ABYSS ODYSSEY (2014) is a video game by ACE Team, an indie developer founded in 1997 by brothers Andrés, Carlos and Edmundo Bordeu, headquartered in Santiago, Chile. They also made The Deadly Tower of Monsters (2016) and Rock of Ages II (2017) that I tried out during previous Tuesdays.

Click here for the free PS4 demo

While Deadly Tower was an isometric platformer with a retro-scifi aesthetic and Rock of Ages II a tower-defense with Monty Python-esque style, ABYSS ODYSSEY is an Art Nouveau inspired side-scroller.

The fighting reminded me a bit of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, with lots of button combos, hack and slash. It’s roguelike, with procedurally generated levels. Character death means starting over from the surface and plumbing the depths of the abyss all over again, to find new layouts and different enemies each time.

Rated “T” for teens, for partial nudity and violence.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #3 – 1990

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one, labeled “My Special Tape,” is a melancholy miscellany that reflects the personal struggles of my young adulthood. Love, loss, longing.

I can remember holding this tape so many times in my youth, wondering who I was and what I would be, and here I am, holding it in my hands again, almost thirty years later. It feels strange, as if I’m in two places at once, the present and the past, the east and the west, the old and the young.

In true mix tape style, this is not only a collection of songs but also pieces of songs, reconstructed into a kind of poetry:

In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came (1)
And I know it’s only in my mind, that I’m talking to myself and not to him (2)
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed somehow you would be here
Wishing I could hear your voice again, knowing that I never would (1)
These dreams go on when I close my eyes (3)

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven (4)
Take these broken wings and learn to fly again (5)
She’s like the wind (6)

Build a stairway to heaven with a prince or a vagabond
And may you never love in vain (7)
A little fall of rain can hardly hurt you now (2)
After all the rain (8)
After the rain washes away the tears and all the pain
Only after the rain can you live again (9)

It’s only forever, not long at all (10)
Who wants to live forever? (11)
I remember a time I knew what happiness was (2)
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget (4)
Masquerade, paper faces on parade,
Hide your face so the world will never find you (1)

Sources: (1) Phantom of the Opera (2) Les Miserables (3) Heart (4) Led Zeppelin (5) Mr. Mister (6) Dirty Dancing (7) Rod Stewart (8) Cheap Trick (9) Nelson (10) Labyrinth (11) Queen

~ J.L. Hilton

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Friends of my YouTube channel have been asking me to play HORIZON ZERO DAWN since it came out last year. I wasn’t in a rush, to be honest, because I’d watched an interview with developers from Guerrilla Games who basically said, “we had some concept art with these cool robot dinosaurs and we needed a story about why they exist.” Seemed gimmicky.

And then there’s Aloy. I’ve had about enough of the “sassy redhead” stereotype — Merida, Annie, Pippi, Ariel, Kim Possible, Cait, Saffron, etc. I wasn’t feeling great about the mechanics, either, as I find it difficult to play third-person games.

But my oldest bought the game while I was in the hospital a few months ago, so I figured I’d do it for a Try-It Tuesday. With narrative director John Gonzalez, who was behind the most meaningful and moving experience I’ve ever had in a video game, the Honest Hearts DLC of Fallout: New Vegas, I at least expected an excellent story.

I am happy to say I enjoyed the hell out of this game. Gameplay was so smooth I hardly noticed I wasn’t playing in first-person. Even the frequent cutscenes — normally something I dislike — didn’t bother me, though they were sometimes awkward or jarring when transitioning from player-controlled action to cinematic storytelling. A flaw I am willing to forgive, because at least there weren’t any quick time events.

The world of HORIZON ZERO DAWN is beautiful to see, and I found myself marveling and enjoying the scenery in the same way I do when playing Skyrim. There are elements of this game that remind me a bit of Fallout, Far Cry 5, and other games, too.

The game is fun and the mysteries it presents are intriguing. I am torn between wanting to rush through the story to find out why these mechanical creatures exist or why Aloy and Rost are outcasts, and wanting to spend hours shooting turkeys and hunting robots for wires and metal shards. I plan to continue playing in the days and weeks to come.

Rated “T” for teens, for blood, drug reference, language, mild sexual themes, and violence.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #2 – 1989

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is labeled “Miscellaneous Songs” and is more contemporary. I listened to these songs a lot when I was in high school and college.

1) Dead Man’s Party (Oingo Boingo with Danny Elfman, 1985)
2) Take On Me (A-ha, 1984)
3) My Love I’ll Always Show (Stryper,1986)
4) Twilight (ELO, 1981)
5) Glory of Love (Chicago, 1986)
6) In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel, 1986)
7) Memory (Cats/Elaine Paige, 1981)
8) Hard Habit to Break (Chicago, 1984)
9) Remember the Feeling (Chicago, 1984)
10) You’re the Inspiration (Chicago, 1984)
11) If You Leave (OMD, 1986)
12) Left of Center (Suzanne Vega, 1986)
13) Pretty in Pink (The Psychedelic Furs, 1986)
14) No One is to Blame (Howard Jones, 1985)
15) Somebody (Depeche Mode, 1984)

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: STYX Shards of Darkness

My husband’s been after me to play this game because he knows how much I like stealth in video games such as Skyrim, Thief and Dishonored. I’ve also got a soft spot for green guys like orcs and mutants. So, I tried the free demo for Playstation 4.

