Sorcery! Parts 1 – 4 Microreview

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Sorcery! Parts 1 – 4 Microreview – 17/20!

Sorcery! Parts 1 through 4 is a series of text / graphic adventure video games developed for iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows and Mac by inkle.

Choosing a male or female character, the player embarks on a text-based fantasy quest inspired by Steve Jackson’s choose-your-own-adventure novels. The gameplay of Sorcery! incorporates audio and visual interactive elements; including character icons, maps, burn-by-turn energy, a spell-casting starscape and more. Much like choose-your-own-adventure novels, the player can choose to turn back the pages (or rewind the game) if they dislike the outcome of their choices along the path.

I used to love choose-your-own-adventure books (I may still own one involving a Unicorn) and I found this game to be charming, yet frustrating. Maybe it’s my obsession with getting everything exactly right, but I found myself rewinding A LOT. And because I rewound a lot, I found myself getting frustrated and bored with the story.

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The Last of Us Microreview

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The Last of Us Microreview – 20/20!

The Last of Us is an action / adventure survival horror video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

You play as Joel, a smuggler in a now post-apocalyptic United States, as he escorts a teenage girl named Ellie across the country. Firearms and improvised weapons can be used, in stealth or a more direct approach, against hostile humans and the Infected. The Infected are once human beings who have been exposed to fungus spores that warp their minds and mutate them into cannibalistic creatures akin to zombies.

Naughty Dog is exceptional at bringing all the heart and soul into their stories. I am a total coward when it comes to survival horror games, but I had heard so many good reviews about this game’s story that I had to bold-up and experience it for myself. In terms of emotion and storytelling, this is truly one of the greatest games ever created and I cannot wait for Part II!

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Horizon Zero Dawn Microreview

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Horizon Zero Dawn Microreview – 19/20!

Horizon Zero Dawn is an action role-playing video game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Set in the distant future, the humans of earth have regressed to primitive tribal societies while large robotic creatures (whose characteristics are inspired by animals and dinosaurs we are familiar with) dominate the earth. These machines peacefully coexisted with humans until a phenomenon of unknown origin turned the existing machines aggressive towards humans and larger more dangerous species to appear. Armed with a variety of ranged weapons, a spear and other stealth tactics to combat humans and mechanized creatures, the player controls a young warrior named Aloy, as she sets out to discover the truth of her origin.

I love how refreshingly unique the plot of this game is; I don’t believe I’ve played anything quite like it. The gameplay mechanics are pretty standard, with favor to the stealthy (that’s me). I reduced the game’s score by one point due to my frustration with the music that plays on the menu screens. After awhile I found myself muting the television whenever I needed to spend any amount time on the menu screens, which are used often for buying (items cannot be bought in stacks), selling, crafting, leveling up, examining the quests, the map and so on. This is only a minor grievance though when you compare it to the enjoyability of the game as a whole.

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Dear Esther Microreview

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Dear Esther Microreview – 15/20!

Dear Esther is a first-person artistic video game, developed and published by The Chinese Room.

The player explores an uninhabited Hebridean island, listening to a series of narratives addressed to a woman named Esther. These monologue fragments trigger at certain points around the island, and are chosen by the game semi-randomly. Of course this may present a problem as different playthroughs reveal slight differences in the story, with certain readings are played while others get omitted, and I personally have had no interested in replaying.

Although the narrator’s identity is not specified, evidence suggests he may be the late Esther’s husband. In his letters, the narrator refers to several other unseen characters. One is a cartographer named Donnelly, who charted the island in the past. Another character, Jakobson, was a shepherd who lived on the island in the eighteenth century. The narrator also refers to Paul, the drunk driver who caused the car accident that killed Esther. The identities of the narrator, Esther, Donnelly, Jakobson and Paul become more and more blurred as the game progresses, as the narration moves between topics and relates the characters in different ways. The random selection of voice-overs inspires ambiguity and forces the player to draw their own conclusions to the story.

