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Refactor - Tetromino-themed Puzzle Platformer with a Creative Spin


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        Refactor

:: Genre
        Action, Metroidvania, Platformer, Puzzle

:: Developer
        NextGen Pants, Inc.
        Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Discord

:: Platform
        PC (Windows/ Mac/ Linux)

:: Availability
        Steam
        Free Demo (16 – 22 Jun 2020)

:: Release
      Spring 2021

:: Rating
      Everyone

:: Trailer

II. DEMO PREVIEW

Slated for release in Spring 2021, Refactor is a physics-based puzzle platformer with Metroidvania elements that sets itself apart through its creative spin on the geometric concept of tetrominoes. Previously known as Tetropolis, the game had made its first appearances at GDC, PAX East, and PAX Prime back in 2014. Six years on, the latest Refactor demo featuring the first main area will be available to play during the week-long Steam Game Festival held this June.

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Within a factory where perfection of its products is absolutely everything, you play as an imperfect tetromino (or technically speaking, tetracube viewed from a 2.5D perspective) who is trying to find its place after being discarded along with the other similarly imperfect tetrominoes. Tumbling around various rooms in the factory, you are to survive the treacherous environment that is always ready to mercilessly eliminate any imperfect tetromino in its path.

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As with any 2.5D platformer, the playable character can roll horizontally and jump vertically. While the game can be played with either a controller or keyboard, there is no custom bind feature implemented for keyboard controls. Nevertheless, there are typically two keys assigned to each function. For instance, one can choose between A and D keys, or left and right arrow keys for rolling the tetromino left and right respectively. Albeit limited, this provides keyboard players with a choice between two widely used control schemes: one-handed WADQE with space, and two-handed ZXCV with arrow keys.

The introductory rooms in Refactor are set up to be simple and players can traverse them by purely rolling and jumping. Additional movements, such as double jump and crouch, are taught to players through the presentation of a well crafted roadblock that can only be bypassed with that specific action. I think the game does pretty well in reinforcing learnt concepts via the way it sets up similar obstacles in subsequent areas after a particular new movement was introduced. Not only does it help in remembering, the repeated opportunities to use the new movements also provide players with a means to practise the controls until they get a hang of it. This is especially helpful for people who do not play much platformers.

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Despite being designed with considerations for new players in mind, the game is quite demanding of the platformer player’s skills. Corrective mechanisms are in place to aid those who cannot grasp a highly precise movement control and timing. But inexperienced players would still likely find themselves having to try an area several times (and suffer several deaths in the hazardous zones) before finally clearing it successfully. That said, Refactor is not an impossible game for unskilled players; like many platformer games, it relies heavily on “practice makes perfect”. As far as the demo goes, there is no timed mission objective. Therefore, one could keep trying an area at one’s leisure without the stress of needing to get out before some countdown expires.

The tetromino character has a maximum of four health points, with each remaining point clearly indicated by each lit square on its surface. Cleverly designed, this creative health indicator not only serves its purpose well, it adds a beautiful luminous glow to the overall visuals too.

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As players explore the facility in Refactor, they will come across many rooms that are packed with various static traps and mobile enemies that can easily snuff out the lights of the tetromino if they are not careful. Fortunately, there is always a mod station present at the start and end of a stretch of perilous path. Reaching a mod station will automatically refill the tetromino’s health points to maximum and at the same time, trigger a game save at that point. It is important to note, regarding the save system, that while it is possible to “Save and Exit” at any point in the game (except during cutscenes), the game always loads from the last visited mod station or control room (another auto-save point).

Mod stations have a third function, that is to serve as management centers for the tetromino’s available upgrade modules — optional modules that enable new abilities for an improved survival chance. What I like about this management system is how players are not forced into permanently locking onto upgrades that they have previously spent energy units (the currency for upgrading modules) on. At any mod station, one is free to downgrade something in order to free up energy units that can be reused to upgrade something else.

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As much as cautious maneuvering is a big focus of the game, puzzles constitute the other major focus in Refactor. The puzzles come in two main forms: first, area maps with tetromino-shaped rooms that can be rearranged at a control room to open up new pathways as needed, and second, the individual rooms themselves. For the demo, only the first two area maps will be available but they are more than sufficient for players to have an idea of the surprising twists that the game’s puzzles have in store.

These area maps that require players to make use of logical thinking to map out their own routes would not work well if not for the brilliantly constructed rotatable rooms. Even though I seldom play platformers, I am sold on the amazingly well thought-out room designs that make it possible to cross the same room from different directions. I personally find some of the altered room configurations tougher to get through, which resulted in me almost rage quitting on several occasions, but I am nevertheless deeply impressed with this particular aspect in Refactor. With each new configuration, each movable room forces players to think and then rethink about their moves to take and is thus a fine puzzle in itself.

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Interesting and nicely implemented gameplay concepts aside, the visuals and audio are handled with flair in the game as well. The background music has a sci-fi, cyberpunk vibe that aptly complements the design of the factory where futuristic control rooms, high-tech machines, and robotic enemies can be found. The general exploration tracks exude such a mysterious and desolate mood, they make quite the perfect accompaniment to the cautious journey our lone tetromino makes around the dimly-lit unfamiliar territories. Unsurprisingly, the boss fight music is distinctively different with a faster pace to match the expected thrill of the major fight. However, I am slightly disappointed with the boss theme as it is not as memorable as I would have liked.

While optional, sound effects (SFX) have an important role in Refactor because they serve as major audio cues (coupling with the visual effects already in place) throughout the game. By paying attention to the sounds from the surroundings, players can actually hear if there is a collectable item or an enemy nearby. There are also audio cues for signalling when a health point is sapped and when a double jump is executed. Out of the myriad of SFX used in the game, my favourite is the cute “whoop” as the tetrominoes hop along.

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Although the factory’s interior design is good, the User Interface (UI) design for in-game screens such as the mod station’s screen would require more work. In the current state, they look bland; it would be great if these menus are stylised to fit the overall sci-fi feel better. I also find some rooms to be rather dark, though changing the video settings to maximum gamma helps a little.

Last but not least, the story, as narrated through short animation clips, has an interesting opening that makes me really curious about where it will lead us to in the end. The animation clips are short and unvoiced and yet, they tell a lot. Just two cutscenes in and I already vowed to protect the precious little protagonist tetromino (or at least, I tried to; the countless anguished deaths that the poor tetromino suffered during my playthroughs is definitely unintended).

All in all, platformer lovers are highly recommended to check out this one of a kind puzzle platformer that challenges one’s platforming and problem solving skills in more than one way. Refactor will be showcased in the upcoming Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition happening from 16 June (10 AM PDT) to 22 June (10 AM PDT). Mark the date, enjoy the demo during the festival, and remember to wishlist the game on Steam! Also, if you are on Discord, there is the NextGen Pants Discord server that you can join.

These little tetrominoes are awaiting you!

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BombHopper.io - Be a Cute Yellow Square and Blast Away!


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        BombHopper.io

:: Genre
        Action, Puzzle, Platformer

:: Developer
        Julien Mourer
        Twitter | Discord

:: Platform
        Browser (PC and Mobile)

:: Availability
        BombHopper.io | IO Games | NewGrounds | Titotu | CrazyGames
        Beta, Free (Ads-based)

:: Release
        17 November 2019

:: Rating
        Everyone

:: Trailer

II. BETA REVIEW

What can you do with a handful ammo of bombs? Apparently quite a bit in BombHopper.io, a physics-based puzzle platformer where you play as Hoppi, a cute yellow square who has to rely on its ammo supply to safely find its way out of the strange world it lies within.

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When we think about bombs, we tend to think of their destructive nature and would expect to detonate them in games to damage various things like enemies and obstructions. However, instead of blasting ammo for the purpose of destruction, the main focus in this puzzle platformer is on the resulting thrust force that sends Hoppi, an otherwise inert square, propelling forward.

Currently, there are 48 short puzzle levels available in this casual browser game and they are presented in progressive complexity and difficulty. While more levels are expected to be added in the future, the existing set already provides around twenty minutes (and more, if you are retrying for better scores) of puzzle fun.

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The world in BombHopper.io is made up of simple basic shapes and specific colour codings that are pretty intuitive. Platforms in grey denote a regular concrete surface, while blue shapes denote a slippery surface (cool like ice) and red ones indicate an instant kill pitfall (dangerous like fire). There are also purple breakable surfaces and orange elastic boundaries that open even further possibilities for level design. Last but not least, the exit point of each level is a conspicuous green door. All these neon coloured elements are placed against a dark backdrop, which makes for great visual contrast.

Menu buttons are kept to a minimal and positioned along the screen borders, creating a distraction-free user interface (UI) layout that allows players to focus on the puzzle itself. The buttons are pretty standard: “menu” for viewing the overall progression map; “restart” for retrying the current level afresh; “skip” for moving to the next level without solving the current one by watching an advertisement; and the self-explanatory “fullscreen”.

One particular thing that surprises me regarding the UI design is the cue pointer that will point the player to the “restart” button when one did not manage to clear the level but still kept trying to fire despite not having anymore ammo. And this cue pointer is not simply static; it grows in size and eventually blinks in bright red with each fire one tries to make on an empty ammo slot — talk about some rather attention grabbing visual cue!

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Playable with just a mouse, BombHopper.io challenges players to propel Hoppi to the exit using only the given ammo. Even though there is no wordy tutorial or explanation prompt given in-game, the puzzles are presented in an intuitive, easy to understand manner. I find the learning curve comfortable as the levels introduce new elements gradually, and the individual level’s name generally provides players with a hint about that particular level’s objective.

Apart from the variety of environmental elements present, the game also incorporates different ammo supply and types available. In the easier levels, players are given an unlimited number of ammo to spend but the game soon challenges them to complete a particular level with limited number of ammo fires. There are also two types of bombs present: orange bombs that detonate immediately upon contact with a surface and red bombs that detonate only after a few seconds. This variation in ammo type, albeit subtle, has a significant impact on how a level may be approached.

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Despite being a puzzle game, BombHopper.io’s solving mechanics actually lean more toward hands-on trial and error rather than strictly intensive thinking. With enough patience, one could solve most of the levels via pure experimentation. Naturally, coupled with an adequate understanding of the physics and rules underlying the game, the time taken to solve a level would be shortened. Beginner friendly, BombHopper.io is suitable even for players who have never played similar genres before.

Of the available 48 levels, some of them require players to think outside of the box while a few are grouped around a general idea with minor alterations to the puzzle setup that have little to no effect on its solving method. This results in some of the levels bearing much resemblance to earlier levels and giving a sense of repetitiveness. While present only in small numbers, the similarly repeated levels may still feel boring for players who enjoy racking their brains instead of memorizing.

For the competitive players, BombHopper.io offers a stars system that reflects how fast a level was completed. Each level has its own time requirement set for players to achieve that full three stars rank. To fulfill the needs of those who like to share their personal best timings on their own social media channels, the browser game has embedded Twitter and Facebook share functions (the latter, however, is still in development).

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On its own, BombHopper.io is fun to play until one has cleared every level and attained the best timings for all levels. It may seem like this browser puzzle game is good for only a few short playthroughs but since April 2020, the developer has been pushing out beta features supporting custom levels, greatly expanding the fun that players can possibly enjoy with this little bomb physics puzzle game.

Best accessed through a desktop browser, the custom level editor allows one to design their own playable levels by playing around with the available game elements and Hoppi. The editor supports saving and loading, which makes it convenient for one to keep their current level edits and continue working on them at another time. Once logged in with Discord, one could also submit their creations to the growing list of custom levels that is accessible by anyone to play.

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The next time you are looking for a quick puzzle game that also features a relaxing music track (composed by Koku), do give BombHopper.io a try. You can now even design your own custom levels for others to play if you are feeling creative. Finally, stay in the loop with the game’s active development and share your adventures with other players in the official Discord server!

Get ready to hop on and blast off!

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Cats in Boxes - a fun simple flash-esque game


CROGGS

Game: Cats in Boxes

Developer: LineartLemur

Release Date: November 14 2019


Play the game in browser for free here!

Genre: Action Strategy Shooter


Cats in boxes is a bit different from most games I review, just because of how short it is, and, well, it naturally is since it's a game jam game. It would honestly be more appropriate to think of this game as a quick little flash game you find on all those free-to-play sites, especially since you can play it from your browser, which is a really nice touch. But that's not a bad thing at all! For a few minutes of your time, it's a fun little experience! It makes you think strategically as to when where and how to place and use all your units, without overwhelming you and giving you just enough of a challenge to keep you engaged.

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The artstyle had a very childish hand-drawn aesthetic to it, and it just adds to it's silly and nonsensical. The cats do look kinda off but for such a simplistic and short jam game, it really wasn't an issue for me when I was playing. If anything the style just grew on me as I played, it just seems fitting for such a goofy game. There's also a brief introduction storyboard type sequence which introduces the artstyle and the very simple story. The story is virtually non-existent, it's really just a mario type story, a simple motivation to add some quick context to what you're doing. There's also a choice to play as a "Hero" or "Villain". There's no difference between them gameplay-wise, it just gives you slightly different text to read at the beginning and the end of the game.

The music of Cats in Boxes is equally simple. It's just one short looping sound bite, it got a little annoying for me towards the end, but ultimately it wasn't much of a problem. The music did all it needed to do, and without it the game would feel weirdly silent. The sound effects are equally serviceable, they never got annoying for me though.

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Now, while there's not much to say about visuals, story or music. The real fun of the game comes from the gameplay. The way it works is that you and the opposing team have a big fish you need to defend. Whoever has the fish with the most health left by the end of the round wins, and you move onto the next of 5 levels, where I enjoyed experimenting with different strategies to defend my fish. To defend, you have 4 different feline units, a shield using cat that can block attacks from enemy cats, a knife cat that can attack by charging with it's knife, a cat that can shoot tiny fish, and a healer cat. The really interesting mechanic that Cats in Boxes uses pretty well is how deploying units works, which is pretty much the one thing that makes this game a really fun quick experience. It allows for very interesting strategies to emerge and for you to think proactively in really unique ways! 

So anyway, yes, this is a very short review for a very short game, but I figured it was worth it for this unexpectedly well made jam game. So go over and give the game a try for a few minutes! 

Tell me what you thought of Cats in Boxes in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

 

WarpThrough - Jump Through Portals and Fight Monsters


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        WarpThrough

:: Genre
        Action, Platformer, Arcade

:: Developer
        Roofkat
        Website | Twitter | Facebook | Discord 

:: Platform
        PC (Windows)

:: Availability
        Steam
        Paid, Full

:: Release
        10 December 2019

:: Rating
        Everyone

:: Trailer

II. GAME PREVIEW

Note: This article is written based on the beta version I played during the final playtest held in mid-November, and thus final game content may still be subject to change. Due to the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for the playtest, no screenshots from the playtest version of the game has been used in this article; still, writing of my personal impressions has been approved with the developer’s prior consent.

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This holidays, gather your friends and hop through portals to fight monsters in this platformer game with a twist in its fighting mechanics. With support for local co-op play for up to four players, WarpThrough brings you into a monster-infested world where it is up to you (and your friends) to unravel the cause of the infestation and help save the day.

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True to its name, WarpThrough challenges you to warp through as many portals as you can in succession before you knock into a passing monster — the only condition that will send you spiraling back to square one of that particular level. These cute (but deadly) monsters come in various forms and have their own mobility method, such as sliding or flying, which creates a nice setting under which players would have to be on constant alert of their surroundings while jumping on platforms toward the next portal. Otherwise, they may find themselves quickly colliding with a sneaky enemy that has flown toward them as they were busy retreating from one that was sliding in their direction.

