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House of 1000 Doors: Family Secrets Collector’s Edition
Developer: Alawar Five-BN (Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine)
Publisher: Alawar Games (Novosibirsk, Russia)
Within the crowded hidden-object haunted-house field, this one stands out. You play Kate Reed, a supernatural fiction writer invited by a dead relative’s spirit to visit a spooky house that appears and disappears in different places. The visuals are exquisite; the play environments have exceptionally high resolution and detail, and the cutscenes are enthralling. When you search using the mouse to find concealed items, everything is crystal clear. Your fun exploration yields a large inventory of items that you have to figure out how and where to use. However, it’s unusual that there’s a convenient map allowing instant navigation around the premises and showing you where there’s more to do. There are entertaining mini-game puzzles set at just the right level of challenge for casual gamers. The Collector’s Edition adds a strategy guide, concept art and wallpapers, and a bonus chapter that doesn’t reuse previous locales.
Developer: Supergiant Games (San Jose, Cal., USA)
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive (Burbank, Cal., USA)
This action role-playing game has two key features that set it apart from the pack: a truly riveting narrator conveying the story and reacting directly to it, and exceptional customization concerning where you go, how you play, what level of challenge you face, and which qualities and skills you have for your frequent combat. You play a young man who awakens to find his surroundings devastated by catastrophe. He heads for a sanctuary called the Bastion, where he meets an old man needing assistance. You proceed on a journey to find key items necessary to restore order and to figure out what actually transpired in this mysterious, immersive world. The nice cartoon-like hand-painted visuals and the engrossing music (often featuring the guitar) perfectly set the mood. This single-player game, blessedly DRM-free, offers a widescreen view and tight, responsive play using either a gamepad or a keyboard.
Steel Storm Burning Retribution
Developer and Publisher: Kot-in-Action Creative Artel (Del Rio, TX, USA)
Are you a fan of frenetic top-down shooting action? Then Steel Storm should suit you perfectly. While flying overhead in the 25 campaign missions, you attack enemy vehicles and turrets below while collecting weapons, health, upgrades, and data and gate keys. In the midst of the nonstop combat, you face tons of enemies operating with decent artificial intelligence within deformable environments. The rousing music and in-game sound effects (particularly the booming explosions) create even more of an adrenaline-pumping experience. You get to engage in the action from a widescreen perspective with nicely customizable camera angles. There is intuitive support for both gamepad and mouse-keyboard input. In addition to solo play, you can engage online in multiplayer co-op, deathmatch or capture-the-flag action. It’s even possible to create or modify and share new missions using a real-time collaborative mission editor.
Pirates of Black Cove
Developer: Nitro Games (Kolka, Finland)
Publisher: Paradox Interactive (Stockholm, Sweden)
If you love pirate games, as I do, then check out Pirates of Black Cove. This engrossing adventure combines all of the most enjoyable role-playing, real-time-strategy and action elements in one place. Set in the Caribbean during the golden age of pirates, your mission is straightforward: unite the three pirate factions, defeat the Pirates of the Black Cove, and become the Pirate King. To accomplish this, you need to develop and manage three strongholds, and win battles using outlandish weapons on land and sea (with ship-to-ship combat being the most fun). You can choose to become one of several different pirate captains, each with their own unique abilities. The graphics, music and sound effects are enchanting and spectacular, as this release is very well produced. The spirit is lighthearted, with humor laced throughout. Pirates has PhysX support and widescreen resolutions.
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