Good recipe for hours of delectable play
Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?! is the third instalment in Daylight Studios' Holy Potatoes series, which can be loosely categorised as resource management games.
Things are different this time, as you manage a team of chefs condemned to the afterlife, where you whip up potato-based dishes - made from the souls of fellow potato sinners - to serve and appease the appetites of the gods.
The game's pacing strikes just the right balance, starting you off with basic ingredient preparation and a few simple orders.
But as the game progresses, the orders can get very complex and fast-paced. You'll be juggling where best to send souls - the fryer, masher, pot or oven, colour-coded for convenience - while ensuring you meet the ever-growing appetites of the gods who frequent your underworld restaurant.
The better you perform, the more currency - $tarch - you earn, letting you procure items that lend greater strategic depth to the game.
You can use that to upgrade your kitchen and equipment, or purchase garnishes to spice up your dish, netting you even more favour with the gods and higher scores.
I relished the challenge of maximising my scores within the times set by the game. However, the actual gameplay can get routine and monotonous after several levels, once the frenetic pace stops being a challenge.
PRICE: $8.50 (PC, Mac)
GENRE: Cooking management simulator
But the storyline, which follows these amnesiac potatoes through the various levels of Hell, is compelling enough to tide through the gameplay.
It helps that the game stays true to Daylight Studios' tongue-in-cheek humour, being crammed full of potato-based puns, wordplay and dark humour.
• Verdict: A charming indie title that promises hours of fast-paced, spud-cooking action. The delectable dash of potato puns and interesting gameplay mechanics keep the game fresh for the duration of the game's story mode.
Clever use of sound helps set Stifled apart
Stifled, a new take on the stealth-based exploration horror genre, stands out with its integration of sound made by the player and the option to play in virtual reality (VR), making it even more immersive.
The game has yet to be released on the Asia PlayStation Network Store, with its developer Gattai Games targeting a release date in the first quarter of next year. It is, however, already available on the United States and European stores, and it is the version from the latter that was reviewed here.
While the action starts off in a relatively detailed, textured game world, most of it takes place in the dark. Gamers can light up the game world through making noise by talking into a mic, which will throw up grid lines and outlines of the objects and environment around them.
But of course there's a catch - monsters have a higher chance of detecting you the more noise you make, leading to a tense balance between making noise and keeping stealthy.
Stifled can be played like a regular game on a TV with a controller. But slip on the PlayStation VR headset and the world takes on added immersion. It can be disorientating to play the game in VR for too long. The lines and objects making up the game world will start to blur, and the sense of space can feel limited given the easy lack of reference points.
PRICE: £15.99 (S$29) on UK store (PlayStation 4, version tested)
While Stifled isn't a long game - it can be completed within three hours - it is one of the most innovative in the indie market.
It builds a good tension between the innate human desire to see the world we are in, and the fear of triggering what may lurk in the darkness that's drawn to the noise you're making.
I won't easily forget the first time my screen flashed red and I got leapt and chomped on in VR by an enemy creature.
• Verdict: Stifled is an innovative, refreshing take on the horror-exploration genre, which makes good use of sound to create an immersive experience.
Playing a ninja has never been this fun
Being a cyber-ninja is cool, in theory, but in reality it turned out to be a hot, sweaty and breathless affair - in the best way possible.
Sairento VR does one thing, and does it well - making you feel like a certified ninja who can dash and jump around with ease while slicing and shooting through hordes of enemies, all in virtual reality (VR).
Set in a cyberpunk-esque future version of Tokyo, Sairento VR is a fast-paced game designed to get your heart pumping in more ways than one.
It's violent, yes, and so isn't something you should hand over to a child, but it is so much fun pretending to be a ninja with all the fancy skills that come with it.
The controls are smooth and intuitive, crucial in such a fast-paced VR game. While it took a while to get used to them, I was slashing, shooting, dashing and then jumping away with ease, all the while feeling like Neo from The Matrix. It's surprisingly quite a workout, what with all the arm movements and swinging of controllers around.
