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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!
Game: Quench Publisher: Axon Interactive Price: $19.99/£15.49 Release Date: 7th August 2019 Genre: Puzzle, Adventure, Story Rich When it's been a long day at work and I just want to relax, I just want to do one thing, listen to some good music and drift away into another world. This can be done with a good book, movie or occasionally an FPS if I'm in a bad mood. There are, however, times when a puzzle game is just the ticket. Quench was that game for me this month, its beautiful soundtrack and art took me away and the puzzles kept my attention and challenged me as I journeyed through on this virtual pilgrimage. I've yet to witness the ending at the time of writing this review, but the narrative is very poetically written. A story of a variety of animal herds migrating from polluted and drylands to reach greener fields. The word pilgrimage is used very often and it has that spiritual essence to the dialogue and the narration. To help them on this pilgrimage is you. The fruit of the elder tree brought forth you as a spiritual bird to guide the 6 herds of the kingdom. It really makes you feel involved, you end up caring for these animals and grow an attachment to the leaders. Their safety is your main concern. We all know that in real life animals migrate year-round and that often pollution and blocked rivers are dangers to them. This story pushes the envelope in getting you to empathise more, getting the animals from news headlines to a bird's eye view of the struggles you will save them from. This game was made with a message, but that didn't stop the developers from forgetting that it's still a game and needs to be fun. I am truly delighted with this. Too many games have focused too hard on story and art, only to forget they are making a game. Being a puzzle game, I will focus on that aspect. There are 4 different powers you can use in different situations. To clear paths, block enemies and support your herds. Each power is surprisingly versatile in what it can do and they are introduced one by one to learn them all effectively. Quench doesn't hold your hand with the tutorials or ever give hints as to what to do to solve puzzles, but they don't leave you guessing either. I'd say that is a well-designed game, wouldn't you? As mentioned when I was talking about the story, the game is very good at building empathy. When clearing the path for your herd, it switches to a lemmings style mechanic where they will blindly trust you and keep moving (so you better have done a good job removing obstacles). Unlike lemmings, these are your children, your babies, you care for them and if even just one dies?... well I've restarted many times to rectify that. Not many games are good at generating empathy... sympathy maybe, but not empathy. Matching the sweeping poetry of the writing and story is a lovely soundtrack and a beautiful art style I've not seen often. It's almost like pixels, but it's not. Opting for shaded triangles instead of squares gives it a unique look. Most of the game takes place overhead, seeing as you are a spiritual bird, that makes sense. When it is time to dive into the narrative, it takes a cinematic approach with very little animation. To me it resembles a tapestry, a story told from one painted scene to another with colours to match the tones of earth and nature. Although no voice-overs were recorded for this game, they had done a wonderful job of creating motifs to accompany each different character, bringing personality and voice to them without actors. Papercraft! That's the word I was looking for to describe the art, gorgeous is another word. After experiencing the story and thoroughly enjoying the puzzles, I have to wholeheartedly recommend this game. The story is truly as beautiful as the music and art. Not just beautiful but subtle and I love that about it. If you enjoy relaxing with a puzzle that isn't easy, but it's just hard enough to satisfyingly complete, then throw away that Sudoku and get started on this pilgrimage.