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'Darkout' Requires Patience

By Jeb Haught

Darkout

Allgraf

KISS ltd.

Windows Download

$14.99

ESRB rating: Teen

Review rating: 2.5 stars

Everyone is afraid of the dark as a child, but not everyone outgrows it. This fear of the unknown is why the developers of "Darkout" constantly surround the player in darkness. It's just too bad that they didn't provide better instructions for the complex building and upgrade system.

Players take on the role of a space explorer stranded on a mysterious planet where nighttime lasts much longer than daytime. To make matters worse, numerous nasty creatures lurk in the dark waiting to pounce on unsuspecting explorers. Similar to the plot of the movie "Pitch Black," players must find a way to survive using the resources found on the planet.

Building a home base requires many, many resources that must be painstakingly gathered. With the right materials, players can craft a complex bunker that emits light and has power generators. After performing research, it's also possible to construct powerful weapons and even a jet pack.

On one hand, I appreciate the in-depth building options, but on the other hand, I wish that the tutorial for using these were more than a brief text pop-up. Players who get distracted and miss the instructions will end up wasting both their time and patience simply constructing a basic building. In addition, the menus are needlessly convoluted and the sliders for choosing the amount of resources to craft are overly sensitive.

However, anyone who's able to last through the first few hours will find a beautiful world to explore that's full of cool lighting effects and unusual creatures. It's also fun to transform my basic wooden hut into a high-tech metal base complete with elevators and intricate wiring.

"Darkout" is very frustrating at first, but it rewards patient players with a vast amount of options in a cool Sci-Fi setting.

Farming Simulator 2013"

Giants Software

Focus Home Interactive

Sony PlayStation 3 (Xbox 360)

$59.99

ESRB rating: E

Review rating: 1.5 stars

Exciting simulations such as air combat and vehicular racing have a big following, but who came up with the idea behind "Farming Simulation 2013?" The PC version is strangely popular in Europe, and now an American version has been released for consoles. What's the main difference? Planting nothing but tobacco and sitting around waiting for government subsidy checks to arrive?

Bad jokes aside, this game is the most realistic reproduction of farming in cyberspace. The problem is, farming is rather unexciting in real life, and in this game, it's incredibly monotonous. To make matters worse, there is no real challenge, the visuals are ugly and the vehicles perform in an extremely unrealistic manner.

Budding farmers begin their backbreaking adventure with a huge debt from the local bank, some wheat and a couple of small fields to plow. Now it's time for the exciting part, namely cultivating fields, sowing seeds, fertilizing crops and eventually harvesting the spoils. Selling the harvest to local businesses earns money that's needed to maintain the farm and pay back the bank loan.

It takes a while before players can start purchasing new equipment, fields and livestock. Just like traditional MMO games, players perform a vast amount of tedious work just to obtain new items, and the cycle repeats itself. Yes, this game ... ahem ... takes farming to a new level.

After moderate success, it's possible to purchase farmhands to perform some of the more boring chores. These hired hands must have their activities micromanaged, which frees players up to undertake equally boring side quests such as mowing a local golf course. It doesn't help that the experience is soiled by numerous bugs and unrealistic physics.

"Mummy, daddy, please buy me 'Farming Simulator 2013' for Christmas," said no child ever.


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