Coverage Club is our weekly series of smaller impressions in the style of full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preference, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here.
This week, Coverage Club proves that we're not above petty wordplay by combining two otherwise unrelated games via a Marvel movie reference. You've got a narrative-driven puzzle game and a systems-driven mercantile simulator. If these are in your wheelhouse, read on! Even if it's not, you enjoy these impressions, and I'll get back to playing Spider-Man.
Doctor Who Infinity
Covered by Courtney Ehrenhofler
For a show that’s been on the air for 55 years, perennial fan-favorite Doctor Who has had a difficult time putting out a video game to capitalize on the love of all things Whovian. The latest offering is Doctor Who Infinity, developed by Tiny Rebel Games who also created the mobile game Doctor Who Legacy.
Infinity has a solid premise. Essentially, this is a partially narrated motion comic interspersed with puzzle interludes. While the puzzles seem to be Match-3, that’s not quite accurate. Yes, you do have to match up the colored objects to remove them from the screen as part of the gameplay. However, there is always another primary objective after the first few levels. Some levels you need to stop a designated player token from taking damage from the pieces around it. In others, you need to simultaneously match up colors while keeping a player piece on the run from the Daleks. Each level brings new challenges. This does eliminate most of the free-thinking casual gameplay that usually comes in a match-3 game. The specific resetting of the levels puts this one more firmly in the puzzle category.
There is well-executed gameplay here, but some of the levels tire you out. Luckily, there is a skip button for those of us who are either too lazy to keep attempting or those who would like to not tear their hair out in frustration over a particular puzzle. The puzzles usually integrate well into the story, with a little wiggle room for the basic premise of “how does one integrate match-3 puzzles into a Doctor Who story without being completely ridiculous?”
I’m fairly impressed with the game after a few hours. The well-done voice acting compliments the top-notch writing. The illustrations too, are very well done, and the plots feel true to Doctor Who. I could easily see these as episodes of previous seasons. My favorite part is that, much like the extensive audiobook and novel franchise, the game does not need to stay with the current Doctor. The first three episodes that are out cover the 12th, 10th, and 3rd Doctors, with episodes on the way for 4 and 11 and a statement from the developers that future episodes are also in the works.
While Doctor Who Infinity may not capitalize fully on the richly developed world of the TV show, it’s a fun and well-designed diversion for the puzzle inclined. Much like the other spin-off material, it’s easy to see the game branching out well beyond the planned initial episodes.
Doctor Who Infinity was covered on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
This Merchant Life
Covered by Robert N. Adams
If you're a fan of buying low and selling high, This Merchant Life is a game that will most assuredly be right up your alley. You are (unsurprisingly) a merchant who is out to make their fortune with naught but a rickety old cart and a gleam in your eye.
This Merchant Life is a game with systems upon systems. I could immediately tell that this was a game with a lot of moving parts. For starters, there are seven distinct tabs on the main screen menu. The Charters tab is where you pay money to unlock permits. This is a sort of money gate for getting to the better bits of the game. The Reputation tab shows your standing in the game's 17 different towns and what appears to be political factions. This is a mechanic I haven't yet encountered in the two hours I played. The Caravan tab shows your cart's cargo, stats, and status. The Profile tab shows your character's various traits and background. Skills are where you can (unsurprisingly) see and upgrade your skills. Security details the mercenaries you've hired and Missions shows the missions you currently have active.
Typically, I ran about the game by buying low and selling high. A frustrating bug vexed me terribly - I could not see the tooltip for a town I had just clicked on. Hovering on a town shows which goods sell below average price and which sell at above average price. The standard merchant strategy of "buy low, sell high" definitely applies in This Merchant Life.
Traveling the roads of the land can be a dangerous experience. Mercenaries you hire can protect your caravan, but you'll need to pay them regularly to keep them on. Combat takes place on a circle with four quadrants. You deploy your troops in each zone depending on where the threat is coming from and hope that you haven't shifted the numbers the wrong way. Of course, your mercs are killable in combat. If it's just down to your cart, you'll have to hope that it's sturdy enough to fend off any damage you may sustain from the remaining attackers. Whether you kill all of the enemies or survive the attack after your guards have died, you'll be able to move on your merry way to the next town.
Each town has its own individual reputation meter that you can increase by completing quests or improving the town. As best as I can tell, increasing your reputation unlocks additional things in the town which you may find useful. You can occasionally execute an "explore" action in a town to play through a random event. You'll also sometimes have non-combat random events while you're out on the road.
I made a slow but steady profit, and I reached the potential to earn more by getting the license for Level 2 skills and unlocking the Rare tier of goods. There are still some items like gold and jewelry I can't yet access. I assume that yet another tier of even more valuable goods awaits down the line.
Ultimately, This Merchant Life is a fun little game that's all about wheeling, dealing, and surviving on the open road. It's got a dash of dark humor, plenty of sarcasm, and a good bit of content to keep fans of economic games and adventure games occupied. If you enjoy games where you can play the market or classic titles like Oregon Trail, you just might find something to love in This Merchant Life.
This Merchant Life was covered on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.