Posts Tagged ‘G5 Games’

Mobile Game Review: Elixir: The League of Immortality

elixir-logoPublished By: g5 Games
Available On: iOS
Reviewed on: iPad
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
Released: Dec. 5, 2013

Like other games from g5, Elixir is the iPad equivalent of a point-and-click adventure game. The basic game mechanics involve navigating and investigating a series of static scenes. Along the way, you must solve puzzles and overcome obstacles in order to make progress. From a technical standpoint this type of game is relatively simple, which makes it a popular choice for smaller studios. It also lends itself to more of a literary experience, with reliance on story and characters over action and competition.

That doesn’t mean that good presentation isn’t important, though, and for what it is Elixir stands out as a wonderful example of presentation done right. Right off the bat the game shows much better animation and video than its g5 peers, but honestly I can forgive a game with unimpressive graphics if the game works its mechanics well. Luckily Elixir doesn’t stop at pretty graphics and really explores the possibilities of the genre. One simple example (slight spoilers) is when a demon appears across the room and you have to pull your gun from your inventory to activate a shooting animation. It’s a small effect, but the moment of interactivity that breaks the norm definitely stands out in a good way, and it is only one of multiple instances of its kind.

elixir-2The best part is that there is actually a story. Far too many of these games just string together puzzles with the thinnest links that happen to be available. There’s less of a plot and more a collection of imagery that is more or less thematically related. Elixir, by contrast, has clear characters, a definite conflict, and a sensible path to the resolution. A big part of what makes this work is unfortunately part of what will inevitably turn some people off: The game uses are considerable amount of notes and journals and other forms of written clues scattered throughout the world. Sure, an occasional puzzle may be kind of silly – who seriously files their documents and labels them by icons of different activities that they do at different times of day? – but overall the game tells an admirably sensible story.

The only complaint I have that is big enough to warrant mentioning is the overabundance of I-Spy style hidden object minigames. All g5 games include these, and a few per game is fine. But Elixir throws them at you constantly. It wouldn’t be as bad except for the fact that the other puzzles are so good by comparison. It is a sizeable shift in mental gears to go from logical puzzle games to a screen with a list of items on the bottom, 1/3rd of which can be eliminated right away by just tapping randomly on the screen. Maybe the developers believed the lie that this is a “Hidden Objects” game, as it is labeled in the app store. But the truth is that the game is a point-and-click mystery game, and as long as it treats itself as such it does splendidly.

elixir-3Gameplay: 9/10
The trick with point-and-click adventure games is that in a functional sense the ‘gameplay’ is rather limited. Instead, the decisions made by the designers within those limitations become the real selling point. With that in mind, Elixir does it right. They have a clear, direct story with characters and motives and plot developments. They are all a bit clunky, to be fair, but considering the format they were being presented in I have seen much worse. Plus the puzzles are a great balance between too easy and too hard.

Graphics: 9.5/10
I’ve seen a number of these g5 games now, both the regular and the HD flavors. The graphics are never awe-inspiring, but they usually get the job done. Elixir’s graphics are in a similar class, but it’s the valedictorian of that class. The game uses more animation than its peers, and the animations are all much better looking too.

elixir-4Sound: 7/10
Like other games in this line, the sound in the game is pretty much irrelevant. The game has music and sound effects of course, but it’s more that they fill the obvious void that would be there without them than anything else. When the sound effects do come up they’re generally satisfying enough, but that is offset by the music being a bit on the monotonous and repetitive side.

Overall: 9/10
More games of this genre should be taking notes from Elixir. The game tells a good story the way the genre was meant to, and it does so with quality graphics and great puzzles. If you’re into the genre then this is a great choice.

You can view a trailer for this game below:

Review code for this game provided by G5 Entertainment.

Mobile Game Review: Mystery of the Opera

 mystery-of-the-opera-titlePublished by: G5 Games
Available for: iOS
Reviews on: iPad
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
Released: Nov. 7, 2013

Mystery of the Opera is your basic iPad equivalent of a point-and-click adventure game.  Like other games of this genre, the mechanics are relatively easy to program which makes them ideal templates for startup developers.  But just because the system is technically easier doesn’t mean that it is easy to make a good game.  Games are still art (regardless of what Rodger Ebert said – RIP), and a limitation in one area just demands more expression elsewhere.

