A Questionable Quest

I’m sure by this point, you’ve seen this meme floating around:

Somehow I imagine the run in with this cat would go something like this:

“Excuse me! Hello! You over there, hooman! You look like you are on your way to the giant evil mountain thingie to do something. But I have a very important task for you that is much more important! I will pay you handsomely! Are you interested?”

(Select one)
👉 “Um, sure?”
“I’m not helping a talking cat.”

“Excellent. I require 27 cans of Fancy Feast.”

“That’s it? You can’t do it yourself?”


(Select one)
👉 “Fine, I’ll get you your cat food.
“Looks like you’re screwed kitty.”

(One hour later, after battling through hordes of giant rats and wild boars, you return and find the cat in the same spot….er…”grooming” himself.) 

“Here you go, 27 cans of Fancy Feast.”

“This is not the right flavor.”

“Seriously, you’re a cat, why do you even care? It’s not like you take the time to taste what you’re eating.”


(Another hour later since all the monsters respawned and there’s also a rare elite in front of the cat food now, which kills you a few times before a level 100 swoops in to help you.)

“Here. 27 cans of sliced beef Fancy Feast. May I have my reward now?”

(The cat stares at you as if it has never seen you before.)

“Oh. Yes. Of course. Ah. Hm…Take off your boots please.”

“My boots?”

“Yes, it is very important.”

(You do as you’re told, mostly because you just want to continue your quest to the mountain.) 

(The cat promptly vomits into one boot and leaves a half dead mouse in the other.) 

“…This is the worst side quest ever.”

And that’s the day the adventurer learned to never take instructions from a cat.


Preview: dĘ’rægÉ›n: A Game About a Dragon


Originally posted on indie-love.com

There is a dragon living in the kingdom, guarding his hoard of treasure. The king has decreed that it is time for the serpent’s reign to end. The only solution is to steal the dragon’s mate away from him and take command of the land again!

That’s the general premise of dʒrægɛn: A Game About a Dragon, which is currently in development and on Steam Greenlight. While it sounds like the most standard of fantasy tropes, dʒrægɛn has a twist. You play as the dragon and you’re pretty bummed out that the king kidnapped your girlfriend. Especially when all you want to do is watch trashy daytime television.

dʒrægɛn: A Game About a Dragon intro

I got a chance to play the demo for dʒrægɛn today. The creator describes it as being “an exploration-adventure masquerading as a platformer RPG. “It’s a cute little game with a couple of polarizing features that I suspect will ultimately make or break it.

I can’t talk about dʒrægɛn without talking about its art style, which is easily its most defining feature. It’s a hand drawn game, with levels that look as if they come from a child’s book rather than traditional game design. For the most part, the artwork is done with crayons, though I think I saw some markers and colored pencils as well. It’s a welcome change from the retro graphics that many indie platformers have, and some of the aspects of it quite well done. The character design is pretty cute. The dragon wears hippie glasses, there are revolutionary sheep, and some of the guards goof off on their phones when you’re not near them. The storytelling comes in the form of pages that look as though they could be from a kid’s book. Those pages are where the art style works the best.

dʒrægɛn: A Game About a Dragon

Where I feel the graphics become challenging is in the settings themselves. It looks more like a child’s drawing rather than being an illustration from a child’s book, and I think that’s an important distinction to make. There are games out there that pull off the children’s book illustration look, and I actually like a lot of those. In my opinion, if the aim to is create a game that could look like a children’s book, it could be helpful to draw inspiration from books in that genre. Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and Shel Silverstein all used pretty simple illustrations, but there’s still a level of polish there that I think would be beneficial if applied to this game.

I wish the game environments had the same level of detail and finesse that the dragon illustration does. The crayon texture can be distracting and tends to lack depth since the white of the paper shows through on almost every color. And where the design of the dragon was clearly well thought out, the trees, buildings, mountains, and signs of the world feel sloppy by comparison. There’s not a lot of contrast between light and dark, which actually made my eyes tired after a while. I think if the main material used to create the art is going to be crayon, the illustration style itself needs to offset the childish nature of the medium by feeling a bit more realistic and mature. Parts of the game are super cute, but I almost feel like the unrefined nature of the graphics kept me from getting fully drawn into the world.

