INDIKA Review – Playing Devil’s Advocate

I have played video games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I cut my teeth on the Sega Genesis and my parents’ Apple Macintosh computer. I’ve been a console and PC gamer ever since, and I’ve played thousands of titles over the years. I say all of that because I’ve never played anything quite like INDIKA in all that time. While you can pick apart the elements of INDIKA and categorize its gameplay, once you put everything together, it becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s wild, weird, funny, and even profound. It’s not for everyone, but is it for you? Let’s find out. A Fever Dream of a Game INDIKA is a third-person adventure set in an alternate version of 19th-century Russia. You play as a nun named Indika, who is a bit of a black swan among the others at her convent. From the beginning of the game, it’s very clear that the other look down on her. As if this wasn’t enough, Indika also hears a voice she’s convinced is the devil himself speaking to her. I told you this was going to get weird. There are a few odd moments from the beginning, but the opening is purposefully simple from a gameplay standpoint. You run simple errands and perform chores for a few other nuns as the devil’s voice waxes poetic and chastises you. You collect points, contributing to a simple skill tree that offers abilities that ultimately earn you more points. From the beginning, the game informs you that these points don’t matter, and they don’t. You won’t get any special endings or secret unlocks from collecting them (or the collectibles you can find), but the presence of the whole system reminds you that you’re still playing a video game at the end of the day. There’s also something surreal about doing something simple like filling up a bucket of water from a well, only to be rewarded but retro-style pixelated coins that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mario title. As the game progresses, INDIKA leans into the surreal and strange nature of its character and the world around her. This alternate version of Russia is bleak and filled with strange side characters. It’s also violent, as she soon crosses paths with a wounded soldier companion who is seeking help. The two become an unlikely duo as the game goes on, venturing through various environments, from a dilapidated village to a canning factory. At certain points in the story, you’ll also see flashbacks that flesh out Indika’s backstory. These are presented in a retro pixelated style and often require precise platforming or simple arcade-style gameplay. They offer a nice variety to the main game, mainly exploration and puzzle-solving. When you combine both pieces, even though the entire experience only lasts about 5-6 hours, you get a lot of variety across INDIKA. I particularly enjoyed the moments when the devil’s voice in Indika’s head becomes overwhelming, leading to strange … Read More

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review – Preservation at its Finest

We’re well past the point where games have been accepted as a form of art. While the greatest paintings, written works, and cinematic masterpieces have all been immortalized and preserved in museums or digital collections, game preservation remains a minimal focus across the industry. Thankfully, developers like Digital Eclipse are showing the rest of the world how it’s done. Their latest release is Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story, an interactive documentary and collection of Jeff Minter’s catalog of titles from his time in the game industry. This type of preservation seems like an easy win, but does Digital Eclipse have the format down, or is there room for improvement? Let’s find out. A Near-Perfect Combination of Preservation and Education Over the last few generations, a few games blur the line between a documentary and an interactive experience. Some seek to tell the story of a historical event, while others deep dive into a specific region’s culture. However, Digital Eclipse has carved out its niche in this genre with games that preserve the history of gaming itself. Jeff Minter’s story isn’t their first title, but it does fall into their Gold Master series of games, and it creates a time capsule within the broader history of gaming. The game’s structure is divided into two parts. The first is a collection that includes nearly every single one of Jeff Minter’s games that are all playable and preserved to capture the moment of time they existed within. Fans of retro titles or Jeff Minter’s work will find this treasure trove with interesting concepts. The only notable omission from the list is Defender 2000 for the Atari Jaguar. Neither Jeff Minter nor Atari have the rights to the title, but the collection still feels comprehensive without it. However, the deeper meat of the experience is the chapters that chronicle the entire history of Llamasoft and its creator. These chapters are organized into timelines that include all manner of photos, cover art, video interviews, and, of course, playable versions of the games. It’s an excellent way to preserve history, allowing you better to understand the context around each game’s release. It also helps inform the design thinking that went into the titles, which makes them unique. This structure makes it easy for both fans of the games and newcomers to experience the full story and what makes the titles unique. Since all these games are from the same developer, you’ll naturally encounter similar ideas and gameplay concepts throughout the catalog. It can’t be avoided due to the collection’s nature, but it allows repetition to set in after extended play sessions. While it’s also part of Jeff Minter’s design and charm, some of the games and their instructions leave something to be desired because it is difficult to understand how to play the game. You’ll find scans of the original instruction manuals and controls for your platform of choice, but even with these things you may spend several minutes being confused each time you try a … Read More

