Friday, October 30, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep40: The Scarecrow Man & Space Blaster (Lines)

It's time for a creepy double feature! First off, an encounter with The Scarecrow Man followed by a possessed video game called Space Blaster (Lines)!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Inconsistencies in Hearthstone

I wanted to share this video to provide some insight to new players and to show my support for fixing the inconsistencies found within Hearthstone.

As a (former) player that saw numerous text/timing/rule changes to Magic: the Gathering cards over the years, I remember the hassle of having to keep current with the new interactions of older cards. At one point, the errata/rulings for Clone (the MtG equivalent of Faceless Manipulator) was three pages long!

As a digital game, Hearthstone doesn't have to carry the baggage of errata that comes with printed cards. As the video above plainly states, many of the inconsistent cards need only a minor text rewording without having to change how they currently function. 

When it comes to competitive games with numerous interactions and pieces, it's important to accurately express (as much as possible) what each individual piece does. Consistent wording on the cards allows players to better understand how those cards interact and helps to avoid confusion.

Numerous games have experienced the growing pains of rule changes, errata, and new interactions compounded by the game's growing popularity. It's important for the health of the game to periodically address these issues. In the case of printed products, this takes the form of anything from occasional rule/errata update write-ups to entire reprints or new editions of the game. Thankfully, the digital medium doesn't have to deal with that mess and can typically do text clean-up with little trouble.

Here's to hoping that Blizzard will take advantage of the opportunity to easily improve Hearthstone's long-term success. It may seem like a minor issue, but in the long run it will be worth it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Have A SPOOKY Halloween!

I just wanted to remind you that I'm having a special Halloween livestream!

Join me Saturday, October 31 @6pm ET at my Twitch channel, where I'll be streaming an extra "spooky" game Halloween night!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep39: VANISH

Trapped in a dark tunnel system and questioning your sanity, you realize you're not alone...

Like many horror titles, VANISH thrusts you headlong into the game with minimal backstory. The short intro suggests you've been thrown into an underground tunnel (perhaps sewer) system against your will, with no explanation as to why.

The area is quite dark - with the brightness turned way up for the video, I could barely see before walking right into a monster. Playing at the recommended settings makes it so you're lucky to see several feet ahead, meaning you'll have to tread with caution so as not to bump into a baddie. This gets progressively worse as the darkness eventually takes hold (whether physically or in the character's mind I'm not certain) and it goes pitch black even with a glowstick and your brightness up.

Those complaints aside, I found the rest of the game to be quite good. It's full of atmospheric sounds that keep you guessing if something evil is lurking nearby, and there's a number of environmental startles like bursting pipes and tunnel collapses thrown in for good measure.

The real kicker though is the unpredictability of the tunnels. Not only is the layout procedurally generated, but it can change behind you too! It's a cool feature that considerably ups the creep factor and reminds you that no place is safe. The downside to this however is the possibility that one could get incredibly unlucky and be hopelessly stuck/lost (though it's hard to know for sure, considering the changing nature of the tunnels). The game seems designed around short play sessions though, making this situation more like a "bad run" in a roguelike title.

In all, VANISH blends atmospheric horror with a slight roguelike twist into a thrilling test of your bravery, patience, and sanity!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep38: Real Horror Stories

Get ready for point-and-click scares and disturbing imagery!

Real Horror Stories is a click-based Flash game full of bizarre and disturbing scenes. The title of the game is incredibly misleading, as nothing presented in the game seems to be real (or even based on actual events).

The gameplay is uninspired and frightfully dull as you're placed in a scene with several clickable areas and no real clue as to why you're doing anything. Generally speaking, you keep clicking on whatever is available until something happens (typically an animation, sound, or jump scare). There are a handful of small puzzles scattered throughout to help break up the monotony, but they also break what little immersion the game had just built up as you're given seemingly endless time to solve them.

While the game is chock full of shocking imagery, I quickly lost any sense of danger or fear as I realized there was no potential for failure or death. The closest you get to "losing" is choosing one game ending over another, and even this can be easily replayed from a recent save point to see the other choice. I'm not quite certain why save points were added to the game in the first place, unless it was designed more for people playing on a mobile device during quick breaks.

The scariest thing about Real Horror Stories is that you actually have to pay for the iOS and Steam versions (the latter is an "ultimate" edition with added content).

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep37: The Mask Reveals Disgusting Face

3D pixel horror with creepy atmospheric sound!

The Mask Reveals Disgusting Face offers up some insight into depression as well as some scares. You play as Gary, who has isolated himself from friends and family due to his mental illness. Paranoia, depression and insanity have taken their toll over the last two years, but Gary wakes one day to find he's now trapped... and he might not be alone.

One of my favorite things about this game is its atmosphere, especially the audio. As you approach a window, you can hear the rushing wind outside. I recall there being a faint dripping sound somewhere as well. These bits added in with the obligatory spooky sounds (footsteps in the hall, pounding on doors, etc.) really helped to bring it all together.

Unlike many other horror titles, this game has almost no jump scares (but there's definitely a panic moment or two). It is incredibly dark most of the time though, leaving your imagination to fill in what might be lurking in the shadows (which is quite effective).

I enjoyed playing through The Mask Reveals Disgusting Face, and found the ending rather interesting as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep36: The Terrible Old Man (H. P. Lovecraft)

The Terrible Old Man is a point-and-click adventure horror title, based on the H. P. Lovecraft short story of the same name.

I'll get my only complaint out of the way - this game isn't very long. Being based on a short story, there's not much source material for the game to really work with. I am glad to see that the game at least remained relatively faithful to the story instead of padding it for more content. 

There are numerous Lovecraft works that would make for interesting games, many of which are much longer than The Terrible Old Man. It leaves me to wonder why this particular piece was chosen to be adapted into a game over others? Maybe it was just a favorite tale of the developers. Perhaps it was more of a "proof of concept" to see if a story would work as a point-and-click adventure? If so, I think it came out pretty well and hope they decide to make more adaptations.

The gameplay itself was standard adventure fare - gather information, find and use items at appropriate times, etc. I liked the hand-drawn art style and the facial expressions were equal parts comical and disturbing, which helped play up the unusual atmosphere.

Hardcore point-and-click enthusiasts will find The Terrible Old Man to be lacking depth, but fans of H. P. Lovecraft should enjoy checking this one out for the novelty.