Sword Daughter Impressions and Review

“Well, I enjoyed Hanako’s Long Live the Queen and The Royal Trap. I’ll give Sword Daughter a chance.”

Positives

  • Kim Sokol’s and Iacocca Khen’s art has a soft, oil-painting quality that fits the setting and is easily the best Hanako has used. I hope they continue to illustrate future titles.
  • The music fits.

Main Negative (or Positive of a Different Sort)

  • The base plot concept is sound: The protagonist’s traveling party is attacked by orcs, her father dies, and her fellow travelers are abducted. She’s found by the male lead and now must decide how to proceed.
  • Unfortunately the execution is so bad that at first I felt insulted. Her dad’s still fresh corpse is a yard away and the two leads are arguing – yet the protagonist is focused on how cute the elf is.  What is this?
  • Then I nearly started crying from laughing when the perfectly beautiful, eerily intelligent white horse shows up and somehow magically gives the protagonist the power to win a footrace.
  • Then I started crying from laughing in earnest when I spent the next playthrough doing my best to make the two leads hate each other (and they do express frustration without attraction) only to have them turn right around and snog each other and talk about how concerned they were.
  • The best part of all, however, came during one of the possible endings in which the fellow travelers have been rescued, the male lead has been jarringly mushy, then wanders off. Female lead: “Maybe I’ll see you at the warrior games some time?” Male lead: indifferent shrug.
  • The entire thing is both terrible and glorious.

Bottom Line: This is not a good story, but for $6.95 I definitely got my money’s worth. If you enjoy picking apart books or games MST3K-style, give it a try. It’s now on Steam so you might nab it at a good discount in the future.

Hanako Games, Hanabira, and Rhondi Vilott’s Sword Daughter is available on PC, Mac, and Linux from Hanako Games’ official site and Steam.

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Aloners Impressions and Review – Spoilers

You wake up thirty-something years after the apocalypse to this.

Sleeping Beauty's Wake Up Call

You’ve had better starts to a day.

Bottom Line: Please go play this right now. It’s free, it takes less than three hours, and I can’t talk about it properly without giving specifics. I’ll wait.

Hard to believe it’s free, right?

VISUALS

  • While the backgrounds are adequate and Trash’s sprites are varied and nicely done, the lack of sprites for muties and other characters kept me from feeling as threatened or connected at the appropriate moments. Gamma in particular needs a proper sprite.

AUDIO

  • The background music sets the mood but did not blow me away.

GAMEPLAY

  • Click-read-click-read-click-read-click-read-choose an action or dialog option.  Repeat.

PROTAGONIST

  • The choice moments that define your protagonist are clearly phrased and believable.
  • Whatever choices you make, the female protagonist feels like a distinct person. My favorite is a smart-ass who spent the entire game trying to avoid physical contact with Trash. Well, she did voluntarily kick him in the balls once. Poor guy. XD

TRASH

  • Trash, the male lead, is basically a good guy stuck in a miserable survivalist situation dealing with it as best he can. His family tried to raise him right, but he definitely has flaws. He’s survived solo for years, he knows he can’t stay at his home base indefinitely, and then a potential nutter appears in his bed. The protagonist is both a liability and a godsend.
  • And it all informs his character, decisions, and interactions with the protagonist. That coupled with the beautiful relationship pacing makes him feel like a believable, complex individual even though he grows to love the protagonist no matter her personality or decisions.

RELATIONSHIP

  • As you may have gathered from previous sections, Trash always comes to love the protagonist, but your protagonist is under no obligation to return the sentiment. She can, and the little romance interactions are sweet without becoming cloying, but I appreciate that the protagonist and player are ultimately in control.
  • The pacing of the leads’ interactions and relationship evolution kept impressing me throughout the story. My favorite part has to be when they’re trapped inside the shack for days. The grinding, claustrophobic, spiteful atmosphere is captured perfectly. When Trash started whistling, I screamed in delighted frustration.
  • The few times I began to worry where a scene might lead (being forced to pick a flaw, initiating a physical relationship too early, etc.) the author neatly and, almost with a wink, dodges the potential problem. Brava.

PLOT AND SETTING

I’ve played many Fallout and “main character can’t remember their past” games, yet I still enjoyed the setting and some of the plot beats.

