still something sorely needed. After picking up an item, Tommy puts it into his stomach, and it’s never to be seen again save for when you click on the correct place on the screen. I would often forget which items were on hand, making it hard to connect the dots when the time came. There were also a few outdated choices in terms of the interface – the manual save/load function is ancient, the cursor is plain without indicating what can be interacted with and how, to name a few. I believe Armikrog aimed to be specifically old school in this sense, but it was a tad frustrating. Whether these choices were intentionally nostalgic or not, it got in the way of actual gameplay. Armikrog could use a bit more tightening in general. Subtitles were inaccurate to the point that it was fun for me just to turn them on and see what dialogue was meant to be in the game originally. However, the biggest offender was the bugginess around puzzles. At some points, they wouldn’t trigger correctly – for example after feeding a bug to Beak Beak (which is meant to trigger his flying abilities), he just sat there staring at me instead. There was also one point when he became stuck in his flying state, unable to move or trigger anything. Saving often is necessary to prevent situations like this. On the brighter side, the environments are stunning and truly make the game come to life in a way that was hard to achieve back in The Neverhood days. Graphics are crisp and vibrant, animations are smooth, and the environment is full of quirky textures like fuzz and moss that make it pop. The clay is of course the hallmark style of the game, and sometimes I found myself getting lost looking thinking how long it took someone to mold that particular scene. Music by Terry Scott Taylor was wonderfully quirky, but I wish there were more of it throughout. It was especially noticeable when working on a puzzle for a long time, as a single song would play and stop for a long period of time, then pick back up again later at a random interval. Similarly, despite the voice acting being top notch, I also noticed that sound clips would fade in and out when Tommy or Beak Beak were meant to speak – subtitles would appear but nothing would come out of their mouths. Armikrog’s story is simple and charming, even though the pacing is a tad rushed for my tastes. Besides the opening sequence, there’s not much to the plot until the very end. I was hoping for more substance, or even more silly vignettes to keep me company – but perhaps I’m being selfish considering how long it takes to animate one of those sequences. Overall, I appreciated the atmosphere and especially one of the very last puzzles, which I felt was one of the more creative things I’d ever experienced in a game. Armikrog does not surpass The Neverhood, but just like a successor to any celebrated piece of media, that would have been an impossible task. However, it does contain a unique charm in its own right which fans of The Neverhood or other old-school point-and-click adventures will especially appreciate. Those followers will likely forgive its faults for a taste of nostalgia, but others new to this realm may find it too outdated and unpolished.
Armikrog review photo
Claymation heaven
I still have my original copy of The Neverhood, bestowed upon me when my family bought our first Gateway computer in the mid-'90s. I was in complete awe over the challengingly silly puzzles, phenomenal claymation, and the ecl...

Bento Miso photo
Bento Miso

Sup Holmes slurps the soup with Bento Miso's Henry Faber

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Sep 20
// 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: Thanks to Henry f...
Tokyo Game Show hands-on photo
It makes sense to me
Candy Crush is like, bad, right? I mean, I'll still suggest to my mother that she should read a book instead of wasting time on that crap (talk about some role reversal), but it's difficult to dislike the game with any inten...

One Upon Light photo
One Upon Light

One Upon Light coming to PS4 in October

Stay away from the light, Carolanne!
Sep 15
// Vikki Blake
The very beautiful, if weirdly titled, One Upon Light will be coming to the PS4 in Europe and North America in October. The "devious" top-down puzzler inverts your natural inclination to move towards the light, making the bri...

