Curious Expedition – Indie PC Game Review

Title: Curious Expedition

Genre: Adventure Game, Rogue Like

Developer: Maschinen-Mensch

Platform: PC, playable over Steam and also right in your web browser, stand-alone DRM free client coming soon

Release Date: May 19th, 2015

Retail Price: $14.99

Where to Buy: Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/358130/The_Curious_Expedition/ or Direct from the official website at http://curious-expedition.com/

Overall: 58 / 80 73% C “Good Game for Girls”

Overview: 8/10 Curious Expedition is a rogue-like adventure game with retro style pixel graphics. It puts you in the role of one of several famous explorers from history and lets you compete for fame and fortune. If you become the most famous explorer, you win, and are honored with a large statue in your likeness.

That is, if you can survive long enough to even return home from your expedition. The game uses some interesting mechanics such as a sanity meter, which when it gets low, bad things begin to happen. Mutiny breaks out among your crew, or random disasters begin to befall the group.

You can restore sanity by eating, drinking, or sleeping. There are also certain units you can recruit, or perks you can receive that increase your max sanity, making it a bit easier to explore without going insane.

There are other resources for you to manage as well, such as fresh water, ammo, first aid kits, torches to explore dungeons, ropes and climbing kits, and numerous other tools to help you discover treasure.

While out exploring you will sometimes enter into battle using various dice (amount of dice and colors of dice are determined by which party members you have with you at the time.)

You can always select from 2 different expedition routes, and are presented with a randomly generated objective to complete while on expedition. You can choose to return home after completing your objective, or continue to search for treasure to bring back.

Your movement speed is greatly reduced when your inventory is over burdened. This will make it even more challenging to manage your sanity and other resources. Terrain obstacles such as sand, snow, ice, mountains, and forests will also slow down your expedition and require careful resource management.

Perhaps the most unforgiving element is if you die, you get one chance to load your auto save, and then that’s it, you’ll have to start a new game. And you will die often. 6 expeditions may not sound like much, but I have yet to make it past the 5th.

The overall experience of the game left me both addicted, and annoyed. I have yet to successfully complete a full series of expeditions. But yet, I played all night, and can’t wait to get home to go on new expeditions.

Pros: Strangely addicting Gameplay paired with retro pixel graphics. D&D style dice-rolls and turn based combat system. Fairly large maps (I typically have to return home without fully exploring the maps). Rogue like elements make it great for multiple replays (but admittedly need some tweaks).

Cons: Normal mode is very challenging… like seriously challenging (There is an easy mode (which I have not tried) and an even more difficult mode as well though so this is not really a bad thing). My chief complaint of Curious Expedition is that there’s not enough choices in places to explore. Maps all feel very same-ish. Scenarios seem to repeat, and even when you get a new scenario, there’s nothing terribly unique about the quest to make it memorable or exciting. Need more maps, more variety in quests, more variety in classes, npcs, treasure, random events, etc. My other chief complaint is there’s no multiplayer mode. This seems like a great game for some multiplayer fun as it does show you how much fame/fortune your competitors are earning. It could even make a great persistent online game with credit going to players for being the first to discover new regions, items, animals, native people, etc. So much potential here for interesting multiplayer options, but instead, your competitors are always controlled by the computer. And lastly, my last complaint is that there’s no Steam Achievements. A game like this would be PERFECT for steam achievements. There are steam trading cards, but no achievements which seems once again like a missed opportunity to add some fun gameplay elements.

Geeky: 5/5 – The retro vibe and random rogue like elements, as well as references from D&D and other old school games make this a blast for all geeks who grew up with fond memories of the 80s/90s.

Sweetie: 3/5 – Although it is very text heavy, a lot of the text repeats and is not very interesting on subsequent playthroughs. However, there are some notable female playable characters that represent real women throughout history, which is just awesome. This game highlights women who did extraordinary things and emphasizes their brains over beauty, making this a great game for young girls.

