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  1. 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!
  2. 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
  3. Guest

    My Indie Horror Top List!

    Halloween is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate it than with some spooky horror games? I've been a big fan of Halloween since a kid and have been playing a variety of horror games on Twitch the last couple of years, with a heavy focus on them during October. Thus I wanted to share with you my 5 top pick of indie horror games! However, I will not add some great well-known titles such as Layers of Fear, Amnesia or Outlast due to them already being classic horror games and the goal of this article is to introduce something new to the table. Also, I haven't played every single horror game out there and some are not included because of that (such as Devotion and Home Sweet Home). When I compiled this list I took several things into consideration and will add ratings reflecting these aspects: Scare factor - This one is given, I think. This is my biased opinion and they are rated in comparison with what I've experienced so far. Gameplay - How smooth the gameplay is Story - Is there any deeper story or just something to justify all them scares? More aspects could definitely be considered, but don't want to write a long, tedious, novel! Without further ado, here are my top picks for indie horror games: 5. Pacify Publisher: SKH Apps Release date: 29th of February 2019 Genre: Co-op puzzle haunted house fun times? Price: 3.99€ Steam On fifth place comes the only multiplayer game on this list, which might also be part of the reason why it's actually on the list too! You can choose to play solo or together with up to 3 other unforunate souls, in either co-op mode or PVP. If you play solo, which is most of my personal experience of the game, it will be a whole LOT more difficult and scary... So beware! The game takes place in a house which you and your comrades, for some reason, are set to investigate. This is not just any house though, but one of those happy houses haunted by a happy little not-at-all-creepy ghost girl! After a short time in the house it becomes clear that it was a very bad idea to enter and the goal is set to simply escape. But, it's not as easy as just running towards the exit and pray to any eventual diety that you get out safe and sound. You have to solve puzzles, with tools such as dolls, matches and keys... And keep a constant eye out for that happy little girl, because if she detects you she will politely ask you to join her games and you will politely not want to participate in that. One advice, do read the notes you find... It will make everything much easier! What I really like with this game is that it is a scary game to play with friends, but it's not like many other scarier multiplayer games such as Dead by Daylight which is basically a hide-and-seek game set on a pretty big map. Sure, there is a bit of hide-and-seek in Pacify too, but how you get out is a bit different (and pretty hard to nail, especially solo) and the map is not very big... It's just a house after all. It is also really fricking scary, much more so than Dead by Daylight. I'm pretty sure I browned my pants at one point while playing... It's also not a very expensive games and considering how many hours you can spend with it (it's quite replayable) I really think it is the game with the best price vs play hours on this list! If you and your friends enjoy some spooks, preferably as a team, I can warmly recommend giving this gem a spin. Score: Scare factor - 8/10, Gameplay 8/10, Story 5/10 4. Narcosis Publisher: Honor Code, Inc Release date: 28th of March 2017 Genre: First person survival, horror Price: 12.49€ Steam You are an industrial diver about to do everyday work on the bottom of the sea... And about to experience the absolute worst work day of your life. You put on your dive suit, doing your normal routine... Only this time something goes awfully wrong and you are left alone in your half-ton, high-tech dive suit described as a "walking coffin", trying to get back to your base and figure out what exactly happened. And whether anyone else survived. All this while carefully monitoring your oxygen level and defending yourself against hostile creatures. The sea hides many beautiful beings, but also lethal dangers. Navigation is slow in that heavy suit, your tools are few and the depth is very, very dark... You need to be clever in order to survive and return to the surface. Narcosis features many familiar horror game concepts, such as the oxygen/sanity level which can be somewhat compared to the light source mechanism in games like Amnesia. The oxygen level will naturally deplete with time and you will need to find refills in order to not suffocate and die. Additionally, if you encounter hostiles or experience horrors it will start depleting more rapidly due to the protagnist breathing more rapidly (as you might expect a stressed person to do). I personally think this is a nice and realistic detail and makes the game feel more real. There are a couple of jump scares, but not that many, and some horrifying events that will increase that spook factor with quite a few notches. It's about as scary as SOMA, mostly relying on atmosphere and sounds to provide the horror elements (but not only). The suit is really clunky to steer, which bothered me at times, but also added to the overall claustrophobic atmosphere of the game. Yes, you do a whole lot of exploration in the deep vast sea and yet you