Beta Test

Monthly gaming reviews by self-confessed noob, Bethany Griffiths!

Reviews are presented here chronologically. To browse the entire back catalogue by title and go to a specific review, CLICK HERE!



Cuphead—The Impossible Game

G’day folks, I’m a Bethany Griffiths and this is Beta Test, where I—a self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on. Whether I get better or get wrecked, you’ll get an unbiased review!

This month we’re going to dive into the satanic depths of Cuphead. It’s a high-powered, action-packed indie game that has become notorious for having some of the hardest game play in a stand-alone franchise this year. The near impossible levels of hardness, and the smug noises of the big bosses (Goopy Le Grande, I’m looking at you, buddy), have made me rage more times than I’d ever care to admit this early on in our relationship.

In the game, you play as a little red teacup with arms and legs (or a blue mug of the same anatomy if you’re player 2) that shoots bullets of energy out of their hands in attempt to kill the endlessly spawning enemies. Starting in Inkwell Isle, you progress through three different worlds to reach the main boss of the game and defeat the evil. Pretty straightforward, right? So, what’s the catch?

The entire game is stacked against you!

Right from the very start, you notice that you are slower and do less damage than your enemies. There are also no checkpoints or saves mid-level, so if you die you HAVE to go back to the start. (You have three lives, straight up, with no extra lives thrown at you at any point in time.) Not only that, but if you play the game in Simple Mode, you can’t progress to the final battle.

Now I’ll be honest, I haven’t played a game that used platforming like this since the Rayman and Spyro franchises back in the early 2000s, as my tolerance for spending hours on a single level only to get to the end and die for the twentieth time is pretty low. I’m one of those people who get so immersed in games that I feel like I’m actually about to die if I lose… which leads to a lot of clocked hours on placid games like The Sims.

But this one, this one game made me re-think my entire stance on all of that. I spent a good hour-and-a-half on the first level, where I tried so hard to  get through the first half, only to die when the acorns started appearing. I was bashed by daisy men and mushrooms alike; little blue blob creatures foiled my every plan to get coins, and parry pink items to get a perfect score. And at the end of it—at the end of all that time dying over and over again—I was absolutely, utterly hooked.

The game play is simple enough. All the boss levels are a mass stream of button mashing until they die. You get various power-ups that you can buy with coins collected from run and gun levels, as well as some well hidden spot around the home screen. There are three basic types of level: run and gun, boss battles, and plane levels where you fly a fighter aircraft that fires bullets and drops bombs. All in all, the basic concept is plain and simple, but very well thought out.

The plot line is pretty fantastic, too. You and your brother are bequeathed the arduous task of collecting the souls of the damned for Satan himself, ensuring your safe return home after gambling away your own soul in a casino that somehow let in minors.

As you race through level after level beating bosses, you have to find ways to cheat the system to make any progress. You can use potions and remedies to poof in and out of focus or special bullets; you can gain features by freeing people from impending doom. This would be frustrating and ‘unfair’ if you weren’t dealing with a game that has the literal devil himself in it. Every detail has been thought out from the devil’s perspective and it all makes sense. Given this, and the sheer amount of time I spent on this game, I would rate it:

5/5 Cupheads for style

4/5 Cupheads for plotline

2/5 Cupheads for easiness

Which all rounds down to a solid 3.6/5 Cupheads.

The game is conceptually brilliant and visually stunning. The late ’50s inkwell style animation and fluid, ever-changing characters create such a beautiful world that it’s hard not to fall in love. The influence of early Disney and Fleischer Brothers studio, are evident, with the game holding true to those sinister undertones of cartoons gone by. Yet, it’s refreshing to see this style of animation in a modern setting. If there’s one thing I can say as a take away from Cupheads, it’s that even if you suck, even if you haven’t picked up a controller in fifty years, you will be entertained. And that is what makes this a fantastic game.

 

I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been Beta Test.

Until next time…



Status: Insane

December. The consumerist tradition month. The month where everyone in retail is made to work ungodly hours, and get pelted by shoppers who lost all semblance of mental balance long ago. The month of watching the family gossip unfold in a disarray of champagne and beer. The month of getting fat and blaming the weather instead of the gross amount of pudding and turkey you ate on Christmas Eve/Day. It’s enough to make you go insane.

Happy New Year, folks! I’m a Bethany Griffiths and this is Beta Test, where I—a self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on. Whether I get better or get wrecked, you’ll get an unbiased review!

Now, with the holiday period coming to an end, I probably should have chosen something like Wii Fit Boxing as my game of choice this month. But oh no, I’m not about to give up my sloth lifestyle just yet. Maybe February…

ANYWAY, this month I’m taking you down a dark corridor, through multiple warp pads, and away from any bright lights that harbor gun wielding doctors, as I play Status: Insane—the addictive fast run maze game.

