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Jotun: Quick Look

Jotun is an isometric hand animated adventurer. The game features great art and animation, and impressive boss fights. Though it may look like a brawler on first impression, it's not at all.

In Jotun, you play as Thora, who has to go through multiple levels of Valhalla to prove her worth to the gods. She can accomplish this by choosing which level to tackle, in which each will feature 2 stages, then a boss fight. The stages usually play out like a maze or a puzzle, where you'll be finding your path to the end while tackling environmental obstacles. There are some light combat scenarios sprinkled in between, but are often optional, or are set up more as a set piece to break up the stage, than an event to challenge the player's abilities. Once 2 stages are completed on a given level, the entrance to the boss is unlocked and from there, you're greeted with an impressive god like being, much larger than you in scale, and often has a challenge or "gimmick" that echoes the level that proceeded it.

The art is absolutely fantastic, and that should go with out saying. It's advertised as a hand animated adventurer, and the game certainly does a damn fine job at fulfilling that description. The animation quality is on par with classic animated movies of the past, while it's art design reminds me a little of old school Disney. It's beautiful visuals are complimented with an equally impressive sound design. The voice acting in the viking tongue is a nice touch to push the theme of the game further, while the music and sound effects are both appropriate and of a high quality. I love the OST of Jotun.

My favorite part of the game is easily the boss fights. They are impressive in design as well as in scale, often towering the player. Think Shadow of the Colossus kind of scaling, but in 2D hand animated form. The bosses also draw elements from the stages that you've completed in order to reach it. The ones I've defeated were very satisfying to fight.

Though there is much I liked about Jotun, there was one thing that really frustrated me. It's inconsistent level design. This is not to say all the levels and stages were unenjoyable, some were actually very smartly designed in it's puzzles. However, the ones that I didn't enjoy frustrated the ever living hell out of me. Back tracking, confusion, paths that lead back to the beginning, and the feeling that it's there simply to pad out the content before reaching the real treat of the game, the boss fights, these were all issues I drew from the game.

Though I feel like some of the levels I've played over stayed it's welcome, my overall experience with Jotun was definitely positive. It's eye catching art and animation, it's impressive sound design and boss fights were definitely highlights.

- Great art and animation
- Impressive boss fights

- Inconsistent, sometimes frustrating level design

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Jotun hours played at recording: 4

Completion Status on Jotun: incomplete

This copy of Jotun was given by the developers for review

The Beginner's Guide: Impressions First 10 min pure,

The Beginner's Guide is a surreal and immersive narrative about Davey Wreden's (Stanley Parable) developer friend, and why he retired. The way the game takes full advantage of what a medium like video games have to present is interesting, and smart.

So let me get this out of the way first and for most "Hold W to game". That's it. It's even less "gamey" than the Stanley Parable. I want people to understand this before even considering the Beginner's Guide. There's no mechanics, there's no real choice, it's very much a linear hour and a half trip being lead by Davey Wreden as the narrator. With that said, The Beginner's Guide really can't be told in any other form than through a video game.

The Beginner's Guide: Impressions + First 10 min pure, (gameplay, and review) Relevant information and links below The Beginner's Guide is the follow up to Davey Wreden's Stanley Parable.

Since the story is about Davey's developer friend, it takes you on an interactive tour through his friend's past games and levels. The game's aesthetics and concepts progressively get better and complex over time. The game is also very forth wall breaking, immersing the player into the narrative as a character in this story itself. Davey will often make reference to you, as you play through the game. It's a surreal experience, and it certainly breaks all sorts of video game norms.

If you're looking for a unique experience or just like really well told stories, The Beginner's Guide is an easy recommendation. However, if you're looking for a game, even for an off beat game, The Beginner's Guide might disappoint. As mentioned above, there's really no mechanics to speak of, other than hold W to game. In Gone Home you have to look for keys and can interact with objects all around. In The Stanley Parable you have a pseudo fail state and an Easter egg hunt for all the endings. Even in most other "Walking Simulators" you have some kind of puzzle, or obstacle along the way. Not in The Beginner's Guide. There's only 1 puzzle in the game, and that's solely there as a story element. There are dialogue choices to be made, but they have no significant (or any) effect on your game. It's very much a guided tour through an interactive narrative. It's also relatively short at an hour and a half (I finished it at exactly 91 minutes). But if you're able to focus on the quality of the experience the game tries to deliver, and willing to let go your previous conceptions of what to expect from a video game, The Beginner's Guide is top shelf material.

Overall The Beginner's Guide is a story that could only be told through a video game, yet ironically is one of the least "gamiest" game I've ever played. The story is surreal, immersive, and certainly something to be experienced for fans of great narratives, but the title of "video game" will be controversial to some on this one.

