Category Archives: Reviews

Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut

Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut takes you on a comically bloody puzzle adventure through horror movie themed stages.  You act as a serial killer, dressed in a wide variety of costumes, such as a clown or the creepiest old lady I’ve ever seen.  The puzzles are based around moving around the level in straight lines to kill everyone, while avoiding obstacles (such as water, fire, and being seen by the police).  Do you have what it takes to go on a killer puzzle rampage?

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The Good

The puzzles provide a good challenge to work through.  There are both levels with and without turn limits, and generally, the levels take careful planning to make sure you don’t get stuck in a series of moves you can’t get out of.  There is also a good hint system built in – 25 coins for a basic hint, then 100 coins for the level walkthrough (coins are earned through level completion and mini-games).  Additionally, the block-style artwork worked well for the game, and it simply screamed fun (or maybe those were my victims…).

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The Bad

The game does feel repetitive when playing for an extended period of time.  I really enjoyed the game every time I would sit down to play it, but if I played it for too long at once, I would find that the game began to drag.

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The Achievements

Slayaway Camp has a list of fifty achievements for a very wide variety of tasks and collectibles.  Many of the achievements will be earned through standard play, as they are related to completing movies and getting kills in certain ways (such as scaring a victim into the water).  A lot of the remaining achievements are focused around collectibles you can buy with in game coins – killers (which may also be unlocked with Killer Kodes) and gorepacks.  The achievement list made it easy to keep coming back to Slayaway Camp and work through as much as possible.

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The Verdict

The only aspect of Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut that really hurts it is how repetitive it feels if played for too long in one sitting.  I found that this game is great to play when I have a few minutes to kill at some point during my day.  Overall, I definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a puzzle game to fill some time with.

3-5outof5

Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden

You’re on a mission to rescue Robert – an underwater explorer AND your fiancee!  In Abyss: Wraiths of Eden, you go deep into the sea in hopes of rescuing Robert and solving a wild mystery along the way.  Through hidden-object puzzles and the mysteries of Eden, will you have what it takes to bring Robert back to dry land once again?

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The Good

Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden has a great variety of hidden-object puzzles and other puzzles throughout the game.  I felt like the balance of puzzles in this game was much better than some of the other recent games in this genre I have played.  Generally, each hidden-object puzzle location was played twice, which always leads to the fun of knowing you saw something earlier and just having to find it the second time around.

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Besides the great puzzles throughout, Abyss also delivers on what I have come to expect from most Artifex Mundi games – high quality scenery that makes the game overall enjoyable to look at.  In these games, I always weigh that heavily because the scenery and the puzzles are really everything to the game, and without such beautiful art, there really wouldn’t be too much here.

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The Bad

One feature I would love to see returned to a few of the latest Artifex Mundi games would be the ability to fast travel via the map.  There are points in Abyss where I felt like I was just moving back and forth between two or three locations pretty needlessly.  It almost seems like filler to the game as opposed to real substance at some points.  This game would have felt much better if either there was more to it, or there was not so much moving back and forth between two places.

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The Achievements

As with most Artifex Mundi games in this vein, there is a pretty standard achievement list.  Achievements include things like various story progression points, completing the game on Expert, completing the bonus chapter, and completing the puzzles without using any hints.  Additionally, there are achievements for doing tasks within puzzles (like finding three items in three seconds).  While there are no collectibles in Abyss, the game does require two playthroughs – one doing hidden-object puzzles, and one doing domino puzzles.

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I would like to comment on an apparent glitch I experienced – when doing my domino game playthrough, I played through the game two extra times in which the achievement for completing all domino puzzles did not pop.  It wasn’t until a day later (when I was in a different Xbox app) that the final achievement finally popped.  This does not appear to be a widespread problem, but I just wanted to let other gamers know in case they experienced this as well.

The Verdict

Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden provides exactly what we have come to expect from Artifex Mundi point-and-click games – an enjoyable plot, a good mix of puzzles, and beautiful scenes to carry you through the game.  Artifex Mundi has developed a formula for creating their style of game, and why stray from it when it works nearly every time?  Pick up Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden if you are looking for an enjoyable game for a day or two!

3outof5

Danger Zone

Danger Zone takes the best mode of a classic game (Crash Mode in Burnout Revenge) and runs with it.  In Danger Zone, your goal is to create as much damage as possible with your car by driving into a variety of traffic scenarios.  Are the scenarios realistic? No! But why would you want them to be!?  By firing Smashbreakers (manual explosions earned through hitting a certain number of cars or through pickups) you can adjust the trajectory of your car, as well as increase the multiplier that earns you money.  How much damage can you earn?

