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  1. Ahhhhhhh, time is running out. The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep The Mummy Demastered Chasm The Forest The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Night in the Woods The Walking Dead: The Final Season Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX Ghost of a Tale Oxenfree
  2. Orange you glad I didn't say orange? Wait, I did...
  3. Platinum #280 - Oxenfree There are three indie games I bought earlier this year that I had the intention of playing for Halloween: Night in the Woods, Spiritfarer, and Oxenfree. I had...mixed reactions to the first two. You might say I was disappointed. I don't have mixed reactions here. This game is a fuckin' masterpiece. The problem is, unlike NitW and Spiritfarer, I can't really talk about this game because it's entirely story-driven. No mini-games or crafting elements. Not really anyway. I don't want to talk about the characters because that would spoil the plot, and I don't want to talk about the plot because that would spoil the experience. What's a lazy reviewer to do? I guess I could at least say this is a story about five teenagers (with actual personalities, which is rare for anything in the horror genre) who find themselves trapped on a haunted island and are trying to escape. The way the ghosts communicate with them is really neat. I'm sure it's been done before, and I definitely got Stranger Things vibes, but I like that this game uses psychological terror instead of clich├ęd jump scares all the time. More games need to do that. Eternal Darkness remains one of the best horror games to date because it messes with the player's head and expectations. There aren't very many fourth-wall breaks in this game, but there are enough to make you wonder what's really happening. This is one of the few games where I think multiple playthroughs are a good thing, but only because the game seems to be designed around the idea that you'd want to play through it more than once. It's actually a really novel concept. Design NG+ to be different enough that the player will enjoy playing through it a second time. Don't want to say more than that, but don't be put off by needing more than one playthrough. (Even though the silent playthrough is a little pointless...) As with the other games I mentioned, the graphics are beautiful. If I had a complaint, it's that I wish you could zoom in closer to the characters. Alex and her friends appear very tiny on the screen sometimes, and it just seems like a shame to hide them. I also think the dialogue choice boxes disappear a little too quickly. Alex has a tendency to start talking as soon as you select a dialogue option, so she'd often interrupt another character instead of letting them finish. Just seemed a bit immersion-breaking for me to always have to wait until the last possible second to select what I wanted her to say (or risk her saying nothing at all). You also have to play through the game once being mean to everyone, which you might want to do during your first playthrough. I felt terrible being a jerk to my friends in NG+. Definitely recommended. Might go on my favorites game list. Not sure yet. Worth buying full price.
  4. Another one done! Not as spooky as it sounds, but there is at least one ghost. The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep The Mummy Demastered Chasm The Forest The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Night in the Woods The Walking Dead: The Final Season Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX Ghost of a Tale Anybody else praying for a good Halloween sale (and soon)?
  5. Two more games down! Let's find a spot for them. First up, we have Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX. I don't know where this one belongs. I guess I have that Asia holiday category. Is there a Japanese day for Japanese games being Japanese? Because my physical disc version was Japanese only. And it doesn't get more Japanese than an Atelier game. I'm just going to go with White Day (March 14) because,'s an Atelier I'm sure they were making good use of that "T for suggestive themes" rating. Second game is Ghost of a Tale. I'm really tempted to put this under National Dress Up Your Pet Day (January 24), but there are other games where you play as an animal who wears clothes, so let's go with Go Caroling Day (December 20). In the game, you play as Tilo, who is a minstrel. And he plays songs. Like, literally, that's his only skill. Nothing says Christmas like a mouse singing on your doorstep.
