Miniview: Time Hollow (DS)

I love:
…seeing things change as you mess around with the past. Time Hollow takes a stance similar to that of Shadow of Memories, where whilst the present changes with the alterations you make in the past, the protagonist – the character making the changes – remains mostly untouched; he has flashbacks of the new present’s ‘memories’, which serve to tell you how and why the new present differs from the old one, but otherwise is the same person he was before the change happened.

I like:
…visual novels, in general. This is one of the odd genre of games that sits somewhere between pure visual novels and proper point-and-click style games, filled with puzzles; I uneasily class it as an adventure game, but it has far less puzzles than a game like Another Code, Hotel Dusk, or Flower, Sun and Rain contains. At times I found myself wishing for ‘better puzzles’, or a protagonist as quick on the uptake as the player, but Time Hollow focuses on telling a good story, to great effect.

I loathe:
…a few, nagging loose ends. On the whole, Time Hollow does a very good job of dealing with these, even if you’d need to make a diagram to keep everything straight, but there are a few points that are never really answered, or weren’t in the playthrough I just completed. They kind of stand out.

Verdict:
A pretty good game, though any ‘challenge’ involved is fairly non-challenging. It’s similar to games like this one or the Fedora Spade games, where you just need to make sure to examine everything and talk to everyone, and make a few deductions yourself, to move the plot on. That said, it – and those others – tell very good stories, and are all worth checking out if you enjoy that kind of thing.

Advertisements

Miniview: Bars of Black and White (Browser)

I love:
…the barcode reader. I’ve always been interested in the use of machine-readable patterns – such as barcodes, or QR codes – to convey or, more commonly, act as a link to person-readable information. So I love the idea of using them as a variation on the ‘writing on the wall’ technique.

I like:
…what the barcodes translate to. They’re nice, but it seems like it’s trying too hard to impress a message on the player, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what it is; it’s definitely trying to tell the character you play something, though. ‘Paranoia is sometimes justified’? ‘You’re imagining everything’? ‘Pay more attention to the world around you’? I read short science-fiction a lot. I get those messages all the time. It’s getting a little dull.

I loathe:
…that the ‘puzzles’ are very simple, and all you really need to solve them is a keen eye. In short, there’s absolutely no challenge to simply completing this ‘room-escape’ game. There isn’t even much challenge in finding all the barcodes. This is probably why there are no badges.

Verdict:
If you read 365 tomorrows, any other short science-fiction site, or even short fiction in a book at all, you may have heard all this game will say before.
It’s still an interesting play, as though the concept of barcodes and QR codes to link to people-readable information is old, I’ve never seen it used before in a game. It’s also really, really short, and low-challenge, so it’s quick to beat.

Bars of Black and White @ Kongregate

Miniview: Flower Sun and Rain (DS)

I love:
…suddenly hearing Gershwin. A light instrumental elevator-music-sounding Gershwin piece, but still… Gershwin. I have a bit of a soft spot for a lot of his compositions, as I’ve sung quite a few of them, and to hear it in a game like this, along with a lot of other good music, was totally unexpected.
…the main character… and Christine, and everyone else. It’s a mixture of realism and strange behaviour that tends to turn up more in magical girl anime than anywhere else, and altogether it’s rather appealing. Think… I don’t know. Killer7 and the sentai team. There’s something in the characters here like that… and it’s not really a surprise, as the same person is behind both games.

I like:
…the voices. They’re not voice acting for the lines; rather, like Animal Crossing’s speech and Simlish, it’s all remixed babble like a vocal Rorschach inkblot. I hear Spanish, personally. The DS doesn’t usually do proper voices well, beyond short clips; full voice acting tends to produce tinny voices only. Flower Sun and Rain somehow got around this, and its babble sounds positively human.
…the puzzles. I’m not far, but it looks like a lot of them are going to be ‘find the right number’ puzzles, and… well. Whilst the result of a puzzle might be a number, the puzzle itself could be anything; paging through a tourist magazine to find camera settings, for instance. It’s not just a dry conversion of a book of puzzles, and it’s nice to see real puzzles that can’t simply be solved by exhausting all possible arrangements of numbers.

I hate:
…the controls. Well, I dislike them, at any rate. Though you have the option of controlling the main character with either the d-pad or the touch screen, both tend to lead you to veer off to the side on certain screens. It’s just slightly inaccurate, but that’s enough to be annoying, as it could probably have easily been fixed. There’s only been one screen where it was very noticeable, however; since most rooms are much smaller than the path outside the hotel, I don’t think it’ll be too bothersome. I still don’t think games should be steered from the bottom screen if the main game isn’t on there, personally; it’s like steering a RC toy if not.

Verdict:
Ah, adventure games. The DS lends itself well to these, with Another Code: Two Memories and Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Another Code was nothing special, utilising the DS’ capabilities as gimmicks rather than building a strong story, but Hotel Dusk, another game taking place in a hotel, was very enjoyable. Flower Sun and Rain looks set more to follow Hotel Dusk than Another Code, with the makings of a complex, and absorbing, story on top of strong puzzles and truly challenging content.
Still, all praise to GameFAQs for when I inevitably get stuck, hm?