102
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Recent reviews by WHAM

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Showing 1-10 of 102 entries
6 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
0.5 hrs on record
Early Access Review
Never became the game it meant to become, and seems very much like it will never be finished either. In case anyone still looks to purhcase this, do so only if you're fine with the idea of perpetual Early Access.

9 years of development hell is not a pretty sight.
Posted December 14, 2021.
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1 person found this review helpful
12.5 hrs on record
"A stoat is fine, too!"

I never really got into most multiplayer card games, like Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering, since those games always felt like you had to pay to have a chance at winning. However, in a story focused single player game, many of the mechanics that can feel frustrating when playing against an unknowable human opponent, can feel like puzzles and rewarding challenges. Put together what seemed like a cool card game and a horror-oriented cabin-in-the-woods mystery and Inscryption seemed like a pretty darn interesting game to me!

And for what I expected, Inscryption delivered, and then delivered some more!

While some aspects of the game, such as certain card mechanics, traversal modes and especially music can sometimes feel lacking, the whole of Inscryption was a really impressive game and I enjoyed all of it!

So what's the game about? You are, well, you. And you are trapped in a cabin with a shady person who wants to play cards with you. And unless you play well, you will die and get turned into a card yourself. Throughout the game you unlock new cards and abilities, explore the cabin around you and play on, getting better at the game and pushing further into the mystery. The game then opens up in some surprising ways that I won't be spoiling here. Suffice to say I was impressed and surprised with the later stages of the game and how they expanded on the core ideas!

However, for some people the core game loop of a card game can also feel frustrating or unfair. There is a good bit of luck-of-the-draw involved, which can cause progress made later to feel less valuable as it feels unclear if you got better or just had a good luck that time. However, this is a bit of an unavoidable issue with deck-building card games, so I won't consider that a sin here.

The way the story of the game is delivered also surprised me, but that's more spoilers, so sadly I can't really say a lot more of that, either.

While this review might seem flat or lacking due to me not wanting to spoil too much, I will say that the game is well worth experiencing and that the experience will definitely be better if you go in unspoiled! Give it a go, you won't regret it! Inscryption is easily one of my top 3 games of 2021!

Playtime: 12+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 8
Audio: 7
Story: 9
Gameplay: 8
Overall: 9
Posted November 26, 2021.
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10 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
3.9 hrs on record (3.8 hrs at review time)
"Wait... was that it!? ARE YOU SERIOUS!?"

Chasing Static was not what I expected. It wasn't a horror game, or a game about tracking mysterious signals to discover grand secrets, nor was it a game with an intriguing story. Maybe coming out just before Halloween, or the trailers I saw, had coloured my expectations? Instead it turned out to be a first person version of a 90's point and click adventure game with some puzzles lifted right out of the deeper pits of moonlogic of that era, and it's all wrapped up in one of the least satisfying story endings I have experienced in a long time.

So what got me into this game? I saw a trailer and liked the mood, and I especially liked the visuals. While flawed in some areas due to seemingly mismatched textures and Unity physics wonkiness, the game looks wonderful. It hits just the kind of 90's nostalgia, landing in a comfortable valley between the Play Station and PS2 eras of visuals, with a few modern tweaks. It was the visuals that sold the game to me, sold the mood and atmosphere, and made me want to play.

Three hours later, however, and I feel disappointed.

Chasing Static tells the story of Chris, a cigarette smoking englishman with a love-hate relationship with his car and a troubled family history. He finds himself tracking down a town from his past, only to get lost and off track, and eventually trapped in a nightmarish scenario filled with horrors, intrigue and death. The game introduces us to characters and plotlines and locations that all seem to hint at some greater revelation at the end, at some grand reveal that brings all of these mysteries together.

That ending, however; the one I came to expect based on what I was seeing build up over time, is not to be found. Without giving away too much, and because I cannot be bothered to put up a spoiler tag: the ending seems to reveal that nothing was real. It was all a dream or a vision or an experiment. None of it really mattered, and the game even hints at that being the case in some of its dialogue and gameplay design.

I was left with so many questions, and not a single satisfying answer to go with those questions.