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The Good

Danger Zone, simply put, is good, clean, explosive fun.  Through a wide variety of levels (32 in total), you have the opportunity to blow up as many cars as you can while finding out how to earn the most money.  In each level, you have an opportunity to earn one of two medals – either the Grand Slam bonus (worth $5 million for picking up every cash bonus in order from lowest to highest) or the Smash and Grab bonus (worth $2.5 million for picking up every cash bonus in any order).  These pickups in each stage create an added level of strategy to a help you climb the leaderboards as quickly as possible.

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The Bad

The only real thing that could have improved Danger Zone is something like an ability to choose from a variety of vehicles on each level.  That would add to the replay value of the game, which is the only the only thing I found Danger Zone to be lacking.

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The Achievements

Danger Zone has 13 achievements, and took me somewhere between 12-15 hours to complete.  The list is pretty basic, largely made up of achievements for completing tiers of levels, earning each bonus for the first time, and performing tasks that you will likely earn through regular gameplay and progression.  The one outlying achievement is for earning 10 platinum medals.  This was the most time consuming, and most fun, achievement in the entire list, as it took real strategy and careful planning on some levels.

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The Verdict

Danger Zone is a great game that has little room for improvement.  The space that could be improved would be through adding some form of replayability, either through an improved achievement list or through adding elements to the game such as car selection.  Other than that, Danger Zone is near perfect and is one of the most fun games I’ve played in a long time!

4-5outof5

The Coma: Recut

In The Coma: Recut, you play as Youngho, a Korean high school student exhausted and stressed from preparing for his finals.  Upon arriving at school, Youngho learns about the attempted suicide of a classmate before finding out that finals will continue as originally planned.  After falling asleep at the beginning of his first final, Youngho awakens at his school desk in the middle of the night, being pursued by a killer that resembles his teacher, Ms. Song.

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The Good

The atmosphere of The Coma is very creepy.  You have a flashlight that you can use, but you’ll want to use it at your own risk to avoid detection as much as possible.  As you traverse the school, you risk running into the killer at almost any given moment.  Moving carefully and intelligently will be a key to your survival.  I learned very quickly that moving between floors will not be enough to avoid your almost certain demise as the killer will follow you between floors, and into classrooms.

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Hiding in places like closets or bathroom stalls will provide safety as long as the killer isn’t too close.  A large part of your survival will be based on tactical decisions you make, such as setting off something to make noise to attract the killer so you can safely move elsewhere in the school.  Having to think and plan adds to the inherent creepiness, as you cannot move blindly and hope to survive.

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The Bad

The sheer volume of dialogue and the frequency of non-frightening interruptions really took away from the horror aspect of The Coma for me, and at some points, I felt like it was more visual novel than survival horror.  I am a relatively easy person to scare, particularly when playing horror style video games, and I found myself more annoyed than startled at any given moment.

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The controls come across as cumbersome due to the number of different functions added into the game.  While playing The Coma, there were moments that I had trouble remembering what button performed which function, and this became aggravating, particularly when my character was on the verge of death or would die shortly thereafter.

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The Achievements

Most of the achievements have somewhat mysterious names and descriptions, but most of them seem to be story related.  Within a short amount of time from beginning the game, I had unlocked five achievements, and based on what triggered them to be unlocked, they appeared to be story-related and unmissable.  Some of the descriptions indicate that they require some searching to find them, which adds an element of adventure to The Coma beyond the story.

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The Verdict

Driven by an interesting story and a creepy atmosphere, The Coma had a lot of potential to be a great game.  I feel that if the game had been a bit more atmosphere driven, it would have been far more successful.  Between the intriguing achievement list and an interesting story, The Coma: Recut is worth a playthrough, but don’t look for as much scare as the trailer might lead you to expect.

3outof5

SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell

Welcome to Hell, and good luck getting out!  SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell is a first-person speedrunning game where you run your way through Hell after a demon breaks into your apartment and steals the last of your brewskies!  In addition to the standard sprinting through levels, you’ll use super powers like the ability to shoot fireballs and reverse gravity to battle your way through a variety of obstacles.  Search for hidden beers on each level if you want to unlock all the levels and stick it to the demon!

