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  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. 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!
  3. Guest

    Vinterspelen - indie games review

    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. Bad North 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. The Stretchers 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 Developer: Simogo 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!
  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. 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!
  6. 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%!

    Afterfall - An RPG Maker Gem

    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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!
  8. 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: "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!" 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!
  9. Guest

    Devader - How to blow things up in space!

    Game: Devader Publisher: Falkenbrew Price: 12.49€ Steam Link Release Date: 2nd of Septemer 2019 Genre: Shooter, indie Devader is a game that I stumbled upon due to one of my streamer friends (thank you, Erik!) and was approached by the developer to try it out. I didn't know what to expect from it, but could see from the trailer that it was some sort of shooter in space. It is described as an "intense 90's style twin-stick shooter" and surely it does bring me back to those good old days as I play! When you start a playthrough you can choose between four difficulty levels, from beginner to insane god mode, and the goal is to keep your base alive during up to 100 waves. Now, I haven't reached the end of my first playthrough yet but according to the game description there are 19 possible endings. Which means that there is a decent amount of replayability! You can play with either keyboard + mouse or a controller, this review was done with an Xbox controller. The waves are not going to be happening one by one until the last one, but rather are set up in sets or rounds. Each round features a boss and afterwards you get to upgrade some skills before the next round, your difficulty settings decide on how many skills you get to upgrade and what kind of enemies you will face and how many waves. At the start you will also get to choose between some aid/weapons that will make it easier to protect your base. The game itself is really vibrant and colorful, with lots and lots of explosions all over the map. The map is pretty small, but you get surrounded by enemies all the friggin time so it doesn't really bother and you don't have the time to think about many things except how to kill as many enemies as quickly as possible... And avoid getting yourself killed. Because, dying is bad you know? The music and sound effects are great and really suits the game, pumping you up for the mass slaughter of your enemies! The game mechanics are easy to learn but difficult to master, which I think is great in any game! There is a story to the game, saving an ancient civilisation from the mysterious Krin... And between the rounds you get some more information about what is happening. It's not a very deep story, but still a nice touch! Did I enjoy playing this game? Hell yeah! It's not a very complex game, but neat! Was pleasantly surprised over how much fun I was having while shooting to the left and right. If you're into this type of games, I would recommend giving it a try. It is also a great game if you don't have the time to play something for several hours... Maybe you want to just stop thinking about work for 30 min? Or, maybe you just want something which is not very deep or complicated? I might add that I haven't encountered any bugs yet so the game feels very polished! Thank you for reading and a big thank you to Falkenbrew for letting me play the game! - Kyathil
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