Here, you play as Igor, the mental patient with the demeanor of a chicken, who needs to escape the confines of delusional purgatory to reach happiness, peace, and as many funny hats as possible. That’s not hyperbole either. You reside in your ward room waiting to escape—which you will, through a complex series of puzzles that lead to graveyards, sewers, castle outskirts, experimental facilities, and finally to freedom. You just need to navigate through everything without dying or being pelted with tranquilisers first.

Make your way through the delightfully spooky layout, which reminds me of every early 3D animation game I played as a little kid, and you get to interact with characters like Greg – the angry patient, and your imaginary friend who is a floating explosive head, with a brain tongue. He has the best dialogue of the whole game, by the way, with his Russian accent and hipster beanie.

This game has modesty. It’s an indie run game that has a small cult following, and the developers are lovely. But beyond that, the puzzles aren’t impossible. I wasn’t pulling my hair out, trying to do a maze runner level for the trillionth time. In fact, I only spent a good three days finishing the main storyline. The only time I found myself frustrated was with my own reaction times, which caused me to get zapped by electrical pods, hit by needles, eaten by rats, blown up by floating heads, and demolished by crashing rockets.

So… you know… the usual stuff.

There is also a strong set of achievements throughout the game that you get by performing specific interactions, like finding all the hats, patient notes, and posters scattered about the universe. This works really well in the game’s favour because it has such a simple structure. The added elements of play give the gamer something to go back and look forward to, instead of finishing the game and going ‘well, that’s it.’

Because of my intense love for easy-to-play, maze games, and the general innovation and motivation shown through the game’s development, I would rate this:

2/5 Tranquiliser Darts for style

4/5 Tranquiliser Darts for plotline

5/5 Tranquiliser Darts for easiness

5/5 Tranquiliser Darts for NOSTALGIA

This game is one giant cliché. It cringes. It cringes like the Jimmy-Neutron-game-making-Cindy-Vortex-dumb cringes. It cringes like every-chase-level-of-Crash-Bandicoot cringes. It cringes like a-parent-taking-his-ten-year-old-to-a-Disney-film cringes. And it’s SO good. I loved every minute of gameplay that reminded me of the early days of 3D animation, every small jagged detail of the characters, every level that incorporated something new. This game was fantastic on the nostalgia scale, and I loved that little kids as well as adults would be able to enjoy it.

 

I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a stocking-stuffed Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked, in the hopes that I can provide you all with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time…



Night in the Woods

Change. The daunting process of moving on and finding yourself. Whether it’s the change of growing up, or changing a job, or vomiting so hard you change your drinking habits for the first month of 2018… change is coming, and it is inevitable. So what can be done about the unsettling fear that so many of us feel crashing down when things start to turn? And what can we do to stay positive and let go of the past? Find out with me in this weird month.

Wazzup, nightmare eyes! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a vaguely more sober self-confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. This, all in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

It’s February, my dudes, and like most people that love to make empty promises, I’ve only broken my New Year’s resolution three times! I know, what idiot makes the decision to do anything in January, other than starfish on the floor in front of the air con? Well, this girl apparently. Go me! But aside from the goal setting and parameters I’ve claimed, I’ve been losing myself in one of the best millennial games of 2017. So put down the smashed avocado, step away from the new Kesha album, and buy yourself a house because this one’s a good’n.

Yes, it seems like amongst bar soap and the American dream, the only industry the millennials aren’t apparently killing is the video game one.

Night in the Woods is a thoroughly enjoyable, story rich indie adventure game that sucks you right in from the start. Developed by Infinite Fall, and published by Finji, the game tackles some of the realer and more hard-hitting moments of early adulthood. It plays on the internal struggles of mental illness, the themes of gender and sexuality, and the way higher education is seen. It also explores the manner in which the presence of change in the universe is unsettling and the way people relate to each other through their own broken ways. It is a true critique on the modern age.

Throughout the game, we are able to see these themes through the eyes of the main character, Mae. As a hotheaded gal who has a great fear of letting go of the past, I really identified with her character. And not because she and I have a habit of throwing-up drunk at parties (i.e. the reason I’m sober this month), but because of the way she identifies with her fears and anxieties. Night in the Woods really played on this theme of insight, using a higher intuition to solve where you are and where you’re going to be.

I got the sense that Mae knew too much; she was so highly in tune with the ethereal elements of the world, but so painfully out of focus with the rest of the space. She was pent up and felt like she always had to perform to please people, all the while thinking she’s an embarrassment and a disappointment. Mae’s character is juvenile and impulsive. She gets reckless fast and is prone to bursts of mania, some of which could be seen as confronting if the player is sensitive. Her highly guarded nature is driven by anxiety and repression, and the way she gets it all out is by smashing stuff and dissociating. Her character is genuine, though, and the love she has for her friends, family, and neighbours is both real and warming. For a character with that much thought and depth, I give huge props to the writers. And that doesn’t even include the rest of the main band: Bea, Greg, Angus, Germ, and Lori all have backstories just as deep.

