Epistory: Typing Chronicles is a hack and slash role-playing typing (yes, role-playing and typing) game released in 2016. Epistory was developed by Fishing Cactus and published on the Steam platform by Plug In Digital. It was also published DRM free to Humble Bundle and is featured in their Humble Bundle Trove for Humble Bundle Monthly subscribers.
Excited about starting a new engaging adventure, I browsed through a list of games I had not yet played and saw the title Epistory.
“Epistory, like epic story?” I thought. “I should give this a try.”
I loaded up the game and saw the complete title, Epistory: Typing Chronicles.
“What? This is a typing game? LikeMario Teaches Typing or Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing? This is going to suck.”
resolved to give it a chance and started the game. The game begins
Once upon a time. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
My head was in my hands. They took a line from a classic Charles Dickens novel without directly alluding to the meaning of that line in its context. This is going to be painful.
There was a girl. And she rode on the back of a great fox.
Ok, that’s better, could we have just started the story with that? Please tell me more.
Epistory begins with a young blonde girl mounted on a very red fox. It is recommended from the start to use the E, F, J, I keys for movement in lieu of the W, A, S, D keys typically used for movement in most PC games since they are closer to the center of the keyboard for quicker typing speed. I spent over an hour trying to get used to navigating with the E, F, J, and I keys. My biggest issue was that while the E, F, J, and I keys are recommended, the W, A, S, D keys are still mapped, so accidentally touching the D key (which is beneath the E key) sends you in the wrong direction. When I finally switched back to using W, A, S, and D for all of my movement, Epistory became so much easier to play, so I recommend using W, A, S, and D from the beginning.
Therefore, using the W, A, S, and D keys, the player navigates through the world as the story is told. Despite the rocky start, things only got better and more impressive from there. Epistory feels like any other role-playing game where you’re navigating through and exploring a fascinating, colorful world. When an obstacle is encountered, the player must type out a word to remove it. Whenever a word is typed, the player receives experience points. Chaining words in rapid succession, the player can score combos to get a greater number of experience points. Once experience points have been sufficiently accumulated, the player levels up and can choose how to spend skill points to unlock new player skills.
the space bar will show the player all of the words in their
immediate area they can type for points. Whenever a word is
successfully typed, a magic bolt is fired by the girl and her fox at
the object that had the word. As the game progresses enemies will
approach the player and can be defeated by successfully typing words
to eliminate the deadly creatures.
One direct hit from a creature will kill the player, and Epistory does not start at the lowest vocabulary like other typing games do. The words employed have meaning in relation to their objects. All are real dictionary words and rarely repeated as the game progresses, keeping play fresh. This is not Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing or Mario Teaches Typing. No one is going to help you find home row in this world where evil roams. Playing Epistory is more like playing Diablo as a Ranger class, but instead of clicking the mouse button to shoot your bow, you are typing to do so. I am a software developer by trade and have been told I am an excellent typist, and I still find Epistory to be challenging. This is a good title for adults and those who feel their typing skills are up to the task.
I have played through the first two boss fights thus far and have actually really enjoyed myself. The story, though a little scattered, has gotten better and more engrossing. The music is superb, but not overwhelming. It sits in the background and supports the story, helping engross the player while not drawing too much attention to itself. I was pleased to find increasingly difficult puzzles to solve and in game art items to collect throughout the world. At times while playing I caught myself saying, “Wow!“
Epistory is now on my shortlist of games I hope to complete in the near future because I want to see what happens next. It has thus far done a phenomenal job striking a balance between challenge and fun to compel me into wanting to continue to play. I don’t recall ever having played an edutainment title as enjoyable as Epistory: Typing Chronicles.
Gremlins, Inc. is a computerized board game designed by Alexey Bokulev and Sergei Klimov produced under the Charlie Oscar Lima Tango Interactive Entertainment brand. It was published in 2016 by The Merchant Guild of Rund to the Steam platform. It appears to be fully multiplayer, where players may play online competitively individually or in cooperative teams, or locally competitively individually or on teams as well. It appears the game may be played by 2 to 5 players. There are ladders that track player statistics that may be climbed. There appear to be plentiful mods to customize, enhance, and extend the base game, and the game appears to have been consistently updated since its release.