This is the part where I'd normally cover sound and music, but for me the game came accompanied with what I can only think of as bugs and missing sound effects. Many cutscenes played dialogue just fine, but contained no sound effects at all. Other times even the dialogue wouldn't play, and in-game events would glitch out due to overlapping events and scenes. Oh, and it rains indoors sometimes. There is a solid effort to build up atmosphere, but some effects feel so overused over the games relatively short runtime, and provide so little payoff, that it comes off as trying a little bit too hard.

As much as I wanted to like this game, I cannot bring myself to recommend it. It feels unfinished, untested and unpolished, and the story the game is built upon feels so half-hearted that all I felt after finishing the game was deep disappointment. However, I have to admit the small developer team has heart and passion, so...

If you see this game on a discount, and there have been some bug fixes and polish in later patches, then you might consider it, even if it's just to support and motivate the developers. At its full retail price, and at least at the time of writing this review, soon after launch: don't bother.

Playtime: 3+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 7
Audio: 6
Story: 3
Gameplay: 5
Overall: 4
Posted October 14, 2021. Last edited October 15, 2021.
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4 people found this review helpful
2.9 hrs on record
"This lady sounds NUTS!"

NUTS is an unusual game, and that made me like it. You are tasked with researching squirrels, and to perform this task you must set up cameras in the forest, let them record animal movements overnight, and then review the footage you got in the morning. Maybe you pointed the camera the wrong way and got nothing, maybe you got precisely what you needed, or maybe you need to go back, readjust and try again the next night to learn something new. It's a very neat concept and not one I've seen done with this much freedom for the player!

The sounds of the forest, and the minimalist ambient music, also work well to build up an atmosphere. There is a great sensation of potential during the early moments of the game, of something greater eventually coming our way. Even the plot, focused around your research being used to prevent some greedy corporation from ruining the forest by damming the river, seems to hint toward something more mysterious and nefarious.

It is here, however, that the game lets the player down a little. A lot of the potential of this setting, and the gameplay mechanics, are never fully realised. It is my understanding the game was developed with limited time and resources, and the developers have done some great things, but as much as I like the idea of NUTS, I was left wanting something more.

There is also the minor gripe I have with the only voice actor of the game. Her voice and accent are fine for her role, but her delivery leaves much to be wanted, with some lines delivered with too much haste, not flowing naturally. I think you can tell the actor isn't a native english speaker, and this might have made it difficult for her to feel natural when doing her lines.

Finally I must also warn the reader of the colour scheme of NUTS. While I found it endearing in the way it uses limited colours and contrast to paint its world, several people I showed the game to complained that it was unpleasant to look at. I feel this will come down to personal taste and preference, so do take a good look at the screenshots in the store page before you take the plunge.

Still, even for a short game with a lot of potential left untapped, I have to recommend NUTS. It's not an action packed experience, nor will it envelop you in a grand story full of twists and turns, but if you'd like to spend an evening doing something no other game lets you do, toying around with mechanics no other game offers, NUTS is a good investment.

Playtime: 3+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 7
Audio: 8
Story: 5
Gameplay: 8
Overall: 7
Posted September 5, 2021.
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1 person found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
12.5 hrs on record
"I miss the days when the Necrons didn't talk..."

To start off, I am a fan of the Warhammer 40 000 setting, and also a fan of the Adeptus Mechanicus and Necron lore. I am also a huge fan of the old X-COM games from the 90's, and even quite enjoyed the modern reboot by Firaxis. And so I ventured into Mechanicus, looking for a fun but tough challenge to overcome.

My first major mistake was trying to relive the past glory of old X-COM games by enabling ironman mode. Don't do that. You may ask why, and the answer lies in the gameplay and mission design.

In Mechanicus your team of machine-enhanced techpriests and support units venture deep into a Necron tomb world, a massive underground construction filled with skeletal beings of living metal hell-bent on annihilating any intruders. With each new chamber you explore, the tomb becomes more alert and your enemies grow more capable to deal with you, so the game constantly urges the player to hurry toward completing their objectives, as each turn wasted comes with a risk of new obstacles to overcome.

So the solution seems clear: take risks, move fast, complete your mission and get out, right?

Wrong. Oh, so very wrong. And this is the only reason I have for giving this game a negative review: many missions of the game will give the player a clear objective. Let's say it's "Grab an artefact". Once you rush through your enemies and grab the artefact, the mission objective updates to "Return to the exit". So you fall back under fire, hoping to escape with your stolen goods before the enemy becomes too overwhelming.

