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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. Game: Cats in Boxes Developer: LineartLemur Release Date: November 14 2019 Play the game in browser for free here! Genre: Action Strategy Shooter 2019-12-14_18-44-30_online-video-cutter.com.mp4 Cats in boxes is a bit different from most games I review, just because of how short it is, and, well, it naturally is since it's a game jam game. It would honestly be more appropriate to think of this game as a quick little flash game you find on all those free-to-play sites, especially since you can play it from your browser, which is a really nice touch. But that's not a bad thing at all! For a few minutes of your time, it's a fun little experience! It makes you think strategically as to when where and how to place and use all your units, without overwhelming you and giving you just enough of a challenge to keep you engaged. The artstyle had a very childish hand-drawn aesthetic to it, and it just adds to it's silly and nonsensical. The cats do look kinda off but for such a simplistic and short jam game, it really wasn't an issue for me when I was playing. If anything the style just grew on me as I played, it just seems fitting for such a goofy game. There's also a brief introduction storyboard type sequence which introduces the artstyle and the very simple story. The story is virtually non-existent, it's really just a mario type story, a simple motivation to add some quick context to what you're doing. There's also a choice to play as a "Hero" or "Villain". There's no difference between them gameplay-wise, it just gives you slightly different text to read at the beginning and the end of the game. The music of Cats in Boxes is equally simple. It's just one short looping sound bite, it got a little annoying for me towards the end, but ultimately it wasn't much of a problem. The music did all it needed to do, and without it the game would feel weirdly silent. The sound effects are equally serviceable, they never got annoying for me though. Now, while there's not much to say about visuals, story or music. The real fun of the game comes from the gameplay. The way it works is that you and the opposing team have a big fish you need to defend. Whoever has the fish with the most health left by the end of the round wins, and you move onto the next of 5 levels, where I enjoyed experimenting with different strategies to defend my fish. To defend, you have 4 different feline units, a shield using cat that can block attacks from enemy cats, a knife cat that can attack by charging with it's knife, a cat that can shoot tiny fish, and a healer cat. The really interesting mechanic that Cats in Boxes uses pretty well is how deploying units works, which is pretty much the one thing that makes this game a really fun quick experience. It allows for very interesting strategies to emerge and for you to think proactively in really unique ways! So anyway, yes, this is a very short review for a very short game, but I figured it was worth it for this unexpectedly well made jam game. So go over and give the game a try for a few minutes! Tell me what you thought of Cats in Boxes in the comments below! Thanks for reading!
  5. Guest

    And they all died... Song of Horror - Episode 2

    "No way! This game is cheating! That was fine in the last episode!!" - Kyathil getting a happy surprise Publisher: Raiser Games (devs Protocol Games) Release date: 31st of October 2019 Genre: Third-person survival horror adventure Price: 7.99€/episode (season pass 21.99€) Steam Pre-words Before I start with this review I want to add a few things to my previous review of episode 1, now that I've actually replayed it (for first episode and first thoughts you can read here Song of Horror Episode 1 ). I kinda grew used to the heart beat mechanic, plus I do think it was patched up, and don't find it that problematic anymore... You simply have to "follow the beat", which is not exactly simple... Depending on the character you choose to play as, interactions and comments in the game will be a bit different. Besides, the AI changes up the game quite a bit depending on how you play it! So every playthrough will not be the same and I LOVE it! Well done, developers! Story On our protagonist's search for the missing author, we get to the antique shop which is owned by the man that sent the cursed music box... But, something doesn't seem quite right and the people are once again missing? It's up to us to figure out what has happened and find that music box! But, tread carefully, lest we might find ourselves caught by the Presence... And that is not a pleasant experience. Gameplay Before starting, we get to choose between 4 characters with their own unique stories and traits just like in the previous episode. This time we get to choose between 2 familiar faces, Sophie and Daniel, and two new ones, René and Erica. Many things are basically the same as in episode one, such as some of the different ways you can encounter the Presence and the heavy focus on solving puzzles, but there are also a couple of new things! There are new dangers and, as I got to experience myself, some things that worked in the first episode might not work in this one... Don't expect the same treatment as in the previous episode! The game tricked me, more than once (or I was naive haha)! Also, I definitely do think this episode was much harder versus the first one, and a lot scarier. The dangerous events seemed more frequent and more difficult, but this is just my own perception and cannot verify that it is actually the case. In fact, I got all of my characters killed... Twice. Yupp. There was some frustration going and perhaps the occasional Swedish curse word. The puzzles were quite varied, with some being easier to solve than others. Especially the last big puzzle was a bit confusing and took a couple of tries before I made it. Considering how the frequency of the dangerous events seemingly increasing, it did increase the tension quite a notch versus before and there was a new danger added, The Silence. Since I do want to avoid spoilers as much as I can in these reviews, I'm not going to describe it too much. However, with this new danger there is a new mechanic and I still don't really know how it works. This was basically why most of my characters died, because I just didn't understand it. In the end I simply held RT during most of these events while gently tapping LT occasionally and it seemed to work. No clue if that is what you are supposed to do though and I do genuinely think it needs a better description in the tutorial! Apart from that I was not prepared for the final push of the episode, which caused the demise of my second round of characters. As previously mentioned, this episode was definitely scarier and more tense! Bugs Yes, there were a few bugs for me. At one point a character died despite seemingly passing the dangerous event and a lot of my progress was suddenly gone when I was going back to the game after a couple of days. It was a bit annoying, since I had to redo a lot of the things. Apart from that I didn't experience anything, didn't get stuck anywhere or so! Final Thoughts Most of my experience with episode 2 was absolutely fantastic, in a pretty terrifying way! I do love the increased frequency of dangerous events, and the variations... BUT, due to the new mechanic being a bit unclear and the weird lost progress, I had to do a lot more replay than was necessary... And not by choice. I must admit that I lost some of the interest when my second round of characters died as well and had to start it all over again. Luckily, you can change the difficulty so things get easier and if you've killed off the characters like that you will know what to do next time and thus be able to get through the game much faster versus the first experience. I couldn't help but feel that I shouldn't have to replay it all if I reached the final push, but I do understand the idea with the perma death etc. It's not that I think it's bad, it just became frustrating combined with the other parts that I just mentioned. The locations look great, music and sound effects are brilliant once again... The mix of familiar with new experiences lulled you into a false safety and thus made the entire thing even scarier! Loved that part, a lot! The puzzles were pretty clever, yet fun and I definitely noticed a few references to classic horror games. Despite the parts that were less enjoyable I do think Song of Horror is my horror GOTY, or maybe it has a split place with the RE2 remake. It truly brings something new and unique to the horror game table! Thank you for letting me play this episode! For those of you interested, the next episode is released on Friday 13th... Can't wait to see what lurks in the new shadows! Yes, there is a high chance that I will do a live stream of it then! /Kyathil
  6. 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!
  7. Guest

    I Gave It My All - Cathedral review

    Publisher: Decemberborn Interactive Release date: 31st of October 2019 Genre: 2D-platformer Price: 13.99€ Steam link Pre-words My intention was to review this several weeks ago, even pre-release... But, that sadly didn't happen due to a number of different reasons. Firstly, my October was really busy with all of the horror games I was trying out. Secondly, the weekend I had planned to dive deep into the game I got really sick. Lastly, after several attempts at playing the game I realized that this game was simply not for me... Which really doesn't mean that the game is bad or anything, in fact there are so many things I can really appreciate with it despite not enjoying it myself. I'll do my very best to describe why I think it's a well-made game and also why it didn't suit my palette. Kind of a different review this time, eh?! Gameplay Cathedral is another of those "character wakes up not remembering much and gotta explore the world to escape from current location" kind of games, which works well considering the premise of exploring up to 600 rooms that will feature different kinds of challenges. Some rooms feature challenges in the form of enemies, or a boss, some got some puzzles to solve, others have some kind of platforming related issues to tackle and yet some contain a bit of everything. The controls are relatively easy, but hard to master, and as such there is no big tutorial (it's not really needed). The game is heavily inspired by good old platformers like Castlevania and Metroid (not the modern versions) and does remind me a little of games like Shovel Knight and The Messenger (both are also retro style platformers). Even the music is retro style, using absolutely brilliant 8-bit music throughout the experience, which I personally really appreciated! They've been going in heavy with the contrast in the color scheme, which did add to the nostalgia but also was something my eyes didn't appreciate that much. The world is supposed to be huge, at least 600 rooms to discover after all, and features different kinds of NPCs... Sadly I never got to meet up with any and cannot comment on dialouge, eventual side quests and so on. You are also going to get better weapons, armor, abilities etc that will make your progress easier and also change up the gameplay a bit. Once again, I didn't get very far and thus cannot really comment on what the abilities are like, the fairness of weapons etc. The enemies are pretty varied and there is also plenty of them, adding something unique to each room you pass through. Final Thoughts At first glance I really thought Cathedral was going to be a game that I would really enjoy, seeing as I really loved Ori and the Blind Forest and Hollow Knight. Note that I never really played many platformers, such as Metroid, as a kid. Challenging bosses, puzzles, etc are all things that I really appreciate in games... Yet I just didn't enjoy this one. I remember a specific room where you have to hurry up and unlock parts of the room while a roof with spikes is crashing down and I died so many times and just didn't want to continue.Your jumps are really high in this game and most of the time I died because I jumped straight into the roof and couldn't choose to jump a little bit lower. I just didn't like that and there was a similar situation when I played Incubo which resulted in me never finishing the game. I'm all for hard boss fights, but when the fight is against the environment I just loose interest. I guess I'm more into boss battlers than hardcore platformers! Because Cathedral is definitely a hardcore platformer game. Just because I struggled with this particular game doesn't mean it's a bad one, it simply didn't suit my taste. There are so many things that I can appreciate with it, such as the retro style music and graphics that they completely nailed. It feels like you're getting warped back in time to the 90s when you play it, and in a good way! The controls are simple and didn't experience any glithes or bugs, overall it was a smooth experience and it truly feels like a polished and well-made game! I can definitely recommend this game to people that enjoy games such as Shovel Knight, old Castlevania, Metroid and similar. It will be a pretty nice challenge for you!
