Indietail – Outer Wilds

Exploration is one of those key features used by a lot of video games these days. Usually, you end up exploring an area for secrets, collectables and shortcuts, which – when done right – can be very satisfying and essentially encourage you to do it more. In today’s review, we’re talking about a game that is all about exploration and that doesn’t rely on any of those features but rather makes the player piece together all the different clues and information in order create a bigger picture of sorts. Today, we’re taking a look at Outer Wilds.

Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Jun 18th, 2020
Genre: Space, Exploration, Puzzle, Mystery, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX 1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

In a distant Solar System, we are tasked with finding out clues about an ancient civilisation only to find ourselves in a time loop similar to Majora’s Mask and Minit. After 21 real-time minutes, the sun is bound to explode, leaving us with the mission of finding out why this is happening.

Why does this universe end?
What do the ancient Nomai have to do with this?
How can we stop it?

To do this, we set out to different planets, solve a variety of puzzles, translate scrolls and ancient scriptures, so that we can get closer to the truth, one step at a time.

The Reveal Trailer is probably one of my all-time favourite trailers!

This is where the game shines. You retain all of your information whenever you die or whenever you reset. Hence, at the start of every loop, you get to lift off from the launch pad on Timberhearth, after having seemingly just dozed off at the campfire.

By scanning and translating different scriptures on walls and ancient ruins, you find out more about this ancient civilisation of the Nomai, who at first seem quite noble and distant but later become rather relatable and “normal”. You end up learning more about different tribes of Nomai that all worked together for Science and that all lived on different planets after they crashlanded in this universe.

While the leads and clues may, at first, seem daunting and overwhelming, your ship log usually tends to help you out by telling you if there’s more to explore in certain areas. It also displays the clues, all linked together, hence giving you some sort of lead to explore, if you ever find yourself in trouble.

There are two “modes” of movement in this game. You either travel from planet to planet and manoeuvre around the planets’ surfaces with your small little ship. Or you explore by foot, relying on your jetpack to reach high places if the gravity allows, and scanning things using your transcriptor. When you have a rough landing, you have to repair certain parts of your ship, like its oxygen tanks, electrical systems, the landing gear and other ones that are essential for safe travels. When you travel on foot, on the other hand, you have to watch your health and oxygen but also be sure to not get stuck somewhere without fuel. This makes for some interesting mechanics as different planets come with different hazards and gravity levels. On top of that, you, at times, have to reach certain places before your oxygen supplies run out, hence adding a little bit of pressure to you.

The different planets all shine in their own way. While Brittle Hollow has a black hole at its centre and while Dark Bramble is an enigma of its own, Giantsdeep features high gravity and a very harsh climate that allows vortexes on its surface to lift your ship and even islands into the air. I could assure you that every single planet and planetary body features a unique experience and that every journey to different sites and locations feels unprecedented and adventurous! At least, that’s something I fancied in my playthrough. Since there is no set starting point for every planet, though, you have to figure every planet out yourself and understand its systems, although you should have plenty of times for that – being trapped in a time-loop gives you a lot of time to think, eh?

Making use of a time-loop mechanic gives every 21-minute long adventure a unique vibe, that I really dig. At first, I felt a certain rush to find out as much as possible in every single loop, but then I noticed that it’s alright to take a breather at times and to enjoy the views. After all, Outer Wilds is a charming and gorgeous game, featuring a great score, some lovely dialogues, and a lot of clues, secrets and easter eggs to find in the ruins of the “old world”.

The soundtrack, composed by Andrew Prahlow, gives this title a certain adventure-vibe that helped me enjoy the ride a lot better. Different places feature different tracks while some other tracks get played when you’re getting close to your inevitable death, creating a rather fluid and non-linear experience every time you venture out into the Outer Wilds.

I love the soundtrack. I love the graphics. I love the gameplay. I love the story.

In summary, I love Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds created a novel experience for myself, even when it has some shortcomings here and there:

Your experience at the beginning can be somewhat slow, for instance, as you try to figure out how certain planets work, where you have to go, what you’re supposed to do. I enjoyed that, myself, but I’d be able to see how this would influence other people’s experiences and how it could bother others.

You don’t have a lot of directions given to you, although there are other astronauts on every planet that you can visit to ask them for “interesting places”. Based on where you land on a planet, you get to see different places to find out other clues. At times, this can mislead you into thinking that you found out everything about a planet, resulting in you seemingly “getting stuck”. At other times, you may just be wondering how an end-game location like the Hourglass Twins tie into the whole story and what you’re supposed to do with these “timed locations”.

Overall, I wouldn’t deem this too much of an issue though. By revisiting places and by making use of your ship log, you should be able to get “unstuck” in no time and figure out new leads whenever you try out a different location or find out a new piece of the puzzle.

Another issue that I found with the game is the fact that there are some issues in the PC version of it. Your ship can seemingly take way too much damage when bumping into certain objects and at other times, you may just die from a fall that you usually would make, which I found a bit frustrating at times. Bugs are, however, very few and very rare, so usually, this just left me in confusion and didn’t make me suffer too much.

Alas, my verdict is that Outer Wilds is an exceptional game that is worth checking out if you’re interested in a “true” exploration experience with a non-linear time-loop-based story. The presentation is just magnificent and charming, the story and the end of it are just more than grand, and I’m really glad about having played through it after 24.4 hours. That whole day that I spend in there was 100% worth it!

Cheers!

Indietail – Occupy White Walls

Art is something that should be accessible to everyone… but it’s a bit rough to get into. I don’t know a lot about art but I do enjoy going to exhibitions and museums – and while I don’t know a lot of the big names or techniques or epochs or whatever… I don’t think that I need to.

But there are often people that make it hard for newbies like me to get into that hobby. It’s hard to enjoy something like that if other people constantly are talking in a very condescending way with you while wielding big words and termini that you don’t understand.

Today we’re taking a look at Occupy White Walls, an art gallery simulation game that is trying to fight that problem. It’s trying to make art accessible to everyone – in a very unique way.

Developer: StikiPixels
Publisher: StikiPixels
Release Date: November 14th, 2018
Genres: Casual, Art, Simulation, Multiplayer
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was available for free.

In Occupy White Walls, you create your own gallery. You build it from scratch using different floors, walls and structures, which feels quite sandbox-ish. You also are able to buy paintings, photographs and drawings of famous and underrated artists, so that you’re able to… occupy… those white walls… yup!

My gallery is nowhere near finished but it’s looking cool so far, even though I’m only using glass panes right now. I’ll probably completely rebuild all of this at a later date – but for now this is already turning out quite well!

