Review: A Normal Lost Phone

What would you do if you found a phone? Would you erase the contents and use it as your own? Would you try to find its owner? But what if doing so meant getting to know them, to discover their stories? How far would you go? This is the question A Normal Lost Phone asks.
Continue reading Review: A Normal Lost Phone

Review: Sara is Missing

What would you do if you found a phone and the last image of its owner showed they were in danger. Would you drop the phone or would you jump down the rabbit hole in pursuit? That is the question posed by Sara is Missing.

Genre(s): Adventure | Horror

Developer: Monsoon Lab

Publisher: Monsoon Lab

Release Date: Nov 2016

Played: Full game, 1 ending (so far).

Platforms: Mobile

Purchase At: Google Play, Apple App Store

Source: Got it from the App Store

Good:

  • Creepy as hell.

  • Great concept.

Bad:

  • Finding clues can be frustrating.

Review

Last year I had the pleasure of playing the unique adventure game Her Story, in which you search through a Police database for interviews about a missing person investigation. It’s a phenomenal and innovative game, one where you must pay attention every word spoken as it may have a crucial clue in the investigation, which in turn leads you to another interview and closer to the truth…or to confusion.

It’s not a typical adventure by any means and I thought it would be the only game of its style that I would play in a long time. So, imagine my surprise when I find Sara is Missing, a game where you find a missing person’s mobile phone and must piece together what happened to the titular Sara, the phone’s owner.

Sara is Missing - Iris
I wish I could give it to her!

But you’re not on your own. You have the game’s version of Siri, Iris, an AI advanced enough to want to find its owner, and with the ability to restore corrupt parts of the phone’s memory and operating system.

As you read through Sara’s private messages, emails and read her notes, if something catches your eye, you can tap and hold on the screen and tell Iris that you’ve found something potentially interesting. Of course, not every term is relevant and often you’ll just hear a buzz, forcing you to try again, and again, and again. It can sometimes get a bit frustrating.

Sara is Missing
Do not enter the Red Room. Do not share the link…you’re inviting disaster…

It can take a while to get to that next crucial clue, but soon enough you’ll be diving into the real mystery, almost drawn from the creepiest of creepy pasta you can imagine. What you discover, what you see happening and even the phone’s behaviour become freaky and disturbing. The phone will ring, you will receive calls where you just hear groans on the other side and even more strange happenings.

I’ve already cleared it once, with a less than stellar result. I’m now trying my second playthrough, hoping to not only get a different ending but perhaps dig deeper into the mysteries, as I ended with very few answers. There were some crucial answers tied to specific choices that I didn’t make, and in fact, my lack of choice led to the most disturbing and frankly awesome moment.

Have I mentioned one of Sara’s emails has perhaps one of the most awesome analyses of Ghost in the Shell and the implications of cyborg bodies in human development, both on a biological and societal level? It’s riveting stuff.

Conclusion

If you’re into creepy stories and investigative games, you should play Sara is Missing. You can find it on the app store or on the developer’s sites with a price tag of “whatever you want.” Some parts of the game will genuinely screw with your head. It’s on the short side for an adventure, but it’s still impressive.

TMA SCORE:

4/5 – Exceptional!

Review: The Room 3

You thought you got out, you thought you could forget it…but the pull of the Null is too strong and now you’re back where you started, back in The Room. Continue reading Review: The Room 3

Review: Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a puzzle game for iOS & Android, in which you help a princess explore strange monuments left by her people, restoring them to power.

Genre(s): Puzzle

Developer: ustwo

Publisher: ustwo

Release Date: April 2014

Played: Main Story + Expansion

Platforms: iOS & Android

Purchase At: Apple App Store, Google Play

Good:

  • Beautiful visuals.

  • Music part of gameplay.

  • Amazing use of perspective.

Bad:

  • Too short.

Review

I first heard about this game during this year’s BAFTAs, where they nominated it in pretty much every category. It won the Best British Game and Mobile & Handheld awards. Once I finished watching the awards, I decided to buy the game on the Google Play Store and I even got the expansion pack.

As this is a mobile game, you control everything through taps and swipes. You tap on the screen to where you want the princess to move and you swipe to interact with the environment. There are cranks to turn, and segments of the environment with small stubs on them that you can move horizontally, vertically or even rotate the stage, to help the princess move along the monuments. Each level ends when you approach a certain tile and the character places an increasingly intricate geometrical piece on it, the Sacred Geometry, which is central to the plot, which I won’t comment on due to its simplicity. Anything I say will ruin it for you.

Some stages shift around and rotate, showing new rooms and puzzles.
Some stages shift around and rotate, showing new rooms and puzzles.

The mechanics are simple but the stages will take some trial and error as you learn to properly navigate them and make use of the different movable pieces. I’m certain one of the inspirations for this game were the works of M.C. Escher, as you have to take perspective into consideration. For example, something that is far away can be an adjacent platform if you turn the camera in a particular way. Perspective is central to many of the Monuments. There is one in particular where a door takes you to another one, placed in a different perspective so that now you’re walking on what you thought was a vertical wall. At certain times I had to turn my mobile around just to see things from the character’s new point of view. It was these moments, when the game took perception into consideration, where it truly shined for me and left me awed.

The Forgotten Shores expansion adds new levels and different mechanics, such as these twisty corridors.
The Forgotten Shores expansion adds new levels and different mechanics, such as these twisty corridors.

