500 word game reviewsWatch
Heroes of Might and Magic V (2006) - Turn-based strategy, PC.
Story: As 3DO went bust in 2003, and Heroes of Might and Magic 5 was Ubisoft's first take on the franchise, it is worth noting that the world and storyline are completely separate from the first four games, though it re-used a lot of names for some reason.
Regardless, HoMM5 starts much the same as HoMM3, with demons invading the Griffin Empire. There are six campaigns (+6 more if you have the expansion packs), which allow you to play as each faction.
Gameplay: Most levels start you off with a low-level hero, an undeveloped town and few (if any) resource buildings. Your priorities should be to explore the surrounding area, manage your resources, grab nearby artifacts or treasures, purchase essential buildings in your town, recruit troops, then set out to conquer the rest of the map (or whatever else your win condition might be).
...I just copy-pasted that from my HoMM3 review, but it all still applies. No major changes to the core gameplay.
Creatures are largely the same, with seven different types in each town. These can be upgraded to a stronger version, as in earlier games. However, with the Tribes of the East expansion, an alternative upgrade becomes available for each creature. These alternatives could be better at defence but weaker at offence, or sacrifice attack range for greater attack power. This adds an extra level of tactics.
Combat is something I didn't mention much in my HoMM3 review! Limited words, and all. Turn-based, grid-based, with opposing armies starting at the opposite side of the screen from each other. Different creatures travel at different speeds, and some have ranged attacks, all things which will help determine who gets the first hit in.
With regards to Heroes, Magic types can still buff troops and/or rain fireballs and other nasty things down on their enemies. But now, Might heroes can also get directly involved, riding in and striking opponents. This was actually introduced in HoMM4 (yuck), but was improved here by restoring Heroes to their earlier immortal forms – now enemies can't just ignore your troops, charge your Hero, and claim an easy victory.
Controls: Use the mouse for everything; move your hero around the map, click different buildings, drag and drop troops from your town garrison into your hero's army etc. Buttons are well-labelled and easy to click. New for HoMM5: zoom in and out with the scroll wheel. Hold right mouse button and move left or right to rotate, or up and down to tilt. Basic stuff, really.
Graphics and sound: The major difference between HoMM3 and HoMM5 is the graphics, with the newer game using 3D throughout. I think I'll always prefer the 2D, board game-like look of the earlier games, but objectively the 3D works just as well, and the extra animations for the creatures do make them seem more 'alive'. Towns look very impressive, though it can be hard to find individual structures on a large, rotating map!
The music, composed by Paul Anthony Romero and Rob King, remains one of the best things about the franchise. HoMM5 has some of the best town themes of the lot, in my opinion.
Overall: It isn't Heroes of Might and Magic 3, but it is a worthy successor, unlike the game in-between. 9/10
Story: Our story follows Norbetina, a cow, as she tries to make her way from the USA to England in a barrel covered in postage stamps. She has allies, such as the great detective Sherrloch Sheltie, and enemies such as the evil Baron von Moribund. Why the Baron wants to capture our heroine, I don't know, but I guess I'm just too stupid to fully grasp the complex storyline of the masterwork that is Ninja Nanny.
This wonderful story with all its many twists, turns and fantastic characters, is presented as simple (but effective) text, for you to read, like those books that used to be popular before PCs were invented. It spans five chapters, each taking place in a different location, and each with three different parts. It also ends on the promise of a sequel, which I still greatly look forward to 25 years later. But what makes this story better than books (aside from the superior writing) is that you can click certain 'hotwords' within the text, and that's where the gameplay element comes in.
Gameplay: Norbertina is walking down the middle of a
Continue to read the story, and click hotwords. Occasionally, you will have to make choices like the one above. Other times, the game will simply educate you on things such as the Golden Gate bridge, or how butter was made before electricity. Seriously, I've learned a lot from this game.
Controls: Use the mouse to scroll up and down the long, epic story. Click the hotwords wherever you see them, as hard as it can be to rip yourself away from the main plot to do so. Click... virtually anything, the results may surprise you.
Graphics and sound: The graphics were revolutionary for 1993, with some of the characters so lifelike that you'd think they were scanned images! They even put some of today's AAA titles to shame. Great use is made of those 16-bit colours, with everything looking bright and wonderful.
The sound is not something that can easily be described with words. If you've ever wondered what fresh oats sound like, this game can teach you like no other can.
Overall: It is a travesty that this game isn't better known or easier to get hold of. Something that all gamers should experience at least once in their lives. 11/10
Story: It's the 1970s. You play as Jack Boyd, the a 60 year old Police chief. Though loved by most of the city's residents, you are being forced into early retirement by the mayor. Your goal: raise $500,000 in the 180 days you have left in the job. Whether you do this legally or not is up to you...