  6. The race to finish 13 games by Halloween continues. Next up, one that has very little to do with Halloween outside of the title... Platinum #279 - Ghost of a Tale Missed opportunity there, guys... Anyway, it's been like three reviews since I last mentioned Dark Souls, but I can guarantee you I won't make it through this one without doing it. The inspiration is obvious. But unlike almost every Souls-like game out there, it's not the combat system they attempted to copy. Sure, the enemies will attack you on sight, but you have no way of defending yourself. This is a stealth game. "Wait," you're thinking. "They took away the best part of a Souls game and replaced it with one of the genres you most in video games? You probably hated this!" Actually, no. Dark Souls is about more than just the combat and the difficulty. It's about the world, the exploration, the way lore is presented, the seamless integration of the map design... All of that is here. But the developers took all of that and made something entirely unique with it. I never read the Redwall series, but I imagine this is what it's like. So, since you can't tell from the title (because they missed the obvious pun *sigh*), Ghost of a Tale has you playing as a mouse named Tilo. In fact, all of the characters in this game are small animals. I absolutely love that concept and wish it was done with more games. Now, the overall plot is that you've been wrongfully locked up for sedition, but you escape from your cell with the help of a mysterious 'S' and begin the search for your wife Merra. The entire game takes place in and around Dwindling Heights Keep. There are a few NPCs who will give you quests, but most of the characters you encounter are rat guards, who patrol the hallways. If they detect you, they will give chase. Fortunately, because this game uses excellent map design, you will eventually unlock shortcuts that will allow you to maneuver around the world more easily. And if you've seen, you can always hide in a chest or barrel... For some reason, the guards don't ever bother checking these. (Rats are kinda dumb, aren't they?) The writing here is surprisingly good. A lot of games that I've seen copy the Souls formula have a tendency to take themselves too seriously, and I was worried this game would either do that or do the exact opposite, but there's a great balance here between sobriety and comedy. The world has a dark medieval fantasy feel, and the characters reflect that. Gusto and Fatale steal the show in my opinion, but Kepto, Silus, Rolo, and even the Commander (who is the one who locked you up!) are good too. Enough that I can actually remember their names. Because unlike SOME games, I actually wanted to read the dialogue here. Some of the text even lights up in yellow and you can click a button to learn more about the lore of that character, place, or event. Or don't. It's completely up to you. It saves to your inventory screen if you want to go back and read it later. But how's the gameplay? Well, I lied when I said you're defenseless. You can pick up items throughout the world that can be used to distract or temporarily knock out guards. There is no way to permanently remove them from the game. This could be seen as a bad thing, as I think it's technically possible to run out of every item (except sticks, which can only be used as a distraction), but you'll eventually unlock a costume that tricks guards into thinking you're a rat. A very tiny rat in an oversized suit of armor. Did I mention Tilo is adorable? This could be seen as god mode, but Tilo is SO. FREAKIN. SLOW. while wearing it. Sure, it's probably faster than waiting for guards to move or ducking into cover all the time, but there is so much backtracking in this game that it gets tedious moving at a snail's pace all the time. And unfortunately, rats patrol most areas in the keep except for the sewers (the one place you WOULD expect them), so you'll probably be wearing or swapping to that costume a lot during your ~12-15 hour playthrough. And that...leads to my main problem with the game. That's right, guys -- it's another game ruined by trophies. Here, there are several playthrough-spanning trophies that have no business being in ANY game. Let's meet our contestants. Up first, we have Dodgy Mouse, which requires beating the entire game without getting hit. What requires a "hit"? Well, we know getting poked by a guard would do it, but what about a spider trap? Bees? A long fall? The leeches in the sewer? Worms? Skeletons? Poisonous mushroom gas? I'm going to say I got fucked up by all of those and still got the trophy, but I definitely reloaded an earlier save if a guard saw me. I kinda had to because of our second contestant: Like a Ghost, which requires beating the entire game without alerting any guards. This...ruins what I think the developers were going for. It's actually pretty fun in the beginning to sneak around and use items to distract guards, but it gets old when you have to revisit the jail for the nineteenth time. Better just put on your XXL guard armor. Finally, we have Crash Diet, which requires beating the entire game...without eating to restore your health. You would think this wouldn't be a big deal since you're not going to be getting hit, but since traps don't negate that trophy and there are a lot of traps in the forest areas, you're probably going to need to heal up from time to time. Fortunately, you can sleep in a bed for that. There are other trophies I hate, such as The Arsonist (burning all the Red Paw flags, which are all over the place) and The Scholar (completely every side quest -- keeping in mind some are missable if you advance too far into the game), but only because the game is a bit buggy and I kept thinking I was going to have to do a second playthrough. Fortunately, most of the bugs I encountered were good ones. I had several trophies pop much sooner than they were supposed to. These were usually related to collectibles, such as stealing all the handkerchiefs from guards or opening all shutters. I encountered another issue where I lit all nine candles from the fallen heroes in the correct order before reading the document that explains the order. (NO, GUYS. I DIDN'T LOOK UP THE SOLUTION ONLINE.) This technically completed the quest, but it didn't give me the Dying Flame reward, which is probably optional but...well, the game is rather dark, and having a lantern that doesn't go out is nice. It was worth a reload. Anyway, the game is getting a recommendation from me, but do yourself a favor and either accept a second playthrough (you could probably do a speedrun in just a few hours) or take your time. It's a gorgeous game, so I don't think a little backtracking is going to hurt you.
