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What Are We Playing? [Nov-Dec 2021]

Every two months on this blog I highlight a handful of tabletop and digital games to spread the word about interesting experiences and support other creators. This month’s roundup contains both digital and tabletop games, and somehow, I found all of them to be a 2/5 difficulty...

This will be the last roundup of the year, so if you've been following and reading these posts, thank you! Also, if this blog resulted in any good recommendations for you, I would love to hear about it!

Iris.Fall is a relaxing puzzle game with a pleasant but spooky art style. The dark-fairy-tale-like aesthetic combines well with the main game mechanic of playing with light and shadow. This Alice-in-Wonderland-esque adventure tells a story without using language—instead, it uses shape and shadow. Although many puzzles are reminiscent of games like Monument Valley, The Room series, and Where Shadows Slumber, they are nonetheless satisfying to solve. And don’t worry, there is plenty of fresh and original content too!

Time: ~3h

Difficulty: 2/5

Image via Steam

Captain Nemo’s Nautilus is an interactive wooden puzzle box, and the third Cluebox released by iDventure. The instructions were brief here, and although I wished the signposting was a touch clearer, I had to rely on careful observation skills to solve this box. Unlike traditional puzzle boxes, solving this is more of an escape room experience, as the solutions rely on logic rather than trial and error. Although this is a purely puzzle/mechanical experience and I normally prefer a bit of narrative involved, I found the language agnosticism the most admirable part of the design. iDventure managed to create satisfying and clever puzzles without using any words, which is not an easy task. This box also makes for a great display piece, and can be reset to give to a friend. Although a few interactions felt a bit tricky to me, the hint system is fantastic and shows how to solve the puzzles step-by-step with photos and videos, so you’ll never get completely stuck.

Time: ~1h

Difficulty: 2/5

Photo via iDventure

The Sacred Temple is part of EXIT: The Game’s jigsaw puzzle escape room series, which has players ping-pong between puzzle solving and assembling jigsaws throughout the game. The number of puzzle pieces given at any given time felt appropriate—not too easy to breeze through, and not so much to feel unmanageable, ultimately providing an enjoyable break between solving the puzzles. My favorite puzzles were the ones that utilized the jigsaw format well and encouraged some outside-the-box thinking. A couple of others felt like a miss, and one even caused me to backtrack, but the overall gameplay felt relatively smooth. It had a fairly common escape room premise, so I wouldn’t play this game for the narrative, but it definitely provided for a pleasant evening of entertainment.

Time: ~2h

Difficulty: 2/5

Heroic Adventures is a part of the Unlock! Series, containing three separate games. Insert Coin is a video game themed adventure, with adorable 8-bit style art, and generally pleasant puzzles that felt standard to the format. Sherlock Holmes is, fittingly, more of a deductive and story-driven installment. This is a departure from the typical Unlock! game, and despite missing a couple of details, we actually found it to be the most intuitive and satisfying of the three games. In Pursuit of the White Rabbit, on the other hand, felt obtuse at times, and after breaking sequence and not being able to find appropriate hints, we lost a bit of steam. If you’re a fan of the series, however, this will probably still be a box you enjoy.

Time: ~1h x 3 games

Difficulty: 2/5

Greedfall is a role-playing game in which the player acts as a diplomat on a newly discovered island, having to negotiate between the island natives and the various colonizing forces. Greedfall had what felt like an appropriate level of complexity for someone who is new to role-playing games. There was a decently sized (but not enormous) map and many side quests to explore, but the story was easily comprehensible and I appreciated being able to choose a female character. Having the ability to select "easy mode" made it much more accessible for someone who doesn’t enjoy fights in games—the fights felt not only manageable, but often even enjoyable (even the big bosses, because by the end you’ve probably leveled up quite a lot and upgraded your gear/skills enough to take them on.) For those completely averse to combat, there is also a "story mode."

One thing I particularly enjoyed was making decisions that affected the narrative. The struggle between natives and colonizers amid magical beasts and an epidemic was an interesting theme to explore, and being able to influence the final outcome of the game felt meaningful. As the game went on, I learned more about my character’s background and that of the island, and the game wrapped up storylines with fairly satisfying conclusions. Could it have been more daring? More emotionally impactful? Yes. Could romance have been easier to pursue, adding more intrigue to the storyline? Yes. Could there have been less running? Absolutely. But at least it gave me the courtesy of knowing where I was going, and seeing sparkles when there was something for me to pick up. The quests were usually clear and didn’t require pixel hunting or excessive searching, which made for a pleasant and accessible gameplay experience with varying levels of depth to explore.

Time: 20-40 hours

Difficulty: Several difficulty levels to choose from

Image via Steam

What have you been playing lately?



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