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Thread: Mystery game challenge - backlog reducin' with a twist!

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen

    Mystery game challenge - backlog reducin' with a twist!

    Yes, another backlog reducin' thread, but I'm trying something a bit different here!
    The idea of the mystery game challenge is to pick any game from your collection that you know absolutely nothing about and give it a try. Don't look at any screenshots or try to look up any information about the game beforehand. Just install it and then play it for five minutes, or five hours, or five days (disclaimer: remember to sleep and eat in between!) or for as long as you like - it doesn't matter, as long as you can say that you've given it a fair chance. It's up to you what you want to do with the game afterwards.

    I don't know about you people, but at least I've got loads of games in my library that I really know nothing about. Most of them are from some random bundles, I think, but I can't say for sure where and when I've got some of them. My first two mystery game challenge trialists are GoNNER and Headlander.


    GoNNER
    This seemed so confusing at first, and I still don't really know what I'm supposed to do. I think GoNNER could be described as a roguelike 2D platformer. It reminds me a lot of Downwell actually, this one's just a bit less hectic. Here and there you'll find upgrades and weapons that help you to stay alive and get as far as possible before you die. There are also some glyphs that work as some kind of currency in the game. I had a hard time figuring out what all the different items do. I didn't find the game very fun at first, but once I stopped dying all the time and got a bit further a few times, I noticed that there's some potential fun to be had. I still think that GoNNER is missing some killer game mechanic that makes it stand out, so I doubt that I'll get back to it again. Then again, it's one of those games that you can play when you only have five minutes to spare, so perhaps I'll keep this on my hard drive for a bit longer.




    Headlander
    The little icon on Steam reminded me of The Swapper, and that's not too far off actually! In Headlander you're also sort of a swapper, as you control a floating head that you can attach to different robot bodies in the game world. The floating head is equipped with a rocket engine, and it also comes with a handy vacuum cleaner that you can use to vacuum off someone's head before you land on the body. Land your head... Headlander... Get it? Of course you can shoot someone's head off first too if you prefer violent solutions.

    Headlander is a very weird game all in all. It's all about the puzzles. You have to move your head from one robot body to another because they have different kind of functionalities. Sometimes the only option is to fly around with your head only when you have to fly through a small tunnel for example, but that also makes you very vulnerable. There are also gunfights which should be fun in a game like this, but the controls just don't work for me and I don't find the action bits enjoyable at all. Headlander looks surprisingly good actually and I kinda dig the 70's retro sci-fi style. It's also occasionally funny - not "ha-ha" funny, more like "heh" funny, but still.

    If you ever decide to give Headlander a try, make sure that you get past the tutorial stage. I found it pretty dull at first and it didn't help that the tutorial level was ugly and repetitive too, so I was just about ready to quit. It does get a lot better and more interesting after that, but I'm still not sure if it gets good enough for me to finish it.


  2. #2
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Oooh, good idea for a thread. I'm pretty good at keeping my backlog in check, but even so I have 3-4 games that I know next to nothing about that I could give a whirl for this.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    Go for it henke! I guess you don't have to be so strict with the rules; a mystery game might as well be a game that you don't know much about, or something.

    Anyway, I gotta say that this has been a rather fun experiment so far! There's something exciting about launching a mystery game while you have no idea what to expect. Of course I don't expect to like most of these games, but finding out what they're like can sometimes be more fun than the game itself.


    Treadnauts

    OK, maybe it would be a good idea to find out something about these games before I play them, but where's the fun in that? Turns out that Treadnauts is multiplayer-only. And not only it's multiplayer-only, it's also a multiplayer game that no one plays. I tried joining an online game and waited for more than five minutes for other players to turn up, until I gave up. There's a training mode that I tried quickly, but it's just boring target practice where you try to shoot down all the targets as quickly as possible. You control a tank that can jump and perform somersaults and stick to any surface, and apparently in the proper game you're supposed to shoot other tanks. There's also a local multiplayer mode but I don't know anyone who would play jumpy tanks with me.

    Verdict: This game is dead.


