Social distance with Speed Dating for Ghosts

Speed Dating for Ghosts is a dating sim and visual novel in which you’re, as you might guess, a ghost.

I like Spooky Peter because of his name! Unlike most dating sims I’ve played in the past, Speed Dating for Ghosts doesn’t involve a long campaign in which you choose a single partner over the course of the game. In this game, you’ll end up on a date after a few minutes of playing. Afterwards, you can return to the speed dating location and choose to go on another date.

Speed Dating for Ghosts is definitely a little out there compared to similar games. It’s less about romance and more about companionship, loneliness, and self-discovery.

Plus in the DLC, you meet a dog! Oh, and you also meet a demon and the ghost of a vampire. Speed Dating for Ghosts was funny but frank about death, and I really enjoyed it. It’s available on PC, Switch, and iOS, and it was under $10 when I bought it on Switch. It looks like it’ $5.24 right now. I recommend it!

Gemini Rue, the fantastic sci-fi noir adventure game

Gemini Rue
This piece was originally published as a review on Game Boyz on 2/23/11. Each Game Boyz review is structured with sections for introduction, graphics, sound, gameplay, and conclusions. Games are scored on graphics, gameplay, sound, tilt, and overall, each on a 10-point scale. Gemini Rue was reviewed using a downloaded copy provided by Wadjet Eye Games. I loved Gemini Rue when I first played it, and it’s still one of my favorite games.

Gemini Rue, formerly known as Boryokudan Rue, is a new PC game developed by Josh Nuernberger. Published and provided to me by Wadjet Eye Games and Dave Gilbert, Gemini Rue was a 2010 Independent Games Festival Student Showcase Winner. Nuernberger has created a wonderful point-and-click adventure game featuring a dark, sci-fi future.

The game’s neo-noir narrative takes players through a grim future in which trust should be withheld and the Boryokudan crime syndicate controls the Gemini system. The story kept me at the edge of my seat through the entire game. In fact, not being able to talk about the game while playing my review copy was almost painful! Gemini Rue explores the themes of individuality, identity, ethics, loyalty, and what it means to truly be who you are.

Gemini Rue

Graphics

Gemini Rue is absolutely gorgeous. As you can see in the screenshots included in the review, it has a retro-inspired look to it that adventure game fans should recognize. While not 3D or pushing anyone’s graphics card to its limits, it’s a stunning game that will leave most appreciators of retro game art with their mouths hanging open. Gemini Rue lets you explore beautifully detailed backdrops while discovering the truth of the world around you. You’re given a closer look at the characters when their detailed portraits appear during dialogue. Throughout the game, small cutscenes play out that are fascinating to watch. Not only do they push the narrative forward, but they also set the mood using well-placed, beautiful scenic views.

Sound

In a lot of games I play, there isn’t a lot to say about the sound. In this case, forgetting to talk about the sound would be leaving a large part of the review missing. The audio in Gemini Rue is amazing. The music always fits the action and story, reinforcing the desolate, dark atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are always clear and realistic, which helps the game feel more real and adds to the immersion. Voice-acting performances were done well. Even though Gemini Rue is an indie game, no corners were cut with the voice-acting. The lines are delivered in a natural way so they don’t feel forced. I could tell the sound was going to be great and a major part of my enjoyment of the game by the first scene during which the characters’ dialogue was delivered over the sound of Barracus’ rainfall.

Gemini Rue

Gameplay

Gemini Rue has two main playable characters. One is Azriel Odin, a former assassin searching for an old friend in the Gemini system. The other is a man known simply as Delta-Six, a patient in a strange facility that wipes the minds of its inmates. The narrative switches between the two characters throughout the game. Sometimes this happens as preset times, but you can also manually switch characters. This can give you a nice break if you’re stuck with one character. The stories seem far apart from each other, but the characters’ stories slowly come together, culminating in a fantastic and satisfying ending.

As the genre, point-and-click adventure, suggests, you use your mouse to control the game, clicking on various objects to explore the game. Left-clicking causes the character to walk to that point. Right-clicking on certain objects in the scene brings up the action menu, allowing you to choose which action to perform on that spot from the four action-verbs and inventory items in your possession. Clicking the eye allows you to examine something. The hand has you interact with or pick up an object. Using the mouth will have you talk to the target. Selecting the foot causes you to kick the object. The kicking action is interesting because I don’t recall seeing it any previous adventure games. While it’s similar to the hand action, it gives players a second way to interact with the world, which can lead to more involved puzzles. Gemini Rue forces you to use this action very early in the game, making sure you incorporate this less familiar action into your repertoire. Also in the action menu are any inventory items you have. Selecting one will attempt to use it on the spot you originally right-clicked. Right-clicking on an inventory item causes you to examine it. Lastly, double-clicking in the scene will use whichever action was last used, allowing you to save time if, for example, you want to examine many different objects.

