Reviews For July/August

I have a large backlog of review copies I have to get through. August was the first month I got nearly every game I requested. Usually I got one, maybe two. And then I got more review copies offered through my PR contacts that I seem to have now. I’m still making my way through those, but this are the reviews I published at PopMatters in the last two months.

Combo Crew

Combo Crew was the first game where I had get an APK manager for to get the game installed. I got a review copy before it was released on the Android store and this is apparently how you work with those. I didn’t really think much of the game and it’s not one I’ll go back and play, because it’s just so frustrating. I think I do a somewhat adequate job of explaining the main problem. Though in reading the review over I think one or two sentences could have used a bit of touching up.

Incidentally, I’ve seen Combo Crew decently high on the paid apps list even several months out. Nice to see it’s doing okay for itself, even if I didn’t really enjoy it.

Scurvy Scallywags

Mid-summer was an exercise in looking for something to talk about. No more was this evident than with Scurvy Scallywags. I spent most of the review simply describing the game. Often there isn’t a whole lot of analysis one can do with the average mobile title. Sometime something like The Room comes along, but there isn’t a whole lot to Scurvy Scallywags. Describing the game is going to tell a person whether or not they will like it. I do have some critical appraisal of the game through my own behavior. I kept wanted to come back to it, even after dying twice. I debated on using the word, but really addicting was the only suitable adjective.

The Walking Dead, 400 Days

The Walking Dead: 400 Days was another one of those games where I went to see what our review had to say about the game, only to find we hadn’t written one. I had bought the DLC for myself already, asked if anyone else was doing it and when told no went ahead and wrote it.

The short story is something that has gone away in recent decades, mostly due to the decline of magazines that used to publish them and which used to supplement author’s income. One side effect is that people seemed to have lost appreciation or understanding to the demands of a short story. The structure and needs are different from that of a novel, but I’ve seen a lot of people criticizing the 400 Days DLC for adhering to those needs because there was no long term investment. I don’t know if it is because people don’t read and therefore aren’t familiar with short stories like we once were or if carrying The Walking Dead name colors their perception of how the stories should go.

Hotline Miami

Full disclosure, I didn’t finish the PS3 version of Hotline Miami. I beat it on the PC months previously and it is the same game. I knew the kill puzzles and the story. In this version, I put in a few hours, killed Helmet and around there I got all I needed for the review. I know how the game goes, what I needed to know was how the controls affect play. And that is an interesting talking point in and of itself.

On the one hand the PC controls were hard to parse with the split second reactions needed to clear the rooms. The controller helps with this a lot. The lock on button and analog sticks make for a much smoother experience. But that has to be contrasted for what I think was one of the benefits of the difficult control scheme. The game drained you as you played it. Your fingers became like lead weights after a while and the adrenaline wore off. That in combination of the repetitive music and visuals reenforced the experience Hotline Miami was trying to deliver. My worry was whether the controller could maintain the draining aftereffect. Thankfully it did, just not as readily.

The Night of the Rabbit

I don’t know how I keep getting Daedalic Entertainment games. I was ready to rip The Night of the Rabbit a new one, because the game completely collapsed on itself right near the end. There were visual tearing, background dropped out, object would go all tiled wallpaper on the screen and then flicker. Something in this game just broke. I wrote the review and before I submitted it I talked about it with my fellow columnists and they recommend I check my graphics card. After fiddling with this and that code and Steam settings I dug into my drivers and found the graphics card was three years out of date. One update later or at least I assumed it updated I saw a lot of progress bars, the game magically worked like it had been for the preceding 8-10 hours.

That’s the most interesting story I have to say in relation to this game. The Night of the Rabbit is pleasant enough and the story is interesting it its fable like nature. I like the line I came up to describe it in the review “Harry Potter via Rupert the Bear.” But it’s their attitude towards puzzle design that drags the game to a screeching halt in the middle.

Face Noir

Face Noir is a game I didn’t like immediately. But I soon warmed up to it’s blatant disregard of its own use of cliches. It did what it wanted to do. I feel a lot of the positive aspects of this game wouldn’t exist if it were made by an American studio and not an Italian one. A lot of the cultural and genre missteps are thanks to the fact that it is another culture working within a very American genre as they see it. It’s fascinating to watch in both its brilliance and slow motion train wreck. Thankfully, Mad Orange is a studio that seems to have a grasp on good puzzle design. It mitigates what could have been a big problem by localizing all the items to the places where they will be used.

The story makes little sense and in the end you realize next to nothing has been resolved and questions are in desperate need of answers. The ending is just full of ‘why?’ because it seems the game lost interest with the Noir genre or doesn’t realize it isn’t suppose to end well for the principled characters. I gave this game the finger when it ended the way it did. Now the game promotes the sequel which looks to be a pulp style adventure in Syria. Serious props to the surrealist scene near the end. Utter brilliance in an otherwise shit ending.

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