A Normal Lost Phone (Mac): COMPLETED!

Yes, I’m still periodically working through the impossible task of playing the zeleventy spillion itch.io games from that bundle a while back.

A Normal Lost Phone gave me a bit of deja-vu, in that the plot is virtually the same as Secret Little Haven that I played recently, and where that plays out via a faux AOL chat client on a computer, this plays out via a faux messaging system on a mobile phone.

So yeah, they’re very similar. I don’t know which came first nor do I really care because it doesn’t matter. It was just odd that I’d not played a game like this for ages then two come along at once!

So, again like Secret Little Haven, it was short and meaningful and then it sort of just ends. Good though!

Dynamite Headdy (Switch): COMPLETED!

Even though I own three copies of this, or perhaps even more, and it had great reviews at the time, AND I like Treasure’s games, it surprises me that I’ve never played it past the first level or two. It wasn’t because it was hard (it wasn’t, but… see later), or I didn’t enjoy it, so who knows.

Only this time, while flicking through the Mega Drive Collection on my Switch for something to play, it caught my eye and before you know it (about three hours) I’d completed it. But oh my was I wrong about it being easy. That was only for the first half of the game – after that, it really ramped up the difficulty.

Shoot the baby! (Don’t shoot the baby). No really, shoot the baby.

Particular Highlights of Hell include the side scrolling shooter sections, especially the one where you have to weave up and down a fast moving corridor, the boss that chases you and definitely a cat not a bear Trouble Bruin, and the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper in particular, as there’s a split second when he’s vulnerable and if you’re a pixel too close or far away and don’t attack exactly correctly and run away in that tiny window of opportunity, you get hit.

So yes, I used save states. Which was justified when I found out later that the Western version (which I played) is at least twice as hard as the Japanese one.

Hardest boss ever.

But, I did really enjoy it. It looks and plays great, and has a wide variety of levels and bosses and loads of clever hardware-pushing effects that even the SNES’s Mode 7 would be impressed by.

Rex: Another Island (Mac): COMPLETED!

I’ve been scrolling through that ridiculous itch.io bundle a lot recently. As I expected, I’ve never heard of 99% of the games there, but sometimes something catches my eye and a quick play of Rex: Another Island drew me in.

It’s a pretty plain platformer in the open-world style common in the 8bit days. There are shades of Jet Set Willy and Chuckie Egg 2 here, and it’s really very good. Of course, there are modern additions like restart points, infinite lives, warps and a double jump, but the feel is of those games I loved as a kid. Just without the colour clash.

It is quite a bit easier than those games, but then, I never did complete them anyway and that was frustrating so I appreciate being able to get to the end here.

There’s actually three endings, it seems. The easiest is for just reaching a particular point on the map, the second is for finding all five giant crystals and then reaching a different point, and the final one (and the only one I didn’t get – yet at least) is for collecting all 777 rings. I’m about 690 rings down, though!

Xeodrifter (Switch): COMPLETED!

I played and completed this before, but for 89p I couldn’t turn down buying it for the Switch and playing it again, especially since I enjoyed it so much first time around.

This time, I don’t think I found as many secret areas so didn’t get as powered up as I did before, but I didn’t really have any problems. Like I said last time, it’s not really difficult. But it is fun. A great, short, little Metroidvania game!

Bio Menace (Mac): COMPLETED!

I have no idea why I decided to play this. I have very little interest in the Apogee same-game-slightly-different-graphics PC games of the early 90s (see also Commander Keen and Duke Nukem) and I know from experience they’ve aged badly. And yet here we are.

It’s pretty boring. There’s a lot of backtracking as you often have to get to the other side of the level to get the key to open the exit which is right near the start. There are a number of sections where avoiding baddies is nearly impossible. The bosses are a walkover. It has terrible sound and jerky scrolling. It’s not a very good game.

But I completed it (all of it – there are three chapters that come as separate games) so maybe I did like it a bit? Nah.

Doki Doki Literature Club (Mac): COMPLETED!

A lot of people have written a lot about this game already, and aside from the general sentiment that You Must Play It and the knowledge that Something Dark Happens And Then It All Goes Sideways, I’ve managed to avoid all spoilers and plot points. So I won’t be sharing them here.