Night in the Woods boasts an impressive narrative that drives the game from a mediocre platform jumper to a true iconic piece of game design. The way the characters interact with each other and the sheer amount of thought that went into the NPC’s is astounding. Almost everyone in town having their own string of dialogue was a genius idea for someone like me who loves a good story with my game; the writing has a fantastic way of making you, the gamer, feel involved. The art style is simple and modern for a 2D render. The autumnal colours give a full, nostalgic view, as though we’re looking back on a constant memory. And the score is gorgeous too.

I love the way mundane activities are portrayed in this game. Having a conversation with your mum at the breakfast table, or filling out your journal feels pivotal, and real. (Which is funny, since the game nods at a fourth wall break in chapter three, making me *feel emotions*.) Because of the infinite reality Night in the Woods facilitates, and for the gorgeousness of all things score and script, I give this game:

5/5 Crimes for style

5/5 Crimes for plot line

3/5 Crimes for easiness

5/5 Crimes for millennial strength

That awkward middleground of not quite adult but not quite kid, too young to be stuck in the one spot but terrified of the outside world, is played with brilliantly. I saw myself reflected right back in so many incarnations of each of these characters. Being stuck in a job that pays the bills, dealing with my anger issues, trying to save what I can with my retail job, and getting professional help to stop my disassociation. It’s hard to not identify with at least one character here. The developers really took the time to understand what young adults are going through in the modern world and the way it impacts their lives. I am so grateful for that.

I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a sober, existential Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked, in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time…



Batman: The Enemy Within—The Telltale Series

How often do you screw up? Sometimes it feels like failure is inevitable, sneaking up on us every time we turn around. It could be at a party, at a family gathering, or like me, at a recent bad day on the job that led to a string of awkward, disappointed messages, and a panic attack so vicious that I got an actual cold. When an horrendous event happens, don’t you wish you had a save point to skip back to, to make it all better?

Because this game sure doesn’t.

Hey ya, Bats! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and This is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a snotty, anxious, self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

This month is a toughie. Not just because I started it with a panic attack the size of east Ukraine, or because I have five whole weeks till I’m officially in Europe (though the latter is a nice thought, isn’t it). No, it’s because I tried my hand at something more mainstream. Yes, I dipped my hand in the black inky ooze of mass marked consumerism, thinking that it would break me into the best game I had ever surely played. Oh, how was I deceived.

Let me set the scene. A girl, at her laptop at night. She is in her lil’ chilli pyjamas, nursing a Milo, browsing steam. She sighs. Her eyes—tired. Barely staying awake, delirious, She hears a voice in her head. ‘You’re too genre based,’ it says. ‘You need to branch out. You have to do a game that’s more popular. With identifiable characters, and a big plot pine.’ She nods, her finger hovering over the checkout button. ‘Yesssssssss, that’s it,’ the voice whispers, ‘cater to the masses.’ She clicks. The game is bought. She slumps, falling asleep. Head lolling, the download starts, and the month begins.

She has now overdrawn her bank account by ten whole dollars.

Now, I know, I know, you should never play a game out of spite. Or to please other people, but Darn it, I’m nothing if not a tryer. (not a ‘doer’ because doing is hard and I’m in therapy for it, but trying is something I’m severely adept at. Look out world). In the first few seconds of Batman: The Enemy Within, I was struck by how nice the graphics were. Sure the outlines were programmed in to change with the character, and sure the characters were a little clunky, but wow would you look at that story line.

In the first few minutes, I was thinking this was a very long cutscene before the tutorial, and In the first few hours I realised what I should have realised long ago—this is it. This is the game.

Now, this game has its good points, don’t get me wrong, but what I felt was so disappointing was that I was set to like this game. It had good dialogue, easy manoeuvres, and it was a great pick up for someone who only knows the basics about Batman. However, in the words of every parent who’s just seen their kid purposefully dump their cat out of a two story window: ‘I am severely disappointed in you right now.’

The lack of skippable cutscenes and actual gameplay was insane. In fact, the whole thing felt like a bastardised intro monologue that grew legs and overran the series with its bulky off-brand Batmobile body. If you thought listening to Sephiroth’s Kingdom Hearts monologue was boring, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Watch as Bruce Wayne encounters conversation after conversation with people that will hate his guts no matter what you pick. Take aim as he presses Q and/or E in movements so slow and meaningless you’ll wonder why you didn’t just pirate a copy of The Dark Knight and watch that instead. Behold, as you choose the silent option for him to cross his arms and pout like the toddler that he is. By all accounts, I was not amused.

