My Week Unwrapped: June 21, 2020 – The Academy, DEADWORD, -Cast-, Danganronpa, Kosmonavtes 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 quite busy this week, so this will be a long roundup. Besides a whole lot of new games, I also covered a few older ones, as well as some PC game demos that were part of the Steam Game Festival. I used Steam Link to play them on my iPad with a controller. It worked, but I’ll just wait for those games to come to mobile. Anyway, this week had some disappointments, as well as some pleasant surprises. Bit of a rollercoaster ride, as some games I was looking forward to didn’t do much for me, but ones that came out of nowhere hooked me right away. So if you’re looking for quality games, make sure to read all my blurbs.

The Academy: The First Riddle

I’ve played a number of Pine Studio’s games, so I was looking forward to The Academy, which appeared to be their most ambitious work yet. I got a copy about a week ahead of release and planned to cover it extensively. Instead, I was tired of it after just a short bit. The graphics are certainly nice enough, though the characters are all very generic — especially Sam, who you play as. They’re also very obviously meant to be Harry Potter knockoffs. This all would have been fine, but running around the school is awkward, especially on an iPad. Anyone you talk to has a fair amount of boring dialogue without any voiceovers. But the worst of it is the puzzles. They’re all inspired by the Professor Layton games, but vary between satisfying to solve, way too easy, or just outright obnoxious. For instance, the fourth puzzle you encounter in the entire game (out of over 200) asks you to solve “unusual math.” But if you ask for a hint, it reveals that you don’t use math to solve it. I probably should have just quit right there. I eventually finished the first of three chapters, though I used a number of hints along the way. Some of the puzzles are perfectly fine, but so many are either worded very poorly or trying to trick you with some silly detail you won’t notice. I guess if you like those annoying riddles going around Facebook these days, you might enjoy this game. Otherwise, you might just feel like you’re being forced to do homework as punishment. At least the first chapter is free, so you can try it out and judge for yourself if you want to pay for the rest of the game. If you do play and need help, I have a walkthrough guide for the first chapter here.

Kosmonavtes: Academy Escape

I knew LKMAD was working on a new Kosmonavtes sequel, but I didn’t realize it would be releasing this week. For those of you who didn’t play the original, it’s similar to the Adventure Escape games, though with its own personality and some creative puzzles. I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with Academy Escape yet, but from what I did play, it’s been satisfying to find clues and solve puzzles. I look forward to playing more of it and will definitely have further impressions for you later. Meanwhile, you can try the free version if you don’t want to spend money before seeing if you like it. And if you get stuck, I’m working on a walkthrough here.

-Cast-

I’ve had mixed feelings about most of Ciro Manna’s games, but he keeps pumping them out so I keep trying them. I didn’t know what to expect from his latest, a high-score chaser names -Cast-, and it took me a bit to understand the rules and warm up to it. But once I did, I got hooked on it. Now I keep going back for “one more run” when I have a billion other things I need to be doing right now. The game is similar to the recently released Endless Cards, but really only in the way you move around the board. Laid out in front of you are some colored tiles (or cards), some numbered and others with symbols on them. You pick a card, which changes your piece to that color. The idea is to keep moving to other cards of the same color to add their numbers to yours. If you instead pick up a different colored number, it will get subtracted from your total instead. There are certain cards that change your color, there are skulls that poison you, and arrows that both change your color and move you an extra space in the direction they’re pointing. Then there’s the bomb card, which will cleat all the cards of that color and add their points to your total — if you’re the right color. If not, the bomb kills you and it’s game over. It’s a perfect game to play whenever you have a few minutes here or there to spare, but improving your score takes some strategy and planning. If you’re not careful, you’ll get boxed in and have nowhere to go but death. The game is free and ad-supported with a one-time IAP to remove ads, so definitely give it a try and see if it grabs you like it did me.

