Flowing Lights Xbox One review: go with the flow

Sometimes all you need to make a shooter work is a neat gimmick. Something that stands out from the norm. I like to think that Tempest is innovative in the field because of its neat “hanging outside and shooting inward” concept, something unheard of in the early 80s. For that matter, Defender also stood out because of its challenging rhetoric and unique gameplay set-up, with so many buttons.

But Flowing Lights, a new indie shooter available for consoles and PC, innovates in its own neat way. That’s not to say it’s an instant classic like the aforementioned games, as it’s more of an acquired taste. However, it takes the concept of shooters and turns it on its head, making it more about solving puzzles than simply blasting from start to finish. And in its own neat little way, it works.

In the game, you’ll work your way through a number of stages, shooting at enemies. But this isn’t a simple “blast and move on” thing. Instead, the stages are intricately designed, with gunfire consistently being shot, or coming at you in streams. You’ll have to weave your way past this, using the terrain to your advantage. But, sometimes, you just need to hit the enemy before you progress.

Where Flowing Lights wins points is with its design. See, you can just shoot enemies, but with hills and contours on each stage, you’ll need to be strategic about it. You’ll need to curve your gunfire in the right way to hit them, while avoiding being hit yourself. For good measure, you have a secondary charge shot, which you can adjust utilizing the analog stick. It fires off one shot at a time, but goes further than your traditional gunfire. So it pays off, provided you can get your shot off at the proper angle.

In turn, you can create combos, which will help build up a high score. There are also power-ups that can give you a temporary boost as well. Combining these – and racking up the points – can help you achieve greatness on the leaderboards. It’s a cool process that works very well, for those that get into the game.

And that’s probably where Flowing Lights comes up short – it’s such an original idea for shooters that not everyone will get into it. This isn’t Deathsmiles here. Flowing Lights is built around the concept of taking your time and figuring out viable solutions for each stage. And, yes, sometimes you will get stuck, as it’s really thought provoking. But its execution is well done, for the most part, and those that stick with its rhythm will find a lot to like.

That leads us to the presentation. Flowing Lights does have innovation in its stage design. But the general aesthetic – neon-lit hills and minimally designed enemies – may not appeal to all. It definitely has a Tron-like approach to it that I enjoyed, but it’s pretty narrow when it comes to its design scope overall. Still, some of you may enjoy it as I did. The music’s awesome too, with some fun little synth scores that play over the course of the game. You’ll be right at home if you’re a fan of the genre.

How much you get into Flowing Lights really depends on what you’re looking for in a shooter. If you seek deep strategy, problem solving and a smart way to build up scores, this is the game for you. But if you’re out to save the universe, R-Type Final 2 may be more your speed. If you do choose this, however, you’re likely to enjoy your stay – well, until you get stuck, anyway. Then you’ll rack your brain, go “DUH!” when you find the solution, and move on. Not bad for a small little indie favorite for a mere ten bucks.

RATING: 8/10

The Protagonist EX-1 Review

The Protagonist: EX-1 was published by 3Mind Games in October 2020 and is still in beta. Available on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox it is a turn-based action-adventure role-playing strategy game.

The game takes place in the year 2113E on the planet Terra. A utopia with a totalitarian society under military control. There is only one government called Council that controls the world in secrecy.  For the first time in known history, the government has an enemy that they tried to hide from society but, now they are at war with them. The government has issued an EX-1 order to eliminate all hostiles at all costs. You are a part of the team sanctioned to carry out the order. Not long after you get your papers to fly out, your team is captured and killed. You have to survive, find the rest of your teammates, and get off their ship. 

The gameplay is pretty linear. You have a guide leading you from one task to the next and you pretty much have free range to explore but, early on there isn’t much to find. The first task is to find your teammate Radical and you have no weapons so combat is melee … with a twist. You have abilities because you and your team are cyborgs or super-engineered humans. It’s not explained much early in the game. You get into your first fight pretty quick and it explains the different ways you can fight but not how to execute them so it’s pretty much trying different things and see what works. Fighting is turn-based, not my favorite kind of gameplay but it has its perks.  So right off the bat, your choices are movement, melee fighting (called MACS), putting up a shield/healing, sabotage, and hacking the enemy. So it seems the enemy is also a synthetic being. As you play through the game you gain access to more weapons like knives, grenades, handguns, and more. Sometimes you can even use the environment in your fight to your advantage.  The fighting was a little stale for me but it wasn’t hard to pick up once you figured it out. Enemies usually go down in one or two hits so fighting is pretty quick until there are multiples or the kinda miniboss you fight after meeting up with your comrade but that’s for later.

