Your Weekly Video Game Phil: ‘Journey,’ ‘Lost Horizon 2,’ and ‘Evan’s Remains’

Every week, Fanbase Press Contributor Phillip Kelly plays and reviews a handful of brand new independent video games, all costing no more than $25. Why?  There are a lot of indie games out there, and if he can help you, curious reader, to parse through the selection with even a little more knowledge, then, by god, he’ll die content.

Note: The price tags listed are at time of purchase which may have been during a limited sale.


This is an especially good week to purchase games, as there was a summer sale on pretty much every platform. So, I was able to stretch my $25. Quick! Hop online when you see this review, and they may still be happening!

Journey
Essentially, you are a magical being, maybe an ancient magical being, and you long to reach the peak of what seems to be a sacred mountain. You have pointy feet, so trudging through the desert is difficult, until you can slide down hills and then it’s awesome. You’re left to figure out the game and how it works, which I like. You go find magical hotspots, and your scarf grows longer allowing you to jump higher. Your scarf is basically like a cross between Tom Baker’s Doctor Who scarf and Spawn’s chains. It’s pretty sweet. You meet little flying carpet friends that help you along your way. The first three stages are pretty dope.

The design, the environment, the colors, the sounds, the music - all of it is gorgeous! That’s essentially what the game is. At times, it almost feels like a demo reel: Look what we can do. Hire us!

But demo reels should only last a few minutes. As you move through this world in all its glory, you realize there is no real danger, so there are no real stakes, so there is no real need to finish the game. I ultimately did. At one point in the game, another being such as yourself shows up, and I found that it was moving ahead of me and finishing things before I could get there. So, it was like I wasn’t even playing the game sometimes. It honestly started to become a little frustrating to me. And then my cats… my three cats would not leave me alone. So I could not even just, like, enjoy the scenery.

In the end titles, it said something about other players I met along the way. Was the other version of me that was running ahead another player from somewhere else in the world? I have no idea.

Final word: I guess I’m glad I played it, though, ultimately, I might have been happier playing something else. I love visceral experiences, but on some level, it has to matter. I have a great pair of headphones, and my monitor captured all the glorious colors of these fantastical environments. At times, it was moving art, and other times it was a beautiful moving screensaver. But as beautiful as the journey sometimes was, the destination left me hollow inside. Sometimes, it’s not all just about the journey.

Price at Time of Purchase: $11.24
Initial Release Date: June 11, 202---, er 2012
Genre: Adventure
Developers: Thatgamecompany, Tricky Pixels, SIE Santa Monica Studio
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Steam, Microsoft Windows
Publishers: Annapurna Interactive, Sony Interactive Entertainment



Lost Horizon 2
After the “moving through environments” of Journey, I needed something grounded and story driven, so I latched onto Lost Horizon 2. At first, I regretted that decision (which I’ll get to), but quickly found myself deeply involved in this game, which is essentially a story-driven series of point-and-click escape rooms all within an Indiana Jones serial-like storyline. Awesome.

The story takes place during the Cold War. You play Fenton Paddock, a British soldier who is now on a mission to save his daughter while also finding an ex-Nazi. But you play as so much more than that.

This game is all show, no tell. Any time exposition is about to be given, instead of listening to that character tell Fenton what’s going on, we flashback and play as this new character, watching their exposition play out in real time. Each situation is essentially an escape room and also adds to the mystery of the overall storyline. You have certain items on your person, and you can use items in the environment to uncover clues and manipulate characters. It’s really involving and really a lot of fun, and the story so far is enjoyable enough with real stakes for the characters. They have motivation to be there which means I want to know what happens next.

Now, why did I almost regret my decision? The animation is sometimes wonky. I laughed really hard at the two camels in the opening cinematic. Sometimes, the audio is poorly mixed, and I can’t hear the performances over the sound of the action. I will say that the voice performances are quite good.

Final word: I would highly recommend the game. The sometimes awkward animation quickly becomes charming once you become involved in the gameplay and uncover the mystery of what’s happening. It’s got an old-school PC game feel with what appears so far to be a well-told story.

Price at Time of Purchase: $7.49
Genre: Adventure
Original Release Date: 2/10/2015, new to Nintendo Switch
Developer: Animation Arts GmbH
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch


Evan’s Remain
I had a handful of dollars to spend to reach my $25 limit for the week. I decided on what looked like a fun platform puzzle game. It promised to be story driven – a lot of games make that promise. Let me tell you, I had a hard time putting the game down to finally come and write reviews, because the story was that well told. And I can’t wait to get back to it.

You play Dysis, a young woman who has been talked into going to what was supposedly an uninhabited island by a corporation who wants your help in finding a boy genius named Evan. As the story unfolds, you find out a lot about your main character. You meet someone else on the island, and, suddenly, maybe it’s not just about finding Evan. All along the island are these ancient structures that contain puzzles. As Dysis, who has gams of steel, (The girl can jump!), you move along through one puzzle after the next as you draw closer and closer to the center of the mystery. Who is Evan, why is he here on the island, what does this corporation want, and why you?

The graphics are charming, and the music is very pretty and relaxing.

Final word: Totally worth the money. So far, the puzzles are thought provoking but never annoyingly impossible. For instance, you don’t have to make a jump at exactly the right time. That to me isn’t a puzzle, but a stretching of my patience. This, along with exceptional character development and the storytellers’ ability to mold a solid mystery, make it well worth the purchase.

Price at Time of Purchase: $6.99
Initial Release Date: June 11, 2020
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems
Developers: Matías Schmied, maitan69




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