A World in Need of Power – Plug Me

In a city run off of battery power, an evil man named Doc. Oxyde wishes to destroy it all by unplugging all of the power supplies. But thankfully, our hero Plugman is able to use his plug-like head to stop the draining of power and re stabilize the city. Plugman journeys through a series of five worlds each consisting of nine normal levels and one boss level. On each level there are battery packs which you can try to collect if you’re up for a real challenge.
Plug Me is a simple concept platformer game, but it brings it up a notch with the timer aspect. Each leveled is timed to just a couple of seconds to complete, and the timer is in the center of the screen. The gimmick is that the timer is also a platform that can be used in the game, so as the timer runs out, the platform will disappear along with it, so you need to reach the end before time runs out, or the city will start to lose its power. Each level brings in new difficult obstacles as well, like spikes, spinning spikes, and even falling bricks to block your escape.     The game seems short having only 52 levels in it, but once those levels are beaten you will unlock “hard mode” this is a mode where everything is made more difficult for the people who enjoy a challenge. I’m not sure if you just need to beat all of the levels though, or if you also need to get all of the plugs scattered throughout the levels too.
The music in the game is good music for a game, it has an upbeat tone to it while trying to keep a peaceful aspect, but it also changes. If you die five times in a row on a level, it will change to a faster music, and it will stay that way until you complete the level. All your death streaks also appear on the screen as they happen in sets of five, as if the game is reminding you how difficult it truly is. Also, if you end up with 10 deaths in a row, your pal Evinrude will help you out by eliminating an obstacle of the level.
I personally am not that great at platformer games, and this one is no different. I tried to beat the first couple of worlds and I got stuck about halfway through world two. The game has a small following of people who really enjoy it and I’ve talked with them about the game a little bit as well, most of them say that they had a bit of trouble their first few times playing the levels, but now they feel like the levels are much easier for them to complete knowing where to go.
I enjoyed the game and will definitely go back to it and try again to beat the levels I missed, a very good game that deserves a try from anyone willing to.

Brain Eating & Playing The Final Station

The world is dying. Humans have become vicious, cannibalistic life forms that attack anything on sight. Communications across the country have failed, leaving people stranded. You are a train conductor who got lucky – or unlucky – enough to be in the right train, at the right time.

High-ranking officials at the end of their rope task you with an importing mission. Transporting weapons, the nature of which remains classified to you, across the country. With more than a thousand tonnes of locomotive at your fingertips, you begin the arduous journey to the North. The goal is to keep your train operational to reach the next station, where you fight through swarms of infected outnumbering you hundred to one.

With the oversaturation of zombie games in recent years, it takes a truly unique game to stand out from the dozens, to give the battle hardy formula of an apocalypse an interesting twist. The Final Station might not hit the mark precisely, but with its ominous atmosphere and intriguing storyline, it gave me an experience to remember. I can’t recall the last time I played a game, that made me crave DLC to prolong my time with it.

The Final Station conveys its story through snippets of dialogue and cleverly placed exposition in the form of notes and books. This can lead to a squint-and-you’ll-miss sort of situation. If you barrel ahead without stopping to explore the nooks and crannies, chances are high that you’d miss a key piece of the story. Things don’t make much sense at first. But as you gather information the game sparingly doles out; the story becomes less daunting and easier to understand.

I appreciate that the game didn’t shove walls of text in my face and say, “This is what’s going on,” because I like travelling down the beaten path. My knowledge of the current situation only expanded as the conductor trudged through station after station, which made me feel like I was there and experiencing things first hand. Even non-related story events are a joy to uncover, things like discovering a hidden, underground fighting ring or reading a note left by an enraged wife, whose husband was too involved in his hobby.

Unfortunately, no matter how interesting a story may be, the player won’t find themselves enjoying it if they’re occupied with useless busywork. The gameplay is split into two distinct segments. Taking care of the train, and exploring abandoned places you come across. The conductor keeps the locomotive in peak condition by doing mini-games that are mind numbingly boring. Press this switch, pull that lever, make sure the survivors you pick up don’t go hungry.

