It’s a little known fact that, behind the scenes at Tap, everyone is required to report every game they so much as look at. This is important so that we know who to ostracize for their gaming tastes in the secret staff forum. In this, the first installment of On Tap, our newest regular feature, we share some of our current gaming adventures: ones that don’t rate an article of their own – good, bad, or ugly – or ones still percolating in our tiny minds. This is important so that we know who to ostracize for not contributing to On Tap any given week.
Just…just assume everyone else’s contribution this time would have been Dark Souls 2. That’s probably where they are right now, in Drangleic. Except maybe Steerpike, who might be driving to Oklahoma as we speak with an axe and a shovel and fire in his eyes. But mostly Dark Souls 2.
Today, Dix and Steerpike take the tap.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Developed by Chunsoft | Published by Aksys Games | DS | 2010
I’d heard of 999 before, and intended for a long time to play it before it slipped from my mind completely – mostly because I just wasn’t using my DS much at that point. But recently I was reminded of it while diving down the rabbit hole of Metacritic user reviews – not for 999, but for Gone Home, of all things. Since I’ve been playing handhelds more again lately, it seemed like as good a choice as ever for the next title on my list, and so far I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s like Saw as a visual novel. But on a boat. And with inventory puzzles. -Dix
Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall
Harebrained Schemes | PC | 2014
When Shadowrun Returns brought the tabletop cyberpunk-meets-fantasy setting back to video games last year, I was immensely satisfied with what I got. The new campaign, Dragonfall, is an improvement over the original campaign in nearly every way, with an intriguing story, great characters, new gear, and a more open nature. For experienced players who were left wanting more, it’s a great second entry as long as the first and more engaging; for new players, it’s probably an even better entry point into the universe and the game itself, since it has no major ties to the first campaign – though it does require Shadowrun Returns to play. -Dix
Level 5 & Nex Entertainment | 3DS | 2012
Yeah, so I’m playing catch-up since I’ve only just gotten a 3DS. Crimson Shroud was one of the first games on it that piqued my interest, partially because it was a smaller downloadable package when that was still pretty new (especially for a handheld). In Japan it was part of a compilation game called Guild 01, which partially accounts for its smallish size. The contribution of Yasumi Matsuno, he of the original Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Vagrant Story, it’s an homage to classic tabletop RPGs – the player actually rolls dice, and the characters and enemies are depicted as detailed gaming miniatures – depicting a dungeon crawl through an ancient ruin in search of the legendary Crimson Shroud. The story is told through excellent prose, and it reminds me of how well a game can fair even without the niceties of cutscenes and voice acting. -Dix
Risk of Rain
Developed by Hopoo Games | Published by Chucklefish Ltd. | PC | 2013
I beat you, Risk of Rain. I finally beat you! And it only took me 106 tries! -Love, Dix
Developed by Interdimensional Games Incorporated (iDGi) | PC | 2014 | Website
Consortium is the kind of game we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Kickstarter. A slow-paced, text-wall sci-fi mystery with Play-doh human models and oddly compelling cartoonish graphics. A moderately bizarre storyline rife with hints of Infocom’s classics Trinity and A Mind Forever Voyaging. A game in which what you say really matters, just as much as what you do and how you do it. Consortium shipped in early January hobbled by bugs, and remains a bit clunky even after the 1/31 megapatch and heartfelt noster culpa issued by iDGi, but I don’t care; I’m finding it as gripping and fascinating a piece of interactive fiction as I’ve seen in a while. Mechnically, things break down when you shoot instead of talking (though shooting, like everything else, is your choice), but otherwise Consortium’s near-future murder mystery aboard a shadowy world government’s space plane is excellent. Everyone is looking to you to play Sherlock Holmes and only you know that you’re not who they think you are, making the experience of Consortium one of navigating many minefields in parallel. I’ve not made it far because I keep starting over, for some strange reason, but this is an indie I strongly recommend. —Steerpike
Dark Souls II
Developed by FromSoftware | PS3 | 2014 | Website
My memory is funny. Sometimes I swear I hear things very differently than they’re said. In the case of Dark Souls II, at the beginning of the game an old crone makes a remark that my memory turned into this:
You will lose everything. Over. And over. Again. You will lose your very identity and you won’t even care. By then you’ll have become something less than human. This land is going to swallow you whole. You should never have come here.
If you’ve played Dark Souls II you know that’s not exactly what she says. It is, however, what I heard.
I don’t love everything they’ve done with Dark Souls II, though I recognize why they did it in almost every instance. FromSoftware couldn’t simply give us Dark Souls with new places and monsters. They couldn’t. It all has to do with the way the Souls games manipulate their players psychologically, and how those tricks only work the same way once. Feelings, too, cannot be precisely recreated. Where Dark Souls was bleak, relentlessly nihilistic, Dark Souls II is melancholy. It speaks of things long gone, that never mattered anyway, rather than of a doom that’s preordained and inevitable. It’s a very different kind of hopeless. And if that doesn’t seem like something you’d want to devote the next several hundred hours of leisure time to, well, I understand… but you have my sympathy. —Steerpike
Killer is Dead
Developed by Kadokawa Games & Grasshopper Manufacture | PS3 | 2013 | Website
Biomechanical arms, lunar vacations, caterpillar ladies, Japanese schoolgirls, soft-boiled eggs – and that’s all within the first fifteen minutes – make Killer is Dead one of the most exuberantly weird games I’ll ever feel guilty for not playing more of. Like Consortium I keep starting this one over, though in this case it’s because I put in half an hour then get distracted by something and have forgotten the controls by the time I return. And what with Dark Souls II and all, it’s likely to happen again. That’s okay though. Killer is Dead’s pedigree explains the oddness, and while its combo-driven swordfighting isn’t something I usually go out for, the glossy art style makes up for a lot, and I’m dying to figure out if I’m strange enough to appreciate the storyline. —Steerpike
Developed by Eidos Montreal | PC | 2014 | Website
Yeah… this one is sort of by the wayside as well. Dark Souls II, y’know? The nerve of that game.
But I’m still playing Thief, and almost enjoying it. To be perfectly blunt, it’s a far better game than I thought it would be, and that alone merits comment, but it’s also trammeled by stuff that would infuriate me even if it weren’t trying to cash in on one of my most beloved franchises of all time. For everything they got right there’s something they didn’t, and while we generally recommend Thief, we do so with reservation. It is not the triumph of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, nor is it the utter disappointment of Far Cry 2. It is what it is. I just pretend I’m playing as Garrett’s descendant, in a descendant of the City, and I’m okay. The simple fact is that everything Thief does, Dishonored did first, and almost always better. That hurts it. That hurts it more than anything else. –Steerpike