Synth Riders Electro Swing Essentials 2 Review – Back in the Swing of Things

Synth Riders is easily one of my all-time favorite VR titles, rhythm or otherwise. It combines a great list of tracks with unique mechanics and brilliant mapping that always feels great, even on higher difficulties. Like any other rhythm game, Synth Riders has received several song packs over the years. Perhaps the most unique of these was the original “Electro Swing Essentials” pack, which introduced me to this genre that combines the upbeat tempo and brass instruments of swing music with elements of EDM and other electronic music. It’s one of the most popular packs for a reason, but now we have Electro Swing Essentials 2, which offers five new paid tracks and four free ones. Should you swing on over to the store to download it? Let’s find out! Breaking Down the New Tracks First on the list of paid tracks is “Guilty Pleasure” by Jamie Berry, featuring Little Violet. This is the song featured in the track below, one of the best in the pack. It has a great tempo and wonderful use of muted trumpets alongside an upbeat rhythm in the background to keep everything moving. It’s hard not to dance along as you play through this one, and while my abilities max out at “hard” difficulty, this track will get you moving and tapping your feet the whole time. It’s a great way to start the pack. Next is “Boring 20s” by Tamela D’Amico, Wolfgang Lohr, and Ashley Slater. This track continues with the overall energy you would expect from the pack, but I enjoyed it less than the other ones. That’s not to say it’s bad, but the chorus isn’t quite as catchy as the other songs. As a result, the mapping for this track just wasn’t quite as engaging for me, and I think that comes down to the track’s rhythm being less consistent than something like Guilty Pleasure. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t quite translate to the gameplay like others in this pack or the prior one. Next is “Magic Man,” featuring J Fitz from Balduin and Wolfgang Lohr. This one brings back the upbeat tempo of the first track in the list while leveraging a consistent background rhythm to keep you moving. The vocals are also unique compared to most of the tracks on Synth Riders, which helps it stand out. It’s yet another example of how this genre can keep you moving while leveraging the game’s “rails” in unique ways that force you to move with the music. The next paid track in the pack is “Let’s Start Again” by Cut Capers. This is the “Odd Chap Remix” of the track, which lends it an Electro Swing feel. Of all the paid tracks in this pack, this one feels the least like a true Electro Swing song. It has some use of brass instruments, and the tempo is about right, but it lacks the unique charm of the other tracks. Last, but not least, is “Rose” by Swingrowers. … Read More

Across The Valley Review – Functional Farming

When I think about farming games over the years, my first thought is always Harvest Moon, but my second thought is immediately Stardew Valley. Yes, there are numerous others, and versions that focus on being realistic sims, but there’s something truly captivating about building up your own farm. Harvesting crops, taking care of livestock, maybe even building a life of your own? It’s relaxing and addicting in equal measure, when done correctly. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I heard about a farming VR title for PSVR 2. Across the Valley is here, but does it deliver the farming dream in VR, or would gardening in my backyard be more fun? Let’s find out. The Foundation of a Great Farming Sim I’m honestly surprised I haven’t done more farming in VR. The various responsibilities offer plenty of interaction for a virtual reality experience. Planting seeds, watering crops, tilling the fields, caring for livestock, it’s all there. Across the Valley does bring all of these things to the table, and more, but it does so without much fanfare. The game starts with a simple menu that offers several interactions, but there’s no context for how you came across this farm, or other people to interact with. Settings are pretty barebones as well, only allowing for transportation. This type of movement is helpful for those new to VR, but as a veteran I always look for the option to move freely as I find it far more immersive. That’s not an option here. Even after a few patches, Across the Valley has some bugs that are hard to ignore. The most recent patch fixed an issue where teleportation and snap turning could result in your ending up in a different place than the developers intended when you move around. The solution here was to disable snap turning for the time being. I sampled this prior to publishing the review, and it does fix the aforementioned issue, but the trade-off is that you need to physically turn around in place when leaving an area like the fields. It’s not difficult, but I still am of the mind that free movement would allow for more immersion. Putting that aside for a moment though, let’s talk about those first couple days and weeks of farm life. The game issues tutorials via books placed at teleportation points around the farm. For example, when you head over to your fields, there’s a book near the tools that you can open and read to learn how they work. The same goes for the building that houses livestock like sheep, chickens, and cows. You’ll find a book inside your house too that explains how the upgrade table works, the job board, and the bed. It’s not a bad setup, but the first night on the farm can be a little confusing since you won’t have a grasp of what’s going on. In fact, you spend that first night fumbling around until you fall asleep and then wake up … Read More

