Mobile Mini-Reviews – With an Open Heart, Sharp Wits, and Neon Blood

One hill I am willing to die on is that mobile gaming gets much less credit than it deserves.

Don’t get me wrong. Much like other platforms like Steam where smaller developers can occasionally throw whatever they want into the marketplace with varying quality, it can take some sifting to find some of the gems hidden in the digital mineshaft. Even then, those gems are a matter of taste and might not appeal to everybody.

With much I use my phone in waiting rooms and while I’m trying to accomplish other things, I’ve come across a few games that met with some personal criteria I had set up- a defined ending, for instance- which I would love to share with folks who might be struggling to find some way to cut their teeth on the offerings at their fingertips.

HungryHeartsTitleHungry Hearts Diner: A Tale of Star-Crossed Souls
GAGEX Co., Ltd
Genre: Simluation
HungryHearts1In a small village just on the border of a large city in Japan in the Showa era, a diner sits steeped in antiquity and small-town conversation. The owner of the diner has fallen ill recently, however, so his wife has taken over the duties of cooking, meal planning, and keeping the diner in business for the locals. Every small town’s citizens have a story, though, and a small eatery is a perfect place for them to open up. After all, food can bring up memories and emotions just as well as any other stimulus can.

Taking the role of the elderly wife, your job is to keep people in your diner happy and fed while improving the diner and its menu. With particular customers, you will be able to suss out their favorite dishes and what food will help them open up, relating their stories and troubles to you in small cutscenes once their affection has risen enough. The more you create your available concoctions, you will also be able to create other dishes which will earn more money and cater to your clientele even more.

HungryHearts2At its core, Hungry Hearts is a ‘tapper’ game, which won’t appeal to everyone. The game does have the occasional option to watch an advertisement to gain more experience or money, but they can easily be skipped. It is free-to-play as a base, however, and the trappings only obscure the heart of the game underneath.

Where this game excels is in its stories, characters, and atmosphere. Hungry Hearts captures the village feel that it is going for with exquisite results. More than once, I felt a tug of emotion at the writing and interactions between the people of the town, many of whom have stories that interact with one another despite their not interacting directly. Each unique character has their own full story to be engaged with and the endings are almost entirely well worth the investment. In between stories, the game was also incredibly relaxing with an ambient soundtrack and charming visual style that I found myself addicted to.

If you don’t mind dealing with some of the usual free-to-play inconveniences and you need a game to wind down with, you would do well to seek out Hungry Hearts.

PartiaTitlePartia: The Broken Lineage
Imago Software
Genre: Strategy Role-Playing
Partia1
Taking place on the continent of Partia in the kingdom of Grana, you play as the younger of two princes slated to sit on the throne and rule over the people. The people of the land, however, clearly have their favored candidate of the two, whether it is the responsible and headstrong eldest or the slightly rebellious and more approachable second-born. Some of those people, however, will do whatever they must to ensure that their candidate of choice ascends to the throne.

With no qualms of being derived from the likes of Fire Emblem, Partia concerns itself more with political intrigue and strategic choices over knockdown brawls. Divided into chapters, the game takes you through the moves made by those who desire power as you gather a group of allies willing to fight by the prince’s side. Following the mechanics of Fire Emblem to a near-perfect T, characters level up, receive weapons with particular durability, and can be lost forever if they perish in battle.

Partia2The game isn’t without its obstacles. Without exploiting the arena in town between chapters, you will lose a lot of your allies so grinding is a bit of a must. The translation in the build I played was also a little choppy in areas, though easily navigable. The team has released patches since, however, so it may be a slightly different experience to play now.

What is to be commended is that the game captures the spirit of the early Fire Emblem games with a bit of an overhaul on the presentation side. The battle sprites are simple but effective, and the portraits and other art evoke the styles of games like Shining Force and the GBA entries of the Fire Emblem series. A lot of heart and passion for the genre appears in the short time you will spend with Partia which, as of this writing, rings in at $3.99 to purchase. There are also two sequels available, and while I’ve only just started the second game, improvements already appear to have been implemented.

MidnightShowTitleThe Midnight Show
Takster Games, LLC
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
MidnightShow1It’s 1985. You’ve arrived at the Orpheum Theatre where some of the hottest new films are playing and the staff is way cooler than you’ll ever be. If you don’t feel like taking in a show, you could always hit the arcade and try to win some prizes from the crane game there. For such a rad looking place, though, it seems awfully empty. Something feels just a bit off about that, doesn’t it? Maybe if you look around a bit, you’ll figure out what’s going on and why you can’t seem to leave the way you came in.

I may be biased given my love of horror, the 80s, and point-and-click adventure games. The Midnight Show, however, was probably one of my favorite mobile games to get through and play. It unfolds like any other point-and-click game does, but with the in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek tone, it feels right at home with games like Maniac Mansion (which is has a great poke at) and other LucasArts adventures.

MidnightShow2If I had one qualm, it is a bit short. This isn’t a major issue, though, as it doesn’t overstay its welcome longer than it has to, telling a tight story with a few atmospheric moments and just enough puzzles to make you think and explore a bit to proceed. My “qualm” probably lies in the fact that I wanted a bit more of the universe once the game closed up shop. Call me selfish, I guess.

As with the other two games here, the presentation is strong. While I loved the visuals, the soundtrack is where the game really hooked me with some strong 80s synth that found me sticking around a bit longer in places than I probably needed to. If you’re a fan of the music of the era, you’ll be hard-pressed not to relish in the soundscape a bit. Kudos to Wice and ALEX, who are credited as the featured artists.

