2020 has been an unforgettable year for many, and it is definitely not in a good way. The pandemic has led to millions dying worldwide, economies crumbling and of course a global recession. Many businesses have had to shut down this year, and we have had to say goodbye to a lot of small restaurants as well. If you also happen to be amongst the millions of people who financially suffered this year, a ray of hope might help towards the end of the year in terms of having to start a new business.
Yes, this year has led to the death of many businesses, and at the same time, it has also allowed a lot of other people to get creative and figure out other ways they can earn money on the side. E-commerce has made it possible for small and home-based businesses to have a wider audience reach, and this is why small home-based businesses have taken off this year as well. If you are currently struggling to find a job or to make ends meet, you can also make use of the internet and start a page or website where you can advertise your goods and/or services. People from local communities have all come together and are trying their best to support and uplift small businesses, so if you have something that you feel could help you earn a secondary income, then you can take advantage of it and try and start over again.
It has not been easy for anyone and it does get demotivating having to start over from scratch, but until this pandemic is closed, economies will not be able to recover, which means businesses will continue struggling, so for the time being, for the sake of your own survival, taking advantage of every small opportunity you can right now is imperative.
Despite being microtransaction heavy, Seabeard is a well made, super charming little game with plenty to keep you interested.
By: HandCircus and Backflip Studios
Available for: Android, iOS
One day, the worlds of Animal Crossing and Zelda: Wind Waker accidentally crossed and collided, creating a brand new world with elements from both. The result is Seabeard, a mobile game that is just as fun as it is charming.
You are the descendant of the great captain Seabeard, founder of Accordia and famous sailor of all the lands. Seabeard and his crew founded and brought prosperity to the island of Accordia and the many little islands surrounding it, but the lands have since fallen to disrepair. It’s up to you, young man or woman, to bring the lands back to their original glory, one small step at a time.
When you first set foot on your new home island, it’s mostly broken down and overrun with weeds, debris, and with buildings in severe need of a repair job. Little by little, you add things to your island, and as you find Seabeard’s old crew members, start to rebuild it.
There is tons to do on Seabeard, and different aspects of the game will appeal to different kinds of players.
You can explore the different kinds of islands surrounding your home, meeting the quirky denizens (find a rock with glasses and a nose.. “It’s just a rock. Nothing to see here.” Yep seems legit) and helping them out on their sometimes odd requests (“Deliver this package for me and don’t get caught! No questions asked.”). There are daily errands and timed ones, as well as the main storyline which you must complete to unlock more of your old island.
You can focus on unlocking your island and getting it bustling again, with houses, decorations, and even a little marketplace. This requires some looking around for ingredients and materials, and of course takes some real-world time which you can of course speed up with real-world money (more on that later).
Or you can ignore the main storyline altogether and instead have fun with all the little minigames you can find around the islands. To travel between islands, you can engage in a number of cute (and luckily skippable) minigames. You can also fish, craft, and even explore a dungeon and fight monsters.
If you’re an Animal Crossing fan, there’s plenty there for you too. You can buy buildings and furniture, as well as stylish new clothes that both look good and raise certain stats.
And yet with all this going for it, with such a different style and excellent execution, Seabeard is still a typical mobile game and it makes it painfully obvious with a heavy reliance on microtransactions. Your inventory, for instance, is tiny – especially if you’re the kind who wants to explore everywhere and pick everything up. You can increase it… for real money. You start out with a few “pearls” – ie paid for money – and while there are some chances of earning pearls as you play, they are few and earn very little.
Seabeard is one of those rare gems of the mobile world, and it wouldn’t be out of place on a dedicated handheld console. It’s also one of the very few games that many players would prefer to pay up front for, if the developers would remove the microtransaction elements.
Raise sunfish, watch it die in ridiculous ways, repeat to the point of hilarity.
Developer: Select Button
Available for: iOS, Android
Survive! Mola Mola is unlike any other pet raising simulators you’ve ever played. Tomodachi, Neopets, Nintendogs, and any other game where you’re tasked with raising and caring for a virtual pet revolve around how well you care for the digital animal whose metaphorical life is in your hands.
In Mola Mola you want your pet to die.
And he will die. Over and over, in increasingly stupid ways.
Mola Mola is the scientific name of the Ocean Sunfish, a huge flat fish that got its name from its habit of sunning itself by swimming sideways along the surface of the ocean. As far as I can tell, sunfish are not actually that useless – in fact, apparently they’re pretty awesome predators.
But not in this game. Survive! Mola Mola doesn’t have too much to actually do – you feed your sunfish by swiping or tapping on the food floating around it, increasing its weight and helping it grow through its life stages.
You can also help the fish grow by going on various “adventures” like leaping out of the water or sunbathing. You only get three every couple of hours, but you can unlock more kinds of adventures with points you earn as your mola grows. You can also use these points to unlock new kinds of foods, and to increase the food supply.
As you feed your mola and take it on adventures like the good mola parent that you are, it will grow from a little pufferfish looking baby fish to a young adult and beyond. Each pixelly depiction of the fish gets sillier and sillier, giving the game a ton of charm that it lacks in actual gameplay.
