Game Over – Bugsnax

I have a rule when it comes to Steam tags – always check them, never trust them. Sure, some tags are put there by developers, but if enough Steam users apply a tag to a given game, it ends up showing up, sometimes higher in the list than the developers tags, and there are a *lot* of folks out there who think they’re very very funny.

When Elden Ring gets highlighted under the “Relaxing” tag, you probably have some amateur comedians at work.

Why am I talking about this now? Because the top user-defined tag for Bugsnax is “Psychological Horror”, and I am here to tell you that this is both correct and appropriate. You can trust this tag. It may look like an adorable adventure game with a dash of “gotta catch them all” but it’s also so very very deeply disturbing.

You play as a nearly-unemployed journalist, who has received a file, complete with black & white home movie style video, from explorer Lizbert Megafig. She wants you to come to the site of her latest discovery, Snaktooth Island, where all of the wildlife looks like snack foods and is, in fact, delicious. She feels like these creatures are a pretty significant discovery, and she wants you to tell the world about it.

As you approach the island in your half-ship, half-hot-air-balloon, a giant moth swoops down on you, knocking you out of your vehicle (which you will discover a little ways in crashed, but not too terribly damaged). After a super-brief tutorial on moving around, you discover the first of your fellow Grumpuses, lying on the ground nearly dead from hunger, and all of a sudden, you’re not just a journalist anymore. You’re going to be the best Bugsnax catcher this island has ever seen. You feed your new friend a Strobby or two (a very easy to catch Bugsnack that looks just like a strawberry), and immediately, he begins to change.

Now that I have played Bugsnax, I will never think of the phrase “You are what you eat!” quite the same way again. It is, in fact, possible to feed other Grumpuses until they become nothing but Bugsnax. Thankfully, the player character appears to be allergic to these tasty treats, as well as immune to the effects of hunger.

If you can get past the willful self-mutilation that every goofy looking critter on this island seems willing to endure for the delectability of the local fauna, you’re about to start on a whirlwind adventure of convincing all the (former) inhabitants of Snaxburg back to their home base on the island. See, Lizbert and her partner Eggabel have both disappeared, and the rest of the crew has gone their separate ways. Weird things are happening on Snaktooth Island, and as the resident nameless journalist, it’s up to you to put everything back to rights and find the missing Grumpuses.

I’m not really comfortable dropping spoilers for anything past the game’s intro; sure it’s been available for quite awhile on both Playstation and Epic Games, but just recently was released on both Steam and XBox (including on GamePass, which is where I played it). You will be given all the tools you need to catch every Bugsnax that exists, and although all the mechanics are fairly well explained, there are still plenty of opportunities to feel very clever indeed. There are also plenty of hints and walkthroughs all across the internet, should you find that you need them.

Zones open up slowly, as you manage to complete different tasks. In the end, there are 10 zones, including the “home base” of Snaxburg and the recently added free DLC area of Broken Tooth. You will also have four types of quests – main quests, which you will need to complete to progress the story, interviews, which almost always end with you obtaining something you’ll need by the game’s conclusion, side quests, which are mostly optional, but not really optional if you want to catch all the Bugsnax or open up the DLC area, and quests that come in the mail, which seem to just give cosmetics but which are, frustratingly, un-trackable once you finish reading the letter they come in.

There’s a lot going on, but if you stick only to what you need to do, you can complete the entire game in 5-6 hours. Which is what I did, because I have trouble not progressing the main quest when the game is successful at making you feel a sense of urgency. There is a point where the game warns you that you are about the pass the point of no return, and I did so without hesitation. There was a mystery to solve, after all. Lives were hanging in the balance.

Virtual muppet lives, but I was into it, ok?

Then I did something I never ever do. I started over. I wanted to play the whole thing again, this time, making sure I did all the quests & caught all the bugs & did everything there was to do … within reason. Even considering how much less time I was spending figuring things out on a second play through, this one has thus far been considerably longer, and that’s not including the pretty lengthy sequence that comes past the point of no return, which I have yet to pass. I’ve just opened up the DLC area, and as you can see, I’ve done a lot more on the second playthrough than the first.