And that’s a shame. While the plot is quite basic and simple, the writing is good and it had me chuckling. I like the idea of a lazy dragon who watches TV shows about baby daddies and has a girlfriend who’s a bit of a feminist. I like the idea of revolutionary sheep who are pissed off that the establishment is taking their wool for unfair wages. It’s irreverent and I’d like to learn more about this strange world. I actually wish there were more of an incentive to learn about the lore of the world through exploring the levels. It’s fun to earn new abilities through exploration, but I think added story in the levels would give them depth that they’re lacking now.

dʒrægɛn: A Game About a Dragon sheep

At the moment, the levels feel very short and are not too difficult to complete. The creator of the game, T.W. Dragon, has said that he wants this to be the kind of game where you go back and replay previous levels as you grow stronger to discover additional secrets. While I like this concept, I think the initial playthrough of each level needs to offer a bit more as well. Whether this is through more lore or plot, or by additional challenges, I think it could only improve the game.

dʒrægɛn: A Game About a Dragon, shows promise, especially in the humor with which the story is told. Though I personally am not 100% sold on the art, I know others who like it. The game plays fairly well, especially when using a gamepad over a keyboard. The music is charming, and as a whole, the game is a cute diversion from the normal bloody hack and slash of many games. If you’re the type who often ends up cheering for the dragon in fantasy stories, this game will likely make you smile.

Check it out on Steam Greenlight, and if you like it, give it a vote to help it eventually end up on Steam.

Review: Anomaly Defenders

It’s the near future. Aliens have invaded Earth. The humans fought back… and won. Now they’ve launched a counterattack against the aliens where it will hurt them most; their home planet. That’s where you come in.

The Anomaly series by 11 bit Studios has always been a tower offense game where you play as human forces  attacking the aliens who have invaded their homes. Anomaly Defenders, their latest release and the final game in the series, is different. Now you play as the aliens on their home planet, and the game has switched to tower defense. It’s all about protecting the launchpads from invading human forces, so that your people can escape their onslaught. It’s an interesting take on a classic trope, and one that works well for the game.

Anomaly Defenders consists of twenty-four levels that can be played at three different difficulty settings. You start out the game with only the most basic of towers, and as you complete each level, you earn technology points. These points are invested in your Technology Tree, which gives you access to more towers, functions, and perks that help you in your defense against the humans. Fairly standard stuff, but that’s not a bad thing.

Each level consists of the launchpad you need to protect, one or more entry points for human forces, set routes that they follow, and designated spots for you to set up your defense. You spend carusaurum to build your towers, and every time you destroy an enemy unit, you earn back carusaurum. You can also build mining units that both earn you more currency and serve to distract the enemy forces from making their way straight to the launchpad. Destroying enemy units also causes them to explode into balls of energy, which you can collect and spend to use special functions on your towers, such as using a shield or repair. Each of your towers has a different function, and it’s up to you to figure out how to use them to their best ability. Once you defeat all of the waves for the enemies, you’ve won the level and you can progress on.

Anomaly Defenders Dumah Habitat

I don’t play that many tower defense games, and yet I found myself really enjoying Anomaly Defenders. The art is what drew me at the start. Each level is rendered beautifully in a way that calls to mind both the light streaked urban settings of Tron and the bioluminescent natural world of Avatar. I’ve been playing mostly retro games lately, and so this was a welcome change. The design of the towers themselves is fine. Nothing particularly special, but I don’t think it needs to be. What’s important is that the UI itself is easy to understand and user friendly. It only takes one level to understand what you’re looking at, and even if you don’t get it right away, the game gives you hints as you go along.

