My Week Unwrapped: February 26, 2019 – The Shapeshifting Detective, STAY, Snakebird Primer, Microbian, Immortal Rogue, Guildmaster Story, Grapple Bear and More

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Hi everyone, and welcome back to My Week Unwrapped, where I discuss all the games I’ve been playing over the last seven days. This week was a busy one with lots of games to cover, though some were also brought up last week. I wrote a few reviews since then, which should help you decide once and for all whether to grab those games. Anyway, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get straight to it.

The Shapeshifting Detective

I mentioned The Shapeshifting Detective in my preview a few weeks ahead of release, and I was planning to get a proper review done in time for the release this past week. But when I finished my first playthrough of the game, I was left a bit confused, like I missed most of the story. I didn’t really feel like I solved a murder mystery. So I decided to push off my review until I could play through it a second time. The killer is randomized each game, so there’s plenty of replay value. And you can skip as much of the dialogue and video footage as you’d like, so you don’t have to waste your time rewatching things you’ve already seen. I made sure to be more diligent questioning suspects and changing into all possible characters, so that by the time I finished the game for the second time, I knew a lot more than I did before. I still have some questions and want to try and get the rest of the achievements, so I’ll probably even play through it a third time. But I’m glad I didn’t quit after my first playthrough. I have a proper review up here, so I’ll let you read that instead of rambling on about it. But the gist of it is that if you like full motion video (FMV) games, murder mysteries or just choice-based narrative games, you’ll likely enjoy this one.

STAY: Are you there?

I had a bit of a rough time with STAY: Are you there?, because it kept trying to push me away. It’s clear the game came from the heart, and the developers even explained that it was inspired by events in their own personal lives. There’s a lot to like about it, not least the way it combines room escape with chat-like games such as Lifeline. It’s a very ambitious game, and it does some interesting things like keep track of the time you’re away, then gives you one of seven endings based on how the main character, Quinn, felt about you by the end. There are some clashing ideas that make it hard to pinpoint the intended tone of the game, and the dialogue isn’t always believable. But it’s still a very compelling game. I even played through to the end, despite my frustration at having to restart chapters every time I messed up. It certainly requires some patience, but if you’re willing to put up with its flaws, you might find something worthwhile here. You can read my full review to understand more about my frustrations and see if it’s something you’d be interested in playing. I also made a walkthrough for all the puzzles if you get stuck (as you probably will).

Snakebird Primer

I mentioned Snakebird Primer last week, but it wasn’t out on iOS yet, only tvOS. Well, it finally got a full universal release so you can play it on all your devices. It also plays great on Apple TV. Sadly, it doesn’t have iCloud sync, though neither did the original. I probably won’t be writing a proper review for the game, since it’s basically Snakebird just easier. But I did make a walkthrough guide for almost the entire game if anyone gets stuck. Basically, this is Snakebird for folks who found the original way too difficult, or just for kids to hone their puzzle-solving skills. The adorable animations make it hard to resist, and a lot of people were surprised that the original game wasn’t meant for kids. So now there’s a Snakebird for everyone and the universe is right again!

Microbian

I love the look and feel of the hand-drawn, monochromatic Microbian, and appreciate that it uses simple gesture controls instead of onscreen buttons. It’s basically an auto- runner, but you play as a little spider-like microbe that can reverse gravity. You simply tap to jump and double-tap to switch from the floor to the ceiling or ceiling to floor. There are black and white orbs to collect or avoid, and the white ones speed you up while the black ones slow you down. You earn extra points for the white ones but lose 50 points for each black one you hit! There are also obstacles and monsters that are constantly trying to kill you. The order of things is randomized each time, so it keeps things from feeling too repetitive when you die. At first, there was a lives system and I ran out of my five lives in less than three minutes, not really getting a good feel for the game. The developer since removed that, though, and I was able to complete the first level. I actually like it a lot and will probably spend the $1.99 to unlock the rest of the game. I just wish it had iCloud sync! Anyway, check it out, as the demo is pretty generous now that the lives were removed.

Immortal Rogue

Immortal Rogue is a one-handed action roguelike, where you swipe or flick to move your character and tap to attack. There are some other moves also, like holding and dragging for a heavy attack. It took me a bit of time to get used to the controls, as usually games like this have you move with one hand and attack with the other. I have a better handle on things now, but it’s still pretty slow-going. I do ok for a stage or two and then get overwhelmed by large numbers of enemies I can’t take on. There are upgrades and perks you can work towards using the currency you earn each game. But it feels a bit too slow for me since the farthest I’ve made it is 400 years (each stage is 100 years). I like the way the story is told and how you play as a vampire who can affect the world around him by choosing who to kill and who to recruit. But I tend to take long breaks each time I die instead of going back for “one more game.” Part of the problem is that in my first few games, I was seeing chests in the first and second stages and now I rarely see them at all. So I feel like I’m at a big disadvantage. I can’t afford any new weapons without it, and I still have a long way to go to afford any perks that help with that. It’s still an interesting game, and I appreciate that the developer didn’t go the free-to-play route. I’m just not sure how much sticking power it has for me. If you’re curious about it, check out my gameplay video below.

