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Average User Score: 5.4Jan 5, 2014If you are going to build a game that pushes the definition of the medium through the wholesale elimination of things like combat and problemIf you are going to build a game that pushes the definition of the medium through the wholesale elimination of things like combat and problem solving, and focus entirely on atmosphere, exploration and story, you'd better do a damn good job of it. And Gone Home does a damn good job of it.
In Gone Home you are Kaitlin Greenbriar, 20-year-old white female, and you have come home from a year abroad, and no one is home. But you are greeted by a disconcerting note on the front door and so you find the key, enter the house, and explore, trying to find what, if anything, happened to your loved ones.
You will open cabinets and rummage through drawers and play cassette tapes full of rock and roll songs. You'll search upstairs and downstairs and behind hidden passageways. And in the process you'll learn more about your mother and your father and your long-dead great-uncle than you probably ever wanted to know. But most of all you'll learn about your sister, and the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl in rural Oregon in the summer of 1995.
I know something about being a teenager in the summer of 1995 because I was one. Granted, I was a boy (still am) and I lived in Northern California, not Oregon, but let me say that this is one of the most pleasantly nostalgic experiences I've ever had. Everything from the cabinet full of pre-recorded X-files VHS tapes to the SNES cartridges to the late 80's holdover furniture to the handmade zines and concert posters is spot on. Nothing felt out of place or inaccurate at all, which goes to show the level of care and detail that went into crafting gone home.
That dedication to creating an authentic experience is also reflected in the voice acting, the writing and even the penmanship. Everything feels that it was written by a teenage girl or a well meaning parent and not just a writer trying to sound like one. At no point is your immersion broken at every point you feel like a young woman exploring her empty childhood home who just wants to make sure that everyone she cares about is okay. Maybe they will be. Maybe they won't be. You're never sure until the end.
The only flaw of the game that stands out and is worth mentioning is that there is a mild paranormal component hinted at during exploration that is completely unnecessary, adds nothing to the ambiance or the gameplay or the storytelling. Perhaps answering the "does the spirit of a long-dead relative haunt these halls?" question could have been another sidequest of sorts. As is, it feels tacked on and is distraction to the main story. It should have been played up or eliminated completely.
8/10. A good story well told in a complete if smallish world. Roughly 2 hours of gameplay with little to no replay value. Quality realistic art and graphics that lend to believability and immersion. Excellent voice acting and music completes the package. Great feels. Highly recommended.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.3Jan 2, 2014Shelter has everything you could want from a simple atmospheric indie game. It’s the perfect length and it’s got the right cast of charactersShelter has everything you could want from a simple atmospheric indie game. It’s the perfect length and it’s got the right cast of characters in a momma badger and her 5 badger pups in need of -you guessed it- shelter. But the bad camera, the odd physics, the simple, repetitive, and slightly broken design and the confusing map breaks the immersion and detracts from the overall experience.
There's something to be said for games that stretch the definition of what a game is and can be. There's something to be said for games that take a risk of providing the player with a simple atmospheric interactive experience that’s only about as long as the average movie.
Shelter is one of those art-house games that takes a risk and almost but not quite delivers on it.
The premise behind Shelter is simple: You are a badger. You have 5 badger babies (cubs? pups?) and your job is to move them from the safety of the den you’re in and then safely get them somewhere else that’s safe.
The key word there of course is “safe”. And the world you are in is anything but. The little badgers need food regularly and while there’s plenty of apple trees, root vegetables and little huntable critters along the way, it’s not always clear which little badger has a full tummy and which one going to turn gray and die of starvation. And should you figure out a system where everyone gets their fair share of meat and vegetables, the other thing on the menu of course is badger pup and there plenty of hungry hawks and foxes who would love a few baby badger hors d’oeuvres on the hoof.
But the problem with Shelter is that isn’t very well made. The movement and controls are all quite rough. The path you’re supposed to take is anything but clear and it’s quite easy to get lost and turned around which I guess is sort of the point. It still doesn’t make for a very rewarding experience when you’ve got 5 badger brats whining to be fed, a hawk circling overhead and you’re not even sure they’re all even following you. Again, might be the point, still not rewarding.
And then the interactive experience breaks immersion when you get reminded that you not, in fact, a safety conscious momma badger by the overused simplistic textures and the polygonal flora you keep seeing the wrong side of.
Had Shelter been tightened up, even a little, it could have been a solid 8.5. But the slightly broken nature of the game detracts too much from the experience, making it a 7 at best. Worth buying and playing at the right price, but be prepared to be slightly frustrated at the clunky design.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.5Jan 2, 2014Puddle wants to be a unique physics puzzler but its terrible camera, arbitrary scoring and reward system and contempt for the player inPuddle wants to be a unique physics puzzler but its terrible camera, arbitrary scoring and reward system and contempt for the player in general crosses the line from mediocre into truly bad.
In Puddle the player controls a small amount of liquid over and around various obstacles by rotating the view with the left and right mouse buttons or, alternatively, the left and right triggers on the controller (which is only partially supported). Sound exciting? It isn't.
Puddle, despite not being the most exhilarating ride even on paper, could have been a lot better. As is, Puddle leaves a lot to be desired
To start with, there is no way to zoom in and zoom out the camera or (even better) a dynamic pan and zoom camera that would automatically see the full length of the flow (or at least the bulk of it) or let you look ahead to oncoming obstacles or let you get a better view at the switch you’re supposed to be guiding your liquid friend to.
So what happens is after you have masterfully navigated most of your stream across burners and around various S-curves the camera moves on to the part of -not the flow- but the obstacle course that you’re navigating. This means that a small trickle or some droplets get left behind and out of view, even though you’re pretty sure you could safely navigate them back into the flow. Sometimes your entire flow is out of view because the camera has fixated on where a few droplets barreled ahead and met an untimely end leaving everything else behind an unseen.
And if you do have the audacity to continually lose all of your water over and over again because of the lousy camera and you just want to move on to the next level, the game straight up calls you a whiner. That’s right. You get 5 free passes and each one is called a “whine”. Yes, I couldn’t complete the level because your terrible camera left my entire flow out of view so I’m a whiner. And that, ultimately, is when I decided that's what is ultimately wrong with Puddle it has a passive aggressive contempt of the player in general. That is Puddles true downfall as a physics puzzler it just isn’t that into you.
You see, your score is determined by a) how much liquid you end up with and b) how fast you got it there. But the game intentionally restricts you from maximizing your score by giving you no control over the camera so you can get every last drop. And then there’s no on-screen timer or indication of what a “good” time is, nor does the game really care what your time is because the game grades on a curve: For Puddle, getting a little bit of water to the end quickly is every bit as noble as getting a lot of water there slowly, which is to say that it isn’t.
And should the player actually do well in a level, they’re rewarded with digitized foil-covered chocolate, pre-bit, just for that additional elbow to the ribs. Do poorly and you’re a whiner. Do well and you get the same chocolate treat you’d get even if you did just okay, only with different chemical element shorthand embossed on top.
And it’s that disregard for the player and the player's performance that takes what could have been an okay game and takes it down to a being a bad game. The okay water physics and the terrible camera would have made Puddle a 6.7 or so. But because the game doesn’t seem to care whether you do well or poorly and gives you a hard time no matter what, it’s a 5.2 at best and I’m rounding down to a 5.… Expand