In addition to this, Boyd has to deal with his wife leaving him, an addiction to painkillers, and pressure from local mafia groups among other things. This story is told via cutscenes throughout the game, and occasionally you will be forced to make a choice that will affect the gameplay.
Gameplay: Simple: Hire new cops and detectives, fire any that don't do their jobs. They all have 'professionalism' levels, where anyone over 150 can be considered decent. Respond to any crimes that pop up on the city map, choosing which and how many officers to send. Choose well, and this will result in the offender being arrested, with no injuries or deaths to civilians or officers.
Detective cases are a little more difficult: over time, they will uncover new 'clues' in the form of images. Choose the correct images that fit the witnesses descriptions of what happened, and arrange them in the right order, then you can catch the culprit.
However, things don't stay simple. Orders come from the mayor, such as 'fire all black cops', 'suppress this peaceful feminist protest through force' etc. You don't HAVE to follow them (and bad things may happen if you do carry them out), but refusal will not grant you any favours with City Hall. Similarly, the mafia will make demands – a good way to reach that half a million if you're up for it. Either way, don't make them too angry either!
Other annoyances come in the form of officers requesting time off for ridiculous things, showing up drunk, or outright not showing up for work. This coupled with prank calls and false alarms can leave you without enough officers for the real crimes, which get more frequent + serious as the game progresses. You can request more officer slots from City Hall... but whether you'll get them or not depends on your reputation with the mayor.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based. As you may have gathered, my keyboard doesn't see much use when I'm gaming. Click crime notifications that show up on the map, drag officers into the free slots and click again to send them on their way. Click messages, crime reports and other notifications to deal with them. Really simple stuff.
Graphics and sound: The cutscenes are simple but stylish, a bold cartoon style with little shading, and nobody has faces. I like it.
What I like even more, however, is how the game music is handled. At the start of each day, you are greeted with a record player (later cassette player), and can choose for yourself from a small collection of music – which you can increase by buying new singles, though bear in mind you're supposed to be saving up! Mostly jazz or classical; nice, perhaps not what I'd associate with the 70s, but then again Boyd is an older guy!
Overall: The management side can get repetitive over time, but the storyline is gripping. Very original. 8/10
Story: Cute spirits born from leaves want to get into a swirly spirit orb, but are too gormless to get there without your help. That's about it really, what more do you want from a puzzle game?
Gameplay: If you've ever played Lemmings, Spirits is very similar. You have creatures spawning at regular intervals, who if left unattended will walk determinedly forwards regardless of what traps lie in plain sight ahead of them, changing direction only when they hit a wall. You have to ensure that enough of them reach their goal safely to clear a level, even if it means sacrificing some of them to get there.
And if you haven't played Lemmings, go and play Lemmings, it's awesome.
The main difference between the two is that when the spirits reach a hole or cliff edge, rather than dropping down, they hop forwards and spread their floaty head wings. If there's no wind, they'll drift slowly forwards and downwards. If there is a wind (indicated by particles blowing in a certain direction), they'll get caught in the current and go that way instead. This may be helpful, carrying the spirits towards their goal, or a trap designed to fling them into some nasty spikes.
You control where the spirits wander by selecting individuals and giving them commands. There are only four: Diggers dig forwards, diagonally or straight downwards (remember that spirits jump over sheer drops, so the latter option might not do what you expect it to!). Blowers create gusts of wind to guide spirits forwards, backwards or upwards. Builders construct staircases in upward diagonal directions. Blockers block wind currents (not other spirits)! Spirits chosen for these duties cannot resume their wandering afterwards, so don't use any more than necessary.
Aside from that, there are 'bonus' plants you can pick up, usually in hard to reach places. While not necessary in order to progress to the next level, these (along with the number of extra spirits you successfully save on top of the level's minimum) will increase your world ranking! Spirits will connect to the internet and compare your performance to other players, if you allow it to.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based. Left click a spirit, assign it a role, and hope that the rest go where you wanted them to. Right clicking activates fast forward, once you're certain you've cleared a safe path to the swirl... it's not THAT much faster though, I'd increase the speed a bit if I could.
Graphics and sound: The artwork is really nice. Dark platforms, beautiful backgrounds. The spirits themselves are cute. I like the ambient glow effects, but if you don't, these can be turned off.
The soundtrack fits the atmosphere of the game – mysterious, whimsical... occasionally creepy in some of the more hazard-filled levels.
Overall: A relaxing puzzle game for the most part, though higher levels get surprisingly difficult and frustrating, especially if you're going for the 'perfect' (all plants and max spirits) solutions. But, it's no Lemmings. 6/10
Story: The undead King Ixal has risen again, and turned the people of your village to stone. As a descendent of the hero who originally defeated Ixal, it falls to you to collect the various magical gems that make up the Pendant of Life, before they fall into the hands of evil.