    Aaero

    Aaero is one of those rhythm games and you'll need a dual stick controller to play it. It's an interesting combo of Tempest, good old Skyroads, and um... Beat Saber? You're controlling a spaceship and most of the time you're speeding through a tunnel and trying to follow the ribbon. There's some electronic dance music playing on the background and the ribbon follows the tune; you move your spaceship with the left stick and try to follow the rollercoaster of high notes and low notes, and sometimes the ribbon goes all the way around the tunnel - it's hard to explain but you'll get in the flow when you hear the music. To make things more challenging, you'll have to avoid crashing into some obstacles too, and every now and then you'll be attacked by enemy spaceships and you'll have to use the right stick to shoot them down.

    I'm not a huge EDM fan, so I think that someone who's more into this kind of music will also get more out of Aaero. I only played a few levels (each level has its own music, and I can't believe that they chose the most annoying tune for the very first level!) and found it quite hypnotic at times, but it's also a very fast game where you're gonna need some quick reflexes, so it's not always as relaxing as I'd like it to be.

    Verdict: Not exactly my cup of tea, but I'll try to squeeze out some more fun out of it, so I'll play it again later.

  4. #4
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Wuppo

    What I knew about it going in
    It's some kinda platformer.

    What it actually is
    It's indeed a platformer, with a cartoony style and some surprisingly complex adventure-puzzling and item-usage. The game started with me getting kicked out of a hotel for spilling ice cream all over the place and then I went on a crazy adventure.

    I played the first: 90min

    What I thought of it
    It's very charming. I like it, but probably not enough to keep playing.

    edit: played a bit more. Befriended a primitive tribe-people and then killed their god. Was eventually let back into the hotel but had to clean up the mess I'd made. The story is still only beginning, but I think I've seen enough.
    Last edited by henke; 12th Mar 2019 at 13:54. Reason: played a bit more

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by henke View Post
    That story sounds like someone just emptied a barrel of random words and tried to string them together.

  6. #6
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    RŌA

    What I knew about it going in
    This came bundled with AENTITY so it's probably some artsy bullshit.

    What it actually is
    It's some artsy bullshit.

    I played the first: 4min

    What I thought of it
    Basically AENTITY but rougher and (I think) lighter on content. AENTITY somehow hypnotized me into playing for 50 minutes, but I get the feeling this is just a lesser version of the same thing, so... eh, I'm out.

  7. #7
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    TASTEE: Lethal Tactics

    What I knew about it going in
    Turn based tactics game. Possibly even simultaneous turn based tactics game? Has a terrible title.

    What it actually is
    It is simultaneous! The vague story has you leading a team of criminals on various CRIME MISSIONS. The opening cutscene plays the song "Diamond" by Klint, y'know, from the opening scene in Snatch. Or possibly just a song that's such a close rip-off of that song that it should be getting slammed with copyright claims.

    I played the first: 91min

    What I thought of it
    Very glad to see more games apeing Frozen Synapse's gameplay (it even has the same Simulate-function), but this one is a tad too clunky to feel as good as FS. There's a slight delay to a lot of actions that makes the whole thing feel sluggish. I'm enjoying it tho, think I might play a few more missions and see how it goes.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Wait, what? Somebody else is doing simul-turns? I'll have to check it out.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    Quote Originally Posted by henke View Post
    It's some artsy bullshit.
    Gratuitous use of umlauts and other diacritical signs (had to look that up in wikipedia) in the title of a game almost always means that the game is some artsy bullshit.

    TASTEE looks interesting, but I haven't played Frozen Synapse either, so I'll have to check that out first. Wuppo looks really odd (but also fun)!

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    Quote Originally Posted by Tomi View Post
    Gratuitous use of umlauts and other diacritical signs (had to look that up in wikipedia) in the title of a game almost always means that the game is some artsy bullshit.
    Brütal Legend says hello.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    Yeah, the metal umlaut is an exception, and it was actually Brütal Legend that made me add the word "almost" in my previous post. Speaking of which, I gotta get that game off my backlog some time as well!