As I said above, parts of the story are told through dialogue. Conversations between the survivors are easily missed when you’re doing multiple things at once. I’ll catch the tail end of an interesting talk between an injured soldier and a housewife because I was too busy making sure the train didn’t overheat and explode.

I want to know more about the story, about what caused this apocalypse, but the game constantly forces me to keep my hands occupied. The micro-management portions aren’t a big deal by themselves. But they don’t add any substance to the game and only act as nuisances. It’d be better if they weren’t present at all.

As you explore abandoned stations and homes, you’d undoubtedly come across an infected. Supplies are scarce, leaving you to determine which is the best course of action. Throw caution to the wind and use your melee attack, or play it safe and waste your bullets? The gunplay is pretty standard, but the scarcity of ammo can make the game difficult if you’re trigger happy.

You’re taught early into the game to pay attention to your environment. Why waste a bullet when a chair can take care of things? The objective is not to mow down the hordes of infected trawling the urban landscape, it is to live to see another day and keep your guts inside your squishy body.

The game had the right amount of challenge for me. There are no situations I found impossible to get out of. If you find yourself stuck at a certain area, be bold. Get creative with the tools on hand. The solution might be one you’re afraid to try.

The Final Station might not be the longest, or the most visually impressive game, but the experience of trekking through a dying world and the truly original story, makes the time I spent worthwhile.

The Padre – Steam Update

Have you ever gotten the feeling someone or something is watching you? That creepy, eerie feeling that something could jump out at any second? That’s exactly how you will feel every second you play The Padre. The game is a horror point n’ click, where you, a troubled Catholic priest, attempts to solve puzzles within a flashback. Survive being hunted by the mysterious figures lurking in the dark. The enemies span from a wide array of creepy villains such as Zombies, Ghosts, Spiders and even the recurring Demons. There are also a lot of references to other games, such as the Half-Life series and even the Legend of Zelda game’s iconic “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this”.

If that last bit sounded familiar to you, that would be because I had written a review for the Padre before while it was still in its alpha phase, but now the game has been released on steam so it’s time for a small update. If you would like to read about how the game plays, I recommend checking out my previous review found here, because this is more of an update on the game.

When I initially played the game I refused to go too far because I didn’t want to play a lot of it before the game came out completely, it is still in early access now but they are rapidly moving it towards completion. There are a few points of the game which seem a little odd, things like missing voice lines, words not meeting up with their subtitles, and even a couple of times your character will get stuck trying to move. But that doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the game.

I spoke with one of the people making the game and asked a couple of questions:

What changes do you enjoy the most about moving from the Alpha version to the Early Access version?

This is a hard one because it is a flow of issues to me, I have tested a lot of different versions. But I guess I was able to add to the story, that’s what matters the most.

What changes are you looking forward to coming out of Early Access?

In Early Access I would like to improve combat and overall flow of the game as well as create more lore to discover.

The gameplay felt a lot like the alpha did, but there were small updates to the dialog and they had changed the voice actor all together for it. The parts I had already played seemed the same, but from others I have talked to there are more changes later in the game.

There are still some minor bugs being found in the game, but the staff works flawlessly to fix these mistakes as quickly as possible as well as to produce more content for the game. Although this is only meant as a “chapter one” sort of game, it still brings out a long and rich story that leaves you wanting more.

Green Reaper – Farm Manager 2018 Review

Name: Farm Manager 2018
Developer: Cleversan Software
Publisher: PlayWay S.A.
Release Date: 6 April 2018
Platform: PC (click here for the Steam link)

April seems like an appropriate time to launch a farming title, what with the first signs of life creeping back after winter, and the daylight being that much brighter, causing you to close the curtains so you can see your monitor properly during daytime gaming.

I must admit to being a fan of these kinds of no-frills gaming titles – with a name like Farm Manager 2018, there is really no room for misunderstanding. You know 90% of what you’re gonna get before you’ve even seen a demo video. And that’s exactly what you can expect.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the remaining 10% seems to comprise mostly of bugs – and I’m not talking about the kind that’ll come along and eat all of your crops in-game. But we’ll come onto that shortly…

Focusing on the positives, Farm Manager 2018 is a cracking little title, scratching that itch many gamers have had since the days of Harvest Moon, and more recently Terraria and Stardew Valley. Unlike those titles, Farm Manager 2018 takes a much more realistic approach, with none of the flights of fancy, magic, or even a cutesy setting to elevate it beyond a real-world simulation.