The graphics for the game were beautiful to me. The cutscenes were well placed and the commentary amongst the characters was great if not a little stereotypical. The way the characters moved was very realistic and well planned down to the hand gestures. The main characters that I got to meet while playing Angel, the captain and main protagonist the characters follow, Radical, a Scottish Knife-wielding member of the crew, and Buddy, a dog that seems to have enhancements due to experimentation. Together you fight to get yourself off this ship and back to Pilot, the voice of your savior and teammate in space. 

There is also a crafting element to the game to create weapons and enhance them to add a little more to the game and I greatly enjoyed playing with it. As you collect scrap and crafting recipes you gain more items to create in your arsenal. Of course, the item you create can only be used by the characters with that affinity. The higher your skill with the proposed weapon the better as well. Increasing your base stats gives you an edge in battle as well. The more you play the more enemies you encounter which makes you have to add strategy in more to ensure you and your team survive. So play wisely and use the strength of your team to the fullest. 

After spending time playing the game I enjoyed it but it can get better. I can’t wait to see how the game grows as it moves through its beta testing and on to the world.

DVS Game Rating 7.5/ 10 

Against the Moon: PC Review

Turn-Based Strategy is one of my favorite genres in gaming due to the fact that you can do so much with the gameplay. Against the Moon is a tactical turn-based strategy game developed by Code Heretic and published by Code Heretic LLC and Black Tower Entertainment. While this game shows so much potential I found it not only lacking in content but overall it’s just not well designed. It looks incredible as far as the art design goes, but the gameplay itself ended up being the downfall. This game is available on all current platforms for $19.99.

My biggest issue lies with the gameplay. I loved the concept, but honestly, the way the game works you have little to no control over your hand and there is no way to set up your deck to help with balanced curves. I mean this as in the game plays almost like a TCG game like Magic or Pokemon. The game was designed to bring deck building to a rogue-like turn-based strategy game. You get 3 lanes set up with 3 Ultori that all have a unique ability, such as stunning random enemies or throwing your hand away for new cards. The cards all come with a cost and are divided between monster cards with special abilities and spells that can allow you to fight the enemy and their set of cards. Depending on the card cost players will average early game around 2 to 3 actions.

Often I felt like my hand would be unbalanced for what I really needed to defeat tougher opponents. Sometimes my hands would even be all mid-cost monsters and no sorceries to draw more cards or damage enemies. Another issue I take with the game is the huge jump in difficulty, for while I like a challenge after the prologue your desk is not suited for what comes after. You are mostly given low-cost monsters that do an average of 3 attack against enemies that jump up to 8 hit points on average. It feels as if the game sets you up for failure. You do get to customize some cards under your heroes which helps a bit while you play, but even then the draw is not stacked well. On top of that, it is a game where you do have to unlock cards as you progress and evolve them, but it’s a slow progression. There is no curve or balancing element to the random draw you’re given which is purely poor design. On top of that, it is a game where you do have to unlock cards as you progress and evolve them, but it’s a slow progression.

On top of the balancing issues, the performance issues nearly kill the want to play for me. Even on my high-end computer the game had insane load times, crazy frame rate drops, and sometimes would just not run at all. Redownloading the game with a fresh install does not help. The performance issues with this game are insane considering it’s not demanding at all. Over the Moon is just another case of wasted potential. The concept was great, but the delivery was just pure disappointment. The game is full of performance issues and poor gameplay, and I sadly do not recommend it to anyone. I do hope the developers take the concept and make good on it in the future.

DVS Score: 2.5/10

Sturmfront: The Mutant War Ubel Edition review – that old feeling

There are a lot of developers out there being inspired by the classic games of old. And that’s a good thing, considering a majority of AAA developers seem to be ignoring said classics in favor of new AAA-level games. Not that that’s a bad thing, as that creates a balance with these indie folks that caters to a specific audience, while reminding us of the days gone by.