Gameplay is engaging and fun and the towers have different specialties that help you combat different sorts of enemies. I think that these abilities, combined with the power ups that you can use on each tower, allows for the creation of an individual playstyle that I found appealing. I found myself utilizing long ranged towers most often, and when one of my friends played, he said he prefered a completely different strategy. It’s nice that it doesn’t feel like there’s one correct way to beat a level, which adds more replay value as you experiment with different technologies. One of the helpful features of the game is the pause button, which lets you stop the action so you can build more towers or apply functions to your existing towers. On large, expansive maps, this is especially useful since you will have enemies attacking from multiple entry points that aren’t always visible on one screen. This is helpful during massive waves of enemies, or when more difficult enemies appear. The humans have many different types of units to deploy, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses, as your own towers do. Learning how to best attack them is part of the fun of the game.

Anomaly Defenders technology tree

The technology tree that you can access between levels has a nice feel to it. You choose different towers to develop, and each of those have different strength levels that you purchase as well. I found some of the towers more useful than others, and there were a few that I didn’t develop at all because I didn’t see a strong use for them. I was playing the game mostly on easy and normal though, so it’s possible these towers are more useful when playing at a higher difficulty. The same went for the different functions available. I found some of them useful but ended up completely ignoring others that I didn’t use a lot. Surprisingly, the perk branch was one of the most useful sections of the tree for me. Here was where I could spend less to build towers and hold onto more energy to defend them. Investing points in that tree made the game a lot easier for me.

Despite the twist of being about aliens whose world is being invaded by humans, the story for Anomaly Defenders is pretty basic. There’s not actually that much in the way of storytelling at all, outside of the short intro movie and the bit of detail you receive about each level. In a way, this is okay. It’s a tower defense game, so the story probably doesn’t need to be too involved. Still, because the world itself looks cool, I found myself wishing I knew more about it. Why is the world dying? Why do the plants glow? What’s some of the history of the alien people? I actually found myself making up my own answers to these questions, so in a way perhaps it was better that the game doesn’t really spell these things out. I do think it would have been fun to get a little more lore about the various levels you’re defending, especially since they went to the trouble to name them, but ultimately it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game at all.

anomaly defenders

I’m really surprised by how much I enjoyed Anomaly Defenders. It’s an engaging game that’s fun to play, and it has a decent amount of replay value as well. Between the beautiful art and the enjoyable play, I can highly recommend the game (and already have to a few friends), even to those who don’t normally enjoy the genre. Definitely one of the more fun games I’ve played in awhile.

Anomaly Defenders is on PC, Mac, and Linux for $9.99 and is available on Steam and Games Republic.


Review: Little Walker


Originally posted on indie-love.com

As a child of the 80s, classic platformer games represent my early years just as much as Star Wars, Big Wheels, and acid washed jeans do. And since I’m generally happy to relive these bits of my childhood (other than acid washed jeans), I was excited when I got a copy of a modern take on the classic 80s platformer to review.

Little Walker is the first game by InvincibleTime, the one man studio of Blake Fix. Described as being “a platformer taken from 1986 the next universe over,” the game immediately recalls the decade when video games cemented their place in homes across the world and countless kids agonized over Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and other happily frustrating memories. The controls are super simple: hitting “Z” makes you jump. And…that’s it. By default, the game has your character autowalking, but after playing for a few moments, I decided I’m not good enough at platformers to deal with that. So I turned it off and used the arrow keys to control my movement instead.

With such simple controls, it’s easy to think the game could be a little dull to play, but there are some nuances there that make it fun. The jump is variable, so the longer you hold down Z, the higher and further you jump. You can double jump off walls, and use objects and enemies to bounce off of to make longer jumps. Throughout the game, you can put different objects on your head to change the way your character functions. So when you come across a winged boot and put it on your head, you can make much longer jumps and double jump in the air. Putting a boulder on your head allows you to sink below the surface of water (which you normally just walk across), giving you access to underwater levels. These little twists add some interest to what could otherwise be a very basic game. The levels are challenging, throwing multiple obstacles at you right from the start and not babying you with a “warm up” level to teach mechanics while you play. It took dying a few times, but I eventually got the hang of it.