  8. CROGGS

    KnifeBoy - A strange MetroidVania

    Game: KnifeBoy Developer: Karl Rune Peter Fredriksson Release Date: October 18 2019 Buy the game on Steam here! Genre: MetroidVania Adventure So! KnifeBoy! It's a weird-ass game (as you can see from its screenshots) made by Karl Rune Peter Fredriksson , it has a very strange atmosphere to it with surreal visuals and music that makes you feel like you're in some alien world and lends itself to a very unique experience, but beyond that, it's honestly just a mediocre MetroidVania. Now, I don't consider myself a huge fan of the MetroidVania genre, but if you put a good MetroidVania in front of me, I'll have a dandy ol' time. I grew up playing lots of games that had you accessing new areas with new abilities and stuff, like The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and even more recent games like Shovel Knight I love finding secret areas with some kind of new ability or item I have. When done well, the sense of progression in these games feels very deserved and satisfying when you finally see what's behind those boulders you've passed like 50 times now. Doing this well isn't the easiest thing in the world though, a lot of things have to go right to have the player really get that feeling. What this game excels at though is the whole strange, surreal look and feel of everything. I really like games like this, games like LISA and artists like Jack Stauber, do an incredible job of just making people revel in the absolute chaos and 'what the fuck is happening' of it all, and at many points, KnifeBoy does just as well. Karl's creativity really shines through in a lot of really shocking and unexpected ways, nothing was off-limits, and he just did whatever the hell he wanted, and I just loved it. That said though, it did still suffer from a lot of problems. The visuals, which I can only describe as strange, is the first thing you'll notice. It has an admittedly amateurish feel to it, but that doesn't mean it looks bad, not at all! A lot of the visuals look great and fit the theming of the game perfectly! They create a chilling atmosphere of a weird alien world with intrigue and oddities everywhere. The game seems to have a solely comic book style to it at the beginning, it mostly retains this style, but noticeably diverges from this in many parts pretty effectively, only adding to the chaos of it all, with some assets being pngs of actual real-life rock faces, which I thought was pretty funny. The use of light is also used especially well to just keep building that odd atmosphere. The character designs are pretty much strictly comic book looking, which Karl's done a good job with! The designs themselves range from strange, to typical comic book supervillain, to gorey, to delightfully absurd, to sexual (if there's any rule 34 artists reading this, you'll have a field day with this game). The most confusing design of all though in my opinion is that of KnifeBoy himself, like, there's some pretty weird stuff in this game, but I still genuinely have no idea how Karl came up with the idea of having a giant blade coming out of a guy's forehead. It fits the weird theme of the game alright, but the giant blade as next to no real purpose, it's never used and rarely mentioned, with the only time it ever becomes relevant being with his spin attack and overdrive attack. And I've always wondered, how is going through doorways with his head? How uncomfortable is it to sleep? And wow that musta been hella painful for his mom. WE WANT ANSWERS KARL!... or at least I want answers Alright, anyway, the story in KnifeBoy is one thing that, at least the steam page seems to pride itself on, which is weird to me, because in my opinion, the story was probably the weakest part of the whole game. The biggest problem, at least for me, is how overwhelming the game is with introducing new characters, organizations, and places. The opening cutscene just name drops 8 different things within less than a minute, then just throws you into the world, and it continues to do this kind of thing throughout the game, making following the plot really hard. Or maybe I'm just a big dumb idiot who can't process more than 2 things at a time, I dunno, but that was my experience. Anyway, the plot basically comes down to "save girlfriend from the big bad", with an even more generic evil shadowy organization, which is anonymous for some reason, I thought it would be some social commentary about the dangers of hackers or something, but I didn't see any of that in my playthrough, the fact that the big bad is anonymous never plays into the narrative or gameplay at all during my playthrough, it could have just as easily been the lamp fan club or something. The ending was also really unsatisfying and made no sense to me, it just abruptly ends out of nowhere, with nothing being resolved and almost nothing being revealed. Something else that is supposed to add to the story are comic book pages which you can find throughout the game, which reveal KnifeBoy's past, and there is a full legitimate comic which serves as in interesting look into the past, and although it is at times unnecessary, not giving insight into the game itself, it is an interesting read. I just wish there was more done within the game since it was an admittedly boring change of pace to sit down and read an almost full-length comic. The game does shine with storytelling in a few spots, and it isn't usually with dialogue or cutscenes, but with the world itself, with boss designs, environments and secrets. Little sprinkles of lore that made me intrigued by who the bosses are and why they are where they are, it made me imagine what their stories could possibly be. My favourite character is actually one that you can only briefly meet twice, Karl Skandal, but whose personality, knowledge, location and design made him really interesting to me. The gameplay of KnifeBoy is pretty standard Metroidvania punching and jumping with some abilities thrown into the mix. However, the level design can sometimes be frustrating, with platforms being just too short to reach with a normal jump, but feel like overkill to use a double jump on. Then there are other platforms with spikes that are just awkward to get through. But the worst of this is the overworld, where unnecessary obstacles and platforms are just placed around at what looks like random, which makes going from place to place in the overworld frustrating and unsatisfying. The attacks are also pretty unbalanced and lead to some pretty repetitive fights, one ability you have from the beginning, the "overdrive" ability is treated like a super-powerful burst of energy you can only use a few times. But in practice, you have to be really precise with how you hit things with it, it forces you to stop making you unnecessarily vulnerable, and was completely useless in boss fights since it did just as much as your standard punch attack. The punch attack is also pretty overpowered, especially for your first attack given, you can stay suspended in the air for a while just by spamming the punch button and it seems to do more damage than the overdrive in boss battles, I always end up resorting to just punching since it's easy to control, does the most damage, has no cooldown and has a relatively generous range. Using other attacks and abilities you get just open you up to getting hit, with no benefit in damage, speed or controllability, with the dash you get near the beginning being a small exception. Overall, fighting just got boring for me, cause the best way to do it was to just spam the punch button with no strategy involved. On one other small note, there is a day/night system in KnifeBoy where certain areas are inaccessible during the day or night, this was just really annoying in my experience, and didn't add anything to the game. Although the game looks beautiful at night. Boss battles, however, were pretty fun, they were a highlight of the whole experience for me, boss battles in this game are a culmination of all the stuff I like about this game! Bat shit crazy stuff happening, you wondering what the lore behind each boss is with their weird designs and environments, fun and satisfying platforming, and secrets which, if found, let you straight up skip some boss fights. My only problem with them though is the same issue I was talking about in the last paragraph, they all just devolved to spamming the punch button, cause nothing else was worth the effort or risk. I also wish that bosses had more plot relevance, and had some build up so that I at least had an idea of who I would fight before getting there, but that's a relatively small problem. The music, OH THE MUSIC! The music is probably the most well-done thing in this game, I don't know if it's just my weird-ass taste in music, but, like 90% of the songs either fulfill their purpose perfectly in setting the atmosphere and feel of an area, or are just straight bangers. Karl can make you feel paranoid, scared, intrigued, excited, whatever he wants, the music in KnifeBoy is one of the reasons I kept playing and was excited and determined to continue despite all of its problems. Karl should definitely upload or release the soundtrack for the game because I would honestly add some of the tracks to my playlist. Now, the biggest problem by far in KnifeBoy is how unpolished and buggy the whole game is. Bugs were so frequent that I sometimes honestly wonder if Karl even playtested the game himself. From being warped inside of walls when going through doors, to straight-up losing abilities you need to beat the game forever for no reason, to parts of the map that are straight-up incomplete, to buggy and jittery movement on awkward terrain, to dying by going through doors, to being able to go through objects when paused, to being able to walk around on loading screens, to tons of grammar and spelling problems, to crouching being buggy, to certain abilities being buggy in certain areas. There are so many problems, I've had to restart my playthrough from the beginning 3 separate times because of softlocks to do this review. After losing an ability I needed to finish the game which I lost for good out of nowhere again, I even tried contacting Karl, which was very hard to do (open up your dms on twitter man pls). I needed to press F7 which brought the ability back for some reason? There was no way that I saw, that the player would know to do this, so, if unless you're lucky and know about the F7 thing, beating the game would literally be impossible, to no fault of your own. Overall, KnifeBoy is a really interesting game for its weird atmosphere alone, but doesn't really hold up otherwise, with its many problems outweighing the good things about the game in my opinion. My experience with KnifeBoy was frustrating and unsatisfying, but it definitely still has value in its unique feel, kick-ass music and occasional nice little moments. Tell me what you think in the comments! If you've played KnifeBoy, do you agree? Thanks for reading! You can follow Karl on twitter @KarlKaze
  9. Guest

    Song of Horror - Episode 1

