Month: February 2021

Nobodies: a zingy jalfrezi

(In case you weren’t aware, I rate my games on a Curry ScaleTM)

Like a lot of games, Nobodies (Blyts, 2019) sat patiently on my wishlist for a while. I’m glad I finally got round to it – it’s right up my street, if overnight someone dug up my street and re-routed it somewhere unexpected. Yes, another point-and-click. Yes, more dark comedy. Yes, another murder theme. Except, in this game, the objective is to cover up the murders. You’re Mr Cleanup Job, sent in to bury the evidence, sweep up the entrails and dispose of the body so that nothing remains of your peer’s grisly assassination.

Clean-up on aisle four!

Each assignment begins with the murder scene, prompting you to collect, use and combine objects in order to hide the body and cover tracks. Sometimes this is achieved through dialogue with other characters, but there’s not too much chatting. Make a careless move or reveal yourself, and it’s a restart – though a lot of the things you did will still be in place, so it’s not too frustrating.

TripAdvisor: 1/10

You can pass levels by doing the bare minimum, or be an absolute perfectionist and earn a full marks medal. No surprise which was me. According to the Belbin behavioural test I did at work once, I’m a completer-finisher. As such, the tidying nature of Nobodies really appealed to me. Even in games that don’t necessitate it, I cannot leave a room without closing cupboards, turning off taps and switching off lights. So I’ve spent a lot of time in this game making sure I put everything back in place.

If you don’t manage the medal, you’re given a list of your indiscretions and the chance to correct them. Again – I spent a lot of time on this game. Usually you can rectify your mistakes by picking up where you left off, but one particular level had me redoing the whole thing from start to finish because there was no other way. That’s dedication, but now I can sleep at night.

Sliding block puzzle FTW.

Story ain’t everything

The overarching narrative and individual cases aren’t that interesting, but that didn’t matter to me. I liked that it’s a fairly straightforward game. It’s a pick up/put down affair, as opposed to a big investment. The settings for each case are nice and varied (a hospital, science lab, museum, train, among others) and the puzzle chains inventive. Some ‘obvious’ solutions aren’t quite what they seem (vending machine!), which is a good thing, but there are no monkey wrenches either.

Nothing to see here.

If you do get stuck, there’s an in-game hint system, but I admit to consulting a walkthrough a couple of times as the hints weren’t always that helpful, and there’s no way to get a different hint until you solve that particular bit. Incrementally useful hints would work better. I also experienced one confusing moment where the game referred to a puzzle before I’d got there – but that happens in most adventure games I’ve played and isn’t a huge deal as a one-off.

While the gameplay is grounded on classic point-and-click mechanics, the overall style is quite modern. The scenery and subtle backdrops are really nicely illustrated and conjure an ominous (think Soviet) atmosphere. The music that accompanies your missions is perfectly suited, with a nice bit of sinister synth – it reminded me of the video game CounterSpy – and some of the sound effects are reminiscent of The X-Files.

It’s a fairly short game, and I remember being a bit surprised to suddenly arrive at the end – perhaps because there’s little narrative stringing it all together. But while I wasn’t gripped by the story, with everything that’s going on at the moment I found the closing scenes to be particularly, eerily, apt.

9/10

Nobodies is available on Steam, Android and iOS.

Four games to play when you don’t have much time (and one wildcard)

The Supper: sadistic speciality on a plate

Octavi Navarro | Steam

Love a top-down view.

I’ve long been a big fan of Octavi’s pixel art and, more recently, his adventure games. The eerie feels in his earlier games reeled me in (Midnight Scenes, The Librarian), and while The Supper is a different vibe, it doesn’t disappoint. This one swaps the chiaroscuro for rich colour and less subtle animation, but both those things complement the pixel style just as well.

Look at those gorgeous reds.

Described as ‘bite-size’ in the introduction and a little bit hand-holdy at first, I wasn’t sure I’d like it as much – but as the game progressed I loved the development into a gory, dark point-and-click. In fact it combines two of my favourite pastimes – cooking and the macabre.

I urge you to join Ms Appleton as she cooks up a feast for her customers, guided by a mysterious disembodied voice. That’s all I’m going to say in terms of the plot. Zzzzzp. It also worth noting that I was unexpectedly moved by the ending – something few pixel artists can achieve of me!

Delores: a blast from the park-a-boo

Terrible Toybox | Steam, GOG, Xbox One, PS4, Android/iOS, Switch

Cheese!