Players may play as one of five classes of character: the Explorer, the Manager, the Gambler, the Collector, the Thief, or the Damned. I am not yet certain as to the strengths or weaknesses of the various classes since I’ve only ever chosen the random character option. Hovering over each one should give a description of their strengths and weaknesses.
Players are dealt six cards each at the beginning of the game. As these cards are played or otherwise discarded throughout the game, they are replenished immediately from a random deck. At the beginning of the game, all players may discard as many cards as they wish from their hand to be redrawn prior to playing their first turn.
Each card has a name and unique game art that make them easily remembered and identifiable at a glance once you get used to playing. The Gremlinopedia contains an index of each card and what effects they have to be referenced by the player when needed. All of this information is also present on the cards themselves within a players hand.
The number in the upper left hand corner of the card is the movement number. Cards may be played to move around the board or they may be played to execute the card’s action, but never both. Once a card is played for movement or its action, it is discarded. When played for the card’s action, the card must be played on the spot that it corresponds to. A picture of this spot is located on the bottom left of the card. A description of all of the spots on the board is included below. Some cards have an added action effect when played. These cards will have a gear icon located at the upper center of the card. Hovering the mouse pointer on this icon will reveal text that explains the card’s effect when played.
There are numerous Gremlins, Inc. game boards to play on, and none of them that I have seen are fully linear. Be careful to check the arrows on the board to plan your movement. On the board I first played on, there was a primary loop to travel counter-clockwise around in a circle that was fairly low risk. This primary loop had loops to the unique game spots connected to it, so traveling around this loop would provide a player access to those spots. However, there are also places within the primary loop where the player may take short cuts or move to a different place in the loop entirely. The player must take into account the risk versus reward when choosing their particular path. Paths with high reward usually come with high risk, while paths with lower reward come with a lower risk.
The most important and precious resource in the game are the general game points. At the beginning of each game, the game host decides how many game points will be played to. In the game I played, the number of game points was 20. This means that the first player to reach 20 game points would win the game. The number of game points a player has is shown in the middle of a green gear next to their player portrait on the main game screen. Wherever game points may be added or subtracted from the player in a game, they are represented by a gear.
There are also votes that may be collected or lost while navigating the board. Whomever has the most votes when elections are called becomes the governor. It’s good to be the governor. Governors don’t have to pay any resources when landing on a bribe spot.
Pitchforks are another resource. The more pitchforks you have the more notorious your reputation which counts for something. Be careful that you don’t have the most pitchforks though as some of the nastier misfortunes target the most evil player in the game. Then there is the + and – resources. The – resource is used to pay off the police when landing on a police spot and pay bribes. Money, or G, is the common currency of the game.
Many cards require G to play on their respective spots. When G is required to play a card, the amount required will be shown in the upper right hand corner of the card. The more powerful the card, the more costly it is to play. Unfortunately for the player who likes to plan ahead, G is what is most often increased or decreased in all of the in game events around the board which makes the amount of it in your purse at any time highly volatile. Getting a high power card that requires around 1000G to play made my mouth water since it would pretty much settle the game if I were to successfully play it. So I would plan out how to get to the other side of the map to play that one card and save enough G on my way there to spend it solely on that card. I tried three separate cards like this in the game I played and each time there was something that made me lose enough of my money to keep me from playing each of those three cards. This was even with me being the governor for around 80 percent of the game. The fluctuation of G in my coffer was a strong signal that Gremlins, Inc. is as much a game of chance as it is a game of skill. Randomness is hidden by the complexity of the game, but is still present in full, frustrating force and compounded by the actions of each player added to the game.
Bribe – Looks like a dollar bill with a G in the middle. When passing this spot, a player must pay -, when landing on this spot double – is paid. If the player cannot pay the full amount, they pay whatever they have and receive pitchforks. The governor doesn’t have to pay when passing or landing on any one of these spots.
