You join a prestigious academy with a curriculum centred around puzzles. That sounds freaking awesome if I may say so. And then you discover there’s some magical shenanigans happening, doubly awesome right? Well, it’s up to you to figure out what’s going on in The Academy: The First Riddle.
Real Brainteasers: The Academy presents you with a variety of single/multiple choice type puzzles, where you’re given a premise and must deduce (or outright guess) the correct answer(s). Some of them are pretty straightforward but others, especially the “extra credit” puzzles, can get incredibly complex, which is wonderful for someone who likes a little bite in his videogame puzzles.
Lots to Do: Every aspect of The Academy is governed by puzzles. Puzzles for the main story, puzzles from “daily” newspapers, puzzles for side-quests, optional objectives and more. There are so many things to do while playing The Academy, so many challenges to sink your teeth into. This game is overloaded with puzzles and I mean it in a good way.
Cardboard Cast: While you can tell the effort that went into the puzzling, the plot and characters show how barebones the writing is. Characters are a set of stereotypes and tropes without depth. There’s the photography geek, the comics geek, the bully, the music geek and the overbearing teachers. Not to mention that the protagonist trio is a direct adaptation of the protagonist trio in the Harry Potter novels, only, again, without any of the depth. It’s almost impossible to care for the plot or the characters. There’s nothing about them that feels sincere and human.
Uneven Puzzles: While there are indeed a great number of brainteasers, the quality of the puzzles is wildly uneven. Even by the end some incredibly hard puzzles would be followed by puzzles so simple they felt like tutorials. Worse still are the moment where the extra credit puzzles, the ones that are meant to truly test your brainpower, are easier than the main ones. So instead of a steady climb in difficulty that makes it so solving the final puzzles feels like overcoming a great challenge, you’re left slightly disappointed that the quality couldn’t hold out right up to the end.
One-trick Pony: The Academy’s puzzle clearly draws its inspiration from the Professor Layton series with puzzles presented in a question and answer format, like a test in school. But there are many of these puzzles where I found myself thinking “I’d love to actually do this puzzle instead of answering the question.” From puzzles about interconnecting pipes, deducting cyphers and even packing suitcases with Tetris blocks, there are so different kinds of puzzles that could have been implemented for a much more impactful and entertaining experience. Not only that, but the single style of puzzles quickly wears out its welcome. Variety in puzzles is important and The Academy completely wastes this opportunity to present and showcase some amazing interactive challenges.
Sequel Bait: It’s subtitled The First Riddle so it’s clearly built as part of a series. That’s not a bad thing, many other games have done so in the past. The problem is, to do that and still deliver an experience where you grip the player and keep them interested, the writing has to be on point to make the events intriguing and entertaining, and the relevant characters have to support that. And sadly, as I’ve said at length with the characters, that’s not the case with The Academy. Instead of feeling like an evolving situation, the plot feels like a disjointed set of events, each with a common theme, but nothing else. From one chapter to another, beyond the MacGuffin catalyst for the crisis, you don’t get much in the way of plot progressing or character development. So, when you get to the last chapter and the final confrontations, there’s little impact to the story and whatever tension they expected has already fizzled out. That’s not to say the plot doesn’t have the elements of a great mystery, it’s just that the pacing is terrible, the revelations are predictable and the payoff is nonexistent.
The world’s gone dark, but you can’t remember why. Now a tower stands before you, imposing yet inviting from the light behind its front door. Perhaps it would be good to come inside, find shelter…and more importantly, answers. This is Luna: The Shadow Dust.
Visual Spectacle: Luna the Shadow Dust is a wonder of not just visual arts, with astonishing hand-drawn environments and characters but also of visual storytelling. There is no dialogue, not single word spoken or written and yet it manages to convey its narrative and the sheer depth of the characters’ emotional journey. And it’s not just cutscenes, even the gameplay sections contribute to the storytelling. If there was ever a game that exemplified “Show, don’t tell,” it’s definitely Luna: The Shadow Dust.
It’s all Logic: Every room in the tower in Luna: The Shadow Dust holds a puzzle and every single one of them is entertaining as hell, and while only a handful are delightfully complex (it’s fairly well-known at this point that I love complex multi-part puzzles), none of them is trivial or feel tacked on. Best of all, they’re all logic or observation based, meaning the hints are all around you, you just have to pay attention.
Never had a friend like me: You begin the game controlling a single character but soon enough you find a curious little beast who becomes your inseparable companion in solving puzzles, exploring the tower and in the story itself and I have to praise Luna: The Shadow dust for getting me to care about the little thing and the relationship with the main character well before there was ever a cutscene that showed any tenderness between them. Switching between them freely, to solve puzzles by collaborating, is a genius way to get you to care about both characters.
Deep Hidden World: Luna deserves more than one playthrough, which is unusually for me to even consider with adventure games or any that are puzzle-heavy. After all, if you already know the solutions what’s the point of playing it again. Well, in Luna: The Shadow Dust’s case, there is a great deep lore about the world and the game’s events that I frankly just got the gist of when playing through it. I’m jumping back in to carefully pay attention to the all the visual cues and clues about the world and the narrative that starts well before the beginning of the adventure.
Shortround: Luna: The Shadows Dust is not a very long game, I personally finished it in one sitting, with only the last handful of puzzles making me struggle a bit (I see you, clocktower puzzle!). I would have liked to see much more complexity near the end, some real brain-zingers, and perhaps a few more puzzles. But there is a point, about midway through the game where I couldn’t help but feel things were rushing towards the end a bit, as if the pace changed. It doesn’t ruin the story, and perhaps contributes to the tension, but I would have liked a bit more to play with.
Another Sight is a game I played during Rezzed 2018 where you control Catherine, a young woman falling to the London underground, losing her sight in the process but also awakening a form of synaesthesia, allowing her to see colours and details in the environment based on sound. Trapped in this new environment, she crosses paths with a mysterious feline who becomes her new companion on the journey back to the surface and her family, becoming accidentally embroiled in a secret war in the underground. Continue reading Review: Another Sight
From the first moment I played one of Dave Gilbert’s games, I became a fan of Wadjet Eye Games and have enjoyed every title they’ve released. When the chance came to get my hands on Unavowed, their latest point & click adventure, I jumped at the chance.
I’ve had Hob installed on my PC for months, since last year in fact, and it’s a game I’ve been putting off constantly. It’s been on my list and every time I see the icon on the desktop I think “oh yeah, it’s that game!” but it wasn’t until last night that I decided to have a go at it, perhaps because I couldn’t find more excuses.
I love a good RPG, as I’ve mentioned several times in the past, from JRPGs to action RPGs, as long as the story and characters are nice and the game is not soul-crushingly boring or frustrating, I’m all for it. So, I jumped at the chance to play The Tower of Time, the name alone being more than intriguing enough. So, what did I think about this title? Read on.
A few days ago, I received an email from Lisa Evans, the sole developer behind Growbot, a point & click adventure game, being responsible for all programming art and writing, with the music composed by Jessica Fichot.
Lisa’s background is in illustration for children’s books and even if she hadn’t told me, I would’ve guessed it from the wonderful character and scenery art. Not only is it beautifully detailed, telling as much of a story as the characters and journals do, but it has a paper-like quality, as if it had all been lifted from a lovely story book. Continue reading Preview – Growbot