  7. ...Are you guys actively paying devs to add DLC to their games? I've had like three games dump a steaming pile of DLC on my doorstep in the past two weeks.
  8. OK... Another one completed. The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep The Mummy Demastered Chasm The Forest The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Night in the Woods The Walking Dead: The Final Season Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX Now, I know what you're thinking. "What does Ayesha have to do with Halloween?" Well, admittedly, I wasn't planning on using the game for the event...and then I met Wilbell, one of the main characters. She's a witch. An actual witch. She's trying to hide that fact, but she's not doing a very good job.
  9. It's worse than I made it sound too. There are skills called Draw Power, Power Transfer, and Power Pour that you can apply to one or more ingredients during synthesis. Each skill costs CP, which ingredients also cost, the amount of CP is dependent on the kind of ingredient being used, and the total amount of CP you have for a synthesis is dependent on your alchemy level. Once your CP is gone, no more traits can be transferred or applied. So, sometimes you WANT to run out of CP so you can add the rest of the ingredients without changing the traits. Also, the order in which you add ingredients is important. The only nice thing about the alchemy system is that you can undo an action if you aren't happy with the result. So, the alchemy isn't "performed" until you've added all the ingredients (in whatever order you want and by applying whatever skills you want) and click OK. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with chain synthesis. I'm going to wait a bit on Escha & Logy. I hear they have the hardest boss in the entire series.
  10. Sooo pink. That is pink, right? Not orange? I'm going with pink.
  11. It almost makes me wonder if the game would've been better if it had been free roam from the beginning. Once I hit that bottleneck and was stuck for a few hours (real world days), it really slowed down the pacing. I think the concept would've worked fine if everything was randomly generated. Maybe in your playthrough, you go north and encounter Buck early on, while I go south and encounter Beverly. So what if Beverly needs an apricot pizza or whatever to advance her story? Even if I don't find apricots until 20+ hours into the game, it just means she'll be with me for longer than somebody who finds them right away. Or maybe I want to focus on making Beverly happy, so instead of waiting for the game to tell me I'm now allowed to start gathering apricots, I go searching for them myself. That would make my playthrough much more unique than yours, where you have Buck with you for the entire game, and it would have a more open world feel. I think that's more in the spirit of the game anyway. Maybe in Spiritfarer 2. Platinum #278 - Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX Oh, boy. Another Atelier game. These always get so many views. (Nobody reads past the title of these, do they?) Well, guys. I found it. The hardest Atelier game yet. Up until now, I'd probably say it was one of the Arland games (most likely Rorona DX because of the time mechanic or Meruru DX because of the superbosses), but Ayesha puts them both to shame. The difficulty -- for the first time ever -- is actually in the alchemy system, which is a huge part of these games and something I rarely talk about because you usually aren't required to master it. Here, you kinda have to in order to beat the four superbosses, and I couldn't find a single comprehensive guide that is compatible with the DX version. (I don't know what all they changed, but the original guides don't prepare you properly.) That means you either need to figure out the alchemy system for yourself or pick and choose from forum posts or reddit threads to get a basic idea of what you're going to need. Normally, there seems to be a consensus on this, but I had a hard time figuring out what "ultimate equipment" I needed. The alchemy system is also a bit of a mess. See, in most Atelier games, you gather ingredients, which have various traits on them, and the alchemy system is all about transferring those traits onto something new, with the ultimate goal being to remove bad traits, enhance good traits, and end up with something better than what you started. You often need to synthesize something more than once ("chain synthesis") in order to achieve this. For example, you could take an anchovy with the +10 HP trait and combine it with a red pepper with the +15 HP trait to create a pepperchovy with a +25 HP trait. You could then add that pepperchovy to bread with a strength boost trait and a tomato can with a defense boost to obtain a pizza with the +25 HP trait, strength boost, and defense boost. You could then have Ayesha wear that pizza on her head to gain those properties. I don't know why I keep using pizza as an analogy. I guess I have pizza on the brain. Wait, no. That's Ayesha. She's the one wearing a pizza hat. Anyway, what makes it difficult here is that when you're chain synthesizing, only the top five traits are retained, and the order of traits is reserved on the next synthesis. So if you have traits A, B, C, D, and E, and you add a new ingredient that creates trait F, you now have F, A, B, C, D. If you synthesize that item into something else, its starting traits will be D, C, B, A, and F, with F being the first to be removed as more ingredients are added. So, if you want to keep a trait on an item after eight cycles, you...gosh, I don't even know. You'd have to do some crazy kind of fourth-dimensional chess. (And the order DOES matter even when you're finished, as if you synthesize a dye or whetstone, which are needed to enhance armor and weapons, only the first trait is carried over, UNLESS you have already have that trait on the armor/weapon OR depending what properties are on that item -- because items have properties as well as traits. In the case of dyes or whetstones, there is a property called Property Copy that adds as many traits as the level of the property. Other properties can add additional bonuses to an item, such as a wider range to healing items or more damage to bombs.) If that sounds confusing to you, it should. I still don't understand the system and I had to use it to create the best gear possible. As with most older Atelier games, each synthesis takes at least a day and the game automatically ends after the third year, so you don't want to waste too much time figuring things out or crafting subpar items. Traveling, gathering, and battling also take time. The main game really isn't that bad. You have plenty of time to save your sister -- yeah, that's the basic plot of the game from what I gathered -- but if you want to take on the superbosses, you need to start preparing by the third year. They're utter bullshit. The battles can take up to an hour, every boss heals itself (some multiple times), and most of them have attacks that can one-shot you or wipe out your whole party. It's almost always a war of attrition. You want to create this item called Hell Soup that will ensure Ayesha cannot die as long as she has enough soup in her inventory (which means you need to make sure it has the right properties), and then it's just a matter of doing enough damage to the boss that you kill it before you run out of soup. This is made even more annoying by the fact that each superboss gets more powerful the closer it is to death, and once they're below 10% or something, almost every attack is a miss. There is nothing fun about those battles. It's terrible game design and it makes me appreciate the newer Atelier games all the more. My usual joke is to say with every Atelier game that this (whatever one I'm reviewing at the time) is the one you should start with if you have even a fleeting interest in the series, but I can't with Ayesha. The characters and plot might be on par with the others -- I'm definitely not the one to ask about that -- but this one asks waaaaay too much of the player. I still think you start with Ryza or the Arland trilogy. (And if you're going to do Arland, probably just jump to Totori.) This isn't a BAD game by any means, but I'm not going to recommend this to anybody for a casual play. Also, be aware that some of the physical discs are Japanese only! Do we have some artwork to share? Interesting angle choice, artist.
  12. Alright, Spiritfarer is finished. No need to get cute with this holiday. I was one of the lucky ones to roll November 2, so...'_Day Pretty good game. I left a sizable review for it on my checklist thread, but it fits the holiday because the game is all about comforting spirits in their final moments before ushering them on to the next life. Depressing concept, but presented in a beautiful and uplifting way. Very good hand-drawn animations too.
  13. Platinum #277 - Spiritfarer I was nice enough to spot @realm722 a few days before I finished this game, so you might as well just read his review. It's much nicer and more detailed than the one I'm going to give. Also, possible spoilers ahead. This is a heavily story-driven game. First, what is Spiritfarer? I watch a lot of reviews before playing these more obscure (is this obscure?) games, and usually I go into them with some background knowledge of what the general gameplay loop is going to be like. I'm not sure that was the case here. I knew it was a resource management game, but I didn't know where it would fall on the farming/survival/crafting sim spectrum. It's probably a cross between Animal Crossing, due to the fact that all of your companions are animals or at least take the spiritual form of animals, and the classic Harvest Moon games, which didn't shy away from themes about death and loss. And since HM is the video game series I'm the most knowledgeable about, you could say this was right in my wheelhouse. Heh, wheelhouse... ship... OK, so, in this game, you play as STELLA. You also have a cat named Daffodil, who can apparently be controlled in local co-op (although I'm not sure what benefit that would be). Much of the main plot is left up to interpretation or revealed later in the story, but the basic idea is that Charon, the one who ferries souls to the underworld in Greek mythology, is getting too old for that shit and turns the reins over to you. You're given a ship and tasked with finding spirits and caring for them before they're ready to be taken to the Everdoor. There are eleven spirits in the game (12 now, with the Beverly update) and each of them has their own personality, background story, and mini-game (more on that later). My favorite was Alice, who reminded me of my grandmother who recently passed away, and watching her physical and mental decline in the game was heartbreaking. I should point out now that these spirits are very picky. You have to feed and shelter them. But every spirit is unique, just like people in real life, and they won't just eat anything you give them. Each character has a category of food that they like, one that they love, and at least one that they will refuse to eat. (The one exception to this might be Atul, who will eat anything -- but again, that's part of his character.) None of this feels unnatural. Alice, for example, is a sweet old lady. Of course she would love old-fashioned cooking and desserts. She's not going to want your hipster chai latte. Bruce & Mickey are boys from Boston who knock heads for a living. They want greasy French fries and fish sticks. Summer is a vegan. Save that meat pie for someone who gives a shit. None of them will eat the same meal twice in a row either. This can be AGGRATAVING because they get hungry often and you'll need to learn their tastes, but then you realize that's kinda the point of the game. Also, you can hug them. They'll like that. How do you feed them? Well, you'll need a kitchen. That's where the next part of the game comes in: the building. I'd say you spend about 90% of the game on your ship, which is fully customizable. You can increase its speed, size, and abilities, which you'll need to improve to access later areas in the game (e.g. a stronger bow that lets you break through ice or a lantern that lets you sail through mist). You can also build structures that let you farm or craft. One of the most remarkable things about this game is how easily you can move structures around. I didn't mention the graphics yet, but everything in this game is beautifully hand-drawn, and the ability of structures to naturally conform to any position you put them in is a level of detail I wasn't expecting. Sometimes this is done by completely redrawing certain sections of a building, such as turning a slanted roof into a flat roof if another structure is placed on top. Ladders or stilts are placed to connect the structure to whatever is below, and you'll likely be moving structures around throughout the game as you unlock new farming/crafting areas and houses for your spirits. (Because yes, every spirit will get their own house.) You'll also need food to feed them. In fact, you'll need a LOT of resources to advance in the game. That's why, even though you'll spend most of the game on the ship, you should always be sailing somewhere. There are islands and resources scattered throughout the map, and you'll constantly need to visit these to chop wood, mine rocks, or pick berries. You can also buy seeds for planting. Your ship can only sail during the daytime, so nighttime is good for gathering resources (if you reached an island before nightfall) or crafting. You can also fish off the back of the ship. Now, this is where the mini-games come in. These are SLIGHTLY more advanced mini-games than the ones in Night in the Woods, which were about as bare bones as you can get. You don't really need instructions on how to do these. You'll probably fail or twice until you see what you have to do and then never fail again. For example, cutting a tree is as simple as moving the joystick to the left and then to the right. Crushing materials is just spamming X for Jason. Smelting ore is...kinda annoying, but basically you just need to keep the needle between the two lines, which only becomes tricky when you get the higher level ores that force you to wait a little longer so you don't overheat the furnace. None of them are difficult, but some of them will give you better results if you actually do a good job. Most don't. The character mini-games are a little harder. You'll be chasing lightning or bugs around the