I never played the first game, but Distraint 2 caught my eye due to the visuals and atmosphere it portrayed. You play as a man who is faced with severe depression from the guilt of evicting tenants from their living spaces. While this is his job he can’t take the guilt anymore and tries to commit suicide. You then play the split second that flashes through your head before doing so to regain hope and fight the darkness within. It’s a touching story and really shows people the process of grieving and depression and helps spread the message that mental health is a serious issue.
The game is played on a 2D plane and puzzle-solving. The puzzles are light and simple with the most complicated being a slider puzzle (which I despise) but overall the puzzles aren’t tough. There is a lot of finding this object and place it in the right spot, but the three chapters are short and it’s hard to get lost. You move from room to room just discovering what can be examined or talked to and then remembering where that piece goes. The game’s enjoyment is mostly in atmosphere and horror. Every so often a Creature of Fear will appear and you must hide until it passes. The sounds are eerie and the visuals are a treat.
There’s honestly not much game here. With each chapter there is a lot of dialogs to move the story forward, there’s a small green orb to save your progress, and then you just move from room to room to find all the objects to move on to the next chapter. At least the areas didn’t overstay their welcome and it was some labyrinthine complicated mess that some 2D horror games end up being. Each room was easy to remember and was distinct so once I found an object I had that “A-Ha!” moment of where it would go. It’s pretty satisfying and the game pushes you through at a steady clip not being too slow in any one spot.
The visuals are a mix of 8-bit pixelation, lots of grainy filters, eerie music and sounds, and a lot of camera tricks and overall just a foreboding sense of dread. The game pulls this off well and it was rather intense through most of the game will little reprieve in between. The problem is the game is about 2 hours long and there’s no gameplay really. I love these “walking simulators” that tell great stories, but rarely have they been done well and are memorable. If you have a short run time and there’s no game really you are totally relying on characters, story, and atmosphere and if those aren’t out of this world it won’t impress most people. While the game itself and message were fine, I didn’t care about the characters and pretty much forgot about the game after turning it off.
Rage was all the…well, rage back in the day on PC. It featured “super textures” and fantastic gunplay that hadn’t been seen since Doom II or Quake 3 and various other claims from id Software. Upon release, it was a lifeless husk of bugs and glitches, and the only thing that was actually any good was the enemies and shooting itself. The open-world was wasted and devoid of life and forget about the story as it was hardly there at all. Fast forward a decade later and we get Rage 2 developed by Avalanche Software known for the Just Cause series. What did we get? Well, a game that’s playing catch up as this should have been the game the first wasn’t. If this released 10 years ago it would have been a smash hit, but today it feels dated and well, still lifeless.
You play as The Ranger named Walker. There’s something about The Authority trying to wipe out humanity and a General Cross is the big bad guy. There are three major players who have main missions for you to ultimately bring about Project Dagger which is to eliminate the machines and genetic monsters roaming the Earth. Yeah, it’s very paper-thin and the story still barely exists. Some of the main missions have slightly entertaining scripted events, but that’s about it. The voice acting is solid, but the characters are one dimensional and don’t grow or mature, and you literally have no reason to care for any of them ever.
That brings us to the actual meat of the game and that’s the shooting. Yes, Rage 2 feels and plays really well. The shooting is satisfying, bombastic, and there’s a wonderful arsenal of weapons to find and unlock as well as abilities. Yes, I said to find. The weapons aren’t just handed to you. You have to find the intel on where they are, explore the world, and find the Arks that contain these weapons. It’s a neat idea and rather satisfying once you find them, but I played 75% of the game with just the assault rifle and shotgun. That’s not a good thing either. There was no urgency to get new weapons until I finally tired of the same two and I needed more weapons for harder enemies. Each area has a level from 1-10 and this is based on how much armor enemies have, or their faction, and boss health bars.
Once you do start shooting around the game is a blast. Each weapon has an alt-fire mode such as the shotgun having an air blast that knocks enemies off their feet. The Fire Revolver has ammo that sticks and then you can snap your fingers and blow them up. The rocket launcher will lock on to enemies and then the pulse cannon has a manual cooldown mode. I never got all the weapons to be honest. There just wasn’t any need to, but what I did get was pretty cool. Even the BFG 9000 was an absolute blast to use but rarely needed. You have abilities that are also supposed to be found, but I honestly rarely ever used them as the weapons were enough. I had a shield, dash, and push but that was it. Some abilities are passive, but the Overdrive ability is the most useful. This unlocks a third alt-fire for each weapon but you aren’t invincible or anything like that. You just do more damage. For projectiles, you get wing sticks which is honestly completely useless despite being a staple weapon in the first game and grenades. You also get three injectables for health, overdrive, and to recharge your abilities faster. Once you die you get a defibrillation quick time event to gain some health back one time until the next death. So, with all of this combined, there is a decent amount of stuff in the core shooting mechanic. It’s solid, but it’s sad you don’t get the weapons in a different manner that makes them meaningful or makes you want them.