Review: Party Hard

Aug 25 // Stephen Turner
Party Hard (PC [Reviewed], iOS) Developer: Pinokl Games Publisher: tinyBuild Games Released: August 25, 2015MSRP: $12.99  Party Hard tells the tongue-in-cheek story of the Party Hard Killer, a man who just wanted to get some sleep at 3AM and eventually went on a murder spree around the US in the early '00s. It’s all played for macabre laughs, though there are flashes of genuine subversion throughout. In the narration, one random victim's identity turns out to be a slap to the face when you're in mid-chuckle, but other twists and turns rarely pay off. Though, in its favour, Party Hard is completely self-aware of its own weaknesses. It’s not trying to be the next Hotline Miami in that regard. Despite the pulsing and rather solid electro soundtrack, Party Hard is actually a slow and methodical game. As the Party Hard Killer (and other unlockable characters), the main aim is to divide and conquer a crowd of people by any means necessary. Of course, stabbing someone in plain sight means someone’s going to call the cops, so it's up to you to manipulate and set off environmental accidents. Dotted around the map are things you can use to flatten, poison, or blow up unsuspecting victims in order to achieve your goal. It's a sandbox game to a point, with a bit of improvisation thrown in for good measure, and watching several timed accidents go off at once is a dark joy to behold. But once all the environmental tricks run out, the game suddenly turns into a fiendish stalk-and-slash. Hiding bodies and killing in secrecy become a must, since the police are relentless in their pursuit of you. You can bump off the cops, but that means the next witness will bring in the more efficient Feds, and the escape routes are eventually boarded up. Finishing off the last 10-15 victims does become a drag, especially after the initial outburst of comical violence. Party Hard lacks the kind of distractions needed to splinter off the remaining survivors, so the last half of every level degrades into a waiting game. Along with the knife, you can bust-a-move that will either get people to dance in place, spurn them away, or give you a good kicking. It’s a little random and mostly useless, considering how everyone wanders around when left to their own devices. To speed things along, there are randomised power-ups to collect; smoke/stun grenades, bottles of poison, and new disguises. Bombs can cause a massive amount of damage, but on the negative side, a fascist SWAT team show up and start attacking everyone, including you. In one particular level, calling in a fumigation crew ends with them gassing out a good third of the party. Party Hard is a genuinely humorous game, crammed as it is with an assortment of “Where’s Wally [Waldo]?” pop culture references. A lot of it is anachronistic for the period, along with the excellent soundtrack, as it self consciously distances itself from the current '80s/'90s aesthetic trend, but it’s still amusing to watch the party unfold, as potential victims get drunk, pass out, or dance with bears that wear gold chains and shades. What Party Hard lacks in complexity, it makes up for with personality. And while it does run out of steam about two thirds of the way in, Party Hard doesn’t outstay its welcome. At only 12 levels long - one being a bonus round and another being a remix - it can be finished in a single evening. Despite owing a lot to Hotline Miami in terms of sight and sound, Party Hard is almost the antithesis of its most obvious influence. On a personal note, it's actually more reminiscent of How to be a Complete Bastard, a similar (and ancient) game involving house parties and a destructive protagonist. It’s not quite a lost weekend, and it’s barely an all-nighter, but Party Hard manages to do its thing before the parents get home. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review photo
Scene is dead, but I'm still restless...
“I get wet when I know that you're dying,” sang Andrew W.K. on his debut album closer, I Get Wet. It’s actually a fine anthem for the terrible things you get away with in Party Hard, far more than the p...

