Category Archives: impressions

Marvel Heroes Omega’s squirrelly performance on consoles

I’ve long wanted to play Marvel Heroes since it came out in 2013, but after seeing just how large the download file was from Steam–somewhere over the 30 GB mark–I decided to hold off. Then I completely forgot about the optic blasted thing, even after its double renaming to Marvel Heroes 2015 and Marvel Heroes 2016, until Gazillion Entertainment announced that it was coming to consoles this year, still as a free-to-play beast (not to be confused with Beast, the NPC you need to speak to during one of the main story missions). Anyways, it is here, it is rebranded once more as Marvel Heroes Omega, and it is a good amount of mindless fun, with some technical issues peppered throughout the experience. Let me and my army of squirrels explain.

To start, this is Diablo starring superheroes, that you play with a controller. At least that’s how I’ve described it to others. I’ll go more into the gameplay mechanics in a bit, but let me sum up the story, written by Brian Michael Bendis and which would be right at home for a long-running Saturday morning cartoon series arc. Legendary no-gooder Doctor Doom obtains the Cosmic Cube, which is capable of transforming any wish into reality, irrespective of the consequences. He uses this device to incinerate the Watcher. On the flip side of things, Madame Hydra and HYDRA have facilitated a breakout, freeing several super-powered inmates. You, the player, whether you are everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Captain “The Captain” America, or berzerker claws-only Wolverine, must go on a series of quests to take these villains down and put a stop to whatever Doctor Doom’s end-game plan is. Total domination, I’m assuming. The story is told via text in mission logs and dialogue with other peeps, as well as stylized, hand-drawn cutscenes that make you feel like you’re right inside a comic book. One problem: so far, I haven’t see a single brown hair of Squirrel Girl, despite her being my main hero and almost level 40.

Marvel Heroes Omega is without a doubt an action role-playing game, or ARPG for those that like to keep things short. You can tell immediately by looking at it and seeing the camera perspective, as well as the UI that puts a number of spells that once called numbers on a keyboard home now associated with the A, B, X, and Y buttons. It’s also a free-to-play game, but unlike Candy Crush Saga and Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, there’s no energy system that restricts how long you can play for, nor do the microtransactions seem to get in the way or block people from playing most of the game. Many of the superheroes cost a high amount of real money bucks or special currency, but you can grind out the latter as you play through the single player content and other modes. I think all the alternative costumes are in loot boxes, but I’m not certain of that.

Here’s what you do in Marvel Heroes Omega: beat up baddies and gain levels. In short, kick butts and eat nuts (only if you are Squirrel Girl, which, thankfully, I am). As characters gain levels, they gain passive stat increases and power points, allowing the player to further define the abilities of that character, and each character has three power trees in which they can spend points. These focus on a certain mechanic or play style, such as melee, guns, explosives, ranged, or special ranged. Currently, I’ve unlocked an ally for Squirrel Girl named Tippy Toe, who wears a pink bow and does some series damage. Also, I can shoot a squirrel like a machine gun. Without paying any money, you can play every single character in the game up to level 10. Then you must unlock the character to continue gaining levels and powers, which I did for Squirrel Girl, and I’m currently saving up special currency to buy Iron Man for Melanie so we can continue playing this together.

It’s not a perfect launch, which is somewhat disappointing, considering they’ve had years to work on at the very least the foundation of this game. The concrete floor, the support beams, the installation–that stuff. I’ve had Marvel Heroes Omega crash a handful of times already, dumping me right back to the start menu with little explanation. There’s insane slowdown when things get crazy with a bunch of superheroes all unloading on a single group of enemies at once. Also, if you try to move ahead in the level before it has finished loading, you hit an invisible wall until the game catches up with you. Not total deal-breakers, but irksome issues regardless.

I’m a couple chapters short of finishing the main campaign for Marvel Heroes Omega, but that doesn’t mean this adventure is over. Far from it. After that, I’m curious to see how my Squirrel Girl will grow as a character via other modes, and I do want to see how other heroes play, such as Gambit or Kitty Pryde, but probably only to level 10. I don’t think I myself have enough superpowers to grind out special currency for another character unlock after Iron Man. I’ll never say never, but I also won’t say likely. Also, at some point, I need to give at least one of the following three titles–Marvel Ultimate Alliance, X-Men: Legends, and X-Men: Legends II – Rise of Apocalypse–a shot, all of which entered my gaming collection some years back and remain untouched, cases on a shelf.