I have two small complaints about the control system. First, to examine an inventory item, you have to bring up the menu by right-clicking on a targetable object in the game. Note that you can’t simply right-click anywhere. It seems strange that even though examining an object in my inventory has nothing to do with any item currently in the scene, I still have to choose one object in the scene arbitrarily to right-click on to be able to access my inventory menu. Another small complaint is that interacting with an object on the other side of the screen will sometimes cause the character to walk over to it and interact with it while other times will cause the character to say it’s too far away. Why the discrepancy? It seems like saying it’s too far away would be the best response if there’s some puzzle blocking the path, so this might be a pathing bug. These faults are minor and do not detract very seriously from the enjoyment of the game.

Gemini Rue

Gemini Rue also contains action sequences featuring shooting. It uses a fun system that rewards being patient and intelligent rather than having fast reflexes. It’s perfect for an adventure game and isn’t overused. Whenever a shooting sequence starts, your character will automatically get into a cover position. Using ‘a’ and ‘d’ causes the character to lean out of cover to the left or right. Pressing ‘space’ shoots, ‘s’ goes back into cover, ‘r’ reloads, and ‘w’ switches targets. Enemies will either shoot at your left or right out-of-cover positions. To successfully defeat enemies, you’ll want to lean out of cover on the opposite side of where your adversary is aiming to shoot at him. Pressing ‘control’ while out of cover will bring up a slowly filling meter. When the meter reaches a sufficient height, successfully shooting an opponent will instantly kill him with a headshot. This is a gamble because you’ll have to be out of cover for longer to wait for the meter to fill. Some people might not like action sequences in their normally slow-paced adventure games, but the characters in Gemini Rue will always get into cover automatically at the start and won’t take damage while in cover. Because of this, the player never needs to worry about being caught unaware. Shooting adds a bit of variety to the game, and let’s be honest: How could this neo-noir thriller be complete without some gunfights?

Gemini Rue

There are a few other scenes in the game that require gameplay other than normal point-and-click. Interacting with certain boxes allows you to push them around, ‘a’ and ‘d’ used to move them left and right, ‘w’ used to climb on top, and ‘s’ used to climb back down. Also, there are occasional puzzles regarding getting a computer or machine to do what you need it to do. These never distract from the story or take very long. They fit very well with the rest of Gemini Rue and, more importantly, would detract from the game if missing.

One aspect of the game is interacting with the environment – finding items you need and figuring out where to use them. You’ll also need to gather information, sometimes from notes found lying around or computer terminals. You need to think about what you know and what you need to know to reach that satisfying moment where the puzzle suddenly clicks in your head. You’ll also need to get a lot of information from other characters in the game. Dialogues have multiple choices that can lead to the same positive result, giving players more than one way to solve a dialogue puzzle. The dialogue is fascinating and continually adds to the narrative. No character feels needless or like filler content. In fact, Nuernberger does a fantastic job of making sure every scene, character, and bit of dialogue exists for a reason and continues to progress the narrative and enjoyment of the game.

Gemini Rue

Conclusion

Let’s get this out of the way: I love Gemini Rue. The narrative was gripping, friendly characters were likable, and supporting characters all seemed like they belonged in the world and evoked the correct emotional response. The dark, rain drenched neo-noir setting is perfect for the story being told. Scenes were beautiful, the music fit superbly, the voice-acting was believable, and the sound effects were realistic. Is a person simply the sum of all experiences and outside input or is there more to a person? Gemini Rue explores identity, ethics, and even free will. Like all great pieces of fiction, which Gemini Rue definitely is, it’ll leave you contemplating the questions it poses even if it doesn’t offer a concrete answer. Gemini Rue is available for purchase and download at WadjetEyeGames.com for $14.99, a very low price for what is now one of my favorite games. For those of you who are still unsure, there’s a demo available on that site as well. If you’re an adventure game fan or simply like the themes, setting, and story presented, you owe it to yourself to look into Gemini Rue!

The McElroy brothers “play” Elegy for a Dead World

A couple weeks ago, Griffin and Justin McElroy recorded a video while “playing” Elegy for a Dead World. The game lets you float through a backdrop of a desolate, alien world and provides writing prompts. You can complete the prompts and publish your story as well as view others’ stories. I don’t think anything I’d ever be able to write could compare to their work though! Check it out on Polygon.