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The Good

For what could have been a very ordinary game, SEUM hits a lot of points that make it a fun, addictive game.  In addition to its standard story mode, it also has an endless mode, and a speedrun mode (which consists of speedrunning through a series of eleven stages in one shot).  I have been a particularly big fan of the endless mode because each time you restart endless mode, it is randomized.  This I felt like this forced me to get better at the game in general because it forced me to be adaptable to different levels.

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While I spent a lot of time dying or failing levels in SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell, it didn’t get aggravating in the way that so many games can.  SEUM has a quality that makes you want to continue attempting levels, learn from your mistakes, and force your way through.  SEUM was tough, but in a challenging, fun way that many games like this miss out on.

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The Bad

There were only two issues I really had with SEUM.  First, I struggled with motion sickness the first time I played this game, so if you are sensitive to motion sickness or dizziness in video games, I would avoid this.  There are many settings to help combat this, and I only experienced it the first time I played, but I know that for some people, this can make a game unplayable.  The only other real issue I had was that I experienced a lot of times where the game would get hung up on loading screens.  While this didn’t happen excessively, it was noticeable and became a distraction a few times.

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The Achievements

SEUM has a great achievement list for how straightforward of a game it is.  Comprised of 27 achievements, they range from the standard “complete the game style” to a wide variety of achievements focused around the number 666 in one way or another (including, but not limited to, finishing a level in exactly 6.66 seconds, shoot a fireball 666 times, and jump 666 times).  There are also achievements for performing certain actions, like finding a skeleton surrounded by Pokeballs (although I won’t tell you where this is)!  Overall, one of SEUM’s strongest points is in its achievement list, improving the replayability vastly.

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The Verdict

I think what I found to be really appealing about SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell is the ability to just pick it up and play for a little while at a time.  It is enjoyable, has a variety of game modes to keep things interesting, and a nice achievement list to keep you coming back for more.

4outof5

BLEED

BLEED is a shoot-em-up platformer where you play as Wryn, a girl out to battle has-been heroes that are no longer heroes but are now – shockingly! – bad guys.  In a recently crowded gaming field, BLEED sets itself apart from the pack with small tweaks that go a long way.

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The Good

BLEED does what it can to set itself apart from a very crowded field of indie platformers.  There are a few small but important game-dynamics added that make a huge difference.  I really enjoyed the ability to slow time to dodge enemies, their weapons, and environmental hazards.  This added an entirely new level of strategy to the game that otherwise would feel pretty typical.

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Another fun part of BLEED is the ability to mix and match six different weapons.  You start with two weapons (the rocket launcher and dual pistols), but you can purchase the other four with credits you earn throughout the levels.  You can only carry two weapons at a time, but throughout the game you will learn which work best for you.  Don’t worry – unlimited ammo means you get to play around with each weapon as much as you’d like.

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The Bad

My biggest frustration with BLEED was that some of the controls were a bit cumbersome to learn – particularly aiming the double/triple jump feature, which was a pretty big aspect of the game.  While the game is intended to be a fast-paced challenge, I would feel an incredible level of frustration when I intended to jump one way and ended up jumping the complete opposite direction.  I love a good challenge, but I struggle to find enjoyment in a feature that (at least to me) feels counter-intuitive.

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The Achievements

BLEED has a great variety of achievements you can earn across multiple game modes.  There are achievements for completing story mode and arcade mode across the four difficulty levels, as well as challenge mode (where you can battle a mixture of bosses at one time).  The rest of the achievements help add to the replayability of the game – particularly getting an S-rank after each boss fight.  If you want to complete all the achievements in the game, you’re going to dedicate a lot of time to perfecting the stages of BLEED!

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The Verdict

While it could have easily blended in with the masses of platformers coming out these days, BLEED sets itself apart as a game that is thoroughly challenging while still remaining fun.  Well-applied, creative dynamics give BLEED a dimension many indie games lack and the achievements provide added replay-value to a game that could already stand on its own!

3-5outof5

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review

Buy Bleed on Xbox One

Buy Bleed on Steam

Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure

In Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure, you play as the stunningly average antique shop owner, Bjorn.  After a weird call in the middle of the night, a burglar breaks in and steals one seemingly random item that sets off the adventure of a lifetime for Bjorn!  Demetrios will take you on a point-and-click adventure as you work to solve the mystery of Bjorn’s stolen tablet.

