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INSIDE Review: For Love of the Game

INSIDE Review: For Love of the Game

Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor

INSIDE is the spiritual successor to Playdead’s previous game, LIMBO, and it wears that mantle well. INSIDE was released on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One in 2016 by Playdead. This game is a “trial and death” game much like what Playdead had labeled LIMBO. Thematically both games are dark, but most of LIMBO’s grit comes from the ambiance, whereas INSIDE’s melancholy is tied to the themes that it presents.

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At its’ base, INSIDE is a side-scrolling 2.5D puzzle game with the story being told through set pieces that you encounter on your journey through the remarkably detailed world. While it’s not as difficult as its’ predecessor, INSIDE has a few new mechanics that keep things fresh.

Much like the previous game LIMBO, INSIDE starts off with a small boy running through a forest. After a short trek through the bush, you burst out into a clearing, where you learn that your character is trying to evade some NPCs(Non-Player Characters) armed with flashlights and tranquilizer guns.

INSIDE Gets Dark

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As you venture further and further into the game, the NPCs get more aggressive. The world itself takes a dystopian twist, each death functioning as a checkpoint as you stumble blindly through Playdead’s wonderfully crafted and terrifying world. You’ll find yourself holding your breath as you attempt to evade NPCs, pulling your hair as you try to figure out the path you’re supposed to take and a surge of joy when you finally solve an especially difficult puzzle. Much like LIMBO, there’s also a modicum of macabre humor to be found within the venue that Playdead has granted us. The sad state of the protagonist’s world is told through both the extremely creative set pieces as well as the beautiful art style. You will die, a lot.

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INSIDE’s graphics are not as rudimentary as the previous game. LIMBO was a black silhouette on a black landscape, INSIDE’s world is one of color, still draped in an atmospheric shadow and somber grays. The oppressive landscape serving as a terrifying backdrop to the gameplay, the story of the wheres and whyfors playing out in the background and sometimes in the foreground as you attempt to surmount the plethora of nefarious puzzles that have been placed in your path.

INSIDE is great, but LIMBO is better

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While INSIDE is a great game, I think LIMBO is the much stronger title out of the two.

If we’re being totally honest, I feel like INSIDE would probably feel more original if I hadn’t touched LIMBO first.

In the end, I’d say that if you like platformers and Puzzle games: Pick up both LIMBO and INSIDE. If you have to choose between the two, I’d get LIMBO because the puzzles feel less labored than they do in INSIDE. I just did not get as much from INSIDE as I did LIMBO, it’s still a great game, it’s just not as fantastic as the previous outing by Playdead.

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Surviving Mars Review – For Love of the Game

Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor

Surviving Mars was created by the Bulgarian Haemimont Games and published by Paradox Interactive from Sweden. It was released on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 15, 2018. The game follows in the footsteps of Cities: Skylines (Another Paradox game) and SimCity (Maxis).

Not quite what I was expecting

After spending almost a hundred hours on the indie company Magruda Works’ Planetbase, another game that’s eerily similar to what Haemimont and Paradox have offered with Surviving Mars, to say I was excited for the game would be an understatement. I pre-ordered Surviving Mars, I never pre-order games anymore. I have been burned one too many times, this game was not any different. While Surviving Mars had originally piqued my interest because the game looked like it was Planetbase++, that is, Planetbase with more substance.

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What I got was a flashy game with very little substance. Which honestly should not have surprised me considering that it was published by Paradox, the kings of DLC. Paradox has a habit of releasing half-assed games and then making them better over time with DLC (See: Hearts of Iron IV, Crusader Kings II). Don’t get me wrong, I like Paradox games (I’ve played the shit out of both Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris, as well as dabbling with the extremely complicated Crusader Kings II), I just I don’t like their business model.

Various Shades of Boring, with a side of Ho-Hum

Gameplay wise, you will spend a few hours collecting materials and then building windmills and solar panels so you can generate air and water and drop your first dome. After that, you call in your first batch of colonists which aren’t enough to staff all of your structures. Later on, when the games design to allows you to recruit more colonists it will automatically assign people to the jobs, but they are not assigned correctly. It assigns Engineers to the Farms, and Botanists to the hospital, and so on. This leads to a lot of tedious micromanagement with you attempting to track down individual colonists and telling them what building to work on.

For some inexplicable reason, the colonists sometimes ignore those commands and go back to the job they were working before, even though you’ve eliminated that shift which leads to even more tedious micromanagement. There honestly isn’t a lot to Surviving Mars. It’s basically SimCity/Cities: Skylines on Mars with a stricter ruleset. Graphically, the game isn’t really all that spectacular, either. Granted, the setting is Mars, which means that the terrain is various shades of red and brown.