All I will say is the same as I knew going into the game: Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel about a literature appreciation club in a Japanese high school, and then… it is less so.

I can’t tell you much more. It starts out exactly how you’d expect this sort of title to, and for an hour or so aside from the niggling feeling that some of the characters are a little off-kilter you’d not suspect the direction it veers sharply off in. The title screen telling you it’s not a game for children and the trigger warning it gives you should go some way to explaining.

Should you play it? Yes, absolutely. Not least because it’s free, but also because I know you want to know what happens now, right?

Mr Driller DrillLand (Switch): COMPLETED!

I have the original of this (the Switch version is a HD remaster) on the GameCube. Back then, it was only available in Japanese and as such the plot, such that it is, made no sense at all. Now, it’s in English! It has made no difference.

Some bad guy has built a drilling themed theme park under which he’s made a giant drill that he intends on using to drill to the planet’s core and destroy the world. But, since Mr Driller and his drilling obsessed friends have all come to DrillLand, they discover it and ostensibly stop him. So why did he build the theme park? Idiot.

Anyway. It plays out with each park attraction being some variation on the Mr Driller formula, and it’s really very good. And very hard. You complete the game by finishing each of the lowest difficulty modes for each attraction (and then stopping the Big Drill), but after the credits and end sequence, you get to play them in harder modes – which generally means digging further. I’ve done a couple of the hardest ones but, well, it’s very hard. As I said.

Secret Little Haven (Mac): COMPLETED!

Secret Little Haven is a visual novel type game that plays out in the form of an AOL Messenger style chat application, a little like Emily Is Away. You’re Alex, a fan of a Japanese Sailor Moon type anime and you take part in his interactions with friends in real life, from a fan forum, and his dad.

Alex isn’t happy for a number of reasons, but centrally he doesn’t identify as male, and part of the game how he, or rather, she comes to terms with it with advice of various kinds from those he chats with.

As well as that seriousness, there’s a load of power-girl cartoon fan fiction and art, normal teenager angst to deal with, and a friend who is a bit overbearing towards women to rein in.

I liked the story, but even though it isn’t a happy ending – more because it isn’t an ending, rather than isn’t happy – it seemed to rush towards a conclusion for your dad far too easily considering the massive change that was taking place. I also enjoyed all the early 90s internet references and the “hacking” sequence.

Decap Attack (Switch): COMPLETED!

One of my favourite platformers and a game I’ve probably mentioned on here before. We all know how this is the western version of Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure, but both games are excellent if different.

Didn’t have any problems on my play through. I didn’t remember all the level layouts, but did remember the route to skip one of the bosses!

Behold the Kickmen (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, while Dan Marshall was developing this originally, I was following him live-tweeting the process. So hooked on the idea was I, that the second the game came out on Steam I bought it – even though I rarely played games on a computer and, in fact, it was pretty broken on the Mac at the time.

I played it a fair bit and really enjoyed it, but found the bugs and wonky controller support (plus it wasn’t on a console) then too much of a barrier to play more. It’s probably much better now, but I just wanted a Switch port.

Then this week – there was a Switch port release!

And it is EXCELLENT. In case you’re not aware, it’s a football game written by someone purposefully getting the rules and procedures wrong. There’s silliness (like when you score a goal, the umpire kisses you) and a plot about your footballer’s dead dad and wanting to win the World Cup of Football. but the important thing is that Behold the Kickmen is so much fun to play.

Three own goals? I’ll take that.

The simple point-and-hold-and-shoot system for both doing Big Kicks and tackling makes it very accessible so you don’t need to worry about any FIFA complexity. The “wrong” rules like getting two goals if you’re further away and the round, walled pitch just make it more fun, and the crowd chants and between-match ridiculous story exposition are funny.

I’ve played it through in story mode and Won the Sport, but it’s definitely something to play again.

ありがとう、人間さん! (Arigatou, Ningen-san!) (Mac): COMPLETED!

This is an animal squashing game. You find animals around the town, then squash them everywhichway until they’re happy and then they move in with you. Or something?

It’s utterly bizarre.

Anyway, I squashed all the animals and then it was the end of the game. I felt unfulfilled. Maybe I need squashing now?

The Room (Switch): COMPLETED!