By opening your gallery you’re able to earn more money… and by buying new artworks, you unlock new structures, frames and other cosmetic features.

What’s very lovely about this is that the whole game is kind of built like an MMO of sorts… You’re able to visit your friends’ galleries or teleport to a random user’s gallery: You comment in their guest books or have discussions with other people on different paintings. You open their gallery so that they earn money while you’re enjoying the paintings… and when you see something that you like, you can put it on your wishlist or buy it yourself!

The tricky bit to Occupy White Walls is that you cannot just search for paintings. You cannot go for Van Gogh, da Vinci, Munch or Sargent and just take their paintings. Instead, the game works with artificial intelligence called Daisy that essentially recommends paintings to you based on your preferences. You then are able to find more paintings that are similar to the paintings you pick or you even search for more paintings by the same artist.

I love this view over here to bits!

Using this method, I was able to find an artist called LARSKRISTO who does a lot of very colourful and obscure pieces but also creates very dark and enigmatic paintings… I really love his style!

Another great feature of OWW is the information that you get about each painting. You can learn about the background of the artist and some other information if you look at a painting. Most paintings have a ton of information available and hence you can also discuss interpretations with others and analyze these paintings yourself, if that’s your jam – or you just look at them and enjoy the view: All based on your preferences!

And Daisy learns from the pictures that you buy and is always to find something new and interesting for you – and if there is nothing of interest in the selection, you can always request more. So far it has been fairly accurate for me… and just now I found about de Goya and that I actually like his stuff…

The game is completely free to play and progression is purely based on your creations: You build up buildings and galleries and buy new paintings or unlock new cosmetic features for your avatar but you’re never asked to pay a single dollar out of your actual pocket – in case you really want to, you can support the developers by buying the game’s official soundtrack.

Moonlight Surgery by Alnilam is one of the paintings that I found today.

Speaking of the soundtrack, it is just enigmatic and mesmerizing. There are a lot of very relaxing pieces there that perfectly work with what you’re doing. It’s relatively easy to sink a lot of time into this game once you found some pieces that you like and once you’ve got an idea of what you want to do.

Originally, I planned on having a “café” or bar of sorts with a lot of different seating areas and art pieces around it… but I need to be a higher level for that to unlock some other furniture pieces. Hence, I’m right now working with a different concept of a gallery in a glass box of sorts that is surrounded by an ocean and that features a lot of surreal and contemporary pieces. So far so good… I’ll revisit the café/bar idea later, though!

When you open your gallery, you’re getting joined by bots that wander through your gallery and look at paintings. After a while, they explode into paint splashes and leave money on your desk that you then can collect to invest it into more paintings or more space, furniture and building materials. Every now and then, you’ll see actual players that you can interact with but more often than not, you’ll only see the bots and you’ll only notice that players have been there due to the comments in your guest book.

This is another painting that I really adore. It’s by John Singer Sargent and it’s titled “Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)” and there’s just something about it that I just love.

And of course, there is a chat function where you can discuss all kinds of topics with other people… but since it’s Free-to-Play and since it’s online, won’t there be any trolls or toxic people there?

Well,… the developers have heard all of these concerns before and I’ve heard that they are working on a system to remove comments that you don’t like from your guest book while also detecting hateful messages. The comment feature was only recently introduced and the game keeps frequently getting updates! With each update, the developers are introducing more art pieces (old AND new!), new features, and items.

The community is super helpful and seems quite alright. Of course, you get the occasional “I was here” comment but once you’re able to remove that kind of stuff, those won’t be a problem. My initial concern about toxicity and trolls has also not been that much of an issue, yet, since there just don’t seem to be all that many people out there that know about this title or that appreciate art in that way. On top of that, you have to create an account for the game and while that is a bit annoying, it apparently is helping a lot with the process of keeping trolls out. Hence, I’m quite confident that the game won’t get tainted that easily by the internet!

The only issue that I had with the game is how many resources it requires to run properly, as in: Having a lot of paintings, objects and effects can make the game lag at times… but a lot of people avoid that by just creating small galleries on multiple accounts and by connecting them with portals.

It is still in Early Access and it still is getting updated… so that kind of justifies all of that jankiness. You have to wait a bit for stuff to load up and there are some issues here and there with floor-tiles glitching out a bit, but it’s usually not that bad compared to other EA titles.

All in all, I’d say that this is a great game and if you’re into art or if you want to look at cool paintings or meddle with some architecture you should definitely check this title out!

Oh, and if you want to visit my gallery: My name in-game is MagiWasTaken. And on another note, if you wanna check out some of the art that is featured in-game, visit this side.

Cheers!

Indietail – Best Friend Forever

I’m not exactly a dog person. I always thought that I’m not fit and active enough for dogs and hence I never considered if I wanted to have a dog. Obviously, with how the market is, it would be hard to find a flat or anything that would be dog-friendly and alas, I’ll have to rely on other media to maybe live that experience of owning a dog and taking care of it. One of these mediums is Best Friend Forever, an attempt to mix the genre of dating sims and management-types.

Developer: Starcolt
Publisher: Alliance
Release Date: August 27th, 2020
Genre: Dating Sim, Visual Novel, Management
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Switch
Copy was provided by publisher.

After having worked at a big corporation and after some other experiences, you, the protagonist, decide to move to Rainbow Bay. Rainbow Bay is the dog-friendliest place in the world (?) and essentially, the to-go city for everyone who’s searching for a cute little doggo and potentially even happiness, success and other good things. At least, that’s what the city means to our main character.

Early on, you’re prompted to type in your pronouns, blood type, Zodiac, and name before you’re getting unleashed into this short Visual Novel where you adopt a dog, take care of it, and where you try to find love… or something like that. On top of that, you also get to meet a vast cast of different characters that are all quite special in their own ways! Awoo!

From the get-go, I noticed that this game is quite different. We had some weird questions that we needed to answer for our Woofr profile, at the beginning. It’s a Visual Novel after all that is all about your little bowwow. You spend a lot of time picking up and throwing away your dog’s faeces or petting it or training it. Yes, you heard right: You can pet the doggo. It’s an interesting mix and I kind of like that about this title:

You get to date all kinds of characters and you get to min-max your dog’s training schedule to pass the dog school’s exam! Hell yeah!

While getting to know the characters, you stumble across different events and you have to decide where the conversation goes. Picking one of the options available to you usually results in people liking or disliking you – but you can also chicken out and go for a neutral approach that is somewhat boring, I guess.