Gameplay: 7/10 – When the game begins, you select which explorer you want to play as. Some will be locked and can be unlocked through game play to be used on subsequent playthroughs. You will be given a few supplies and some animal and human companions.

You’ll then be shown a map of the world. It will have many expedition points, but only ever 2 at a time will be selectable as your competition will be exploring the other parts of the world. Select one of the two routes and you’ll be offered a quest. You can either accept or reject the quest. I assume if you reject it, you can just freely explore the expedition area without a quest in mind. Or maybe you’re presented other quest options before embarking on your voyage. I’m not really sure.

If you can successfully complete a quest objective you’ll get a large bonus to fame and/or fortune. But if you fail the quest after choosing to accept it, you’ll lose a great deal of fame or fortune as well.

Before leaving the docks, you’re given time to buy supplies, and sometimes you will find new crew members who wish to join your expedition. You can only take 5 members at any time, so if you find new members you wish to recruit, you will have to part ways with someone else first.

While out exploring you are shown a map with perhaps a few areas uncovered, but largely, hidden from your view. You click around the map to move and explore. Points of interest or interaction are designated by a white question mark symbol. As you approach, they will reveal themselves to be one of several different locale such as:

Native Villages: Here you can recruit members for your expedition, buy, sell, trade, rest to restore sanity, compile research, complete various quest objectives, and more. Your likelihood of success depends on the villagers feelings towards you. These are determined by how long you’ve stayed in the village, as well as decisions you make to story prompts both inside and outside of the village, as well as certain class roles of your crew, and any special status conditions possessed by your crew, and lastly, the amount of trading you’ve done with the village thus far.

Caves: If you have a torch, or a class member with “perception” skills (blue dice roll with white eye symbol), you can usually safely explore the caves. If you choose to loot treasure, you may anger the gods, villagers, or spring a trap, but it’s almost always worth the risk, as you can trade the treasure in for fame or fortune after you return home.

Stone Circles: You can use these monuments to reveal more of the map.

Temples and Pyramids: Similar to caves, mostly used as a place to loot treasure which usually has some negative consequences as mentioned above, but still is imperative in raising your fame and fortune which is how you ultimately win the game.

There are different types of maps / expedition areas such as:

Icelands, Jungles, Drylands, Deserts, Mountains, etc. I find the Jungles to be the easiest to traverse. Icelands can be conquered with Snowshoes and sled tickets. Drylands and Deserts requires you to carry more water.

While exploring your food and water rations deplete, and also your sanity begins to dwindle (rapidly). You must eat or sleep or drink to restore these meters. If you ignore them, you will suffer a lot of negative random scenarios, such as killing your crew, sometimes you’ll eat them though which will restore your sanity at least lol.

Encounters with various “monsters” (typically wild animals), happen when you enter an area designated by a red border, you can also see a circle icon representation of the beast in question as he also moves around the map. Should you draw attention, he will likely chase you, and be faster than you. Sometimes it’s better to face your opponents head on. If they sneak up on you, they get a free combat round before you can react.

Combat takes place using various dice rolls. Different items in your inventory, and different class roles of your party members, determines which dice you have available.

Each “turn” consists of 3 “rounds”. Each “round” allows you to either keep or re-roll dice. If you have a combination of dice that result in a combo move, they will shake on your screen. Mousing over a shaking die will show the other dice needed to activate the combo – they will shake too. If multiple combos or other dice had been shaking, their shaking will stop when you’re moused over a die from a combo they don’t belong to.

You can activate your combos each round.

For example, your first roll could reveal that you have 3 dice that activate a combo. You can click on those dice to “hold them” once all three have been held a dialog box will appear – click the box to activate the combo, then select reroll. Your next roll may have another 3 dice that activate a different combo, you can again play this combo in the same way, and roll again for your final round. Each time you hold dice, or activate a combo, however, will remove those used dice from your available dice pool, making it less likely to get good combo rolls as the rounds go on.