    "I am not going to play more horror games until after New Year's Eve" - Kyathil pre discovery of Song of Horror Publisher: Raiser Games (devs Protocol Games) Release date: 31st of October 2019 Genre: Third-person survival horror adventure Price: 7.99€/episode (season pass 21.99€) Steam Pre-words First of all, I really didn't have the intention of reviewing yet another horror game... But, I really couldn't resist this one. I'm kind of amazed since this game somehow dodged my radar until shortly before the release. Song of Horror has been under development since 2014, by the Spanish based studio Protocol Games, with a whole lot of ups and downs in the process. They attempted to fund the game using Kickstarter twice, but both attempts were unfortunately unsuccessful which obviously had a big impact for the future of the game (in fact many considered it cancelled since nothing seemed to be happening for quite some time). There was also a change of publisher along the road. I personally really admire the decision to keep on going with the development, finding new ways to make their dream game come true, despite these bumps in the road. Yay for not giving up! On Halloween they released the first 2 episodes of the game, with more to come in the future! Story The famed writer Sebastian P. Husher has gone missing, along with his entire family. Worried, his editor sent an assistant to his house in order to look for him – but he never came back… These disappearances spark a set of events that will soon reveal something dreadful: a nameless, eldritch entity known only as the Presence seems to be responsible – and it’s still somewhere, out there, lurking in the shadows, awaiting you… You may die, but the horror continues – others will pick the investigation up from where you left it until you all find out the origin of The Presence and put an end to this nightmare. Visuals&Sound Most of the eerie atmosphere of the game comes from the sound and visuals. Visually the game looks very realistic to the environment, with great lightning and shadows, which helps the player immerse themselves into the game. However, the characters themselves look a little bit off in comparison and not nearly as realistic with pretty wonky facial animations in cut scenes. This might be intentional, can't really tell, and it doesn't have a huge impact on the game and didn't remove the spookiness , but it was something that stood out as I was playing. The sound effects are absolutely fantastic, with realistic noises from doors, clocks and what not and the sound track features some really creepy, but cute (?), melodies. Gameplay A famous author has gone missing, his assistant who was supposed to find him never returns and the only logical conclusion is for you to follow in their footsteps. Survival instincts are never great in horror games! The game is very story-driven, with the character(s) investigating what's going on at the house of previously mentioned writer. You're off to discover what kind of horror lurks around, but also a bit about the people affected by it. Before the episode starts you get to choose between a couple of different characters, with different associations to the house and the missing people, that will serve as your investigator. The characters have different backgrounds, personalities and personal possessions that will have a certain impact on your game experience. If any of the characters die, you will get to choose a new one that will pick up the torch from the deceased one. I did read that deceased characters might return at a later point, probably in a future episode, but how or why that would happen I cannot tell! Paying homage to the 90s, A Song of Horror uses a third-person perspective and a semi frozen camera angle which definitely gave some cosy, nostalgic, flash backs to old classics like the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The third-person perspective did make the game a bit less scary for me personally, but not in a bad way. It actually felt really nice not having jump scares served in your face every now and then, like so many modern horror games do! Not that the game won't provide you with some scares at all, mind you... Some were so clever and unexpected that I almost jumped. H. P. Lovecraft 's work has also been a big inspiration for the story and mechanics of the the game. There is, of course, the Presence... A mysterious entity that seems to be chasing the characters and for some reason resides in the house you're investigating. Several people are missing, most likely connected to this entity. There are objects that seem to resonate with the otherworldly and paranormal events that will send chills down the spines of yourself and the character you play as. But, in order to really convey this fear to the players themselves they cleverly added things such as a heart beat, vibrating with your controller, whenever your character is unnerved. I'm convinced that sometimes this was added just to spook the player, while everything being perfectly safe in the game itself! However, tread carefully as you investigate this mystery. You never know what lurks behind a door or corner and carelessness will punish you.... There are two things that the devs high lighted a lot in this game, the behaviour of the Presence and that the actions of your characters will affect future events. Apparently the AI for the Presence will note how players tackle obstacles in the game and adapt accordingly, making the game experience a bit different depending on your play style. This was not something I reflected upon a lot as I was playing, but when I watched other people play the game I did notice a some differences! It actually made me wanna give the game another whirl with a character I haven't played as, yet, and try to change my own play style a bit in order to see how different the game experience will be. Needless to say, I really love this aspect! With regards to actions potentially affecting future events I cannot judge, since I only played one episode so far, but looking forward to see if my actions so far will affect future episodes! Bugs I didn't encounter a lot of bugs as I was playing, but there were a few and I do think they are worth mentioning. A few times it seemed like the marker for interactable objects glitched out and either didn't disappear after doing one-time interactions or you could see a marker, but not interact with it. Additionally I got stuck in stair cases a couple times, it was almost as if the characters simply tried to nope out from the game. Definitely not judging them for wanting do that, would do the same! It even caused me some stress during a tense situation, where I wanted to quickly get away but was quickly very stuck instead. Final Thoughts Most of the controls and mechanics worked smoothly, but a few were a little clunky such as a certain heart beat mechanism... This and the bugs could definitely be improved. All in all though, this is a really well made horror game. I absolutely loved the focus on solving a mystery, the story, the 90s vibes, the characters and their quirks, and most of the puzzles. It's spooky and creepy, sometimes also pretty darn scary, without being downright terrifying as some other horror games are. It offers plenty of replayability, both with the adaptive AI and the different play styles of the characters. It didn't feel like a haunted house experience, where you simply wait for the next scare, instead every puzzle piece you put together invoke a curiosity for the next one and a determination to solve the case! Looking forward to playing the next episode and want to thank Protocol Games for providing Indie Forged with a key!
  10. 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!
  11. 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!
  12. Game: Shadow Developer: Grit Release Date: Early 2020 Play the demo for free on itch.io! Current Version: D1.15 Genre: Spooky open-world survival I've never been a huge fan of indie horror games, they usually rely very heavily on jump scares and are usually really boring and generic. Relatively simple games like Five Nights at Freddy's and Slender: The Eight Pages have inspired a lot of games copying only the most surface-level parts of these games, making games that have little to no effective atmosphere, or suspense. They decide to use an overabundance of gore, jump scares and a lot of pointless walking around, ignoring world-building, exploration and building that sense of dread and suspense only the best games can truly conjure in most players. And although Shadow is just a demo, in that simple 10-minute experience, this game never used jump scares or gore, which have become, in my opinion, very overused in games today, instead intentionally leaning more towards creating a sense of paranoia and an atmospheric unease in the player as they explore the island. With the developer, Grit promising to only expand on these ideas in the final build, with a bigger world, more things to interact with, and a smarter monster. The art style of the game is very simplistic and low poly, the style is executed well and looks professional. This simplistic style serves the game well, it was obvious to me what is what, making navigation and recognition very easy. This simplicity also made exploration, the main game mechanic, a lot more satisfying, as special attention has been paid to make sure each area of the island is distinct and can be told apart, with the easily accessible map only adding to this fact. This art style did take away from the suspense and dread I assume I was supposed to feel with the non-threatening textures and shapes around me, but it seems to be the feel the game is going for, and if that's the case, it does its job well there too. The game itself is very simple in what the objective is. You have to find green cubes to power a battery, which powers a boat, which lets you leave the island. Doing this just involves walking around the island and look for the many green cubes around the map. They can be found throughout the unique parts of the island, either behind rocks, in the middle of some trees, in a house, and on bridges. The fact that there are more cubes than you need to collect scattered across the map lead to each playthrough being unique, one person who plays might find the village, while another might never see that area, but find the winter area, or the rocky cliff, or the cabin in the woods, or the forest. Exploration is certainly rewarded here, and even thinking outside the box with one certain area. This also allows for multiple playthroughs, where you can explore the entirety of the island, this concept will surely be expanded on in the full version. My hope is that more varied and interesting locations will be added, where little pieces of lore may be hinted at through the environment and more interesting environments, or even more of a sense of direction when you first start, since when I first started playing and wandering around, I found myself getting bored, and almost had to force myself to continue. Having an engaging beginning is key to any game, and if not done right means that players won't see the majority of the game. One thing that this game has that many other similar indie titles lack is multiplayer! Multiplayer can be a great extension to your experience or alternative play-style, experiencing horror type media with friends transforms into a new comedic experience that only other people can offer. Combining this with a system that requires both people to work together can also amplify your enjoyment of the game altogether, but only when executed properly. And Shadow certainly doesn't do a bad job of integrating multiplayer! In single-player, your left and right hand have different functionalities, it would be quite difficult, or impossible to play without one of your hands. The game uses this concept and gives each player the function of one hand, therefore rewarding cooperation and staying together. This dynamic did a good job at mimicking everything single player does well, but with a friend (or maybe they're not a friend, I dunno who you play with). It also allowed for some fun, playful situations to ensue between me and my friend. It does, unfortunately, require you to have a controller, which not everyone has, limiting who can play multiplayer. There should be some other way to split the keyboard to accommodate a second player like a lot of flash games do. The monster that chases you is a basic generic monster with red eyes, the simplicity of the monster complements the simplicity of the overall game though, and its appearance alone makes it obvious that it is something to be avoided. It also has a weakness you can exploit, where you charge up a beam of light to temporarily stun it. This basic mechanic seemed fine enough at first, but as I played through the game more, I realized that the monster was unfairly hard to see coming at times. When I looked around me to see if it was near me, I sometimes wouldn't see it, even though it was relatively close, but it was facing away from me or behind a tree or rock or house, giving me a false sense of security, then suddenly dying to it without enough time to react. This got especially frustrating with closed quarters in the village, with me dying over and over and over with seemingly no way to stop it. Changes for the monster are planned for the final build though, so I'm definitely looking forward to that. Overall, Shadow is a game that's fun to play and has a lot of promise, with many of the problems in the demo planned to be fixed in the full version. I, personally am looking forward to the future of Shadow and what it'll have in store with these mechanics and the great sense of exploration Grit has already made, a more polished version of this demo with more content sounds awesome. Tell me what you think about the demo in the comments below! I know the developer would love all the feedback he can get! Thanks for reading! You can follow the developer on twitter at @GAMEdevOVER
