500 word game reviewsWatch
Plague Inc: Evolved (2016) - Real-time strategy, PC
Story: You play as an infectious disease, whose goal it is to eradicate humanity from the face of the Earth! But of course, they're not just going to die out without a fight...
Gameplay: Start by selecting your pathogen! Though if it's your first time playing, you'll find that most are locked. Bacteria is the introductory choice, while others make things more unpredictable or difficult (e.g. viruses mutate regularly, while fungal infections aren't good at spreading long distances). Then select a difficulty level, which impacts how hygienic the general population are, how efficient their doctors are etc.
Once in the game, select a country to begin infecting its population! Do you go for a place with lots of land borders to speed up the spread, or go for a remote island nation like Greenland or Madagascar as they'll be tricky to invade later on? Or maybe you should get revenge on whichever country developed the cure that wiped out your previous superbug. I like doing that.
As more people and places are infected or killed off, you will earn 'DNA points' which you can use to evolve your pathogen. Options for evolution include new ways of spreading (via air or water, birds or livestock etc), new resistances (heat, cold or drugs)... and of course, new symptoms (ranging from coughs and sneezes to necrosis). More effective upgrades cost more DNA points, and all upgrades increase in price as the game progresses.
The game forces you to strike a delicate balance between infectivity (spreading widely and quickly) and virulence (how deadly the disease is). Too much focus on spreading the disease will lead to doctors noticing it and developing a cure before it can do any serious damage. On the other hand, making it too dangerous too early on will either kill off all the hosts, or send countries into lockdown, closing their air and seaports.
The race to find a cure will begin soon after your pathogen inevitably becomes too dangerous or widespread to ignore. Evolve your pathogen to make it more complex, develop symptoms that will lower researchers' productivity, and generally make their lives a misery.
There are some special events which are announced via pop-ups in the style of news bulletins, many are based on actual events (e.g. the Rio Olympics – great for spreading disease). Other news flashes are just there for flavour, and don't impact gameplay. While the game is a few years old, it seems that new news is still being added, references to this year's NK – US summit being one example.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based. Click various countries, pop-ups, icons and menus for more information on how your infection is progressing, or to evolve it further. Very straight forward.
Graphics and sound: The main screen is a big world map. If you're doing things correctly, nasty looking red dots should start to pop up and spread rapidly. Basic, but satisfying! All the menus are nice looking and easy to understand.
The background music is decent enough, though nothing special. Random sound effects include the buzzing of mosquitoes, people coughing, and a girl creepily singing 'Ring a Ring o' Rosie'. All lovely stuff.
Overall: Difficult to master, due to that aforementioned balancing act, but short and addictive. A wide range of unlockable pathogens adds replayability. 7/10
Roughly 500 words... I give myself 10% either side, so they're usually closer to 550 words. And that's excluding the headings, game title, year and any introductory fluff I write before it. I like to ramble a lot, and usually have to trim them down from well over 600.
Was just attracted to this thread because you may have created a forum game in gaming. 😁😁
Baldur's Gate (1998) - RPG, PC
Story: You play the role of an orphaned ward of a mage named Gorion. After a relatively normal upbringing in the library town of Candlekeep, you are suddenly instructed by your adoptive father to gather your things flee with him. However, Gorion is killed pretty much the moment you leave the gates, giving you no clues as to what's going on, only an instruction to meet with a few of his trusted friends at a nearby inn... and so begins an epic role playing adventure!
Gameplay: BG is a Dungeons & Dragons game (AD&D 2nd ed., to be exact), so the character builder, leveling system, items, status effects etc. are mostly what you'd expect if you were playing the tabletop RPG. Choose your character's gender, race and class, proficiencies and alignment. You only get the one, though you can recruit up to five companions at once throughout the game. These NPCs are a varied and interesting bunch, each with their own agenda. And they don't all get along...
The main difference in BG is that the combat is in real-time, instead of having every character roll initiative and take it in turns to hit each other. You can pause mid-combat to plan a strategy and give new instructions to each of your party members, pretty much essential due to the party size and frenzied combat pace... but searching through your inventory to find the right spell scroll or a more suitable weapon will break the pause, the enemy aren't that obliging!