The latest example of this is Andrade Games’ Sturmfront: The Mutant War, a top-down twin-stick shooter where it’s you against the alien world. The game has its quirks, particularly the annoying lack of any kind of co-op (novel for a game like this – just look at Contra), but it’s a thrill ride that’s available for a decent price. Not to mention it’s got the kind of soundtrack that’s got some Doom Eternal-level inspiration behind it.

In the game, you portray Siegfried von Hammerstein, a cyborg that has a current mission in life – lay waste to alien invaders. And considering a big invasion is well underway, he’s hungry to clean house.

Hammerstein will be able to switch between two weapons – a rifle of choice, ideal for laying waste to smaller mutants; and a flamethrower. While it has limited fuel, it’s perfect for destroying alien spawning points (basically large aliens with spewing mouths) before they can do any further damage.

The game’s controls are simple, but effective. Left stick controls movement, right stick controls where you aim, and the right shoulder button is used to shoot. If you prefer, you can also use the face buttons on the right hand side for shooting, for those that prefer to go a little old school.

There’s definitely some Smash TV/Total Carnage-inspired lunacy here, and it’s ideal for fans that love that sort of design. The gameplay doesn’t let up, and there’s something cool about being able to effectively take down enemies while they try to kill you. It would’ve been nice to have a “dodge” feature, like in other games, but it’s not too bad. The only downside is that most of the story is forgettable, as you get bits and pieces of it from survivors as you go along. Albeit it takes a backseat to the action, so whatever.

Though the levels are short, they’re jammed with enemies, and that brings the game’s colorful design into play. It looks wonderful, inspired by the arcade and Amiga classics of old, and doesn’t let up with its world-ending aesthetic. It’s also great to see the weapons at play here, including a spread laser that could easily match up with Contra’s classic gun on a good day. There are also some good boss fights on display here, which will force you to work to survive. Fortunately, you can tone down the difficulty a little bit if it becomes too much.

What really stands out is the soundtrack. The heavy metal-inspired tunes are excellent and blare throughout, making you feel like you should continue laying waste to alien scum. The sound effects are minimal, but work where needed here.

Again, where Sturmfront lets down is the fact it’s just a single player affair. If the developers at Andrade had just added a few more players to the mix – or at least a two-player co-op option at a higher difficulty – it could’ve mixed things up tremendously.

As it stands, though, Sturmfront isn’t too shabby. What it lacks in overall length and features, it more than makes up for with old-school carnage, a ripping soundtrack and delightfully chaotic visuals. You’ll want to dig in and enjoy it in spurts, just to ease that stress away with one of the most metal cyborgs out there. Hopefully we’ll see a sequel with more loaded content down the road. Hammerstein can’t do it all himself, y’know.

RATING: 7.5/10

(Sturmfront is available now for PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC!)

Narita Boy PlayStation 4 review: more than a game, boy

Team 17 didn’t exactly need to establish itself as a king of 2D platforming games, as it had previously struck gold with its lovely Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. But now it’s gone the extra mile, establishing a Metroidvania-style adventure that’s sure to strike a chord with both fans of the genre and those who live for retro-fueled visuals and tunes.

Narita Boy stemmed from a Kickstarter project created by Studio Koba, with Team 17 picking up the publishing rights. And it’s a hell of an addition to its roster, a game that, despite some minor setbacks, delivers some butt-kicking goodness that puts it near the top of the Metroidvania heap. In fact, it’s worth buying for the music alone, a collection of synth tunes that will have you wondering what kind of magic is behind the keyboards. Seriously.

The game is Tron-esque, in a way, with a teenage boy trapped in a virtual world, forced to attempt to track down The Creator in the hopes of possibly escaping. Along the way, he learns about this person’s essence, and how it ties in with his humble beginnings in Narita – in Japan. That explains the title, for those of you wondering what a Narita is.

There’s a little Star Wars in there as well, as the boy is armed with a Techno Sword. With it, he can fend off attackers and use special techniques to carve them up, including swift uppercuts and combo strikes. These are especially useful against bosses, who definitely pack a punch – something Metroidvania fans should be used to by now. But fortunately, you have some cool defensive techniques, including a slide that’s really handy for avoiding incoming strikes.

