Video game reviews

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Project Kat - Paper Lily Prologue

Good RPGMaker-esque games are able to deeply immerse you in a different world while keeping their graphical and mechanical simplicity. The pixelated graphics leave just enough gaps for the imagination to fill, putting the story in the spotlight. This version of Project Kat fits this category perfectly. The story follows Kat, a schoolgirl who is trapped in a creepy, alternative world after a spiritual ritual. As the player, you are responsible for taking her out of this nightmarish place.

The game comes in the vacuum older titles of the same genre left -- the mechanics and main storytelling devices strongly remind me of Corpse Party, in particular. It is nice and refreshing to see new developers' takes on the traditional plot of a teenager drawn to paranormal phenomena and eventually becoming the main character of a creepypasta story.

In this demo, Leef 6010 presents the prologue to main plot of Paper Lily, currently in development. While the graphics are beautiful and the soundtrack sets up the dark mood, the game did feel slightly buggy on my computer, especially when loading menus. This definitely did not ruin the overall experience but it did make it feel like the engine is not friendly to all computers -- I am positive that the full release should fix this.

You should definitely check out Project Kat if you are already a fan of horror games, but you will also have a great time playing it if this is your introduction to the genre. By itself, this 45-minute experience deserves a very solid 8.5 out of 10 and it really hyped me up for the full release. I can't wait! 

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

Every time I play a game like Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (TBCTE), I'm reminded of just how much I miss 2D Zelda games. Developed by Snoozy Kazoo and released in 2021, this charming, top-down adventure game will hit the spot if you are craving a bit of classic action. You're Turnip Boy, a character who's been caught red-handed for tax evasion and must now make amends by running errands for his town's mayor.

Turnip Boy follows the puzzle-adventure style of classic Zelda titles like A Link's Awakening or A Link to the Past. The gameplay places equal weights into both combat and engaging puzzles. The puzzles, while not overly difficult, are cleverly designed and require some out-of-the-box thinking. By the end, you'll find that every item you've collected has its purpose.

I clocked in at around 2 hours and 75% completion -- which is not bad, but the game definitely feels like it could be longer and left me wanting more. TBCTE does increase its replay value by introducing an NPC who gives you hints about the achievements you're missing after you finish your first run. If you are looking to 100% the game without the use of a guide with all the answers laid out, this will help you with the challenge without major spoilers -- a feature I wish more games had.

Looking forward, I'm excited for the announced sequel, Turnip Boy Robs a Bank. If it's anything like this one, we're in for a treat! I give Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion an 8 out of 10. While the relatively short playtime and less challenging puzzles hold it back from a perfect score, the game's charm, creativity, and nostalgic appeal make it a must-play. It's a title that anyone can enjoy, but if you're a fan of top-down 2D adventure games like me, you should definitely get it. 

Amanda the Adventurer

Amanda the Adventurer (AtA) is a creepy point-and-click style game that will definitely give you some goosebumps. I was hooked on MAGLEDmaw's team approach to a horror puzzle game. Right off the bat, I felt like I was watching Courage The Cowardly Dog for the first time again and the atmosphere was set for a great, spooky time.

The game begins with a good-bye letter from your aunt, who has left you a house and a mystery. This mystery revolves around a kids' tv show from the mid-90's that's linked to the disappearance of many children. You will learn more about this through solving a series of puzzles. In your aunt's attic, you will find a series of tapes with different episodes of the Amanda the Adventurer show. Each episode has new clues of what you should do to unlock the next steps and progress in the game. (Sometimes the hints in the videos can be easy to miss, so pay close attention!) The puzzles get progressively harder but the player learns the solution tactics on-the-go, so they are challenging and extremely satisfying to solve.

I am a big fan of horror games and AtA was a great addition to my library. The unique mix of the point-and-click style from the 90's with modern first-person mechanics really sets AtA apart from other titles I have played. It is a relatively short game (clocking in at 2:30), leaving me wanting more. For $8.99, however, it is perhaps a little overpriced given its low replay value since obtaining all achievements in two sittings is not at all a daunting task. On the other hand, it is definitely worth the price tag if you are looking for a chill down your spine and it definitely lives up to its "Overwhelmingly positive" rating on Steam.

REFLEXIA Prototype ver.

Seeing Nikita Kryukov's name on REFLEXIA really got my hopes up because I enjoyed 'Milk Inside a Bag of Milk Inside a Bag of Milk' and its sequel.

The game is exactly what it claims to be, a visual novel staring a mentally unstable, obsessive girl. However, the intrigue and the curiosity that comes with that is ruined by the constant fourth-wall breaks and the overall story arch have little traction and just feel forced in the end.

I must give it to them that the constant stream of achievement notifications is actually gratifying. There are screens you can unlock five, one for each option.

Overall, I will give it a 2/10. Sure, you won't pay anything for REFLEXIA -- but it will cost you one hour of your life.

FAITH: The Unholy Trinity

In FAITH, you're John, a young priest who's on a mission to fix a past exorcism that went sideways. As you dive deeper into the game, you start uncovering the dark details of that fateful night and work to put the devil back in his place — a task that's going to change you, no doubt about it.

Upon start, you are greeted with 1980's home console graphics, think like Atari 2600 or 5200. FAITH doesn't just look old-school, it feels like it too. There's no map or GPS here — you will have to explore, interact and find stuff on your own (honestly, I think I examined every tree I found). And there are choices to make that aren't spoon-fed to you. If you're all about exploring and discovering, you'll love it. But if you're still trying to figure it all out, the game might feel a bit linear — kinda like tackling the original Zelda on NES without any guide. You could even hook up an Atari controller if you wanted. This cool design decision really puts you in the time zone of the game's storyline. The old-school visuals take a backseat during cutscenes, which come off a bit more modern, although still pixelated — a bit of a shift, but it works.