Sadly, Mystery of the Opera (MotO) doesn’t seem to share the same philosophy.  The developers seem more interested in an experiment of how quickly they can throw together these copy-and-paste games.  The real shame is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  I just reviewed a similar game by g5 called Temptation, which has nearly identical mechanics but much better delivery.

mystery-of-the-opera-2Right from the title the game shows little shame about being a thinly veiled rip-off of The Phantom of the Opera, only written by people who knew nothing about The Phantom of the Opera beyond the fact that is involved a guy in a mask kidnapping a girl at the opera.  Now, as a literature buff, that irks me enough as it is, but I can forgive it.  What I can’t forgive is grammar that is consistently poor and occasionally flat-out incorrect.  In this genre more than any other the story is what will set a game apart for better or worse, and trying to tell that story with broken sentence structure is inexcusable.

Some of the other issues are more personal taste than objective mistakes, but they are worth noting.   For one, while a game like this is supposed to have backtracking, there are better and worse ways to do it.  A well balanced amount of backtracking will have the player moving around and exploring the map thoroughly with occasional returns to a spot long since passed but finally made relevant.  A poorly balanced amount of backtracking will have players running back and forth from one extreme end to the other with no objectives in between.  The puzzles in MotO were surprisingly difficult, which I personally like as a puzzle fan, but the challenge seems out of place in the otherwise easy (if tedious) game.  Finally, MotO falls into the same classic trap as many games in the genre fall prey to: redundant items.  I know that making me collect a bunch of different items is pretty much the bulk of the game, but why do I have to go find a letter opener to cut open a chair cushion when I’m already carrying a dagger?  It’s just sloppy storytelling.

Gameplay: 4/10 – It is never easy to rate a point-and-click game’s gameplay, since the architecture of the game is so relatively simple.  But the poorly written text, overabundance of backtracking, and inconsistent difficulty level all do serious damage to the gameplay experience.

mystery-of-the-opera-3Graphics: 5/10 – I went in to MotO without very high expectations for the graphics, and I got what I was prepared for.  The visuals aren’t eyesores, but they certainly don’t do much to impress.  As such I gave them a dead-average at 5.

Sound: 5.5/10 – Pretty much the same deal here as the graphics.  I gave the sound an extra +2 above average because I can always just turn the sound off and play without it.  Then I took off 1.5 because of how often I had to turn the sound off to get over the annoying music.

Overall: 5/10 – Mystery of the Opera would have been an impressive game 20 years ago when any functional game with characters and graphics was an accomplishment.  But these days there’s no excuse for putting together such a sloppy piece of code, especially considering the fact that many g5 games seem to be constructed from the same engine.  It’s like ‘ve been saying throughout this review– a limited system is not an excuse for a poor game.

You can see a preview game trailer below.

Review code for this game provided by G5 Entertainment.

Mobile Game Review: Temptation

Temptation-logo568x568Available for: iPad
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure

Temptation is a point-and-click adventure style game made for an iPad’s touchscreen. Like most games of its genre, the actual gameplay is rather simple. The player navigates a series of interconnected scenes, each one containing items to investigate and obstacles to be overcome. Players will not be able to progress in the game until they collect all the necessary tools and figure out how to use them.

Games of this genre are popular for developers because the mechanics are relatively easy to program. The catch is that the game will have a much stronger reliance on story to be enjoyable. And since it is a game with puzzles and not a book or movie, it is important for the puzzles make sense within the flow of the story. If the obstacles seem out of place or forced, it kills the immersion into the game. But if the puzzles and interactions seem matched to the story (even a somewhat silly one) then the player more easily overlooks the occasional hiccup in the gameplay experience.

I recently reviewed a similar game by the same developer that missed the mark pretty badly, so I was a bit worried going in for Temptation. But after a few minutes with the game I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously it’s not Skyrim, but Temptation knows what it’s working with and makes all the right decisions within those parameters. The story is no worse than half of the horror movies that have come out in the last five years, and while the game may throw you into the middle of things a bit clumsily, that can be a consequence of getting the player into the game faster.

Most importantly, it all flows. I never sopped to wonder what some obviously-out-of-place object was doing here or why I had to solve a puzzle. Sure, they clearly wouldn’t be there or necessary if an event like this really happened, but since it fits it still works. The game doesn’t promise much, but it delivers.

temptation-568x568-1Gameplay: 8/10 – Point-and-click games can be tricky to rate, since the mechanics are so simple.  That means less room for innovation, but also less room to mess up. So a game like this gets credit just for sticking to the established road as long as it makes good use of those established conventions.  Temptation isn’t groundbreaking, but it accomplishes what it set out to do.

Graphics: 8.5/10 – The visuals in the game are pretty standard iPad game fare. I’ve seen much better, to be sure, but mostly from big budget games that use the graphics as a major selling point. Like the gameplay itself, Temptation’s graphics get credit more for doing well within the restraints than for pushing the limits.