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The Good

Demetrios has an entertaining story that is greatly supported by the humor injected into the game.  The humor doesn’t go too far overboard, but it can get a bit racy (so I don’t recommend playing this with kids).  Bjorn provides an entertaining protagonist, and the dialogue throughout the game is really entertaining.  It is worth inspecting many items twice, as often times, each inspection results in something rather entertaining.

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Overall, the level of difficulty in working through Demetrios is the perfect challenge.  While I had to go back and forth sometimes to figure something out, it was enjoyable to have to run with the hints given through dialogues to figure out where to go next.  In many point-and-click games, I feel like some developers either go way too easy, or way too hard, but Demetrios found the sweet spot in the middle.

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The Bad

My only real issue with Demetrios was the hint system (which I generally avoid using, but there is one achievement tied to using 10 hint cookies).  You can use multiple hints back to back, as long as you have the cookies to do so.  When I used it, I had to use four or five hints before I actually got something useful to use.  The first several hints did not actually provide additional information to what I already knew through gameplay.

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The Achievements

While some of the 36 achievements in Demetrios are story related, some of them involve various forms of collectibles throughout the game.  While some of them are tedious (such as having to find three cookies on each screen of the game), the other primary form of collectibles is dying in each possible way through the game, which I find pretty fun.  Other achievements include completing various tasks in the game, such as eating rotten food off the ground, or doing something dirty at the police station.  All in all, Demetrios has an excellent achievement list.

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The Verdict

Demetrios is one of the best of the recent onslaught of point-and-click adventures.  It pairs dirty humor (without being too dirty) with a good challenge.  Combined with an achievement list that drives thorough playthrough, you get a game that leads to hours of mystery-solving fun.

4-5outof5

$4.99 US – Buy On The Xbox Store!

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review

 

Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan

In this latest installment brought to Xbox One by Artifex Mundi, you play a healer brought to the Kingdom of Eagles.  Upon your arrival, chaos ensues as the infant prince is kidnapped.  Your journey will lead you through many twists as you try to heal the kingdom from the evil invading it.

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The Good

As with many Artifex Mundi games, Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan provides a wide array of fun, challenging puzzles.  In this installment, there seemed to be less of a focus on hidden object puzzles and more on a variety of puzzles over all.  This made the game feel like it had a nice flow to it and kept it interesting all the way through.

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As always, Artifex Mundi delivers a beautiful game through and through.  The landscapes and cutscenes in Grim Legends 2 are wonderfully designed and enjoyable to watch.  One thing I really enjoyed in Grim Legends 2 was the use of bright colors versus many other Artifex Mundi games.  I felt like between the design and the variety in puzzles, this game stepped out of the standard formula for many Artifex Mundi games.

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The Bad

The hidden-object puzzles are the biggest flaw in this game.  There are very few of the actual hidden-object searches (such as the one displayed directly below), and instead, there are many of the “Find X of such item”.  When playing this style of game, I weigh the hidden-object puzzles very heavily, and I feel that they really let go of the focus in this title.  Additionally, while I loved the variety of other puzzles in the game, they removed the “Reset” button from many (if not all) puzzles, which became very aggravating at some points.

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The Achievements

Grim Legends 2 offers 1000GS over a total of 26 achievements.  If you play on Expert, it only requires one playthrough of the game (plus its bonus chapter).  As with many other Artifex Mundi titles, there is a relatively standard list of achievements, such as completing all hidden-object puzzles without using any hints and finding three objects in a puzzle within 3-seconds of one another.  Beyond these, there is a set of collectibles that account for three achievements, and there are also achievements for using each “helper”, story related companions that are introduced throughout the game.

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The Verdict

While Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan is generally fun, I feel like focusing a bit more on the hidden-object puzzles could have really boosted this title up.  While the overall variety of puzzles was wonderful and engaging, there were other parts that seemed lazily slapped together.  I do still recommend this title, especially if you are looking for an overall fun game to work through in an afternoon.

3outof5

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review

Buy this game on the Xbox Store

The Surge

In a world withering away due to to climate change, The Surge puts you in the shoes of Warren.  Through employment for CREO, an enterprise trying to save the world,  Warren gets trapped in a war against the machines that were created to fix the planet.  Working through The Surge will take dedication and patience, but the world may depend on it!