- Amazing Story
- Good use of the medium
- Surreal and immersive

- Hold "W" to Game
- Less incentive to replay than The Stanley Parable

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The Beginner's Guide hours played: 1.5

Completion Status on The Beginner's Guide: Complete

This copy of The Beginner's Guide was purchased on Steam

A Fistful of Gun: Impressions

Fistful of Gun is a top down arcade shooter that's best enjoyed with friends online or off, though it does support single player as well. It features quick round gameplay, a varied skill ceiling and some eye catching pixel art.

The premise is pretty simple. Pick from a large variety of characters, who all play very different from one another go out and shoot a bunch of stuff and dudes as the title would suggest. There are 2 main modes with a single and multiplayer variant to them. Arcade mode has you going round to round clearing the screen and at the end of the round you get to pick from an assortment of randomly generated upgrades. In story mode you can play either as a hero, or a bandit. As a hero you'll avoid innocent NPCs while shooting out the baddies. You'll get upgrades if you can find a store keep, or if you're lucky from barrels and crates. While if you play a bandit, you'll be doing similar except you'll be shooting every one, innocents be damned, and collect all the bounty from from your massacres. The balance to playing the bandit is, every one will shoot you on sight, and store keeps are rarer, as they tend to fear and run from you. 

The game's flow is pretty fast paced, some rounds only taking seconds to complete, though there will be a variety different events that may take more time. The game also runs on a limited continue system, and it's very possible to get a game over in your first few runs. It plays a lot more like an arcade classic than a modern game. Permanent gameovers, no quick save or loads, and a limited life counter are rarities in this age of gaming. Because of this, the game does benefit from faster paced style of gameplay, but that also means the game is short, can be potentially repetitive to some. 

The game is a lot of fun, but there are some issues I take with it. Though the character selection is fantastic, and I love how each character are so drastically different from one another the game can feel a bit samey after an hour or two. Even with the character variety you will be shooting and dodging over and over again, with only a handful of random events that help mix things up. To be fair, the game does help alleviate some of the monotony not just with character selection, but also with game mode variety as well. The game's controls can also be an issue at times. Some characters just play better on the keyboard and mouse, while some better on the gamepad, this is mostly due to the huge degree of divergence in the characters' play style. Though this is certainly something to be admired about the game, it also does require the player to have an encumbrance of hardware ready at hand to fully enjoy the game to it's max potential. Also be aware, during our time with the game, we also ran into some bugs as well, some gamebreaking, but since the writing of this review, I have noticed dozens upon dozens of updates. It's very possible they're patched out.

Overall A fist full of Gun is a really interesting top down arcade shooter. It's not perfect, and can be repetitive for some, but it does have a lot of potential, especially if the continue to support the game with more maps, and events, as that's what I think is lacking the most.

- Great Pixel Art
- Excellent variety in character selection
- Variable skill ceiling
- Very fun with friends online and off

- Lacks variety in events
- Requires both keyboard and gamepad to be enjoyed appropriately
- Some re balancing required

Albino Lullaby: Impressions

Albino Lullaby is an interesting title. It's a first person horror game adventure, that promises no jump scares! That's great for people like me, who enjoy horror games, but not the jump scares.

Mechanically Albino Lullaby is a pretty simple game. Walk around taking in the sights, collecting notes, and try not to get creeped out too much. Later on the game will introduce some minor stealth and combat mechanics as well. The game is really a lot more about the experience of it's atmosphere and story much more than it's mechanics.

The game's visuals is probably one the high points for Albino Lullaby. The textures have this pencil sketch look to it, the environments and characters are both beautiful and creepy at the same time. The game utilizes Unreal 4's engine for some pretty impressive lighting and rendering. The visuals are complimented by it's audio, with creepy background noises, subtle musical cues, and impressive voice acting. The game's presentation is spot on with what it's trying to achieve.

Though I certainly enjoyed the game greatly, it's not with out it's faults. My number one compliant has to be it's performance. Though the beginning half of the game runs relatively well with above 60FPS consistently, the second half is mired with tons of frame drops. The end part of episode 1 is so bad, that my frames dipped below 10FPS and I couldn't finish it because it was just torturous to put myself through it. The game also suffers a bit from poor difficulty scaling. The first half was mostly a "walking simulator" but the game all of a sudden injects such a challenge level, that I went from a relaxing (albeit creepy) walk in the park, to having to restart a section a half dozen or more times, then it teeters off back to easy mode. These are my biggest complaints about the game. The difficulty scaling didn't mire my experience too much, but the performance issues prevented me from completing the first episode. It should go with out saying, it definitely impacted my experience negatively. Luckily for us, performance issues can be patched out, and hopefully it will be in the near future.