And the game spans around 15 weeks that you have to spend training your tail-wagger. To do that, you plan your days with them by either going to encounters with the different people or by participating in Pawspirational Events (that have a chance of raising certain stats) or by participating in randomly-appearing Dog Events.

These Dog Events range from your furbaby getting scared to it leashing out a bit or to it pooing on the floor… usually, you have to either move your mouse cursor in certain motions or comfort it by petting it – and these events tend to award you with experience for the different stats:
Manners, Smartness, Trust, Sociability, and Fitness.

Apart from that you also have the training schedules that you can set for them where you essentially can choose to work on two different stats at the same time by IE going for a walk, cuddling, playing, and many other options. Afterwards, you need to take care of your good boy’s (or girl’s!) needs (see above) by feeding or tending to your mutt… Generally, all of this is quite fun at first but later it feels somewhat… pointless?

The story is light-hearted and short. It took me 2.5 hours to get through the game for the first time and to play through Astrid’s romance route. There are a whole bunch of other options that I could take or romantic partners that I could ask out next time, so there is some replayability to it, as well… but the flea circuit isn’t really involved in this. Your doggo is just there in the corner to brighten up and lighten up the game at times… and the management-aspects that are required to pass the exam at the end exist… but they do not really involve your pupper too much. You plan out events and sometimes people comment on your furry friend’s behaviour but effectively, it’s just there to be petted. As far as the exam goes… at the beginning I got mostly silver and gold medals and as time went on, I noticed it going down to bronze medals…

Regardless of that, I got my passing grade, which I found somewhat weird. I get that the Academy is only there to determine whether or not it’s alright for you to own a dog and I get that it is a very light-hearted game but it seems odd to me to just pass it like that. I would have loved more of a challenge or maybe an extension period and supplementary classes instead where you make up for the missing training, maybe get to know a nice dog coach that you can fall in woof with, and unlock more dialogue options. It would have been quite nice… and while I don’t know if you can fail the Academy, I don’t really wanna try it out as I don’t want to my pupper to be taken away from me. On top of that, it would be interesting to see what happens if you neglect your pawl’s needs… but I can’t let my little bowwow starve or get ignored just like that… Some horrible human out there will probably have tried it out… so uh… check there?

I didn’t notice the dog pooping less indoors when the manners stat got up, for instance, so that’s something that I would have liked a lot: Actually seeing the results of the training.

Your little fuzzball (She was called “Titan” in my case!) essentially just provides you with a minigame of sorts that to pass the time for a bit or to stretch out the game, which was somewhat disappointing… And I loved the idea at first and everything but midway through the game, your dog is just there while the focus switches to the other characters, which I found quite bothersome. It’s “best friend forever” but suddenly, it’s more of a dating sim – your dog is secondary. Or rather it feels like it’s not about the dog anymore, which I found actually rather add… tending to your dog becomes a chore while obnoxious people step more into the foreground. (I really don’t like Sascha at all… can we kick him? Like out of the city? Just push him off the edge of the world?)

Another issue that I was facing was that I had a hard time dealing with the writing at the beginning. The game is at times mocking the whole hipster culture or ridiculing it to the point where I thought that it’s not taking itself seriously – and yet, there are characters that talk about their actual fears and their actual problems… and some of the joking and obnoxious characters (the secretary and your neighbour, for instance) just end up breaking that feeling of intimacy that you had with your partner. You talk about problems and in the next instance, you get to talk to Sasha again, which is just painful at best.

I couldn’t really handle some of the writing at the beginning due to the in-your-face-hipster-ness. It was a bit too much for my cup of tea but I guess some people could enjoy that.

Towards the mid-game, it was acceptable and tolerable. I had fun with some of the references and stuff… and your relationship moves relatively fast forward, which is quite interesting as well.

And at last, I reached the end and it just didn’t feel alright or finished yet. I would have loved to continue past the 15 weeks but instead, we see the “what happened to these characters later?” trope before the credits roll. Quite annoying. And again, the dog gets less important later on despite it filling in a key role in the game.

But while that was a bit bad, I guess, I really enjoyed the game overall. It was fun, it was cute. It conveyed a message of sorts that you don’t buy a dog but rather adopt it since it’s very close to you. It’s like a family member of sorts, you could say – not your property or anything like that.
On top of that, the game is really inclusive as it not only lets you chose your character model and pronounce but it also enables all relationships to you whenever you want them and while your sexuality never gets asked for, it is made really well in a way that your past partners, as an example, get named with “they/them” to allow any kind of interpretation.

So, what can I say about Best Friend Forever… it mixes two things that are somewhat different and is hence quite innovative, in my opinion, but it fails to convey the importance of your Woover as it doesn’t give it more credit or more special scenes. Instead, it’s just about you training it while you’re doing stuff with your love encounter. I would have loved to see more CGs of the Barksy to make things, right… in fact… CGs and a CG gallery are features that are missing completely! Especially, considering that you’re a photographer in the game…

The inclusive aspects, however, are really well-made, the soundtrack is alright, the characters all are somewhat quirky but feature a lot of nice traits and conversation options, and overall, it is a well-crafted game, in my opinion, even when the management aspects fell somewhat short. The short length of the game makes it possible to play through different routes and try out different things in several relaxed sessions. And yes, you can, of course, pet the pupper. Hence, this must be a great game.

I’d recommend this game to people that want to play a wholesome, cosy and rather short visual novel that has dogs in it. I wouldn’t recommend this to management fans as those would not be happy with this title. If you’re a cat person like me… it might take you a while to fall in love with your four-legged new family member… but once you get there, it’s super lovely. Despite some issues, I had fun, though, so I’m definitely recommending Best Friend Forever to anyone who’s looking for a short but lovely experience.

Cheers!

Indietail – Try To Survive!

I don’t usually play Horror games… and I don’t usually play all that many FPS games either… but some games combine these genres quite well or have something special about them. Some games out there are able to provide a lot of fun and a big challenge with little to no effort and a rather simple premise… and then there’s Try To Survive.

I’m honestly not too sure about how to approach this title. The game can be summed up quite easily: Shoot waves until you die.

Developer: INGO
Publisher: INGO
Release Date: August 3rd, 2020
Genre: Action, FPS, Horror, Rogue-like
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was provided by the devs.

You’re in a forest and have to fight off waves that get increasingly stronger. After every wave, you’re able to upgrade certain aspects of your character like the range or damage of your weapon, for instance. You may also end up with equipment, like a flashlight or mines and grenades.

Try to Survive doesn’t seem revolutionary.