Despite having almost nothing in common with them gameplay-wise, the feel of Bugsnax reminded me a lot of the Psychonauts games (which I loved both of despite being cool towards 3D platformers in general). Both games are bright and colorful and full of absolute what-the-fuckery. Whatever ride you think you’ve gotten on, you’re about to discover that the place this train is barreling towards you never really wanted to go, but you’re just dying to see what’s at the end of the tracks.

There’s something magical about that.

Game Over – Unforgettable You (#JustOnePercent 35/100)

Developer: NanningsGames
Release Date: May 102, 2021
MSRP: Free


I don’t generally go in for platformers, but I feel like story-driven platformers aren’t terrible common. Unforgettable You is just that – in fact, it leans so heavily into the focus of story and art, I’m not entirely sure it needed to be a platformer at all. Certainly, the game play is the weakest part of this short, free title; it’s a minimalist journey through a love affair from first meeting until final goodbye.

Did I mention the graphics are stunning? Your character is forever a silhouette, against 21 distinct background designs. On each level, there are three hearts to collect (most of which you will get easily just moving from one end to the other), and a light orb that finishes out the level. Thankfully for me, the platforming is not difficult, and there is no combat. There are, however, places where missed jumps or touching dangerous creatures can reset your progress, and two levels where for at least part of the time, speed is of the essence, and missing a single jump can mean being returned to the start of the level.

I know I already said that Unforgettable You‘s strength is not in its game play, but I was impressed at the number of different (and yet not too challenging) mechanics peppered throughout. I think even in a game that I was able to complete in under an hour, without the frequent changes and additions in how the levels were structured, it would have become tedious. The story is fairly minimalistic, with each level only having a handful of lines of (full voice acted!) dialogue.

If you’re a platforming aficionado looking for a challenge, give this one a pass. If you want to look at pretty graphics, and enjoy lovely music while taking in a short and sweet love story, this game is 100% worth the download.


SteamDB estimates that Unforgettable You has been downloaded between 500 and a 1,300 times from Steam. It is ranked 1961 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Nerd Girl Goals – May 2022

Spring is in the air, at least most days, and I still don’t want to leave the house. Which is probably for the best, because despite a lot of energy being put into “say(ing) it ain’t so”, there’s still a pandemic going on. I’m sure I’ll take advantage of the opportunity to hit up a few outdoor events before the oppressive heat of summer kicks in and I enter into a committed relationship with my air conditioner, but I also don’t anticipate having any difficulty knocking some nerdy goals out this month.


GAMING

Planned games for the #JustOnePercent project for May are Unforgettable You, Before We Leave, Network, Polyville Canyon, Subnautica: Below Zero, Wild at Heart, Just Die Already, Lacuna, Tainted Grail, Scoot Kaboom and the Tomb of Doom, Solasta: Crown of the Magister, Overboard, and No Ghost in Stay Home.

If nothing goes sideways, I’m looking at another thirteen game month for #JustOnePercent. That said, if for some reason I have to drop a game or two, I’m not going looking for replacements – I’m far enough ahead that I don’t need to keep this pace, but there’s so many games I’m interested in every month. Several of these are pretty hefty titles that I expect I’m going to want to play for significantly more than an hour, so I’d like to have the freedom to do that if the spirit moves me.

I’m planning to stick to Monday – Thursday – Saturday for project posts because the spacing feels right. GamePass is coming in clutch this month – four of the thirteen titles I’m planning on I will be playing through the service. If I had purchased just those four games at full price, it would have cost me around $115.

I have absolutely zero reason to believe that with our super-casual 3ish hour a week schedule, we’ll be anywhere near the end of Terraria before the month is up. If either Core Keeper or Wildermyth gets additional content added, we may pop back over, but I foresee this being a game that will carry us through a couple of months, easily.

While I probably should keep my non-project solo gaming goals extra light this month, I do have a shoot-for-the-stars kind of plan. Firstly, I’d like to hit level 40 in my all-gold playthrough of Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2. Secondly, I want to dip back into The Elder Scrolls Online on a super-casual basis. Before I took my last break, I’d rolled up some alts that I never got around to leveling up, and I’d like to pick one and cruise through one of the Chapters I’ve never done. For me, ESO is best when I play it like a single player, story-focused game, and that’s really all I’m hoping to get out of it this time. Initially, I’m not planning to re-up my subscription, but I also realize not re-upping means I basically can’t touch my leveled characters or use my bank. I admit it, I’m a virtual hoarder.