I’m floating in a most peculiar way in Jetpac’s space

Y’all should know by now that I’d  do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.

And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain, The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.

Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.

Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.

By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.

Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.

There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.

The games of E3 2017 that have me keyed up

E3 2017 is not technically over yet, but a majority of the big announcements and reveals have come and gone, with Nintendo swooping in yesterday to present a world where a hat can Mario-ize any object, living or not. It’s a fascinating gameplay hook, one that does now have me interested in owning a Switch far down the road. Forget vapor champers and 4K streaming and how good rain looks in your driving game–that hat is where it is at. Still, not a single one of my wishes was granted, and for that I’m a sourpuss. Just kidding, all–I love videogames, even the ones I don’t like, and there’s never been a better time to be playing these digital thingies.

The following is a list of the games announced at E3 this year that have got me all full of excitement and curiosity. They are in no particular order, and no one company “won” E3, especially not Sony, which definitely only won the “Did Not Win” category. Sorry, y’all, if that was confusing, but it’s true. Look into your heart, and you’ll see it’s so.

A Way Out

I enjoyed what Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons did, both thematically and gameplay-wise, and I think I’m going to dig A Way Out‘s focus on cooperatively escaping from prison. This comes from Hazelight Studios and will be published by Electronic Arts. Josef Fares, the game’s creative director, spoke about this project passionately and with excitement, and it is difficult to ignore that and not let yourself stir at the thought about distracting guards and crawling through a tunnel of poop in the middle of a thunderstorm to taste that freedom air.

Anthem

I’m glad there’s not a new Dragon Age game coming from BioWare. I’m still working on that last one, though I hope to complete it this year. No, I must complete it in 2017. For those wondering, I’m around 60 hours in, maybe three-fourths of the way through. Anyways, this, this Anthem, sure looks a lot like Destiny and Dragon Age/Mass Effect, but it’s third-person and seems more focused on exploration that bragging about some sick gun I found in a cave. I’m interested for sure, but if this is the kind of game that requires a full team of peeps all the time to enjoy…well, count me out. Either way, curious to hear more.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

I’ve watched a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds over these last few weeks, fully understanding that I myself might never play this Battle Royale-inspired extravaganza. I don’t believe it requires that big of a machine to run, but now I don’t have to worry about even attempting this on my ASUS laptop because it’s coming, exclusively, to the Xbox One this year. I’m so ready to find a quiet, hidden hole and sit in it until the number of participants left on the island rapidly depletes and then stumble into a firefight unprepared and get killed unceremoniously. You heard it hear first.

Super Mario Odyssey

New Mario is new Mario. And this one keeps on surprising, with the reveal of Mario’s hat friend Cappy able to take over people and items in the environment for Mario to use. It instantly made me think of Brave Fencer Musashi and how you could steal abilities from enemies to help you on your journey. A Nintendo Switch is most likely a long way’s off for me, considering I can still get Breath of the Wild for my little used Wii U, but whenever I do eventually acquire the device, this will be an obvious purchase.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions

I’m pretty sure I have a digital copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on my Wii U. Let me go check. Yup, definitely do. I think I got it a while back by redeeming some Nintendo Club points before that system vanished. Anyways, naturally, I bought it and have not played it. Looks like I can continue to hold off because an enhanced remake for the 3DS is coming out soon, and that’s probably the better version to play at this point in time.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

The turn on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle happened fast. It all started with people scoffing at the inclusion of guns on the hands of Nintendo’s sweet, innocent original characters, the absurdness of Rabbids wearing costumes to look like those characters, and the fact that no one really knew much else about the game other than its title and that Mario was ready to shoot something. Well, now we know–this is XCOM plus Nintendo silliness. I’ve always been intimidated by permadeath-driven strategy games, but this tone seems gentler and more fun, so I’m interested in seeing how it plays.