If you survive, you may be given items, or fame and fortune. If you should die, you will be taken back to the main menu where you can reload your game. Should you die again, when returning to the main menu you will notice there is no longer an option to continue and you must start a new game.

Also as you explore and fight your way to glory, you will be able to promote your party members to make them stronger. There are also numerous random events that may impact your party members’ skills, stats, and abilities.

Return home with your treasure. You can choose to donate to the museum for fame, sell for fortune, or hold onto various items. When you return home you’ll also be presented with any applicable quest rewards and allowed to select one “perk” from a handful of randomly generated ones. Some of these perks are really neat and significantly alter your gameplay, such as allowing you to do culture studies on native tribes, giving you additional dice rolls, permanent boost to max sanity, increased viewable map areas, or more benefits. After choosing your perks and preparing again for your next adventure you’ll again have an option of 2 expedition areas to explore and be shown a random quest.

Survive all six expeditions and have the highest fame to win the game.

Story: 5/10 – You write your own story. This game plays much like Oregon Trail, Horizons New Dawn, or Banner Saga, so if you’ve played any of those, you have an idea of what to expect here. Unlike Banner Saga, however, Curious Expedition is not very well written, nor engaging, simply because it is almost too random, and at the same time not random enough, so that when you hit subsequent playthroughs, it becomes a bit repetitive. I know the game is only just now at patch 1 point something, but after being out for 2 years now, that’s rather concerning too that there hasn’t been more big content updates. It needs more scenarios and random events, but even that can’t save the story because of the nature of the brief random encounters and quest. Lacking a central story, does not detract from how fun and enjoyable this game is, but for those looking for a solid story and great characters, look elsewhere.

Characters: 8/10 – There are a lot of randomly generated characters including various races, classes, genders, likes, dislikes, stat bonuses, ailments, and little quirks, that really make your party more interesting. There are a few, but not many, scenes that may endear some of these characters to you, but most of the time, they are of little consequence from a story standpoint. As mentioned earlier in the review, I am quite pleased to see the inclusion of many female and minority historical figures as playable characters. Curious Expedition is a great game with great rolemodels and unique characters inspired from historical events.

Graphics: 7/10: Pixel graphics are hot right now. I understand they’re not to everyone’s taste, but as an older gamer myself, I enjoy retro feeling games such as this. I did deduct a few points in this area though simply because of the “sameness” of all of the maps / areas / npcs / etc.

Sound: 6/10: The soundtrack is also extremely retro which gives it a fun 80s feeling with lots of nostalgia. But ultimately, the soundtrack is just not too memorable overall.

Replay Value: 9/10: Although it desperately needs some more variations, more options, and more items, npcs, places, and skills, the game does indeed present a fun randomly generated gameplay element that makes each playthrough unique. The challenge of the game also dictates the need for subsequent playthroughs.

Overall: 58 / 80 73% C “Good Game for Girls”

Other Games You May Like Include Horizons New Dawn on SNES and Oregon Trail Classic or Banner Saga on the PC.

Curious Expedition – Indie PC Game Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

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Review Shira Oka 2nd Chances Indie Visual Novel

Update: It’s been a few weeks without an update to my blog. I’ve been very busy with work, including traveling out of state for work and I haven’t had time lately to write any new reviews. But I’m back. Today I’m reviewing Shira Oka 2nd Chances. I played this game last year and really enjoyed it. Let’s take a look at it together below!

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Title: Shira Oka 2nd Chances

Publisher: Okashi Studios

Genre: Visual Novel with Dating Sim and Stat Raising Elements

Platform: PC

Where to Buy: http://www.okashistudios.com/

Geeky: geekygeekygeeky

Sweetie: 

Overall: 62/80 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”

Story: 10/10 Note: One really cool thing about this game is all the stuff it teaches you about Japan there’s even a library where you can read about the different cultural terms that you encounter. It explains many of the holidays, traditions, beliefs, and cultural issues in the game. I thought this was really cool. It adds educational value to the game for younger players, or for anyone who wants to learn about Japan.

