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25 Feb 2022

REVIEW: No Place Like Home on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
Although this game is "Early Access" it is pretty polished, so I will treat it with the respect that it deserves, as not only Early Access, but also as a very well developed, and far along game.

The story goes that the Human Race has mostly deserted the Earth and gone to live on Mars, behind them they have left the Earth as a waste filled dump. Your job is to explore and clean up. And try to restore the beauty to the world around you.

At its base this is something of a farming simulator. But there is more to it than just that as you can domesticate wild animals, build your village, craft items and eventually build your perfect home. Hence the name of the game "No Place Like Home"

When you first start you will have a vacuum on your back, that will suck up trash, as you walk around, you will find seeds, which you can then plant and water, grow plants, which you can use to make meals which you can then trade.

A lot of the game revolves around exploration, crafting and trading, there are plenty of secrets to find, as well as cleaning up all the trash and toxic waste.

Domesticating animals is fun, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats etc. As well as decorating your farm and making everything look as good as you want.

The Good
If you enjoy the types of games that you can put a lot of time into, without much stress, then this game is designed for you. Everything looks great, and definitely would appeal to the younger gamer.

The Bad
It is early access, so there are some bugs, plus little things that would just make the game better are not there, silly things, can't put my finger on them as such but it is missing that little bit extra, that just grabs you and wants you to play another hour. Also, you can't run or jump, which is annoying. Plus, where are the horses! We need horses!

The game is ok, but it is rather niche, and it is quite buggy, although the bugs are slowly being fixed.

This game is not really for me, but I can understand it will appeal to some. So with that in mind, I score No Place Like Home on PC (Steam) a fair 6/10

24 Feb 2022

REVIEW: Martha is Dead on Xbox

Review by Jon Donnis
Martha Is Dead is advertised as a "dark first-person psychological thriller" from the creator of The Town of Light. Set in 1944 Italy, and with an Italian language set as default, the game is designed to get into the mind of the player.

You play as Giulia, and start off as a young girl, with her grandmother reading a rather unsuitable story to her, the story of a White Lady in a lake, a ghost who lost her partner, trapped in the lake until there is fog upon which she can wonder the surrounding forest, and as is often the case, will murder young women. Lovely bedtime reading. Once the seemingly never-ending intro is finished, you fast forward in time, and get some control of your character, you find yourself setting up a camera by the lake, to try and get photos of wild animals, you then have to go through a rather tedious effort of changing the film on the camera, and since this is 1944, it is one of those very old cameras. After you put the new film in, you check to make sure you have the focus right, but upon doing this you spot a body in the lake. You run down, and by run down, you press one button and the character runs automatically, you dive in, after pressing one button, recover the body and drag to lakeside. But wait the body is your identical twin sister Martha who for some reason is wearing one of Giulia's dresses. Upon this terrible discovery, Giulia takes off Martha's necklace and puts it on herself. Your parents spot you, come to your aid, but your mother who despises you, assumes you are your deaf sister Martha and comforts you. And so, the lie begins, Martha is dead, but now you have become Martha, destined to not only pretend to be her, but also learn more about her mysterious death.

Ok that enough spoilers of the game, since that is the opening chapter.

The game itself has plenty of warnings on it for disturbing content. The PlayStation release has been censored heavily, and some scenes have been removed completely. Suffice to say this is not a kid's game. For those of you who have played The Town of Light, you might have a general idea of what to expect, but no this is much more disturbing.

There are options to skip the disturbing scenes, but then what is the point of playing if you take out the most powerful bits.

The rest of the game will have you exploring the woods and the area around the family home, the stunning Italian countryside and of course trying to contact the White Lady.

The game can be very disturbing as I mentioned, there are some horrific scenes that not only do you have to watch, but you actively take part in. You will quickly understand why the warnings were needed. If you really want to know about them, just google about what bits were censored on PlayStation and you will find it talked about. Something I will avoid here.

Think of the game more as a walking simulator, something that the person sitting next to you watching, will get as much out of it as you would playing, there is a lot of going backwards and forwards between the same locations, which can become tedious too. Giulia moves annoyingly slow, and although the atmosphere of the game is great to start with, it soon loses its impact with repetition.

There are a few puzzles to complete in the game, but most of the interactivity involves you collecting things or looking at things. Dolls, Puppets etc which help unlock memory sequences. As this is set in 1944 there are plenty of references to the war, radio news alerts, newspapers and so on.

And of course, just as you started, taking and developing photos is a big part of the game.

