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Gamebox 2.0: Games of October 2022

There were no tricks and plenty of treats for the games we got to check out for October. We started the spooky times with the old-school adventure game Unusual Findings, explored abstract terror in The Fridge is Red, went futuristic in the Deadlink, sharpen our detective skills in The Case of the Golden Idol, and more for this month’s install of the Gamebox.  Check out everything we played below.

Unusual Findings (Zach): If you’re a fan of old-school adventure games like Maniac Mansion, you definitely need to check out Unusual Findings on Playstation, Xbox, PC, and Switch.  Coming from Epic Llama Games and ESDigital Games, Unusual Findings is set in the 80s and follows a trio of friends: Tony, Vinny, and Nick.  The boys are trying to test out cable descrambler to try and see some free 80s adult programming but instead intercept an alien transmission.  Following the source of the transmission, the boys find a deadly alien in the woods and have to figure out a way to stop it, as no one else will believe them.  You get a general plan to try and catch the alien in a net over a large hole but, in classic adventure game fashion, you have to complete a series of side quests and other tasks in order to gather the materials you need and you need to travel all across town and talk to all the interesting characters, pick up items and solve puzzles.  The puzzles are well thought out and make logical sense, which you couldn’t say about some of the puzzles even from some of the classics in the genre back in the day.

The game is packed to the gills with references to 80s pop culture, from movie posters at the local theater to the games at the arcade to the comics and figures on display in the comic book shop, there’s lots of stuff to see and details to check out.  The writing is pretty great as well, with a fun and funny style and great banter between the three main characters.  Unlike some of the classics it’s taking inspiration from, one interesting thing about Unusual Findings is that your dialogue choices and the way you interact affects the relationship between the trio, which puts a unique spin on the genre and makes you think before you respond.  There are a bunch of different locations to explore in the town and you have to constantly find items in one location and then head to another and use that item to solve a puzzle there.

There might be some slight wandering around as you try to figure out exactly what you need to do or who you need to talk to but that’s definitely in the vein of the classics of the adventure genre and it never gets too frustrating.  One thing that is odd is that the three main characters don’t each have some unique abilities, unlike say, a Maniac Mansion or Day of the Tentacle, as there are just the standard commands for interacting with objects and people and a shared inventory.  It would have been interesting to figure out which character to use in certain situations or have multiple solutions via each character but the game is still very fun as is.  If you enjoy point-and-click adventures and have some healthy 80s nostalgia, definitely check out Unusual Findings.

The Fridge is Red (Chris): What horror lurks in the dark corners of the mind and in the household refrigerator? 5Word Team and tinyBuild present a surreal horror experience in The Fridge is Red, a 90s-style retro FPS adventure title. The player takes up the role of a husband and father that is experiencing a family emergency, but the reality around him has become twisted and grisly with disturbing sights. Has the world gone crazy or was there a door that shouldn’t be opened?

TFIS is broken into five chapters, each exploring a dire and traumatic moment. Each chapter has a slight unique puzzle or game mechanic that would be the main gameplay element. The title shows off the different designs to engage the player, each lasting about fifteen minutes or so. The first chapter has the player solve a series of puzzles, the second is navigating a maze, the third has you trying to avoid taking damage or killed, the fourth is a driving simulator, and the fifth chapter is something like a staring contest. These chapters introduce the core concepts and focus on it just long enough before the experience drags on, but for some chapters, it does feel like it takes a while to figure out the clues. It’s easy to not get some of the puzzles and the minimalist visuals do make it hard to easily comprehend the hints.

5Word Team captures the experience of the PlayStation 1 era horror visuals and features some interesting experimental designs. There are chapters that lean more on emotional and psychological fear, but it’s not consistent throughout the whole experience. The Fridge is Red never ramps up to reveal more than what you see from the trailer but is a concentrated title that most will have mixed reactions towards. I fall more on the enjoyment side of what the developers were going for and enjoyed some of the gameplay when the horror elements came together. This title might not reach the mainstream levels, but could be a fun title to try if you have played enough mainstream horror titles for a while. The Fridge is Red was released on Sept 27th for PC.