Poncho is a mind-melting retro journey through post-robopocalypse

Aug 20 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]307084:60068:0[/embed] Poncho (PC [previewed], PS4, PS Vita, Wii U)Developer: Delve InteractivePublisher: Rising Star GamesRelease Date: September 24, 2015MSRP: $14.99 After the apocalypse, humanity has been wiped out by an unknown scourge, and all that is left are machines. With mother nature having retaken the earth, the machines developed their own society and culture in the ruins of the old world. But one day, a poncho-wearing robot longs to discover his origins, and seeks out his creator. Using perspective-warping abilities and his own platforming skills, the resourceful little robot will travel through the landscape and encounter other machines trying to find purpose in the new world. Over the course of his adventure, he'll not only discover the meaning his own creation, but also the truth behind mankind's destruction. In recent years, retro-throwback games such as Fez have become common. What these titles share is an increased focus on subversion and playing with genre conventions, all the while crafting a compelling story that goes beyond what many would expect from the genre they're paying homage to. Poncho is no different. With the ability to travel between different planes of the level -- from the foreground, background, and middleground -- the poncho-wearing robot will have to tackle challenging puzzles and action set-pieces. The developers cite classic platformers such as Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog, which had richly detailed backgrounds, as inspiration. I was surprised by how quickly Poncho ramped in difficulty. Initially, it's a very atmospheric game that focuses on storytelling, but once you're let loose into the various stages, things take quite a turn. While there are no enemies or bosses to battle, the challenges come from figuring out how to navigate the multi-layered levels with the perspectives-jumping abilities. With platforms, switches, and other obstacles that call for quick jumps between the different areas of the stages, there's tricky twitch-based gameplay to the platforming and some genuine three-dimensional thinking to the puzzles. It's trippy while still playing on the 2D plane.  With its release approaching, I got in some quality time from the current build of the game. As you acquire new abilities and skills from schematics, you'll be able to travel back to past stages and explore new areas. These abilities, such as the robot stomp, open a number of new avenues of exploration. This mechanic did a lot to make me understand the true scope of Poncho. It's very much a throwback platformer with modern puzzle gameplay dynamics. There were several moments where I felt I was stuck, but once I figured things out, I was left immensely satisfied.  If you're itching for a puzzle-platformer that plays with the genre's tropes and conventions, then keep an eye out for this little title. While on the surface it looks like a rather humble platforming jaunt through a post-apocylyptic world filled with robots, Poncho quickly goes into mindfuck territory, and it'll raise questions you'll be dying to get answers to.
Poncho preview photo
Out on September 24
Last year, we got a sneak peek at a rather peculiar puzzle-platformer named Poncho. Launching on Kickstarter and debuting at EGX for attendees, it showed a lot of promise in exploring the earth after humans went extinct. Unfo...

Review: Niko: Through The Dream

Jul 27 // Jed Whitaker
Niko: Through The Dream (PC)Developer: Studio Paint Publisher: Studio Paint MSRP: $9.99Released: July 10, 2015  A girl named Niko wearing wild face paint visits the grave of a passed loved one. She lays down and drifts asleep, when a tiny cute black creature with big bright white eyes sneaks into her mind and influences her dreams; or at least that is how I interpreted the opening pencil-drawn anime cinematic of Niko. The story is told subtly from then on via drawings found in-game and a post-credits cinematic, most of which lets you interpret it as you will instead of outright telling you what you just experienced, something I wish more games did.  Niko's minimalistic style makes beautiful use of the Unreal Engine. Most early levels are white and almost canvas-like other than shadows and a few a colorful pieces, and later on things get a bit more dark and eery. The soundtrack evolves alongside levels, starting bright and charming and eventually becoming chilling and tense. Rarely do game soundtracks feel so on point with what is on the screen and as memorable as Niko's, especially for a team's first game. Each level of Niko features a unique puzzle based on colors, shapes, platforming and even sounds. Most puzzles can be solved without much fuss, particularly for observant players as clues are usually hidden somewhere not far from the puzzles themselves. I'd be here all day if I described each type of puzzle, so just know the variety is enough to keep the whole adventure interesting.  [embed]296684:59697:0[/embed] Platforming puzzles aren't frequent, but when they do occur be ready to die a few times. Luckily, the checkpoints are really frequent and loading them is instantaneous, keeping frustration near non-existent. Niko aims to provide an enjoyable experience over one that tests your skills, and it certainly delivers. Nothing ever felt too difficult. Puzzles are mostly easy to figure out once you've got the logic down, though one of hardest puzzles is a platforming section where you turn into a ball. In ball form, the control scheme is vastly different: the view is top down, and if you're using a gamepad, the left stick moves the ball while the right stick decides the trajectory. Once I finally mastered the controls, I was able to finish the puzzles without much fuss, but it felt out of place in an otherwise beautifully-crafted game. Along the journey a few different characters come into contact with Niko such as cute black fuzzballs with eyes, and a giant white-masked black figure, both of which would feel right at home in a Studio Ghibli film. There is no dialogue in-game, but rest assured the characters are anything but flat. Over the course of the story, you'll see the masked figure evolve and convey emotions all without a single word of speech.  Niko only takes around five hours to complete, but those hours are time well spent. Completionists can seek out hidden collectable teddy bears that unlock Steam achievements, and a few other secrets along the way that will help extend the playtime a bit. The bears are often hidden behind some of the more difficult and rewarding puzzles, or just out of sight.  Beautiful levels with equally beautiful story, characters, and music come together to form one amazing puzzle adventure. Niko: Through The Dream is easily one of the best first-person puzzle games I've played, and a strong contender for my game of the year. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Niko Review photo
When Portal met Ghibli
First-person puzzle adventure gaming was reinvigorated with the release of Portal, and the genre has since become one of my favorites. The surreal Antichamber showed us how to think outside the box. The Unfinished Swan&n...