Gamble – Looks like a die with a heart, club, and spade on it. When landing here a six sided die is rolled. If a one is rolled, a misfortune occurs. Rolling a two subtracts 50G, while rolling a four or a six will add 50G or 100G to a player’s purse respectively. Rolling a three subtracts a voter and adds a pitchfork, while rolling a five adds two voters.
Income – Clearly a money spot. When passing this spot you get money, or G. When you land on it you get double G!
Misfortune – Signified by ominous red face. Passing this spot curses the player with a random misfortune. Landing on it allows a player’s opponent to choose one of two misfortunes that will befall the player.
Police – Looks like a police sergeant’s hat. When landing here a player must pay – or there is a chance they will be arrested.
Risk – When you land on a risk spot, a six sided die is rolled to see if any misfortune is caused to your player. Prior to the die roll, the player is offered the option to buy insurance for 20G. If accepted and a misfortune occurs, it will be directed toward other players instead of the rolling player.
Tribune – Looks like a bullhorn. When landing on one of these spots you can address your voters. A six sided die is rolled to determine the effectiveness of your speech.
The Astral Plain – Looks like a hot air balloon. When landing here a player may choose to skip one turn to lose two pitchforks and draw their choice of one out of three cards from the deck.
The Bank – Signified by a gold G. When landing here a player may spend G based on their + amount to increase + by 10.
The Casino – This spot looks like a dart board. Here a player may roll a six sided die to win or lose an amount of money wagered from their purse. Rolling a 1, 2, or 3 causes the player to lose 100G, 50G or 25G respectively. Rolling a 4, 5, or 6 causes the player to gain 25G, 50G, or 100G respectively.
The Court – Signified by an icon of an angry looking judge. When landing on this spot a player may pay 40G to take a vote from any player of their choice.
The Dump – Looks like a worn out boot. When landing here a player may roll a six sided die to dig through the junk. rolling a 1 causes the player to lose one voter. Rolling a four, five, or six, causes the player to gain 10G, 20G, or 30G respectively. Rolling anything else has no effect.
The Jail – Signified by a grid of bars. Many in game actions can send a player to the Jail. Upon entering the Jail, the player rolls a six sided die for the number of turns they will stay in the Jail. At the beginning of each turn spent in the Jail, the player may choose to engage in good behavior, be neutral, or engage in bad behavior. Good behavior helps you get out of the Jail quicker, but bad behavior increases your notoriety and jail experience while potentially adding turns to your sentence. Choosing neutral allows a player to walk the line between the two.
The Inferno – Looks like a pitchfork, seems a lot like hell. Appears to be the home of evil. Cards related to the Inferno tend to boost your player’s pitchfork resource number.
The Office – Signified by a blue hand. A player may sell 1 voter for 100G on this spot.
The Marketplace – Signified by a green moneybag. When landing here a player may sell one of their precious game points for 200G if they wish.
The Plant – Signified by a golden gear on a green background. When landing here a player may skip one turn to receive 50G and lose one pitchfork if they so choose.
The Treasure – It looks like the game designers attempted to depict a yellow diamond icon for this spot, but I spent my whole first game thinking it looked like a yellow heart. The player may roll a six sided die to see how much treasure, or G, they receive. There is no losing on this space. Rolling a 1 wins 10G, 2 wins 25G, 3 wins 50G, 4 wins 100G, 5 wins 150G, and 6 wins 200G.
Gremlins, Inc. appears to be more a game of overall strategy as opposed to methodical tactics. Because of all of the probabilities of success and failure on each turn, it makes more sense to come up with a winning method of playing the game that works best in most cases than to tactically plan out each move many moves into the future. A player can plan a general strategy that provides them success a majority of the time and refine their strategy to eliminate those things that cause a loss of resources a plurality of the time. Focusing on the big picture is key.
Gremlins, Inc. is a fantastically complex game. It’s the kind of game I always wanted to play as a kid but one I know I would never find anyone who would want to play it with me. If you are not a fan of complex games, don’t let that statement completely scare you away. The computer takes care of most of the complexity, it’s just the player’s job to understand what they want to do and figure out the best path to winning. It’s wonderful that the game designers have created such a game of vast complexity that is relatively simple to play and provides an interface through which to connect to other fans of complex board games worldwide with no real language barrier.