The art for this game is dripping with nostalgia. I’m not sure what the main character is supposed to be, but he’s cute enough to want to follow on his adventure. The colors and style of the settings and characters screams 80s gaming. Instead of retaining a simplistic 8-bit look, the backgrounds are actually rendered in a lovely way, adding a bit more visual interest to the game. Some of the levels have really nice color pallets that manage to capture the feel of 1986 while modernizing it. These were some of my favorite touches in the game.

As the studio’s first game, it’s not a surprise that Little Walker has some flaws. The game is buggy, which is frustrating and occasionally completely rage-inducing. I couldn’t complete the first level; My character walked off the screen, but nothing else happened. Confused, I thought perhaps the level just didn’t have an ending, so I went back out to the main menu and selected the second level, which didn’t load properly. I quit the game and went back in, and now when I hit “continue” it loaded me into the second level normally. Not completely game breaking, but it was a little annoying.

My bigger issue was later on. While playing the desert level, I died during a sandstorm, and when I restarted, I had a weird graphic glitch where it looked like the sandstorm animation was moving over the ground but nowhere else. Again, not game breaking, but annoying enough to make me need a break. Since I needed to take screenshots for this review, I decided to go back to earlier levels and return to the desert later. However when I tried, I wasn’t able to select the desert level, or the level before it. Instead, I was forced to play through two levels again before I could get back to where I had been. That was enough to get me to shut down the game and lose a lot of interest in it. There are enough bugs that the game feels unfinished. It’s free so I can’t complain much, but it’s still not a great experience.

Bugs aside, there’s room for improvement in other areas of the game. There’s not much of a story to speak of, just the little guy walking and navigating difficult obstacles. While I don’t think a retro platformer needs a deep story on level with a modern RPG, I do think it needs to have some sort of plot to give your character a purpose. A story as weird and simple as “on a quest to save kumquats from extinction,” would be enough. You meet other characters along the way who occasionally give you helpful hints or just say something completely esoteric that makes no sense. The random dialogue didn’t bother me that much, since it did feel very 80s, but I think it needed to be balanced by just a little bit of story.


The biggest issue with this game is that it just doesn’t stand out amid the many retro platformers that have been released in the past few years. If the tagline for the game is that it’s “1986 the next universe over,” it can’t just feel like a slightly polished version of the games that I grew up playing on my Sega Master System. It would have been fun if there were some sort of mechanic in the game to play off the idea of modernizing 1986 gaming, Maybe the main character needs to bridge the gap between his present and the future, or maybe there could be something to switch between completely retro and the more modern graphics of the game. I think with a little more creativity, this game would have held my interest better.

In the end, Little Walker is cute and has fun moments, but it doesn’t offer a play experience that stands out as being unique. I probably would have enjoyed this more as a portable game for my phone or tablet that I could play when I had a spare moment, rather than being tied to my computer to play something that is just a bit too simplistic. On the positive side, the level design is challenging and it feels good to finally get past a difficult set of obstacles. I think there’s promise there for some strong games from this developer, and I hope to see more from InvincibleTime in the future.

Little Walker is free and can be downloaded from GameJolt.

Preview: Exogenesis: The Perils of Rebirth


Originally posted on indie-love.com

Exogenenis – The Perils of Rebirth is a visual novel and adventure hybrid that is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter. From the Philippines-based studio Kwan, the game is set in post-apocalyptic Japan and follows the story of Yudai Sayashi, a former treasure hunter who seeks to bring his dead sister back to life. Kwan plans to have a six chapter story filled with numerous characters and choices that will affect how the entire story plays out. The game is inspired by Ace Attorney and Zero Escape and it combines some truly gorgeous artwork with puzzles, exploration, and storytelling that has the potential to be great.

I played through the demo that Kwan released for the game and overall I enjoyed it. While post-apocalyptic settings are quite common in literature and movies these days, the stunning artwork for this game made me eager to explore the world. The story follows a young man named Yudai Sayashi on a quest to revive his sister who dies in the first moments of the game. While I personally prefer for female characters to function as more than a plot device, I still think there’s some great potential there. Since the story is the most important part of a visual novel, I’m expecting a lot from it to provide me with characters and themes that are equal to what I would read in a book.