And when you reach the exit, ragged and wounded, with a man down, the game slaps you and tells you to "Kill All Enemies". I had made my second major mistake: I trusted the mission objective displayed on screen.

(Fun fact: another spiritual successor to X-COM, Phoenix Point, has this exact same issue!)

This is just one example of awful design, where missions pretend to give the player an actual task to complete, but nearly all missions boil down to eventually having to kill all enemies in the end, which means that doing anything but that, no matter what the written objective is, is usually detrimental to success. To compound the issue, many missions also have trigger points. Walking across a certain point will trigger new enemies to spawn, and causing this to happen before dealing with the enemies already on the map may well cause you to end up in a situation where you cannot win the mission anymore. So the game is teaching you to go slow, take your time, finish off enemies and only then attempt to move forward. But remember that tomb awakening thing I mentioned? That's global across the game. Every turn wasted literally makes the whole game harder, and likely eventually impossible.

I quickly learned that there is one true way to play Mechanicus: you start a mission, you play the mission, you fail the mission. During this you memorize what the triggers are, where enemies will spawn and what mission objectives you can safely ignore, and then you load your save and go again. This way you can win every mission every time, you just have to deal with that one bad run first. It is the effective way to play, encouraged by the fact the game doesn't seem to have any of the random factors its forefathers in the X-COM series had to keep the player on their toes.

So, for me, Mechanicus boiled down to a game of coin tosses: either I'd luck out and finish a mission on the first try, or I'd fail, feel I was unfairly treated, and then save-scum to beat a level and proceed. It's not very fun or engaging, since rather than learning of your mistakes you are learning to cheat.

What pains me the most is the fact that Mechanicus has some absolutely great stuff in it. The character customization, the units, the lore (such as it is nowadays. Thanks, Games Workshop) are all delivered with a high degree of polish and quality. The sound design and especially the music are truly standout stuff, and I'd recommend finding the soundtrack online and just listening to it for a while, it's that good!

The combat has some really cool features as well. Two damage types to manage, single use powers and abilities you can combo to perform massively effective maneuvers with your units. A whole host of different unit types, customization options and a very well done upgrade system. There is much to love here, when it comes to the core gameplay mechanics, but it's all brought down by the way the game punishes you for trying to play it.

To actually play the game, even with all of its customization options and tweaks, feels too much like having to cheat in order to win, rather than learning how to play better. I simply cannot recommend Mechanicus as it exists now, not to players new to the genre, nor to grizzled veterans of similar tactical turn-based games.

Playtime: 12+ hours (Four game sessions)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 8
Audio: 9
Story: 7
Gameplay: 4
Overall: 5

PS: Dear developers. There is a very simple solution to my main issue with this game, and that is honesty. If the mission objective isn't "hack the computer" but actually "hack the computer and kill all enemies", just put that latter line in the objective text box so the player knows what you expect from them. It won't fix all the issues this game has, but it does fix the worst one that ensure I'll never finish the game.
Posted September 3, 2021.
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3 people found this review helpful
1.9 hrs on record (1.8 hrs at review time)
"Don't huff paint and kill fascists at the same time, kids!"

I was introduced to Umurangi Generation by the Youtube channel Super Bunnyhop, and I really, REALLY liked the concept! I've always thought that the first person shooter style of play could be used for something else, and target-based photography with scoring is an excellent idea, and so I got the game and sat down to play.

Precisely two hours later the end credits rolled for me, and I was a little underwhelmed.

So what is the game about? Truth be told, I don't reall know the answer to that. The game has absolutely no dialogue, and while it does some interesting worldbuilding with how it sets up its scenes and levels, there isn't much of a story arc to follow here. We find ourselves in a city preparing for chaos, an alien invasion of some kind. I feel inspirations have been drawn from Godzilla and Neon Genesis Evangelion. There seems to be a ban on photographing some critters that appear in the game, so maybe there is a secretive coverup plot?

Hard to say, though, as nothing is ever explained. Instead the player ends up getting tasked with photographing spray paint cans and cats and graffiti and other random objects in a way that gave me no idea what the role of our character really is, and then to 'make a delivery', which I guess is delivering the photos we took to a place, such as the back of a van. Why? Again: the game does not say.