  • +The protagonist has amnesia…but she does eventually remember some things, and some of the blanks allow you to shape her personality and history.
  • +It’s a post-apocalyptic setting…that has no definite explanation and allows the relationship between the two leads to evolve beautifully.
  • +The protagonist is part of what appears to be a secret government conspiracy…that is not over-explained or the ultimate villain.
  • +The protagonist is threatened with harm to make the male lead comply…and they both keep their heads and endure what they must.
  • = Some “well isn’t that fortunate for y’all” moments flirt with breaking the player’s suspension of disbelief, but because they drive the protagonist and Trash’s grounded character interactions they never bothered me. It kind of equals out.
  • – Having Trash accept and help the protagonist for a while before he discovers her origin and having the Easter Initiative feel ominous before the apocalypse is more problematic. It kept me from ever doubting where the protagonist’s loyalties lay and whether she would forgive and fully side with Trash.
  • – The protagonist and Trash forget they a need a key to out of their fortified jail cell. Nice one, guys.

EVERYTHING ELSE

  • Apparently in the post-apocalypse humans no longer need to relieve themselves and women no longer have periods. Yes, I know most games treat these things as though they don’t exist, but in a story that puts an emphasis on long stretches of confinement, the scarcity of supplies, and the importance of reproductive ability it feels weird. Maybe put “I noted the bucket tucked behind the screen and grimaced at the implication” when the protagonist first explores the shack or something similar?

Despite my nitpicks, I love Aloners. sonnet009 is a writer and developer I now trust to take well-worn ideas and interactions and make interesting, believable characters. I look forward to what she does next!

Aloners is available for PC, Mac, and Linux.

Follow the developer at sonnet009games.

Choice of Robots Impressions and Review – Spoiler Free

Choice of Robots Pic

Basic Premise: Create a robot and watch in fascination or horror as it influences the next thirty years.

Positives

  • The story has the most branches of any self-contained official Choice of Games title I’ve tried.
  • Different societal and ethical ramifications of creating and depending upon sentient machines are examined, but none of them beat you about the head with one particular view point.
  • The interactions between you and your initial robot are funny without forcing a specific personality on the player.  Try having it read the Stoics at least once.  I’m pleased to find Kevin Gold, the author, is already working on another title.
  • One of the situations I stumbled upon during my fourth game made me profoundly uncomfortable and nervous because the writing made me care about all four of those particular characters. I’ve been less interested in the major plot threads of novels than I was in those two chapters focused on small family interactions. Major win.
  • If you make poor choices or fail certain stat checks, your character dies. Those moments never felt unfair though.
  • The grammar and editing are professionally executed.

Negatives

  • Excepting the baby’s name, every time I typed a character’s name it immediately reverted to the default. Choose one of the provided selections until that’s rectified or prepare to experience jarring sentences such as “my robot shakes your hand.”
  • You cannot argue that Hamlet‘s “To Be or Not to Be” speech is about action vs inaction rather than existence vs nonexistence.

Everything Else

  • This is a longer story compared to other Choice of Games titles. Make sure you have a chunk of time before starting.

Bottom Line: Recommended.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to start a new robot cult.  🙂

Choice of Games’ Choice of Robots is available on iOS, Android, Kindle, and Steam. It’s discounted until January 2, 2015.

Impressions and review based on a provided code.

Heroes Rise: HeroFall Impressions and Review – Spoilers

HeroFall Image

Basic Premise: In the final act of the Heroes Rise trilogy, you play a hero trying both to regain lost super powers and to protect family in a dangerous political climate.

Bottom Line: Recommended; a must-play for those who enjoyed the first two Heroes Rise games. Not recommended for those looking to enter the series. While I like both, you can probably get away with skipping The Prodigy and starting with The Hero Project and feel caught up.

Spoilers Ahead!

Positives

  • Decisions from the first and second installments change the options available in this third installment. I was pleased my character could remind two minor secondary characters about how she kept their secret early in the first game.

  • The stats matter.

  • Prodigal’s past actions aren’t ignored. She has kidnapped and killed many people, the game acknowledges it, and doesn’t really soften her. Instead Sergi (the author) makes Prodigal an entertaining fruit loop. Her commentary on a situation usually made me laugh.

  • When Jenny died I felt walloped.