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology

Sigh. Radiant Historia has long been a game I’ve put on my “I will play this game this year” lists…and have failed to do so. Boo to me. The thing is, I really like it, but it’s a game about time travel and manipulating past events, and at this point I’d be totally lost going back to my years-old save file. Might as well wait for Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, an enhance remake for the Nintendo 3DS. I wonder if it’ll have any StreetPass functionality.

Well, that’s that. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few key names here–there’s been a lot to keep track of these last few days–and don’t be upset that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Days Gone, and that new God of War aren’t here. The hard truth is that I have never been excited for them and never will be.

But that’s just me. Now I’d like to hear from y’all…what games are you most excited for, whether this year or slated for 2018? And on a scale of 1 to 100, how upset are you that Suikoden VI is still not a thing?

A King’s Tale is not your typical childish bedtime story

Chances are, I’m never going to play Final Fantasy XV–and that’s fine. I’m still currently plunking away at the original Final Fantasy, trying to earn enough gil for that mythril sword, and a part of me thinks that, after that, maybe I should try tackling Final Fantasy IV again. I have it on my Nintendo DS and played for a bit way back when I got it for myself as a birferday gift, but never stuck with it. Shame on me. This is me shaming myself publicly, so no need to add to the dogpile. Anyways, Final Fantasy XV is fascinating from the outside-looking-in. I mean, it stars what appears to be an upcoming indie hit boy band as they drive around some fantasy land and slash up monsters. In one way, I appreciate that, and in another, I want nothing to do with this timesink.

Thank goodness then for A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV, which I finished in under two hours. In, out, done. If only all Final Fantasy titles could be this succinct. Just kidding. I do like long-as-the-day RPGs, quite a bit. It’s just that there are currently way too many of them to eat up at once, and so they all end of sitting, untouched, painfully ignored. I believe this thing was originally a pre-order bonus for those getting in on the Final Fantasy XV action early through their favorite retailer, perhaps GameStop only, but now it has been given out to all as a free download on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Maybe the PC, but I’m too lazy to confirm that. Either way, it’s zero dollars…and not at all an RPG.

A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV takes place thirty years before the events of Final Fantasy XV, for those curious and fearful of spoilers. Young Noctis can’t fall asleep and asks his father, King Regis, to tell a fairy tale brimming with fantasy and adventure. Anything but another boring, generic bedtime story. Regis begins with a peaceful day being disrupted when monsters raid the royal capital of Insomnia. Young Regis is joined by Weskham and eventually Cid and Clarus, where they travel to the plains of Duscae only to discover a mysterious cave where their true enemy resides. Sounds like a decent setup for…a retro-style beat-em-up in the veins of Streets of Rage and Final Fight, with some modern mechanics thrown in for good measure.

Yup, you walk from left to right and beat up enemies in your way. These enemies are, of course, taken right from the Final Fantasy mega-verse, so be prepared for lots of Coeurls, Behemoths, Goblins, and so on. Plus that ever-so-cute knucklehead Tonberry. There’s a pretty deep combat system here, with combos, counters, and Regis being able to warp around the screen wicked fast to keep the action moving and avoid dangerous swarms. Certain enemies will block specific attacks, which prevents too much mashing from happening and keeps you on your toes. As you level up your combo meter and refrain from getting hit, you can call in companions to perform special attacks, and if you continue to level it up even more, eventually you can user Armiger, which brings together all your buddies for a powerful, sometimes screen-clearing move. There’s also magic spells–lightning, ice, and fire–though I used them fairly infrequently. Lastly, in some areas, you can summon Astral entities to obliterate your foes, and these obviously look pretty good, but shouldn’t be relied on for surviving the moment-to-moment encounters. For most of the game, paying attention to enemy types and what type of attacks you are using are key, as is rolling around to grab health pick-ups when needed.

The story is ultra thin and throwaway. The bedtime tale for Noctis basically ends with a talking tentacle monster trying to steal some crystals. I’m sure if I knew more about Regis and his buddies I’d have picked up on more details via their conversations, but I rushed through most of it to get to the good part–fighting. After you beat A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV, you can access Dream Battle Special Challenges. These are one-off challenges, each with their own requirements and varying levels of difficulty. Some ask you not to take any damage (yeah right) and others are more focused on doing something X number of times. I did a few, looked at the remainder, and decided that it was better for me to quit while I was ahead.