Hot Garbage

In the end, I would honestly pick up Planetbase instead it is half the price of Surviving Mars. Even with the wonky AI in Planetbase, I had more fun within the first 3 hours than I did with the eight I put into Surviving Marts. I hate to trash on a game, but, Surviving Mars was a disappointment.

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For Love of the Game: Superhot Review

Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Review by, William Griston – Gigamax Games Contributor 

Designed by the Superhot Team from Poland, Superhot was initially created for 7DFPS in 2013 before being worked into a more fleshed out game by the aforementioned

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Superhot has you enter a matrix-like grey-scaled world where the only bits of color are the endless hordes of Red dudes. The gameplay is centered around controlling the passage of time with key presses (or the lack thereof), time still flows even if you are not pressing any buttons or looking around, albeit at a pace even a snail would find painfully slow. Essentially, you will feel like you are playing through a John Woo movie. This is a game where you can literally dodge bullets. You can even, if you so choose, play the game like a stock-standard FPS game by pressing your movement keys constantly keeping the flow of time active rather than relatively inert. Superhot is easily the most stylised shooter that I have ever played, every level is black and white, all the Bad Dudes are Red, and your Dude is Black. All of the various Dudes are made of a crystalline substance that chips, cracks, and eventually shatters when hit by various objects ranging from baseball bats to pool balls, monitors, bottles, to bullets.

An Interesting Start

The game starts you off staring at a reasonable facsimile of MS-DOS.

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There is a surprising array of options for a game like this (Or any game in recent memory, really), some of them quirky (my favorite is the Chat Room), and a couple “games within a game” one of which is very self-referential. There is also a few easter eggs that are only accessible once you have completed the main game. The tree chopping mini-game is pretty charming.

I could honestly see that Superhot was a labor of love for the Superhot Team, and I can really appreciate the effort that they have put into it.

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The campaign is roughly two hours long, without spoiling anything important (Is there a way to spoil a two-year-old game?). The campaign starts you off with a text conversation with a friend, who after extolling the virtues of the same, sends you a copy.

Memorable and Engaging

I found Superhot’s campaign to be pretty engaging as a whole, or at least engaging enough that I played through it in a single sitting, even if Superhot is somewhat predictable.

There are a few really memorable set pieces as you progress through the game, which I want to talk about, but I would rather not tarnish the experience for those of you who have yet to play through Superhot.

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The Endless Mode moniker is a case of “What’s on the tin, is what’s in the tin.”, and is unlocked after completing the main game. The Endless Mode gives you the ability to play through a selection of stages you played through on the main game, albeit with endless waves of Red Dudes coming at you from every angle until you are taken out and repeat the process. Killing a fixed number of Red Dudes on a given stage unlocks further permutations of that stage, such as Time Attack, or “Katana Only” challenges, the number is cumulative so you don’t have to worry about doing it in one go, as I had initially thought was required.  I think my only complaint is that there’s too much focus on the gunplay in the Endless mode as a whole, you’ll see ARs and Shotguns in the second and third waves rather than a gradual introduction of better-armed opponents. It’d be fun for it to be primarily melee with the occasional pistol wielding Red Dude for the first 5-10 waves. I bet there’s a mod out there that accomplishes just that.

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Simple Is Beautiful 

Although simplistic, the graphics are able to convey the world that they wanted to show you in a manner that fits the narrative of the game. There are reasonable facsimiles of real-world objects (Cars, Bar Counters, Pool Tables, Toilet Stalls). There are Red Dudes, and various items that you can pick up and throw, use to beat or shoot the Red Dudes until they shatter. The Katana is a personal favorite, cleaving Red Dudes in twain and the way that the Katana sticks into the ground after you throw it is oddly satisfying.

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If you want to try a shooter that is as unique as it is stylistic, give it a shot.

If you are leery about trying it, grab it on a Steam sale.

Now For a Joke

A joke made by one of the streamers I watch on the regular made is that there is a hidden challenge mode in trying to beat the game before you can return it on Steam. I enjoyed the game enough that I did not return it, and have sunk a few hours into the Endless Mode.

Really, if you enjoy shooters in any fashion you should give the game a shot. I feel like you will not be disappointed. I know I was not, I just wish I had played the game when it was new rather than waiting a couple of years due to unfounded misgivings. Superhot is one of those games that really makes me love indie game developers.

The Author has not played the VR version of Superhot, as such this review is not applicable to that version of the game. Find the Superhot VR review from Gigamax Games!

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