Indietail – Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I’d review my favourite Horror Game to play every year. It’s a free-to-play title that is truly horrifying and gets me every damn time. It may not be the scariest or the most refined game – but it does its job well at luring you into a sense of security before striking with a nice little scare! Welcome to my review on Spooky’s House of Jump Scares Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion!

As a quick note before we head into the review, the game does contain violence and flashing lights, so be warned if you have issues with that!

Developer: Lag Studios, Akuma Kira, AMGSheena
Publisher: Lag Studios
Genre: Horror, Cute, Atmospheric, First-Person
Release Date: July 28th, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy is available for free.

So, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is, as the title suggests, about Spooky’s Mansion that is filled with an abundance of Jump Scares. You have to make your way through 1000 rooms in order to get out of there, diving deeper and deeper into the depths of the Mansion, finding bits and pieces of the lore of previous survivors or survival attempts, and in the end, you’re trying to survive.

Oh , gosh darnit, this is so cute but scared the living hell out of me!

As previously noted, the game lures you into a sense of security before striking with a nice little scare. The game does that by setting a certain atmosphere with creepy sounds, some memorable music as well as passages that are plain silent. Personally, I adore the use of silence in Horror Games as it allows the player to relax every once in a while before adding more suspense to the experience. It also lets them take a breather before striking even harder, something that usually works well. And well, the game does that often and exceptionally well, working with chase sequences, cardboard cutouts and different enemies to scare the shit out of you.

And that’s lovely. Usually, I don’t like cheap tricks like Jump Scares but, in this case, it’s the overall premise of the game, so I don’t really mind, especially with how cute the jump scares are at the beginning.

This guy leaving notes and comparing himself to a story’s sidecharacter… SMH

The simplicity of the UI combined with the easy-to-understand premise of the game allows for a great and memorable experience that I enjoyed. The gameplay consists of you walking through one door after another while the counter at the top-right corner of the screen counts up until it reaches 1000. You’re able to sprint, making use of your stamina, as well as take a few hits (as indicated by the health bar) and, well, that’s it. It’s simple but as time goes on the game features vast corridors, grand rooms and even forests filled with its enemy times.

As time goes on, the game also adds completely separate areas to the game, counting as one room but factually offering way more than just that. There you have to hide from enemies or find a key or solve another puzzle to get to the next “room”. The way that Lag Studios set up their game and the way that they execute the scares and the changes in the atmosphere is rather superb. They got me good quite often and were able to surprise me several times with new mechanics and areas.

The simple-looking graphics are effective at conveying a certain feeling with you, which is something that I really need in Horror titles. Meanwhile, the room-count that is steadily getting closer and closer to the big 1000 is giving you that feeling of progress that you need to go on. Personally, I had a blast, trying to complete it in one sitting, and as time went one, I ended up really enjoying this race to the thousand and my attempt of staying perseverant.

A MANSION IN THE MANSION?! WOAH!

Furthermore, the soundtrack of the game is just superb. From time to time, you’re greeted by each of the specimens’ themes indicating who’s following you. There are a few different encounters but whenever you hear a certain tune, you know that it’s that specific encounter and not some other monster or ghost or puppet. That’s something that I enjoyed about the game. The sounds, the voice acting, and the times of quiet were well-placed and added a lot to the game!

But that’s not all there is to this game: There’s also the great and self-ironic writing, the cameos and easter eggs found in the Mansion, and the countless other jokes and references that really made me chuckle. Seeing Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica on a poster in the elevator was great, seeing a “Doom 1”-styled poster in another was even better, realising that there’s a Hatsune Miku doodle in one of the rooms, reading these self-aware notes as well as seeing images inspired by the SCP Foundation, and experiencing some areas themed around other horror games, really made my day. Rooms that look similar to some of the Silent Hill Games or other areas that were designed like a part in Amnesia: The Dark Descent freshen up the game and bring more variety into the pot of goodness that is cooking over this metaphorical fire of uh… jump scares… or something.

