Mini-Review Roundup #10
Spooktober may have ended, but that doesn’t mean the spooks have to stop there! Near the end of the month I stumbled across some bite-sized terrors that (mostly) deserve a look, and to keep the spirit of the season going, I’ve elected to wrap them up in a very special package of mini-reviews. Since this is an eclectic mix, featuring some free titles and some I got from the developers, I’ve added a few little notes to that effect. So, without further ado, let’s begin our tiny journey of discovery!
Anyone fortunate enough to experience the classic Shadowgate or its unrelated sequels will regale you with cheerful tales of being murdered for picking up books or looking over certain balconies. Deadly adventures like that have mostly passed into memory, but From Beyond seems intent on bringing back the style in a very faithful way. The interface is a clear homage, with a small, pixellated scene to explore with commands like Look, Take, and Open, an inventory of odds and ends to use in puzzle-solving, and even a little map that marks adjacent scenes with unassuming squares.
Plot-wise, you’re a researcher on the trail of great and terrible legends, which leads you to a remote alpine town. The journey there is treacherous, but you find yourself no safer once you arrive in the ominous hamlet. A great black spire rises from the center of the place, and it’s your goal to gain access to the eldritch structure somehow. In contrast with the games that inspired it, most of the challenges in your way have multiple solutions and varied results. Experimentation is not only important, it’s encouraged as you accumulate a wealth of items that may not even have specific uses. From Beyond also isn’t as keen on murdering you randomly, but I will still strongly suggest saving regularly. For fans of classic horror adventures, you won’t want to miss this little gem.
FINAL VERDICT: Auspicious
Who would have thought Jason would work just as well in chibi form? Killer Puzzle takes the ubiquitous hockey-masked murderer and plops him in those brain-teaser boards where you keep moving until you hit something. The challenge is to maneuver Jason around so he can brutalize all the campers on the level and still reach the final girl, boy, or person once everyone else is dead. I’m a big fan of this style of puzzle to begin with, but the cartoon bloodshed and the helicopter parenting from Jason’s mom’s head really make this one something special. The first eight episodes are free, offering tons of puzzling before asking a modest sum for the last four. You’ll also earn random weapons with unique animations as you slay your way through, though you can buy random boxes of more if you’re bad with money. As much fun as it is brain-teasing your way to brainings here, you’ll get plenty of mileage without spending a cent.
FINAL VERDICT: Bloody Good
The Backrooms Game (Free)
Based on some creepypasta, there are apparently competing versions but this one seems the most prominent. After a few runs I can see why, too. The Backrooms Game sends you into the drab, neon-lit backrooms of some unnamed office, your reasons for being there and even your very identity a mystery. The hideous wallpaper and cheap carpet stretch unto infinity, randomized as you navigate the maze-like halls. Every thirty seconds you can check your watch and “remember”, the purpose of which I’ll leave to you to suss out. You’re looking for an exit, and good luck getting to it as the oppressive atmosphere grows and your aimless wanderings become panicked retreats. It’s that atmosphere that makes this one work so well, and I heartily encourage you to give it a try and see what the quiet fuss is about.
FINAL VERDICT: Ominous
Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect
Does everyone love skeletons? I admit to being pretty close to mine, but after playing this I’m not sure everyone is going to love what they do. This is a bare-bones platformer with some cute puzzles using your skellyman’s ability to pop off his head to get into tight places. You’ll get a cane gun and a grappling hook too, but the former is underused and the latter is impossibly finicky. That’s the thing, this is one of those unpolished indie platformers where everything feels just a little too stiff or sticky, and when you get to the really punishing platforming in the later levels it’s going to become REALLY noticeable. The art is charming but lacking a lot of animation, which only adds to the cheap feeling. I was okay with this one for most of the journey, but it lacks a proper ending and only took about 45 minutes to get through. I hate to say it, but you can do a lot better.
FINAL VERDICT: Boned
Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect
So I guess now that Granny is a thing we’ll be dealing with empty-headed clones of it for a few years. This time you’re escaping from a gangly bunny-thing, except I can’t even tell what kind of place you’re escaping from. Every wall has the same smeared liquid concrete look, except for the ones that are pitch black because the lighting’s half-baked. That’s still an improvement over the bow body I was carrying around that would leave its own shadow smeared across the screen, making it impossible to see anything. Even when I could see anything it wasn’t anything worth doing, so if you absolutely must escape from some psychopath’s shitty house, make sure it isn’t this one.
FINAL VERDICT: Decrepit