(Originally Posted Jul 2018)
Welcome back to Triple Threat Review!
This is the series where I pick 3 games from my Steam list semi-randomly, play them, give you my first impressions and score them as either a 1, 2 or 3.
If this is your first time reading one of these articles then please check out the previous edition to find more games.
Now, please scroll down and enjoy the reviews!
Scanner Sombre is one of the games that has been sitting, unplayed, on my Steam list for the longest. I got it in a Humble Bundle around a year ago, not too long after it was released, and I’ve been reluctant to play it ever since. Why? Well, it’s quite simple really, on the game’s store page, the first tag the game has is “horror”. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a total wimp when it comes to the horror genre; in films it doesn’t really bother me, but in games I can’t handle it. However, the laws of random generation picked this game for me to play, so I guess I don’t have much of a choice.
First of all, I was surprised to find that this game was developed by Introversion Software – who made the outstanding Prison Architect – so my interest was piqued since this seemed like quite the leap in genres to make.
The game starts quite simply, you’re in a tent, outside is complete blackness, with a lone light on top of a rock in the distance, so naturally you wander towards it and pick up your scanner. Then the game reveals to you its main gameplay. You are an explorer, who is exploring this cave for as yet unexplained reasons and instead of navigating using light, you use some VR goggles and a scanner to reveal the terrain and represent it in the form of coloured dots.
Straight away, this helps to curb one of the main problems many so-called “walking simulator” games come across, which is giving the player something to do while you’re telling them the story. Normally, just walking through samey looking caves would be quite dull, but because you’re constantly having to work out what the terrain even looks like, and with it being represented in a visually pleasing way, I found that made the game very good at avoiding boredom for the most part.
So what about that horror I was so terrified of? Well…there isn’t really much of it.
Granted, I only got about half way through the game, but in that time, there really hadn’t been much in the way of horror. Pretty early on you come across a figure that looks human, which will creepily turn on the spot to look at you as you move around it, and there’s a small jumpscare a little on from that, but that’s really it.
The game did do a pretty good job of keeping me tense for a while, but eventually that tension faded, sure, having no jumpscares for a while can actually be extremely nerve-wracking, but eventually I’d gone for so long with nothing happening, that I didn’t feel tense anymore and just kept going like normal.
It was at that point, that the game started to lose its legs a bit for me. After a while it began to feel less like I was exploring, and more like I was just going through the motions. I’d wander into an area, scan it, find the exit, rinse and repeat, and towards the end of my time with it, the moments that did try to bring the scares didn’t really have much effect, because I’d already become too comfortable in the world I was exploring.
Not to mention that the environments all began to feel pretty samey after a while. Although the scanning gimmick did keep things fresh for a lot longer than they normally would’ve been, it ran out of steam eventually, and in the last 5 minutes or so, I was pretty bored of it.
That said, I do still want to go back to it, I feel like if I go away from the game for a couple of days before touching it again, then I’ll be able to recapture some of that feeling that pulled me into the game when I first started playing it, and perhaps the second half will be a lot more enthralling than the first.
Overall, while Scanner Sombre isn’t much in the way of a horror game, it’s certainly a pretty solid addition to the walking simulator genre, it’s certainly no Gone Home, but it’s definitely a whole lot better than Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
Score: 2/3 – OK
Hand of Fate 2
Ok, so I’m cheating a bit with this one.
Hand of Fate 2 is actually a game I’ve already played many hours of, but it came out on Switch this week, and I’m never gonna get a better excuse to talk about it so here’s the review.
The first Hand of Fate is a game that had a genuinely very unique concept, the idea of combining a board game with more traditional types of gameplay is one that I really think should be explored a lot more, and Hand of Fate really proves the idea has legs.
To be simple about it, you have a counter on the board and you move between cards on the table, each card will have some form of scenario or encounter that you have to deal with, either through quick thinking and timing, or by bashing in some faces. When you enter a combat scenario, instead of doing something like Talisman, where you roll dice, you instead enter a small environment and you directly control your character to fight the enemies.
In addition to this you have to manage your resources, you have your health and gold as standard, but there is also food, which you consume as you move from card to card; and fame, which you gain by completing encounters and is required to use certain items.
