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Reviews

Two Cent Review: Quantum Conundrum

Valve’s “Portal” series has always been near and dear to my heart. From the first foray into the physics based puzzling formula, to the generational classic that was its successor, this one of a kind series has supplied me with memorable experiences more times than I can count.

Imagine my surprise then when I learned about yet another reality-bending puzzle game made in the same vein as “Portal”. Here’s my two cents on Quantum Conundrum.

Released way back in good ol’ 2012, long before remakes and loot boxes seemingly dominated the video game space, Quantum Conundrum was released as a familiar but unique take on the Portal formula from industry vet Kim Swift. Developed by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix, this brain buzzing platformer saw the player utilizing dimensional shifts in order to solve puzzles.

These dimensions are essentially four unique states of reality, all of which carried a unique gimmick with them. From the Fluffy dimension, which makes even the heaviest objects light as a feather, to the Slo-mo dimension, which does exactly what you’d think it does. 


Unfortunately, these different dimensions only go so far in helping the game feel unique. I can’t quite pinpoint the reason as to why, but Quantum Conundrum consistently felt inferior to it’s spiritual predecessor when it came to gameplay. If I had to wager, I’d bet that the game feels more dull due to its focus on platforming to solve problems vs using physics to do so.

It’s a subtle difference, but a tremendous one when distinguishing these two games. Portal games always felt like they were multi-faceted, or that you could solve them in a variety of ways so long as you thought outside of the box enough. The variety in both problems and solutions were astounding. They didn’t focus entirely upon the simple aspect of platforming or navigating difficult spaces. That’s where I think Quantum Conundrum falls flat.

It feels a bit odd to compare these two obviously differing series, but I feel as though so much influence from Portal is on display in Quantum Conundrum. So to compare the two only feels natural, much in the same way that this game felt like it wanted to be a natural progression of the Portal formula. Sadly, I have to admit that this game is a severely inferior experience. 

Gotta be honest here, none of it feels like it was made with much love or care. The writing is consistently not funny, try as it might to convince you otherwise. The music, while whimsical, mysterious and upbeat, never does much in regards to wriggling into your ear spaces. As a matter of fact, the music teetered on annoying territory from time to time with how repetitive it could be. 

The environments consistently felt dull as well, with little to no visual story-telling going on during the game’s roughly 8 hour runtime. This issue was one that was especially prevalent within the latter half of the game, as the poor attempts at visual story-telling that were at least attempted in the beginning seemed to vanish completely. 

But none of that compares to the writing in this game, which was easily the weakest aspect of Quantum Conundrum. The majority of this game tries to be funny, but fails miserably at doing so. You know, it’s completely possible that 2012 me would have liked this game’s writing and found it’s dialogue to be humorous, but 2012 me is dead, so it doesn’t matter. 

2022 me is here and he dislikes everything… especially poor writing. 

This issue is further exacerbated by the performance given by your uncle’s voice actor. No, I don’t mean your uncle you just saw for a heated political discussion on Christmas. I mean, your mad scientist uncle that acts as this game’s narrator and also serves as a consistent source of pessimism throughout.

Seriously, this dude spends the whole game trapped in another dimension walking you through how to navigate his death palace mansion in order to save him, and all he ever throws your way are half-assed remarks. That’s the whole plot of the game by the way. Uncle trapped in dimension, now you go save uncle trapped in dimension. 

Spoiler alert for the end here by the way, but uh, even in the final moments of the game, you’re never thanked for saving your uncle’s life. Instead, you’re shown a short “cutscene” in which your uncle admits to being freed but now has to work on getting you out of the dimensional trap instead. No “thank you”, no sense of urgency, no nothing. 

Just a shitty feeling in the pit of your stomach for being a good person and saving someone’s life. 

Quantum Conundrum just sort of…ends after that interaction, seemingly leaving the game open to a sequel. Not too sure that we’ll ever get a follow up in regards to what happened to our main character, but maybe that’s for the best. I’m sure any dimension where the worst uncle to ever grace gaming doesn’t exist is one worth staying in. 

I wanted to like Quantum Conundrum, but I honestly struggled to get through this one. It’s definitely not one that I could easily recommend, unless you’ve already played Valve’s genre defining series, and are willing to overlook some serious shortcomings. I reviewed this game because I picked it up for $1 on a Steam sale and I still feel like my time was wasted.

Which is why I can’t wait to check out the DLC…

TO BE CONTINUED.