Once you’re ready to drive around the Wasteland there’s not much to do outside of small little side missions. These are all basically the same with different names. You essentially kill everything in each outpost and there are things to find inside them. Containers with cash or filtrite which is used for upgrades, datapads, and Ark chests which hold upgrades for mods and vehicles. These are peppered all throughout the game and honestly make up a bulk of the playtime. If you only did the main story it would be over in about 10 hours. The issue is that after completing maybe 60-70% of the other stuff in the world I stopped caring. You just run in and shoot everything, collect stuff, and move on to the next one. There’s no incentive to do this once you’ve fully upgraded everything. You need cash to buy ammo, mods, etc from shops, but filtrite is used for weapon and ability upgrades and that is taken from enemies. The only really interesting side missions were the Mutant Crusher nests. These are giant bosses, but they are all the same. In fact, every boss in the game is the same. Just blast it to death or blast it until it’s vulnerable and then blast it some more. It’s very one-note with the action and the game heavily relies on it rather than using the action in smart and inventive ways.
I also had no incentive to acquire all the vehicles in the game as what’s the point? Your main vehicle, the Phoenix, is just fine as it has a gatling gun and homing missiles and it does the job. Some vehicles are just for fun such as a giant monster truck, and a hovercraft, but honestly there’s not much out in the world. There are a few towns but these are all static and lifeless. No interesting characters as NPCs repeat often and the dialog is uninteresting. There’s just no reason to care about anything in this game and most players won’t stick around long enough past the main story. It just grows incredibly repetitive and you just go on autopilot driving from one side mission to another just checking them off of your map. One question mark to the next and blasting everything and then doing it again for 50+ hours. Again, the shooting is solid, but you can only do it in this fashion for so long. It works in games like Doom because it makes the world around it adjust to the constant shooting. I honestly wish Rage 2 was a linear story-driven shooter and then it would have worked really well. Rage just doesn’t do open-world right. That was the major flaw in the first game as it was a pointless open world devoid of anything. Shooting caravans every so often doesn’t justify an open world. It’s also way too big for its own good. It can take over half an hour just to drive from one side to the other. It’s part of the reason why it took me an entire year and a half to finish this game. It’s daunting and feels like a chore rather than something I can’t wait to see like The Elder Scrolls or Fallout which have interesting open worlds stuffed full of lore and interesting things.
So, we just get a boring empty and lifeless world with static towns and blast everything to death with a paper-thin story, uninteresting characters, and weapons that are hidden and locked away with no incentive to go get them except out of sheer boredom. That’s not good. Despite all of this though, the game is fairly entertaining for a good 30 or so hours until you explore most of the map, finish the story, and I was just done. There’s a good core here that Rage 3 should keep and ditch the open-world entirely. I liked the enemy design, the graphics are phenomenal and look amazing, but this isn’t it guys. The series still needs a lot of work and fine-tuning to become a top-notch FPS.
You may have noticed over the last two weeks a couple of things changed. One is the new report card at the end of each review. It’s now clean, minimalist, and professional looking. A simple blue background for the score, white lettering inside a white circle, clean text on the right, and then a piece of art blended into the background of the card. I love it and this is staying permanent probably forever. It took me two weeks to manually edit all report cards for every review on the site and there are well over 1,000 at this point. It’s just me doing this on free time and it takes time editing each card. I won’t EVER be doing this again! As you can imagine, it’s a daunting task. There are now no longer any scores at the top of the page so it’s one cohesive report card at the bottom.
The next thing are the deletion of around 50 articles. These are old outdated products that either no longer exist, can’t be purchased anymore, or are just badly written or maybe a report card was missing and I have no idea what score it had. Some things gone are older mobile game reviews. I looked them up and they no longer exist on Android or Apple and were long deleted by the publishers. There’s really no point in leaving these up as some were 7 years old! Some mobile games would disappear off of one store and stay on another so I adjusted that.
Another thing adjusted are updated console availability for older games. As time goes on more and more games are being re-released as remasters or compilations so I want to add the tags and categories as well as images for the newer system they are on so more people know where to get them at. I also deleted reviews from way back when I first started doing this as a teenager. Those reviews were lower quality and maybe one or two paragraphs each. They weren’t in depth enough and I didn’t like having these terrible reviews just sitting on the site. There were probably 50 of those as well but they were deleted maybe a year ago and I just never mentioned it until now.