What about the photography itself? Is it crisp and fun and challenging? Well, not really. I ended up completing several objectives by accident due to the wonky target detection, and some of the objectives are very poorly explained, which can cause some frustration. Take a photo of 4 things, when there are only 3 of those things in the scene? Hmmm...

The visuals leave a lot to be desired as well. While the game goes for an highly stylized art style, far removed from photo realism and well suited for a small team and limited budget, it felt a little too crude at times. The movement around the levels is janky, it's easy to clip around to places you're not supposed to be, and there is no risks, challenges or even fall damage to worry about. There is a time limit of sorts, but that only seems to relate to a bonus challenge, not the core game itself.

The only part of the game that stood out to me, really, was the music. While it doesn't seem to really relate to the scene or location in the game, many of the tracks were absolutely great and I found myself jamming to them quite happily.

Still, a good soundtrack can't really save a poor execution, and sadly I find myself unable to recommend this game. As much as I love the idea, I feel like the game doesn't do nearly enough with it, or construct an engaging narrative in which the player could feel involved. I can see the developers wanted the player to feel like just a passenger in the sidelines, witnessing something greater than themselves, beyond control, but the ride is too short and lacks an engaging destination.


Playtime: 2+ hours (A single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 7
Audio: 9
Story: 7
Gameplay: 5
Overall: 6
Posted July 31, 2021.
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No one has rated this review as helpful yet
22.9 hrs on record
"This robot's got a thicc butt!"

I still remember seeing the trailers for Horizon Zero Dawn and being amazed. The vibrant colours, the vast open world, the exotic machineamals (which is a term I just coined, do not steal!), it was all quite fascinating and impressive. And while the game doesn't quite live up to all the hype, especially with years having gone between the game releasing and me playing it, and ESPECIALLY with how thin the whole open world adventure genre has been worn: Horizon Zero Dawn is still a pretty damn fine game!

Now I do have some gripes and pet peeves with it, mind you, and the biggest one is the protagonist. Aloy is the bitchiest Mary Sue protagonists I've come across since the Witcher games. Her story as the shunned outcast starts tugging on the players heartstrings right from game start, but about two hours into the game she manages to transform into an annoyingly overconfident, self-aggrandizing know-it-all and the writers put in a lot of effort to drive home just how smart, witty and all-around superior she is as a human being. She is, by all accounts, God made flesh to walk the Earth to show the mere mortals that inhabit it what a REAL WOMAN can do, and it's all kinds of cringe.

But enough griping about the protagonist, what about the world? The story?

This is where the game starts to show a little more promise. The world of Horizon is one of distinct look, feel and culture. Different peoples, styles of dress, homes, wild lands and wilder machine-beasts are all quite fascinating to explore, not to mention the fact that the world is littered with the remnants of an ancient war between man and machine, and all signs point to man having lost that war. Sadly the game suffers of the same issue I had with Doom Eternal a while back: exploring the ruins of this ancient conflict, to me, feels a lot less interesting than the original conflict, and there is a feeling that the real story happened hundreds of years ago and we're here just to pick up some fragments and play pretend at our own importance.

Audiovisually the game is a treat, for the most part. Some of the facial animations, especially when trying to portray more extreme emotions, can be quite jarring, and the NPC animations tend to glitch out in the kinds of ways we've come to expect from open world games since the days of Elder Scrolls Oblivion and beyond. But to see what the Decima engine can pull off when it's really working is a treat! The time of day changing, the weather effects, the swaying vegetation and, most importantly, the roaming machine wildlife! It's all gorgeous, even though I suffered some performance issues on my old GTX 1080 based PC. Sprinkled on top the gorgeous visuals are some top-notch voice acting work, evocative sound design and smooth melodies that all combine for a game I feel truly deserves its AAA badge.

How's the gameplay, you ask? It's... well, see, this is where it gets more difficult to praise the game. Horizon Zero Dawn is basically a Ubisoft open world adventure game, despite trying very hard to stand out. You explore the vast open space to find collectibles. You raid bandit camps through clumsily designed stealth or open assault. You hunt machineamals and collect plants for crafting resources. You visit towns to trade and upgrade your gear. You climb glorified radio towers that... actually, let's talk about that!