It’s fast-paced and dark but more than anything else it was disappointing. After half an hour, I’ve seen everything already. After a while I got a hang of it and just ended up kiting enemies while strafing away before grabbing health kits and damage upgrades to just continue like that… and that got boring quite quickly, to the point that I ended up losing on purpose to finally quit the game. There are games that are frustrating and that make you ragequit… and then there’s this title that isn’t too challenging, not all that frustrating, and for a Horror-title not exactly scary either… Is there a word for when you quit because you got bored?

And while this review may sound like a rant so far, I’m actually trying to be at least somewhat nice here since the devs sent me a key for this game and asked me to review it. There are just a lot of issues with the game – and the devs…

First of all, you don’t have enough options and the ones available to you don’t really seem like they change a lot. On top of that, the game looks kind of unfinished, no matter the options you choose. The enemies that you fight each wave don’t really have a cohesive theme either… some are more eldritch while others are just flies or they look like Psychos from Borderlands. It just feels like an attempt to create something “new” out of a lot of different styles and games and whatever… but it’s not new at all.

Secondly, the promotion that the studio is going for seems super sketchy. The devs noted in their mail that they’ll distribute $15,000 to the top three players of the leaderboard once they have a playerbase of over 30,000 players. Every 10.000 players, they will pay $1,000 to three random players, and they are planning to have “tournaments” with bigger price pools in the future as well with budgets of potentially $25,000 and more money… And I don’t think that’s a good way of handling promotion.

I’m not a fan of this “practice” since it just seems super dodgy. They are luring in potential players by offering a prize to them. It’s not about their game anymore. And let’s say they’re really reaching those numbers, there is no guarantee that they’re actually giving money to anyone. It’s a studio with no games so far, with no actual social media pages or any websites or any other info about them. When I asked about a press kit, they were not able to provide me with anything.

Regarding my question why this game was special, unique or worth playing, the devs told me that they’ll give money to the players.
That’s not what makes a game good or unique or special… it just turns it into some sort of weird scheme. And it makes it sound even more as if the devs didn’t care about the game at all and as if they were just trying to rip off players by luring them in, taking their money and leaving them with nothing.

And I don’t think I’m reaching too much here when I say that it looks like a scam to make money with a bad game… that is being sold for 10 bucks.

Originally, I was going to compare this game to a very similar Indie Game that costs less than half of this game’s price… but I don’t think I should compare games in a review. I don’t want to recommend a game in a review about a different game. I’ll post a separate review on that title later this month, instead.

To sum everything up: I cannot recommend this game and I tried my best to be nice about it, but in the end this game is boring and doesn’t bring anything new to the table… and it doesn’t justify the 10€ price tag at all.

Hence, no recommendation here. Cheers.

Indietail – Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star

Remember that one time where you had that magical moment where you first fell in love with someone? When the stars aligned and everything seemed perfect? When you told yourself: “This is it.”

I remember that one time where the clouds broke up and the sun was shining after this rainy day. When I spotted her, sitting next to me, doodling in her notebook. As the professor was talking about something boring, I couldn’t help myself but get caught in her countenance. It was such an average moment with nothing special to it – but I couldn’t help myself dreaming of a common future or something that connected us, even if we were strangers. I had similar moments in the past. Love at first sight. A distinct connection that you feel to people you hardly know. Fate. Destiny. Magic. Whatever, you want to call it.

Developer: Eyeguys, Lorenzo Redaelli
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Genre: Visual Novel, Indie, Dark Romance, Anime
Release Date: August 13th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - coming soon to Switch, PS4 and XBOX One!
Copy received from the devs.

In today’s review, we’re talking about Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star, a partially autobiographical dark-romance visual novel about Sune and Nuki, two young men whose passionate love affair collided with their inner demons. It’s a game about intimacy, idealization and abusive relationships. Hence, there’s a trigger warning.

We play as Nuki, a young man with a fascination for stars, who is being somewhat melancholic during the last days of summer. His obsession with stars goes as far as owning a pet starfish and gazing stars at the horizon and the ceiling of his room. One day, something crazy happens and after following a shooting star, he gets to meet and falls in love with Sune, another young man who seems to be upset about something. We want to know more about the two characters. We want to discover what’s up with Sune. We want to know if it works out. I really had my fingers crossed for the two of them… but some things are not meant to be, right? Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes, your issues get into the way. Your past haunts you while you’re sabotaging your luck.

The game’s constantly enigmatic, drawing you in, wanting you to cheer for the two unfortunate souls… but then you get rejected or accepted, based on your choices and senses. You want to help Sune and you want Nuki to be happy but in certain key moments, you just end up feeling the weight of your words and the way that you can harm others. It’s not that simple.

You can’t just help someone. Even if you want to be there for them, you can cause them more pain by doing so. Get caught in the moment and make one mistake, suddenly you’re feeling down in the slumps again as you give yourself the fault for the unfortunate outcome… And then you do it again or do better and it’s just a rollercoaster of emotions. It can work out! You can make it work! Or can you? I’m not sure.

And when you think that everything is alright, nothing is. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong but there are always (at least) two people in a relationship. There are two sides to an argument, right?

While playing the game, I constantly saw myself in the characters. Getting eager, reading too much into certain feelings, feeling the passion, being up in the clouds and wanting to feel more… and then you’re down in the slumps again. Past abusive relationships that I had made me feel just like that. I see it. I see certain patterns and I get reminded of what I did wrong, even if it’s not about me. It’s about Nuki and Sune. It’s about the past experiences of Lorenzo Redaelli, the developer of the game. It’s about intimacy and idealization. It’s about mental health and problems. It’s about passion and struggle. Love and pain.

The game follows these kinds of patterns. You have moments where you enjoy yourself with Sune or where you are talking to yourself, thinking about things, and reflecting on a lot of stuff. But there are also choices. You can change the outcome. It doesn’t have to end badly. It doesn’t have to end well. You decide. And that’s something that surprised me. Your actions, your words, they reveal secrets and information. No playthrough is like the other, and I loved that about this game.

And when Nuki is with Suni… when they love each other, you’re able to use this special and innovative mechanic where you chose different senses to influence the sex, the love, the passion. Find out something new. Bring light into the darkness… or add more shadows to it? Control what happens, without it being too graphic. I liked that idea and the different outcomes are really interesting. I’m not sure if I’ve seen something like that in other games before!

On top of that, the game’s presentation is just amazing. Very abstract and ominous. At times quiet, at times loud. The game’s original, space-y, baroque electropop soundtrack is amazing and truly adds a lot to your experience… but it also lets you reflect on things at times. When you’re alone, all by yourself… Just you by yourself, the game’s quiet. You look at your phone, at the ceiling, at your mirror, and the game’s quiet. Silence is important. I highly enjoyed that aspect.