Dtoid Live Stream photo
Dtoid Live Stream

Check out Vanishing of Ethan Carter PS4, and Castlevania-like Odallus on our Twitch!

Ethan Carter remastered in UE 4!
Jul 14
// Jed Whitaker
[Update: All done! Look out for my review of Odallus today. Spoilers: I liked it.] I've got some games and can't possibly play them without someone watching me, so won't you? The PS4 version of The Vanishing of Eth...

Review: Nekoburo: Cats Block

Jul 12 // Jed Whitaker
Nekoburo - Cats Block (PS Vita, PlayStation TV [Reviewed])Developer: F K Digital Publisher: Neko EntertainmentMSRP: $7.99Released: July 7, 2015 Square alien cats made of electrical waves are passing the Earth when a solar storm strikes, knocking them to the planet. One of the cats gets found by a human female who takes him home and treats him nicely, so he decides to summon his pals through her television to join him living with his new servant. If this somehow related to the gameplay other than featuring said cats, it was never apparent.  Levels consist of a standard falling from the top of the screen match three mechanic, three cats fall from the top of the screen that can be moved left to right and be reordered on a tilted playing field. Each level has a specific quest such as clearing a certain number of cats of a certain color within a timelimit, or surviving for a set amount of time while cats drop quickly. Matching three or more cats of the same color in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line will clear them. Clearing cats also fills up a meter that grants items that help clear the board such as horizontal and vertical bombs, a grid warp that clears a set of nine surrounding blocks, clearing all cats of a single color and a rainbow block that clears the entire board.  [embed]295827:59475:0[/embed] Acquiring these items and knowing when to use them are an important part of the game, as each level seemingly has a specific way to complete it. For example, one level has what look to be tofu blocks slowly advancing from the bottom of the screen that can only be cleared with items or clearing cats in horizontal lines. In this level the only real way to complete the level is to constantly build up and use items to keep the middle of the screen cleared, as the middle is the only area that can cause a failure, the other rows don't matter and stack up past the edges of the level with no repurrrrrrcussions. The levels are laid out in such a way that it forces you to learn the mechanics of the game with no hand holding. One level may require so many vertical bombs to be used to clear it, thus teaching you how to effectively use them, another may require rainbow blocks be detonated which is extremely important in later levels.  After every 10 levels a new cat will materialize through the TV in the human's house, in tow with its own personality, background information and colorful comic. Unfortunately the dialogue and background information is so poorly localized it is basically incomprehensible. I've played a lot of poorly localized games in my day -- looking at you Zero Wing -- but this one was easily the worst. Here are two examples of the awfully translated text: "He hope to become an charming men as chocolate," and "Even though fiery rude, he have sense of justice. He did something that against the grain with him, because think to much."  Nekoburo isn't exactly a hard game as it is random -- or more specifically, the difficulty is mostly due to the random generation of the falling cat blocks. Sometimes, exactly what is required to complete a level will spawn, other times you'll have to work for it. This isn't specific to any level though, so it isn't like the levels are specifically designed to spawn cats in a certain way, at least it seems that way on the surface level. Multiple attempts at the same level will eventually yield positive results, allowing level completion, other times the game just seems to be against you. Though this is the case with most puzzle games, so it isn't exactly a new problem with the genre -- it's just worse here. Between levels you can customize the apartment with furniture, and play with the cats with toys, both of which are unlocked by completing certain goals attached to them. While the cats are uber cute, this portion of the game left much to be desired; the furniture can't be moved, and the toys aren't exactly fun to play with more than once. One of the toys is turning on the TV for the cats to watch, the screen just lights up white as the cats sit there, not what I'd call a toy or entertaining.  The story mode can be completed in around six or seven hours, mostly due to trial and error. A survival mode is unlocked around half way through the story mode that is just an endless mode that increases in difficulty, much like marathon mode in Tetris. As there are no online leaderboards and the furniture is little more than pallet swaps there is little reason to continue playing once the story mode is finished unless you're a completionist.  The best thing about Nekoburo: Cats Block is the art style; everything is bright, colorful and super adorable, but take that away and you're left with a generic, poorly translated puzzle game with a tilted playing field that doesn't compliment gameplay. Nekoburo is certainly not the cat's meow.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Nekoburo Review photo
I love pussies, my dad loves pussies and my Grand Peppers loved pussies before he met his untimely demise on that trampoline -- RIP Grand Peppers may you continue to love pussies in the afterlife. But, we are all fluent in th...