Is it gone? Can I leave my hiding place? Am I safe?

Aaaanyways,… the game is great – but here and there you can still find some issues with it.

An issue that I had, for instance, was that the screenshot-function in Steam as well as the in-built Screenshot-Function doesn’t seem to work properly. At times, you would get bad and weirdly cropped screenshots that are heavily delayed. At other times, it doesn’t take the screenshot at all, which is something that I as a reviewer didn’t like, mainly since I enjoy taking screenshots and posting them in my reviews – taken from the original game by me for you. Regardless of that, I still managed to get some good ones here and there, as you can see in this post.

Another thing that I disliked about the game was the use of graphical glitches to represent “hallucinations”. Now and then the room turns into a mess and the textures get switched out, making the game rather hard to play. This happens only for a short while or only one room but it makes it hard to see where the doors are, which is its intension… but it can also get quite frustrating, especially when you’re being chased by something. I don’t know how colour blindness would work with these features, so in theory, this could ruin someone’s experience a hefty amount… and overall, it doesn’t add much to the experience, so I would have left that out.

Heh, this brings back memories…

In the end, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion manages to scare the heck out of you while also amusing you with some great dialogues, interesting mechanics, cool easter eggs, and the cutest ghost in the world! I can highly recommend this game to anyone who’s in search of a short but scary experience! It’s available for free on Steam. I think you can also grab it on PlayStation VR but as I don’t have any consoles, I wasn’t able to check that out.

The main game can be played through in about three to four hours – but you also have some replayability with the Endless Mode that features an all-new mansion and a leaderboard. There is also a DLC for the game called Karamari Hospital, featuring less of a perserverance-challenge and more of a puzzle-area where exploration is rewarded and where try to progress through this bizarre and scary hospital!

I wish you an early Happy Halloween! If you end up playing this on October 31st, Spooky (the ghost from above) actually is shown in a different get-up, so I can highly recommend trying it out then!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

MonHunLog #7 – Winter is coming to the New World!

It’s been a while since I last played Monster Hunter World and since I lost wrote about my adventures in the New World but frankly, I got burnt out from it for quite a while. I used to play with the Hammer, the Gunlance and eventually discovered the Insect Glaive. Eventually, I got bored with those, so I decided to learn to play the Horn which was a lot of fun but progressing with the story was actually quite hard using the Horn I had.

Our current equipment at the point of writing this.

Alas, what happened: Ever since we defeated Xeno’Jiiva, we’ve discovered strange phenomenon all over the New World. Something’s wrong with the ecosystem and as a bunch of Legiana stormed north, we discovered a whole new island… continent… type of thing. 

Effectively, it’s an icy world and we hunt down new types of monsters, create new weapons and we now have a whole new rank to play with: Master Rank! 

Oh, I also gave fishing a go and really liked it, to be honest!

So, uh, as a quick rundown what did I hunt so far?

Coral Pukei-Pukei! Fabulous!
  • Beotodus, an icy landshark that deals a lot of damage and is rather swift… maybe even too swift for my glaive but eventually he died as well.
  • Banbaro, an elk-like monster that is huge and didn’t pose that much of a danger.
  • Viper Tobi-Kadachi – a poisonous sub-species of the Tobi-Kadachi that couldn’t handle the heavy blows of my Hunting Horn.
  • Nightshade Paolumu, a subspecies of the Paolumu that actually puts you to sleep and is weak against Water and Fire.
  • The Coral Pukei-Pukei who was super hard for me personally as he dealt way too much damage with his hydro pump.
  • Barioth… was quite challenging as well.
  • Nargacuga – It posed no threat to us.
  • Glavenus – a monster that came back from a different generation and essentially has a blade-tail. I really enjoyed that fight!
  • Tigrex – a terrifying monster that seems hungrier than Deviljho! Hated that fight!
  • Brachydios – has exploding dick-hands and there’s not really much to that fight. You need to be careful where you step but I just flew over him with my glaive again.
Nargacuga is honestly super pretty!