Nitro Kid (Zach): Coming from WildBoy Studios and tinyBuild, Nitro Kid is a synthwave-flavored roguelike deckbuilder.  You play as an agent hired to infiltrate the floors of the INFINITY tower, who are using kids in horrific experiments.  Each agent has a unique skillset and playstyle, along with a unique deck of cards.  L33 is a martial artist who uses karate and “burn” abilities, to either set fire to himself or opponents, J4x is a boxer who can counterattack enemies and build up a combo meter to power up attacks and K31 is a weapons and tech expert who can attack from close and long range.  Each run is a randomly generated set of floors in the INFINITY tower and you have to progress through each, rescuing kids and unlocking the VIP elevators so you can take on that section’s boss.  Each room you encounter can either have enemies to defeat, a random event that will give you Choose Your Own Adventure style choice to make, a store to buy new cards and upgrades, or the Nitro Kid, who you rescue and then gain a powerful new ability.  As you progress, you unlock new cards and abilities and you can build your deck to match your playstyle.

The gameplay is tactical as you choose where your character starts in the room and then you play cards to battle the enemies in the room.  You have a certain amount of power each turn and each card costs a certain amount, with more powerful attacks and abilities obviously costing more energy to use.  Along with attacks, there is also movement and each character also has abilities that don’t cost energy but do have limited uses. HP doesn’t regenerate between rooms, so you have to try to defeat enemies quickly and without taking a ton of damage.  There are lots of effects and conditions on certain cards and there is quite a bit to learn but it’s very satisfying when you are able to put a plan into action and play a hand that deals tons of damage to your enemies.  The game has a great pixel art style and an absolutely fantastic synthwave soundtrack that has over 30 tracks.  If you played games like Fights in Tight Spaces or John Wick Hex, you’ll probably enjoy Nitro Kid and you can check it out on Steam.

Boo Party (Chris): You’re invited to a monster mash with some cute creatures in CosmiKankei’s Boo Party. This mature-theme adventure title puts you into the role of a photographer who is hired to take some paranormal shots of the strange and unnatural around a seemly abandoned mansion. However, the mansion is hardly empty with rooms, floors, and garden space occupied by partygoers. Creatures of the night unwind to drink, dance, and disrobe when the mood strikes. Armed with just your wits and a quick camera finger, you venture into the mansion to collect photo evidence and become the life of the undead party.

Boo Party’s gameplay follows a basic adventure design where you go on multiple fetch quests. The first few moments start with a simple linear path of finding and returning items. But once you get your first monster girl photo, some wiggle room to explore and uncover at your own pace. From helping a witch showcase a magical cauldron, helping women turn into a werewolf or spotting a Frankenstein monster in the gym, you lead a helping hand to receive very intimate photos as a reward. Each photo taken is later scored for spirit points, which are used as currency within the mansion. Exchanging spirit points open up more rooms and multiple pathways within the mansion.

Behind the adult visuals and basic mechanics, there is a surprising amount of depth and humor in the title. While most of the game revolves around helping a bunch of monsters, there is a lot of quirky dialogue, great music, and mini-games to uncover. There are a ton of NPCs to interact with, and you pretty much have to speak to everyone to figure out the next direction to visit or check if they are holding a critical item. The musical score by OSC is a fun dark synth that nicely matches the monster party feel of the title. The mini-games are very basic but are nicely animated and give you a break from just exploring.

Boo Party is a game that uses its adult theme well and doesn’t skimp out its presentation. The charming character designs and the livid atmosphere in the mansion do make it fun to wander through for a few hours. The retro gameplay is good but is limited, never offering much of a challenge aside from getting lost in the maze design of the mansion and adjusting to one or two mini-games. Boo Party is an amusing title with a perky personality. Gamers looking to mix up their game selections among the horror games to play this Halloween should take a look at Boo Party this season. Boo Party was released on Oct 24 for Steam.

Deadlink (Zach): Currently in Early Access on Steam, Deadlink comes from Super Good Games! and Gruby is a cyberpunk roguelite FPS.  You control a robotic “combat shell” via the titular Deadlink and you are sent in to do covert, but not quite, missions against various corporations.  There are different combat shells to unlock and each one has different weapons and abilities, so you can most likely find one that matches your playstyle.  The game definitely plays a bit like Ghostrunner, as it’s super fast-paced, shares a similar setting and style, and has movement options like a grappling hook to move quickly around the map. You can grapple to enemies to stun and kill them and to the pods littering the maps that you can punch to gain more ammo, experience, and currency.  Deadlink is a bit more forgiving than Ghostrunner, as you have a health meter instead of a one-hit death but your health drains fairly quickly and you need to constantly move to avoid being killed.  Deadlink also plays similar to the new Doom games with their “constantly move or die” style.