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: flapping in the wind
    I thought Wuppo was a lot of fun even though I don't much care for platformers, but it felt more like a sidescrolling adventure game than a platformer as I recall. I gave up on it though because the bosses were frustratingly hard and that wasn't what I was there for. I enjoyed everything else about it though. Might give it another chance some day.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    Quote Originally Posted by Tomi View Post
    metal umlaut
    As a German, the fact that this is a thing still tickles me every time.

  14. #14
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    12 is better than 6

    What I knew about it going in
    Some kinda top-down Hotline Miami-alike.

    What it actually is
    Pretty much that, but with a more complex reloading/aiming/ammo-management system, and a minimalist hand-drawn aesthetic.

    I played the first: 20min

    What I thought of it
    There were a few tense and exciting moments in my short session where I was frantically reloading my revolver as baddies came rushing towards the nearest corner which I really enjoyed. But mostly this is too punishing and hard to be very enjoyable. The storytelling, graphics, and sounddesign also have an un-inviting amateurish vibe to them, which isn't enticing me to keep playing. I do get the feeling this might be fun if you got really into it tho, but I can't be bothered making the time-investment.

  15. #15
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    I ended up sticking with Tastee, played 4 hours of it now, here's a replay of a recent mission:



    edit: another one, because why not.



    I'm kinda a sucker for photo modes and replay viewers no matter what, so even if this one is extremely barebones I enjoy messing around with it.
    Last edited by henke; 16th Mar 2019 at 09:22.

  16. #16
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Giant Machines 2017

    What I knew about it going in
    Judging from the title it's a game about machines, possibly ones of significant size. Also it's a period piece. Jesh gifted it to me.

    What it actually is
    Surprisingly story-driven lightweight simulator where you drive a series of giant machines.

    I played the first: 75min (think I might've gotten about halfway through the game)

    What I thought of it
    Good variety of vehicles and tasks. The controls are more on the easy arcade side than the hardcore-simulator-side, which I don't mind. Sadly the physics are also kinda cheap and flimsy feeling. I liked it tho, but probably not enough to finish it.

  17. #17
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Sacrifice

    What I knew about it going in
    Despite being a big Shiny fan and hearing nothing but good things about this, I've never gotten around to it til now. I knew it was some kinda third person RTS thing, and being a Shiny game it's probably weird and wonderful as hell.

    What it actually is
    Pretty much what I expected. Tho I didn't expect to be taking orders from a god who has a balloon for a head (and is voiced by Tim Curry).

    I played the first: 91min

    What I thought of it
    The gameplay isn't really grabbing me, but I gotta say, for a 19 year old game it's a beauty. Slap on a widescreen patch, crank the detail settings to max, and it's a real looker. The skyboxes in particular outdo even a lot of modern games.

    edit: here's some footage:

    Last edited by henke; 21st Mar 2019 at 16:22.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    Giant Machines looks like such a henke game. And Sacrifice... I remember buying and playing that when it was somewhat new, and I thought it looked super awesome back then! I also remember it being a very weird game, but in a fun way. I never got very far in it though, the gameplay didn't really grab me either, I suppose.

    I've been playing Ice Lakes and Regions of Ruin, two more games from some random bundles.

    Ice Lakes

    I expected this to be some epic RPG, but of course, it's a game about ice fishing. I find it kinda endearing that people actually make and play games like this. It seems like a rather simple game at first glance, but there are lots of different lures and other fishing equipment and different kind of fish (etc), so you'll actually have to know a thing or two about fishing (or get really lucky) to catch any big fish. It's not exactly an action-packed game; at first you'll have to find a good fishing spot, then drill a hole in the ice, sit down, choose a lure, and start fishing. You'll spend most of the time waiting and moving the fishing rod with the mouse which doesn't sound particularly exciting, but there's something quite relaxing about it. Just like real fishing I guess. What this game needs though is gamepad support... In my opinion the best thing about real fishing is that feeling when the fish bites the lure and you can feel the pull in your fishing rod - so instead of getting a notification on your screen, it'd be cool if you could actually feel your controller vibrate or something. I'm gonna have another try at this later, not that I know much about ice fishing.