feel trapped and smothered due to this suit. I did read that some people found the graphics outdated, but I didn't think so myself and thought the game was realistic and at times really beautiful. Fantastic soundtrack to increase that abyssal ambiance too! The whole concept of Narcosis is to get a glimpse into how traumatic it would be to be put into a situation like the one the protagonist experiences. How he reacts to the events and surroundings feel realistic, most of the time. His desperation to find someone, anyone, increases the sense of despair and loneliness... And the constant fear of what lurks in the dark, but also in his own mind. The fight for survival is not just to survive foes but also to keep sane and not fall into utter despair. It also features some really nice plot twists that left me bamboozled for days! I really do hope that the protagonist got a BIG glass of some good whisky after his adventure. I definitely enjoyed my play through of the game and want to thank the developers who kindly offered a key to it! Score: Scare factor - 6.5/10, Gameplay 7/10, Story 8/10 3. Apsulov: End of Gods Publisher: Angry Demon Studio Release date: 8th of August 2019 Genre: Future viking horror Price: 16.79€ Steam When I first saw a trailer of Apsulov I thought it looked a little bit like Alien:Isolation, and me being a huge fan of the latter just had to check it up some more. It is described as a first person dark adventure/horror game where Norse mythology is mixed with sci-fi! At least I thought that sounded pretty cool, not that I had any idea whatsoever just how these developers planned to intertwine these concepts. Just like a lot of other games, especially horror focused ones, you wake up without having a slightest idea as of who you are, where you are or when you are... However, it really does sound like you are in deep need of some water and perhaps a mint! Unlike Pacify where you choose to investigate a haunted house (bad idea), in Apsulov you for some reason wake up in the middle of this nightmare and thus we cannot really blame her for having bad survival instincts by entering obviously bad places! At first it looks like the game takes place in some sort of space station, hence the Alien: Isolation vibes, but is actually some kind of underground science center. Humanity was digging deep into the ground on a quest to find Norse artifacts, but something went wrong and the result was chaos and suffering. The protagonist's personal quest is to explore this underground facility and figure out her place in all of this. But, her surroundings are very dark and in the darkness lurks less friendly entities... There has been quite the evolution since the studio's previous titles, Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn. The graphics are fantastic, including the human models, and the gameplay is really smooth even though it introduces more complex elements versus the older game. Just like in Unforgiving, there is voice acting and I suspect they have the same voice actors for the Swedish and English language options... Partly due to the pretty obvious Swedish accent for some of the characters. One thing that I did miss in Apsulov is the choice of having one spoken language and another as subtitles. It's a very minor thing though. What is scary in Apsulov is, mostly, the atmosphere, the plentiful amount of hostiles, and the overall darkness of the environment... There aren't that many jump scares and the ones I encountered did make me almost fly off the chair! Pretty good ones! The environment is pretty dang dark, but you do have a kind of special vision that will make navigation possible in dark places (and find hidden things!). Some cut scenes are pretty creepy and/or gory, so do keep that in mind if you decide to try this game out! I don't think this game is near as scary as Alien: Isolation, would put it on a similar level as Dead Space, but it doesn't make the experience any less enjoyable. In fact, I had a hard time putting this game down and started it right after finishing Blair Witch! There are plenty of puzzles, some more complex than others and the mythological lore is brilliantly woven into the story line. As you may have noticed there are many familiar concepts from other horror games in here, but the developers have also included their own unique twists and turns of things! Once again I feel like I could write so much about my experience of this game, but this article is not supposed to go in depth about the games mentioned and thus I have to stop! Seriously, if you're into horror games, JUST PLAY THIS! I truly enjoyed this game, not just as a horror game but as a game in general, and am proud of what the studio has achieved! Well done and thank you for providing me with keys for your games Score: Scare factor - 7/10, Gameplay 9/10, Story 8/10 2. SOMA Publisher: Frictional Games Release date: 22nd of September 2015 Genre: Sci-fi horror Price: 27.99€ Steam (heavily discounted during sales) On second place is my favourite horror game of all time, SOMA. I played it for the first time a few months after it's release and despite this being a couple of years ago by now and having played many horror games since, it is still my absolute favourite. Not because of the horror factor, it might be the least scary one on the list, but because of the amazing story! That's right, a horror game featuring a deep and thought provoking story! How odd! While Narcosis explores how a traumatic event can affect a human, SOMA explores what it means to actually BE human. Also, the game tackles this