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Reviews

Two Cent Review: Infernax

Infernax is a game eleven years in the making that sports a gritty, retro feel and a metal chiptune soundtrack. If those words I just said ignited the happy sensors in your brain, then I strongly consider seeing if Infernax is worth your time. 

Here’s my two cents. 

Infernax opens with a brilliantly designed tutorial, introducing you to things like its setting and the basics of combat. Beyond that, this opening section introduces what was easily my favorite aspect of Infernax: choice and consequence. 

Infernax is consistently asking you to make difficult decisions that alter the outcome of events. This extends into the game’s multiple endings as well, which helps encourage repeat playthroughs. I personally felt the endings lacked enough variety to incentivize going for them, which left me feeling undersatified. Repeat playthroughs are mostly here for those who want to one-hundred percent the game.

Or for those invested in Infernax’s world, which is put together with fairly noticeable attention to detail. This may be a love letter to retro classics of yesteryear such as Castlevania II, but its world still feels alive and lived in. Most of this is admittedly due to the choice and consequence nature of Infernax, but the game’s side quests help carry the experience as well.

While certainly nothing groundbreaking, the sheer volume of side questing available in Infernax genuinely surprised me. Now we’re not talking Skyrim levels of questing here, but we are talking about something that could easily increase your playtime by a decent margin. 

These quests are usually worth your time due to the variety and value of their rewards as well. Some may reward you with simple things like gold or XP, but others open up things like new quests or storefronts to purchase gear from. I consistently found myself stopping in each village to talk with everyone during my playthrough, as I was always curious what reward I’d receive next. Be careful doing this though, as some of these actions will lead to unforeseen consequences. 

Now as much as it pains me to admit, this is about all of the good I have to say on my experience with Infernax. But that doesn’t mean it may not appeal to you, so I’d strongly consider hearing me out before making your own call on the game. 

For starters, I want to talk about the topic of trolling the player vs wasting the players time. On the surface, these two things sound like they’re the same, and in many ways they do share overlap. In order to distinguish the two, and to help make my point easier to explain, I’ll bring up this little game that was just released called Elden Ring. 

You may have heard of it.

In Elden Ring, the game consistently, from the opening moments, does all it can to mess with the player’s expectations. Elden Ring then proceeds to maintain this theme throughout its runtime, building upon this philosophy again and again until the credits roll. In this scenario, “trolling the player” works because you, the player, know to expect it and to be ready to combat whatever’s around the corner. 

When looking at Infernax, a game I played immediately after my time with Elden Ring, I couldn’t help but feel slight bitterness. Bitterness at the way my time as a player was disrespected (God that sounds pretentious). 

This became apparent to me upon reaching a specific point in my Infernax quest where I had to do some guesswork in order to proceed. Only the issue here is failure to guess correctly leads to death and a reload at the nearest save point, sometimes resetting ten-plus minutes of progress. 

This wouldn’t be such an issue if I didn’t have to repeat this process numerous times throughout the game. Sadly that wasn’t the case in my experience, as this problem persisted until the credits rolled some six hours later.

There’s no issue with making a challenging game, or even a love letter to a classic title from yesteryear. The issue arises once you get to a point of wasting the players time for no other reason than to waste time or inflate your game’s playtime. 

It does make me wonder if the devs decided on this intentionally. It’s possible they made Infernax this way intentionally for the sake of preserving that “retro feel”. Unfortunately it was a major detractor when it came to enjoying my time with this one, so I felt it was worth mentioning. 

Beyond that, I think I could best describe the rest of Infernax as being inconsistent. The melee combat in this game leaves something to be desired, but the magic is fun as hell to use. The bosses, while unique and fun to look at, are boring to fight and offer little challenge. The world, while sprawling and diverse, rarely gives you any fun or unique platforming sections or enemies to contend with. 

It all ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled in my journey to rid the land of evil. 

While I wish there was more positive praise I could give to Infernax, this one really didn’t do it for me. There are multiple aspects that are appealing, such as it’s art direction, sound design, and focus on choice and consequence. Unfortunately these things don’t deal with much in the realm of core gameplay, which means I was left feeling bummed out during the majority of Infernax. 

If you’re a fan of true to inspiration retro throwbacks and hypotheticals where Undertale meets Castevania, Infernax may be worth your time. However, if you’re more like me and don’t necessarily care to play something that frustrates more than fulfills, maybe consider skipping this one. 

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Reviews

Why Pizza Review

(Why Pizza is available on Microsoft Windows.)