Driftmoon has a generic storyline, but it knows it, and doesn't take itself seriously. One of the first side-quests you encounter has you trying to unlock a garden shed to find the 'Hoe of Doom', one of the strongest weapons available in the early game. A later one sees you enter the 'Deafly Caverns' to find a hearing aid. Plenty of jokes and amusing NPC quest givers, enemies and companions prevent the game from ever becoming boring – though as you approach the end, the writers prove they can pull off dramatic/sad moments just as well as comedy.
Gameplay: As with many other games, I have seen Driftmoon called a 'Diablo clone'. It is a 3D isometric real-time hack and slash RPG, has a similar round HP and MP gauge, and a similar inventory system, so there's no denying it. But there's a reason that so many games copy Diablo – its interface just works, very well.
You must explore each area, completing key quests in order to find gems, unlock new locations on the world map, and progress the story. You'll encounter all kinds of puzzles and riddles along the way, but nothing too difficult. Carry torches for dark areas if you want to see what you're doing. The game's map system is fantastic, allowing you to fast-travel to virtually anywhere from anywhere, as well as telling you how many quests you've completed in each area to ensure you don't miss any.
As mentioned, combat is real-time. The amount of damage you inflict depends on your weapon, and various stats you can raise by levelling up (strength adds more damage, dexterity increases attack speed etc). Use mana to launch special attacks for extra damage, or conserve it to regain health. There are also a few 'special' damage types such as poison, fire or ice, which some enemies might be more susceptible/resistant to, but that's as complex as the combat mechanics get.
Controls: You CAN use the keyboard – both arrow keys and WASD move your hero, while number keys allow you to quick-select certain items... but as ever, I just used the mouse for everything. Click where you want to go on the map, click items in the hotbar, click enemies you want to target. Much easier!
You can also click and drag most small objects that are in your character's sight (chairs, chests etc) – worth doing this, as there are often items hidden underneath things!
Graphics and sound: The graphics aren't bad, but aren't anything to shout about either. 'Sufficient' is the word I'd use. The character portraits during dialogue are great, though!
I only finished playing Driftmoon yesterday, and don't remember the soundtrack, though I know it had one! Again this is probably a sign that it was passable background music, but nothing on top of that. Characters weren't voice acted, but that's not the end of the world for me.
Overall: Good writing, great puzzles, and a fantastic final level. Recommended. 8/10
Story: Evil witch Scotia has managed to obtain a ring that gives her shapeshifting powers. This worries King Richard, who sends you out to retrieve the Ruby of Truth, Scotia's only weakness. This simple mission doesn't go according to plan, however, and is only the first of many dungeon crawling missions in your quest to save the kingdom... and the king!
Gameplay: You start off by picking from four pre-made champions. I went with the fighter because his voice was awesome... but it turns out that magic is quite a useful thing to have in Lands of Lore. Thankfully, you'll have various other characters join your party as the game progresses, all of them better equipped for spellcasting than poor old Michael!
The game is a 3D real-time RPG, which consists almost entirely of your hero/party travelling from one dungeon to another (via equally dangerous forests and swamps), gathering the Ruby of Truth, potion ingredients, keys, weapons and far more. Of course, there are people and monsters that don't want you to have these items...
Combat is semi-turn-based; once an enemy is visible, click a character's weapon to land physical attacks, or select and fire a spell instead. Afterwards, there's a short cooldown period before that character can attack again. Enemies also attack once, wait a few seconds, then attack again, so it's not that harsh on people like me who lack the reflexes for real-time action.
The dungeons aren't massive, but they are complex, often with multiple levels, invisible walls and locked doors which require finding the right key, solving a puzzle or locating a hidden button to open. Clearing them feels like a real achievement! Thankfully, the game's inbuilt automap is amazing, better than in some more modern games.
The downside is, there are LOTS of items lying around, and you have limited inventory space. Some items are literally useless, others are essential towards completing the game, but you often have no way of telling them apart. Who knew the monstrous Larkhon can only be killed with a green skull, for example!? You can discard key items as easily as anything else, and if you forget where you dropped them or destroy them outright, that's it - might as well start again.
Controls: Movement is grid based, you can only move and turn in the four cardinal directions. You can use the arrow keys or numpad... which is awkward for a right-handed person, considering you'll also need the mouse to attack and interact with objects. And so I ended up using the mouse for movement as well, by clicking the big on-screen arrows. Not ideal, but you get used to it!
Graphics and sound: Very nice looking for a 1993 title. Despite the low resolution, you can at least tell what you're looking at, which isn't always the case in older games! Loved the cutscenes.
