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.
Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game is a card game released in 2017 by USAopoly, and licensed by Nintendo. It is designed to be played with three to eight players. Playing with two players is possible, but reduces the complexity of how the game is played making it less fun. This becomes evident as the game progresses since the objective is to be the last player standing.
Each player begins with four extra life tokens. In each round of play one or more losers are declared. These losers must discard an extra life token. When a player runs out of extra life tokens they are eliminated from the game.
There are two card decks. The level card deck is essentially a standard 52 playing card deck you would use for poker or bridge. There are four suits: land level, underground level, water level, and Bowser castle level. The suits are not actually used in the game, it’s just interesting that they still decided to include them. Numbers go from one through twelve, replacing ace through queen. Kings are replaced with castle cards.
The other deck is the question block card deck. This deck consists of special items that can change the outcome of a particular round. All players begin with one question block card. In each round a dealer deals one level card to each player face down. The oldest player is first to be the dealer and the role of dealer passes clockwise around the table with each round.
Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game plays like a gambling game. It feels like blackjack when you look at your level card and decide what course of action you plan to take for your turn. Once the dealer has dealt a level card to each player, the player to the dealer’s left examines her level card and determines whether she will hold on to her level card or trade it with the player on her left. Once this decision has been made and any trade completed, play passes around the table in a clockwise fashion until reaching the dealer. If a player receives a castle card as their level card in a round, they must reveal their card and receive an extra question block card from the top of the question block card deck. When a player has a castle card, no other players may trade with them and they automatically are free from losing an extra life token for the duration of the round.
On the dealer’s turn, the dealer turns over her level card to reveal it to the other players. The dealer may then decide to either hold on to her level card or trade her level card with the top card on the level card deck. After this has been completed, everyone reveals their level cards by turning them over.
Any players with the same number on their level cards each receive a question block card. The player or players with the lowest level card values stand to lose at the end of the round. Beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, players may in turn decide whether they wish to play a question block card in their hand if they have one. Question block cards may be used to boost a player’s own level card value or decrease the level card values of an opponent along with other special abilities. When a question block card is played on a player’s level card where a previous question block card has already been played, the most recently played question block card replaces any previously played question block cards before it.
Once everyone has decided whether they wish to effect the level card values on the table with their question block cards, the player or players with the lowest level card value must remove one of their extra life tokens from the game. Play then continues into the next round until only one player is left standing.
With a little tweaking, Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game could be turned into a fun poker night gambling game. Given the card decks’ clear similarity to standard playing card decks, I wondered if this game were a recreation of an older card game that already existed prior to repackaging it as a Nintendo licensed product. To recreate the question block cards using a standard playing card deck would be challenging, but not impossible.
One thing I noticed while playing is that it is easy for players to feel stuck once level cards have been revealed when they no longer have any question block card to play. The question block card deck only contains 30 cards. If the number of cards in the question block card deck could be expanded while retaining a good probability ratio between the common cards that players expect to see and those more powerful cards that heavily influence a round, maybe the game could be tweaked to not only use two standard 52/54 card decks, but would also be more fun to play. Extra life tokens could be replaced with poker chips and a betting component could probably be added.
Super Mario Bros. Power Up Card Game is a good game for teaching young children the basic rule mechanics of typical card games. There is more skill involved in this game than most games for young children, but the ultimate outcome of playing this game is largely based on chance. While designed for young players, there may be something deeper here that could be refined and improved for those who enjoy coming up with their own house rules.
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.