Yesterday Review

Yesterday Review

Dec 18, 2012

Yesterday is a point and click mystery that keeps you on your toes from the opening cutscene through to the conclusion. It takes the requisite worldwide conspiracy and lovingly coats it with interesting characters and plot twists that would make even M. Night Shyamalan swoon.

It is a long-awaited port of a popular PC game, so it did have a bit of a reputation to live up to. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

The game graphics were uniquely utilitarian yet vibrant. Tunnels came alive, and I could almost breathe the decrepit air and whisper of fear from the great use of color alone. The motions were a bit stilted in places, but the overall look and feel mostly made up for the few non-optimal parts.

The gameplay was solid, and started with the plot that kept me guessing. The story centered around the amnesiac protagonist John Yesterday and how he deals with said amnesia and the conspiracy around him. The plot moved effortlessly from spooky to inventive, and back again. Play-wise, collecting items was the expected initial quest, but it was not spoon-fed to me; from the beginning, I had to use my wits to figure out how to retrieve one of the first objects. I could combine collected items to solve problems, and thoroughness was essential. Some items could even be broken down to effect a solution. The gameplay worked well, in my opinion, because the script made sense, and the solutions to the compartmentalized problems were mostly logical.

The dialogue was important too, as it helped me figure stuff out. I liked how the game changed character perspective to move the action along; there were three playable characters, and the switches worked well. Tapping on dialogue bubbles helped to facilitate conversation and the gathering of information.

My biggest fuss is that the game is way too short… which, again, is probably a testament to how consuming it is. I couldn’t put it down, and became easily immersed in the shadowy world the developer created. I have sensitive ears, so the one or two curse words gave me pause, but to be fair, we are dealing with murder, no?

I got dibs on the movie.

Edge Extended Review

Edge Extended Review

Feb 3, 2012

I love being surprised by games. It’s great when a game I was waiting for lives up to my expectations, but when I stumble on something great it feels like an early birthday present. Edge Extended is one of those gifts, something I might have missed if it wasn’t writing this review. Let me say, early and often, that it is great and everyone should play it.

It is a puzzle game, very similar to Puzzle 2, however it has a sort of space-age feel to it right off the bat. The user controls a cube and navigates it around on the gameboard with gestures. The cube can flip end over end to move from place to place, but can also topple off the edges if flipped too aggressively. The goal of every level is to flip the cube on to a home pad, while collecting particles of energy along the way. The cube starts off capable of moving at a fixed speed, but every energy particle collected increases its potential speed. Continuous motion can be achieved by holding your finger on the screen.

This game is gorgeous, just lovely. The cube is illuminated by a constantly-shifting flicker of colour, using the entire rainbow spectrum, contrasting with the grey gameboard. The tiny particles that the cube collects flicker with the same light, and so does the home pad that the cube needs to reach. There are stars out there in the beyond, and when the cube is finally rotated to land on the home pad, it explodes in a tower of light and everything recedes into the distance as though sucked into a black hole. Each level has a theme (hinted at by its name) and some special challenge. My favourite is Mini Cube, when the cube shrinks down and flips around the board making a hilarious duck sound.

This game has it all going for it: fantastic graphics and sound, and it’s challenging without being frustrating. The score after completion of a level is calculated based on how quickly it could have been completed. If a user wants to challenge themselves to do it faster they have the option of racing against their shadow from the previous attempt. I love the sense of competition it creates – with myself.

The only thing I could say against it is that the controls sometimes react too strongly to what I thought was a smaller gesture. But then again I’ve seen that lessen the longer I’ve played, so perhaps I’m calibrating myself to the game.

U Plus Review

U Plus Review

Jan 9, 2012

It pleases me that logic games are popular. There is nothing wrong with a game’s sole purpose being for you to run as fast as you can while shooting things, but I do appreciate the elegance of some mental concentration leading to a solution. It takes time, and the ah-hah moment, to me, is worth a thousand combo-kill point bonuses. Naturally, when Sudoku exploded I was instantly hooked. I began carrying the puzzles around with me everywhere, because they are the perfect moment-filler. But eventually they became too easy, and I suppose I was waiting for something to take their place.
Enter: U+.

U+ (or UPlus Puzzle Game) is simple in concept and design, but don’t mistake simple in this case to mean easy. It is a math game, a problem-solving game. There are no bad guys, it’s just you versus yourself, as the clock reminds you as you play. The design of the game is meant to take you back in time to math class (which for me brings about some mild PTSD), when an equation was on the board and you were tasked to find the variables. Luckily (for me) there is no BEDMAS required; the puzzles are solved by addition only. Hence, according to the developers, the name U+ stands for “You plus”.