The thing is, I like that this game has real world consequences. I like that you get to influence the characters and gameplay, and I like that there aren’t any difficult combo breakers that you have to master. But when the entire story is just one long exposition line with a couple of buttons to press on the side here and there, it gets boring quicker than Jared Leto’s Joker. Instead of a kick ass, gritty, crime fighting saga, I got a long, grating, lecture-like, download. And that is inexcusable. Because of the overbearing plotline, and the sheer boredom I faced, I give this game:

2/5 Bats for style
4/5 Bats for plotline
3/5 Bats for easiness
0/5 Bats for Bruce Wayne’s Pouty McPout Face

At this point I can’t even feel bad for the franchise for such a bad take on the Batman series. I found out that Telltale has cut a significant portion (25%) of their staff in November 2017, as they want to ‘focus on delivering fewer, better games with a smaller team.’ [G. Smith, Rock Paper Shotgun, 2017]

As someone who’s been hired under three different companies that are now slowly going bankrupt, I know a liquidation when I see one. Their comments of wanting to ‘make the company more competitive as a developer and publisher of groundbreaking story-driven gaming experiences’ sound exactly like something a CEO trying to deflect from the issue would say. I feel ashamed that a company would cut it’s staff by such a high margin to cover their asses.

So, with that illuminating month of stress and boredom out of the way, what could possibly happen next? Well, one thing’s for sure, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been an abysmal Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time…



Beholder

Holidays. The relaxing sound of beer glasses clinking in some vague European country. The inviting feeling of just staying in bed, in another continent, a twenty-four-hour flight away from your home. Getting out of the work stratosphere, evading carpal tunnel (or in my case, chronic retail overload) to truly reconnect with your fellow people. When, unlike the great Atlas, you are able to lift off the weight of the world, don’t you just want to sigh in relief?

Well, joke’s on you, you have to smuggle your family across the border of war torn Russia instead.

Hello Carl! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—worldly, Contiki-brained, self-confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on, until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

This month I am back on the indie bandwagon, clanging my proverbial guitar, taking my metaphorical ‘shrooms, singing something or other from the Beatles or Hair, and loving every goddamned second of it. Yes, gone is the heinous, Joker-like, consumerist nightmare laugh that plagued me last month. Now I get to listen to the bomb in the washing machine, the gunshots of a tenant killing her husband, and the blissful screams of miners as they run down the street only to trample and subsequently kill my wife. Ah, the serenity!

Can you tell I’m on vacation?

Let me start by saying that above everything, this game is utterly amazing. The way the graphics are incorporated to give that classic indie feel, while maintaining a cohesive, fluid style is delightful. The black and white aura that Beholder gives off, while maintaining a solid colour palate is commendable, and the story line is nothing to sneeze at either. The game really gets you in the mood for the cartoon violence that you have to overcome, the dark imagery gets you revved up for more, and more you shall have with this one.

Developed by Warm Lamp Games, and Published by Alawar Premium, Beholder is the gripping story of Carl, a ministry worker, and his plight as the owner of an apartment building under the fall of the Iron Curtain. This game is fraught with conundrums: from saving people that could easily be killed off, to deciding between saving your daughter’s life and keeping your son in school, to giving people up to the law or squirrelling them away on a barge overseas. I have lost whole days on this game, and I’m still not through discovering all the different nooks and crannies.

When I first started playing, I was trying to go by the rules. I hate hurting people, so I was trying to be as gentle as possible. I soon learnt that that in not an option with Beholder. The trainee level is hard and the main level is almost impossible, giving you next to no money for tasks that cost you a fortune. I think I spent a solid three days trying to figure out how to save up $20,000 to protect my daughter’s life, only to find that I could get the medicine for free by playing dirty.

Normally, I would be more conflicted by the hate that this game seems to have seeping out of its pores. But since this is practically a game interpretation of George Orwell’s 1984, I really appreciate the developers trying to make you think about your situation critically, and assess all your surroundings to take advantage of every loophole you can find. It takes determination, but the payoff is phenomenal in the end. Apart from the occasional bug or glitch, Beholder is amazing for people who want to get into the scene, in an easy to understand but challenging way. (And not to hype the game up too much, but after last month, this was honestly a godsend).

Because of the hours of joy this game brought me, and the sheer stylistic vitality of the design, I give this game:

5/5 Illegal Apples for style
5/5 Illegal Apples for plot line
2/5 Illegal Apples for easiness
5/5 Illegal Apples for Dora shooting her husband (Five for you Dora, you go, Dora)

So, I can honestly say I’m sad to see this game go. It gave me so much and asked so little. Good thing there’s a sequel or I’d be suffering withdrawals! Isn’t that a horrifying prospect? Well, one thing’s for sure, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths and this has been a holiday mode activated Beta Test: a game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked, all in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time…



Nihilumbra

Australia, land of the Bunnings sausage sizzle, the call of the kookaburra, and the sound of several Contiki backpackers Instagramming nude photos from the Swiss Alps. If you think I’m lying, you have never been on an Aussie holiday, which you need to get onto ASAP because I’M BACK, BABY! Seven kilos heavier from all the amazing food I consumed. Especially the desserts. God, I love European Desserts. Where was I? Oh yeah, games—as the white rapper Eminem once famously quoted from his popular hit, Lose Yourself, ‘Snap back to reality, oop there goes gravity.’ Which is what I’m pretty much feeling right now because of my hatred of flying, but also my cold hard drop to the world of retail down in the fiery depths below.

Take me back! I beg of you.