And to a great extent, it really works – if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. You get government grants for planting fields of a certain hectare size, hiring and training employees, and building certain expansions to your farm. You can play the market by holding onto products until their price rises, but this must be offset against their expiration date. And how can hire workers with different skills and abilities, such as providing a boost to harvest yields, extra stamina, or production bonuses.

It’s a lot of fun figuring out the supply chains for different products, as whether by design or oversight, Farm Manager 2018 doesn’t go out of its way to make that kind of information accessible.

For example, you can build bee hives to produce honey, but if you also plant the seeds of specific crops nearby, the bees are able to produce a more specialist, expensive honey. Planting cereals doesn’t gain much profit, but they will feed your livestock; but not all animals will eat the same kind of crop, and require a varied diet to stay healthy and avoid costly visits by the local vet.

It was in exploring that maze of tweaking and optimising different combinations of crops, produce and animals I had the most fun tinkering with while playing Farm Manager 2018. But, sadly, not all of the game is fun. The micromanagement in particular can be really hard work, especially once the farm reaches a certain size.

There’s a certain amount of automation that can occur – the “autofill” function is especially invaluable in automatically choosing the best available workers for the specific task you’re assigning – but after a certain point, the sheer volume of tasks can become overwhelming, and worse, tedious to navigate.

Inevitably, this is most evident in early spring and late autumn, when sowing and harvesting occurs. Seasonal workers can be hired on short-term contracts to assist with the overflow, and although there’s a certain thrill in successfully juggling dozens of tasks during peak time, after a few years it becomes quite monotonous.

The campaign does a decent job of showing a prospective farmer the ropes, and there’s a nice story hook of an ailing father passing on his farm to his offspring, along with an old school friend who shows up to give tool tips. But largely it feels like it needs more balance.

For example, one objective instructs you to buy a type of combine harvester, and the next one tells you to buy a more expensive harvester. If left to my own devices, I’d have just saved up and bought the more expensive one, instead of investing in an earlier model and losing half of the capital by selling it on straight away.

The pacing can be frustrating, too. The next objective tells you to harvest a field of wheat with your shiny new combine harvester, which I received in late autumn. Therefore it was nearly a full year of game time before I feasibly had any chance of completing this objective.

Frustratingly, the biggest fail hasn’t even got anything to do with the gameplay. It’s in the myriad of bugs that can quietly occur, and they are often so subtle that it’s difficult to spot them right away.

For example, in the spring of one year, I tasked a worker to go and plow a field with a tractor and the appropriate attachment. With it being spring, I was swept away issuing orders to other farmhands, and it was almost a week of in-game time later before I realised that the worker had bugged and had never actually gone to the tractor.

Worse, I then found that the field itself had bugged and that cancelling the job request left it in some weird limbo where the task wouldn’t complete, and I was unable to issue a new one. Most of these kinds of bugs are resolved by saving and restarting the game, however it’s really not ideal that a hard restart is required on a regular basis.

All that said, the developers are releasing almost daily patches and bug fixes, and so before long you should expect to see a fully functioning version of Farm Manager 2018 – the kind you really would’ve hoped to see on launch day.

There seems to be only a single plucky yet eventually repetitive piece of background music, but the game’s graphics are really quite pleasant and – one would imagine – realistic when compared to the source material. There are some dodgy animations – the bale trailer comes to mind – but largely it looks great watching all of your hired hands busy themselves in every corner of your farm.

Despite some teething issues, Farm Manager 2018 delivers exactly what it promises, and with a plethora of bug fixes, and maybe some UI overhauls, it’ll be a solid title for fans of farms and management sims. Maybe just let it flower before picking it up.

Kill the Hero, Become the Hero – Crawl Review

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The dark and the gruesome games of our past have been long since revered and loved throughout the ages of gaming. Games like Castlevania, Ghosts and Goblins, D, Silent Hill and Splatterhouse. All of these have left some kind of mark in gaming history. Now we have another game that attempts to claim such a title as a horror titan. And it is hard to disprove it as such. The originality of the gameplay and the overall feel of the game seriously make it a real contestant for one of the darkest retro style horror game in recent memory.

