Domestic Dog

Sometimes I wonder what developers think about when making a game that makes them go… “yeah, I’ll totally sell this game!” even if the price is under $4.

Domestic Dog by Surreal Distractions is one such game. A dog-sim of sorts wanting to masquerade for something with actual substance (as I suppose most “something simulator” games are… ), you will be greeted with absolutely no tutorial and no idea of what the hell you’re supposed to do. Survive, I suppose.

“It’s a (boring) doggy dog life”

Basically you manage a dog that grows out of some sort of egg – the dog you get is random, and when you die, another one appears (not the same one, so you lose any “progress” made). You have food, water, dog money?, sleep – a few other stats to keep track of, basic stuff. You need to keep those up or you may pass out and/or die in the process. Tip of the day, in case it’s not obvious: You also have to mind cars, since they may run you over.

“What to do in the game? Well, be a dog, maybe?”

Eat, drink, poop, pee (sorry, I mean, ‘fire your weapon’) , bark at other dogs, eat said poo… you have a minuscule map, a shop with pointless things, and pretty much that’s it for the game.

“Boring doesn’t even begin to describe it”

There is really nothing to salvage for me in this game: the graphics are terrible, pixelation has never looked so bad, and outdated (sorry, I mean, ‘retro’) bright colors are sure to blind you. Because we all know if we refer to a game as “retro” it automatically must forgive all design flaws. Yup!

The UI feels cluttered and messy, everything seems to be moving, or too bright, or otherwise vying for your attention. The dogs themselves look rather ugly, even for alien dogs.

“The crowning beauty is the  horrifying 8-bit styled music and sounds effects (which are really loud, by the way!) are hideous”

There is no semblance of a menu that I could see, thus I could find no way to lower the volume, and quite frankly I didn’t even bother to, I just muted everything while I played.

So, would I recommend this? Hell no. Steer clear. Steer wide and clear.

 

Capsule

Capsule is a very short (1 to 2 hours at most) immersive game that comes with quite a few warnings, and I can understand why. The developers warn anyone with claustrophobia, misophonia, or other similar phobias not to play the game. And why? Because this is truly one game best played in the dark.

If I had to put it in a category, I’d say Capsule has a slight feel of a minimalist puzzle game; but the truth is, there’s really no puzzle to it – at least not gameplay wise.

The story, however, does make you wonder even though it is at its core an immersive survival game.

The story goes as follows: You wake up trapped in a capsule, only able to experience the outside world through the radar on it. You don’t know what’s happened, but you have an idea of where to go to start the journey into finding out…

Although you’re thrown into the game with barely an idea of what to do, for this particular case the lack of a proper tutorial beyond how to move is actually not hindering, because controls and story are so minimal you really can’t go quite wrong… even if it did take me a while at first to get my bearings.

You have oxygen and power to worry about, a radar burst, a bearing, and a distance to your target.

Each level you reach a destination, where you have more of the story develop in the form of messages which often give you a new direction in which to go. You have to be mindful of the hostile environment while making your way to the next destination, but watch out for your power and oxygen! You might fall short and die of asphyxiation!

The look of the game is ultimately minimalistic. You can only see the radar of your capsule, a pixelated screen through which you move with the arrows and send a sonar wave with the space bar.

The blueish color is very pleasant to look at, and the flicker of the screen manages to make it quite immersive, particularly if you do play with headphones and in the dark!

The sound effects, though simple as well, help further the atmosphere of it all, and the feeling of immersion. The breathing, the static, the beeping… Even when on my first round I played it with the lights on and during daytime, I could easily forget that I wasn’t actually in the Capsule.

I have to say that because of its immersive aspect, it adds a whole level of ‘horror’ to the game that you shouldn’t overlook. Dying the first time was truly terrifying.

However… and there is a small con: it’s that the game becomes a little bit boring once you get a hold of the whole bearings/distance and when to restock oxygen and power not to die. So basically, once you get the hang of it things get a bit easy. But the game is so very short that, honestly you won’t even mind.