The equation is in place when you open a new puzzle. A puzzle is solved from left-to-right, but also top-to-bottom, with the final solution in the bottom right-hand corner. Below the puzzle is a collection of numbers as variables that must be placed in the puzzle. Like Sudoku, there is only one correct placement for each number. You will never have leftover numbers, and will never be able to solve a puzzle with even one variable out of place. When a variable is placed in the correct box you get a chime to indicate such, and a buzzer when it is wrong. If a placed variable completes a sub-equation, then the solution circle is lit up in green. An incorrectly placed variable will light that circle in red. Adding to the pressure of a speedy solution is the most frantic timer I have ever seen. The moment you place your first variable it begins to run up so quickly that it gives me heart palpitations. There is definitely nothing boring about this game.

An aspect of the game that I love is that the timer doesn’t begin until such time as you place your first number. This gives you some time to examine the puzzle and the variables before you officially begin, or togive yourself a chance to try to A Beautiful Mind some of the answers before you start the timer. It does add a small strategy element to a game that otherwise might be lacking one.

The improvements needed for future versions are few, but the game could use some. For instance, a selected variable does flash faintly when touched, but it could benefit from perhaps a brighter colour, so make it easier for the user to be sure which number they have tapped. As well, perhaps an Undo button would be useful, rather than having to tap each number multiple times to place and replace it. These are small tweaks, but the game would be hugely improved.

Puzzle 2 HD Review

Puzzle 2 HD Review

Jan 6, 2012

Games don’t always need to have clever names to get us to notice them, but it does help. But while Puzzle 2 is very humble in name, but do not let that fool you. It is a puzzle game indeed, and one that you do not want to miss.

You are represented by a yellow block, and your goal is to make your way to the yellow square. Simple enough, until you see the game levels. Single tiles are laid out in paths, which you must navigate by flipping the block end-over-end. Be careful – done tiles are fragile and will crumble away if you land on them end-up. Falling off the board erases all of the progress that you have achieved, and so you must judge your moments careful to prevent it. There are also various obstacles to overcome, or conditions to meet. For example, there are triggers throughout the levels, but their tiles are blocked by lasers. Or perhaps a platform is unreachable until you land on a button that deploys new, connecting tiles. Some conditions can only be met if multiple triggers are performed at the same time. But no matter how impossible a level may seem, there is always a solution. Lasers can be blocked by the green ghost block, and multiple triggers can be done when you use the mirror block (every action taken by the yellow block is mirrored).

But the bigger challenge is personal. Again, every level has a solution, and the elation you feel on completion is quite heady. But you’ll stop short when you see that points are awarded based on how efficiently you completed the puzzle. It’s easy to get obsessed with doing it again, but this time better.

They’ve done some wonderful things with the use of special blocks and obstacles. The art is beautiful, and the lack of any ground or landscape around the game tiles actually creates a sense of almost vertigo, which is very impressive. Each stage is harder than the last, with countless levels to unlock and improve on. There is always a solution to every puzzle, and you’ll eventually get them all.

The changes they need to make (perhaps when there is a Puzzle 3) are to the controls. The blocks rotate in essentially 3 dimensions, and flicking your finger in the desired direction will cause the blocks to roll or fall over. However one wrong mood sends your block flying out into space, and you start again at square one. there are no do-overs, and it is uncomfortably easy to topple your block in the wrong direction. A lot of hard work can go to waste far too easily.

Puzzled Rabbit – Review

What do rabbits have to do with puzzles? Well, normally not much, until Puzzled Rabbit. Puzzled Rabbit is a brain-teaser puzzle-solving game that uses a simple package to bring you some very complex conundrums. The rabbit is a little patchwork (or possible origami) fellow who just wants to move some red blocks into their homes on the game board. It’s not really clear why except that getting the blocks into their proper places will “make the rabbit happy”. I’ll be honest, it makes me happy to do, but it’s less to do with the rabbit and more about the fact that the puzzles are honest to goodness head-scratchers the satisfaction of solving them gives me some real Pavlovian delight.

To solve a puzzle you need to move the red block(s) on the screen into green brackets. You are graded on time it takes to solve, and number of moves taken to complete it. There are some simple physical rules – the rabbit pushes the blocks around one hop at a time with each hop counting as a move, and only he can only push the blocks in one direction at a time. Which means that if you get a block stuck in a corner then there is no way for the rabbit to get it out. But luckily the gamemakers saw fit to give us an Undo Move button, allowing you to retrace your steps back to where you went wrong or to start over completely if necessary. And it’s not all blind guessing, either. Clicking once on a block will show you (in the form of target blue circles radiating outward) what the moves are that you can perform on it. So with some trial and error any puzzle can be solved. But they do offer a challenge and that is what will keep you coming back.

A final treat that the makers added, likely as a nod to its mind-expanding properties, is quotes from well-known big thinkers as the prize for the completion of each stage. For example: “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale. They didn’t need to add that little detail, but the fact that they do…well, I love it.

The controls are not difficult to use for me, but could be for others so I can’t say that it has no flaws. And the graphics and music are very simplistic, so it’s not very visually captivating. If you need that sort of thing to keep you invented in a game then you may be disappointed.