The game's spread out over three chapters covering different events, and each has different endings. My first run was about 5 hours, so each chapter took me a bit over an hour and a half with some chill breaks. The core story continues through each chapter, making FAITH a great game to dive into over a few weekends.

FAITH is an impressive, polished game. It is very evident just how much care Airdorf Games put into its development, making FAITH a true work of art. It became one of my favorite games, and I don’t say that lightly. This game is a solid 9/10 and I would recommend to anyone interested in retro-style games and fans of the survival horror genre.

Needy Streamer Overload

NEEDY STREAMER OVERLOAD (NSO) blends dating simulators with management games in a way I had not seen before. I came across NSO after having played Doki Doki Literature Club, and, oh boy, it was not a disappointment.

In NSO, you are in charge of your girlfriend's streaming career after moving in with her. The pressure to grow her streaming channel starts after receiving an eviction notice, and neither of you has a real-life 5-9 job.

During the 30-day journey, you choose what to do during the day and stream in the evening. Daily activities give you new ideas for content for your channel. However, each activity changes how close you are to each other, how stressed your girlfriend is, and how bad of a mental state she is in.

Those statuses will determine how the story flows and which ending you will get at the end of the 30 days. There isn't any lack of options here: 26 possible closures besides the "good end."

I must say, however, that the replay value is relatively low after having attained some of them. I have played NSO for over 3 hours, and I feel there isn't much left to do, although I did not get all possible endings, simply because it just becomes a matter of pressing the right buttons in the right order.

My overall grade is a 6/10. I had fun for those 3 hours, but at some point, the game stopped being fun and became just taking care of the weirdest Tamagochi ever. NSO is a light play for a weekend afternoon, but it simply couldn't hold my attention enough to return to it after putting it down.

Corpse Party (2021)

Corpse Party tells the story of a group of high schoolers stuck in an urban legend. After a failed friendship ritual, they are transported to an abandoned school, the epicenter of a series of kidnappings and murders years prior. The goals are clear from the get-go: survive all the paranormal threats and escape this psychological hell.

As the game progresses, we learn in-depth about the story of the school and the details of the origins of this place. The story is told relatively slowly and kept me thrilled to learn more over the 10-ish hours I invested in the game.

It must be said that the game is pretty much a carbon copy of its original release with minor changes here and there, and it definitely plays like an early 2000 RPGMaker JRPG. It's important to consider, too, that it plays much more like a visual novel than a regular RPG. I also really enjoyed the beautifully composed soundtrack.

On the other hand, the Unity engine was definitely not kind to this game. Native RPGMaker games have a charm that simply cannot be replicated, so I had the feeling something was lost in translation. The chibi style on a modern game engine and the perhaps-too-neatly designed overworld definitely get in the way of setting the creepy mood of Corpse Party's main story. Despite this, the game still put me on edge several times and kept me wanting to keep playing and learning more.

If you decide to play Corpse Party, be warned that it will involve a lot of walking around exploring the same areas over and over, many times without having a hint of what you are looking for. While this makes sense in the story's context (after all, the characters are looking for ways to escape a haunted place), the game is unnecessarily unclear about what should be done next, and looking for the answer to some of the puzzles can be just as dull as brute-forcing through them.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was the chapter-by-chapter alternative (wrong) ends. The system is very friendly and rewards exploring how different decisions will affect the story with the quick save option.

Overall, my rating is a solid 7/10. The game did not age well, but not all of its charm has been lost. It does feel reminiscent of older times, not by its visual style necessarily but because of the design choices of puzzles and storytelling. You should check it out if you are into slower, story-heavy games and don't mind doing some idle work (it is a great way to decompress from life's responsibilities).

Tower Tactics Liberation

I came across Tower Tactics: Liberation while looking for a tower defense game with simple mechanics similar to those I played on Flash in the early 2000s. It is a charming, medium-paced, pixel-art-style game that lives by the "do not fix what is not broken" mantra and delivers a great gaming experience.

The game is built upon the simplest tower defense mechanic: you set towers along a path that mobs of monsters go through and try to destroy them all, losing points whenever one of them reaches the end. It is a turn-based game, and each turn has a setup stage when you place your towers or cast enchantments and spells that may help you out during the game and a defense stage when the mob comes and tries to attack you.

The catch in Tower Tactics: Liberation plays as a card game hybrid, which means a lot of strategic planning is involved. Your first choice is a deck of cards containing the possible towers, spells, enchantments, and artifacts you can obtain during your run. At the beginning of each turn, you draw a random hand of cards and can only play those until you receive more cards the next turn. Casting towers or other cards cost mana points, which are replaced every turn and are scarce, so you must plan your turn wisely to not waste resources and place the towers to minimize the risk of getting hit and losing the game.

While this introduces an interesting dynamic and strategies, it will limit you initially when you only have not-so-great cards. You will lose not because you are a lousy planner but because you need more card variety. As someone who plays casually, it is frustrating to feel like I need to grind on a TD game, but I also understand that it may keep other players interested in making their decks better.

Overall, Tower Tactics: Liberation has great graphics and exciting gameplay. It does not get boring after a while because of the large variety of towers, possible strategies, and maps. This diversity makes for excellent replay value, and I find myself coming back to it often. If you are into TD games, this is an excellent buy with lots of hours of fun.