Sound: 7/10 – The sound in the game is pretty much irrelevant. There is beyond background music and some basic sound effects, but nothing critical to the gameplay. The sounds aren’t so bad as to detract from the experience, but I often found myself playing the game muted.

Overall: 8/10 – Temptation is a great little diversion for any point-and-click adventure fan with an iPad. It’s nothing that will shock or amaze you, but it is a solid title that is sure to satisfy for the duration of the experience.

Check out this promo video for Temptation below.

Review code for this game provided courtesy of G5 Games

Mobile Game Review: Silent Valley

silentvalley1Developer:  g5 Games
Available for: iPad
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure

Silent Valley is the touchscreen equivalent of a point-and-click adventure game ala the Myst series.  For those unfamiliar with the genre, gameplay consists of a series of static background images with various items to investigate and collect.  Clicking on doors or pathways generally lead to other static scenes as if the player had walked to a new area.  Along the way, various hurdles will impede the player until they can find the correct item and use it in the correct way to overcome the obstacle and proceed.  This means a lot of exploring the scenes as they become available, looking out for anything you can collect now and making note of anything you can’t use now but will need later (hint: if you can examine it, you’ll probably need it eventually).

There is a reason this genre was popular for early computer games and is making a resurgence with the indie developer boom from the digital distribution revolution.  Since they are essentially a series of still images (with mini puzzles thrown in at various points along the way to mix things up), the games aren’t very demanding from a design perspective.  The number of different things a player can possibly do is considerably more limited in this type of game compared to most.  The challenge comes from figuring out exactly what those options are and the correct order to do them in.  It is virtually impossible for the player to do anything the design team didn’t anticipate.

silentvalley4Because of this, the key to making a game like Myst or Silent Valley stand out is less about a solid game engine and more about the artistic choices made.   Silent Valley gets the game elements well enough – the minigames are well spaced and a good difficulty level, while also being different enough from the main game to mix up the gameplay in a good way.  The problem with the game is in everything else.

Beyond just making the puzzles interesting, a point-and-click adventure game has to tell a good story and make those static scenes come to life.  Without any real action or timed pressure to push the player forward, the game must be more like a book and rely on characters and story to drive the experience.   Unfortunately, Silent Valley doesn’t show much care over these details.  The initial premise of going to a secluded old hotel on your honeymoon is already thin enough, but it leaves room for some interesting ideas.  Too bad Silent Valley’s version of “interesting ideas” is apparently “clichéd, borderline racist Native-American mysticism.”  Even that could have been excused for a decent plot, but the writing does not improve from there.  The main antagonist is never even given a name besides “the landlady”, and she seems perfectly content to let you explore every nook and cranny of her home while making no attempt to hide the fact that she is doing something ambiguously evil to your husband.

While a lot of the actual mechanics of the game work fine in a technical sense, they don’t add much to the storytelling experience either.  No matter which direction you enter a room from, it is always presented from the same angle, giving the impression that instead of ever turning around your character just goes into previous rooms by walking backwards.  Another peeve was the logic behind some of the puzzles (why should I look all over for a razor blade to cut a rope when the very first thing I find is a saw?).

Overall, though, the game is a good distraction if you are a fan of the genre and want to kill some time.  The graphics are pretty good all things considered, and even if you spam the hint button on the easiest setting the game will take a good chunk of time to complete.

silentvalley7Gameplay: 6.5/10 – The point-and-click adventure genre can be tricky to grade on gameplay, since the mechanics are rather bare-bones by design.  Still, every genre has room for innovation, and besides a few amusing minigames this game does not do much to push the limits of the medium.  Plus, the half-assed ‘story’ hurt the experience a lot.

Graphics: 7/10 – The visuals in the game are the strongest part (as they often have to be for a game like this).  Sadly, while they are good they aren’t great.  There is nothing wrong with the graphics, but they don’t really impress.  This is especially true of the static backgrounds, which usually have one taken animated section (like running water or a swaying curtain), but leave the rest of the scene feeling all the more dead and lifeless as a result.

Sound: 7/10 – The sound in the game is mostly irrelevant beyond background music and some basic sound effects.  They aren’t so bad as to detract from the experience, but I often found myself playing the game muted nonetheless.

Overall: 6/10 –Silent Valley certainly accomplished what it set out to do, unfortunately it did so with the bare minimum requirements and called it a day at that.  As the individual scores reflect, each separate element does moderately ok on its own, but the final result feels like a mass-produced product more than a labor of love.  You get the sense that g5 built the one engine so that they could essentially pump out the same game over and over again with a new skin each time.  I haven’t played any of their other titles so I can’t confirm this theory, but for all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo in the game Silent Valley feels like a game with no soul.

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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2017
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