And then there’s the colours and the art style. Abstract. Minimalistic. At times just magical. The neon colours and all the different tones of red… they just add a lot to it. Sometimes it’s brighter and sometimes darker. Usually quite fitting to your feelings and your inner world. At times you see very interesting metaphors and images, although I don’t want to spoil it too much either, right now. In the end, my experience got enhanced by this and I highly enjoyed it, especially because of this art style that is so different from other games.

I guess the only issue that I had with the game was that it, at times, was too abstract for me. There have been some similes and images that I didn’t get… I also wasn’t able to tell when something was real and when something wasn’t. At times, I was wondering if it’s just a daydream or some sort of metaphor that Nuki uses to solve the problems he has. At times, I was confused… while at other times, I wasn’t sure which interpretation and which theory would be the most accurate.

Sometimes, I also had an issue with how Sune would react to things that Nuki said. You chose some of the dialogue options but sometimes the results or the reactions of Sune would be unexpected and it made me feel helpless. This is both an issue and a feature, in my opinion, as in real situations these kinds of things happen as well. You don’t get the expected results from a conversation. You cannot completely understand everyone. It doesn’t work like that. So, at times, I felt as if the choices were worded differently from the intention that I thought they would convey… which was an issue at one or two instances… but at the same time, it adds a bit of realism to the experience.

In the end, I couldn’t really talk too much about the game’s story itself but more about its topics and what I liked about it. It was somewhat hard to not spoil anything but I think I did a good job here… especially since there is so much that I didn’t talk about at all!

My first experience with this game was awesome and I still have goosebumps even while thinking back at it. I highly recommend this game… but I’m not sure if it’s for everyone. There are certain triggers in there. If you can’t deal with heavier topics like mental health issues, abusive relationships, borderline personality disorder, and the like, I wouldn’t recommend this to you. Otherwise, it’s a great experience that is definitely worth checking out!

The different endings and plot lines, the small secrets and the different choices really add a lot of replay value to the game, and even after you’re done with one ending or a lot of them, you’ve still got a ton of room for theory crafting, analysis, and speculation, so the game doesn’t end when you’re done with it, which is interesting and one of the many reasons as to why I’m recommending this.

Cheers!

Indietail – Fall Guys

As a kid, I used to watch “Takeshi’s Castle” whenever I came home from school and I loved it. Both the candidates and the commentary were hilarious. The game modes were extremely cool as well… and then there was the final round against Takeshi himself where everyone storms the castle and it was just great! Well, today’s game has a lot in common with Takeshi’s Castle, so I thought I’d talk about that first.

Developer: Mediatonic
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: August 4th
Genres: Multiplayer, Battle Royale, Casual, Platformer
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4
Technical Beta key was received for free. 

In today’s Indietail, I’m taking a look at the Fall Guys: Technical Beta!

Fall Guys could be described as a “wholesome Battle Royale” game that takes a lot of inspiration from game shows like Takeshi’s Castle and that uses “mini games” to separate the winners from the not-winners!

I don’t usually like Battle Royale games since there is too much shooting going on and I am not too good at them. A lot of times you just get outplayed by FPS-players as a Non-FPS-player and alas, I didn’t really get into it too much. BR games that I do enjoy are ones that are different, just like Fall Guys. Instead of shooting others until only one person or only one squad is surviving, you try to manoeuvre your way through a bunch of mini-game rounds with a ton of other players around. I guess it’s not exactly a BR-game but due to the “Survive until there’s only one man standing” aspect of Fall Guys and BR games, I would call it that… but whatever.

Controls feel quite alright. You’d expect something similar to Human Fall Flat or Octodad with cute characters like that but they actually control relatively normal with AWSD and Space as your main button on top of the mouse controls to leap forward or push others. Overall quite intuitive!

The game modes get rotated through randomly with a bunch of them queued up one after another. There are a bunch of parkour-style mini-games requiring you to reach the end of the way and dodge all kinds of moving and rotating objects. It’s incredible fun to see someone in front of you getting yeeted (Yoted? Yoten? YEET!) off the platform and respawning behind you at the last checkpoint. There are also some mini-games where you just need to survive until enough people didn’t… and also a soccer-style minigame where the winning team gets to proceed.

And that’s cool! A bunch of variety and mostly about three rounds before you get to proceed. It’s hilarious to see you and other players wobble through the game… but it still gets quite competitive. I could see myself and friends play this together but I’m not exactly sure if they’d stay friends afterwards. After all, I’ve seen people push other people off the ledge or jump over there head, leaping into the goal. I’ve seen people win with the cheapest tricks… and it can also get frustrating.

There has been one round where other people constantly where jumping over my head and where I had some latency issues as well, making some jumps quite impossible. And then there were some other rounds where I didn’t have latency issues but people ganged up on me and pushed me off into some Slime… so that’s been a bit of a bummer. I also had one round where my team did little to nothing in the soccer minigame, resulting in us losing and me not qualifying for the next round… And that’s the spirit of Competitive Games – even when they’re cute, it can get frustrating or annoying. Overall though, I really enjoyed the game.

“YAY, I WON!” – this guy… not me… oof.

And most of my enjoyment came from the presentation probably. It’s still fun to get competitive. It’s incredibly fun to dwell in nostalgia, thinking back to TV shows like Takeshi’s Castle. And the presentation is just fun as well – I guess that’s the best way to describe it. “Fun”.

After completing rounds, you’re awarded Season Pass progress and you get to unlock new customs or spend your in-game currency for new cosmetics, emotes, etc.

It’s got vibrant colours and a very energetic and neat soundtrack that essentially provides the optimal tunes for the game. It’s fitting and enjoyable and different. And having a “different” soundtrack is important in this case as I’ve heard similar tunes in other games and as I got annoyed by them. That wasn’t the case in Fall Guys.

But despite all the fun I had with this game, there are some points that I didn’t like or that I’m worried about.

For one, it might get a bit too frustrating when you’re paired with people in team games that just don’t really want to play with you or that just don’t want to defend or whatever. It can be difficult and I hope that there’s going to be some sort of regulation as to how many team games there will be in the game… I’d rather like this to be more of a “Survival of the Fittest” situation than a “Get lucky with the team” situation. Of course, you could say that people probably are not intentionally losing those… but if a few of the players are having latency issues, it’s incredibly hard to win the round and alas, you get hindered by your team and lose the game based on something that isn’t your fault.