ship. I imagine building placement plays a big role in the difficulty here, but I never found it necessary to reorient my buildings so that I'd have an easier time with these mini-games. You can do them at any point, even when the spirit associated with that mini-game leaves, and...well, that leads into my biggest problem with the game. The gameplay is not very good. Gating is the culprit here. This isn't something I've seen many people complain about and it may just come down to personal tastes, but this game suffers heavily from repeatedly blocking the player from advancing further into the game until the right checkboxes are completed. This led to a very good early game, a slog of a middle game, and an underwhelming and mostly uneventful late game. Let me explain. I'm good at time and item management games. The Atelier games have prepared me for this. In the early game (let's say the first 5-10 hours), I was a machine. I had two kitchens and three farms going around the clock. At dawn, I'd ring the bell to wake up my crew, set our course for the day, and then do my rounds. I'd feed everybody on the ship and water plants as soon as the bubble appeared. At night, I would disembark, gather all the resources I could, craft whatever items I needed, and then fish until the sun came up. Rinse and repeat. By that 10 hour mark, I had enough food and crafting materials that I honestly don't think I needed to do anything again for the rest of the game, if it wasn't for the fact that I still didn't have access to some of the later game materials. At that point, I quickly came to realize that this was a slow burner. The difficulty comes not from juggling many things at once, but in gradually advancing each storyline until a new area can be unlocked. This was...not fun, honestly. The latter half of the game was just me sailing from island to island, using fast travel whenever possible and ignoring everything but the story quests. It's about then when you realize most of the game's mechanics are optional most of the time and have no long-term consequences. Not feeding your crew members or sheep, for example, has little impact on the game. Sure, they won't like it, but they're not going to die or abandon you. I guess the sheep will resort to eating your crops if they get hungry enough, but they can't if you lock them up, and it's not like you'll need crops or wool after a while. I didn't even need the cow or chickens. Your crew members have perks that are enabled when their happiness is high, but these generally amount to buffs to other crew members or free items from time to time, which...again, are not really necessary late game. If you're really into item management, you might as well max out each character's happiness once (for the trophy) and then let them starve. But only if you're a monster. You're not a monster, are you? The trophies are fine. Most will come naturally. There's one that requires a backup save or second playthrough, which is dumb, and the trophy for maxing out every character's happiness is utter bullshit if you don't read the requirements for Elena carefully. I don't know what the devs were smoking when they decided that one of the last characters to join your ship should be impossible to please if you upgrade her house or don't have the right spirits on board. This is NOT the game that lends itself well to a second playthrough. Would I recommend this game? Boy, that's a hard one. I didn't praise the animations enough in this review. This looks as good as Forgotton Anne and the movement is MUCH more fluid (even if the platforming can be kinda janky and Stella's animations during dialogue could use a few more frames). Once you unlock all of Stella's abilities and build some of the traversal structures, it can be really fun to zip around the ship. The fact that there are no long-term consequences (other than the aforementioned Elena) means that this is actually a very relaxing game. You have the option of sleeping through the night, but I found it easier just to put the controller down or casually craft items while I check my phone or surf the internet. I may have even written some of this review while doing that. It does make me wonder how I'd change the pacing of this game if I had that power. Would I want it to be more stressful? I don't know. I will say that I gave Night in the Woods a recommendation and this is a significantly better game in every way -- in its characters, design, story, and execution. There was also a payoff here, which NitW was lacking. So, if NitW gets a recommendation just for being a unique game with an interesting premise, then Spiritfarer certainly should. I only hesitate because I'm not sure who this game was made for. You might say, "Well, kids, obviously," but then I point you to characters like Bruce & Mickey who cuss like sailors. They don't censor it either. There's something very off-putting about seeing the word "shit" in a game like this. Funny, but off-putting. This also isn't the game for somebody who wants action (there's zero combat), and I'm not sure it qualifies as a true crafting game. It's not as complex as Harvest Moon and it doesn't have the level of customization as Animal Crossing. It's a jumbled and watered-down mix of genres, but it works for the most part. You just need to know what you're getting into first. I was going to end with some fanart, but I'm a little worried about what DeviantArt will produce with this one, so let's play it safe with this adorable picture of Stella and Daffodil.
  14. Sure. I'm in. I can do four events at once. No problem.
  15. I'm the worst. No problem. I'm sure I can find more orange out there!