It’s difficult to talk about Monument Valley’s sound as a separate thing to gameplay. There is a soundtrack and the music is beautiful and ranges from subtle soothing melodies to haunting ones and even some upbeat adventure-y tunes, but also every stage is essentially a giant music box and interacting with them generates its own music, from pulling cranks to pressing a button that shifts the entire stage around. It’s almost as if by playing, you’re composing the stage’s music. It didn’t matter what level it was, this always made me smile.

I do wish the stages were longer. This is a game, like many mobile ones, meant for short play bursts and as such, the different monuments take at most ten minutes to complete. The Lost Shore—the 8 level expansion—has longer levels but still not long enough. It doesn’t detract from the marvellous experience, but it did leave me wanting more. Some of the later stages get complicated but as an experienced adventure gamer used to intricate puzzles, I felt as though the game could’ve given me much more than it did.

The visuals are minimalistic but gorgeous. Each monument is a work of art—if I could I would frame and hang them on my wall—that would make M.C. Escher blush, and it’s a joy to watch these music puzzle boxes change and move around to reveal new rooms and alcoves. The developers at ustwo must’ve known this because they added a camera mode for you to turn the world around however you want for screenshots. They even built in some of the more popular Instagram filters.

Conclusion

Monument Valley is a wonderful game, one of the best mobile games I’ve ever played and while I do wish there was much more and a higher difficulty, what is there is breathtaking and you should all play the game right now!

TMA SCORE:

5/5 – Hell Yes!

Tablets – Chosing the right one for you

I am a big fan of Android devices, although for most casual users of mobile devices, I actually recommend an iPad.

This seems oddly strange for someone like me, who’s really into Linux and Android in general. I only recommend the iPad because it is Apples best product by a long way. I am sorry if you disagree with that statement, that is an opinion of mine which I am quite strongly set on.
An iPad

I didn’t want an Apple device though, for my own geeky reasons. I wanted my own Android tablet. I wanted one because I like to do my articles on the go, I like to learn to program and as such, my 45 minute bus-rides to and from work leaves me with a unique opportunity to work on developing my skills, studying and even catching up with e-mails. So naturally you might be assuming that I have something along the lines of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Unfortunately, that’d make you very wrong.

Do your research

Research is the key in choosing a tablet that’s right for you.

First of all what do you want your tablet for? Do you even want a tablet? How do you know if you want a tablet or not? Before tablets became a mainstream thing, people would walk around with netbooks. They are small, lightweight laptops that can do anything a laptop can do: Only smaller and less powerful. They were built primarily with the intention of being super portable, able to do some work in an office environment. Basically, you had a computer wherever you went. Historically, this was the smart choice.

Then of course for people who want to do gaming on the go, they had proper laptops. Full sized laptops are bulky, a pain to carry around but were pretty powerful in general. Some didn’t have the greatest battery life (which is another point of contention for users of tablets).

But now-a-days, people want something that can play games and do these office tasks. Clearly then you might as well go for a full sized laptop, unless you wanted portability.

 

Pros to a tablet

It should be fairly obvious to state that the main reasons to get a tablet are:

  1. Small
  2. Lightweight
  3. Powerful (depending on tablet)
  4. Large variety of apps (depending on tablet)
  5. Data plans are plentiful
  6. High support of Android and iOS these days

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

You’ve decided you do want a tablet, how do you choose the one that’s right for you?

First of all you need to decide the size of the tablet you want. Is it going to be a larger tablet giving you more space to work with or are you looking for something really compact?

With size out of the way, just decide the applications you’re going to use and go on a Google binge for tablets the size you’re looking for. Set yourself a budget (in my case, I set £90/$150) and find as many reviews as you can, preferably through trusted reviewers.

That’s all well and good, but why wouldn’t I choose something such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab? Purely it was price and I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to like having a tablet. I mostly wanted to trial one. But I’ve not looked back at my purchase unfavourably.

 

Why did I choose the PiPo S1?

The PiPo S1

Check out the PiPo S1 on Amazon.

The PiPo S1 is a relatively unheard of tablet. Nay scratch that, it is absolutely unheard of but it’s specifications for its size and price were impressive to say the least.

Of course, I was sceptical. This unknown brand selling a tablet that’s not exactly established any kind of market territory, was boasting good specs and for a low price. You know the phrase “it sounds too good to be true”? Well, normally it is, but in this ones case I was quite happy.

Benchmark tests on the PiPo S1 shows this performs as powerfully as something of this size ever could hope to. At least for now. There’s a more full review of the tablet itself on Android Tablets. The low cost was the main driving point as I didn’t want to do much with a tablet except check a few e-mails around the house over Wi-Fi, be able to do a few other things over WiFi and even some low-spec games. It does them all flawlessly and as such, for the low as heck price (I paid below £60), this might as well be the tablet of choice for anyone who’s looking to just try a tablet out.


Do you own a tablet? Which is it? Let us know what you think of this or even if you think I was foolish for buying a PiPo S1!

I can tell you, the tablet has kept me amused and it does power through any little problem it faces. I’m happy with the purchase, but the question is: Will you be happy with your tablet purchase? Just remember, if you don’t like it – use your returns policy. The PiPo S1 was shipped in from China, so this is another point to be weary of. You might find the tablet you get isn’t quite the same everyone else has.

In my case, I was looking for a cheap netbook and this tablet was cheaper than that and it does what I wanted it to do. The money I saved I used towards a case for my tablet, with a built in keyboard. This has seriously upped my productivity when I’m on my long dreary bus rides in the mornings.