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KuroKairin

50 Shards

Multi-fandom (Hobbyist) Artist
Digital Art. FireAlpaca user.

Indie Drop Writer
Focuses on story-rich, text-heavy, and otome VN games but also writes for various genres.

ENG | 中文

Cover Photo: Thu Truong from Pixabay (CC0)
PFP: Mystic Messenger fanart by me

 
  1. 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. ____________________ 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!
  2. Thank you, @ALinkToTheDan! Good to see you around too! It feels like ages since I last wrote an article here. Past months had been quite hectic but I'm glad things on my side are starting to stabilize. Hope you and your loved ones are well and safe!
  3. 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. 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. 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! 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. 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). 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. 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!
  4. 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. ____________________ 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. 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. 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. 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!
  5. Thank you for reading @indiegamelover!
  6. 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. 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). 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. 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. 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. 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!
  7. Looking at Downwell's videos, I think it's going to be one game I'll have difficulty beating. And thanks for reading!
  8. 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. 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. 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. 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!
  9. I see. Props to the Mods and anyone else who are helping to furnish the Games page! Hopefully there will be a good way to automate the process more in the future (since the rate at which new games are released is really fast these days ). And I just remembered another feature I would like to see for WB: Ability to add captions to inserted images.
  10. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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%!
  11. Hi, I would like to have an "Edit" button right next to my entries (maybe at the end, next to the view count) when viewing the specific Writer Block's main page. It's rather tedious to click into the entry just for the "Edit Entry" option. Agree with RaginRamen's suggestion of HTML integration too. Or add an option in the visual editor for adding iframe for custom embedded content. And looking at the current planned updates for WB, I'm interested in the upcoming feature for tagging games. I'm assuming the "Games database" refers to the one currently on Ember? If that is so, wouldn't it be quite an effort to keep the database up-to-date in order for the tags to work? Especially if we are going to review really new games that don't have an entry in the Ember's Games catalogue yet. (Initially, I thought you might be utilizing SteamDB or the like for this feature.)
  12. Wow, nice interview with Oogbaard, @ALinkToTheDan! Really good mix of questions you have there, from covering some important questions about the game itself to the more personal side in developing Timebenders. I really like this idea of informal interviews with the indie developers. I think such interviews help to shed a totally new perspective on the games and also let us gamers appreciate the work and thought that have gone through in making those games we enjoy.
  13. Thank you, Sammy and Dan! And yes, definitely more in-depth reviews (especially for VN games) coming in the future!
  14. Woooo~ Happy Halloween!
  15. 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! _____ 04 _____ :: 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. _____ 05 _____ :: 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! _____ 06 _____ :: 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! _____ 07 _____ :: 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! _____ 09 _____ :: 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! _____ _____ 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
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