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<span class="bold">Fran Bow</span>

Outstanding adventure game which probably (and unfortunately) flew a little under most radars. In my opinion it should have been prominently featured in any 'Best Adventures of 2015' list, but for the most part wasn't. Well, at least it received positive reviews across the board...

If you still haven't bought it, go get it now! If you do own it but haven't bothered playing it, stop whatever you're doing, install it, and fire it up! Be warned though: the story and most of this game's imagery is quite disturbing; definitely not recommended for children! If you can stand it, the weird and creepy aesthetic is probably the most prominent feature of Killmonday's debut title. The hand drawn art style may seem cute and childish at first sight, but it also has an undeniable Tim Burton-esque air, so it's really no surprise when it takes a weird and scary turn right from the start. The animation seems sometimes a little stiffy, and it is perhaps the weakest link in some otherwise superb visuals.

I remember playing the demo that was released during its Indiegogo campaign, and I enjoyed it a lot. It covered the first of the five chapters the game was expected to have, and since I completed it rather quickly I was expecting the final product to last for about 3-4 hours. Instead, it took me way longer than that (I couldn't really tell exactly how long, but the 8-9 hours claimed by HLTB users seem quite right). And that's a good thing, since I was hooked on it during the whole playthrough.

Well, to be completely honest I felt like the story was losing some momentum from its midpoint onwards. This actually means that the impacting, grotesque, and disturbing scenes appear less frequently and they have less of an impact both to the player and to Fran herself. At first I didn't like this toning down, just as I didn't like the ending either: it felt confusing and disappointing. But this is one of those games that stays with you after the end credits are over, and the more I thought about it, the more sense it all made. Plus, a couple of ideas and interpretations I read in this thread in the Steam forums (needless to say, it contains HUGE SPOILERS!) finally convinced me that the devs did an excellent job at composing a story with multiple layers of truth, that lets (or rather, impels) the player to choose what to believe.

My list of finished games in 2016
Heroes of a Broken Land

Took dozens of hours but I finally completed a "Normal" world/shard/whatever. This multi-party RPG with overland travel and wizardry-style dungeon crawling was pretty fun for a while, but honestly I got sick of the dungeon crawling by the end and just wanted it to be over with.
Millenium - A New Hope

It wasn't a bad RPG Maker game, but in the end I was fed up with some of the side quests and left them alone. My heroes were seriously over-powered at that point and could kill every opponent with a single strike and so searching for some obscure items was no fun.

Will probably play the other games in the series as well, because I'm curious how the story continues.

Complete list of finished games in 2016

80% puzzler, 20% platformer. Cute story and voicing.

Puzzles on the whole are good - 3-4 I found a bit obscure. For example, I guess it was hinted at, but why would I assume a cannonball would not only catch fire but remain steadily on fire?

5ish hours of mostly good fun with only a few frustrating moments.

Only other minor complaint is that the game is 8 chapters, and doesn't apparently save mid-chapter. So if you leave a game you come back and do the chapter over. Once you've solved the puzzles it doesn't take that long to redo them, so only slightly annoying.

On the whole, thumbs up.

This was my second playthrough of the game. I played the entire game in first-person perspective instead of the more traditional 3rd person, it was certainly more difficult at times (eg landing helicopters). I also chose a different approach for each of the heists than I did the last time I played. Although this game is not without its flaws, it's still very fun and I had a blast playing it again :).
<span class="bold">Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet</span>

Another example from my list of games I start playing immediately after purchase, only to abandon them after a while (short or long, doesn't matter) for no apparent nor good reason. And this one is especially egregious, as I remember myself honestly enjoying it the first time around, just as I've had a blast with it now that I've finally completed it.

My biggest (but almost only) complaint has to be its short length: I was able to beat it, and 100% it, in one single sitting. Admittedly, my previous uncomplete playthrough must have helped me speed things up a bit, but I kept hoping the campaign wouldn't be over after I fully explored the main map. Well, I guess it's preferable for a game to leave the player wanting more than to become a tedious chore... And plus, it actually has more content after the main campaign: there are two more game modes, but even though you can play them solo they're clearly designed for co-op, so I just won't bother.

Both its art style and its mechanics seem simple at first, but they become more complex and detailed as the game unfolds. The game title is totally appropriate: you get to explore a dark and shadowy planet that's been twisted and tainted in an insane way. With the help of different gadgets that you can attach to your flying saucer as soon as you find them, you'll have to free said planet from the corruption it's suffering while you solve environmental puzzles and fight some increasingly tougher enemies. In a true Metroid tradition, many corners of the map are inaccessible until you obtain the appropriate tool that opens them to you, so some backtracking is needed if you want to find all the collectibles. Some of those are only videos and concept art extras, but others are upgrades for your ship's shield and primary weapon. Although not indispensable (this is by no means a hard game), you'll have quite an easier time if you can fully upgrade them both.

All in all, a well polished game which I can see appealing to both core and more casual players. Pity that it isn't here on GOG...