Long before he was voicing doomed kings in Oblivion, Patrick Stewart lent his voice to Lands of Lore's King Richard... try to make sure he survives this time! The other voice actors are pretty good too. Soundtrack is decent, often creepy and atmospheric.
Overall: This game has aged well, for the most part. Would serve as a good introduction to older RPGs for anyone interested. Just don't drop those key items! 7/10
Thank you for the 1,000 views! And the four replies.
Story: Spaceship pilot Rex Nebular is hired by some rich guy to retrieve a vase. He travels to the object's last known location, but is promptly shot down by another ship, and forced to crash land on an unknown planet inhabited only by women!
As the story progresses, Rex learns that the 'primitive' women on the planet's surface are being kept as breeding stock by the more technologically advanced 'Keepers' who live underground. Following the great 'gender war' which saw all men wiped off the face of the planet, these Keepers have no choice but to rely on the eponymous 'cosmic gender bender' machine to turn into men temporarily and keep the planet's population going.
The game's decidedly non-politically correct title drew my morbidly curious self to it, but it was pretty much what I expected story-wise: a macho male lead with no personality, versus fanatical man-hating female antagonists with no personalities.
Most of the dialogue plays on stereotypes – at one point you (playing as Rex) have to prove you’re a ‘real man’ by answering a complex engineering question correctly, followed by getting an easy question on setting a dinner table wrong. Cheesy at best, and outright sexist and transphobic at worst.
Gameplay: Another thing that drew me to Rex Nebular was my love of point-and-click adventure games. But even putting aside the plot and characters, this is one of the worst I've played.
As usual, you have to go around picking up items, sometimes combining or disassembling them to create other items, then use those items to solve puzzles. But some of the items are stupidly hard to find due to their small size and the game's low resolution, while the puzzles are a mixture of way too simple or overly complex and convoluted. Plus they involve crushing a dog under a car, and shooting poisoned darts at a monkey. And it's really short.
One positive was the choice of three difficulty levels, with easier ones removing or simplifying some of the puzzles that you'd otherwise face on the harder levels. Starting easy then ramping up the difficulty on a second playthrough might make for some replayability, if you somehow weren't put off the first time.
Controls: Basic point-and-click, all mouse-based. There are a number of commands at the bottom left of the screen (Look, Take, Push etc) which you must click first before clicking an object on the screen to apply that action to.
Be prepared for the game to get sarcastic with you for pulling something you're supposed to push, despite there being no clues as to which action is appropriate. And if none of the actions are working, try double clicking something on screen instead, because that ended up being the solution to at least one puzzle that had me stumped for hours.
Graphics and sound: Rex Nebular is an old, low-resolution game. As mentioned before, this can make it hard to tell what is what on screen. The opening cinematic (necessary viewing to understand the plot, and your end goal) is a slow, clunky and hardly thrilling affair.
The game has music; it's decent enough, which probably makes it the best thing this has going for it.
Overall: Not recommended, but at least now I have a negative review on here at last! 2/10
Story: You play as a Peggle player, playing Peggle and advancing through the Peggle Institute with the help of ten Peggle Masters!...It's a casual puzzle game, there is no plot.
Gameplay: Peggle is inspired by bagatelle and pachinko – you start with ten balls, which you shoot at pegs to score points. These pegs can be round or long, static or moving, and are arranged in different patterns to fit the background art and theme of the current stage / Peggle Master. Once hit, they light up, then disappear. At the bottom of the screen is a moving 'bucket' – if your ball lands inside, you get it back. Otherwise, it drops off the bottom of the screen into oblivion, ending the turn.
Pegs come in four colours, arranged in random order: Blue pegs are nothing special, giving the minimum number of points and no bonus effects. Purple pegs offer a significant score boost, and move around after each turn, randomly switching places with a blue peg. Green pegs set off the special ability of whichever Master you're playing with (more on those later). Lastly, there are Orange pegs – you need to hit all of these before running out of balls in order to win most levels.
The main gameplay comes from 'Adventure Mode', where you must complete five stages, wach with its own Peggle Master to guide you through. The 'Peggle Masters' are fun characters, each with their own theme. For example, Kat Tut, an Ancient Egyptian inspired feline friend who goes on about balls of yarn in his dialogue. When you hit a green peg when playing with him, the bucket at the bottom of the screen turns into a much larger 'pyramid', significantly reducing your chances of losing balls for five turns.
Other Masters's abilities include allowing multiple balls in play at once, flippers which turn it into more of a pinball game, fireballs which plough mercilessly through pegs in a straight line, and many more!
Once you've completed Adventure Mode once, you may replay each of the levels and stages from the start, but with your own choice of Master, potentially allowing for higher scores and some replay value. Otherwise, there is 'Challenge Mode', where you must clear more difficult challenges (e.g. hitting 35 – 55 orange pegs instead of 25, reaching a certain high score threshold, or even clearing EVERY peg on screen)!