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The Good

While it is difficult, The Surge does not lose out on being an enjoyable challenge.  It takes on the role it gave itself as Dark Souls in a futuristic, sci-fi world and runs with it successfully.  One of the aspects of this that I enjoyed the most was that you cannot simply memorize enemy placement and their movements.  The enemies appear to move around more fluidly, making it a more engaging challenge to get through some areas.

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I also found the upgrade and crafting system to be intuitive.  You collect scrap and parts through defeating your enemies,  and can use these at various crafting stations scattered throughout the world.  The drop-rates for the specialized pieces of scrap seem to be just right (especially considering you can easily get enemies in certain areas to respawn quickly).

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The Bad

The one place that I feel like The Surge really missed the mark was in their combat system.  While the fighting in the game handles pretty well, performing finishing moves increases the odds of your enemy dropping a valuable pick-up.  The problem is, every time you perform one of the finishing moves, the game slows down into a short cinematic-style shot.  In addition to becoming increasingly annoying, these are somewhat disorienting.  In a game that is so reliant on speed and awareness, this can quickly increase aggravation.

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The Achievements

The Surge contains 47 achievements for a total of 1000 gamerscore.  While a handful of the achievements are main storyline achievements, the remaining are a mixture of collectibles and to making certain decisions during the story.  Some of the collectibles include completing the construction of certain sets of armor.  Overall, there is a wide variety of achievements that will have you working through The Surge multiple times to complete them all.

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The Verdict

The Surge delivers on the challenge it set itself up for – a challenging sci-fi world that will drive gamers insane and drive them to work through those tough parts at the same time.  If they had really run with a great plot and smoothed out the combat a bit more, The Surge would be one of the best games of the year.  All that being said, it still is a great game worth the pickup if you’re looking for a challenge.

3-5outof5

Spellspire

Spellspire is an action-word game (a genre I have been dying to write about, all my life).  You take on the role of a wizard climbing a tower, on a quest to beat the dragon at the top.  Your magic spells are, of course, generated by words that you build out of a grid of ten letters.  The minimum length of a word is three letters, and the longer the word, the more powerful the spell.  In addition to the basics of the the game, there is a system of upgradable equipment  (wands, hats and robes), and consumables that can be used in battle or sold afterwards.

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The Good

While it is a relatively basic and straightforward game, Spellspire is incredibly enjoyable.  Upon completion of the primary game mode, where you are tasked with climbing the tower and defeating the dragon, you are then given access to the dungeon under the tower.  This is an endless game mode where you descend the levels by completing certain tasks, including things like defeating monsters with palindromes.  I felt that this second game mode added a lot to Spellspire and the tasks made the game much less repetitive.  Additionally, the endless mode was much more fun to me than the regular levels, as many of the tower levels seemed to end within the first 10-15 words (depending on length of words).

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Also, I appreciated the fact that on many of the levels, you had to be able to use larger words to defeat the monsters.  Attempting to beat higher levels using just three- or four-letter words were not successful.  Boss levels in particular (which appear every ten levels) require larger words or else you will be swiftly defeated.

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The Bad

My biggest complaint about Spellspire is that the challenge mode (where you earn a star on each level) is very repetitive.  To earn stars, you have to replay each level and complete them without taking any damage.  This was a little annoying as, often times, I wasn’t taking damage the first time I played through a level.  As long as you are consistently upgrading throughout the game, you likely won’t take damage unless you are on a boss level.  It would drag on having to replay the exact same levels over and over again with no additional challenge (or less challenge if I had just upgraded).

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The Achievements

The achievement list on Spellspire consists of 22 achievements, of which 9 are ‘story’ related, for specific progress up the tower.  Other achievements include getting 7-, 8-, 9-, and 10-letter words without using the dictionary consumable.  The remaining achievements are going to require a decent amount of grinding, as they include tasks such as replaying each level without getting damage, and purchasing/upgrading certain robes.  The achievements can become quite a grind, but I still found them to be an enjoyable list.  Additionally, there are achievements outside of these, such as getting 25% of the words available in the level, that can be very challenging, but fun.

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The Verdict

Overall, Spellspire offers enjoyable, addictive gameplay that will pull you into the game.  The two different game modes give nice variety to a game that could otherwise be very dry.  There is a nice difficulty scale that adds a challenge, but through the upgrade and equipment system, it is not impossible to overcome.  I found myself spending a ton of time on this game without even realizing it, and it is a great game to kick back and spend some time on!

4outof5