The story sends you from one end of its large map to the other, and back again, in search of clues about your character's origin, and why someone seemingly wants them dead. Of course, there are several multi-level dungeons with bosses to kill, but even in the otherwise peaceful towns and taverns, you might suddenly be targeted by an assassin, or tricked into accepting a dodgy side-quest.
Speaking of side-quests, there are lots of them. As tempting as it can be to focus purely on the main quest, you will struggle against later opponents if you don't take the time to gain experience or grab the nice special items often available in these quests. I speak from experience.
Controls: Mouse-based, and fairly intuitive. Click characters' portraits to select them individually, or click and drag to select your entire party's sprites. Click empty spaces to move, click enemies to attack, click non-combatants to talk to them, click loot to pick it up etc. Anything more complicated can be accessed through the menus at the bottom or side of the screen. Hover the mouse above anything if you're not sure what it is, and a description will appear a few seconds later.
Graphics and sound: BG looked great for its time; I still think it does, but as with an increasing number of popular old games, a HD remake does exist to suit modern gamers. Or just get a HD mod for the original.
The game music is decent, and changes to suit the situation (jolly in the taverns, ambient in the countryside, dramatic during combat etc). Voiced NPC dialogues are entertaining, but limited, and they do tend to repeat themselves a lot.
Overall: I really can't do this huge game justice in 500 words. It is good. Play it. 9/10
Story: You are the democratically elected leader of a country, and have the power to change the lives of its citizens for better or worse. Will you maintain enough support to get re-elected, or have your term (and life) cut short at the hands of an assassin?
Gameplay: Choose from a selection of countries (including the UK, USA, France or Germany) – your choice effects things such as population size, age demographics, percentage of religious people, percentage of farmers, percentage of smokers and far more.
From there, you're taken to an intimidating screen full of circles. White circles represent policies, which you can raise, lower or remove (e.g. various taxes or benefits, pollution controls, drug legality). Any changes require you to spend 'political capital' – you get more of this each turn (or quarter), and the amount you get depends on the experience and loyalty of your cabinet.
Blue circles are permanent variables that you can't control directly (e.g. GDP, the environment, unemployment), which will always be there to an extent, but can be helped or hindered by your policies. Green or red circles are good or bad situations that you can't control directly, but that can be brought to an end by policy changes (e.g. general strikes, tourism booms). Hover your cursor over any circle to see how it is impacted by the others, in order to plan your next moves.
The voting public are made up of a complex combination of 21 different groups – an individual may be a young wealthy religious capitalist, for example, but may care far more about their beliefs than their money when push comes to shove. You will have to please enough of these simulated people in order to get re-elected, while avoiding angering any groups to the extent that they turn to extremism.
Though the game is very complex in many ways, it is very basic in others – there are only two political parties, for example (yours, and the faceless opposition that everyone you've alienated votes for). Which one ends up winning is decided entirely on vote percentage.
Though the early game is challenging (the country is always in a terrible state when you first come to power), if you put enough focus into reducing crime and unemployment + boosting GDP without completely angering any voter demographics, you'll soon find yourself in a position where everyone's so happy that they don't care what else you do – and that's when you can really start building the socialist utopia or Orwellian dystopia of your dreams!
Controls: Entirely mouse-based; buttons, sliders and hovering cursors over things to see how they're all interlinked.
Graphics and sound: Circles, charts and graphs. The game-essential ones are clear and easy to understand; other optional ones are too complex for my liking, but will no doubt appeal to those who like stats! The music is basic, ambient; sound effects are limited and simple.
Overall: Frustrating and addictive to begin with, until you master it... then it quickly becomes simple, repetitive and boring. It is fun to try different styles of leadership and get different achievements, though! Above all else, it illustrates how difficult it must be to lead a country. You can never please everyone – unless you have tons of money to throw at them. 6/10
Story: You are an adventurer. One day, you stumble across a dwarf, mortally wounded by arrows. He tells you that his village is in grave danger, and its powerful artifact (The Hammer of Stonebridge) has been split in half and stolen by goblins. When the dwarf passes away, you decide to seek out the hammer parts, in hopes of a decent reward.
Gameplay: This is a PC adaptation of a 'gamebook' from the 1980s – these allowed you to play the part of the hero by making decisions that would impact the story. Do you go North? If so, turn to 30. To go East, it's 253. Read what you find below the number of your choice, and react to it. That's gamebooks in a nutshell!
