No rite from the stars

This is the hardest game review this site has ever had to write. Negative reviews is just not part of its formula, yet when something has been gifted to us for review it feels only right to recognize the game. Even when so much about the game is poorly designed and implemented despite efforts it seems to make a solid adventure and experience.

The game in this instance is A RITE FROM THE STARS, published but not developed by Phoenix Online Studios. The game was developed by Risin Goat, a small studio in Madrid, Spain. They originally kickstarted the game way in 2014 and from a visual stand point for a tiny studio the many years of build show.

Where the game fails is story and gameplay. Conceived as a point and click with different gameplay methods, the two styles I game more than ample try at were both poorly programmed and lacked much fun. Good reviews on steam even state that they succeeded the game through what seemed like trial and error or constant repetition to notice the puzzle’s less than obvious pattern. This was definitely my experience in the section in which you must control two characters by mouse only and still do perfect timing to complete the section. The coding for this perfect timing is not generous to someone’s skills especially for something promoted as a point n click adventure. The other section I attempted involved switching screen powers and then remembering a pattern while doing perfect timing to avoid enemies that seemed to have a pattern that while exact was hard to maneuver because of the point n’click mechanics which would function much better as a keyboard & mouse or gamepad style.

My frustration with both these sections left me with no interest to even attempt the third. The writing of the characters, the absolute cipher of the lead protagonist and the slightly pressuring role of the co-star all absolute turn offs. The shame of this is my excitement for A RITE was very high. In a time where new and different games inspired by classic point and click in aspiration but in finished product fall short.

A bad review needs some balance, so I must say the music is quite enticing. As is the 3d graphical design. Visually this game is a top notch indie title. The characters, the background, the walk cycles (although faulty for gameplay), there is a lot of talent here. Level design is where the game falters but that’s just a huge thing. Even when frustrated or failing one should feel there could be success if they were just better, yet the case here is being better wouldn’t help. You’ll succeed by luck and just playing over and over and over till finally you beat it. This is not who it should be and takes away from the feeling of achieving a rite. You should feel like you are actually achieving wisdom, strength, etc, but that is not what happens here and because of it I can’t recommend even trying the game out for yourself to try. Although maybe you’ll want to and prove me wrong. Maybe I am just that bad at games. At times one could suggest I am, but I do know when I am having fun versus not and that is where A RITE FROM THE STARS drops out of favor for me. I did not have fun, no matter who pretty it was.

A RITE FROM THE STARS is $14.99 US and available on the official POS Store (https://store.postudios.com/products/a-rite-from-the-stars) as well as Steam, GOG, Humble Store and many more digital retailers.

Selling and Killing and Killing what you Sell (again and again)

Retail work can be hell. Especially when you run your own business shop. There’s ordering, pricing, displaying, selling, keeping customers happy; Keeping track of trends, supply and demand, influx, stock, reorganizing, running the register. To some in Japan that in itself would be a good game. I’m sure that game even exists, but imagine if on top of running the store you also had to go and get your own supplies and products to sell? What if those products could only be procured by fighting monsters and getting strong enough to get more and more product to sell while also helping see your surrounding village and merchants grow and succeed as well? What if you had a dream of escaping the duldrum life of running a strom and just adventuring and discovering mysteries without the worries of that store work life? Yet, the only way to ever reach that dream was to actually make the shop so successful your adventure becomes everything it entails.

 

That is what MOONLIGHTER from developer Digital Sun (published by 11 bit studios) is a fanciful nutshell. Yet, that is a narrative painterly description of the game. While the game is ambitious, and very ice to look at, it definitely doesn’t reach the platitudes I have presented. That is not to say the game isn’t worth your time, as it definitely is.

Before I get to any of the praise let me discuss some of the “downfall” the game suffers IMHO.

Moonlighter is a grind if you’re not a seasoned and never fail gamer. I have seen speedruns and videos showing folks getting through this game easily, I am not one of those people, nor will I ever be. There is a lot to keep track of as you attempt to make money by selling your wares, yet keeping aware of what you have as items you procure are equally needed to upgrade your armor, weapons, and spells. The combat isn’t inspiring, there are no combos. You dodge and you hit, you remember patterns and you hope your fingers are fast enough to follow those patterns as you press buttons. Yes, that is like much combat but it offers no variety or ingenuity, but it does look good.

