911 Operator.

In PlayWay‘s job simulator 911 Operator you answer phone calls. How can that possibly be entertaining?

You might remember the adventure game slash job simulator This is the Police by Belarusian developer Weappy Studio. I reviewed the game late last year, and while it was interesting for a while, it started to feel like a chore after a few hours. This is the Police had two major gameplay elements. You managed resources as a police dispatcher by day, and growing your retirement slush fund by night. Now Polish developer PlayWay has taken police dispatcher element of This is the Police, and turned it into a game of its own; 911 Operator.

911 Operator builds further upon the basic features of This is the Police’ basic dispatcher mini-game. You’re managing all three branches of the emergency services: The police, the fire department, and the ambulance service. You also have to handle vehicles, staff and equipment, assign teams, and make sure the teams have the equipment they need to deal with every situation effectively. Through your 12 hour work shift, you have to use your available units as effectively as possible, while juggling both reported incidents and incoming 911 calls.

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INSIDE.

“I love my job” is what I would have written if reviewing video games was something I did for a living, and INSIDE was my current assignment.

Danish developer Playdead entered the indie scene with their puzzle-based side scroller LIMBO on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. I reviewed it the year after, giving it my very exclusive two thumbs up. Since the release of LIMBO, Playdead has porting the game to no less than 9 other platforms, firmly squeezing every last potential out of that poor kid.

Last year, the company returned with a brand new game: INSIDE. Not only does the game confirm Playdead’s love for ALL CAPS titles, and young, male protagonists. It also shows that they are still very, very good at making puzzle-based games.

INSIDE somehow managed to fly completely below my radar. It wasn’t until Steam’s algorithms decided that it was time for me to buy something new that I realized it existed. And for once, Steam hit a home run with their recommendation.

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Stellaris.

You might or might not have noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of activity on this site lately. The reason for that is Stellaris1.

Over the last couple of years, Paradox has become a highly respected brand in strategy gaming circles. The Swedish publisher/developer, operating as Paradox Interactive and Paradox Development Studio respectively, has published and developed some of the most popular strategy games and strategy franchises on the PC platform in recent years. Titles like Crusader Kings, Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, and Cities: Skylines will make most strategy gamers giggle of joy.

Paradox’ grand strategy games, in particular, have amassed a considerable amount of dedicated fans. Despite their steep learning curve, complicated mechanics, and non-intuitive user interface, Paradox’ grand strategy titles are among the finest in the genre. It was not a huge surprise then, that the strategy gaming community got very excited when Paradox announced their first science fiction title back in 2015: Stellaris.

There were some skeptics. Of course. There always are. Until Stellaris was announced, Paradox had dabbled exclusive in historically based strategy games. Would they be able to conquer space as well? One year after release, it’s time to see if Paradox’ first science fiction title has turned into everything it set out to become.

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Homeworld Remastered.

In 1999, Vancouver-based developer Relic Entertainment released their first game. The game was Homeworld, a real time strategy game set in space. For its time, Homeworld was a visual feast. Beautiful, 3D modeled space ships in combat against glorious backdrops of star fields and nebulas. In 2015, 16 years after the release of the original game, Gearbox Software released Homeworld Remastered, with both upgrades visuals and a refined user interface. But does Homeworld stand the test of time?

Both critics and players rejoiced when the original Homeworld was released. Even I wrote a preview of sorts. But the visuals wasn’t the only aspect that made the game stand out. Homeworld came with an intricate, original backstory, a feature that wasn’t exactly in abundance among the strategy games released at the time.

An ancient space ship is discovered buried in the sand at the dessert planet Kharak. It contains a stone map showing Kharak and another planet across the galaxy labelled “Higara” – home. The clans of Kharak unite to build a giant mothership that will carry 600,000 people on the long journey to Higara to reclaim their home planet. But during a final calibration test of the mothership’s hyperdrive things go bad. It turns out that strong forces in the universe are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the Higarans from leaving Kharak, and start the journey back home.

Homeworld Remastered and its beautiful space combat.

Homeworld Remastered and its beautiful space combat.

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Kentucky Route Zero: Act IV.

Three years after the initial release, developer Cardboard Computer has finally finished work on Kentucky Route Zero: Act IV.

Kentucky Route Zero is an episodic point-and-click adventure game. The funds necessary to start development of the first episode was raised through a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2011. The first episode was released three years later, in January 2013.

Short recap: In Act I, we meet the truck driver Conway, who works for an antique store. Out on a job, he has to stop at a gas station to ask for directions. The attend tells him that the only way for Conway to get to his destination is to take the mysterious Route Zero. In the rest of Act I, and the subsequent two acts, we follow Conway’s travels along Route Zero. Along the way of the he meets other travelers, who are just as lost as he is himself.

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