And the majority of The Forest of Doom does involve just choosing a cardinal direction to head towards, in hopes that you'll find the hammer head and handle along the way. Sometimes you are given clues, but most of the time it's pure luck - which is where the replayability comes from: if you fail, take a different route next time! You have a map, but it's blank at the start, auto-filling as you progress.
You start at the South end of the forest, and pushing North will get you out quickly. However, your character refuses to retrace their steps and go South, so be sure to check out the East and/or West paths while you can!
You will come across items along your journey – some may be beneficial, some harmful, others do literally nothing. Did you buy those Boots of Leaping at the start to help you escape this big hole? Or a pair of Nose Filters to survive this toxic gas? Again, gamebooks are all about trial and error.
In addition to non-living hazards, you will face monsters and bandits, which is where the combat system comes in! Your character has stats - stamina, skill and luck - determined by dice roll at the beginning. You and your opponent both roll two six sided dice (automated on this PC version!), and add your respective skill scores to the result. Whoever has the highest number damages the other's stamina, until one of you is reduced to zero and dies.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based. Click to 'turn' the 'pages', or to choose from the options the game presents you with. Move your cursor to the bottom or top of the screen to bring up menus (inventory, map etc). Click to roll dice. It's a simple game, given that it's based on a simple book!
Graphics and sound: The music is nice, atmospheric... but it's just the one tune playing on a loop for the most part. The start of combat brings more dramatic music, but that's it. Would have been nice to see some more sound effects to match what's happening on each page.
Graphics-wise... again, it's based on a book, so it's mostly text, with some lovely (static, monochrome) illustrations here and there, straight from the originals.
Overall: As a fan of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, I approve! It's a very faithful adaptation. However, modern gamers who're unfamiliar with the franchise, and used to more visual stimulation and freedom of choice may find it too basic and arbitrary. 7/10
Story: After being caught pickpocketing a member of the mysterious order known as the Keepers, young Garrett is taken in by the order and trained in the various skills they utilize to remain unseen and unheard. However, Garrett soon decides to put this training to a more lucrative use...
Gameplay: Playing as Garrett, you must break into various places (mansions, crypts, temples etc), and complete objectives, usually focused around stealing a highly valuable object. You'll have a very rough map, based on info from other thieves and informants, giving you an idea of where things are. Depending on your chosen difficulty level, you may also have to find a secondary artifact, normal loot up to a certain value, and/or complete all of this without killing anybody.
Of course, each level will be filled with people or monsters who don't like you. Thief places more focus on stealth than combat; while Garrett can fight, he's not great at it! Or maybe I, as the player controlling him, aren't great at it. Anyway, it's less hassle if you instead stick to the shadows, walk slowly on soft surfaces, and maybe knock out the occasional guard with your blackjack if there's no easier way around it.
One of the game's most versatile tools is the bow, which comes with a nice variety of different arrows. Broadhead arrows do regular damage, water arrows put out torches (or dip them in holy water to put out zombies!), moss arrows cover noisy surfaces with a silent blanket, noisemaker arrows provide a useful distraction, rope arrows allow you to climb up/down to otherwise unreachable areas... the list goes on~
However, your supplies of these arrows, as well as other useful items such as healing potions, are limited. You are given a set amount at the start of each mission, with the option of buying more from a limited shop supply using limited gold. It's therefore very easy to run out and be left with nothing but your sword and blackjack, so use them wisely!
Controls: A combination of keyboard and mouse. All keyboard controls can be remapped to suit your preferences, but WASD and mouse keys are the default movement buttons. Number buttons toggle weapons, while tab cycles through other miscellaneous items. The mouse is used for more fine movement (looking around is key in a stealth game), as well as combat, picking items up etc. All very easy to grasp.
Graphics and sound: Thief may look somewhat angular and polygonal compared to more recent games, but for its time it was fantastic. I'd say the levels hold up quite well, perhaps aided by the fact that everything is dark and shadowy. The NPCs look very derpy by today's standards, but I find that charming.
The sound really helps to build tension. Listen to NPCs talking; you may pick up clues to help reach your objective. Listen to your footsteps; if they sound loud to you, they sound loud to your enemies too. The music is subtle (seeing as in-game sounds are so critical), but very creepy and atmospheric.