The Good
The graphics are stunning, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

The Bad
Th gameplay is sadly quite tedious, and although the horror elements are very well done, and will get in your head,  they are not enough on their own. I understand this is a "Narrative Driven" game, but it still needs to be enjoyable to play. And sadly, this game is more about looks than it is substance.

Really disappointing game, could and should have been so much more.
I score Martha is Dead a disappointing 4/10

Out now on all formats, but only the PC and Xbox versions are uncensored.

18 Feb 2022

REVIEW: Pretty Girls Speed on PC (Steam)

Review by Staff
I am always somewhat cynical of card games on a computer, seems a bit pointless when playing cards exits in real life, with that said I have spent many an hour playing classic game Solitaire which comes with pretty much all versions of Windows, so there is a market. And when a game really needs two players, then that is where a computer and AI can be helpful.

This game is called "Speed" and is part of the "Pretty Girls" Franchise.

Pretty Girls Speed at its base is a two-player card game, now with this being a Japanese game, thrown in some fancy animated women in skimpy clothes, and you have a game that can attract the eye.
But as I mentioned, this is a card game, and that is the focus of the game, the female characters act as your opponents, and there are 10 to beat in the Battle Mode. Each one has their own little description, things like " She is weak-minded and loves cute and sweet things. She has a short fuse and easily sulks.", and " A snake Yokai. A graceful and bewitching monster. She controls humans and make them pay tribute to her in the form of wine and food."

Now the game itself is all about speed and concentration, this is a very very quick paced game, and will test even the quickest of thinkers.

You start off the game with a number of cards showing, and your opponent the same.
In the centre of the screen are two cards, to win you need to click on a card of your own that connects sequentially to one of the cards on the table.

So, if you see a 3 and an 8 in front of you, you need to click on either a 2 or a 4, and a 7 or a 9. As you do this, your cards move to the centre of the screen and are replaced by cards from your half of the deck, the first person to get rid of all of their cards wins the round. It is a simple concept, that I found to be incredibly addictive. As your amount of cards lowers, neither player might be able to play a move, when this happens the centre cards are replaced, or if there are none left from the deck, the two players can place one of their own cards, this is where some real thinking comes in, because you can see your opponent's cards, so choose wisely to avoid helping them, but also look for a route for you to win.

There are two modes of play, Battle Mode, where you play a best of 3 rounds game against ever faster opponents. Each time you win your time will get placed on a leader board, and your win/loss ratio is also recorded.
I found the leader board a real incentive to play a level over and over. Nothing better than seeing your name top of the leader board. All of the achievements in the game are attached to this mode of play.

The second mode is Challenge Mode. There are 100 levels to complete, the difficulty increases with each level. Try to beat all the levels.

Although the women are dressed in a sexy manner, there is no nudity in the game, and no sexual innuendo, just nicely drawn characters with interesting proportions.

The Good
Incredibly easy to pick up and play, and very addictive. I loved the fast-paced nature of the game.

The Bad
Nothing really, it is a simple card game, wrapped in some fancy graphics. 

I am not sure if in England we have our own name for this game, I am not aware of it if we do, however I have already remembed the rules, and on a long flight somewhere, i might play it in the real world.
For now, I will stick to the PC version.

A really fun card game, that I score a strong 9/10. It delivered on everything it promises

Released on February 25th on Steam

17 Feb 2022

Preview: Submerged: Hidden Depths on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
I have played Submerged: Hidden Depths for a good few hours and got a pretty good impression of the game. Now I never played the predecessor, Submerged, so I come at this game completely fresh and with no pre-conceived ideas.

Upon starting it becomes clear pretty quickly that this game is about relaxation and exploration. Relaxation for you the player, and exploration for the characters you control. There are no enemies as such to fight, so you really can just sit back and chill as you play.

The game is full 3D, you play as Miku and Taku, the game chooses different characters for you, swapping between each, as you explore a sunken city, surrounded by water. There are plenty of ruins, which you can travel to on boat, you will then find yourself climbing, swinging and jumping to different areas of each building, and collecting various items, both from these buildings but also from the surrounding sea. So that might be flowers, boat parts, diaries, and also detecting all creatures and cataloguing them. 

You have a telescope too, so find yourself a nice high building, or a lookout spot, and have a look through your telescope, see if you can find other places to explore.

While climbing and exploring is fun, riding around on your boat is also a lot of fun, perhaps more fun than it should be, when really you should only be using your boat to get from one point to another.

The game never asks too much of the player, it is a fun experience, with great music, and excellent visuals, a proper palate cleanser compared to your usual games.

The Good
Very pretty visuals, a lovely soundtrack, and lots to explore and collect.