It isn’t clear why this game is called The Room, because there aren’t really any rooms in it. It plays like an escape room – which many puzzles, and puzzles within puzzles – but no actual rooms. Sure, there are a couple of doors but they’re free-standing portals really.

Aside from that, it was a nice little thing to play. You’re given a puzzle box with various holes and buttons and handles to try and use or open hatches and drawers, which reveal further items and puzzles workings like cogs and rotating things. As well as what you can see on the box, you also have a special lens you can look through which reveals hidden markings, that give clues to solutions or contain puzzles of their own.

573, apparently.

I played most of the game using the Switch joycon as a sort of Wii remote, which is the first game I’ve played like this (the odd minigame on Super Mario Party and aiming in Darts on 52 Worldwide Games aside) and it works a lot better than I expected. I had to recentre the pointer quite a few times, but it didn’t detract from the game in any way.

Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa Academy (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d never have bought this but it was reduced from $sillymoney to about 80p and I’ll buy pretty much anything at that price. What I didn’t expect, however, was that I’d enjoy it.

To the untrained eye, Kotodama is yet another one of the million Japanese school visual novels that fill digital game stores. Unlike many of those, it has both an interesting story telling mechanic and puzzle game punctuates some of the encounters as you play.

Nanami is the bundle of energy who is charged with showing you the school.

The plot starts generically: you’re new in the school and you’re paired by your teacher with the girl everyone finds annoying so she can show you around. It turns out she’s also a member of the Occult Research Club in the academy, and is, along with the only other member – the president of the club – investigating the eponymous mysteries. They’re all playground rumours about ways to get good grades or ghost stories. Or are they?

As you investigate with her, you can force people to divulge secrets using your special demon power: play a match three puzzle game where you strip the people you’re talking to. Of course. Only you’re only imagining stripping them, so that’s OK, right?

Oh yeah, you strip boys too. Equal opportunities and all that.

Those expecting Hunie Pop levels of titilation are going to be sorely disappointed though, as there’s no visible nudity and there’s nothing sexy about anything in the game at all. Plus it’s a Pegi 12, so you know, it’s probably fine? Unfortunately, the puzzle game is neither as fun nor as frequent as in Hunie Pop regardless of the window dressing of either game.

The story mechanic I mentioned comes after a few chapters of the game. You suddenly, and seemingly regardless of dialogue choices chosen, reach a surprise Game Over. The credits roll, and then… a character appears and sends you back in time to the start of the game again. Only you remember what happens. You then play through again, with a slightly different outcome. Various routes in the game reset the cycle again, but eventually you can reach the True Ending which reveals some Truths about some of the characters you’ve met.

It’s a bit frustrating, but at least you can fast-forward through repeated conversations. Why you can’t skip them completely though, I don’t know.

You have a cat familiar demon thing because of course you do.

I don’t remember the normal retail price of Kotodama, but I’m pretty sure it’s over £30 and the game is definitely not worth that, but at 80p – and even say, ooh, a tenner? – it’s interesting and unusual, especially if you like visual novels that are a little more than a visual novel.

The White Door (Mac): COMPLETED!

The White Door (yet another itch.io bundle game) is a point and click adventure game, where reality and dreams blur together as you appear to be recovering from a traumatic event.

You’re staying in a sort of hospital, and each day you’re required to follow a schedule of eating, washing, using a computer, and so on. At night you relive what may or may not have happened to you and why you ended up in here in the first place.

Then, things happen. Are you dreaming? Have you gone mad? Are you being manipulated? Is the nurse who comes to check on you trying to get you to escape, or is this planned to see if you can unlock more memories. And why are the doctors so interested in your memories anyway?

Did I kill this woman? Did she even exist? Is it a dream or a memory?

It isn’t a very difficult game, beyond easily missing things to click on, but it’s definitely worth a play through.

The House on Holland Hill (Mac): COMPLETED!

This game is another itch.io bundle game, and is a short narrative discovery title where you, a pizza delivery guy, finds something going on with one of your regulars.

There’s not a great deal to it, but if you explore a bit during each delivery you make, you see a little bit of the story you’d normally miss. There’s a twist at the end which is obviously coming, except it isn’t quite obvious after all. I won’t say more because spoilers.