ABZÛ

The Game

ABZÛ was made by developers Giant Squid Studio and is an underwater adventure experience. Similarly to Journey, the game plunges you into a beautifully designed world without much explanation and lets you figure things out on your own. In ABZÛ you’ll find yourself swimming with the most amazing see creatures as you make your way through a world that seems just a little bit off, and you’ll soon discover there is something disrupting life in the oceans. Venture through different areas and swim with whales, manatees, dolphins, sharks and many many more beautifully simply designed animals. There’s no combat, just exploring and interactions with the world around you. There’s a few simple puzzles, but nothing tedious or stressful. The simple gameplay and graphics accompanied by a brilliant sound track make for an unforgettable experience.

Worth it?

The game normally goes for around £15, but you can find keys or discounts for around £10. The game is currently free on PS4 as well. It will probably only take you a couple hours to complete the game, but those two hours will be one of the most relaxing and compelling experiences you’ve had.

Overall the game is a must see, especially if you can get it while it’s free on PS4. You won’t really get a lot of gameplay for the money, but there is a deal of replay value as there are a few collectables hidden in each of the main areas. It’s also a great game to let a friend play through when they visit and just to watch as they experience the vibrant world and help restore the ocean.

Tips

  • Look out for the coral portals (they have an orange interaction pyramid above them), they are dotted throughout the levels and will add/release a bunch of trapped animals
  • Hold L2 (PS4) or Shift (PC) to hitch a ride on an animal – you can also take control of that animal
  • You can flip or get an animal to do a flip

Useful Links

Big Pharma

The Game

Big Pharma by Twice Circled is a simulation game available on virtually every platform (except mobile). The game is a conveyer belt manufacturing simulator in which you combine various ingredients to create new and wonderful medicines to help people with their illnesses. Overall the concept is fairly simple, however the initial learning curve can be quite steep. There are quite a few tutorial missions and they can be quite daunting, but once you get to grips with the mechanics you’ll also realise that the game does quite a good job of telling you exactly what to do with each ingredient to achieve the desired effect. Note that I played the PS4 version, so some comments may be specific to that, the obvious benefit (as usual) of having a PC version is mods – although these aren’t available through the Steam Workshop as with other games, so may be a bit of a hassle.

The game features research trees and various exploration missions that you need to undertake in order to discover new ingredients and improve your machinery. At it’s most basic level the game is based around increasing or decreasing the concentration of various ingredients in order to achieve desired effects (these can be seen in the info panel of each ingredient). When at a certain concentration some ingredients can be combined with others or run through a specific machine in order to change or upgrade their effect completely. This is where the game gets interesting and a lot more complex. Combining various ingredients and increasing/decreasing their concentration until you achieve the perfect cure can be quite a complex process and if you don’t do it efficiently enough, you won’t be making much of a profit.

Worth it?

Generally speaking the game will set you back between £20-30. Honestly I find that a bit on the expensive side, so look out for any offers. It does offer a lot of scenarios to play through and a lot of depth and there’s a free build mode too. On PS4 the controls can be a bit of a challenge to get used to and don’t always feel very intuitive to use, it sort of goes without saying that it’s a game made for a PC.

Overall other than some control issues and the slightly elevated price, the game is quite addictive and can be really satisfying once you get that supply chain up and running properly, it has some really satisfying sound effects and will keep you coming back for more. There’s plenty of scenarios to keep you playing for a while and if you’re playing on PC you can even have a go with modding the game.