My list of finished games in 2016
<span class="bold">Dracula 2 - The Last Sanctuary</span> - (Sept 20, 2016) - 12 hour playthrough

This is the second game of the Dracula series on GOG from the original trilogy. My review of the first game in the series can be found here.

The sequel continues right from the cliff hanger where the first game left off. The game shares almost everything in common that I gave in my review of the first game.

Graphics and visual appeal:
To reiterate what I said about the first game, the game suffers from a somewhat washed out graphic colour palette, low quality textures and other low quality visual aspects essentially re-using the engine from the first game without any noticeable technology upgrades. It has the look and feel of a games made circa 1994/1995 or so and would have therefore had a somewhat dated look and feel when it was originally released in September 2000. The lack of quality on the visuals is not just of an artistic nature however, but rather ends up having a negative impact on game play at several points throughout the game. Essentially, the rather extreme darkness and low contrast of the game combined with low graphic quality results in some of the game's puzzles being notoriously difficult to solve because you end up missing clues in the environment simply due to the poor quality of the textures and the dark environment.

As an example without giving away any spoilers, one complex puzzle near the end of the game was notoriously difficult to figure out despite very carefully inspecting the entire environment and inventory for a very long time. I ended up getting frustrated and bored and just wanting to get the game over with so I consulted an online walkthrough in order to get a small clue to point me in the right direction. Normally I avoid walkthroughs/hints at all costs, but if something becomes no longer fun then I may consult a guide in order to get past a roadblock and move on rather than just stopping playing a given game. It turned out that there are very faintly drawn symbols on certain textures in the game which you need to match up with clues found in an object you are carrying. The problem is that the clues you are carrying are easy to discern, but their representation of them on the textures in the environment where you have to solve the puzzle in question are almost impossible to even notice they're there in all of their low contrast pixelated glory.

Such situations occurred several times in the game and became a point of frustration. If one manages to get through such issues by chance or is not averse to getting hints from a guide, then the visual side of things may not ruin the overall game experience for some, but it had a pretty negative effect on my immersion and enjoyment of the game personally.

Like the first game, the story line is average but nothing spectacular. It kind of wavered more than the first game in that respect, being more of a roller coaster than a gradual suspence-to-climax type thing. The climax at the end of the game wasn't terribly exciting nor suspenseful and I found it lacking compared to the first game. That was partly due the prior overly-complex puzzles that lack any story elements immediately leading up to that. The story overall was more on the thin side of things in this game, which might have further been more noticeable also as it took me twice as long to complete my playthrough of this game compared to the first one.

As in the first game, the click zones you use to travel from one scene to another or interact with objects or areas of interest are not all very well placed. Once gain I found myself drawing circles with the mouse all over the screen endlessly to not miss any hidden areas/objects/etc. that I might be able to interact with. Like the first game, the puzzles vary from being overly simplistic, to overly complex and of a grinding fashion that doesn't make a lot of sense other than to try to purposefully be complex. I often had to exercise suspension of disbelief over some of the puzzles and story elements. That's something common in fiction but there are degrees, and beyond a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, if there isn't something to immersively hold your attention you can start to roll your eyes.

Voice acting and dialogue:
The voice acting in the game is better than the first game, but only by a limited measure. It seems very formulaic and cliched to my ears. It has a more consistent quality to it compared to the first game, although that isn't saying much.

The game is about twice as long, which could be a pro or a con depending on how well one is enjoying playing it. I generally favour longer games, but after a certain point I was hoping it would come to conclusion sooner rather than later. My total playthrough was approximately 12 hours compared to 6 hours with the first game. Once again, the game may appeal to old school 90s point and click gamers that enjoy both the ups and downs of games made in that time frame including the graphical limitations and other warts. As with the first game, I have to consider this game to be of no more than average for quality or entertainment value.

If the games were sold individually I probably wouldn't continue playing the series, however since it is a collection and I own them all I'm curious to continue playing through the series to try to complete it just to see if it picks up as many suggest is the case in Dracula 3, or whether it coasts along or falls flat. Stay tuned for my future reviews of the remaining 3 games in the series.

Rating: 5 out of 10

<span class="bold">My complete list of finished games in 2016</span>
Post edited September 21, 2016 by skeletonbow
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong number
The same as the first one, only with added gimmicks like awkwardly controlling two characters at the same time and a character who doesn't kill. It retains the same one hit kill mechanic, but this time it feels a lot cheaper. The difficulty is overall harder, but I didn't feel it is so for good reasons. In the first game I had the feeling that careful preparation, scouting the surroundings and timed execution were enough to get me through every level. In the sequel I had the feeling that I am being punished for no good reason. The game has an unnecessary amount of long corridors and wide open areas that don't work all that well with the game's mechanics. You have to hold down the Shift key permanently just to have a chance of winning, which was not a problem in the original Hotline Miami. I am beginning to get tired of indie games with "die and retry" gameplay.
The story was better than in the first game, but even so failed to hold my attention for long.

