A Red Letter day of Reviews

Well I had a lot of catching up to do in the reviewing department of things for these games so I figured I’d get to it. While they aren’t all in consideration for “Game of the Year” for me a few of them are for me especially in the indie department. However getting to the business I find it funny that two of the main games in contention have heroine’s and they both have red hair. Guess while red head’s may not have souls they definitely get the goods and sell really well in the video game department. But I digress. So lets go ….

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“Transistor”

This is possibly in contention for game of the year and as a purely artistic piece deserves to garner some serious attention for it’s work not only in the visuals department with it’s isometric viewpoint style but also with it’s sound and attention to dialogue. The complimentary nature of Red, the heroine, and the “Transistor”, or sword, in the game is great and all the dialogue sounds as if it was happening and not queued up or doubled up on which tends to happen in videogames quite often.

The gameplay is the only area in which the game I feel suffers possibly with some near impossible challenges in certain areas however, for the most part the game is above and beyond what you would describe as crisp. The combinations of the various attack types leaves you with a wonderful sense of discovery in the armament department and allows for growth as the game progresses as you explore new combos.

As for the music in this game … lets just say it’s the little secret that Super-Giant Games continues to use Darren Korb because the soundtrack for this game is phenomenal. Featuring not only a regular soundtrack but also a “hummed” soundtrack of the accompaniment of Ashley Barrett’s voice this game will have you humming and wanting to come back to it’s tune for months.

But all this wouldn’t be worth it if the story didn’t come together so well. Sometimes a game is elevated to a great status by it’s surrounding cast and in other cases it’s story’s shortcomings are made up by it. Transistor is of the earlier mentioning in this regard in that while it is a complete game by itself the story combined with the art is astounding. I’ll leave the rest for you to figure out for yourself since I don’t want to give too much away. However, for those looking for it this is a gem of a tale to behold.  9.5/10

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“Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”

Uniqueness is one word that could describe this game and rightly so. It play’s less like a videogame and more like an exploration of  a interactive movie or story in many ways. While you may not have freedom of choice as seen in other games it is very interesting in that the game works with an implicit manner of diving into the characters. While I won’t say it’s visuals will break any graphic’s cards the game in of itself is extremely succinct and another contender for “Indie Game of the Year” or just possibly “Game of the Year” or “Game Story of the Year”. It doesn’t sacrifice anything for the story but while also giving incredibly unique game-play.

If you ever wanted to know what two sides of your brain might react to different things this game is an interesting look into that aspect of ourselves with each character being paired to a separate control stick. At first I thought the game was co-op or in some cases a AI and you. I was wrong and for good intentions as the game makes you play with both characters at the same time. This adds a interesting and unique challenge to otherwise simple tasks that might otherwise be easy if you were playing co-op but adds a new level of interest. While some might say it makes the game tedious due to it tying into the game in more ways than one and even the sides of your brain I think those complaints are unwarranted. I beat it just fine with minimal resistance expected of a game of it’s nature.

Speaking of length when it comes to it and cost this game is near perfect. Clocking in at roughly a four to five hour journey this is type of game that could replayed for better understanding and due to it’s close nature of time allows for the full effect to be felt of the game’s ending. For all intents and purposes this game grows on you till the end and while the game doesn’t try excessively to make the next ultra realistic visualization of a Norse village and landscape it does succeed in pervading amazing visuals for what it has under the hood.

Needless to say this game is great and we haven’t even talked yet about the music which is absolutely astonishing or even the fact that the entire game is told through body language or even that the story is fantastic. I really don’t want to give away too much but for all that it is worth this game is worth it with the transcendental music coming through your ears as you make your way to save your father from a sickness. Go get it for less than 10 dollars and enjoy yourself one weekend, ohh and bring a tissue box … this one draws tears. (Between a 8/10 or 9.8/10 depending on if you have a brother or sibling)

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“Child of Light”

Where to begin on this masterpiece? How about the staunch music, or the amazing visuals, or the classic storybook fantasy setting, or even the deep JRPG leveling and progression system. I’m gonna be honest with you I’ve never been a big fan of JRPG’s and the entire world revolving around final fantasy and the apparent hype they generate. However, this game has made me a believe at least in some regards that it can be re-imagined and re-boxed for someone who doesn’t enter that realm often and for that this game gets my vote. While I don’t think it will win game of the year in any respects I do think once award season rolls around this game will be in a bidding for quite a few and may even snag “Indie Game of the Year” depending on who it finds competing against it.