While, the original Hand of Fate was a tad limited in the encounters, and began to feel a bit samey after a while, Hand of Fate 2 completely fixes this. There are hundreds of different encounter cards, and while some are similar, most of them have their own unique twist in how to resolve them; with tasks such as following the right card, stopping the wheel or the pendulum in the right place, or some good old-fashioned combat.
It also fixes the sense of pointlessness you had in the first game as well, since you were just beating bosses in some vague attempt to beat the dealer at the game. While in this game, there are many scenarios and different ideas of what your goal is each time you play, one that particularly stood out to me was one where I was informed that in three days, a murder was going to take place and I had to work out who the culprit was and stop them. It gives this great context to your adventure that the first game didn’t have, and it really helped me immerse myself in the world and become invested in the overall story of the game.
You also get a great deal of deck customisation as many encounters will give you tokens that unlock new cards for you to add to future decks, some are items that will appear in shops or as random drops, and others are encounter cards, that you can put in the deck to either help you, or challenge you on your journey.
The only major criticism I have with the game is that the combat is somewhat basic. While you have a few items or abilities on a couple of buttons, generally you just mash the attack button until everything’s dead, stopping only on the odd occasion to block or dodge, while it can be fun, it does feel tedious at times and lacks a general sense of flow or grace.
This doesn’t bog down the game at all however, and isn’t really the main focus of things. The simple fact of the matter is that the core gameplay here is just too fun to put down, it has the sense of excitement that a good board game can bring, and each adventure is short enough that you want to keep diving into it again and again.
Score: 3/3 – Great
Stick Fight: The Game
The idea of a casual fighting game, is one that I don’t really feel has been done very well up until now, the game will either end up being too complex for casual players, or far too simple to be fun. Up until now the only game I can think of that got it right was Gang Beasts; so, when I saw Stick Fight: The Game, I had to take a look at it.
The first thing you notice about the game is the aesthetic, which is of course that of stick fighting flash animations from the early days of the internet, and honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a high profile one like this to come along, seemed like a definite money maker to me.
Anyway, the actual meat of the game is of course the fighting mechanics, which are pretty damn good for a casual game like this. Personally, I think the mark of a good casual game is something that let’s skillful players do skillful things, while still letting less skilled players do well, and that’s exactly how this combat system feels. When you’re going hand to hand, you will often find yourself just mashing the attack button and doing pretty well, but if you begin to step back and be more smart with your shots and blocks, then you’ll find that you’re able to do even better.
The only major downside is that any real complexity that the combat system has tends to go out the window has soon as weapons come into play. As in every stage, guns and spears and such like will rain from the sky for players to pick up, at which point the game becomes more of a mad scramble than a fight; however, you have the option to turn weapons off if you don’t like it, so it’s not too big of an issue.
One of the most interesting ideas I saw in the game was a pickup that only spawns on certain levels, and turns the player who picked it up into a sort of boss for everyone else to fight (pictured above). I found this to be a really fun way to mix up the established formula of the game, and it’s generally balanced pretty well, and I found it’s fun to play as both the boss and the person fighting it, and can really become a good test of how well you’ve got to grips with the game.
Speaking of certain levels, the majority of levels are very well designed, and there is a great variety of environments to fight on. Be it a pile of precariously stacked boxes, or a giant box that’s constantly rotating, every level adds a unique new layer of complexity to the gameplay that stops the formula from getting boring after you’ve played it for a while.
Although the game is most fun when played locally, it does also feature online matches, and it’s very easy to just jump in and play with randoms, or host your own private session for friends; and most importantly, there is very little in the way of lag. Occasionally I had a couple people jump about the place without explanation, but it was almost always down to my own terrible internet, but when my internet was running smoothly, I didn’t have any problems with online games whatsoever.
Overall, Stick Fight is a great addition to the resurgent “couch game” genre, standing tall next to similar games like Gang Beasts and Towerfall Ascension. I can absolutely see myself pulling this one out when I’m playing games with friends to have a good time.
Score: 3/3 – Great
So there you go! I had a really great time with the games I played this week and I’m hoping that we can keep this good will going into the next one!
Until then please share this around on social media, and follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo and thank you to the wonderful @lauren_cmonster for editing this one for me!