Overall Albino Lullaby is an episodic game that seem to have a ton of potential. It's gorgeous in it's visuals, creepy in it's atmosphere, and features some damn good voice acting and dialog. It's really too bad about the performance issues, but at the time of this impression, it is a major negative factor. Luckily, I still found a lot of enjoyment out of Albino Lullaby. Here's hoping for some optimization patches soon.

- Amazing art design
- Great dialog and voice acting
- Atmospheric

- Terrible optimization on the 2nd half of episode 1
- Awkward difficulty scaling

Cross of the Dutchman

Cross of the Dutchman is an isometric adventurer that features a story based off of the real life figure of Pier Gerlofs Donia, a Dutch historical hero. The game is played in an isometric view where you'll be running around completing tasks as you explore the world and help save the people who you love.

Cross of the Dutchman is a pretty simple game mechanically. Combat only has 2 buttons. A basic swing, and a special attack that takes stamina to use. Upgrading is just as simple, with only health or stamina to increase, and you'll also be given the opportunity to purchase new special attacks as well. The basic swing is faster but weaker, but the special attack not only is stronger, but can send multiple enemies around you flying into the air, which is pretty satisfying. Out side of combat the game is pretty linear in it's structure. Though the world may look expansive on first impressions, many areas are gated off until the game want you to reach said area. There are also stealth segments sprinkled in between to add some variety.

YouTube™ Video: Cross of the Dutchman: Impressions (Isometric adventurer, gameplay, and review)
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Cross of the Dutchman: Impressions (Isometric adventurer, gameplay, and review) Relevant information and links below Cross of the Dutchman is an isometric action adventurer that's based of of thew...

Cross of the Dutchman is a game that looks promising judging from trailers and screenshots, but after finishing the game in about three hours, the game shows a lot of flaws. As mentioned above the combat is very simple. This would be fine, except for the fact that it also feels sluggish, and it's the main activity besides running around. Since that's the case, it needed to be polished, it needed depth, but has none of the two. At no time did I ever switch to another special attack, or switch from sword to fist. Once I attained the sword and a special attack I liked it was all I used for the entire game. The adventuring in Cross of the Dutchman is also lacking. It being linear isn't an issue to me, but it demanding that I retread the same grounds three, four, or even five times over is ridiculous. There is a lot of running around in this game, A LOT of it. The game tries to break the monotony of either fighting or running with some stealth segments, but unfortunately the stealth is probably the poorest aspect of the game. It makes no sense why I can take on tens of soldiers at once one minute, then the next, I'm sneaking around just a couple of soldiers armed with lanterns! It makes no sense in the context of the mechanics, or the story, and is an obvious attempt at breaking up the flow in the game (which admittedly, does desperately need).

The game's also short, clocking in at three hours on my first play through, with a story that disappointed me. It's not that the story or characters are necessarily bad, it just wasn't memorable for me. Maybe because I'm Canadian and not Dutch, so I don't feel that historical connection, but there were no part of the game where I felt any emotions, or care for the characters.... except at the end. With out spoilers, the ending of the game was abrupt and felt cut off. The game's narrative finally reaches a point where something interesting happens. Where emotions and character development finally start to take place, then ROLL THE CREDITS! WUT?! Again, I don't want to spoil anything, but the game's ending feels more like the story only just started.

So I've mentioned a ton of things I took issues with, is there anything redeeming about Cross of the Dutchman? Though I've mentioned that I didn't like the combat much, the sense of impact when you hit an enemy, or especially when you use a special attack is really satisfying. Seeing a half dozen men go flying in the air, with some pretty good rag dolling and physics attached is actually pretty fun to see. The game also features some pretty good visual and audio design as well. The cut scenes are done in a still illustration format, but the illustrations are quite nice with a digital comic book look to them. The in game graphics, though low-poly, is quite charming, with colorful environments and characters, some nice particle and lighting effects, complimented with some pretty decent music. The game was also stable and optimized well for me. It never crashed nor did I encounter any major bugs, with it running at over 60 FPS the entire time.

Overall Cross of the Dutchman was a disappointment to me, as I am a fan of Triangle Studio's other game "It came from space, and ate our brains". From the screenshots, trailers, and based off of their previous work, I had high hopes for this game. Ultimately it lacks variety, depth, and it's further mired by an abrupt ending to it's story.

- Visual and audio are charming
- Great sense of visual and audio impact as you hit enemies

- Only 3 hours long with no replay value
- Basic and sluggish combat
- Poor stealth mechanics
- Too much running
- Abrupt ending to the story

Party Hard: Impressions (Stealth Murder Sim)

Party Hard has an interesting premise where you play the role of a psycho who simply does not like loud parties. His solution? Kill every one at the party of course! If I was to try an nail Party Hard to a single genre, I would say it's a tactical stealth game, though murder-sim also comes to mind.