I also deleted the scores off of book reviews so sadly, no scores for books anymore. I haven’t had time read a book in years so I don’t even know when the next one would go up. I will probably just use the report card for those and comics if I ever get around to reading and reviewing more. But overall, that’s it! I’ve been doing this for 12 years now and it’s insane how many hits I get a day without any advertising or anything. So, if you’re reading this and you happen to be a long time viewer, thanks for you dedication!
Action games during the PS2/Xbox era are an entire evolution of their own. This is a pocket of the game that has evolved and also evolved itself at one point. Linear levels with simple combat was a run-of-the-mill action game back in the day, and a game releasing like that in 2020 is a bit of a gamble. While I’ve never seen Samurai Jack, the gameplay style from 15 years ago is what drew me in.
I have to emphasize right now that this game is mostly for Samurai Jack fans. The art, story, characters, and everything else are meaningless to anyone but. While I appreciate all of this I couldn’t follow the story and had no idea what was going on. An evil entity named Aku has sent Jack back in time through multiple dimensions and Jack must stop him. It seems rather simple and bare-bones, but fans of the series will get it more. I won’t ding the game on that merit, but even for a show tie-in, the story is rather simple and basic.
Controlling Jack is a lot of fun. He double jumps, swings a weapon, throws projectiles, and has a special move. He can wield heavy and light weapons from staffs, swords, sickles, clubs, hammers, and axes. It seems like a large arsenal, but there’s not much difference between this outside of damage and speed. I honestly stuck with the sword through most of the game as I also dumped most of my coins into training for that. Jack can also throw various things like knives, shurikens, axes, use pistols and machine guns, as well as bows. It’s a large arsenal and different projectiles do different damage and ammo is scarce so I mostly saved these all for boss fights.
Jack also has a light and heavy attack and can dodge and block. Acquiring spirit fire allows him to unleash a powerful attack and each weapon has its own attack. It’s a decent enough system, and I felt like I was playing a game from 2005 which is both good and bad. If this game were to have come out back then it would have been considered amazing, but today it’s just a nostalgic trip that feels rather average. While everything works and the controls are responsive I just felt the game’s repetition and linearity hurt it quite a bit. I don’t need every game open world, but these games are freakishly claustrophobic with the only way forward is straight. There are side paths to take to find chests that have various items in them, but the extra effort usually isn’t worth it.
You can find shops that allow you to buy weapons and training as well as repair weapons as they are breakable outside of your magic sword. This is why I just spent and saved for training the sword. It’s kind of a broken system just like the upgrade tree. There are three categories for physical, combat moves, and spiritual for things like spirit fire recharge, but you’re going to eventually get most of them. Each one is locked off so you have to buy the one before it anyway. This almost feels useless as you don’t get a direct choice.
The game is also sickeningly repetitive. After level 5 I couldn’t take it anymore. You just fight wave after wave of enemies with various health bars and then a boss at the end. It’s nothing special and gets rather dull quick. Sure, the game looks good and has lots of detail in the characters and environment, but only fans of the show would truly appreciate this. Once you finish the first level you have pretty much-seen everything. You just play it like that 8 more times. The game also isn’t very challenging as most enemies are dumb and rely on their annoying attacks (like zombies burrowing underground and popping up under you) or swarming you until you die.
Overall, Battle Through Time is a love letter to early PS2 era action games, but there are games from that era that still do it better. Overly linear, repetitive mindless combat, useless upgrade tree, and a story that only fans would appreciate aren’t enough to save this game. It looks good, sounds good, and plays well, but the overall package is just meh.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a huge part of my childhood. It made me want to go out and skate which I actually did. Between the ages of 9-13, I skated almost daily. I wanted to become a professional skateboarder, and well, that never happened, but the countless hours sitting in front of my Nintendo 64 or PlayStation (depending on what time period we’re talking about) was memorable. I still remember how to complete every level in the first two games like it was yesterday. The countless lines I’d find, replays I’d save, and learning every real-life trick all thanks to THPS. It was a huge part of my generation’s childhood and was influential and rang loud throughout the gaming industry. Activision had a juggernaut on their hands, and while the series last great entry was Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, I wanted the series to come back. It took 20 years, but we finally got some reprieve and the series is back better than ever.
Let’s talk about the core of the game’s menus as they are used in both games. The entire main menu has been redesigned, but still familiar. You can pick your skater, either a real-world one with all returning skaters plus new ones or create your own. Creating a skater has quite a bit of an option, but I felt the amount inside each option was limited. This really could have been expanded upon, but there’s a good amount of gear as you can customize your board, wheels, trucks, grip tape, deck, and all of your clothes to your heart’s content. Everything is of course skateboarding branded, so no Disney or video game-related stuff here. Once you pick your skater you can head off to either of the two games, but there’s a bit more here than you think. There are new challenges that unlock cash that can be used in the Skate Shop which is nice as there’s some incentive to complete each level 100%.
