SeaBed

titlescreen.jpgSeaBed is a bittersweet lesbian Kinetic Visual Novel game. It was developed by: Paleontology and published by Fruitbat Factory. For those of you unfamiliar with VNs, a Kinetic VNs doesn’t have choices in it; there are no routes to take in it. It’s all pure reading while basking in the game’s auditory environment all while watching cutely characters pop up on the screen. SeaBed focuses on the intertwined stories of 3 women Sachiko, her lover Takako, & their friend Hibiki. Each chapter switches whose eyes you see the game’s world from.

The developers do some things that I don’t usually see in VNs. They toss both flashbacks & whole trips to another time into the story. That is one chapter might be today but the next chapter might be three years ago. Tied with the flashbacks it makes the game a bit discombobulating, which is good because of what the story is talking about. Also I liked that they used flashbacks, in most games & books people might talk about the past instead of actually seeing the past like a proper flashback; it was nice to see a proper one.

In many VNs I’ve played you often get character archetypes which are fine, but I prefer when they’re given more depth & this one starts you off immediately being tossed into the depth of the characters. They give the characters this depth by showing you parts of their lives at different ages so you see them grow and their personalities change to a degree like people do in real life. By doing this the characters feel more real, for a lack of a better word. I love that they made these characters individuals instead of just archetypes; it helped me relate to the characters.

There was one big issue with the game; sometimes the conversations were hard to follow because the VN didn’t have nameplates or different colored text for characters talking. Because of this, if a conversation was long, I lost track of who was saying what. For those who don’t know a nameplate is a box is on the bottom of the screen where conversations go, & it has a spot right above it that has the name for whoever’s talking at the moment. In this VN all the text is white & there’s no nameplate. Thankfully most of the conversations are short so it’s not hard to keep track of all of them but any long one is a pain.

The game might have that issue with conversations but lots of the game deals more with descriptive text & thoughts more than talking. So even though the conversation is hard to follow sometimes, the rest of the text is easy to understand. It often talks about very detailed environments, & well thought out ideas characters are having. The environmental text sets a beautiful scene however that kind of writing is dry so it might bore some people. I’ll admit I’m usually one of those types, but the way this game uses it is great. The detail helps set up the scene & talks about how the characters feel about it, which in turn makes the character feel more real, so I found I really enjoyed it.

NarasakiHibiki.jpgThe game deals with love & mental illness by showing it in a straightforward way, not as something fantastical like you see in games such as Hellblade. Sachiko is having hallucinations & doesn’t know why. We see the way she reacts to them and how they affect her private life, all while Hibiki, a psychologist, tries to help her. Just like in real life, the Hallucinations come & go without warning. This leaves the reader having some trouble telling what’s supposed to be real & what’s fake because of how fluidly the hallucinations fit with the Sachiko’s waking world & even more so with how well they mix in with flashbacks. But dealing with illness isn’t just from Sachiko; Takako has some sort of memory issues & is working on trying to fix them with a different psychologist in another area.

Sachiko&Takako.jpgAs you get further into the game, it throws you through some serious loops as reality, flashbacks, & delusion becomes hard to separate. Some parts of chapters spend a good chunk of their time switching between various views with nothing seemingly being real, but unknown as whether it’s just fragments of dreams, flashbacks, or the ravings of someone who’s completely lost their shit. These chapters become confusing and disorientating for the reader. This is done on purpose, after all the best way of seeing someone’s delusions and memories mix together and seeing how hard it is to tell what’s real, is by doing exactly that; put it all together in a big mess. There are tiny tidbits here and there about completely unrelated days, conversations, & times. This happens some in the start but happens more & more as you continue the game.

There game will also punch you right in the feels. You’ll laugh & smile a lot while playing it as there’s a lot of mild comedy and just cuteness galore, but there’s also a few parts that will likely make you sniffle or outright bawl. As stated the game is bittersweet, the entire story is great and is so amazing even right up to the very end. It makes you sad when it’s done and over.

There is a chunk of the game that’s called Tips as well; you unlock parts in it as you play the main game. When these parts are unlocked you want to save as soon as you can & quit out of the main game then go play them, they give extra small bits to the story, these are usually 5-10 minute long parts. They are based around the time they’re unlocked, and they don’t make a lot of sense until later in the game where everything starts to fall into place. However if you wait to the end to read them they’re ruined.