Ubisoft's Far Cry series caught flak for having repetitive radio towers the player had to climb to open up the map! Horizon has giant mechanical giraffesaurs that walk around the map and need to be ambushed to gain access to them! Now, this sounds to me like the design team went out of their way to not have 'just radio towers to climb', but in trying to reinvent the wheel they somehow made the experience worse! Instead of walking up to a tower and climbing it, you find the tower, find a vantage point from which to jump onto the tower, WAIT for the tower to walk into the right position to be jumped onto, hold the left thumbstick up and occasionally press A to jump, since the climbing controls are basically automated and require no thought or timing from the player, flip a glorified switch once at the top.

It's the same thing, but with extra steps, and added waiting period and less player control! It looks way cool in the trailers, but to play it is a chore. And the same can be said of a lot of parts of Horizon: it's a chore to play sometimes.

Want some healing? Run around collecting flowers. Sure, you can also buy healing potions, but using those is clunky and sometimes the game refuses to do it, flashing a red X over the potion icon when trying to use it (and I could not figure out why!) Want a specific item for a recipe? Just kill the right monster and hope that the random chance drop gives you what you need, because apparently only one in ten of the big bull machines has a heart in it. Want to climb up a ledge? Better hope it's a highlighted special ledge, or Aloy will just slide off (granted: Breath of the Wild has spoiled me in this regard, but I maintain that the climbing on Horizon Zero Dawn feels borked and unreliable at best).

The game does try to provide the player with options for combat, at least, but suffers of the fact that there seems to be one simple strategy that replaces all alternatives: hiding in a bush and brainwashing machineamals if possible and shooting them in the glowy bits if not. Horizon teaches you how to track enemies, how to set traps and combine special effects, and after the first four or five hours with the game I almost never used any of these things. The traps felt unreliable, and once combat had begun it was nigh impossible to predict how an enemy would move, and whenever I laid a trap, it wouldn't trigger or the enemy would walk just around it. Even if I did get an enemy into a trap, it would do perhaps 200 damage, while a quick shot from my bow would do 70 to 120 damage. And setting the traps and luring enemies in takes way, way more time to accomplish!

Shooting the machineamal enemies can be quite satisfying, though, with various parts that can be shot off to alter how they behave and disable their special attacks. Too bad, then, that toward the end of the game all of that goes out the windows as the player is reduced to shooting hundreds of human enemies in the head, and using special story-specific area-of-effect weapons to kill dozens of the most powerful machineamals in minutes and without the need to aim or think.

And if you're the collector and secret hunter type, I feel this game has plenty to offer with it's wide-open map and hundreds of hidden nooks and crannies. Just don't try to explore too far off the beaten path, or the game will flatly tell you that proceeding further is forbidden and you will be sent back to your previous checkpoint.

All in all, Horizon Zero Dawn is a fine game. Most of its flaws are pet peeves of mine and have more to do with the genre than this particular game, and there are some undeniably cool moments to experience and plot twists to discover. In a different time, I could easily see myself spending 50 hours or more exploring its world, and another 50 hours finding all the secrets, and so I feel there is definitely value for money to be had here. Grab it, play it, and have fun!


Playtime: 22+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 8
Audio: 7
Story: 8
Gameplay: 6
Overall: 7
Posted July 26, 2021.
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13 people found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
2
7.7 hrs on record (7.4 hrs at review time)
"My head just hurts..."

There is one word that describes this game well: 'unusual'.

The setting is unusual, with its futuristic biopunk ideas and utterly abstract characters and locales.
The weapons are unusual, with a strange mix of real-world weapons and absolutely over-the-top designs.
The music is unusual, and most definitely headache-inducing.
And most critically, the visuals are unusual, with purposefully trashy textures overlaid clunky, blocky and ugly models and terrain.

I can kind of see why everyone and their mom is recommending this game, though: to play Cruelty Squad feels like being a part of a secretive club, like being in on a joke that any outside observer will fail to grasp. Anyone casually looking at screenshots or video of the game will be baffled by how awful it looks and sounds, but THAT is the joke!

So as not to just berate the game, there are some cool ideas. Some parts of the maps and dialogue have really cool ideas that just fall short of being good due to the awful visual and sound design. Some gameplay concepts, such as the altering gameplay state based on how many times the player has died, is a really neat idea I'd love to see explored by more competently designed games! Even the fairly open-ended level design that seems to borrow ideas from the old Deus Ex at times feels like a nice thing, and I'd love to see more games designed around tackling these kinds of levels, with relatively simple objectives, but several imaginative ways to accomplish them!

