Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet

Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Infogrames
Year: 1993
Platform: DOS, Windows, Mac, Linux

Rating: 3

I really wanted to like this game. While I’m not a fan of Lovecraft’s stories, the mythos fascinates me. I would not expect it to, since it more or less boils down to cult worshiping of tentacled gods. But the appeal to me, I think, comes from the notion that humans can be driven mad if they dare to know too much about the universe’s power. It certainly helps that Anchorhead, one of the best games I’ve ever played, taps into these insecurities so well. Shadow of the Comet certainly does a fine job in this arena as well. Sadly, the ghastly user interface along with some intractable puzzle design left me mostly cold.

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Publisher: The Brotherhood, Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: The Brotherhood
Year: 2015
Platform: Windows, Mac

Rating: 4

I regularly talk about my love for abandoned research stations and Stasis attempts to quench that thirst. While the premise and plot were interesting enough to hold my attention, I was ultimately left unsatiated thanks to some poor characterizations and ridiculous puzzles.

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Detroit: Become Human

Publisher: Quantic Dream
Developer: Quantic Dream
Year: 2018
Platform: Windows, PS4

Rating: 10

Detroit opens in an elevator as we see Connor (an android whose manufacturer contracts with the police department) flip a quarter back and forth at dizzying speed between his hands. The moment the familiar ding notifies Connor he’s reached his destination, we watch the quarter stop between two fingers, Washington’s face shining with perfect detail. The scene is totally unnecessary, but it sent chills up my spine and my anticipation through the roof. I was not disappointed.

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Demon’s Forge

Publisher: Brian Fargo
Developer: Brian Fargo
Year: 1981
Platform: PC Booter, Apple II

Rating: 1

I played this as a child and never got out of the first area. I figured I was young and impatient and decided to revisit this with additional forbearance and wisdom. I got exactly as far as I did thirty-five years ago before pulling up a walkthrough.

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Publisher: Infocom
Developer: Infocom
Year: 1986
Platform: DOS, Mac, Amiga, Commodore 128, Atari ST, Apple II

Rating: 5

On the heels of A Mind Forever Voyaging, Infocom told another story about a nightmare future brought down on us by power and hubris. But rather than a projected future brought along by Reaganomics (which is still pretty damn accurate, dangit), this game explores the impacts of Project Trinity, the first detonation of an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. While the examination of atomic history is impressively accurate and subtly powerful, the game itself gets in the way, with the fallout leaving a pernicious impact on its emotional resonance.

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Developer: Fullbright Company
Publisher: Fullbright Company
Year: 2017
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Linux, Mac, Luna

Rating: 5

I am a sucker for games about abandoned science stations. So needless to say I was delighted firing up Tacoma, where you must explore an abandoned space station to collect all the data on what went wrong. And while the plot mechanic remains engaging throughout, unfortunately the story holds no surprises.

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Murder Is Game Over

Developer: HitherYon Games
Publisher: Meridian4
Year: 2022
Platform: Windows

Rating: 2

Despite the tantalizing and highly suggestive title, murder is just game on in this point-and-click mystery. And yet it is indeed game over soon enough, not only for the victim but also for the player in what turns out to be a highly abbreviated experience. The murder occurs in the prologue as we learn that a rich video game designer has been offed shortly after a tense board meeting and a confrontation with protesters. What follows is a classic whodunit with eight suspects, a detective, and his clue-sniffing canine. Clocking in at just over an hour, its ease of play and charm may satisfy those looking for a casual diversion, but it’s not nearly deep or difficult enough for those looking for a more substantial game.

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A Short Hike

Developer: Adam Robinson-Yu
Publisher: Adam Robinson-Yu
Year: 2019
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, Linux, Mac

Rating: 9

My five year-old daughter saw this game on my desktop and asked if we could play it. Fifteen minutes later, my ten-year old son joined us. I had to slow the game down a bit so I could read aloud everything to my daughter, and they doled out advice on what I should do. Two hours of giggling later, we finished it together. And it is one of the best gaming experiences of my lifetime.

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Life is Strange

Developer: Don’t Nod
Publisher: Square Enix
Year: 2015
Platform: Windows, Xbox, iOS, Android, Mac

Rating: 9

I came for the time travel. I stayed for Maxine and Chloe.

Life is Strange begins in media res, our hero Maxine Caufield alone in her thoughts in the middle of a photography lecture at the esteemed Blackwell Academy, a private art school for ambitious high school students. After being admonished by her professor and teased by the class bully, she plugs in her headphones and heads for the bathroom. There she witnesses the murder of another student, and following an emotional outburst of fear and anger, finds herself back in the same photography lecture ten minutes prior, with just enough time to prevent the murder from happening.

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