The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

Review of Embracelet

Legend has it there’s a birdwatcher on Slepp.

Embracelet is a casual 3D adventure game centered on a magic (telekinetic) bracelet and a teenager on the edge of adulthood who is given a quest by his grandfather to go to a remote, depopulated fishing island, Slepp, in northern Norway to return the artifact.

I had previously played Milkmaid of the Milky Way, by the same developer. That was a short, more traditional point-and-click adventure about a rural milkmaid who boards a spaceship to save her abducted milk cows. Both are built around kind and humanist narratives.

I played it via Proton/WINE and used an old console controller (per the game’s recommendation to play with a controller). When I first booted the game, before I opted to use a controller, the mouse cursor wasn’t showing up, so maybe controller is best? The joystick controls were manageable, but I think I would have preferred to play with mouse and keyboard, as I found using a joystick to move the cursor mildly annoying.

The graphics are simple, but pleasing and consistent for the style. One flaw there was a semi-subtle global reflection applied to the world. I didn’t like the look of that, and I’m not sure why it was there, but from time to time I noticed it and felt it was a distraction from the overall aesthetic.

The principle action of Embracelet takes place on Slepp, with several different quests to be found as you explore. The gameplay and events are fairly spectacular, and the game does a good job of keeping its pacing between exposition and simple puzzles. The only pain points for me were the follower events where you have to follow NPCs, which always feels a bit annoying.

The least explicable part of the game is the lack of any accommodation for the main character on Slepp. Where does he sleep? Does he eat? Is he actually a robot?! The game never gives up the goods on those key questions. (Minor un-spoiler, the game never truly explains the origin of the magic bracelet, either.)

Embracelet shares many aspects of a traditional adventure game, it attempts to do so within a semi-open-world design. I am glad to see this attempted, and I hope it will be attempted more in the future. While there will always be a place for 2D adventure games, the basic elements aren’t particularly tied to that format, and I continue to believe the format can have a broader appeal with 3D environments, either as thirdperson (in this case) or firstperson.

While this is a short game (it took me about eight hours (three playthroughs) to complete it, including all the achievements), it was a nice look at a world touched by magic. If you like traditional adventure games or coming-of-age fare, this one is a low-key story game that’s worth a look.

Review: The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark

Not actually an American football simulation at all!

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is the sequel to The Darkside Detective, a point-and-click adventure game. It is divided into cases, as was its predecessor. The case-based adventure game has become a subgenre of sorts, though I am not aware of its origins. (Oniria Crimes (diehealthy.org: “Review of Oniria Crimes) and Nobodies spring to mind. The latter is a different spin on point-and-click, in that the goal is to quietly dispose of corpses.)

Whatever the cause of the trend, it is a reasonable way to break up development and still create a cohesive game, as shown by The Darkside Detective and this sequel. Like the previous game (and like the others mentioned) there is usually some connection between cases, which makes each case feel like an episode rather than an isolated story to itself.

Here you play as Detective Francis McQueen, now-formerly of the Darkside Division of the Twin Lakes Police Department. The darkside isn’t a reference to the yin-aspect of the Star Wars force, but to an alternate dimension or parallel universe where things are kind of screwy (in a different way than they’re normally screwy). The darkside itself doesn’t feature as heavily or directly in this game as in the first one.

Each case follows the same basic shape that detective stories have since Sherlock Holmes first solved a case. There’s the exposition, in which we find out the nature of the case. There’s the rising action when we uncover clues as to who’s responsible or, in the case of point-and-clicks, we cobble together inventory items into solutions to puzzles. And finally, there’s the denouement, when we pull the disguise off of someone and they complain about us and our dog foiling their scheme.

Case locations include an older-peoples’ home (the grandmother of your sidekick, Dooley, lives there), Ireland (not the whole island, but a castle there, the ancestral home of your sidekick), a carnival, a pro-wrestling event, and your highschool reunion. There are also two bonus cases (with a third planned, according to the case selection screen). The first bonus is a nice time-travel case for Christmas (loosely after Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), and the other is occasioned by your sidekick’s nephew being missing.

The writing has good humor to it, including some absurdity which I always enjoy. It does tend toward memery in places, but it’s not terribly online. The writing is British English, which is kind of strange at times given the game takes place in America. But it’s not really America is it? It’s a fictional America where British gamemakers have replaced America with a British imagining of an America—bizarro America—where supernatural things happen. In any case, the puzzles tend to the easy side, and are mostly logical.

It took me about 14 hours to complete eight cases and all the achievements. If you want an easy-ish, pixel-graphics adventure game, particularly one with light elements of supernatural themes, give it a look.

Review of Summoner’s Mess

A modern Pac-Man without the ghosts?

Summoner’s Mess is a 2D top-down game similar in appearance to the classic Legend of Zelda. It is a short maze-running game. And I mean short. It took me two hours to beat the game and get all ten achievements.

Graphics are what made me look at this game, as they are meant to be retro pixel sprites (including a rounding effect to give the game a fake-round-screen CRT styling) but are well made and have some modern touches added.

The plot is simple enough: you’re a low-tier member of a death cult that wants to summon evil to do its bidding, but being low-tier pisses you off, so you attempt to summon evil all by yourself, for fame, glory, and leadership of the cult. Army of Darkness-style fumbling with the incantation causes evil to scatter your books across the dungeon, and you need to go find them to take control of the abomination.

The conceit is that you have limited light, so as you make your way through the dark dungeon, you must constantly pick up torches and candles to renew your light. If your torch dies out, as in Zork, you get eaten by a grue. At which point you start anew.

Controls are limited to WASD or arrow keys (or controller), but it’s a simple enough game, which makes it mostly forgivable. You have three inventory slots, and if you pick up more items then you will drop one of them (though you can pick it back up to cycle to the one you choose to drop). The torch is a separate thing, not taking up inventory, and it has a subtle back-fill that indicates how close it is to burning out. It could be more obvious, as I didn’t even notice the background fill until I was writing the review. But I could tell from the lighting alone when I was in danger, so the HUD element wasn’t that important.

There is a speedrun mode, which starts the timer when you move and displays a clock. Pressing the escape key pauses the game, letting you restart. You’ll want to hold down the escape key when starting runs (after your first) to skip the exposition at the start of an attempt.

There are also some accessibility options in the settings if you need them, though it warns you can’t complete achievements while they’re turned on.


Again, it’s a simple and short game. Perhaps too simple, but it’s hard to say what would have added to the game without changing its character entirely. It’s well-made as it is. Adding an enemy to kill or flee wouldn’t have done much. While the avoid-the-dark mechanic is getting to be overused in general, it is well-suited to the pacing of the game. Keep moving, get your books, keep your torch lit.

In all, it was a tidy diversion. If you like retro art, maze-type games, or if you think Cthulu is cthool, it’s worth a look (if you have the light left by which to see).