The gameplay is both simple and rather complicated at the same time. There are four players, one of them plays the hero, while the other three play the monster and try to kill the hero using their deity’s style of creatures. Whoever kills the hero, becomes the hero. The less you level as a hero, the more your creatures gain in wrath, which makes them bigger, stronger creatures! The run and slash style of gaming is fast paced and the demonic presence of the deities makes the game a gruelling, festering brew of bloody muck. The levels rise and the carnage becomes especially brutal!

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It doesn’t matter if you’re the human hero or the ghost, the game is fun either way! As a ghost, you possess items to throw at the hero, or you possess pentagrams to unleash the monsters of your deity. Little by little, your monsters grow enormous, and your ability to destroy the hero becomes even greater!

With weapon upgrades and potions, your hero grows, so whatever side you wish to play, it can grow along with the game’s progression. The atmosphere is there and the gothic traits are palpable! While the hit detection could use a little bit of tweaking, that only really adds to the difficulty of the overall game. Even if you are never human, you can still be the most powerful ghost with the mega monsters of your evil deity! Use your magic to blast the human hero. Once he gets to level 10 and enters through the portal, there is a whole other part of the game to play, and I will tell you now, it is well worth the wait!

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Crawl is definitely one to check out if you have some spare time, some friends, and a love for the darker side of gaming. It is retro style, it is dark, and it is a little addictive. Not only is it addictive, but thanks to the dungeon’s dangers expanding every single time a game is completed, the replayability is through the roof! This is definitely a game for your indie collection.

The Name Says it All – Planetary Annihilation: Titans Review

THUD! THUD! THUD! DUN! DUN! DUN! Give it up for the great intro music, and amazing game play scenery in the introduction! If you watch the whole thing it is a bit long, but every second is worth it. It is satisfying when a games introduction, music, and cinematic all tie together to get you in the mood to play that genre. Not only when all of the intro is finished, but when you’re in the intro screen it should continue to have perfect, on point sound. This game is one of the first games I’ve played in a long time where I didn’t have to immediately adjust the sound, or the like. It was perfect, and I’m not someone who usually focuses on the audio quality. I usually care more about details like graphics, storyline, and gameplay. However, I’ve been captivated. Quick, someone save me, hours of my life are about to melt away.

Like most games, you want to get into the action and start playing. So, what I did is just that. I knew I wasn’t ready for multiplayer and I headed towards single player and clicked the first option I saw available. It offered me a tutorial, and how could I refuse? “Tutorial Initiated”. This is how my world conquering began! After the first level of the tutorial I was a murderer, a destroyer, a conqueror, all in a giant robot. I knew I’d have to watch out though, Optimus Prime was out there. By the second tutorial I was again a conqueror, but this time starting with nothing and extracting the resources and building the army from scratch. I was reminded of games of my childhood. Like Command & Conquer. More pylons needed. Yuri is master.

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Depth, I was realizing very quickly how much depth their was to this game. Not only were you just attacking other players and killing their commanders, you were also conquering planets, and their starsystems. Searching them for new technologies, then using these technologies to conquer the universe! I mean, well one solar system at a time, and sometimes using moons as large rockets. Who’s counting? I’m just here to win! Oh, and yeah I was an hour into the tutorial and hadn’t even made a dent into the actual game yet, but I was enjoying myself. This tutorial was put together excellently. It puts just enough details in voice, visuals, and text that anyone can figure out this game. Its complicated, but it’s just like any old RTS you’d play. How did it differentiate?

Besides the space conquering, the planetary destruction, and all the things in between, the game takes you for a ride. It combines unique elements of all the different thing you would like in an RTS. A ton of units on the field crushing your enemies, while advancing through claiming systems, and leveraging both slow and fast play. Honestly, without ruining too much of the fun, I’d suggest trying this game now yourself. If you enjoy getting spoilers, continue reading!