The store management is not as exciting as one would hope. The reactions from customers, knowing if an item needs to go up or down in price or kept the same, placing the items in a four grid, how many of an item, not accidentally selling an item you need to get the better word so you can survive longer in dungeons to get better items. None of it as actually fun. It can even be aggravating at times. I found myself yelling out loud at the customers, but they can’t hear me cause it’s actually just me yelling at my computer screen. Yet somehow it’s still fun. There’s something inherently fun about it.

That’s the big thing. Even when frustrated the game is a lot of fun. Helping that happen is the excellent pixel art along with an incredible soundtrack and sound design. These two things and the concept propel the world of Moonlighter into being a game you don’t mind having to go back to dungeons and to the store and to the dungeons over and over and over. If life in retail had a soundtrack and visual appeal like Moonlighter even more people would love it. It’s that feeling that makes me recommend the game to pretty much anyone who seeks a gaming experience both familiar and like nothing they have never had. Give it a spin… you’ll get sucked in even as you want to quit, which is a strange but great feeling.

MOONLIGHTER is available now on Windows, PS4, Mac, Xbox One, and Switch.

You can also get the OST on Bandcamp.

 

 

Aren’t You A Clever Clogs?

Hector_logo_lores_nobackgroundFun animation, obscure clues, unusual jokes, memorable characters have all been major factors to a quality third-person point and click adventure game. There have been few and far between in recent years of a truly funny, traditional 2-d animation type game. While the internet has a share of Flash games, there’s been nothing on the level of previous adventures. The majority of games being developed in Adventure Games Studio.  The only other game with the closest of those mid 90’s games were developed by Clickshake Games and yet even those miss the mark.

While TellTale Games have been doing serious quality adventuring with their rebirth of Lucasarts’ Sam & Max and Monkey Island, along with their work on licensed work like Back to the Future it is their smaller ventures where they really shine. First was Graham Annabelle’s Puzzle Agent, developed in house, but that was followed up by picking up the distribution rights to Straandlooper Animation’s HECTOR: Badge of Courage.

I first heard of Hector on various adventure gaming sites back when it was just an iPhone app. While the price seemed right, the idea of using my finger and playing a great looking game like Hector on such a small device was totally a detriment to its enjoyment. Luckily that has all changed with a PC/MAC as well as iPad version now available. I’m still more partial to the PC/MAC though. I just don’t think gaming should go all touch just yet. There’s something about a controller/mouse/keyboard that just feels right and I see no need to re-invent the wheel. People always try to reinvent the wheel. The wheel works. You can add to it, make it funky, add concepts to it, but to re-invent it? There’s no point. That’s my opinion of course.

Let us get back to HECTOR: BADGE OF COURAGE for now, as that is the crux of this article. Everything in this game, like in most pop-culture is going to be a thing where you’ll either like it or not. There’s a definite market for everything in this game and it makes no excuses. The art reminds me a lot of Total Drama, which a very good thing. The writing is very… well, British. Not actually British though, but Irish. It’s a very raunchy, yet clever type of humor. Think South Park meets “Have You Been Served?”… or say American Dad meets Black Adder. Irreverent, unusual, and just downright “what the?” kind of jokes that also therefore becomes clues.

Here’s an example and a spoiler: Blind man needs sex doll to give you info. You put a dead junkie in a box and trade junkie for a sex doll. You assume the dead junkie will sell pretty quickly and the man behind the counter seems quite excited, even if he did trade you the floor model of the sex doll.

That is just an example of the weird and wild writing you’ll find in the game. The puzzles get crazier and more convoluted as you go along. Yet, despite the complexity it all somehow makes sense. Okay, that’s a lie, like most adventure games of yore very little makes sense. It’s funny though and if you think obscurely, you get obscureness and that in my book is a good thing.

At $10, you get great animation, hilarious adventures, wacky voice acting (all by ONE person, which is a feat in itself) and a thorough and funny walkthrough system if you’re totally lost and just want to enjoy the story like it was a cartoon instead of a game. It was actually originally conceptualized as a cartoon so I don’t really think its cheating even if the game acts like it is.

It’s a totally worthwhile pick-up for those who truly like what I’ve described here. If raunchy humor, complex and sometimes obvious yet perplexing puzzles and cutesy artwork isn’t your thing, then stay away. Actually, naw, just do it anyway… or not… whatever, pussy.

extra info: This article and opinion was based on a review copy of HECTOR, provided by Telltale for sole purposes of review and promotion.  Even without the review copy I’d want it and probably beg people to give me the $10, cause I can be cheap.