  13. There are always indie games on sale. If you spot one, post it here!!
  14. 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%!
  15. CROGGS

    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!
  16. I. BASIC INFORMATION :: Game Title Reanimation Scheme :: Genre Visual Novel Otome (GxB, GxG) :: Developer Wind Chimes Games Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Discord :: Platform PC (Windows/ Mac/ Linux) :: Availability Itch.io Free Demo :: Release Q4 2020 :: Rating Teen mild swearing, death, alcohol, blood, and violence :: Trailer II. DEMO REVIEW In this fantasy otome Visual Novel (VN), you play as Raenelle Talisko (first name changeable), a necromancer in the Kingdom of Nalenshir where magic is an integral part of the country. Raenelle’s job as a Reanimator requires her to reanimate corpses of the recently deceased in order to help them fulfill their final wishes. She is not very enthusiastic about her job and looks forward to getting a promotion to a different job. However, any plans for her career progression is soon disrupted when a regular spirit summoning ritual held one morning went awry. And that marks the start of a curious journey where Raenelle has to join the other mages in discovering the cause behind all death mages’ sudden inability to summon any spirit. :: Visual Aspect TLDR; Overall Impression: GOOD Unless you are particularly averse to anime-style art, you would not be disappointed with the quality presented in the VN. Although there may be some minor things that can be further improved, the visuals are consistently shown to have been handled with the utmost care and thought. Starting from the User Interface (UI) design, Reanimation Scheme already sets out to give us a visual treat. Apart from looking clean and neat, the UI is also highly customized to fit the story setting itself. The “Load”, “Settings”, “Extras” (which holds the “Gallery”, “Music”, and even “Achievements”), and “Help” menu screens are designed as a little ornate spellbook with a little surprise: the eyes of the skull would light up as you hover over other menu options. It is also wonderful that the infinite save slots feature from Ren’Py has been retained. My only complaints with the menus is with the small font size used and the lack of an obvious “Return” button – it took me a while to realize that I could click anywhere outside of the book to return to the game. Thankfully, the font size is larger in the actual dialogue boxes so there is no need for me to squint, though I think it can still afford to be bigger for a more comfortable read. Still, because the protagonist’s side sprite is always visible and most of the screen elements are always visually the same, I sometimes find it difficult to immediately register who is talking. The partial voice acting does help in recognizing the current speaker but alas, because it is only partial, there are still dialogue lines with no voice at all. In contrast, the “History” log, even at a glance, is much easier for discerning speakers with the different character’s names clearly marked with their own colors. I also love the customized Choice screen, where there is a friendly prompt provided at the top and Raenelle stands in the middle surrounded by choices contained in thought bubbles. As someone who sometimes forgets what the last dialogue before the choices was about, I find the concise prompt a real savior. Nevertheless, I wish the hover over effect for the current choice selection could be more visually distinctive. Moving on to character and background (BG) art, I must say I am impressed with their quality. The main characters’ sprites are given plenty of posture, facial expression, and clothing variations. Character sprites are used meticulously and purposefully along with the story; for instance, if you catch someone blatantly looking away during your chat with someone else, then they are indeed not paying attention to the two of you. Characters not only blink but they also appear bigger when they come closer to you. They also take hesitant steps at times and then dash out, albeit rather too quickly, of the room at other times. They can even juggle items across their open palms! The combined use of sprites and animation is amusingly creative and very much on point with the story events. In the demo, minor side characters are represented with black silhouettes. While I do look forward to seeing fully detailed sprites for them as well, the silhouette stand-ins are still a welcomed addition as opposed to having no visual representation at all. I personally would rather speak to a faceless silhouette than to thin air, after all. Plenty of small visual additions have been put in place to spice up the entire storytelling. From swirling mists to illustrations of smaller objects like potion bottles and magic runes, every visual implementation is a testament to the great amount of work put in to give readers a more enjoyable reading experience. If I really have to nitpick, I would say I would like to see the magic runes shine a little more. Alas, the visual part of the novel will not be complete without the detailed BG art, which includes day and night variants to suit the time of the day in the story. Other than the text overlays for shop signages that do not quite blend in with the illustration, the BG art gives a beautiful representation for the various locations present in the Kingdom of Nalenshir. :: Audio Aspect TLDR; Overall Impression: OKAY Music is considerably the best part of the demo’s audio aspect, though sound effects and partial voice acting have also played their part in bringing the story to life. The demo features six background music (BGM) and one instrumental theme track, all of which are composed by Alcaknight. I find all of them pleasant to listen to – none of them is strikingly memorable but none is awful either – and they fit the various moods of the story well. My current favorite is Raenelle’s Theme; I could stay on the Title screen for some time just to hear the instrumental theme on repeat! As with other VNs, sound effects (SFX) have been added to enhance the storytelling. They are all basic SFX, such as a simple door close and sound for spells, but they do add appropriate flavor to the story. I appreciate the chatter BG noise used to indicate a noisy environment, though I find the looping clip used for the busy teleportation square too short, which results in me having to listen to the chickens cackle constantly for that scene (or at least, I think they were chickens). I am not a fan of partial voice acting but I find it still okay in the demo, mainly because I noticed there are some variations in the same recorded phrase used for some of the characters, such as Raenelle’s friendly “Sebastien” and angry “Sebastien!” as well as Lord Waven’s neutral “Hmm” and questioning “Hmm?”. However, these variations are not numerous and I sometimes find myself hearing a voice clip that does not quite fit the tone of the text (cue Lord Waven’s forever angry “Hmph!”). :: Characters TLDR; Overall Impression: GOOD All characters have distinct individuality and their own personal issues to deal with. Because they have their own strengths and weaknesses, there is healthy room for character development yet. Even though the characters are somewhat molded after common stereotypes, they can still be told apart by their unique personalities. The characters certainly have a mind of their own and they each have their own problems to face. Raenelle, the protagonist, is someone with strong opinions and is not shy to stand up for herself against any unreasonable nonsense that others threw at her. On the whole, I find Raenelle a woman with decent sense, even though I do not quite agree with her frequent whines about her job. Her complaints show that she is only human but I hope Raenelle will actually do something about her job along the way. As for romance, given her personality and background, I am generally expecting a less wishy-washy and more mature approach to relationship from Raenelle. For now, there are two male and one female love interests (LIs). First, we have Raenelle’s friend, Aldrias Varet, an intelligent, good-natured, and soft-spoken person who likes to spend his free time pouring over books. Then, we have Kierdan Waven, a skilled ice mage, who is a serious man of few words but wields a commanding air around him. Finally, there is Lyrissa Yirath, a bubbly life mage who is a sweetheart determined to pave her own path in life. My initial bias is Kierdan as he falls into the same general category as my other favorite otome LIs. But his “you are not allowed to pry into my business but I can pry into yours” attitude is rather off-putting. I find myself having the tendency to make Raenelle react more forcefully when it comes to interacting with Lord Waven. After all, it is really satisfying to see Raenelle giving Lord Waven a piece of her mind. My only worry is that those choices would inevitably land me on a Bad End. Through the demo, I have taken a liking to Lyrissa. Aldrias, on the other hand, despite looking dashing in his formal wear, did not quite leave a special impression on me. As for the other two potential LIs that would be added if the Kickstarter stretch goals are reached, I can only say Jori Halwin really left a deep impression. Jori’s apparently irresponsible attitude irks me a lot and I am at a loss of words for his brand of humor. Sebastien, though having a sharp tongue, is notably less annoying than Jori is. That said, I do not find these characters bad; in fact, I think they are well-crafted if they can evoke emotions in us as much as real people do. :: Writing TLDR; Overall Impression: OKAY In general, the writing is well edited although there are times when overly packed sentences impede the reading flow. World-building is consistent but perhaps further explanations about the world can be supplied. In spite of the occasional presence of confusingly long sentences that require a re-read (or two), the writing is generally polished. There may still be minor typos to smooth out and awkward phrasings to improve here and there, but there is nothing too damaging to the reading experience. As far as the premise goes, I find it decent. I do not recall having came across a protagonist who is a necromancer before. However, it is still too early to say whether this would set the story apart from the others. When it comes to presenting Nalenshir, the three chapters in the demo show quite clearly – with the prevalence of communication mirrors, potions, and teleportation circles – how magic is fundamental in the Kingdom. The main thing I found unclear is whether everyone in Nalenshir has inherent magical abilities or there are folks who cannot wield any magic at all. Overall, I find the world-building pretty consistent; there are certainly parts that I find vague but nothing seems to stand out as contradictory. While the schools of magic present in the story are quite common, I think it would be nice to include an in-game list of key definitions for major things relevant to Reanimation Scheme’s world. Still, I look forward to seeing how the mystery of the failed spirit summoning rituals would be handled in the final full version. How deep is the mystery going to be? Will there be surprising twists awaiting us? Last but not least, how will each character’s route be contributing to unraveling the mystery meaningfully? :: Closing Remarks Despite containing only three chapters, Reanimation Scheme demo really shines with its fantastic visuals, lovely music, promising story premise, and lively characters. Even though the LIs fall into common stereotypes and may thus make the romance routes somewhat predictable, I still think Reanimation Scheme has the potential to tell a memorable tale of its own. Reanimation Scheme is currently on Kickstarter with around one week left to go! It is currently fully funded but there are still exciting Stretch Goals waiting to be reached. Be sure to check it out and help spread the word if you wish to support this otome VN project.