Once inside THPS1 I didn’t need a single tutorial. I literally landed a 100,000 point combo without breaking a sweat thanks to the perfect controls that I remember to this day. It’s like riding a bike to be honest. Newcomers will be treated to one of the best control schemes ever created that countless action sports games ripped off for years. Grind, grab, and flip are all assigned to a button as well as ollie. You can press a direction with a button to do a trick and the skill is all up to you. THPS is 100% skill-based. If you don’t master the controls and get quick with your fingers you won’t have fun. My fingers flew across the controller going from a grind to a manual to a flip trick just before hitting a rail, back to a manual, hitting a pipe, manualing out, and so on until my stamina ran out. It’s a blast and the game feels just as good as it did 20 years ago.
Nearly every skating trick in the book is here, but what makes THPS fun are the special moves. Do some tricks without falling and you will get your meter up almost all the time. Each skater has assigned special that is pulled off with a button combo and then a special sound plays and your trick is in yellow in your trick combo text. This racks up massive points and looks really cool. Each level is incredibly iconic and shows some of the best level design of the era, but somehow doesn’t feel dated or stale. The new updated visuals breathe new life into these levels and add details as I could never imagine. The game looks amazing with great lighting, detailed textures, and current generation flair.
There are four levels that are objective-based and three competition levels. The objective-based levels get tougher as you go on with some requiring precise movement and accurate tricking to nail. These later levels can be very frustrating even for seasoned players like myself. The rooftop gaps in the Downtown level? Forget it. While I eventually did it, I took an entire night to actually complete this level. It was the bane of my existence when I was a kid and I finally completed this entire game 100% in just a few days. Once you do land these insanely hard stunts it feels so satisfying. I stood up and shook my fist at the screen and felt relief. It’s a style of game that you just don’t get anymore these days. It’s just you, the controller, the levels and objectives, and you just need to focus on completing them and honing your skill. No hand-holding at all here.
I honestly can’t find many flaws with the first game. The levels are varied, they look and feel amazing, and veterans will feel right at home. I like the newly added V logos which adds an extra challenge. Collect them all to unlock special gear. I also love the sound design which is also iconic. The sound effects like the camera flash when you complete a gap, the sound for the special move, the grinds, flips, crashes, the record scratches, it’s all here and updated with current technology. Even the majority of the original licensed soundtrack made it back with some great new additions. THPS had one of the greatest licensed soundtracks of all time. It was iconic, and many other games just couldn’t top it. From hip-hop to rock to punk there are so many great songs on here that I could listen to all day. While I wish there were more songs at least, we get most of the classics.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 offers more of the same as the first game just with new levels. While back in the day it was more tricks, skaters, better controls, etc. with the remake they took the best of both worlds so each game is essentially level packs. Once you complete both games 100% there’s nothing left to do outside of Create-a-Park mode which was a big deal back in the day and was introduced in the second game. It’s a ton of fun and this is where most people will spend their time after finishing the main games. I wish there was a way to share parks as skating people’s creations would add tons of hours of longevity to the game, but what’s here is fine.
Overall, THPS 1+2 is a fantastic remake for fans of old and for newcomers. This game defined sports games and helped push skateboarding to kids. While it may not do that these days, what we get is an amazing package of memorable levels, fun goals to accomplish, and a good amount of new to spice things up. While the main games are rather short, and nothing new was added to them, they are beautifully remastered and are a blast to play through. The create-a-skater and park modes are rather robust and the new challenges will keep you going back for more long after 100% completion. The visuals are not groundbreaking but true to the originals and there’s lots of love and detail everywhere.
Every PC gamer has envied the perfect build whether it’s on a desktop or laptop. While I have finally achieved my ultimate high-end gaming PC build, I’m always one to strive for more or want the latest and greatest tech. Most of us have sat upon a PC manufacturer’s site-building our dream build and watching the dollar amount rack up fast or sitting there waiting for the perfect deal. For me, since I was 15 years old, I have done this on Alienware computers and still do to this day. They are gorgeous machines and you can love them or hate them for various stigmas like being a Dell, having terrible customer service, questionable build quality in the past, and charging more for a name brand, but it doesn’t change the fact that these machines are amazing feats of engineering. Alienware has always strived for the best gaming technology in their PCs and usually land mostly dead-on.