The artwork is one of the greatest strengths of the game. Though the settings are mostly static, they are beautifully realized and drawn in a style that makes the world feel authentic. They make the post-apocalyptic Japan feel even more real by including real-life landmarks, which is an excellent touch. You won’t see a lot of animation from the backgrounds other than blinking lights or changes when you remove objects, but I had no issue with that.  The character design is solid, and I appreciate the fact that the characters themselves are animated when you interact with them. If anything, I would love to see the character design become more of a focus in the game, particularly in conversations.

Currently, conversations are  just a text box with the character’s name above it. Different beeps indicate which character is talking. I couldn’t stand the beeps, so I turned them off almost immediately. However, this made it more difficult to catch when the character changed. Something as simple as including a portrait thumbnail in the text box would improve on this greatly, and it would help bring the characters to life a bit more. If I hadn’t looked at some of the art outside of the game, I wouldn’t have a good idea of what the main character looks like. The developer has added voice acting as a stretch goal on Kickstarter, and if they can achieve this, I think it will be a fantastic addition to the game.

The gameplay itself shows promise. When you interact with some objects, puzzles become available to you. The puzzles both give you a break from reading text and help tell part of the story in their own way, which I thought was a nice touch. I assume the puzzles will become more difficult as the game goes on, and I think they make a great addition to the overall storytelling by making the world come alive.

There’s also an element of detective work in the game to figure out how to get certain characters to help you out. This offers backstory into the characters and gives you another sort of puzzle to solve. The demo mostly revolves around getting one of your old friends, Eiji,  to help you out with bringing your sister back. The friend is resistant, and you need to collect information to figure out how to get him on board.


I like the idea of it, but at this point the execution felt off. You have to go back and forth between a bar where Eiji works and a base over the course of several nights because your friend keeps throwing you out. It was a bit more repetitive than I would have liked, but it could just be because it’s a demo and they don’t have all their assets in place that it was constructed in such a way. Also, I must not  have clicked on all of the conversation options with patrons at the bar. When I went to talk to Eiji at the end of one night, my character started asking him questions about topics that felt as though they had no context. It disrupted the flow of the story, and that’s something that I think needs to be addressed as development of the game continues.

Exogenenis – The Perils of Rebirth is an ambitious project. Kwan plans  to have over twenty hours of storytelling with multiple endings and story branches. I love the idea and I’m intrigued enough to want to play more. Check out their Kickstarter or Steam Greenlight page to learn more.

Preview: The Weird Story of Waldermar the Warlock


Originally posted on indie-love.com

I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for creepy but strangely cute things. I enjoy Tim Burton movies, Scarygirl is some of my favorite artwork, I liked Alice: Madness Returns based on the graphics alone, and I think cuttlefish are cool. So when I heard about a new adventure game with the creepy aesthetic that I’m into, I was immediately eager to check it out.

The Weird Story of Waldermar the Warlock by enComplot is currently in development, and so far I like what I see. The art is charming, the writing is amusing, and from the little I can tell about the gameplay it seems entertaining enough. They currently have a demo available to play, and after about fifteen minutes with it, I knew that this is a game I want to play when it is released.

You play as Lord Alistair Ainsworth, a historian with a flair for the dramatic. Lord Alistair is obsessed with the occult. It’s his life’s work to study Waldemar Gorobec, a mythical warlock from the land of Grodavia. The game promises an adventure inside Waldemar’s old castle that is filled with dark secrets and supernatural shenanigans. You get to choose if you want to take the path of darkness or to fight against it, promising two unique play experiences. With the goal being to provide an engaging play experience without becoming overly tedious, Waldermar certainly shows promise.

I enjoyed my time in the demo. It’s short, but it gives you enough to get the flavor of the game. The characters are stylized and the backgrounds are richly detailed with a beautiful and dark illustration style. While the animations don’t feel very smooth at the moment, I didn’t find that it detracted from the overall appearance of the game.