  17. 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
  18. Key Info: Developer/Publisher: Robotality/Chucklefish Ltd Genre: RPG, Rogue-Lite, Turn Based Strategy Price: £12.99 (Steam) Overview: Pathway will instantly remind you of certain cult-status franchises (yeah, I’m looking at you Indiana Jones), both through its aesthetics and the story events that you stumble upon while you’re playing, and given some of the events I found while playing, I’m certain there is more than the odd dedicated homage to old Indie. Pathway is a mix of genres, having the fast playability but 'one attempt' gameplay of a rogue-lite, the progression and equipment management of a friendly RPG, and an easy to grasp turn based combat that all combines to create a game that is pretty much perfect if you’re looking to kill a couple of hours while also getting a sense of achievement from your time. Review: Within the game there are currently five ‘adventures’ to play through, providing the overriding narrative to the actions that you take on the world map, and giving the player an end goal to work towards, and these adventures are played out over an expansive ‘world map’ where the pathway to victory is left for the player to decide. Given that there are around 30 individual locations on the first map of the first adventure, which acts as a sort of introduction to the game, and on the second adventure their are multiple maps, each with in excess of 30 individual locations each offering different tactical battles, narrative text book choices or events, and a range of traders, there is plenty of scope here to play through the same adventure more than once and experience a different journey to the final destination. Before each adventure you’ll be asked to build your team from a roster of companions, each filling slightly different roles on a battlefield or unlocking different options through the storybook events, so you do need to choose wisely up front as this team will need to take you through the whole adventure, barring some occasions that the story results in a fourth member offering to squad up with you. There’s a solid roster of 16 playable characters, each of which differ in their role and abilities from each other, which when combined into a trio to take on the bad guys offers a different tactical way to approach the adventures, personally I'm taking a mixture of short and medium range weapons (think shotguns and assault rifles) while also making sure I've got a few bandages and grenades for when need arises. A great deal of these companions are only unlocked after completing certain parts of the game, or meeting other pre-requisites, such as looting a particular item (for example the Disintegrator unlocks Bellamy), and so there's a steady introduction to more varied members and options, but it also ensures that you aren't overwhelmed upfront through choice, as the gradual introduction allows a chance to recognise where certain skills and abilities come in useful. Speaking of skills and abilities, the skill trees for each adventurer aren’t the most in depth that have even been seen in a RPG, but they do give enough choice to tweak each of them to the playstyle and role you’d like to focus on in the tactical battles, and you will want to specialise your adventurers as they level up, because without competent armour repairs, healers or damage dealers you can very quickly find yourself in a tough spot after battling through a few encounters! As you would expect progression is permanent, so the levels and perks (and inventory) gained through one adventure will carry on through to the next, and while you’ll need to spread the love, giving different characters some game time, to get the whole roster levelled up, it’s a solid form of permanency that shows some long term reward for players. Combat is pretty straightforward but also very quick in the main, feeling like short quick skirmishes rather than protracted or overly complicated affairs, especially as some of the 'random' encounters can be over and done with in the space of a few short minutes. The basics will instantly be picked up by any Turn Based Strategy player; try and stick to cover, get your lines of sight to increase the chances of hitting an enemy, flank where possible, use abilities in conjunction for greater effect and bring enemies down with a focussed effort rather than spreading fire amongst a wider number of foes, as it really helps getting the amount of incoming damage reduced as quickly as possible! There are some times when combat can feel a little repetitive, especially where you end up triggering the ‘random’ event skirmishes, because these can often feel like a slightly different version of the battle you had only a few minutes before, however, given that the battles only last a matter of minutes I don’t have any major gripes, and the attrition they place upon your band of adventurers makes choosing the right time to heal and repair feel like a strategic choice. The bigger battles though, those that act as story progression and main events, they do offer a real challenge on some well designed maps. You'll come across ever increasing bad odds, where there are more enemies to face, usually of more varying specialities, higher levels, and they hit far harder and take more of a beating to get down than in the random encounters. The main map will highlight these with markers above the location before you reach them, and I'd suggest making sure you don't turn up with your armour half destroyed and bullet holes riddled throughout your adventurers body! I haven’t mentioned the replayability of the game yet, but it’s clear that the options are available for multiple playthroughs of varying challenge, as you can tweak adventures to have more enemies during the battles, you can begin with reduced supplies for healing and repairing, and less fuel that's needed to move through the map, as well as a generic ‘difficulty’ slider to just crank the toughness of enemies up even without increasing the number of them. I found that on the standard settings it’s easily doable to complete a pathway through one of the maps in under two hours, acting as a nice time to hang up the keyboard and mouse for the evening, but if you're in for a longer playthrough you can start cranking up the difficulty. Summary: I had great fun tumbling through an open desert, watching Nazi’s get disintegrated when they opened up ancient sarcophagi (there’s old Indiana Jones again!), and for a tactical game actually found the experience more relaxing and entertaining than some of those that really emphasise the nuances and depth that can be found within the genre. Overall, Pathway is an entertaining game, perfectly suited for starting, and finishing, something in one sitting, but where you can return at any point and not have to truly start over again because of the progression mechanics, so grab your Stetson & whip and jump in! HappyFeet
  19. Key Info: Developer: Raymond Doerr (SixtyGig Games) Genre: God-Like, City Management, Tower Defense Price: £11.39 (Steam Link) Overview: Rise to Ruins is a brilliant mix of the city building & tower defense genres, with a hint of god-like features, where you aim to establish well rounded towns in a world blighted by the ‘corruption’, essentially all manner of walking dead and monsters aiming to take control of the map that you also want to keep for yourself. Worked upon by Raymond Doerr since it’s initial early access release in 2014 Rise to Ruins finally received its 1.0 update and full release on the 14th October. In Depth: The game offers it’s players the opportunity to choose from 45 Locations on the World Map to begin setting up their initial base, all of which have different layouts and their own challenges for players to overcome, whether it’s a lack of certain resources or terrain that offer no obvious ‘nice’ places to start from, where you could reasonably grab a stretch of land that is easily defensible. Though the World Map also serves to function as a longer term campaign for players to work their way through, as once you’ve got an initial base established and producing resources you can look at having your villagers emigrate to begin populating another village on a different map, in fact as the corruption begins to push too hard in one map the aim appears to be to pick up sticks and move on to somewhere a little less tainted to carry on. More locally the aim on any specific map is to carve out a stretch of untainted land to establish your village in safely, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can aim to begin pushing the corruption back, although completely cleansing a map doesn't seem to be a game design, and this is where one of the biggest balancing acts comes into your decision making. The corruption will continue to spread across a map if left unchecked, and as it continues to spread the land available to you lessens, while also increasing the number of enemies that will crash upon your defenses night after night in an attempt to destroy your village, however, if the corruption isn’t able to expand as it wants to the waves of enemies that besiege your village will increase in difficulty, and so you are left with the tough ask of finding that sweet spot in between that doesn’t allow the corruption and its minions to overwhelm your defenses. City building and management is deep and meaningful, with actual choices to be made as you are limited in how quickly you can expand through a building support limit, as well as through the actual villagers available to you to fill these workers slots. Building also serves a secondary purpose, and that is expanding the area in which you’re able to build in, initially you’ll be given an ‘area of control’ around the camp that you place and all other buildings must be built within that area, but each additional building will extend the area of control around them allowing your controllable space to increase, with some buildings designed purely to give you more room to play with. This is where the perfectionist within me clashed with what I knew was the right thing to do, every other city builder I’ve ever played I’ve aimed for the ‘pretty’ town, the well thought out layouts, the aesthetically pleasing, but in Rise to Ruin you need to put that to one side and focus on extending your area of control. If you aren’t ambitious early on in grabbing land, you’re going to find it very hard to build everything you want, and just as hard to expand beyond your walls due to the time and resources needed to make an area safe – be bold, be ambitious, maximise the area of control! This brings us to the Tower Defense side of things, every night (and occasionally during the day) monsters are going to come for you, in a slow trickle to begin with before increasing night after night until hordes of enemies are descending upon your village! The AI is designed so that the monsters follow the shortest accessible path to your village, think Rimworld, and so you’re going to want to wall off three sides of your village and begin creating the ultimate path of doom. Defense is provided in multiple ways; constructed towers, golems, your own villagers and finally some god powers that you have available to you, but the nightly attacks can easily catch you out if you’re not prepared for it, and after the first night or two, you really cannot get by relying on purely the powers available to you (think fireballs, magic missiles etc). The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly, and more than once I’ve been sat there on night 3 or 4 and known that it’s game over already because I hadn’t planned properly and gotten the towers and supporting buildings needed for ammo built in time. Overall it’s a game I’ve been more than happy to follow through Early Access to its full release, and it offers a really solid challenge in it’s gameplay while also looking lovely as well! I can easily recommend the game to anyone who enjoys these genre’s, and if you’ve already played it let me know your own thoughts below! HappyFeet
  20. Hey you lovely folks! Do you frequently find yourself spotting new and unusually awesome indie titles? We'd love for you to post them here! If you're a developer and have a game you'd love to share with us, by all means, PLEASE SHARE.