    Regions of Ruin

    This is sort of like Skyrim 2D. A generic RPG with lots of go there and kill this and that quests. There's also some town building stuff and micro-management, and this game looks almost identical to Kingdom (not Kingdom Come: Deliverance), perhaps a bit uglier. I found the game quite fun at first and actually played it for a couple of hours. You travel around the world and kill monsters and find better equipment and gather resources, then come back to your hometown to level up and build something in the town. That's about it. The enemy AI is really terrible which spoils the combats for me, and the game gets way too repetitive way too soon, so I'm afraid I'm giving up with it.


  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    Kholat

    This one was a freebie on Humble Bundle not too long ago, so I thought I'd give it a try now. Kholat is a mystery game alright, a horror survival game of some sort. X-Files goes Siberia. You start the game in a snowy train station. The intro video mentioned a group of students who died mysteriously on their expedition to the Ural mountains sixty years ago. I think I'm supposed to go find out what really happened to them. But why is the train station abandoned? How did I get here? Who am I, anyway? And most importantly, what am I supposed to do now? I guess I'll just pick some direction and walk that way. There's an interesting looking building to the north. So north it is, then. Uh oh, the path is blocked by a ankle-high rock here and I'm not able to step over it. I'll go south then.

    This game seemed really cool for about fifteen minutes, until I realised that it's all about walking around for miles and miles collecting some missing diary entries that are scattered around the snowy tundra. I have a feeling that these diary entries are supposed to be like puzzle pieces, and in the end I should figure out what happened to those poor Soviet students. Occasionally the narrator of the game, Sean Bean, says something that is obviously supposed to be deep and mysteriously meaningful, but his ramblings make absolutely no sense to me. Is the narrator supposed to be me, or am I hearing voices in my head or what?

    I gotta say that Kholat looks pretty good! That's by far the best thing about the game. The soundtrack isn't bad either, except that the dramatic music loses its edge when it's played all the time even when there's nothing happening. Right from the beginning of the game there are some scripted oh-so-spooky things happening. Rocks floating in the sky, some weird orange ghost-like figures running around and chasing you, meteors falling from the sky, spooky noises, mysterious footprints... Nothing makes any sense in this game anyway, so it's hard to get spooked by any of these incidents either. Okay, I must admit that the atmosphere was somewhat spooky here and there, but the build up for some spooky event always ended in an anti-climax.

    So you run around the snowstorm with the help of an obscure map and a compass, and try to find these diary entries that are often placed in seemingly random locations. Because you can't jump or climb or anything, you'll often have to find a way around some frustrating obstacles. Occasionally you'll bump into orange ghosts that try to kill you and you gotta run away from them. Unfortunately the protagonist isn't much of a runner, and when you get killed you'll have to start again from the previous auto-save location that is often annoyingly far away. The missing diary entries are audio logs that are full of cliches but don't make much sense. This game might work if they were just additional reading, but since collecting them is apparently the main objective, it's just not good enough.

    I can't take this anymore. I tried to like Kholat, but I just don't like it at all. I'll never find out what happened to these poor students, but at this point, I don't even care anymore. The truth is out there. Maybe. Uninstall.


  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen

    Backlog reducin' is back, alright!

    I've actually tried to finish some of the games that I've started lately, but I couldn't resist trying some new mystery games again!

    The First Tree
    I knew that this game has a fox in it and it's some sort of an adventure. It is an adventure indeed, but it's not much of a game. And you're not a real fox doing fox things, it's all just a dream or something. The story's about some guy and his troubled relationship with his dad. You're playing this fox in his dream, running from one checkpoint to the next while the guy's having flashbacks of his past, and there's melancholic piano music playing on the background all the time which makes it all a bit depressing. The story does have its moments, but it gets a bit too over-emotional at times. There's some very basic platforming, but the fox physics don't seem right and it's not very satisfying. It took only around two hours to finish the game, and I suppose it was an enjoyable experience, but not a very memorable one.