OTHER NERDSTUFF

Reading: In an attempt to compromise with myself by setting reasonable goals, I’m going shoot for three books this month, at least one of them print, and at least one of them from my recommended book challenge. I am currently just barely on track for my 2022 Goodreads challenge, and I’d like to not fall too far behind.

Watching: I’ve already cancelled my Netflix subscription; I cannot remember the last thing we watched on there, and it’s the most expensive streaming service we pay for by a good margin. I figure if we end up missing it, we can always re-subscribe. My promotional period for Starz ends mid-month, so that one is going to be the next to go. Lately, I’ve found myself less interesting in watching things than in figuring out how to spend less money on television. I may carve out some time to check out The Wilds on Amazon Prime, but it’s equally possible that I’m just going to try to have the television on a whole lot less than I normally do.

Stitchcraft: Once I wrap up my June deadline project in the next week or so, I’d like to get one of my other August projects in frame and carded. I also want to hit at least 25% on either of the two massive projects I currently have going. That really isn’t going to necessitate picking up the pace, just maintaining my current momentum.


IN SUMMARY

  • At least 12 posts for #JustOnePercent.
  • At least 4 posts unrelated to #JustOne Percent.
  • Hit level 40 in CSD2 with all gold medals.
  • Complete the chapter story of Elsweyr, Greywood, or Blackmoor in Elder Scrolls Online.
  • Listen to / read at least 3 books total.
  • Read at least 1 print book.
  • Listen to / read at least 1 book from My 12 Project.
  • Finish cross stitch with June deadline.
  • Hit 25% on one other current stitch project.
  • Get new project in a frame with all floss carded.
  • Cancel Starz.
  • Get crafting desk cleaned off and usable.

In Review – April 2022

  • At least 12 posts for #JustOnePercent.
  • At least 4 posts unrelated to #JustOnePercent.
  • Pick out something and play it just because I want to.
  • Read at least 4 books.
  • Read at least 1 book from My 12 Challenge.
  • Complete at least half of the stitch-craft project with a June deadline.
  • Move all my stuff into my new room!

There were a lot of other things this month that don’t show up on this sort of checklist – my husband had his third attempt at a spinal fusion, and there were a lot of things that needed to be done around that. We were pushing hard on renovations as well, and trying to contract out some other work that needs to be done around here to folks able-bodied enough to do it. For the first time in awhile, real life was doing it’s damnedest to get in the way of my nerdstuff. Winter is not my favorite season, but it’s by far the quietest, at least once the holidays are over.

I am really happy with where I ended up as far as gaming & blogging was concerned, but some other stuff fell by the wayside while I was doing it. The biggest area that took a hit this month was all things reading-related. Most nights I was exhausted enough that concentration was an issue, so it was just more comfortable to fall into my habit of comfort television re-watching. I blew through the first four seasons of Criminal Minds in the latter half of the month, which meant a lot of hours I might have otherwise spent with audiobooks went there. When I made my goal post, 4 books felt like a no brainer, but I’m like that with reading anyway; either I’m stuffing myself silly or I’m going completely without.


GAMING

Because I clearly lack good sense, I upped my #JustOnePercent coverage to thirteen games this month. I’ve still managed to completely avoid despair, but this is the first month that I’ve had multiple irritating roadblocks on the project.

I ended up swapping out some games from my original list as the month progressed. The first was a free-to-play online game that had, less than a year after release, already been taken offline despite still being available to download on Steam. The second was a game demo that I thought was a full game until I started it up.

This was also the first time I bailed on multiple titles short of hitting the hour mark or end credits. Both games I ducked out early on should have been right up my alley, but both ended up being the wrong kind of challenging for me. I’m just over 1/3 of the way through the project now; I suppose I shouldn’t be too put off by a couple titles that just didn’t work for me.