In a similar spirit of keeping the game challenging, monsters are set to spawn regularly at intervals. The rate at which monsters spawn in the levels is proportional to the difficulty setting the player has chosen: monsters will spawn faster at tougher difficulties. Naturally, this means that the number of monsters present in a single level will keep increasing if one focuses on simply shunning them. Luckily, there is a way to fight and clear the place of them, though there is a special twist to it.

To fight the monsters that are running amok all around, you actually have to stop moving for a short while in order to charge your attack before you can unleash it. If you are constantly on the move or have moved before the charge for the attack is complete, you will not be able to send any of the monsters to oblivion. It is an interesting fight mechanics that is not too difficult to get used to with enough trial and error.

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Yet the challenge does not stop at making you adapt to this halt-to-fight process. Just when you think you are finally adept at controlling Charlotte (the main character), the game soon presents you with other playable characters with vastly different attack styles. The main character’s fireball attack, in my opinion, is the most straightforward to learn and use. Some of the remaining four playable characters’ attacks can be rather tough to pick up, such as Three’s rotating laser gun that I, for the life of me, cannot figure out how to properly use without mindless spamming (and still miss those monsters).

From including a mix of monster types in every level to having a cast of playable characters that require distinctive control methods, WarpThrough has definitely implemented several good layers of challenge for players. In fact, the game will be quite suitable for players who like to challenge themselves as well as those who like to compete against others. Besides the range of difficulty settings available (tougher settings are only unlocked when the easier ones are cleared), the game also features a Weekly Challenge mode with a leaderboard that refreshes each week.

Nevertheless, for players who are not good with platformers and can only manage the game at Easy difficulty setting (like myself), they would inevitably feel that there is not much playable content. This is especially so when the Story Mode, the game’s main campaign, features a really short story about Charlotte’s and her friends’ adventures. Although there is also an Arcade Mode where you can replay any of the unlocked levels to your heart’s content, there is really not much incentive for another playthrough if you cannot unlock more difficulty settings.

In addition, as a result of its short main story, the game suffers from a lack of available playable levels. One thing I really enjoyed when playing the test version of the game is unlocking the next level as I progress forward in the story. Thus it was rather disappointing for me when the story came to a closure and there is no more new levels to explore.

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While I do hope that the game will get content updates in the future, featuring brand new levels with new stories of Charlotte and gang, I still recommend WarpThrough to those who enjoy platformers. Whether you are going to play it alone or with your friends, the game is going to bring you several hours of fun with its different game modes, variety of playable characters, range of difficulty settings, and interesting achievements to attain.

Cannot wait to create a new highscore hopping through portals? Well, wait no longer as WarpThrough is releasing on Steam today!

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KnifeBoy - A strange MetroidVania


CROGGS

Game: KnifeBoy

Developer: Karl Rune Peter Fredriksson

Release Date: October 18 2019

Buy the game on Steam here!

Genre: MetroidVania Adventure


So! KnifeBoy! It's a weird-ass game (as you can see from its screenshots) made by Karl Rune Peter Fredriksson , it has a very strange atmosphere to it with surreal visuals and music that makes you feel like you're in some alien world and lends itself to a very unique experience, but beyond that, it's honestly just a mediocre MetroidVania. Now, I don't consider myself a huge fan of the MetroidVania genre, but if you put a good MetroidVania in front of me, I'll have a dandy ol' time. I grew up playing lots of games that had you accessing new areas with new abilities and stuff, like The Legend of ZeldaPokemon, and even more recent games like Shovel Knight I love finding secret areas with some kind of new ability or item I have. When done well, the sense of progression in these games feels very deserved and satisfying when you finally see what's behind those boulders you've passed like 50 times now. Doing this well isn't the easiest thing in the world though, a lot of things have to go right to have the player really get that feeling. What this game excels at though is the whole strange, surreal look and feel of everything. I really like games like this, games like LISA and artists like Jack Stauber, do an incredible job of just making people revel in the absolute chaos and 'what the fuck is happening' of it all, and at many points, KnifeBoy does just as well. Karl's creativity really shines through in a lot of really shocking and unexpected ways, nothing was off-limits, and he just did whatever the hell he wanted, and I just loved it. That said though, it did still suffer from a lot of problems.
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The visuals, which I can only describe as strange, is the first thing you'll notice. It has an admittedly amateurish feel to it, but that doesn't mean it looks bad, not at all! A lot of the visuals look great and fit the theming of the game perfectly! They create a chilling atmosphere of a weird alien world with intrigue and oddities everywhere. The game seems to have a solely comic book style to it at the beginning, it mostly retains this style, but noticeably diverges from this in many parts pretty effectively, only adding to the chaos of it all, with some assets being pngs of actual real-life rock faces, which I thought was pretty funny. The use of light is also used especially well to just keep building that odd atmosphere. The character designs are pretty much strictly comic book looking, which Karl's done a good job with! The designs themselves range from strange, to typical comic book supervillain, to gorey, to delightfully absurd, to sexual (if there's any rule 34 artists reading this, you'll have a field day with this game). The most confusing design of all though in my opinion is that of KnifeBoy himself, like, there's some pretty weird stuff in this game, but I still genuinely have no idea how Karl came up with the idea of having a giant blade coming out of a guy's forehead. It fits the weird theme of the game alright, but the giant blade as next to no real purpose, it's never used and rarely mentioned, with the only time it ever becomes relevant being with his spin attack and overdrive attack. And I've always wondered, how is going through doorways with his head? How uncomfortable is it to sleep? And wow that musta been hella painful for his mom.
WE WANT ANSWERS KARL!... or at least I want answers 


Alright, anyway, the story in KnifeBoy is one thing that, at least the steam page seems to pride itself on, which is weird to me, because in my opinion, the story was probably the weakest part of the whole game. The biggest problem, at least for me, is how overwhelming the game is with introducing new characters, organizations, and places. The opening cutscene just name drops 8 different things within less than a minute, then just throws you into the world, and it continues to do this kind of thing throughout the game, making following the plot really hard. Or maybe I'm just a big dumb idiot who can't process more than 2 things at a time, I dunno, but that was my experience. Anyway, the plot basically comes down to "save girlfriend from the big bad", with an even more generic evil shadowy organization, which is anonymous for some reason, I thought it would be some social commentary about the dangers of hackers or something, but I didn't see any of that in my playthrough, the fact that the big bad is anonymous never plays into the narrative or gameplay at all during my playthrough, it could have just as easily been the lamp fan club or something. The ending was also really unsatisfying and made no sense to me, it just abruptly ends out of nowhere, with nothing being resolved and almost nothing being revealed.

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Something else that is supposed to add to the story are comic book pages which you can find throughout the game, which reveal KnifeBoy's past, and there is a full legitimate comic which serves as in interesting look into the past, and although it is at times unnecessary, not giving insight into the game itself, it is an interesting read. I just wish there was more done within the game since it was an admittedly boring change of pace to sit down and read an almost full-length comic. The game does shine with storytelling in a few spots, and it isn't usually with dialogue or cutscenes, but with the world itself, with boss designs, environments and secrets. Little sprinkles of lore that made me intrigued by who the bosses are and why they are where they are, it made me imagine what their stories could possibly be. My favourite character is actually one that you can only briefly meet twice, Karl Skandal, but whose personality, knowledge, location and design made him really interesting to me.

The gameplay of KnifeBoy is pretty standard Metroidvania punching and jumping with some abilities thrown into the mix. However, the level design can sometimes be frustrating, with platforms being just too short to reach with a normal jump, but feel like overkill to use a double jump on. Then there are other platforms with spikes that are just awkward to get through. But the worst of this is the overworld, where unnecessary obstacles and platforms are just placed around at what looks like random, which makes going from place to place in the overworld frustrating and unsatisfying. The attacks are also pretty unbalanced and lead to some pretty repetitive fights, one ability you have from the beginning, the "overdrive" ability is treated like a super-powerful burst of energy you can only use a few times. But in practice, you have to be really precise with how you hit things with it, it forces you to stop making you unnecessarily vulnerable, and was completely useless in boss fights since it did just as much as your standard punch attack. The punch attack is also pretty overpowered, especially for your first attack given, you can stay suspended in the air for a while just by spamming the punch button and it seems to do more damage than the overdrive in boss battles, I always end up resorting to just punching since it's easy to control, does the most damage, has no cooldown and has a relatively generous range. Using other attacks and abilities you get just open you up to getting hit, with no benefit in damage, speed or controllability, with the dash you get near the beginning being a small exception. Overall, fighting just got boring for me, cause the best way to do it was to just spam the punch button with no strategy involved.

On one other small note, there is a day/night system in KnifeBoy where certain areas are inaccessible during the day or night, this was just really annoying in my experience, and didn't add anything to the game. Although the game looks beautiful at night.
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Boss battles, however, were pretty fun, they were a highlight of the whole experience for me, boss battles in this game are a culmination of all the stuff I like about this game! Bat shit crazy stuff happening, you wondering what the lore behind each boss is with their weird designs and environments, fun and satisfying platforming,  and secrets which, if found, let you straight up skip some boss fights. My only problem with them though is the same issue I was talking about in the last paragraph, they all just devolved to spamming the punch button, cause nothing else was worth the effort or risk. I also wish that bosses had more plot relevance, and had some build up so that I at least had an idea of who I would fight before getting there, but that's a relatively small problem.
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The music, OH THE MUSIC! The music is probably the most well-done thing in this game, I don't know if it's just my weird-ass taste in music, but, like 90% of the songs either fulfill their purpose perfectly in setting the atmosphere and feel of an area, or are just straight bangers. Karl can make you feel paranoid, scared, intrigued, excited, whatever he wants, the music in KnifeBoy is one of the reasons I kept playing and was excited and determined to continue despite all of its problems. Karl should definitely upload or release the soundtrack for the game because I would honestly add some of the tracks to my playlist.

Now, the biggest problem by far in KnifeBoy is how unpolished and buggy the whole game is. Bugs were so frequent that I sometimes honestly wonder if Karl even playtested the game himself. From being warped inside of walls when going through doors, to straight-up losing abilities you need to beat the game forever for no reason, to parts of the map that are straight-up incomplete, to buggy and jittery movement on awkward terrain, to dying by going through doors, to being able to go through objects when paused, to being able to walk around on loading screens, to tons of grammar and spelling problems, to crouching being buggy, to certain abilities being buggy in certain areas. There are so many problems, I've had to restart my playthrough from the beginning 3 separate times because of softlocks to do this review. After losing an ability I needed to finish the game which I lost for good out of nowhere again, I even tried contacting Karl, which was very hard to do (open up your dms on twitter man pls). I needed to press F7 which brought the ability back for some reason? There was no way that I saw, that the player would know to do this, so, if unless you're lucky and know about the F7 thing, beating the game would literally be impossible, to no fault of your own.

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Overall, KnifeBoy is a really interesting game for its weird atmosphere alone, but doesn't really hold up otherwise, with its many problems outweighing the good things about the game in my opinion. My experience with KnifeBoy was frustrating and unsatisfying, but it definitely still has value in its unique feel, kick-ass music and occasional nice little moments.

Tell me what you think in the comments! If you've played KnifeBoy, do you agree? Thanks for reading!

You can follow Karl on twitter @KarlKaze

 

Yes, Your Grace - Manage a Medieval Kingdom as King Eryk


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        Yes, Your Grace

:: Genre
        Strategy, RPG

:: Developer
        Brave At Night
        Website | Twitter

:: Publisher
        No More Robots
        Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

:: Platform
        PC

:: Availability
        Steam
        Beta (15 – 22 Nov)

:: Release
        Early 2020

:: Content
        Cartoon Violence, Mild references to sex and drug use

:: Trailer

II. BETA REVIEW

After having come a long way since its Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Yes, Your Grace — a medieval kingdom management game that puts you on the throne overseeing all things big and small happening in your realm — entered a week-long public beta phase on 15 November. The Steam beta, available to all who have signed up for it through the game’s Discord server, provides an hour-long peek into this upcoming title that couples simple management gameplay with charming storytelling.

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The concept of the game is straightforward: be the King and tackle the kingdom matters as you like. However, you are not just any random king but the King of Davern, a man named Eryk who is happily married and has three daughters. That is to say, this beta showcases not a generic management game but one that is woven into a set lore and a particular character’s point of view. There are no customization options for the main playable character but you are still free to choose how you would want to use the kingdom’s available resources, such as gold, food supplies, and hired helpers.

Time goes by weeks in-game. Every week, various people, ranging from family members to peasants to lords, will queue up for an audience in your throne room. Each one of them comes to you with their issue and in most cases, it is up to you how you would want to aid them (or not).

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With regard to the management portion, I find it rather easy — at least for up to the first eight weeks available in the beta. In fact, it takes me really deliberate squandering of resources in order to lead the kingdom to ruins. Such a low difficulty implemented can be said to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows even new players to progress onward easily for the story, which is the other big part of the game; however, it probably would not satisfy those who are looking for a more strategic planning experience. The system seen in the beta is really lenient and does not really require players to pay very careful attention to what they are choosing. Still, this is only based on what is shown in the beta, where consequences of several choices have yet to make themselves known for now. Perhaps, in the final game, long-term repercussions would eventually even out the seemingly trivial short-term effects.

As the game goes by a weekly schedule, the pacing can feel a little fast. Story-wise, it makes sense for events to progress in terms of weeks. But in terms of listening to the petitioners, it does feel like there is a lack of opportunity for more resource-dependent problems to be tackled. There can only ever be that many petitioners showing up per week, after all.

When it comes to guiding players, I think the tutorial prompts are pretty clear and do a good job at explaining various elements of the game. One of the things that I find lacked explanation is the upgrades listed under the weekly summary; for quite a while, I did not realize I had to manually click on the upgrade for it to apply. Another part that lacked explanation is the icons, though a simple tooltip label should suffice as most icons (like gold and grains) are pretty self-explanatory. Also, it may help if players are told at the beginning that they can ask Audry the Advisor for more information on running the kingdom. Given that the chat with Audry is optional, I would not be surprised that some people missed it entirely at first.

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Because Yes, Your Grace essentially hinges on resource management, I also appreciate that important choices involving consumption of certain resources are properly labelled. Overall, I find the texts written for the choice system easily understandable. There is hardly any ambiguous moment that would make one wonder what a certain choice actually means or what immediate outcome a given choice would cause.

What is equally clear-cut is the User Interface (UI) design. Currently only with mouse control support, the game sports a UI that is generally easy to navigate around and click on. Not to mention the layout is neat and pleasant to look at as well. While there appears to be some issues where some lines of dialogue texts appear blurry, the font size and colour contrast used are reasonable to make reading comfortable. The decision to use different colours for different characters’ dialogues is a nice touch too, although some colours can look a little too dark for the dialogue bubble.

Small notification banners that slide out from the right side of the screen upon important changes, such as gold added or deducted, are great visual cues. However, similar helpful visual cues are not used within the Archives (a journal detailing quests and character information) at all and this made checking the Archives for unread or updated entries a really unintuitive task.

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Apart from some minor animation issues, the pixel art in the game is beautiful. I especially love the detailed background art that brings every venue in the Davern castle to life. Characters are appropriately represented via their designs; the wealthy don more fancy garbs while the poor wear simpler and even tattered clothes.

Music is another component that adds flavour to the various venues and scenes in the game. Despite the limited number of tracks available in the beta, I feel every track has played its part well in heightening the emotions of particular scenes.

Last but not least, the story itself is something to look forward to in Yes, Your Grace. Even though the plot events progress rather quickly, they still flow smoothly. The game’s storytelling is pretty engaging with hardly any boring moments, and the interactions with the family members, while sparse and short, are impactful. It did not take me long to fall in love with the youngest daughter and it certainly pained me to see that a heartwarming moment ended in the blink of an eye.

