Star Wars™: Jedi Knight™: Jedi Academy™

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DISCLAIMER: Star Wars™  and all related indica are property of Disney™. All rights reserved. By reading this disclaimer you agree that Disney™

owns your soul and any future souls you may acquire. All hail the monolith.

Yes, my video got a copyright strike for the music, and yes I’m mad about it. I’m bitter, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

To preface- this is the wrong game. You see, I intended to buy
Star Wars™: Jedi Knight™: Jedi Outcast™,

as I remembered my brother playing it back in the day and wanted to see if it was any good, only to be confused by the severn or eight different games with the same name. Still, reviews said it was Overwhelmingly Positive, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Neophyte jedi™

Jaden Korr accidentally built herself a lightsaber one day, so Luke Skywalker™

recruits her to train at his magic space temple. (Listen, the extended lore of this series is absurd; I offer it no reverence at all.) On her way there, a nefarious evil wizard shoots down her airship and she is stranded with only her magic sword and Josh Penis, another wizard in training.

After somehow being killed by a falling tree as seen in the screenshot above, we made our way to a short and woefully inadequate tutorial mission before being thrust into the real grind- dogsbody work for the mage’s council.

We went to the rubbish desert planet where the game finally showed off it’s true weaknesses- the combat is pretty awful. Perhaps there is an art to lightsaber combat, but flailing around seemed to be just as successful as anything masterful, while the guns feel terribly lacklustre. Shots have no impact, landing limply as though I’d just thrown a particularly comfortable pillow at the enemy.  I was often unsure if my attacks were even hitting or not, to the point that I genuinely couldn’t tell my sniper rifle was too short range to hit from the distance I was firing it.

Force powers are just as flimsy, with a barely noticeable warping effect followed by a delayed response from the target. Again, part of a puzzle was to use Force Pull to operate a crane, but there was such a disconnect between using it and the result that I was left uncertain if my actions were actually what was causing it to move.

Fin™

or Bin™:

I’ve made it this far without a single slightly-altered Space Battles quote, which must be a reviewing first. Put your favourite one here, with one of the words swapped for “Bin”. We attempted several at the end of the stream, and they were all terrible.

(Steam)

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Etherborn

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A smorgasboard of guff. A cavalcade of twaddle. A gaudy procession of nonsense and faux-artsy bollocks, presenting itself as something deeper than it could ever strive to be.

Urgh. Sorry. It’s hard to shake off the pretentiousness. Suffice it to say, if you have little or no tolerance for “It’s Very Deep Actually You Just Don’t Get It” stuff, Etherborn will piss you right off.

I think if I use the term “Mario Galaxy but it’s a puzzle game”, you’ve probably got a decently clear image of what Etherborn is in your mind. The environment itself is the puzzle here, as your nameless (and faceless) avatar can walk on any face of the cuboid world they find themselves in. To alter gravity, they must walk along speicifcally curved pathways that alter which face they are standing on. The puzzles, then, come in finding the correct combination and order of these ramps to navigate so you can find your way to the correct face in order to proceed.

The level design is super tight, impressively so. I didn’t find any janky exploits or wonky transitions, even in later levels involving a lot of back-and-forth travel. The ramps themselves could stand with being signposted more clearly as I often overlooked which part of the ground could be walked on versus which would send me plummeting to my death, but each face is cleverly colour coded to give a better sense of where, exactly, in the world you are.

Major problem comes with the camera, whose pivot is not on the player character, nor on the world. Rather, the pivot is the camera itself- pushing the camera left is like turning your head left, instead of panning to the left. In text it’s hard to explain why this is a problem, but it essentially means you can’t look around corners or obstacles to see what lurks beyond- a tremendous hindrance when the entire game is based around navigating a complex maze of dimensions.

The biggest problem though is the utterly meaningless cutscenes which punctuate level transitions, in which a female voice condescends to you with some absolute drivel. I don’t know how the VA managed to narrate the whole thing without once saying “what the blithering heck does this mean?”. Maybe she didn’t.

Fin or Bin:

I’ve given Etherborn some mixed praise here. What it comes down to is- this kind of puzzle game typically frustrates me more than it entertains, and Etherborn is no exception. I can tolerate it for a game with a compelling story, or humorous wit, but the narrative here is neither. The reward for completing levels is to be subjected to another load of cobblers that doesn’t even want to be understood. Maybe some people would get something out of that, but I sure don’t, and I’m not a patient enough person to solve the (admittedly well crafted) puzzles presented. Stated plainly, without any hogwash, it’s Binned. Gameplay here!

