Another Car Flip, Another Mystery, and a Paternal Talking Head in Grim Tales: The Time Traveler

According to the in-game screen, “Grim Tales: The Time Traveler” is the fourteenth game in the Grim Tales series. It shows, because Elephant Games appears to have weeded out some of the more exasperating elements of adventure games in the genre. Yet, that doesn’t mean the writers don’t fall into a few trope-traps here and there, especially by opening the story with another woman flipping her car. I’m not sure how many times I, the player, have emerged from the swampy side of the road, head fuzzy with concussion, ready to crawl around in the muck to find the car keys (and medallions, fishing line, and other sundries) only to unlock my upside down trunk and embark on a hidden-object puzzle. I have done this so many times I may as well forfeit my license right now and just travel the world solving mysteries with nothing but an illegible notebook and a crowbar.

What about the O’Grays? The Gradys? The Graysons? You’re gonna by busy.

But those are faults of the genre, and not necessarily this particular game, so it would be unfair to dump all of that criticism in Elephant Games’s lap – though, you did make me flip the car. I also want to reiterate that this seems to be the fourteenth game in the series and I have little recollection of playing any of the others – though I most certainly have – and the strangest, most bizarre part of the start of this game is the fact that I WILL MATTER-OF-FACTLY CARRY AROUND MY DEAD FATHER’S SKULL AS IT PROVIDES COMMENTARY AND CLUES. What the actually hell? Perhaps this is a feature that regular players of the series find endearing and even look for, but Murray the Talking Skull he is not. Granted, BoneDaddy is chatty, that’s for sure, but the Dad Ex Machina game mechanic of only finding certain clues because you have to go all “Alas Poor Yorik” in the middle of a murder scene is a little…disconcerting.

This is not okay. This is NOT OKAY!

One small delight I took from playing through the demo of “Grim Tales: The Time Traveler,” was in actually keeping the pliers and screwdriver in my inventory and using them for multiple tasks! The joy of holding on to a useful tool as I progressed from accident scene to murder scene to garden scene to foiled-bbq scene! This is a minor critique in this vast genre, but as I have said before, making the player discard a useful tool is lazy writing and an overplayed game mechanic.  While the voice acting was pretty good, the writing, particularly the dialog writing left a lot to be desired. I understand that we need to be thrust into the mystery straight away, but the nonchalance of our Aunt Gray as she searches the murder scenes of her nephews is troubling. I expected more trauma, more urgency, more thought into the narrative you want me to spend time with. What makes me place down dollars for a casual game is not necessarily unique game play or visuals, but a desire to see the story through to its conclusion. “Grim Tales: The Time Traveler,” while featuring some of the better puzzle mechanics of its contemporaries, suffers from dull writing and an interrupting ghost dad that, to be honest, talks to his daughter as if she were a moron. She should take that golf club and drive him into the sun.

Up is Down, Left is Where? The Night Henry Allen Died

I really want to love “The Night Henry Allen Died.” Everything about this browser game at Armor Games appeals to me. I love the isometric graphics. I love the music and sound design. I love the story. I love the whole idea of this game.

I just didn’t love playing it.

This is probably more about my own inadequacies than any of the game, but I found myself completely stymied by two things:

The controls: I’m not new to isometric gaming, nor keyboard gaming, but intuitively I found myself thinking that the upper-left direction was “up” and not “left” as coded for the game. There are only a few areas to explore but because my hand would not adapt to the game’s cardinal north, I found navigating terribly frustrating. This could also be due to the starting area, where the exit is found in the upper left.

The dialog: I’m all for a game that’s based solely on dialog, but I would have liked to see conversation choices that I had already run through eliminated, especially as you gain more information or meet more characters there are more items to scroll through. As with the movement controls, this is only done through the arrow keys and by the time I tap down to the newest topic of discussion, I’ve forgotten why I’m even asking.

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The moon probably kept hitting the left arrow instead of the up arrow and got lost.

I played one time last night after seeing it mentioned on Twitter. I went in with the best intentions and felt frustrated by the controls. I decided to leave it for the day and come back to it fresh in the morning. Unfortunately, I had the same issues, my right hand unwilling to reorient itself to the controls and the incessant down-arrowing to get past old dialog became stale quickly. I proceeded further than yesterday, but I can’t say that I found the second play-through better than the first.

“The Night Henry Allen Died” is a potentially interesting game, particularly in its story…goal(?), however some basic control issues keep it from being a more immersive narrative.

Rating: Try

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I wanted to stay, but…