Nevertheless, people who have played through the beta multiple times would realize that a large part of the story is linear and unaffected by varying choices. Different dialogue options would lead to different lines that follow but ultimately, what you chose had no real bearing on how the plot events would unfold. Even clearing optional conversations do not reward you with any significant changes to other related dialogues or unique follow-up dialogues afterward. As far as the beta is concerned, the only way to acquire different endings is to fail the kingdom management part in different ways.

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In spite of the short content length provided in the beta, it still gives an idea of what we can expect from the full version — a fun little management game with an overarching story about King Eryk and his family to tell.

If you have played the beta and still cannot get enough of it (what a cliffhanger it ended on!), feel free to hop into Yes, Your Grace Discord and join the on-going meta game. In any case, do wishlist the game on Steam if you want to get notified once it is released early next year!

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The Last Crystal - Co-op Dungeon Crawling Mayhem!


Sammy J

Game: The Last Crystal

Developer: Falling Flames

Release Date: TBA

Try the demo

Genre: Action/Adventure

 

 

The majority of my gaming hours are spent playing single player games, for me the online gaming wave has come and gone but that doesn't mean I won't try out another online multiplayer experience from time to time. I just get far more enjoyment out of a fully fledged single player story based adventure like The Legend of Zelda than I do from MMORPG's. Then there is the old fashioned way to play games with other people which may actually involve you having to physically communicate with them in a shared space and time. I am of course referring to local multiplayer, a version of multiplayer which for me beats any online multiplayer experience hands down. You don't get to see the reactions from the people you are playing with if you are playing with them online and the friendly banter doesn't feel the same over a headset. Local multiplayer and couch co-op games took a somewhat back seat when online multiplayer was on the rise but it is refreshing to see that it didn't and will never die. It gave smaller indie developers the chance to swoop in and cash in on a crowd of couch co-op lovers with their projects such as The Last Crystal, a 1-2 player puzzle based dungeon crawler that is a lot of fun!

 

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So what is this exactly? As I mentioned before, The Last Crystal is a puzzle based dungeon crawler that is geared towards playing with two players cooperatively. If you don't have two players you can play the game solo but will be controlling both characters simultaneously yourself which can get tricky in a pinch. This is why the developers Falling Flames recommend that if you are playing solo that you use a game controller such as what I used, an Xbox One controller. This is so that you can use both analogue sticks to move each character rather than having to punch separate keys on a keyboard to control them which I would imagine would be far more tricky. So regardless of how you are playing, you'll be controlling two characters the whole time as the game requires them both to solve the majority of the puzzles on offer. Each character (Elia and Ezio) have one of the trigger buttons each, so RT will control one of the characters' melee attacks while LT will control the other characters' melee attacks. RT and LT will also allow each character to grab hold of certain objects so that they can be moved either to cover a switch or to block oncoming arrows that are fired your way. Your normal action button is A that allows you to jump across small holes and pick up objects as well as perform a heal once the ability is acquired but that's all there really is on the control front of the demo. While there is some fun to be had playing The Last Crystal single player, it is fairly obvious from the get go that the most enjoyment you will get from the game is if you play with another player.

 

Onto how the game looks, looking at the screenshots will tell you all you need to know about the look of the game, it's bright, vibrant, colorful and cute. It's quite nice to see a dungeon crawler take this approach with its art style because we have had a lot of this type of game try and borrow too much from the Diablo success. Let's not get the wrong idea and think for a second that I'm comparing The Last Crystal to Diablo though, despite the fact that both games have you roaming around dungeons, that's basically the only similarity. If I had to criticize anything about the game it would not be on how it looked or felt but rather how the game sounded. Some of the sound effects were rather humorous like those of some of the enemies, the snakes for example sounded very human like but this isn't a criticism. I actually found that the humorous sound effects added to the games serious yet lighthearted tone, it was the sound track that I thought could do with improving. When you hear the dramatic ambient tones it sounds fine but randomly throughout the traversal of the temple it just stops then randomly starts again after several seconds. It's as if it's on some kind of loop that replays after a short while of nothingness, it would be better if the sound track would accompany you throughout the entire journey. If the music is going to stop it should be because of a dramatic turn of events is occurring and not for no reason at all, lets hope this personal bug bear of mine is addressed in the full game upon its release.

 

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The demo starts you off with a brief overview of what you are doing at this temple which is basically to recover the crystal which resides within it which happens to be the "last crystal". You will die quite a lot, particularly if you are playing by yourself as it's so much harder to control two of them at the same time but thankfully you will come across revive statues throughout the dungeon enabling your fallen characters to revive. you will still have to control your fallen characters spirit by moving it to the revive stone so you are constantly controlling two characters whether one dies or not. I honestly felt somewhat relieved when one of the characters did die especially when I was trying to fight off a horde of enemies. Controlling two characters to fight at the same time with both analogue sticks and both triggers is something my tiny brain could not comprehend! The puzzles in the game felt very well put together, the very earlier puzzles will have you using both characters to stand on a switch each to open a door and will get more challenging along the way. You will also get the occasional curve ball thrown your way like when you get cursed, one of my characters was weakened rendering them unable to move heavy objects while the other was no longer able to walk through fire. It's moments like this that make you have to rethink the way you will solve future puzzles utilizing each character accordingly.

 

Solving puzzles and fighting enemies are not the only thing you need to think about although it would be enough for me! You will also unlock abilities throughout the temple for each character, one of my characters unlocked a healing ability for example but I am interested in finding out what other types of abilities the full game will include. There are other parts of The Last Crystal that I am also interested to see like the other environments, you only really see inside the temple in the demo but the games Steam page informs us that there are many other areas to explore. The enemies in the demo are what you would expect to face in a temple such as snakes, bats and mummies mostly, so other areas of the game would no doubt contain a diverse cast of enemies to defeat. Although my experience with The Last Crystal was of the single player nature, I really enjoyed the experience that I had and it did make me want to play it more but in co-op mode with another player. I'm going to try the demo again with the missus to see what she thinks but if I know her as well as I claim to, she will enjoy this game as much if not more than me so a full game purchase may well be on the cards. I really hope the developers push this game as much as they can because if I am being honest, I have not seen a thing in terms of advertisement about it and Youtube videos of it are hard to find as well. It was only by chance that I stumbled across their Steam page which I advise you all to do as well so that you can check out the demo with a friend.

 

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I would love to hear what you think of The Last Crystal or this kind of game in general, so don't be shy, let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Galaxium - It's out of this world, literally


ALinkToTheDan

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title

Galaxium

:: Genre

Casual, Action, Shooter

:: Developer

Wulum

Website | Twitter | Twitch Discord

:: Availability

Steam

:: Trailer

 

II. REVIEW

If you find yourself skimming around the internet for games, you may stumble upon a little game known as Galaxium. Now Galaxium is heavily inspired by 70-80's arcade games, and one in particular, Space Invaders. You'll play as this robotic character, and the premise of the game is to stop an extraterrestrial invasion upon Earth in the year 2137.

Several years prior, we had discovered a new element known as Gaium. Using this element, we could now travel faster than the speed of light, which opened our ability for vast space exploration beyond comprehension. Unfortunately, things go awry, and one of the ships using Gaium explodes causing a blast to travel throughout the universe. Time had passed, when one day, an invasion had struck earth unexpectedly. An alien race known as the Kroh is aware of Earth's newly discovered element and plans to take it by force. Unsuccessful, Kroh retreats, and we are safe for the time being. Enter the year 2137—Kroh returns to take what they desire—but we stand ready to defend our home. 

 

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Blasting into gameplay, Galaxium is an arcade shooter at heart. The adorably small robot you play as is named GAIA and works diligently to prevent Kroh from invading Earth. Simple yet effective mechanics will be your greatest ally here. Shoot down hordes of enemies, creeping ever so slightly closer and closer, moving left to right and avoiding enemy fire. You'll gather a couple of power-ups to use and gain the leading edge over your foes. These power-ups include a hyperjump, burst shot, bomb cannon, and a shield. The hyperjump is something that you will pick up on the field, but the other abilities are on cooldown and light up once they are ready for use. Like I aforementioned, the game has very simplistic mechanics and you'll find yourself repeating these core mechanics through the entirety of the game.  

The game has a rating system that is based on your accuracy per shot landed—earning 1, 2, or 3 stars for that percentage. I've never been a fan of rating systems, especially in games like this, because I always find myself wanting something out of it other than bragging rights. Meaning, if the game gave you additional power-ups or cosmetics to use based on your rating, I might be more willing to reinvest my time into earning that prestigious rating. 

 

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Much like any game, your progression can only mean one thing—increased difficulty. You'll play a series of levels, each adding a slight bit of challenge as you go. Different enemy types will flood in to keep the game from feeling too stale. I wouldn't say the enemies are harder to beat in any way, but it's more on how many shots these new enemies can withstand. I will say, I kind of craved more than just a simple format of enemy mechanics where they would shoot and travel back and forth. As far as enemy designs were concerned, I loved what vision they had for each new character.

Galaxium uses a unique art style to set it apart from the 70's hit game, Space Invaders. The game was done in 3D rendered art, and feels somewhat alive despite the fact that everything in the game is robots. Maybe the character you play should be nicknamed "Johnny 5"...(Short Circuit reference there my friends). Also, I'll say it was quite dissimilar with the given option of changing camera angles while playing. It gave the player another perspective, which I felt is a great addition. The 3 camera angles are as follows:

 

 

On to more critical points for Galaxium. I didn't particularly enjoy the speed of the game and often felt like it should be faster. However, the slow speed of the game could have been due to the computer I'm using as I've noticed a difference in speed with gameplay trailers. For my experience, though, there were a handful of times when I'd find myself on one side of the field, trying to get to the other, and it feels like a drag. Secondly, shots wouldn't always land on an enemy when it appears to make contact. With accuracy being a vital part of the games rating system, it's important to the player that each shot makes contact. I'm sure it's an easy fix, but as it stands, there are a few times when shots miss their mark. Lastly, music was a bit repetitive for my taste. I'm not saying the music was bad, but I would have liked more variety when playing the game. 

Overall, I think Wulum did a great job with Galaxium and they should feel quite accomplished with all the hard work that was pumped into creating this game. No, the game wasn't perfect, but I had a great time diving into space and blasting the Kroh into oblivion. Wulum has a bright future ahead, and I look forward to playing more of their upcoming titles.

 

A code for Galaxium was provided to Indie Drop for review purposes. Thank you!!

Shadow - An up and coming indie with a lot of promise


CROGGS

Game: Shadow

Developer: Grit

Release Date: Early 2020

Play the demo for free on itch.io!

Current Version: D1.15

Genre: Spooky open-world survival

 

I've never been a huge fan of indie horror games, they usually rely very heavily on jump scares and are usually really boring and generic. Relatively simple games like Five Nights at Freddy's and Slender: The Eight Pages have inspired a lot of games copying only the most surface-level parts of these games, making games that have little to no effective atmosphere, or suspense. They decide to use an overabundance of gore, jump scares and a lot of pointless walking around, ignoring world-building, exploration and building that sense of dread and suspense only the best games can truly conjure in most players. And although Shadow is just a demo, in that simple 10-minute experience, this game never used jump scares or gore, which have become, in my opinion, very overused in games today, instead intentionally leaning more towards creating a sense of paranoia and an atmospheric unease in the player as they explore the island. With the developer, Grit promising to only expand on these ideas in the final build, with a bigger world, more things to interact with, and a smarter monster.

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The art style of the game is very simplistic and low poly, the style is executed well and looks professional. This simplistic style serves the game well, it was obvious to me what is what, making navigation and recognition very easy. This simplicity also made exploration, the main game mechanic, a lot more satisfying, as special attention has been paid to make sure each area of the island is distinct and can be told apart, with the easily accessible map only adding to this fact. This art style did take away from the suspense and dread I assume I was supposed to feel with the non-threatening textures and shapes around me, but it seems to be the feel the game is going for, and if that's the case, it does its job well there too. 

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The game itself is very simple in what the objective is. You have to find green cubes to power a battery, which powers a boat, which lets you leave the island. Doing this just involves walking around the island and look for the many green cubes around the map. They can be found throughout the unique parts of the island, either behind rocks, in the middle of some trees, in a house, and on bridges. The fact that there are more cubes than you need to collect scattered across the map lead to each playthrough being unique, one person who plays might find the village, while another might never see that area, but find the winter area, or the rocky cliff, or the cabin in the woods, or the forest. Exploration is certainly rewarded here, and even thinking outside the box with one certain area. This also allows for multiple playthroughs, where you can explore the entirety of the island, this concept will surely be expanded on in the full version. My hope is that more varied and interesting locations will be added, where little pieces of lore may be hinted at through the environment and more interesting environments, or even more of a sense of direction when you first start, since when I first started playing and wandering around, I found myself getting bored, and almost had to force myself to continue. Having an engaging beginning is key to any game, and if not done right means that players won't see the majority of the game.

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One thing that this game has that many other similar indie titles lack is multiplayer! Multiplayer can be a great extension to your experience or alternative play-style, experiencing horror type media with friends transforms into a new comedic experience that only other people can offer. Combining this with a system that requires both people to work together can also amplify your enjoyment of the game altogether, but only when executed properly. And Shadow certainly doesn't do a bad job of integrating multiplayer! In single-player, your left and right hand have different functionalities, it would be quite difficult, or impossible to play without one of your hands. The game uses this concept and gives each player the function of one hand, therefore rewarding cooperation and staying together. This dynamic did a good job at mimicking everything single player does well, but with a friend (or maybe they're not a friend, I dunno who you play with). It also allowed for some fun, playful situations to ensue between me and my friend. It does, unfortunately, require you to have a controller, which not everyone has, limiting who can play multiplayer. There should be some other way to split the keyboard to accommodate a second player like a lot of flash games do. 

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The monster that chases you is a basic generic monster with red eyes, the simplicity of the monster complements the simplicity of the overall game though, and its appearance alone makes it obvious that it is something to be avoided. It also has a weakness you can exploit, where you charge up a beam of light to temporarily stun it. This basic mechanic seemed fine enough at first, but as I played through the game more, I realized that the monster was unfairly hard to see coming at times. When I looked around me to see if it was near me, I sometimes wouldn't see it, even though it was relatively close, but it was facing away from me or behind a tree or rock or house, giving me a false sense of security, then suddenly dying to it without enough time to react. This got especially frustrating with closed quarters in the village, with me dying over and over and over with seemingly no way to stop it. Changes for the monster are planned for the final build though, so I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Overall, Shadow is a game that's fun to play and has a lot of promise, with many of the problems in the demo planned to be fixed in the full version. I, personally am looking forward to the future of Shadow and what it'll have in store with these mechanics and the great sense of exploration Grit has already made, a more polished version of this demo with more content sounds awesome. 

Tell me what you think about the demo in the comments below! I know the developer would love all the feedback he can get! Thanks for reading!

You can follow the developer on twitter at @GAMEdevOVER
 

Serious Scramblers - Challenging yet Addictive Vertical Platformer


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        Serious Scramblers

:: Genre
        Casual, Action, Arcade, 2D Vertical Platformer

:: Developer
        Chinykian Games
        Website | Twitter | YouTube | Discord

:: Platforms
        Mobile (iOS)
        PC (Windows/ MacOS)

:: Availability
        Mobile (Free with In-App Purchases, Full): App Store
        PC (Paid, Full): Steam / GameJolt / Itch.io^
        ^ Itch.io page will only be live on launch date.

:: Release
        14 November 2018  (iOS)
        11 November 2019 (PC)

:: Rating
        Everyone

:: Trailer

II. GAME PREVIEW

Need a fun little game to keep your mind off things? Then, keep your eyes peeled as Serious Scramblers will be dropping into Steam this coming Monday! Previously released for iOS mobile devices, this fast-paced vertical platformer will soon greet PC players who would brave going down this enjoyable yet challenging rabbit hole.