Guildmaster Story

Will O’Neill usually makes very depressing, pixelated games, such as Little Red Lie, so when I saw Guildmaster Story, I didn’t even realize it was by him and just passed it off as another free-to-play match-three game. I almost didn’t download it, but then read the description and realized I had to. The puzzles aren’t very inspired, but he admits as much is the description. The main attraction is the story, full of social commentary and satire. The main character is named Ganyo, and his father passed away, leaving him a very nice and successful casino. It burns down with his unsigned insurance form inside the the desk that is now ashes. So he now has to figure out how to make a living without any money or skills, or even manners. He’s not meant to be likable. You’re supposed to laugh at him, not with him, and feel bad for all the people around him who have to deal with him. Unfortunately, it became a little too much Trump-y for me and I lost interest about halfway through. It didn’t help that the match-three puzzles, which I thought were meant to be a joke, actually use the same lives system as all the other free-to-play games out there. So every time I didn’t solve a puzzle in the given number of moves, I lost a life. After three lives are gone, you need to either buy more or watch ads. I took a break instead and then kind of lost interest. I think there are some good lines and I am curious to see where it’s going, but the puzzles are just not interesting enough and the script is not strong enough to make me want to deal with all the stuff in the way to get to it. I probably just don’t have the headspace for more Trump, even if it is making fun of him. Anyway, it’s worth giving it a try, since it’s free. You might find the script funnier than I did and stick with it to the end.

Heroine Anthem Zero

I didn’t know much about Heroine Anthem Zero, but I liked the artwork and animations in the trailer. I also saw that there is a relaxed mode in case I find the game too difficult and also adjustable on-screen controls. So I decided to take a chance on it for $1.99. I actually didn’t get that far into it yet. I played through the tutorial and beat the first easy boss, then made it to the first town and took a break. My issue with it is that it moves at a very slow pace because it’s so bogged down with dialogue. And I think it’s supposed to be funny to someone somewhere, but I was just rolling my eyes at most of it. There is a skip button, but I didn’t want to skip while recording. I may do so while playing on my own so I can see if the gameplay itself is enjoyable. As of now, I don’t feel like I played enough to tell. Also, the game was removed from the App Store since, so it looks like it may have accidentally been released a bit early and I snagged it in that small opening. I guess that gives me time to play some more and give proper impressions when it releases again. Until then, you can watch my gameplay video to see what it’s like.

Lost Echo

I’m slowly making my way through Lost Echo by about a half hour a day, squeezing some in whenever I can. I’m still enjoying it, though there’s been an occasional puzzle that gave me trouble. I was glad to be able to skip the gun disassembly mini game, as I could never do it fast enough. I’m currently trying to break into a lab and need to figure out how to reflect some lasers. The game still feels great, as it doesn’t waste any of my time. Double-tapping to run and teleporting from location to location means I can focus on the puzzles and not slowly backtracking. I doubt I’ll review it when I’m done, as it’s been out for quite some time already, but if I do manage to finish it I’ll be sure to give my impressions. From what I’ve played so far, I would recommend it, as the story is intriguing, I’m curious to find out what happened to Chloe, and the puzzles are varied. It’s also been remastered, so now’s a good time to play it if you haven’t. You can also check out some of my gameplay video below, but it may be spoilery.

Grapple Bear

Grapple Bear is a physics-based puzzle game where you play as a bear with a grappling hook. I only played for a little while, and I’m still getting the hang of it. There’s no instructions, so you have to experiment and figure out what to do on your own. It’s broken up into bite-sized levels where your goal is to swing from trees and other objects to get to the flag. You’re timed and scored based on how long it took you to reach the flag. There are also obstacles that can kill you, like water or lava. I kind of wish the game had some explanation for how the controls work, because I’m still not completely sure what I’m doing even when I manage to do everything right. Still, it seems like a pretty unique game if you like physics puzzlers, and I appreciate that it’s not just an endless grappling runner. I’m more likely to stick with it when I have one puzzle to tackle at a time instead of trying to beat a high score. Anyway, check out my video below to see if it’s something you might like. There’s also a demo you can try before buying the full version to see if you can handle the controls.

Typochondria

Typochondria is an interesting game where you need to spot typos. If you’ve ever wanted to be a copy editor, this is probably good practice for it. You’re on a timer and shown a sentence at time. You need to tap the misspelled word quickly to rack up points and avoid losing any for being slow. You also lose a point if you tap the wrong word. It’s a bit frantic, so you wont really have time to read the text so much as skim it for the typo. I’m not sure how much mileage I’ll get out of it, but it is a unique idea. I also appreciate that it gives you an entire genre for free with in-app purchases for the others. There are no ads or consumables, so if you like it you can simply buy more of it. It’s worth downloading and at least playing a few rounds.