Overall: I didn't think I had the patience for stealth games, but sneaking around on Thief as been great fun. Very immersive. 9/10
Story: The outside world is getting colder each day. Fortunately, you just bought yourself a new Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace!
Gameplay: Burn all your toys and belongings in the fireplace, collect the coins that burst forth from the ashes, buy new toys, and repeat! Objects that you can set fire to range from mundane wooden blocks and plushies, to ironic things such as fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, to miniature planets and moons complete with their own gravity.
You start off with one catalogue to order new toys from, but there are six others that can be unlocked. Do so first by buying each item in the catalogue before it, and then by burning specific toys at the same time to achieve combos. The names of these combos provide clues to the required items, some of which are more obvious than others.
Once you've ordered an item, it can take a while to arrive (anywhere from a few seconds to 6 minutes). You can request 'express delivery' in exchange for stamps (1 required for each 30 seconds of waiting time), which you get from finding combos or occasionally just from burning stuff.
Little Inferno is an infinite cash machine; each thing you burn gives you more money than you spent on it, allowing you to keep buying more items and feeding the fire infinitely. On the off-chance you should run out, due to spending all your money on non-combustible things such as catalogues or extra shelf space, spiders will occasionally crawl into the inferno – these also yield gold. There is no way to lose the game.
In addition to the things you buy yourself, you'll periodically be sent letters from Tomorrow Corporation (makers of Little Inferno), weather reports from The Weather Man, and messages from your neighbour, who is also an avid Little Inferno fan. These letters provide a bit of world development and story... as well as additional fuel for the fire when you're done reading!
Controls: Drag-and-drop items from your shelf into the fireplace, and hold down the left mouse button to set them on fire. Entirely mouse-based, as you'd expect from a game which also got iOS, Android and Wii U releases. Very simple and intuitive.
Graphics and sound: Given the lack of variation in gameplay, graphics are especially important. Thankfully, Little Inferno looks fantastic. The flames look and act very realistically, from small glowing sparks to full-blown flames to dying embers. The toys all look and sound fun as well. Small things such as the noticeable brighter, warmer orange light in the room when something is alight, compared with the cold blue the rest of the time, are a nice touch.
Sound-wise, again you've got the comforting crackle of the fire to drown out the snowy gales outside. Open a catalogue to be greeted by some jolly 1950s-style shopping music. And then there's the 'instructional video'... there's a song that will be stuck in your head for days!
Overall: Very basic, but almost hypnotically addictive, and it only takes about 2 hours to complete (perhaps a little longer if you're a completionist who needs to find every item combo). Nice setting, but the story is a bit vague. 6/10
Story: One day, our protagonist finds a strange sphere on the beach. Though unsure of what this object is, they take it home anyway. However, from that moment they start having unusual dreams...
Gameplay: The aforementioned story only serves to set the scene; the game itself has you play as the sphere itself, presumably in a world of dreams. You must guide your sphere from one end of the screen to the other (usually left to right, but not always) by having it roll about. There's no jump mechanic, you have to rely on the terrain and physics to clear obstacles. It's that simple!
Well, not quite. In some levels you will be given extra powers, such as high speed, brakes to slow you down, or even the ability to invert gravity! But not always. Rather than having to find some sort of 'power up' item as in a lot of similar puzzle / platform games, you'll arrive on each new level with whatever power the game creators want you to use to clear it. Be sure to check which ones (if any!) you have available each time you progress to a new area. Sometimes these powers will even be used against you, activated automatically and locked on to make an otherwise easy map more challenging.
The maps themselves aren't always static. Sometimes there are moving obstacles, or contraptions to help or hinder you. Vehicles to ride on or in, see-saws to throw you up, rotating platforms, big boxes in need of pushing, little boxes that cause you to bounce in unintended directions, and far more.
The game is a fairly decent length, featuring 10 different zones (plus the tutorial beach), each containing many different puzzles, and its own distinctive look and theme. Naturally, it gets more challenging the further you progress – working out what to do is easy, but actually doing it can involve perfect timing and button combinations, likely following a lot of trial and error.