Review: Super Star Path

Jun 29 // Jed Whitaker
Super Star Path (PC)Developer: DYA Games Publisher: DYA GamesMSRP: $2.99Released: June 22, 2015 Flying through tons of enemies to get to a boss at the end of a level is nothing new, but how Super Star Path makes you get there is unique. Enemies approach from the top of the screen and are mostly static aside from some small animations. Shooting them causes them to blow up, taking any adjacent enemies of the same color with them. The final enemies to explode in a chain will cause nearby enemies of different colors to crystallize which then can't be cleared from the screen.  After navigating through the maze-like wave of enemies on every level, a boss will appear. Boss battles play similarly to what you'd expect see in a bullet hell shooter; tons of bullets covering the screen with a boss that requires a lot of shots. Luckily the difficulty of a bullet hell boss can be curbed by purchasing upgradeable ships. After normal enemies are destroyed, they leave behind crystals that are used as currency to buy one of the 10 ships. Each ship has some kind of added benefit -- like being immune to certain attacks or increasing the value of crystals -- and stats that can be upgraded. During each stage, three special enemies appear that, when killed, drop upgrade points; one for speed, health, and damage. These upgrades can then be applied to each specific ship to power them up. Upgrading health allows ships to take up to five hits before exploding and is really necessary for some of the later boss fights, unless you're a veteran bullet hell player. Each level has its own unique twist. Some levels have added enemies flying at you, while others have mines that explode when you get too close or lasers that shoot in straight lines, clearing anything in their way. Figuring out which ship to use for each level feels almost Mega Man-like, as each stage's hazards have a ship that is immune to them. Every level also has three black bat enemies that drop green emeralds that are required for completing the game; thankfully, you can play levels over until you come across them without much trouble. While blasting through each 16-bit-esque level, an awesome soundtrack plays and the main character makes quips about what is happening around him. Something these quips include swearing, which may be off-putting to some, but they are far and few between. Nothing you wouldn't see on Dtoid every day. If anything, the swears add some flavor and character to the game, something most space shooters are lacking.  Super Star Path nails the mixing of space shooter, roguelike, and puzzle genres in a way I didn't even know I wanted. Sadly, the whole experience is over within an hour. But at a measly three dollars, I find it hard to complain -- though it did leave me wanting more. If that's the only complaint I had with the game, it is easily recommendable. I just hope we get to see more space shooter puzzlers in the future! [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Super Star Path review photo
Space puzzles, the final frontier
Space shooters used to be popular. Back in the 8-bit and 16-bit days, everyone knew Gradius and R-Type, amongst others. These days they are few and far between, at least quality ones. Sure Steam is flooded with them...