The dialogue made me smile, especially Lord Alistair’s quips when I would try to do something particularly stupid. It also seems like there’s a rich story and background for the character. Plus, any video game that throws SAT words like “Esoteric” into the first moments of play is seriously going after my nerdy little heart.

The gameplay is fairly standard for a point and click game. You click on items to learn more about them, and some you can take into your inventory or interact with. In the demo, it’s all about combining items to solve a little puzzle, and then you go on your way. Nothing terribly innovative, but I think that’s okay, especially if the story continues to hold up. In an adventure game, I care far more about the storytelling and character development. As long as the gameplay stays fun, I think this game could be a gem.

Poking around their website shows you more about characters in the game, get a better feel for the story and artwork, and learn about the studio’s inspirations and influences. It’s no surprise that they’re influenced by the works of Lovecraft and Poe and classic horror films from the 50s to the 70s. They sum up their game nicely when they say:

“Imagine a blender. You take a dark and truculent story,  for example something written by Lovecraft… you stick it in the blender. Then you pour in a fun adventure,  filled with gags, something a bit like Monkey Island. You add a sprinkling of references to movies and tales, a little lemon to sour it up, a little tomato sauce for colour, and you press the button.  Add a generous helping of lovingly painted and sculpted artwork, and voilá! it is ready to serve and enjoy.”

walder2I’m looking forward to seeing more of what this game has to offer. It’s definitely received my vote on Greenlight, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting more news on its development in the future.

The Weird Story of Waldermar the Warlock is currently on Steam Greenlight and in its final days of aKickstarter campaign. You can check out the demo of the game here.

Review: Moebius: Empire Rising


Originally posted on indie-love.com

Moebius: Empire Rising is a new point and click adventure game produced by Phoenix Online and Pinkerton Road Studios. It’s written by Jane Jensen, best known for the Gabriel Knight series and Gray Matter. The game follows Malachi Rector, a brilliant antiques dealer with a talent for spotting patterns, as he tries to unravel the paranormal mystery behind a possible conspiracy of global proportions.

After reading the e-comic for backstory, the game launches into  promising opening credits, full of images from history, famous art work, and just enough supernatural feeling imagery (like what initially looks like some sort of tarot cards) to make the nerd in me gleeful. Once in the game, you find yourself in an antiques shop that the main character, Malachi Rector, owns. I was intrigued by this. How many protagonists of a video game are into art history?

After some dialogue, you eventually find yourself in the office of a secret government agency called FITA. You’re asked to look at the bio of a man and match him up to someone in history. To do so, you read data points about the man then compare them to data points about historical figures. This is pretty cool because it gives you the chance to relearn trivia that you might have forgotten since history class. After you successfully do so, Malachi is asked to go to Venice and draw similar connections to a woman who was recently murdered there. The story progresses from there, and you get caught in a world of unraveling mysteries and conspiracies that are closely connected to Malachi’s own life.

Malachi is not the most conventional of video game heroes and that was what initially drew me into the game. It’s a different feeling from the start. Malachi is successful and completely aware of his talents, to the point of arrogance. Plus he’s a history nerd with a photographic memory. It’s certainly different from being a small town peasant who overtakes an entire evil empire with just the help of a magical sword and a few friends or something.

I rather liked that aspect of it. I’ve studied a bit of art history myself, so opening the game with determining the authenticity of some relic from the past was an interesting hook for me. And Malachi, while coming off as a jerk, has a dry wit that made me smile. You see more of this when you begin to analyze people using Malachi’s rather uncanny ability to read people.  You can tell right away that some of Malachi’s gifts are deeper than just being very intelligent, and it makes for a good mystery. Combined with some fun puzzles designed to help spot and unlock historical patterns, this should have been the kind of game that I couldn’t stop playing.