Some people think these kinds of games are all about sex, there’s no sex in this in case that worried you. It does however allude to the character’s having sex once or twice but nothing more. Most of the story is about emotions from being in a relationship, the complexities of thoughts and feelings people have for each other and life in general. It’s not for kids because it deals with things far beyond what a child would readily understand, but teens & adults understand the emotional ties the game deals with.

Overall, I totally suggest the game, it’s $20, & took me just shy of 30 hours to play through it. It was a great story that had twists & turns in it many of which blindsided me. It also brought up lots of emotions in me. Those two items made me think it was rather grand adventure myself. I can also admit I cried like a baby while playing this a few times. It’s only drawback, once again, is that it does a lot of environment building which has a tendency to bore people.

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SeaBed was developed by: Paleontology

Point of Sale: Steam

$20.00: It shows you just how crazy love can make you.

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A review copy was provided by the publisher.

darkmikasonfire has awarded SeaBed The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval

 

 

 

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The Red Strings Club

Over three years ago, Gods Will Be Watching made a release and even now I’m still not entirely confident what it was about. You were mercenaries trapped in six moral-riddled scenarios that could see your crew being splattered, and yet somehow come back in the following one like a children’s cartoon. Yet this was then explained away in an ending that… Uh… Things happened in? I could just have air between my ears though. It looks like the same developers are back with a game that while I understand and dig, feels less open to your own choices.

The Red Strings Club is a point-n-click adventure by Deconstructeam, whose only prior game (in case you skipped the fluff above) is Gods Will Be Watching. You play as an information broker bartender for most of the scenes and a hacker for most of the rest, as a robot reveals a corporate conspiracy that seeks to bring a new bleak age to society.

So, what does it mean to be an information broker bartender? It means pouring drinks and having a quick chat. Each drink you serve offers a different emotion. Which by that I mean you pour different alcohols to make a gauge go up, down, left and right, to connect to an icon specific to who you’re talking to. You then can ask them as many pre-determined questions in that mood as you’d like, with the mood influencing if you may get an extra nugget of information. For example, if you question about someone’s disappearance, you may have better luck if your customer is remorseful rather than sky high ecstatic.

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This side of the game feels tactical, yet suave. There is a definite atmosphere of being a face, manipulating people to spill the beans on what you need to know, without the drab “pick the right text option” style most games roll with. In addition, any information you reap can be used later.

All except one of the remaining scenes delve into your hacking companion, as they pick up the pieces of a dead ally and then infiltrate a place with the information your bartender buddy has picked up. Without spoiling much, while I found the rest of his scenes a bit drab gameplay wise, it was the infiltration that felt gripping in an unusual unique manner. It still will feel simple for fans of titles like Hacknet, but simple works for rather than against The Red String Club as it stops people from being locked out for lacking skills the game never prepared for.

There is also a single “pottery” scene at the start staring a robot. While the UI is a bother at times, especially switching what tool to use, and it felt narrow how to solve the problem ahead (yes, this is me ducking and diving around spoiling like a low budget John Woo film), it was unique enough to still engage.

Red Strings Club pic 1

What I am driving at is there is a rather diverse amount of mini-games, but The Red Strings Club is heavily dominated by bartending. While not a bad thing (and I still high five VA-11 Hall-A every chance I get), it does feel more limited and less varied next to Gods Will Be Watching and with less repercussions and choice for your actions. There is still some sway, but there isn’t a failure state as far as I can tell. This lack of a failure state isn’t a complaint necessarily, especially next to how harsh Gods Will Be Watching was at times, but something to consider if you’re looking for a challenge.

Similarly, those looking for a long game will be left thirsting for more as it has a 3 hour play time. There is the option for replayability due to choices, but outside of narrative differences there isn’t much of a variance between one pathway through the game and another.

However, let’s be honest, you’re not raring to jump into this cyberpunk misadventure to challenge your wits, but for the writing within. Well, I’ve got some good news for you: The Red Strings Club is a journey within a colourful setting.

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Part of this colour comes in the form of the characters. You may have heard the controversy around a character being “dead named” (i.e. a trans person’s prior name before transitioning being used). I will say that while it does happen, the context revolves around a jerkish character using obscure information as a password and does act hostile if you ask the character flat out what the trans character’s dead name is.