Review: Subject 13

Jun 29 // Caitlin Cooke
Subject 13 (PC) Developer: Paul Cuisset , Microids Publisher: Gravity Europe SAS Release: May 28, 2015 Subject 13 begins dramatically with your character, Franklin Fargo (yes, that’s his actual name), attempting suicide via driving into a river. As he descends into the water, a mysterious event occurs which transports him into an abandoned research facility inhabited by a strange disembodied robotic voice. Franklin (otherwise known as Subject 13) is encouraged by this entity to use his intellect to solve puzzles and make it out of the compound -- and thus begins the challenge. The gameplay has a nice balance to it, starting off with fairly simple concepts as an introduction but not taking too long to get your mind ticking. Most of the challenges are spin-offs of popular games and brain teasers like Reversi, Minesweeper, sliding puzzles, etc. If you aren’t a fan of these kinds of puzzles -- especially sliders since they make up approximately half of the puzzles -- then this game may not be for you. There’s also a bit of traditional point-and-click detective work along with finding items as you search for ways to make it past obstacles. The game’s inventory allows you to inspect, rotate, and zoom in on any item -- which adds additional complexity to the puzzles, as many of them require you to modify, combine, or inspect items to find solutions. If you get stuck, a hint is available at any time, however I found them to be simple and would often give me information I had already figured out on my own. Contextualized pointers are extremely helpful and help you determine if an object is movable, or requires an item to move forward. When solving more complex puzzles, the game transitions to a clear first-person viewpoint which makes the puzzles easy to work with and simple to back out of with the scroll of a mouse wheel. Luckily, there were only a few moments when I felt puzzle logic or solutions were obtuse and I needed to search for help online. While Subject 13 isn’t extremely long, the pacing is just right in terms of the story. Small plot elements are sprinkled throughout in “testimonies”, recordings from researchers who had lived in the complex. The mysterious voice that guides you throughout the game also occasionally asks questions to which you can respond and in turn receive background info on Franklin. Strange occurrences become more and more frequent as you progress, revealing more of the interesting details of the story. Eerie background music is perfectly stationed throughout, amplifying the mysterious setting. The plot and story elements seemed to borrow heavily from other games (ie Portal and Mass Effect come to mind), however Subject 13 is interesting in its own right. The only real downside to the story was the quality of the dialogue and voice acting -- unfortunately the latter wasn’t very good, and some of the dialogue came off as cheesy. The writing could have also used some proofing, as there were times when the dialogue didn’t match up with the subtitles, or just didn’t quite flow well. However it was a valiant effort for an indie game with only two voice actors. Being a puzzle fanatic, I really enjoyed Subject 13, but I was disappointed with a few elements. For example, sometimes the action wheel where you could view or take an item wouldn’t connect, depending on which angle you were viewing the object from. More than a few times I found that I missed clues because of this. I also felt it was a bit of a let down to make the last puzzle of the game an extremely large, glorified Minesweeper. I was hoping that with the ingenuity of some of the previous puzzles that the game would go out with a bang. That being said, Subject 13 as a whole is thoughtfully challenging. I can see it working really well for casual and hardcore puzzle fans alike as it intermingles timeless puzzles with original concepts. Despite the storyline having some slightly cheesy and generic moments, it was intriguing enough to keep me interested and engaged. Although it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessors in the genre, it’s definitely worth a play if you’re a fan of exploration puzzlers. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Subject 13 review photo
Logic always wins
Point-and-click puzzle adventures set in an abandoned world were always my favorite games to play growing up. There’s something exciting about uncovering the story of a desolate world via solving puzzles -- games like T...

Or buy other 360 games photo
Or buy other 360 games

Get one of the best Xbox 360 puzzle games for free on Xbox One

Hexic HD
Jun 21
// Jed Whitaker
Hexic HD has a peculiar past: It was originally only available on Xbox 360 hard drives closer to launch and was only released for download on Xbox Live years later. If your hard drive died and you didn't have a backup - ...