All in all, A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV was a nice, short distraction from my usual mainstays on the Xbox One. I’m still not interested in digging into Final Fantasy XV, but that’s okay. There’s plenty of other Final Fantasy titles in my backlog to get to, and, if anything, I’m now hungry for another 2D beat-em-up. Shank 2, perhaps? Now there’s a game I’ve let sit ignored for far too long.

Yesterday is such an easy game to play

“Yesterday” is not my favorite song from The Beatles, nor is it my favorite point-and-click adventure game, but I enjoy both of them greatly. They are easy to listen to, easy to play, and leave me wanting a little bit more from their respective mediums. For those curious, depending on the day, either this or this is my favorite tune from The Fab Four. I don’t know if I’m ready to commit to saying what my favorite adventure game is yet. That’s kind of like naming the best cheese. Besides, there’s a bunch of so-called classics–here, I’ll name a few, like The Dig, Day of the Tentacle, and The Secret of Monkey Island–that I’ve still not touched despite having copies at the ready, which would probably affect my decision immensely. Probably.

Anyways, Yesterday from Pendulo Studios is a dark beast. A quick research of the company shows that many of its previous games were more comedic, but there’s not much to laugh at in this one, which features a lot of murdering, satanic worshipping, and forced suicides. It all starts with the philanthropic Henry White and his bungling friend Cooper. Both of these men work for a charity committed to helping New York’s homeless people. However, after a serial killer starts murdering members of the community, Henry and Cooper venture into the abandoned Cadway Subway station to see who they can help. It is here that they meet the murderous Choke and his assistant Boris and are forced to take drastic action. That’s more or less the prologue of the game, with the real meat of it focusing on satanic cult investigator John Yesterday many years later. He is recovering from an apparent suicide attempt that has left him suffering from amnesia because of course. Henry White now runs White Enterprises and has employed John to unearth the link between the serial killer and the occult known as the Order of the Flesh.

Yesterday, in terms of gameplay, is a pretty straightforward point-and-click adventure romp. You examine an environment, collect items in your inventory, chat with other characters for background details, and solve puzzles to move forward. Something that gave me a bit of anxiety was the high amount of items you often pick up and the fact that many of them do not vanish after being used. Reminded me of my time with Deponia, which was not a blast. Sometimes these items are used again later on, and sometimes they aren’t. You’ll never know until it is too late. Naturally, as it often happens with these types of games, some of the puzzles don’t follow the best logic this side of brain development, which leads to trying everything on everything in hopes of anything changing. If you only knew the number of solutions I came up with for acquiring a truth flower that didn’t come close to working.

Thankfully, Yesterday offers a couple tricks to help when you are stuck: a hint system and the ability to ping the scene and identify every object you can examine. The hint system builds up over time, so you can’t spam it, but it’ll point you in the right direction, though it can be a bit condescending. I ended up using it more than I would have imagined, but at least it let me stay in game and not close out to look up a walkthrough. You can also, at any time, press a button at the bottom of the screen to highlight every interactive object around you. This is great as it helped reduce pixel hunting, as there were occasionally a couple areas or items that I missed after doing an initial scan of everything.

I was pleasantly surprised with the conversations system. These occur with the two speakers framed in their own windows, with dialogue options in a bulleted list. As you move through each option, the boxes are checked off when the topic is concluded. New topics open us as you chat, and I found myself exhausting every topic, even if it didn’t immediately seem relevant to the puzzles at hand. I found the script and voice acting to be well done, save for that Frenchman who endlessly gave out tips on how to identify a Frenchman. At times, the whole thing reminded me of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. Occasionally, the subtitles did not match the spoken words perfectly, but that’s just me being an editor and too observant. Lastly, I’ll say that the game’s visuals are gorgeous and detailed and kept me interested in seeing what was next. I especially liked the comic book-style cutscenes.

The loopy narrative about investigating satanic cults and unraveling John Yesterday’s mysterious past comes to a close rather quickly, somewhat abruptly, and the post-credits scene added little to the whole picture and was completely unnecessary. It felt like things were just beginning to build to something grander, but once the villain began to explain why he did everything and how, I knew it was over. Still, I enjoyed going through Yesterday at a slow pace, over a few nights, eating up the atmosphere, characters, and designs to make puzzling out progress less frustrating. Maybe I’ll check out Yesterday Origins or one of Pendulo Studios’ other titles down the road. However, for now, I have some other point-and-click adventure games still to launch in my collection, and I just know that many of them won’t make things as easy as Yesterday did in this tiring day and age of too much to play and not enough hours on Earth. Boo to that.