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The gameplay itself is very simple: Scramble your way down a randomly generated series of steps, crushing as many enemies and collecting as many coins as you can along the way, until you safely reach the endpoint. There is no jumping involved, only falling, and you only ever need the left and right arrow keys (as well as your reflexes) to conquer all the levels.

27 regular levels are arranged in increasing difficulty, with the first level doubling as a mini tutorial and massive bosses making their appearances in levels 20 and 27. Naturally, you can unlock and progress to the next level only after clearing the preceding level. Players who are unfamiliar with vertical platformers would most likely find the learning curve in this game comfortable because new enemies or traps and their combinations are introduced rather slowly. Each level is also randomly generated while keeping that particular level’s difficulty, a technique that really keeps each attempt fresh and prevents pure memorization of moves for clearing the level.

For arcade platformer experts who descended through all 27 levels, the game also features an endless mode to satisfy any player’s yearning for even more challenging action. There is a neat global leaderboard for competitive players to leave their victorious marks on as well.

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Another fun element of the game lies in its playable characters, which can be unlocked using the coins collected in-game. Current selection of thirteen characters includes a ninja, mummy, cute cat, and well, potato. However, they are not merely cosmetic additions; each character has unique abilities or modifiers that can tweak how a level may be approached. For instance, there are some that let you earn more coins per enemy crushed and there are others that enjoy speed boosts. These unique characteristics of each character, coupled with the randomly generated levels, help to boost the game’s replay value, making hours of fun possible. Last but not least, the catchy arcade music and the satisfying whump with each accurate landing on an enemy can really make the game difficult to be put away.

The only levels I was able to complete so far are the easy ones, and even so, I have failed some levels plenty of times. Yet, I find myself willing to keep trying without feeling frustrated — mainly due to the fact that there is simply no rush and each attempt allows me to gather more coins as well.

While I personally prefer to retry a failed level from its original starting point, the game does provide an alternative choice of spending in-game coins to continue from the last distance that the player has managed to reach. This additional choice could ease some players’ headaches as it essentially helps to break the single level into more manageable parts. Unlike the mobile version, the PC version allows players to select this option for an unlimited number of times so long as they have enough accumulated coins to spend.

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So, whether you are a casual player looking for a fun but challenging game or a hardcore platformer player looking for another leaderboard to top, Serious Scramblers would be a really nice choice.

Ready to get serious and start scrambling? Wishlist the game on Steam now to be notified the moment it drops into the store!

Hope; or How We Survived - Shooter with a Heartwarming Narrative


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        Hope; or How We Survived

:: Genre
        Casual, Action

:: Developer
        Sepia Cowboys
        Website | Twitter

:: Platform
        PC (Windows)

:: Availability
        Steam
        Paid, Full

:: Release
        2 November 2019

:: Content
        Fantasy Violence, Animated Blood, Mild Language

:: Trailer

II. GAME REVIEW

Set in a zombie apocalypse world, Hope; or How We Survived is a narrative focused game that tells a short tale of surviving as humans amidst the continual threats and dilemmas to be faced. You play as a tower guard whose daily job is to protect Hope, an enclosed settlement for survivors, by fending off incoming zombie-infected creatures with firearms.

The game depicts but a small slice of the tower guard’s life; the story begins on a day when an injured person came scrambling alone seeking aid. However, in order to ensure that they have truly not been infected, they are only allowed entrance into the settlement after seven days. In this one week, you are to carry your tower guard duty as usual, protecting this stranger as well as the residents within the settlement.

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For both visual and audio aspects, I would describe the game as going for a minimalist style: everything is kept simple and only necessary elements are provided. On the surface, it may look like such a style lacks appeal, yet considering the dreary zombie apocalypse setting, I think the choice to keep things to the bare minimum is a good call. In fact, the general silence and lack of sophisticated visuals actually made me focus more on what I actually do have  the dialogues, the changing weather, the injured person to protect, and the infected enemies to target.

Still, while the choice to keep things minimal is rather fitting for the story, this style does not carry over too well when it comes to User Interface (UI) design. More specifically, I am referring to the “Controls” menu that squeezes text-only details about the basic gameplay controls onto a single screen. Unless one has already learned the controls beforehand or likes to find out by experimenting, one cannot escape from viewing this particular menu because there is no tutorial prompts provided in the main game itself. Granted, the instructions are kept concise and arranged neatly in bulleted points but I think it is the least satisfying part of the entire game’s visual design.

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Although there is no background music, the game appropriately uses sound effects (SFX) and short muffled voice clips to portray the various scenes. To my surprise, despite the very limited voice clips available (and I believe one of the clips is actually saying “Merry Christmas”), I do find them quite helpful in bringing out the intended tone in the dialogue lines. And while many may take SFX for granted, in games where the main audio you hear is simply SFX and no music, it becomes something that is pretty important. On that note, I appreciate the effort in adding a variety of SFX (e.g. blowing breeze) to make the auditory experience in this fictitious world resemble more like what would be expected in reality.

Gameplay controls are streamlined as well, with the entire game playable using just the mouse (for dialogue selection, aiming, firing, and changing firearms) and one keyboard key (for reloading firearm). Number keys can optionally be used for selecting a different firearm but I personally preferred the mouse wheel.

In terms of level design, care has been taken in ensuring that the shooting difficulty is increased reasonably over the first few days. The game introduces you to the available infected enemies slowly, starting from the walking zombies to flying pigeons to sprinting chickens. It also gradually adds difficulty by introducing visual noises via the weather, such as the addition of rain and lightning flashes. Even the three available firearms are introduced over time, allowing sufficient opportunities for you to try each one out as you get a new one.

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As all the targets are moving and you are stationed stationary at the tower top, it can take a while to learn and get used to shooting the enemies accurately. When I first played the game, I failed during the second enemy wave on Tuesday. But after two more tries, I got the hang of it and could get through the subsequent days in one go — that is, until Saturday.

The penultimate day poses the most challenging level in the entire game with its mob of enemies that never seems to cease. Shooter games are not my forte and I probably have quite a delayed reaction time, so I personally took around 20-odd tries to finally clear that nightmarish never-ending wave of enemies. It left me, a casual player, with so much frustration that I do not have the desire to attempt that level ever again.

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Apart from the huge difficulty spike on Saturday, another thing that fueled my frustration is the inability to fast forward dialogues during retries. Generally, I like the dialogue system and enjoy the pace at which the conversation is set. But the chats become quite a hindrance when I wanted to retry the shooting bit only.

While my experience with the action part of the game is somewhat marred by Saturday’s insane enemy mob, the narrative portion, as told through the verbal exchanges between the tower guard and the injured person, is still decent. We gain some insights about the backstory of the place as well as the characters themselves. However, what I like best in these casual chats is how naturally they pulled me in to care more about the injured person over time. There is a natural friendship bonding experienced within the short seven in-game days, so much so that I actually felt apprehensive about how the story will end once Sunday is reached.

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The game features multiple endings. I am unsure how many possible endings there are in total but I managed to get two different endings by changing my dialogue options on Sunday only, which brings me to the common weakness of similar games’ branching narrative: it is not as branching as it seems. Of course, games do not need to have extensively branched storylines in order to be fun. Still, it does undermine the game’s replay value somewhat if we can obtain all the possible endings just by tweaking the final day’s choices.

All in all, the game features a short but rather heartwarming story (“faith in humanity restored” kind) that explores possible mental struggles that humans may face in such an apocalypse. Nevertheless, due to the lack of an option to adjust the difficulty level, casual players may find the shooting tasks adequately challenging and Saturday’s checkpoint rather impossible to clear. Thus, I would recommend this game to shooter game enthusiasts who are looking to read a short positive tale set in a zombie apocalypse.

Sepia Cowboys’ debut game is currently on Steam with a launch week discount of 10%!

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Afterfall - An RPG Maker Gem


CROGGS

Game: Afterfall

Developer: AllyJamy

Release Date: October 15th 2019

Play the full game for free on itch.io!

Genre: Action-Adventure RPG

 

I've always loved story driven RPGs with unique game mechanics like Undertale, Oneshot and the to the moon series. When done well, games in this genre can concoct an immersive and exciting world, with fun challenges and puzzles along the way. RPG Maker games do have many games like this, but I usually find myself having to sift through piles of games that can be filled with boring grinding and generic surface level stories and characters. Because so many other people have the same experience, RPG Maker games usually get a bad wrap for being lazy and boring. As an RPG Maker game, it's hard to overcome this stereotype and get the attention of gamers, especially with the increasing amount of games competing for your attention online. It's because of this stereotype that I like to give RPG Maker games a fair shot, and i'm glad I gave this game a play, because it blew me away right from the start with how it sets itself apart from the average RPG Maker game. Although it's not perfect, it still does a pretty damn good job at immersing the player into the tumultuous and intriguing world of Afterfall. The 4 years of work that went into this game definitely show.

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The game begins with a little bit of exposition explaining how you ended up on this alien world and pictures showing off the game's unique artstyle. You, like myself, might think that the art style is a little off at first, looking amateurish and incomplete, but the artsyle grew on me, and I came to really like it as the game went on. It's very simplistic, but gets the point across. Faces which appear in dialogue boxes aren't proportional though and distract from the expression they were likely intended to have, even being comically off at times. The lack of depth and shading can also make some objects and structures in the game look unnatural, and take away from the atmosphere being attempted. Some of the bosses and sprites which suffer from this problem can also totally take away the intensity or seriousness of a situation. But these problems are relatively small, and become less and less prominent as the game goes on, with majority of the environments and moments in the game still retaining a good amount of the emotional and atmospheric weight they need to provide a fun experience. But even where the art falters sometimes, the music consistently pulled me back into the game, with ominous, intense, fun and atmospheric music in every part of the game. I have absolutely no complaints about the music; it does its job very well and never got old.

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The game has two main mechanics that it uses throughout the game: exploring, and fighting. Both mechanics work virtually identically to your average Legend of Zelda game. You gain abilities and items which allow you to access certain areas, and you can swing or shoot a weapon at enemies that appear in the overworld - no turn based battles here! One thing Afterfall does differently with its exploration from Zelda though, is with scavenging. Your character in the game is a scavenger, and this fact plays quite well into the gameplay, with most items being things I've scavenged from the diverse environments I explored throughout the game, with a few quests needing you to go scavenging for certain items. This is usually a pretty straight forward and rewarding mechanic, but when searching vehicles, you have to check every single tile to make sure you scavenged everything from it, and you have to wait a few seconds at each tile to check if there's anything there. On screens with several vehicles, this can become very tedious and lead me to skipping several potentially useful items out of boredom. Apart from that, the scavenging mechanics encourage exploration, which is rewarded with several secrets that reward you with currency or rare items, or interesting new character interactions, which have some of the most interesting and compelling dialogue and characters in the whole game.

I also found the fighting mechanic really fun! It's easy to understand, with the game teaching you how to use it seamlessly. With an easily understandable hotbar and weapon specs, it's easy to start engaging in fights, but it's very hard yet rewarding to master, which becomes especially true during boss fights which test you with mechanics you've already fought against before. My only complaint is how small the hitboxes are for bosses with large sprites. As someone who used to use RPG Maker in the past, the problem is understandable, but still caused some frustration when I had to experiment with each boss to figure out exactly where to hit them. In general though, both game mechanics are well done and satisfying, with a clear sense of progression making it all the more rewarding.

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When I first began playing Afterfall, I was pretty overwhelmed by how big the world was, how many characters there were to keep track of, all the little quests to keep track of, and all the lore and information about the world I was given at the start. I couldn't keep track of everything in my head without writing a lot of stuff down, even though that much information was not needed to understand the basic gist of what was happening plot wise in the beginning. The beginning of the game lacks focus in this way, and it made the game quite confusing up until I completed the first dungeon and was the part I enjoyed the least, which is a shame because the rest of the game afterwards is a lot better, and does not have this problem, meaning that some players might quit without even experiencing the good parts. All the extra lore and intricacies of the world should be left towards the end or hidden in secret areas for people who already have a solid foundation of understanding of the world, since after revisiting the beginning of the game after completion, everything made a lot more sense. Simply put, at the beginning, there are too many names, places, groups and characters to remember right out of the gate. After the first dungeon though, the game has a focus on certain characters and groups, making it much easier to understand what is going on.

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The quirky, compelling and relatable characters in Afterfall is one of its biggest strengths, especially towards the latter half of the game. Every character has something to say or do, from the key players to characters you only ever interact with twice. Their dialogue can range from funny, to mysterious, to heart warming, and left me having to question the character's true intentions, only adding to how entertaining it is to talk to the characters. However, there is the rare typo, although, they aren't major typos, and can easily be skimmed over or ignored. The only thing lacking about the characters is in their designs. Some of the characters look almost the same, and are not very distinctive or representative of their personality, with only a few exceptions. But despite these draw backs, the game had me regularly looking forward to engaging in dialogue. With some of the game's narrative moments having me at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.

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Now, I had a blast playing this game, and although it has several small problems already, the most notable problem I experienced in almost every screen of the game were bugs. By far the most common bug in the game is collision problems with the tiles. I can't even count how many times I walked through a wall or window tile. This is still a pretty small issue, just like everything else I've mentioned since nothing I've found breaks the game, with the most major issues regarding this being boss battles where the main character and the boss go right through what were probably supposed to be obstacles like there's nothing there. 

But, despite Afterfall's drawbacks, for a free game made mostly by one person, it still shines through its unique world and characters which will only grow more and more enjoyable as the game goes on. I would definitely say that it's worth a play.
Tell me what you think about this unique and interesting RPG in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

 




 

 
 
 

Project Aether: First Contact - Mech Shooting, Bullet Hell Fun!


Sammy J

 

Game: Project Aether: First Contact

Developer: Sleepy Spider Studios

Release Date: Coming Soon

Try the demo

Genre: Shmup/Bullet Hell

 

 

What I love the most about the Indie crowd is the fact that we get to see games being developed in all kinds of genres, including those that would not get a second glance from bigger developers and publishers. Indie developers with their burning desire of creating the game of their dreams in order to hopefully catch onto a niche audience will pour their heart and soul into a project. I am almost convinced that without Indie developers, there would be several genres of video games that would no longer be developed. Without smaller game studios, would we really see games come out like Project Aether: First Contact? It might not mean a great deal to gamers whose interest in games solely sits within the realms of the next Call of Duty or Fifa, but the truth is that this game will sit nicely within a niche of gamers who will welcome it with open arms.

 

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Even if you are only slightly interested with Indie games, you will have no doubt heard of the term "bullet hell" being tossed about here and there on occasion. You only have to look as far as how popular games like Enter the Gungeon are to find out how popular this sub genre is becoming, particularly within the Indie scene. What Project Aether: First Contact has to offer is a gateway into the bullet hell universe with plenty going on to keep shmup fans happy. I may be quite terrible at certain types of video games but one in particular is a bullet hell because my tiny brain struggles to comprehend too much going on at once and trying to avoid it all whilst maintaining an onslaught of attacking bullets from myself. So obviously I wasn't overly confident going into this game for the first ever time, yet my hands on experience with the demo left me in rather high spirit and not terribly stressed out like I normally would be after playing a bullet hell. What I discovered is that Project Aether eases you into this type of experience really well which is ideal for newcomers and people like me who generally consider themselves bad at them.

 

I'm not suggesting that the game holds your hand too much, because I for one cannot stand it when games do that so often and we see it a lot particularly in newer games but that's a topic for discussion another time. What I am saying is hardcore shmup veterans will not find the demo too hard but will enjoy the experience with it as much as newcomers will. In typical shmup fashion you will be flying around the screen on rails in a top down view whilst shooting down as many enemies as you can with your choice between two different types of ranged attacks. Your default being a faster mini gun type of weapon with the option of switching to your rail gun on the fly which has a slower rate of fire but packs a wallop! Personally I preferred the mini gun as with the rail gun you need to be half decent at aiming because it's a lot slower so you need to make every bullet count. Me being poor at aiming found it a lot easier and more enjoyable using the mini gun so I stuck with it throughout the majority of the demo, although I may have found it easier had I been using a keyboard and mouse. I played with an Xbox One controller which is my go to way of playing but I can imagine using a mouse to aim would have made it a lot easier for me.