Controls: Entirely keyboard-based... is something I don't say very often, but there's no mouse support here! Roll with the left and right arrow keys, use S or A to activate powers, use Enter to set off various interactive machines, and Space to reset the level if you get stuck. You may be needing that a lot.
Graphics and sound: HD graphics as it's a newer game (by my standards, at least), very clear and pretty. As the name suggests, the maps are mostly set in a dark twilight world. Virtually everything is a black silhouette, aside from your sphere, which has a nice glow to it as it rolls about (this intensifies if you're using other powers). Some screens contain no obstacles at all, allowing you to just roll from one end to the other and enjoy the scenery.
The soundtrack is quite relaxing, ambient, about what I've come to expect from games like this. Nice, but not something I'd listen to in its own right.
Overall: A relaxing puzzle game for the most part, though higher levels get surprisingly difficult and frustrating. Just like Spirits, which I copied this summary from. 7/10
Story: It is the Middle Ages. You play as the head of your own dynasty. Will your family name go down in (alternate) history as influential kings and emperors, or will your line die out before the Renaissance?
Gameplay: Starting in 1066, you pick a ruler or noble (or design your own), and play as them until they die. 'Playing as them' involves expanding your realm by pressing claims on titles, while managing your existing realm and vassals to ensure they don't revolt or plot to kill you.
When your character dies, you continue playing as their heir...but only if they're of the same bloodline, otherwise it's game over! Marrying and having children is an essential part of the game, but love plays little importance in grand strategy, so marry into power instead! Then once you have kids, marry them off too for further alliances~
One advantage over IRL matchmaking is that you can see the stats and traits of potential partners beforehand; certain traits and stats may pass on to children, so if there aren't any single Queens available, a 'lowborn' genius may not be a bad alternative.
Expanding your realm isn't as simple as declaring war on the country next door, either - in CKII, you need a just cause. Claims can be inherited, or fabricated, though the latter takes a lot of time and money. None of this applies if you're declaring war on people of a different religion though, because rescuing lands from heathens was always a just cause! Crusader Kings II is not always the most politically correct of games, unsurprisingly.
Another example is that, by default, women can't inherit most titles. Even when allowed, they're often lower in succession than younger eligible males. And unless a female character's husband agrees to a 'matrilineal' marriage, any children will be of his bloodline, not hers. Of course, some players might appreciate the extra challenge!
The game ends in the year 1453 – if your dynasty is still going, you win! Though how influential they were during this time will be reflected in your final score, made up of their combined prestige (based on number of titles held and vassals ruled) and piety (effected by certain traits, going on crusades, donating to holy orders etc).
Controls: Entirely mouse-based – click buttons and navigate windows to manange your realm, and deal with whatever random events pop-up as messages. Click parts of the map to get more info about them. Click character portraits to interact with that character, etc.
Graphics and sound: The graphics are functional at best – all you'll ever see of any characters is a portrait, which might occasionally change clothes to fit their new title/situation, or appear to age. The rest is pretty much just windows with text and statistics... and of course the huge map of the 'Old World', just waiting to be messed about with in ways that never could have happened IRL.
The game music is superb, mostly orchestral or folk music pieces, which change slightly as the in-game centuries progress. And if you're playing in December, download the free Songs of Yuletide DLC for a good laugh.
Overall: Very complex, can be off-putting at first, but highly addictive and rewarding if you can get over that initial steep learning curve. 8/10
This was just about the first ever game I played on PC, such a simple game, not much in the way of graphics and not easy to build a winning team but it was lots of fun, the only downside was you couldn't go lower than what was then known was Divsion 3 (now known as League 2) but it is an absolute classic, just a shame that it probably won't work on most PC's and Laptops with the advancement of graphics.
Story: There are folks. They are hidden. Find them!
...Once again, this is a casual puzzle game, and there is no plot.
Gameplay: Hidden Folks is the digital equivalent of those Where's Wally / Find Asterix books, where you have to search for certain people, animals and / or objects within a busy illustration full of similar looking people, animals and / or objects. When you think you've found something from the list at the bottom of the screen, click it, and if you're correct then it'll be circled and ticked off the list! Find enough of them, and you can progress to the next area (or stick around and finish the current one first, if you're the completionist type).
