Alice: Madness Returns (Steam)

Requested by bloodrosered

Ten years ago, after a fire killed her family, Alice Liddell fought her way through a corrupt Wonderland in her mind. Now she’s trying to regain some semblance of a normal life only to have to fight her way through a corrupt Wonderland once again. Will Alice be victorious or will insanity overtake her?

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MultiVerses Alpha Test

That’s right, WBGames themselves sent me an invitation to sign up for the alpha test of Multiversus and I was actually one of the view selected after sending in my application! It’s a fighting game where you can play as any WB character from Shaggy to Wonder Woman! The tutorial starts out with a fight between those two characters with you playing Shaggy but, in real life, Shaggy wouldn’t stand a chance. Let’s face it. Anyway, I’ve tried out the game for a bit and so far I have played as Shaggy (thanks to the tutorial level), Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn. As for the game itself, it is a bit addicting but, word of advice, if you’re playing with the computer keyboard, it’s absolute murder. Your hands get cramped up trying to press keyboards at random. Yeah, you might want to invest in a computer controller for this game. Though, honestly, I’ve never been good at fighting games unless fighting a bot or an idiot. I’m not kidding, during the couple of days I played this game, I only won one match. I either need a controller for my computer or much more practice. Anyway, beta test opens on July so, if this is your type of game, feel free to check it out!

The Lion’s Song Episode 3 Derivation (Steam Store)

When an elite group of mathematicians won’t take Emma seriously, she disguises herself as a man to gain access and talk about her theory.  Can Emma successfully lead a double life?

Like the last two episodes, this one takes place in early 20th Century Germany.  We’ve already met Emma in the last episode, disguised as Emil when Franz wanted to paint him.  We also get to meet Nikol, who is the niece of Leos, a character who accidentally calls Wilma in the first episode.  In this episode, we finally explore the gender issues of early 20th Century Germany. With Wilma, we only get a small hint about the roles expected of men and women.  With Franz, no one told him that he couldn’t be a painter. With Emma, she is an aspiring mathematician who tries to become part of the Radius, an elite group of men with the same job, but they won’t take her seriously because of her gender.

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I’ve already explained that Emma is working on her theory of change, but the men won’t recognize her as a genius.  According to them, a woman’s mind is more domestic than it is logical. However, Emma herself works more on math equations and admits that she’s not suited for the domestic.  In order to prove herself, she has to take up cross-dressing so that men will take her seriously.

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I remember watching an episode of Sherlock BBC set in the Victorian Era when one of the already established female characters, Molly, disguises herself as a man.  My mom told me that such ruses were quite common for women who wanted to be more than what society would allow them to be. While women don’t have to go to such extremes today (at least in my country), sexism still exists today which I will talk about later.

I’m sure many of you are wondering why Wilma never took issue with the traditional gender roles of society as Emma did.  This is because Wilma’s dream is to be a composer, which is a field women have an easier time entering. She has to isolate herself from society in order to write the great composition that could make or break her career, something the people around her encourage.  However, sexism still exists in Wilma’s chosen profession. Emma herself claims that, while Wilma has a dream society allows women to have, only men can sit first chair in a concert hall. Whether Wilma will take issue with this in the future is a question that the game won’t answer.  Emma, as I demonstrated earlier, has talents and a dream that society discourages her to have but, thanks to the words of her father, chooses to go against what society wants from her. Even when the men of the Radius mock and humiliate Emma, she doesn’t give up on her dream.

As I said, sexism still exists in both professions today, particularly in the world of math and science.  While women have the same opportunities as men, society will deny them these chances because of their gender.  I don’t know how it is in Germany but, in today’s American society, women often dominate the soft sciences, such as biology, while men dominate the hard sciences, such as physics.  I know one woman who’s majoring in a physics career yet considered changing it when her jealous boyfriend didn’t like her working in a male-dominated field. Even today, many men claim that women don’t have a gene for math and science.  Take the Big Bang Theory; the men each have a job in the physicist department, with the exception of Howard who’s an engineer. Meanwhile, the first woman character is an aspiring actor down on her luck who eventually makes friends with two other women, both working in a separate field of biology.  The theoretical physicist, Sheldon, often mocks his girlfriend, Amy, for having a job in biology. At one point, he tells a woman physicist that she needs to give up science for laundry and childbearing, even going so far as to slut shame her. Pop Culture Detective himself addresses the “adorkable misogyny” of the Big Bang Theory.  I will give credit to the Lion’s Song for not treating the misogyny as adorkable.