The idea of putting the stealth genre into a crowded, open room, as Party Hard has done, is a pretty unique experience. In most other stealth games, the area is sparsely populated with tons of corners and objects to hide around, but in Party Hard you're in a large open room, where every one can see every one else. It makes stealth tactics much more interesting as the player will have to be creative on how he or she approach any given situation., with witnesses littered every where.

YouTube™ Video: Party Hard: Impressions (Tactical Stealth indie game, gameplay, and review)
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Party Hard: Impressions (Tactical Stealth indie game, gameplay, and review) Relevant information and links below Party Hard is an indie tactical stealth game where you play the role of a psycho who...

In Party Hard, the most basic way of accomplishing your goal of murder is simply to stab someone. It's also recommended that you dump the body somewhere unseen as they'll alert other party goers. The key here is not to get caught, even if someone alert the cops, as long as you don't get pined with the crime, you're still good to go. The game also gives you an assortment of randomly generated environmental traps and dangers, with each stage featuring it's own unique RNG generation. You can activate any of these traps at any given moment in order to help you murder the party. The game also encourages creative play, as each scenario plays out more like a sandbox. For example, there is a stage with a swimming pool. I got creative, and experimented with carrying passed out partiers into the pool to see if they'd drown. Indeed they did, and this is just one example of how you can get creative with the many "kill tactics" available to you. The overall premise of this idea, with how sandboxy the stages are designed, coupled with the random event generation that comes with every play though, the game does a good job at encouraging replay, while keeping things interesting and surprising.

Though the core of Party Hard is pretty enjoyable, and if nothing else, unique and interesting, it's not without it's faults. Your character's movement speed is at a snail's pace, with only a short, and slow regenerating stamina bar to help with it. It also encourages a lot of moving back and forth repetitively in order to dump bodies safely. Couple these 2 slow elements with the fact that when you fail a stage, you have to start at the beginning. Considering that some of the stages can take upwards to, if not over, 20 minutes to complete, the game can feel tedious at times.

Party Hard's overall creative stealth play, with it's interesting random event generation, I found it more enjoyable than tedious. It's overall a very unique and enjoyable experience, though some of the tedium will turn some players off.

- Unique stealth gameplay design
- Good visuals and audio
- Lots of dark comedy
- Random event generation keeps the game fresh

- Punishing fail state that waste time rather than teach a lesson
- Slow movement pace
- Can be repetitive

Hardland: Early Impressions

Hardland is a gorgeous looking ARPG in early access. The first thing that'll grab a lot of people's attention would probably be it's aesthetics. It's design being inspired by claymation the world and it's characters does have a pretty cartoony "doughiness" to it. At times the game feels almost like playing an interactive Pixar Movie.

Hardland as an ARPG is pretty simple overall. Go around a vast world, where the town areas are hand designed while the dungeons and wilderness are randomly generated. Kill some mobs, level up, find loot, explore, and maybe pick up a side quest or 2 along the way. There's no main quest that I've found so the game is very open to however the player decides to play it.

Hardland does a lot of stuff right. The graphics are impressive, it's well optimized and stable, it features an open sandbox for the player to explore with RNG elements keeping things fresh. These are all enjoyable factors of the game, but Hardland also does a lot of stuff wrong as well. With out a main quest and the side quest being mostly of the fetch variety, the game lacks a sense of direction. At first most players will be wandering around wondering what they're supposed to be doing before realizing, wandering around is what they're supposed to be doing. The game also lacks interest points. It's great that Hardland gives the player a vast and open world to explore, but I haven't found much interesting things to find. Sure there are some chests, and some side quest (again mostly fetch quests) laying around, but nothing that truly grabbed my attention. In such a vast and gorgeous looking world, it's a shame that I have to report on it's at times, empty feeling. The game also features fairly primitive mechanics. The leveling up system is basic, the equipment system is basic, even the combat feels basic. The game also suffers from a few quality of life issues. There is only 1 save slot, and all the items you collect are ordered by alphabetical. There is no equipment tab, food tab, or any sense of organization at all.

So I've mentioned a laundry list of things I took issues with, but I'm still feeling pretty positive about Hardland. I think the game has a ton of potential, and hope to see the game grow and add content as it continues forward. I think if the devs can overhaul the combat, and fill the world with more interesting discoveries, it's open world idea could very well be something special. It already has a gorgeous art design as a strong foundation, it just needs to be built upon at this point.

Overall Hardland is an ARPG that is bursting at the seams with potential. That potential just needs to be realized.

- Impressive visuals
- Vast and gorgeous world to explore
- Open world sandbox approach

- Lacks a sense of direction
- Lacks interest points
- Mechanics are very primitive