That is, if you can get to that point. Especially in the beginning, pretty much everything you do will kill your poor helpless fish.
Adventure deeper into the water? “Mola mola will often dive straight to the bottom of the ocean in search of tasty food, get cold, go into shock, and die.”
Ok then, how about a nice play date with a friendly sea turtle? “Mola mola often panic that they’re going to collide with sea turtles, forget how to breathe, and die.”
Surely eating is… “Mola mola sometimes try to eat shrimp whole and get the shells stuck in their gullets and die.”
Everything your fish does will kill it… at first. The more times the mola mola dies though, the higher his resistance becomes to the various things that can kill it. As you go through your many fish, the mola will become better at not dying every time he eats a shrimp or jumps out of the water or anything else a mola mola does.
You learn to embrace death and welcome it. Your fish thrives the more it dies. Its many ridiculous adventures, silly faces, and cries of “Ahhhhhh nooooo!!!” become the livelihood of your mola mola experience.
Hours later you will wonder why you’re still playing a game that has no gameplay to speak of. But then your mola will be reborn from the ashes of its predecessor which swam off the side of the screen and died, and you will once again focus your efforts on building the ultimate mola mola.
A platformer with some interesting mechanics and gorgeous art that requires infuriating, pixel perfect precision.
Available for: PC, PS3, PS4
The first thing that caught my eye when I stumbled upon Aaru’s Awakening was the art. The game utilizes a very distinctive and absolutely gorgeous art style that does a great job bringing the world to life with vibrant colors and shapes.
Once you get past the awe-inspiring visuals, you get to the meat of the story, which is a pretty intriguing idea. The story of Aaru’s Awakening revolves around the titular character, Aaru – a kind of bird beast hybrid. You follow Aaru on his journey through the world to restore order – at his master’s order/request.
The world is divided up into four parts, each controlled by one of four deities – Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night – and each progressively more difficult than the last. Aaru’s master, Dawn, sends Aaru out to defeat his godly siblings in order to restore balance to the world. As you progress through the story, Aaru comes to realize that there’s something not quite right about his orders…
The story is told by narration in between areas and before “boss” levels. While the story itself isn’t bad, the voice-over delivery was often dry and emotionless, and felt too monotone to be engaging. Which is a shame, since the idea behind the story is interesting, and could have pushed it to being great with the right voice-over work.
The music that plays throughout the game is fitting for a generic adventure, but is not particularly memorable. Still, it does the job: each of the different areas have an appropriate style of music that fits with its particular theme/domain. Thanks to that, you can at least get a good vibe for the feelings that each area should elicit.
Once you get past looking and listening, it’s time to actually play… and that’s where the game will either win you over or lose you completely.
The gameplay involves a lot of jumping and teleporting – a twist that allows for some interesting (and oftentimes difficult) maneuvering. Be prepared to die. A lot. Aaru’s Awakening is very unforgiving in terms of precision. Many times, especially in the later areas, the game essentially asks you to thread a needle while in motion. The slightest miscalculation in angle will result in you having to restart from the previous checkpoint. While this can get frustrating on its own, the fact that you need to go through a loading screen (even if it’s only for a very short moment), can push you from mildly annoyed to rage-quit levels of frustration.
If you’re feeling adventurous (or maybe if you’re a masochist), you can also try out hardcore mode after you finish the game. This mode lets you play through the game without checkpoints and just one life. Granted, at this point you would be familiar with the mechanics and stages, but it’s still extremely challenge.
At the end of the day, Aaru’s Awakening is a relatively enjoyable and fairly short experience. It won’t leave too much of an impression, but if you don’t mind dying a lot and yelling at the TV in frustration, give it a show for the art and novel mechanics. It definitely deserves at least that much.
Really fun survival game with a great sense of humor.
Developer: Eko Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Available for: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Note: This review is based entirely on the offline co-op experience.
How to Survive is a game about trying to get off an archipelago filled with all sorts of wonderful things like zombies, monsters, and zombie monster animals.
How to Survive, as the name suggests, is a survival game that requires you to take care of basic human needs like eating, drinking, and sleeping. It’s bloody. It’s violent. Most importantly though, H2S (as it’s actually abbreviated) is a ridiculous and very fun game to experience with a trusty friend by your side.
The game’s world is divided into 4 different islands, each with their own fun little additions like exploding zombies, piranhas. You will grow to hate both.
H2S is all about surviving. This applies both to you, and to the colorful cast of folks you’ll meet along the way on the different islands. Everyone you meet is trying to survive in their own way, and of course your help is required by those fine folks, whether it’s failing to rescue girls precariously dangling from trees, or failing to procure the equipment you need to get away from the island.
As you stroll through the islands hacking and shooting at hordes of zombies, you will also come across guidebooks. These are survival tips left behind by one of (if not the) most amusing character you get to meet, KOVAC [sic]. This mask-wearing gentleman with a strong eastern European accent provides not only helpful tips about the islands and, ahem, how to survive, but also helps you out on your travels with items and crafting help.
He also has 12 monkey friends (who each have a parrot friend, because this is the friendliest zombie island). Help the monkeys and they’ll give you nice, mostly shiny things in turn, which usually prove to be very useful.
