• Log In | Sign Up

  • News
  • Reviews
  • Games Database
  • Game Discovery
  • Search
  • New Releases
  • Forums
continue reading below

Ratings by Harald B

Lucifer Within Us


Stars - 25

Rating by Harald B posted on Oct 16, 2020 | edit | delete


A terrible waste of a great game


After finishing the very promising demo in the Gamescom week I left impressed and picked up Lucifer Within Us at the earliest opportunity. Sadly the demo turns out to be almost a third of the game, and it’s to its detriment in more than just there not being enough of a good thing.
The gameplay is good and the interface is a great innovation in the cross-examination-based investigation genre, in ways that could greatly benefit the likes of Phoenix Wright. Visual design is great too and other production values are decent enough. And the setting is highly original and very intriguing, while it lasts…
When you start to close in on the truth of the second case you feel things are starting to barrel out of control in the rate developments follow each other, and then the conclusion of the finale just dumps way too much exposition at once. There should have been hours, perhaps even an unrelated case, between the main character starting to have serious doubts and her beginning to see the terrible truth; instead there is like one line. It should have taken the better part of a case to go from beginning to see the terrible truth to having a good view of all of it; instead that only takes a couple more lines. If the storytelling had really been well-planned they could have just spread some doubts and foreshadowing in the first game and saved the big reveal for a sequel, but with the cat out of the bag the setting will never feel as good again.
If the story had been given the slow buildup it needed and deserved, Lucifer Within Us could have been one of my favorite games of the year. As thing are, I have to lament the storytelling potential that was murdered to get it out the door.


Read the review »

Time Played: 2-5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Murder by Numbers


Stars - 45

Rating by Harald B posted on Mar 14, 2020 | edit | delete


Great puzzles and everything else, so long as you're into puzzle games


Gameplay-wise, I wouldn’t exactly call Murder by Numbers a half-half genre crossover. There’s a bit of showing the right evidence to the right person and picking the right conclusion sometimes, but those have no penalty for failure and every other puzzle is picross.
The story on the other hand is far more than a forgettable casual affair. The individual cases don’t have a lot of twists, but the writing is engaging and there’s a real depth to the characters and the overarching plot.
The puzzles are also well-designed and the interface is a delight (at least on the Switch), to the point that the bonus puzzles can keep you coming back for more as much as the story does. Hardcore enthusiasts may be slightly disappointed that the size doesn’t go beyond 15x15, but besides that they have a good difficulty that ramps up over the course of a case and to some extent between cases.
Rounding things out are some great music and visual designs. If you’re not averse to pure puzzle games, definitely pick this one up.


Read the review »

Time Played: 10-20 hours
Difficulty: Just Right

Lair of the Clockwork God


Stars - 30

Rating by Harald B posted on Feb 29, 2020 | edit | delete


Still funny, but I'm not sure this was a good idea


It’s hard to give Lair of the Clockwork God a whole-hearted recommendation. To start with the worst part, this is not the game to pick up if you’re in it for the platforming. The level design on the platform sections is decent enough but the building blocks are too large, the controls aren’t nearly tight enough and it really doesn’t do anything original with it.
Better then to see the platforming sections as support for what’s mainly an adventure game. Luckily I only had difficulties in a few places, and I consider myself pretty bad at platform games.

As an adventure game, Lair of the Clockwork God has good traditional puzzles and the great sense of humor we know from the previous Ben & Dan games, with all the bizarre and gross stuff that comes with that. (Also, a significant amount of jabs at the state of indie games, especially platformers. A bit distracting from the main story sometimes, but certainly some good jokes and callbacks there as well.)
However, to work easily as a platformer the controls were done in a way that makes adventurey interactions take more steps than they’d otherwise need to: the mix does not feel as natural as in games like Jenny LeClue or Forgotten Anne.

If you’re a fan of the Ben & Dan series you’ll probably still want to pick this up, especially if it goes on discount. But they probably could’ve done better with a more straightforward adventure game, and if you’re not in it for the humor it won’t be the game for you.


