My Week Unwrapped: June 25, 2019 – Alabama Bones, Olimdal, Faraway Tropic Escape, Cessabit, Harry Potter Wizards Unite 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. I’ve been pretty busy, both with games that are already out, as well as upcoming ones. It seems June and July are the months that keep on giving, so save up some money. There are some duds here, some that are outright broken at the moment, but also a few games very much worth your attention. So pull up a chair and let me tell you about them.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

I was really into Pokémon Go when it first released, and it was especially fun because so many people were playing it. I would bump into other players in my neighborhood and team up to find rare Pokémon. Once the hype died down — and I realized how much an inconvenience it was when my battery died because of the game — I dialed it back and only pull it out now once in a while at home. I don’t really play on-the-go because the game is too much of a battery hog. So, as much as I want to give the new Harry Potter version, Wizards Unite, a fair chance, I don’t know how to do so without carrying a car battery around with me. If that doesn’t concern you and you’re a Harry Potter fan, at least give it a try. I did find the game less straightforward than Pokémon Go, as there are more moving parts. There are Foundlings and Confoundlings, and potion ingredients, all sorts of stuff to collect. Somehow, I felt more awkward playing this while walking around than I did Pokémon Go. I had to shut off the AR mode pretty quickly so I wouldn’t look absolutely crazy waving my phone all around to find the Foundlings. Also, the map is more fidgety than the PoGo one, as I often ended up tapping on a building when I was trying to pick up a Foundling. I do think the battles are a little more interesting than throwing Poke balls, as you trace magic symbols. The faster and more accurate you are, the better. I just don’t see this being worth playing at home, so I haven’t really been bothering. But it’s free, so at least try it for yourself.

Alabama Bones

I love the name Alabama Bones. I downloaded the game because of the title without even checking what it’s about, because it’s such a kick-ass name. If I played any instruments, I would start a band named Alabama Bones. It just has such a nice ring to it. But enough of that — let’s get to the game itself. It’s a level-based auto-runner in which you play an adventurer who looks a lot like Indiana Jones. The goal in each level is to pick up the three statues and make your way to the exit without dying. The way to works is that there are icons on the screen, such as directional arrows or one that represents the jump action. When your character touches one of those icons, you can tap the screen to make him do that action. So if you tap the screen when he touches a jump icon, he’ll jump up. If he’s in front of a ladder and you tap the screen, he’ll go up or down. If there’s a rope, he’ll swing on it until you tap to make him release it. It starts off pretty easy, but was starting to get tricky around level 20. The difficulty curve does seem a bit off, but I haven’t Player enough to see if it continues that way. There are no timers or any other nonsense to get in the way, which I really appreciated. There’s also a ton of content, and the game is free with ads after each death, or you can pay $2.99 to remove ads permanently. I’m not sure whether I’ll stick with this to the end, but it seems like a pretty well-made game. The only thing I would request is a way to zoom out at the beginning to see the entire level so I could plan out my route. I ended up moving on without the third statue on one level because I found it too hard to see what my options were while I was in the middle of moving. So some way to scope things out would be useful. Anyway, check it out, as you have nothing to lose either way.