As Malachi, you travel all over the world, trying to piece together clues relating to the mysterious Moebius theory, an idea that the future can be predicted by looking at patterns in the past and the key players in it.  Along the way, you meet people who tie into that theory and your life as well. Without spoiling too much, the premise of that theory and the relationships it hints at is what makes this game compelling. It’s an interesting idea, and one that I think has a lot of potential.

Potential isn’t enough to make a great game though. The game has its immediate flaws. The graphics aren’t anything special and look dated. The proportions on the bodies are off. Why are their armpits so high? It’s the kind of thing that once you notice, you can never unsee. And the animations aren’t really that great either. Walking looks strange, fighting looks clumsy, and people tend to look like they’re sneering when they talk. With freaky teeth.


This man is not actually being possessed.

There are weird clipping issues. The backgrounds, while better than the characters themselves, really don’t look that wonderful either. They’re fairly low resolution, and there’s nothing special about them, no “wow” moments when you feel compelled to take a screenshot just because something is pretty. The music is okay, but not particularly memorable, and it gets repetitive.

Graphics, however, aren’t a make or break factor for me. I can play games with lackluster graphics, as long as the story is good and the gameplay is more or less enjoyable. As a point and click adventure game, I wasn’t expecting Moebius to offer anything terribly compelling in the form of gameplay. It was a little slow, but I could deal with that. However, there’s far too much back and forth. Every time I was in a new setting, I would explore it thoroughly, find all sorts of goodies that displayed the “take this with you” icon and then be told that I had no reason to take it with me. Which made sense, but when I would discover I needed that very thing in the next setting, go back to get that thing, return to the second setting, then figure out that I needed another goodie from the original setting, it got redundant. Fast.

Still, I kept slugging through because of the promise of a good story. Eventually, I got to the point where I was just on the cusp of making a great discovery and…I completely stalled. I thought I’d learned all the clues to move forward with the game, and technically, I had. But because I didn’t take something into my inventory after learning about it, I never “discovered” the data point for it. And so I was stuck, aimlessly wandering around a mansion, listening to the elevator music that the game provided for that particular scene, and wondering what I was missing. I checked walkthroughs. I checked for bugs. I turned off the game and went back to it. I decided I didn’t actually care that much about Malachi or the Moebius theory.

Eventually, I figured out my mistake, but this wasn’t a particularly good kind of frustration, like dying over and over to a difficult boss or being unable to solve a rewarding puzzle. It was a tedious frustration, and that is my main issue with the entire game. It feels tedious, as if the gameplay isn’t quite supporting the interesting story that they want to tell. I would have almost rather read this as a graphic novel, to be honest. Maybe some sort of interactive graphic novel where you have to solve puzzles before you’re allowed to read the next chapter…

I’m torn on whether not I could recommend playing this game. I think I would, with some important caveats. I think if you can look past the slow gameplay and dated graphics, you can have fun with this. The plot is unique enough that it feels more like being in some sort of paranormal caper than in a traditional game, and that’s a breath of fresh air. It’s not particularly deep, more like the game equivalent to a beach read novel, but that’s okay.  And I actually enjoy Malachi, even with his arrogance. I see potential for interesting character development with him, development that asks a lot of questions about destiny and what the implications of it might mean.

If future installments of the game (because it’s clearly set up for them) can improve on the gameplay issues to make it more engaging, I would be willing to give them a chance. I’m curious about the characters and the Moebius theory, and so the game was a success of that level. If they can clean up the other aspects of it, the sequels might be as compelling as their story promises.

Moebius: Empire Rising is available for $29.99 directly from Phoenix Online or on Steam.

Playing “Gone Home” made me feel as if I were…home.

For Christmas this year, my dear friend gave me a Steam code for Gone Home by The Fullbright Company. I’d heard about this game several times since it was released over the summer, and I wanted to play it, but kept getting distracted by the urge to play another ten hours of Borderlands 2. So when I received the gift, I was excited. Part of me was hesitant as well. I knew it was a game of 90s nostalgia, and some recent not so awesome events have made me miss that time of my life a lot more than I normally do. I was a little worried I’d be crying the whole time. I finally did play it the other day though, and I’m so glad that I did because the game really did make me feel as though I had gone home.


