It has been some time since you saw your uncle Fred. He is the adventuring type, and once again he has gone off on an adventure, but this time for longer than usual. Because you are curious, you sneak into his house and see if you can find clues about where he’s gone. While there you find an adventure suit, just like the one he takes with him on all his adventures, but this is a special one sized just for you.
You try it on and play with the contraptions you find in his observatory. You find an interesting switch and flick it on. The dome of the observatory opens and you find yourself slingshotted out into the stars.
A Story About My Uncle is a first person action adventure game. It was developed by Gone North Games and published by Coffee Stain Studios. It was released in 2014.
I have seen reviews say A Story About My Uncle is a parkour simulator, but I think that is selling it short given its rich story that I’ll get to in a moment. The player can run and jump by holding down the shift key or hitting the space bar key respectively. The player’s adventure suit can do much more, such as an increased jump when holding down on the right mouse button.
The suit also has a powered grappling hook that can be used as a tractor beam to pull the player toward an object that is relatively close to their current position. Those who have used the grappling hook in Team Fortress mods or other first person shooters will likely understand the mechanic. If you haven’t, just think Spiderman.
An obstacle course of floating islands is provided for the player to cut their teeth on in their quest to finding their uncle Fred. It was great fun jumping from platform to platform in the strange jungle cave. I am typically afraid of heights, and I struggled with that fear when first playing A Story About My Uncle. But the game is very forgiving.
Your suit will protect you from all falls. The only thing dangerous concerning falling is falling into liquid since the suit is apparently too heavy to float. At least at the beginning of the game there are quick save beacons on nearly every surface. Just get in close proximity to one of these brightly lit beacons and your game will quick save. It’s easy to start over whenever you fail. In no time you’ll be able to bound around the game world handily enough to keep up with the story.
I had originally thought based on the vast empty world and the quiet and secluded ambiance that A Story About My Uncle would be a game in which I would find myself alone. The same adventure formulas used by classic adventures like the Myst and The Journeyman Project series seemed to be in play here.
I was playing in a dark room late at night with headphones on and out of no where I heard a voice say, “Hello, who are you? You’re not from here.” I just about jumped out of my seat. But as it turned out this friendly voice appeared to be attached to a friendly creature who knew my Uncle Fred. Maddie was her name and she gave me a tour around her village once I got there.
After her quick tour she went on ahead to talk to the village elder, Samuel, for me while I went to take a look around the village and Uncle Fred’s tent. There in the tent I saw that Maddie had drawn a picture for Uncle Fred. After finishing looking around the village I am supposed to meet Maddie and elder Samuel at his dwelling.
At this point I’m not sure what to expect next from A Story About My Uncle. It is following the predictable formulas I have come to expect from good adventure games while simultaneously throwing me quite a few curve balls thus far. The characters I have encountered seem charming and it feels so good to be swinging like Spiderman through a world of peaceful amphibious creatures. However there has to be some dark mysterious conflict somewhere. The story would not ultimately be compelling without it. Thus far the story telling has been too rich and the tension is building too great for there not to be some impending drama.
The player’s character is narrating in the future as a bedtime story to his daughter, so perhaps the story won’t get too out of hand. I’m really excited to see where it goes. In real life, I got sick with some kind of winter crud. Whenever this happens I usually pick out a simple turn-based Japanese role-playing game with a heavy but linear plot that I can mindlessly mash buttons to. It was refreshing to pick up A Story About My Uncle as it gave me the perfect mixture of fun non-complex action with a heavy dose of engaging story. I’m looking forward to reviewing this one once I have completed it soon. It would be great if there were some grappling hook universe out there I could escape to just to play video games in.
Deer in the Headlights is a combination card game and dice game published and released in 2014 by University Games Corporation under the Front Porch Classics brand.
Deer in the Headlights includes three proprietary dice seemingly exclusive to the game as well as two full 54-card standard playing card decks. The standard playing card decks are branded on one side with the Deer in the Headlights logo, but have the same card designs on the play side you would expect to see with any deck of playing cards purchased at the local drug store. The decks even come with two jokers even though jokers are never mentioned anywhere in the rules. It is important to discard the jokers prior to beginning play.
Once the jokers are removed, the first round’s dealer combines and shuffles both decks and then deals out all of the cards to everyone playing. The Deer in the Headlights instruction booklet states that the game may be played by two or more players. I would imagine the only limit to the number of players is the number of cards that may be dealt. The included score pad for the game contains a slot for six players, but keeping track of player scores in a notebook or using two sheets from the score pad should be trivial.
The player who manages to discard all of their cards first wins the round. At the end of the round, all other players count up their points which are then tabulated on the score sheet. Number cards are worth their number values. Jacks, queens, and kings are worth ten points, while aces are worth one point. At the end of ten rounds, the player with the lowest score wins the game.
