Neverliria’s early access demo looks promising…and creepy

New sandbox games struggle under comparisons to some of the giants in gaming in the last five years. Yet when I downloaded SmartHartGames’s Neverliria to try out, I made sure that since this game was in such early stages, I didn’t bring any preconceived notions to this preview. I’m glad I didn’t, because there’s a quiet charm to Neverliria that foreshadows what could be an enjoyable experience.

Chopping trees is mandatory. Always.

You begin as a “fire-headed girl” alone in the woods at night. Glowing green eyes peer at you from between trees and various ruins. To survive, build a fire, collect resources, and…well, it’s still early times in Neverliria and you would be best served just keeping the baddies away from your corn field and supplies.

Neverliria has the beginnings of a good tutorial system.

The controls took a bit to get used to, my fingers naturally looking to use the W key for anything, but once I discovered a few helpful mechanics — especially when it comes to placing items in your chest — I progressed just fine. I felt a little confused after building the sawmill, but, early game development may not have all the functionality built in. The icons used for items took a little sussing out, but that may well be subjective and the items they represent may be obvious to another player.

Just handing out with an old dude, trying not to get eaten. Fire is your friend.

I enjoyed trying out Neverliria and look forward to the story that develops in the game, as well as expanded craftables and perhaps a little more detailed instructions — it took me a bit to figure out how to eat. Always a fan of pixel art, the design and sprite graphics are just detailed enough to have personality, but not overwhelming, the scenery dense enough to be ominous. I am hoping there is a less subtle way of measuring the passage of time, though, because you need to get those fires up…or else.

If you like testing out games in their early incarnations, download Neverliria and give it a go. I’ll be watching this one as it develops and will do an updated review when it is complete.

Cube Escape is the rightful heir to Submachine and is so good, we don’t deserve it

With all the Steams and Switches in the world, it’s sometimes hard to remember excellent game areas such as Kongregate. Last night, desperate to shake the unyielding crawl of Fetch Games, I stumbled into their puzzle section and found “Cube Escape: The Cave,” which is the ninth installment of the Rusty Lake series. I now find myself having to go back and play the other eight. The detail of the games atmosphere and puzzles left me bewildered and disturbed, a phantom shadow here, an unfortunate recipe there, and all the while I was wondering how could these puzzles be so challenging without being annoying. There is more than narrative magic in “Cube Escape: The Cave”: there is developer magic as well.

You want so much to feed the doggy. Then you have to feed the doggy. Oh, no doggy, no.

The escape-room genre, recently and not necessarily to its benefit, seen a bump in interest due to the prevalence of IRL escape room games; either permanent locations or pop-up events have become common in the city-scape. Yet, the idea of heading into a room with a group of people (known and unknown) to find the clues and perform the tasks needed to escape seems completely antithetical to the genre. You are alone, in a room, and there are a series of puzzles you must solve to escape and that solitude is what makes solving the puzzles so essential, and urgent. The idea of solving a complicated puzzle with a bunch of buzzed bros from the Bowery feels so much like torture, more akin to the Saw franchise, than a successor to “The Crimson Room.”

My stopping point when I played through. I’ll return to this room when I have the focus it requires. Probably after lunch.

“Cube Escape: The Cave” gives me the same urgency and desperate need for immersion as “Crimson Room” and “Submachine.” I need to solve each riddle and I need to move on, either escaping completely or on to the next adventure. That there are eight other iterations of “Cube Escape” leaves me anxious for a long stretch of time where I can work my way through its labyrinthine story and solve all the puzzles (with the help from a hint or two, not gonna lie). And while playing at Kongregate allows me to save my place, I would have gladly started all over. I highly recommend giving this chapter a try (as it’s the only one I’ve played so far) and let me know if you have a favorite chapter in the series.

The 111th Soul makes me admit to the Internet that I’m a big, ole scaredy-cat

There’s a lot to like about “The 111th Soul.” Created by a solo developer, Ricardo Pratas, and available on Steam, the sound-design and immersive feel to the game give this a deep atmospheric tone. Playing with mouse and keyboard was a little weird for me, as the fluid movement paired with my mouse settings made me a little woozy until I got used to it. I acclimated quickly, though, and was immediately absorbed into looking through the creepy house, checking out items, walking through doors, all the while waiting for the bad thing to happen.

That’s the atmosphere of “The 111th Soul,” knowing that the bad thing is right around the corner, behind a door, in another room. And, Internet, I’m here to tell you, I’m a wimp. I was a little stymied looking for a box of

matches, but once I set one thing in motion, I started to quaver. When the first bad thing happened, I took a few steps back and decided to try the front door again. Nope. I went room-by-room, willing the developer to give me some in-game release from the dread that was slowly taking over. I went back to the bad thing and discovered the way forward and for a moment, I thought, “it’s just a game, Girl Adventurer. You’ve got Adventure in your name for cripes sake!”

The creepy photos and grandfather clock really tie the room together….tick tock tick tock.

I tried the front door again.

“Nooooooooo,” my internal monitor screamed as I approached one of two closed doors. I knew there were more bag things afoot and as I approached the end of the hallway, one of those bad things made a noise.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. I hit the ESC key and quit. I’m a scaredy-cat.

This should be more than enough recommendation to try out Pratas’ “The 111th Soul.” If you enjoy this kind of immersive, shuddering experience, I think you will not be disappointed. In fact, go play it for me and come back and tell me how much fun it was. I’ll be sitting here, cowering by the front door, ready to run.