G’day, g’day! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a reality struck, self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Nihilumbra header image

In this time of my metaphorical soul dying, what could be better to soothe my working gal woe than to go inside myself and look at my voidal parts to discover ways of healing myself from the inside out? To fill myself with proverbial colour and to cast out the nothingness that I’m feeling? To, in essence, find the gaps and stuff them with something more meaningful than various treats from old Eastern European countries (Poland, I’m looking at you and your delicious Pierogis)? To help me on my soul finding (weight-gaining) trip, I’ve found a fun little thing, Nihilumbra.

Developed and published by BeautiFun Games, Nihilumbra is a game for all levels that gives off classic platforming vibes while retaining its place as an all round indie game. Set in a world where you come from, and are trying to escape ‘The Void’, it deals with the ideas of loss and acceptance, and trying to find your place in the world. I found myself finishing the first play through in a solid day’s worth of gaming, only to find there was a part two built in, which I really appreciate from the developers.

I’ll start by giving this game the credit it deserves. It is well made, the script is fantastic, and the overall calmness I felt while exploring ancient places was soothing, especially since every level ends in a chase montage. I was perfectly happy with the fact that you could use checkpoints to save yourself from death, that this game was on the shorter side, and didn’t drag on to overwork the concept. It was short and straight to the point. For that I give the makers props.

However, I can’t say that I was enthralled by the game. I found myself getting bored by the third world and, by the end (though I really liked the sentimentality of the ending), I didn’t come away having had a mind-altering experience. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that not every game needs to have the big epiphany to work—Solitaire is good, Chess is a classic—but I got the feeling that Nihilumbra was trying to be more than it was. Or rather, going too deep for a game that reminded me heavily of an interactive ASMR video.

It’s not that I had a bad experience, it’s that ironically, I ended up feeling next to nothing for pretty much anything in the game world. Going through the frozen wastelands, the Forests, Volcanoes, Deserts, and City should have been more harrowing to me than they were, and I think that’s where the problem is. We don’t form a bond to our character, they are always a separate identity, which is one of the games most core components. You are the void, You are trying to find yourself, You You You, and yet, for all intents and purposes it wasn’t me. It was a little black blob on the screen that I could control, that I could move with my WASD keys, and that I could make do neat tricks. I wasn’t pulled into the game, and that’s an issue.

Stylistically, I found Nihilumbra more convincing, as it can be broken down to old school +10 years in that weird phase of not quite smooth, but definitely not 8-bit any more. I liked the settings and the way the natural world moved around the screen. I enjoyed the way the enemies were designed, even though there was little law behind the naming of them. In fact, I had horrifying flashbacks to myself ten years ago trying to create ‘alternative’ names for my neopets. But I don’t hold that against them. It was a fun little game that was in a fun little platform, no hard (or any) feelings.

Because of the casual nature, and the old school style, I give this game:

3/5 Growing Voids for style
2/5 Growing Voids for plot line
4/5 Growing Voids for easiness
2/5 Growing Voids for the growing feeling of nothingness

So, after all that, what’s left? Well all I can say is that I can appreciate credit where credit’s due. A tryer is better than a giver upper, and if you want to make up your own mind, I’m certainly not going to be mad at you for giving it a go. Just remember, don’t become the void.

In any case, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been an introspective Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time…

Goodbye footer



Little Inferno

Ah, fire. The true nomadic milestone. The vibrating atoms, the fun red colour, the scolding heat of having burned your hand on a flaming marshmallow back in 2011 at an underage house party, and giving yourself a permanent scar on your middle finger. Fire—pretty great, and in this weather, I’m more likely to throw myself into an open inferno than restrain myself from the searing pain, because my body runs at the pace of a sloth with arthritis. Do you wanna build a snowman on my cold frozen corpse? Not if I jump into Dante’s open arms first!

As the popular twitter handle @dril says, ‘I will face god and walk backwards into hell.’ And in this cold? I’ll be laughing all the way.

 

It’s been a month.

Hello, my little pyromaniacs! I’m a Bethany Griffiths and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a C O L D , self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

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Behold! Winter is here, and not only has it got the metaphorical keys to its dad’s comero to drive me personally to the land of frozen toes and hypothermia, but it also comes with the most impressive thing known to man since the wooden club. Fire! Yes, the cold is well and truly here and with it, I find myself struggling to get back into the world of the living (why is waking up at 6am so damn depressing?) which is why I’m playing Little Inferno this month.

Developed and Published by Tomorrow Corporation, Little Inferno is a peaceful puzzle game, with no timers or, surprisingly, bad consequences. Set in a time where an eternal winter has taken over your town, you are given the pyromaniacs version of an easy bake oven to calm your otherwise terrified tenancies and burn all your worldly possessions. But all is not quite right in your home and soon you bare witness to the realisation that the fireplace is your only pastime. When you start receiving mysterious messages from your next door neighbour, your world is turned upside down and you start to uncover the truth.