Old is boring in Donald Dowell and the Ghost of Barker Manor

Melanie’s father retired recently, and he’s already itching to get back to work, to occupy his time and his brain. I’m sure this is fairly common. You work and work and work, inching your way to a place where you no longer need to work–and find yourself lost. I myself don’t know if I’ll ever retire because I just can’t imagine my daily life with nothing to do each and every day. Sure, sure, I’d love to fill up that time with drawing and writing and being a creative fountain with unlimited high water pressure, but I suspect I’d somehow still feel real guilty about it. That said, if I do retire, I think one of the first things I’ll do is finally set about my mighty PopTarts-tasting adventure, wherein I try every flavor ever made; in fifty years or so, I expect there to be at least a hundred new flavors.

Anyways, all of that intro is to say that Donald Dowell, the central, almost-bald and definitely bored figure in Donald Dowell and the Ghost of Barker Manor, is also ready to get back to work. He’s in his eighties, and his reasons include being uninterested and to get away from his, so he says, intolerable wife. Unfortunately, not many people are hiring, and they certainly aren’t looking for a man of his age. He spends many hours knocking on doors and asking for jobs before he finds a potential gig: ghostbusting. Bob Delano, the most famous occult detective in all of Ireland, is looking for an assistant, and Donald’s first gig is investigating what is happening at the mysterious Barker Manor.

Donald Dowell and the Ghost of Barker Manor is an old point-and-click adventure game made recently, only a few years ago. Lemme see here: it was released in December 2013. It’s designed to be more old school in terms of gameplay, graphics, sound, and so on, and that’s perfectly fine. At least it isn’t driven by verbs, though you still have to click use door if you want to try and open it. Some may be put off on its retro tone alone, but I found its look intriguing enough to start clicking. However, I quickly discovered that not everything was to my liking, which, for a free download, is not a huge loss, but I still feel like I need to get these thoughts down and out of my brain before I can move on to something else. So here we go…

First and foremost, there’s a malicious coating to everything that Donald says about his wife. These constant putdowns are unnecessary and disappointing, as “being old” is not an excuse to treat someone with such disdain. It really is upsetting and doesn’t make him the slightest bit likable from the word go. There’s also a fair amount of repetition, both in jokes and puzzles; for example, in the opening scene, Karl allows Donald to go into his bathroom twice and clog up the toilet in the exact same manner without raising an eyebrow about the old geezer’s motives. This is done so the player can solve a puzzle, but doesn’t hold up through the narrative. There’s also a lot of fourth wall-breaking, which normally doesn’t bother me, considering I enjoy things like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and being god in Drawn to Life, but here it just feels out of place and uninspired.

However, the biggest snag I’ve hit so far in Donald Dowell and the Ghost of Barker Manor is the kind of thing that I fear in every point-and-click adventure game I play–it opens up too fast. I believe this also happened rather quickly in the second part of Broken Age. Anyways, basically after playing the intro scene, which had you, at most, examining items in two locations with one sole to speak with, you are transported to Barker Manor–cue the lightning and thunder crash joke–wherein you are suddenly able to visit a handful of new locations immediately, all with people in them to talk to, items to examine, and things to interact with. I can’t count for you, but I feel like there were more new areas to explore than I have fingers. It’s overwhelming. The game is non-linear and doesn’t provide a good sense of direction in terms of quests or plot. There’s also no map, so once you travel all the way to one end of the manor’s grounds, you need to slowly retrace your steps, scene by scene, to head back. I think double-clicking to move to a new location in more modern point-and-click games has ruined my patience for these slow-burners.

That said, I really do like the art direction in Donald Dowell and the Ghost of Barker Manor. It’s cartoony and colorful, with characters that stand out and instantly have unique personalities, which is important to get since there is no voice acting. And, despite probably not catching every reference out there, the call-outs to things like Monkey Island, Broken Sword, and Day of the Tentacle are plenty and enjoyable, as are the many mentions of famous historical and fictional people. The music is all right, but begins to lose its fun after repeating several times, especially when you realize you have to listen to it as you cross the manor’s grounds yet again to see if that person at the far end of the river has anything else to say now that you picked up some dentures you stole from manor’s manager as he was distracted.