Offspring Fling!

offspring fling

Offspring Fling! is a cute puzzle platformer on Steam that I tried recently. It was very enjoyable, and just look at that art! What you can’t hear, because I’m not including it, is the great music.

offspring fling

When this mean looking dinosaur shows up, your babies scatter. It’s up to you to rescue them!

offspring fling

You can run and jump as well as pick up and fling your babies. As you carry more babies, you won’t be able to jump as the high. Each level tasks you with getting your babies to the door. Some of the stages definitely took some thinking, but I was never really stumped. You won’t find yourself losing repeatedly like in a platformer such as Super Meat Boy or N+, but you will have to think about the puzzles.

offspring fling

It’s a neat little game with adorable graphics. There are still extras to unlock if I choose to keep playing, but it only took me about four hours to beat the base game. It was definitely worth it.

Trying a new batch of games

My backlog at Backloggery is now down to 323 unbeat (277 unplayed) from 338 unbeat games from my last post on the subject. That’s a nice bit of progress, but keep in mind that I don’t mind marking games as null, thus removing them from the unbeat count, if I get sick of them and decide they’re not worth more time. I played some games that I thought I’d enjoy like I normally would, but I also played some that I thought I wouldn’t like with the intent to cross them off my list quickly.

hinterlands

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

I usually open with WoW mainly because I don’t want to talk about it here. I already talk about WoW much more at Kor’kron 501st. My warlock has reached his 40s and just finished the Hinterlands.

DC Universe Online

I also started playing DC Universe Online. Again, I talk about it at Kor’kron 501st because it’s an MMO, but I’m playing a mentalist hero, and I just beat the Scarecrow.

Super Mario 3D World

I’m enjoying this a lot, but I still liked Super Mario 3D Land a lot more. I’m currently in World 4.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

While I don’t have much to report, I began playing this again. I put it down a long time ago now, so it’s nice to get back into it.

Rhythm Heaven

I beat one level. Does that count as progress?

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star

I have some terrific news about Tiny Death Star: I stopped playing it. Good bye.

cc3d

Chuck’s Challenge 3D

I finished the fifth bundle, Eclair, in Chuck’s Challenge 3D. It was a lot of fun; I really love this game.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

I picked up the Collector’s Edition of Reaper of Souls when it was released and have been having fun with it. I’m taking my time, so I haven’t finished the new act yet.

Ticket to Ride Europe

Thanks to Collin for letting me know that this was available for free. I never played the board game, but the iOS game is fun. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy, but I still enjoyed it.

Scotland Yard

Here’s a DS game I wasn’t expecting to like as much as I did. I was looking for a quick game to cross off my list as boring, but I ended up needing to beat it. It’s a board game as well, so I might need to check out the physical game. Scotland Yard involves multiple detectives and one criminal, Mr. X, taking turns moving around a board. Mr. X wants to last until the turns are expired without being caught while the detectives want to land in the same space as him.

Mystery Tales: Time Travel

One…

Hidden Mysteries: Salem Secrets

…two…

Murder in Venice

…and three bad hidden object games I was able to cross off my list quickly.

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House

Here’s another I thought would be bad. It seems to be a lot like Layton although they don’t explain the goals of the puzzles. That could be a little annoying, but it was fun enough that I’ve decided I’ll return to it later.

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Mummy

Oh, another Sherlock Holmes game. This is bound to be like the last one, right? No. This one was a terrible first-person exploration game with dismal controls. Next.

Naval Warfare

Naval Warfare is a Steam game that’s basically a “twin-stick shooter” using keyboard and mouse. I can’t say for sure whether I’ll want to play it to completion, but it’s worth keeping in my backlog.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

I’m not usually a big fan of RTS games, but this was decently fun. I highly doubt I’ll beat it, but here’s another I’ll leave on my list.

Again

Speaking of “again,” I find myself leaving a game on my backlog again. Again is a DS game about the FBI. One agent can see the past and must match the present to look like the past to unlock scenes of what happened. It could be decent!

Robert Pelloni answers my AMA questions

Pelloni started an AMA on reddit last week, and he took the time to answer my questions. There were no amazing reveals or anything, but it was nice to hear his answers.

I assume you refunded the BobsPasses because you didn’t sell enough to make a difference. Was that the reason, or was there another?

Correct, and I ran out of time to continue full time work on the RPG.