Tips

  • Keep an eye on each ingredient’s info card – it will tell you what concentration you have to get it to and what device you then need to use to get the desired effect
  • The info card will also tell you the total manufacturing cost and medicine value – don’t overextend for really good drugs early on as you won’t have the machinery to make the production line efficient enough and you’ll end up losing money
  • Hire researchers as soon as you can afford to so that you can begin researching better machinery – focus on the agglomerator and ioniser
  • If you can’t get rid of a negative side-effect, turn that medicine into a cream – it will reduce the negative score from the bad side-effect by 50%

Useful Links

Vampyr

The Game

Vampyr by Focus Home Interactive is a decision based action RPG, heavily focused on dialogue and decisions that will affect the world around you. The game is available on virtually every console and will see you take on 1918 London in the midst of the Spanish Flu epidemic – it’s actually quite amazing to observe the parallels with our 2020 pandemic. As the title suggests however, influenza isn’t the only thing going around London. You wake up as a newly born vampire on a mission to find out how and why you were turned. Being a vampire you can only go out at night, meaning the game is quite dark and grey but that works well to create a good atmosphere and really plunge you into the chaos of disease ridden 1918 London. Some of the public health posters and messaging in game are especially close to home in 2020.

The game’s core mechanic is your ability to prey on the civilians that still inhabit London. These are NPCs with side quests and stories that you can delve into through the plentiful dialogue options. The more you know about someone, the more XP they will give you if you feast on their blood. However, if you prey on too many civilians you will plunge the neighbourhood into chaos, killing all other civilians and causing it to be overrun by enemies. This in itself is an amazing take on a decisions matter type game. The importance of each character, the respective XP and their own personal story will all factor into your decision on whether to spare their life or take it – it makes for some really gripping story telling and some very critical decisions that will affect everything around you.

The combat is predominantly melee options between various weapon types, there are also ranged weapons but I found I only needed them in the more challenging boss fights. The combat starts out feeling a bit clunky, but as you level up and improve your skills it becomes more fast paced and exciting, but you still need to have your wits about you and make sure you dodge out the way in time. You’ll find yourself fighting all sorts of vampiric creatures as well as vampire hunters while you explore the various London boroughs.

Worth it?

Generally speaking the game will set you back £34.99, however it’s frequently on sale – you can get it for under a tenner. It was also free in October’s PS Plus games, so if you haven’t downloaded it yet – I would definitely recommend you do. The game offers a good deal of game play especially if you fully engage with dialogue options and characters, there are times when all you will be doing is talking to people (for a considerable amount of time). To a degree the basic dialogue options are similar, but the more you find out about other citizens the more dialogue options you get. Depending on what fate you choose for people in London the game also offers a good deal of replay value. Each major boss will offer you a choice and there are actually 4 different endings to the story depending on the choices you make. These choices will also affect dialogue with NPCs and even your ability to complete quests or purchase items. In that regard the game does an amazing job of really making every decision impactful. However, I would note that most of the key plot points will remain the same, but dialogue, district status and ending scene will be affected.

Overall I would recommend getting the game on sale when possible, being a couple years old I am not sure I can justify the full price. Personally I am not really one for replaying something so story driven, but for a completionist there is some replay value. At times the game does feel like a conversation simulator, but the dialogue is well written and well acted, it can just get a bit tedious trying to find out as much as you can about everyone. One weird design decision is that there’s no fast travel, which most of the time is ok, but there are times when it would have been a great feature, especially considering you have “safe houses” around the city that act as bases. The music and atmosphere of the game are great and give it a great cinematic feel and the aesthetics are great despite the fact that the colour palette consists of mainly greys and red. The game will definitely keep you busy for a few days and maybe even give you a bit of insight into how bad things were in one of the worst pandemics man kind has experienced.

Tips

  • Buy handle parts whenever you can, especially the rarer ones
  • Curing people of their illnesses will help stabilise your district – it’s always worth carrying a few spare medicines around
  • Certain dialogue options will mean you fail to discover a clue about someone, so be careful what you say
  • If you plunge a district into chaos all remaining civilians will be killed, so if things aren’t looking too good – make sure to harvest their XP before resting
  • A good tactic for big XP gains is to complete everyone’s side quests in a district and learn as much as you can about them before feeding on them, probably best to do this once your Mesmerise Level is high enough to get most civilians in the area

Useful Links

Stardew Valley

The Game

Stardew Valley is a modern gaming masterpiece made by a single person – Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone. The game is one of the ultimate open world, farm, spelunking, life simulator RPG. Yes that is a lot of things and this game does them all. You start out having inherited a plot of land from you grandad – a farmer. Upon your arrival the farm is in quite a state, your long term goal is to turn it into a cash cow (you can have cows) and don’t forget the cash crops as well. From the very start the game allows you to do your thing and introduce yourself to the inhabitants of Stardew Valley, the first few days have a bit of guidance but from then on it’s mostly up to you to figure things out by exploring the world around you.

