Aviary Attorney – Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.11 Game First Impressions

Aviary Attorney Title Screen

Aviary Attorney Title Screen

Aviary Attorney was developed and published by Sketchy Logic and released in 2015. When I was reading up on this game to determine if I wanted to play it, I read a review by PC Gamer that billed Aviary Attorney as a visual novel. As I played it I did receive a choose your own adventure vibe, but as the game’s title indicates, this is a light legal sim set in 1840’s France.

The player takes the role of Monsieur JayJay Falcon. At the beginning of Aviary Attorney, Monsieur Falcon is greeted by his apprentice Monsieur Sparrowson who reads Falcon his daily mail. The letter they received is from Seigneur Purrtoir Demiaou requesting legal services on behalf of his daughter, Dame Caterline, who had been charged with the murder of Monsieur Grenwee at a dinner party they all had attended the night prior.

Black Jack Mini-game with Sparrowson

Black Jack mini-game with Sparrowson

Many role-playing games have a mechanic by which the backstory is told at the beginning of the game and then the player is greeted with a dialog asking them whether they would like to accept the quest presented to them. I have never understood this mechanic since selecting the negative option indicates the player would rather not play the game, and choosing the affirmative option is really the only logical way in which the game progresses. Aviary Attorney employs this same mechanic. Sparrowson asks Falcon if he will take on Dame Caterline’s case. A dialog greets the player. The player may choose “Of course!” or “Nope.” I chose “Nope.” to see what would happen.

Monsieur Sparrowson chided me briefly for not taking the lucrative case, but when I stuck to my guns through another presented dialog he offered instead to play a game of cards with me. Apparently I had unlocked a mini-game of Black Jack that I played briefly with Sparrowson playing as the computer player. Once I had confirmed that I understood the rules of the card game, Sparrowson made a wager with me. If he won, I would have to take Dame Caterline’s case. If I won, I could choose from a list of three mildly devastating scenarios to happen to Sparrowson. I made the wager and then handily lost the next round of play. It appears that once the wager is made the card game is rigged such that the player will always lose and be forced to then take Dame Caterline’s case – a clever use of this traditional role-playing game mechanic.

City Map Screen

City Map Screen

Each case taken on by the player in Aviary Attorney is broken up into a number of days. In the first case there are three days prior to the beginning of the trial. Each day, the player is greeted with a map of the city along with a series of known locations relevant to the case. Locations with a watch face next to them indicate a location that will take a full day to visit. Locations without a watch face may be visited prior to a location with a watch face without time passing to a new day.

I spent my first day visiting the Conciergerie Prison to meet with my client Dame Caterline and get all the information I could for the case. From there I received two additional leads, to the studio of the photographer who was invited to take photographs at the party in which Monsieur Grenwee met his untimely demise, and to the scene of the crime at Baron Rorgueil’s manor where the party took place. Both locations showed a watch face beside them on the map which seemed perfect since I had two days prior to Caterline’s trial.

A Dialog Menu

A Dialog Menu

I decided first to visit the photographer, Monsieur Robittio de Robinio, to discuss the photograph he had made on the night of the crime. Upon arriving at his studio, I found a note on his door indicating he had left for the day. I knocked on the door anyway, but there was no answer. Falcon and Sparrowson had a bantering dialog back in forth in which they were debating what to do. If they left, a day would be wasted in which the player would not be able to return. Provided in the dialog was the illegal option of breaking into the photographer’s studio and snooping around. I chose that option to see what would happen, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Aviary Attorney is a fantastic repository of clever quick witted humor and terrible puns. Sparrowson is the primary source of such comedy, but all of the players are well drawn and play their parts marvelously. This game is comedic through and through, I laughed frequently had couldn’t stop smiling throughout the initial time I have played it.

