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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
Pussies
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...

Kalimba photo
Kalimba

Kalimba is coming to PC, with free and paid DLC


Glad this did well enough to develop more content for
Apr 15
// Chris Carter
Kalimba was a pretty neat little puzzle game on Xbox One, and it probably deserves a bit more exposure. Developer Press Play agrees, as it will arrive on PC on April 22 for $9.99. It will include two extra modes, as well as g...
Apple Watch photo
Apple Watch

First Apple Watch game approved


Simple puzzle game to play slyly at work
Mar 30
// Laura Kate Dale
For Apple Watch owners looking to pass the time playing games rather than paying attention to school or their jobs, choices so far have been limited to browsing social media. Thankfully, the first game has finally been approv...
Ether One photo
Ether One

Ether One confirmed for PS4, holy crap I still need to play this


No release date yet, but it will be digital and physical
Mar 05
// Chris Carter
Ether One reviewed wonderfully with our own Steven Hansen, and even though I wanted to try it, I put it at the back of my mind at the time. It looks like I'll get the chance to experience it once again on consoles, as d...
Sunburn photo
Sunburn

Jump in to the sun for just $0.99


But only until Sunday
Feb 07
// Jonathan Holmes
Sunburn is an award-winning game on iTunes about leading a group of stranded space explorers, dangerously close to the sun, doomed to die a boring death by asphyxiation. What would you do if you had no hope for survival and ...
Q  Entertainment  photo
Q Entertainment

New Lumines heads to phones as Rez-creator Mizuguchi helms new US studio


Q Entertainment business
Jan 27
// Steven Hansen
I've just started playing Lumines Electronic Symphony again because Grim Fandango has had me back on my Vita so it's serendipitous that developer Q Entertainment is in the news. And let me just remind you all that Electronic ...
Cartoons photo
Cartoons

Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle is authentic mahjong, but with sexy anime girls


Uh, who wants to come over and play some regular domino?
Jan 23
// Steven Hansen
Most of the mahjong games on Steam are weird. There's a weird tower one, an Antiques Roadshow one. They either all have their own rules, odd set dressing, or both. In the case of Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle, these are, ...
Splice photo
Splice

Cellular puzzle game Splice now available on PSN


Check out that soundtrack!
Jan 20
// Ben Davis
Splice is a puzzle game from Cipher Prime Studios which has you rearranging cellular strands to make specific structures. It's been out on PC and mobile devices for a while now, but today it became available on PS3 and PS4, m...
Monument Valley sales photo
Monument Valley sales

Games aren't cheap: It cost $1.4 million to make Monument Valley and its DLC


And other refreshingly transparent stats
Jan 15
// Jordan Devore
With so much crap out there, it's pleasant to see the mobile-games marketplace value quality. Ustwo Games has released a bunch of data for its delectable iOS and Android puzzler Monument Valley, including sales and revenue fi...
Tri-Strip photo
Tri-Strip

Tri-Strip is another game that has a classic Game Boy look


That monochrome
Jan 09
// Chris Carter
Have you been itching for a monochrome style game outside of Joylancer? You can have your fill later this year with Tri-Strip, from developer Form Up Studios. It's a lot like Tetris, and involves manipulating triangles to remove them from the board. I dig the style but it's a bit too bright at the moment. As expected, Off-TV play is supported. There's no set release date yet for the game.
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LIVE! Absinthe vs. The Talos Principle: A Most Distinguished Stream


This is the worst idea we've had since our last idea
Dec 08
// Max Scoville
You guys might recall (we sure as hell don't) a month or so ago, Devolver Digital sent me and Bill an early build of Titan Souls and a couple large bottles of some sort of ale made by wizards or monks or something. Bill and I...
Sigils of Elohim photo
Sigils of Elohim

Devolver Digital and Croteam release free puzzler mini-game


Complete sigil puzzles to unlock Items in The Talos Principle
Oct 18
// Rob Morrow
Croteam, the independent development studio behind the Serious Sam games and debonair indie publisher Devolver Digital have recently released a free mini-game prelude to their upcoming philosophical first-person puzzle gam...
Black The Fall photo
Black The Fall