But can I recommend Cruelty Squad? Absolutely not.

As I reached its end, I hated this game. The joke I was in on had worn thin about three hours into the game, and the later missions don't do anything but further annoy the player by becoming more obtuse, repetitive and noisy. Even the very ending of the game feels like a crude joke, a meme dragged out of the imageboards of the deep internet, and like a deepwater fish dragged out to the surface, it just implodes into a sloppy wet mess.


Playtime: 7+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 3
Audio: 2
Story: 6
Gameplay: 8
Overall: 3
Posted July 15, 2021.
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55 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
2
4.9 hrs on record
"Oh my, it seems my family has a dark and secret history. If only I had more than three brain cells, I might have figured that out years ago!"

I kind of stumbled my way into this game. The screenshots on the store page looked nice and hinted at some puzzles, and the game had some faintly lovecraftian undertones I felt might be hinting at some hidden horror elements. Horror and puzzles? Count me in!

Let's just say right now: this game wasn't quite what I expected.

To get the obvious out of the way here: the game is pretty! From lush jungles and pristine beaches bathed in sunlight to wrecked ships in stormy nights to more, the visual side of the game is very nicely done.

At the time of writing the game suffered from a very nasty bug that caused the main menu music to play on a loop over the top of all other game audio, including the level music, if the options menu was ever visited. It took me a long while to realise this was truly broken (I just thought the music of the game was purposefully weird or lazily done). As such I can't say much on the music of the game, and will just call it passable. On a more technical level, the game feels weirdly heavy to run. My GTX 1080 chugged madly and in some areas I struggled to achieve a steady 60 FPS, with certain items, rooms or effects dipping me down to the low 40's. Considering the stylized and simplified visuals, this feels like a strange thing to be happening, and might be put down to lack of optimization and polish.

What presents a far greater problem than broken music or stuttering framerate, however, is our protagonist. The game recounts the journey of Norah, as she ventures out to find her missing husbands expedition, which went out to try and find a cure for a mysterious disease that ails our protagonist. Norah is, however, one of the most infuriating protagonists I have endured in a long time. While the voice actor is passable, the lines she is made to read during the game ruin both her character, as well as much of the immersion and even gameplay on offer. Norah has a terrible habit of narrating things she has no way of knowing, ruining revelations the player might have figured out themselves, and even revealing key information used to resolve puzzles, before the player has had time to study the puzzle themselves. She also constantly dismisses any idea that there might be grander revelations ahead in the story, and states the flat out obvious so many times I couldn't help but laugh out loud toward the end of the game. In addition, Norah writes notes in her journal constantly, including puzzle hints that outright reveal most puzzle solutions well before the player has had time to even have a crack at solving the puzzle themselves. This feels like an attempt by the developers to ensure that anyone can complete the game, but for a player looking to challenge their brainbox with intricate puzzles that take time to analyze and figure out, this game is definitely NOT for you! (I'd recommend looking into Quern or Obduction if that is the case)

What about the puzzles themselves? Since the game has very little gameplay beyond walking around and solving puzzles in a linear fashion to open up new areas and to move to the next level, the puzzles alone have to carry the games interactive experience. Sadly, the puzzles do not impress here. The tasks the player has to complete range from very simple 'find the barely hidden item' to 'organize symbols in a specific sequence' all the way to the age old copy of Simon Says. And as mentioned before, Norah is always there to tell you exactly which bits of information are important and how they are to be used. The only times I felt the game let me figure things out for myself were cases where I had a set of symbols and a clear order, but the game didn't say if I was to order the symbols in an ascending or descending order, leaving me to try both ways until the solution clicked.

Call of the Sea left me outright confused in the end. From the very opening moments of the adventure, the game lays out its cards plainly in front of the player, and despite the store page making no mention of Lovecraft or the Cthulhu mythos, the very opening cutscene reveals these influeces, while a little later the game goes out of its way to tell us that Norah has not-so-distant relatives in a little place called Innsmouth! The presence of lovecraftian horrors is in no way hidden or secret, but is outright shown to the player early on, and any attempt at a plot twist is watered down by Norah explaining each and every story beat and revelation to death in an omniscient manner, to the point where she is able to tell what people were doing and thinking weeks or months ago, based only on a few written letters or scattered items. Norah also manages to be the most immovable, carefree protagonist ever to set foor on a cursed island that drives people mad, which only serves to further dismiss any intrigue the game might have had. The story lacks any tension or threat, and the game outright points this out several times.

