Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan

This review was originally written for WalaWala Games.
A free copy of the game has been provided in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan
Platform: PC / iOS
Developer: Artifex Mundi
Genre: Action / Casual Adventure / RPG

Part 2 of the Grim Legends series, Song of The Dark Swan is another wonderful Adventure and Hidden Object game from Artifex Mundi. I own and have played several of their games and I have to say, they’re my favorite in the genre. They just know how to mix story, art, and game-play wonderfully. So, needless to say, I was quite excited to be able to review one of their games.

In Song of The Dark Swan you step into the shoes of a healer gone to see a queen about her illness, only to have the queen be accused of dark magic. The healer must then set off to save two Kingdoms by undoing a family curse, finding the missing heir to the throne, saving the queen and finding the true dark sorcerer; and all of this in one day!

For those unfamiliar with the gameplay of these type of games, and particularly the  Artifex Mundi ones, the mechanics are quite simple. In between story parts you will find several different game-play methods: Point and Click areas in which you will have to find small items in the environment for later use in puzzles; Puzzles, such as sliders, arranging puzzles, find-a-piece puzzles, follow-recipe puzzles, and the sort; and finally Hidden Object puzzles, in which you’re presented with a heavily packed screen full of items from which you’re provided a list, and you must find them in the picture. What I love about this developer is precisely this: they don’t just stick to hidden objects or slide puzzles, they mix and match and offer a great variety through the game.

You only need your mouse to play these type of games, and they usually don’t require high grade computers, either. Artifex Mundi is particularly good at this, their games tend to work in even the lowest end computers I’ve owned. The videos might get a bit choppy if you’re not in a decent rig, but I have so far only had that problem with one of their games, and this one wasn’t it.

And, before anyone asks, no, you don’t need to have played Grim Legends 1 to understand or follow part 2. They follow a similar theme, but they aren’t the same.

Let’s move along to the actual game!

Song of The Dark Swan doesn’t disappoint in terms of music and sound effects. The music suits the atmosphere perfectly, it’s beautifully eerie, truly giving you a feeling of being in a fantasy land touched by dark magic. The sound effects are quite pleasing to the ears, too. The voice acting, however, is hit and miss. It’s not bad, the voices are pleasant enough, and the intonation fairly good, but there was something lacking. It’s still improved plenty from the last games, however. Particularly, I was bothered by the sounds the fairies made as well as the children voices. The rest were fairly good.

Artifex Mundi is wonderful at their game art; as far as the world goes, the art is amazing! It’s full of small details and truly brings the world to life. I always enjoy going to new locations and discovering all the effort put into each and every piece – be it nature or indoors. It’s also very colorful and bright, even in the darker themed games such as this.

Characters, however, can be a bit hit and miss. Most are pretty beautifully rendered, but then you’ll have the slightly odd face or odd pose during cut-scenes, and they can get just a bit creepy. Still, their games hold some of the best artists I’ve seen.

Song of The Dark Swan is the same in both aspects. The world is represented in magnificent detail and it really helps bring it to life, especially if you take into account some things in the backgrounds are partially animated; the characters are fairly well done, particularly when static, but some are still better rendered than others. What differentiates characters in this one is that they’re more paint-style art than in their other games, and I found I rather liked the change.

The cinematic scenes have certainly improved plenty from past games, making the cut-scenes pleasant to watch and just short enough that you really don’t see the need to skip them – unless that annoying fairy is talking.

In Song of The Dark Swan, like in their other games, the world is full of little collectibles. In this case small symbols throughout the different areas. Some are easy to spot, some much harder. It makes for an interesting challenge to find them all!

The story itself is quite nice. It’s short and simple. It’s been obviously based off a fairy tale, but still manages to spin a story of its own; it has hints to background lore and legends within the story itself to give it depth, too, which is always a plus in any game, and makes the story engaging. There are darker parts to the story as well, but ultimately you get a relatively happy ending, and I do love my happy endings.

As for the game-play itself, I missed the ability to switch a puzzle for a mini-game from previous games, but it was also an option I used only when an item was particularly hard to find, so in the long run it wasn’t really that much of a drawback.

However, I enjoyed the variety of puzzles offered; in fact it seemed to be a bit more varied than in their previous titles. It’s one of my favorite things on this developer’s games, and Song of The Dark Swan didn’t disappoint. I also quite enjoyed the ability to have companions – the first time this was introduced in one of the developer’s games I fell in love with the idea as it added not only a friendly little creature with you, but a second level of challenge where you had to ponder just where the little animal might be of use. Here I could use not only one, but more, and that was pretty awesome. On the downside, even when replaying the game on expert mode, the companions made little sounds to hint where they could be used, which was slightly annoying.

There were a lot more locations to visit than in previous titles, which made me happy, and the developer has the wonderful habit of offering quick-travel if you’ve visited those locations, something I honestly love them for because the more locations, the more confusing it can get to get where you’re going. There was also less of a need to backtrack through maps, usually whatever you needed for that ‘chapter’ could be found within the map world.

There was also more interaction which characters and more parts where you had to uncover the story of the curse, which was done through finding golden feathers. I really enjoyed those little flashbacks, the art was pretty and the story in it was interesting.

Song of The Dark Swan had a better balance between puzzles and hidden object scenes. I guess depending on what you like this could be good or bad. I found I didn’t mind it.

The achievements are not too hard to get, which was both pleasing for me as a casual gamer, and yet slightly bothersome as someone who likes the challenge. There should be about 30 of them for you to gather though, so you won’t be bored.

As for the difficulty of the game, the puzzles aren’t overly difficult, and if you’re used to the developer’s games they will not be much of a challenge for you, as they’re not the hardest I’ve encountered in their games; but they’re pleasing puzzles nonetheless.