The thirteen games I covered in March were Safari Zone, The Cryptologist Room*, Rain on Your Parade, Ashwalkers, Secret Government*, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, Robin Hood: Hail to the King, Cryofall, Island Farmer, Legend of Keepers, The Invisible Hand, Eternia: Pet Whisperer*, and Redeliver*. Titles marked with an asterisk were played less than one hour and are absent from the chart above.

I really expected this whole project to be … harder than it is turning out to be. Now that I have a workable schedule (and lord knows, I love a schedule), I’m not struggling to keep up. I already have access to the majority of games I plan to play throughout the project, and I’m on track to far exceed my goal of 100 games in a year. I’ve gotten to play a lot of things I probably would have otherwise passed over, and I’m actually making use of my subscription services and the game library I’ve been building up for years now.

Non-project gaming continues to be significantly lighter. Part of that is the heavy focus on #JustOnePercent, part of it is just life in general, and part of it is the fact that I’m actually working steadily on crafting projects.

Other than a quick dip into Rift – and I do mean quick, it took me far longer to re-download the game than the 10ish minutes I had it running – this month was free of MMOs and the only co-op gaming I did was my weekly game date. We finished up the currently available content in Core Keeper, and moved onto Terraria, which is a game I’ve had issues with in the past. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot easier when you’re playing with someone who has already beaten the game multiple times, and who is perfectly happy to do most of the hard stuff while I look for ore and spend a bit of time fishing.

I did also poke at a few different things in my solo gaming time. I played a good amount of Nanotale: Typing Chronicles before getting frustrated with my lack of map reading skills in the later parts of the game. I am also pretty officially back on my bullshit with Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2, which manages to both scratch a weird itch and fill the niche of a game I can play for a few minutes here and there.

Wrapping things up, no one could possibly be more surprised than me that I am still playing Cozy Grove every day. I still don’t love the real time aspect of it all, but it fits so nicely into most of my days, giving me something low-key to do while waking up and having coffee. It is absolutely 100% a chore-fest, but it’s a comforting chore-fest. I average about 30 minutes a day with it, but almost through my third month and I haven’t missed even a single daily check in.

This was also a slightly less spendy month; my gaming related spending was only $59, which includes my XBox Game Pass subscription and the Humble Choice. I picked up on game on Steam (Overboard) which had been on my wishlist and also happens to be a qualifying game for #JustOnePercent. The rest of it went to Fanatical, where I grabbed a couple of bundles that caught my eye, and the Blackwood Upgrade for Elder Scrolls Online while it was under $10.

I may have also pulled the trigger on my Steam Deck, which does not count against my budget since it’s my (now very very late) 2021 Christmas & birthday present from my husband.


READING

I only managed to finish two books this month, both audio on Scribd. Friends Like These was delightfully twisty, although somewhat short on likeable characters. Desperation was a re-read, but a book I’d read so long ago I’d forgotten just about everything but the biggest plot points, so it was still really enjoyable.

This month I came up against Scribd’s manner of imposing limitations on their supposedly unlimited reading & listening. Once you pass a certain number of titles read in either format – I believe it’s four, but I’m not 100% sure on that – since your last subscription payment, Scribd starts removing things from your search results. You can still find them if you search very specifically, but they’ll have a banner indicating that they’re “temporarily unavailable” until your next payment clears.

This would be outrageously annoying except for one teeny loophole – anything already on your saved list when you hit your soft cap is still available. If, like me, you tend to click “save” on anything that looks remotely interesting, you should never run out of things to listen to or read. Just bear this in mind, if you plan on binging a series, make sure you add all the titles to your saved list at the beginning so you don’t get locked out.

I guess you could say that Scribd is sort of unlimited, but I’m still finding it a better overall value than Audible & Kindle Unlimited.


EVERYTHING ELSE

RENOVATIONS: I can’t quite say that we’re done with my new space, but it’s 100% useable, and I am moved in! Sure, I’m still working around some lingering construction materials, and there’s a few boxes of accumulated junk I need to go through. I’m also planning to incorporate some more storage, and do some decoration, but it’s been lovely to have some actual space and not feel like I’ve been crammed into any available corner.

