Mini-Reviews: The Journey Down, Broken Age, Pearl’s Peril, The Room 3

The Journey Down: logoMy second batch of digital game reviews, covering the last three months.  Being afflicted with poor hand-eye coordination, I play mostly puzzle games with a plot.

The Journey Down — Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 (Skygoblin): A classic point-and-click with an Afro-Caribbean look and sound, offering challenges that require ingenuity without becoming exercises in pixel-hunting. I really enjoy this series, and I’m eagerly awaiting the third chapter. You can accomplish the tasks in any order and as far as I can tell, you can’t mess it up enough to have to restart.  The first two chapters are available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux as well as on iOS.  I played it on Steam for Linux with Ubuntu 14.04 and have no technical problems to report (and if I recall correctly, Chapter 1 was free on the Ubuntu App Store).

Broken AgeBroken Age (Double Fine Productions): Another point-and-click that you can do in any order.  You alternate between two point-of-view characters, one seemingly in a fantasy tale and the other in a science fiction universe, until they start colliding and even switching places.  The last chapter was much more challenging for me that the previous ones because you need to meta-game and use information that a given character would not have had a chance to learn in-game.  Available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux; I played it on Steam for Linux with Ubuntu 14.04 and had two minor issues: mouse speed could not be slowed down enough to use my Wacom stylus and was in the upper range of usability with the mouse; and occasionally in the last chapter the game froze and I had to restart it, but I didn’t lose any progress.

Logo-PearlsPerilPearl’s Peril (Wooga): A hidden object game that is both surprisingly addictive and infuriating.  Pros: Great production values, beautiful images, and some clever use of similar objects with different names (e.g.,  barrel and drum), different objects with the same name (e.g., a spade can be a playing card symbol or a garden tool, a fan can be a paper object or a piece of equipment), and different objects with similar sounding names (e.g., bell and belt, car and cart.)  Cons: Horrible mishmash of anachronisms, geographical heresies, and illogical statements as facts; no real opportunity to put clues together to resolve puzzles or investigate; “freemium” model that keeps trying to get players to spend more money by blocking progress.  Available as a Facebook in-browser game and on iOS.  I play it on my iPhone 5s and it periodically drops progress, forcing the player to repeat a sequence or wasting in-game resources.

room3The Room 3 (Fireproof Games): Recently released sequel to the award winning series; so far I’ve enjoyed it as much as the first two instalments, though the puzzles may be a tad easier this time around.  As before, the graphics are superb, the music lovely, and the experience immersive.  Available for iOS, and the Android release is upcoming.  No glitches to report so far, in the early part of the third chapter.  

[Edit: I finished my first run-through in 8 hours 24 minutes, without the help of walkthrough hints.  (I had to use them in order to finish Broken Age.)  No technical difficulties to report.  There are more scenes to explore and four alternate endings to check out, so this is good replay value.]

[Edit No. 2: Finished the second ending at 10h48m, or an additional 2h24m of play. Had to go look at a walkthrough for one clue.  Then 11h26m for the third ending and 11h36m for the fourth.]

Dipping my toes in the digital pool

TengamiMy friends know I love, love, love tabletop games, but rarely play digital games.  For one thing, I have poor reflexes, speed, coordination, and dexterity, which cuts down entirely swaths of games; and I don’t get very excited with resource-management games.

I do, however, enjoy well-made mysteries and puzzle games, and sometimes even excel at them. I particularly enjoy the ones that have a narrative and some good graphics. Recently, I worked my way through the following, with great enjoyment:

Alchemy Mysteries: Prague Legends (Jet Dogs Studio): Not too hard on normal settings, perfect to while away a few hours and strike a good mix of challenge and brainlessness.  Some pixel-hunting and occasional glitches, but nothing terminal.  You can also play on advanced mode for more limited access to clues.

Tengami (Nyamyam): Beautiful and oddly relaxing, based on Japanese paper art.  Pretty quick to move through, but so pretty.

The Room and The Room 2 (Fireproof Games): Boxes within boxes which you have to open. Best balance of challenging versus feasible in the bunch.  Completely addictive, beautiful, logical. I can’t wait for No. 3.

Monument Valley (ustwo): The adventures of a princess on a quest in an Escher-inspired landscape. Sweet and clever, stylized art, a bit like Tengami.

I’m still working on the last three:

Last Voyage (Semidome): Visuals reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Very attractive but some puzzles require more reflexes than I have. Yes, they are minimal, but I’m just that clumsy.

