A short game about an old lady waiting to see if her son will be home for Christmas, Grand Story involves you doing some daily chores – getting firewood, watering plants – while slowly getting more depressed that your son hasn’t written.
Disappointingly, the house doesn’t appear to have a toilet which, I’ll be honest, was the main reason I decided to play it as it looked like it would. Still, it was a charming little game despite the bleakness of the (presumably) Russian winter when you’re old and on your own.
It’s Where’s Wally? on hard mode! Level after level with minute characters and things hidden behind other things and the occasional puzzle, where you have to find stuff from a list with sometime cryptic clues as to where they might be. Click on everything just in case!
It might sound easy, because Where’s Wally? is easy (and the Mega Drive game based on it is probably the easiest game I’ve ever played), but this is not. Things aren’t static like in the books either, so sometimes you’re hunting a moving target.
It’s a pretty big game, with the version I have including several extra levels over the original release. Only bad thing I have to say about it, is it made my laptop run incredibly hot for some reason.
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!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
It isn’t a very difficult game, beyond easily missing things to click on, but it’s definitely worth a play through.
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.
Kids is another game from that Itch.io bundle, and is very surreal. You interact with figures – ostensibly children – in various ways, making them clap, swim, but mainly jump in a big hole.
I’m not sure what the purpose of all this is. There’s bound to be some moral or deeper meaning behind what actually happens, but I’m not seeing it. Maybe there isn’t and it’s just a quirky clicky toy. Or maybe it’s all about how mindless children are and they just follow their friends into deep holes without question.
This is one of well over 1500 games that came with the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on Itch. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d even bother looking at the list of games once I’d donated as there were just so many, but I did have a flick through and this caught my eye as something someone had recommended before.
It’s a series of screens, where you have to take a little vehicle from the left through a door on the right. Each door needs a cube to open, and how you get each cube follows a series of puzzles and click experimentation. It’s almost more of a fidget toy with an aim than it is a game, but it was interesting enough to play and I love the art style.
This free sort-of-followup to Thimbleweed Park came out as a surprise recently, so of course I picked it up. It’s built using assets from the original game, as an experiment or prototype, but aside from being short it’s a properly playable thing.
You control Delores, one of the characters from the first game, who has returned to Thimbleweed Park after a year away. She’s taken a temp job as a photographer for the local paper, and the aim of the game is to take 30 photos for various news stories, each fitting specific criteria.
To get the right shot, you often have to solve point-and-click puzzles, whereas others are just reinterpreting the request or being a bit creative with what is around you.
There’s an odd quirk where the game quits (intentionally) after every five photos are returned to the paper, which means that when reloaded sometimes there are tasks that have reset and you have to repeat (and yet others that haven’t), but the whole game is pretty short so it’s not really a problem.
A fun little diversion, especially if you enjoyed Thimbleweed Park, like I did.
This has been very cheap on the Switch several times, and the graphic style piqued my interested. However, I’d never bought it because reviews put me off – it’s not the driving game it appears, it’s incredibly short, and there’s very little to it. But a free copy on Epic Games? Ah, gwan then.
The reviews were right. Although there is driving, it’s little more than a mechanism to tell the story. You can’t really crash, the car will actually drive itself if you let go of the controls, and the only interaction you need to do is decide to pull over to pick up hitchhikers or to choose a route when you come to one of the very infrequent junctions.
No, the game is actually a narrative discovery game rather than a driving game. Set in 1978, you play a woman called Lella who decides to go on a road trip. Along the way, you meet people and discuss music, politics, feminism, abortion, and Italy at the time. It’s sort of interesting, learning a bit of history and about the neo-nazis who were around then, but the dialogue is disjointed and seems to be arranged randomly. I suspect it’s mainly due to the localisation, but the result is that the main bit of the game doesn’t really work – it’s all unnatural conversations and unusual grammar.
It was short, and didn’t make a lot of sense, and although there are other endings it still felt like a slog despite the length so I don’t think I’ll be playing it again.
After the “fun” that was Crush Crush, I thought I’d try another clicker game. Time Clickers is properly free, with no IAPs needed to unlock anything. It’s a lot simpler in structure than Crush Crush too.
The fact that there’s a ceiling you can hit, and there should be no barrier to getting there in a realistic time was appealing after the issues I had with Crush Crush. It is less interactive though, and there’s no funny dialogue or real purpose to the game – you just shoot blocks which get higher and higher HP so you need to upgrade your weapons to suit.
Anyway, after hitting wave 5000-odd and unlocking all the achievements, I was done. It took a couple of weeks, again mostly idling, but I could log in on either my computer or iPad to carry on the game which was nice.