As far as I can tell, Call of the Sea is intended as something of a baby's first adventure game. Something a player more accustomed to casual hidden object games or mobile games might pick up and try out and find suitably easy to gloss over, perhaps providing a stepping stone on the path to more serious adventure games. For anyone looking for a challenge, I can only say: look elsewhere.


Playtime: 4+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 7
Audio: 4
Story: 5
Gameplay: 6
Overall: 5
Posted February 20, 2021.
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No one has rated this review as helpful yet
169.6 hrs on record (93.4 hrs at review time)
"The walls are shifting."

I was a huge fan of the first Spelunky, and while I never found all of its secrets, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Spelunky 2.

Now that I've had some time with the game, losing entire evenings to it in the process, I can safely say that it's a great game that both improves and expands upon all of the best aspects of the first game with only the most minor setbacks along the way.

In Spelunky 2, you take a spaceship to the Moon and begin to explore some eerily familiar caves beneath the surface. The story, as with the first game, is mostly meaningless for the core gameplay, but does give the game an excuse to flood you with cute dogs and cats and other lovely critters. Delightfully colourful art and characters, animated in great detail, will welcome you into the experience.

My biggest critique of the game comes from its music and sound. While the music of the game is passable at worst and good at best, it does get very, very repetitive. Especially with the increased difficulty and complexity over the first game, the average player will be hearing the pan flute music of the opening levels over and over and over again, to a point where sanity begins to fade and a certain kind of hatred for the music begins to form. I've yet to mute the music while playing, but I've been very close...

But what of the very core experience? How does it play?

Short answer: it's great!

Spelunky was always a game of skill and observation. Mastering the swift movement and controls, spotting threats and understanding the randomly generated levels and knowing how different traps, monsters and enemies will react and move are key to success. Rushing ahead blind, deaf and dumb will result in swift death, with slower, more methodical approaches gaining a player access much further into the game.

The player is tasked with uncovering a great mystery deep in the caverns, delving through mines, jungles, lava caverns and much more in order to reach the end. Bombs can be used to clear out troublesome pieces of randomly generated terrain and monsters, while ropes can be tossed up to gain access to higher areas, or to backtrack. These simple tools, along with fluid movement and precise jumping, ensure that the game is quick and easy to pick up by new players, but complex enough that the puzzle of managing your supplies and planning your movement ahead of time takes quite some time to master.

Spelunky 2 adds a whole host of new enemies and traps that make even the opening areas more of a challenge to play (I am looking at you, moles!), and opens up into multiple paths as you progress through the game, meaning there is more variety and options for more skilled players to experience over time. The game also adds expanded options for equipment and weaponry, with the Power Pack quickly becoming my favourite, as it turns the players whip attack into a fire attack, and supercharges the bombs so that they shred terrain and monsters (and careless players) alike!

The final new addition to the game comes in the form of liquid physics, though the thick, viscous water and lava feel a bit weird to me. They are also poorly utilised, appearing only in very specific areas of the game and in such low quantities that many runs might not interact with them at all.

And finally, just like the first game, Spelunky 2 seems chock full of secrets! Hidden areas, enemies and items abound! I cannot hope to find them all, myself, but every time I uncover something new in the game it just feels great, and that sort of discovery and mastery is what the game is really all about. Each new locked door opened, each new entry in the journal discovered, feels like a step towards something greater.

I can heartily recommend the game to both newcomers looking for a fine challenge, as well as Spelunky veterans hoping for more challenge and new experiences. For the latter group, however, a warning: the game is different enough that you will have to relearn a lot of skills you might have thought you mastered in the first game. Movement speeds, timings and more have been adjusted and altered, so that some skills learned in the first game will not quite work the same way here.

Playtime: 90+ hours (Countless runs, have not beaten final boss or found most secrets yet)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 9
Audio: 7
Story: 6
Gameplay: 10
Overall: 9
Posted January 7, 2021.
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