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Alice Bell

1 week ago

Feature: Hacks on, hacks off

Operator has the basis of a good hacker game, if only it made sense

I'm still struggling with what, exactly, Humble Originals are meant to be, and I think Humble might be as well. They're only available through Humble's monthly subscription service, and the official gubbins says they're "brand new games" that are "a little risky, a little experimental, and a lot of fun!" In practice, results seem to vary. Sometimes you get solid, polished things, like Wilmot's Warehouse…

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Feature: The little grey cells

Have You Played… all those weird Hercule Poirot hidden object games?

If you search "Agatha Christie hidden object game" you can find these, available to buy apparently legitimately, from a few places. Most of them have their own slightly shady launcher. The premise is that you, playing as a version of fussy detective Hercule Poirot who looks like if someone drew David Suchet on a thumb, play through his most famous mysteries, but in hidden object…

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2 weeks ago

Feature: Well?

What are we all playing this weekend?

We are in a boring, sickly stage between seasonal events. Not quite Christmas, and yet we are still eating left over Halloween sweets in the office. I started this morning with an orange drumstick lolly. We don't even break up the drudgery with a pre-Christmas Christmas giving thanks for... killing a turkey? Wearing belts on hats? Colonialism? I am unsure, but I do know that,…

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Feature: They can survive almost anything

Let me tell you about my cockroach obsession in Disco Elysium

So Disco Elysium is an RPG, yes? And you have to solve a murder, because you're a cop. Except you also can't remember anything whatsoever, including your own name or where you badge and gun are (how are you supposed to hand them over to your chief when you break the rules to get results??) or even, initially, that you're a cop. This creates the…

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Feature: Turn again

Manifold Garden review

Manifold Garden has been described as a 3D puzzle game, but everyone who says that is wrong, because it is actually a horror game. Oh, it might be in disguise as a puzzle game. It has special doors and pressure pads, and you manoeuvre the right coloured blocks onto the right coloured things by walking up walls and changing the gravity and what have you.…

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Feature: Lukewarm takes incoming

Can’t Stop Playing: Disco Elysium

Don't come any closer, pal. I've got a gun. Oh wait, maybe I don't, because I pawned it when I was extremely drunk, and I didn't do a deal with the corrupt union boss to get it back. Oh dear, now a voice in my head that says it's Electrochemistry is trying to convince me to get drunk. I must be in bleak but lovely…

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Feature: Now listen, see

Check out the gorgeous loading screens in The Outer Worlds

I understand that Obsidian fans are sort of using the existence of The Outer Worlds to dunk on Fallout 76 (because OW is the real successor to New Vegas, right?). But before it was ammunition in a weeing contest, the game was a first-person space RPG where you did a shoot at extremely angry lizards. And, much like that one friend we all have, I…

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3 weeks ago

Feature: Other people, etc.

Afterparty review

If you've played Oxenfree you probably already know a little of what to expect from Afterparty: a smart, walking--and--talking adventure game where optional speech bubbles appear above the characters' heads; naturalistic dialogue between characters whose relationships grow in complexity as the game goes on; some weird supernatural stuff. Afterparty does all these things, but Night School Studio's second outing also feels stronger and punchier --…

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4 weeks ago

Feature: Burn it all down

Noita is very good even if you are very bad at it

Noita is a big firework show, where the fireworks are heaps of gunpowder, exploding barrels of acid. The acid turns into steam in the heat of the blast and rises to condense on the cold cave roof, eventually falling back down as acid rain. Argh. This is a very dangerous firework show. In this roguelike spellslinger where you play as a flying witch, every pixel…

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Feature: Glomp

Have you played… Osmos?

Osmos is very zen. It does not demand much from you. You are a mote of dust, or possibly some kind of organism -- a single cell of bacteria. Fine. So you float around in this kind of plasma, or whatever, and glomp up smaller cells. You get bigger with each cell you glomp. Survival of the fittest, and at very basic, almost non-violent level.…

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Feature: In space, no one can hear you meme

The Outer Worlds review

There are a few times, during Obsidian's rootin' tootin' shootin' lootin' first person space cowboy RPG The Outer Worlds, where the game lampshades the tropes it uses. One of them really stood out to me. An information broker asked me to clear the airwaves he used for his radio signals, meaning I had to convince two rival faction leaders to stop broadcasting. This meant having…

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1 month ago

Feature: The ol' bone orchard

Have you played… Graveyard Keeper?

I have mentioned Graveyard Keeper before because for a few weeks it consumed me -- and every so often it still does. In it, you're hit by a car and wake up as the keeper of a medieval cemetery. It's like a version of Stardew Valley that Noel Fielding would tell you he played to make sure you know he's all goffic and weird. In…

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Feature: One man's trash

Premature Evaluation: Flotsam

Depending on who you ask, the apocalypse is not happening, extremely close, or already here. There's already been at least one casualty in the form of usual premature evaluator Steve Hogarty, who has either been raptured or is away for two weeks. No other explanations are possible. I have filled the time this week with post-global flood city builder/Waterworld simulator Flotsam, a special favourite of…

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Feature: My uncle told me "disco biscuits" is slang for bad drugs

Disco Elysium review

So, then. Disco Elysium, like Planescape: Torment, or even Fallout or Arcanum, is an isometric RPG with a lot of text. You, an alcoholic, probably drug-addicted cop in early middle age, wake up to face a new partner, a lynching that needs solving, and an apocalyptic hangover that has wiped your memory. So, you start the work of learning... well, everything. I managed to stumble…

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Feature: Pin 'em up

Read The Bradwell Conspiracy’s corporate posters, and obey

Why, just last week I was complaining about my home town, and now we find ourselves with a new game set in Wiltshire, the county containing said home town. Although you don't actually get to see very much of Wiltshire in it. The Bradwell Conspiracy is a first person puzzle adventure set around and under Stonehenge -- or, as I exclusively choose to pronounce it,…

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Feature: Disco inferno

How dare Disco Elysium tell me I am boring??

I am still figuring out what I think of Disco Elysium, but I can say with some certainty that it is the first game where I have done a small fistpump and thought to myself, "Yeah, you really nailed telling that woman you found her husband's body! Nailed it! Best cop ever!" Disco Elysium is a very dense RPG, where you play an amnesiac alcoholic…

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2 months ago

Feature: Honk 'em if you got 'em

Untitled Goose Game: the goose is Alice’s smirking revenge

We're all going mad for the goose, eh? I know we all lost it when the first trailer for Untitled Goose Game came out, but apparently it seems we were somewhat justified. It's nice to be a bit naughty in a video game, but where the naughtiness isn't eviscerating local monsters just trying to get by/the enemy group of soldiers [delete as applicable]. But I…

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Feature: Skill check for 'an exclusive'

Disco Elysium’s developers are in “a bloody battle” for the human mind

When visiting ZA/UM's studio, I had to take my boots off. This is because their studio, where they are putting the final touches on open world RPG Disco Elysium, is also a flat in a townhouse in Hove, where several of them live. It has nice wooden floors, unbelievably high ceilings, and a big bay window cradling some workstations. There's also a bookshelf full of…

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