Epistory: Typing Chronicles – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, and Windows 10 Game Compatibility

Epistory: Typing Chronicles Title Screen
Epistory: Typing Chronicles Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux
Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or greater
Processor: Intel Core i5 2400 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: ATI Radeon HD4850, GeForce GTX 295 or greater
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Mac OS X
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.9 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows
Operating System: Windows XP or greater
Processor: Intel Core i5 2400 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: ATI Radeon HD4850, GeForce GTX 295 or greater
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Epistory: Typing Chronicles – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, and Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Epistory: Typing Chronicles Title Screen
Epistory: Typing Chronicles Title Screen

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? Like Mario Teaches Typing or Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing? This is going to suck.”

I resolved to give it a chance and started the game. The game begins with narration.

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.

Don't tell me what to do, I'll use the W, A, S, D keys if I want.
Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll use the W, A, S, D keys if I want.

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.

First combat, first blood.
First combat, first blood.

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.

You will encounter real enemies on your quest with real words. Large words.
You will encounter real enemies on your quest with real words. Large words.

Pressing 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.

Epistory reminds me of Diablo.
Epistory reminds me of Diablo.

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.

Puzzles are well integrated and increase in difficulty.
Puzzles are well integrated and increase in difficulty.

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 Level Up screen.
Epistory Level Up screen.

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. – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, Windows 10 Game Compatibility

Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu
Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu

System Requirements

Linux
Operating System: Ubuntu 12.04 or greater
Processor: Pentium 3 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Geforce 9XX or AMD graphics card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Mac OS X
Operating System: Any x86 version of Mac OS X
Processor: Any x86 Mac
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows
Operating System: Windows XP or greater
Processor: Pentium 3 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Geforce 9XX or AMD graphics card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Gremlins, Inc. – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu
Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu

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.

Character Selection Screen
Character Selection Screen

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.

The Gremlinopedia for referencing card effects and game information.
The Gremlinopedia for referencing card effects and game information.

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.

Discard and redraw any number of cards prior to first turn.
Discard and redraw any number of cards prior to first turn.

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.

Game board used in my first play through.
Game board used in my first play through.

Common Spots:

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.

Unique Spots:

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.

My wife beat me.
My wife beat me.

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.

Owlboy – Compatibility

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Any Linux variant with glibc 2.15 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

macOS

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7.5 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or greater
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: DirectX 10 capable graphics card required. DirectX must be version 9.0c or greater.
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

Windows 10

This game was designed for and seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Owlboy – Linux, Mac OS X 10.13, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy is a puzzle, platformer, two-dimensional free movement shooter released in 2016 for the Steam platform. It was developed and published by D-Pad Studio. With a rich though linear storyline like you might find in a JRPG, Owlboy blends many genres and integrates game mechanics from many types of games.

Owlboy follows the adventures of a mute owl by the name of Otis. Given Otis’ disability, he is bullied by his peers and has a hard time living up to the standards of the town leaders. Overcoming disability and standing up to bullying may turn out to be a theme throughout the game.

The game begins with the player flying around the village of Vellie getting to know the villagers and serving as a look out for pirates. The villagers inform Otis of a troublemaker who has been plaguing the town. Eventually the player explores to the point where the bully owls frighten and intimidate Otis. The local tinkerer named Geddy comes to Otis’ defense and they team up to explore together. At that point Geddy becomes part of the player’s party and Otis can pick up Geddy to fly him around.

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Otis flies around using the W, A, S, D keys. Geddy has a pea shooter than can be used to shoot at enemies and objects. It is particularly effective when shooting anything that is wooden. The player uses the mouse to aim and the left mouse button to fire. Most of the game controls are well labeled on screen whenever they may be used to interact with the environment.

After all of the villagers have been greeted and another owl has been saved from bullying, Otis and Geddy encounter the town troublemaker and chase him down to a cave where the real game begins. The first area is fairly simple to navigate and serves as a tutorial to help the player learn all of the game mechanics and get used to the style of puzzle solving that will be expected later.

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Geddy can be picked up and flown around and is useful for firing on enemies. His pea shooter kills most enemies I have encountered thus far and annihilates dry old tree trunks. When not carrying Geddy, Otis can use a spin attack that can only stun enemies, but can also be used to break rocks which are impervious to the Geddy’s pea shooter. It is in this area that the player learns the strengths and weaknesses of each character’s abilities. Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, health is boosted and restored in Owlboy by pulling produce out of the ground and eating it. Whenever I have encountered something growing out of the ground, I have found it best to go ahead and eat it to get a larger health bar.

The First Boss

The First Boss

The first boss wasn’t as easy as I tend to expect a boss to be immediately following a tutorial. There was a good deal of trial and error as I worked to determine which character needed to fire in what way in order to cause the boss damage. I don’t recall seeing any health bar for the boss to indicate how much damage was being dealt, nor was there any particular difference that I could detect in the flashes that came from shooting the boss with Geddy’s pea shooter and using Otis’ spin attack.

