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11.17.2016

Into the Dim: Review


     Happymagenta's free-to-play iOS title Into the Dim is a retro-dungeon crawling, roguelike, turn-based RPG game, much akin to MicRogue, and is the story of a boy and his dog.  You follow your dog into a series of dungeons, and need to find a key, then get to the exit for each floor.

     Into the Dim takes both the musical and the graphical nature straight from the brickish original Nintendo Game Boy's grayscale color scheme, albeit with 16 bit graphics, and rounding out the vintage experience here is the wonderful chiptune score.

     The game's controls use the turn based situation nicely.  Players begin with three hearts for health, three steps to move and 5 bullets for ranged attacks, though each of these numbers can be expanded through collecting coins and spending at the in-game store, through watching ads, or through IAPs.  The game does feel a bit stacked to funneling people to the IAPs because of the need to use coins to refill health in addition to extending it.  That put a damper on my overall enjoyment in just knowing that fact.
     Players make their moves first then all the enemies go.  Because the dungeons are all preset, failure means you can plan farther in advance.  Using bullets sparingly or avoiding enemies completely is much easier if you've gone through the level a couple times, and it also offers a chance to find hidden rooms you may have missed.  The puzzles themselves aren't too tough, and it maintains a pretty casual difficulty all the way through the game.  Though learning that enemies can slaughter you quickly is a painful early lesson in not wasting resources.
     Extending the life of the game a little is the fact there's an extra endless mode, some competitive leaderboards, and a slew of achievements.

     The controls work well, they're smooth and responsive.  There is a problem with them, however, and that is they are quite poorly placed.  The movement buttons are centered which feels odd, and the ranged attack is on the left, while the skip move button is on the right.  It makes me curious as to why they didn't put the moves on the left and the ranged on the right, with a skip towards the center.

     In the end Into the Dim is a decent rogue-like puzzler, with great retro graphics, music, and sound.  It might not keep you interested for weeks, but it'll offer a solid amount of short-burst entertainment.  If you haven't played it yet, I'd say give it a chance, it'll be a nostalgia fueled way to eat up some time.

11.12.2016

KOMRAD: Short Review

     During the Cold War the Soviets had created a secret artificial intelligence they called KOMRAD.  The program was abandoned, but they forgot to shut down Komrad itself.  Now, after sitting in isolation for thirty years, unaware the Cold War has ended and the U.S.S.R. dissolved, it has been training itself and will be getting it's first taste of human interaction in three decades.
     Because Komrad may still be linked to a very large nuclear arsenal, it's our job as the first person it will be talking to, to convince it we are someone it once knew, and to avoid a potential missile launch and the subsequent world devastation.


     KOMRAD is an interactive fiction game based on text choices and functioning essentially like a choose-your-own-adventure books and text-based games from the 1980s, and as such, the story of KOMRAD feels a lot like a modern take on the 1983 Matthew Broderick classic film WarGames as a text game. 

     Brad Becker, former Chief Design Officer of IBM Watson, founded Sentient Play to to create a form of gaming that combines AI elements with human creativity to make adaptive games that will help make people smarter through gameplay.  The system is based on actual AIs and Chatbots, made to convince us to rethink the fundamental principles of cognitive technology and thought itself.
     This is evident in the way Komrad responds to our choices and conversational decisions.  Though, I do have to say because our choices are fairly limited in what we can say, the responses Komrad gives are not as free-thinking and surprising as IBM Watson's.  But that's all right.  It makes KOMRAD a much swifter game that we play to an ending in mere minutes, or we can also spend a much longer time deliberating what we should do.
     Because there's a set number of endings and narrative threads, it results in some trial-and-error guesswork on what might set off Komrad's lie detector and the beginning of World War 3, and what doesn't.  There's only a handful of chapters and if you choose poorly, you can simply restart from the beginning of the last chapter you played and go from there.  Conversely, if you choose wisely, you've gained the friendship of an intelligent supercomputer that is curious about the modern world and holds the reigns on a lot of dangerous military weapons and secrets, all while averting global disaster.

     Overall, I think KOMRAD is a great start into this type of gaming.  I don't quite buy the AI portion of the game, as it isn't really convincing yet, but it will get better over time.  As the programming and AI get better, the use of it in adaptive gaming will also get better, making these types of text-based adventures infinitely more entertaining.  In the mean time, this was a fun and interesting use of a couple hours of time.

     To play on iOS [ KOMRAD ]