(Steam)

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Receiver

Game jams- the events where dev teams get a very short amount of time to produce a game from scratch- are an absolute gold mine of creative ideas. The compuslory lack of time investment is the perfect excuse for developers to explore whatever “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas they’ve had, without having to worry about ending up with a marketable product or fully realised game. The end result, then, is often more of a toy than a game; a single gameplay idea in a sandbox that doesn’t really have any aspirations beyond ‘look at this cool thing!’.

Receiver is a product of the 7-day FPS challenge, whose ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ seed was the concept of realistic gun management. Each part of the gun must be handled manually, from switching the safety off to pulling out the magazine and replenishing the bullets within. It’s incredibly clunky at first, as you uselessly mash keys in the wrong order trying to fumble another shot out of the gun only to realise you left the safety on, but as muscle memory kicks in the process gets more fluid and you start to feel- dare I say it- pretty cool.

Beyond that, however, there’s really nothing going on. You start in a random location with a random gun and a random number of bullets (sometimes as few as one) and are tasked with evading the randomly-placed enemy sentry guns and drones, while locating the randomly placed tapes containing the games story. There’s 11 of these tapes, and you have to get all of them in a single life- which, considering you die from a single hit, is an arduous task.

Fin or Bin:

The concept is one that was worth exploring, and would fit really well in a more fleshed out game- the horror genre would especially benefit from the sudden tension of realising you forgot to chamber a bullet, and the frantic scrabble to reload before you get nobbled by a zombie. Taken by itself though, Receiver doesn’t have much to offer beyond a genuine “you’re right, that was cool”; I don’t feel any need to play it again. It’s a Bin, but a good-natured Bin.

(Steam)

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140

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I’m typically pretty good at rhtyhm games, even if that word is impossible to spell correctly. It’s always interesting to see the intersection of ryhthym games into other genres like previously-covered rhyhtm platformer-brawler Klang.

Not entirely dissimilar from Klang comes 140, a hyper-stylish ultraminimalist ryhtm platformer. It’s as straghtforward as it gets- level elements change or move according to the music, and you must navgiate the platforming challenges created thus. It’s more than just catching onto the beat, with different parts of the level reacting to different parts of the music- some things change every second beat, while others are on every fourth beat, for instance, meaning you have to react to the timing of different elements at the same time. It’s neat.

Fin or Bin:

I would love to put this in the Fin pile, it’s absolutely my kind of thing. Unfortunately, the background is a full-screen visualiser for the audio, and is constantly in motion. It’s disorienting when you’re grounded, and outright dizzying when you’re moving across gaps. How much of an effect that will have probably depends on the person, but I’m sensitive to it and after 30 minutes I felt really quite unwell, a feelling I couldn’t shake for hours after I stopped. As cool as the game is, I’m not going to make myself sick for it. I recommend 140 if you’re not photosensitive at all, but if you do suffer any kind of issues with that be very cautious. Here’s one of the more regrettable Bins I’ve had to make.

(Steam)

Fotonica

‘Endless’ runner (although there are levels to complete) played from first-person perspective, it feels more suited to being a mobile game, and far more suited to being a VR game. I think in VR the sense of speed would be quite a rush, with the vector graphics keeping things from becoming too overhwelming.

Well, it’s not VR and I don’t have a headset anyway, so what I played was instead a Basically Fine runner that has some problems with telegraphing upcoming jumps and obstacles.

Fin or Bin:

Levels consist of reaching the end, with optional score targets to strive for if that’s your scene. It’s over with fairly quickly if not. To put it frankly, the asking price of $15 is absurd, but you might get an afternoon out of it if you can get it on sale or through Trove like I did. It’s fine, but I’m never gonna play it again, so that’s a Bin.

(Steam, and also Humble Trove)

Gemini Rue

I don’t want you to lick the gate!!!!!

Double-clicking a thing repeats your last action, whether that was Observe, Take, Kick, or Use Mouth On (which usually means talking), and I don’t understand how that control decision lasted beyond concept. If anything, default it to Observe on double click, and Interact on right click? Or just have a default Most Likely option for each thing and let me choose if I want to do something different? I obviously do not want to Take the shopkeeper, or Use Mouth On the terminal. C’mon.

Oh, and, and! One puzzle required looking at a business card to find a telephone number, right? But Observing the business card didn’t do it, I had to Take the business card- except he doesn’t take it, he looks at it then puts it back! C’mon!

Fin or Bin:

It’s winter and I’m prickly! I’ll give you another chance when I take you out of the Recycle Bin and hopefully I’ll have the patience for this nonsense!!!