It eventually became clear however that the first boss had armor in the front that could not be penetrated. It that had to be kicked off using Otis’ spin attack from behind. Then once the armor was off, Otis’ had to be carrying Geddy in order to shoot the boss with the pea shooter. Once I figured out the pattern, defeating the boss wasn’t at all hard, but definitely provided evidence for an interesting game going forward.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Upon defeating the boss, the player gains an artifact that allows them to press a button to transport Geddy to Otis’ location from wherever he happens to be. This is an extremely helpful mechanic as I was worried about losing him throughout most of the game leading up to the first boss. In many games any companion received must usually be handled with care. In Owlboy it appears you can slam Geddy against any wall or throw him off cliffs with great comedic slapstick relief and he will come back with no issue. Geddy looks fragile, but he can take a real beating.

Once Otis and Geddy get back to town after chasing the troublemaker and defeating the boss, they find the village riddled with pirates. The pirates seize an artifact that will help them attack the capital of Advent and they leave to do so. Otis’ mentor Asio leaves with the village professor to warn those at the capital while Otis and Geddy are tasked with going to the ancient Owl Temple to discover if there is a way to defeat the pirate fleet with the old owl technology.

Sky Pirates!

Sky Pirates!

Owlboy’s graphic style is reminiscent of 32-bit platformers released in the mid to late 1990s. The parallax looks phenomenal. The sound is what I would expect and suites the story. In many ways Owlboy is a typical puzzle platformer that delivers everything I would expect in a predictable manner. But just when I guess where I think it is going, it has so far surprised me with a little twist here or extra unexpected depth there. This also seems to be a good title for adolescents. The content so far seems safe while the challenge provided is worthy and not too easy. The game is rated E10+ by the ESRB, so I’ll leave that to parents to decide. I certainly have enjoyed playing Owlboy thus far, and look forward to continuing the adventures of Otis and Geddy again soon.

Cat Girl Without Salad – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Cat Girl Without Salad Title Screen

Cat Girl Without Salad Title Screen

Revenge of the Mutant Camels meets Power Puff Girls in Cat Girl Without Salad developed by WayForward Technologies and released in 2016 as a Humble Bundle Original for the Windows 10 operating system platform. The game was originally an April Fools joke announced in 2013 billed as a game spanning all genres in one title. While my experiences with it thus far have revealed it to be primarily a horizontal side-scrolling shooter, Cat Girl Without Salad parodies familiar game elements from other video games integrated throughout its gameplay.

How to Play

How to Play

The protagonist hero of Cat Girl Without Salad is named Kebako. She is a robotic, ditsy cartoon girl bounty hunter with cat ears flying through space to fight enemies and take down bad guys. She is equipped with a default pea shooter that literally shoots peas. Throughout the game, the player will find what look like game cartridges that upgrade Kebako’s weapons in various ways. Each weapon upgrade is unique, creative, and sometimes annoying.

Starting Pea Shooter

Starting Pea Shooter

There is a platformer gun that shoots a cartoon platformer sprite who jumps on the enemies to kill them. The sports gun shoots golf balls at the enemies based on the direction of the player’s swing. A puzzle gun turns the side-scrolling shooter environment into a scrolling game of Bust-a-Move. An RPG gun opens up a fight menu similar to those encountered in Final Fantasy games where the player can choose to attack or use magic against approaching enemies.

Using the RPG Gun

Using the RPG Gun

I also encountered a dance gun that mimicks the Dance Dance Revolution games made by Konami. Instructions for how to play Cat Girl Without Salad are simple and provided to the player at the beginning of a new game. Guns can be fired using any of the four direction arrow keys on the keyboard. When using the dance gun, if the player times their shots appropriately with the “dance” arrows scrolling across the screen, they can achieve a combo score for each time they time their shot correctly.

Dance, Dance Gun

Dance, Dance Gun

Ice cream sundaes, pizza, cheeseburgers, and any other junk foods may be collected to restore health, but not salads. Suffice it to say, Cat Girl Without Salad is a crazy game. The game characters seem to act like characters from animated television shows aired on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon to preteen girls. This somehow seems to actually add to its charm. The blasts of bubblegum pink and strobing pastels excite rather than frustrate. Whereas many such cartoons tend to grate on my nerves, the audio in Cat Girl Without Salad is thus far enjoyable. The development team seems to have really known what they were doing and enjoyed doing it.

Am I playing Bust-a-Move or R-Type?

Am I playing Bust-a-Move or R-Type?

For appearing to be geared toward younger girls, whether in fact or as a joke, Cat Girl Without Salad is a legitimately challenging game. It is far from the hardest side-scrolling shooter I have played, but it’s certainly not easy either. The game feels fair, challenging, and the controls are solid. While the weapon types are clever and creative, they are not immediately useful without adequate practice. Expect to play even the first level over again to learn how to get it right.

As I said, Cat Girl Without Salad is a Humble Bundle Original. This means it was made as an exclusive title for those who subscribe to the Humble Bundle Monthly service. When subscribed, it may be downloaded DRM-free to the subscriber’s local machine and launched from a simple executable. If Humble Bundle were to ever no longer be a thing, I could imagine this game would become a rare but coveted title, perhaps like Chex Quest is now.