Then we saw the cause for the disturbance in the ecosystem: Velkhana. It’s a new elder dragon that has an ice-armour and can create ice splitters and freeze the ground, so obviously, we need to be careful not to get hit. In the next mission, we needed to repel it, which we successfully did.

After that, we hunted a Shrieking Legiana (pain in the butt), the shocking Fulgur Anjanath, the Acidic Glavenus, the Ebony Odogaron, and eventually had to first repel Velkhana and eventually, we got “Quest 17: The Iceborne Wyvern” which basically tasks us with slaying Velkhana.

And that’s where we’re at right now. I wanted to pick up Monster Hunter World again and learn new weapons but Velkhana is just super hard to fight. Velkhana’s patterns aren’t the problem though but rather my damage. While I was able to easily hunt down other targets before, I’m now struggling with dishing out the damage in time and hence am running out of time before Velkhana’s actually dead. And that’s quite problematic. 

We’re not the only ones who’re interested in Brachydios!

Using the Hunting Horn against Velkhana was actually a bad choice (who would have thought?), so I tried out my Insect Glaive and failed again, despite having the explosion element on it that tended to be more than enough for most of the previous monsters. Alas, I then tried using the Heavy Bowgun with the flaming ammunition but despite being quite strong against it, it still wasn’t enough…

So, I actually now have to grind some hunts and expeditions to get materials for the right weapons. My weapon of choice is going to be the Insect Glaive as I’ll be able to dodge Velkhana’s ice beam rather easily using that weapon while also damaging the ice armour to eventually get rid of it. Since Velkhana’s weak against both the dragon seal and fire attacks, I thought of going for the Temptation Trident which later upgrades into Vice, Vice+, and eventually into Cruelty and the Nether Vajra. You can find that weapon in the Odogaron Tree and since I’ll need a weapon to fight Elder dragons with anyways, I thought about going for the Ebony Odogaron’s Nether Vajra.

Cruelty does have space for a gem on top of having more affinity and fire damage. The elder seal on Nether Vajra is, however, going to be a lot more useful right now as it’s going to lock some of the more annoying abilities that Velkhana uses.

So, luckily, I already had the materials ready for the Garon Rod II and only had to hunt two Odogaron for three Odogaron Shards to get the materials for Temptation’s Trident and another two for Vice. To upgrade my Vice to Vice+, I’ll need another two Odogaron Shards as well as another Odogaron Hardclaw. So, I’ll have to hunt that one again and I’ll have to carve the body out to gain the necessary shards and I’ll need to get lucky with the Hardclaws. 

Odogaron! DADAAAM!

The upgrade to Nether Vajra is going to require another Dragonbone Artifact (which I’ll just find on an expedition) as well as one more Ebony Odogaron Shard, so if I get lucky, I’ll only need to hunt one more of those… and if I remember correctly, there is an event quest where I’ll have to hunt both of them in one go, so that could actually be quite beneficial for me to save some time.

That, however, is something I’ll have to leave for the next time. It’s been a busy day in the New World and I’ll need to get some sleep in!

Hope you enjoyed the return of the MonHunLog and I hope you’re going to enjoy the next few posts that are coming out soon on MHW and my progress updates! 🙂

Cheers!

Humble Choice – October 2020

It’s yet another month and while I should’ve done this post at the beginning… I honestly didn’t have a chance yet to do it, especially as there were so many other posts that had to get shipped out before this one.

Last month, I was actually able to grab all 12 games and *being a Classic subscriber* I am able to do the same this month, which is great since there’s a whole bunch of games in this one that I like. Here are my choices!

10 – Fantasy Blacksmith

Fantasy Blacksmith is a “magically realistic blacksmith simulator” that seems like a fun idea. I’d get it for myself since it offers a lot of customization and options to play with to basically smith your own swords. I’m a bit worried though that the controls may be janky or that it’s a bit tedious, so that’s why I put it on Spot 10.