topic in an absolutely brilliant fashion! The game was developed by Frictional Games, also known for their masterpieces Penumbra and Amnesia (which in a way made horror games popular again). There are some elements to the game which are very similar to their previous titles, such as monster chasing scenes and the mechanics of the hostiles. A huge difference is the focus on figuring out what has happened to you and the location you are currently on, instead of focusing on scaring the living crap of you (there are some occurrences of that too, of course, but not that many in my opinion). I sincerely wish the worst to a certain Akers. It is still really scary, with many dark areas and terrifying sound effects! The areas you discover are also vastly different from those of Amnesia, parts are inside of a science center (ish?) and parts are taking place in the deep sea, while in Amnesia you are stuck in a big mansion. I have to mention that I found the sea levels absolutely gorgeous while playing, really beautifully done! While playing Narcosis and Subnautica I did get flashbacks to the sea parts of SOMA, which makes me think that these games took some inspiration from SOMA for their own sea levels. Might be wrong though! Still, fantastically done. The soundtrack to SOMA is also absolutely amazing and have been adding my favourite tracks to my "work mode" Spotify-list, game music is fantastic in the background while coding. As previously mentioned, I do think that the story is what makes SOMA unique and where it's absolutely brilliant. The journey that the protagonist makes, the characters he encounters (and the fates of various people in the world) and the difficult choices he has to make are all so fantastically well done that it left me slightly traumatized. But, just slightly. It's amazing how real the characters feel, partly due to excellent voice acting and how affected I got by the events. In order to progress in the game you have to solve puzzles and use stealth to avoid threats, in classical Frictional Games manners, but you also have to make choices that will affect those you've encountered. Some of these choices left a very bitter taste in my mouth and some might have also produced a tear or two. It is a very heavy game and as such might night be suitable for all, it is also a pretty scary game even though it's not on the same level as Outlast or Amnesia. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience to get through and might pick up again in the future! Ps. I really want something new from the studio! It's been 4 years, please give us some new horror game Frictional! Score: Scare factor - 6/10, Gameplay 9/10, Story 10/10 1. Visage (Early Access) Publisher: SadSquare Studio Release date: 2nd of October 2018 (first EA chapter) Genre: Psychological horror Price: 20.99€ Visage on Steam On the first place is what I personally think is a spiritual successor of the infamous PT and despite it being still in early access, with just two chapters released, it is one of the scariest gaming experiences you can get! Oh boy, how I screamed while playing this masterpiece! Thus, make sure you bring extra pants if you decide to give this game a try and remember that it is not for the faint-hearted. Also, keep in mind that it is still in early access and you might detect a few pesky bugs along the ride! Visage is a PT-inspired horror game taking place in a very old, seemingly haunted, house. Many families have lived here in the past and while many families lived there in peace, some faced a horrible fate. You are Dwayne (a little unclear so might be false) and for some unknown reason you decide to live in this, ill-rumored, house. Maybe Dwayne is there to investigate paranormal activities? Maybe he got a secret death wish? Who knows?! At least I would never even set a foot inside a house like this, because I very much enjoy living. Dwayne will quickly discover that there is definitely something, or someone, haunting the house and some of the inhabitants of the past will pay him a visit... In some ways, Visage reminds me of another PT-inspired indie game - Layers of Fear. Just like Layers of Fear, it features a super realistic looking house that will sometimes change appearance as the stories progress. There will be some jump scare scripted scenes, but they are few and far in between. It's a bit more focused on puzzle solving compared to Layers of Fear and we are not investigating the fate of just one family, but several, and they are split up in chapters that you unlock in different ways. The chapters themselves differentiate quite a bit from each other as well. For example, Lucy's chapter is following a rather linear path, classic horror game style, while Dolores's is less so and much more focused on puzzles. What is unique with Visage is the random events that will occur throughout the game, they can be things such as suddenly switching off the lights or a little peek-a-bo of a previous inhabitant... During one play through you will not experience all of these events and thus every play through will be a bit unique. This in combination with the fantastically eerie music and sound effects, the realism of the environment and the super creepy stories are what really made utterly terrified as I was playing through the 2 released chapters. I can't even described in words just how scary I found this! If you're looking for a game that might scare you beyond imagination, then this game is certainly for you! Score: Scare factor - 9.5/10, Gameplay 7/10, Story 7/10
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