The sustenance aspect of survival is pretty big, and – unless you spend skill points on the relevant skills – you will spend a decent amount of time making sure your character is not starving, dehydrated, or dead tired. While you won’t be severely penalized for having any of those things happen to your character – ie you won’t drop dead – having hunger, thirst, or tiredness reach 0% will have detrimental effects on your character’s ability to fight.
Luckily, the islands have plenty of wells, bottles, and fruit which do a great job of quenching your thirst. To take care of those hunger pangs, there are fruit and root vegetables to pick, and animals to hunt or even fish.
Wandering the islands of H2S you will encounter deer, tapirs, and emus. Just like with real animals, loud noises or unsuccessful attempts to kill will result in either the animals running away or occasionally attacking you. Watch out for zombie animals though – those things are angry! And they don’t leave any meat. Which is probably for the best.. should you really be eating dead zombie animal flesh?
The islands also have lots of plants which can be used to make potions… one of the most useless aspect of the game. Potions only last 15 seconds each, and both the potions and their ingredients take up valuable inventory space which can be better used to collect spare parts for scrap-metal shooting guns.
If you get tired, which you will, you have very limited options. Your best course of action is to head to a safe house, which are located sparsely around the islands (provided by your friendly neighborhood KOVAC!). To gain access to a safe house, you need to clear out waves of zombies both from within and outside of the safe house. Even with two people with complementary fighting styles, this can be a bit of a challenge from time to time. If you’re not careful, you will definitely be overrun, so keep an eye out.
The other huge part of H2S is crafting. As you walk around and kill/find things, you’ll be able to make all sorts of stuff – some edible, some equippable, and some with various other uses. You will sometimes find blueprints for making all these things as you explore, but it’s much more fun to experiment on your own by combining various things and seeing what can be made. Most of the things you can combine can also be uncombined, so usually you won’t lose anything.
Except tires. You can see tires everywhere but you can’t always pick them up. Considering tires are necessary for crafting most equipment, the significant shortage of tires can be pretty aggravating.
If you’re a pack rat, you’re out of luck – there is literally too much stuff to get. Before long you will find yourself dropping things in safe houses (where you can at least you pick them up later) or collaborating with your buddy to create a makeshift shared inventory (just make sure whoever is carrying the healing items is not stingy with them!).
How to Survive also throws in RPG elements like stats and skill points. Some of the skills are nice but many are the same across all three playable characters, and don’t provide too much varying customization. For instance, the main skill tree branch of the heavyset melee tank deals with creating arrows.
If you’re looking for fun, dark humor, and more items than you can shake a stick at/hold, absolutely give How 2 Survive a try. If you have a partner in crime to play with, even better. Hunting down things and later getting chased by those same things is much more humorous when you have someone to share in your failures.
Either way, pack your bags, row your boats, and get ready to survive!
Or at least try to survive.
This isn’t so much a game as an experience – albeit an unsettling one.
Developer: The National Film Board of Canada / Specular Projects
Available for: Browser
Unidentified and unclaimed bodies are turned up by investigators daily. These people have no names, no identities. And one video game seeks to change that.
Facing the Nameless is not so much a video game as it is an experience, or better yet, an “interactive haiku,” as the website calls it. Created by Canada’s National Film Board, the game turns to crowdsourcing for help in identifying twelve nameless faces.
The game’s introduction states that “there are more than 11,000 open cases of un-named dead in the United States alone, even today, when technology makes it harder to remain anonymous. We chose 12 open cases from Namus.gov and tried to use internet resources to better understand them.”
Following the introduction, the game presents you with twelve 3D renderings of faces, no clothes, no hair, nothing else to distract from the facial features of the deceased. Hovering over the faces lets you rotates them from side to side so you can better examine them.
When you select a face, you’re taken to a Google map street view of where the decedent was found, and a short description of their death. From there you can scroll through the person’s file, arranged neatly to show known and potential information about the person.
The first slide shows photographs of the person’s actual face – not a 3D mockup – and the items and clothing found on the body at the time of their discovery. Next you are shown a grouping of various reverse Google image searches, of faces that are “visually similar.”
A beautiful eulogy follows, commissioned from anonymous authors who used what little information is known about the decedent to piece their life together into a short paragraph. On this same page is a big round button that says “I know who this person is.”
The 12 people chosen for this project vary in location, race, and gender, and chances are you won’t actually recognize them. You should also not expect too much “interaction” from the game – you click to scroll. But what the experience is asking us to do is stop and think – about the people whose lives were lost and had no one come forward to identify them, and about our own lives.
In an interview on the website’s blog, creator Ziv Schneider says “the experience of Facing the Nameless offers a pause to contemplate our day to day lives.”
The project has an even bigger call to action, according to Schneider: “This project explores the form of a short digital documentary and aims to increase awareness and trigger empathy and action beyond the screen.
The experience links to the original database that the cases are taken from and the users are encouraged to try and help solve these cases.
In fact, if a case is solved, Schneider says “it will be removed from the site.”
Even if you don’t know any of these faces, maybe you’ll know one of the thousands of other unidentified people found every year.