I actually couldn’t find a trailer here so I ended up instead using a First Impressions video by Splattercat – who’s one of the few YouTubers that I frequently watch currently.

9 – Basement

I thought I already owned this one but I actually don’t. It’s a strategy game where you start an illegal drug operation and eventually branch out into other territories, expanding your basement for other laboratories and facilities, eventually becoming a big mafia boss. The strategy and management aspects of the game seemed alluring and while I’m not too fond of the theme of the game, I generally think that it could be a fun idea to try out.

8 – Goat of Duty

I already own Goat of Duty but I could gift this to a friend and they could play it with me. Goat of Duty is fast-paced and silly, which is quite a nice contrast to the games I usually play. I’ve actually got a review out on this game over here if you wanna hear more about this game.

7 – Iron Danger

Iron Danger seems like a great addition to my library and while I’m not going to grab it, I’ll have to wishlist it for sure! It’s a tactical RPG where you have this mix of turn-based and real-time combat. You manipulate time and use the environment to your advantage, which is something that I really fancy. The world seems to have machines already but apparently, there’s also magic and living gods and stuff, so I actually fancy that as well. Overall, seems like a cool idea. 

6 – Lightmatter

Lightmatter is another title that I’d gift to someone else. Personally, I’ve already played through it and I’ve even written a review on it over here – but I’d still get it since it’s a great game and since I enjoyed every single bit of it. For anyone that doesn’t know, it essentially plays in the same universe as the Portal and the Half-Life games. Virgil, the boss of some corporation there, has great plans for the world as he’s found a renewable energy source called Lightmatter that is going to bring world peace to everyone. Sadly, stuff isn’t that easy as there seem to be dangerous shadows as well in the labs. The game features a lot of light-based puzzles and generally, Virgil’s commentary, the search for a cat, and the level design overall are highly enjoyable and definitely what makes this game *shine*. (Okay, I’ll see myself out..)

5 – Fae Tactics

Fae Tactics has been on my Steam wishlist for ages and it will stay there since it’s a great game from what I’ve seen. I’ve seen a little bit of it in various streams and it definitely looked like something that I’d enjoy. Turn-based tactical gameplay is just right up my alley and if you add some magic into the mix, it’s obviously the choice to go for me.

4 – The Suicide of Rachel Foster

I don’t know anything about TSoRF. It’s published by Daedelic Games, which is a studio that I personally have been a fan of for quite a while and who also published Partisans 1941! It combines mystery, thriller and horror elements with a mature and touching story. I’ve heard great things about this game. I’ll check it out for myself, eventually!

3 – Autonauts

Autonauts is a game about programming little robots to then build other robots… and uh… it’s similar to Satisfactory and Factorio in a way, I guess. You essentially can automate a whole bunch of things and programming the robots makes use of a scratch-like programming language that is quite easy to handle and makes it possible for even people with no clue to learn programming, I guess. I mean, Scratch is made for kids to learn about programming, afte rall, so yeah. It’s super cute and I would have loved to get this for myself. It’s on my wishlist, though, so eventually, I’ll get it!

2 – Tropico 6: El Prez Edition

I love the “Tropico” games. I played a ton of Tropico 3 and own Tropico 4 and 5 and will eventually play them as well… I actually didn’t know that Tropico 6 came out already… so yeah, as a fan of the franchise and as I enjoyed Tropico 3 so much (and as it only gets better, from what I’ve heard), I’d definitely grab this one for sure. If you haven’t known yet, you essentially play a dictator in the Tropico games and you govern a tropical island. You can turn it into a tourist hotspot, an industrial country or do anything else with it. You also will have to balance your relations to different countries and the needs of your people. I generally really liked Tropico so far, since you can be a very bad guy or a good guy and you can do questionable stuff that would only work in here but not in Sim City or wherever. 