The primary game loop focuses around farming and spelunking in the caves where each level increases in difficulty. Some days there’s so much farm work to do that you won’t have much time to do anything else. In the winter you might find yourself spending a lot more time there. There are occasional quests on the town board with a time limit and there’s a series of main quests that develop over time and depend on your actions, decisions and interactions with the other townsfolk. The main quest alone will keep you playing for around 50 hours or upwards of 2 in game years – and that’s just the surface of the game.

This game is packed with mysteries and achievements to collect and discover. Your relationships with other townsfolk can get deep; you can even get hitched and have kids, if that’s your thing. You could also just string along all the singles in town until they all find out… If you’re not all about that you can just spend your days fishing and forget about the hustle and bustle.

Worth it?

Ranging from £7.99 on mobile to £34.99 on Switch the game is available on virtually all platforms and put simply it’s worth it. The game is frequently on sale and while the upper end of that price range is a bit too much, anything less than £15 is a steal. The mobile versions are extremely good and a touch cheaper, albeit a bigger phone is useful

The game will keep you in for hours and even after you play through the main story you can always start another farm on one of the other farm layouts. My first playthrough is over 70 hours long. The game is packed with secrets and unique interactions and scenarios. You will want to keep upgrading and improving your farm – it just keeps you coming back thinking “just one more day”.

Overall if you’re after a farm/life/dungeon RPG game this is it. The game is still regularly updated with new content and fixes. Put simply, this game is a must.

Tips

  • There’s so much to this game that I would simply recommend checking for specifics in the Wiki linked below.

Useful Links

Mini Metro

The Game

Mini Metro by Dinosaur Polo Club released in 2014 was an instant classic. With its clean minimalist design and simple gameplay it’s a great game for either a casual 5 minutes to kill or a longer more in depth session.

The game is a Metro (or Subway) system simulation game. The aim of the game is to set up and maintain your public transport network in the most efficient and effective way. You control the Metro lines and can manage the amount of trains and carriages each of them carries. The game features 4 modes: Normal, Extreme, Endless and Creative and also features a Daily challenge on a random map in a random mode.

The game is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Your network will quickly grow from 3-4 stops to a sprawling metropolis. Normal and Extreme mode will both end when you overcrowd any one of your stations. The difference being that in Extreme you can’t move tracks or trains. Endless allows you to tinker and aim for the most efficient set up possible, while Creative just lets you do whatever you want.

Huge selection of levels, game modes and a daily challenge.

Worth it?

Put simply – absolutely. However it’s worth noting the price differences between platforms – the cheapest you can get it is on Android, currently that will set you back around £1, whereas iOS is charging £3.99 and on Steam you are looking at £6.99. However, the game is frequently on sale as well so that’s probably your best bet.

For that price on Android/Mobile the game is absolutely worth it – a great time killer, works offline too – perfect for a flight. It can be played in short sessions or you can keep tinkering on your endless map to get it to the optimal efficiency, up to you.

Tips

  • Don’t have too many of the same type of station in a consecutive order
  • Try to vary the types of station present on a single line as much as possible
  • Try to keep lines short or doing very specific routes that cover a good variety of stops
  • Using circular lines can be very helpful in certain situations, but in those cases it’s probably good to have 2 trains running in opposite directions

Useful Links

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/287980/Mini_Metro/

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nz.co.codepoint.minimetro&hl=en_GB

Apple Store: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/mini-metro/id837860959

Developer Website: https://dinopoloclub.com/careers/