In a whole, the Collector’s Edition with its bonus story takes about 5 and a half hours to beat, perhaps a bit more if you’re a completionist. It’s an enjoyable fairy tale type story with enjoyable puzzles that are sure to please casual gamers, though I doubt even expert mode would challenge seasoned players. It would also make a great introduction to anyone just looking into starting with hidden object type of games.

Song of The Dark Swan is definitely recommended in my book!

 

Overall Rating: 9/10

 

Advertisements

[Review] 60 Seconds!

 

Data
Break Up
Game: 60 Seconds!
Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie, Simulation,Strategy
Developer: Robot Gentleman Studios
Publisher: Robot Gentleman Studios
Release Date: May 25, 2015
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 7/10
Sound: 7/10
Story: 7.5/10
Replay Value: 9/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

You are Ted: loving husband, father of two. You lead a lovely, peaceful life with your family until the nuclear apocalypse strikes. Now, you have 60 Seconds to decide what’s important enough to bring into the shelter with you… and survive as long as possible.

60 Seconds is not quite what I expected it to be, though in all honesty I’m not sure entirely what I was expecting of the game, but it has its charm still.
It is, in its core, a survival text adventure with some mild dark comedy thrown in. Yes, there’s a part that’s kind of action-y (the initial 60 seconds of it), but it’s played for such small amount of time it’s hardly noticeable, even if the contents are quite relevant to the development of the story.

Let’s split it up.

Entering the game you’re presented with the options (not counting the tutorial): A regular game, which includes the action part and the survival part; a scavenging game (which includes just the action/scavenging part) and the survival part (which is survival/text adventure, mostly, with randomly generated resources).
Each game play style has three modes: easy, medium and hard. I rather enjoyed that they would give us the freedom to choose which part we liked best to play, rather than force us to do both play styles in one go.

On the action/scavenging part of the game, you have 60 seconds to gather as many items/resources as you can, toss them in your shelter, and enter it yourself. You find all this in your house: your house is randomly generated with each new game, so that the items and rooms are never in the same place. The items you can get range from food and water, to your family, radio, axe, gun, gas mask and other survival items. At the end of the 60 seconds, you must be within a certain area near the shelter, or risk not surviving the apocalypse yourself. To make matters more complex, you have only four slots, and some items take up two slots, so you’ll have to make several trips to the shelter to get everything there.

The graphics on this part of the game are 3D cartoony; they feel kind of awkward to me, and so do the controls. You move with wasd and turn with the mouse, but turning takes too long. You grab the items with a mouse click, but in order to grab it you have to be facing it almost perfectly (the white outline will turn red) and as I’ve just stated, turning is really friggin’ hard, making the whole 60 seconds section super frustrating. Still wanting to up the complexity of the controls, furniture will be in your way, which means you can bump into it and drag it along, slowing you down. This would, again, be much less annoying if you could turn without having to move your mouse in 500 circles per quarter of a turn.

Thus, a section of the game that could have been quite fun was instead rendered quite annoying and frustrating (in case the first 50 times I said it was annoying and frustrating wasn’t understood… )

Once the 60 seconds are up, you move on to the survival part.

Congratulations! You’ve survived the bomb! But now you must survive until you are rescued. This is the part of the game I enjoyed the most, even if some of the texts and outcomes became both a bit repetitive and predictable.

You switch from the 3D cartoony graphics to 2D cartoony graphics. I wasn’t overly fond of the art style at first, but it grew on me, and now it just seems to fit the mood of the game quite well.
On this screen you will be presented with however many survivors and resources you threw into the shelter.
Each day you will go through the same motions: you open up the notebook, and it will tell you a little story, what’s going on with the family, what’s needed, etc… Each day you can ration food and water to them (or not). Every so often you will get story prompts: send someone to the surface, fix this, kill that, solve a problem, etc… and you may not always be able to do them all, depending on if you have the item needed for it or not.

The graphics, though mostly still, are quite dynamic. You see the family change as days go on and things happen: they will look different when sick or hurt, when hungry or crazy, they will grow beards, get dirty, etc…

For the most I enjoyed this part, but it was a bit bothersome that no adults in the bunker meant you instantly died. I could understand it if only the youngest boy was the only one to have survived, but I’m fairly sure the teenage girl is capable of at the very least open a can of soup/bottle of water, so I think it’s rather unfair that if she’s left alone she ‘dies’ the very next day. I should at the very least be allowed to play her until she actually truly dies too or runs out of resources or whatever.

60 Seconds has some very amusing parts when it comes to the text, if rather dark in nature, but it can also be quite frustrating to play in the scavenging part. I feel like the problems turning and grabbing things should be considered more as a bug than as something they should’ve done to make the 60 seconds more difficult, and I hope they will consider fixing it in the future. (Yes, I know, the bug report sticky says it’s fixed, but it’s still too slow for me even after having gone to the settings).

I also hope they will add more endings as even in a short play through some of the events and endings repeated. Aside from that, 60 seconds can be quite an enjoyable game, particularly as you can choose to replay whichever section you have a preference for without having to forcibly do the other. It won’t be amazing, and it’s probably not worth quite the full price (maybe pricing it $5 would be better than $10), but it’s not a bad game at all.

Deeper by Gordon Roderick

Profundidades (Tunnels, #2)Deeper by Roderick Gordon
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Both the first book and this one suffer from the same issue: It’s a very interesting concept, but kinda slow and boring in execution. I guess it’s because I’m a bit too old for these books, I surely would’ve loved it as a kid, for it has sufficient action and adventure. I would definitely recommend it for younger children.

View all my reviews

 

star_full (48)star_full (48)star_half (48)star_none (48)star_none (48)

Get the rest of this series: