The Cerebral Bundle – Impressions Part 2

Here’s the somewhat delayed follow-up to The Cerebral Bundle – Impressions Part 1, with Banov’s Phantasmaburbia, CBE Software’s sci-fi epic J.U.L.I.A., Phoenix Online Studios‘ point-and-click thriller Cognition, Episode 1: The Hangman, and the undead-ridden innovative puzzler Vampires! by CBE Software.

Vampires!

Vampires! is an interesting puzzle game where you play for the undead, saving the vampires from the impending dawn by leading them safely to their crypt.  The graphics are nicely presented with plenty of detail and colour though still quite simple, and the vampires are rather cute too, though fortunately not sparkling 😉

Vampires Puzzle

The first levels are fairly simple, with shafts of sunlight the only threat.. but later, there are more complicated traps and even Vampire Hunters laying in wait.  Different types of vampires appear too, with different behaviours, e.g., red vampires will always turn right at a crossroads, while blue vampires will always turn left.. meaning you’ll have to move tiles as you go to ensure the path is safe for both of them!

Vampires! has 65 levels with varying difficulty level completion, so it’s suitable for casual or hardcore players.

CBE Software’s second game in the Cerebral Bundle is J.U.L.I.A., an adventure set in orbit around an unknown planet, featuring Rachel Manners, an astrobiologist, a huge reconnaissance robot called Mobot, and J.U.L.I.A., the space probe’s artificial intelligence.  Rachel is awoken from cryogenic sleep by an emergency alarm because he probe is damaged and needs repairs.

JULIA - Repairs and Upgrades

Before you can make any repairs, you need various materials, which you can harvest from the planet below.  Harvesting is done by moving your mouse over the map to track the materials, using the various signatures on the graph to identify which they are, then clicking to harvest them.  The search was helped by a sound effect which played as you got closer to the material’s location, as well as the cursor turning green, so this was a lot easier than it might sound 🙂

JULIA - Harvesting

The problem I did have here was remembering which material was which, as they’re only represented by icons on most screens!  Once you have some materials, you can repair sections of the ship by watching a flythrough of the damaged system, and dragging matching materials up to a red targeting square.. you can take multiple passes if needed to complete the repairs.

After this, you can proceed to land on the planet, where the game becomes more of a narrative adventure with Mobot exploring the abandoned research station and making a few discoveries.  There are clues to gather and more puzzles to solve as you upgrade the probe and explore the rest of the solar system, and try to discover what happened to the planet and your mission.  While some of the puzzles aren’t great, they are varied and the story has been keeping my interest as I’ve been playing!

J.U.L.I.A. is currently seeking votes on Steam Greenlight.

Phantasmaburbia

Banov’s interactive RPG Phantasmaburbia was also much more fun than I expected.

The story follows four kids through their neighbourhood, which has been taken over by ghosts.  The first character, who I named Buddy, hears a noise downstairs and decides to investigate.  I had to find him a weapon, and I found a ceremonial sword which just so happens to be imbued with a protective spirit!

Phantasmaburbia - Ghost

The spirit allows him to hit the incorporeal ghosts, so he heads out into the neighbourhood to check on his friend, but ends up having to travel through a ghostly dimension and coming across a large and powerful enemy.  At this point, we’re introduced to the second character, who also investigates her home, realises something’s happening outside, and heads out to explore.  The third character seemed much more comic relief.. he finds a gun but empties it trying to shoot the first ghost he sees, and thereafter, has to throw it at his enemies!

Each kid has different abilities, as do their protective spirits, with one able to move inanimate objects, and another able to take over the minds of nearby creatures such as rabbits.. this makes it all a bit more interesting as you control one character after the next.

The design is simple, but it’s really easy to get into, with characters levelling up through fighting, and the fights themselves being fairly quick and fun.  Items can be found within the town as well as within the spirit world, though a little bit of puzzling is required to collect all the items.  I really enjoyed this game!

Last, but not least, is the point and click thriller, Cognition, Episode 1: The Hangman, which follows the adventures of FBI Agent Erica Reed..

Cognition - Making John Dig

The story starts off with Erica trying to track down her kidnapped brother before he dies at the hands of The Cain Killer.  The graphics are decent, and the music and voice acting is really good.  I really liked Erica’s “Intuition” mechanic.. she’s able to touch an item and see what happened in the past.  I enjoyed solving the ‘trap’ puzzle in the mausoleum, where Intuition allowed me to find out how the device had been wired up.

Episode 1 is a well contained story by itself, but there are four episodes in the series altogether, with Episode 2 available now!

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