A Comprehensive Guide to Budget Cyberpunk Gaming – Part 4

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Gather ’round, script kiddies. Only here will you find articles covering cyberpunk’s most notable games for under $5, and only here is the chaff separated from the wheat. This week, like last week, we’ll be looking at PC-to-mobile ports–but this time, I’m putting action and point-and-click adventure games under the microscope. Unfortunately, however, since there are only so many games I can play in a week’s time, some reviews will be incomplete until further notice.


Action

iCEY

icey game

Android: $2.49

iOS: $2.99

Fantablade Network‘s hack-and-slash sidescroller, ICEY, seems the most appropriate (and recent) port from PC to mobile platforms. Guided by the game’s narrator, the titular lone android’s goal is to fight her way through a post-apocalyptic world inhabited solely by the hostile robotic minions of a poorly-fleshed-out villain known as Judas. However, it quickly becomes apparent, should the player choose to contradict the narration, that there is another story lying beneath the surface. In the corridors of scrapped levels and abandoned code are the keys to unlock Icey’s self-awareness, dogged every step of the way by the narrator’s protestations.

In the wake of meta games like Undertale and Axiom VergeICEY feels a little out of its depth. As far as gameplay and graphics go, it’s stellar as a mobile game–something about the animations and art style make it feel right at home, yet it exceeds the effort that seems to be put into your garden-variety app game. The combat is frenetic and engaging, even (or perhaps especially, the UI is subtle but visually appealing) on a touchscreen. My only complaint in regards to gameplay is that on occasion, Icey will be forced into a corner of the screen, thus being obscured by the player’s thumbs, making combat more difficult. This might be a game to play with a bluetooth controller in hand.

However, to label this as a cyberpunk game might be a bit hasty–the visuals certainly draw from modern-day Tron-inspired cyberpunk, but the technological aspects and any moral quandaries that come with them are downplayed. The player more often ventures through abandoned, post-apocalyptic environments than the crowded urban streets we’re more familiar with. There isn’t really a dystopian aspect on the game’s surface; whatever humans might have inhabited the world ICEY takes place in appear to be long gone before the game begins, and therefore there aren’t really any opportunities for the “low life” element of cyberpunk to take hold. Instead, the game’s “story” follows a more traditional monomythical plot structure.

Furthermore, having played The Stanley Parable prior to gathering information for this articleit is my opinion that ICEY offers nothing that hasn’t already been said by its predecessor, and certainly not as well. This is kind of hammered home by the voice actor that Fantablade chose for the English dub’s narrator; oftentimes he sounds confused (or otherwise unenthused) while delivering his lines, especially compared to the Mandarin dub and The Stanley Parable’s own narrator. This could be due to jokes that didn’t translate, phrases that in Mandarin might not sound as on-the-nose as they do in English, but whatever the case may be, I wasn’t as entertained by the narration as intended. Also, I wasn’t crazy about the ending’s ego-stroking conclusion.

Other than that, ICEY is a fine, if not wholly unique game that will last you about four to six hours. It’s worth the price tag for mobile, but I would say not if you intend to buy it for PS4, PC, or Mac (and someday, the Nintendo Switch).

ICEY – 6/10


Leap of Fate

leap of fate game

Android: $3.99

iOS: $3.99

A roguelike shooter in the vein of The Binding of Isaac, Leap of Fate by Montreal-based developer Clever Plays follows four characters: Aeon, a mage on the run; Big Mo, a cyborg with no memory of his past; Mukai, an escaped mental patient possessed by spirits; and Rasimov, a rogue occultist. Each come in their separate journeys upon the Crucible of Fates, a mysterious building housing a mystical Tarot deck. This deck sets out to test its users, transporting them to arenas that will test their souls to deem whether or not they’re worthy of power that will make the victor the world’s greatest mage.

As far as gameplay goes, Leap of Fate is fast-paced and challenging. Like Neon Chrome from a few weeks ago, every time the player character dies the player must start from the beginning, but maintains his characters’ statistics and abilities. I played Leap of Fate on console, and I had little issues with the controls. Each character has their own unique abilities, and suits different play styles just fine. However, visually, the game leaves a bit to be desired. Some of the animations seem to lack polish, but ultimately, that’s a lesser sin in this context.

But if this doesn’t sound like a cyberpunk game to you, then congratulations: you’re more observant than I am. The premise centers around magic–and not the fun, sci-fi interpretation of magic, but honest-to-god mysticism. And if you read last week’s article, you know that the combination of two contradicting concepts like science and magic tends to mix as well as stimulants and liquor for a cyberpunk fan like myself, especially when the story in question is repeatedly marketed as cyberpunk. Each character’s backstory (save for Big Mo’s) center around supernatural hijinks, and their abilities are pretty strictly magic-based. Rasimov especially stands out, being that he is an occultist. The only character that seems to qualify firmly as a character from a cyberpunk tale is, again, Big Mo. Ultimately, Leap of Fate‘s image as a cyberpunk game seems to have been an afterthought by the dev team.