 

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Besides all the flying and gunning you are armed with a few more tricks up your mechanical sleeve, my favorite being the melee attack. Shooting a swarm of enemies from a distance and following up with a three hit melee combo by holding the melee attack button down to finish them off never felt better! I am very much looking forward to seeing if this melee attack of yours can be upgraded in the full version in some way, I would imagine you will be able to acquire more types of ranged weapons so maybe you can do the same with melee weapons? A big factor of the game for newcomers will be the fact that you are able to heal yourself by pressing the A button, you get to use this 5 times before it runs out. Shmup veterans will no doubt feel that this is not a factor that will pull them into playing Project Aether so hopefully for their sake they will get the option to turn this off in the full game or maybe there are harder modes that prohibit the use of them. Also your mech is able to perform a dodge dash by pressing the LT button, which can come in handy by either dashing out of harms way or by dashing towards a foe in order to carry out a quick melee attack. But that is not all! Once you have shot an enemy enough times you will see a magnetic field appear around them and if you go inside this magnetic field you can destroy the enemy with a simple press of the RB button. A pro will be able to expose the magnetic field of an enemy, fly within its proximity, wait for a couple more enemies to fly within it and hit that RB button destroying all of them at once!

 

In terms of how the game looks I would say that visually it looks stunning! Being in space you will generally see a lot of stars around but the detailed look of planet earth as you fly away from it and approaching the moon looks epic! The idea of potentially flying to a variety of different planets and seeing the level of detail they all have is an exciting prospect. The soundtrack is very fitting too, it is heavily geared towards the style of an intense action shooting game which is exactly what a shmup is. Did I forget to mention that the demo level (as well as the tutorial) has a boss fight at the end? Well it does and I didn't find it too challenging but it made me realize that this is probably the easiest boss in the full game when it gets released and I should be prepared for a much greater challenge. If you don't master the art of being able to dodge the onslaught of what gets thrown your way whilst maintaining your own heavy fire then you will not win. Project Aether: First Contact is coming to Steam and is important to know that although we do not have a release date yet, the developers at Sleepy Spider Studios are very active on Twitter so it would be worth giving them a follow to keep updated on the games progress. If this game interests you even a little bit, go check the demo out and you will understand my praise for it.

 

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I would love to hear your thoughts on Project Aether: First Contact, let me know in the comments down below. Thanks for reading!

Developer Interview - Oogbaard


ALinkToTheDan

Today we have a real treat for everyone! Game developer, Oogbaard, has agreed to have a little interview with Indie Drop and we are thrilled to share it with you. This is our first of many interviews to come. I'll keep this introduction nice and short so we can get into the beef of the interview! So, without further ado….

 

Hello, and thank you very much for joining me today! It means a great deal to us that you would take the time out of your busy schedule to have a brief chat. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Oogbaard?

Yes, sure! So about myself, I am Guido Boogaard, 28 years old, and I live in the Netherlands. I've been a game developer for about 10 years now. I make all kinds of things including educational and entertainment games. With Oogbaard, we are a small team, flexible between 3 and 7 people. Our latest and most ambitious project is called Timebenders—we want people to be able to truly manipulate time against each other!

 

I've seen a fair bit about Timebenders, and I know that it currently sits in Beta for people to get their hands on. Care to explain the development and inspiration for the game?

That is true, the game is in closed beta right now. The inspiration for the game comes from a lot of sides...actually not only games, but also movies and books. One goal that I had for a long time was to create a game in which 'overpowered' moves similar to movies could become true, and came with the inspiration from a few fantasy books, I finally got to the idea—if you can look in the future, you can anticipate perfectly and play perfectly. If you can rewind time, it kind of counts as looking into the future. So that is how the idea was born, and I decided to create a prototype on my own spare time. A year later when it was kind of 'fun' to play, we started to develop it with a team. Of course, for the gameplay there are a lot of references from Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the old 2000 game NoX, Overwatch, Unreal Tournament, Absolver, and Battlerite. A lot of great games that do a lot of things right.

 

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That's definitely a lot of inspiration from several different sources! I gotta know, what were some of your greatest challenges in balancing the game so one spell or ability isn't as overpowered compared to others? I know you want time-bending to be overpowered in some sort of way, but there also has to be some sort of balancing behind it, too.

True, and we are still not entirely there yet. Well for the first thing, balancing is a lot easier in a real-time game than in a turn based one. Human error is a good thing, it is why eSports are actually viable. So, bits and pieces of the game do not have to be 10000% perfect. Anyway, the main balance mechanics are size (speed, cooldown), damage and chrono (time-mana). Time spells are necessary to survive, and also super useful in combat. These time spells will use a resource known as "Chrono" and you will need to spend them wisely. If your opponent rewinds time, you know that you gained some ground because he/she lost some chrono.

We are still looking for the right balance of damage, to keep everything really powerful and dangerous, but not just no-brainers. All spells should feel overpowered, but it should not be necessary to have a go-to spell in your build. When we add new spells, we actually expect the balance of the game to flip quite a bit. Think of when we add a 'teleport-to-target' spell—just teleport instantly to where you are pointing. Close-ranged builds will thrive! But it does cost 1 of your valuable 5 slots. With these things in mind, it should keep the game interesting. And of course like any good game designer, we test and ask for feedback. Any underpowered spells are buffed and some overpowered spells are nerfed or removed completely. In fact, we had a levitate spell that is now removed. But anyway, it is true that we encourage the players to use many time spells. They are overpowered, but not with unlimited resource and also they don't really damage/kill the player.

 

This whole time-bending attribute is very ambitious and has me wondering how it fully works. How does that play out exactly? What I'm visualizing is that everyone has a "Tracer" (Overwatch) like ability with other powers thrown in. Will this power affect the entire field of players or only those within a players field of view and at a certain distance?

 

Hehehe, glad you asked. Nope, not only the tracer ability. So, we actually created a real time-bending system for the game. Everything is recorded and can thus be reset. We have multiple spells, including the tracer ability but also a global rewind. Yes, that means everyone is rewound and will be detained during the spell duration. There are global and local spells that can be cast on the player, objects, or opponents. After being rewound, you'll do the same, or maybe (hopefully) something new that is more efficient over the other player. This will have you anticipating the opponent more closely. There will be a few hard counters to being rewound in the future, but at the moment it is already perfectly playable if you just position yourself well enough.

While this might sound like a bit much, it is not that complicated when you play, you just experience what happens. So true, a few spells rewind the whole game state. We are also working on exciting new 'delay', 'repeat', and 'extrapolate' spells, but they are a bit glitchy yet. More details will be available on these spells in the future.

 

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Wow, that seems like a lot to think about, but I'll take your word for it. Coding for that must have been very intricate (as if it already isn't). 10 years of experience definitely pays off!! Knowing Timebenders is a Battle Arena game, what was the decision in producing a multiplayer game over a story/campaign type game?

Mmm, I really try to make games that will peak the players curiosity. Games like Prince of Persia already exist—they are fun, but I wanted to create something new entirely where you can develop great new tactics and play against your friends. Not to mention, I'm a competitive gamer to heart. Therefore, I wanted to create a multiplayer game with overpowered action, made possible by time travel. Though, I am not saying that I will never create a story game, but for this game in particular, it's mostly the fact that it is really something new, action-packed, and should make you curious what it is and how it works.

And thanks, yes we are pretty fine coders. 😁

 

Well, if you ever make that story game, you know I'll be checking that out! Here's a fun one. If you could cast any spell from Timebenders, in real life, what would that be and why?

Hmm, rewind time all the time? My personal, self-controllable groundhog day? Eternal youth?

But again, thanks, great to hear that you like it.

 

Haha, I think anyone would pick that to be honest!! Okay, big question that I'm sure you've heard plenty about. Will Timebenders be a free-to-play, subscription based, or one price fits all game?

So, it depends on the marketing, and an eventual publisher. We might go free to play yes, because then we can attract much more people. But if we go premium, it will be around €20-25. Free-to-play will also need much more content, and for that we would need a larger budget.

 

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That makes a lot of sense, and I know there are benefits to doing both. F2P would allow players to get in on the action right off the bat, but means less money in your pocket, and like you say, it'll need more content. Paying up front would be immediate funds to you that get put towards future updates and DLC for the game, which brings me to my next question. Subsequent to release, what are a few things players can expect to see regarding updates, DLC, or the likes?

Yup! Updates will most likely be free to all players. These updates would include new spells and items that can be unlocked with free or paid currency. So, it should play out like any F2P game we've seen before. The biggest thing is that everyone needs to be able to access all content since this is going to be a competitive game.

 

Regardless of what it becomes, I know there is some sort of audience for the type of game you're creating. Wow! I learned quite a bit about Timebenders today and it has me excited to see more of the developments down the road! One final question to send you off, so let's make it a fun one. What is one of your fondest memories playing video games growing up?

Mmm, for playing video games, there are so many nice memories. When we were young, we played games together (in rounds) behind one computer. We fully experienced a few RPGs, like Nox and Morrowind, together. That is probably my fondest memory, although we also had a LOT of fun playing games together on Playstation. Mainly multiplayer games, but also single players like Shadow of the colossus.

 

Again, thanks for sharing a bit about Timebenders and also a bit about yourself. Good luck to you and the team as I know that you have little time before the initial release date comes around!

Oi, thanks for the questions!

 

Thank you for reading, and if you'd like to know more about Timebenders, and join the closed beta, you can check out the website here. Wanna stay up to date? Follow them on Twitter. Playing the beta and found a bug, or have any questions you'd like to ask the dev? Join their Discord!

 

 

Mulaka Gets Physical!


ALinkToTheDan

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I dipped my feet into the world that is Mulaka, and I can happily say it's a game everyone should get their hands on. In recent news, Lienzo announced that Mulaka is finally getting a physical edition for PS4 and Nintendo Switch! If you've been holding out for a physical, you'll have to wait till early 2020 to grab one. To find out when that release date drops, follow Lienzo on Twitter!

For those unfamiliar with the game, Mulaka is a 3D action-adventure game based on Tarahumara culture and beliefs. Journey as a Sukurúame—aka Tarahumara shaman—and prevent corruption from spreading across the land. Earn exciting new transformations from the all-powerful demi-gods to aid in your travels, solve puzzles, and to battle ferocious beasts. In traveling the vast area of the Sierra Mountains, you'll learn everything there is to know about the Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico.

If you're still eager to learn more, you can pick up a documentary called Making Mulaka, written by Christian Cardenas. Making Mulaka gives an in-depth look at the developer, Lienzo, and everything you need to know about the development of Mulaka!

 

 

Mulaka has earned several rewards and recognition's including:

  • "IndieCade Festival 2018 Nominee" IndieCade Festival Finalist, October, 2018
  • "Best Game" National Contest of Video Games MX, December, 2017
  • "Best Cultural Game" National Contest of Video Games MX, December, 2017
  • "Official PSX 2017 Selection" PlayStation, December, 2017
  • "Game Informer's Best Indies of PAX West 2017" Game Informer, September, 2017
  • "Official PAX West 2017 Selection" Indie MEGABOOTH, September, 2017
  • "Nindies Arcade PAX West 2017 Selection" Nintendo, September, 2017

 

You can find Mulaka on Nintendo SwitchXbox OnePS4SteamHumble Store, and GOG

11 Indie Treats for Halloween 2019


KuroKairin

Halloween is near! And this year, once again, the gaming community is spoiled with several sweet treats (or perhaps, scary tricks) from indie game developers around the world.

Here is a list of 11 spooky and not-so-spooky indie games to keep an eye out for this Halloween.

_____ 01 _____

 

:: Song of Horror

Developer
        Protocol Games
        Website | Facebook | Twitter | Discord

Publisher
        Raiser Games
        Website | Facebook | Twitter

Availability
        Steam
       
Paid, Episodic
        Coming 31 October 2019

In this survival horror adventure game, get ready to hide from The Presence as you investigate what happened to the famed writer, Sebastian P. Husher, and his family. Controlled with advanced AI, the supernatural antagonist will learn and adapt to your every move, making the experience unpredictable and unique with every gameplay. Finally materializing after five long years of hard work, this game is not to be missed!

Extra Treat: Join the Discord server before 31 October for a chance to win one of the 10 Season Passes for Song of Horror!

_____ 02 _____

 

:: Monster Reapers VR

Developer
        Virtual Uppercut Studios
        Twitter | Discord

Publisher
        Virtual Uppercut Studios

Availability
        Steam
       
Paid, Early Access
        Coming 30 October 2019

A game for players with HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, Monster Reapers VR assigns you the task of hunting monsters that have invaded the land. With rogue-like elements such as procedurally generated levels and plenty of randomized ability upgrades, each run of the game is going to bring you a new experience.

Extra Treat: Follow MonsterReapers and share their tweet before Halloween for a chance to win one of the 2 Steam keys!

_____ 03 _____

 

:: Grimm’s Hollow

Developer
        Ghosthunter
        Tumblr | Twitter

Publisher
        Ghosthunter

Availability
        Steam | Itch.io
        Free, Full
        Coming 31 October 2019

In this cute spooky RPG, you play as Lavender, who woke up one morning surrounded by skull-masked strangers. With a scythe in hand, she sets out to find her brother in an attempt to escape the Hollow together. Meet cute ghosts, chomp on ghostly treats, and explore haunted caves along the way!

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:: Journey For Elysium

Developer
        Mantis

Publisher
        Cronos Interactive
        Website | Twitter | Discord

Availability
        Steam
       
Paid, Full
        Coming 31 October 2019

Step into a world inspired by ancient Greek and Roman mythology in this VR game for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. You play as an unnamed hero who has to overcome several challenges to reach Elysium in his afterlife and his story slowly unravels as you progress. Immerse yourself in this chilling black-and-white underworld as the hero journeys along to find redemption.

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:: Grave Man

Developer
        PixelCollabs
        Discord

Publisher
        PixelCollabs

Availability
        Itch.io
       
Free, Full

Grave Man is the fruit of a month-long community project headed by PixelShorts and Mk.2. Your job in the game is to keep the graveyard peaceful on Halloween night by knocking the dead back into their graves. Time waits for no one, so pick up your shovel and get cracking!

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:: Cat Lady

Developer
        Rose City Games
        Website | Twitter | Discord

Publisher
        VIZ Media
        Website | Twitter

Availability
        Steam
       
Paid, Early Access

Released earlier this month, Cat Lady is a rogue-lite shooter game where you play as Ally, who is on a mission to get rid of the evil that is haunting her Grandma’s mansion. It is certainly up to Ally and her cat allies to save everyone from the impending catastrophe! Expect more mansion areas, cat allies, and enemies coming to this Early Access title in its future updates!

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:: Today Is My Birthday

Developer
        Wonder Games Studio
        Twitter | Discord

Publisher
        Crytivo
        Website | Twitter | Facebook | Discord

Availability
        Steam | Crytivo
       
Demo (Steam)
        Coming Soon

TIMB Steam Demo is slated to release close to Halloween, in time for horror game lovers to explore a decrepit Wonder Park filled with life-threatening dangers. Your goal, as the protagonist Thomas, is to survive using your wits and speed. Muster up your courage to step into this theme park of your childhood memories.