1 – Sunless Bundle

I actually already own Sunless Sea and I loved it. It’s top-notch Lovecraftian horror combined with exploration-based gameplay and an intriguing story. Sunless Sea is a lot of fun and I gotta play it again to write about it sometime soon! As for Sunless Skies, it strikes a similar note but you play on spaceships in the sky and it features other systems, and grabbing both of them at the same time is great. It’s two games for the price of one choice on top of getting the phenomenal soundtrack as well and supporting the devs. Survival, Strategy, Management and Exploration type games are generally my jam, so it’s to be expected of me to recommend the Sunless franchise so much. 

As for the drop-outs: I already own The Uncertain but haven’t played it yet. It’s a story-driven adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world, featuring Sci-Fi elements and robots and it seems to be quite atmospheric but generally, I know nothing about it apart from the Steam Store info and I’ll have to play it myself in order to judge whether or not I’d gift it to others. Also, chances are that you own it yourself if you grabbed it for free in 2017 as I did. Meanwhile Shadows: Awakening didn’t really interest me too much. Something about it just didn’t catch me in the same way that other titles did. Fantasy Blacksmith is much more interesting to me than another isometric ARPG. 

Either way, that’s it for October really. October’s Choice felt like a good mix overall. We’ve got nice story games, nice strategy games, nice action games and other adventures. I would have liked it more if there would have been more scary titles to play in Spooktober but at the same time, someone else would have hated that.

Are you going for this month’s Choice? What are your choices? Would you rank some stuff differently? Did you originally plan to not grab some game but now decided to do so after my post? – Actually, that last question may seem weird but I’d love to hear how these posts influence people’s interest in games and stuff. Be sure to let me know if you have any thoughts on that!

Cheers!

Alex Hutchinson is out of touch with reality

A lot of streamers on Twitch have been using music that they don’t own or that they weren’t explicitly allowed to use in their streams and now have to fear DMCA strikes and potential takedowns from clips and VODs that could be plenty of years old. Twitch is trying its best to mute those VODs and clips or potentially just remove it but has also handled the situation in an iffy way as it doesn’t communicate which content is problematic and what you’re getting struck for. Instead of saying that this VOD or this clip uses music by some artist who’s now claiming it, then you could delete that specific video and just not use that artist’s music, I guess…

But it’s all a rather difficult situation. Twitch doesn’t handle it well but should’ve stopped copyright infringements ages ago and should communicate it better right now… Meanwhile, labels, studios and artists are in the complete right as well to claim what they own, although the warner bros. bots are going a bit too far at times. 

But among all the chaos in regards to DMCAs and Music and Twitch, there is one man who’s completely out of touch with the world… Alex Hutchinson who’s known for working on Spore, The Sims 2, AC3, Far Cry 4 and Journey to the Savage Planet – who now is working on Google’s Stadia! 

Hutchinson’s hot take is that streamers should rather “worry about streaming the games they didn’t pay for as well” and that “streamers should pay developers and publishers of the games that they are streaming”. According to him, there should be a license “like in any real business” to pay for the content they use.

And naturally, this blew up and he’s responding to some of the comments and I’m not entirely sure if he’s not just baiting to get some attention going or if he’s completely serious about it… but it makes for a good prompt: Should streamers pay developers for the games that they make money with? Should bloggers do the same? Should I pay developers in order to acquire a license to be able to review their games, even when they sent me a copy or when I bought the copy myself? 

Well, short answer: No, that’s stupid. And here’s why:

The problem with this whole idea is that the gaming industry works in a wholly different way from the music industry. Let’s say you’re a solo developer without a publisher and you end up selling a game for 5 bucks on steam. Someone buys one copy of your game and you earn 3.5 bucks whilst Steam takes 1.5 bucks for every copy sold aka 30%. (We’ll just use the 30% cut for this instead of the actual numbers that scale with how many copies are being sold and stuff because it makes it a bit easier.)