-REVIEW KEY PROVIDED BY DEVS-

This is a game about people with long necks delivering pizzas.

Now that I have your attention, I want to talk to you about this game I played recently called “Why Pizza?”, because I feel like it’s one of the weirder things that’s been downloaded onto my computer (maybe I shouldn’t phrase it like that next time. Kinda sounds a bit off putting).

Why Pizza sees you taking on the role of your everyday pizza person as you dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge your way through oddly spaced corridors and perfectly spaced jumps. The real kicker of a twist on the pretzel pizza pie here is that you’re also sporting a long neck, which ends up making navigation much more difficult than it should be. Throughout my initial playthrough, I never found that the difficulty was raised by something like having a long neck on my ketchup-man.

In all honesty, I felt the first run through the game was uneventful and didn’t hold my attention all that well. Luckily, Why Pizza is incredibly short, sporting a run time of roughly an hour for the first play through. This meant that I was actually able to stay awake long enough to see the ending of the game before boredom had the chance to drown me in dreams. 

That isn’t where the adventure ends though, despite what you may think. Immediately upon completing your initial playthrough of the game, you’re granted access to new characters with even longer necks than those that came before them. This made the game substantially harder, and more tedious (I know this because I quit playing after a few levels due to rage), which wasn’t something I was hoping to run into. But that is what one should expect from a game that clearly pulls influence from the likes of Bennett Foddy after all.

“Thar’s diamond in them rocks!”

The control scheme was also all sorts of messed up. None of the button prompts matched what the inputs actually did, and I couldn’t find any form of remapping to mess around with. This was a pretty obvious port of what I’m assuming to be a mobile game, and it certainly shows.

Then there’s the music and sound aspect of the game, which was completely forgettable to me. I mean that as a genuine criticism. As I sit here writing out this review, the task of recollecting a single sound from Why Pizza is impossible. The only thing my brain keeps playing is the Robot Chicken theme song. 

I’ve long outgrown my enjoyment for intentionally difficult games with poor control schemes like the Flash games of yesteryear. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place in my heart for things like the Katamari series, but the contrast between that series and this is night and day to me. Something about this didn’t quite hit the mark, which was a shame.

I had hoped for a fun way to relive my day job while sitting in a room illuminated by RGB lighting. 

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Music

SleepYYhead’s “Heatwave” out now!

Check out SleepYYhead’s latest single, “Heatwave”, off of the upcoming album, “Giddy with Despair”. The full length still has yet to receive a release date but speculations point toward an early 2022 drop.

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Reviews

Curved Space Review

(Curved Space is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and Xbox One.)

-REVIEW KEY PROVIDED BY DEVS-

It’s never fun having a highly anticipated experience fall flat on it’s face, failing to stick the landing you desperately hoped it would land. Such is the case with Curved Space, an admittedly heartfelt attempt at honoring the tried and true gaming genre of twin-stick shooters.

Now I will admit right out the gate that not everything in Curved Space is flawed. First impressions are important things. Nearly as important as snacks on a road trip, or blackout curtains in your bedroom window if you’ve found yourself living in a desert or a space station. Curved Space completely nails it in this department. Upon launching the game, you’re met with this aesthetically pleasing main menu, complete with some fantastically retro, synthwavey goodness. It’s good stuff, and threw me right into that arcade-esque mood of yesteryear.

Neon bullets and bugs abound!

I was quite excited to experience what Curved Space had to offer beyond it’s visually pleasing opening seconds, so I promptly chose start on the main campaign and was whisked away into what was sure to be a one of a kind experience.

…And that’s where my enjoyment with Curved Space ended.

I’m going to be honest here, the voice acting in Curved Space was not all too great. Upon hearing the game’s spoken dialogue for the first time, my expectations immediately lowered. They weren’t the worst I’ve ever heard in all of my gaming experiences, but it was still jarring enough to make me take a second to reassess just what exactly I thought this game was capable of pulling off.

The writing felt serviceable, but also fell flat here or there. When it came to the general dialogue, the story’s main protagonist’s personality came off as bland, flat and without depth. Outside of that, the writing was interesting enough to keep me going for a short while. Conversations about multiple realities and all that good stuff are abound here. Sadly, I never experienced how the whole thing wraps up, as I gave in to boredom long before then.

This comic book stuff looked pretty neat!

And we’re talking boredom born of one of the cardinal sins of games: poor gameplay.