The gameplay works remarkably well for Narita Boy, though it’s definitely on the hard side. Still, after exploring a few areas, you should become used to what’s on hand, as well as what you can unlock over the course of the game.

All that really stands in the way is Narita’s need for backtracking. It can get a little old at times, especially as you run across the same area multiple times. But the game as a whole is still very well designed, and a lot of fun to play.

Where its treasure really lies, however, is within its presentation. I’ve already told you about the majesty of the soundtrack, which is really something else when it comes to nailing down its synth core. It sounds great, like something out of a classic 80s sci-fi film of sorts, with a few tunes that match the mood the Creator has set here.

And the visuals are lovely too, with 8-bit style visuals with a CRT TV-esque approach that really emulates the classics of old. We’re talking Out of This World sort of vibes, but obviously with something that’s far smoother. The effect is outrageously cool, especially when it comes to boss battles. They’re just so well done, you’ll be in awe after they wipe you out the first time around.

There are more than enough Metroidvania games to recommend at the moment, but Narita Boy deserves a nod. It doesn’t quite have all the momentum it needs to beat the legends, but it deserves a spot on the list of best games in the genre for sure. The presentation alone is wow-worthy; and the gameplay continues to impress as you go along. Narita-ville definitely feels like a great place to visit.

RATING: 8/10

Godfall Review on PS5

Gearbox is a major game development company in the gaming industry and has brought us classic titles and epic franchises over the years. From Borderlands to Duke Nukem Gearbox Software has shown countless times over the quality of great games, however, their latest entry Godfall landed itself in an odd predicament due to the great potential but not so great release. While the gameplay itself is very solid, it overall lacks in some important areas that are crucial for the genre. Godfall is an action role-playing game that they published, and Counterplay Games developed. The game is available on Playstation 5 and PC. 

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The story follows Orin, a fallen warrior who wants to prevent his evil brother Macros from ascending to become a God. You fight his generals and other various creatures and warriors to take down his army, essentially keeping him from destroying the world. You land in different realms from the seventh sanctum, which is a living entity that allows you to transport to different locations and helps you along your journey.

The story does not give you much content, unfortunately, but it is fairly straightforward. The worlds are breathtaking in design with each one giving you various decent-sized areas that you can free roam in though you are stuck to somewhat linear pathways. The world aside from different enemies has different chests and materials you can collect to upgrade your armor. There are not many enemies, but they are unique in each design. They also have a boss world boss for story purposes and smaller bosses you can return to grind for side missions. One of the issues with this is the fact that the story missions only provide a few and they are the same. You will find yourself grinding the same missions over and over to gain the materials you need to upgrade. So while the design is beautiful, the lack of content kills your interest over time. The overall story itself is also very short, and you feel as you get closer to the end that there is not much to do at all even at the end game. It almost feels as if the developers had a great idea, but ran out of steam halfway through making the game.

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What I loved about this game is the combat and gear that you can get for your character. You are not provided character classes, but you can pick and choose your build by the game allowing you limitless options in weapon choices. You can equip 2 weapons at a time, and the game is filled with longswords, hammers, daggers, polearms, and more. You can run a fast-paced build to rack up small but fast damage or go for slow massive hits with a tank-like build. Even the shield provides fun combat with satisfying parries and throws to stun enemies for a critical blow. You also get a massive skill tree that you unlock over time. You can build up your might or critical damage, or choose to focus on unlocking abilities for your individual weapons. The combat is the best part of this game hands down, and it feels so much like God of War with a bit more style. One other honorable mention is the ability to upgrade your individual gear and weapons. The upgrading part is easy, but just requires a bit of grind late game. A lot of reviews complained about the amount of grinding, but this is not the case. The problem is the content when it comes to the game that gets so repetitive causing it to feel like endless grinding. The game requires material like any other RPG to upgrade gear, the only issue is the low amount of side quests to do it. While the maps will show you a free roam option or world bosses, after you beat them they remain repeatable rather than giving you something new.