If a hundred people buy that game, the developer will get 350 bucks while Steam gets 150 bucks and everyone is happy. Of course, there are other costs involved like advertisement and potential losses but generally, you can get “free” advertisement by giving copies to select streamers, bloggers, websites and certain people so that they can talk or write about it and potentially play it in front of a large audience. A great example for that would be SplattercatGaming on YouTube who’s doing First Impressions of games. Meanwhile, if FGSquared streams it in front of her audience, she’s showing gameplay for more than just half an hour and is able to show the gameplay quite well to her audience, encouraging them to buy it. And on another note, I do reviews as well whenever I get the time to do so – and there are developers that reach out via mail to me and that want me to review their game or at least write about it. 

Essentially, instead of investing a whole lot of money into Facebook, Instagram and YouTube ads, you can distribute review copies to people that will advertise your game for free. They earn money from YouTube ads and Subs/Donos on Twitch and uh… I don’t earn money at all apart from blogging but that doesn’t matter as you get the idea. It’s free advertisement, essentially, at the cost of not selling a copy to that one specific streamer, blogger or YouTuber. 

On the other hand, musicians earn $0.006 to $0.0084 per play on Spotify. If the streamer plays the song in front of a large audience, they earn that $0.006 from that one play. (I’ll stick to the lower number since I also used the highest cut in the example above.) If a hundred people decide to play that song one time, the musician earns $0.60 which is… not much compared to what a solo game developer would earn. And even then, I’m not sure if that musician is getting the whole 60 cents from Spotify or if it gets split up between the artist and the label/studio, etc. 

Obviously, developers will have publishers as well that may potentially take a cut as well but generally, I’d say that small developers earn more on Steam than small musicians do on Spotify. Of course, there are also sales from other music stores (like Bandcamp!) or if you buy the album somewhere else but the cut over there can be so different from artist to artist that I’m not sure if the comparison is fair.

So while the gaming industry and the music industry are completely different in that regard, at least in my uneducated and superficial opinion (prove me right if you wanna and if you know more about it), I actually do think that having licenses could be a good idea. Not for the games but rather for the music. 

In my streams, I use music by Bonaparte, Desmond Cheese and City Girl who I wrote E-Mails to in order to get permission to use their music. Whenever I play their music, it shows on screen and I tend to talk a bit more about the songs and what I like about them. I also tend to tell people to check out the links below to get to the social media pages for the different artists… and I’m also sure that Bonaparte at this point earned a lot from me alone on Spotify. 

What if there was a license that you could pay for that would support the artists that you used on Twitch? You’d essentially pay a fee every month or so and then you’re able to use select artists or playlists and the artists would get a better cut from the deal compared to Spotify… I’d like that idea personally but I’m not sure if that would ever work properly.

Btw, Twitch is now introducing “Soundtrack” now which is an app that not only allows you to use music by approved artists that gave permission to Twitch but that also separates the audio from the VOD, resulting in an easier time for you as a streamer. The overlay for it is also on the screen and doesn’t feel intrusive at all but I’ll write it about that eventually as well at another time.

As for gaming, I feel like it’s ridiculous to pay for a game again that you already bought just to be able to stream it. A revenue share is also a rather silly idea, in my opinion, as the streamers that earn money with their content don’t earn it because of the games… but rather because of the entertainment they provide. It’s transformative, in the sense that streamers add commentary and their personalities to the gameplay. It’s not about the game but rather about the streamer. 

A revenue split would not work in a way because the streamers that do it as a hobby and that don’t earn a cent from it would still have to pay to be able to stream the game they’re playing, for free…? The idea of review copies that the publishers are HANDING OUT to certain streamers would be idiotic as the streamers would suddenly have to make less money by streaming the games that they got given. 

If we take this proposal further (ad absurdum), then the pianist is going to have to pay the guy who made his piano for every single person that bought a ticket to his concert. The piano maker already got paid for the piano but suddenly, he’ll earn more and the pianist is going to have to deal with it. 

Let me go even further: The ASMR and Just Chatting streamers will have to pay money to the some state because they’re streaming and making money off words. They’ll also have to pay money to the company that made their mic, even though they already bought it. They’ll also have to pay additional money to their landlord since the rent only covers them living there but not them earning money in their flats.