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I joined my first annihilate them campaign and I was excited. I instantly figured out that I could collect technologies ahead of time by exploring non-occupied planets, which would help me in my battle. It was clear that technologies mattered because they decided the majority of the things that I could build. Next, I found all my paths blocked by rivals and soon I was fighting on the Death Star. Extracting resources is a haul, this must have been long after the Jedis fought here. In the present, the galaxy was found? This is when I noticed that the tutorial speed was increased to teach the player how to play the game, the game is set at the same speed of other RTS games. Where it takes time to build troops and extract resources. Which is good! Gives time for exciting strategies.

After losing myself in the game for several hours, I realized I could write a review no more! There is so much to explore, and enjoy in this game. For those who enjoy RTS, this is a must have.

A Vibrant, Fairy-Tale Universe – Stories: The Path of Destinies Review

Stories: Path of Destinies is set in a vibrant, fairy-tale universe, where you follow the ex-pirate and unintentional hero, Reynardo the Fox, on his journey to save the Kingdom from the Mad King. The game features charming, hand-drawn illustrations, a colourful storybook aesthetic, and a unique choice-based narrative in which players explore different storylines to find the path to victory.

This game is what I’d consider a hidden gem. It seems to have been forgotten in the annals of time, a damn shame considering how much fun I’ve had with it. It isn’t perfect, with an equal amount of cons to balance the pros, but it puts a unique spin adventure RPGs.

I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I’m pleasantly surprised by the story, and the large variety of choices offered to the player. After the opening prologue, you can choose between a series of choices, to advance to the next chapter. There are four to five chapters to get through, to get an ending.

Some decisions are obvious in their morality but others, less so. I wasn’t expecting a gut-wrenching tale, but there are moments where your bad choices culminate in a truly twisted ending. The anthropomorphic characters eradicate any sense of realism, but it plays in the game’s favor because unexpected twists feel more impactful as a result.

Your decisions have consequences, and you can choose to follow up your actions in the previous chapter, or deviate entirely. This flexibility allows for varied endings, keeping me on my toes even after my first playthrough.

The game has a total of twenty-four endings. This might sound like a nightmare, but only four are required to unlock the True End. I won’t spoil them for you, but they are easy to figure out after finishing the game once. These endings are centred on important characters, and objects, in the game.

I have mixed feelings about the gameplay. Fighting enemies is little more than button mashing, and though you have an upgradable skill tree, the skills aren’t very useful. Enemies die quicker as you level up, but the button mashing remains a constant. An interesting mechanic is the ability to impale your enemies with your sword and throw them off the platform, which eases the repetitive combat.

The combat isn’t terrible, but considering you need more than one playthrough to finish the story, it can get tiring. Level design is mostly linear, with alternate paths that can be unlocked by different swords. You craft these swords by collecting ores you find in treasure chests. Thankfully, the game isn’t stingy on that front. Gathering materials is easy enough and gave me an incentive to explore every nook and cranny of each level.

The narration is a thing of art. The funny, sarcastic, wall-breaking comments livens up an otherwise mediocre game. The disembodied voice never feels overbearing. He’s an integral part of the story, narrating the dialogue of every character with flair and enthusiasm. If the story takes a turn for the dark, the narrator changes tack and matches how he speaks to the urgency of the situation.

He even has quips ready while Reynardo is engaged in combat! I often felt like I was being cheered on by a friend who was watching me play, making for a fun experience. If you know any dissenters who think voice acting isn’t important, just whip out Stories: Path of Destinies.

For anyone who wants a good RPG, with multiple endings and a well-written story, you can’t go wrong with this game. It might rough around the edges, but it’s definitely worth a buy.

Virtual Reality Ninja Shenanigans – Sairento VR Review

Virtual reality shooters come in all shapes and sizes, from zombie wave shooters to gun ranges to multiplayer army simulators, but when comparing these to traditional shooters they seem to lack a certain craziness older non-VR games had. Don’t get me wrong, many of these virtual reality games boast an impressive array of good quality and polish, but in the end, they tend to play it safe to stay clear of virtual reality’s biggest enemy: motion sickness. Sairento VR breaks the mold in this regard so hold onto your seats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Sairento VR is a first-person virtual reality shooter developed by Mixed Realms. It’s currently available for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. You don the mask of one of the silent ones, an enigmatic organization trained in the ancient arts of martial arts and fighting techniques of the ancient samurai and ninja. To put it into layman’s terms: You are a badass cyber ninja killing machine, and it’s a hoot!

