Etrian Odyssey is an old-school RPG in the vein of Wizardy or The Bard's Tale. That is, you assemble a party of adventurers, go to a town hub to gather quests and equipment, then delve into an uncharted labyrinth killing monsters and mapping your progress. There isn't much of a story to follow here. Your goal is to find the "secret of the labyrinth" which, spoiler alert, has something to do with global warming (97% of scientists agree this is a dumb twist). Exploration and combat are the real core of the game, and the mapping of the maze is the primary gimmick. A task for which the DS is excellently suited. No need for graph paper. Just use the stylus and mark your map directly in the game. I can't tell you how frustrating it was playing Bard's Tale, carefully mapping away, only to have my time-consuming efforts foiled when the map ran off the edge of the graph paper. I'd then have to tape a second piece to the side or, worse, start over from scratch.
Video Game Reviews
Here's where I keep track of video games I have played. I rate the games on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "highly recommended" and 1 being "forget this game and go read a book or something."
It's been quite some time since I picked up my Nintendo DS.
It's been quite some time since I've played through a game on the Wii. Pandora's Tower is certainly one of the best looking games on the platform. It follows the standard console action/adventure game formula: a series of areas to explore, a new ability added in each area, and a boss at the end of the section that requires mastery of that ability to be defeated. Wrapped around this is a sappy story of the girl who has been cursed and must now be fed monster guts in order to cure herself. I'm really not one for the Japanese anime-style of story telling, but it wasn't as horrible and convoluted as the genre can be. I especially liked the scenes of Elena gobbling up gore... well, at least I did the first dozen times I watched that cut scene. The 39th time... not so much.
Okay, first things first. Machinarium is a beautiful game with excellent art direction, sound and music. However, something about this point-and-click adventure just didn't... er... click for me. It could be the fact that the game erased my save files halfway through my first attempt. I didn't pick it up again for at least a month after that. But I think this is just a little too puzzley for my tastes. At times I really didn't have any motivation other than there was a guy who had an object that would obviously be useful somewhere.
You can download and play Teenagent for free from GOG.com, and, because of my obsessive-compulsive nature when it comes to completing games I own, I felt obliged to give it a whirl. It took about 45 minutes of frustration for me to realize that this point-and-click adventure really wasn't worth the logic-defying effort. This game commits all the puzzle design sins of 90's adventure games. It's the type of game design that pretty much killed the genre.
Outlast is one of the most nerve-racking games I have played. The game delights in distracting your attention then blasting you with a heart-stopping jump scare. The first couple of hours, when you don't really know what to expect, are the worst. This is a stealth game in which you have no weapons, no means of defending yourself. Your only tool is a video camera with an infrared mode to help you see in the darkness. Other than that, the available options to avoid being killed are either to hide or to run. As the game progressed, I realized that running was far more useful than cowering under a bed or in a locker.
I was initially drawn to the isometric art style of this turn-based RPG. My hope was that it would play like Wasteland 2 but I wasn't sure what to expect. The combat is similar, but it has nowhere near the depth and strategy. I some ways that's good. Shadowrun Returns feels much more casual and less nitpicky with things like ammo and inventory management. But, even though it's party-based, you only really control the development of your one character. The other combatants are just expendable hired hands with little to no backstory.
At first you'd think Home was a retro-looking point and click adventure, but that would be giving it too much credit. It's really one of those trendy, arty indy games that supposed to be a deep meditation on interactive storytelling. In other words it's a bore.
I went into Bulletstorm not knowing anything other than I heard there was a lot of cursing in the dialogue. Well, that much was true. This is a first person shooter based around the mechanic of building elaborate kills in order to score points. The points can then be used to buy ammo and upgrade weapons. Higher scores can be had by utilizing your grappling tether or your powerful kick to throw enemies into the various sharp objects that litter the landscape.
Wadjet Eye continues their run of solid point and click adventures with their latest, Shardlight. This may be their best looking and best sounding game yet. You play as Amy Wellard, a member of a lower caste in a city recovering from a nuclear-scale bombing. On top of the misery of scavenging for food and dealing with the iron rule of "The Aristocracy," you also have caught a case of the green lung for which vaccinations are in short supply. The plot is pretty linear and avoids that open, branching middle that adventure game devs of yore seemed to love. Really, we are just here for the story anyways and, at times, even puzzles get in the way of that.