    The Red Solstice
    A bunch of space marines are trying to survive the alien invasion on Mars. How original. It's an action game and looks a lot like Shadowgrounds, probably not as fun though. I was going to give up right after the very first mission, because it felt to simple and boring, but pretty soon you'll get introduced to the tactical mode that makes this game stand out at least a little. Activating the tactical mode slows down the time so that you can give orders to your team members, so The Red Solstice isn't as simple as it first seems. I just find the setting so uninspiring that I'm not sure if I want to play this game any further.

  21. #21
    Brutal Legend is a great example of a game that fell very far short of it's potential because it was trying way too hard to be different.

    The whole RTS schtick it had going was mostly terrible. If they'd stuck to the Pikmin/Overlord mould for gameplay it probably would have been awesome.

  22. #22
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    Two more games off my list.


    Serial Cleaner
    Someone's gotta clean up the murder scene after a serial killer has done their job, and apparently that's me. This is a stealth game where you gotta make bodies and blood and murder weapons and other evidence disappear, right under the eyes of the cops who are patrolling around. The gameplay mechanics are very simple and the cops aren't very bright, which makes the whole stealth thing a bit tedious. Serial Cleaner looks and feels quite a lot like Hotline Miami. Each mission starts with an incoming phone call at your house. You get your mission objectives with a very vague background story, then you jump in your car, arrive at the crime scene, and do your thing. The top-down view is clean enough, but sometimes it's frustratingly hard to tell where you can walk and where you can not. The 1970's style music and graphics are kinda cool, but not enough to save this game.




    Old Man's Journey
    An old man gets a mysterious letter, packs his backpack, grabs the trusty old walking stick, and starts an EPIC journey. Okay, the adventure might not be that epic, but it's quite beautiful and you get to see all sorts of places along the way. I really like the art in this game, it reminds me of some old and classy children's book. The music fits in well too, it's relaxing and nice, occasionally quite melancholic though. The game itself is very simple, it's a kind of a point&click adventure I suppose. Most of the "puzzles" in OMJ consist of moving pieces of the landscape (hills, roofs, roads, etc.) up and down by dragging your mouse, so that the old fellow can go on with his journey. I thought it was a really silly idea at first, but it kinda grew on me. Occasionally you have to click things to activate them and to make things happen. The puzzles aren't very challenging, but that's not the point - OMJ is all about the journey itself. It's a beautiful game, not very long (around 3 hours), and definitely worth trying.


  23. #23
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    Old mans journey was excellent, in fact it would have worked even better without a lot of the puzzles which just got in the way of the story.

  24. #24
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    This isn't a backlog game as it just came out today. But it sort of fits the theme.
    It looked stylish and it was free, so I got it and played it.

    Himno.

    Didn't know anything about this game except I liked the screenshots and it's free.

    This is a very stylish roguelike (procedurally generated) platformer that's basically just pure infinite platforming. There aren't any enemies, just lots of different colored light orbs that do different things when you free them or touch them. You're basically platforming around looking for the exit door to the next level while grabbing some orbs while you're at it, and doing the minimal job of just not falling into the water below. So it's simple, but you can't just press X to win and you can still muff up a jump & die. It has lush ambient music. Basically it's a game just to chill and jump around. Reminds me of a Knytt game without the puzzles.

    I'm actually really happy someone made something like this, since most platformers are pretty hard. I'm going through that with Celeste, which looks great and I like the story, but it's kind of stressful. This is for when you just want to do some simple platforming with some nice music and relax. I'll probably play come back to play this sometimes when I'm in a mood to chill.

    Edit: It's not without its faults. When you wall-jump, the default is for your character to jump away from the wall, which is a problem since you often want to jump up and back towards the wall to a ledge,and there are a few other wonky parts with the controls & movement like that.
    And even though I'm fine with no enemies and the chill ambient thing it has going, it'd still be great if there were some kind of progress markers. The classic way, what Kyntt did, is to have progressive abilities as you go. Or you could have a greater variety of orbs and ambient creatures around. And while they don't have to be enemies... It'd be nice if there were some more life to the levels. Again to use the Kyntt analogy, it had lots of ambient creatures and little villages and scenes where you felt something was always going on that made you curious about its backstory level to level. Something like that.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by demagogue; 28th Apr 2019 at 07:12.

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