The thing that makes this game such a blast to play is the unique locomotive system. The basic controls aren’t all that different from other VR shooters such as Robo Recall, you hold a button, point to a location and let go. Voila! You’ve teleported. This is a common locomotion system among VR games because it helps fend off the effects of motion sickness (or as I like to call it: the VR buzzkiller). Mixed Realms seems intent on wiping its bum with this notion, however, because if you angle your neat little teleport ray up you’ll soar through the sky in a massive leap, preferable whilst raining death upon your enemies. Using the motion system takes up a regenerating resource called ‘focus’, another use for focus is briefly slowing down time so you can feel like Neo in the Matrix. You have the option to turn on a full body model so you can see your legs and elbows move while doing all this. It feels just right.

Besides jumping through the air, you can also use this system to backflip off of walls or do wall runs. If you bend your knees before landing a jump you will slide across the floor, decapitating enemies as you go if you choose to hold your katana out to the side. It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to perform these feats of athleticism as other games seem so hellbent on tethering you to the ground. While this locomotion system is rather intense, the motion sickness it incurs really isn’t as bad as you would think. The developers laboriously tested and tweaked the systems to make sure the levels of intensity are always manageable. I personally don’t experience motion sickness all that often, and Sairento VR didn’t trigger it either. A remarkable feat seeing as I was soaring through the sky, jumping into an unsuspecting enemy with my katana in hand.

And that brings is to the weapons in this game. Although I dubbed this game a ‘first person shooter’, ‘action game’ might actually be a better term for it. The game boasts a selection of katanas, handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, throwing weapons and even a bow. All of these weapons are usable in the sky and during wall runs which makes for a pretty great experience. Unfortunately, most of these categories only contain about three weapons, I would really have liked to see more. Shotguns and assault rifles also aren’t that fun to use, so I pretty much stuck with the basic setup of dual-wielding pistols at my hip, a stronger pistol on my bum and dual wielding katanas behind my back, occasionally switching out a sword for a throwing star or bow.

Swordplay is also lackluster. The slightest movement of your wrist will whip your sword around doing major damage. Even just turning around will often make your katana clip through an enemy. It doesn’t feel like you deserve most of your sword kill, and it lacks the weight of combat that games such as Gorn have. A redeeming quality of the weapon selection is the option to infuse your weapons with various relics. During missions enemies can drop ammo, currency and relics. Relics basically serve as upgrades for your weapons increasing their fire rate, damage, headshot efficiency and many other things. Relics of a higher rarity can even give weapons special effects, I especially enjoyed the ability to make my throwing stars explode on impact. These RPG elements are a neat addition, although I would have liked to see them fleshed out a bit.

You start the game from a central control room where you can select random missions, the campaign or multiplayer. I haven’t been able to get into multiplayer so I can’t give an impression of this. I started out doing a few missions but quickly found that the map selection is rather limited. Missions got repetitive quickly so I tried my hand at the campaign. The campaign is basically a set of missions with tacked on dialogue. Seeing as the combat itself is just so darn good it’s disappointing to see that the campaign didn’t manage to hold my attention for long. Coupled with the limited map selection this put a serious damper on my experience.

Things go south even further if you consider the technical difficulties the game has. The graphics aren’t bad, but they are generally unimpressive, it’s also very easy to teleport yourself through a wall of floor, forcing yourself to reset your position to the beginning of the map. Sometimes my character would get her arm stuck behind her back, warping her arm length so one was shorter than the other. These are also a number of general bugs which I won’t go into. It’s such a shame, because the fun factor is so damn high! Despite all of these issues I still played this game for hours on end. It’s the kind of title where you make your own fun. Crank up the difficulty, pick up some creative weapons and you’ll be sure to have a great time! Just don’t expect the same amount of polish as something like Robo Recall.