Destroy All Humans 2! – Reprobed Review: Set Phasers to Nostalgia

Destroy All Humans! is one of those franchises that offered exactly what I wanted as a gamer during the PS2 and Xbox era: wanton destruction and crass humor in equal measure. There was nothing quite like it, and to this day, I’ve never heard a better off-brand Jack Nicholson in a voice acting role. The remake of Destroy all Humans! in 2020 from THQ Nordic was good, but it brought to light the flaws with the outdated gameplay. With Destroy all Humans! 2 – Reprobed, the sequel gets the remake treatment. Beyond massive visual upgrades and a few quality of life touches, this is the game you remember, through and through. Does it ride the wave of nostalgia to wipe out its flaws, or did crypto not age well? Let’s find out. A Faithful Remake, Warts and All It’s funny that Destroy All Humans 2! – Reprobed opens with a disclaimer specifically about its content. The developers chose to leave the original narrative untouched and present it exactly as it was when it first released. The world is a vastly different place today than it was back then, and a lot of these themes, stereotypes, and jokes hit a lot different in 2022, but I can also respect the desire to keep the source material intact. Personally, I didn’t find anything in Destroy All Humans 2! – Reprobed to be offensive, at least not compared to the likes of Grand Theft Auto or other similar games, but I can also see how some of these elements would be seen in poor taste with the state of the world. While it didn’t personally affect me, the disclaimer is a fair one, and I think it’s completely fair for others to feel differently about the content in the game. In terms of the overall story and humor, I had a few laughs and some of the deeper mysteries intrigued me, but nothing about Destroy All Humans 2!’s narrative really jumped out at me, though I did appreciate the globe-trotting adventure and the variety of locales. From a gameplay perspective, Destroy All Humans 2! – Reprobed combines large open areas with fairly standard mission designs. Kill a certain number of enemies, destroy specific objects, escort an NPC, etc. The bonus objectives allow you to have some creativity, but beyond this, you’ll need to make your own fun as it were by trying out different weapons and combinations with your PK ability. The on-foot combat feels fine, but the boss fights in particular offer huge difficulty spikes that can be frustrating if you’re used to the pace of the normal missions. The variety of weapons keeps things interesting, as does the skill trees for each that let you increase their power or capacity. The other side of combat is your saucer, which is a little unwieldy to control but offers satisfying levels of destruction. You use the left stick to fly and the right stick to adjust your height. Holding the left trigger allows … Read More

Elden Ring Review

Elden Ring is here at last and if you have been reading the reviews, you know this game is probably pretty damn good. Being compared to games like The Legend of Zelda is no easy feat and dare I boast my opinions with others and claim that this could be one of the greatest games that have ever been created? Yes… yes I do. This game is indeed an instant classic and a literal game changer for the industry. It will go down in gaming hosted as one of the best games ever created and there are plenty of good reasons.   So, so many things to discuss and so little space in this review, but I’m going to do what I can to fill you in and not spoil anything. If you want spoilers, be sure to check the page regularly as I’ll be writing up walkthroughs to help tarnished souls get around this massive game.   Speaking of massive, I don’t think I could quite explain how massive this open world RPG really is. Man, this will set a new standard for size and beauty. Not only is it massive, but well detailed and beautiful. Souls games have always been beautiful, but often restricted in how far you can travel. Souls game maps are tight enough to feel like a path has been partly carved out for you and it’s fairly easy to stay on track. Elden Ring definitely follows the spirit of Souls games, but it does it even better than any of the Souls title have. It is amazing. And if you’re by chance a Souls fan, you’ll likely agree.   On one hand, this game has had some changes that seem to make things a little simpler than in the Souls games. You can jump with the cross button now. That’s a big deal to me because I am not a fan of holding the circle button to sprint and then pressing it again to jump. Furthermore, you can summon your steed to help navigate through the large map with speed and that includes a double jump on horseback. I didn’t realize just how useful the horse would be and it doesn’t hurt that you can still swing a sword while riding.   You can still use multi-player to call in two other players to help aid you along the way for boss battles and even use a chat feature instead of just using gestures. The bosses in my opinion are much more difficult to take down this time around. It’s like Sekiro meets Dark Souls. Not everyone has the patience to play a title like this. Many will say the game is too difficult because they want to just run into every fight unprepared without any plan of attack. Then you have the seasoned player that claims that this game isn’t difficult at all and if you disagree, you must suck. Sorry pal, the expression you’re looking for is simply put as “Git Good!” … Read More