The Bad
When I first started the game, there is not a lot to tell you what to do, so you might find yourself lost for the first 10 minutes of play, but you will soon figure things out.

A fun game, simple as that, it delivers what it promises and in life and gaming what more do you want.

I score Submerged: Hidden Depths on PC (Steam) a solid 8/10

Released March 10th 2022 on Steam

14 Feb 2022

REVIEW: Wordle on PC (Steam)

Review by Staff
This is more of a "heads up" than a review.
You have all by now heard of a game called Wordle, and people posting weird green and white squares on their facebook profiles.

Some of you will be wondering what this is, and might go and search for Wordle.

However, if you do that on Steam, the top answer is a game called Wordle which was released in April 2021, costs £1.79. Seems legit.

Well yes and no. This is Wordle, but it is NOT the Wordle all your friends are playing. That is a free mobile game. The issue here is that THIS Wordle was released first, so it is not fair to say this game ripped off the more famous Wordle. But it did do something a bit dodgy. You see this game is what is known as an Asset Flip. There is a site where you can buy the base of a game, you then add your own title, graphics, improve it and so on, and that is perfectly fine, however sometimes lazy people just buy the base game, change the name and that's it. Put it on Steam and hope enough gullible people will buy it and they make a profit.

So, with that known, you can understand why people might be a bit annoyed. Firstly, it is not the game they were looking for, and secondly it is a cheap rip off.

However, with all of that said, the game itself is perfectly fine, it is a simple Wordle game, find words, trace with your mouse cursor to spell the words. Lots of categories, harder and harder levels.

There are 10 categories: Animals, Beach, Outdoor, Recreation, Computers, Monsters, Art, Science, Meal, Family, Sport.

I am in a bit of a quandary here. The game is perfectly fine, its just not the game I was looking for, and it is an asset flip.

As such I wont give it a score. I will just leave it as is, and this as a warning so you know what you are getting.

9 Feb 2022

REVIEW: The Waylanders on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
The Waylanders is a party-based Role Playing Game, with lots of Celtic myths and historical legends thrown into the mix. 

First let's take a look at the official synopsis

The first meeting between the Celts and their gods, the Tuatha de Danaan, should have been a time of celebration and enlightenment, but when negotiations go catastrophically wrong, a battle against a god leaves you near death and untethered from time!

Return to a land overtaken by magickal corruptions and a kingdom splintered into multiple factions warring for the throne. The Celtic society, a complex tapestry of different religions, human cultures, and mortal and immortal races such as the Mourians, Werewolves, Goblins, and monsters threaten to tear at every seam. Will you support the immature, yet rightful, heir, or the pragmatic general in their bid for the throne? What alliances will you forge, what friendships will you foster, what romances will you pursue, and... what will you do when you are suddenly thrust into Medieval Spain?

First thoughts upon playing was the unnecessary swearing, the game is not particular adult as far as I could see, and the graphics are more cutesy than realistic, so it seemed totally out of place to use modern swearwords and slang, calling someone "dipsh*t" for example. It just stuck out like a sore thumb. Personally, I get bored with a lot of cutscenes,. wherever possible I just skip past them, because I want to actually play the game, not watch a movie. I only mention this as I noticed a lot of people moaning on online forums about the cutscenes, saying that it seems that scenes are missing, or that storyline events do not make sense etc.

Another early issue I had with the game is as you walk around, you might see a staircase in front of you, but you can't walk up it, it is just there, ready to be walked up, but not. At least put a little rope in the way or something. Little things like this in a game can make all the difference. I need to know if an area is accessible by looking at it, not some kind of trial and error of walking up to everything.

As you get into the game properly, you will find yourself needing to talk to people, a little gripe with the dialog options is that I can read faster than the characters can speak, so as soon as I have got the jist, I want to skip the dialog to go to the next line, and yes you can skip the lines, but if you accidentally click on the original talking point, you then have to go through the whole same conversation again. If you allow this in a game, you are taking shortcuts. A well-made game with just include a line something like "you already asked that", instead of repeating verbatim what was already said.

As for the dialog itself, the voice acting is ok, there seems to be a lot of it, and a fair amount of voice actors brought in, however if you just listen to them, it is clear they are just sat reading from a script, and as such it does not come across at all natural.

Onto the fighting, this also seems a bit strange. You select an enemy to fight, you walk up to them, click attack, and then you just have to wait for your character to keep attacking him, you just sit there, kind of watching. 
The urge to just run and attack enemies, run around etc is massive, but the fighting system won't allow you. You do get used to it, but in my opinion, this was the wrong system to use in this game. Let people attack, that is the fun of the game. 
If you want to use a select attack system, then it needs to be full on turn based like in a Final Fantasy game. This game is somewhere in the middle and it does not quite work for me.