You don’t have to be a fan of Thimbleweed Park to enjoy this one, but it helps. I was pleasantly surprised to hear news of a spin-off from the 2017 game developed by LucasArts alumni. Then stoked to hear it was about Delores. And humbled it was being offered FREE to cheer up fans during shitty times.

It’s essentially a ‘complete the checklist’ minigame, initially conceived as a prototype for Ron Gilbert’s new engine; you play as Delores, now a journalist working for Nickel News, tasked with taking snaps of various objects and occurrences around Thimbleweed Park. It cleverly utilises ‘found art’ from Thimbleweed Park (so don’t expect a whole new game) and is broken up into six tidy segments – there’s no ability to save, but once you’ve completed a set of tasks you’re rewarded with a new set.

Tick! Tick! Tick! Ooh a speck of dust…

This was right up my street for a short game. I’m a slightly OCD completionist so I took great joy in looking for the solutions and ticking off those lists. It’s not too taxing but provides enough challenges to be satisfying (and highly addictive in my case!) The tasks are creative, and polished with the same dry humour we saw in Thimbleweed Park.

And that lovely soundtrack is back, mmm.

Kill Yourself: dark humour done right

Gugames | Steam

This dude’s unlucky.

Some might be put off by the main objective (right there, in its naked glory in the title) but hey, if we can’t look death in the face, let’s vicariously find the most inventive ways to achieve it. In all seriousness, I’ve faced some dark times and I still really like this game – the humour is very tongue-in-cheek, and the cartoon style provides enough detachment for me. The design is pretty no-frills but I like that – nice chunky pixels (noticing a pattern?) and a refreshingly straightforward point-and-click interface.

Damn.

The aim is to find all the different ways to top yourself, by combining and manipulating objects and features of the house, in classic adventure game style. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy game, though – there are some really great, challenging puzzles, some of which require very lateral thinking. After solving a handful, new rooms are revealed with more puzzles.

The mechanics are nothing new but it’s the concept that’s so original. A daring move from the developer but one that pays off. I’m fed up with all these ‘nice’ games – I’d like to see more dark and uncomfortable topics, provided they’re done right.

So if you fancy something a little different, I highly recommend this. There are 30 different endings – so you better get on it!

Among Us: trust no1

InnerSloth | Steam, Android/iOS, Switch (Xbox soon)

Best selection of hats in a game, ever.

This one has really done the rounds, so you’ve probably heard of it. I played it as a way to stay in touch with friends during the pand-ovid-ona and it did not disappoint. The game places you and 3-9 other players on board a spaceship, where one player is an intruder set on taking you out, one by one. Think virtual Murder in the Dark (not that it’s ever actual murder in the dark… oh you know what I mean).

Each crewmate has a list of tasks to complete around the ship (which themselves are quite fun!); the objective is to complete all of these, or expose the intruder before everyone is killed. If you’re the intruder, you get to stealthily murder each player (and sabotage things on the ship, which is less fun) while pretending to carry out your duties. Whenever a dead body is discovered, everyone can have a chat and vote on who they think is the culprit (with the imposter playing along, which can make for some amusing revelations at the end).

It’s brilliantly suited to mobile gaming, and the potential for cunning and flabbergastery is endless.

Green: I saw Blue kill Red in the engine room! It’s him!’
*everyone votes Blue*
GREEN WAS THE IMPOSTER.

I’ll certainly never trust my friends again.

WILDCARD: Rubik’s Cube

Okay, not a video game, but this is what happens when you watch The Speed Cubers on Netflix. (I’ve moved on to chess now, obviously.)

I haven’t touched one of these for five years or so, but it didn’t take long to remember how bloomin’ addictive those little coloured squares can be. It’s more than just a fidget spinner though – there are methods and mechanics to learn to get you to that final, tidy block. I don’t normally enjoy cheating (yes, that would be ‘cheating’ to me) but it’s actually fun understanding how the intricacies of the puzzle work.

My favourite thing about it is its portability. You can play anywhere – on the couch, in the bath, on the loo (what?) and it looks nice on the shelf. I’ve just remembered that a friend once dressed as a Rubik’s Cube for a hen do (slightly less practical).

Of course, it takes time and finger flexing to master the complete process, and none of us (that I’m aware) are about to star in The Speed Cubers 2. But it’s simple, classic fun from the good old days – and you don’t need a computer!