I found no evidence of unwholesome material in Gremlins, Inc. There is no violent or sexual content nor bad language that I encountered. It may be a game too advanced for younger children to understand, which could make it frustrating for them to play and for those who play with them. I would say if someone can easily play Magic: The Gathering, they should be able to handily play Gremlins, Inc.
I can’t wait to play more Gremlins, Inc. My wife and I both enjoyed our first play through and are eager to play as a team competitively to see how high we can rise on the leader boards. If you are a fan of complex board games, I highly recommend you get this game.
Aviary Attorney was developed and published by Sketchy Logic and released in 2015. When I was reading up on this game to determine if I wanted to play it, I read a review by PC Gamer that billed Aviary Attorney as a visual novel. As I played it I did receive a choose your own adventure vibe, but as the game’s title indicates, this is a light legal sim set in 1840’s France.
The player takes the role of Monsieur JayJay Falcon. At the beginning of Aviary Attorney, Monsieur Falcon is greeted by his apprentice Monsieur Sparrowson who reads Falcon his daily mail. The letter they received is from Seigneur Purrtoir Demiaou requesting legal services on behalf of his daughter, Dame Caterline, who had been charged with the murder of Monsieur Grenwee at a dinner party they all had attended the night prior.
Black Jack mini-game with Sparrowson
Many role-playing games have a mechanic by which the backstory is told at the beginning of the game and then the player is greeted with a dialog asking them whether they would like to accept the quest presented to them. I have never understood this mechanic since selecting the negative option indicates the player would rather not play the game, and choosing the affirmative option is really the only logical way in which the game progresses. Aviary Attorney employs this same mechanic. Sparrowson asks Falcon if he will take on Dame Caterline’s case. A dialog greets the player. The player may choose “Of course!” or “Nope.” I chose “Nope.” to see what would happen.
Monsieur Sparrowson chided me briefly for not taking the lucrative case, but when I stuck to my guns through another presented dialog he offered instead to play a game of cards with me. Apparently I had unlocked a mini-game of Black Jack that I played briefly with Sparrowson playing as the computer player. Once I had confirmed that I understood the rules of the card game, Sparrowson made a wager with me. If he won, I would have to take Dame Caterline’s case. If I won, I could choose from a list of three mildly devastating scenarios to happen to Sparrowson. I made the wager and then handily lost the next round of play. It appears that once the wager is made the card game is rigged such that the player will always lose and be forced to then take Dame Caterline’s case – a clever use of this traditional role-playing game mechanic.
City Map Screen
Each case taken on by the player in Aviary Attorney is broken up into a number of days. In the first case there are three days prior to the beginning of the trial. Each day, the player is greeted with a map of the city along with a series of known locations relevant to the case. Locations with a watch face next to them indicate a location that will take a full day to visit. Locations without a watch face may be visited prior to a location with a watch face without time passing to a new day.
I spent my first day visiting the Conciergerie Prison to meet with my client Dame Caterline and get all the information I could for the case. From there I received two additional leads, to the studio of the photographer who was invited to take photographs at the party in which Monsieur Grenwee met his untimely demise, and to the scene of the crime at Baron Rorgueil’s manor where the party took place. Both locations showed a watch face beside them on the map which seemed perfect since I had two days prior to Caterline’s trial.
A Dialog Menu
I decided first to visit the photographer, Monsieur Robittio de Robinio, to discuss the photograph he had made on the night of the crime. Upon arriving at his studio, I found a note on his door indicating he had left for the day. I knocked on the door anyway, but there was no answer. Falcon and Sparrowson had a bantering dialog back in forth in which they were debating what to do. If they left, a day would be wasted in which the player would not be able to return. Provided in the dialog was the illegal option of breaking into the photographer’s studio and snooping around. I chose that option to see what would happen, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Aviary Attorney is a fantastic repository of clever quick witted humor and terrible puns. Sparrowson is the primary source of such comedy, but all of the players are well drawn and play their parts marvelously. This game is comedic through and through, I laughed frequently had couldn’t stop smiling throughout the initial time I have played it.