Sexism also exists in classical music today, with one man claiming that women can’t be conductors because they’ll distract the men to the point that they can’t concentrate on their performance.  Apparently, men have no willpower, sarcastically speaking. Classical music also shares one sexist aspect in common with math and science professions in that society rewards women in both areas based on how they look rather than their skills in said professions.  I’ll admit that I’m not that knowledgeable about classical music, but the Big Bang Theory had an episode about Bernadette getting a feature in a magazine about being one of fifty of California’s most beautiful scientists. My mom once again explained the truth of this to me about how magazines tend to talk more about how women scientists wear their hair than they do about what they accomplish.  On the other hand, society rewards men for their accomplishments rather than how they look.

The game play itself only slightly deviates from the last episode.  Like Franz, Emma can go as she pleases around town. Unlike Franz, she also has the option about whether she wants to go somewhere as Emma or as Emil.  Whether she’s transsexual or not depends on your dialogue choices, which you get to pick for her. You can also pick dialogue choices for Emma that determines whether she can prove herself as a mathematician.  This episode also comes with one unique play style that represents Emma’s chosen profession. You know how Wilma can hear music from various sounds and Franz can see the different personality layers of people that helps him paint?  Emma sees the world through equations, which helps her to calculate her theory about change.

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However, this game still has that retro style which gives it the unique historical fiction experience that makes it great.

This game is insightful and unique.  I give it 9 out of 10; it really makes you think about sexism in the past versus the sexism of today.

The Lion’s Song Episode 2 Anthology (Steam)

At the turn of the 20th Century, a young aspiring painter named Franz struggles to make a name for himself.  He has the ability to see the different layers of people, yet has trouble bringing them to life in his paintings.  Can Franz discover that one element he needs to bring his paintings to life?

Once again, we have another story about the struggles of an artist.  Like Wilma, Franz is struggling to find himself and develop his work.  However, while Wilma had to isolate herself in a cabin to develop her next song, Franz needs to go out and explore the real world to be able to bring life to his paintings.  On his journey, he takes advice from an art critic, Grete, and has a session with real life historical psychiatrist Dr. Sigmund Freud. I don’t want to give anything away but, at the end, there’s one painting you help Franz with.  Whether he completes it is up to the choices you make.

Like the last episode, you get to see references to early 20th Century Germany and, as mentioned earlier, Sigmund Freud makes an appearance.  You get to see history in the making from the fashions to the farmer’s market.

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Slight spoiler alert, Franz not only knows Wilma but actually painted her.  If that’s not enough, you get to hear Wilma’s song on the gramophone.

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For those of you who explored everything the cabin had to offer, the Grete in this episode is also the same one who sent a love letter to Arthur.  You also see another hint for what will take place in Episode 3 when Franz has the opportunity to paint a Mathematician.

The game play is similar to the last episode, with you making dialogue choices for Franz.

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As I said in the second paragraph, you get to explore more in this episode than you did in the last one.  In the first episode, you had little to no control over where Wilma went next. She stayed in a cabin, listening to the sounds around her for musical inspiration and only left in dreams.  With Franz, you could explore the city and actually talk to people to learn how they view the world. You also get to see how Franz views people by the white silhouettes representing the layers of each person’s personality.  You even get chances to paint people and ask them questions. What you ask determines how the painting will turn out.

This game is insightful and intriguing.  I give it 9 out of 10, it somewhat made me think and managed to get a chuckle out of me at certain points.

The Lion’s Song Episode 1 Silence (Steam)

Wilma’s a promising young musician in early 1900s Austria who’s having trouble coming up with a new composition.  Her professor offers to let her stay in his cabin for the week, hoping Wilma can find inspiration. Will she be able to write her next piece in time for the weekend concert?