I really really hate abandoning games unfinished, but I’m just not feeling this one to want to see it all the way through. Especially not when I know there’s a laundry list of other point-and-click adventure games in my collection still to try, such as Yesterday, Oxenfree, Grim Fandango Remastered, and so on. Good luck, Donald, with your anti-retirement plans and catching them ghosts. Do try to be nicer to the people in your life.

Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily kinda puts your detective work to work

Y’all remember when I snatched up that Humble Mobile Bundle from Artifex Mundi earlier this year despite not having the specific type of mobile phone required to play any of the games on? The one with 10 games when all was said and done? Good, good. Then I don’t need to rehash many of the details of how I’m working my way through them. However, I am happy to report that I’ve now completed two of these narrative-driven hidden object romps, the first being Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova and the second being the hilariously titled Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily. I’m not going to say I’m on a roll, but things are certainly rolling along.

Let’s just get into what Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily is all about. I bet you think it’s about a crime, as well as some secrets. You’re not wrong. A grim murder interrupts a private detective’s vacation plans to have some time alone at a secluded hotel in the snowy mountains. Alas, she only has one clue to work from: a mysterious paper lily attached to the victim’s frozen body. As anyone who saw The Shining a bunch of times could expect, a blizzard has cut off all communication with the outside world, leaving her to her own devices and curious wit–aka, your ability to click everywhere. The story is campy and melodramatic, but some fun is to be had at figuring out who is involved and how. It’s a more grounded affair, even going to the effort of scientifically explaining how our killer is quickly freezing his victims.

I never know what to think about these types of hidden objects games when it comes to graphics. Visually, Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily looks all right during the scenes where you are finding a list of objects, but poor elsewhere, especially the cutscenes or where action is supposed to be taking place. There are some animated effects that help liven up the frigid scenes, but every single person you encounter is factory-made, extremely stiff, and only capable of a limited number of facial expressions. The voice acting is no better or worse than it was in Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova, to the point that the game might’ve been stronger without it. Also, at one point after being away from the game for a few days, I got mixed up two characters until one of them died, cementing that I had him pegged incorrectly as the game’s villain. All of that is to say that the art direction, writing, and voice acting did little to make these people stand out from the crowd, let alone each other.

One feature found in Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily that I didn’t see in Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova are “crime scenes.” These are sections that must be thoroughly searched for clues. Instead of searching for a list of items, you must examine the scene and click on the elements you think are related to the crime. Once you find them all, you must then put them in chronological order, which, thanks to the inclusion of colored lines on multiple tiles, is easier than it sounds. After you arrange everything correctly, our detective will walk herself through the crime to see how it ultimately happened. It’s nothing amazing gameplay-wise, but it helps break up the puzzles a bit from the hidden objects scenes and mind-benders. Strangely, hidden object scenes can be substituted for a game of Mahjong if desired, but I come to these things for the hidden objects so I only tried this once, despite my affection for ruining games of Mahjong.

Steam Achievements–I got them all. This doesn’t happen often, and I actually missed one for Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova. Anyways, they weren’t terribly hard, with a number devoted to moments in the story, not using skips or hints for puzzles, and finding every collectible in the forms of snowflakes and origami. Origamis? Whatever. These were a bit tricky to spot in many of the scenes, but that wonky part of my brain refused to let me move on to the next scene until I scoured every clickable corner.

All that said, I’m not sure which title from the Humble Mobile Bundle from Artifex Mundi to tackle next. I’m leaning towards Eventide: Slavic Fable, but Mythic Wonders: The Philosopher’s Stone also sounds like a hoot, even if I already know it has nothing to do with that boy wizard that lived under the stairs. We’ll see. I’m beginning to head into that part of the year where I unfortunately don’t write as much about the games I play, and if the rest of these hidden object affairs from Artifex Mundi are, more or less, the same experience then we might just have to settle on review haikus and move on with life. It’ll be tough, but we’ll get through it, together.