  21. HappyFeet_1402

    An Introduction

    Greetings! Welcome to Indie Forged, the community page to run alongside our gaming articles and reviews based around showing off everything Indie! We're a small group of individuals from the gaming community Forge (you can find them on Ember, Twitter & Discord) but that all share one passion in common - our love of Indie games! We've all sunk countless hours of our lives losing ourselves in these games, lovingly created by talented individuals or very small teams, and all of us agree that these games don't always get the exposure or success that they rightly deserve, and so this is where Indie Forged steps in. Our aim within this community, through our reviews, and on the Steam Curator page is to find and bring Indie Games to the attention of other gamers in the hope that we can help with getting those games the recognition the deserve. We're all in this purely for our love and respect of indie developers, and so here we are; Bravster: Greetings I'm Steve to some and Bravster to many others. Hailing from the the Southern depths of England somewhere between disappointment and disappointment by the sea (London and Brighton). I work two jobs - One as I.T Support for an outsourcing firm : yes I've turned it off and on again so many times the switch is now a nub. The other as a Voice Actor for animation, games, corporate businesses, audiobooks and everything else around and inbetween : get me talking about it and we'll be here all day. I've had a love of games from a young age preferring something with a challenge or a story I can really sink my teeth into enjoying large AAA titles such as the Witcher, Alien Isolation and the Final Fantasy series. A few favourite indie titles of mine are : Binding of Isaac, Rimworld, Don't Starve, Subnautica, Kerbal Space Program, Limbo and of course Divinity Original Sin 2. Playing a mixed bag of FPS, Horror, Rogue-Lites and Strategy. HappyFeet: Hey, I'm HappyFeet, based in the UK and essentially I've been gaming for so long I can't really remember where it all began! In the past I've dabbled with various different types of content creation (let's be honest, who hasn't given Twitch or YouTube a bash these days!) before I realised that I just love gaming, and particularly Indie games. Craft, Fight, Survive is a mantra that seems to cover my gaming tastes pretty well, and if a game involves one of those aspects then it's generally good enough for me! Favourite Indie games?? Here goes; Ark, 7 Days to Die, Rimworld, Factorio, Subnautica... I could keep going but the idea was to only pick a few! Kyathil: Kyathil originates from the deep forest of Sweden, maybe this is the reason why she takes a special liking into the dark and mysterious and in beautiful nature? She joined Forge even before the True Forging really had happened. The stunning game Ori and the Blind Forest is what truly awoke her slumbering indie heart and she began adding more and more indie titles on her corner of the internet, her Twitch channel. For a longer period she even arranged monthly indie days where she would try out a few titles and share her love for indie games with her community. Now she wishes to put her passion for indie games to writing, hoping that she can reach a larger audience through words. Albeit her heart beats the most for indie platformers, such as Ori or Hollow Knight, and horror games, such as Visage and SOMA, there is not a genre she would not be open to give a try! RaginRamen: Keeper of the Soup Dojo, RaginRamen, has been a passionate disciple of IndieGames for many years. Having started as a 3D Artist in the modding community, he has fought in the trenches of late nights working on what he loves. Now he seeks to turn his gaze on marketing and promoting Indie Developers' great works. Starting with written articles, reviews, Youtube videos, and streaming; to eventually move onto reporting at conferences, interviews and helping in campaigns. Narrative games are top of my list. Anything with story, even a puzzle game that's got a cool story, I will be down to play... Favorite indie games though... off the top of my head, Little Nightmares, Firewatch, Oxenfree and Divinity Original Sin! We'd love to see you join the community here on Ember, whether you're a gamer or an Indie Dev, as well as following the Indie Forged 'writers block' to get notifications when we get an article up. Brav, Happy, Ky & Ramen!
  22. Game: Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond Developer: Ekuator Games Release Date: Fall 2019 Try the demo and add to Steam wish list Genre: Turn-based RPG Growing up as a child gamer into a teenage gamer, my favorite genre (which remains the case today) was a big story driven RPG adventure. The Legend of Zelda will always be at the top of my list but I have always had a soft sport for a more tactical approach in RPG's focusing on turn based battle systems. I had a lot of fun with the older Final Fantasy games and others such as Chrono Trigger and one of my all time favorites: Skies of Arcadia! Also it's pleasing to see games like Fire Emblem still getting new releases on modern consoles and doing well. Much to my excitement was it that I had discovered a new game to try that carried the same traits of the turn based battle system and seemed to be very pleasing on the eye. It had been a long time since I played a turn based RPG so I was itching to try out the demo of Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond, the start of a brand new adventure awaited! How I was feeling as I booted the game up for the first time was not how I was feeling as I completed the demo however, which was ultimately disappointed. We will get into why I felt so put off by the game soon, first I would like to shine some positive vibes on Celestian Tales because it does have some good qualities. First and foremost is how the game looks, visually the aesthetic is very eye catching especially if you are a fan of the pixel animated character design and the hand drawn back drops. Needless to say, I am a fan of this art style which acted as the hook that reeled me in when I first took a gander at the screen shots. The art style draws heavy inspiration from watercolor brush strokes which gives the game its unique identity and I am of the opinion that it looks superb! Some of the concept art that can be found on the Kickstarter page is a real site to behold and the team at Ekuator Games should be pleased that they have created such a unique and appeasing style. What could be added to the game that would not only compliment the visuals but also help strengthen the games identity? Why a solid soundtrack of course! Again, I have nothing but praise when it comes to the soundtrack. It goes very well with the environments, each new town you enter has a unique tune giving you a sense of unexplored territory and giving the town it's own identity. Great visuals, great soundtrack, what could it possibly be about Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond that left me with a sour taste? Firstly, let's point out the fact that I played the demo. The full release is not expected until the end of this year at the very earliest so it's important to remember that every issue that I encountered may well be rectified in time for release. I sure hope so anyway. Let's start with the biggest issue that I had with the demo, the controls. I prefer to play my games using a gamepad, my Xbox 1 gamepad to be precise and considering on this games Steam page it clearly states that it has FULL controller support I didn't see why there would be an issue using it. Well there was, I could walk around the world fine and my action buttons worked fine but when it came to engaging in battle with enemies, for some ungodly reason I was not able to navigate the battle menu. The face buttons on my gamepad worked in battle just not the d-pad or analogue stick which meant I had to keep swapping between my keyboard and gamepad to play the game which I was not too happy with. Luckily it was only a demo and I had not spent any money on the game otherwise I'd be demanding it back instantly based on that issue alone! Even if this was just the demo, basic things like making sure that controller support is implemented if it is supposed to be should not be an issue because demos are supposed to be a way of showcasing how the game plays and make people want to play more. Other technical hindrances I ran into included the fact that when venturing to the end of an area in order to get to the next, you are greeted with a message from one of your party members informing you that basically because the game is still under development you can only fast travel to the next area rather than travel there by foot. The issue here is that when it gives you the list of places to travel to you cannot cancel and carry on wandering around the area you are already in! You can simply choose the area you are in on the list (if you can remember the name of it) but it will take you to the beginning of the area which is obviously a pain if you wish to just continue in the exact location you are currently in. This might be a gamepad thing again and if I would have pressed every single button on my keyboard maybe it might have cancelled out but who knows? It's a poor oversight by any means. Also I noticed a lot of grammar issues in the dialogue particularly in the first town you get to as well as my character disappearing when walking into a house wall. These are smaller issues that I'm sure wouldn't take too long to iron out before full release but issues nonetheless. Let's talk about another issue that comes from a more personal level rather than technically. When you emerge from a battle victorious, no matter how injured your party members are or even if some died they will all be fully healed as soon as the battle is over. This is a specific direction the developers have taken and while I can see it might be a more approachable direction for newcomers and gamers who are not veterans of the genre, it personally rubs me the wrong way. At first I wasn't sure how to feel about it because on the one hand I was grateful that I didn't have to waste a load of potions after every single battle or waste SP on healing all the time but on the other hand it took away a lot of the strategy and hardship out of the experience. Don't forget that I am used to playing turn based RPG's way back in the day and I know exactly how much strategy you need to put into your battles at times. No strategy or thought process is needed in these battles, all I need to do is simply keep hitting "attack" until all the enemies are dead because my characters are strong enough to beat them before they kill me and my whole party will be fully healed once the battle is over. I was playing the demo on hard mode as well so it's not as if the game was holding my hand throughout the whole journey. I'm sure in the full game the automatic healing of the whole party after each battle will be more justified but for now it puts me off and I'd expect it puts other veterans off this genre off as well. I hate to cast a shadow of doom and gloom over a game especially if it's an Indie game but I'm afraid I am not quite done. Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond has a crafting system which is nice and you get to experience the bare bones of it in the demo when you are given a recipe to craft some refined faery dust. You need to get hold of the ingredients then make your way over to the taverns fireplace where you craft the item which is all well and good except if you forget what 3 ingredients you need to find there is no way of simply looking at your recipe which sits in your inventory to find out what they are. For some reason you can only find out what they are by going to the taverns fireplace, absolutely absurd! It's a real shame that this article will come across as more of a rant piece but it's only because I had fairly high hopes since I hadn't played a game like this in a long while. If all the above were to be resolved then we could have a half decent game on our hands as it does have some neat things going for it. There is certainly a story line to follow and fans of the original Celestian Tales: Old North (yes this is a sequel!) will be able to shape the games world based on the decisions you made in Old North after the game reads your save data which is pretty awesome. If like me, you never played the original then you will be able to answer questions at the beginning of the game about the past which will shape the world of Realms Beyond. I also like when you enter the market place you hear the sound of a busy market with lots of chatter and laughter. Although it was a bit odd considering there were only about 6/7 people in the market place but the sound would have you think there were 30 or 40 odd. You have 3 characters who will battle but there are 6 characters travelling in your party for the most part. Much like the Tales series, you can swap in or out any part member as you choose and you will pick up lots of equipment, armor and weapons on your journey. For some reason, I was not able to equip any new weapons or armor from the menu which was weird and every time a party member either joined or left the group, I wish it would tell me who! I really hope these issues get resolved because fans of the original Celestian Tales: Old North and backers of its successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2017 have not heard many updates since. All we have is this demo which isn't much to go by considering the amount of issues it has so at the very least, backers of the game deserve an update from the developers soon! The demo is available on Steam if you would like to check it out but if you do, don't go into it with high expectations like I did. I would however, love to know what you think about this game, will it even make its scheduled release window of fall 2019? I think not. Thanks for reading.
  23. Developer: Steel Mantis Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Steam, Xbox, PS4 Price: $24.99 Genre: 2D, Action, Platformer Metal. Gore. Destruction. Insanity. After playing several hours of Valfaris, you'll understand more about these words than you ever have in your lifetime. From the team that brought you Slain: Back from Hell, Valfaris sets to deliver a new type of experience, with similar mechanics and gameplay. It has all the attributes of a heavy metal concert and 90's sci-fi movies all mixed into one. Grab your pick of destiny and get ready to ROCK! Whether you've played Slain: Back from Hell or not, Valfaris is a great game to get your feet soaked in blood. You play as Therion, son of Vroll, and he is on a mission to reclaim Valfaris for his own. Vroll has taken control of Valfaris and tainted it with evil spread across every inch of the grandiose citadel. A bit full of himself and riddled with puns, Therion seeks to strip his father of his powers and will rip through anything to find him. After a short introduction scene opening the game, you finally get thrown into a 2D post-apocalyptic world with a hint of cyberpunk like colors. I was pleasantly surprised by the tight mechanics of the game but wasn't completely satisfied with the button layout. Lucky for me, I was able to swap out certain functions with others—happy with the new button layout, I was on my way. Right out of the gate, you are overwhelmed by hordes of bloodthirsty foes. Equipped with trusty weaponry, Therion is ready for anything the darkness has to throw at him. There are three types of weapon classes: Sidearm, Melee, and Heavy weapons. Sidearms are quick and easy to use without having to consume combat energy. Melee is close range, risky, but useful in gaining additional combat energy from enemies. Finally, Heavy weapons are meant to output massive damage but consume the most combat energy. As far as defensive actions are concerned, you also wield a shield that acts as a form of parrying if timed just right. Another neat feature with this shield is that you can hold projectiles and redirect them at your foes! Over time you'll collect new weapons that add a new way to play, and I found it's a good thing to swap these out from time to time based on sections where enemies would prove to be more difficult than others. Weapons add some sort of strategic value to the game, and you'll want to balance what weapons work best for your play style, but also weapons that are the most effective. Valfaris has a system of making upgrades to your weapons. Be on the lookout for piles of skulls that may contain an upgrade material known as 'Blood Metal.' Certain enemies may drop this material as well, and eventually, enough upgrades will warrant a new material you'll need to collect to make this final upgrade. Resurrection Idols are placed throughout the game and play a vital role in how checkpoints function. If you've got a big set of balls on you, hold onto those resurrection idols and increase your health bar and combat energy. However, if you're like me, I prefer to use them at each checkpoint, so I can avoid having to backtrack as often. You do eventually collect enough to build up your health bar and combat energy slightly. There comes a point when you reach, what I like to call, a 'vending machine.' This vending machine gives you blood metal, in return for resurrection idols—choose wisely if you're low on idols but desire to upgrade a weapon. One of the biggest challenges of the game is the fact that you encounter so many varying enemies and bosses with unique traits. Keep your eyes peeled for traps and other inanimate objects that seem to crush, suffocate, and impale you, too. You'll get familiar with dying, so prepare for the worst—I say this because everything WILL kill you. Fortunately, you won't encounter a "You died" or "Slain" phrase each time you kick the bucket. The best way to stay alive is to be vigilant and hope enemies drop additional health or a blue skull to replenish your combat energy. If not used, the hearts and blue skulls will disappear after a short time, so make use of these promptly. Anyone a fan of mechs? That's right, you reach a point when manpower is only so much and you'll need aid from a big, beefy bit of machinery. Causing complete chaos, you feel like nothing can stand in your way. Similar to how you play with Therion, there are three types of attacks and a booster jump that will crush enemies below. It's a little clunky, but ultimately I think it's a solid addition to keep things fresh within the game. Everything from gameplay to enemy and level design meshed very well, though, my only real gripe of the game is how you aim. There were times when I would attempt to shoot down, and Therion would only crouch. Movement is key to staying alive, and despite being able to freeze your character to aim, I thought crouching was a bit redundant. I fully understand why it's there it just didn't work all that well for me. One more thing to plug here is Steel Mantis has been hard at work to bring you a New Game + mode called "Full Metal Mode" that will challenge the player even more than Valfaris already does! The update will feature: All weapons, upgrades, and upgrade items will be carried over Enemies and bosses will be more aggressive The player will take more damage Players will have access to one additional Destroyer class weapon At the time of writing this, there is no set date on when the update will be released and it will be free across all platforms. Finally putting this review to rest, Valfaris has an enticing story and wicked cool visuals that will keep your lust for blood quenched. I found the soundtrack and SFX to be quite gritty, grungy, METAL and I loved every second of it! The game is brutal but it's doable—challenging in just the right way. Valfaris is an indie title you should be eager to drop some cash on. Grow that hair out and get ready to ROCK! Game code was generously provided by Big Sugar for review purposes only on the Nintendo Switch. We appreciate your willingness to spare us a code!