Controls: Move the mouse to direct where you want to shoot the ball, and the mouse wheel for finer adjustments, then left click to fire! Then sit back and watch the pegs light up, as the rest is mostly down to the game's physics (apart from Claude's pinball flippers, if active, which you control by left clicking).
Graphics and sound: Very bright colours and cute characters, lovely level designs and background art. Easy to see what's going on at all times. All positives here~
There's not that many different background tracks, though they're all pleasant. Shame they couldn't have used themed music to match each stage in Adventure mode, though! All sound effects are great.
Overall: Easy to learn but difficult to master, especially those harder goals in Challenge Mode! Insanely addictive. 7/10
Entomorph: Plague of the Darkfall (1995) - RPG, PC
Story: The game begins with your character, Squire Warrick, stood directly in front of a giant talking spider, who isn't pleased to see him. She teleports him to an island crawling with mosquitoes and zombies. This intro makes little sense until you're about half-way through the game...
On the isle of Saltmoon, people are rejoicing. The Jagtera, giant insects who were once enslaved by humanity, and who suddenly disappeared many years ago, have returned! Or have they? Eventually you join a bunch of rebels, who believe that the island's Nobles are turning the commoners into Jagtera, and so begins your quest to save the land from being deforested by ravenous beetles – even if it means sacrificing some of your own humanity in the process.
Your entire journey is narrated by the 'Storyteller', who pops up every now and then when you enter a new area or see/do something plot-relevant. Sometimes his words offer clues to the player, but most of the time they're just for dramatic effect. A great idea, and well implemented.
Gameplay: It's a 3/4 perspective RPG, but unlike most other RPGs, there are no weapons or armour. Squire Warrick just punches insects three times his size to death in a skimpy toga. My kind of hero! He does have some magic, but aside from healing and a few quest-essential spells like webwalk, they're mostly useless.
Talk to people and explore to get an idea of where you should go next. There's no quest log, so pay attention the first time! And while some locations only become accessible later on in the game (as insect hordes clear paths through the jungle), there are some tough areas you can just walk into right from the beginning. Protip: if the opponents you're facing seem unfairly strong, you're probably not supposed to be fighting them yet!
As the story progresses, you'll face various insect queens: bee (BY FAR the hardest boss in the game, despite being the first!), mosquito, ant, mantis and spider (arachnid, I know). Their lairs are mostly inspired by the colonies that they form in real life, for example the ants live in an underground labyrinth of narrow, winding corridors, and identify other ants and their roles by use of scent and pheromones, not by sight – knowledge you can make use of to infiltrate unnoticed!
Controls: The game offers three preset control options... none of which use WASD for movement. I stuck with the first, using arrow keys for movement and mouse for everything else (clicking to pick up items, opening inventory and options, selecting from different dialogue options etc) – awkward, but playable.
Graphics and sound: Entomorph is equal parts pretty and grotesque. The insect lairs in particular are some of my favourite levels from any game ever, design-wise, very unique. It's a good looking game, if a bit low-res by today's standards.
The music is also phenominal. I know I'll be listening to the OST for a long time to come now! Punching, spellcasting and enemy-squishing sound effects are VERY satisfying. Few characters are voiced, only the Storyteller (who I like a lot), his apprentice, and the bug queens (wonderfully creepy).
Overall: Simple plot, few developed characters, but the gameplay + enemy and level designs more than make up for it. 8/10
Story: Neptune, Jupiter and Venus are three teenagers, sent by their parents to a Christian camp for misbehaving children. There, they must do battle with the Devil. And they don't even get transformation sequences.
The camp's lead instructor tells stories about how he once had two good friends who he wanted to do everything with... though apparently one of those friends was really annoying. This friend ended up getting into trouble later in life, causing the instructor to conclude that humans can only do so much for each other. This theme is central to the gameplay.
The trio are sent to a barely-habitable shack, where they must spend the night, hoping that the Devil doesn't visit... it would be quite a boring game if he didn't, though, wouldn't it?
Gameplay: This is a visual novel, so 'gameplay' is mostly clicking the mouse and reading the story. Every hour, the three characters will face a task or play a game that only requires two people. Each time, you must choose which two will pair up... and which one will be left out. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' combination, the story progresses whoever you pick, but your choices will impact on the ending.
Characters: Not a section I usually have in my reviews, but the individual characters and their interactions with each other are the whole point of the game.
Neptune is mean, bossy, sarcastic, aggressive, a trouble maker. Venus is timid and shy, but also hard-working and trusting to a fault, presumably sent to the camp to learn how to 'man up' a bit. Jupiter is the group's natural leader, a laid-back tomboy whose grades and athletic ability are top-tier, and who always strives to be good... why is she even at the camp?