Play begins with the dealer. They roll the dice and play their turn based on what they roll. There is zero strategy involved. Deer in the Headlights is less a game and more an exercise in probability.
There are three six-sided dice, one beige, one blue, and one red. The dice are the only part of the game that cannot be easily interchanged with another game or other rules. Even though this is the case, the one on the red die is meant to indicate an ace. The red die has the lowest point numbers: A, 2, 3, 4, 5, and a Deer with Antlers. The blue die has the middle point numbers: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and a Deer with Antlers. And finally the beige die has the highest point cards represented: J, Q, K, Car, Running Deer, and Deer with Antlers.
The most common rolls are for three card values such as 2, 6, and Q. When this happens and no symbols are rolled (e.g. Running Deer, Car, or Deer with Antlers) the player who rolled may discard all of the cards that match the values rolled to the center discard pile from their hand. If they are unable to play any cards from their hand from this roll, any and all opponents around the table may discard from their own hand those cards and give them to the rolling player. The second most common roll is two middle or lower point numbers and a deer with antlers such as 4, 7, and a deer with antlers. When this happens, the player may discard to the center pile all of the 4’s or 7’s in their hand.
A more uncommon roll is to get two numbers and a car. The car essentially indicates that any cards discarded will not go to the center pile but will instead by distributed by the current player to the other opponents around the table as they see fit. When two numbers and a running deer are rolled, the player may discard to the center pile all of the cards in their hand for the numbers shown, plus an additional wild card of their choosing. So if a 3, 8, and running deer are rolled, the player could discard all the 3’s, 8’s, and Kings they have in their hand if they were to so choose.
When a number, a deer with antlers, and a car are rolled, the player may discard any card that matches the number rolled, as well as any number of cards that add up to that number. So if the player rolled a six, she could discard all of her sixes and any other combination within her hand that adds up to six. Three twos, one four and two ones, and one five and one one would all count. Because the car was rolled, all of these cards discarded are distributed to any of the opposing players the current player chooses.
When a number, a deer with antlers, and a running deer are rolled, the player may discard any odd or even cards based on whether the number rolled was odd or even. So, if the player rolled a 10, she would be able to discard all of the even cards in her hand to the center pile. Face cards are not included in the odd/even count, so jacks, queens, and kings may not be discarded in this way.
If two deer with antlers are rolled with one number, the player loses a turn. If however, two deer with antlers and a car are rolled, the player who rolled may select an opponent to lose the turn for them. If two deer with antlers and a running deer are rolled, the player may discard all of any two kinds of cards they choose from their hand to the center pile.
The most tragic move of all is to roll three deer with antlers. This “freezes” the player. They must pick up all cards from the center pile and they are unable to play a full turn again until they successfully roll a set of dice with at least one deer with antlers. This can be a real rotten game changer and has the potential to make a sore loser in a hurry. It is surprising how rare it actually ever happens, however.
Deer in the Headlights is a good game for teaching young children how to play basic card and dice games. Its sophistication is greater than that of Go Fish and Candy Land so parents won’t be as bored out of their minds playing it. It’s still quite a tedious game for me to play with my six-year-old son where I have my algorithm all worked out for each and every turn while he takes forever trying to figure out how many nines he has in all of the cards strewn about his hand. Given there is no strategy involved, I really can’t wait until he’s graduated from this one.
Deer in the Headlights might also serve as a decent social game for people who don’t like to play games. In most rounds I have played, most players were about to run out of cards at the same time which tends to provide the illusion that a player is playing “well.” This also increases the possibility that a player will have a “good” round regardless of their level of gaming skill. For those who are new to and scared of more sophisticated games, this could be used as a gateway game to get them interested in something more complex as time goes on.
Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or greater, Linux Mint 17 or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: SDL Compatible Video Card, 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB
These packages are required:
libsdl2-2.0-0:i386 and dependencies.
Mac OS X
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7 or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB
Operating System: Windows Vista or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: 512 MB DirectX 9.0c Compatible Video Card, 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB
The GOG version of Xenonauts appears to run natively with no issues in Ubuntu 16.04.
It was in the summer time, likely 1996. My best friend was an only child and seemed to have a great knack for talking his mother into buying him computer games from the bargain bin section of whatever store they happened to be shopping in. During this particular week, he and his mom were shopping at Tuesday Morning and he was able to purchase a game neither one of us had ever heard of, but the box cover sure looked interesting. It was a game for MS-DOS and because of its outrageous memory allocation requirements, he couldn’t figure out how to get it to work with his family’s computer system. Since both of his parents worked full-time, he came over a lot during the summer, and one day he brought the game with him to my house to see if I could get it to work on my system. After building a special custom boot disk to boot into a favorable DOS environment to run the game, we both experienced our first contact with the game called X-COM: UFO Defense.