On another note, a lot of athletes use certain brands as well and hence advertise those. My siblings used to play table tennis and when they followed the better players for a while on TV, they would constantly wish for a DONIC table tennis racket. The fact that the best of the best were using those, at the time, made these already worth buying in their eyes, even if they had to save up a lot for them. 

The pianist is playing his best music on a certain piano. The soccer player is using one specific brand of shoes whenever he wins a game. A member of a famous esports team is using a specific mouse in all of his games. 

The idea of marketing and free samples and review copies is something that works quite well. Streamers playing games for their audience and hence promoting it… it works and is nothing that should get changed to get even more money for Bigfish developers and publishers while small indie studios would probably not profit all that much from it. 

At last,… Hutchinson also mentioned, jokingly, that NFL and other sports organisations should maybe pay streamers to broadcast and comment on the full games… on Twitch… and that’s hilarious because while he’s mocking the idea, it’s actually a thing. Twitch does that. The NFL does that. It’s very successful actually. Hutchinson must be trolling. I don’t want to believe that someone who’s behind great titles like Spore and who’s working on Stadia is just really that out of touch with reality. Like, that can’t be…, right? 

So, uh, let’s summarise: As mentioned above, I think that the proposal of having streamers pay for games that they already paid for is stupid (I just noticed that that’s what WoW and FFOnline are doing… I’m still not a fan of paid subscription models in games that you already bought). I haven’t even gotten into tax stuff and all of that… in Germany, you’d have to pay taxes and your channel would get treated like a small business as well when you earn a specific amount of money per year. 

It’s also stupid to demand a revenue share when streamers add a lot of publicity to games, as you can see with Among Us (which was quite “dead” for two years and then blew up because of streamers) and Fall Guys (whose whole marketing campaign consisted of handing keys to streamers). It’s stupid to criticize streamers for earning money with their own content that is based around review copies handed out by publishers and developers. It’s like jumping in front of a car and then demanding that others pay for the hospital bills, not because of them running you over but rather because of them not being there for you and preventing you from jumping in front of the car. Doesn’t make sense? Yeah, exactly!

I hope you enjoyed this post. I kind of wanting to give my two cents on it and wanted to make a post while it’s still a “hot topic”. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it and see what you think of this whole ordeal. Is Hutchinson out of touch with reality or is he really just a genius that is too advanced for our current times?

Cheers!

Edit: I added “ad absurdum” to one of the paragraphs since that’s a word that I’ve been looking for while writing up the post but while it was lying on my tongue, it just didn’t come out. Now it’s there. The “to take it further” part was meant to be an “ad absurdum” mechanism to showcase how silly this idea would sound if we replace “games” and “streamers” with “pianos” and “pianists” or “microphones” and “ASMRtists/Just Chatting streamers” or “running shoes” and “athletes”. So that’s an edit I had to make to essentially just mention that it’s supposed to sound silly and absurd because it is silly and absurd in a way.

Indietail – Ring of Pain

"Roguelike flavour, card game pacing, 
dungeon crawl, chaos embracing. 
Shadows cast a truth to see. 
In the darkness, you can visit me." 
Join me as I venture deep, 
fear not you don't have to take a leap. 
Since if you're looking for something to play that's new, 
I've got you covered with my Ring of Pain review.

Honestly, Simon Boxer and Twice Different did such a great job with the rhymes, so I shouldn’t really bother with it and just leave it to them. Oh jeez, that sucked. Anyways, welcome to yet another Indietail!

Ring of Pain, a title that I’ve been excited for quite some time, has come out just a few days ago and honestly, I love it. It’s dark, mysterious, and creepy. It leaves you in the shadows so that you learn on your own and essentially, it really gives me that “one more run” feeling whenever I die, which is glorious and something that I’ve been missing from other titles that I’ve played lately. 

Developer: Simon Boxer, Twice Different
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, Roguelike, Card Game, Difficult
Release Date: October 15th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
I received the copy by the devs but the opinions are my own.