Alpha Computing – Computer Tycoon

I was introduced to this lovely screen… then the game crashed. I thought, maybe this was a one time hiccup, so I launched the game again. The game launched successfully on my second attempt, and I was introduced with some nice hip music. I started getting in my retro grove, I immediately felt like I was on roller skates in some archaic restaurant with a jukebox playing. Not to mention, the game was nice enough to show me all of the people whom had contributed to the game by writing reviews, and the like. Since I also approve of this kind of help from the community, and that every game developer should always show appreciation to those whom help them, I’ll repost this achievement wall.

After clearing through the thoughtfulness of the developers by clicking the big red X in the top right of the window, like it was an annoying pop-up. Somehow even though the previous screen was extremely thoughtful, the art of this game still had me convinced that it was some annoying Windows pop-up that had to be deleted. I was introduced with a portrait of the young Steve Jobs next to his brand new Macs. All I could think of was Steve yelling at some employee, and telling him to get the hell out of his building. I was excited, I got amped. I was a little disappointed that on the right there was a C:\ drive reference, when that doesn’t match their overall theme of Apple references. I feel like this screen needs a bit of design work. I continued on to the ‘New Game’ option. It was time to ride the rainbow of this multicolored display.

After clicking new game, I was prompted with the new game screen. Where I could select all my options for the new game. I clearly had to become Steve Jobs because I couldn’t find a good avatar for Billy Gates, which I hoped for. There are a few avatars that are well created that represent avatars from the past, however they’re not all there. I will say they’re very good graphics, but there was nothing to actually design my character which was a disappointment.  On this screen, I could also tell that the game is still in early build phases because they also have a button for ‘Random Events’, which is disabled. It’s a work in progress, but I pushed forward. A lot of the screens here need polished.

Pressing forward like the train that I am, choo-choo. I was introduced by a dialog that emphasized how this was a new game in alpha, and that a single developer created all of this. I was impressed by how much work was done for a single developer already. I can tell that the game needs a lot of work, but it looks like it may still be fun to play, so I hunkered down and began to play. The game was simple, don’t go bankrupt, and survive until retirement. Retirement was defined as the year 2034, Elon Musk made it to Mars yet? I then read about two other ways to win, by running my enemies into the ground by bankrupting them, or to invent all technologies before my opponent. Seemed easy enough, I prepped for my crash course into the game. Helmets on!

The tutorial to the game is looonggg and teeextttt based. I wish there would have been a walkthrough of the game showing visuals right away, as I’m one of those people who can’t focus on text that long and I get distracted easy so I skipped through hoping the game would explain itself. I clicked my starting country of Madagascar, and had no idea what I was doing other than the fact that the preference was largely blue. Once I established an industry site in Madagascar, I got excited by the 3D design layout. I was ready to build my empire and rock this island. Anyone have some buckets in case this plan starts going down with the ships?

I immediately built one of everything, not sure what I was doing. I also found out it takes time to build all of these things, I had accidentally paused the game. With 4 million bucks to spend though, I was worried. Then I was hit with a voice that sounded like Mom, my buildings were upgraded and built! She disciplined me, just like she use to with my homework, that my research queue was empty. After a few minutes of tinkering, I got distracted by gameplay.

In-depth, steep learning curve. I spent at least a half an hour trying to figure out how all the things fit together, and immediately was glad that I’m a computer developer by trade because there is a lot of technical depth to this game. If I didn’t have the background I do, I feel like I might drown. However, that is also a good thing, showing how much time and effort went into all the details of this game. After several hours of gameplay…

I’ll wait until the game is more polished.

Check out the game for yourself, here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/686680/Computer_Tycoon/

C’mon Gamers, Do The Locomotive – Railway Empire Review

Name: Railway Empire
Developer: Gaming Minds Studios
Publisher: Kalypso Media Digital
Release Date: 28 January 2018
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One (click here for the Steam link)

The transport game genre has been around for decades, being popularised by gaming pioneers like Chris Sawyer and Sid Meier, with their Transport Tycoon and Railroad Tycoon series way back in the 1990’s. These titles hooked gamers into plotting tracks across an isometric map, moving  passengers and cargo from one station to the next, trying to outdo competitors and make the biggest profit.