_____ 08 _____

 

:: CARRION

Developer
        Phobia Game Studio
        Twitter | Discord

Publisher
        Devolver Digital
        Website | Twitter | Facebook

Availability
        Steam
       
Sneak Peek

Planned for a 2020 release, CARRION has surprised us with an early sneak peek that is available until 2 November. If you are tired of running away from monsters, why not try being the terrifying creature instead? Play as an amorphous creature of unknown origin in this 2D action reverse horror game and strike fear in everyone to your heart’s content!

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:: Raven’s Point

Developer
        Grumbismal Games
        Website | Twitter | Discord | Patreon

Publisher
        Grumbismal Games

Availability
        Itch.io | GameJolt
       
The Silence Demo

Still in development, Raven’s Point is a fast-paced horror boss rush game where you have to escape out of locked rooms and defeat four unique bosses. The Silence demo, featuring two of the bosses and released just a few days ago, lets you step into the shoes of Sara who is trapped in a mysterious house. Are you prepared to uncover the mysteries surrounding the house?

_____ 10 _____

 

:: Death and Taxes

Developer
        Placeholder Gameworks
        Twitter | Facebook | Discord

Publisher
        Placeholder Gameworks

Availability
        Itch.io
       
Demo
        New Demo Coming Halloween 2019

Coming in early 2020, Death and Taxes is a 2D narrative-based game where you play as a Grim Reaper who reap souls via paperwork. Decide the fate of various individuals’ lives and your choices will in turn decide the fate of your incarnation. While a demo is already available, a new demo with improved content (as well as a Steam page) is scheduled to be released on Halloween. So, wear your best tie and get ready to show up for work!

_____ 11 _____

 

:: Dicey Dungeons

Developers
        Terry Cavanagh
       
Chipzel
       
Marlowe Dobbe
       
Justo Delgado Baudí

Publisher
        Terry Cavanagh

Availability
        Steam | Itch.io
       
Paid, Full
        Halloween Special available until 4 November

Dicey Dungeons has been released for two months but the developers have just dropped a surprise Halloween Special content for it. For this spooky occasion, new enemies have appeared and characters have dressed up in Halloween costumes. Do not miss the chance to get rolling in this fast-paced deck-building rogue-like RPG!

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Hope you will have a spectacular Halloween with these indie games! Do not forget to wishlist and/ or follow the games you are interested in if you want to get their latest updates!

Feature Photo: Yuri_B from Pixabay

Reanimation Scheme - An Upcoming VN about a Death Mage


KuroKairin

I. BASIC INFORMATION

:: Game Title
        Reanimation Scheme

:: Genre
        Visual Novel
        Otome (GxB, GxG)

:: Developer
        Wind Chimes Games
        Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Discord

:: Platform
        PC (Windows/ Mac/ Linux)

:: Availability
        Itch.io
        Free Demo

:: Release
        Q4 2020

:: Rating
        Teen
        mild swearing, death, alcohol, blood, and violence

:: Trailer

II. DEMO REVIEW

In this fantasy otome Visual Novel (VN), you play as Raenelle Talisko (first name changeable), a necromancer in the Kingdom of Nalenshir where magic is an integral part of the country. Raenelle’s job as a Reanimator requires her to reanimate corpses of the recently deceased in order to help them fulfill their final wishes. She is not very enthusiastic about her job and looks forward to getting a promotion to a different job. However, any plans for her career progression is soon disrupted when a regular spirit summoning ritual held one morning went awry. And that marks the start of a curious journey where Raenelle has to join the other mages in discovering the cause behind all death mages’ sudden inability to summon any spirit.

:: Visual Aspect

TLDR;
Overall Impression: GOOD
Unless you are particularly averse to anime-style art, you would not be disappointed with the quality presented in the VN. Although there may be some minor things that can be further improved, the visuals are consistently shown to have been handled with the utmost care and thought.

Starting from the User Interface (UI) design, Reanimation Scheme already sets out to give us a visual treat. Apart from looking clean and neat, the UI is also highly customized to fit the story setting itself. The “Load”, “Settings”, “Extras” (which holds the “Gallery”, “Music”, and even “Achievements”), and “Help” menu screens are designed as a little ornate spellbook with a little surprise: the eyes of the skull would light up as you hover over other menu options. It is also wonderful that the infinite save slots feature from Ren’Py has been retained. My only complaints with the menus is with the small font size used and the lack of an obvious “Return” button – it took me a while to realize that I could click anywhere outside of the book to return to the game.

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Thankfully, the font size is larger in the actual dialogue boxes so there is no need for me to squint, though I think it can still afford to be bigger for a more comfortable read. Still, because the protagonist’s side sprite is always visible and most of the screen elements are always visually the same, I sometimes find it difficult to immediately register who is talking. The partial voice acting does help in recognizing the current speaker but alas, because it is only partial, there are still dialogue lines with no voice at all. In contrast, the “History” log, even at a glance, is much easier for discerning speakers with the different character’s names clearly marked with their own colors.

I also love the customized Choice screen, where there is a friendly prompt provided at the top and Raenelle stands in the middle surrounded by choices contained in thought bubbles. As someone who sometimes forgets what the last dialogue before the choices was about, I find the concise prompt a real savior. Nevertheless, I wish the hover over effect for the current choice selection could be more visually distinctive.

Moving on to character and background (BG) art, I must say I am impressed with their quality. The main characters’ sprites are given plenty of posture, facial expression, and clothing variations. Character sprites are used meticulously and purposefully along with the story; for instance, if you catch someone blatantly looking away during your chat with someone else, then they are indeed not paying attention to the two of you. Characters not only blink but they also appear bigger when they come closer to you. They also take hesitant steps at times and then dash out, albeit rather too quickly, of the room at other times. They can even juggle items across their open palms! The combined use of sprites and animation is amusingly creative and very much on point with the story events.

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In the demo, minor side characters are represented with black silhouettes. While I do look forward to seeing fully detailed sprites for them as well, the silhouette stand-ins are still a welcomed addition as opposed to having no visual representation at all. I personally would rather speak to a faceless silhouette than to thin air, after all.

Plenty of small visual additions have been put in place to spice up the entire storytelling. From swirling mists to illustrations of smaller objects like potion bottles and magic runes, every visual implementation is a testament to the great amount of work put in to give readers a more enjoyable reading experience. If I really have to nitpick, I would say I would like to see the magic runes shine a little more.

Alas, the visual part of the novel will not be complete without the detailed BG art, which includes day and night variants to suit the time of the day in the story. Other than the text overlays for shop signages that do not quite blend in with the illustration, the BG art gives a beautiful representation for the various locations present in the Kingdom of Nalenshir.

:: Audio Aspect

TLDR;
Overall Impression: OKAY
Music is considerably the best part of the demo’s audio aspect, though sound effects and partial voice acting have also played their part in bringing the story to life.

The demo features six background music (BGM) and one instrumental theme track, all of which are composed by Alcaknight. I find all of them pleasant to listen to – none of them is strikingly memorable but none is awful either – and they fit the various moods of the story well. My current favorite is Raenelle’s Theme; I could stay on the Title screen for some time just to hear the instrumental theme on repeat!

As with other VNs, sound effects (SFX) have been added to enhance the storytelling. They are all basic SFX, such as a simple door close and sound for spells, but they do add appropriate flavor to the story. I appreciate the chatter BG noise used to indicate a noisy environment, though I find the looping clip used for the busy teleportation square too short, which results in me having to listen to the chickens cackle constantly for that scene (or at least, I think they were chickens).

I am not a fan of partial voice acting but I find it still okay in the demo, mainly because I noticed there are some variations in the same recorded phrase used for some of the characters, such as Raenelle’s friendly “Sebastien” and angry “Sebastien!” as well as Lord Waven’s neutral “Hmm” and questioning “Hmm?”. However, these variations are not numerous and I sometimes find myself hearing a voice clip that does not quite fit the tone of the text (cue Lord Waven’s forever angry “Hmph!”).

:: Characters

TLDR;
Overall Impression: GOOD
All characters have distinct individuality and their own personal issues to deal with. Because they have their own strengths and weaknesses, there is healthy room for character development yet.

Even though the characters are somewhat molded after common stereotypes, they can still be told apart by their unique personalities. The characters certainly have a mind of their own and they each have their own problems to face.

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Raenelle, the protagonist, is someone with strong opinions and is not shy to stand up for herself against any unreasonable nonsense that others threw at her. On the whole, I find Raenelle a woman with decent sense, even though I do not quite agree with her frequent whines about her job. Her complaints show that she is only human but I hope Raenelle will actually do something about her job along the way. As for romance, given her personality and background, I am generally expecting a less wishy-washy and more mature approach to relationship from Raenelle.

For now, there are two male and one female love interests (LIs). First, we have Raenelle’s friend, Aldrias Varet, an intelligent, good-natured, and soft-spoken person who likes to spend his free time pouring over books. Then, we have Kierdan Waven, a skilled ice mage, who is a serious man of few words but wields a commanding air around him. Finally, there is Lyrissa Yirath, a bubbly life mage who is a sweetheart determined to pave her own path in life.

My initial bias is Kierdan as he falls into the same general category as my other favorite otome LIs. But his “you are not allowed to pry into my business but I can pry into yours” attitude is rather off-putting. I find myself having the tendency to make Raenelle react more forcefully when it comes to interacting with Lord Waven. After all, it is really satisfying to see Raenelle giving Lord Waven a piece of her mind. My only worry is that those choices would inevitably land me on a Bad End.

Through the demo, I have taken a liking to Lyrissa. Aldrias, on the other hand, despite looking dashing in his formal wear, did not quite leave a special impression on me.

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As for the other two potential LIs that would be added if the Kickstarter stretch goals are reached, I can only say Jori Halwin really left a deep impression. Jori’s apparently irresponsible attitude irks me a lot and I am at a loss of words for his brand of humor. Sebastien, though having a sharp tongue, is notably less annoying than Jori is. That said, I do not find these characters bad; in fact, I think they are well-crafted if they can evoke emotions in us as much as real people do.

:: Writing

TLDR;
Overall Impression: OKAY
In general, the writing is well edited although there are times when overly packed sentences impede the reading flow. World-building is consistent but perhaps further explanations about the world can be supplied.

In spite of the occasional presence of confusingly long sentences that require a re-read (or two), the writing is generally polished. There may still be minor typos to smooth out and awkward phrasings to improve here and there, but there is nothing too damaging to the reading experience.

As far as the premise goes, I find it decent. I do not recall having came across a protagonist who is a necromancer before. However, it is still too early to say whether this would set the story apart from the others.

When it comes to presenting Nalenshir, the three chapters in the demo show quite clearly – with the prevalence of communication mirrors, potions, and teleportation circles – how magic is fundamental in the Kingdom. The main thing I found unclear is whether everyone in Nalenshir has inherent magical abilities or there are folks who cannot wield any magic at all. Overall, I find the world-building pretty consistent; there are certainly parts that I find vague but nothing seems to stand out as contradictory. While the schools of magic present in the story are quite common, I think it would be nice to include an in-game list of key definitions for major things relevant to Reanimation Scheme’s world.

Still, I look forward to seeing how the mystery of the failed spirit summoning rituals would be handled in the final full version. How deep is the mystery going to be? Will there be surprising twists awaiting us? Last but not least, how will each character’s route be contributing to unraveling the mystery meaningfully?

:: Closing Remarks

Despite containing only three chapters, Reanimation Scheme demo really shines with its fantastic visuals, lovely music, promising story premise, and lively characters. Even though the LIs fall into common stereotypes and may thus make the romance routes somewhat predictable, I still think Reanimation Scheme has the potential to tell a memorable tale of its own.

Reanimation Scheme is currently on Kickstarter with around one week left to go! It is currently fully funded but there are still exciting Stretch Goals waiting to be reached. Be sure to check it out and help spread the word if you wish to support this otome VN project.

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Chasm - Arcade Contest (Switch Only)


ALinkToTheDan

Hey Nintendo Switch players, are you enjoying the new Chasm update with its all new Arcade mode? Well, developer Bit Kid recently posted a little competition for players to get involved with. Here's the details:
 

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"Help us celebrate the new Arcade mode recently released on Nintendo Switch! We will be holding a high score contest for the October 23rd Daily Challenge on Nintendo Switch, giving you a chance to win the Grand Prize: a unique hand-crafted clay sculpture of the hero! The top 10 runner-ups will receive a Prize Pack with an exclusive t-shirt, printed instruction manual, stickers, magnet and more. See http://chasmgame.com/ArcadeContest for details on how to enter!"

 

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If you haven't picked up the game yet or just haven't played it in a while, Nintendo Switch, PS4/Vita, and Xbox One owners can enjoy update 1.070 which includes the brand new Arcade mode (Daily & Weekly Challenges are exclusive to Nintendo Switch players), optional Chiptune soundtrack, customizable controls, 6 new localization's (Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese (BR), and Hungarian), over 80 new rooms, new background art, improved backtracking, new items and plenty more! The full list of changes can be found here.

(Chasm Arcade Mode Update - https://bitkidgames.com/?p=3752)

Chasm is an action-adventure game that takes place in the Guildean Kingdom. You play as a new recruit eager to become a knight—rumors have spread that a mine packed with precious resources to the kingdom has been shut down due to townsfolk gone missing. What supernatural creatures lurk in the depths of the mine? Do what you must to track down these people and become the knight you've always wanted to be in this thrilling Metroidvania. Chasm is available for download on all gaming platforms.

So, if you fancy yourself a little challenge and you own a Nintendo Switch jump into the Daily Arcade Contest on October 23rd! Good luck, and have fun!

Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond - Good Looks Alone Are Not Enough


Sammy J

 

Game: Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond

Developer: Ekuator Games

Release Date: Fall 2019

Try the demo and add to Steam wish list

Genre: Turn-based RPG

 

 

Growing up as a child gamer into a teenage gamer, my favorite genre (which remains the case today) was a big story driven RPG adventure. The Legend of Zelda will always be at the top of my list but I have always had a soft sport for a more tactical approach in RPG's focusing on turn based battle systems. I had a lot of fun with the older Final Fantasy games and others such as Chrono Trigger and one of my all time favorites: Skies of Arcadia! Also it's pleasing to see games like Fire Emblem still getting new releases on modern consoles and doing well. Much to my excitement was it that I had discovered a new game to try that carried the same traits of the turn based battle system and seemed to be very pleasing on the eye. It had been a long time since I played a turn based RPG so I was itching to try out the demo of Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond, the start of a brand new adventure awaited! How I was feeling as I booted the game up for the first time was not how I was feeling as I completed the demo however, which was ultimately disappointed.

 

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We will get into why I felt so put off by the game soon, first I would like to shine some positive vibes on Celestian Tales because it does have some good qualities. First and foremost is how the game looks, visually the aesthetic is very eye catching especially if you are a fan of the pixel animated character design and the hand drawn back drops. Needless to say, I am a fan of this art style which acted as the hook that reeled me in when I first took a gander at the screen shots. The art style draws heavy inspiration from watercolor brush strokes which gives the game its unique identity and I am of the opinion that it looks superb! Some of the concept art that can be found on the Kickstarter page is a real site to behold and the team at Ekuator Games should be pleased that they have created such a unique and appeasing style. What could be added to the game that would not only compliment the visuals but also help strengthen the games identity? Why a solid soundtrack of course! Again, I have nothing but praise when it comes to the soundtrack. It goes very well with the environments, each new town you enter has a unique tune giving you a sense of unexplored territory and giving the town it's own identity. Great visuals, great soundtrack, what could it possibly be about Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond that left me with a sour taste?