Investigation Mode - Searching for Evidence

Investigation Mode – Searching for Evidence

When the player visits a location, they are able to search through the environment looking for clues and evidence relevant to their case. These items are then compiled and written down into an evidence folder that may be used later in the court room. On the final day before the trial, I examined the grounds of Baron Rogeuil’s manor and talked to him and his housekeeper. It was discovered that his housekeeper was a kleptomaniac and had been stealing the Baron’s silverware. This led the dinner guests to have to eat without utensils on the night of the murder. These details helped me later at trial to inform the jury why Dame Caterline had blood on her hands and mouth when she had eaten a rare steak at the dinner party.

The player may choose which statements from the witness to cross examine.

The player may choose which statements from the witness to cross examine.

When the trial day had arrived, not only did my character Monsieur Falcon feel overwhelmingly unprepared, but I did as well. Aviary Attorney had already by this point in the first case remarkably immersed me in the world presented. The trial began in which using the evidence I had gathered the previous two days I daftly struck down the accusations presented by Rupert Rabbington, the prosecutor. After a witness has given their testimony on the stand, the player may question them based on that testimony. It is up to the player to decide how to proceed, and there is a great deal of dialog that won’t go anywhere. The jury will get frustrated with the defense if their time is wasted, so attempting to match the evidence to the testimony and questions asked will achieve the greatest results. Each time a biting piece of evidence is presented by Falcon that refutes the claims of the prosecution there is a pause and then the evidence is delivered with beaming rays shooting from Falcon across the screen. It was a comical and satisfying moment each time I did it.

Ate a Bloody Rare Steak! (Plot thickens.)

Ate a Bloody Rare Steak! (Plot thickens.)

Now that I have won my first case and Dame Caterline has been pronounced not guilty by the jury in her case, I am excited about playing the remaining cases in Aviary Attorney to see if I can complete the game. Aviary Attorney seems to be a good game to play after a long day. It will make you laugh and doesn’t require too much thinking. However, there is a decent bit of potential intellectual challenge when entering the court room to keep the player engaged. The background music chosen for the game is on point with the 1840’s setting, along with the drawn animations and artwork and the fonts used for dialog. Aviary Attorney is thus far a stellar game; I’m happy to have it in my collection.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition – Compatibility

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

System Requirements

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Hard Disk: 400 MB

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Hard Disk: 400 MB

Windows 10

This game was designed for Windows 10 and ran flawlessly when I played it in Windows 10.

Mac OS X 10.12

This game was designed for Mac OS X 10.12.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition – Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 Game First Impressions

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

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

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!

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

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.

Bear Inventory

Bear Inventory

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.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Compatibility

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 7 or better
Processor: Quad Core x86 compatible
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: AMD Radeon HD 6950, NVidia GeForce GTX 560, or better
(Incompatible with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics)
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 12 GB

Windows 10

The Steam version of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified ran flawlessly for me in Windows 10.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.8 Game First Impressions

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

When I think of the XCOM series, I think of turn-based strategy and covert government agency management. I have fond memories of playing the first game in the series, XCOM: UFO Defense, with a close friend a few years after it came out in 1994. He found it in a bargain bin at a Tuesday Morning and talked his mom into getting it for him, much to our delight. The gameplay elements introduced in this first game were recreated in Firaxis Games’ reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown released in 2012. In both of these games, the player recruits a squad of elite special forces soldiers to train and send on missions to defend against the extra-terrestrial menaces facing the planet while determining how government funding should be spent to best protect Earth’s security interests. The premise underlying these games provides intense potential for fantastic storylines across genres. And given the cult following of not only the original game, but also for shows like The X-Files, game developers worked to release other XCOM titles spanning other genres of gameplay.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

When I first installed and played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, published in 2013 by 2K Games and developed by 2K Marin, I thought it would be based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown from the previous year. Interestingly, development on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified began in 2010 and these games seem in most ways unrelated outside of them both having the player defend earth from extra-terrestrial aggressors. The initial events of the game occur in 1962 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency. I haven’t played the game far enough to know if the developers made it tie-in with the story of other XCOM games in the series.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is primarily a third-person shooter with tactical elements. As the player receives new recruits throughout the game, they can press the spacebar to command those recruits to move to points of strategic cover and target specific enemy locations. The interface to this is similar in some ways to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six but happens from within the mission. Time slows down when entering what is called “Battle Focus Mode,” but does not stop entirely and the player is vulnerable while they are making decisions.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