Investigation Mode – Searching for Evidence
When the player visits a location, they are able to search through the environment looking for clues and evidence relevant to their case. These items are then compiled and written down into an evidence folder that may be used later in the court room. On the final day before the trial, I examined the grounds of Baron Rogeuil’s manor and talked to him and his housekeeper. It was discovered that his housekeeper was a kleptomaniac and had been stealing the Baron’s silverware. This led the dinner guests to have to eat without utensils on the night of the murder. These details helped me later at trial to inform the jury why Dame Caterline had blood on her hands and mouth when she had eaten a rare steak at the dinner party.
The player may choose which statements from the witness to cross examine.
When the trial day had arrived, not only did my character Monsieur Falcon feel overwhelmingly unprepared, but I did as well. Aviary Attorney had already by this point in the first case remarkably immersed me in the world presented. The trial began in which using the evidence I had gathered the previous two days I daftly struck down the accusations presented by Rupert Rabbington, the prosecutor. After a witness has given their testimony on the stand, the player may question them based on that testimony. It is up to the player to decide how to proceed, and there is a great deal of dialog that won’t go anywhere. The jury will get frustrated with the defense if their time is wasted, so attempting to match the evidence to the testimony and questions asked will achieve the greatest results. Each time a biting piece of evidence is presented by Falcon that refutes the claims of the prosecution there is a pause and then the evidence is delivered with beaming rays shooting from Falcon across the screen. It was a comical and satisfying moment each time I did it.
Ate a Bloody Rare Steak! (Plot thickens.)
Now that I have won my first case and Dame Caterline has been pronounced not guilty by the jury in her case, I am excited about playing the remaining cases in Aviary Attorney to see if I can complete the game. Aviary Attorney seems to be a good game to play after a long day. It will make you laugh and doesn’t require too much thinking. However, there is a decent bit of potential intellectual challenge when entering the court room to keep the player engaged. The background music chosen for the game is on point with the 1840’s setting, along with the drawn animations and artwork and the fonts used for dialog. Aviary Attorney is thus far a stellar game; I’m happy to have it in my collection.
I saw Oxenfree pop up in ads on Steam and GOG for some time and wound up getting it on both platforms during two separate specials. It seems like this game has developed quite a following and from the little time I have played through it, it is easy to see why. Oxenfree is a graphical, point-and-click adventure game released in January of 2016 on Windows 10, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.11. It was developed and published by Night School Studio.
The player character plays the role of Alex as she goes along with her friends to camp and party for the weekend on the beach of Edwards Island. Alex’s friend Ren takes her and her new stepbrother Jonas on the last ferry of the day to the island. When they arrive, they meet up with Clarissa, who once dated Alex’s brother, and Nona who is Clarissa’s best friend.
Think fast when presented with dialog options.
Oxenfree relies heavily on auditory methods to tell its story. Even more so than most adventure games, I would advise using a pair of earphones since dialog is everything in this title. The primary game mechanic in my gameplay thus far has been how I chose my dialog when interacting with non-player characters. If you don’t choose your dialog quick enough, your option to say anything in the context of the moment disappears. If you choose your dialog too quickly, it seems like the game actually allows you to talk over people, a clever mechanic. Already around thirty minutes into the game, I want to go back and replay it. There appears to be so much rich story here that I want to continue through many, many hours of gameplay.
The party at the beach.
In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge there was a percentage notification that would tell you how far you progressed in the game each time you saved it. This progress indicator would continually depress me the further I progressed in the game because I was sorry that the game would eventually be over. I haven’t seen such a progress indicator bar in Oxenfree, but thus far it has provided me that same feeling of sadness that the game as I have been enjoying it will at some point be finished.
The game designers intentionally developed the story in such a way where the characters have such depth to be interesting in their own right, while holding a great deal back within a veil of mystery that keeps the player intrigued as to what plot twists will come next. Oxenfree’s synopsis on Steam is ominous.
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who unwittingly open a ghostly rift. You are Alex, and you’ve just brought your new stepbrother Jonas to an overnight island party gone horribly wrong.
I haven’t gotten to the ghostly rift part yet, so I hope Oxenfree retains all the charm and intrigue it has managed to muster thus far as I continue to play it.