The genre is one of several that didn’t make the transition to 3D very smoothly. Some titles, like RollerCoaster Tycoon and other theme park-themed franchises have managed it very well; others that focus on the more pragmatic side of rails and tracks seem to struggle.

Despite an admirable effort, Railway Empire, the new title from Gaming Minds Studios – the minds behind the classic Patrician series of games – don’t quite manage to succeed in fully breaking free of those shackles that have inhibited similar recent transport genre games since making the jump to 3D.

But let’s focus on the good, for now, because there’s definitely a lot of that to find here. Railway Empire is, initially at least, every bit as engaging as its spiritual predecessors. At its core lies the addictive drive to perfect transport lines between different cities and industries, making the maximum amount of profit in the shortest time and distance.

It’s a really pretty game to look at and get immersed in. The art style sits in a happy place between cartoon-like exaggeration and accurate realism, while the music evokes a sense of the period its set in, with yankee doodle folk music trilling happily in the background.

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As you’d expect of a transport game, there are a vast array of historic trains to utilise on your lines. The tech tree has a really good selection of era-appropriate innovations to dig in to, and the industries scattered throughout the maps lend themselves to the overall ease with which you can slip into early nineteenth century America.

The story campaign mode is also surprisingly interesting, even outside of the gameplay. You explore the construction of one of the most important transportation routes in the world at different stages and times during its development.

You interact with historical figures from the time, and although Railway Empire displays a certain nostalgia and enthusiasm for the railroad, it surprised me by not sugar-coating the murkier side of that period of history. It hints at ruthless and possibly illegal  industrial practices, as well as portraying more obviously immoral acts such as the resettlement of Native American people for the sake of “progress”.

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There are also a few new interesting mechanics, like being able to send spies and saboteurs to make mischief with your competitors – who can do exactly the same thing to you, of course.

Railway Empire makes several advancements on mechanics that were major stumbling blocks for the likes of Transport Fever to result in an overall package that, on balance, is enjoyable to play more often that it isn’t.

For example, railway tracks can be planned in advance. For me, this is the single greatest thing about the game. Instead of laying a track halfway across the map and nearly bankrupting yourself in the process, you can forecast how much construction will cost, and plan the track’s route around obstacles to be as cost-effective as possible.

Railway lines are also, on the whole, easy to set up and assign trains to. There’s no need to place depots and buy a myriad of carriages and containers; simply select the cities the train is to visit, assign the engine, and the train will automatically pick up passengers and cargo, up to its maximum capacity.

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Sadly, this is where the system begins to derail. Railway Empire is great fun during the initial set up of rail lines; but when the game reaches the point where you have to go back and start adding to, or editing, what you’ve done before, it can quickly become a bit of a nightmare.

The biggest one for me was trying to expand the rail network. At first you’ll just be able to afford a one track line between two stations, but naturally, once more destinations and locomotives are added to your network, you’ll want to add to that. But short of deleting all of the trains currently on the tracks, it can be extremely frustrating to get anything built.

You’ll often end up in a deadlock where you can’t add a new track because of an existing junction, which you can’t delete because there’s a train waiting at it, because the line needs a new track for it to move on to. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation that usually ends up with the frustrating outcome that you’re best deleting everything and starting again; which is ultimately self-defeating, eliminating the benefit of pre-planning tracks before construction.

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It feels like there are several layers of menus and detail missing to allow you to micromanage the game to the extent that you need to in order to set up a well-oiled transport network. For example, once a city gets to a certain size, lots of passengers and goods start getting generated there to be picked up. It’d be really handy to have a means to tell trains what to prioritise when they’re choosing what cargo to take first, but there isn’t.

It’s hard to be so down on Railway Empire, because there’s definitely a lot of good to be found here. The transport genre is crying out for a modern-day rival to Planet Coaster, which triumphantly brought the historically equivalent theme park genre into the post-3D world. Railway Empire is that game – as long as you play the first 30-60 minutes of any game and don’t progress past that point.

Although it should have been on track to deliver an engaging experience, a few points manage to derail it. But you may want to choo-choo-choose Railway Empire if your love for the transport genre can survive some frustrating gameplay niggles.

EnomView Score: 7 out of 10