As the game progresses, you learn a lot more about each character, and their own personal weaknesses and fears - fears the Devil may end up exploiting. If you really want to experience the story and their character development in full, you're going to have to replay it a few times (fear not, it's not long, an hour or two at most), excluding a different character in every playthrough.
There is a 'True Ending', if you balance the pairings out so that nobody is excluded more than anyone else – I'd recommend leaving this until last, both from a story point of view (you'll appreciate it more having seen the other routes first), but also from a gameplay point of view. While some tasks let you pick any of the three character combinations, other parts force you to take one specific character, only letting you choose their partner, so planning in advance for those will help!
Controls: Click when you're done reading the text on the screen, then more text will show up. Read and repeat until you need to make a decision, then click the boxes that correspond with your chosen characters' symbols. And if you've played it a few times already, you can fast-forward the dialogue. That's about it really.
Graphics and sound: The VN has an interesting look, 2D monochrome anime-style characters on photographic backgrounds. I like it.
The soundtrack is terrifying. Definitely makes it feel like the Devil is closing in.
Overall: Quick and simple, but well written. Worth playing/reading. 8/10
Story: Main character Tex Murphy is a private detective in 2040s San Francisco. He ends up hired by a man named Fitzpatrick, to find his old friend Malloy, but what initially seems like a simple missing person case soon turns out to be a small part of a much larger mystery...
Cutscenes and interactions with other characters are via the medium of FMV, but with a top cast of actors and great writing, none of the usual FMV cheesiness.
Gameplay: Another old point-and-click adventure game, but possibly the most advanced I've ever played from the mid-90s (though the same engine and interface was used in Under a Killing Moon two years before).
Explore the 3D environments fully from a first-person perspective - no fixed camera angles here! You can look up at the ceiling or down into containers, high on top of things or low to the ground, open anything with doors or drawers (or spend ages finding the keys to do so)... it really feels like you're a detective scouring a place for evidence.
You have an unlimited inventory, can't drop or destroy essential items, but CAN examine items more closely, combine them with each other, and show them to most of the game's characters for potential clues and information. Alternatively, ask those characters about literally any person or plot point you want by clicking the relevant text on the menu.
Puzzle solving is the other major gameplay element. You'll have to work out passwords to door panels, diffuse bombs, reassemble torn up clues etc. Most of these were good fun, others were ridiculously hard and frustrating.
Fortunately for players who are stuck, the in-game hint system will tell you where to go, who to speak to, what to pick up etc, or even allow you to skip a puzzle entirely. You will lose 'points', but that doesn't actually impact on gameplay or the ending in any way. You can even go into the negatives (as you can see I did... just testing the feature for this review, honest)!
Finally, watch how you behave in-game, as The Pandora Directive has a branching story and multiple endings (one of the first games to feature this). The more selfishly you act, the worse ending you'll probably end up with... but staying completely on the straight and narrow path for the best ending is a real challenge. Not only does this add replayability, but there's also an extra-hard mode which adds new puzzles, and makes existing ones harder with time limits etc. NOT recommended for first time players!
Controls: Keeping this short as the gameplay section ended up so long: the controls are a combination of mouse and keyboard. Space bar toggles between 'move' and 'interact' modes. It's really simple and easy to pick up, wish all old games nailed it this well.
Graphics and sound: The 3D environments are dated, but I'm amazed at how much you can explore and interact with them. Didn't suffer from the usual pixel-hunting woes.
FMV sequences are low-res and compressed due to the technology limitations of the time, but they still do the job. Voices, music and sound quality can't be faulted.
Overall: As a fan of point-and-click adventure games, I really should have checked out the Tex Murphy franchise long ago. Superb. 10/10
Story: There's a zombie apocalypse going on, and you play as a group of survivors. You must work together to fend off the zombies, survive as long as possible, and hopefully escape!
Gameplay: Zafehouse is a strategy game, so rather than blowing heads off zombies with shotguns, it's more about resource management, securing your current hideout against the horde, and ensuring you put your survivors' skills to good use. But yes, storming outside shotguns blazing is still an option.
There are only two main screens. The first is the map, which shows where your survivors are currently located, as well as what other buildings are around them. It is here where you assign tasks to each of your survivors.
Tasks include watching for or sniping at zombies, boarding up entrances, making traps, cleaning up corpses, preparing meals, raiding other buildings... all important stuff, but as your party is limited to five people (and may have fewer), you'll have to prioritize. Some survivors will be better at certain things than others due to their backgrounds, physical fitness etc, so be sure to leave treating injured survivors to the surgeon in your party, for example. Assuming you're lucky enough to get a surgeon.
