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  1. 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!
  2. 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%!
  3. Developer: Dantat Studios Genre: Sports, Simulation, Casual Price: $14.99 Steam, $12.99 itch.io, $4.99 Google Play Grab your gear and let's go fishing! River Legends is a casual experience that has you wishing you were really out on the water—eager to reel in a lunker! Right from the get-go, you are introduced to a beautiful animation of clouds rolling left and right out of view to open up the games title screen. It's highly recommended you hit up the tutorial, this way you know what you're getting yourself into. Even though it's not a difficult game by any means, there are a few things you'll want to know before putting your waders on. I received a code for the Android version, so I'm not 100% sure how it differs on a controller, but casting and catching fish is a breeze! For casting, you select where you desire your bait to be thrown, swipe back and forth to allow distance build up, and then finish with a swipe outward toward the water. It took me a try or two to get used to the mechanic, but once you get the hang of it you'll be saying "This is the reel deal!" Catching fish had me thinking about the mechanics that Stardew Valley implement for fishing. Basically, you'll wait for a fish to swim over to your bait, and once you see little ripples you know the fish is biting, which at that point you'll swipe to hook the fish! During the "Fish On" period, you'll reel in the fish whilst keeping an eye on the tension the fish is causing to your line. Changing the pitch and releasing your finger for a split second will relieve some of the tension in case the fish pulls too hard, which they will as I've had my line snap a few times without even realizing what had happened. Adjust the pitch of the rod by positioning your finger(still holding your finger on the screen) either to the top, middle, or bottom sections of the screen. Once you've hooked a fish, finger placement does not interfere with any of the other buttons, which is great if you are a lefty like me! River Legends starts you in a little spot called Forest Pond. Here you'll get your feet wet and start catching fish to gain experience or gold, and you'll have the option to choose either per fish caught. The bigger the fish, the more experience and gold you'll have a chance to receive. Experience is mainly aimed at unlocking different fishing locales, and these different areas mean more species of fish to catch. On the flip side, earning gold will allow you to purchase specific lures and gear to aid you in your fishing adventure. Personally, I thought some of the gear you unlocked didn't make any significant difference to gameplay. For one, the polarized glasses didn't seem to make any difference in seeing what type of species or how big a fish was. Secondly, the winter coat didn't have any affect on where I would travel to either. Maybe it's just that I bought the coat early on, and never had any issues going to frigid locations because I had the gear necessary to go there. This isn't to say that all the gear was useless. Lures are a huge benefit in order to catch more and bigger fish. The boots give you the ability to travel across the water, but only in certain areas of the locale. Flashlight opens up a level of exploration as there are some caves in which hold secrets and lore. Those are just a few of the things you can buy and use, but I think it's always nice to have something to work toward regardless of how short the game may be. Traveling from spot to spot, wildlife would spring out of nowhere and was a nice little touch to the games aesthetic. Despite being a pixel art game, the developer did a great job at making the game feel as alive as if you were really outside fishing. Not to mention, there were weather patterns from rain to snow in certain areas, which again added to the appeal of the game. Meticulous detail in any game is always a plus in my book! Overall, I thought River Legends was a unique and charming experience. It's one of those games I can come back to time and time again if I'm wanting something casual to play after a longs days work. However, I can't justify if the game is worth the $15 price tag on Steam, as the game was very short and only had a few things to really work toward. To be fair, I'm unsure if there is any actual difference between the mobile version and the Steam version, so I don't want to prevent you from trying it out on PC if there happens to be additional content in which to enjoy! So, if you love the outdoors in the form of pixel art, definitely give this one a go. River Legends was given to us as a press code for reviewing purposes and we want to thank Dantat Studios for allowing us the opportunity to play and review it.
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