STITCHCRAFT: Against my own rules (and my better judgement), I am currently working on three different projects at once. The smallest is also the one with the closest deadline, and I’m creeping up on 70% completion. It’s working up fairly fast, and I expect to be finished with that one in the next week or two. I’ve also managed to put a couple percent each on two massive projects. They’re both challenging for different reasons, so I’m hoping getting an early start on them will let me take adequate breaks where I tackle some of the smaller stuff in my queue.

WATCHING: The only new-to-me watch this month was a single episode of Castle Rock, which looks like it’s going to be interesting, and I’m loving the cast so far. I was especially excited to peep Melanie Lynskey, who really impressed me in Yellowjackets. Otherwise, I’ve just been background watching TV series I’ve already seen and the occasional comfort movie.

Game Over – Redeliver (#JustOnePercent 34/100)

Developer: Nyfarious
Release Date: May 10, 2021
MSRP: $0.99


What I thought I was getting with Redeliver was a visual novel about delivering lost letters with some light puzzle elements. Well, I was right about the visual novel part. Sure, you need to deliver some letters along the way, but this is a fairy tale remix, that crams a whole lot of story into a very short game. You play as Red, who is taking an important package to her grandmother, and in doing so, stumbles into a plot to overthrow the government and teams up with some revolutionaries to save the day.

No, I’m not kidding.

This may be the first time I’ve ever said this, but I think Redeliver could have benefited from being twice as long with half the game play, at least with the elements that exist within the game as it stands. The game description mentions puzzles; however, what you have is a few not-so-hidden object scenes (some of which are really just down to trial and error) and a few reverse-fetch quests, where you need to click on a map based on vague directions from other people you’ve encountered. As far as I’m concerned, neither of these things added anything to the game. Twice, I was actually annoyed at how tedious and drawn-out the “puzzles” were. Instead of feeling clever, the best I could hope for was feeling lucky.

Redeliver definitely has more to offer in storytelling than gameplay. Despite feeling very rushed, the story has a couple emotional moments and some difficult choices, which are only made slightly less difficult by knowing that there is only one ending, which is, by default, the best ending. It’s easier to just go with your gut if you know the outcome isn’t going to change based on what you decide. Although multiple endings would have added some replayability, at the sub-dollar price point, I am not sure the game needed them. Unfortunately, the bigger flaw in the plot is that everything happens so fast, and you’re just kind of dragged along for the ride. It was like playing the Cliff’s Notes version of a visual novel.

Although I didn’t find the whole thing to be wildly successful, I did play it through to completion in just under an hour. This is yet another game that – as far as I can tell – is the first major effort from a solo developer, and it does hold together. Considering it falls a bit outside my preferred gaming genres, I consider this to be a successful game, because I did enjoy it.


SteamDB estimates that Redeliver has sold somewhere between 100 and a 300 copies on Steam. While not a huge success in the sales department, all the reviews so far have been positive. It is ranked 3873 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – The Invisible Hand (#JustOnePercent 33/100)

Developer: Power Struggle Games
Release Date: May 7, 2021
MSRP: $12.99


Usually, I am drawn to simulation style games because they can be the ultimate kind of chill experiences, and I prefer a relaxing game to a stressful one almost all of the time. However, over the past several years, we’ve started seeing more dystopian job simulators showing up in the indie games space, and although I haven’t played too many of them, the only one that came close to the level of pressure I felt playing The Invisible Hand was when I briefly checked out Papers, Please.

Of course, I don’t think too many people think about professional stock trading as a relaxing job to have. The Invisible Hand has, at least for me, the most anxiety-inducing introductory cut scene of anything I’ve ever played. You’ve got the trade screen in front of you, text boxes are popping up all over your screen, all the stocks are falling fast, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

I was actually relieved when my onboarding session for a new job at Ferios Capital consisted of one of those multiple choice quizzes morality quizzes. The right answers were even pre-selected for you (and I still managed to botch it before I realized that). All the while, your new boss is telling you how much the job is not really about following any of these rules; rather, expect to do whatever you can get away with that makes you the most money. I particularly appreciated the difficulty option that lets the game choose your difficulty and not tell you. As soon as I clicked confirm on that, I realized I was all in for Daytrader Anxiety Simulator.

