Figment is an action adventure game with puzzles, released in 2017. It was developed and published by Bedtime Digital Games. In Figment you play as Dusty who is on an epic quest to restore the health of the mind he inhabits.
Figment begins with a family in a car driving through a stormy night. It sounds like a daughter in the back of the car is taunting her dad while he’s trying to focus on the road. Then out of nowhere the father yells, “Oh crap!” foreshadowing the impending crash that takes place immediately thereafter.
After the crash scene fades out, another scene fades in where Piper, a friendly flying companion, comes to wake Dusty up and get him ready. It seems Dusty is a protector and adventurer that has gotten rusty with disuse. He holds on to his scrapbook, likely filled with memories of adventures past, and is preparing to make himself an intoxicating beverage to enjoy.
While Dusty is away collecting ice for his beverage, a nightmare comes to steal his scrapbook. He begins to wake up to the fact that things are not all right with the mind, as Piper had been trying to tell him. Dusty then begins his quest to get his scrapbook back.
I’m not doing appropriate justice by my description of the narrative. Playing Figment made me realistically feel and experience emotions that few games ever have. With many games I sympathize with the characters as they make their way through the story, but with Figment the voice acting and body language of the characters combined with the musical score stirred serious empathy within me.
I felt genuinely hurt that Dusty had his scrapbook stolen and was treated unfairly. I felt genuinely bad for the nightmare who stole the scrapbook telling Dusty, “Eventually, we all lose everything!” to justify his actions. Piper makes me want to do what I can to help fix things when she nervously states, “Something’s totally messed up in the mind!”
My wife’s aunt suffered a terrible car wreck a few years ago that left her with a traumatic brain injury. For many months after the accident it was frustrating to sit by her bed side and see her reliving nightmares and grasping at incomplete overwhelming thoughts while we could do little to help. Figment puts you right there inside a mind, struggling for survival, and makes you feel determined to set things right.
The combat is typical hack and slash. Dusty has a life bar, and he can take only so many hits before he must respawn at the nearest checkpoint. The life bar may be replenished using Endurance Neurons, green glowing balls that spin around trees throughout Figment’s game world. Picking up enough Endorphins will extend your life bar, providing you an extra hit point.
Dusty and Piper travel together through the mind to fight fear and sickness, stoke creativity, and recontain the nightmares into their proper place. As they journey they find memories they can use to piece together and recollect the person of the mind they inhabit. Dusty starts off as an uncaring jerk, but as he picks up more endorphins he begins to turn back into his former heroic self.
When I finished recording my first impressions play through, my wife asked me if I had fun playing. I sat for a second and thought about it and then answered honestly, no. Thus far Figment has been a dramatic, poetic, artistic, incredible game steeped in symbolism, but not really fun.
I plan to continue playing Figment till I complete it. There seems to be so much depth to the story that I want to see how it turns out. The character development, musical score, and vivid artistry combine to make an epic such that it feels I have a duty to see the story through to its conclusion. While it may not be “fun,” there’s no game that has grabbed so much of my attention lately as Figment has. In many ways Figment goes beyond fun to provide a moving experience very unique from any other game I have played thus far.
Linux Operating System: Ubuntu 12.04 or greater, 64-bit only Video: ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series or greater Hard Disk: 1.3 GB
Mac OS X Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8 or greater, 64-bit only Memory: 4 GB RAM Video: ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series or greater Hard Disk: 1.3 GB
Windows Operating System: Windows 7 or greater, 64-bit only Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 250 or greater Memory: 2 GB RAM Video: ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series or greater Sound: DirectX Version 9.0c compatible sound card Hard Disk: 700 MB
Splasher is a two-dimensional puzzle platformer released in 2017. It was developed by Splashteam and published by Playdius. Gameplay reminds me greatly of Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and Super Meat Boy.
Splasher begins with your main purple-haired character scrubbing the floors at Ink Corp – very similar to the plot of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. While he’s cleaning he happens to peer into a room where experiments are being done. Inside the room a mad doctor is injecting one of his fellow cleaning technicians with a substance that turns them into a potato. Scared by the scenario unfolding in front of them, your main character understandably gets the heck out of there and level one begins.