I think this a very nice, atmospheric game – simple and minimalist, if you’re into psychological type of horror you will definitely enjoy the hour of play. If you like jump scares in your horror, steer clear. This is real horror right here.

Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~

 

Data
Break Up
Game: Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~
Genre: “Adventure”, Visual Novel
Developer: OVERDRIVE
Publisher: MangaGamer
Release Date: Sept 30, 2011
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  2/10 (for the idea and graphics)
Graphics: 9/10 (as far as anime art goes)
Controls: 9/10 (not that visual novels have that many controls… )
Level/Puzzle Design:N/A
Sound: 3/10
Story: 1/10
Playability/Gameplay: 0/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

I was actually pretty excited about trying Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~
The premise sounded interesting, the fact that it would tell you facts about Japan was also interesting, and I thought perhaps it’d be a fun little story that would give you some knowledge of culture and such as you played.

First, what I liked:
The part about Japan facts was interesting, not everything was new to me, and half of the stuff you’d already know if you ever opened, you know, a brochure for Japan or watched an anime… but it was still interesting.
The graphics were nice, background as well as characters were well drawn.
I loved the idea for the VN, and loved that you could actually have it with Japanese text too.
The idea of having expenses added was interesting, but badly done and underused.
I guess if you’re getting ready to visit Japan this would be cool.

Now, what I disliked:
While the graphics were nice, they were poor. Half the time you had sky shots with music/sound/text that would be like “Oh, the train arrives~! Let’s get on it!” like they couldn’t find the image of a train or something, which was slightly annoying. But I could overlook that, or could have, if the story had been actually interesting.
It wasn’t.
So you play as this guy who realizes is life long dream of going to Japan. Only unlike any normal human being, he makes no research whatsoever of who he’s actually going to be staying with (“friends” from Japan whom he never exchanged pictures with and he thought were guys but are really girls. Yay, score for him, right?… yeah), and just hops on a plane. Lets assume I can suspend disbelief enough to think this really smart guy couldn’t have found out before hand that his “friends” were really girls.
We move on in the story and find out that the guy whose long life dream was going to Japan has apparently never even watched an anime (or read about the place he wanted to go to), or even stepped foot outside his own home back in his country. He knows none of the basic things an anime fan would know, or that someone who cared about the place they so wanted to see would be aware of, or basics about the culture. Basically: he’s highly unprepared. He seems to even be amazed at the dumbest things (train, shopping mall, everything! Ooooooohhhhhhh, I’ve never seen a shopping mall before! – I grant you Japan ones are probably impressive, but probably not like this.)
Then, you spend most the novel on invisible trains. I say invisible trains because, as mentioned, you get most the time a sky view as the girls proceed to explain everything about how the train system works while you travel to and from places. And it’s not a lot of places.

All the while you’re supposed to “choose” one girl for the love story that’s behind all this… only you don’t really know which you’re picking (each girl shows you a different place out of the few that are to be seen, but you don’t know which girl will show you which until you’ve picked it).

Do I recommend this VN? Well… no.

If you want this for the culture shot – don’t get it, watch any anime instead.
If you want this for the hentai/ecchi – don’t get it, there’s none.
If you want this for the story – don’t get it, there’s also none.

Heileen 2 and Heileen 3


Note: Screenshots are from the official site, as I somehow managed to lose mine.

 

Data
Break Up
Game: Heileen 2 & Heileen 3
Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie, Simulation, Visual Novel
Developer: Winter Wolves
Publisher: Winter Wolves
Release Date: Dec 12, 2009 & Dec 12, 2012
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  2.5/10 (and mostly for the idea of it)
Graphics: 6.5/10 (decent, but not pretty; good coloring)
Controls: 9/10 (not a lot of them on VNs)
Level/Puzzle Design: N/A
Sound: 3/10
Story: 1.5/10 (if you can find it)
Playability/Gameplay: 2/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

All I say on this review can be applied as much to Heileen 2 as to 3.