Select Your Main Base
X-COM: UFO Defense is a strategy game, developed by Mythos Games and released in 1994 by MicroProse, that combines real-time strategy with turn-based tactics. The player is tasked with creating and managing the global defense force protecting Earth from hostile invasion by extra-terrestrials. The player must spend their budget wisely purchasing aircraft to intercept and shoot down UFOs. They must hire soldiers to go on missions to eliminate the threat of downed alien spacecraft and to retrieve valuable alien technology. And they are also responsible for hiring and managing scientists to research new technologies to create weapons comparable to the ones the aliens carry.
Xenonauts, a game developed and published by Goldhawk Interactive in 2014, seems to have been created to recapture the same vein of nostalgia I had from when I used to play X-COM: UFO Defense with my best friend in the mid-1990s. The game developers state that the game is not meant to be a clone of X-COM, and it is not, but the spirit of that original game is certainly alive and present here. Gamers who played X-COM: UFO Defense will feel at home when selecting their beginning base site, managing their initial base, sending planes out to intercept UFOs and sending out a team of soldiers to investigate a UFO crash landing site.
A Close Encounter Shot to the Face
When playing through Xenonauts for the first time, I noticed it seemed to appear very spartan for the year it was released. No cutscenes or rich animations were employed, and I have been unable to find an actual tutorial on how to play the game as far as I can tell. With X-COM: UFO Defense a player had to rely on the manual. Without the manual it was easy to lose very quickly. Maybe Xenonauts was designed to cater to the more mature PC gamer who is used to reading a thick manual to get the most of their strategy game’s mechanics. There are tool-tips that pop up the first time a player accesses any new screen, however, so the player doesn’t have to fly completely blind. I realize having had played X-COM: UFO Defense as a child, I am not much of a newcomer to the genre, but without reading a manual or following a tutorial, I was able to intercept two UFOs and successfully complete my first mission to retrieve alien artifacts from my first downed UFO. There is also a Xenopedia that serves as an in game online help resource while playing.
Upon further research, it appears Xenonauts was actually the product of a Kickstarter campaign that was able to raise the sum of $154,715 from 4,668 backers according to Wikipedia. This is an impressive amount, but far from the budget of a AAA studio. With this information to place things in perspective, what the developers of Xenonauts were able to accomplish with this game is impressive. The musical score is complex, easy to listen to, and fits the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are rich and fit within their contexts as well. While the animations and graphics are simple, no extra imagination is required on the part of the player to discern what they are looking at on the screen at any given moment.
Research Alien Technology
Goldhawk Interactive allowed partial access to the Xenonauts source code which resulted in the creation of Xenonauts: Community Edition, a mod for the Xenonauts game. Those with a retail copy of Xenonauts can apply the community edition mod to expand and enhance their Xenonauts game experience. I’ll try to add another article covering the community edition mod at some later point.
I had a lot of fun briefly playing Xenonauts today, moseying down memory lane. The GOG summer sale just started today. Those that visit GOG.com before June 6th can download a free copy of Xenonauts to play themselves. This is a good game. I’d recommend getting a free copy before the promotion runs out.
Operating System: Windows 7/8/10
Processor: Intel Core i5-2300 or AMD Phenom II X4 940 or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: ATI Radeon 7870/R9 270 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti/760 or better, DirectX 9.0c compatible
Sound: Windows Compatible Sound Card
Hard Drive: 4GB
Network: Broadband Internet Required
Are you a fan of shark movies? Do you get excited for shark week on The Discovery Channel every year? If so, you might want to check out Depth a sharks vs. divers underwater combat game released on Valve’s Steam platform by Digital Confectioners in 2014. This weekend Depth is free to play on Steam, so it is the perfect time to try it to see if you like it.
I would recommend starting the tutorial in solo mode before venturing off into on-line matchmaking so you’ll have an idea of what you can do with your shark or diver. I went directly into a match upon starting Depth. I enjoyed swimming through the water as a shark and felt fairly capable. I bit some divers a few times, but couldn’t quite get a kill and would get killed very quickly. Movement and basic operation is fairly simple if you have played other first-person shooter games. The diver can swim around and shoot his gun or stab his knife, while the shark can swim around and bite things. The key to being good at Depth is to use the special abilities of the diver to evade the special abilities of the sharks and vice versa. The tutorial instructs the player in many of these things.
I got him. You’re not smiling now are you, ya jerk?
In a full match, there will be four divers huddled close to S.T.E.V.E., their underwater robot lifeline, and four sharks trying to eat them. Divers can collect treasure and turn it into S.T.E.V.E. to get cash to buy better weapons and supplies. Divers can use sonar to look for sharks and use flares to light up dark areas. Sharks can evolve to evade sonar or detect humans easier in the water. Divers will die quicker if you chomp them and then quickly move your mouse back and forth, simulating thrashing and grinding your sharp teeth in the water. Divers may use medkits to heal themselves, but sharks eat seals to regenerate hit points. The sound engineers did an excellent job in using sound effects to make you feel evil with the pitiful, begging cries from the seals as they are chomped and thrashed around in the shark’s mouth.