Tiny Echo

Do me a favour, and read this post in a slightly bewildered tone of voice.

‘Slightly bewildered’ pretty much sums up my time with Tiny Echo, a game far more artistic than I have the intelligence for.

You are… an eyeball person, who is also a postal service worker, tasked with delivering letters to the fey creatures of a strange dreamscape world filled with forests and caves.

Or… actually, you deliver the letters to their shadows? Which then pass it along to their spirits, or something? And it wakes the spirit up? I think?

I enjoy artsy games, but I still need them to make sense to me in a way more concrete than ‘it’s up to your own interpretation!’. Tiny Echo’s a little beyond my ken.

Fin or Bin:

The hand-drawn art is gorgeous, and if you’re a person who can derive meaning from the surreal you’ll probably get something out of this. I’m not. I don’t get it at all. It’s important to state I’m Binning it for my own personal taste, and not because I think it’s a bad game.

(Steam (but I got my copy through the Humble Trove))

Renegade Ops

Gordon Freeman!?

About as opposite from Sniper Elite as it gets, Renegade Ops treats military tactics with as much delicacy as a rocket propelled grenade. It’s like Desert Strike chugged a 6-pack of Monster and read through every comic currently stocked in its local comicks shoppe.

High octane action, to be sure, and with a friend it’d probably be a blast. You can probably feel that Beebs-brand ‘but’ coming…

But single-player is pretty shallow, and the game just kind of routinely forgets what my mission is to start a new one. Rescue the prisoners, got it- oh, now I have to destroy the incoming tanks? But the prisoners are still- alright, now I’m a helicopter, and- what incoming battleship???

The difficulty is stacked a little too high for how much it wants you to disengage your brain, and there are some enemy weapons which I never managed to figure out how to even avoid.

Elsewhere (although in a game like this I don’t really count it as a strong negative), the narrative suffers a similar problem to Strike Suit Zero in that I kind of feel like I’m playing the bad guys? It’s only that our enemy is so bombasitcally super-villainous that we seem like we’re in the right at all. During one mission we stole a nuclear warhead from the enemy, for our commanding officer to immediately say “let’s return it to sender!”. Hmmmmm?

Fin or Bin:

It’s fun. Definitely fun. With a friend, or on the Easy difficulty which gives infinite lives, there’s an evening’s worth of laughs to be found here. I think before long the single player will end up frustrating me, though. Damned homing missiles. Bin!

(Steam)

Tower Of Guns

Famously(?), I don’t have any stomach for roguelikes. ‘Play for as long as you can until you die then do it again with different loadouts’ doesn’t entice me whatsoever, and couple that with random level layouts and random item drops make for a game you can’t learn or anticipate which, for me, is a huge turn off. Add prefab rooms, with the same layouts, and the same puzzles, in the same places… Yeah, rogue-likes and procedural generation are immediate turn-offs for me.

Oh. Well.

Not that I mean to imply Tower Of Guns has any particular depth. It pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. There’s a tower, it’s full of guns, climb the tower and shoot the guns.

Fin or Bin:

I’m not at all versed enough in the way these games work to know if this is a good attempt at making one. If Unreal Tournament crossed with Torchlight sounds like a good time, you’ll probably like it. For me, it’s going in the Bin.

(Steam)

Dungeons 3

I think I’ve realised why I don’t like RTS games. …Oh, whoops, jumped the gun a bit-

The first thing you’ll notice about DungeonKeepers 3 is that it’s narrated by Kevan Brighting, who you’ll know from The Stanley Parable. Immediately we’re off to a good start, and the narration and humour present throughout D3 is most certainly one of its selling points.

Now back to that thing about RTS games-

I like base building, I like army building, and I like directing combat. The part I don’t like is having to do all of these things at the same time. Age Of Empires games would often wind up with a group of villagers all standing uselessly around an empty gold mine waiting for me to direct them to the gold mine half a screen to the right of them, because I was too busy commanding my troops.

This is, of course, a weakness in me, not in the genre, but it is a weakness Dungeons 3 capitalises on by adding a management sim on top of the pile. Gotta keep the troops fed and beered or they go on strike during combat, and the only way to do that is to go back underground and manage my theme park dungeon, leaving the soldiers on the topside to figure themselves out.

It’s just too much. Too many things to keep control of at once. I can’t deal with it.

Fin or Bin:

My own failings aside, however, I can tell this is a well-designed RTS with a great sense of humour about things. Maybe when it’s not winter and I have my spirit back, I’ll have the capacity to deal with things that might otherwise exhaust me, and I’d like to try it again then, but for now it’s going in the Recycle Bin.

(Steam)