The radio is causing strange things to happen here in this cave.
One frustration I have had while playing Oxenfree is with understanding the controls. To my knowledge I never saw any tutorial on what button to press to interact with objects within the environment. Once I understood that I needed to stand in the right place and press the Spacebar, things became a lot easier. To the game developer’s credit, they labeled every object that can be interacted with throughout the game using a white circle. If you see a white circle, then there is an object behind it that can be interacted with. This is a remarkable thing for those who have experienced point-and-click adventure games where you just blindly click every pixel on the screen to progress at some point during the game.
Press W, A, S, or D to move.
Alex is moved by the player across the screen using the W, A, S, and D keys on the keyboard. The Ctrl key brings up a map of the island, and right-clicking the mouse button brings up the radio. These controls are presented and integrated into the storyline fairly well at the beginning of the game while Alex, Ren, and Jonas are riding the ferry to the island. As I said previously, the player must always be ready to press a dialog option when they pop up using the left mouse button, since they can disappear rather quickly.
White circles indicate interactive objects.
I have really enjoyed playing Oxenfree thus far and I’m really excited about playing more of it in the coming weeks. I have been burned in the past by prematurely recommending adventure games that I haven’t played all the way through (I’m thinking of you, Myst.),but thus far Oxenfree has been a very intriguing adventure that has set itself apart already as one of the best, fresh adventure stories I have played in the past few years.
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry! is a title released on Valve’s Steam platform in 2016 by Two Tribes. In it you play as a space scavenger, named Roughshot, aboard a small one-man spider-like spacecraft shooting alien robots, and making daft maneuvers to escape dangerous situations. The player can level up the weapons, armor, and special abilities of their spacecraft. But there is much more to RIVE than a simple action title with RPG elements.
The voice acting in RIVE is phenomenal. Mark Dodson does the honors, and it’s really easy to feel for the character. I felt myself getting excited every time Roughshot would get excited about something in the game. The script is tongue-in-cheek, but feels well prepared. RIVE begins with an explosion that wakes Roughshot. He has to punch his on-board computer to get everything to come back on-line so he can pilot his craft. I suppose being out in deep space will wear on you over time; he really likes to talk to himself throughout the levels.
Felt like playing Asteroids in the beginning.
Spanning multiple genres, I would say RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry! most closely resembles an arcade shooter, given the way it tracks high scores and throws the player into some heavy action at most every turn. The game starts with an allusion to Atari’s Asteroids, but then turns into more of a platformer soon after when the player enters an environment with gravity.
Expect to die, a lot.
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry! certainly lives up to its name. Expect to die in this game, a lot. This is the kind of game where practice makes perfect. It’s also the kind of game where you can showcase your skill. The points you score under hard mode are added to the global leaderboard. Based on your score you can see how you rank with other players in their global ranking. There are also challenges to complete that get unlocked once you’ve completed the first mission. Challenges have levels of bronze, silver, and gold based on their difficulty.
Roughshot shoots off fireworks when you complete a mission.
Another thing you will need to get used to is the harshness of the sound effects. Crunching and scraping metal is common fair for RIVE. Playing this game feels like operating heavy machinery. My wife thought she was hearing thunder outside until she realized it was my game play making the noise. If this kind of noise is not up your alley, one thing I’ve found I enjoy doing with many shooters like RIVE is to mute the volume and have a catchy, rhythmic Spotify playlist playing on my stereo receiver in the background. You won’t necessarily hear enemies sneak up on you, but given that you die and start over a lot in RIVE, I’m not sure that matters. As I said earlier it is nice to hear Roughshot’s voice, but all of his words are subtitled, so you won’t be missing any plot points by hitting that mute button.
I hacked this sweet nurse drone.
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry! shows itself to be a fantastic shooter and platformer plus so much more. If you are a fan of action and explosions, then this is a perfect game for you. At the time this article was published, RIVE was included as part of the Humble Very Positive Bundle 2 on HumbleBundle.com and will be for another 11 days. If you liked what you read about this game in this first impressions article, go to HumbleBundle.com, and you can get a deal on this game and donate to a charity as well if you like.