Read the review »

Time Played: 5-10 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Jenny LeClue – Detectivú


Stars - 40

Rating by Harald B posted on Oct 30, 2019 | edit | delete

We. The Revolution


Stars - 35

Rating by Harald B posted on Mar 24, 2019 | edit | delete


Surprisingly rich in story, but mechanics won't be for everyone


The story surprised me both with how good it was and how prominent it was in the game. The storytelling is much more personal to the main character than in Papers, Please, which people (in part spurred on by the publisher) will like to compare this with. Also, in my view the general feeling of playing it is less like Papers, Please and more like Reigns: carefully balancing various factors while trying to create the maneuvering space to pursue your own goals. The court cases are well-written enough that you often feel uncomfortable when you forsake justice for political reasons, and having to guillotine a defendant never stops being grisly.
Unfortunately not everything else about the game supports the writing. The unique art style is quite effective, but the voice acting tends to fall flat and the game could have made better use of music. The game mechanics are a mixed bag: The court and intrigue mechanics are well done. The persuasion system is fine so long as you keep notes on what works well against what but could frustrate you otherwise. The board game mechanics are tricky and can feel out of your control, with the things you’ll be focusing on in Act III being particularly obtuse. Worst of all, there are pivotal moments in the story that literally depend on winning a dice game. (I’m not sure if I had bad luck or if the game rigs things against you, but I managed to fail at every important junction.)
You can pick up a lot as you go along, there many autosaves and a certain amount of doom and tragedy and fitting to the story, so I wouldn’t say these things really disqualify the game, but it is certainly far removed from your expected gameplay even for a non-traditional adventure game.


Read the review »

Time Played: 10-20 hours
Difficulty: Just Right

Return of the Obra Dinn


Stars - 45

Rating by Harald B posted on Oct 24, 2018 | edit | delete


a must-play pure investigation game


Lucas Pope strikes again. As with his previous Papers, Please, Return of the Obra Dinn is a game not quite like any other. The thing that jumps at you immediately is the 1-bit 3d engine, giving a very old-school vibe indeed and letting you pick between it looking like an old Apple, IBM, Commodore or other display. Besides being suitable atmospheric, leaving some details and colors to the imagination may well be a good thing for the sights you’ll see later in the game.
Other production values are also great. Sounds effects like footsteps and creaking wood sound like they should, and your immersion and sense of horror are further enhanced by the many sounds of death. Voice acting and writing are well done, sounding natural and never shoving in too much information. The soundtrack is also great.

But good as they are, the production values are not the reason I spent a bit over 10 hours binge-completing the game in one weekend. That would be the gameplay. As an insurance adjuster of the East India Company, you are tasked to investigate the Obra Dinn, a lost ship that miraculously returned to port with no living crew aboard. Using a magical pocketwatch and a reference book sent in the mail by someone in Morocco, you need to discern the fate of all 60 people on board, including putting names to faces and identifying killers.
The power of the watch is to let you enter a dead body’s final memories, picking up the last heard sounds and then walking around a still scene from their last moments. If this scene contains other dead bodies, you can use the watch on them as well to uncover more scenes and mark them to return to later. Indeed, only a few bodies will be left when you first arrive.
Each time you uncover a new scene, an entry is made for it in the reference book with a picture of their face, the last heard dialog and the place the body was found. And each time, the same questions are opened: who was this? how did they die? and if it was not an accident, who did it? Notably, answering these questions through your own deductions is the only mechanic by which you solve things. There are no other puzzles of any kind.
After a couple of easier ones to get you started, these mysteries will require more and more reasoning and exploring. From clothing and accents to places they hang out and other characters they are seen together with, anything can be a clue to a person’s identity, and scenes that initially seem to have no connection can be critical. I can only recall a similar sense of open-ended investigation from parts of a few other games, and never done as consistently or as well as here.
To allow you to get some footing and not go crazy with the possibilities, correct “fates” are confirmed in sets of three: answer all the questions correctly for three dead people and they get locked in. It’s a good balance to not make it easy to brute-force but at the same time allow you to make some educated guesses without having the doubt linger for the whole investigation. And each time it happens it gives off an intensely satisfying feeling.