As you can see, this game is historical fiction and it has a retro design to drive that point home.  This chapter is about Wilma and her struggles with her own insecurities. This shows itself in symbolic dreams, her crush on her professor and her conversations with Leos over the telephone.  I’ll admit that Arthur is a bit of a selfish jerk, trying to force Wilma to come up with a composition so he doesn’t lose face. However, Wilma’s crush on him is realistic as he is an accomplished professor.  Leos is a man who calls a random number to test out his new telephone and ends up talking to Wilma about his problems while helping her in return.

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The dreams are also very symbolic of the pressure Arthur put Wilma under and her very own insecurities.  Wilma even finds herself weird for caring more about her musical career than she does about starting a family, something she briefly talks about with Leos. In other stories, I’d consider this sexist but, in this game, I actually thought it was a clever nod to the role of women in that time.  Another aspect of the time is how remarkable Leos thinks the telephone and its ability to communicate with people from different parts of the world are. People of our time have the same reaction when we try out virtual reality for the first time at Best Buy.

The game play is simple point and click with you also picking Wilma’s dialogue options.

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You choose what Wilma will say to people and you click various objects to help her find inspiration.  Many players might find this confusing, but keep in mind that Wilma is a musician. She can hear music from the drops of the rain to the swinging of the lantern.  Wilma also gets ideas from reading books and letters that help her decide how to write her composition. Not only is it your job to click on the various items. You also have to find them in the right order.  Whether the audience thinks Wilma’s song is a masterpiece or run of the mill classical depends on you.

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This game is insightful and intriguing.  I give it 8 out of 10, a compelling psychological study on how musicians create.

Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 5: Don’t Stop Believin

Hala’s wreaking havoc all across the galaxy and only the Guardians can stop her.  There’s only one issue, the Guardians broke up.  Can Starlord get the gang back together and stop Hala?

Any true Guardians fan knows that the answer to the last question is yes.  I’m sure you also remember the death that broke the Guardians up in the last episode. Turns out that the writers didn’t go through with it, but I think that we can all figure that out.  I’m not going to give much away but I will tell you that two of the Guardians are miserable.  After all they’ve been through; I can’t really blame them.  This time, they’re actually upset about events in their life that matter.  The final Guardian, Groot, gets his time to shine in a flashback about how the Guardians met.

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It’s similar to the movie with a few humorous moments that makes it the Guardians of the Galaxy.  That’s what I love about this franchise; the writers know how to blend the perfect amount of darkness and light that makes Guardians of the Galaxy shine.  It’s something Batman Forever failed at miserably.  You also get a scene where you can listen to Starlord’s awesome music.

The game play is typical of any Telltales game, with you picking dialogue choices for Starlord and, at one point, Groot.  During action scenes, you have to press the right key at the right time.  Let me tell you, those scenes really sneak up on you.

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At one point, you get to assign a task to each Guardian during the final mission to take out Hala.

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Rocket came up with the plan, so you can bet that one of these tasks is useless but still funny.  There’s another scene where Mantis takes you inside Peter’s head and you can determine Peter’s thoughts and relationships with the other guardians.  It’s fun and heartwarming at the same time.  When you’re finished, you can compare your choices to those other players made and get a sneak preview of what’s to come in season 2.

This game is addictive and amusing.  I give it 8 out of 10, a brilliant finale for Guardians of the Galaxy Season 1.

Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 4: Who Needs You (Steam)

After making your choice about the Eternity Forge, Hala buries you underground.  Meanwhile, the Guardians find themselves at odds about your decision.  Can you stop Hala while repairing the damaged relationships among the Guardians of the Galaxy?