Olimdal

I really want to like Olimdal. It’s a puzzle game that should be right up my alley, but so many little things make it hard to enjoy. The basic premise is that you play as a little wizard with a strange curse. When you move, so do tables. It’s not really explained, so you just have to go with it. But I’m each level, you need to move around so that the tables also move in a way that gets them out of your path so you can get to the exit. Sometimes, tables can only move left and right and not up and down. Other times, the tables will move in the opposite direction as you. There’s a lot going on here, and if not for a whole bunch of design choices getting in the way, I might have really enjoyed it. The first problem is that the controls are onscreen directional buttons instead of swipes or a joystick. Left and right are on the left side of the screen and up and down are on the right. The left buttons are very low down on my iPad screen, so it feels awkward. There’s also no iCloud sync, so I’d have to start over on my iPhone if I want to switch over there. The next issue is the camera. You constantly have to swipe to turn the camera, because no one angle gives you a perfectly clear view. But the camera is kind of sluggish and not always responsive. It meant I often avoided using it and then missed important details I would have seen otherwise. And last, but certainly not least, the game is not grid-based. Most Sokoban games, where you push objects around, are on a grid so you know exactly what’s possible and what isn’t. When it’s not on a grid, though, it’s hard to tell if you’re on the right track with a solution and just moved a pixel too far to the right. It also means you may have to constantly make tiny adjustments just to, say, fit through a narrow opening. I finally gave up on a ridiculously punishing level that has a floor that’s mostly holes. Again, you can’t see all the holes from a single angle, so you have to remind yourself where they are. And if a small table falls through a hole, you die with it and have to restart. I tried to complete the level about thirty times before giving up. I just couldn’t see the solution, and I was tired of dying. I wish I could recommend Olimdal, because it does seem like a lot of work went into it, but it’s too stressful as a puzzle game. You can watch some of my gameplay videos if you want to see what it’s like.

Faraway: Tropic Escape

Pine Studio and Snapbreak Games are back with another Faraway game, this time called Tropic Escape. As one might guess from the name, palm trees are the theme here. I haven’t spent much time with the game yet, since there are so many other games on my plate at the moment. But once again, the puzzles seem too easy, at least early on. The secret letter in each level is the most interesting part of the game, just like the previous ones. I wish I didn’t have to play through all the easy puzzles to get to the more interesting stuff, but maybe I’ll get to it when I have a quieter week. Anyway, I started a walkthrough here and have a couple of gameplay videos below. As usual, the game is free for the first nine levels and then a one-time in-app purchase for the other nine. So if you liked the previous games, at least give it a try.

Cessabit: A Stress Relief Game

I really didn’t know much about Cessabit before buying it, but the artwork and trailer got me intrigued. The basic idea is that each level has you examining and interacting with a scene. When you’re finaihed studying it, the game will ask you either three or five questions about what you saw and you have to get them all right to move on to the next level. It might ask you what color flower you saw or what direction the sun was spinning. You might have to count the number of birds or remember how the birds moved. It’s an interesting idea in theory, and the hand-drawn artwork is certainly appealing. But it falls apart in a couple of ways. Unlike other games like this, where you would get new questions if you get one wrong, the questions here always remain the same. So you can even guess until you get it right. The only down side to that is you have to start the quiz over each time you get a question wrong. But again, there’s never more than five questions and the answers stay exactly the same, in the exact same order, so it’s not hard to remember what you answered before. This means there’s absolutely no challenge whatsoever. There isn’t even any reason to study the scene before looking at the questions. It makes much more sense to see what the questions are and then look for the answers. The interactivity is also not very satisfying, as it’s not so clear when you should be tapping and when you should be swiping. I basically just tapped and swiped all over until I got what I needed. Occasionally, you’d swipe leaves aside or move clouds closer together to get rain, but overall there just didn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to it. Honestly, it seems like a waste of good artwork. I would have rather seen it used for something clever like Hidden Folks, where you’re given clues and not just randomly tapping. There’s also no reason to replay levels, since the questions don’t change. There might have been an interesting idea here, but it’s not fully fleshed out and makes for a very unsatisfying experience. And on top of everything, I experienced a number of bugs that wasted my time and caused stress instead of relieving it. I don’t recommend this one unless you’re just interested in the artwork and don’t care about the gameplay.

