Every week I play an awful lot of games, most of which I don’t write about on the site.
Some I play for two minutes before running far, far from my machine, washing my hands and face and wondering if the stink will ever go away. Some of them I play for hours, super-excited to cover this undiscovered masterpiece, before I realise they came out on another platform a couple of months ago and I’m actually the last person on Earth to have heard of it. Some are just, you know, fine?
(Fine is the toughest category in gaming. They’re not special, not distinct, not terrible, not really anything of note, and yet still, well, fine. Fine games go the most ignored, because they’re not interesting enough to be either bad or worth spending your money on. I play a lot of games that are fine.)
Here’s another round-up of a few of the games I’ve played at least some of, but chosen not to cover. Perhaps one of them will be exactly the sort of thing you’re after.
A lot of people liked Telltale’s comedy adventures. For the most part, I was not among them. Comedy is obviously subjective, but I was bemused beyond all my faculties by the popularity and positive reviews given to, say, the execrable first two series of Sam & Max games. I positively hated them. They made me want to bite furniture. Also amongst the games I really didn’t enjoy were the Tales From Monkey Island and Puzzle Detective series. So perhaps I was never going to get on with Nick Bounty, created and written by Mark Darin, a writer on those titles.
Nick Bounty is, as you’ll have guessed from the title, a film noir PI spoof. Black and white, but set in the modern day, it’s Yet Another Bungling Detective Game. And I immediately bounced off it, hard. Every single line was “arch”, dripping with that sort of misplaced sarcasm that people often conflate with humour. It wasn’t helped by the mediocre voice acting, that meant not great jokes were delivered in a not great way.
AND YET I have to acknowledge how popular Darin’s writing has been, and just how many people have enjoyed his Telltale games. And if that’s you, then look! He’s made a new game!
PC, iOS, £10
I think Over The Alps is probably very good. I also think I am absolutely not someone pre-programmed to enjoy Over The Alps. This is a game in which you play a spy during the Second World War, in which you make narrative choices by selecting lines to write on a series of postcards. It’s from some people who’ve worked at both Inkle and Failbetter.
That’s a pretty good pedigree, and if you’re a fan of their games, then you very probably should get this one too. Which brings me to the awkward position of admitting that I’m… not often that fan. Because, well, I never got on with 80 Days, OK! I’m sorry! I’ve confessed this to Inkle’s very own faces, and they didn’t hurt me, so you can’t either. Although I’m perhaps helped by having described their Sorcery! games as among the best RPGs ever made.
To be even more ridiculously picky, I also found myself a little frustrated by the game’s presentation. You pick lines of dialogue by choosing between, um, stamps, which are then all stuck on top of each other in the top right corner! Has no one at Stave Studios ever used a stamp?! That’s not how stamps work! (Let alone the text on the postcard scrolling, like postcards don’t.)
If you’re a fan of 80 Days-like games, then this one’s an obvious pick. The bare few reviews its iOS version received last year were all ravingly positive, so listen to them instead of me.
Plastris and I have very different understandings of what a puzzle game is for. Developer Khud0 has made clear their aim is to be “relaxing” in every possible way. For me, this really shouldn’t extend to never actually being even a little bit difficult.
It’s a lovely concept, that seems like it could have been lent to a really interesting puzzle game. You choose between two inputs, + and -, the former adding patterns to a tile or tiles, the latter taking them away. The aim is to fill each grid’s tiles with the pattern. But each puzzle’s plus and minus has a different arrangement of which tiles it’ll highlight in any one turn. Perhaps two horizontally adjacent, perhaps three diagonally, maybe three in a ‘L’ shape. You have to go back and forth between the two different patterns, adding and taking away until you find the combination that fills the lot.
Sounds good, right?! But when I say “go back and forth… until you find the combination”, what I mean is, click two or three times and solve it immediately. At first I thought it was just taking too long to get going. By puzzle 30 or so I was convinced it was. By number 61, I think, it offered its first vaguely tricky challenge and I thought, “ooh hoo, here we go!” and then #62 was ridiculously simple again. By the late 80s I decided to stop.
I later read on its Steam discussions that it’s supposed to start getting harder around #120. Buh… what? No. Nooooooo.
It’s a shame, as I think this could have been a great idea in the hands of someone who intended to make a game for those who find puzzles relaxing because they’re tricky. Rather than just a weird process of going through the same motions repeatedly until asleep. Which I suppose could also be argued as a successful relaxation.
I’ve twice intended to write about The Blind Prophet on Buried Treasure. Once in February, and then again more recently. I couldn’t remember why I’d stopped when I reloaded it and started over last week. I mean, look at it! It looks AMAZING! The art is exceptional, with fantastic comic book cutscenes, and it’s a proper dark-themed point-and-click adventure with an inventory and everything.
You’re a very cross angel sort, Bartholomeus, down on Earth to try to stop some sort of apocalyptic happenings with naughty demons, and set about solving mysteries and protecting the innocent. And while it’s a little heavy-handed with its GROWN UP dialogue, there’s just so much to like about it… And then, oh. Oh yeah. That’s why I stopped.
It turns proper nasty. Like, misogynistic nasty. It feels like the sort of game Gamergate would really get behind. Also the English translation got weaker and weaker the more I played, until it felt like reading a Google Translate.
Gosh, what a shame though, because it had so much going for it. What a waste of incredible artistic talent. Perhaps a team to keep an eye on should they ever grow up?
There is very little wrong with Sono! I very nearly covered it, but for just not quite feeling that click I was looking for.
It’s about flying a little creature about an abstract and very beautiful world, that looks part amoebiac, part space-like, seeking out patterns to flit within, making colourful shapes appear. I love all that! It sounded lovely too. And heck, it’s free!
It was also waaaaaaaaaay too short. Which seems silly to complain about in a free game, and is a result of its having been originally created for Alt.Ctrl. And yet I still felt like just as I’d got to grips with what it wanted, it ended, and left me feeling rather wanting.
It’s totally worth grabbing though, since it won’t cost you a penny.