The second screen is the diary. The game is broken into hour-long segments. Once you've assigned tasks to all your survivors, click the stopwatch and that hour will play out. The text in the diary will tell you what (if anything) your party members achieved, how many zombies they've seen, how much noise is coming from your building... and whether they're getting along. Read these events, and spend the next hour reacting as necessary.
That second from last point is important, because the survivors can be as deadly as the zombies! As well as skills, each character comes with their own prejudices – they may be racist, homophobic, hate men, despise the poor etc. Keep people who dislike each other apart if you want to keep morale and productivity high. And don't trust that one person everyone hates with preparing the food!
There are three difficulty levels: Easy starts you with one survivor, but you can recruit new ones each time you find them. There is no end goal, just survive as long as possible. Normal sees you searching for parts to fix a car and escape – no time limit, but you're limited to the five people you start with. In Hard, you must find clues to be in the right place at the right time to escape by helicopter. You have only a week.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based. Drag your characters (each represented by a different counter) from location to location. Click to assign tasks, move equipment from one hideout to another, to advance the clock etc.
Graphics and sound: Very basic, graphics-wise. Two screens, the basic but functional map, and the diary which is mostly text with a few supplementary images. You can see photos of your survivors' faces, which become blood-stained if they're injured. Don't expect to actually see any zombies!
The sound effects do the trick – you'll hear zombie noises, gunshots, weather effects, hammering or glass breaking, to complement whatever the diary says is happening.
Overall: VERY difficult and frustrating. Addictive in short bursts, but the diary text gets repetitive after a while. 6/10
Story: You are an aspiring dungeoneer, recently rejected by the Ivory League of Explorers. Looking for revenge, you set up your own rival guild, recruit dungeoneers to do all the hard work for you, and have them raid dungeons for treasure!
Gameplay: You start with a basic guild: just a barracks and a 'chump' (the weakest dungeoneer class). Of course, the first dungeon is similarly low level, and before long you'll have enough money to expand, hire more specialist members, and take on more profitable dungeons!
When you arrive in a dungeon, it too will be in basic shape – it may have rooms containing treasure chests, or a boss to fight, but lack corridors to get from one room to another! Therefore, each turn you can play up to three dungeon-building cards. These could be extra rooms or corridors, enemies to fight, or treasure.
Combat is card-based, and simple. There are two damage types: physical and magical. Most cards will do a certain amount of physical and/or magical damage, or block against them, or both. There are also things like unblockable damage, healing, card draw/discard effects etc. Reduce your opponent to zero hearts before they do the same to you.
Enemies attack first (unless you have a quick damage card), but to make up for that you can see what card they're about to play, and pick something to counter... assuming you have anything to hand, of course!
Your dungeoneer's cards depend on their class – fighters will have more physical attacks and blocks, for example. You can add more cards by looting monsters you defeat. Higher level monsters drop better loot, but are of course tougher to kill.
Guild of Dungeoneering is a casual game – no matter how many dungeoneers die, more will join your guild to replace them at no cost, so you can't actually lose. Just keep throwing heroes at dungeons until you win, or gather enough money to hire a better dungeoneer class.
The only downsides are firstly that the game is very luck/RNG-based, so even the best hero can be screwed over by a poor hand of cards and lose to a weaker mob, and secondly that it can get repetitive after a while – combat is basic, and once you've seen all the cards and heard all the narrator's lines, the appeal can wear off.
Controls: Drag dungeon-building cards onto the map. Click cards from your hands to choose your attack. All very simple! One frustrating thing: you can't fully control where your dungeoneer moves, though you can influence them by placing treasure in your favoured direction, or a tough mob in an area you want to avoid.
Graphics and sound: Visuals are mostly black and white, nice cartoon illustrations for the heroes, mobs and items. Your dungeoneer actually wears whatever items you pick up, which is a great touch.
One of the game's best features is the narrator, who sings a few short rhyming verses at various points in the game (when you unlock a new class, win or lose in a dungeon etc). Often sarcastic and mocking, he adds a touch of humour. The soundtrack is brilliant, very atmospheric.
Overall: Simple and great fun in small doses; could get boring after a few hours of non-stop playing. 7/10
Under a Killing Moon (1994) - Point-and-click adventure, PC.
Story: Main character Tex Murphy is a private detective in 2040s San Francisco. He is hired by a Countess to recover a statuette that was stolen from her, but what initially seems like a simple item retrieval case soon turns out to be part of a much larger mystery...
As with The Pandora Directive, cutscenes are FMV, and you progress the story by acting on clues, and asking people about relevant items or events.
Gameplay: The interface and engine still looked great when it was re-used in the 1996 follow up; in 1994, it would have been mind-blowing.