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Overall the performance was good on console. There were little to no frame rate issues and no crashes to be reported. The button mapping was well designed, and the combat and exploration felt natural and smooth. There is a coop feature, but for what little content there is it has not been popular. The differences in-game difficulty from easy to hard were not that much of a gap. There was one pretty exploitable ability in the game known as soul shatter, which melted enemies away in seconds despite the difficulty. While different weapons have different status effects like poison or shock, soul shatter was a different beast. Essentially it would apply the ability to the enemy’s health bar allowing you to build up light attack damage, and then with one heavy attack, the health bar would go down by a massive chunk. One other minor complaint I have is the game gives way too big of a cushion to players. In the rare instance that you die from a boss, the damage stays on and you revive will full health and max lifestones.

This game is not bad by any means, it just needs content plain and simple. There is a lot of potential for the game with the smooth and stylish combat, and breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately with any action RPG you need side quests, you need more to the story missions, and you need more to the exploration. Because of the design, the game feels boring after playing for a while and almost feels linear. I still recommend a playthrough for ARPG lovers and players that want a quick and fun game to run through. I do hope the developer adds more content end game for everyone to get something more after spending 69.99 USD. For players planning to buy this game, I highly recommend you wait for a sale to buy this. It is not worth its full price but is worth around 40 dollars in my opinion.

DVS Score: 6/10

Black Legend: A Steam Review

Turn-based is one of my favorite genres in gaming because of how the gameplay ranges in such a broad spectrum. You can go hardcore into turn-based strategy and play legendary titles like Civilization and Age of Wonders, or even maybe dive into a more tactical setting like Fire Emblem. The genre even branches out into Turn-Based RPGs like Final Fantasy, and Persona, which are iconic franchises that have been around for over a decade. Black Legend, however, takes an interesting turn in mixing a free roam setting with tactical gameplay. I did not get to spend as much time as I had wanted in this title, but overall I found it to be very lackluster. While the gameplay feels very satisfying in a tactical sense, there are a lot of areas that can use a lot of improvement when it comes to the free roam standpoint as well as overall performance. This game can be purchased on all platforms for $29.99 and was developed and published by Warcave.

Black Legend takes place in the city Grant, which is cursed by a dense fog and infested with the fanatical Mephistian cult. You create your character and lead a band of mercenaries to aid the resistance and take back the city by uncovering the dark truth behind the cult’s activities. The concept for the story was greatly executed, and the atmosphere did well in drawing me into exploring the dark and deadly city. The game gave an overwhelming feeling of desperation and curiosity with cultists lurking around every corner. One of my biggest issues lies with the free roam part of the game. As I previously stated it did a good job in enticing players to explore, but with any free roam RPG a sense of direction is extremely important.

The game tells you where to go via cutscene and quests, but there is no direction on where the objective will be. The game fails to provide players a map or compass, leaving players to memorize street signs or wander until they land upon the objective. RPGs with free roam need these features if they are going to have location-based quests. I do like that you can engage any NPC in the game and that they will give you random side quests or bits of information to aid your investigation of the cult. This aids in drawing players more into the environment and helps to take away the navigational frustration in a way. I do wish that they would organize the menu more as far as class and quest information goes. I also wish the shops were more customized and showed the player items that are already in inventory.

The gameplay was a huge redeemer for this title because it gave you endless options for character placement and development. The combat system was very well designed and adds a sense of difficulty even in normal. You get the freedom of having a small area to preemptively place your characters before the real combat begins. Then you get gameplay that mirrors Fire Emblem or XCOM on a smaller scale, taking turns with each character and enemy. You can pick from 15 different character classes to assign your mercenaries such as sharpshooters and alchemists, and stack different humors, or actions, in one turn to strategically take out your enemies or move your characters. The possibilities for combat are abundant, and if that isn’t enough for players you can change to a high difficulty which includes permadeath.

However as previously mentioned the menu layout is not well designed by any means with the lack of information for important areas such as weapon assignment per class. A lot of the unique abilities for the different classes felt useless in combat as well. I often found myself turning to guides because of the lack of information and viable classes in general as well as ability set-ups. The combat can also take ridiculously long regardless of difficulty right off the bat, leaving players bored until more abilities and combos surface. 