Dark Quest 2

There’s a lot to like about Dark Quest 2, but it can also be very difficult and unforgiving. I haven’t gotten far into it yet, as I was having a hard time even early on. It’s a turn-based dungeon crawler in which you start off with one party member, a barbarian, and then find new ones to join you later on. The first one I met was a Dwarf with a handy skill that identifies hidden traps in the floor. The problem is, my Barbarian starts with a 60% hit rate, and even after leveling up his skills a few times, I found myself missing attacks way too often. That left me vulnerable as enemies got stronger and more numerous. There’s also no way to heal outside the two potions you can bring with you, and those don’t even heal much. And if you replay a dungeon to try and earn some skill points or gold, the dungeon gets harder. After just two or three dungeons, I found myself fleeing each one just to stay alive. Apparently, the Steam version of the game has three difficulty levels, so I’m not sure why those were removed for the iOS port. Also, it’s hard to tell how long skills take too cool down. For instance, my barbarian can throw an axe, but I could never tell what made it usable again. And last, priced aren’t always visible in the town shops. The blacksmith only showed prices on the items I couldn’t afford, not the one I could. And the heroes for hire didn’t have any prices at all. It’s hard to manage my funds if I can’t even tell what things cost. Even the graveyard was confusing, as I believe it just took my gold without telling me how much it would take. Anyway, there’s definitely a solid foundation here, but it might be too hard for the average user. I’ll be keeping an eye on it to see if it gets an easier difficulty level added.

Serial Cleaner

I love the idea of Serial Cleaner, but I didn’t know much about it going in. I just knew that your job is to clean up crime scenes for the mob. It went on sale shortly after release for only $1.99, so I decided to take a chance on it. Unfortunately, I gave up on the first real level. The tutorial is easy enough, asking you to fetch one body and dispose of it. But the next level asks you to dispose of four bodies. And if you mess up, you often have to start over. I’m not really sure how that’s decided, as all sorts of weird stuff kept happening. If I got caught, it seemed one body stayed in my trunk but another body moved. Sometimes the whole level would reset completely. It made it hard to tell how much leeway I had. In any case, four bodies on the first level, while I’m still getting used to how things work, seems a bit much. So after a number of failed attempts, I gave up. It also didn’t help that you can only see a very small section of the room at a time. It’s zoomed in all the way, despite having a nice big iPad screen. You can zoom out temporarily, but that gets annoying. I just want to be able to see more of my surroundings while I’m fetching the bodies. It also seems, for the most part, like a generic stealth game, and not as creative as I was hoping. You can check out my video to see what it’s like, but again, I didn’t even pass the first real level.

Bumpy Fish

Bumpy Fish is a level-based autorunner in which you control a cute little fish swimming through gorgeous scenery. Each of the game’s fifteen levels has a different theme and background, so you’ll never get bored of the visuals. It has pretty unique controls, as well. Instead of just tapping to jump over obstacles, you tap and hold, and your fish pauses in place. The longer you hold, the more energy you consume. And when you release, the jump will be as short if you only consumed a couple of energy and longer if you consumed more. It’s fully premium, so there’s no way to buy more energy — you simply collect them as you swim. There are also three stars to collect in each level, and you get an extra trophy if you don’t bump into any obstacles. I like the general idea of the game, but I quit on the sixth level because it became too difficult. Until then, I found the stars challenging to collect, but I was at least able to complete the levels. This one seemed nearly impossible, and it was made harder by the fact that there’s no real indication how far you’ll jump when you release. I would like to see some sort of visual indicator so I’m not jumping blindly. The developers realized this, though, and expressed interest in changing that. So hopefully a future update will make it more accessible.

Doggo Dungeon: A Dog’s Tale

As an animal lover (I prefer cats, but dogs are cute, too), it’s hard to resist a game where you play as a dog. Especially if it’s only $0.99 for the full experience. Doggo Dungeon promises a dungeon crawler in which you play as a faithful pet dog looking for its human that fell down a well. I like the general idea, especially since it seems to be pretty forgiving. But the joystick feels sticky and unresponsive at times. It makes it hard to really enjoy the game. There’s also some annoying bugs, like the camera kept running away from me when got to the second floor. It just kept focusing on the rat enemies so I couldn’t see what I was doing. But the biggest bug of all is completely game-breaking. It appeared to save my progress (there are checkpoints throughout), but when I loaded my save file, it started me at the very beginning and I was only level 1 instead of 4 or 5. So even if you think you can make do with the wonky controls, I wouldn’t recommend buying this until the save bug is fixed.