  24. To be deprived of our dreams is a horrible prospect, and when dreams have the power to create reality—in the wrong hands' calamity is afoot. Children of Lumera is set to combine the emotional symbiosis of a classic children´s book and an adventure game—inspired by "The Neverending Story" and Tolkien´s "The Hobbit." Developer, Phantom Fox, has created a huge universe packed with history and different cultures whose characters, stories and destinies are interwoven. Children of Lumera was originally intended to be a children's book, but it grew on the team to mold it into an episodic adventure game, too. The game itself will be shown as a world full of unbelievable wonders, audiovisual riddles, fantastical stories and lots of interactivity. When dreams and memories are wiped away, what's left but empty feelings and sadness? Set in a world where all life was created with the Alvenkinds power of dreaming, a young girl named Elo Bryghtfire has been given the task of finding a cure for Oblivion. A thousand years after banishing Grimgol to Mokra Dur, the Mountain of Oblivion, nothing was left but ruins in the sand lost to the ravages of time—just like most memories of the Alven children. But in some places, the magic of dreams had endured and is now just waiting to be found. One of these places is the sheltered forest village Slumber Deep, nestled at the foot of the Cauldron Mountains, surrounded by the enchanted Ardon Woods. Our story starts on the Day of Renewal when a little girl named Elo Bryghtfire has no choice but to follow in her grandfather's footsteps to complete an ancient ritual. By the end of the day, fate will have turned against the villagers, as invading dream-eaters casts the lovely village into a dark fog and steals the villagers' hopes and dreams. Aided by a little yokai creature called Biz, Elo escapes to the Negeb desert and ventures out on a marvelous but dangerous quest to save the art of dreaming. Like Night in the Woods and Oxenfree, Children of Lumera is a modern 2D adventure that focuses on emotional game play and story-driven presentation. Visit a beautifully hand-drawn universe that is complex and immersive. At every corner and behind every stone there could be incredible stories, magical artifacts, sensory puzzles, or even songs. Without saying, the desire to explore is rewarded—the more curiosity a player has, the deeper the experience of the universe will become. The gameplay is strongly driven by revealing the secrets of the ancient Alvenkind, interacting with beautifully illustrated environments, characters and objects. Without dreams to inspire us, what choice do we have but to succumb to the spread of darkness? Will Elo have the courage and strength to overcome this calamity? Find out when Children of Lumera becomes available to purchase on Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, Linux, and iOS. Release date has yet to be revealed, but you'll know as soon as we know! Follow the game's progress by visiting the official website for more information or these social media platforms to stay up to date with Phantom Fox: Instagram Facebook Twitter
  25. Guest

    Hidden Gems #2 - Spooky edition!

    Greetings! It is finally October and some of us will be diving head deep into spooky and scary stuff for the entire month, which is why this month's edition of Hidden Gems will be featuring horror games Since we are all very different with what kind of scary stuff we can take, they will also be very varied in "scary factor" and hopefully there will be something suitable for all! In order to give an idea of how scary etc the game is I've added a little score to each of the game from 1-10: Scare factor - How terrified you will get Gameplay - How smooth the game experience is Story - I think this one is obvious Kaet Must Die! Publisher: Strength in Numbers Studios, Inc Genre: Horror/puzzle solving Price: 14.99€ Steam link Release Date: 2018-04-06 I've been playing a lot of horror games over the years, but not a single one has been like Kaet Must Die!... Which is to it's advantage and disadvantage. The reason I even got to know about this game was because one of the developers, who later became my mod on Twitch, talked about about this game he was developing and it sounded really interesting in my ears so had to give it a spin. The game features 10 levels that your character, Kaetheran/Kaet, must solve in order to regain her power s and memories. You solve these puzzles through various means, such as collecting items and placing them on a certain location. The more levels you solve, the harder it gets and the longer time they will take to solve. Oh, and you gotta solve the puzzles within a certain amount of time or it's game over! Does this sound easy? Well, it's not... You see, you also have a various amount of enemies, some moving and some hiding in dark places, doing their absolute best in trying to jumpscare the shit out of you and kill the protagonist. Additionally, the light sources will start disappearing, one by one, until it's completely dark and Kaet succumbs to her nemesis! There are some tools that you can use in order to progress in the game, and keep that sanity in check, such as light sources and abilities that will unlock at certain levels. There is one very negative aspect to this game and that is, if understood correctly, that it's not finished. There has been talk about adding more story and hints to the game, there wasn't a lot of those last time I played. I can definitely see how it would improve the game experience massively and I do think the price tag is a little up there for what you get. Nevertheless, the game is combining puzzle making and horror in a very unique way and I personally think it deserves a bit more recognition! I had fun and screamed a lot as I was playing, there might be a clip from a stream showing just that in the trailer below! Scare factor: 7/10 Gameplay: 7/10 Story: 4/10 The Cat Lady Publisher: Screen 7 Genre: Psychological horror Price: 8.19€ Steam link Release Date: 2012-12-01 The Cat Lady got so many things that I personally enjoy that it's going to be hard to summarise it all in this episode, don't want a large novel here. With that said I do want to point out that this game is on my top list of games, of all times, and am definitely a bit biased! I also wanna warn you that this game is touching subjects such as PTSD, rape, illness, death, depression and suicide and if you are sensitive about these topics it might be a bad idea to play the game. You follow Susan Ashworth, a depressed 40-year old lady on the verge of suicide. She has no friends nor family (but there are cats!) and no hope for the future. One day, after certain events, her life takes a rather unexpected turn (will not tell what though since it's a heavily story based game). This turn of events will let Susan meet a number of interesting characters and also lead her on a journey to recover from her depressed mind. Not only is Susan very obviously mentally unstable, but her actions and interactions with people in the game are not what you might expect from anyone and makes her a very unique and somewhat disturbing character to follow. She has some serious ghosts from the past haunting her and also faces several rather traumatising events throughout the game. The game depicts these events in such a way that it really, at least in my case, touches you deeply and I sympathised with Susan on a similar level as I felt for Senua in Hellblade. Spoiler, there might be tears shed and a need for hugs. The characters she encounters are also very memorable and unique in their own ways and quite contrasting to her nature, in sometimes funny ways. You can clearly see that a lot of effort were put into the story and character arcs! The game is divided into chapters, with each chapter featuring a number of puzzles to solve and several times you get to choose one or other action resulting in different possible outcomes in events. Additionally, there are multiple endings and thus the game offer certain replayability. It is a third person side-scrolling game with rather simple mechanics, moving Susan with right and left arrow and interacting with up arrow and choosing options using enter, you can play the entire game just using the arrows and enter on your keyboard. Graphically it is rather gritty and dark, which fits the atmosphere just fine, and with an absolutely amazing soundtrack! The only truly negative remark I have is that the voice acting is a little bit uneven and with that I don't even mean that it's uneven in performance of the voice actors, except for a few cases, but rather the volume and quality of the sound. It's apparent that the voice actors used very different equipment recording their lines and sent the files to the developers. But, honestly, it didn't bother me that much considering how the game excels in story telling and character development! Before adding the score for the game I want to point out that it is not a scary game like Amnesia or Outlast, but it is rather gory and violent... And super creepy! At several points I got completely creeped out by the events in the game and also truly sympathised with the protagonist's struggle. It certainly fits the horror theme and spookyness associated with Halloween, but without terror for the player. I really feel like I could write novels about how amazing this game is, but since we have another game to review I will cut it here and I do hope some of you try this fantastic game out! Scare factor: 3/10 Gameplay: 8/10 Story: 10/10 Creepy factor: 8/10 (some events are 12/10) Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn Publisher: Angry Demon Studio Genre: First person survival horror Price: 14.99€ Steam Link Release Date: 2017-11-27 JAG KAN... LUKTA DIG! - Random Troll I want to start off by saying that I'm most definitely biased with regards to this game since I'm genuinely impressed with what this Swedish little studio has released! Their latest game, Apsulov, is what got my attention from the beginning and I was happy to encounter more horror games released by them. If I understand this correctly, Unforgiving was released by the developers shortly after their senior year at univeristy in game development. Also, note that I haven't actually finished this game yet but it made such an impression on me that I needed it on this list! You start the game with the protagonist, Linn, being tied up in the back of a car... Kicking and trying to get the f out, as you might consider a natural reaction to this situation. Not going to spoil the game, but you will not spend the entire game tied up in the backseat of a car... Just so you know. Since the little story that I have uncovered so far would spoil a bit much, I will not write much about it but rather focusing on the gameplay and what scary factors being used in the game. After the escape of the car, Linn finds herself in the deep Swedish forests... In almost complete darkness. I'm not joking, I was going slightly insane with how literally dark this game is! Light sources are scarce and when you see them it feels like encountering an old friend. Her overall goal in the game is basically to get back to civilisation... But in this bloody cursed forest she will encounter pretty much every single scary myth you can read of in Swedish folklore and Norse mythology making her escape rather tedious. I LOVED how the developers integrated stories I read as a child into the game and even learned about some myths I hadn't heard about before! Considering how rare it is with Swedish folklore in games I can only praise this aspect. Even if it had been less well made I would have enjoyed it, being a Swede myself. Graphically, I did find the environment and mythical creatures rather well made... Sadly I can't say the same about the human characters but it also didn't bother me that much partly due to the occurence of humans is pretty rare. There are a few jumpscares, but the game relies mostly on the almost complete darkness and sounds to scare the player. And it really worked, the sound effects and music are absolutely terrifying! I've been very tense while playing despite the rather few jumpscares so far! Also, I chose Swedish as spoken language with English subtitles for the people watching but there is an English option if you want to go with that. My choice was basically because you never hear Swedish in games and I wanted to know how the voice acting is! I was pleasantly surprised, most of the times Swedish voice acting isn't great, and it made the game even eerier at times... But some lines were pretty funny, not that I minded it since it kinda broke the ice during tense situations! The controls did take some time getting used to, but I didn't feel them very clunky. Big thanks to Angry Studios that kindly provided me with a key to try out the game! Scare factor: 7/10 Gameplay: 8/10 Story: 6/10 (there hasn't been that much of a plot, but great lore!)
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