Review: The Masterplan

Jun 18 // Stephen Turner
The Masterplan (PC) Developer: Shark Punch Publisher: Shark Punch Released: June 4, 2015 MSRP: $19.99  It’s the start of the '70s and Richard Nixon is cracking down on crime with the War on Drugs, which means bad news for your dealing protagonist. After being busted out of jail, it’s time to stick it to The Man by pulling off a series of heists; each one leading you closer to the ultimate payday at Fort Knox. Actually, there’s not much else to say about The Masterplan’s plot, even if it does serve the funky aesthetics well. No special gadgets, here; just good old fashioned lockpicks, drills, and shooters. The Masterplan has a charming tongue-in-cheek vibe throughout, with anachronistic references, stumpy characters, and goofy violence. Presented from a top-down perspective, the hand drawn artwork is reminiscent of a board game. Each map stands out with its own detailed identity -- from stores to offices to casinos -- to the point where you’re interested in seeing the next location or need to remember for a bonus replay. As for the gameplay itself, it’s a real-time, semi-improvisational puzzler. Oddly though, for a game about heists, there’s no pre-planning at all. At a hideout, you hire crew members, buy some weapons, pick a destination, and work it out when you get there. It makes for some frustrating instances of trial-and-error runs. Plus there’s the odd design choice of having to kill a crew member to replace them and not one but two crew caps (six hires, but only four go on the heist). The Masterplan is really about fluidity and making decisions on the fly. Brute force is fine, but it comes with monetary penalties and alarms, so it’s obviously meant to be played as stealthily as possible; turn off the lights and cameras, and avoid the cones of vision. Though you’re given different objectives, every level boils down to one plan: get the grey key to get the orange key, which in turn will net you the red key and finally the loot. The maps might increase in size and complexity, but it’s always the exact same method for success. That’s not to say there’s a lack of flexibility. This is a game where you play it room-by-room, adapting to every mistake and accidental paths. As long as those major goals are completed, the next heists are unlocked. It also helps to have a choice, as being stuck on one doesn’t mean a grinding halt in progression. Each heist usually contains a useful tool for another location, like a disguise or a drill, and none of it ever feels overpowered. There’s a real feeling of relief when a plan goes awry at the last second and a previously opened shortcut becomes essential for your escape. It’s the little pressures that make it fun. The Masterplan rides a fine line between fiendish and finicky. The minimal UI, which encircles your character with a simple right-click, usually overlaps objects and characters in close proximity. When you’re on your own, it works great. When you’re moving two people together or need to multi-task, it becomes a real hassle; especially in a timed situation. Everyone walks around like they’re on ice, which makes for some troublesome encounters when you need make quick turns, fast draws, or lock swinging doors. There’s a slo-mo function meant for synchronised tactics, but it’s obviously the developers’ way of combating the negatives above. You see, there’s never much reason to have a crew working in tandem. Most heists have you donning a disguise and pulling off silent one-man robberies, as the rest of your crew idle about, acting as pack mules or lookouts. For the most part, The Masterplan feels incredibly slight. In the last third, where tactics shift from bull rushes to planning longer routes, the need for tactical complexity becomes too apparent. Though not exactly fast-paced, it works best when decisions are made on-the-fly and risks are taken for monetary distractions. Overall, The Masterplan is not a bad game, just one that misses some tricks because of scaled back designs. [This review is based on a retail build provided by the publisher.]
Review photo
I propagate British cultural depravity
Once upon a time, I played a PC game called Heist. It was truly dreadful, but it did spark my interest in seeing more methodical crime games on the market. Sadly, the wait has been more of a slow drip, with more cancellations...