In reality, the game does a pretty decent job of introducing you to various stock market concepts one at a time. I’ve never been in a financial position to play around in the stock market, and in truth, I was never really all that interested in it. I cannot imagine doing this as a career. I absolutely understood the entire time that I was only playing a game, but man, watching things I spent virtual money on not go the way I was hoping and trying to decide if I should wait it out or cut my losses actually had my heartbeat going a little fast.

As you progress through your career, the game repeatedly pits you against other employees, with a profit target you must meet before your competition or be fired. And someone gets fired most days. Cutthroat isn’t a strong enough word for FERIOUS Capital. Still, in case you haven’t realized that this is NOT a happy place to work, you’re reprimanded by your boss for keeping a personal photo on your desk. It’s all about the money, honey, and everything else is just a distraction.

I’ve probably said it a hundred times on this blog, but I don’t particularly enjoy hard games. I managed to work my way through two promotions, but I can’t say at any point I was having fun. I couldn’t even let myself root for the playable character (who you know almost nothing about) because everything about the job and the company and even your friend who got your foot in the door felt profoundly icky. Which I think was the point, so good on you Power Struggle Games. I may not have liked anything I was feeling while playing, but The Invisible Hand definitely made me feel things. I’m not sure what draws people into dystopian job sims when so many people are living dystopian job realities, but any time that playing a game really affects you, that game has succeeded.


SteamDB estimates that The Invisible Hand has sold somewhere between 5,700 and a 15,700 copies on Steam. Reviews are Very Positive overall, and it is ranked 2451 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over (For Now) – Core Keeper

I have such a love-hate relationship with the whole concept of Early Access Games. I’m not the type of player who tends to play things anywhere close to when I buy them, so most of my less-than-stellar Early Access experiences have been of the type where I buy into something early, put off actually playing it for awhile, then when I actually sit down to play it find that it’s either been left unfinished, or in one notable case, taken completely offline and unplayable.

Mostly, I buy into Early Access games now if I’m willing to take a gamble and support a concept that looks really cool, or if the game is mostly complete and I don’t want to wait. I guess for me Core Keeper fell more into the former category than the latter. What was different this time was that my co-op partner & I picked this one up on our first game night after release and just started playing it, and stuck with it for multiple weeks until we felt like we’ve seen everything it (currently) has to offer.

In just over 20 hours, we’ve managed to kill all the storyline bosses (of which there are only four), one of the two hidden optional bosses, and put together the Rune Song Sword, a legendary weapon that we spent most of an entire play session on. There are at least two more story-content bosses planned before the eventual end of the game, and we have both already agreed that we’ll revisit it down the line.

The best way I can describe Core Keeper is take one part Stardew Valley, one part Terraria, sprinkle in hunger mechanics, and blend until unrecognizable. Expect to spend a lot of time digging for resources and repairing your tools, while also making sure you’re growing or fishing up adequate food. In our first play session, my partner explored while I set up a home base. We decided to settle near the first water source we found, and just kind of dug around it to set up a small farm and crafting area.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that our base was a stone’s throw from the first boss mob, so most of my early food production endeavors were punctuated by the noise of a giant slime hopping around just on the other side of a wall. Thankfully, most of the earliest monsters you encounter aren’t particularly interested in you until you’re just about right on top of them, so we took our time meandering through the crafting tree until we felt like we could reasonably take on the challenge that was banging around literally just outside our door.

While that first boss was pretty straightforward, just about everything we encountered afterwards had a quirk that required more thought than brawn. We were determined to do as much as we could without looking up walkthroughs or other spoilers, but I couldn’t resist poking around after we’d beaten them to see if there was a simpler way we hadn’t thought of. There was. There always is.

Lots of good stuff to look forward to on the roadmap.

With the story still unfinished, this isn’t a true Game Over, and I’ll be back to Core Keeper as soon as there’s something new to see. I have no regrets about picking this one up at full price.

Game Over – Eternia: Pet Whisperer (#JustOnePercent 32/100)

Developer: Shirakumo Games
Release Date: May 5, 2021
MSRP: $2.99


Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of visual novels, but every now and again, one is a bit off the beaten path and catches my eye. As someone who’s also a pretty big fan of animals, Eternia: Pet Whisperer seemed like it would be right up my alley, and when it was included as part of the Itch.io Bundle for Ukraine, I decided I’d give a playthrough for #JustOnePercent.