In general, the core gaming mechanics require that the player seek cover behind objects while being shot at, and when the time is right, use the right mouse button to aim and fire at enemies. Aiming makes you vulnerable, so it is prudent to time your shots when the enemy is firing the least and is the most vulnerable themselves. The controls used to take cover seemed a little awkward to me. Left-shift while facing a wall or other such structure is supposed to enable the player to crouch behind it. Left-shift while moving forward is also supposed to make the player run. Once in such a defensive position, the player may then use A or D on the keyboard to move left or right respectively across the defensive surface. This maps a number of two-dimensional planes onto a clearly three-dimensional world that is at best confusing. I have yet to tell if I’m just not comfortable with the controls yet, or if there is actually a disconnect in some cases with how the game’s engine handles ducking behind a surface versus running around in the larger three-dimensional environment.

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a very linear game divided into levels with cutscenes throughout to advance the storyline. The storyline is fairly typical for its genre, though rich enough thus far. It reminds me a bit of Resistance: Fall of Man. It plays much like the typical console third-person shooter, but without any save-point frustration that I have noticed thus far. The player may press F5 at any time to get a graphical overlay with the direction they game intends for them to go to progress, and any in-game objects that can be interacted with glow a bright golden yellow.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is unfortunately only single-player. I think it would be incredible to have an arena in which players may strategically command their squad while simultaneously participating in a classic deathmatch. Perhaps someone could eventually release a mod for the game to accomplish this.

If you are a fan of The X-Files, XCOM, Men in Black kind of stories, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified would be relevant to your interests. Outside of having an interesting story, I could think of a multitude of other games I would rather be playing. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a good game for what it is, polished and enjoyable. But it doesn’t quite stack up as a game that would keep me coming back again and again, like the more traditional games in the XCOM series whose namesake The Bureau: XCOM Declassified shares.

Carmageddon TDR 2000 – Compatibility

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later.
Processor: 1.8 GHz or better.
Memory: 1 GB RAM recommended.
Video: 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 9
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows 10

Carmageddon TDR 2000 runs almost flawlessly in Windows 10. Multiplayer requires DirectPlay which is unsupported, but there may be workarounds to make multiplayer work.

Carmageddon TDR 2000 – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 is the third game in the Carmageddon series released in 2000. It was developed by Torus Games and originally published by Xicat Interactive for the Microsoft Windows 98 and 2000 operating systems on PC. The TDR in the title stands for “Total Destruction Racing,” for those who were wondering.

When I was a kid, I’d be sitting in the back seat when my parents took me along to the grocery store in the family car. More often than not when driving through the parking lot, a pedestrian would walk right out in front of my dad’s car without ever looking up to see if any vehicles were coming. Whenever this happened, my dad liked to jokingly say, “There’s fifty points!” as they crossed in front of his car’s grill. This is the kind of sense of humor the Carmageddon series is geared to.

I can drive a Steam Machine while playing on my Steam Machine.

I can drive a Steam Machine while playing on my Steam Machine.

If you are unfamiliar with the Carmageddon series, the original game’s tag line is The Racing Game for the Chemically Imbalanced with a pedestrian carrying a briefcase being run over by a fast-moving red sports car. Like most racing games, the player races against other contestants around a track for a certain number of laps, reaching check points along the way. If the player is able to reach the next check point in time, they are awarded more time as they make their way to the finish line. Where the Carmageddon series differs is that the player is awarded bonus points for each pedestrian they are able to run over.

These guys are about to get steamrolled.

These guys are about to get steamrolled.

