Shadowrun Returns [Steam store page]
Shadowrun Returns (aka DMS) & Shadowrun Dragonfall

Both of these games feature combat similar to the XCom series, with an emphasis on RPG character interaction between fights. The story is completely text-based, no voice acting, but written well enough that it doesn't feel like a slog. I've played them a little over 4 hours, combined, and although the story is okay - the combat leaves a lot to be desired.

I might actually recommend starting with Dragonfall, even though it's technically an expansion, because it is a standalone game and the combat interface is far better. In DMS there are a number of options hidden behind obtuse menus, and since this game doesn't have an interactive tutorial - just a dry manual to read - it's easy to miss important features unless you know what you're looking for. Overwatch is also present in both games - but not obvious, you actually have to possess a minimum skill to use it (unlike XCom).

Both games have the same basic flaw though - the initiative in fights is completely scripted, and the enemy usually moves first. This wouldn't be a huge issue except that the maps tend to be very small, without much cover, and you often have to walk up to an enemy or nearby door to initiate the combat. This puts you right in the thick of combat, often getting hit before you even have a chance to position your men. In Dragonfall it seems slightly more natural, but in DMS it's a frustratingly glaring issue.

Along with these small maps, the gun range and hit chance seems a bit off - you have to be unusually close to an enemy to hit them reliably. DMS doesn't even have flanking, so the reward for proper positioning feels fairly low. Your units also don't consider obvious positions like the edge of doors to be cover, which can be an issue with all the chokepoints in Dragonfall. Overall the actual positions that provide real or half cover on any map are disappointingly low.

So while the story in these games is decent - although a bit linear - the combat leaves quite a bit to be desired, and the interface in DMS is incredibly unintuitive. And either the movement range is too big, or the gun range is too small, because it feels awkwardly balanced.

Synopsis:"The combat in this game is really rough compared to XCOM, or even the Dragonfall sequel. Poor UI without tutorial, and lack of proper combat initiative."

Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut [Steam store page]
Shadowrun Returns (aka DMS) & Shadowrun Dragonfall

Both of these games feature combat similar to the XCom series, with an emphasis on RPG character interaction between fights. The story is completely text-based, no voice acting, but written well enough that it doesn't feel like a slog. I've played them a little over 4 hours, combined, and although the story is okay - the combat leaves a lot to be desired.

I might actually recommend starting with Dragonfall, even though it's technically an expansion, because it is a standalone game and the combat interface is far better. In DMS there are a number of options hidden behind obtuse menus, and since this game doesn't have an interactive tutorial - just a dry manual to read - it's easy to miss important features unless you know what you're looking for. Overwatch is also present in both games - but not obvious, you actually have to possess a minimum skill to use it (unlike XCom).

Both games have the same basic flaw though - the initiative in fights is completely scripted, and the enemy usually moves first. This wouldn't be a huge issue except that the maps tend to be very small, without much cover, and you often have to walk up to an enemy or nearby door to initiate the combat. This puts you right in the thick of combat, often getting hit before you even have a chance to position your men. In Dragonfall it seems slightly more natural, but in DMS it's a frustratingly glaring issue.

Along with these small maps, the gun range and hit chance seems a bit off - you have to be unusually close to an enemy to hit them reliably. DMS doesn't even have flanking, so the reward for proper positioning feels fairly low. Your units also don't consider obvious positions like the edge of doors to be cover, which can be an issue with all the chokepoints in Dragonfall. Overall the actual positions that provide real or half cover on any map are disappointingly low.

So while the story in these games is decent - although a bit linear - the combat leaves quite a bit to be desired, and the interface in DMS is incredibly unintuitive. And either the movement range is too big, or the gun range is too small, because it feels awkwardly balanced.

Synopsis:"Much better UI than SR, but the balance of guns, map size, and cover still make the combat feel a bit weak. Also still lacks proper combat initiative."

Quick review of Tengami


Tengami is a pretty little adventure game in the style of a pop-up book. Unfortunately it does have quite a bit of walking, and because it's only a little over an hour long that means it's pretty light on actual content. Much of the content is also just pulling highlighted areas to complete your journey - actual puzzles are few and far between. (I did quite enjoy the stair-flip puzzles, but they're pretty quick and there are only a few throughout the game)

Toward the end it does get a little more tightly designed, but it only really gets to an acceptable level of complexity on the final puzzle (which unfortunately does end up being a bit of guesswork, unless you have a really keen eye for counting hidden symbols).