 

Firstly, let's point out the fact that I played the demo. The full release is not expected until the end of this year at the very earliest so it's important to remember that every issue that I encountered may well be rectified in time for release. I sure hope so anyway. Let's start with the biggest issue that I had with the demo, the controls. I prefer to play my games using a gamepad, my Xbox 1 gamepad to be precise and considering on this games Steam page it clearly states that it has FULL controller support I didn't see why there would be an issue using it. Well there was, I could walk around the world fine and my action buttons worked fine but when it came to engaging in battle with enemies, for some ungodly reason I was not able to navigate the battle menu. The face buttons on my gamepad worked in battle just not the d-pad or analogue stick which meant I had to keep swapping between my keyboard and gamepad to play the game which I was not too happy with. Luckily it was only a demo and I had not spent any money on the game otherwise I'd be demanding it back instantly based on that issue alone! Even if this was just the demo, basic things like making sure that controller support is implemented if it is supposed to be should not be an issue because demos are supposed to be a way of showcasing how the game plays and make people want to play more.

 

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Other technical hindrances I ran into included the fact that when venturing to the end of an area in order to get to the next, you are greeted with a message from one of your party members informing you that basically because the game is still under development you can only fast travel to the next area rather than travel there by foot. The issue here is that when it gives you the list of places to travel to you cannot cancel and carry on wandering around the area you are already in! You can simply choose the area you are in on the list (if you can remember the name of it) but it will take you to the beginning of the area which is obviously a pain if you wish to just continue in the exact location you are currently in. This might be a gamepad thing again and if I would have pressed every single button on my keyboard maybe it might have cancelled out but who knows? It's a poor oversight by any means. Also I noticed a lot of grammar issues in the dialogue particularly in the first town you get to as well as my character disappearing when walking into a house wall. These are smaller issues that I'm sure wouldn't take too long to iron out before full release but issues nonetheless.

 

Let's talk about another issue that comes from a more personal level rather than technically. When you emerge from a battle victorious, no matter how injured your party members are or even if some died they will all be fully healed as soon as the battle is over. This is a specific direction the developers have taken and while I can see it might be a more approachable direction for newcomers and gamers who are not veterans of the genre, it personally rubs me the wrong way. At first I wasn't sure how to feel about it because on the one hand I was grateful that I didn't have to waste a load of potions after every single battle or waste SP on healing all the time but on the other hand it took away a lot of the strategy and hardship out of the experience. Don't forget that I am used to playing turn based RPG's way back in the day and I know exactly how much strategy you need to put into your battles at times. No strategy or thought process is needed in these battles, all I need to do is simply keep hitting "attack" until all the enemies are dead because my characters are strong enough to beat them before they kill me and my whole party will be fully healed once the battle is over. I was playing the demo on hard mode as well so it's not as if the game was holding my hand throughout the whole journey. I'm sure in the full game the automatic healing of the whole party after each battle will be more justified but for now it puts me off and I'd expect it puts other veterans off this genre off as well.

 

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I hate to cast a shadow of doom and gloom over a game especially if it's an Indie game but I'm afraid I am not quite done. Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond has a crafting system which is nice and you get to experience the bare bones of it in the demo when you are given a recipe to craft some refined faery dust. You need to get hold of the ingredients then make your way over to the taverns fireplace where you craft the item which is all well and good except if you forget what 3 ingredients you need to find there is no way of simply looking at your recipe which sits in your inventory to find out what they are. For some reason you can only find out what they are by going to the taverns fireplace, absolutely absurd! It's a real shame that this article will come across as more of a rant piece but it's only because I had fairly high hopes since I hadn't played a game like this in a long while. If all the above were to be resolved then we could have a half decent game on our hands as it does have some neat things going for it. There is certainly a story line to follow and fans of the original Celestian Tales: Old North (yes this is a sequel!) will be able to shape the games world based on the decisions you made in Old North after the game reads your save data which is pretty awesome. If like me, you never played the original then you will be able to answer questions at the beginning of the game about the past which will shape the world of Realms Beyond. I also like when you enter the market place you hear the sound of a busy market with lots of chatter and laughter. Although it was a bit odd considering there were only about 6/7 people in the market place but the sound would have you think there were 30 or 40 odd. You have 3 characters who will battle but there are 6 characters travelling in your party for the most part. Much like the Tales series, you can swap in or out any part member as you choose and you will pick up lots of equipment, armor and weapons on your journey. For some reason, I was not able to equip any new weapons or armor from the menu which was weird and every time a party member either joined or left the group, I wish it would tell me who!

 

I really hope these issues get resolved because fans of the original Celestian Tales: Old North and backers of its successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2017 have not heard many updates since. All we have is this demo which isn't much to go by considering the amount of issues it has so at the very least, backers of the game deserve an update from the developers soon! The demo is available on Steam if you would like to check it out but if you do, don't go into it with high expectations like I did. I would however, love to know what you think about this game, will it even make its scheduled release window of fall 2019? I think not.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Valfaris - Slain On Performance Enhancers


ALinkToTheDan

Developer: Steel Mantis

Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Steam, Xbox, PS4

Price: $24.99

Genre: 2D, Action, Platformer

 

Metal. Gore. Destruction. Insanity. After playing several hours of Valfaris, you'll understand more about these words than you ever have in your lifetime. From the team that brought you Slain: Back from Hell, Valfaris sets to deliver a new type of experience, with similar mechanics and gameplay. It has all the attributes of a heavy metal concert and 90's sci-fi movies all mixed into one. Grab your pick of destiny and get ready to ROCK!

Whether you've played Slain: Back from Hell or not, Valfaris is a great game to get your feet soaked in blood. You play as Therion, son of Vroll, and he is on a mission to reclaim Valfaris for his own. Vroll has taken control of Valfaris and tainted it with evil spread across every inch of the grandiose citadel. A bit full of himself and riddled with puns, Therion seeks to strip his father of his powers and will rip through anything to find him. 

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After a short introduction scene opening the game, you finally get thrown into a 2D post-apocalyptic world with a hint of cyberpunk like colors. I was pleasantly surprised by the tight mechanics of the game but wasn't completely satisfied with the button layout. Lucky for me, I was able to swap out certain functions with others—happy with the new button layout, I was on my way. Right out of the gate, you are overwhelmed by hordes of bloodthirsty foes. Equipped with trusty weaponry, Therion is ready for anything the darkness has to throw at him. 

There are three types of weapon classes: Sidearm, Melee, and Heavy weapons. Sidearms are quick and easy to use without having to consume combat energy. Melee is close range, risky, but useful in gaining additional combat energy from enemies. Finally, Heavy weapons are meant to output massive damage but consume the most combat energy. As far as defensive actions are concerned, you also wield a shield that acts as a form of parrying if timed just right. Another neat feature with this shield is that you can hold projectiles and redirect them at your foes!

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Over time you'll collect new weapons that add a new way to play, and I found it's a good thing to swap these out from time to time based on sections where enemies would prove to be more difficult than others. Weapons add some sort of strategic value to the game, and you'll want to balance what weapons work best for your play style, but also weapons that are the most effective. 

Valfaris has a system of making upgrades to your weapons. Be on the lookout for piles of skulls that may contain an upgrade material known as 'Blood Metal.' Certain enemies may drop this material as well, and eventually, enough upgrades will warrant a new material you'll need to collect to make this final upgrade. 

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Resurrection Idols are placed throughout the game and play a vital role in how checkpoints function. If you've got a big set of balls on you, hold onto those resurrection idols and increase your health bar and combat energy. However, if you're like me, I prefer to use them at each checkpoint, so I can avoid having to backtrack as often. You do eventually collect enough to build up your health bar and combat energy slightly. There comes a point when you reach, what I like to call, a 'vending machine.' This vending machine gives you blood metal, in return for resurrection idols—choose wisely if you're low on idols but desire to upgrade a weapon. 

One of the biggest challenges of the game is the fact that you encounter so many varying enemies and bosses with unique traits. Keep your eyes peeled for traps and other inanimate objects that seem to crush, suffocate, and impale you, too. You'll get familiar with dying, so prepare for the worst—I say this because everything WILL kill you. Fortunately, you won't encounter a "You died" or "Slain" phrase each time you kick the bucket. The best way to stay alive is to be vigilant and hope enemies drop additional health or a blue skull to replenish your combat energy. If not used, the hearts and blue skulls will disappear after a short time, so make use of these promptly. 

Anyone a fan of mechs? That's right, you reach a point when manpower is only so much and you'll need aid from a big, beefy bit of machinery. Causing complete chaos, you feel like nothing can stand in your way. Similar to how you play with Therion, there are three types of attacks and a booster jump that will crush enemies below. It's a little clunky, but ultimately I think it's a solid addition to keep things fresh within the game. 

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Everything from gameplay to enemy and level design meshed very well, though, my only real gripe of the game is how you aim. There were times when I would attempt to shoot down, and Therion would only crouch. Movement is key to staying alive, and despite being able to freeze your character to aim, I thought crouching was a bit redundant. I fully understand why it's there it just didn't work all that well for me.

One more thing to plug here is Steel Mantis has been hard at work to bring you a New Game + mode called "Full Metal Mode" that will challenge the player even more than Valfaris already does! The update will feature:

  • All weapons, upgrades, and upgrade items will be carried over
  • Enemies and bosses will be more aggressive
  • The player will take more damage
  • Players will have access to one additional Destroyer class weapon

At the time of writing this, there is no set date on when the update will be released and it will be free across all platforms. 


Finally putting this review to rest, Valfaris has an enticing story and wicked cool visuals that will keep your lust for blood quenched. I found the soundtrack and SFX to be quite gritty, grungy, METAL and I loved every second of it! The game is brutal but it's doable—challenging in just the right way. Valfaris is an indie title you should be eager to drop some cash on. Grow that hair out and get ready to ROCK!

 

Game code was generously provided by Big Sugar for review purposes only on the Nintendo Switch. We appreciate your willingness to spare us a code!

Looking for a game for Halloween? You should consider Ellen


Sammy J

Game: Ellen

Publisher: Red Mount Media

Release Date: Available now on Steam, PS4, Xbox1 & Switch

Steam price: £7.19

Purchase on Steam

Try the demo

Genre: Point and click adventure, horror

 

 

We have officially entered October, the month of Halloween which is arguably many peoples favorite month of the year. Time to make those plans for the big day at the end of the month, get stocked up on that candy for the trick or treaters and dig out those scary outfits for the kids. The gaming community also likes to get in the mood for spooks this time of year as well and what better time to tell you all about a horror game that you might overlook when it comes to choosing a game to satisfy your thirst for scares. There are plenty of games that fit this category out there, but one you might overlook is a game called Ellen. If you are looking for a game that sets a dark and atmospheric mood that isn't going to take you 40 hours to beat but has enough content to leave you satisfied then Ellen could well be the game for you. Although it was released on Steam in February this year so not particularly all that new, it was released on consoles last month and with it now being Halloween month there really is no better time to give Ellen a shot.

 

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Ellen has you play the role as James, an inspector whose job it is to inspect the mansion owned by the Smiths family who have all been brutally murdered years ago, all except for the daughter Ellen who's silhouette has been spotted at the house by several eye witnesses. You start the game having fallen from a great height and injuring your leg so to start you are limping around slowly until you find a medical pack which enables you to walk normally again and also run which comes as a real blessing after limping around so slowly. Before I get into what I enjoyed about the game, I will explain about what I thought could be improved in the Steam version. Basically it's the controls, you can play the game with a gamepad as I prefer to so I used my Xbox One controller and it didn't seem fully supported. First of all, on Steam it does not specify if Ellen supports gamepads either fully or partially so I'm assuming the developers at Red Mount Media would prefer you play with a keyboard and mouse. That's fine, but if that is the case then should gamepad support have been implemented at all? Don't get me wrong, most of the game works ok but you cannot perform certain actions with the gamepad, for example there are some book shelves you can hide behind by pressing the action button. Except the action button on the Xbox One controller does nothing apart from inspect the book shelves, I was having to press "E" on the keyboard to actually hide behind it. Also the game always prompts you to use keyboard buttons even if you are using a gamepad and the controls menu says nothing about what the buttons do on a gamepad whatsoever. So from my experience, if you are playing the Steam version go with a keyboard and mouse.

 

Gamepad support aside, the dark tone and terrifying atmosphere of the game remain intact, music in the game is only triggered after certain moments or when you reach certain areas. Throughout large portions of the game there will be no music and all you will be hearing are the sounds of your footsteps and creepy noises in the background like doors creeking open and the sound of crying in the distance to name a couple of examples. Ellen does a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat as you start to notice the mansion playing tricks on you. You will come across a tv switched on playing white noise distortion even though there is no electricity in the house, after you switch the tv off and leave the room it will be turned on again when you come back. You will notice objects have moved since you first visited that particular area, grandfather clocks have all of a sudden started working and creepy reflections in the bathroom mirror! This isn't even the most horrifying stuff that you will encounter, Ellen is a game aimed at mature audiences for a reason, I won't spoil too much as to why but make sure you are prepared for some violent scenes. I might not be the bravest gamer around but I was determined to plough on and try to uncover the dark truths about what happened to the Smith family and find Ellen!

 

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We cannot go any further without talking about how the game looks visually, Ellen's art style is very appealing to me. It has a really retro pixel art style going on and I love it! It compliments the tone of the game very well and brings out the dark setting and while the characters do not have faces, the emphasis is not on what they look like but what role they are playing and we are seeing that kind of thing quite a bit in games these days. Being a point and click adventure you will be backtracking a lot around the house discovering things that were not there before and you will do well to remember certain obstacles you are not able to overcome as no doubt you will find an item that will enable you to come back and get passed it later on. The fact that Ellen throws you off course with its creepy sound effects and strange occurrences in in areas you have already been in previously prevent backtracking from becoming a chore. One solid piece of advice I would give to you all is that you must remember not to drain the battery of your flash light as new batteries seemed hard to come by and you need it to see in pitch black areas.

 

A point and click adventure wouldn't be the same with the odd puzzle here and there and Ellen has puzzles of its own you must overcome. You will be picking up clues all over the mansion which you must look through to figure out how to best some of the puzzles so just make sure you are picking everything up you see and try to interact with everything you can. It's the same mechanic that runs true with every point and click adventure so I'm glad Ellen did its best to anchor itself within the genre while giving us a fresh experience unlike any other at the same time. Also, there is something about how Ellen's pixel art monsters looked and sounded that really gave me the creeps! You will get to a point in the game where they start appearing fairly often and you must not over use running as you will run straight into one and it will kill you instantly! Over using your running is not a good idea in general as your stamina bar will deplete making you worn out. You will often be thinking that you wish you had some kind of weapon to take these horrible monsters out until you remember that you are not a super hero, you are an inspector. You will need to use your brain and figure out how to get passed these abominations by running and hiding a lot of the time which I fully appreciate.

 

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So if you are looking for something different to try this Halloween but require a guaranteed spook then I strongly advise considering Ellen. It won't take you 40 hours to complete but it will leave you with a chilling satisfaction and is a nice smaller game to play if you fancy a break from the heavy hitters. It is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One so you can play on your preferred system and there is also a demo to try in case you are still not sure if you want to part with your hard earned cash just yet. I would love to hear what you think about Ellen or if you are on the fence and why in the comments down below. Thanks for reading!

 

Children Of Lumera - Where dreams are made reality


ALinkToTheDan

 

To be deprived of our dreams is a horrible prospect, and when dreams have the power to create reality—in the wrong hands' calamity is afoot. Children of Lumera is set to combine the emotional symbiosis of a classic children´s book and an adventure game—inspired by "The Neverending Story" and Tolkien´s "The Hobbit."

Developer, Phantom Fox, has created a huge universe packed with history and different cultures whose characters, stories and destinies are interwoven. Children of Lumera was originally intended to be a children's book, but it grew on the team to mold it into an episodic adventure game, too. The game itself will be shown as a world full of unbelievable wonders, audiovisual riddles, fantastical stories and lots of interactivity. 

 

When dreams and memories are wiped away, what's left but empty feelings and sadness?