For me though, it’s always been their laptops that fascinate me the most. I’ve had two previous laptops from them, and they were great for their time, but laptop technology has come a long way in two years. We can now get desktop hardware inside these things, and that was a distant dream ten years ago. Alienware has evolved their laptops so much since I last had one, which I donated to a thrift store about 2 years ago, and it’s clear how much. So much of the latest tech is now available in mobile form and not to mention Alienware’s unique striking visual design. These laptops are just dead sexy and stunning to look at. There’s literally nothing else like them out there. The Area-51m R2 is Alienware’s latest flagship high-end gaming laptop with better cooling, desktop CPUs, latest GPU tech, USB-C Thunderbolt ports, Tobii Eye-tracking, and two, yes two!, power supplies bricks.
Enough back story and on to the hardware. Let’s first talk about the unboxing experience. Again, this is a once in a 5-10 year thing for me so it doesn’t happen very often. The box is a lot slimmer this time around and opening it up unveils the laptop, a slip of paper explaining the history and goal behind Alienware, a quick start guide, and a compartment with both power bricks. Not very exciting. Where are the goodies and extras? Despite all that, the laptop’s design drew my eyes immediately and it is the single most beautiful piece of engineering I have seen go into a laptop period. The sharp lines, the large vent that comes out of the rear with the oval RGB ring, the honeycomb vents, the color is also amazing and the feeling of the system too. It’s heavy, but not as heavy as it looks. My model came in at just under 9lbs and it requires two hands for sure. The material is also a nice matte finish that doesn’t attract fingerprints. It feels slightly rough but also smooth.
Once you plug in both bricks and lift the lid the keyboard lights up along with the touchpad and you start the typical Windows 10 startup experience. I spent several hours installing my favorite programs, optimizing Windows 10 and disabling most everything that runs in the background, and downloading games of course. The system felt as snappy and fast as my desktop and the screen is gorgeous with the 300hz display really shining here. Typing on the keyboard is better than most laptop keyboards thanks to the Cherry switches and the 1.7mm actuation. The keys are a bit higher than most keyboards and I could feel them as my fingers flew across the keys like a desktop keyboard. They are a bit clicky and the material is the same matte finish as the rest of the laptop so there was no slick shiny nonsense that most laptops are subject too. The spacebar in particular clicks loud and is very satisfying. This is probably the best laptop keyboard I have ever used. The F1 keys have functions attached such as screen brightness, volume, touchpad, AlienFX lighting, and the graphics amplifier if you have one attached. One thing I wish this keyboard had was multimedia controls for music, but the FN+an arrow key works just fine.
The touchpad is also a huge improvement over any laptop I have used including my old Alienware. It has a nice rubbery feel to it and I can hear my finger slide and scrape along with the pad which is satisfying. The right and left click buttons have a nice deep actuation (seems like 2mm or more) and don’t rock left or right like my old laptop did which drove me nuts. I actually hated the old Alienware touchpad. This touchpad uses Microsoft’s touch drivers so you can use multiple fingers to swipe around which is so nice. The touchpad has a decent amount of adjustments for acceleration, sensitivity, among others. It’s actually a great touchpad and the backlighting just makes it that much more enjoyable to use, but a mouse is still always preferred.
Let’s jump into some of the technical aspects of the laptop. The BIOS is sadly very limited. There was no option for XMP profiles as I believe you have to use Dell branded 3200mhz RAM to use the XMP profile. I also can’t say anything about CPU overclocking as I had a non K CPU installed (not really necessary for gaming in my opinion), but there was a lot to control compared to previous Alienware laptops and just most in general. Don’t get too excited about advanced BIOS features like on desktops which is quite a shame for the price you’re paying. That was my first major ding for this laptop, but not a crippling one.
Most of the overclocking will happen in Alienware Command Center and it works well enough. ACC is very limited in terms of lighting control and overclocking, but it works and the results were fine to me. ACC allows you to change lighting effects from pre-installed presets or limited change of colors. Previous versions of ACC allowed actual timelines of colors and morphing and pulsing, but somewhere in the last 10 years that vanished. What is here is fine, and thankfully the Area-51m R2 has multiple lighting zones on the keyboard for WASD, the Numpad, the F keys, and various others, or you can do one unified profile. You can control the light on the power button, rear alien head, RGB ring on the exhaust, and the touchpad. It’s a decent amount of lighting and the RGB ring is the most eye-catching and striking of them all. That’s what will turn heads and bring people over.