There’s not much in the way of world building – you start right away by visiting adoptable pets in a shelter. You can always choose to check out your apartment, but there’s nothing to do there, so normally, you’ll be choosing a potential pet to visit with. The first day of the game doesn’t give you any options – you’ll be meeting Connie the Cockatoo. You can save the game from this screen anytime you like, and if there are no available pets you want to talk to, you can always skip the day.

There are six different animals (well, seven but the rats only come as a matched set!) you can choose to spend time with. Completely on script, the first storyline I finished was Brinda, the Border Collie. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a dog. There are no branching storylines in Eternia: Pet Whisperer, you’re participating in the story, but only in the most scripted of ways. Complete a pet’s storyline, and they agree to be adopted by you. Once you’ve adopted a pet, there’s a game over option, but it’s also when the whole thing gets pretty darned weird.

You see, the pets at this particular rescue were all part of a “failed” experiment. Which is why you can communicate with them – it’s a talent they have, not one you have. That’s not all. Apparently, these animals have also mastered the fine art of time travel, apparently solely so you can subvert the shelter’s “one adoption per household” rule, and bring all the animals back to your tiny city apartment.

Now, I definitely read faster than average, and adopting all 6 pets and getting to the end credits took me less than 40 minutes. It was a charming little game, but lack of meaningful choices seriously limits replay value. I would definitely recommend giving it a play through if you grabbed that bundle, however, as the art, music, and dialogue is all well done & interesting throughout, even if it is a little off the wall. All the animals have unique personalities, and if you do decide to adopt them all, there’s one fun choice you get to make about the post-game (which sadly, we don’t to see or play).

I ran into a couple of glitches with the game, but I am not sure if that’s because I added it to Steam so I could use the overlay for screenshot purposes. I played in full screen, and alt-tabbing out would cause the text and overlay art to disappear. You could keep clicking through, but there was nothing to see. I also had some trouble with attempting to change the font (although you are given the option of a few different ones), but there’s no text overlap or issues with the default choice. Thankfully, the game includes a skip button, which I made use of when I needed to replay the first 10 minutes or so, up to my first adoption scene.

Overall, I really liked the vibe of Eternia: Pet Whisperer, and would definitely like to see what this team comes up with when they’re not working on a Game Jam schedule.


SteamDB estimates that Eternia: Pet Whisperer has sold somewhere between 200 and a 700 copies on Steam. It looks to be a freshman effort from this team as far as Steam is concerned, although they have a handful of other titles on Itch.io, and a new game coming in November of 2022. Every review on Steam has recommended this title, and it is ranked 2427 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Legend of Keepers (#JustOnePercent 31/100)

Developer: Goblinz Studio
Release Date: April 29, 2021
MSRP: $19.99


Full disclosure: I messed around with Legend of Keepers for a little bit last month when I noticed it was available on Utomik, and much to my disappointment, I didn’t immediately love it. I almost decided not to revisit it for this project, but there have been many games that I didn’t much care for the first time I tried them and then, upon giving them a second look, really clicked with them.

I think the initial disconnect for me was between the game’s store description and the actual experience I had while playing it. I usually associate dungeon management gameplay with building things; that building component is pretty much completely absent from Legend of Keepers. Instead, the layout of each dungeon is pre-determined, usually containing two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and a boss room. The tutorial level contains only one of each.

Each battle week starts with a preparation phase. During this time, you can inspect the heroes who will be showing up to plunder your dungeon. You choose which traps to place in trap rooms, and which monsters to place in monster rooms. Spell rooms and boss rooms are unaffected by preparation; you can choose which spell to use when heroes arrive, and the boss is always the “playable character” of the scenario, which in the first level is Maug.

However, most of your in game “weeks” will be spent doing other things. Usually, you have a choice between two or more options, most of which are potentially beneficial, provided you have the resources to take advantage of them. Resources are primarily gained when you defeat a party of adventurers – you get blood for killing them, tears for scaring them off, and gold regardless of how you deal with them. I admit that I might be Doing It Wrong, but I feel like you cannot possibly gain enough resources to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to you.

