If you’re looking for an event on a day out in the centre of Bristol, I really must talk to you about Bristol’s own escape room experience, Locked in a Room. This weekend, Joel came down from Shrewsbury to join us for the weekend. Meanwhile Kim and Pete from Later Levels travelled from even further afield, so when they joined us as well, we had a team of genuinely excellent people. We may not have been the fastest in the building, but we certainly had fun. Whilst I won’t be spoiling what the story or puzzles were, I’ll share what I learned with you about the what, why and where.
Here’s an old idea made new, another game derived from a series of puzzle-books, but this time instead of choose-your-own-adventure games, this time it’s a hidden object game a-la Where’s Wally (that’s Waldo if you’re across the Atlantic), the classic red and white master of hiding in plain sight, the must-have test of your children’s observation skills and patience.
Hidden Folks seizes the concept and turns it into something that is both addictive and strangely adorable. Layers of interactivity, vast scenes in which to seek tiny details with dozens of similar-looking items scattered everywhere, it’s wonderfully simple, and drives you back day after day for just one more game. (more…)
Physics puzzle games were at one point all of the rage – And they weren’t the only puzzles to be such an important part of the genre. ‘Drawing’ puzzles were another massive part of pushing puzzles onto mobile. We had games like Cut The Rope and Scribblenauts. Recently, I found a new puzzle which fits the bill of a drawing physics game, called Brain It On! and thought I’d give the title a try. After all, I love a good puzzle and the game was free, so this could only be good, right?
Cast your mind back to last year, when I reviewed a game called Party Hard that had nothing to do with the Andrew WK song of the same name. As you may remember, Party Hard is the game where you play a serial killer and are tasked with taking out as many of the partying people as you could, so you can get some sleep. Did you ever wonder who might come and clean up after you? If you set Party Hard in the seventies and toned down the violence a bit, then Serial Cleaner would be the game to compliment Party Hard.
- Developed by: iFun4All
- Publisher: Curve Digital
- Platforms: Windows, Steam, PS4, XBox One, Mac
- Release Date: 19th June 2017
- Rated: Steam: 71 (Very Positive) & Metacritic (PC) 68%, user score 7.5
- RRP: £11.99
The game has a very unique style and takes full advantage of being set in the 1970’s, where almost every male person in the game has a fine full moustache and sporting some Ray-Ban Aviator shades. Your main character, a Mr Bob Leaner, lives with his mother and makes his living by cleaning up crime scenes. In between missions, there are storyline moments that relate to history. I really like the design line the developers have taken, everything feels right at home.
The colours are really something to behold, the art style is similar to papercraft, almost cell shaded in a way. I’ve not seen that many games that follow a similar art style and for that, I give the game a lot of credit. The design of the levels themselves had a lot of love poured into them. They start fairly simple, giving you a nice introduction to the controls and concept without holding your hand at every turn, as well as having a nice challenge curve.
There are several obvious design decisions made during development and they all feel like they add to the gameplay. Players are punished for taking risks and being caught, given that there are no halfway checkpoints being caught means everything resets. Yes, this causes many moments where you may find your patience being tested and it’s probably because you just were not good enough on that occasion. The great thing about getting caught is that restarting the level is instantaneous. Having a significant reload time for a game like this might be the tipping point that makes me stop playing. Being made to wait several seconds or minutes to have another go of the same level is not acceptable in a game like this, so I am glad they made it instantaneous.
You control Bob, using the cursor keys to guide him. Your task for each mission is to not get caught trying to mess with the scene of a crime. You do this by using your “Cleaner sense”, which gives you the ability to see the whole map, where all the hiding spots, bodies and bits of evidence are. The second tool in your bag of tricks is the ability to hide in things and activate various bits of scenery to help lose/confuse/distract the cops from finding you before you complete your mission.
When you get to a body you pick it up and then hot foot it to the nearest body drop point, which could be your reliable Station Wagon or maybe even feeding it to a Crocodile. Finally, you have a vacuum to suck up some of the blood, which is a requirement on some of the levels. The levels are really well designed; police seem to always be in the same spot while the bodies and evidence seem to rotate around a bunch of predesignated spots with every try. If a police officer spots you then you need to find the nearest hiding spot and wait for them to give up looking for you, before you continue with the job in hand.
If you are looking to 100% complete this game, it’s going to take you a while. There are costumes to be found so you can put Bob Leaner in a Saturday Night fever style suit, or stockings and suspenders to name a few. There are also a lot of challenges for each level so you can replay them to make them more difficult. The game also includes 10 film specific scenarios to work your way through as extra content, so there is plenty to keep you occupied. For a little over £5 more than the RRP, you can optionally grab the music as DLC. I must say that it encompasses the era the game is set in perfectly, with some big hair, shoulder-pad style schlock rock, to funk and disco.
I have a few criticisms.
Even though I think the art style is nice, it is at points difficult to understand where you can and cannot run. I got caught more than once by thinking that I could escape the cops through a certain route and come to a dead end. I also think that you could add a hell of a lot of replay value if there was a level designer. You could happily hook it up to Steam Workshop to share levels between your friends, or the public. There have been a few times where I have managed to glitch through the scenery and actually appear on the other side of an external wall with no other choice but to restart, but in fairness, there have been few and far between.
A lot of other reviewers have picked up on the fact that there is no multi-player but I don’t think that a multi-player version of the game would work. I like the game as is, I’ve not managed to finish it as yet but I have seen enough to be able to say it’s a game I have enjoyed being frustrated by and having that feeling of elation when you get a level right and manage to move onto the next one. It’s certainly worth the money in my opinion.