PRICE: $29.99(PC; needs Steam VR and compatible VR headset)
GENRE: Virtual reality action
In Sairento VR, you get the chance to dual-wield weapons, one in each hand, with weapons ranging from swords and pistols to sub-machine guns and bows. Gameplay is very much focused on the different cool ways you can kill enemies.
It's awesome the first few times you pull off something cool, and when a particular weapon loadout gets overused, you can try doing the same with new weapons. This gives the game a fair bit of replayability, even if the core gameplay boils down to "kill all enemies".
Sairento VR gives gamers a promising hint not only into the state of local game development, but of VR gaming as well. The game's graphics are rendered extremely well, with nice touches like motion blur adding to the sense of virtual realism.
• Verdict: Stepping into the padded shoes of a ninja has never been smoother or more fun, and Sairento VR is a top-notch action game that augers well for the future of VR gaming.
Purr-fect mix of combat and cute graphics
Cat Quest is a pun-filled, entertaining take on classic role-playing games (RPG). Local developer The Gentlebros describes it as having the "overworld of Final Fantasy, the combat and exploration of Zelda and the open world of Skyrim all in one cat package".
It sounds like hyperbole but the developers have hit the mark at blending these classic games into a cat-venture of its own, albeit in a more streamlined fashion.
I quickly got into the addictive rhythm of exploration and levelling up the game's talking cat protagonist. The main quest itself is short and leaves me with more questions than answers.
The good news is that there is still plenty of content after finishing the main story. The game world is of a decent size, with several secret areas that are intended for the high-level player. There are also many unique sets of weapons and armour that can be collected.
PRICE: $13 (PC, Mac), $25.30 (PlayStation 4, version tested), US$12.99 (S$17.50, Nintendo Switch), $6.98 (iOS and Android)
GENRE: Action role-playing
Combat is a crucial part of this hack-and-slash action RPG. Besides the basic melee weapon, your cat can use different magic spells to inflict damage or debilitate the enemy. Enemies range from aggressive rams to powerful dragons.
I did find the incessant puns in the writing a bit tiresome during an extended play session. But Cat Quest has visual cues that you can follow to complete the quest without actually reading any of the dialogue. The game, however, could do with more types of enemies - combat got fairly predictable and repetitive after a while.
• Verdict: A slick and addictive action RPG with cute graphics and fluid gameplay.
Tempting for foodies, but not quite piece of cake
Fans of competitive cooking shows like Iron Chef will find Chef Wars, a role-playing game with a culinary twist, right up their alley.
Chef Wars pits chefs against each other in a cook-off. The main character, Sylvie, is on a quest to find the secret recipe of her deceased father, who was a top chef.
To do so, she has to become famous enough in the culinary scene to challenge her father's old rival, Baron von Pork, who may have had something to do with his death.
Fame is acquired by challenging and beating chefs in cooking matches, which are based on a theme. There are three in each match, which can range from a specific ingredient (tomatoes) to a type of cuisine (French).
Because Sylvie knows only three recipes, the game starts slowly. But you can create new recipes from the ingredients acquired from travelling around the world. Chefs can be recruited, which is important as each chef specialises in a certain cuisine and can learn a limited number of recipes only.
PRICE: Free with in-app purchases (iOS and Android)
It is fun and educational. Exploring the places yields recipe tips and trivia about the history of the region. Click on a recipe and a webpage opens with the proper recipe.
The game looks great with its 2-D graphics, and the judges seem to be based on real-life personalities - the Gorda Raske character is like a female Gordon Ramsay.
It does feel unrealistic at times as I win matches despite failing to satisfy any of the themes. The map is mostly useless because you cannot zoom out to see the entire world.
Overall, Chef Wars is quite a treat for foodies, though it will take a while to collect all 900 recipes and recruit its roster of 30 chefs.
• Verdict: A fresh take on the role-playing genre with its food exploration theme.