Explore the 3D environments fully from a first-person perspective - no fixed camera angles here! You can look straight up at the ceiling or down at the floor, stand on tip-toe or crouch low to the ground, and open just about anything that logically could be opened.
Look for and grab anything that stands out – even if it seems utterly useless, such as a plastic suction dart or a piece of foil. Because adventure game logic! Items are harder to find in this Tex Murphy adventure, as unlike the rest of the environment they're mostly flat (so whatever you're looking for, picture what it would look like if crushed by a cartoon steamroller).
You have an unlimited inventory, can't drop or destroy essential items, but CAN examine items more closely, combine them with each other, and show them to characters for information.
Puzzle solving is the other main gameplay element, though there are fewer of them compared with Pandora, and they're mostly of the 'jigsaw puzzle' variety. One such puzzle is actually impossible to solve, presumably a bug that was never fixed; while you can skip it and still progress without issue, that won't get you back the time you wasted on it... a shame, as otherwise the game seems really polished for its time.
UaKM also has the in-game hint system, which (if needed) will tell you where to go, who to speak to, what to pick up etc. It will NOT allow you to skip puzzles, though. Using hints deducts 'points', but that doesn't impact on gameplay or the ending in any way. In fact, I don't believe it showed my final score at the end, or what the maximum score I could have gotten was, so it's even more pointless than in Pandora.
Other things absent from Under a Killing Moon: difficulty levels, and branching endings depending on your decisions. This won't affect my review score, UaKM came first after all, but it's something to bear in mind if you're playing them out of order like I did.
Controls: A combination of mouse and keyboard. Space bar toggles between 'move' and 'interact' modes. Still really simple and easy to pick up.
Graphics and sound: The 3D environments are dated, but I'm still amazed at how much you can explore and interact with them.
FMV sequences are low-res and compressed due to the technology limitations of the time, but they do the job. Voices, music and sound quality can't be faulted.
Overall: Good, but not the masterpiece that its successor was. Characters weren't as developed, story was short and felt rushed, featuring fewer FMV scenes. And then there was that unsolvable puzzle... Still, recommended for adventure game fans. 7/10
Stories Untold (2017) - Horror, PC.
Story and Gameplay: Stories Untold is split into four parts. The first sees your character sat in front of an amber monochrome monitor, playing a text-based adventure game called 'The House Abandon' on an old Amstrad CPC-like home computer. You must read the text and type in simple commands (open door, look at hallway, use key etc.) to play through this game within a game on your monitor within a monitor.
'The House Abandon' may sound vaguely sinister, but each room you visit in the empty dwelling seems calm and peaceful. Everything you 'look' at invokes happy memories in the game text. There are no monsters, limited inventory, and simple controls. The game steers you towards your own bedroom... where you find an old computer and a copy of 'The House Abandon'.
That's when things start getting creepy.
You must then play through the game again, only the house is a twisted version of the one from before. And every time something happens in the text (e.g. the lights going out, an alarm sounding), it happens in the room around your character. Very effective horror.
The second part of the game sees you carrying out experiments on a strange artifact. Again, your character is sat in one place with a monitor in front of him, but this time you can turn around and interact with the various x-ray, laser and drill equipment as instructed, so it becomes more of a point-and-click adventure.
The third part is set in a bleak weather station on Greenland, where you receive secret codes via creepy radio numbers stations, and take actions based on what your microfilm codebook tells you to do. More pointing, clicking, typing... as well as a bit of free movement and exploration in this one!
I can't say much about the fourth part without spoilers, but it manages to link these seemingly unrelated stories together well, and makes for an effective (if slightly drawn-out) ending.
The game is short, with each part taking under an hour to complete, but that's fine seeing as it's fairly cheap to buy.
Controls: Very simple typed commands will get you through Part 1, so even those who've never played a text-based adventure game should have no trouble. Each new part adds new interactions, such as clicking to press buttons or using arrow keys to walk, but they're all straight-forward. No complaints here!
Graphics and sound: Despite the fact that it's mostly text-based, Stories Untold has great graphics. Too great for my ageing, shared-graphics PC to handle on best settings and full resolution without lagging tremendously, so if it doesn't look THAT impressive in these screenshots, that's why!
This (along with the first-person perspective) helps make the rooms you're in feel more real, like you're really the one sat in front of the desk using the radio equipment, or the old computer. Which certainly adds to the horror when things start happening around you!
The soundtrack is made up of atmospheric synthwave tunes, to go with the rest of the 1980s Stranger Things-like setting and feel.
Overall: Great atmosphere and setting, though a little slow and repetitive at times. If you're curious, you can always check out the demo (which is in fact the full Part 1) to see if it's your kind of thing. 8/10
Still feel free to comment on previous reviews, or post your own, however.