Paradise Lost Review – A Poignant Journey into The Heart of Grief

One thing I’d like to make clear is that I am not a fan of the term “walking simulator.” As a writer, I find that what I like to call “narrative adventures” offer a way to experience a story through light interaction and decision-making. Calling something a walking simulator devalues the work that goes into telling an interactive story. With that out of the way, Paradise Lost is a narrative adventure out now for PS4 and playable on PS5. It’s a story set in an alternate version of post-WWII where the Nazi’s decimated Europe with nuclear weapons, and our main character finds himself exploring a seemingly abandoned bunker that for reasons that become known as the story progresses. Does this dive into a version of history that never happened tell a story worth experiencing, or should we leave this paradise to the fold of time? Let’s find out! A Gripping Exploration of an Alternate Timeline Paradise Lost is a game that excels in creating a rich and detailed atmosphere right from the beginning. This level of immersion is due to a few things, but in no small part to the richly realized environments and little touches like being able to see your entire character’s body as he jumps off ledges or climbs through elements of the environment. The game’s story didn’t grab me immediately, but as it progressed through the roughly four hour run time, I found that it very organically reveals more and more about the events that transpired prior to your arrival, and the reasons for why you find yourself in this elaborate bunker. I say bunker, but it’s more of a sprawling underground city with multiple districts and distinct areas. In this version of history, the Nazi’s decimated Europe with nuclear weaponry, leaving the area in Poland where you spend the game nearly uninhabitable on the surface. With a few clues to go on, you play as a 12-year-old boy with nothing but his wits, a photograph, and a lighter to guide him in the beginning. The story is told through some flashbacks, dialogue between the boy and one other character (I’m leaving out their names as they’re not revealed right away in the story), audio recordings, and of course, the good old fashioned method of finding in-game documents. Where Paradise Lost’s story worked really well for me was in the way that it doesn’t show all of its cards until later. You’ll spend the first chunk of the game alone and eventually make contact with someone via the camera / microphone system, but even the documents play coy with what the Nazi’s were up to in this massive underground society. I imagine that some people will predict several elements of the story before they come to fruition, but I even found myself surprised at a few of the developments. It’s also a story with some flexibility thanks to a few different paths you can take through environments and moments where you interact with a complex machine … Read More

Doodle Devil: 3volution Review – Is it Good to be Bad?

One of the games I played when I first got a smartphone was this simple app where you combined base elements to unlock more complex items. It was just a drag-and-drop interface with very little flourish. It even had a basic name like “chemistry” or something. Nevertheless, it was addicting, even if I ended up just trying combinations at a certain point. Doodle Devil: 3volution is the latest game in a series that follows a similar formula, but throws in the theme of being pure evil and coming up with things like the seven deadly sins in your various combinations. Does this darker side of the Doodle God games offer an evil evolution worthy of your time, or is this title about as fun as a vacation to hell? Let’s find out. A Fun Core Loop With Unnecessary Baggage Right off the bat, it’s worth noting that Doodle Devil: 3volution is not an expensive game at all. While games like this originate as smartphone apps fueled by microtransactions, the exchange here is a slightly higher price in exchange for having everything in-game. With a price of $8.99, I’m taking the cost into account as I discuss the ups and downs of the experience. That being said, Doodle Devil: 3volution offers the standard gameplay that those familiar with the series are used to, while also adding a few extra modes that we’ll discuss momentarily. For those not familiar with the series, Doodle Devil begins with some base elements and a single category for you to work with. Using a combination of trigger inputs and button presses, you’ll pair things together like fire, water, earth, and so forth to create more complex things like steam.and lava. As you explore combinations, you’ll unlock other categories to keep everything organized. The twist with Doodle Devil is that you’ll be unlocking things like the concept of torture, the river styx, the seven deadly sins, and yes, even sex. I raised my eyebrows when I saw the game’s icons for some of these things, but nothing is inherently offensive. An option for younger players is in the settings as well for those who may have younger gamers playing alongside them. Things happen fast, and combinations are almost always rewarding in the opening portion of the game. Once you hit about 50 or so unlocks though, things slow down and you’ll find yourself accidentally redoing combinations without realizing it. An in-game store allows you to purchase upgrades that prevent you from seeing the same animations or giving you the abiilty to spot which items have combinations, but these need to be purchased first. It’s not a big deal, because the game gives you 10K gold off the bat to grab these things, but at that point it would have made sense to just enable them by default. Gold is also spent on purchasing hints or outright suggestions on what to combine, which is nice when you just need a nudge to keep things going, but the game … Read More

Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition Review – Taking The Scenic Route

The last generation of consoles brought two major characteristics of gaming to the surface: the inclusion of smaller indie studios, and games as a form of art. With so many titles made by small teams, leveraging unique art styles and storytelling, games became an even more diverse type of art than ever before. When I reviewed Spirit of the North on PS4, I found it to be a gorgeous looking game, with a presentation that goes beyond what you would expect from a smaller studio, but ultimately it didn’t have the emotional impact or depth that I would have liked to see from it’s unique storytelling approach. Now that Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition has come to PS5, how has that experience improved? Let’s find out! A Beautiful, if Similiar Experience Spirit of the North, for those who haven’t played it, is an action adventure title with a focus on a story told without words. You play as a fox who, with the help of the land’s guiding spirit, sets out to rid the world of a mysterious corruption that has taken hold through the various regions. There are hints are something greater, and a history displayed through the use of murals that you can find. Optional skeletons of what seem to be mages from a lost civilization can be activated as well by bringing nearby staffs to the bodies, at which point the spirit seems to thank you before passing on. Visually, it’s a stunning game with plenty of mystery in its various ruins and and the aforementioned murals that you come across, but it’s all hints at something greater and never quite becomes something more than that. I appreciate the approach of a wordless story, and I’ve seen it work in other titles like the excellent Virginia on PS4, but here I feel like the story could have conveyed more detail about the origins of the corruption, or the role of the titular spirit and their struggle against it. Missed story opportunities aside, the world in Spirit of the North is compelling to explore, with plenty of variety across icy vistas, water-logged ruins, and harrowing encounters with the corruption that has taken hold in later areas. Gameplay is a mixture of light puzzle solving, exploration, and utilizing new abilities you unlock to progress forward. There’s a nice sense of progression as new gameplay mechanics unlock and change how you traverse or interact with the world. I will refrain from specific examples as these abilities represent some of the few surprises you’ll encounter on your journey. Speaking of surprises, the environments also have a good sense of flow, conveying the feeling that you’re truly moving through a connected world. While the story doesn’t quite utilize them to the fullest, that sense of mystery and intrigue never quite goes away. Despite being linear, the environments are quite open, and while exploration can reward you with staffs to reunite with mage skeletons, there isn’t much else to motivate you, making … Read More