The first thing I saw when I entered the game was a loading screen featuring a mix tape. At that point, I was already hooked. I spent many a night during my teenage years trying to craft the perfect mixtape for myself and my friends. In fact, back then receiving a mixtape was one of the finest gifts in the world, proof that the person who gave it to you really cared about you (and probably that they were trying to send some message to you in the songs they had selected). That just doesn’t exist now, and that makes me feel sad (and old). So I was already smiling as the game loaded up.

A quick summary of the game: It’s the middle of the night on June 7th, 1995 and you’ve come home from a year abroad to a house that your family moved into when you were off having fun in Europe. No one’s home and there’s a crazy storm going on outside, and by the way, this house is super creepy.  Through exploration, you can piece together the story of what’s happened while you were gone.

For the next three hours or so, I explored this house, picking up objects and examining them, reading letters and forms, finding tapes with some thoroughly 90s riot grrrl music on them, discovering secret passages, and best of all, finding the objects that played a voiceover from the younger sister in the game. Those voiceovers were what let me slowly put together what had happened here.

Perhaps it’s because in 1995 I was a 14-year-old girl who played the drums in a riot grrrl band and had an obsession for all things creepy that this game really appealed to me. When I found the bright red hair dye in the bathroom that was clearly supposed to be Manic Panic, I was grinning because of course I had used the exact same color on my hair back then.  And then I found an Ouija board in a hidden compartment in a wall, and it brought back memories of playing with one of those with my best friend, trying to figure out if the guys we had crushes on actually liked us back. A folder in the closet that was clearly supposed to be made by Lisa Frank? Well shit, I had one of those too! And so in its efforts to capture the tone of the 90s, this game was perfect for me, someone who was a teenager in the 90s.


I made my way through the house and discovered the story, and by the time the game ended, my eyes were stinging with tears. The story of the people in that house certainly wasn’t a mirror image of my life, but it made me remember those years and miss them and miss my Pennsylvania hometown and friends.

I went to check Steam afterwards to make sure I hadn’t missed anything (I had), and was generally dismayed by the reactions I read by users there. Despite receiving a lot of critical acclaim and generally glowing reviews, the forum posts written by people who had just finished playing the game were generally negative filled with a lot of “wtf, this game is stupid, it’s not a game at all! I was expecting a horror story!” I feel like those people missed the point.

They are right though, it’s not a game in the traditional sense. It’s an interactive story, and the story is about the world that we actually live in (albeit 20 years ago) not one of fantasy or science fiction. So if you’re expecting to be outrunning zombies or blasting away at aliens or something with a gigantic gun, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you just want to discover a story told in a great atmosphere and you keep an open mind about it, you might love it too.

In fact, my only real criticism of the game is that there was one storyline in it I wish they had done more with. The house is as much a character in the game as the missing family is, and I wish the history of the house had been told with a bit more detail. It would have made exploring  that much more fun.


But I have to wonder if most of the criticism is coming from young men in their early 20s who have no frame of reference for where this game came from. I work with a lot of people in their 20s, and while I love all of them, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that when I was playing drums in that riot grrrl band, they were only about six-years-old, and only really cared about their Power Ranger toys.  The story of the game is a timeless one, but since the setting is what makes it comes alive and it’s definitely not played like a traditional action game, I guess I can understand why some people don’t see the point. I simply think they’re missing out if they don’t put aside their notions of what a game should be to enjoy what this game is.

Overall, I obviously loved this game, even if it did make me feel homesick. I expected that, especially since the best friend I have had since I was 13 is very sick and I wish more than anything that I was back in PA with her. And perhaps that’s part of the reason why this game resonated with me and inspired me as well. I want to make a mixtape, complete with illustrated tape cover for my best friend for her to listen to while she’s recovering and I hope she gets the message of love and hope that I will undoubtedly work into it.

Nostalgia can be dangerous, but it can be hope as well. For that, I’m giving Gone Home 9/10 mixtape masterpieces.