I guess you can talk about latency issues as well in this review-section but I didn’t have too many issues on that front apart from one or two rounds… and it’s in the Technical Beta phase… so of course there are bugs or issues. Duh.

On the other hand, spectating the game after you have fallen out of the competition is a pain in the butt. You don’t have to do it but I found it hilarious to watch the other participants until only one person is remaining. Betting points on participants could be quite interesting for a mechanic to make it “spicier”. Queuing up only to spectate could be a fun idea. Right now… it just needs a mechanic that shows you the leaderboard and where you can choose to spectate certain players without having to click through all of them. Might be quite nice for potential tournaments as well.

So in the end, I did enjoy this game. If you like Takeshi’s Castle and want to get competitive without having to “gid gud” at shooters, I’d recommend this game to you. It’s quite enjoyable and I think that a lot of the issues will get fixed in the actual release.

Cheers!

Indietail – Necrobarista

At last year’s GamesCom I interviewed Ngoc Vu, the lead artist from Route 59, who at the time worked on Necrobarista. Now that the game is out I got a key for review purposes and, well,…

TLDR: I love it. It’s a great game. Why? Find out here!

Developer: Route 59
Publisher: Route 59, Coconut Island Games
Genres: Supernatural, 3D, Story Rich, Visual Novel
Release Date: July 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - but PS4 and Switch are planned soon as well!
Copy was provided by the Devs.

Necrobarista is about time. Time to move on – or time to stay. Somewhere in a backstreet of Melbourne, there’s a Café where both the alive and the healthy come to. When you pass away, you have 24 hours to stay in that Café, have a drink and then move on… and Necrobarista tells a story about the owners of that Café and the people that come there. It’s a story about the ethics of Necromancy, hipster coffee, and letting go.

Strap on for a haunting and innovative experience and a haunting, yet cosy, time!

Meet Maddy, Chay, Ashley, and Ned – as well as a bunch of other characters! Get to know them! Listen to them and have a cosy time. I really liked the characters as all of them had a certain depth to them (without spoiling too much here). There’re all kinds of characters in all kinds of shapes and colours, so there’s some degree of inclusiveness here with representation for all kinds of people, which is something that I really fancy.

Necrobarista has a certain cosy slice-of-life-ness to it that I really enjoyed while playing. On top of that, though, it also has some intense moments here and there as well as some rather emotional moments. Think about it: It’s your last day on earth. I’ll just leave that there and you can think about it all you want, get emotional or shrug it off. Whatever you feel like. The story leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis, which is something that I personally really enjoyed doing. At some plot points, it made me feel down a bit but other plot points felt really nice and wholesome in a way. And while overall cosy, it gets intense later on as well.

What’s interesting is that you don’t spectate the story from the lens of one character that looks at all the characters interacting with only them, like in a lot of other visual novels, but rather you get different perspectives and points of view. You get to see the characters from the POV of one character or from above or the camera moves around a bit, panning while you read the text. There are no text boxes on the bottom side of the screen. Instead, you see them floating near the characters. You always know who’s talking but they are always somewhere else, making the game feel more whole and organic. It’s lovely.

A lot of these feelings are conveyed through the colours and the soundtrack. Necrobarista’s soundtrack has been composed by Kevin Penkin who’s known for making the soundtrack of Under The Dog, Made in Abyss, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. I’d put Necrobarista’s soundtrack on the same level as Made in Abyss. I love it to bits. It’s cosy and joyful, endearing and amusing but it also can be intense and mystic, enigmatic and threatening. That – combined with the lo-fi style that uses not only gorgeous images and colours but also some slight animations here and there – makes this just a wonderful experience.

And while I would have loved this game to branch out into choices and a story with different kinds of stories that you can explore over time, it really is not that kind of game.

It’s linear but still quite rich. I love the story and the aesthetic. The characters are great. The soundtrack underlines the plot points and brings the best out of everything. Again, I can’t praise Kevin Penkin enough but after what he did in Made in Abyss, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack for this game turned out so great. It sticks to your head and you notice a “sound” that you ultimately recognize as “Necrobarista-like” – or at least that’s what I feel like when I hear those tunes somewhere else now.

The story is linear but doesn’t need the branches. Of course, there is still some degree regarding choices.

For instance, you get to pick words that you’ve heard from different people at the end of every chapter. These words get associated with different meanings and subjects or people depending on the context and the character that said them. When you pick them, you then gain memory fragments from different categories. You then can use these fragments in the Café while walking around before continuing the story. You use them to unlock side stories or “memories” (essentially extra lore) that you can read on to learn more about the characters.

You click on “Blood” and get a fragment for “Magic” as it was mentioned in that context. You click on “Weather” and get a fragment for “Melbourne” as they were talking about a storm brewing. You click on “Minor Demon” and get a fragment for “Lore” as it’s part of the world that those exist… and “bowl of peas” belongs to “Food” as Ned loves them. Use these different fragments up for some nice and short stories in between chapters and collect more to unlock more stories. At some point, you’ll get through the main story but you can always load previous chapters and load previous save states, so it shouldn’t be a problem to unlock all of them, especially as you can view what you need and what you have already in the “memories” section of the pause menu.

I liked this feature. It creates a bit of replayability which is quite nice overall.

And you also get to explore the space a bit to unlock more short stories. Visit the basement or the bar, the Café’s upper area or the outside area. Look at different objects.

Enjoy the view. Take some pretty screenshots! I did, too! A lot of them!

But seriously. It’s a great game. I guess this is not a game for you if you’re not into reading or if you don’t like Visual Novels or anime or stories revolving around life and death… or if you feel like there’s not enough action in this game… but that’s your loss then. I highly recommend this game. I didn’t find any issues with it. The story, presentation, the characters, the gameplay, and the score were just great if not even superb and I loved it.

Necrobarista just came out on Steam! Check it out or wishlist it! Highly recommend it!

I’m glad that I saw it at last year’s GamesCom. I’m glad that I did that interview. I’m glad that I started this blog. Next week, the blog turns a year old and if it wasn’t for the blog I wouldn’t have been able to write about all kinds of topics and about these kinds of games. I love it. I hope you’re enjoying the blog posts, too. Until then.

Cheers!

Indietail – Stories: The Path of Destinies

Not too long ago, we’ve taken a look at Omensight, a game made by Spearhead. Omensight combined a beautiful world and a lot of different characters with some cool mystery-solving mechanics and some insanely fun combat! This time around, we’re taking a look at its spiritual predecessor, Stories: The Path of Destinies! Strap on for another Indietail!

Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Release Date: April 12th, 2016
Genres: Adventure, Action, RPG, Indie, Mystery
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

What is Stories: The Path of Destinies about?

In a world with anthropomorphic animal characters and floating islands, we’re taking control of the fox Reynardo, who retired from his brave adventures when his mother took her last breath. One day, the Empire is attacking our hometown in search of a book in our possession. We, the sole survivor of the royal assault, are escaping on our airship, we join the Rebellion and try to take on Isengrim III, the vicious toad emperor who is trying to use forgotten magic, ancient artefacts, and the elder gods who once destroyed the world to rise to power! And, well, it’s our duty to stop that from happening!

In its core, Stories is an isometric action-RPG with mystery elements. We have to solve different loose ends of the game’s story to find out how to stop Isengrim’s plan, who to trust and what exactly is going on. Just like Omensightm, Stories is based on replayability. As Reynardo reads the magical book, he finds out that it allows him to travel back to the same day upon death. With newly attained knowledge, we get to chose different options and make other choices to influence the outcome of the story.

But not always do different choices lead to different outcomes. Often, we need to find out information beforehand to actually influence the outcome of a different route, and alas we have a total of 24 different endings to discover, a whole bunch of levelling and fighting to do, and a whole bunch of characters to investigate.

Do we save our old friend Lapino, a goofy and sly rabbit who is currently being held hostage by the Empire, or do we ditch him in order to find the old artefacts that are capable of potentially sealing away the banished evil gods and defeat the emperor? The choice is yours!

A lot of the times, the story branches into different paths, resulting in a bunch of new areas to discover, information on lore as well as new dialogue options!

And not everything is as it seems. Who can we trust? Who is a traitor? Are the leaders of the Rebellion as trustworthy as we think they are? What about our old love, Zenobia, the Emperor’s daughter? Is there a way to reach out to her? And is Lapino really who we think he is? The story allows us to form our own fate and managed to surprise me over and over again with complex characters that actually change their minds or show their true colours when we go the right way.

There are about four choices in each path to make, all featuring two or three options that split the path into different branches. The branches usually end with either the world getting destroyed or you getting captured or killed, which then results in the book bringing you back in time where you can start all over again. There are four branches that reveal four truths, required to reach the final ending and the end of the game. These four truths are linked to Isengrim, Zenobia, Lapino and the ancient evil gods. When travelling back in time, your book leaves you with guidance, telling you how the choices are reflecting themselves in your future… though no future is set in stone yet as you get to play them yourselves and make a different choice at any point.

As far as combat goes, it is best describes as a simpler version of Omensight’s combat. You get to slash enemies with your sword, using a vast variety of swings and attacks, as well as abilities that you unlock through skills, counters and blocks. Using different materials, you get to upgrade your sword, adding bonus effects to it like fire damage or more attack speed. On top of that, you get to customize your character with different gems that grant you resistances or other passive effects. Overall, I felt like the combat is rather solid and a lot of fun to play. Spearhead Games learned a lot from Stories: The Path of Destinies and implemented it into Omensight which turned out to be a bit more difficult but also a lot more fun. So, I was quite satisfied with both games’ combat systems.

And then there is the world and the soundtrack: It’s beautiful… but that’s no surprise as Spearhead Games have proven themselves as a lovely studio that is very talented in world-building and game-making. The narration really adds more to the game, too! You could say that I’m a huge fan of Spearhead Games, especially as I just adore Omensight’s world and soundtrack. So it should be no surprise that I enjoyed Stories, though I’ve got to say that there is a weak point to Stories as well…

And that’s its cast of enemies:

Over time, as you go back and re-visit old areas, you’re presented with the same enemies over and over again. Of course, you find new enemy types over the course of the game and you get to fight stronger versions when you get stronger, but I never truly felt as if the game was challenging me a lot… as time went on, I struggled a bit more, but it usually was rather doable and never truly hard, so that was a bit of a downer. The combat is a lot of fun but I would have loved to see more variety in the cast of enemies that you’re facing.

But other than that, I couldn’t really find any issues with the game. It runs smoothly, the game’s plot, characters and the soundtrack are awesome, the combat is fun (though it could have been more challenging) and the exploration is quite neat as well. I highly recommend this game to any fan of well-made action-RPG games and for players who are interested in solving a mystery that involves the end of the world!

I hope you enjoyed this review! It’s been a while and I thought I’d publish it today, especially as this game is really good on top of being different from the other titles that I’ve reviewed so far.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day over there!

Cheers!

Indietail – Before I Forget

In today’s Indietail, we’re talking about „Before I Forget“ by 3-Fold Games, a one-hour-long narrative experience, that shows us the story of Suni and Dylan Appleby.

Developer: 3-Fold Games
Publisher: 3-Fold Games
Release Date: July 16th, 2020
Genres: Indie, Exploration, Walking Simulator, Narrative, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC
Copy received from Humble Choice.

In the beginning, we’re just thrown into this apartment, blurry sighted and left with little to no instructions. The only thing we know: We need to find Dylan. Who is Dylan? Where is he? Why is he so important to us? All these questions were going through my head while some beautiful piano music was luring me from one room into the other.

From the get-go, I was astonished by the vibrant colours and the art style that slowly pieced itself together. We can’t go anywhere. There are locked doors and other pieces that are missing, so we need to explore. Find postcards, letters and other objects to trigger certain memories and piece the story together, slowly completing the world like a puzzle of sorts.

You don’t see the bigger picture until you’re fully immersed in the game.

And being immersed isn’t too hard in this case. The story is wonderful and lovely at the beginning but slowly changes pace as the small world we live in gets completed and as more options unlock themselves before us. We can’t proceed through some hallways and cannot open some other doors. I quite literally got lost in the world and the apartment or did I? Did I move through this door already? Why is this one closed again? I could swear that I was here before? I’m confused.

Time and space seem to be mere concepts, rather abstract ones at that. The protagonist’s movement resembles that quite well. Throughout the game, the mouse and player controls feel sluggish or slow down at least, which resembles our confusion quite well. Then everything seems fine again and everything is back to normal…

We forget ourselves. We end up questioning who we are and what we have done. We know nothing about the character that we’re playing… and apparently, the protagonist doesn’t know much more either… at least yet.

The experience reminded me a lot of Answer Knot, where a relationship gets established through notes, photographs and different memories that we remember.

It’s a neat concept that is well executed.