Dying Light 2 – Review

Ahhh! It’s great to be back in Harran! Am I right? Beautiful views, plenty of work and hordes of zombies! I tell you, if a zombie apocalypse ever comes to be within my lifetime, I’ll be just fine. Wink, wink!   Anyway, for starters, if you haven’t played the first Dying Light, you’re missing out. Not only is Dying Light a great game, it helps you appreciate and understand Dying Light 2 much more than you would a newbie. So, if you haven’t played the original, I suggest you go pick it up and play it out! It’s worth it.   Moving on, let’s go over the good and the bad until we reach my final score of the review.   Graphics are pretty good on the PS5 and the game doesn’t seem to stutter and buffer when playing through and of course, there are no real loading times to contend with on current Gen consoles, so we’re happy there.   Parkour games don’t always play well, and it’s far from my favorite type of playstyle, but Dying Light does it so well, I forget just how much I hated Mirrors Edge. The developers at Techland definitely offer great parkour gaming!   The controls work great all the way around. Very responsive and the button layout works well without needing to make changes, at least for me. You’ll find that as you level up and upgrade your character, the controls become much more important than meets the eye, so pay attention to those upgrades!   The storyline is alright, but not great. I thought the story in the first entry of the series was better, but that’s just my humble opinion. The story is just fine and as you play on, it does get better. I found myself becoming more emotionally invested half way through my playthrough. We may not always realize we are invested with characters we play, but it goes to show just how good a game can be. Sometimes you just don’t care about the characters or stories because a game is just that bad. Thankfully, that’s not the case here.   The audio is also spot on. Sound effects and music together really make the setting come to life. There is some licensed music in the game, so if you’re streaming, check the audio settings and turn off licensed music to avoid any copyright issues you could run into.   Upgrading your character isn’t the only upgradable thing in the game either. You can mod your weapons which is practically an upgrade in itself. You can also upgrade crafting recipes. If you have a recipe for medicine to heal yourself, you can upgrade that recipe and make the medicine more powerful and quicker to use. You can also upgrade your weapon mod recipes for even more powerful weapons all around.   As far as the bad goes, I haven’t had too much trouble with bugs, but I have had my instances where I couldn’t complete a … Read More

Battlefield 2042 review

This is a tough review for me right now. I had the highest of hopes that Battlefield 2042 would be an amazing frigging game and if I’m being completely honest about it, I’d have to say this game is one the most lackluster titles available right now.    Bugs aside, where is the content? It’s like the developers cut everything out that you were expecting and said here, have a couple game modes to play online and be happy about it. Granted, the publishers often have a lot to do with decisions in how a game shapes up, so I can’t put it all on the developers. I’m looking at you right now EA!   As I was saying, the game is lacking a lot of content. No solo campaign, only a couple of the modes to pick from (that God for conquest)! There are plenty of weapons and soldier customization options, but nothing much else. Southern goes at least 2 points for lacking content.   Graphics are OK. I did expect a lot more on the graphic front of things with BF 2042, but we can’t have everything we want. I guess I feel like the maps themselves are missing detail that I have come to expect in this day and age. Graphics don’t make an entire game, but they aren’t something to overlook. Graphics are definitely an important part of immersion.    Audio is excellent! They definitely got the audio right on this one. Enemy footsteps, weaponry firing off, even voice chat audio is good in this game. I have been using the PS5 wireless headset from Sony to play through, but I believe the audio is well tuned for most outputs. It sounded great on my TV, but obviously not as immersive as a headset. Let me know what you’re using for audio and settings and if you find it satisfactory!   As mentioned above, no campaign and not much to choose from in regards to multi-player game modes. There are plenty of bugs to contend with which is normal, but these bugs are littered in there a little more than most games. I really do hold EA responsible for the faults in this game. They control the budget and make a lot of decisions and there is no doubt in my mind they messed this game all up.    What does the future of Battlefield 2042 hold? Well, hopefully more game modes, more maps and better visuals. The bugs definitely need to be squashed, but I’d take with a grain if there was more content.   All in all I’m giving Battlefield 2042 a 5 out of 10. Without the content, the game feels empty and reduced from its former glory days. Of course most long running franchises have gone downhill over the years and none of the publishers seem to care. Maybe someday they’ll open their eyes and realize they’re making mistakes and not good games. That’s just my take on it, so feel free … Read More