The story begins by showing that you have wasted your life and have amounted to nothing. Then an angel appears to you in a dream, a nightmare, you’re trapped in hell, but when you wake up, this angel is real and standing in your bedroom. She explains that you are being given a 2nd chance to make up for your mistakes in life. She says you’re being sent back to highschool and must help the other students in order to escape your miserable fate. Some of the students are deeply troubled while others are merely trying to follow their dreams. But whatever they’re going through, they need your help. The story is told through multiple play throughs where by you select a different student to help each time. After helping all of the students, you will unlock Kasumi’s route. If you try to get onto Kasumi’s route before completing the others, you will always reach a bad end – something I learned the hard way, and only discovered when I contacted the company for support. Which is a shame because Kasumi is my favorite character :) Most of the routes and characters are really refreshing, with both touching moments, and comedy thrown in as well. The only route I really didn’t care for was Aya’s.

Gameplay: 8/10 The gameplay combines both visual novel and stat raising gameplay. You attend highschool and as your stats increase, there are new events and opportunities to get closer to the other students. You may find you fail at certain events in the beginning but are able to overcome them on subsequent playthroughs. You can also consult the angel or call a student on the phone to get tips on what you should do next if you ever get stuck. Calling the girls, taking them out on dates, or correctly responding to the dialogue choices through the game will determine which character’s route you “get on”. If you don’t get on any route you’ll be sent back to the beginning to try and try again.

The only thing I will criticize is lack of a skip function. That drove me completely mad. I don’t know if the game has since been patched to include one or not. But really being able to skip seen text is a MUST in these types of games arghhh……. and “Auto Play” is not the same as skip, because its still at a slow pace.

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Now with the bad out of the way, let’s talk about the good, because there’s a TON of good going on in the gameplay. Things that make Shira Oka truly unique in the industry of visual novels. It’s almost ALWAYS a different game every time you play. There’s hundreds of random events which may or may not happen on a play through. I was in my 10th or even later play through before I saw certain events. Also new classes and subjects to train will open up as you advance.

Even if you get a bad ending (or a good ending for that matter), it’s not game over; you’re sent back with your enhanced stats and new dialogue choices open up, and it’s just a really refreshing and unique experience. It makes multiple play throughs amazingly fun.

There are tons of opportunities for player choice and interaction. It’s a very engaging visual novel. You don’t have to read too much before reaching another opportunity to interact which I really love about this game.

I’m deducting 2 points for the lack of a skip function. If it had that, It’d be a flawless 10/10 experience.

Characters: 10/10 I loved most of the characters in this novel. My favorite is poor Kasumi. After that, probably Yui. I also really liked Alice and Naoko. I can’t really get too much into describing the characters without spoiling too much of the game. Here is a VERY brief rundown.

Alice is a foreign exchange student who loves music.

Naoko is a very mature motherly figure who takes care of her little brother while her parents are working overseas. She loves to cook.

Aya is an obnoxious brat who loves anime and has a carefree outlook on life.

Rena is alot like the harry potter character, luna lovegood. She is very kind, quiet, and kinda strange. She loves the occult, and is very superstitious.

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Suzu is a strange young girl who loves building and repairing things and running experiments

Kazuki is Naoko’s little brother and Suzu’s best friend. He has trouble making friends and is rather shy.

Hiroshi is a guy in your class that all the girls love and guys envy. He is both a friend and rival for you throughout the game. He’s also Rena’s brother.

Yui is a very sad and lonely girl without many friends. She gets very nervous talking to anyone so she avoids most of the other students. She loves flowers and cute things such as stuffed animals.

Kiku is an exemplary student with high grades, perfect manners, and active in many different clubs and sports. She’s a popular girl, but she also suffers from pressure and the high expectations that everyone puts on her.