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Review: Road Not Taken

Aug 11 // Chris Carter
Road Not Taken (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Vita)Developer: Spry FoxPublisher: Spry FoxReleased: August 5, 2014 (PC, PS4) / TBA (Vita)MSRP: $14.99 (free on PS+ in August) It's very easy to get hooked on Road Not Taken right from the get-go. As a unique-looking creature not unlike He-Man's Orko, you're tasked by the mayor of a town with one job: protect the children of the land from getting lost in the woods. Yep, somehow, someway, a magical storm sweeps up kids once a year and deposits them in the woods, and you have to save "at least half of them" annually. You have this job for 15 years (levels), and then your task is done. How do you complete this task? Through a combination of a grid-based puzzle setup and a "match" mechanic. You see, every "board" in each forest is comprised of objects like wolves, children, mothers, trees, and rocks. You're free to move across a square at no cost, but once you use your powers to "lift" an object, you start losing stamina at the cost of one digit per square moved per object -- so if you were carrying a child, you'd lose one stamina per step. Your ultimate goal is to conserve stamina by throwing objects across the screen (or even between screens), so you technically don't need to carry them unless you absolutely have to. To further complicate matters, sometimes you can't physically move if you're carrying a child and an obstacle is blocking your way, so you have to put them down, move some stuff around, and carry on. As you can imagine, things can get a little complicated. If a board is full of objects it might take half your stamina to just move things out of the way, then you have to get the child back to their respective matching mother, or back to the start of the level. This sounds extremely straightforward, so where developer Spry Fox mixes things up a bit is through the various combinations of objects you can create by mixing (read: throwing) things together. [embed]279355:55212:0[/embed] For instance, if you pick up a child who refuses to move, you can throw them into a fire and "create" one who follows you automatically without having to "lift" them constantly. You can combine certain ghosts to create a tool used to hack down foliage and the like, which you can in turn be used for something else. Some items can even be combined to create nourishing food (that earns you stamina points), and other more deadly enemies can attack you for a loss in stamina. It's fun in practice, and makes you think quite a bit about what your next move might be. There's also a light communication element when you start each year in your new hometown, as you can trade currency such as coins, berries, rabbits, and rice to villagers for extra talismans that help you complete your jobs a little easier. It's not rocket science as the game generally tells you what each villager likes and dislikes, but it's a nice little way to connect to the world and earn something useful while doing so. The art style and whimsical music are the cherry on top of the cute presentation. But what starts off as an interesting tale with a unique art style eventually becomes an exercise in repetition. It's novel at first that most of the game's nuances must be "discovered," but once you start throwing around combinations willy-nilly a few hours in, your journal will let you know what's what, and the actual equations aren't all that complicated. By year five, the game also becomes extremely obtuse, to the point where it will scare off most casual players. Now, I'm not saying the game is "too hard." Sadly, instead of having players master combinations to get ahead gradually, the game basically packs every board to the gills with objects very early on -- so much so that you can barely even move. The curve is far too steep and unbalanced, to the point where most players will pick up the game, adore the first few stages, and then promptly drop it once it reaches frustrating status. The kicker is that Road Not Taken has a permadeath system, where you're forced to start from the beginning if you run out of stamina. In case you're wondering, you can only forgo the objective of "saving half the children" once, and although you can restart by way of a modified checkpoint shrine mechanic, you lose all of your items -- which ultimately inches you closer to true death anyways. The game definitely could have benefited from a few different modes, most notably a creation tool or challenge gametype. Although each board is procedurally generated, there isn't much to do once your task is done, as most levels tend to manufacture a feeling of déjà vu near the end. When I first started playing Road Not Taken, I was completely enamored by its premise, style, and world. Slowly, bit by bit, I started having a little less fun as the levels progressed, as the game's initial intrigue wore off a little more. That's not to say it eventually becomes unplayable as I did enjoy the majority of the game, but make sure to bring extra patience along with you on this trip through the beaten path.
Road Not Taken review photo
You can throw children at fire and make them more obedient in this game
The term "roguelike" gets way too much airtime these days. If anything has permadeath, it's instantly a roguelike. If it takes place in a dungeon -- "roguelike!" But the original Rogue's core mechanical element was its grid-b...

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