I’m sure you remember that decision you had to make in the last episode that I talked about being the strong point of the story. Now be prepared to find out that whatever decision you made doesn’t matter in the slightest.  If you destroy the Eternity Forge, Hala sucks up all of its energy and uses it to bring her race back.  So all that time you spent mulling over what to do with the Eternity Forge is useless.  Even Rocket takes the time to point that out to you, in case you didn’t come to that conclusion yourself.  This is what we in the story business like to call lazy writing.  To top it all off, everyone’s so busy fighting each other the Guardians forget that the issue is that Hala is out there committing mass murder.  Unfortunately, you don’t get a dialogue choice to remind them of this either.  Say what you want about the Final Frontier, which is a guilty pleasure for me, but the characters had enough sense to realize that they need to focus on the major problem.  Let me explain that, in the movie, Sybok takes over the Enterprise and uses it to cross a deadly barrier to find God, or Sha Ka Ree.  Spock talks about how Sha Ka Ree is not real and Kirk tells him that the present issue is a mad man took over his ship and could possibly destroy it in some mad quest.  When Final Frontier beats you in a story aspect, you really need to re-think your writing.

The story does have its strong points, such as Drax’s flashback.  I have to admit, I’m not really a big fan of Drax.  However, his flashback is one of the most well done I’ve seen and it doesn’t take away from the story.  It’s a short and yet memorable scene where Drax talks to his daughter before she has to go away for training.

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Your choices determine how Drax’s daughter thinks of him.  It also leads to scene where Drax makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the Guardians in a scene that’s almost a tearjerker.  I have to admit, it took me by surprise.  While the scene is sad, the episode is not without its funny moments.  Some of the humor can get juvenile and, at one point, the game makes an unnecessary fart joke.  However, when a giant worm eats you in a plot point similar to Star Wars, you have to make the decision about whether you want the creature to vomit you out or poop you out.  I went with the former and, in this case, I’m glad the writers realized how silly this sounded.  One of the aspects of Guardians of the Galaxy is that the writers know when to take the plot seriously and when to embrace the silly.  The CW show, Supernatural, also uses this writing technique.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can ignore the story’s weaknesses.  In the second paragraph, I talked about how everyone forgets about the threat Hala imposes on the universe.  This doesn’t change by the end where, depending on how you handle Drax, people are mad at you.  It gets so bad that people leave the group, starting with Mantis who can’t take having to deal with everyone’s extreme emotions.  Never mind that the Eternity Forge is her responsibility and still causing havoc around the galaxy because of Hala.  Then, depending on whether you let Drax sacrifice himself or not, different people get mad at you and leave the group.  They just momentarily forget that Hala is committing mass murder across the galaxy because of what they did.  No, it’s all about them; how they can’t cope with all of the drama in their lives.  I understand that your main characters need to have flaws and that no one can agree with each other all the time.  However, the moment when your heroic group breaks up is not supposed to be when the world or, in this case galaxy, is in serious danger.  These characters act like spoiled children who throw a tantrum the minute things don’t go their way.

The game play is typical Telltale with you making dialogue choices for whatever character you currently play.  However, your choices make no difference except to determine who stays with you when the Guardians break up.  There is one impact in the game about whether you get to have a sandworm companion but that’s about it.

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The game comes with its own quick time events that are addictive as always without sneaking up on you.  You also get to explore the inside of the giant worm in order to collect engines to fix your ship and talk to the Guardians while you do so.

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The game is disappointing yet fun.  I give it 6 out of 10; not the best story but still a nice little diversion.

Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story (Steam)

After deleting Sam’s phone, you find another one that belongs to a girl named Laura.  Can you discover who is she and help her?

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While the premise is the same as the last game, the plot couldn’t be more different.  I should tell you that I’m about to give major spoilers to the plot, so proceed with caution.  Unlike Sam, Laura is an adult and doesn’t struggle with who she is.  However, Laura is not without problems and hers involve her boyfriend, Ben.  I’m just going to tell you that Laura’s in an abusive relationship.  Ben has her send her GPS coordinates to him regularly.  He goes through her phone on a daily basis.  He even deleted her birth control reminders off her phone so she’s forget to take her pill.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  His worst offense is sending a sexy video Laura made for her ex-boyfriend to her co-workers and putting the blame on her ex-boyfriend.  This also leaves Laura open to sexual harassment from her co-workers, none of them believing that she didn’t send this video.  Unfortunately, there’s truth in fiction with this situation.  During the High School Musical craze, the lead actress, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, faced slut shaming due to someone posting naked pictures of her on the internet.  No one considered that she might have taken the photos for her boyfriend and someone posted them without permission, making her the violated party.  As in the case of many people in abusive relationships, Laura’s too blinded by love to see what’s going on.  Then finds herself craving the moments when Ben’s nice to her, insisting that he can change.  However, the game does have unfortunate implications.  This time, I’m not just talking about the game play.  When Laura attends a seminar for people in abusive relationships, she mentions that everyone at the meeting is a woman.  Even now, people fail to see that men can also be the victim in an abusive relationship.

