Each month on this blog we highlight a handful of tabletop and digital games to spread the word about interesting experiences and support other creators. Between managing projects and starting to actually go outside again, this month has flown by with a smaller variety of games than usual, so this roundup will be a little shorter, but no less sweet!
Escape from the Two Base Stations arrives in two separate parts, The North Pole and the South Pole. These are meant to be used in tandem by two people playing remotely via video conference. The game mainly consists of some humorous dialogue and various communication puzzles, at times using only text, only sound, or only the camera. These puzzles were well-executed, fun, and made sense within the scenario. Occasionally we did encounter trouble when one person couldn’t solve anything and weren’t allowed to communicate or ask for help without looking at the hints; for this reason, we would recommend playing with two people per connection.
Okay, it’s a jigsaw puzzle, there isn’t that much to say about it, right? But does it mean something that this was the first 1000 piece puzzle I binged in one (very late) night? It’s not because it was so easy; rather, there are two things that Magic Puzzles really got right: The quality of the pieces and the colorful, detail-oriented artwork. This combination made the puzzle a pleasure to assemble, because I was constantly noticing new things about the scene while also being rewarded with that perfect, satisfying fit. I look forward to putting on some tunes completing the third in this series.
I did not have the opportunity to play the first Cluebox by iDventure, but was glad to have backed the second on Kickstarter. Unlike most mechanical puzzle boxes, Cluebox 2 is much closer to an escape room game than a wooden burr puzzle. Rather than using trial and error or spatial reasoning, it is logic and observation that will drive you to open the mechanisms, which act basically like combination locks. This results in a more approachable experience than many mechanical puzzles, which could take anywhere from ten minutes to dozens of hours to solve through trial and error. Simply put, it is the puzzles and not the mechanisms that are the challenge in Davy Jones Locker, but despite being a game with a lower difficulty level, it is still immensely satisfying to complete each step. Overall, it was just a fun experience to take apart this box! And, if you do get stuck, the hint system is well-executed and uses images to help you get through each step. It is also relatively easy to reset, and in the end you are left with a nice object to either keep or give to a friend.
Life is Strange is a series of episodic narrative adventure games. They tell character-centric coming-of-age stories and allow you to make choices that impact the events, but are not at all demanding mechanically. Fans of Telltale Games and narrative adventures like What Remains of Edith Finch and Gone Home will likely enjoy these, whereas players who prefer to keep their hands active and skip through cutscenes will probably find these are not for them.
Life is Strange follows the story of a teenage girl who suddenly finds herself with the power to rewind time. This was an enjoyable mechanic to play with, often forcing you to learn more information to succeed with a conversation (I appreciated that it allowed the skipping of repeated dialogue when you start a conversation over, preventing it from getting tedious) and sometimes allowing you to see various outcomes of a scene and make different choices. Some choices were ultimately more meaningful than others, but they were often hard regardless of the impact they had on the story as a whole. (Do you steal when you’re desperate, not knowing the consequences? Do you rat out your friend or take the blame?) Disclaimer: this supernatural teen drama does get a dark as the story goes on; I thought the subject matter was always dealt with tactfully, even if it veered a little into the fantastical.
Life is Strange 2 follows a teenage boy who suddenly finds himself in an impossible situation and has to take care of his little brother. It tackles issues of racism, police violence, and loss, and builds a sense of empathy by placing the player in the shoes of someone who has to make difficult choices under circumstances that are out of their control. It was an unusual story to encounter in a video game, and the experience was all the stronger for it. Because there is no rewind mechanic, however, Life is Strange 2 felt significantly less “game-y" (more like a visual novel with a choose-your-own-path mechanic). Still, the story was so emotionally resonant that I have a hard time saying I preferred the first series, but after playing both I find myself really looking forward to the new season coming this fall.
Time: Both seasons consist of 5 chapters, each approximately 3 hours long.
What are you playing this month?