I found it really easy to figure out the mechanics, and if you didn’t want to delve into the deeper plot lines, I could see this being a therapeutic game, say, for hard days in the office where you really want to staple the refund policy to a person that just bought back an eight-month-old set of walkie talkies. Get home, put on some slippers, grab a glass of red, set things alight. I think the relief of being rid of ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ could be a catalyst for relaxation, and it was really satisfying.

If you did want to delve into the law though, Little Inferno is a titillatingly intelligent critique on the level of cyber intake the world is engaging in, as well as climate change, corporate solitude, and escapism. The take on every computer generated medium known to the world isn’t lost here and was pretty much my gateway to getting the point of it all. The creators threw in flappy bird references and plants vs zombies cliches, for those of us that are too distracted by pretty fire to figure out the metaphor by ourselves (me), but the message was clear.

What I really loved about this game was that nothing actually insidious was going on behind the scenes. It reminded me of an early Studio Ghibli movie, where you’re waiting the entire time to meet the big bad guy—the thing that you can put all your negativity and hatred towards in a shameless cycle of self righteousness—but in the end, it’s just a show about you, the kid, trying to make their way in the world, stumbling on adult truths and meeting friends along the way. The ending was also really valuable to me, because it conveyed this sense of getting out and letting go that I’ve really needed to be more aware of in the past few months.

I found the way the game is set to critique the playing of itself to be on the nose, but in a good way. I enjoyed the way the player is set up to delve deeper and deeper into the string theory, to try and find something more sinister or visceral. The Steam forums, which I spent near days scrolling through, were abundant in alternate ending theories, best play routes, and conspiracies about the main characters. While I will always applaud the gamers keen enough to explore every nook of the game, I think Little Inferno is softly laughing at you. There is no hidden hate, no dead kids, no apocalypse now. Just the real world, in all its natural state, staring back at you sitting in front of your mass produced plastic box, staring into the abyss, burning the midnight oil as well as your life away. And I think that is the point. Or at least, that was the point for me.

Because of the intrigue of the game play, and the way it made me think, I give this game:

4/5 Fire starters for style
3/5 Fire starters for plot line
5/5 Fire starters for easiness
4/5 Fire starters for the impending sense of dread that never actually comes to fruition

So, after that explosive awakening, what remains? The distrust in the universe? You can’t go back, only forward. What’s burned is burned, and once everything around you is ash, what do you do? Well, like the late great Robin Williams once said, ‘Carpe Diem, seize the day, boys.’ Today, and this month, I leave you with a much more sombre message than what I thought I would—Find the happy in the world. Don’t just fill the void with flame and hope that it’ll keep burning exponentially. It won’t.

In any case, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been an somewhat more sobering Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time…

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Whispering Willows

Rent. The hit musical about AIDS, capitalism, and the American way. The movie that warns you about power and what it can be like to be at either end of the spectrum. The humility of falling down, down, down. The one thing that makes you think about never EVER going into the corporate world. Well… I’m officially in the twilight zone and can I say it’s nothing like the power of retail. Yes, this month I jump over the moon in the pursuit of a new job in reception that has me quaking in my $12 Kmart flats, if not for the feeling of being a total fake that will be found out at any moment, than the dangling terror of waking up at 6am on a Wednesday.

I’ve been pushed over the cliff by a suicidal Mickey Mouse, and I’m what I own.

Thank god I’ve got video games.

Hello my Creepy Crypts! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a Workaholic, self confessed Noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

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Developed by Night Light Interactive, and Published by Akupara Games, Whispering Willows is a puzzle mystery game, that showcases a variety of chase and timing scenes. Set in a haunted mansion, as all the best things usually are, we play as Elena, the daughter of a man who had close ties to the mansion and its surroundings. Starting in the crypt, the game is set into the horror mode quickly as we explore old tombs and find things that aren’t quite all there in life, or in death.

First I’ll say this. The game looks amazing. The hand drawn effort that went into making this game look as rich and dark as it does takes talent, and that’s why I’m so disappointed by the way it turned out.

The game itself is a ‘WASD’ based exploration mystery, where you change forms to interact with the other characters and move objects. There are puzzles of various difficulties running through pretty much the whole narrative—which was generally pretty good, until you got stuck on a vague quote someone said and have to retrace all your steps to find the one corner you haven’t explored yet. That being said, it’s a pretty basic game that I would have enjoyed as a teen. That is, anyone can play it, and it’s edgy enough to catch my then-goth obsessed brain.

The plot line centres around Elena, but there is a parallel story that ties into the game, about the colonial era, and the interaction between the settlers and the indigenous people. It was an interesting twist on what would have been a pretty straightforward game otherwise. Still, I’m not sure I can say all the pieces fit together. As I walked through catacombs, gardens, guest houses and observatories alike, I found a lot of the characters were only there to fuel plot progression, and the characters that were there for the hell of it were really obscure. For instance, there’s a man with a snapped neck in the garden that jokes about being a comedian in his life. That was it, no further plot, just—comedy.