In Carmageddon TDR 2000, railroading pedestrians rewards the player with satisfying crunch and squish sounds encouraging the player to produce more carnage. Performing fancy tricks also awards points to the player. These bonus points can be spent purchasing new vehicles or upgrading an existing vehicle’s engine power, armor, or weapons. Unlike real-life, many of the pedestrians really seem to have a death wish. In many cases the race track is clearly marked with innocent bystanders carelessly walking right into harms way, even when they are walking around the remains of their already previously unlucky comrades.

I didn't know this doubled as a airplane. Vroom!

I didn’t know this doubled as a airplane. Vroom!

I forgot how much I have missed playing with Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars as a kid and pretending I was in the cars doing the incredible tricks and causing massive crashes. I had fun doing all of this in Carmageddon TDR 2000. The tracks I have played so far have not been linear like in other racing titles to the point of being rather impressive. The game seems much more open-world than most games ever got in the year 2000. There is plenty of room to drive around and explore provided the player doesn’t run out of time. I just figured out where the checkpoints were and made sure I drove through them in sequence whenever I needed to add time to the clock. The rest of the time I was trying to drive up and over anything I could, enjoying the full extent of fun the sandbox I found myself in could provide. The first track provides a loop the loop to speed through and a ramp to jump over a series of RVs and trailers.

It's sometimes too easy to get stuck doing crazy fun stuff.

It’s sometimes too easy to get stuck doing crazy fun stuff.

There are a number of interesting cars available to choose from even at the beginning of the game before any of the later cars are unlocked. I noticed one called the Steam Machine. Given that I am an avid PC gamer, I had to drive it. It was massive fun steamrolling everything in my path. With great freedom of movement comes great responsibility though. I found it trivial in many cases to pin myself in a place where I could not maneuver free. When aborting a race, a player keeps the points they accumulated up to the point they aborted, so it’s not much of a loss to start the race over when stuck. If you run the race straight along the track, you shouldn’t have this problem, but if you’re like me and enjoy pushing the limits of the game, it will likely become a fairly frequent occurrence.

Is that a car that's just a moving wooden wheel? I want to wreck it!

Is that a car that’s just a moving wooden wheel? I want to wreck it!

The multiplayer functionality in Carmageddon TDR 2000 requires DirectPlay to work. When I attempted to install DirectPlay in Windows 10, the process locked up and wouldn’t let me proceed. A quick check of the Steam forums indicates there are people who were able to get it to work, but their solutions may not work in all cases. Microsoft’s official current stance from what I can tell is that DirectPlay is deprecated and therefore completely unsupported for Windows 10.

Got 'em!

Got ’em!

Carmageddon TDR 2000 is available for download on both Steam and GOG.com for a fair price on each. This game is raw arcade vehicular mayhem and racing, and devoid of any meaningful plot or story-line. The Grand Theft Auto series probably fills this niche for gamers better these days, but I had a great amount of fun launching my steam machine around for the small time I have played. I do plan to revisit this one and see where the rest of the game takes me.

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.

DuckTales: Remastered – Compatibility

DuckTales: Remastered

DuckTales: Remastered

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon 64 X2, or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GeForce 200, AMD Radeon HD5000, or better. 512 MB Video RAM
Hard Disk: 2 GB

Windows 10

DuckTales: Remastered seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Psychonauts – Compatibility

Psychonauts Box Art

Psychonauts Box Art

System Requirements

Linux

Processor: 2.0 GHz or higher
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: 128MB Video RAM with OpenGL 2.1 compatibility
Hard Disk: 6 GB
glibc 2.7+ required. Binary is 32-bit.

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Processor: Intel Core I Series Processor
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: ATI HD 3870 or Nvidia 8800GT or better. 512 MB Video RAM required.
Hard Disk: 4 GB

Windows

Operating System: Windows 2000/XP or higher
Processor: 2.0 GHz Pentium IV or AMD Athlon or higher
Memory: 512 MB RAM
Video: 128 MB GeForce FX 5600 or ATI Radeon 9600 or higher, DirectX 9 compatible.
Sound: DirectX 9.0 compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 6 GB

Windows 10

The Steam version of this game appears to work flawlessly in Windows 10.