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  1. 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
  2. To conclude this years #Spooktober's Edition of #TuneTuesday, I will talk about the panic-inducing Taurus Demon cue from Dark Souls, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. I'm fairly certain everyone at this point is familiar with how difficult the Soulsborne series is, which would soon create the 'git gud' mentality from many players, but you may not be aware of the story, which I will briefly go over for you, for context sake. You are undead, and you must go and link this great fire. That's it. Everything else remotely narrative is built upon various bits of lore that you can choose to read on items and weapons you find, and the occasional NPC who talks at you. But one does not play the From Software games for stories, they play them because they are masochists who like smacking their head against a brick wall 100s of times to defeat the franchise's gruelling boss fights. It is also during said fights you will hear music, as the games are pretty mute otherwise (with a couple of areas having some music, and Sekiro having music practically everywhere). First time players would have struggled with the game's first proper area, Undead Burg, as they learn that anything can easily kill you, enemies often ambush you and not to take on the Black Knight, lest you get completely destroyed. You finally ascend the inner works of a castle, pass through a fog gate, and wander around the very narrow Crenellations, which can be easy to fall off of, should you not pay attention to the environment. The next thing you know, a large, sheep/bull demon with a huge axe leaps off of the opposite tower and begins to charge at you. This is where today's cue enters. What I think many fans of Dark Souls and video game soundtracks overlook is the size of its orchestra. Most games that have symphonic sounding soundtracks have full-phat orchestras with lush reverbs and may have screaming full-phat choirs. I don't need to go into more details about that I'm sure. Dark Souls has a much smaller ensemble, most likely a chamber orchestra, recorded in a much smaller recording space. The choir seems to be much smaller as well. Because it sounds smaller, does not mean it has any less punch. In fact, I would say that it was more because of this orchestration/compositional decision, which adds to the fear of whatever hideous boss monster, demon or dragon is tearing your arms and pancreas apart, the vast majority of these cues being atonal messes. If the orchestra was the more typical 80-100 piece a lot of the unique energy the cues had would be lost. There are very few soundtracks to that of the original Dark Souls, where the soundtrack is just boss cues. Some of them are rather moving and emotional, whilst others, like Tauras Demon, induce PTSD-esque flashbacks. And of course, there are very few games as frighteningly frustrating as Dark Souls.
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