Forgotton Anne

I already mentioned Forgotton Anne last week and it’s releasing in a few days, so I won’t say too much here. I’m already planning to have a full review written for its release. But overall, I’ve really been enjoying it. The artwork is the main attraction, but I’ve also been eager to learn more about this world and these characters. The voice acting is also top-notch. There were a couple of frustrating points, but they’re minor in the overall picture. I’m looking forward to diving back in and seeing this one to the end. It really is a gorgeous world and a joy to explore. It’s also free to try with a one-time in-app purchase to unlock the rest of the game. So pre-order it and see how you like it. Hopefully my review will help you decide whether to buy the rest of the game.

Total Party Kill

Total Party Kill isn’t releasing until next week, but I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I’ll have more to say about it later, but the gist of it is you have three adventurers — a knight, an archer, and an ice mage. They each have a different attack that kills the others. The knight can throw one of his friends across the room. The mage can turn a friend into an ice block. And the archer can shoot an arrow to pin a friend to the wall. Sometimes you have to combine these skills in creative ways. As long as one of them survives and makes it to the exit, you’re good. And they’re all revived for the next room. It’s a puzzle game, so even though there is platforming involved, it’s not a platformer. And there are no enemies to deal with or reflex-based sections. It’s all very relaxed and super clever. Anyway, I should probably leave something for my review. But definitely pre-order the game. It’s free with ads, and a one-time purchase to remove ads.

Graveyard Keeper

Graveyard Keeper is available on PC at the moment, but is coming to iOS this week. I liked the idea of tending a graveyard, as it sounds like a dark and creepy concept. Unfortunately, the onscreen controls are not great, and it involves a ton of walking, so I gave up on it pretty fast. The joystick is stuck in place and you have to grab the middle or it doesn’t work. This is especially problematic on my iPad, as my thumb doesn’t naturally land on it. I’m not sure why it doesn’t have a floating joystick, since there’s nothing else that has you swiping around. There’s no way to pan the camera, and the other controls are just static buttons. So it seems like it could have easily had a floating joystick, solving the main problem. It also just seems way too time-consuming for me, what with the slowly walking back and forth between the graveyard and the village. You also only have a little bit of energy per day and everything you do consumes it — even swiping your sword! So I don’t see myself sticking with this one, as much as I like the overall concept. You can watch some of my gameplay video to see what it’s like and make your own decision when it arrives this Thursday.

Songbringer

Songbringer is an upcoming procedurally generated Zelda-like game with gorgeous pixel art. It’s in open beta right now, so anyone can play it. I’ve only spent a little time with it, but I really like it so far. I’m just not really sure what’s going on. But it’s fun to explore my surroundings and discover alien structures and weird creatures. I also have a little droid sidekick to keep me company. Check it out for yourself or wait for the full release, which will be free to download with an IAP to unlock the full game.

My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas

And last, I tried out My Friend Pedro on Nintendo Switch. I’d seen short videos and GIFs of it and thought it looked really cool. You play as this back-flipping kick-ass dude with a banana friend named Pedro. It really does look cool when someone skilled is playing, but unfortunately, I’m not that someone. I’m not used to using all the buttons on my controller at once, including both joysticks, and I stumbled through most of the first level. It was pretty embarrassing, though fun, too. You can see my gameplay video below, but my microphone was acting up so you can’t hear me well. I still want to try and improve my skills on a quieter week where I have more time to give it, but it might just be one of those games that will be more fun for me to watch than play. So find someone skilled to watch, as it’s a pretty insane game. (Side note: I can’t see an anthropomorphic banana without thinking of the Fringe show I saw where a guy dressed in a banana suit got gang-raped. But Pedro makes an adorable sidekick and teacher otherwise.)

And that’s everything I’ve been playing this week, along with some other games I can’t discuss yet. This is a crazy, crazy week with so many notable releases that I can’t even find time to breathe. Hopefully my little blurbs and videos will help you find the games worth your time and money so you don’t have to waste time playing junk. Anyway, keep an eye for more videos and more reviews in the coming days. Until then, let me know in the comments section what you’re playing and what you’re looking forward to, and I’ll see you back here next time with more of My Week Unwrapped!

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