Have you played Serial Cleaner? What do you think of this wave of games that implement very simple rules with a definitive art style like Hotline Miami, Enter the Gungeon etc? Give us your feedback via the comments section or over on Facebook, Reddit or Twitter
As I sit here, finishing up the very last of Westworld, I find myself with far too much to pick apart and discuss for a mere review, but I find myself wanting to review it from an unusual perspective.
The series is fantastic, well written, brilliantly performed, layers of philosophy woven with drama, all brought to a satisfying conclusion that ties loose ends neatly but leaves a whole new string to unravel. And yet above all, I’m left with a complaint that makes me strangely unsatisfied with the series as a whole.
Westworld is a bad game. (more…)
Strangely enough I played the parody of Myst before I even knew the original existed, a series of postcards with brilliantly crass and surreal humour featuring John Goodman as King Mattress. I loved it, but finding Myst was a revelation I don’t think I was entirely prepared for.
The Myst series is what made Cyan Worlds what they are today, though they’ve had a few older titles that are broadly forgotten along with a smattering of mobile releases that have gone unnoticed. Myst, it’s various sequels, re-releases and spin-offs are amongst the best puzzle games ever created, due in no small part to their use of observation and deductive reasoning rather than any dependence on the Lock and Key method I spoke of last week. They created worlds by the dozen, each with their own rules and internal logic that you uncover through studying the works of others and experimenting yourself, then using that knowledge to resolve the puzzles in front of you.
The question is can Cyan recapture the magic with a new title? Obduction is a title I picked up a while back, sincerely looking forward to something fascinating, something new. And as soon as I got past the title the whole thing crashed. Ahh well, nice new computer, nice new game… (more…)
- 66 levels (6 hidden)
- Sheep customisation (17 skins & 6 types of blood)
- Level editor (PC Only)
A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away there was a team of developers who went by the name of Psygnosis. Psygnosis were well known for producing very beautiful and excellent games like the classic Barbarian (1987) and Shadow Of The Beast (1989). Sometime in 1993 Psygnosis were
consumed acquired by the mighty Sony and continued to produce quality products like the fantastic futuristic racing game Wipeout. But let’s not forget one of their biggest games, selling in the region of 15 million copies over multiple platforms and that was called Lemmings. Now, like Timlah I too am a big fan of most of the work that Team 17 put out. It takes a very brave bunch of developers to take on a product that has already sold 15 million copies and especially in today’s market where the focus is leaning towards high impact graphics and open worlds, is there room for a classicly animated A to B puzzle game?
Flockers was originally released in 2014 and on first glance there really is not denying the similarity between it and Lemmings. You are put in control of a flock of fluffy sheep that are escaping their diabolical masters (the Worms). The sheep aimless walk from left to right only changing direction when the hit something they cannot overcome. You guide them to safety aiming for the exit along the way solving the various puzzles to get over/around obstacles. Points are awarded for every sheep saved, and by using less of the tools that you acquire, finally awarding you up to a total of total three stars. However very unlike Lemmings you pick up tools along the way rather than be given a set number at the start. Sheep can die in a number of ways, first and foremost is the environment which is littered with nefarious contraptions that are set to squish, impale or slice up your sheep. Another way to reduce the numbers is to let your sheep fall too far, this can be counteracted by giving the sheep a soft landing (another sheep). Of course, you can also loose sheep by destroying them yourself; yes, every now and then you will have to sacrifice the life of one of your fluffy little friends for the good of the flock.
The main method of control is the mouse, simply select the tool you want from the bar at the bottom of the screen and then click a sheep to activate that tool for that sheep. Pressing the right mouse button gives you a much wider cursor which is great when you want to make a lot of sheep do the same thing and not have to click 50 times. You also have the ability to zoom in and out of the scenes so that you can see what is up ahead and try to predict what is going to happen. Team17 have also integrated the keyboard a bit to try and help you quickly switch between one tool and another. Numbers 1-0 will select the tool sitting in that slot, letters Q and E will shift the tool that you are on left or right one. You can speed up the movement of the little sheep by pressing the left shift key which is useful for the impatient.
Looks & Sounds
Team 17 have a huge pedigree for having a great art style to their games and Flockers is no exception to this. The backgrounds are detailed and moody with great use of lighting, spikes implements are suitably covered in blood and make a quite fun squidgy noise when your innocent little sheep happen to wander onto them. Switches make a satisfying click when activated, it’s the kind of quality that you would expect from a seasoned house such as Team 17. Your little sheep are animated well, and lovable but equally fun to see them burst into streams of blood.
Moans & Verdict
Well, I would like to say that I had no issue with Flockers at all but that is just not the case. There is a bug (at least on the OSX version) that crashes the game as soon as it tries to load the main menu. It turns out that it’s related to the online link and if you turn off your network so that the game cannot connect to the internet then it’s fine. This small bug nearly ruined the game entirely for me, I hate it when I try to load any game and it just crashes. I would expect it on a game that is older perhaps but not 2014. This then also means that I cannot take advantage of user generated levels because as soon as I switch on the internet it crashes. Another annoyance is the fact that the level editor is only available for Windows. Yeah, I get it I own a Mac I am not allowed to have nice things.
If you put those things aside then you have a perfectly good game. Is it just Lemmings? Well yes and no, there is certainly enough in Flockers for them to of made it their own. It looks, sounds and feels professional which is something you would expect from Team 17 and definitely worth investing in; £14.99 for it feels a bit cheeky though. I picked it up in a recent sale for £1.49 but probably would pay up to £10 for it. It has enough puzzle pieces there to keep you occupied for a few hours the difficulty curve is well balanced. Like any game of this type, there is a degree of frustration but that is half the reason to play; if only to yell at the screen when you complete a level a true sign of enjoyment.