Graphics: 6/10 – Let’s be real, the graphics are not great. This is an American made visual novel and it shows. American’s can “imitate” anime artwork, but they can’t quite get it right. However, the art work is charming in it’s own way. There are different sprites for different expressions and events. There are also a fairly large number of CG events with more detailed artwork. The art and background environments are brightly colored and the chibi sprites when training look cute and seem to take inspiration from games such as Tokimeki Memorial.

Voice Acting: 2/10 – This is my main complaint with this game; my god…. the voice acting is beyond annoying. It is truly truly awful. Horrendous….. It grates on my nerves so much that I almost wish it had no voice acting at all. I do give it 2 points because there are some vocal songs that are pretty. But nearly every single character’s speaking voice is cringe worthy.

Music: 10/10 The music in Shira Oka is really pretty and each of the characters sing their own song and the opening theme is catchy too. I enjoyed the sound track to this game quite a bit.

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Replay Value: 10/10 You have to play all routes to unlock Kasumi’s route. The way the game sends you back with your stats in tact and the way the random events unfold and new activities appear on multiple playthroughs makes replaying this game a blast. The only small flaw is the lack of ability to skip previously read text. Which does admittedly get annoying. However, the fun things on each play through make this game worth playing over and over. You will see new things almost every time even if you’ve played the game a dozen or more times already. I think that’s really unique. I’ve not seen another novel that does that.

Overall: 62/80 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”

Review Shira Oka 2nd Chances Indie Visual Novel was originally published on Geeky Sweetie

Review Shira Oka 2nd Chances Indie Visual Novel

Update: It’s been a few weeks without an update to my blog. I’ve been very busy with work, including traveling out of state for work and I haven’t had time lately to write any new reviews. But I’m back. Today I’m reviewing Shira Oka 2nd Chances. I played this game last year and really enjoyed it. Let’s take a look at it together below!

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Title: Shira Oka 2nd Chances

Publisher: Okashi Studios

Genre: Visual Novel with Dating Sim and Stat Raising Elements

Platform: PC

Where to Buy: http://www.okashistudios.com/

Geeky: geekygeekygeeky

Sweetie: 

Overall: 62/80 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”

Story: 10/10 Note: One really cool thing about this game is all the stuff it teaches you about Japan; there’s even a library where you can read about the different cultural terms that you encounter. It explains many of the holidays, traditions, beliefs, and cultural issues in the game. I thought this was really cool. It adds educational value to the game for younger players, or for anyone who wants to learn about Japan.

J-List is a peaceful island of Japanese pop culture for you

The story begins by showing that you have wasted your life and have amounted to nothing. Then an angel appears to you in a dream, a nightmare, you’re trapped in hell, but when you wake up, this angel is real and standing in your bedroom. She explains that you are being given a 2nd chance to make up for your mistakes in life. She says you’re being sent back to highschool and must help the other students in order to escape your miserable fate. Some of the students are deeply troubled while others are merely trying to follow their dreams. But whatever they’re going through, they need your help. The story is told through multiple play throughs where by you select a different student to help each time. After helping all of the students, you will unlock Kasumi’s route. If you try to get onto Kasumi’s route before completing the others, you will always reach a bad end – something I learned the hard way, and only discovered when I contacted the company for support. Which is a shame because Kasumi is my favorite character 🙂 Most of the routes and characters are really refreshing, with both touching moments, and comedy thrown in as well. The only route I really didn’t care for was Aya’s.

Gameplay: 8/10 The gameplay combines both visual novel and stat raising gameplay. You attend highschool and as your stats increase, there are new events and opportunities to get closer to the other students. You may find you fail at certain events in the beginning but are able to overcome them on subsequent playthroughs. You can also consult the angel or call a student on the phone to get tips on what you should do next if you ever get stuck. Calling the girls, taking them out on dates, or correctly responding to the dialogue choices through the game will determine which character’s route you “get on”. If you don’t get on any route you’ll be sent back to the beginning to try and try again.