STYX: SHARDS OF DARKNESS is about a sassy green goblin rogue named Styx, who has magical powers, and sneaks, climbs, poisons, and steals. Some have compared his humor to Deadpool — irreverent and sprinkled with pop culture references.

Developed by French developer Cyanide, this sequel to Styx: Master of Shadows (2014) was released in March 2017 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

I enjoyed it enough to buy the Styx bundle, with Master of Shadows and Shards of Darkness, on sale for $14.99.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #1 – 1988

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. The oldest is one I remember listening to while cruising around Palm Springs in 1988. Dustin and I thought we were so cool, playing Bach at top volume the way other kids played rock or hip hop music. Some of these songs are from the 60s and 70s, but I listened to a lot of older songs in my teens. Still do.

1) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 – Johann Sebastian Bach
2) Thirteen O’Clock – Labyrinth soundtrack
3) Hallucination – Labyrinth soundtrack
4) Hotel California – Eagles
5) Something – Beatles
6) Because – Beatles
7) Strawberry Fields Forever – Beatles
8) Norwegian Wood – Beatles
9) Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds – Beatles
10) I Will – Beatles
11) All You Need is Love – Beatles
12) Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In – Hair

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: EVENTIDE 3 Legacy of Legends

Earlier this year, I tried Eventide: Slavic Fable, a point-and-click puzzle adventure game, and enjoyed it so much I bought and played the entire game. EVENTIDE 3 is a 2017 sequel, developed by House of Fables and published by Artifex Mundi, which came to the PS4 in June 2018.

See other Artifex Mundi games I’ve played here

Try the free demo here

Mary Gilbert returns as the protagonist in EVENTIDE 3. She must rescue her brother who is kidnapped by flying creatures and taken to a realm in the clouds.

The game is a mix of hidden object games, brain teasers and environmental puzzles, set in contemporary times but inspired by Slavic myth and magic. I think that the artwork in the Eventide series is even more beautiful than the other Artifex Mundi games.

Rated “E +10” for everyone age 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE ORDER 1886

I bought THE ORDER: 1886 on sale for $3.99. The action-adventure, third-person over-the-shoulder, single-player game is a 2015 Sony exclusive, showcasing the graphics possible with the Playstation 4 console.

Critics have praised the graphics but generally disliked the game’s story, gameplay, and short length. With words like “Victorian,” “werewolves” and “alternate history” attached to it, I really wanted to like THE ORDER: 1886, but it reminded me too much of Beyond: Two Souls, a “walking simulator” with quick time events, cutscenes, linear level design, and clunky controls for movement and combat. Though I think Beyond had better storytelling.

At each turn, THE ORDER: 1886 seemed to say, “Look at all of the beautiful things you can’t explore and which ultimately mean nothing.” Doors and gates that can’t be opened. People with whom you can’t have a conversation. Objects to be admired but not touched, or touched and then set right back down again.

Where the gameplay lacked, story and characters might have enticed me to play more. But I’d seen the “steampunk King Arthur” idea years ago in the Gaslight Chronicles series by Cindy Spencer Pape, and the characters in THE ORDER: 1886 were forgettable. I didn’t care about any of them enough to carry on and discover their fates.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, and strong language. But even the promise of sex and violence aren’t enough to make me continue playing THE ORDER: 1886. I’ll just go watch Penny Dreadful again.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: UNRAVEL TWO

Almost a year ago, I tried Unravel, a single-player side-scrolling puzzle platformer developed by the Swedish company Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts. I enjoyed it so much, I bought the full game and played it for my YouTube channel.

Click here for the free demo

In June 2018, EA announced and released UNRAVEL TWO. This week, I played the free demo for PS4. My 14-year-old daughter played with me and we had a good time.

Unlike the first game, UNRAVEL TWO may be played as either a single-player or a multiplayer local co-op. There are two Yarnies who must work together in order to solve puzzles and manipulate the world. Gameplay is similar to the original, with lots of jumping, swinging on string, and manipulating objects in order to progress through the environment.

The free trial includes the first level and most of the second. There are only seven levels in UNRAVEL TWO, compared to twelve in Unravel, but the sequel also includes twenty bonus challenges.

Rated “E” for everyone, with mild fantasy violence. Like the first game, the sequel has some dark story elements and complex puzzles that might not be understood nor appropriate for younger players.

~ J.L. Hilton

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I’ve played about 1,200 hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as well as a bit of Arena and Oblivion, so I’m often asked if I play THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE. I’ve yet to find a “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) game that I enjoy, so I never tried ESO until now.

I still haven’t found an MMO that I enjoy, but it was fun to be “Telyn,” the Dunmer ancestor of my favorite follower Teldryn Sero, for a little while.

The free demo started me in Morrowind and the first quest involved one of the Morag Tong assassins, which was cool. But the experience got goofy pretty quick as I found myself surrounded by other players leaping around like frogs, whacking me, and shouting into bad microphones.

Some people relish the MMO experience. My sister, a World of Warcraft and Overwatch player, watched my ESO livestream and immediately bought the game for herself. There is no single-player offline mode, so I’ll just keep waiting for The Elder Scrolls VI.

Released in 2014 for PC and 2015 for consoles, ESO is set 800-1000 years before the events of MorrowindOblivion and Skyrim. As with other games in the franchise, the player begins as a prisoner, has the option of playing various races and classes, and is free to explore, though some areas of Tamriel require additional purchases or membership in certain factions.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, sexual themes, violence, and use of alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

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