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.

Well, hello Clarisse: This game has a lot of energy and hopefully a full version soon

When I came to write this review of Not Human Games’ “Clarisse,” I wanted to do a little checking to see if the game was still in development. It had been months since the developers updated information over at Game Jolt and very little action on the Steam Greenlit space as well. The company’s twitter feed did mention that “Clarisse” won a Better Narrative Design award at the Valencia Indie Summit┬áso it appears that the game will still find a full release date. My conundrum was wanting to review this prologue chapter to the game because I truly enjoyed playing it, but I didn’t want to recommend something that was dead in the water.

This is also the feeling I have when I read a review of a game only to be given a link to their Kickstarter. Dang.

“Clarisse” is a point-and-click game in the classic style, with nice interactive play, challenging puzzles, and a compelling story line. Your role is Clarisse, an AI developed by and assisting a scientist with a lofty, if not secretive, mission: “No more wars. No more hunger. No more injustice.” The stakes are enormous for the success of this new technology, but quickly you see that your human assistant is suffering from some unknown ailment. The demo of “Clarisse” is relatively short, but the dialog and story set up are so entertaining that the end comes far too quickly.

Mr. Cat is watching and judging your performance.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I will add warn you that after coming to the end of your play through, you may find yourself frustrated that you cannot play further. The character design is particularly well done, giving us a complex personality through the use of dialog and high-quality pixel art. The sound design is spot on and one of the most jarring moments for me happened before the game even began. After loading the game, I turned away from the title screen to make a note and I heard a scratchy sound and I turned back quickly. I’ll admit I watched that title screen for many minutes, listening to the different shorts and zzts as the image glitches out for a moment. I was a nice little effect on an oft ignored area of any game.

When it came to the actual puzzles in the demo, of which there are basically three, I was at a bit of a loss. Either I missed, or the game didn’t provide, clear instruction on what I was supposed to accomplish on two of them – one game reminded me of the old “Reflections” flash game from the early 2000s, so I was pretty clear on that one, though it stymied me for a time – and I ended up fussing about with selections and controls until I basically stumbled upon the solution. I cannot be sure if this is my fault or a lack in the demo itself, but the story and characters of the game are so interesting that I’m happy to put the blame on myself until the full version is released.

I didn’t know if the beeps should go fast or slow, in time with the flashes or not, up, down, right, left, A, B…I got it in the end, though.

In a final note, if the developers of “Clarisse” happen to find themselves in this swampy corner of the Internet, please finish the game soon, because any game company who adds the following to an update list, is a company I want to give my money to:

Mr. Cat is being alive, he is a sweet and adorable cat.

Moral Obligation in Don’t Take This Risk

I downloaded this game by Poison Apple Tales on a whim based on the screen shot of the menu. I had no idea what was in store for me, nor any idea what the game was about. Unless I’m on the fence about something, I tend to stay away from promotional material, letting my high-quality visual acumen be the judge of what game I will play next.

Thankfully, Don’t Take This Risk comes with a warning that gives me a glimpse into the journey the player is about to take.

DontTakeTheRisk02
It took me a while to click to continue.

After this, it goes without saying that there is a big trigger warning when approaching Don’t Take This Risk and I want to underline that here. I played through three times, the first two time I earned the same ending, #1, out of a possible nine. On the third play through, I earned ending #2. I wasn’t able to sit through ending #1 a second time. This game, in the early areas at least, is devoid of graphical distractions. It’s just you and another voice and this blackness erases any visual stimulation. The player and the character are connected only through language, verbal or written, and this makes for a more exhilarating experience. On the first play through, my heart raced a bit as I struggled to answer questions within the time limit, yet on the second, I found myself rushing through the character responses so I could get to a place to make a different choice. Still, after earning ending #1 again, I was troubled enough to take out my ear buds while the ending “happened.” Even the second time, the emotional work wore me down.

I can’t and won’t speak to the other options in Don’t Take This Risk, as I don’t want to lead you down one path or the other. Yet, if you do decide to play this game, please be warned that it deals with disturbing subjects such as abusive relationships and suicide. If those hit too close to home, feel free to take a pass.