Let the reader note that after I wrote this article, I saw that Humble Bundle will be removing this game from its Humble Bundle Monthly offering on February 2, 2018. If you’re a Humble Bundle Monthly subscriber, you’ll need to get it before then to play it as part of that packaged deal. Hopefully it will still be available to be purchased in some way after February 2, 2018.

The First Boss

The First Boss

The more I play Cat Girl Without Salad, the more I really like it. It is an addictive side-scrolling shooter that takes the genre to places that are completely different from where its ever been while keeping the core elements familiar, but fresh. If you sign up for a Humble Bundle Monthly subscription, make sure you check out Cat Girl Without Salad.

Oxenfree – Compatibility

Oxenfree Title Screen

Oxenfree Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Ubuntu 16.04
Processor: Intel i5 2.5 GHz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 / Radeon HD 6750
Sound: DirectX 9.0 compatible
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8
Processor: Intel i5 2.5 GHz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 / Radeon HD 6750
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Windows

Operating System: Windows 8.1 64-bit
Processor: Intel i5 2.5 GHz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 / Radeon HD 6750, DirectX 11 required.
Sound: DirectX 9.0 compatible
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Oxenfree – Windows 10, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.11 Game First Impressions

Oxenfree Title Screen

Oxenfree Title Screen

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Circles indicate interactive objects.

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.

Turnspell – Board Game Review

Turnspell Game Box

Turnspell Game Box

Another game we played at our most recent game night was Turnspell released by Mattel in 2016. This is a word game where 2 to 4 players are scored based on their ability to construct four letter words. Contained with the game are four, four-by-four letter boards for each player with scoring pegs and a center spinning board which contains letters chosen randomly from a pouch.

The pouch contains tiled letters with the exact same frequency and score values as Scrabble. I was actually disappointed to discover I am missing an “I” from my favorite travel Scrabble set when I tested the theory that these games use the same lettering system. Mattel, I think you may owe Hasbro an explanation, or at least a concession that they know what they are doing more when it comes to word games.

Scrabble and Turnspell tiles match up perfectly.

Scrabble and Turnspell tiles match up perfectly.

Letters are chosen at random and placed on the center spinning board, filling each of its four four-letter tile spaces. When we started the game we thought you were supposed to spin the spinning board to determine who started with which letters. Don’t do this unless you want pick the letters up off the floor on opposite sides of the room.

Try to make the letter setup truly random so no one feels cheated in the first turn. When we started one game, one of the sides of the center spinning board was completely filled with “E” letter pieces. Given that there are rare letters that are worth more points and common letters that are quite prevalent, my friend was forced to take an “E” on his first turn while his opponents were taking “J” and “X” letters. Perhaps a mulligan system could be employed to provide a more balanced start for all players. I would suggest if a side on the spinning board is completely filled with one-point vowels, or perhaps only one-point letters (vowels or consonants) at the beginning of the game, one letter should be traded out until a higher point valued letter is drawn to take its place.

Center spinning board. Be careful when spinning.

Center spinning board. Be careful when spinning.

All players play simultaneously. Each player draws a letter and places it somewhere on their player board. The player’s objective is to create four-letter words on their board. Once a four-letter word is created, it is scored by counting the point value each of the letters is worth. The word’s total score is added to the player’s score total using the pegs on the player’s board and the letters from the word are then placed back into the letter pouch.

There is a possibility for a player to use a letter to create two four-letter words at the same time. When this happens, the letter values from both words are added together and then that final sum is doubled to compute their total score for that turn. When a player reaches a score of 44, they win the game. If two players surpass a score of 44 in the same turn then the highest scoring player wins. If both players tie past 44 in the same turn, I assume they must fight to the death or the universe explodes. The rules do not specify in this final case.

Once a tile is placed on a player’s board, it cannot be replaced without taking a penalty. If a player wishes to remove one tile, they may surrender five points or twice the point value of the letter to do so, whichever total is higher. If they do not have enough points in the game to take the penalty, they may not remove the tile. When a tile is removed, it is placed back into the letter pouch. It cannot be replaced on the player’s board.

A player board. All she needed was a "Z" and I took it before she could get it.

A player board. All she needed was a “Z” and I took it before she could get it.

The player may also remove an entire row of tiles from their player board for no penalty. If there is only one tile in the row, it may be removed with no penalty. Similar to removing the one tile, if a row is removed from a player’s board it is removed to the pouch, not rearranged on the player’s board. Once all players have placed a tile on their player board, the center spinning board is turned one-click clockwise so that the next set of letters is facing a new player. Then the missing letters from the previous round of play are replaced at random from the letter pouch.

Turnspell is a good word game for board gamers who are not good at word games. I never win at Scrabble. I only ever really play it because other people enjoy it. I won at Turnspell against people who enjoy Scrabble and win often at Scrabble. It felt good, but also felt like sort of a cheap thrill for me while playing with such Scrabble aficionados. This is a nice light party game that takes a lower vocabulary and less brain activity than other word games in its class.