Throughout the game, we’re accompanied by a very interesting soundtrack (by Dave Tucker) and some interesting design choices. Partly, we’re left in the silent, only hearing our footsteps while slowly moving around… partly, we’re accompanied by some nice little piano tunes that become more frequent as the game goes on… and partly, we hear this ominous humming that seems to threaten us while a black hole of sorts stops us from proceeding further into the apartment.

As time goes on, we remember more. Time doesn’t stand still. We find out about the couple and their wishes and careers. Snippets of different conversations. We read about Dylan’s tour and Suni’s research. Here and there we travel back in time to where Suni’s aunt is showing her the stars and explaining the stories and meanings of the different stars and constellations, not all of them were happy but overall it was beautiful.

And well, I’m not sure how to tackle everything else about the game. Being an immersive experience, I can’t talk about the plot too much. I’m afraid that I might have already taken a lot away from the game by only talking about less than the first half.

I guess what I could say is that I loved it. The end was beautiful, the soundtrack was superb, the art style and the shift from the vibrant colours to a darker palette was fluid and just lovely. I loved how the „world“ (aka the apartment) slowly completed itself. And speaking of the apartment, I loved how the two cultures that collided in this relationship are resembled in the flat itself, with British/Western objects and furniture on top of Indian (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong!) paintings and influences scattered throughout the flat. I loved exploring all the rooms and I loved how turning the lights on and off, changed so much about the atmosphere! I also loved how objects and furniture shifted and changed as we remembered more. Oh, and don’t get me started on the voice acting! Just lovely!

Near the end of the game, I had goosebumps from all the metaphors and symbols found in the last sections of the game (can’t talk about that as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone) – and when it was over… I was in awe.

It’s a great game. I highly recommend it.

The only thing that I could criticize would be that I would have loved to put different pieces together by myself. I would have loved it if certain things wouldn’t have been explicitly mentioned by the game. I feel like making the player think is a much stronger way of telling a story instead of actually spelling it out. It didn’t bother me too much. This way of storytelling is obviously more direct and allows more players to reach the same experience, so I guess it’s not bad… I just would have liked to find secrets or maybe even create theories about the characters, by myself, instead of finding everything out in the end… and despite most of the game being rather direct, the ending still leaves a lot of things open. If you enjoy theory-crafting, the ending is going to be lovely for you.

The game’s coming out soon, so you may want to wishlist it on Steam.

So, that’s it for the review. I guess I somehow managed to create a spoiler-free review of this short but beautiful experience. I hope that you will enjoy this experience as much as I did.

Cheers!

Indietail – Train Valley 2

Do you like trains? Do you like simulations? Do you like resource-management-puzzles? If this introduction reminds you of yesterday’s post, then you’ll probably realise quickly that we’re reviewing Train Valley 2 today and that I’m still as uncreative as yesterday!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Genre: Trains, Strategy, Simulation, Puzzle, Casual
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Train Valley 2 is a puzzle-train-sim developed by Flazm, the developer of the prequel, Train Valley 1. Alas, the premise is still relatively the same. You’ve got different stations that need to be connected using railroads. Building tracks, bridges and tunnels as well as destroying houses and other objects costs money that you earn by successfully guiding trains from one station to the other stations.

The main difference is probably the fact that you don’t have the semi-random tunnels, bridges and stations popping up everywhere.

Instead, you’ve got the task of constructing those yourself. Apart from that, you now have to deliver resources from one station to the next, to get processed resources that then need to end up at different towns. You transport workers from trains to the fields to work on grains. You then deliver the grains and more workers to the farms to get cows. At last, you bring the cows back to the towns to complete the production goals.

But the game’s not limited to only workers, grains and cows but also features a plethora of other resources and processed items that need a lot more steps to get produced!

In the first game, trains started driving off into the distance, causing chaos and destruction, if you took too long. Meanwhile here you have full control, alas having to send them off on your own in a slower-paced fashion, which is rather relaxing and quite a bit of an improvement. The game doesn’t get easier, though, as it’s more about the decisions you make. You need to manage your funds and decide on which station to build from and to, first, before taking action. Alas, Train Valley 2 can create a relaxing and less frustrating experience while still featuring logic puzzles that are as satisfying and difficult as the ones featured in the predecessor!

Overall, it seems as if the developer, Flazm, stocked up on the quality of life improvements while also adding a lot of features that make the game more entertaining. Challenging yourself in the levels and collecting stars now enables you to unlock different train designs, for instance. Things like these make the challenges worth it, while also providing completionists with some better rewards!

In contrast to the first game’s more realistic art style, Train Valley 2 features a rather vibrant colour palette as well as a less detailed poly-based art style.

When delivering materials to the different towns, these towns get upgraded, just like in the predecessor, but it seems to be overall more rewarding. Levels aren’t tied to themes, eras and locations anymore but, instead, feature a more general approach, named by some landmark, like “lighthouse” or “Eiffeltower”. Despite that, the cities and towns still develop in different styles that aren’t necessarily “European” or “Asian”, which I personally really dug.

Another new change: You don’t go through a century per level but instead work yourself through different ages from the steam age to the electrical era to, finally, the age of space. You can find a total of 50 levels in Train Valley 2, and you have access to infinite more levels due to the Steam Workshop and the player-created levels.

The music, however, is still not my favourite part of the game…or even the franchise.

In the beginning, the soundtrack seems to fit the game, but over time you can’t listen to it anymore. The tracks (pun intended) are all way too relaxed and calm. At some point, I got so tired of the soundtrack that I ended up turning it off and listening to some other music that fits the game just as much but is a lot less monotone. The problem with the soundtrack is probably the fact that it all sounds similar if not even the same. If someone played the Train Valley soundtrack, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great soundtrack great. It either fits the game atmospherically or it adds more value to your experience. Train Valley 2’s soundtrack seems to fit but gets annoying over time and alas, in my opinion, is not good.

On top of that, there are some issues with the bridge/tunnel-construction.
It’s a tad difficult to see the terrain differences and where you can lay down tracks. In some places, you need to create bridges and tunnels although it may look like you’re able to just place tracks up the slope. When you want to construct bridges or tunnels, it can also become rather fiddly, to the point that it almost becomes frustrating.

That being said, I don’t think that this is a major flaw and while it can be a bit annoying in the beginning, you’ll get used to the controls over time and eventually learn how to use it just fine. My overall experience with the game was really satisfying and I did enjoy my time a lot, especially since I noticed the improvements from the first game.

Both Train Valley and Train Valley 2 are great games that you can get for around ten bucks. Train Valley 2 brings a lot of value to the table on top of the workshop content, which is just fabulous for games like this. If you like puzzle games and/or trains, I’d say go for it.

Cheers!