As much as I tried to make it to the end of what was supposedly a 2-3 hour campaign, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The general controls of Curved Space were fine enough on their own, but fine doesn’t always mean good. It means fine, as in, it’s serviceable but it doesn’t really do anything better than other games out there. That often results in boredom within me after an extremely short period of time, and Curved Space was no exception to this.

Maybe some of this boredom and repetition could have been mitigated if Curved Space provided a larger array of objectives for you to complete. The variety of mission types here is abysmal, leading to repeating objectives just minutes in to the game. I’m not sure if the design philosophy here was to create building blocks that sit neatly together to build a more complex gameplay tower later on in the game or not, but that’s the vibe I got from this one. Unfortunately, I think the mark was missed there as well.

Space Donut.

I’m sure Curved Space will find a niche fanbase, as indicated by the numerous positive reviews I read prior to jumping in to the game myself. I can say with utmost certainty that I am not a part of that group, as Curved Space brought five cons for every pro it gave me. As much as it pains me (as my initial excitement for this one was quite high), I cannot recommend Curved Space as something that you may or may not enjoy. In my experience, this isn’t one that I would suggest to anyone save for Gen X dads who want to relive childhood through a modern lens.

However, if you do happen to fit that description, Curved Space might be the perfect game for you.

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Music

Nylon Children – Summer Camp (Out Now!)

Hidden in the shadows for half a decade, the final Nylon Children release sees the light of day. Click here to stream the album, and feel free to check out the press release below for more info on the new project:

“I have a pretty crazy announcement to share this morning! As part of my effort to continually grow and challenge myself as both a creative and as a person, I decided this year would be the year that I finally release Summer Camp, an album I wrote nearly half a decade ago. It’s something I’ve shown to people here or there, but never to a wider audience, as it was mainly written as a coping mechanism after a series of life changing experiences I went through in my personal life. Oddly enough though, I’ve never felt like I could quite let go of those past experiences in their entirety until I overcame my fear and shared Summer Camp with the world. So now’s the time that I do just that.

This comes at a very scary time in my personal life once again, and I feel it’s the most ideal time to release such a project into the wild. It’s also the last project to be released under the Nylon Children moniker. Moving forward, I’ll be producing under a new name, as I feel the current one has served it’s time and no longer captures the same feeling I’m going for in a project title.

Summer Camp will only be available via Bandcamp. You won’t find it on streaming services or anywhere else. Maybe one day that’ll change, but for the time being, wider distribution is out of the question. On the bright side, the album, as well as every prior Nylon Children release will be available for free, with the option to donate if you feel so inclined.

I want to thank everyone who supported the project over the years. It was a fun period in my music journey, but I’m ready to lay this one to rest and explore new sounds in the sonic space.

If you enjoy Summer Camp, or any previous Nylon Children works, feel free to share away! Or get in contact with me and tell me all about your favorite songs, albums, whatever.” -Nylon Children

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Reviews

Speed Limit Review

(Speed Limit: Arcade Edition is available for Playstation 4/5, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One/X/S)

REVIEW KEY PROVIDED BY DEVS

When I hear the words “Speed Limit”, it becomes very difficult to not want to drop everything at that exact moment, book it to the nearest sources of movies in my vicinity, and request an immediate showing of the 1994 box-office hit, “Speed”. One could potentially think then, using the combined powers of deduction and assumption, that I would thoroughly enjoy a fast-paced, high-octane indie game with an ever-shifting set of genres working alongside one another.

That’s what one could potentially think, right? What if I told you that that theory was instead quickly thrown out the window shortly after my first experience with Speed Limit? Here’s my review.

The opening moments of Speed Limit reminded me of the classic flash games of yesteryear. Where you’re given minimal context to anything at all, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of a plot-free semi-truck barreling right at you. Upon start-up, we’re greeted by a scene of a train ride, with our main character just being a train passenger, passengering about. Moments later, some disheveled, shady as heck looking dude makes their way onto the frame… before keeling over dead. They drop a gun into your lap as they slowly become “aliven’t”, and now you’re the most wanted criminal to ever exist. Better get to running.

What follows is an hour long journey through a variety of different gameplay styles, accompanied by a constant climb in both speed and difficulty. While the game starts you off on foot, pushing you through train-car after train-car at an infuriatingly slow pace (seriously, this guy moves at a snail’s pace), the speed picks up considerably every few minutes. You’ll go from running around in the comfort of your Shoe-baru’s (ha ha) to driving a convertible, to piloting a helicopter, to manning a fighter jet, etc etc. It only keeps going from there.

