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   Played on the PC via STEAM

CORNERSTONE from Phoenix Online Publishing and Overflow is a puzzle solving action adventure much like many other such animated tales. Here we have a hero, a young Viking lad named Tyrim, who immediately after deciding not to go raiding and advneturing with his father and the other men from his island village wishes he had gone. He kicks around the village doing not a lot until his friend Olaf (I think that's his name, I can't read my own writing, but if it's not Olaf it's something very much like that and it doesn't really matter) arrives back  and regales Tyrim with tales of fun and adventure. Tyrim follows Olaf around for a while - well he does if you want him to - otherwise you can bound him round the village talking to the old men and women left behind (it seems that virtually the whole village has gone off plundering so it's a good job no other tribes decide to visit) and doing odd jobs for them, such as rounding up three lost sheep (actually they aren't really lost they have just strayed through the broken fence and Tyrim (you) has to go and push them back through the gap and then mend the fence. It's actually quite amusing for a short while, sheep pushing, but like cow tipping probably best done at night when you're drunk.

Then there's a chimney that needs clearing of a bird's nest in which many items stolen from the village can be found, clearing a cellar of a skeleton and a spider's web (no spider, though by the size of the web I'm pretty sure Tyrim was happy there wasn't one) and delivering the odd package, Tyrim's life is pretty full, though hecticly dull. The village men should have all been back by now but apart from Olaf (or whoever)'s dad they aren't and Tyrim is worried - not that you'd notice from his continual smile and bouncy attitude. So he decides to go find them, as that's what any (possibly) 10 year old (he actually looks about 7 but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt) Viking would do.

So first he has to get off the island. This takes a fair while and a lot more mundane tasks but then he's away. There are islands close by that he can explore first and these form the basis of the second phase of the adventure. Tyrim is all the while getting better at crafting items from the pieces of rock, wool and stone he collects by running over them and collecting them into his amazingly deep and very large pockets. Crafting is one of the things Tyrim needs to do as many of the puzzles are only solvable by him creating something - generally having the right resources available, knowing what he wants to make (a plan) and holding the E button down until the task is complete.Crafting is also part of one of the main running gags in the beginning as every task Tyrim does sees him rewarded with the detailed plans to make a stick, by any and many other names but still a stick.

It is quite easy to make something, say a crate that you need to jump onto so you can climb up onto a ledge, but it is also quite easy to accidentally demolish it - try hitting the left mouse button instead of the right and OOPS! You may be able to find new resources immediately or it may take a little while looking in other locations but the wood, stone etc does repop up in due course, so not to worry. Often there is a puzzle that shows a series of cogs. This means you have to have the resources and know what needs to be done, never a problem, and then you have to press and release the button at the right time when the swing-o-meter is in the central green section - did I fail to mention that some things need you to click at the right time on a swing-o-meter, oops! (like hitting the ball in a golf sim game).

Sometimes the controls are really good and other times they suck. Using Arrow keys or WASD to move isn't a problem and we now know that LMB and RMB are also useful. [Space] makes you jump, as you would expect and you can also roll. The most annoying thing though is aiming Tyrim correctly and to do that you have to position him using the mouse, changing the camera angle, while simultaneously [W]'ing and [Space]'ing - for instance I kept jumping over or attacking the sheep instead of herding them because I am easily confused.

Tyrim will also try sand surfing - like wind-surfing but on sand - which is not so much a puzzle but instead a challenge that you cannot go around; you just keep doing it until you get through it ... or your PC ends up in pieces on the floor .....  Tyrim has already fought a skeleton early on in the game but it looked and acted more like a puppet than a scary monster. Tyrtim is brave but it's a childish bravery or at least it should have been, but at some point you are going to let him off the leash and into some deadly and dark combat, which although fun for the battle hungry gamer is rather against the Tyrim character and the genre of the game itself. But I should add that it is still basically a kids adventure tale and not a game that is going to send little Johnny or Sally off to bed with nightmares.

This may be about Vikings but it's nothing like the Vikings from the history books or from the recent television series - it's more Asterix meets Zelda than Rathnar, Lagertha and Rollo, more Benny and Björn than Erik Bloodaxe and Harald Hardrada. This is obvious from the bright and colourful village Tyrim lives in and the beautiful blue skies and even deeper blue seas.

There are lots of animated adventure games available on STEAM and also for the range of Sony and Microsoft consoles and there is little to choose between them. Each has many good Pro's and a few Con's so it really is a case of horses for courses / personal choice. Before making a purchase reads a little about the games you are looking at maybe buying and decide from the theme which is most likely in your taste, for as far as controls, visuals, sounds and puzzles, fights and other actions are concerned they are all pretty much on par with each other. Then again you might be a player who loves this style of game whatever the basic main theme is and then you'll probably want to collect them, play them and make your own comparisons. A review is supposed to help you make up your mind and when writing I try to give guidance and direction where possible. Of course something that I think is excellent, like an NFL game featuring the Miami Dolphins, wouldn't be given house room by a New England Patriots fan, similarly if Arsenal are featured heavily on the cover of a Soccer game then Spurs fans are likely to avoid the game at all costs (or at least buy it and throw the cover away).

So let me make this clear about CORNERSTONE the Song of Tyrim. I like it. It is reasonably easy to play but not without its merits. It is doable, unlike some games where the tasks, quests and challenges are just ridiculously difficult and impossible without a walkthrough guide. It will take you a little time to work out how to succeed at some tasks, even the mundane ones - like how do you get to the top of the house to solve the birds nest in the chimney puzzle - and other tasks, like carrying Olaf to his mother's house because he has fallen and hurt his leg, need no thought or planning at all.

I would say this is possibly more for the 11-15 age range of players but again that is subjective. I have board games that say 2-4 players aged 14-99. Does that mean an 11, 12 or 13 year old cannot play it even if they are quite bright and used to board games ? and what happens when you reach 100 years old ? are you no longer allowed to play ? Mums and Dads will be hard-pressed to find something in this game that they wouldn't want their precious sons or daughters to hear or see (at least I haven't found anything, but then my kids probably know a lot of things they wouldn't want their Mum or Dad to see or hear!!! - joking!).

CORNERSTONE the Song of Tyrim is now available for just under £15.00 and that is really good value for the amount of game hours and pleasure it will give.

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015