In more critical empirical senses this game is fairly refined. The water colored look of the game really brings the storybook or tale sense of the game to light and even plays upon popular tropes and even names, such as the protagonist being named Princess Aurora, to create a great game. I won’t say that at some points the fact that it feels like a storybook in some sense doesn’t always work. However, like any child’s game you have to enjoy it as a child and leave certain things behind and in that sense look at the game through the eyes of kid. That doesn’t mean though that you lose and maturity of the story. Don’t let the game deceive you similar to the Zelda series this game is a coming of age story and it will follow that lead to the end and if allowed becomes very enjoyable.

Music wise this game sounds less like an independent film or even experimental piece of art and more like a symphony combined with a piano pulling together to imbue transcendental or fantasy like feelings. It ranges from childlike and joyful to epic and sweeping movements and much to it’s credit is very effective at doing so. While I don’t think that the soundtrack might appease someone looking for a bit more variation, or in the case of “Bioshock”a  complete up-scaling of the entire game, it accompanies well and does it’s job.

Gameplay wise this was possibly one of the most frustrating aspects of the game for me. Not so much that I didn’t like the fighting in of itself but that I felt the game might have been better off serving as a 2D platformer with the various combat moves involved. I know that might have caused some confusion but if achieved would have elevated the game a great deal. Still, take my opinion with a large grain of salt knowing that JRPG’s are not my cup of tea and probably won’t ever be which is why this game is still amazingly great.  9.0/10

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“Valiant Hearts”

This game has a lot of good and a lot of bad in it that brings it down. However, comparing it to Ubi Art’s other outing with “Child of Light” this game feels like less of a complete game and more of a great puzzle and history story type game that shows us the emotions involved in WWI. The main trouble with this game actually came when I first attempted to start the game in Uplay. While I know we love steam a great deal I simply find it hard to warrant having another separate starting application to play a game when it simply juggles me between the two. I shouldn’t have to look up online that I need to have my steam closed and only my Uplay open to start up this game. Hopefully they’ll fix this problem but when it takes close to 30 minutes trying to start a game you’d better have one heck of a lineup waiting.

On other fronts the game itself is very nice visually although I found a few hiccups and glitches here and there. Which I know might happen but for a game it sometimes can make it feel and look unfinished. The aesthetic simply abounds in wonderful cell shaded goodness that manages to, while downplaying the actual violence, contributes to make the game a wider appeal. As for the actual visual storytelling it is encapsulated in two words … war lite. Not that the actual story itself isn’t good or that it doesn’t have moments but rather that the aesthetic sometimes betrays itself which when you are trying to tell weighty material can be detrimental. Still, there are moments when the graveness of the story really sees itself through and it is thoroughly enjoyable to watch unfold.

On the gameplay front it doesn’t get overly aggressive trying to give you the next StarCraft or derives itself too harshly from the playing of itself. Rather it resorts to more of an advanced point a click adventure game that was seen so very often in the 90’s but without the pointing and clicking. It tells the story slightly through it’s clicking and while the mini-games may not entirely be all too difficult It is the kind of game that is enjoyable for one playthrough.

On to music the music and voice acting is up to par of what would be expected and gives the game added value. The simple communication via grunts and comic bubbles is great and when you aren’t going through the narration in the cut scenes the remixing in of old classical music is great. Still, there isn’t too much to write home about for the music as it never really sets itself apart and allows itself to shine. Like always the game does have it’s moments when it is really great but sometimes it requires going through a lot of inbetween simply par level game that doesn’t always shine out or enhance the story as much as we might like. 7.8/10

Anyways that is the end of my plethora of reviews and I hope that you enjoy this little adventure into indie games or help to give better insight to these games. If you’ve never heard of them before or were on the fence about picking them up hopefully this might give you the desire to go check them out possibly.

– BW

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