The .nds demo felt different than the Java one, but they’re obviously from different points in the RPG. Are they both still relatively indicative of the feel of the final RPG?

The Java version is the definitive version now, it is cleaner and I’m happier with the code. I am going to try a Javascript rewrite and maybe a C++ one, not sure which first.

Most people I know aren’t interested in bob’s game anymore. This seems primarily due to a lack of trust in you, thinking that you’ve been lying. I understand what they mean about the protest and the like, but I think it was also a performance and viral marketing more than lying.

Correct.

Were your intentions at other stages in bob’s game fully honest, or was there more to them? In other words, were you really hoping to release the nD, and what happened to it?

I did try to pursue funding for the nD and was talking to the Dingoo manufacturer. It did not go well, so I did what I could and turned it into a virtual console. nDworld was originally intended to be a connected portal for the handheld. By now I don’t think the nD is that relevant of an idea, and making a cheap Android handheld (nDroid?) would be better.

Did you really want to sell BobsPasses, or was that a commentary on gamers’ willingness to give money to a game that might not fully exist?

I was seriously selling them, but also kept it as a bit of commentary given the circumstances. It fit the situation well.

You do actually want to get the Kickstarter funded so that you can release the minigame and eventually the RPG, right?

Yes, I don’t know how to do anything else.

I hardly know what to believe anymore, but I’ve enjoyed both the marketing for bob’s game and the demos themselves. I’d love to sit down and play the full RPG someday! Thanks!

Thank you. I’d love for you to play it too.

Source: [bob’s game] my puzzle game (for Ouya/PC) Kickstarter needs some traction, AMA! : gamedev, Robert Pelloni, reddit.com, 12/9/13.

Direct link to comment: robertpelloni comments on  [bob’s game] my puzzle game (for Ouya/PC) Kickstarter needs some traction, AMA!, Robert Pelloni, reddit.com, 12/15/13.

Just Cause 2: The gift of explosions and action

Just Cause 2

After finding out that my friend had never played Portal, I gifted him a copy. He returned the favor by gifting me Just Cause 2. I’d watched my roommate play it before and had wanted to play it. I’ve only played it a little so far, but it’s a lot of fun.

Just Cause 2 is full of action – shooting, melee combat, close calls, grappling hooks, parachutes, and explosions. Oh yes, lots of explosions. It reminds me of Michael Bay movies, except that seems like an insult to Just Cause 2.

It’s third-person and involves lots of shooting, but the exploring and moving is the most fun part. You can use a grappling hook to propel yourself (or drag enemies), and you can deploy a parachute at any time to slow down or get airborne. The grappling hook and parachute combine to give you very high mobility.

The other interesting part of the game is chaos. You seem to work for a government agency of some sort, and you’re sent to the country of Panau to destabilize the new, hostile government. To do this, you need to spread chaos. Completing missions spreads chaos, but destroying statues and infrastructure spreads chaos as well. In other words, it’s an excuse to blow stuff up!

I’m looking forward to unleashing a lot more chaos in the future.

What I’m playing: Amnesia, GTA3, Lollipop Chainsaw, SimCity Social Edition

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been jumping between quite a few different games. Three games I’ve been playing more than others – Amnesia, GTA 3, and Lollipop Chainsaw.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I got Amensia with the latest Humble Bundle. I heard it was pretty scary, and it definitely lives up to its reputation. It’s a first-person adventure game that came out about a year and nine months ago. It looked older than that to me in the way the interface works. When you approach an item with which you can interact, a hand icon appears. You can move things or hold them by clicking on them. If they’re not an inventory item for use later but are able to be picked up, they’ll float in the center of the screen. You interact with everything in a similar way. For example, you don’t go through a door by running up to it and pressing the enter-key. Rather, you press the left mouse button and either pull or push (depending on the door). This makes the game feel very immersive. The game revolves around solving puzzles… oh, and keeping your sanity.

Being the dark will slow drive you insane, which, among other things, will make you hear things that aren’t real. This is particularly scary because then you can’t be sure whether something’s really coming for you or not. Being in the dark drops your sanity, so you need to keep your lantern fueled or be able to light enough candles. When you see a monster, the longer you look at it, the more it drives you insane. You can hide in the dark from the monsters (but that drives you insane as well), but if it wants you dead, you’ll die. There really isn’t any fighting it.

It has a really fascinating story. Your character has purposely given himself amnesia and left himself with a letter telling him to kill someone. He assures himself that the person deserves to die even if he doesn’t like it. I can’t wait to find out more about the story.