Looking at the game, I don’t see a price tag on it anymore so it may just be free to download- which is a steal for the experience. The Midnight Show is well worth the price of admission, however, price tag or not, and it should be checked out if you have any interest after reading this.

I play quite a few persistent games that I could easily recommend, as well, and may write a bit about them in a future post. Having a game that has a defined beginning and end can be tough to find in a quality package and an affordable cost. Hopefully, this will point out some options to folks who might not be fans of mobile games to give a chance to!

Have any recommendations or thoughts on these games if you’ve checked them out? Any feelings on mobile gaming you’d like to share? As always, drop me a line here in the comments or on Twitter!

Blink and You’ll Miss It – PC – The Final Take – 2016

title
The Final Take
PC
Hush Interactive/Forever Entertainment S.A.
Genre: Survival Horror
2016

Sometimes, brevity is the kindest form of reference.

No, that’s not a saying. I just feel like it’s apt for some situations. In some cases, the less you say about something, the better. Sometimes, you have to refrain from saying something negative. Other times, there just isn’t enough to draw from to say much at all. In the case of The Final Take, it’s a bit more of the second reason than the first.

Given I just finished this game in a sitting, I wanted to at least pop some notes down so that if other folks run across this title, they may at least have some impressions before picking it up.  
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Fear the Reaper More Than the Shutdown – PC – DreadOut – 2014


title
DreadOut
PC
Digital Happiness
Genre: Survival Horror
2014

It’s that time again, folks. Time to dip back into the indie survival horror pool and see what we come out with. Thankfully, there have been a few successful hooks in the past, some of which I’ve discussed here and some I haven’t gotten the chance to yet. Of course, all of these efforts tend to lend their success to hit titles from the genre’s past- and that’s not a bad thing. Titles like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Clock Tower forged a well-beaten path for developers to take something and make it their own. In this case, Fatal Frame, a personal favorite, comes to mind.

DreadOut is a game that I followed a bit in its inception, watching the news of its funding and its subsequent development. Touting that it would be a spiritual successor to the Fatal Frame series, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. As a mythology buff, the promise that it took inspiration from Indonesian mythology and culture piqued my interest, too; it’s not a realm I’m familiar with but I’m always looking to learn more. When I came out, I took advantage of the first sale I could and slotted it into my Steam “to play” list.

Now, here we are. About five years later, I’ve finally booted it up to sit down and play thanks to some discussion on Twitter with some fellow horror fans. While I’ve been working on trying to get through the last mainline Final Fantasy title I haven’t beaten and I’m anticipating that the first quarter of the year will be busy with Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists and Resident Evil 2, I’ve been working to clear out my backlog- and DreadOut felt like the perfect place to start.
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A Loss of Control and Perspective – Playstation 2 – Disaster Report – 2003

disaster report titleDisaster Report
Playstation 2
Agetec / Irem
Genre: Survival Action
2003

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been exposed to a number of ‘disaster’ movies. The first that I remember seeing was when I was introduced to The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno during some double feature on cable by my mother. It’s not a genre that I usually gravitate towards, but those films have always managed to catch my interest.  There’s a certain allure- especially to this diehard horror fan- to the adversary in a piece being the environment and the set pieces rather than a tangible force or person; the unpredictability and sheer carnage of the situation can make for an entertaining experience, even if it’s rarely poignant or soul-stirring.

Disaster Report, the first of the Zettai Zetsume Toshi titles revolving around natural calamities, is a game I distinctly remember my thought process while purchasing. Looking at the back of the game, the promise of battling against your environment and trying to survive as catastrophe upon catastrophe strikes around you was a novel concept to me at the time. It still looked like an early PS2 title, though, so I was wary as I grabbed it on sale and brought it home to try my best at it.

It’s taken a few tries. Like a lot of the games in my backlog, I could remember making it a decent way through the game and then stopping for some reason but couldn’t drag out the reason. Was it an infuriating sequence in the game mechanics? Was it just because my attention had been drawn to another game I had been meaning to play? Recently, I sat down with a determination to get through Disaster Report and relive the experience to figure it out and knock another piece of my backlog Jenga stack off of the tower.
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Muted Seething at Best – Super Nintendo – Kendo Rage – 1993

Kendo Rage (U) [!]002Kendo Rage
Super Nintendo
Seta U.S.A. / Affect
Genre: Action Platformer
1993

Plain and simple confession right up front before this article commences: I absolutely adore “magical girl” anime.  I think there’s something to be said for a genre that emphasizes friendship, inner strength, and over-the-top transformations and special powers.  I grew up watching Sailor Moon among other cartoons in the morning and when I started dabbling back into anime, I managed to find a few series that fit the tropes that still hooked me today.

When I was a kid, I visited one of the three rental places in town and came across a copy of Valis IV for the Sega Genesis. I popped it in and played it non-stop until I had to bring it back.  While I don’t remember renting it again, I do recall that it felt like the closest thing to a Sailor Moon game that I had seen, given the young girl protagonist transforming into a sword-swinging warrior fighting off grotesque enemies as she tried to save her world.  Given my fantasy-slanted role models growing up, it was no surprise that I would gravitate toward games and heroines like that.

This story is not about Valis, however.  This story is about Kendo Rage, a game that looked a lot like Valis on its cover- and turned into something a bit different once the game powered on.  I’ve turned the game on a few times since the first time I played it, but I finally completed it recently, once again finishing up a memory from my gaming past that was incomplete.  Given the twenty-five or so years of build-up it had gotten, I have more than a few thoughts to share on this little-known title from the Super Nintendo’s golden years.
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