That was just one of my frustrations, however. Your creatures and traps only level up through opportunities, not through use, which felt a little weird to me. Pouring resources into training can be frustrating, because monsters take morale hits when they die (and they will die). If you don’t take them out of rotation before their morale hits zero, they’ll suffer burnout and be unusable for 10 weeks, which means you can just keep throwing your highest level monsters out there without consequence, and you won’t be able to level up too many monsters with the amount of gold you’re bringing in unless you’re particularly lucky.

I understand that a critical component of roguelite games is failing repeatedly to gain persistent advantages, but unless you’re really unlucky (or playing really poorly), a failed run will probably take upward of an hour. I just wasn’t enjoying the game play loop enough to dedicate that kind of time. I think I perhaps would have enjoyed this more if it weren’t a genre mashup – the tactical strategy component would have felt more satisfying if I felt like I were being set up to succeed rather than to fail.

Of course, I didn’t find the difficulty sliders & settings until I was almost through my entire run, so perhaps dialing some of that down would have positively impacted my enjoyment. For the most part, I don’t like my games too hard, so having these options is fantastic; I just wish they’d been a little more upfront with them as you cannot adjust any of these things mid-run.

I lasted 38 weeks, which means I lost on the final battle. Which is pretty much what I was expecting.

For players looking for a tactical roguelite experience with a side of management, I can see this game being a great pickup. There seems to be oodles of content, including two paid DLCs (with a third announced for this summer), and multiple free updates since release. However, if you’re overly put off by randomness that can either doom or save a run, you might want to give this a pass – it does you no good to understand what you need to do if you can’t acquire the tools to do it, and I can see that definitely being a problem more often than not due to the sheer variety of creatures and traps in the game.

I played this game through Utomik – the version available there includes the first DLC Return of the Goddess. If this one showed up in a Humble Choice (or another bundle), I would most likely add it to my library – after my second play session I felt like I was on the verge of getting it, and I’d love to play around more with the customization options. It felt like a really well constructed game, I’m just not entirely sure this genre mashup is what I’m looking for.


SteamDB estimates that Legend of Keepers has sold somewhere between 65,200 and a 179,400 copies on Steam. It’s currently on a half-price sale, which may account for it’s fairly high concurrent player count. Reviews are Very Positive overall, and it was easily in the top 5% of Top Sellers in 2021. Still, the negative reviews it has gotten hurt its overall rank, which is 1517 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Island Farmer (#JustOnePercent 30/100)

Developer: Mens Sana Interactive
Release Date: April 30, 2021
MSRP: $1.99


Island Farmer is the middle child in Mens Sana Interactive’s minimalist farmer series of games, and eschews the logic elements of the other two games. Instead, this game is part jigsaw puzzle, part memory game. The game shows you what your island farm should look like, then you hit play and the pieces get scrambled so that you can click and swap to put it back together properly.

It’s as simple as it sounds, but the graphical style is lovely. It’s a low-stakes Zen sort of experience; there are no timers and no move limits. When pieces are put back where they belong, they sparkle lightly. If you can’t remember exactly how the level should look, there’s a picture button at the top of the screen which will show you an overly of the properly arrangement. It would have been nice to have a distinct sound effect for when a tile snaps into the correct spot (rather than the generic one that you hear every time you complete a swap), and the sparkle effect could be a bit more noticeable, but if you like the concept, there’s really nothing here to dislike.

Steam achievements indicate that there are 28 levels, eight of which were added after the game’s release. I was in no rush, and completed about half that in a little more than an hour, so you can expect the entire game to take somewhere between 2-3 hours, depending on how quickly you work, and how good your visual memory is. That seems reasonable enough for the low price point. It’s not deep gameplay, but Island Farmer is a lovely experience, and a perfect coffee break sort of game.


SteamDB estimates that Island Farmer has sold somewhere between 4,100 and a 11,300 copies on Steam. It’s rated Very Positive, with the handful of negative reviews mainly complaining that the game isn’t something other than what the description indicates. It is ranked 735 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.