The Guides (Kevin Bradford): A cryptography game? I have not figured out that one yet. It may be too smart for me.

DEVICE 6 (Simogo): Combination of puzzle and choose-your-own-adventure ebook. I loaded it but have not gotten very far because it’s hard on my eyes (it’s on my phone).

Outfitting a gaming tablet

MiTraveler 97D16WFor Christmas some dear friends gave us a $100 Amazon gift certificate. We held on to it for a whole because we wanted to put it on a tablet we’d use for tabletop gaming. We wanted something large enough to comfortably read our many PDF games, so in the 10-in. (25cm) range and with enough memory; and we wanted to be able to play sound effects and soundtracks. We lurked on Amazon waiting for sales and also for enough free spending money in our budget.

Finally, a few weeks ago we decided on an Android tablet, the Tivax MiTraveler 97D16w, a 9.7-in. tablet with 16GB of Flash memory and 1GB of RAM, running on Android 4.2.2. We picked this one , and not the 10-in. model, because of its 0.744 aspect ratio (3:4), which is well suited to reading books while the 10-in. model had an elongated aspect ratio optimized for watching movies. Since I had an 8MB MicroSD card I wasn’t using in an old phone, I popped it in immediately to expand storage space.

While I use an iPhone for work, this was my first introduction to Android, and I still have much to learn. I’m currently collecting related manuals and resources, and I appreciate any good ones people can suggest.

I’ve also been adding apps related to tabletop gaming, but as usual it seems very hard to find ones that are not designed so tightly around D&D/Pathfinder as to become useless for other games. This post is intended to be a repository and mini-review for useful apps I find. Once again, feel free to post about your favourites! Here is what I have so far:

Gaming Tools Proper

Dice Roller RPG: Free, with small ads. It offers the classic 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and 20-sided dice, plus two-sided (coin), 30-sided, percentile, and Fate dice. You can select the number of dice and the modifier to apply, and even roll combinations of different dice.

Fate Dice: Free, with small ads. Another dice roller. Offers a graphic roll of four Fate (a.k.a. Fudge) dice, that’s it. Displays well in portrait format, but shows only three of the dice in landscape mode.

FiascoMobileFiasco Mobile: $1.99. This is SO worth the two bucks! It puts all the basic official Fiasco playsets and a large number of fan-made ones at your fingertips.

RPG Initiative Manager: Free. This initiative tracker was built for Pathfinder, but it can be used fairly easily for a number of other games. It does not show in my list of open apps if I switch to another while gaming, but when I reopen it from the desktop icon, it’s still in the right place and has kept all my info. It lets you enter character names, initiative modifiers, and initiative dice rolls for each encounter; you can then click on “Next Turn” to update the dice rolls. It sorts the list in order of highest to lowest initiative every time, and saves sessions.

Sound & Multimedia

Sound Effects Soundboard: Free, with small ads, and a nag screen asking you to rate the app every once in a while. I believe there is a paid version that offers more choices of sounds. There are multiple categories such as “Animals,” “Weapons,” “Vehicles,” etc., each offering multiple sound effects. Most effects are very short, a few are surprising long. You can pick up to nine sound effects you want at your fingertips at any one time and assign them to shortcut buttons, which is probably enough for several scenes. Seems to display only in portrait format.

Syrinscape interfaceSyrinscape Tabletop RPG Sound: Free, with two or three free soundscapes; a paid version offers many more choices of soundscapes at $4 per soundscape or $20 for packs of six soundscapes. Each soundscape is an extended track, like in a video game, each comprising multiple segments or “moods” that offer different atmospheres, such as “Something’s Out There” or “The Battle Is Joined.” Moreover, each segment includes multiple sound sources like “Distant wildlife” or “Battle music,” with mixer sliders so you can adjust each component to suit. You can save your custom moods. Finally, I like that when you switch from one sound to another or just turn it off, the app transitions smoothly. If you like playing with sounds and having a custom soundtrack, this is really neat and the purchase of extra sets probably well worth it.

Skype: For virtual face-to-face gaming, though we have yet to use it on the tablet.

Reading & Writing

PDF readers: I tried a number of PDF readers; I’m not sure I’m settled on this, but I’m currently using Foxit. It seems faster and easier to use than many others, although it doesn’t give access to advanced features like the ones in Void Star Studios’ Nova Praxis RPG.

Google Drive, of course. It’s my most used collaboration tool.

Dropbox, also very useful to share documents and images.