If you’re a hardcore cyberpunk fan (and I’ve got the sneaking suspicion you are), I don’t recommend this game. If you’re more fancy-free and into the Gauntlet series, then it might be for you. But, if you’re buying the game for Android, be wary. It has a reputation for not working on Android devices, and seeing as the last time the game’s software was updated was in December of last year, it’s possible that you will be purchasing a broken game. Otherwise, Leap of Fate can be purchased through Steam for Windows at $16, or for PS4 at $10.

Leap of Fate – 5/10


Point-and-Click Adventure

Gemini Rue 

gemini rue game

Android: $4.99

iOS: $4.99

Wadjet Eye Games has a penchant for doing things the old-fashioned way. Taking cues from 32-bit PC games from the 90s, the Brooklyn-based developer shows a high-degree of fidelity to the style of classics like Beneath a Steel Sky (more on that later) and The Dig, particularly in 2011’s Gemini Rue. The player is put into the shoes of Azriel Odin, former contract killer who is trying to find his brother on Barracus, a violet-hued planet in the throes of economic collapse following a devastating war, and Delta-Six, a prisoner in a secret facility who has no memory of who he is. As Azriel navigates Barracus’ seedy underbelly, he learns he must go through the Boryokudan–the planet’s criminal empire and the closest thing it has to a government–to get to Center 7, a prison hidden in the middle of a nebula. Meanwhile, as Delta-Six, you must choose allies carefully as you make another attempt to escape the secret facility. But how do you know who your allies are when you have no memories you can trust?

While I personally would not describe it as a strictly-cyberpunk game, it’s clear that Gemini Rue has its roots buried deeply in science fiction noir. Azriel represents a variation on the typical film noir protagonist: a burned-out outsider of questionable morality who will turn over an entire city to find what he’s looking for, complete with wrinkled suit and trenchcoat. Likewise, Delta-Six (who calls himself Charlie), has to navigate the perils of prison life–another premise that has heavy ties to classic noirs. This all seems to work well in the game’s favor. While the voice acting isn’t always stellar, the plot, atmosphere, and themes are more than enough to keep you riveted until the game’s conclusion.

Gameplay-wise, Gemini Rue deviates from the norm of point-and-click thrillers by including combat segments, but fear not–they’re more like timing-based puzzles than anything out of a shooter. In fact, the game’s puzzles are generally not taxing. Oftentimes when playing a p&c game, I’ll find myself at a dead end, unable to follow the game’s lines of logic, resulting in seeking the answers to my current problem online. Though I’ll admit to occasionally cheating out of laziness, I did not feel that Gemini Rue was this way. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for something in the sci-fi realm that’s new and unique, I highly recommend this game. If the low, low price of $4.99 on mobile doesn’t strike your fancy, you can pick up your own copy of the game on Steam, the Wadjet Eye website, and GOG.com for PC, Mac, and Linux at $10.

Gemini Rue – 8/10


Primordia

wadjet eye primordia game

iOS: $4.99

The next sci-fi release from Wadjet Eye also bends the conventions of cyberpunk, telling the story of a robot and his companion in search of a power source in order to survive the wasteland, and maybe uncovering the forgotten past while they’re at it. While co-developer Wormwood Studios is no stranger to the cyberpunk genre, this point-and-click adventure instead focuses on a primitive, post-apocalyptic tone in a world where artificial intelligence is the dominant species. Currently, outside of Apple devices, it is only available for Windows on Steam and the Wadjet Eye website at $9.99, Windows, OSX, and Linux on GOG.com at $9.99.


Technobabylon 

technobabylon wadjet eye game

iOS: $4.99

Finally, Wadjet Eye’s third-most recent release with co-developer Technocrat presents the most straightforward example of cyberpunk the studio has to date. Complete with a sprawling cityscape eternally under the cover of darkness, hackers, widespread genetic engineering, and an artificial intelligence overlord, Technobabylon tells the story of veteran cop Regis, his partner Max, and Latha, a woman addicted to the Trance, a virtual world, as they chase down a criminal known as the Mindjacker. And, you guessed it–you can get the Windows version through Steam, GOG.com, and Wadjet Eye’s site for $14.99.


I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream 

i have no mouth nightdive game

Android: $1.99

iOS: $3.99

As long as we’re on the topic of questionably-cyberpunk point-and-click games, I might as well throw this one in there. Adapted from Harlan Ellison’s sci-fi horror classic of the same name by Cyberdreams Interactive and revived by Nightdive StudiosI Have No Mouth follows the last six living humans kept alive by a godlike artificial intelligence known as AM for the sole purpose of torturing them eternally. But also, it just kinda looks silly.

Still, if you’re interested and you’d prefer it for desktop, you can buy it on GOG.com and Steam for PC, Mac, Linux at $5.99.


As always, stay tuned for more, and let us know if there are any cyberpunk games under $5 you’d like covered in the comments.

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