Video Game Review: Until Dawn

If you play a lot of games and own a PS4, PS Now is a great investment. There are loads of interesting games on there that I probably wouldn’t otherwise pay for, but get to try as part of my subscription to the service.

Until Dawn was one such game. I love horror films- I collect B movies and consider myself a huge fan of the genre- but I cannot cope with horror games. They freak me out too much. I managed to painstakingly limp my way through the Resident Evil REMake and Resident Evil Zero a few years back, but beyond that, anything even vaguely scary is beyond my ability to deal with.

I had been aware of Until Dawn for some time; I love a choice-based, heavy narrative game. Until Dawn is a wonderful homage to a genre I adore. However, my intense fear of horror games put me off paying for it.

The game itself has multiple protagonists: various teenage stereotypes who have that occasionally clunky feel of having been written by adults who don’t really get teenagers. They are also all terrible and I despised them all at the beginning. I couldn’t wait for them to start dying. After a couple of hours of trying to steer the dafties away from danger, however, I was rooting for their survival.

Keeping them alive is easier said than done- they can all die, and seemingly arbitrary choices can mean the difference between life and death for these pixelated cliches. (I kept all of them alive, miraculously, and there was a real satisfaction in that.)

The story itself is sort of predictable, but pleasantly twisty and interesting. It moves along at a steady pace and changes things up often enough to stave off boredom. It’s a relatively short game, too.

Is it terrifying? Yes, it is. There are millions of jump scares in it. (Slight hyperbole.) If you have been avoiding it because it seems frightening, then probably keep avoiding it. For me, it was charming and funny enough to get me through the absolute horror of some (frankly very cheap) jump scares.

The game feels very “Telltale”- it’s that narrative based adventure style where you “do” relatively little. There are a whole bunch of quick time events here. I don’t hate them, but I know a lot of people do. The choices feel meaningful and there are a bunch of interesting clues to collect about the lore and history of the spooky mountain setting.

I’d recommend this one, especially if you play it with company.

Games to play when everything is dreadful

As we all know, everything is dreadful at the moment. Here is a list of my favourite games to play for escapism- most of them are chill and restful, but there are some absurd, escapist titles too.

Stardew Valley

This is probably the most recommended game for times when people need to forget their troubles and escape into a soothing, low-stress game- for good reason. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing your little pixelated farm grow. I have named my chickens after Shakespearean heroines and I feel immense joy every time my farmer self goes to hang out with them.

The Sims

I personally have The Sims 3 and The Sims 4, but any of the Sims games provide a fantastic escape from reality. I like to create my own little world and lose myself in the narrative I’ve made, but there are many ways to play The Sims, including burning them all to death or building a pool then deleting the ladder. Whatever gets you through- this is a judgment-free zone!

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Obviously, everyone is abuzz about the new Animal Crossing game, but I wanted to include something that is free. Pocket Camp can be played on your phone and is adorable and highly soothing.

The Witcher 3

Hear me out on this one, okay? Yes, The Witcher 3 is about slaughtering scary and gruesome monsters who frequently want to bite your face off. However, there is something very freeing about becoming Geralt, an all-powerful grump who is capable of slashing his way through any foe. The world is immersive and beautiful, and the narrative is complex and engaging.

Planet Coaster

As the world enters lockdown, and going to enjoy things like theme parks becomes impossible, why not create your own digital version? I think simulation games are perfect in times like these; you can be in charge of your own slice of pixelated existence and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your vision come to life before your very eyes.

Keep safe, everyone!

Board Game Review: Unlock 3! Secret Adventures

I keep meaning to play more board games. Although I love them, I feel like there are many big, popular games I have not played. This is not one of those games; in fact, this is a game I have never heard of before.

The game basically takes the popular ‘escape room’ format and applies it to a card game- with surprisingly successful results.

There are three games in the box, plus a tutorial level. It’s worth saying first, I think, that there is absolutely no replay value here at all. Absolutely zero. Once you have solved these puzzles, I can’t possibly imagine why you’d go back and do it again while knowing all the answers. With that in mind, I’d recommend borrowing this game (from a library, perhaps) rather than buying it. It seems to be going for just over £20, and I think I’d resent paying that much for it. That said, it is fairly excellent fun, so perhaps worth the splurge.

The stories are Noside Story, Tombstone Express and Adventurers of Oz. All three are quite different in terms of tone and narrative; Noside Story is a fairly wacky mad scientist story, Tombstone Express is a western locomotive mystery and Adventurers of Oz is a puzzling retelling of the Wizard of Oz story.

All three follow the same core mechanics; you use the cards and have to find clues and solve puzzles. The cards themselves are beautiful and very well-designed. Tombstone Express also had a bizarre shooting mini game where you threw bullets at cards, which did not quite work. Adventurers of Oz was by far the most puzzle-heavy, and also the most satisfying.

This was a fun, collaborative game. I played with one other person, but I imagine it would be delightful with a bigger group. You can also play alone, and I think that would be fine, although I feel talking it through and sharing in the satisfaction of solving the puzzles is probably better.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and will be keeping an eye out for the other games in the series.

Rating: 4/5