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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!
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
Hey Nintendo Switch players, are you enjoying the new Chasm update with its all new Arcade mode? Well, developer Bit Kid recently posted a little competition for players to get involved with. Here's the details: "Help us celebrate the new Arcade mode recently released on Nintendo Switch! We will be holding a high score contest for the October 23rd Daily Challenge on Nintendo Switch, giving you a chance to win the Grand Prize: a unique hand-crafted clay sculpture of the hero! The top 10 runner-ups will receive a Prize Pack with an exclusive t-shirt, printed instruction manual, stickers, magnet and more. See http://chasmgame.com/ArcadeContest for details on how to enter!" If you haven't picked up the game yet or just haven't played it in a while, Nintendo Switch, PS4/Vita, and Xbox One owners can enjoy update 1.070 which includes the brand new Arcade mode (Daily & Weekly Challenges are exclusive to Nintendo Switch players), optional Chiptune soundtrack, customizable controls, 6 new localization's (Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese (BR), and Hungarian), over 80 new rooms, new background art, improved backtracking, new items and plenty more! The full list of changes can be found here. (Chasm Arcade Mode Update - https://bitkidgames.com/?p=3752) Chasm is an action-adventure game that takes place in the Guildean Kingdom. You play as a new recruit eager to become a knight—rumors have spread that a mine packed with precious resources to the kingdom has been shut down due to townsfolk gone missing. What supernatural creatures lurk in the depths of the mine? Do what you must to track down these people and become the knight you've always wanted to be in this thrilling Metroidvania. Chasm is available for download on all gaming platforms. So, if you fancy yourself a little challenge and you own a Nintendo Switch jump into the Daily Arcade Contest on October 23rd! Good luck, and have fun!
Developer: Moi Rai Games Release Date: 28th August Genre: Metroidvania RPG, Turn Based Combat Price: £13.99 Early Access from Humble Tomas stirred from his thoughts, the long descent through the cave system had taken much out of him and once he’d reached the wide open cavern it was the easiest decision to stop and rest for a while. His eyes scanned slowly in all directions, searching for the source of the noise that had stolen him from his reverie, though the faint light from above combined with his torch was nowhere near powerful enough to pierce the thick blackness that owned the edges of this space. Again, the faint scurrying seemed almost deafening amongst the silence that had existed only moments before. Tomas was not alone, though he hadn’t been alone in the first place, as Amra raised her head, ears pricked, now also searching for the watcher in the dark. Tomas calmed himself, fear was anathema to his kind, and accompanied by a Spectral Lion as fierce as Amra there really was no rational reason to be afraid of much in this world. Suddenly a trio of creatures burst from the dark, seemingly born of the shadows that only moments before had harboured nothing but the promise of exploration. Amra rose, slowly, deliberately, haunched over and coiled like a tight spring, she did not move but stared intently on the intruders, teeth bared in challenge. Tomas rose, the monsters charging across the cavern floor, closing the space between them in quick fashion. One short breath, Tomas smiled, glanced down at Amra and clicked his finger. Flame burst across her back, illuminating the cavern and overpowering the darkness that had held dominion, and as she leapt towards her foe the sound of a deep guttural roar shook the walls themselves. Monster Sanctuary is the Early Access release that has us all reminiscing about Pokemon & Terraria, and make no mistake, it is a monster battling, training, spelunking bundle of gaming goodness! Though while it may take some inspiration from such games, you’d be gravely mistaken if you assumed it didn’t bring anything fresh to the table, and even with my relatively limited time in the game I’m already watching development of the game with an excited anticipation. While the battles themselves will have a familiar feel for any gamer, all the way down to the strong/weak elemental system, you can see the depth that lies underneath the basic battle sequences of picking abilities and targeting your enemy monsters. Battles take place between two sides of up to three monsters; and this is where the fun begins, the buffs, debuffs, passive abilities and offensive attacks available even in the early stages allow for some creative sequences of moves as well as a variety of ways to tackle the foes before you. These choices become more important when you begin to take advantage of the ‘combo’ system, as your team uses its abilities they stack up to provide a team buff for the rest of the turn. Choosing the right order for your monsters to make their move builds this combo bonus up, so that you can hit far harder with the right ability to finish your turn, sometimes to devastating effect! Outside of battle you can see the beginnings of a true RPG style progression and customisation system, as your monsters begin to level up you are introduced to the unique skill trees they have access to. Not simply limited to new offensive abilities, you can choose to level up specific stats as well as interesting passive passive abilities to begin creating a well balanced team of monsters fully designed to compliment each other and tackle whatever foe’s may come your way. These skill tree choices can be further enhanced through the equipment and foods you choose to give to your monsters, yes that’s right, they have equipment slots to help boost certain stats, and can be fed meals to give them an extra boost! The game already holds some real challenge in the “champion” monsters that inhabit the world, rarer than normal encounters these bosses take more of a beating, hit harder, and can use more than one ability in a turn. They prove a real challenge if you are unprepared for the fight, and rightly act as a measure of progression within the game. The game does currently have some design choices which can be jarring, as there is no functionality for mouse usage which continually proved a frustration, coupled with D-Pad movement as a default keybinding rather than a standard WASD format it leads to instinctive keystrokes causing all manner of menus and actions to occur when you simply want to make a basic move, not game breaking by any stretch it does make you sigh as you have to correct yourself. Overall, Monster Sanctuary may initially look and feel like the lovechild of other very well known, if not legendary, games but it already feels like it has something new and refreshing to bring to the table, and is definitely a game to watch very closely as it continues its journey through the Early Access development phase! Let me know below if you've taken the game for a spin, and how you're feeling about it! HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive