The Stanley Parable (PC) Review

Like many gamers my age, I have the honor of saying that I played a shit ton of games, ranging from the generic military shooters to mind numbing puzzle games, from the third person exploration based adventure games to the artistic narrative intensive games, and from the old school inspired indie games to the loot fests of the role playing games. But never have I played a game that made me question what was real, or made my skin crawl at the realization of something I dare not say here in fear of ruining anything from the game like The Stanley Parable has.

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The Stanley Parable started out as a mod for Half Life 2, much like Dear Esther, and was remade to the indie gem we now have. It was developed by Galactic Cafe and was released in October of 2013.

This is not a game, mind you, it’s more in the spirit of Dear Esther or Gone Home, it’s an interactive story.

To try to review The Stanley Parable, or even describe anything that goes on in it beyond saying “you can walk around” would be to spoil it, and this game is an experience every gamer should go through at least once in his/her lifetime.

So yeah, this is it, this is my review of The Stanley Parable, I recommend it, that’s all I can say about it.

Gone Home (PC) Review

The nostalgic value of a game set in the ’90s can be very high if done right, we had cassette tapes, magazines that we cared about, those big ass TVs, all that nice old stuff that we hold dear to our hearts no matter how far technology goes. Gone Home hits the mark on every single one of those nostalgic values in the most amazing way possible.

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Published and developed by The Full Bright Company in 2013 as (If I’m not mistaken) their very first release, Gone Home is more of an interactive story than an actual game (Think Dear Esther with a little more interactivity).

Plot:

Gone Home has you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, you just came back from your Euro trip to your folks’ new house (or more like a mansion) and you come home to find the place entirely empty, absolutely no one there, not your mom, dad, or your younger sister Sam around who the game’s story revolves.

You enter the house and you start looking around for clues of where everyone is, and you’re slowly introduced to the Greenbriar family and how they came upon this mansion they live in, the clues are mainly in the form of letters, notes, crumbled pieces of paper thrown in the trash, cassette tapes Sam leaves for Kaitlin, almost anything really.

You discover that Terrance Greenbriar (Kaitlin’s dad) is a writer who is having a bit of a rocky time getting his books published, he mainly writes sci fi novels about JFK, and so far he’s published two books until his publisher sent him a letter telling him that they can no longer publish his books due to low sales. You find notes from your mother encouraging your father not to give up, you find your father’s office full of sticky notes and books about JFK and how he’s working on creating more material for another book.

And then you find Sam’s room, and you’re slowly introduced to your younger sister in the form of audio logs that play when you find certain objects of interest. Sam had a childhood friend named Daniel, who mind you, wasn’t actually a friend, but as she described, her automatic friend since he was her neighbor, and he always had all the good Nintendo games, mainly Street Fighter. You start to learn how much Sam is picked on in her new school because she lives in a “psycho” house, until she meets a girl named Lonnie who, as opposed to everyone else, actually wants to see the psycho house. Sam invites her over and they quickly become friends, spending more and more time together. They start discovering new things in the house like hidden panels and secret pathways in the library.

//Mild spoilers ahead

Sam’s and Lonnie’s relationship begins to grow, they start dating each other, secretly at first, after all, the nineties wasn’t the most open minded time, until Sam’s parents sit her down and ask about Lonnie, and she tells them that they’re dating, to her surprise, they didn’t get mad or anything, they were just in denial, they were telling her that maybe she didn’t find the right boy yet, or that it’s just a phase, but Sam knew she and Lonnie loved each other.

//End Mild spoilers

For the sake of not ruining an outstanding narrative, I’ll conclude my description of the plot here.

Gameplay:

Not much to say here, Gone Home mainly emphasizes on exploration, you control Kaitlin in a first person perspective. You can pick up anything, turn it around to observe it, and put it back wherever you want.

There are some very mild puzzles as well, mainly in the form of finding the combination for a lock or a safe, or finding hidden panels in the house from your map.

But that’s pretty much the extent of it.

Visuals:

I can’t honestly say the visuals were breathtaking or anything, they were nice, they weren’t awful of course, but they served the purpose of the game perfectly, after all, this game’s objective is not to emphasize on the visual, but rather on the story line. It could have been a little better though to be honest.

Audio:

Gone Home does not feature an epic soundtrack or anything awe inspiring, mainly minimal piano bits when Sam starts talking, and some punk music from the cassette tapes Sam left Kaitlin lying around. Along with weather sounds, thunder, rain, what have you.

Re-playability:

Now this is tricky, the game’s story is very interesting, heck it had me almost crying at the end, but I don’t think I’ll be playing through it again anytime soon, all the audio logs are saved and you can just hear them again, and that is the entire story line, unless you’re interested in Kaitlin’s trip, or Terrance’s books. So no real re-playability value here, and thus I wouldn’t really recommend buying the game at the full $20 price but rather on sale. Also the game is only around 2 hours long.

Verdict:

Gone Home is a very nice interactive narrative that delivers on both an emotional and a nostalgic level (that is if you liked the ’90s), but I wouldn’t heartily recommend it to people trying to get into this genre of games – mind you the game is perfectly nice – I would however divert your attention to Dear Esther instead.

Electronic Super Joy (PC) Review

What if Super Meat Boy had a love child with electronic music? How would that child be exactly? Why look no further, folks!

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Electronic Super Joy is an indie game developed by the Toronto based developer Michael Todd and released in August of 2013.

Plot:

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I can personally guarantee that Electronic Super Joy has THE most interesting and gripping story in video game history (I really not being sarcastic), the game follows the events of the great disco wars where, basically, most of your limbs were stolen, however, one body part was stolen that you can not just forgive and forget about, not THAT body part, your butt, your butt was stolen. For some very odd reason I felt very motivated to play through the game and avenge my stolen butt. That’s pretty much the entire plot of the game.

Gameplay:

Drawing inspiration from Team Meat’s notoriously difficult game Super Meat Boy, Electronic Super Joy is akin to playing Super Meat Boy while someone continuously shakes you, throws stuff at you, and yells at you every other second, but in the most awesome way imaginable. Let me get this out of the way first, the game is so hard that I can not imagine someone finishing a level without dying at the very least two times, and I know I don’t suck that much, I’ve actually gotten pretty good at the game over the oh so many times I rage quitted it. You play the guy wanting to avenge his butt, moving him with the left and right keys along with the Z button to jump, the X button to smash while jumping, and the R button to reset, that if you’re unfortunate enough not to have a Xbox controller handy as the game is a lot easier played with a controller than with the keyboard.

The game consists of 45 levels over three worlds with 4 unlock-able levels, and a random mode. Each world generally ending with a boss fight that saying “induces rage” is an understatement. Beating the game’s three bosses rely primarily on extremely good timing and luck, sometimes even if you have the timing down perfectly you’ll get slaughtered by the insane amount of missiles thrown at you, or not seeing that one spiked ball because of how flashy the background is, or you simply got dizzy from playing the game for 3 hours straight.

At times the game rewards you with more powers such as double jumping, stomping, or at times, flying. Something I didn’t like though was that the double jumping was used for almost 3 levels and that was it, it was never revisited again.

Visuals:

Electronic Super Joy will make you dizzy if you play for long periods of time, I can personally guarantee that. The background is always flashy, things move around everywhere and you need to be keeping out with everything, sometimes the background gets in the way of that but to the most part, the game has some of the most charming visuals I’ve seen in an indie game, I can describe its visual style as a monochrome FEZ with tons of colors thrown in the background which works well for the game, save for my personal issues that I have mentioned.

Audio:

The game’s soundtrack is entirely composed of electronic music, with some dubstep thrown in for good measure. Mind you though I don’t personally enjoy electronic music at all, but this game’s music is so good it’s insane how entertaining the music is. Every world has it’s own theme which the music revolve of said world revolve around.

As far as sound effects are concerned, they are mostly limited to the sounds you make when you jump or stomp, with one exception that I’m pretty sure will grab the attention of anyone playing the game for the first time, mainly at the checkpoints, and I certainly do not want to spoil that for you, folks, just make sure you’re not around kids while you play the game.

Replay-ability:

Electronic Super Joy is mainly a short game, 4 hours worth in my gameplay session, however if you want to get every star, beat the best time for each level, and get absolutely 0 deaths for that one achievement, you’ll have to practice, A LOT, which gives the game tons of replay-ability.

Final Verdict:

If you’re a Super Meat Boy fan or a fan of challenging games in general, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not playing Electronic Super Joy. Despite it’s minor issues the game is an absolute must play for platforming fans and at $8 it’s a steal.

The game is also currently in the Groupees Be Mine X bundle in the $1 tier which is even more incentive to purchase the game.