As you play the first mission and get used to the attack system, you will find AI characters to join your party, and once you have a few, and they are all doing their own things in a battle, it does seem to feel better.

At the end of the first mission, the boss is a giant dog creature. You quickly realise that you need to attack its hand (paw?) and once you hit its paw enough times, it drops its head, which you can then attack to take larger amounts of damage off his health bar.

After this battle, you find yourself in the in The Otherworld! Where you learn more about the story, and you get to explore there, upgrade weapons, armour and skills, but potions for health and magic, and so on, pretty standard stuff. I seemed to lose my health fast in battles, so get yourself a lot of potions, however if you choose the easiest setting, I don't think you can actually die, well I didn't anyway.

There are 3 different camera points you can play from, close up, a bit further away and then very far away.

With over 50 regions to explore, with quests, and secrets to uncover, as well as playing in Celtic and Medieval eras. There is plenty to do once you get into the game.

There are the usual character customisations, party upgrades, and all what you would expect from a RPG.

The Good
Although slightly cartoony, the graphics are decent, and the soundtrack is very good.

The Bad
I have already mentioned a fair bit of what is wrong with the game, much can be fixed or tweaked with updates, but I think that some of the basics of the game are set and you just have to get used to them.

I have seen a lot of hate for this game online, but I think that that hate mainly comes from your hardcore RPG gamers. I am not one, so I won't jump on the bandwagon.

As a casual gamer, there is enough in this game to keep me busy, it is far from perfect, but it is a perfectly adequate RPG game. With a few updates, (which are coming) this might be a decent game to add to your collection as it will only improve as the developers fix the bugs. But perhaps wait for the sale as a penny under £30 is way too much.

For now, I score The Waylanders a rather generous 6/10

The Waylanders is out now on PC Steam

5 Feb 2022

REVIEW: Bang-On Balls: Chronicles on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
Despite the rather silly name, there is a proper little game here in Bang-On Balls: Chronicles. You control a ball, that is your character. You start the game in a warehouse of sorts, no real instruction of what to do, or where to go, outside of a few arrows, but as you search around the level you will find collectables, the most important being film reels, for these are what open up the levels. If you see a TV screen, you can dash into it, the first TV screen you see is right at the start. This is basically a control tutorial level, a simple obstacle course to get you familiar with how the game works.

Once you finish that you are back in the warehouse, have a good look around and you will find 3 arcade games, dash into the screens and you have 3 different mini games to play. The smashing up of cars was my favourite, even if it seemed strangely hard to finish off the destruction of a car.

Further explore the warehouse, get into the vents, climb up on top of scaffolding, if you see a treasure chest, dash into it to open it, and collect the goodies. After a while however you may be wondering "is that it", just like I did. For I couldn't seem to find any more TVs to dash into, but I know there was more to the game, as I had seen the official screenshots. Eventually I collected a second film reel and opened a door, and low and behold I am now in a new room in the warehouse, and there is a TV in the corner. Dash into that and my journey has now properly begun. The first proper level of the game is a Viking based level, destroy some Viking boats,  rescue some imprisoned villages, and collect those all-important film reels to unlock the next level.

And that is pretty much how the game works.

Think of Bang-On Balls: Chronicles as a nonlinear platformer, where you really have to explore, collect items, smash things as well as complete the required tasks. You can even customise your character as you progress, for some reason I have a piece of cheese on my head. 

There are different "countries" for levels, and although this game is still "Early Access", it has progressed enough that there is a decent amount of content here to keep you busy,.

I played the single player mode, but you can play multiplayer with up to 4 people playing at once.

The Good
Graphically this game really surprised me, it is really high quality, and although this may cause some performance issues, even if you turn down the graphics level, everything still looks great. The game plays well, and your ball moves easy enough, and the various options for movement, like dash, jump, double jump, shield, vacuum, and so on, all become a second thought, as you get used to the game.

The Bad
I wonder if a better menu system, and an easier way to access the levels would be a good idea. I spent way too much time not really understanding what I was supposed to do, or where to go. However, once you do figure it out, even if by luck, that will make you feel a whole lot more comfortable with the game.

Ignoring a few graphical bugs, and performance issues, this is a good little game, a few tweaks here and there to make it more accessible, and this could do some really good business for the developers.

As it is an easy access game, my score is with that in mind. So, as it is right now, I score Bang-On Balls: Chronicles on PC (Steam) a very fair 7/10

Out now on Steam Early Access