It seems that once you get over how visually stimulating the game is, the plot holes start to come out. Especially with the cut scenes—I don’t know who was in charge of them but they were under-drawn and unfinished. I got the impression that this was like a group project that one person was really passionate about and the other just went ‘Yeah, I’ll draw some shit’ and only got around to it the night before the whole thing was due. Still, credit where credit is to be had, the game play is easy enough that I wasn’t stumped the whole way through, and the graphics of the actual play through were, again, stunning. I loved the way the artist didn’t shy away from the disturbing imagery.

The bright light that does save Whispering Willows a bit is the creepiness it maintains to instil from start to finish. I was honestly delighted by how raw and disturbed the spectres you find are, especially when they pop up out of nowhere. I think my favourite was the couple out the front of the mansion itself. I jumped a bit too high when they popped up.

Because of the conflicting feelings this gave me, I give this game:

4/5 Spirit guides for style
3.5/5 Spirit guides for plot line
5/5 Spirit guides for easiness
1/5 Spirit guides for The cut scene graphics

So, what can I say about this game? I think in the end, if you’re going to make a game, do it. I’ve got a feeling that the more this company produces, the better the games will get. After all, they’re not doing badly at the moment. I think it would be interesting to see a remake in five to ten years time with the same team to see how they could improve. Like the cast of Rent laments, ‘The story never ends.’

In any case, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a 6am start Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time.

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Pinstripe

Another day another dollar, another month, another week older. Right? Sometimes the year slides by without us noticing it. The whispering, shaking of our bodies as they tremble with change, and the collision of foot fall on the ground as the end draws ever near…Except this time, no, I’m not going through seasonal depression, It’s my birth month! YAY! Thanks for coming! Congratulations, drinks and hugs all around! I don’t have champagne, but I DO have a goon sack and a hills hoist clothesline older than time itself. Let’s do shots and play truth or dare. The kids still play that right?

I’m 24, and live in constant debt. Let’s get fucked up amirite?

Good god make time stop.

Hello fellow kids! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I – a [good god] *mid* 20’s self confessed noob – choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

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First off the bat let’s just say that I realised the other day that I’m the embodiment of that one Shrek vine with the two guys singing smash mouth, because the years start coming and they don’t stop coming, and they don’t stop coming, and they don’t stop coming, and they don-you get the picture. So I decided that god damn it I want to have fun before I die… the only problem is how in fresh heck do I do that without disrupting the very fine tuned life I planned for myself, what with the meek and mild job, the casual hours, the trying really hard to get along with everyone, the constant fear of failure. How in good gravy do I turn my life around? Well I don’t know, but I’m taking small steps in the path of what I hope is the good, and going from there. Today, Circus training, tomorrow [or realistically, in the next 5-7 years] the world.

Imma still play video games tho. Speaking of which…

YouTube, is there anything you can’t find on there. If you watch enough, the voices of your favourite personalities will become pretty iconic, especially if they’re in, say, a random video game you chose out of the steam pile to play this month. Yeah, when I first started playing Pinstripe, I was completely unaware of just who was in it, but once the character of ‘Jack’ came on the screen, the wormhole opened up and swallowed me whole. My whole life was a lie, there are worlds within worlds, and Seán McLoughlin has an iconic voice.

Developed by Thomas Brush, and Published by Armor Games Studios, Pinstripe is a game that follows the loss of a daughter at the hands of a kidnapper, and the father’s harrowing journey to save her and himself. Using the talented voices of Mia Ciscon, Felix Kjellberg, Nathan Sharp, and Seán McLoughlin [to name a few], Pinstripe allows the player to be put in the head space of horror as one of it’s lighter, more playful incarnations.

The game’s design is majestic. The undertone the designers chose really works in the game’s favour to convey the personalities of the characters – and the audio is stunning. The actors really held tone over the game, and subtle things like echoing laughter on a train, and slurping in the tunnels show just how well everyone working here knew how to convey engrossing style and tone. I thoroughly enjoyed all the mild glitch scares, and reveal gags especially right towards the end, where I was the most engrossed.

Most of the story pertains to the daughter, Bo’s, imagination, and we get the feeling of childlike fear, like when a kid tells you a horror story, from the very start. What’s more, the in game law is graphic, with the insinuation of death, love, loss, a drinking problem, and a pastor lost from god, it’s easy to see how this could be set in the realms of limbo and hell. I love it when I can call a game titillating, but this one really did tickle my jimmies, and rustle my fancies.

For the most part I found the levels challenging enough that if I really took my time I’d be able to figure out the ins and outs of the puzzles, but speed runners beware, this game has some tricky little turns that can set you back, or out of pocket for in game mechanics. At one point there is a no turn back zone that really threw me for a loop, [because, guess who didn’t want to read all the dialogue? It was me] and set me back for my achievements.

I ran the game in a total of two and a half hours non stop, so while this is not an epic saga in the sense of time, it is brilliant as a small stand alone indie game. The creative team didn’t bite off more than they could chew, and what was presented was captured to the best it could be. What’s more, playing the game once isn’t enough. To unlock everything, including the steam achievements, [because let’s face it, I’m a slut for overachieving] you will need at least three attempts, which for this game is exactly warranted. Playing over and over, you see more and more of the personalities, notice different little pick ups, and get to theorise a lot more about the body of work.

