I hope you guys had a fantastic holiday and feel prepared for the new 20s!
During the very first week of 2020 I had the privilege of trying out a few Swedish developed indie games at Vinterspelen, a gaming event in Malmö, and will kick off this year with reviewing these. The games I tried was Bad North, Stretchers and Sayonara Wild Hearts. The event itself was really well made and delightful to see and am so proud of the people who pulled it off! Extra fun that the games I played were "locally produced", developed by studios nearby.
Developer: Plausible Concept
Release date: 16th of November 2018
Genre: Real time tactic rogue lite
Price: 14.99€ Steam (also available on iOs, Android, PS4, Switch and Xbox and there is a demo to try it out)
Must admit I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I started playing this, actually kinda chill, little game. It's described as a real-time tactical rogue lite and wasn't too sure as of what to expect from that. If I would describe it myself it's real-time tower defense with upgradeable troops instead of towers on a map-based campaign which is increasing in difficulty featuring cute cartoony art style.
As preciously mentioned, the game is map-based, with you trying to save as many islands as you can. It's also semi-turn based in the way that you get to do one action per commander, so if you have 4 commanders you could send them to 1-4 islands. On these islands your mission is to keep evil vikings from raiding your village, which basically are all small maps, where vikings will arrive in waves with the goal to burn down the buildings residing on the islands. For each building you manage to save you get a certain amount of coins that you can use to upgrade your troops in between of the rounds. In order to defend your little islands you get to deploy up to 4 commanders, starting with 2, which are commanding your troops. You unlock more commanders as you save certain islands. If your commanders die, they are out... In other words, perma death. If all of your deployed commanders die while defending an island, you can try again as long as you have more commanders. If you have no commanders, it's game over... If you allow the vikings to get passage to your islands, you also lose.
This is not a very complex game, but I did find it enjoyable and relaxing. There is one big drawback as I saw it while playing and that is the non-existing intelligence of the AI of your troops. Don't know how many times I almost yelled at the monitor because my troops just stood still instead of punching on the enemy! It also gets a bit repetitive after a while, but I can still see myself spending a bunch of hours in it! It gets a bonus point for being available on Android and iOS since I do think this would be a great game for mobiles. Haven't tried it on any mobile platform yet, got it through steam, but am planning on getting it for my upcoming phone! All in all, I had a lot of fun while slaughtering the invading vikings and did die a few times due to strategic mistakes, a note here is that you can choose the difficulty to suit your skill/patience, and is the type of game I enjoy playing when I feel like not investing myself too much into something new.
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Release date: 8th of November 2019
Genre: Action, puzzle
Price: 19.99€ Switch
This has to be the game I enjoyed the most during the event! The trailer looked so derpy and silly that I just instantaneously thought I'd like it. Definitely a game for the entire family, both adults and kids will enjoy this one for sure! I only played this in multiplayer mode and I do think this is what the game was intended for.
The premise of the game is that you and your fellow medic is trying to save people that have fallen unconscious, for various reasons, driving your ambulance to the locations and using cooperation to solve puzzles and put the people on the stretcher in order to drive them away and get help. You get quests from a very... Interesting operator and, spoiler, you will be dealing with a villain who is causing distress in the population! Your job will be to become the hero stretcher you was born to be and save the people from the evil person! It's definitely not any deeper story but, it is also not a very serious game and family friendly on top of it. I found it extremely amusing and not the kind of unseriousness that it became cringey.
Additionally, I found the mechanics of the game absolutely ridiculously fun! It did give me a similar vibe as Overcooked and some parts reminded me of Sims, even though the gameplay is quite different. The humor is super silly and I laughed throughout my entire experience of the game. Just driving to the locations was fun, me and my friend tried to break all sorts of rules while going from point A to B. The puzzles get more difficult as the quest line progresses, with many secrets to find and easter eggs, but didn't get to a point were they felt too difficult.
There weren't too many drawbacks to the game, as I saw it. But, there were a few bugs where either some player or object got stuck. Also, you can only use the joy-con in multiplayer mode (and you can be at most 2 people playing) which I thought was a bit weird even if I got used to the controller rather quickly. I didn't find these drawbacks to bothersome though and would genuinely recommend the game to anyone who feels like playing something incredibly silly with a friend or, perhaps, family! This game actually added a reason for me to get a Switch myself, I do not own any console at all yet. Will definitely play it again!
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Release date: 12th of December 2019
Genre: Action, arcade, neon, rhythmic
Price: 10.79€ Steam
The last game that I got to try out, yet again on Switch, is a game that I find a bit hard to describe. If I would make an attempt at describing the game I would say that graphically it's basically a crazy trip in neon and the game itself is a mash of all kinds of arcade style games, such as racing, to the rhythm of one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard in a game. I do want to warn you if you want to try this game out, it's extremely fast and full of visual impressions which made it impossible for me to play more than 30 min at the time. if you are sensitive to lights and strong colors, I would not recommend this game.
I do think there is some kind of story to the game, but am not sure as of what. Your character seems to fall asleep and get into this neon dream world at the start of the game, and if that's the case he got the trippiest dreams ever! The game itself is level based with a new level unlocked as you finish the current one, each level having unique elements (and enemies in some cases). As I played along I encountered racing segments, shooting, various kinds of boss fights, platforming, riding, space shooter segments and much much more. Everything to the beat of the music for the specific level, as various obstacles appears to the rhythm of the music. Can really appreciate the nods to classic arcade games, blended with their unique twist to the genre! As previously mentioned, it's a very fast game and if you lose focus you quickly fail. I remember hardly having a moment to think as I was playing and going wtf more times than I can count! Not gonna lie, had to take a nap after playing due to the sheer amount of impressions which exhausted my brain.
Do I recommend the game? Yes and no... I do not think the game is the best for myself, but I can really appreciate it nevertheless. If you're into quick arcade style games and don't mind the neon graphics, it might be a fun time for you... If not, you might end up having a hard time. Personally, I did enjoy it while I was playing but also couldn't take in more than 30 min at the time, it became a bit too much for my eyes and brain. The whole experience was, as mentioned before, very fast but also very smooth. All of the segments were extremely well made and never encountered any bugs or so. Even if you don't find this game to your liking, you should definitely listen to the soundtrack! It's absolutely fantastic and perfect to keep in the background as you work, as an example. I also really loved the art style, it's a graphically absolutely beautiful game and some scenes could definitely be printed out and put on a wall. This iwas definitely a very unique experience and might pick it up again in the future!