Now, I’ll be honest with you: On paper, all of this stuff sounds really, really cool. I can’t think of anyone who would argue otherwise. (Maybe an old person, but they’re old so their opinions don’t matter.) Upon execution however, I think a few major missteps were taken, and the end result suffers greatly because of it.

Speed Limit‘s first short-coming became apparent almost immediately after start-up. The second after we’re shown the plot set-up and assume control of the protagonist, it becomes rather obvious that our character moves at an infuriatingly slow speed. Now, maybe this is simply a design choice. It could feel painfully slow as a way to further drive home that feeling of the metaphorical speedometer constantly climbing during one’s playthrough. Sadly, I don’t think it actually works all too well within the confines of the game.

If that wasn’t enough to get me feeling like this wasn’t a good start to the experience, Speed Limit‘s controls in it’s opening moments certainly did the trick. Testing the game on both keyboard/mouse and an Xbox One controller, I found the controls to be pretty hit or miss. I struggled to clear the first area simply because my character would begin to look up while I pressed right for him to go forward. This is an issue because having the character look upward slows him down to an even slower pace than he was already going, making you a near effortless target to take out.

That frustration is taken to an even higher level upon reaching the second phase of the first area. After a short period of running from train-car to train-car, we’re moved to the top of the train where we now have to contend with killer platforms (in addition to the enemies who were already shooting at us). Navigating this area was a nightmare, as the game repeatedly refused to take my inputs into account, smashing me into walls or causing an untimely make-out session with a barrage of bullets.

To top off this cake of conundrums, we have my final gripe with Speed Limit: it’s cameras. Some of the camera positioning in this game is… fine, even great at times. But that’s only sometimes. Outside of those moments, the camera is the worst thing about this game. Having to redo sections of a game due to control issues is something I can tolerate, to an extent. I cannot, however, tolerate a camera that’s been set-up to make me fail.

The first time this becomes apparent is during a chase scene across a waterway, with arches you have to fly through to avoid colliding and, you know, dying. The space you have to clear is pretty small, and you have to be nearly pixel perfect with your movements in order to avoid scraping the walls of the arches. I love pixel perfect movements in games, but only when I can see them. If I can’t see what I’m doing, and have to rely solely on assumptions and luck, that’s a bad thing in my opinion.

This isn’t the only time the camera is an issue either. A later section in the game asks you to control a fighter jet, which I thought would be freaking awesome! It wasn’t. It was nausea-inducing. It’s use of a tunnel-like rotating camera set-up brought upon immediate motion sickness. Bad enough to get me to “nope” the heck out of the game and look away from my monitor. That rarely ever happens.

I went back to revisit Speed Limit a few days after my initial experience, to see if these issues still persisted or if I was being a bit overly-critical in my analysis of the game. The issues still persisted, and they were even harder to overlook on my second playthrough. Maybe it was because I had tried the “normal” difficulty instead of “easy” like I did the first time, but my patience for Speed Limit‘s short-comings was practically non-existent. Which sucks because I love the premise of the game, and was really hoping to enjoy the experience. The pixel art graphics are full of character and charm. The soundtrack had me tapping my foot along to it the entire time. So…

One could potentially think then, using the combined powers of deduction and assumption, that as a fan of both arcade games and genre bending works of programming, I would recommend Speed Limit as a product. However, contrary to potential belief, this is one I cannot suggest based off of my personal experience. As much as it pains me to do this (as it always does), I’ll be giving Speed Limit a verdict of DEFINITELY NOT WORTH ANY PRICE.

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Reviews

Two Cent Video Review: Pony Island

(Pony Island is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.)

Living inside of the Aarcadee Arcade, I’ve seen my fair share of issues in both hardware, and software. But I have never, in all of my years, seen something like this. Pony Island was a game I received back in 2016, but I never had the chance to play it. Now I wish I could go back in time and never pick up this game. The amount of horror and dark imagery I saw tucked within this game’s internals has changed me for life. While it was a memorable time for certain, I can’t really say I would recommend you put yourself in my position. Unless you really want to play a game that will stick with you for years to come.

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Reviews

Two Cent Video Review: A Hat in Time

(A Hat in Time is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, and Mac.)

Platformers are one of my favorite genres. It’s a nostalgic game genre for me and the games can be laid back, or challenging. But it’s been a long time since I’ve played a good 3D platformer. Luckily, A Hat in Time has come to break that dryspell. It’s a pretty good platformer, and I’d recommend it to any fans of the genre.