ACC also allows you to manage your power settings in a limited fashion. Mostly just screen timeouts and sleeping. The macro feature is also a tad limited as I couldn’t map Windows functions to make the four macro buttons multimedia keys, but it works and you can do quite a bit with them like record keypresses and add program shortcuts. The Fusion section also allows auto or manual fan control. There are 5 profiles that I find are just fine and keep the laptop cool. Even overclocked my GPU never really gets above 70c and the CPU does stay below 80c on the Performance option which kicks the fans to 80%. Balanced drops them to 35% which is rather quiet. I don’t really hear these things unless the fans are above 60% and they are not annoying to listen to. Overclocking was a little limited as all I could do was bring the thermal limit up and then push the core clock and memory clock up to 300+ which the 1660ti easily did in the memory. I started noticing crashes and artifacts on the core clock above 190+ which is pretty good. I wish I could increase the power limit, but I still get a 10% boost in power with this OC. To use the fan profiles you can add games to the library (which is an ugly mess of stretched out icons) and is sad won’t detect Windows Library games so for those you have to manually set the fan speed each time, however, the OC profile has to manually set no matter what. ACC is limited, but some quality of life improvements could make this software pretty robust. At least it works right?
Once overclocked I got a 3DMark TimeSpy score of 6017 which is pretty amazing for a laptop. The 1660ti is no pushover either. Actually gaming on this thing surprised me as I could run every game maxed-out settings above 60FPS, with most being above 100 or just around there. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Borderlands 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Mortal Kombat 11, Wasteland 3, The Outer Worlds and many more all ran without an issue at maxed-out graphics settings. Now I will say this, the laptop does get hot on the right side where your hand is as that’s where the CPU is. It didn’t get uncomfortable, but your hand does heat up and that’s kind of expected. You have a 10700 desktop CPU mere inches below your hand. The 1660ti never really got too hot, but I’m sure the RTX GPUs do.
The upgrade ability is questionable though as you can put an i9 CPU in here straight off the shelf, and getting into the laptop is rather simple and easy compared to most laptops. You can add 4 M.2 drives if you wanted with one 2.5″ drive. There’s also an option for 64GB of RAM which is more than anyone would ever need on a PC these days. My question is the GPU. These are slotted, but Dell isn’t selling upgrades and you have to rely on the Alienware Graphics Amplifier instead right now. I would love to later on just plop a 3070 into this thing as Dell is using their own proprietary socket for these GPUs.
After over a week of using this laptop as a daily driver, I have to say I love it. It’s the best laptop I’ve ever used and I can’t really find any faults. The laptop stays really cool and the fans aren’t all that loud, and if you have headphones on, you won’t even hear it. If I were to nitpick I would say the ACC software suite is lacking. There’s not a lot of customization with the lighting and the BIOS is mostly locked away. These aren’t major problems, but enough to knock it down half a point. The laptop also gets very warm on the left side where the CPU is, but that’s probably expected with a machine like this. I also don’t particularly care for hauling around two power bricks, but this is a portable desktop.
On a side note, I would not recommend buying an Alienware computer or any new electronic like a computer or tablet right now. As of this writing, and due to COVID, it was a nightmare getting my laptop to me. With $80 expedited shipping it still took a week to receive my laptop, and it made numerous stops along the way, and they are all being shipped right off the assembly line in China. When I got my tracking number for UPS and saw it left China, I knew there were going to be some issues right away. UPS and FedEx pilots are currently refusing to fly into China, so the shipments are stopping in Japan or South Korea first, then Alaska, then the major distribution hubs in the US for customs release. I’m not sure if it’s due to the new tariff laws or just the sheer amount of orders being made, but my computer was held in Ontario, CA by customs for 2 days with no reason as to why. It just said it was held in a warehouse until a transaction agreement could be made. I’m not sure if the volume is causing paperwork errors in China or Dell just didn’t pay the correct fees. It then took 12-24 hours at each stop to depart and then another 12-24 hours to arrive. It was a prolonged and painful shipping process, one of the worst I have ever had.
I know pixelated 2D games have been done to death these days, but sometimes they really stand out. Inmost has detailed visuals, great animations, and an interesting and engaging horror theme and atmosphere that kept me sitting through until the end. While the story isn’t all that great, the message at the end of the game makes it all worthwhile.
You play as a few characters in this game. One is a middle-aged man, another is a knight, and the third is a little girl. You jump between the three as the story unfolds and each has a unique control scheme. The man can jump around and find objects to progress, the knight can engage in combat, and the little girl can’t jump, but must crawl her way around a house lifting objects to create steps and unlock the secret of this house. It keeps the game fresh and moving, but most of the game is played as the man.
The entire area is quite large that you explore and backtrack through. Climbing around the levels also requires dodging black matter that can attack you and there are even some intense chase scenes. You are solving puzzles, pulling levers, and switching, and like Metroid, you are also finding new objects to progress through the level. A crowbar, pulley, knife, pickaxe, and more are needed to progress along with the occasional key. The game was never too touch and I enjoyed how the game made me think a little bit. There is some clever level design here as I actually remembered where doors and entrances were as I progressed. By the end of this entire area, I actually memorized the entire thing and could backtrack anywhere with no issue or a map. That takes skill and I commend the developers for creating such a great map with memorable landmarks.