The cries of this seal are pitiful. 🙁
There are different classes of shark. Some are built for speed, others for constitution, while others have a stronger attack. Each shark class corresponds to a different species of shark, so if you are particular to the great white or hammerhead, you can pick them accordingly.
For a game that came out in 2014, Depth really looks quite good. The detail of the underwater life is nice. There is a lot of variety in the artwork. You can also purchase special skins to make your shark unique in Depth’s micro transaction store.
These divers look so tasty.
The solo mode outside of the tutorial will allow you to play with bots on easy, medium, and hard difficulty to give you some practice outside of the on-line matchmaking mode. I’m not sure how much fun that would be given that this game was meant to be multiplayer. I would expect it to get bland after a short while like the solo modes in other multiplayer tournament games do.
If you purchase a copy of Depth, you will receive additional quests to complete. Because I don’t yet own a full copy of this game, I wasn’t able to test this feature. Outside of that, this game is pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s 4 vs. 4, sharks vs. divers in match-making mode with fancy skins you can outfit your player in.
The Game of Life Adventures is a card game based off of the Game of Life board game of similar name first released by Milton Bradley in 1960. This card game was released by Hasbro in 2014. To setup the game, the players separate out and shuffle the four types of game cards into four distinct decks. The types of cards are family, career, adventure, and wealth. Family cards relate to getting married, having children, etc. Career cards relate to education, careers, and getting paid. Adventure cards are ways the player could make their life more interesting. Wealth cards provide various tangible assets required to fully take advantage of career and adventure cards.
Cards are shuffled into four draw piles.
The Game of Life Adventures is designed for two to four players. Once the cards are divided into their four distinct color cards, players take turns drawing one card at a time from whichever pile they desire until all players have five cards in their hand. Within the decks there are cards that have a +10 printed on them. These cards indicate that 10 years have passed. If a player draws one of these cards during an initial draw phase, they are placed to the side and the player then redraws. The +10 cards are then reshuffled back into their respective decks.
After all players have their five card hand, play begins with whomever was selected to go first. Within a turn, a player will play a card, tell a story about how that card relates to their fictional life they are creating there within the game, and then draw a new card from any color pile they choose. Some cards have prerequisites that must be satisfied before they may be played. For instance, it is impossible to celebrate a wedding anniversary if you have not yet gotten married.
This is my life.
Every time someone draws a +10 card, ten years have passed within the game. After sixty years, the game ends. I spent my first ten years working on two degrees while my opponent built an igloo and got herself a pet polar bear and a pet shark. I was stunned at how quickly time had flown, so I raced to catch up doing everything interesting I could while I was young. I began a career as a politician and got paid handsomely. This allowed me to plan an extravagant wedding where my spouse and I exchanged vows while sky diving, and we moved into a beach front property where we had our two twin boys.
Meanwhile my opponent became a rock star sensation, rising in the music charts. While I didn’t think much of her music, my campaign staff apparently thought it would help as background music on the campaign trail. Since she apparently didn’t give them permission to use her songs, she sued (by playing a card) and took my house. Given that I am an expert politician, I passed legislation that allowed me to do what I wanted to do and countersued, taking my house back. From that day on, we were rivals.
This is my opponent’s life.
Twenty years had passed. I wanted to do everything interesting I could. I wanted to make a mark and be somebody. I purchased a car, a boat, and a plane. I circumnavigated the globe. I learned to do a loop-the-loop in my plane. I even took a rocket ship to the moon. But what I hope I will most be remembered for is skydiving from my hot air balloon with a skateboard in my hand so I could skateboard land into a skateboarding contest for charity, which I won by the way.
The years went by. My opponent had three girls, while I had three boys. I suppose we both decided it was time to give back to society. She completed her Ph.D. and became a rocket scientist. After robbing the taxpayer blind I began a rewarding career in teaching that I held until the end of the game.
The game ends when six +10 cards have been played.
Once the sixth +10 card has been played, the game ends. Each life event card played has a number on it showing how many points it is worth. The player with the most points wins. I felt I had lived the most rewarding life of all with 1055 points. My opponent got 1050 points, so maybe she wasn’t so boring after all.
The Game of Life Adventures card game is a great party game that you can teach newcomers very quickly and have a lot of fun telling stories about your fictional characters. There is more chance than skill involved in this game, so it might be a good title to pull up when you want to play something with someone who is not very confident in their gaming abilities or when you are playing with children who like to talk more about their fanciful in game character than any gaming strategy. Even though there is a scoring system, there is not much about this game that takes itself seriously. It’s a light-hearted bit of fun to have, much like its board game counterpart.