The status of Dear Esther as a video game has been contested and indeed the game does not follow traditional video game conventions. The experience focuses on a story told through fragmented narrative as the player walks around an unnamed island with minimal to no interaction with the game’s environment; no choices need to be made, nor tasks to be completed.

I belive this is a video game. It’s unconventional, true, but it is a digital experience played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program. Mildly bizarre, but beautiful, Dear Esther is worth experiencing at least once for it’s artistic value. Therein lies the problem, because although the game has something to say, you would have to play it multiple times to catch the whole commentary and with such limited interaction with the game’s surroundings one could get bored and uninspired to play it again.

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Gone Home Microreview

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Gone Home Microreview – 19/20!

Gone Home is a first-person interactive story adventure video game developed and published by Fullbright.

On the night of June 7th 1995, Kaitlin Greenbriar returns home to her parent’s mansion in Oregon after a year abroad. She’s greeted by a note on the front door from her sister Samantha asking her not to look for answers to where she is. As she enters the house, Kaitlin soon realizes no one is home, and she begins to investigate the house and it’s belongings to find where her family has gone.

The player assumes the role of Kaitlin in the first-person, guiding her through exploration of objects around the house, piecing together the story and gaining insight into her family and their experiences during the time she’s been away. Nostalgic memorabilia and themes from the nineties are prevalent, with some of my favorites like Super Nintendo cartridges and the X-Files, bringing back fond memories to those who, like myself, grew up during that time period. Additional clues can be found which explain the background of Kaitlin’s great uncle Oscar Masan, the previous owner of the house and target of social stigma within the community.

Though this game is based solely on exploration and discovery, with no threat to the player’s safety, I couldn’t help but feel the atmosphere was subtly ominous. Alone in a large old house in the middle of the night with a storm raging all around, I couldn’t help but feel a little anxious as I tiptoed around investigating. Some discoveries played with my imagination, leading me to believe sinister things may have happened or that there is or may be a presence in the house.

On the contrary, once I realized there was no real threat to Kaitlin’s safety, I was able to relax and enjoy this game for all it represents thematically and structurally. I was pleasantly surprised by the realism and family dynamics. Fullbright, a modest company of four persons, tastefully created one of the most ingenious storytelling games of our time through exploration, examination of objects and literary story elements. Interactive story adventures such as Gone Home are a quintessential genre for any gamer looking to relax and explore the elements and environment within a game without the menace of combat.

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Hector: Badge of Carnage Microreview

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Hector: Badge of Carnage Microreview – 17/20!

Hector: Badge of Carnage is an episodic graphic adventure game developed by Straandlooper and published by Telltale Games.

Hector is a drunken, violent and vulgar detective inspector with the Clappers Wreake Police Department. “Everyone is guilty” is his credo and although he has a personal penchant for certain criminal activities, he struggles to eliminate the truly warped and perverse criminals infesting Clappers Wreake; the crime capital of England and the town that took the ‘Great’ out of Britain.

This game is funky good! Picture a crime drama, with a large injection of vulgarity and offbeat humor and you’re in the plot of Hector: Badge of Carnage. The animation style is quirky and unique, but shouldn’t be mistaken for crude (unless we’re discussing subject matter). The sound quality (not to be confused with the voice acting) of the first episode was a little rough and hollow, but improved with each episode.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda Microreview

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Mass Effect: Andromeda Microreview – 18/20!

Mass Effect: Andromeda is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts.

The player assumes the role of a male or female Ryder twin, a relatively inexperienced military recruit who joins the Andromeda Initiative and wakes up in the Andromeda universe after a 600-year journey. Shortly after waking, Ryder is thrust into the role of humanity’s Pathfinder, whose job is to find a suitable living environment, but also finds himself or herself dealing with an antagonistic alien race called the Kett.

If they wanted separation from the original series, they achieved it. This game has the general feel of a Mass Effect game, but with a greater focus on exploration and discovery. Overall I enjoyed this game, but I was disappointed in the lack of closure in several plot points and how unpolished the game was upon release. I’m excited to see what the future of this series holds and hope that they really focus on ironing out the technical details before delivering.

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