Playing as the knight, you can swing your sword and use a hook shot to get around, but you can’t jump. The enemies vary with numerous hits needed to defeat them, but overall these are easy areas. If you die you literally just respawn in the same spot so the game is very forgiving. As the little girl, you must walk around the house moving chairs, opening cupboards, and finding secret entrances in the house and I found it quite entertaining. Without giving too much of the story away there’s really not much here and it mostly makes zero sense. I know there’s something about a Soul Flower and the knight is trying to take them for himself and stealing other Soul Flowers is required to give to the Keeper which is a giant guardian type thing. It makes no sense honestly. Even at the final 15-minute cut scene I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, but without spoiling the very end the message is what counts the most and it was rather touching.
The visuals are great with lots of dark colors, great pixel art, smooth animations, and tons of atmosphere. The game is a treat to look at, and the music is amazing. There’s quite a bit of emotion in this game, and I just wish the story was a bit more comprehensive to make the whole package feel a little more complete. As it stands, Inmost is a great 2D platformer that takes around 4 hours to complete. It’s a small investment for a great ending and some fun and challenging puzzles and platforming. If you don’t like modern 2D pixel art games, this won’t change your mind, but for fans of Metroid and Castlevania, there’s not much to lose here.
“Walking simulators” are something I enjoy if the story is great. This is literally the only driving factor of this genre so if your story isn’t solid neither is your game. There’s usually very little gameplay involved outside of picking up objects and wandering around an area. Rachel Foster does just this and thankfully has a decent story even if the ending becomes a little too predictable. This genre needs to have a story that makes your head spin and there are plenty of games in the past who have mastered this.
You play as a woman named Nicole who receives a call about needing to sell her family’s hotel, The Timberline, in Montana. You arrive in the garage and eventually receive instructions on an answering machine from the attorney who is assigned to sell the hotel. You then pick up a satellite phone and your only lifeline is a man named Irving who is from FEMA. Every so often he will chime in and the only characters end up being this voice and Nicole. Over time you grow to either like or hate these two characters and most of the story is unfolded through the phone conversations.
You will receive objectives on your map that tell you basically where to go and what to do. Finding out where to go in the game isn’t that hard and there are no puzzles here. It’s all story and atmosphere. The hotel is rather large with multiple floors and you will eventually explore every nook and cranny and find its secrets. The game does get scary with moments where you wander in the dark, hear strange noises, and even investigate possible ghost sightings. While it’s not a strict horror game there are elements at play here. You are alone, trapped in a winter storm, and can’t get out of this hotel.
You get three items throughout the game which are a Polaroid camera, a dynamo flashlight, and a microphone. These items are sadly useless outside of the scene they are needed in. I don’t know why all the effort went into making these items if you can’t really use them or anything. Outside of these three items, you find stuff that is related to that day. The game is broken up into nine days and each one will end after a specific scene plays out. I personally found the story was paced really well, but there were scenes that lasted quite a long time with me just standing there staring at the wall listening to the dialog. There really isn’t any gameplay here outside of wandering around the hotel.
The story eventually picks up towards the last two days and starts heading toward a climax. The ending wound up being a little predictable and nothing heavy was dropped to give you that memorable “oh shit!” moment like the entire story was leading up to. It’s not a bad ending, just not a particularly memorable one. The visuals are fantastic though with amazing lighting effects, great textures, and lots of details to make you feel like this hotel is from the ’80s and ’90s. You can pick up and examine some objects, but in the end, this is completely useless as there’s no reason to do so and it doesn’t give any insight to the story.
Overall, Rachel Foster is a great adventure game and murder mystery albeit with a slightly disappointing ending. I loved the journey, and the game has tons of atmosphere that make it worth playing as the game is less than 4 hours long. If you don’t like walking simulators than this won’t change your mind at all, but there are also better ones out there.
I love artsy games. Some times it’s nice just to sit back and play a casual game that is a visual treat. Gris is one of these games. Like many other games before it, it offers tight gameplay, but short and sweet experience. There’s really no story here, and you have to make what you can of the story based on context only. You play as a woman who loses her voice to a dark force that seems to swallow up all the color in the world. It’s your job to get that color back and your voice. That’s the only thing I got out of this entire game story-wise. I wanted something more, there are games that have told breathtaking stories on just context alone such as Journey, but what’s here is fine.
The game is broken up into three levels based on colors. In the color Red, you gain the ability to weigh things down. You jump around platforms and have to figure out various platforming puzzles. Using your abilities you must navigate the area to acquire stars to unlock the next section and finish the level. These are rather clever and I never got stuck, but I was challenged. I had to think and it quickly clicked after a few tries throughout the game on most puzzles. The controls are great and not floaty or slippery. The girl has a nice momentum with the ability to glide, double jump, and swim which is all acquired throughout the game.