  • Sergi obviously made some characters available for romances at players’ requests, but he makes sure the player knows he judges those choices and does not think they make sense. XD

  • The story has a proper conclusion and epilogue.

Negatives

  • Not having a high enough revenge stat negates the option to kill Victon. It makes sense by the numbers, but not necessarily for the story. One particular hero had just watched his love Prodigal be murdered by Victon as he was also trying to kill him and his parents. Dude had had enough…but couldn’t shank the guy because he wasn’t consistently vengeful.  Emotions don’t work like that.  :/

Choice of Games’ Heroes Rise: HeroFall is available on iOS, Android, Kindle, and Steam.

Mecha Ace: Heroes of the Vedrian War Impressions and Review

 

Mecha Ace

Basic Premise: In Mecha Ace: Heroes of the Vedrian War, you pilot a Space Robot of Doom and command your squad during a galactic war for independence.

Positives

  • Paul Wang, the author, has written a long, self-contained story with a proper denouement.

  • I’m not particularly drawn to robots, lasers, or militaristic science fiction, but the plot and the variety of attitudes your character can express absorbed me. My favorite play-through was an incredibly persuasive, rather violent commander who would fall to pieces when pressured.

  • All the stats impact the story. I was still surprised at some of the outcomes on the fourth play-through.

  • The secondary characters feel distinct. Each one has his/her own values and has no problem disagreeing with you and refusing a friendship or romance. Awesome. Also the commanding officer and other tertiary characters have some lovely lines if you ask idiotic questions. Role-play a moron and prepare to smirk.

Negatives

  • A few misspelled words and a couple of coding lines appear in the story.

Overall: Recommended. I played the game four times and still have choice combinations I want to explore.  Give the sample a try.

Choice of Games’ Mecha Ace: Heroes of the Vedrian War is available on iOS, Andriod, Kindle, and Google Chrome.

Impressions and review based on a provided iPad code.

Flirting with Pigeons: Hatoful Boyfriend

According to Forbes, Hatoful Boyfriend is being remade and will be available later this year.  The description “pursue your pigeon of choice while attending high school” sounds like an ornithologist’s fever dream.  I had to make sure this game actually existed.

I found it, downloaded it, changed my computer’s language, and settled in for a bizarre hour.  My character (the only human so far) has spent the past month reminiscing with her oldest friend (a rock pigeon), being beaten at marathon running by a bird, breaking up feathered fights, and trying to decide whether to make a picnic lunch in her barren cave home.  The demented merry-go-round background music makes it even more surreal.

I assume this is a parody of other visual novels, but the excellent translation and editing make it hard to tell this early.  If I survive the experience, I’ll be back with my impressions.

PigeoNation’s Hatoful Boyfriend is currently available on Windows and Mac.

The Cat Lady Review and Impressions – Spoiler Free

It’s time for another “Lydia recommends something besides mushy visual novels” post. This game is different. Really different.

On a game-play level, Harvester Games’ The Cat Lady is a narrative-heavy adventure game with fairly simple puzzles and lots of dialog.

On a story-telling level, Harvester Games’ The Cat Lady is a dark, mature examination of depression and how individuals cope (or can not) when faced with others’ cruelty. The screen that appears upon starting the game warning of the gore, violence, and other adult subject matter is needed. It’s the scariest title I’ve played.

It’s unnerving.

It’s bloody.

It’s horrifying.

It’s beautiful.

It’s funny.

It’s hopeful.

It’s a horror title in which the horror is not the main point. A plot summary would spoil much of the experience, so I shall only say: Kudos. I commend the plot for staying mysterious and surprising. I really had no idea where the story would go, and I appreciate the different endings.

Susan Ashworth, the protagonist, is now one of my favorites. A forty-something near recluse, she is almost painfully believable and identifiable. Even before I researched the author’s background, I could tell Michalski either has suffered from depression or knows those who do. (According to this interview, he knows those who do.) Susan’s outlook and the responses from those who interact with such a deeply hurting person are spot-on. I also liked the close friendship between two women characters. Very few games show a platonic relationship between women, and fewer still that do not spend most of their time discussing stereotypical girly topics.

Recommended to those who crave an identifiable, human story and can handle the horror elements.

Harvester Games’ The Cat Lady is available on PC and Linux.