Dear Esther (PC) Review

What separates dramatic films from video games? Is it the interaction? The emotional depth? Or is it something else? Something more sombre, more melancholic? It might just be that, and the absolute opposite of the same. It might be all about being stranded on an island, with nothing to accompany you but your own, slowly fading sanity. Dear Esther emphasizes on that very point, on the sweet spot between minimal interaction of the player and deep emotional depth. If I were to summarize this review into one word, it would be art. Pure and simple.

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Released back in 2008 as a Source mod, and met with positive reviews all over the internet, Dear Esther was reworked as a standalone title and released in 2012 by The Chinese Room, a development team worth keeping an eye on after witnessing this game.

In Dear Esther you play as someone stranded on an island, and as you walk in the world, admiring the admittedly beautiful scenery that I wasn’t aware the Source Engine can muster, you encounter small voice notes from someone else who was on the island, these small notes constitute the entire story of the game, but it is a convoluted story at that and worth a couple of playthrough to understand and draw a logical explanation out of. I will not discuss the story since I am yet to fully understand it myself, but suffice to say that it is a very surreal one at that.

There is not much to gameplay in Dear Esther, you just walk around the island and listen to the voice notes left. You don’t jump, sprint, crawl, or anything to that effect, you just walk around and any other key press (at least on a 360 controller) zooms in the view a little a la gun iron sights.

Dear Esther’s visuals are something that will keep your jaw opened for the entirety of the playthrough, its scenery is both gorgeous and captivating, the mere sight of the moon, the water, the grass, the weird electric circuit diagrams in the caves, everything is an absolute delight to look at.

However, Dear Esther’s saving grace is without a doubt its soundtrack, it captures every moment of the playthrough beautifully and really makes you relate to what you hear as to what the person talking to you in the notes has to say. Which brings me to my next point, the audio in the game, overall, is also really nice, the man’s voice is full of despair and sorrow, captivating yet distant from considering the presence of any hope left for him or the people he talks about, sometimes anger fills him, taking this adventure to another depth. Your very footsteps offer tremendous company to the deserted island you’re in, along with the sounds of the crows and the howls of the wind.

Clocking at only 90 minutes, Dear Esther is almost a movie with minimal dialogue, but that should not deter you from trying out this stunning experience, and if you can get over the $10 price tag, you’re in for a real emotional treat.

Let me know what you fellas think of Dear Esther, has it affected you as much as it has me?

To the moon (PC) Review: A wonderful story!

A friend of mine very recently suggested a very obscure game to me by the name of “To the moon”, a bit of a google search revealed to me that it was an indie game that has garnered some attention, all of which pointed out that this game was very nice, as it turns out, “nice” was an understatement.

To the moon is an Adventure/Role Playing game developed by indie group Free Bird Games, and it’s more of a story than it is a game, really, it adapts a 2D style, reminiscent of what we were all used to in the early 90’s, a bit older than how the Pokemon games look on the GBA, but if that doesn’t bother you, and you’re more attracted to a game’s story than its visuals, you won’t be disappointed, I personally guarantee that!

You play as two doctors in the -not so- distant future who work for a company that can access memories of people and alter them according to their (the people’s) wishes. Your patient in this game is a dying old man called John, and his dying wish is to “go to the moon”, after a bit of investigating around the house, you get to start the memory leaps. The whole “memory accessing” reminded me a lot of Assassin’s Creed’s Animus, though in To the moon, the memory accessing works backwards, in each stage of John’s life, you must look for 5 memory links and a memento that gains you access to the previous memories, after each sequence there’s a very small puzzle, and you get the choice to either walk around more and just watch as the people in John’s memories live on, or continue on to the previous memory.

The story is very immersive and beautiful, I even dare say, that this was the most attached I was to a game’s characters in a very long time, and there’s just something about the very dated gameplay that is almost magical about it… As you progress on in the story, you get to learn of John’s love story, his friends, and all he’s been through.

The soundtrack in the game is nothing short of outstanding, delivering the game’s theme so well, that I had to close the game at times for feeling a bit too emotional, and the music really helped accomplish that!

If you’re looking for a game that you’ll remember for a long time, and that you’ll feel very attached to, I definitely recommend checking out “To the moon”, it’s only for $12, and believe me, the game is worth every penny! If you’ve already played it, let me know what you thought of the game.

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