Sand Sailor's atmospheric Black The Fall slinks to Kickstarter


A stealth-action puzzle platformer inspired by totalitarianism
Oct 02
// Rob Morrow
Romanian development studio Sand Sailor has recently taken to Kickstarter to fund its stealth-action platformer, Black The Fall. Inspired by the communist country they grew up in, the developers would like their game to impa...
Heroes Never Lose photo
Heroes Never Lose

Puzzle Fighter-inspired indie confirmed for Wii U


Also headed to Steam, PC, MAC, Linux
Sep 27
// Jonathan Holmes
Puzzle games used to be big business on home consoles. Sadly for fans of the genre, these days they're usually relegated to phones and handhelds. That may be why we've seen so few games in the style of seminal classic Super ...
Ether One photo
Ether One

Ether One is coming to the PS4


According to the developer, it's coming 'soon'
Aug 15
// Chris Carter
Ether One looks like a pretty intriguing game -- I just haven't had time to get to it yet. That may change when it comes to the PS4, as developer White Paper Games has just announced that it will be coming "soon" to the ...
Monument Valley photo
Monument Valley

Monument Valley made back every bit of its dev costs in one week


M. C. Escher's princess
Aug 13
// Brittany Vincent
Monument Valley, an isometric puzzle game that was the winner of an Apple Design Award, made back its development costs after just one week on the App Store. Even though it's a $4 app and had stiff competition alongside other...

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...

 Albedo photo
Albedo

Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space coming to Steam Early Access September 26


A '60s sci-fi pulp movie inspired game about...I'm not completely sure
Aug 09
// Rob Morrow
Albedo: Eyes from Outer Space looks like something you'd get if you spliced together The Residents, BioShock and Myst, and it definitely stands out from the crowd. Developed by Z4GO and Ivan Venturi Productions, i...
Pneuma photo
Pneuma

You're a god in Xbox One puzzler Pneuma: Breath of Life


Unreal Engine 4
Aug 07
// Steven Hansen
Unreal Engine 4 powered Pneuma: Breath of Life is coming to Xbox One this January, while "Other platforms are to be considered but not confirmed." The trailer gives little to go on, but you'll be playing as the god...
Point Perfect photo
Point Perfect

Point Perfect makes clicking and dragging fun


Get your mouse hand limbered up
Aug 04
// Alasdair Duncan
There aren't too many games that can promise a "less is more" experience. Most of the time, games are trying to cram more and more features and controls to build a well-rounded experience. Point Perfect is a bit different; t...
Captain Toad photo
Captain Toad

Captain Toad won't be tracking treasure in Europe until 2015


Aw
Jul 30
// Chris Carter
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is on pace for a winter 2014 release just about everywhere, but it appears as if Nintendo has had a change of plans with Europe -- it won't arrive there until January 2015. Bummer! We're co...
Fat Princess photo
Fat Princess

Fat Princess: Piece of Cake is out now on iOS in Canada


Coming to Vita later this year
Jul 28
// Chris Carter
Fat Princess is back! In match-three form! Should you want to subject yourself to puzzle-madness, you can head over to the Canadian App Store and download the free-to-play game now. If you're looking for the Vita version, it ...
Tappingo 2 photo
Tappingo 2

Tappingo 2 will hit the 3DS eShop on August 28


Improvements in tow
Jul 25
// Chris Carter
I thought Tappingo was a decent (and very well priced) distraction on the 3DS eShop, but there were some problems with it that definitely needed to be addressed. Developer Goodbye Galaxy Games has taken these criticisms to h...
Peggle photo
Peggle

A new Peggle is in development, according to an EA earnings call


Captain Obvious.jpg
Jul 23
// Chris Carter
Like it was ever any question that PopCap was planning the development of a new Peggle game, but just in case you doubted the future of the series, it's happening. According to a first quarter earnings call for EA, PopCa...

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