A Comprehensive Guide to Budget Cyberpunk Gaming – Part 2

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You’re back. Welcome. I knew last week‘s material wouldn’t be enough to keep you satisfied for long.

Let’s cut to the chase. You likely clicked on this article because you’re a gaming addict. Let me tell you, it’s getting easier and easier to find affordable games for our frighteningly ubiquitous pocket computers that have deeper gameplay and a more compelling storytelling hook than your average Angry Birds clone but are easy enough to slip back into your pocket at a moment’s notice. This week’s topic: point-and-click app games for under five bucks.


Sinless

sinless promo

Android: $2.99

iOS: $1.99

Sinless is a visual novel by MGP Studios that takes place in the distant future, after major natural disasters have caused significant flooding, urbanization has given rise to a socially-divided megacity, crime has become obsolete, and compliance of the individual has been assured through the use of downloadable “progs”, or modules that alter a person’s mood. Your character, a vaguely-described citizen under the thrall of the mandatory progs, wakes up to find their girlfriend missing. In attempts to find her, you slowly begin to uncover a conspiracy involving the disappearances of many of the city’s residents, which all seem to somehow center around you.

Tangential to last week’s Deus Ex: The Fall, Sinless suffers from the flaw of ending before anything truly substantial occurs, with an ultimate runtime of 2-3 hours. However, this is not its only element worthy of criticism. While the game’s art is oftentimes stellar, depicting a unique visual take on the dystopia, that and the writing are the only two elements of a visual novel that a creator can bank on. Unfortunately, the writing is not up to snuff, in this case. The dialogue and narration sometimes feel lackadaisical and a smidge amateurish (the in-game slang consists of curse words like “frukk” and “krugg”), and the concept of a “world without crime” undoes itself once your character reaches the lower levels, which presents a dirtier, crimier version of the future I’m sure you’re more familiar with. Furthermore, your character is oftentimes presented with options that were clearly never meant by the developers to be followed through. For instance, your character might be under the pretense of having the option to enter a building, but upon selecting said option, they find an excuse not to. This might be an interesting connection to the theme of free will but goes unexplained until the game’s untimely end. Instead, the game primarily consists of the player character trying to locate their girlfriend in a particularly linear goose chase.

The UI is also very frustrating and offers little assistance in guiding the player. Throughout the game I found myself tapping my device’s screen at random in order to find things to interact with to advance the plot. This may be an issue that is not quite as present in the PC/Mac version ($4.99 through Steam), however, but upon writing this article, I am not privy to that information. Whatever the case, for the price tag, Sinless might be an acceptable use of your hard-earned e-currency, but not your time.

Sinless- 5/10


Lost Echo

Android: $2.99

iOS: $2.99

Windows Phone: $2.99

Amazon Appstore: $2.99

I played KickBack Studios’ Lost Echo under false pretenses. The game takes place in the near future, the cutting-edge, stylish environments are heavily featured in the promotional material, and I was whispered the sweet nothings of possibly my favorite cyberpunk trope, memory manipulation. This point-and-click tale chronicles our hero, Greg, after witnessing the disappearance of his girlfriend, Chloe, into a bright flash of light. Upon waking in a hospital, Greg learns that those once acquainted with Chloe no longer have any memory of her, and must race against the clock to find her before all traces of her disappear for good.

Sounds great, right? That’s what I thought before I started playing, anticipating at the least a post-cyberpunk romp. Lost Echo might give off the air of a science fiction story, but its ultimate sin is that it is severely lacking in imagination. While the UI was much easier to work with than the previous entry’s, and the puzzles weren’t too confusing but weren’t too simple, either, I found the writing somewhat lacking. Of course, there’s the obvious parallel to Sinless’ own underwhelming premise that should be addressed. Additionally, the dialogue was of a caliber similar to Sinless’, and because of this, I found the characters’ motivations and believability dubious. For instance, you spend a significant portion of the game trying to win a trinket back for your friend from a hustler in a bar–a trinket, mind you, that you find out after the ordeal holds no value to this friend of yours. You find yourself exploring the same environments over and over again for no particularly interesting reason, and despite the game’s apparent awareness of a modern sci-fi classic (one character is named Jensen) the world depicted is bland and devoid of most science fiction concepts. As its own story, it might have some credibility, but if you’re going to give it a try, don’t go in expecting the next Dollhouse.

But when one of the characters wears an outfit like this, you’d be fooled too, admit it.

Lost Echo- 2/10


Murder

peter moorhead murder promo

Android: $1.49

iOS: $0.99

Murder is the equivalent of a short story in video game format, and a single playthrough will take between 20-30 minutes. Apparently, the developer, Peter Moorhead, makes a habit out of this. Delivered in a point-and-click, 16-bit style, Murder centers around Lieutenant Motomeru Minori (huh, that name kinda sounds familiar) as she investigates a murder in futuristic Tokyo.

If the idea of a 20-minute, rigidly-linear game for $1.50 is not appealing to you, well, I don’t blame you. The story itself isn’t even particularly unique, somehow managing to feel like the best elements of modern cyberpunk collected in one place. But, somehow, the value of this game is in that vague, comforting feeling that you’ve seen all this before. In all honesty, you just play it for the scenery porn. Check it out:

For whatever reason, Murder on my mobile device ran with severe lag. Fortunately, I had access to it through Steam, where it is currently priced at $0.99 and runs on OSX, Windows, and Linux (and hey, you can get it through Humble Bundle too). Honestly, $1.50 is a small price to pay for any sort of game. But otherwise, watching a playthrough might be just as effective.

Murder – 7/10


Hiversaires

hiversaires promo mobile game

Download free for Android and iOS

Alright, so I’ll admit it: I went in knowing this one isn’t strictly cyberpunk. Developed by the enigma that is Devine Lu Linvega (I think), Hiversaires, a short, textless point-and-click game in the vein of Myst, only seems to stand out as a starkly-lit, mildly science fictiony puzzler. It has no story, you’re just trying to get from point A to point B for reasons unknown. But here’s the thing: it looks like Tsutomu Nihei’s City.

All it needs is some terrifying AI and some awe-inspiring megastructures and it would make a damn good video game adaptation of Blame! If you like oblique, atmospheric brain teasers, this game is only a download away.

Hiversaires- 7/10


Keep your ears to the ground, friends. Until next time, let us know what you’d like to see covered in the comments.

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