I was impressed with this game from start to finish. Even right at the end when I thought there was nothing more to give, Pinstripe kept on giving. It’s the game I truly needed this month. A good little pick me up that I will gladly come back to over and over again.

Because of the well prepared, and beautifully stunning nature of this game, I give Pinstripe:

5/5 Goo sacks for style
4/5 Goo sacks for plotline
3/5 Goo sacks for easiness
7/5 Goo sacks for Sheer scenery majesty

So in the end all that can be said is that you need to at least give this game a go. Take it for the titillating indie title that it is and you will have a fun time. Promise.

In any case, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been 24 year old Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time.

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Rusty Lake Hotel

Halloween! The most commercialised October tradition since Canadian Thanksgiving and the Spring Racing Carnival. The season of spooky scary skeletons played at half speed with a jazz synth mix ‘we are number one’ overlay. The sound of joyous cheer as a guy with a slutty Jesus costume pulls a blunt out of the cracks of a timber deck, using nothing but a pair of skewers, at an ill-conceived house party. What’s not to love about the spookening streets, the dark movies played on TV, the neighbours yelling at you to get off their porch because this is Australia and we don’t ‘do that’ here?

Oh yeah, jump scares…

Happy Octoberween, everyone! I’m a Bethany Griffiths and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I – a Spooky Scary self confessed noob – choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

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Now, let’s just say that I had every intention of playing ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ this month to really kick off the October festivities with a bang, but I’ll keep it real… I got three seconds in and chickened out HARD, restarted my computer, and bought a completely different game instead. BUT FEAR NOT! Rusty Lake Hotel is still a spooky game, filled with gore and Gothic features. Just… a little less like I’m gonna die at the hands of a big yellow chicken with an ‘Eat Me’ bib.

Rusty Lake Hotel is the first instalment of five games—and a movie—about the slow murder of the residents of a hotel in the middle of a lake. The characters are portrayed by animal figures that you slice and dice night to night to feed to the other guests. But it hints at real world scenarios that quite plainly gave me the wiggins.

Developed and published by Rusty Lake, the game sets out to explore horror not as a commotion of blood splatter and chaos, but rather the quiet stillness of failed trust and the cold clean underworld of premeditated crime. I loved the artistry of this game. The actual design was so appealing. I want to say it reminded me of a Lemony Snicket book or an early Tim Burton concept; the characters jumped off the screen (not literally, thank god) and really got me in the mood for some good old-fashioned gore. But the dark scenes, grim as they were, were light and cartoonish enough that I wasn’t left reeling with horror afterwards. In short, the game gives me the same sick satisfaction as a good medical or ER show, where you watch the screen and go ‘Oh my god, that’s a butt with a harpoon through it/toe with gangrene/hernia the size of mid-west France—Gross’ but you watch it every week on catch up TV regardless.

HOWEVER, while I enjoyed many elements to Rusty Lake Hotel—and I deeply enjoyed many, many partsI do have some thoughts on it’s skill levels because here’s the thing: I’m a firm believer that if you need a whole ass YouTube tutorial made by the company to explain how to get through your game, you made a wrong move there, Sunny Jim. While I’m not a savant of video games, sitting up in my royal towel of unlocked steam achievements, I’ve gone through a damn ton of click and pointers. (Trust me, I used to buy those $10 Big Fish mystery solver games on CD back in the day. I played PopCap games for years on end. ‘Spy Fox: Operation Ozone’ was my JAM. I have cred on this one).

It was just so dang hard! I spent hours trying to find out why I wasn’t frying the grease out of a pigeon in a bathtub, stabbing a rabbit with a mystery sword through the kidneys, and getting a pheasant in a photo booth to Abraham Lincoln herself with a costume and a gun. I was stumped at where the higgidy heck I needed to point and click to get the extra ingredients or why there was tabasco sauce coming out of a ram skull. (Or why the deer wasn’t WRITHING IN AGONY about his horns being sliced in half.) In this not so easy mouse cruiser, I relied on the tutorial for EVERYTHING.

That being said, I did enjoy the mechanics of the game. Rusty Lake Hotel pulled out some good spooks, and I give the developers some very serious cred for getting it right with the level of violence and the eloquence of the plot. Given it’s the first in a series, I’d be keen to see where all of it goes and how this fragment of story fits in together.

Because of the intrigue and drama, not to mention the everlasting images of murder I’m left with, I give this game:

5/5 Murders for style
3/5 Murders for plot line
2/5 Murders for easiness
0/5 Murders for eating your own poop because you’re a boar and apparently that’s A-OK. Don’t ask. Just play. You’ll see.

This game was, again, very gratifying. I enjoyed the ideas and concepts Rusty Lake are bringing to the table and I’m optimistic for the future. I just hope I can play through the next one without using a tutorial.

So, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a murderous Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time.

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