Once more a visual novel that disappoints. I was really excited about playing Heileen 3 (I got Heileen 2 afterwards from… somewhere, I forget, but it was free so I was like, whatever, cards!, and tried it for a while anyway in case it was good), even though I knew little about it. And then I played it and cried.  😥
No, I kid. XD I played it and rolled my eyes a lot, though.

It’s a romance/dating sim/VN/princess maker type of game all mashed up into one, so basically the whole point of it is to end the game with one of the boy/girl options (or none, I guess, as I got none lol) plus with one major profession…
On the upside, you playing a girl who can actually date a girl is kinda cool, so there’s that. The general idea of it being based with tarot cards and such is good, basically the underlying idea of the whole game is pretty decent, but the actual way it’s been carried on is not.
There’s a sort of story there in the back, something about ships, and shipwrecks, and making your way into the world, that in the end amounts to nothing because Heileen has ice cubes for brains and they melt in the heat.

The main character, Heileen, is one annoying, bratty little Mary Sue. For some reason she keeps thinking even the guy I have a 0 points “relationship” with is hot. Like, if I’m cultivating x and y relationships and not at all, z, why would you think z is hot? Ugh. I understand scripting a game is hard, but seriously, since you don’t know what relationships people will cultivate, why would you hardcode that you think that really annoying guy is hot even at 0 points?

Heileen isn’t the only one who suffers from being annoying. Almost every single character in this thing is. I only liked one of them, and he was still annoying to an extent.

The game contradicts itself constantly. Heileen 2 particularly seems to suffer from odd inverted choices. By which I mean logic will tell you answer x is virtuous and y is greedy, and yet when you choose answer x was greed and y virtue, and totally illogical.
Which, on a side rant, totally reminds me of that point in Shaolin school over in Age of Wushu, when I was given the choice between poisoning a betrayer to find out something or “being kind”, whereas being “kind” turned out to be to beat him up to a pulp. lol? Okay… if you call that kinder… moving along…

The options we’re given on Heileen 3 are ridiculous (not that it wasn’t to be expected from a group of pirates that not only save these random people and not lock them up, but are actually nice to them, give them things for free, help them, and deliberately avoid going after ships as is their livelyhood because gasp, Heileen might be offended/surprised/think badly of a bunch of pirates). Seriously. Did I mention these guys are supposed to be pirates? How are they supposed to make their living?  *rolls eyes*

Someone over at steam reviewed Heileen 3 and said 3 of 4 of the guys on it are jerks: I totally agree. And the 4th one seems to be completely undecided on whether he wants to be a jerk or normal, because at times he’s one, at times the other.
Even tho I usually don’t go for girl on girl, I tried to cultivate one girl and one guy relationship because all other guys were creeeeepyyyyyyy.

Out of the girl characters the one that annoyed me the most (after Heileen herself, that is) was the ‘dancer’, because she was also very pushy and got super disappointed whenever she didn’t get her way. If you want to find anything good to the game is that they have ridiculously skimpy outfits every now and again, but they aren’t even that exciting. Sorry guys. 😛

The professions are ridiculous. How come lust + dancing = dancer? Why do I have to be lusty to be a dancer? Just because the dancer girl is? No thanks.

The attributes modify nothing in my relationship attempts and only give boosts if I actually try to do something with the person…. but only gives boost to the attribute if I choose the right person, and unless there’s an event, I get no boost to the relationship. You’d think spending time together would +1 the relationship, or +0.5 it at least.
Not to mention you don’t have that much time to do things with others since you keep needing to level up basic skills too much.

Basically I finished only Heileen 3, abandoned 2 after I realized it was somehow worse than 3, and I only played to one ending of 3 because I just couldn’t care less for anything or anyone in it…

Why yes, I do judge VNs at a completely higher standard than other games, because they’re supposed to entertain with their story, not want to make you jump off a bridge.