Friday Triple Review: FTL: Faster Than Light, Noir Syndrome, and Trap!

[Note: The review of Trap! discusses rape. This does not affect the other reviews.]

In the interest of cleaning up my cluttered desktop. Seriously no one needs that many icons on their desktop. I thought I’d do a special review where I review three games at once. Also it saves me making three separate posts.

The first game I’d like to review is FTL: Faster Than Light. This  redundantly named game is a text-heavy roguelike/simulation game where you control the crew of a Federation spaceship carrying important data for your commanders. This isn’t a leisurely trip through space, however, as you are pursued by the rebel fleet and if they catch you, it’s game over.

I am a gamer who is very intimidated by roguelikes. Starting over fresh from the very beginning of a game if I die just isn’t very appealing to me. The punishing level of difficulty in many roguelikes isn’t really my cup of tea either. I love the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games, but although those games can be difficult (and I realize “difficult” is subjective) they’re a far cry from the difficulty of your average roguelike.

So I went into this game feeling very intimidated by it.

Gameplay is pretty simple. You spend much of your time looking at an overhead schematic of your ship. Each ship has several different systems (represented as icons on your schematic): you have your weapons and shields, your engine (which allows you to jump between points on the map), your oxygen (without which your crew will suffocate), a medbay, and more. You can assign crew members to different systems to give them a bit of a boost and also to have them on hand if one of your systems is damaged and in need of repair. Most importantly, you can upgrade your ship in a variety of ways, adding new systems and enhancing the ones you already have.

Progressing in the game is simply a matter of jumping from point to point on the map until you get to the jump point to head to the next sector. Each time you jump to a new point, a random event will occur. It could be a combat encounter, or you could discover new resources, you might even get a quest. While you’re jumping around, you need to keep an eye on your fuel, which lets you make jumps, missiles, which are a valuable part of your weaponry, and scrap, which serves as currency and upgrade points.

Combat is frequent and frantic in FTL, with you and the enemy ship both trying to target particular systems. This is where it becomes important to have a bunch of missiles, because while they can easily break through enemy shields (leaving systems open to damage from other weaponry) they’re a limited resource, so combat does take a bit of strategy. The game also likes to throw twists at you like enemy parties that invade your ship or environmental hazards like solar flares and asteroids.

The graphics are those 32 bit retro style graphics that so many indy games love, but it’s a very simple, uncluttered interface. I particularly like the background images of planets and suns. I love the music, it’s also kind of retro-y electronica that’s not as hard on the ears as it might sound.

FTL is a game about choices, and not just during the events. Since your scrap doubles as currency to buy more missiles, fuel, and upgrades, as well as upgrade points to improve your ship, you’ll often need to make a decision between buying a few more missiles or upgrading your doors to make it harder for invaders to assault your systems. Do you try and explore as much of the sector as you can, or do you rush to jump to the next sector? Be careful, because the rebel fleet’s closing in on you! Rarely have I felt the weight of every single one of my choices as I have while playing this game, and you know what? I don’t even care that every single one of my games has ended in death, because it’s just so much fun to jump back in and give it another go and hope I’m a bit luckier.

In sum, if you’re intimidated by roguelikes, you might want to try this game. If you love roguelikes, you’ve probably already bought this game. Also it was recently updated to the Advanced Edition, which includes a ton of content. It’s definitely worth the $1o price tag.

Next up, we have Noir Syndrome, a procedurally generated mystery game where you play a detective on the hunt for a murderer known as Anubis. Your job is to search for clues, identify suspects, and catch the killer before time runs out.

Noir Syndrome is a really simple game. You walk around different locations spamming the “Z” button until you find all the clues in the area. You need to be careful that you don’t spam too much, however, because you have to keep an eye on your character’s hunger (they can starve to death). In the course of your investigations, you can rob the mob or run around killing people as long as you have the bullets (most people go down in one shot) When you’ve gathered all your clues and compiled a list of suspects, simple process of elimination will help you find your culprit, then all you have to do is arrest them. It’s a really simple concept that makes it an excellent choice for a tablet gamer (it’s originally a tablet game that found it’s way onto Steam) or even as a quick party game. My only complaint is that while the suspects, clues, and culprits are randomized, the actual case (hunting Anubis) is always the same, which, TBH, gets a little dull after the first few tries, but that’s a hazard of developing games for mobile, I suppose. At times, you will find yourself with few clues and/or suspects, making it difficult to finger a culprit in time. One feature I did very much enjoy is Dinner Party mode, where the setup is that you’ve been invited to a dinner party where a guest has been murdered. The setup is just like the core game, only you just have the single location to deal with, and you also have to dodge guests who are constantly going crazy and whipping out guns from being cooped up in the mansion.

The graphics are….wait for it….retro pixel graphics….indies love those. The soundtrack is gorgeous. I swear someone spent most of the game’s budget on the soundtrack because the soundtrack is just amazing. It’s classy, it’s jazzy. It absolutely sucks you right into the game.

One last note, I’d highly recommend getting this for a tablet or other mobile device over getting it off Steam, because not only is the mobile version cheaper, this game was really made for on the go, quick play sessions.

Finally, Trap! is a free visual novel made with Ren ‘Py from DarkErotica Games. You can download it from their website here. (NSFW). Unlike many other games I review, Trap! will only take you, at the most, twenty minutes, but I think it took me about half that. The best way I can describe it is that Trapt is like playing a folktale, you play a protagonist (boy or girl, both named Chris) trying to find their way to their aunt’s house when they get caught up in a mist and end up in a forest where they encounter a mysterious individual named Rowan.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing really groundbreaking about Trap! gameplay wise. You read text, you make choices, you read more text, and your choices determine the ending (there are only two). What is interesting about Trap! is that Rowan can be one of three genders depending on what questions you ask and how you ask them. So far, I haven’t been able to get the third-gender option. The art is definitely different from the anime-esque art you usually see in Ren ‘Py games, I mean it’s nothing earth-shattering but it’s something different.

Unfortunately, because I can’t seem to find a game that does something interesting while simultaneously kicking itself in the pants, Trap! does unfortunately contain some rape via magical compulsion (where even if you say you are uncomfortable with having sex with them, they compel you to do it regardless). You can get around this by either enthusiastically consenting (the top option) or by simply avoiding Rowan’s bedroom altogether, but taking the second option won’t get you the second ending. Apart from that, there’s a NSFW-ish image of Rowan in the game (all the important bits are covered but they’re still showing a lot of skin).

If you’re looking for a quick, free game to play and the consent issues don’t bother you so much, Trap! is a nice diversion.

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