Mini-Review Roundup #4

Welcome back for another week of tiny reviews! We’re taking a break from the deluge of Curator Connect games to look back at some titles I reviewed in the distant era of 2015. That’s right, I’m doing a batch of revisions this time, five games that don’t really rate full coverage but might (or might not) still be worth a look. We’ve got physics puzzlers, adventures, and even a little shooting on tap today, so enjoy this sampler of indie goodies!

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Call of Tomsk-7

Something Half-lifey has gone down at Soviet… place Tomsk-7, and it’s up to you to survive until the military can drop a big bomb on it. At least, that’s what the terribly voice-acted intro indicates. This means you have to wander back and forth in an empty arena decorated with badly-mirrored Photoshop backgrounds and shoot zombies, hive zombies, and bugs that come out of the hive zombies. You get grenades and molotovs you can chuck to thin out groups, and can call in more ammo if you last long enough. I’m not sure how long you have to live to see the bomb drop, because the zombies kill in one hit and the bugs are sure to swarm you if you run out of gas bombs.

Do I sound unimpressed? Between the MSPaint graphics, weak-ass bullet physics that act more like slingshots than guns, and crappy garage rock, I’ve seen better shooters on Newgrounds. Worst of all is the unlock system though, which requires you to hit certain high scores to unlock new guns and hats. That’s not cumulative score, that means you have to do better every time you play to get better stuff. And when the beginning of every round is a snooze-fest waiting for enemies to show up, there’s not much reason to stick around to unlock anything. There are loads of better ways to shoot monsters for points than this, many of them free, and I encourage you to go find them immediately.

FINAL VERDICT: Nyet

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Deep Under the Sky

It turns out that the far side of Venus is populated by a whole mess of crazy-ass life forms, including big fuzzy bioluminescent jellyfish that shoot eggs everywhere. You play one of those jellyfish in a one-button physics puzzler about launching and exploding your eggs to plant babies all over the planet. Once you get the basics of hitting targets down the game starts introducing additional movements to the sequence, like speed boosts, bounces, rolls, and so on. Using whatever sequence you have loaded at the right times will get your seeds where they need to go, and can also score you two stars per level tucked away in hard-to-hit spots.

Once upon a time, this was the chillest game in my library, enough that I would pop it open as a break between other games all the time. There’s zero stress or pressure here, just you, a bunch of targets, and infinite chances to hit them. The graphics are busy as hell but sway in a calm, reserved way and the soundtrack is exactly the weird kind of low-key ambient you’re expecting. With four chapters of 20 levels apiece this one can keep you busy for a good long while, working out all your trick shots or just blasting jellyfish bits all over Venus to relax.

FINAL VERDICT: Ahhh

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Missing Translation

In this bite-sized side-scrolling adventure, your little insomniac person goes for a walk at night and gets hoovered up through a portal to a quaint alien world. All the language there is communicated visually with lines arranged on a 9-node grid, and at any point you can draw and say a symbol to get a response. There’s a school where you can learn how the language works if you’re paying attention, and several aliens roaming around to converse with. Strangely the puzzles you have to complete to get home have nothing to do with this language, and are instead gauntlets of moving blocks and rotating circuits. You have to finish 25 of each of the three puzzle types to get home, which would be excessive if it didn’t all take you less than an hour. The charming monochrome graphics and peppy sounds help make this one a fine way to tease your brain for a bit.

FINAL VERDICT: Yea

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Two Digits

Do you love math? I don’t mean in an abstract yes-this-concept-appeals-to-me sense, I mean do you love adding and subtracting numbers for the thrill of it? If so, Two Digits was made for you. The premise is elementary: you have nine numbers, and you have to make two sets that equal each other. You don’t have to use all the numbers, just adding two to equal a third is enough here. And for the first few dozen puzzles that’ll be enough, but the combinations get trickier as you work through all 250 levels available. They’re grouped by number ranges, some only being odd or only two digits each. Along with a random mode with customizable ranges, this simple puzzler should be any mathophile’s dream.

FINAL VERDICT: Adequate

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Where is my Heart?

Your adorable trio of monsters fed the heart tree the wrong hearts and he flew away, fracturing the world in the process. That means the levels you lead these fellows through are broken into mixed-up tiles, some that overlap and others that are in reverse order. If that sounds like a pain in the ass to navigate, you’re absolutely right. It’s a neat gimmick for about five minutes but after that the extra mental exertion required to keep it all straight starts to wear you down. Plus some of the connections require leaps of faith or pure guesswork, and when you have to be totem-stacking three slow monsters to get anywhere the time spent adds up.

There are other puzzles like bonking same-colored boxes with your monsters and collecting nondescript hearts to make platforms appear. Your critters can combine and transform into three special monsters, one of which can rotate the level fragments into new configurations. This is used heavily once introduced, and though it sounds neat it only adds more headaches. You’ll be expected to perform complex midair shifting combos, and rotating him into a wall is instantly deadly. Despite the frustrations I was still able to get halfway through the game in about 45 minutes, and that was more than enough for me. It’s a fine concept and I love the adorable art, but it just doesn’t translate into a fun time.

FINAL VERDICT: Oof

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