So while I would have been pretty thrilled with this game if it had three-times as much interactivity in the levels, it ended up feeling a bit empty. An explicit story might have helped as well - because I felt like it was a journey from a Japanese fairy tale, but didn't really know WHY my character was on that journey.

Synopsis:"This adventure has a neat visual style but is pretty light on actual interaction, doesn't have an explicit story, and is only about an hour long total."

Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart [Steam store page]
Quick review of Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart




Synopsis:"While all the Artifex games are fanciful, this one is the only game where your character behaves stupidly and causes her own supernatural problem."

Time Mysteries 3: The Final Enigma [Steam store page]
Quick review of Time Mysteries 3: The Final Enigma




Synopsis:"Slightly stretched widescreen aspect ratio, even though it's newer than some other games by the same publisher. Similar gameplay though."

Left in the Dark: No One on Board [Steam store page]
Quick review of Left in the Dark: No One on Board




Synopsis:"It had a few bogus hidden items that were much bigger or smaller than you'd normally expect, and didn't hold my attention like others in the series."

Drew and the Floating Labyrinth [Steam store page]
This game lost my interest within the first few minutes - basically you're a character walking on an invisible maze in the sky - and each cube is only visible when you step on it. The cube has colors on the side indicating which direction to go to reach the next cube. This isn't a particularly interesting or challenging concept, and constantly rotating around cubes to find the colors while inching through the maze is kind of tedious.

There are some other cube-walking sections that do show you more than one at a time, but the idea is the same - it's just slightly less painstaking when you can at least see the cubes in front and behind you.

Synopsis:"Painstakingly picking your way across an invisible walkway in the sky isn't enjoyable. Some show one block in front and this is slightly more tolerable."

The Legend of Candlewind [Steam store page]
Go buy Legend Of Grimrock instead of this game - it actually gives you a feel of movement, and doesn't force you to use arrows on the screen to explore around. This one doesn't even have walking animations, you just instantly teleport to the next square or turn. I found it pretty disorienting for the turning, which is bad in a network of undergound tunnels that all look the same. It could also use a tutorial - certain parts of the combat and weapons don't behave as expected, and the interface is pretty rough.

Synopsis:"Legend of Grimrock is a far better choice - with actual movement instead of teleporting around, and a much more user-friendly interface."

Agent Awesome [Steam store page]
The theme and dialogue are solidly irreverant to just about everything, playing as a macho womanizing secret agent - but it lost my attention pretty quickly when a guard shot me through a wall on the second level (after running off the designated path) - which is kind of a big deal for an on-rails tactical game.

It also has a low resolution, and the gameplay feels a bit rough - constantly switching between tactical view, where everything is paused and you set your route - and the real time movement section where you basically just watch stuff happen and choose how fast your guy moves. Games like Anomaly 2 use a similar setup but are a much more fluid and enjoyable experience.

Synopsis:"The dialogue/story was irreverently humorous- but the gameplay itself was rough enough that it felt clunky, rather than an intuitive tactical experience"

War, the Game [Steam store page]
This is a weird game where timing and speed are the main things that matter in a battle, because all units have the same strength - no matter whether they're tanks, infantry, or planes. You can get a defense bonus by occupying a city though.

This makes all battles just attrition over time - and once you're locked into a battle it won't let you move your units until one side is dead. This ends up sucking if some of your important units get caught and held up while moving to their target destination. I can see how this type of tactic may be an interesting twist, but I didn't find it very satisfying. (especially with the rough unit-creation controls, and poor interface for viewing troop counts - stuck in corners rather than hovering over cities)

Because of the defensive bonus the AI seems to just stay put a lot unless you move to attack them - which is a bit boring. Sure, turtle tactics are realistic, but how are you supposed to win a war when you have to produce 2 units for every 1 that the enemy produces - and they have a shorter space to move to bring in more defending troops? More frustrating than tactically enjoyable.

Synopsis:"Odd RTS where all units have the same strength except when defending a city - so in many cases only speed matters. Weak AI and interface ruin it though."