The stages look great, as they are all mostly neon-drenched cyberpunk settings, and the game overall has a cool, sort of cel-shaded art style to it.  Outside of the levels, things are a little rough in the hub between levels but the game is still Early Access and lots of things can get polished as it gets developed.  One thing that will hopefully change is the feel of the guns.  They don’t quite feel as powerful as you would think they should be.  The first combat shell you get has a shotgun and rocket launcher but, even with the rocket launcher, it takes multiple hits to take down enemies and it kills the flow a bit when you have to stop and shoot guys 4 or 5 times to kill them when it should maybe only take 1 or 2 hits and you don’t really get that solid impact feedback like some other games either.  There is an interesting twist to the upgrade system where you can get upgrades and then put them in different slots so they trigger when certain actions occur.  For example, you can get an electrical shock and you can put it on your gun itself so the bullet are electrified or you can have it trigger every time you break open one of the pods around the level.  There are energy levels to consider and if you put something on a slot that can’t handle the energy, it will negatively affect pretty much everything else.  The game’s soundtrack is a standout, with bands like Lazerpunk providing the synthwave beats.  If you’re a fan of Ghostrunner or Doom, Deadlink plays similarly but with the added roguelite elements like doing runs and gradually building up your experience and abilities after each run.  It’s definitely very early in its Early Access but you can check it out now and there will almost definitely be improvements and new additions as the game progresses.

The Case of the Golden Idol (Chris): Unleash your inner sleuth as you piece to uncover the truth behind murderous crimes in The Case of the Golden Idol. Developed by Color Gray Games and published by Playstack, The Case of the Golden Idol is a point-and-click adventure title, with hand-drawn cartoony visuals and a clever detective system. The game follows a series of murder cases that involve the titular Golden Idol, a status that supposedly grants its owner magical powers. Many people covet the idol and will try to seize it, eliminating anyone that stands in the way. The Golden Idol has been the prized possession in 12 murder cases, spanning over 40 years. The player takes up the role of a detective, who has just arrived at the scene of the fresh murder victim. All the witnesses, evidence, and clues are still present and it’s up to the player to find the motive and person responsible for the murder.

In a typical case, you have little to no information about the scene and will have to investigate to gather details like people’s names, item locations, and surrounding details. All evidence can be important, no matter how small or big it seems. The Case of the Golden Idol has two main investigative modes; Exploring, which uses a simple mechanic that stores highlighted keywords and phrases, and Thinking, which lets you build the motive of the murder with the stored keywords in a Mab Libs-like design. This fun approach untangles a lot of the mess of fact-gathering and presents the investigation process at a leisurely pace.

The Case of the Golden Idol isn’t a title that can be easily brute-forced. Just because you have a lot of evidence, doesn’t make solving the case really easy. You still have to find enough keywords thru investigations and make a complete statement about the crime, declaring the motive, the murder, and the murder weapon. The challenge comes from fitting the right clues with the motive and how it works within the scene. Characters give off slight tells or hints, so paying attention to the animations or how everyone is presenting themselves can help indicate subtle clues. The early chapters of the game start out with reality ease but each case ramps up the difficulty and complexity as you poke around the scene.

Compare to other detective games, The Case of the Golden Idol is a nice balance of flexible investigation gameplay and challenging puzzle solving. It’s a title that asks you to pay attention and review all your notes, which sometimes feels like homework. The game is a brain tease that throws in a few tough situations to work thru, which at times can stump the player. But getting each case closed with a good rating feels great and makes you want to go on to the next. The Case of the Golden Idol is an excellent title for the murder mystery fan, and a very welcoming title to check out this month. The Case of the Golden Idol was released on Oct 13th for PC.