One other issue I take with the game is the optimization and performance. The game runs well on PC, but on consoles and Steamlink the optimization suffers tremendously. The button mapping is more geared for keyboard and mouse as opposed to a controller which is leaving many players frustrated. Frame rate issues and glitches are rampant on consoles as opposed to PC depending on build. There is also a game-breaking bug that forces the player to restart the game completely. Crashes are a plague on consoles both with new generation and old generation. The only issues recorded with PC regardless of build tend to be installation issues, which are generally fixed by reinstalling the game.

It’s not that I would not recommend the game, but I encourage players to look into it before purchasing. I would urge console players to refrain from playing it until these performance issues are addressed period. The game has good qualities and a lot of potential, but it suffered from poor execution. The combat is great as well as the story, but all the issues overshadow what the game has to offer. I hope the developers can take this as a learning experience if there is to be another entry for the title.

DVS Score: 5/10

What the Dub?! Review: yes, talk during the movie

Party games are enjoying a neat little resurgence these days, especially online ones in the face of COVID-19. That’s exactly where Wide Right Interactive’s What the Dub?! thrives, providing a great place for creativity while having fun with others. Oh, and it helps if you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, of course.

The general purpose of the game is to come up with a clever quip to go along with one of the many flip clips within the game. First, there’s the set-up, in which you see the clip and then the space where you need to provide the dialogue. From there, you’ve got a little time to enter what you think would be the funniest or most clever (or dare we say…both?) comment to say.

From there, a voting period begins, and players decide which is the best particular quip for that clip, in which the top choice gets rewarded.

The game supports up to twelve players. Six jump in as the contestants making the comments, while six more serve as audience members who can partake in the voting. That keeps the pacing for What the Dub?! just about right, so rounds don’t stretch out long enough for the game to become boring. If you want, you can extend entry time for input, just in case you’ve got some players that are a bit on the slow side – or trying to manage a mobile keyboard. Oy.

Connecting is easy. Like the Jackbox games, Wide Right uses a system where players can log into a website for the game, and then enter a unique four-letter code to take part in whatever match-up is happening. This makes What the Dub?! ideal not only for get-togethers with friends, but also for streamers that want to build and connect better with their audience.

Now, considering this is an indie game and some older material would probably take forever to attain the rights to, What the Dub?!’s clips mainly stem from infomercials and public service announcements, as well as some really bad movies that no one wants to take ownership of. While that does take away a little bit from general variety in a game like this, there’s still more than enough content to provide commentary to.

What the Dub?! has a good presentation. It may not be over-the-top like the Jackbox games, but it sets out what it needs to accomplish. The virtual movie theater where you see these atrocious clips is a nice setting; and, again, there’s some fun little variety here in the clips provided. The GLADoS-esque readings of dialogue are kind of cool, too, though a bit weird with some footage. Still, it fits the theme.

Even though it does come across as a one-trick pony – there’s just the dubbing and that’s really about it here – What the Dub?! still scores very well. It’s a terrific party game that (mostly) brings out the creativity in would-be comics or those who cherish the mighty church of Crow T. Robot. What’s more, the price is more than suitable, going for under $10 and providing solid service for online connectivity. It’s definitely the best way to enjoy bad movie clips, compared to, say, trying to watch something seriously and grumbling under your breath.

RATING: 8/10

SturmFront is bringing back that classic Smash TV feeling

So it used to be that if you wanted to lay waste to all sorts of enemies, you could do it with a game from Midway Games, like Robotron 2084, Smash TV or Total Carnage. However it’s been a good while since we’ve seen a game like that in this day and age. Fortunately, Red Art Games has a solution to all that.

The company recently released a new game called SturmFront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition, which is available now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for the low price of $9.99. And it comes with all sorts of “shooty” goodness in that style of Smash and Total.

In the game, players take control of Siegfried von Hammerstein, who serves as a “unique semi-organic battle unit” that fights through a crazy world, filled with all sorts of devastating mutants. In order to clean house, he’ll need to do what he does best – kill ‘em all.

Featuring “more content, enhanced gameplay, improved graphics and more blood” over the previous release, SturmFront also has a rockin’ soundtrack that’ll have you shredding on an imaginary guitar as you shred your enemies. Check out the trailer below for a dose of this goodness.

And if you prefer a physical copy of the game, you can get it here on the Red Art Games store for $19.99. It’s limited to 999 copies, so you might want to get yours quickly!

Check out the game now. If you need to see it in action, the trailer is below. Rock on!

Maquette: PS5 Review

Playing Maquette was an incredibly interesting adventure to take part in with fantastic music, a beautiful art style, and cleverly designed puzzles used to unlock parts of the story. While this genre is known for huge titles like Portal 2The Talos Principle, and CatherineMaquette still blew the minds of players for the current generation in the gaming industry. While this game did not tap into the full potential for its puzzles, the overall concept was perfectly executed and the environment evolved seamlessly with the story. This title was one of the best-designed first-person puzzle adventures I have ever played, for it is rare to see a story blend so perfectly with its environment. Developed by Graceful Decay, and published by Annapurna Interactive, Maquette is available on Playstation and PC for $19.99. It is currently still free for PSN users until the end of the month. 

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The story is based on modern couples and follows the memories of Michael and his former lover Kenzie. As you navigate through what seems to be a dome or various locations, you see various stages of the couple’s relationship and the various emotions that Michael experiences throughout different stages of their partnership. The Maquette shines ever so brightly as the memories of their first encounters come to life, such as the café where they first meet and their first date at the fair. You can feel the heightened emotions between Michael and Kenzie for what seems like true first love. Over time through the different chapters, you notice as the locations change and what seems like a decay set in which is used to signify the problems between the two. The puzzles start to get a bit more in-depth, and the distance for travel feels longer and creates a feeling of being powerless. Buildings start to crumble, leaving behind what used to be a warm and loving environment. The dome expresses the emotions so well throughout the story, you almost feel as you are the one experiencing happiness and heartache. I also commend the game for its dialogue, for that is one of the few aspects in most video games that tends to fail. The voice acting feels very genuine and authentic compared to most story-based games. The story itself felt a bit generic but depicts an accurate representation of failing relationships and closure. The game portrayed is so well that despite the lack of uniqueness to the story, the game represented it so well that it felt empowering.

I do not have too many complaints, for the game overall was very well executed. There were a few bugs here and there with the puzzles that resulted in a chapter restart or reloading a previous save, which did cause quite a bit of frustration. The puzzles were fairly well designed and very unique, for you play in a dome with locations that can be described as dioramas. There is also a mini dome that replicates the one you stand in, and a larger one outside that you navigate later in the game. The minidome is mostly used for resizing and placing larger versions of an object, such as a bridge to cross buildings or a key to gain access to locked-off locations. Some objects are used for multiple purposes in varying ways that force the player to think “outside the box”. For example, a key can turn into multiple uses of transportation outside of unlocking doors. Later on in the game adds a new level of cleverness in problem-solving, for it adds access to the outside layer where your base dome becomes increased in size. A switch might be only accessible in the mini-dome to give you access to a locked-off area in your central dome. A bridge might have to be placed down in your mini-dome to become supersized for the outside dome, and stairs might be placed in ways you’d never think of to reach the unreachable. You end up having to figure out where the next part of the puzzle takes place, and where to complete certain actions. I would have liked to see the puzzles get a little more in-depth, for the majority of them were not too hard to solve, but this was mostly a minor complaint. This game was one of the few instances where the atmosphere actually made the game. My other complaint is for trophy hunters, as a hunter myself I was originally seeking to platinum this game. Unfortunately, some of the trophies don’t unlock when they should causing you to repeat actions. For example, though I completed two of the levels in the respective time for some of the trophies, they failed to unlock. Some quick fixes are reinstalling the game from what I have researched, but overall it just killed my want for the platinum. Additionally, for speedrunners cutscenes do count towards your time meaning you have to skip annoyingly enough.

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Originally after beating this game I did not feel too impressed until really looking back on it and remembering the obstacles I went through to complete it. This game left feelings that stuck with me, and ultimately lead me to write about it. This title was truly unique and is the definition of one of a kind. While some aspects can be improved, I genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere and gameplay for this game. It’s a riveting and truly unique experience that challenges players not only in critical thinking but also emotionally as you navigate the feelings of an uncompromising and unforgiving tale. While this game might not be for everyone, I recommend it for the majority.

DVS Score: 6.5/10