DEADWORD

Derek Seibel’s DEADWORD is a clever mashup of word and survival games, where you need to change one letter at a time to create new words. Each supply it represented by a word, so you spell that word to collect it. The exit is also a word, so you spell it to complete that chapter. But all the while, there are zombies that will catch sight of you if your word gets close to theirs. Then they’ll start changing letters to try and match yours. If they manage to do so, you’ll lose health. But the supplies you want help you in right situations. You can throw a game system to distract them or even use a map to give you some words you can try switching to. And last, the med kits restore your health. There’s a story mode that I played through and I enjoyed it quite a bit, though I felt stressed out from the later levels that included timers — or even fog together with timers. I had a much better time with the game when I was able to sit and think about my next word and plan out a few in a row. The game also doesn’t really reward you for using fewer words, which seems like an oversight. I would have preferred being penalized for using more words instead of taking too long. I also bought the IAP to unlock the endless mode, but I find it goes too slow. At least early on, each “chapter” is very quick, but there’s a long transition to get to the next one. I’d like these sped up, because that waiting just makes it easier to drop the game and play something else. Also, there’s no leaderboards, so it’s hard to remain motivated. I love the overall idea of the game, but would like to its high-score chasing aspects improved on to make it worth returning to time and again. Still, it’s free to play the story mode, so at least give it a try!

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

I’ve never played any Danganronpa game and had no idea what was in store for me with Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. It turns out it’s an absolutely bonkers game about some “gifted” students who are invited to go to a very selective school that very few get into. Each student is the “ultimate” something or other, and I completely lost it when I saw the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader. I only played through the — fairly long — prologue, but it turns out this isn’t really a school after all. It’s more like a cross between the Hunger Games and the Saw movies. The students learn from a scary robotic bear that they’re all going to spend their entire lives in this school. The only way out is to kill someone! Yes, it’s a ridiculous premise, but I’m here for it. I didn’t have a lot of time to play yet, but I hope to chip away at this one over time and have more impressions later. If you want to see what it’s like, you can watch my gameplay video below.

Rubix

BusyBytes’ Rubix is a level-based puzzler in which you have to select three cubes next to each other to change their colors. The goal is to make the cubes match their platforms. It can bet surprisingly tricky, and I rather like the idea a lot. New mechanics are added, such as frozen cubes and cubes that make you choose four instead of three. My main issue with it, though, is that there’s too much of it. The game has 1000 levels, which might sound great if you’re looking for something with a lot of content. But these aren’t 1000 quality levels. From the 80 levels I played, I encountered some clever ones that took me some time to solve. But many of them were the same solution over and over just laid out slightly different. This was especially noticeable when a new mechanic was added but instead of continuously using that new mechanic, it would stick an easier puzzle that could have fit in the previous chapter. The difficulty curve is all over the place and there’s way too much filler. I would love to play a version of this game that’s hand-crafted to offer only 50 to 100 of the best puzzles that each offer something new. I just don’t have the time or interest in playing 1000 levels, especially when so many just don’t add anything to the experience. If that doesn’t bother you, though, by all means grab it. You can also watch my video to see what it’s like.

HopBound

I had HopBound on my radar and then finally tried it out due to popular demand. It actually seems like a decent auto-runner similar to Canabalt, but with an intriguing underlying story. The point where it fell apart for me was the platforming story campaign. While the endless mode just has you tap anywhere on the screen to jump, the story mode has left and right arrow buttons, as well as a jump button. I’m generally not a fan of onscreen buttons, but can sometimes make do. The problem is that on my iPad, the buttons are huge and in middle of the screen. I have to really stretch my thumbs to use them. It might be better on iPhone, but I prefer being able to see the action without my fingers covering half the screen. The developer saw my video, though, and said he’d work on the iPad controls. So I’m hopeful it might be improved. Either way, the game is free to try and supported by ads with a one-time IAP to remove the ads. So at least give it a try and see how it feels to you.

Journey of Abyss

I didn’t know much about Journey of Abyss, but the artwork grabbed me and the description of it being another card-based roguelike. Sure, Slay the Spire just released last week, but for a measly $0.99, I couldn’t turn away a game that looked promising. Unfortunately, we were off to a bad start, as the App Store screenshots showed the game as fullscreen on my new iPhone SE, but the actual game has decorative bars on the sides because it’s not actually optimized for that screen size. That said, the game otherwise seems to be a well-made Slay the Spire-like. In fact, the mechanics are so close to Slay the Spire‘s, that I’m not really sure what to make of it. It does feel better on iPhone than its inspiration, so that’s definitely a selling point. It also has more of a story, and the writing is actually pretty good. But tapping the screen to get to the next piece of the story doesn’t always work. I would often have to tap three or four times to make it happen. It’s also a little strange to attach so much story to a game where you die and have to start over from scratch. I’m not sure I would want to re-read everything in an attempt to make it to the end. There is an endless mode that’s just monster after monster and no story, but it makes me wonder why the story mode is even a roguelike at all. Anyway, you can watch my video below and make the decision for yourself.