The second level, Green, is probably the easiest and most laid back level. There aren’t many platforming puzzles, but there are challenges instead that require good timing. You find a woodland creature companion part way through and you use him for a few challenges, but this level was not difficult. I acquired the double jump ability here and this opened up more challenges.
The final level, Blue, is a mixed underwater and upside down platforming and the levels are labyrinthine and challenging. I didn’t get too lost in this level, but I did wander around a little more than I wanted to. You have to use everything you learned to beat this level and that includes platforming challenges that combine all of your abilities and precise timing. This game isn’t quite a breeze as it did work my brain a bit which is nice. Throughout the game, there are a couple of scripted chase scenes with the dark void that took your voice which changes the pace up a bit, but overall it’s very nicely paced and I was able to play all 3 hours in one sitting and was sucked in.
While the game lacks in story it makes up for in gameplay with challenging platforming, some puzzles, and a gorgeous watercolor art style that is just a joy to look at every second you are in the game. This is Gris‘ main draw is the eye-catching art style. I wanted to know more about this mysterious girl, but we just got platforming instead. Oh well, as it stands it’s a must-play for fans of games like Journey or The Unfinished Swan. I had a blast, and while the game itself wasn’t memorable, the art style is striking enough to remember.
The Longest Journey is actually one of my favorite games of all time. It was one of the first PC games I played as well and what pushed me to get into PC gaming. Adventure games were something that console players couldn’t really get. The rich stories, great voice acting, and detailed characters were something only a PC could really do. The Longest Journey impressed me with all of this and I remember it to this day. It was followed up by Dreamfall that pushed the game into a new generation with 3D models and backgrounds and brought the game to consoles for the first time as well and it was also just as memorable. We now get the final chapters of this story and I have to say I walked away quite satisfied.
You play once again as Zoe Castillo. A woman who is a Dreamer and able to go between the dream world Arcadia and the real world, Stark. You also play as Kian who is in Arcadia. The ex-leader of a racist and fascist human country trying to exterminate all magical creatures. Both characters are strong, likable, and I really got attached to them through their journey. The many characters throughout Dreamfall are great actually and it was a joy to listen to their great voice acting and find out more about them. However, the game does have some pacing issues and I’ll get into that later. There is a lot of politics in the game that reflects real-world issues (more so now more than ever) and the subjects get a bit touchy and might rub some people the wrong way, but I’m glad a game story is actually challenging these issues.
The biggest draw to Dreamfall is the choices you make during key events in each book. These will pause time and you get a limited amount of time to choose a path. The consequences will occur usually later on somewhere and these events are shown with a logo in the top right corner of the screen. This symbol means that current action or event is from a choice you made earlier, but it’s never clear what choices lead to which events, and this is where I will state the choice system is flawed. Later on in the game, the choices kind of a blur and become unclear and seem less impactful. The first two books do a great job of making sure your choices are felt but later on I couldn’t tell anymore.
When it comes to actually playing the game, well, there isn’t much of one. You run around various areas finding objects to use on other objects and talking to people. That’s literally it with very few puzzles. The puzzles are stupidly easy or frustratingly obtuse. My biggest complaint about the entire game would be the areas you explore are static and lifeless. Sure, they seem like they’re full of life the first couple of time you walk through them, but I spent so much time looking at maps to find the next area to go to just wandering by the same group of people, the same icon that lets you hear the character’s inner thoughts about that item and nothing ever changes. I spent the first two books inside the same hub areas for each character it became a drag just to get to the next scene. I would have liked to see more organic changes, more things to looks at and more inner dialog written as you spend a third of the game in these hub areas.
Most of the game is talking and cut scenes, however, and that’s what adventure games are all about. The voice acting is superb, the characters are fun to listen to and learn about, and I felt sucked into this magical world, especially being a fan of the series. However, that’s what this game is made for: fans of the series. If you haven’t played previous games you will most likely be lost and the story won’t mean as much to you. There are constant references to characters meeting in previous games and previous events and they are never explained. The backstory from the main menu is pretty much pointless as well. The world just feels magical and wonderful and it was a good time while I was in it.
The visuals are also pretty good of an adventure game, clearly last-gen, but this did come out in 2014. The facial animations are stiff, but overall it looks nice with great lighting effects and lots of detail everywhere. The game doesn’t seem well optimized though as certain lights will tank the FPS even on high-end hardware, so the engine needs a lot of work. The ending was also not as expected. It was good as in it made sense, but there was no crazy plot twist or anything like that. It came to a slow stop instead of full-speed and making your head spin as a good ending would. But, overall, Dreamfall Chapters is satisfying enough and completes a long-beloved series that will probably never get another game again.