Call Of Duty Vanguard Review Part 3: Multiplayer

Welcome to part three of the Call of Duty Vanguard review! In the final section of this review, we’re going over the most popular aspect of the CoD series… Multiplayer! We love to play it and love to hate it! At least that seems to be the ongoing trend when it comes to CoD titles. So, without further ado, let’s get started!   Call of Duty’s Vanguard multiplayer variant is alright. It’s definitely not anything that stands out in the franchise. It feels rather plain and already done a bunch of times over. On the one hand, everyone seems to want the game to change, but everytime it does, people complain. On the other hand, everyone seems to get upset when it feels like another copy and paste. While it may be the best selling video game year after year, the developers just can’t seem to win us over no matter how hard they try.    As far as I am concerned, Vanguard isn’t anything new and it is disappointing in the sense that this game was delayed last year and they put 4 years into this one. Granted, Sledgehammer Studios had a lot of changes in personnel including leadership, but I can’t really excuse the lack of innovation this time around. Not after 4 years. I will start you off with the good and work my way down to the bad. Keep in mind, this my opinion and it doesn’t have to line up with everyone else’s and it’s not meant to be insulting to those that thoroughly enjoy the game.    Graphically, this game isn’t special on any platform. It’s obviously better looking on a PS5 versus a PS4, but not enough of a difference to really care. It’s smoother looking and all, but it may as well have been released on the PS4 and forget about current Gen platforms. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t live up to expectations.    Audio is pretty good with this title. Footsteps sound much better than they have in recent years. I can tell the difference between my teammates and my enemies when playing matches and that’s pretty important to me. When I’m rushing to the other side of the map to find the enemy team, it helps to hear them coming in from any direction. I don’t use my mini map like I should, so I don’t always look up and notice the blue friendly markers.    I feel like the sound of guns firing weapons and kill streaks has been brought back to a level it needs to be on. Since Modern Warfare, I thought the sound effects were too much and overpowered everything else in my headset and even though I made adjustments, it was still a bit much for me. I know I’m not alone in this opinion, but I also know there’s a good amount of players that disagree with me as well. All that being said, I’m definitely happy with the audio settings.   Controls … Read More

Happy’s Humble Burger Farm Review – Much More Than Just Flipping Burgers

There are games so prominent that they create their own subgenre on arrival. A perfect example is Dark Souls, which gave rise to the “Soulslike” term used on all manner of hardcore RPGs. Similarly, regardless of the creator’s shortcomings, Five Nights at Freddy’s spawned its own subgenre of horror punctuated by cutesy mascots that hide a deeper, more diabolic intent. Not only that, but these types of games often place you in a mundane setting, like a restaurant or fast food joint. Welcome to the latest entry in this subgenre of horror: Happy’s Humble Burger Farm. This title combines restaurant management with a wider setting that seems to hide something sinister beneath its surface. Does this unique combination produce delicious horror, or is this burger undercooked? Let’s find out. A Solid Cooking Game Wrapped in an Insatiable Mystery When I first booted up Happy’s Humble Burger Farm, I thought I knew what to expect. I figured I would be confined to the titular restaurant and would be subjected to jump scares while making sure some exhausted and hungry customer gets their burger and fries (or possibly salmon nuggets, which I didn’t know were a thing). Instead, Happy’s Humble Burger Farm (HHBF?) immediately opens with something unexpected, tossing you into your apartment and into the wider environment of New Elysian City. From the onset, the game has this aura of mystery about the town you’re in and the nature of your place within it that I found irresistible. Whether it’s the locked doors in your apartment building that possess keypads, the fever-dream content that plays on your television, or the buildings that loom just outside your reach as you walk through the city streets at night on your way to a shift, everything in Happy’s Humble Burger Farm seems to belie a deeper mystery, and as you progress, you’ll find that these instincts are correct. A brochure menu that you can pull up at will gives you some basic information on the cooking mechanics, and quick tutorial brings you up to speed when you first arrive at the restaurant, but things like being able to pick up multiple ingredients and distribute them across the grill or onto a bun weren’t immediately apparent to me. Part of that comes down to how things in the world are presented. While I loved the in-game representation of mechanics and story, stylized on colorful backgrounds and featuring the mascots that you’ll soon content with as the game goes on, without any kind of text or zoom option, it was very difficult to read items I found in the world or messages written in my brochure menu. I imagine this would be easier on a monitor, but I was sitting on a couch in front of a 65-inch TV, so the readability here was an issue for me, doubly so because you need to read a lot of things to gather story elements and when using the game’s vending machines to buy collectibles or healing items. … Read More