Endurance – space action

Last year, Ivan Panasenko released his sci-fi action game, Ailment, and I was impressed with it but bothered by its free-to-play aspects, such as the option to watch an ad to heal. There wasn’t any ad-removal IAP, either, to turn it into a more premium experience. I find it hard to enjoy games like that, because I’m constantly wondering whether it’s balanced properly or skewed to lead you to watch ads or buy in-game currency. So I didn’t stick with it for long. Now, the developer is back with a prequel called Endurance. It does have an ad removal IAP-but unfortunately that doesn’t turn it into a premium game. You can still watch ads to earn credits. And credits here act as experience points. Instead of earning skill points to level up your stats, you pump these credits into them. You also can use those credits to heal if you can’t find a mes kit. But you can also buy those credits using real cash. With enemies doing more than twice the damage to me than I’m doing to them, it once again makes me wonder how balanced it is. I also didn’t like that there’s no indication how much an upgrade costs or how much of an upgrade you would even get. I wasted 200 credits on 1% health regeneration just by tapping to see what would happen. There might be a decent game under all this but I just don’t have the patience to deal with it when there’s hundreds of other games I could be playing that don’t feel compromised by IAPs or ads. But again, it’s free to download, so give it a try if it looks interesting to you.

Sky: Children of the Light

This week has been busy over at the beta version of Sky. Again, this is upcoming content that’s not available in the live version yet, so don’t read this if you’re concerned about spoilers. For everyone else, the next season started and it’s called the Season of Sanctuary. This is by far the most ambitious season yet, as it adds a whole new area to Daylight Prairie that puts the Forgotten Ark to shame. There are waterfalls, floating islands, tons of books and crannies, and even a manta ride to an island high above the clouds. One of my favorite new features is the geysers that shoot you into the air so you can reach higher ground. There are also new quests that are like treasure hunts, map and all! A lot of the cosmetics are odd and out of place for Sky, but I personally love the butterfly cape, and some of the new hairstyles are really nice, too. There’s also new wings and the seasonal spirits offer some challenge without using any krill. Overall, I’m really impressed with the new area and season and am glad to see thatgamecompany finding ways to enrich the world of Sky besides just adding more and more cosmetics. This is the most optimist I’ve been about the game in a while, and I’m excited to see what’s next. If you were bored of the game and took a break, now would be a good time to give it another try. Also, if you’re playing the beta and need any help, I have a guide for the bell quests here, seasonal candles here, and spirit locations here.

A Monster’s Expedition

As I said, this week was the Steam Games Festival, in which demos were available for many different games. I was already busy with so many iOS games that I only had time to try out two that I’m looking forward to. The first is A Monster’s Expedition by A Good Snowman developer, Draknek. It takes place in the same universe and has the monster exploring grassy islands instead of snowy landscapes. The main mechanic involves pushing trees over and rolling them into the water so you can cross them to other islands. My Steam Link was acting up, so I didn’t record too much, but I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen. It also should be perfect for touch controls, and the developer already stated its coming to iOS. So keep an eye out!

Patrick’s Parabox

The other Steam demo I played was Patrick’s Parabox, a trippy puzzler in which you control a cube that can go inside other cubes, and even the same cube within itself. It’s kind of hard to explain but makes a whole lot of sense once you see it in action. I completed the demo and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too difficult, but I can see how it might get trickier as new mechanics are added. The developer expressed interest in bringing it to mobile, but it’s not confirmed yet. I do hope it happens, because it also has simple enough controls that it should feel at home on touchscreens.

And that’s everything I’ve been playing this week! I also finished the Apple Arcade game, Little Orpheus, and wrote a full review. Grindstone also got some new content and I played the first few levels. It’s not easy! Ustwo’s Assemble with Care also got a new chapter and I added it to my walkthrough. Besides that, I’m working on my coverage for The Almost Gone releasing this coming week. I hope some of these games meet your fancy! Let me know in the comments section which ones you’ve tried and I’ll see you back here next time for more of My Week Unwrapped!

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