There are only a few gripes I can hold against this game. One is with pacing. If a scene you uncover contains another dead body, you’re alerted to it as soon as you put the book down through a combination of high-strung violins and visual effects. As soon as you click the left mouse button you’ll be forced to walk towards it. If you are too quick to go with the flow, what is likely to happen next is that you go into that new scene right away without properly processing any of the one you were just in. This can happen many times in a row, to the point that I saw one streamer unlock all possible scenes while having only 6 people’s fates locked in. Obviously, rushing ahead like this makes things more difficult for yourself than it needs to be, so there should have been a bit more effort to gate things off effectively. (The game tries to do that by only opening certain doors if you’ve seen them open in a scene, but this is barely noticeable.)
I also could have done with a few more conveniences in the interface. In the later stages when there are many scenes to go to, being able to go to one directly from the book would have been hugely helpful. And I would have liked to see characters present in a particular scene drawn in on the scene’s map and flip between those, akin to The Sexy Brutale’s map screen.
Finally, while not throwing unnatural amounts of exposition at you is a strength, only seeing the story through death scenes can also make it feel like this story has a middle and an end but no beginning. Not to spoil anything but I would have liked to see a tad of backstory and explanation on the beginning and causes of certain things, perhaps at the end of the game.

But these are small gripes. Get this game if you have any interest in a pure investigation challenge. And don’t spoil it for yourself online.


Read the review »

Time Played: 10-20 hours
Difficulty: Hard

Detective Gallo


Stars - 35

Rating by Harald B posted on Jul 7, 2018 | edit | delete


Good, but no instant classic


More than anything else, Detective Gallo feels to me like a game that has its heart in the right place and tried hard but just couldn’t make it to the top. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good game across the board for sure, but it kept falling short of greatness for me.
* A nice cartoony graphic style, but the walk cycle is tedious, it went too ham on the bizarre perspective in the office, and it doesn’t play nice with my 16:10 monitor. (It never seems to look as good as the screenshots for me.)
* Music is pretty forgettable.
* The voice acting is perhaps the best part.
* Jokes and general writing are good without being great.
* Puzzles are standard old-school fare, mostly good but a tad arbitrary.
* With a small world and three-ish hours of gameplay, it would be more suited as a first chapter or episode than a full game.


Read the review »

Time Played: 2-5 hours
Difficulty: Just Right

Yesterday Origins


Stars - 40

Rating by Harald B posted on Jun 2, 2018 | edit | delete

Sexy Brutale, The


Stars - 45

Rating by Harald B posted on Apr 15, 2017 | edit | delete


Highly original, all around great game


Combining a well-handled time travel theme with one of the most innovative core gameplay mechanics seen in any genre recently was enough for me to get into this game, but there is much more to recommend it on than that.
The aesthetic and production values on the graphics are great, the interface polished and carrying some nice quality-of-life features. The music by itself is more “catchy” than amazing, but what makes it stand out is how it keeps adapting, sounding more clear or muted depending on how close to the apparent source you are and getting more dramatic as important things are about to go down. Pushing it further is what punctuates the music: several murders leave sounds that resound throughout the mansion, so that what previously sounded like random ambience can suddenly take on a special meaning.

In case you’re bothered about if this is even an adventure game I’d say the story is certainly big enough, powerful enough and well-integrated with the gameplay. While the first couple of chapters can feel like unrelated vignettes or levels, the story comes more into focus later as things previously only hinted at get clearer and there is more attention for relations among the characters and the deeper secrets of the mansion. Also the gameplay itself has you avoid direct confrontations with murderers and there is never any real problem with timing so long as you plan your moves out in advance. Certainly nothing twitchy going on. Finally, there is also some great dark humour especially from the overheard mutterings of the murderers.

Overall the game excels in almost every area, with the most important points of critique being that it can feel a bit easy at times for a practiced adventurer and the fun is over slightly too soon. (It took me 8 hours and change to finish, and that could have been less than 7 if I had not made it a point to get every collectible and piece of backstory. If the length bothers you too much, wait for a slight discount.) There is also no voice acting to speak of, with one notable and greatly done exception I’ll not spoil here.


Read the review »

Time Played: 5-10 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Talos Principle, The


Stars - 50

Rating by Harald B posted on Jan 7, 2015 | edit | delete

Testament of Sherlock Holmes, The


Stars - 40

Rating by Harald B posted on Sep 29, 2012 | edit | delete


A worthy, but sometimes baffling installment


The visuals are at least as good as expected, and markedly improved at times. In the Whitechapel area in particular we finally see the amount of people we expect to see, solving a big issue with earlier games.