These hidden object hunts take place in several different environments, including a forest camp site, a dry open desert, a chaotic ski slope, and a busy metropolis. Each of these different areas starts off with a small tutorial-like area, to get you used to the scene and the things you can expect to find there...
...before moving you on to something a little bigger.
The advantage of a digital version of a game like this is, of course, that the images don't have to be static. Your targets can move, or be hidden behind other objects, or inside other objects or buildings. Pretty much anything that looks as though it could be opened (doors, tents, windows and more) can be clicked on, other things can be dragged out of the way. Press buttons to turn on or off machinery. Water seeds to find that elusive plant. Et cetera.
Given the size of the scenes, and the folks' increasingly hard to find hiding spaces, you'd be at it for days if you tried to search for each item without some guidance. Thankfully, clicking any of the things on the list will give you a clue about their surroundings, interests or overall situation, enough to point you in the right direction without blatantly giving things away.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based. Click things on the image to interact with them, left click and drag to move to another area of the map, or use the scroll wheel to zoom in or out as desired.
Graphics and sound: While the Where's Wally and Asterix examples I quoted earlier were detailed and colourful affairs, Hidden Folks is the opposite – really basic line drawings, all black and white. This makes it harder, as there are often hundreds of other people around who look virtually identical to the one you're looking for, differing only by one small feature.
Despite the simplicity, each new map has so much going on in it that just panning around and seeing what each of the folks is up to can provide a lot of entertainment.
The sound effects are quite unique – every single noise came from the mouths of two people, the game's designer and its illustrator. Ambient environmental sounds, buzzing bees, birds tweeting, monkeys screeching, car noises, all mouth-originated. Personally, I love it, must have been so much fun to work on!
Overall: As with many other puzzle games, it's super easy in theory, but the size of the scenes and the ingenuity of the hiding places make completing each list a real challenge. But a fun challenge! 8/10
Christmas Stories: Nutcracker (2013) - PC, Puzzle.
Story: You have been invited to the Royal Christmas Ball, an event that you've always wanted to attend, a highlight to what is already your favourite time of the year! But, you arrive late, and everyone has gone home.
After going inside anyway, hoping that someone will have left you a gift under the tree, you instead find a sapient nutcracker doll, who needs your help saving his beloved princess from the evil rat king... and so your grand adventure begins!
Gameplay: This is predominantly another hidden object game, but with some puzzles for variety. You must explore the palace, looking for items in one area to solve a problem in another, slowly unlocking new areas on your map as you go. Thankfully, the map tells you whether there's anything else you can do in a given area, so you don't have to waste time trying to work out which puzzles to focus on in which order. Keep doing this until you reach the Rat King, and the final showdown!
The hidden object puzzles are the most common – you'll be presented with a pile of items, and you must find and click the ones which are on your list. Items marked in blue require some additional preparation, for example it may specify a 'lit candle', when the only visible candle is unlit... It's pretty basic stuff, but I found it surprisingly difficult to find items at times, and they only got more difficult as the game progressed!
Despite the long lists, you only ever hold onto one item from each pile for later use. These, along with a few other random objects you find lying around, are added to your inventory. Companions also go in your inventory! There are three in total: the eponymous Nutcracker who can take down rat guards, a living candle who comes in handy whenever puzzles involve heat or flame, and a cat who can climb up and retrieve objects which are out of your reach.
Controls: Entirely mouse-based, point-and-click goodness. Click items to pick them up or interact with them, click doorways to travel to another area, or click the map to fast travel around. Click stuff from your inventory to select them and use them on other things. Easy.
Graphics and sound: The game itself is very pretty, albeit mostly static backgrounds with basic looping animations here and there. Each map location had a very unique theme and feeling to it. The cutscenes were quite basic, again using either static images, or low-res video.
The sound effects and music could be split into two definite categories: music from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, which often starts playing after you've solved a key puzzle - makes sense! But then there's the eerier, creepier ambient sounds. Creaking boards, howling winter winds, general low-pitched droning... makes the game feel a lot more unsettling than you'd expect! Voice acting was limited, but good.
Overall: Very basic gameplay for the most part, but surprisingly addictive, and occasionally frustrating. It did hold my attention for the 3 hours or so that it took me to complete it, but I won’t be rushing out to buy more of the literally hundreds of other hidden object games from the same publisher. 6/10