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars (Zach): Coming from Acme Gamestudio and tinyBuild, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is the latest action/RPG that takes its cues from FromSoftware’s style of gameplay. You play as Hilda, a warrior who is on a mission to find out what happened to her father and the rest of her legion when they went on a mission to the city of Aphes. Going to Aphes herself, Hilda finds out that the city is cursed and full of deadly monsters and she has to battle them to unlock the secrets of the city and the mission that preceded her. The game plays like a Souls game, with the usual parries and dodges to avoid attacks, stamina, and a lock on to focus on one particular enemy. The cool thing about Asterigos is that, after a brief tutorial, you find Hilda’s full arsenal of weapons and you can select two to wield at a time. Each weapon is mapped to a face button for normal attacks with a stronger attack matched to the shoulder buttons. Letting you have all the weapons up front really lets you experiment against the easier foes of the opening areas and figure out what weapons will match your playstyle and there’s a good mix of fast but weak weapons, like daggers, and strong but slow weapons, like a war hammer and you can even wield a magical staff to use long-range magic. You build up experience as you go, which allows you to unlock new attacks, abilities, and moves.

It’s hard not to compare Asterigos to Immortals: Fenyx Rising, as both games have similar protagonists (although it depends on how you customize them in Immortals) and a similar Ancient Greece/Rome setting. One thing that is a bit jarring was the voice acting, which is fine but feels too modern for the setting. No one is really trying to do any sort of accent and the writing has a lot of modern sayings and expressions that I feel clash with the setting. Immortals had modern jokes and references as well but it felt more balanced and everyone was also doing wacky Greek accents that helped add to the comedic tone of that game. Asterigos is definitely trying to be more serious but the voice acting could have maybe had a bit more to make it feel like the characters are Greek/Roman. Gamplay-wise, everything in Asterigos feels solid but it also doesn’t feel, to me, like it’s doing much different either. If you’ve played any Souls game or games inspired by the Souls series, you’ll instantly have a feel for the way combat and defense work but there doesn’t seem to be that extra or unique spin to set it apart, at least in what I played so far. If you enjoy Souls-style gameplay, there’s definitely a lot to enjoy in Asterigos, including some cool boss fights and there are lots of side quests and areas to explore around Aphes as well. Asterigos is a super solid, very fun action RPG and if you’re looking for more in that genre, it’s worth checking out on Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

Chenso Club (Chris): When an alien army invades, it’s up to a squad of warriors to take up arms to fight back while gaining a following behind them in Chenso Club. Developed by Pixadome and published by Aurora Punks, Chenso Club is an arcade-like side scroller with charming pixel work, action-focused gameplay, and some rogue-like elements. The story follows a group of five women, who each are drawn into battle and form the Chenso Club as a fighting force to clean up the invading alien force.

At first, you start off with Blue, an android with a chainsaw hand. Blue has wide arc attacks that let her swipe in all directions and is a balanced character. After beating the first-level boss and the other sub-sequential boss fights, you unlock the rest of the roaster. There’s Carmine, a knight that wields a heavy hammer with powerful strikes and has slower attack speeds. The next is Plum, a witch that whacks people with a broom. Later, Alice, a nimble ninja with dual pickaxes. Lastly, Molly, a firefighter with a water cannon needs recharging between attacks.

All the characters handle a bit differently but all use the same basic mechanics to move, jump and dash around the screen. They all use a blood counter that shows how many hits they can take in battle and is also what is used as the game’s currency. Exchanging blood points at item shops can grant temporary power-ups like a shock wave that pushes enemies, increase dash speed, and more. The game difficulty setting affects the total amount of blood a character can carry and that influences how often they can purchase power-ups.

There are some randomized level designs that change the enemy and obstacle placement on each attempt, and reset after the player loses all blood in a run. There are bonus challenges that can be added by visiting a Fortune teller in the level, who grants additional harsher effects to the level, but gives a reward payout if the player manages to complete the challenge. These effects can make enemies have more hit points, reduces screen visibility, or add more spikes to the area. There is a fun mechanic that lets the player try to win more social media followers on the in-game app “Chirp” but shows off their photos for photographers at the end of a boss fight. It’s a neat bonus mini-game to squeeze out more blood points and serves as a minor distraction from the regular gameplay.

Chenso Club is all about its upbeat action, pushing the player to clear room after room without taking too much damage. The story is paper thin but has a nice comic-like presentation that gives some backstory to the quirky characters. This title is something anyone can pick up and play and has a familiar design that gamers can kill a few hours with. It’s not a must-play, but definitely a title to look into if the cute aesthetics work for you. Chenso Club was released on Sept 1 for Steam, Playstation 4/5, Xbox One/X, and Switch.

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