As usual in this series, gameplay consists of a combination of trying to notice everything of interest, some inventory-combination puzzles, some traditional fare, occasional mini-games, the deduction board/reconstruction and special puzzles (puzzle-locks, mostly) in-between.
- The inventory-combination and other traditional fare are as expected. A bit straightforward perhaps, but that’s in keeping with the serious tone.
- As in earlier games, noticing the important hotspots can get a bit tedious at times. Feeling a straight-up hotspot revealer button would spoil too much, the game introduces the “Sixth Sense” hint feature, supposed to lead you to an important hotspot you missed. Sadly this isn’t implemented well: most of the time it will point you to doors you’ve already been through or puzzles you don’t have the components to solve yet.
- The deduction boards have improved a bit. It still works through multiple-choice questions, but doesn’t have as many patently ridiculous suggestions as in previous games. Instead though, you can generally eliminate answers using the evidence you’ve seen. A big improvement then, though the word “deduction” seems used a bit loosely now and then.
- The occasional minigames are a nice diversion, but the lockpicking game in particular is simple enough to be an insult.
- The developer has made important steps forward in handling the difficulty of the major puzzles. It is clear they tried to make the descriptions significantly less obtuse while not reducing the difficulty much (at least on the Hard setting I played in). And they have for the most part succeeded. There is also an option to skip puzzles that are too hard for you, but this makes you miss out on an achievement, potentially motivating you to retry later.

Testament for the most part does great on storytelling and atmosphere. The murders are as disturbing and intriguing as they should be, and so is Holmes’ curious backslide in morals. The culmination in his death is handled well, and even caught me off-guard for a moment. (I was told how some things would play out at the 2011 GamesCom, but apparently they changed their mind afterwards.)
But the things it does right here are marred by some baffling design choices that go with them. This starts at the very beginning of the game. Three toddlers, apparently including Holmes’ granddaughter and Watson’s grandson, find an old story in an attic and begin to read it, after which the game proper starts. This completely unnecessary framing device is returned to a few times later including at the very end. In my opinion it does not mesh well with the feel of the rest of the game and would have been better to leave out.
There are more such things. At one point Sherlock brings in a tracking dog and you play as the dog for a while. This section is actually rather well done and would have made a great segment in an other game, but the puzzle-solving in particular make it feel like you’re watching some children’s movie about a wonder dog, ruining the otherwise very serious atmosphere.

All in all the Testament is a worthy installment that improves on its predecessors in several ways, and should certainly be picked up by any fans of the series, but still is not everything it could have been.


Read the review »

Time Played: 10-20 hours

KGB


Stars - 35

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete


Not my cup of tea, but I love it anyway


Before I heap on too much praise, know what you are getting into: this is a serious game with death around every corner. If you take it seriously, keep track of what’s going on and plan your moves carefully, you might just live another day and go further down the rabbit hole. If you play it for laughs you’ll be dead before you know it.
If you usually hate that kind of game, well so do I. But this game takes YOU seriously as well. The tone isn’t broken by preposterous inventory puzzles. When you die it’s for a reason that makes sense, not for accidentally walking off a ledge, crossing the street or forgetting to check your tires.

And then there are the good parts. The use of many different verbs including ones like Hide, Wait, Listen and Fight (best fighting mechanics in the genre!) do much to get the right feel across, add immersion and add a great sense of freedom.
This freedom in general is one the game’s great strengths.
You’ll get a cynical commentary about your dumb choices when you die, but there’s no hand-holding to keep you from making them. Even as the clock is ticking and discretion is key, there are usually many places you could go and feathers you could ruffle. Once you adjust it adds up to a game where you really have to stop and think about what you are and should be doing.

I’m usually more into comedy adventures where irreverent trash talk and stupid risk-taking go unpunished, but between the things above, the increasingly twisting mystery, the deliciously cynical writing and the unique music style, KGB managed to become one of my favorite adventure games. Give it a (serious) shot and it could reward you.


Read the review »

Time Played: Over 20 hours

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis


Stars - 50

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Sam & Max Hit the Road


Stars - 45

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Day of the Tentacle


Stars - 50

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, The


Stars - 45

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge - Special Edition


Stars - 50

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Stacking


Stars - 45

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Dig, The


Stars - 35

Rating by Harald B posted on May 19, 2012 | edit | delete

Back to the top