I bring this up as a source of frustration. No no no, not with The Red Strings Club, but did anyone high-five the development team for having a gay couple as the protagonist? Yep, Donovan the bartender and Brandeis the hacker are dating, and it is actually done really well. I honestly don’t get a chance to experience a good non-straight non-created protagonist enough and I get two well-rounded and developed gay/bi characters at once? Needless to say, it feels like a delightful treat.

It isn’t as though the rest of the cast are bad at all. The other characters are diverse in views, attitudes and roles, and each one adds colour to the setting; especially when you’re trying to wheedle information out of them as the bartender. You have to decide if to appeal to their bold sexuality, their arrogance, their misery or other options to get information, which the mere offerings of moods speaks to who they are at their core.

Then there’s the pondering the game performs on authoritarianism, the nature of brainwashing and perhaps even the ethics of therapy. That said, The Red Strings Club always refuses to take a stance on anything, always asking you to pick your position. You may be criticised for what you say, but never judged, as the game always lets your opinion speak for itself.

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The base-level narrative, the characterisation aside, is probably the weak link in the writing. It functions to string one-interaction-with-another and to carry the philosophising. There is enough unusual things going on to not feel like a 9-to-5 office job in a cyberpunk world, but I never felt captivated or hooked on where the game was going to lead me next. The world only feels effective due to the people who populate it, rather than being intricately thought-provoking. It just leaves an empty dull feeling and I can feel myself forgetting elements of the plot as I write this.

So what does that leave us with? Well, with a game that invokes the feeling of being a sly face and a savvy hacker in a cyberpunk world, each customer and ally offering colour to a drab landscape. It has gameplay mechanics that never challenge but lend enough of a ludonarrative interest to still hook you along. While it has a dead name controversy, it also has a gay couple who are faithfully and expertly written (and aren’t just walking stereotypes or just incidentally gay). It is short, but does offer a little replayability via the choices, although the choices in the end wouldn’t amount to much beyond some narrative differences. So I recommend The Red Strings Club with heavy caution.

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The Red Strings Club was developed by Deconstructeam.

Can be bought on Steam, Good Old Games and Humble Bundle for $14.99.

It is significantly more narrative focused than gameplay focused, but the narrative inside holds a rich and distinct cast and some relevant philosophy in an age where we are increasingly locking our doors to immigrants, criminals and anyone who looks at us funny.

This game was paid by myself.

The Seal

Kailan “Riobux” May has given The Red Strings Club the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

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Jettomero: Hero of the Universe

Jettomero: Hero of the Universe is the absolute worse kind of game to write a review for. It isn’t bad, but it does nothing interesting and doesn’t lend itself to any interesting discussion. Jettomero is the gamification of milquetoast radio-rock: not good enough to make you want to sing it’s praises nor bad enough to make fun of how bad the lyrics are. It’s simply there until it isn’t anymore, and by the time you realize you’re playing or listening to something different you have to ask yourself “wasn’t there something else on just a minute ago?” I know that sounds harsh and I really don’t mean it to be, but there’s no way to talk about the game without sounding like I’m just spewing vitriol all over it.

This should be SO MUCH easier than i found it to be. Damn my need to look where i’m typing!

The game starts out charming enough. You play as a clumsy giant robot that wants nothing more than to be a hero to the human race. It’s a cute concept made even cuter with the endearing comic book style visuals, and I am a sucker for cute so this seemed right up my alley. The games story even manages to nudge it’s way into some really interesting territory. The only problem is that by that point I was already burnt out on the incredibly dull game play loop.

You rocket from one planet to the next, looking for body parts and energy until you find a boss. Once you beat the boss you rocket into a wormhole to another set of similar planets and repeat the process. This loop is boring. Not helping matters is the fact that the climax of the games interactions, the boss fights, should have been much easier than they were for me. They’re basically just QTE’s, which I normally don’t have an issue with. Unfortunately though, i’m playing on a PC and don’t exactly type well. I graduated summa cum laude from the School of Hunt and Peck. So I can find the right key but I do have to look for it. This made hard for me to get through the list of commands in the time given. I’ll admit this was a personal issue that I most likely wouldn’t have had if I was using a controller, but it really killed the experience for me.