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Set in a world where all life was created with the Alvenkinds power of dreaming, a young girl named Elo Bryghtfire has been given the task of finding a cure for Oblivion.

 

A thousand years after banishing Grimgol to Mokra Dur, the Mountain of Oblivion, nothing was left but ruins in the sand lost to the ravages of time—just like most memories of the Alven children. But in some places, the magic of dreams had endured and is now just waiting to be found. One of these places is the sheltered forest village Slumber Deep, nestled at the foot of the Cauldron Mountains, surrounded by the enchanted Ardon Woods. 

Our story starts on the Day of Renewal when a little girl named Elo Bryghtfire has no choice but to follow in her grandfather's footsteps to complete an ancient ritual. By the end of the day, fate will have turned against the villagers, as invading dream-eaters casts the lovely village into a dark fog and steals the villagers' hopes and dreams. Aided by a little yokai creature called Biz, Elo escapes to the Negeb desert and ventures out on a marvelous but dangerous quest to save the art of dreaming. 

 

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Like Night in the Woods and Oxenfree, Children of Lumera is a modern 2D adventure that focuses on emotional game play and story-driven presentation. Visit a beautifully hand-drawn universe that is complex and immersive. At every corner and behind every stone there could be incredible stories, magical artifacts, sensory puzzles, or even songs. 

Without saying, the desire to explore is rewarded—the more curiosity a player has, the deeper the experience of the universe will become. The gameplay is strongly driven by revealing the secrets of the ancient Alvenkind, interacting with beautifully illustrated environments, characters and objects. 

Without dreams to inspire us, what choice do we have but to succumb to the spread of darkness? Will Elo have the courage and strength to overcome this calamity? Find out when Children of Lumera becomes available to purchase on Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, Linux, and iOS. Release date has yet to be revealed, but you'll know as soon as we know!

 

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Follow the game's progress by visiting the official website for more information or these social media platforms to stay up to date with Phantom Fox:

Instagram
Facebook 
Twitter

Sectors Edge - Minecraft Meets FPS


HappyFeet_1402

Developer: Vercidium

Genre: FPS, PvP

Price: Free

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Sectors Edge looks, and feels, like the lovechild of Minecraft and Fortnite (minus the 100 to 1 Battle Royale formula) and after spending some time playing over the weekend I can honestly say it’s a promising idea! While the game does feature 3 different game modes, I only had the opportunity to test out the Team Deathmatch during my time playing.

The Devs have obviously invested a lot of time creating some beautiful voxel based maps in which the matches take place, featuring various different monuments and terrain, and given the other mechanics in the game these maps actually add a real degree of ‘verticality’ to the gameplay itself; whether you’re hunting from the top of a tree canopy or stalking through underground caves unnoticed there is a real sense that enemies can come from any, and all, directions!

Given that the Team Deathmatch takes place with a 20 minute timer for point scoring, it also means that the map you start on will not resemble the map at the end of a round, as terrain is fully destructible either through tool usage or general weapon fire, with some of the larger weapons (rocket/plasma launchers) seemingly designed for the task of obliterating a map and any cover the terrain might provide! Though for every single block you can destroy, you can also build your own as the match is playing out; whether you need a quick ladder up to higher ground or an impromptu wall of cover it’s all possible through the hotkeys. 

Load outs for your character are chosen using a points based system, with a cap of 16 points to spend, allocated between a primary & secondary weapon, along with items (like grenades) and mods to your character (extra jump height for example) which allows for some customisation depending on your play style. You can also pick and tinker with your load out mid game if/when you die, with 16 different weapons and 8 mods available at the moment it really adds to the ability to adapt to the map and play style of your opponents, all of which is really easy to do quickly. 

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There are some gripes at this early stage, building doesn’t feel the easiest thing to control just yet, so don’t expect the reactive ability that something like Fortnite would offer when building defensive structures, and the game could really benefit from some AI enemies to help finish filling a lobby while it builds a player base, but as Sectors Edge is due to enter Early Access in the near future, it’s understandable that there is a journey to go through in development. 

Overall I had a good laugh playing the game during the scheduled matches (organised by Devs to make sure there are people in the lobbies), and can see there is a lot of promise in the game, so given that it’s a free to play offering I’d recommend picking it up and jumping in for a few matches!

I want to thank the Devs for giving me a key to take this for a spin before Early Access kicks in properly!

HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive

Hidden Gems #2 - Spooky edition!


Guest kyathil

Hidden Gems #2 - Spooky edition!

Greetings!

It is finally October and some of us will be diving head deep into spooky and scary stuff for the entire month, which is why this month's edition of Hidden Gems will be featuring horror games 👻 Since we are all very different with what kind of scary stuff we can take, they will also be very varied in "scary factor" and hopefully there will be something suitable for all! In order to give an idea of how scary etc the game is I've added a little score to each of the game from 1-10:

  • Scare factor - How terrified you will get
  • Gameplay - How smooth the game experience is
  • Story - I think this one is obvious

 

Kaet Must Die! header.jpg.c55bee6e100e6597a4fe87f4a134ec67.jpg

Publisher: Strength in Numbers Studios, Inc

Genre: Horror/puzzle solving

Price: 14.99€ Steam link

Release Date: 2018-04-06

 

I've been playing a lot of horror games over the years, but not a single one has been like Kaet Must Die!... Which is to it's advantage and disadvantage. The reason I even got to know about this game was because one of the developers, who later became my mod on Twitch, talked about about this game he was developing and it sounded really interesting in my ears so had to give it a spin. The game features 10 levels that your character, Kaetheran/Kaet, must solve in order to regain her power s and memories. You solve these puzzles through various means, such as collecting items and placing them on a certain location. The more levels you solve, the harder it gets and the longer time they will take to solve. Oh, and you gotta solve the puzzles within a certain amount of time or it's game over!

Does this sound easy? Well, it's not... You see, you also have a various amount of enemies, some moving and some hiding in dark places, doing their absolute best in trying to jumpscare the shit out of you and kill the protagonist. Additionally, the light sources will start disappearing, one by one, until it's completely dark and Kaet succumbs to her nemesis! There are some tools that you can use in order to progress in the game, and keep that sanity in check, such as light sources and abilities that will unlock at certain levels.

There is one very negative aspect to this game and that is, if understood correctly, that it's not finished. There has been talk about adding more story and hints to the game, there wasn't a lot  of those last time I played. I can definitely see how it would improve the game experience massively and I do think the price tag is a little up there for what you get. Nevertheless, the game is combining puzzle making and horror in a very unique way and I personally think it deserves a bit more recognition! I had fun and screamed a lot as I was playing, there might be a clip from a stream showing just that in the trailer below!

Scare factor: 7/10 Gameplay: 7/10 Story: 4/10

 

 

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Publisher: Screen 7

Genre: Psychological horror

Price: 8.19€ Steam link

Release Date: 2012-12-01

 

The Cat Lady got so many things that I personally enjoy that it's going to be hard to summarise it all in this episode, don't want a large novel here. With that said I do want to point out that this game is on my top list of games, of all times, and am definitely a bit biased! I also wanna warn you that this game is touching subjects such as PTSD, rape, illness, death, depression and suicide and if you are sensitive about these topics it might be a bad idea to play the game.

You follow Susan Ashworth, a depressed 40-year old lady on the verge of suicide. She has no friends nor family (but there are cats!) and no hope for the future. One day, after certain events, her life takes a rather unexpected turn (will not tell what though since it's a heavily story based game). This turn of events will let Susan meet a number of interesting characters and also lead her on a journey to recover from her depressed mind. Not only is Susan very obviously mentally unstable, but her actions and interactions with people in the game are not what you might expect from anyone and makes her a very unique and somewhat disturbing character to follow. She has some serious ghosts from the past haunting her and also faces several rather traumatising events throughout the game. The game depicts these events in such a way that it really, at least in my case, touches you deeply and I sympathised with Susan on a similar level as I felt for Senua in Hellblade. Spoiler, there might be tears shed and a need for hugs. The characters she encounters are also very memorable and unique in their own ways and quite contrasting to her nature, in sometimes funny ways. You can clearly see that a lot of effort were put into the story and character arcs!

The game is divided into chapters, with each chapter featuring a number of puzzles to solve and several times you get to choose one or other action resulting in different possible outcomes in events. Additionally, there are multiple endings and thus the game offer certain replayability. It is a third person side-scrolling game with rather simple mechanics, moving Susan with right and left arrow and interacting with up arrow and choosing options using enter, you can play the entire game just using the arrows and enter on your keyboard. Graphically it is rather gritty and dark, which fits the atmosphere just fine, and with an absolutely amazing soundtrack! The only truly negative remark I have is that the voice acting is a little bit uneven and with that I don't even mean that it's uneven in performance of the voice actors, except for a few cases, but rather the volume and quality of the sound. It's apparent that the voice actors used very different equipment recording their lines and sent the files to the developers. But, honestly, it didn't bother me that much considering how the game excels in story telling and character development!

Before adding the score for the game I want to point out that it is not a scary game like Amnesia or Outlast, but it is rather gory and violent... And super creepy! At several points I got completely creeped out by the events in the game and also truly sympathised with the protagonist's struggle. It certainly fits the horror theme and spookyness associated with Halloween, but without terror for the player. I really feel like I could write novels about how amazing this game is, but since we have another game to review I will cut it here and I do hope some of you try this fantastic game out!

Scare factor: 3/10 Gameplay: 8/10 Story: 10/10 Creepy factor: 8/10 (some events are 12/10)

 

Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn header.jpg.f5369a181d3a7eaf0335c7d08fa860ee.jpg

Publisher: Angry Demon Studio

Genre: First person survival horror

Price: 14.99€ Steam Link

Release Date: 2017-11-27

 

JAG KAN... LUKTA DIG! - Random Troll

I want to start off by saying that I'm most definitely biased with regards to this game since I'm genuinely impressed with what this Swedish little studio has released! Their latest game, Apsulov,  is what got my attention from the beginning and I was happy to encounter more horror games released by them. If I understand this correctly, Unforgiving was released by the developers shortly after their senior year at univeristy in game development. Also, note that I haven't actually finished this game yet but it made such an impression on me that I needed it on this list!

You start the game with the protagonist, Linn, being tied up in the back of a car... Kicking and trying to get the f out, as you might consider a natural reaction to this situation. Not going to spoil the game, but you will not spend the entire game tied up in the backseat of a car... Just so you know. Since the little story that I have uncovered so far would spoil a bit much, I will not write much about it but rather focusing on the gameplay and what scary factors being used in the game.

After the escape of the car, Linn finds herself in the deep Swedish forests... In almost complete darkness. I'm not joking, I was going slightly insane with how literally dark this game is! Light sources are scarce and when you see them it feels like encountering an old friend. Her overall goal in the game is basically to get back to civilisation... But in this bloody cursed forest she will encounter pretty much every single scary myth you can read of in Swedish folklore and Norse mythology making her escape rather tedious. I LOVED  how the developers integrated stories I read as a child into the game and even learned about some myths I hadn't heard about before! Considering how rare it is with Swedish folklore in games I can only praise this aspect. Even if it had been less well made I would have enjoyed it, being a Swede myself. 

Graphically, I did find the environment and mythical creatures rather well made... Sadly I can't say the same about the human characters but it also didn't bother me that much partly due to the occurence of humans is pretty rare. There are a few jumpscares, but the game relies mostly on the almost complete darkness and sounds to scare the player. And it really worked, the sound effects and music are absolutely terrifying! I've been very tense while playing despite the rather few jumpscares so far! Also, I chose Swedish as spoken language with English subtitles for the people watching but there is an English option if you want to go with that. My choice was basically because you never hear Swedish in games and I wanted to know how the voice acting is! I was pleasantly surprised, most of the times Swedish voice acting isn't great, and it made the game even eerier at times... But some lines were pretty funny, not that I minded it since it kinda broke the ice during tense situations! The controls did take some time getting used to, but I didn't feel them very clunky. Big thanks to Angry Studios that kindly provided me with a key to try out the game!

Scare factor: 7/10 Gameplay: 8/10 Story: 6/10 (there hasn't been that much of a plot, but great lore!)

 

 

River Legends - Time to grab your tackle box


ALinkToTheDan

Developer: Dantat Studios

Genre: Sports, Simulation, Casual

Price: $14.99 Steam, $12.99 itch.io, $4.99 Google Play

 

      Grab your gear and let's go fishing! River Legends is a casual experience that has you wishing you were really out on the water—eager to reel in a lunker! Right from the get-go, you are introduced to a beautiful animation of clouds rolling left and right out of view to open up the games title screen. It's highly recommended you hit up the tutorial, this way you know what you're getting yourself into. Even though it's not a difficult game by any means, there are a few things you'll want to know before putting your waders on. 

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      I received a code for the Android version, so I'm not 100% sure how it differs on a controller, but casting and catching fish is a breeze! For casting, you select where you desire your bait to be thrown, swipe back and forth to allow distance build up, and then finish with a swipe outward toward the water. It took me a try or two to get used to the mechanic, but once you get the hang of it you'll be saying "This is the reel deal!"

      Catching fish had me thinking about the mechanics that Stardew Valley implement for fishing. Basically, you'll wait for a fish to swim over to your bait, and once you see little ripples you know the fish is biting, which at that point you'll swipe to hook the fish! During the "Fish On" period, you'll reel in the fish whilst keeping an eye on the tension the fish is causing to your line. Changing the pitch and releasing your finger for a split second will relieve some of the tension in case the fish pulls too hard, which they will as I've had my line snap a few times without even realizing what had happened. Adjust the pitch of the rod by positioning your finger(still holding your finger on the screen) either to the top, middle, or bottom sections of the screen. Once you've hooked a fish, finger placement does not interfere with any of the other buttons, which is great if you are a lefty like me!

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      River Legends starts you in a little spot called Forest Pond. Here you'll get your feet wet and start catching fish to gain experience or gold, and you'll have the option to choose either per fish caught. The bigger the fish, the more experience and gold you'll have a chance to receive. Experience is mainly aimed at unlocking different fishing locales, and these different areas mean more species of fish to catch. On the flip side, earning gold will allow you to purchase specific lures and gear to aid you in your fishing adventure.

      Personally, I thought some of the gear you unlocked didn't make any significant difference to gameplay. For one, the polarized glasses didn't seem to make any difference in seeing what type of species or how big a fish was. Secondly, the winter coat didn't have any affect on where I would travel to either. Maybe it's just that I bought the coat early on, and never had any issues going to frigid locations because I had the gear necessary to go there. This isn't to say that all the gear was useless. Lures are a huge benefit in order to catch more and bigger fish. The boots give you the ability to travel across the water, but only in certain areas of the locale. Flashlight opens up a level of exploration as there are some caves in which hold secrets and lore. Those are just a few of the things you can buy and use, but I think it's always nice to have something to work toward regardless of how short the game may be. 

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      Traveling from spot to spot, wildlife would spring out of nowhere and was a nice little touch to the games aesthetic. Despite being a pixel art game, the developer did a great job at making the game feel as alive as if you were really outside fishing. Not to mention, there were weather patterns from rain to snow in certain areas, which again added to the appeal of the game. Meticulous detail in any game is always a plus in my book!

      Overall, I thought River Legends was a unique and charming experience. It's one of those games I can come back to time and time again if I'm wanting something casual to play after a longs days work. However, I can't justify if the game is worth the $15 price tag on Steam, as the game was very short and only had a few things to really work toward. To be fair, I'm unsure if there is any actual difference between the mobile version and the Steam version, so I don't want to prevent you from trying it out on PC if there happens to be additional content in which to enjoy! So, if you love the outdoors in the form of pixel art, definitely give this one a go.

River Legends was given to us as a press code for reviewing purposes and we want to thank Dantat Studios for allowing us the opportunity to play and review it.

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