The game suggests you play it in the dark with headphones. I don’t do either of those things. However, the fact that I’m playing without the brightness maxed out means I’m at least trying to play by the rules. There’s also the fact that I’m still playing even though most people I know gave up. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the game I think.

Grand Theft Auto

After playing the first GTA (and London), I tried GTA 2 once before jumping forward a number of years and playing GTA 4 and Chinatown Wars. I never beat any of the early games, so I picked up the classic pack on Steam. I tried playing the original, but I have to be honest, it doesn’t hold up. I like the core game type; I loved Chinatown Wars, for example. But the missions are just tedious. It’s all more of the same. The story isn’t very interesting. Worst of all, levels are very long, and alt-tabbing almost always will eventually lead to the game crashing. I even tried cheating by giving myself unlimited lives. That didn’t work because I didn’t have enough time to beat a level in one sitting, and like I said, alt-tabbing leads to crashing. I decided to write this one off. I won’t be returning to it.

Grand Theft Auto III

Instead, I’ll be playing GTA 3. It’s really telling that GTA 3 can be so ugly by today’s standards but still be so good. I don’t even think about it being old while I play it. It just feels like GTA 4. I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m only a handful of missions into the game – maybe around 10. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it later. For now, it’s definitely satisfying a third I’ve been having.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Lollipop Chainsaw is the one reason I’ve used a console recently. It’s Suda51’s latest game, and it’s an odd one. It’s about a cheerleader who’s also a zombie hunter. When her boyfriend gets bit, she cuts off his head with a chainsaw and takes it with him, allowing him to survive with magic. You hack and slash enemies sort of like Devil May Cry. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and I had a lot of fun with it. The claim to fame, beside being developed by Suda51 of course, is sex appeal. There’s a lot of talk about sex, and a lot of cussing. The sex is, honestly, not much worse than a bunch of B-horror movies anyways, and that’s the flavor the game seems to targeting. The over-abundant cussing just seems odd. Mad World had a lot of cussing, and it seemed appropriate. It doesn’t really feel appropriate here. There’s also a peculiar gameplay element. Control is removed every minute or so to show the player something. I understand the the game needs to let the player know what’s happening, but it should do it without taking the game away from me.

SimCity Social

I can’t believe I’m playing this. I swear, I don’t usually play Facebook games. It’s like normal SimCity, but with some twists. Each action you take consumes one energy, and energy regenerates over time. This means you have to stop playing and come back later. Money and manufacturing materials are also generated on a timed cycle. You have to log into the game to claim them, so this pushes players to stop playing but to check back in frequently. Certain buildings require staff to complete them. This means you have to hire friends as staff. You can only hire each friend once per day. If you don’t want to wait, you can spend diamonds, a rare resource that can also be purchased using real money. None of that for me, thank you.

Worms Crazy Golf

It’s Worms. It’s golf. And I guess it’s crazy. I’ve been using it as a nice way to get over the shock of playing Amnesia. What’s particularly great about it is that it supports local multiplayer.
Super Mario 3D Land
I’m pushing through the “bonus game” in this. I’m in World S5 now.
World of Warcraft
Of course, I’ve been playing this as well. I’m working on Grizzly Hills as well as PVPing and participating in the holiday.
Monsters Ate My Condo
Adult Swim Games brings one of the most fun iOS games I’ve ever played. You build a tower of condos while trying match their colors and feeding some to giant monsters. Mmhmmm. Totally great.

Zynga Slots and Zynga Poker

Two bad games by Zynga. Zynga Slots is a little addicting, and I don’t know why. Stay away from it.
Tap Tip Block
What if the zombies mode from World at War was cartoonish, featured monsters instead of Nazi zombies, was made by Capcom, and developed for iOS? It’d be Tap Tip Block. It’s short but fun.
Pucca Noodle Rush
I finally finished this little time management game. It wasn’t really very good, but I like Pucca.
SQUIDS Wild West
The sequel to SQUIDS, and a great iOS strategy game. Check out my recent Game Boyz review for more information.
Imaginary Range
Square-Enix making an interactive comic/game for iOS is great. Square-Enix taking a year to release a new issue is not. I doubt we’ll see an end to this story.
Shadowgun
Shadowgun’s a third-person cover-based shooter built in Unity for iOS. It looks great and is pretty fun. I only recently got around to returning to it to beat it.
Terra Noctics
Like Shadowgun, Terra Noctis is another iOS game that I finally got around to finishing. It’s a fun little platformer.