Like a puppy pissing on the carpet, i can’t say i’m happy with the results, but it is still adorable so i can’t get too mad.

Again, I’m really not trying to come off too negative. Jettomero isn’t uninspired nor is it broken. It’s just kind of…there. I’m sure someone somewhere will be into it, but I found myself completely apathetic throughout my time with the game. If the issues I had don’t sound too tedious or the trailer looks interesting I say go for it. But if you like your games to be….you know, at least a little entertaining, then maybe give Jettomero a pass.

Jettomero: Hero of the Universe was Developed by  Ghost Time Games

Point of sale: Steam, Xbox One

$12.99: if you can’t remember where that last $13 went, check your steam library. You might have have bought Jettomero and forgot about it.

A review code for Jettomero: Hero of the Universe was provided

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Bear With Me Episode Three

The problem with reviewing episodic games is the fact that by the time the last episode comes out everything of interest has already been said. That’s the case here. If you’ve kept up with my reviews you already know everything I have to say about Bear With Me: the writing and voice acting are top notch, movement speed is a little too slow, puzzles make up for the lack of classic point and click “moon logic” by making key items needlessly hard to find through environmental obstruction. All of that is as true here as it was back in episode one, so what is there to talk about?

For those who haven’t kept up with everything I’ve written…the fuck bro? I work hard on this shit (You can Find those reviews HERE and HERE, by the way). Okay, okay, once more for the people in the back: the story centers on a young girl named Amber Ashworth and her hard-drinking, privet detective teddy bear, ted. The two of them are investigating a series of arson’s in Paper City, a sprawling metropolis of paper and cardboard located in Amber’s attic. The only thing the two know for sure is that The Red Man, the person responsible for the fires, has a vendetta against Ms Ashworth.

The ultamate review of who exactly the Red Man is and What He wants with Amber is incredibly saddening.

As this is the conclusion it’s hard to say anything more about the story in fear of spoilers. What I can say is this: while the ultimate reveal lands pretty firmly in predictable territory, the presentation makes that a non-issue. Voice actors Mia Sable and Miles Rand sell the hell out of their roles, so even when you know exactly what’s coming there’s still a punch and weight to the games heavier moments.

The only thing unique to talk about for this last episode is the fact that it has one of the worst puzzles I’ve ever had to sit through. Again, I do love the hell out of this game, but I have no idea what the devs were thinking here. Near the end you have to make your way through a maze using a poem of sorts, but none of it makes any since. Nothing said in the poem helped make a decision on where I was supposed to go, nor did the quips Amber said when investigating things mentioned in it. The opening line talks about letting “butterfly’s, mushrooms and firefly’s guide you”, but then when those things are present they are literally by every path you can take. Every other puzzle in the game I figured out with a little bit of work, but here I had to resort to going down random paths and using the process of elimination to figure out where to go. For comparison sake, look at the piano puzzle from Silent Hill. Yeah it might have taken some brain power to figure it out, but everything you need to know is right there. I’m seriously hoping someone from the dev team sees this review and explains to me what the fuck was going on here. But then again, with my luck once someone does explain it it’ll be super obvious in hindsight and I’ll feel like a complete idiot.

I know I’ve said this before, but scenes like this make it hard to know who the game is for. Sure, this doesn’t look too bad,but this is the after math of a shootout between cops and gangsters. So is this an edgy game for kids, or a cute game for adults? I honestly can’t say for sure. Either way though, i loved almost every second.

Now I really do want to stress this: that level pissed me off greatly and is definitely a low point for the series, but I still loved my time with Bear With Me. Now that it’s possible to play the game in its entirety I can recommend it just as strongly as I did on day one. The minor issues I had never got cleaned up, and that’s a bummer, but they never raised above being minor issues. If you don’t like point-and-click games, I doubt this will change your mind. But if you can just…bear with it….i think there is a lot to like in Bear With Me.

Bear With Me was developed by Exordium Games

Point of Sale: Steam


$14.97 for the complete series; a totally bear-able price

A Review Code for Bear With me Episode Two was provided by Exordium

William Shelton has awarded Bear With Me Episode Two the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

 

 

 

 

 

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