Hotline Miami 2 Comics
Just a bunch of short stories about a few characters doing violent things while hating on Russians. There isn't much more I could say about it. All comics can be read in fifteen minutes. All in all, they aren't that good or interesting.
J.U.L.I.A. Among The Stars

Rated it 4/5 in my review.

Apart from some very irritating puzzles and feeling the need to use a walkthrough to solve some of the puzzle, I definitely enjoyed the game as a whole, it felt very unique to me. I'm glad I bought it and played it.
Finished Space Quest... with a walkthrough. There are too many dead ends and obscure puzzles in that game to do it without any guide. Other than that, it was nice to discover that game series. Note that there are some elements that are from another time:
- Deaths... though they are not that bad as we can save everywhere and their description are funny
- Objects that are needed later in the game can be left behind with no way to get them later
- An invisible timer that triggers game over and no visible indication of its presence and status
- A mini-game to earn money entirely based on randomness and no way to skip it (need to save/load to quickly earn money)

Note that I dropped its 2 direct sequels:
- Space Quest 2 almost stars (10 minutes in the game) with a curvy maze with instant death when we touch the "walls". Some corners are only a few pixels wide and it is difficult to really see where to go to avoid it. I finally saved mid-way through the maze only a pixel from death and couldn't avoid it (death) when reloading... so I decided I did not want to restart the game.
- Space Quest 3 graphics were more detailed but it increased difficulty to see objects. That and some back-and-forth and really obscure things to do made me drop the game.

Full list here.
Northmark: Hour of the Wolf

Entertaining quasi-card game/RPG. Story is fine, mechanics are pretty good.

Lots of options for customization, but not sure it's rewarding enough to play the story through again to really test that out.

Got it in a bundle with a number of enjoyable games, so well worth the <$1 I paid for it. :)

And the award for the best indie game I've beaten this year so far without counting games I've either beaten previously* or played while they were not in their final form** goes to...the woman with many (at least three) different faces***, Dex.

Dex is 2D side-scrolling cyberpunk action RPG, where the melee combat is shallow and stiff, the shooting is clunky, and the hacking is a shmup mini-game. Oh, and the voice acting is mostly bad. And there are probably sci-fi story generators that could generate a story more interesting than this one, but I'll give it a pass here, that goes for practically every game ever made.

Even though I've played the Enhanced Edition, I think there's more than a little room for improvement. And while I don't expect them to fix the melee (redesigning the mechanics and adding extra frames to all characters is probably asking too much at this point), the shooting could be made more tolerable by switching the control scheme to something sane. And the endings, obviously short on budget for half (or three fourths even?) of them. If you're doing the still images thing...well, haven't these people played Fallout? Speaking of which, none of your choices matter. FFS, obviously they haven't.

So why did I finish it in two sittings if it sucks? Well, it doesn't. A fortuitous case of the sum being more than its parts. It's pretty, atmospheric, and doesn't overstay its welcome (~15 hours with all side-quests done). I was sufficiently well entertained for my €5.

*Tales of Maj'Eyal
***No, seriously, she looks like a different person depending on the context: in-game, cutscenes, stills.
My second game beaten this year is Spec Ops the Line

Not sure whether I can say I enjoyed it.

Third Person Shooters are unknown to me. The only one I really played were Mass Effect games. Therefore, the constant shooting mechanics, the waves after waves of enemies. Irritated me. I wasnt any good at that game either so thats another frustrating thing. Died quiet a lot.

The thing is the ending sortof made up for the issues i had. I am glad i got it and that i beat it. Very interesting game and maybe if I was more accustomed to the series I would have liked it more or it would have greater impact one me.

It was an enjoyable platformer game that requires ultra high precision. Absolutely nothing special and frankly I'm surprised it was released here. It's very short, no replay value, no story, just some pure platformer action - this part was well executed, I admit, but I played many browser platformers that were much better than this.

Full list
+The Beginner's Guide
It's a quirky narrative-based game that is based off a series of games made by a person named Coda and narrated by David Wreden who wrote The Stanley Parable. (is there a Humble Bundle release of it yet?!). The game narrates the messages behind this series of games, and goes on to show how David can understand the creator of a work from the work itself.

Talking about it much would be spoiling it, so I'll stop here.

+Lifeline: Whiteout
This Lifeline is more like the original and starts a bit like it if only different. You play as an amnesiac man supposedly named V. Adams and help him survive a desolate wasteland of snow, along with the worsening weather conditions and all, and help him remember himself and his possible purpose in life.

Unlike the earlier Lifeline, this one is even harder than the original, as Adams is more prone to dying than Taylor normally. Unlike Arika, Adams has no remarkable skills or even the snark Arika or Taylor has, but it makes up with a story that compels you to learn more about him. Also unlike Arika, you don't advise a skilled individual who can rely on their own powers, but you help Adams figure out where to next.

Lots of other games here.