As I said earlier, the game play comes with unfortunate implications.  Let me put it this way, it’s another story about respecting someone’s rights as a human being, while violating their rights as a human being.  You can see the contradiction.  Only, this time, you don’t send messages or post pictures pretending to be Laura.  I’ll admit that the game play is intriguing with you having to search through her phone and use deductive reasoning to figure out her passwords.  However, you can easily change the plot of how you got the phone to make it less invasive.  You could have the story be about Laura reporting Ben to the police for domestic abuse and handing her phone over to a cop to present as evidence.  It would erase the issue of violating someone’s privacy and it’s believable.

This game is fun but uncomfortable.  I give it 7 out of 10; a great game but needs to be better thought out.

Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 3: More Than A Feeling (Steam Store)

When the Guardians rescue an eccentric alien name Mantis, she claims to hold the key to the Eternity Forge’s power.

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Now Starlord’s left with one decision, destroy the Eternity Forge or unlock its full power.  Either way, the fate of the universe rests in his hands.

I have to admit, my original impression of the game was that each episode would be about someone each of the Guardians lost in their past.  It would also give a reason for why each one of them wants to use The Forge.  Instead, only two of the Guardians want to use the Forge while the other two think Starlord should destroy it.  If you want to know who wants what, remember Drax’s reason for going after Thanos.  Then remember Rocket’s origin story from Episode 2, the one that sent me spiraling into depression.  After that, use the process of elimination to figure out which two Guardians want to destroy The Forge.  If you feel that I’ve turned a complex plot from a fun and yet serious super-hero story into a boring math problem, you couldn’t be more right.

Each episode delves into the past of one of the Guardians.  In this one, it’s Gamora’s turn.  Unlike the last episode, this one doesn’t insist on taking a break from the plot at large to delve into a Guardian’s back-story.  During the game, it’s clear that Gamora and her sister, Nebula, have issues.  Considering that they’re both the adopted daughters of an evil overlord who turned them against each other as part of their assassin training, it’s not hard to believe.

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Now we get to see what drove Gamora and Nebula apart.  In the interest of not giving anything away, I’m just going to tell you that it’s a very deadly Three’s Company plot.  Whether they make up or not is in your hands.

The game play is typical of Telltale with you picking the dialogue options for the characters you play.

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There are times when you will have to participate in QuickTime events that require you to press the right button at the right time.  Like many other Telltale games, they sneak up on you.

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In the previous episodes, you had the option of checking your codex and mail and you can do so in this one as well.  If you chose to give Thanos’s body to NovaCorp, let me tell you that Rocket’s right, they are d*cks.  In the last episode, they refuse to stand down and let you handle Nebula.  These so-called cops won’t even listen to you when you claim that it’s to save the galaxy.  In fact, they won’t even give you the bounty and proclaim you the enemies of the galaxy.  It makes you want to replay the game and give Thanos to the Collector.

Some choices will affect the game play and, as I said earlier, there is one choice that will set the stage for future episodes.  At the end of the episode, you have the choice to either use the Eternity Forge or destroy it.

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I’m sure many people who’ve lost a loved one can sympathize with Drax and Rocket when they vote to use the relic.  However, consider that the relic can only bring someone back from the dead if someone else takes their place.  Also, remember that Hala wants to resurrect the entire Kree race and she will murder whoever stands in her way to accomplish this.  Would you take away someone else’s life and risk ruthless people using this power for evil just to get the people you lost back?  Trust me when I say that it’s the most difficult decision you’ll ever have to make in the game.  No matter what you do, this decision will test the bonds of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

This game is addictive and intriguing.  I give it 9 out of 10, the perfect combination of light and dark elements.