The first level introduces the controls and serves as a basic tutorial on how to play the game. Splasher is the kind of platformer where you have great control in moving your character mid-flight. The character moves fast and the platforms and character seem small in comparison to other platformers I have played. This made the controls take a little getting used to.
After completing the first level, the player is transported to an overworld map where they may enter the next level or go back and replay a previous level. It is possible to do a speed run on previously played levels to beat your previous time. By examining the speed run mechanic, it appears there are 22 levels in Splasher.
Through the first
three levels that I have played, I have been able to deduce that
there are two types of ink. Red ink sticks you to the surface it’s
on and provides gravity for you to walk across when on a ceiling or
wall. Yellow ink makes you bounce around like you’re dancing with
flubber on your feet. Water can be used to clean ink off of surfaces.
The player first
receives a water gun. Eventually it appears the player receives the
ability to shoot red and yellow ink from their gun, but I was not
able to unlock this ability within the first three levels. Shooting
potato creatures with water makes them explode and helps the player
The player receives a yellow substance from eliminating enemies from the game. If you can accumulate 700 units of the yellow stuff you can free your comrade locked in the cage at the end of the level. Similar to Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, you can rescue or “accidentally” kill fellow Ink Corp employees as you are working your way through each level.
The specialty Splasher brings to gaming is its fast paced puzzles that must be solved for the player to progress. Checkpoints are available between each puzzle within a level so the player isn’t forced too far back when they fail. However, it is clear the greatest satisfaction Splasher offers is in getting good enough to jump from puzzle to puzzle completing the level in the shortest time possible while achieving the greatest score.
Splasher appears to be a decent game for puzzle platformer speed run enthusiasts who enjoy a challenge and love competing against their past scores. Given that Splasher is a single player game, I am surprised I didn’t encounter an online leader board so individual players may see where they rank in worldwide rankings. It feels ridiculous for me to continue trying to beat my own score, but working my way up a rank and knowing I am Xth out of Y players worldwide pushes me to keep trying to get better.
Passpartout: The Starving Artist is an artistic painter simulator with money management elements developed and published by Flamebait Games. It was released in 2017 for the Steam platform and runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
In Passpartout: The Starving Artist the player plays the part of an artistic painter. The player paints on an easel in a manner that appears similar to the Microsoft Paint user interface. Starting with one brush, the player must paint something worthy enough to sell to her critics in order to pay her bills. As the title “The Starving Artist” seems to suggest, as the game mounts in challenge it may be harder to sell paintings and pay the rent. This might make this the world’s first arcade painting simulation. When beginning a new game, a screen greets the player with the words Act I. I assume this means that there are multiple acts and settings to play through to the game’s completion.
Painting the Bunny
I began my time playing Passpartout: The Starving Artist drawing my old favorite, a simple bunny. I titled my work and placed it out for the attention of the waiting public. Surprising to me, it sold rather quickly for 127 dollars. I figured I must be a natural painter born with the innate talent to produce masterpieces, so I began my next work. Once a player is satisfied with their painting, there is a button to take a screenshot of it in Steam and another button to tweet it out on Twitter for those who are so inclined.
Incredibly in my time playing, Passpartout: The Starving Artist helped me get in touch with my stream of consciousness as I let my whims guide the brush to produce meaningful colors and shapes to the canvas. Despite the necessary cheesiness of the art produced using the primitive artistic tools provided to the player by the game’s user interface, I found the game to be extremely relaxing as I was able to lose myself in the production of art from deep within my being. The game music puts you in the right mood to feel loose and creative. This game started out feeling good for my soul.
My Ego, it is Bruised
Then came the critics. Passpartout: The Starving Artist is a very realistic artist simulator in one sense. Non-player characters will walk by your works of art on display and critique, nitpicking every little thing they can. You cannot please most anyone mostly all of the time. Anyone who is not actively buying a painting is continually berating you for your misuse of color, lack of detail, grossness of style, or for selling out to the man or producing art for quick cash. The criticism also appears to be subjective. I painted a painting with every color available to me in it, and I was told that all of the colors were bad by one critic. At first it’s cute and clever, but over time it really began to grate on me. Although, this game might provide inoculation toward haters commenting online if I want to branch out and start uploading YouTube gameplay videos.
Title your masterpiece, then hopefully it will sell.
Another clever distraction for while you are painting are the news flashes that popup on the screen parodying the ridiculousness of real-life click bait encountered while browsing online. These add some humor and levity to Passpartout: The Starving Artist, but still detract the player from the relaxing focus at hand – putting art on the easel. I don’t think I have ever had so many emotions form in a short period of time from playing such a simple game. In my first hour playing I felt relaxed and free to express myself in my art, then frustration with the criticism of my work, then triumph when I would unlock a Steam achievement, then mild humor when I would read an odd news flash, and in between all these emotions boredom when I felt I had, at least in that moment, exhausted all the game had to offer.
I’m channeling my inner Bob Ross. Happy little trees.
As I stated earlier, Passpartout: The Starving Artist provides the player with only one type of brush to begin play with. As the player sells paintings and progresses they may unlock other brush types. Perhaps I don’t have the most artistic mind after all, but I frequently would reach moments in the game within the first hour of gameplay where I wondered if I had just seen everything the game had to offer. Shortly after having such a thought, I would unlock an achievement or unlock a new brush, but such things were not quite enough to keep the thoughts of the game’s minimalist nature at bay.
While there were elements to Passpartout: The Starving Artist that I really enjoyed in the time I played it, I wonder if I could get similar results by putting on some soothing music on my stereo, fire up Microsoft Paint, and get busy producing works of art with the full set of brushes unlocked without all the noisy, nosy critics. While the game itself is currently $9.99 on Steam, the original sound track is priced at $4.99. It might be more of a deal to have the soundtrack and supply your own paint program. Passpartout: The Starving Artist is a fun enough game, I think I would buy it in a heavily discounted Steam sale knowing what I know about it now.
Alphabear is a single-player word puzzle game first released for mobile devices on the iOS and Android platforms in 2015. In 2017, the game was released for the Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 operating systems as Alphabear: Hardcover Edition as a download for the Steam platform. The game was developed and is published by Spry Fox LLC.
Within a typical level, the player is tasked with making words from the letters provided in the blocks on the screen. The more letters are used, the more space is freed up on the board which is then consumed by the player’s bears on the screen. Each letter begins with a score count and with a green color. Each turn a letter is not used its color changes from green to yellow to red and its total score count decreases. A deep red letter will become unusable on the next turn and transform into a stone. Stones impede the players ability to grow their bears and should therefore be avoided.
Alphabear: Hardcover Edition puzzle gameplay
The objective of the game is to maximize points by maximizing the size of the words the player creates and the size of the bears within the playing field. Most levels have a point goal the player must reach in order to progress. Occasional levels introduce a time limit within which the player must complete the level.
Skinny Bear Leveled Up!
At the end of each level, the player’s score is tallied up and a new player bear is unlocked or a bear already existing within the player’s inventory levels up in ability. This introduces somewhat of an role-playing game element to Alphabear: Hardcover Edition. Prior to entering a new puzzle stage, the player may enter her bear inventory and choose up to three bears on her roster to participate in the next puzzle based on their various abilities. As a bear is gained or levels up, the player is greeted with a screen where their bear is in a selfie containing a cute little tweet randomly generated using the words the player made during the last stage. The player may actually tweet or save these selfies before they progress to the next round if they so choose.
Level End Scoreboard
At first blush, Alphabear: Hardcover Edition seems to be just another word puzzle game. I saw it was being offered on Steam’s free weekend, so I downloaded it to write a quick first impressions article. The game install file is only 196 megabytes in size; downloading and installing it on Steam takes virtually no time at all. Not paying attention to the clock, I played it long enough that I almost ran out of space on my game recording device. Alphabear is fun and addicting.