The only thing I will criticize is lack of a skip function. That drove me completely mad. I don’t know if the game has since been patched to include one or not. But really being able to skip seen text is a MUST in these types of games arghhh……. and “Auto Play” is not the same as skip, because its still at a slow pace.

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Now with the bad out of the way, let’s talk about the good, because there’s a TON of good going on in the gameplay. Things that make Shira Oka truly unique in the industry of visual novels. It’s almost ALWAYS a different game every time you play. There’s hundreds of random events which may or may not happen on a play through. I was in my 10th or even later play through before I saw certain events. Also new classes and subjects to train will open up as you advance.

Even if you get a bad ending (or a good ending for that matter), it’s not game over; you’re sent back with your enhanced stats and new dialogue choices open up, and it’s just a really refreshing and unique experience. It makes multiple play throughs amazingly fun.

There are tons of opportunities for player choice and interaction. It’s a very engaging visual novel. You don’t have to read too much before reaching another opportunity to interact which I really love about this game.

I’m deducting 2 points for the lack of a skip function. If it had that, It’d be a flawless 10/10 experience.

Characters: 10/10 I loved most of the characters in this novel. My favorite is poor Kasumi. After that, probably Yui. I also really liked Alice and Naoko. I can’t really get too much into describing the characters without spoiling too much of the game. Here is a VERY brief rundown.

Alice is a foreign exchange student who loves music.

Naoko is a very mature motherly figure who takes care of her little brother while her parents are working overseas. She loves to cook.

Aya is an obnoxious brat who loves anime and has a carefree outlook on life.

Rena is alot like the harry potter character, luna lovegood. She is very kind, quiet, and kinda strange. She loves the occult, and is very superstitious.

Suzu is a strange young girl who loves building and repairing things and running experiments

Kazuki is Naoko’s little brother and Suzu’s best friend. He has trouble making friends and is rather shy.

Hiroshi is a guy in your class that all the girls love and guys envy. He is both a friend and rival for you throughout the game. He’s also Rena’s brother.

Yui is a very sad and lonely girl without many friends. She gets very nervous talking to anyone so she avoids most of the other students. She loves flowers and cute things such as stuffed animals.

Kiku is an exemplary student with high grades, perfect manners, and active in many different clubs and sports. She’s a popular girl, but she also suffers from pressure and the high expectations that everyone puts on her.

Graphics: 6/10 – Let’s be real, the graphics are not great. This is an American made visual novel and it shows. Americans can “imitate” anime artwork, but they can’t quite get it right. However, the artwork is charming in it’s own way. There are different sprites for different expressions and events. There are also a fairly large number of CG events with more detailed artwork. The art and background environments are brightly colored and the chibi sprites when training look cute and seem to take inspiration from games such as Tokimeki Memorial.

Voice Acting: 2/10 – This is my main complaint with this game; my god…. the voice acting is beyond annoying. It is truly, truly awful. Horrendous….. It grates on my nerves so much that I almost wish it had no voice acting at all. I do give it 2 points because there are some vocal songs that are pretty. But nearly every single character’s speaking voice is cringe worthy.

Music: 10/10 The music in Shira Oka is really pretty and each of the characters sing their own song and the opening theme is catchy too. I enjoyed the sound track to this game quite a bit.

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Replay Value: 10/10 You have to play all routes to unlock Kasumi’s route. The way the game sends you back with your stats in tact and the way the random events unfold and new activities appear on multiple playthroughs makes replaying this game a blast. The only small flaw is the lack of ability to skip previously read text. Which does admittedly get annoying. However, the fun things on each play through make this game worth playing over and over. You will see new things almost every time even if you’ve played the game a dozen or more times already. I think that’s really unique. I’ve not seen another novel that does that.

Overall: 62/80 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”

Review Shira Oka 2nd Chances Indie Visual Novel was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News