Alita: Battle Angel – The Game

I saw the movie, Alita: Battle Angel, last week and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was worried it would just be an excruciating two hours of action scenes and little substance. Instead, I was eager to find out more about this world and these characters and could have easily sat through another two hours. The action scenes were brisk and didn’t drag on too long, as they so often do in big blockbuster movies. And how often do you get to see cyborgs that shoot chains out of their hands or that have spikes for arms go at each other? I’m also eager to find out more about Alita and the villain of the story. Suffice it to say, I’m definitely on board for the sequel. Considering how much I enjoyed it, I figured I’d try out the mobile game and see if it can recapture any of the magic of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s a soulless action game that feels like a re-skin of so many others in the App Store. It’s not even visually impressive, as the 3D graphics are bland and not very detailed. It also seems the game wants you to play on auto, as the joystick on an iPad is stuck in the corner and uncomfortable to use. From what I played so far, there’s nothing inherently bad, like energy or lives, from what I can tell. It’s just not that interesting and I can’t see spending any time in that soulless world. It’s unfortunate, because they had some great material to work with. Anyway, feel free to try it yourself anyway, as there’s nothing to lose.

BitLife – Life Simulator

BitLife has been at the top of the free games charts for so long now, and I finally gave in and decided to see what all the rage is about. Basically, you start as a sperm and then become a baby. The whole game is text-based and made up of menus inside menus. As a baby, you won’t be able to do much, but as you age, you’ll start going to school and can try to have a relationship with your parents or siblings. Interactions are very limited, though, boiling down to a line that says something like, “You and your father discussed your favorite movies.” You decide when time progresses, one year at a time. You can take out a loan for an education and then be in debt for half of your life and therefore get divorced. Or you can try a life of crime. The one life I played through ended up pretty mediocre, and maybe I should have taken more risks. But I found the whole layout pretty off-putting, constantly browsing through menus. I also didn’t like how I was playing as a man but every time I got my girlfriend pregnant, it was up to me whether she should carry the baby to term or get an abortion. There was never an option to let her choose. That was gross and really bothered me, considering how politicians all over the country are trying to take away a woman’s right to her own body. Anyway, even without that, I can’t see myself spending more time on this game, as it just felt like I threw out an hour of my real life to experience a mediocre fake life. But if you want to try it, go ahead! It’s free with ads and an ad removal IAP, so there’s not much to lose besides your time.

Radiant One – The Secret

A few months back, Fntastic released Radiant One, a game about lucid dreams. The main character gets stuck inside his dreams and can’t tell what’s real. It’s not a long game or a very difficult game, as the puzzles are on the easy side and there aren’t huge repercussions for messing up. The story is the focal point and in it, you have to relive memories to understand why you’re trying so hard to escape reality. It’s a game with a meaningful message and it’s told in a unique way. Even if I wasn’t completely blown away, I appreciated it for what it was. When the developers later made the game free-to-play and announced that further stories would be added on a monthly basis, I was surprised but also curious to see where it would go. Well, today the second episode released, called The Secret. The original game is now called The Awakening and anyone can play it for free. The Secret normally costs extra, but if you bought the game when it was a single paid app, you get the second story for free. This new story is about Rachel, a woman who suffers from anxiety. It’s depicted early on as a big cloud of smog that grows if you make any mistakes. The first part isn’t too difficult, as it’s basically a point-and-click adventure where you need to be extra careful not to mess up. But shortly after that is where I quit in a fit of rage. After your cat companion starts talking to you, he introduces you to gumballs that allow you to remain invisible to monsters. At first, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, as you avoid monsters easily by lighting a lantern to draw them away from you. But soon enough, you’re thrown into a hallway with monsters walking back and forth and no lanterns to draw them away. You’re meant to somehow walk between them without any of them touching you, make your way to the next room, and then do the same again. If you mess up in the second room, you start back at the very beginning. But of course there’s a gumball machine nearby, which would let you pass through them without a problem…if you had one. The gumballs, of course, need to be bought with gems, which cost actual money. This is where I quit the game and refused to even bother with it. It was odd enough that the developers were charging $5.99 per story or a monthly subscription of $2.99. To add consumable IAPs on top of that is just gross. It’s especially disgusting when the game is designed to be overly difficult so that players will be compelled to buy the cheats to get through it. But what really saddens me about all this is that the game is trying to tell a meaningful story about anxiety, and instead it’s taking advantage of players who have difficulty passing it. I don’t recommend spending any more money on this game. Instead, please support developers who respect their players and wouldn’t pull this kind of crap on them.

3EALITY – Indie Platformer

And last, I played some of 3EALITY, a new game with a really bizarre gimmick that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It’s an endless runner where the screen is split into three and you need to keep an eye on all three sections. When you jump in one, you jump in all. When you attack in one, you attack in all. If you die in one, that screen disappears and you lose the multiplier bonus for having the extra screens going. Each screen is a life, and once you die in each one, it’s game over and you get scored. I really don’t know who this was designed for. Maybe aliens? I can barely handle it when focusing on just one screen, so there’s no way I can split my attention among three screens. Maybe if I had six eyes? I don’t know. It’s a weird gimmick, but the game is free to try, so you might as well check it out just to see the insanity in action.

And that’s everything I’ve been playing this week! I’m about to collapse, as this has been a really long day. But let me know in the comments section what you’re playing and I’ll see you back here next week with more of My Week Unwrapped!

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