As with other word puzzle games, it is often the case that the player begins trying to coin words that are new to them in order to get out of a tight spot where they don’t know what word they can legally play next. Alphabear: Hardcover Edition offers a dictionary that defines every word that is played. I found this to be particularly helpful when I was just clicking around and stumbled upon a word I didn’t know. This game would be extremely helpful to those who are hoping to get better at Scrabble and actually know the words they are playing. It also appears it might help a child with an elementary vocabulary to learn more words and better spelling for fun outside of their classroom.
As I said, this title is free for the weekend, and only around five dollars retail. I had fun with it and thought it was worthwhile. It may be one of the better edutainment titles I have played. Check it out and see what you think.
Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms Title Screen
Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is a point and click, hack and slash, grind fest developed and published by Codename Entertainment. The game is a licensed Dungeons and Dragons title. It was released for Windows 10 and Mac OS 10.12 in 2017.
Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms plays similar to a tower defense game. The player’s party inhabits the left most part of the screen while enemies advance from the right. As the enemies approach, the player may attack them by clicking on them. This deals a small amount of damage and slows the enemies down. Members of the player’s party will also attack when they are able and deal an amount of damage proportional to their current level and ability.
When Gnolls Attack…
When an enemy is slaughtered, the enemy will drop gold pieces that will accumulate in the player’s purse. The player may use the gold to level up their characters, hire new characters, or level up the damage dealt by their click attack. The game is divided into stages. Each stage has its own objective that must be satisfied in order to progress. Most of these objectives deal with killing a certain number of creatures or collecting a certain number of items. There is a boss at the end of every fifth stage that must be defeated to move on to later stages.
I feel your pain, Dryad.
It is challenging to describe what genre of game play Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms most closely resembles not because of any particular originality or creativity, but due instead to the fact that it doesn’t feel particularly like a game. There are certainly game mechanics here, as I said before there are hack and slash role-playing and tower defense elements, but the game is really one big needless grind. All a player does when playing this game is click a green button across the bottom of the screen, collect gold by hovering the mouse over said gold, or click on an enemy to deal it a small amount of damage.
Boss making her way through my party.
Outside of clicking to level up your characters, no other action is actually necessary to play the game. The gold automatically enters your party’s inventory when your party walks close enough to it. If the characters are sufficiently leveled up, they will take out any enemies before the player would ever need to click on them. In later stages, ranged units can become a pest if not eliminated quickly by the player’s click attack, but I haven’t noticed them provide enough damage to truly influence the outcome of a stage for the party at large. When a boss or an overwhelming number of units slaughter one of the party members, as long as the boss or enemies are defeated, that player will simply respawn with full health in the next stage. If for some reason the player’s party can’t successfully defeat a boss, the game sends the player and her party back to a previous stage to level up their characters until the boss can be defeated.
Kill the Rabbits
The only other place Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realm could redeem itself would be in having a rich story at the book ends of the long arduous grinds of sitting and watching your characters slowly make their way through the levels. The story is paper thin; it is not at all what I would come to expect from a Dungeons and Dragons title. The characters have zero depth. In the first 30 minutes I played Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realm, I played two stages where the whole point was to collect food for a village and the party. Those stages played like bonus rounds where rabbits and wolves that were easy pickings came slowly up to the adventurers to be easily slaughtered for quick gold. These stages left me scratching my head wondering what the point was.
Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms seems to be bug free and plays moderately well for what it attempts to achieve on my Windows 10 system. That being said, it has felt like a complete waste of time for me that isn’t any real fun. This game is free for the next two days on Steam as a promotion to get people to play it. After 30 minutes of playing it myself I feel it’s a shame they can’t give me my 30 minutes back.
Operating System: Windows 7/8/10
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.7 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 260 1GB RAM or better, Direct X 9.0c compatibility required
Sound: DirectX compatible
System Requirements – Mac OS X
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6 or better
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.7 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 260 1GB or better
System Requirements – Linux
Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or SteamOS or better
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.7GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 260 1GB or better
Sound: Requires current Linux sound drivers.