But what is Ring of Pain about? After awakening, an owl greets us from our slumber, handing us a candle to light at the depths of this ominous place that we find ourselves in. Hence, we venture deeper and deeper, facing more and more challenges, getting stronger and eventually, we reach the depth of this place and have the choice of engulfing the world in shadows or enlightening it to change it forever. Apart from that, we also get to meet a dark entity of sorts that advices us to do the opposite of what owl says and to not trust owl at all… although the owl says the same about that dark fellow, so there are a lot of rhymes, lore snippets and other information to be gathered in the game as you go on but after a few hours, I know basically nothing about the game, to be honest.

The superior choice!

When you start off, you’re essentially only equipped with a candle that grants you some clarity and improved stealth chance. You venture deeper into the dungeon, fighting foes by clicking onto them, finding items to get stronger and essentially improving your stats to fare better against your foes. The better your stats and your build, the better your chances of survival – but mostly, you need your wits.

Enemies come in all kinds of forms with their own patterns and stats. Some of them explode on death, dealing damage to you and foes alike. Some other enemies attack you relentlessly, some attack you only when they pass you, while others don’t allow you to pass at all, essentially blocking the road. There are all kinds of enemies and once you discover them and learn how to deal with them, the gameplay becomes very tactical and strategic, which is something that I really enjoyed. 

Sam got a gift for us!

Do you move to the right to prevent that exploding fellow from blowing up in your face but risking that that right fellow hits you, or do you take the hit but kill the right fellow in the process? Do you take the risk of reducing your defensive stats by taking the Glass Shield, only for better dodge chance and more attack damage? Honestly, at times it feels like a huge gamble when you go through the dungeon and pick up items and later come to regret them. Sometimes you have to calculate and take risks but more often than not, these risks paid out for me, which is why the game is so much fun to me. Personally, I’m more of a careful and tactical player in other games but Ring of Pain makes it easy for me to take risks at times as it never fails to project the consequences for my actions. Enemies show their intentions for the next turn while damage numbers are reflected on my health bar when I hover over the options available to me. This damage projection in the game feels really good as it lets you plan out your next, if not “your next few”, moves.

Deeper and deeper!

And while I could mention how the stats work, I don’t really have to because it’s as simple as it gets. You strike harder when you’ve got a high attack stat, for instance, and the other stats are quite self-explanatory as well. The game systems make sense and the game teaches you those systems quite well. If you hover over the stats and card-keywords, you learn about them, too, which really helps beginners get into the game while helping veterans freshen up their memory. On top of your “standard” stats, Ring of Pain also features a chance to perform critical strikes, dodge damage or potentially sneak away, all influenced by either your items, your speed stat or your clarity stat, which I found quite neat. 

The game is easy to get into but hard to master. The UI being very intuitive is essentially necessary for a game like this that punishes you for every wrong choice you make. 

Where to go? What to do? Oh wait, it’s a gg!

So, I really enjoyed the gameplay side of things and the countless runs that I had so far and could go on and on about builds that I tried out and about why the spoon is so overpowered… but there’s more Ring of Pain. The whole aesthetic of the game, the enemy design, the writing and the art of the game, created by Simon Boxer, on top of the phenomenal soundtrack created by Belinda Coomes, and the spine-chilling and terrifying sounds made and implemented by Damion Sheppard really give this game this certain dark and creepy vibe that I just love. I love Ring of Pain for the specific reason that it’s fun and creepy. It’s dark, it’s gritty. At times, it’s horrifying. I love it. 

But despite loving it so much, there are some flaws here and there. For instance, there are the monument rooms that just never really seem to pay out? The fountain of life, as an example, reduces your maximum health but heals you fully, which is something that works but the game never tells you that it does that. You have to figure it out yourself. Another monument room seems to destroy your gems and give you a stat payout but the game – that is otherwise really good at projecting the consequences of your choices – doesn’t really tell you what happened after it happened, which made me just avoid those rooms. 

…was a good run!

Another flaw in the game is the difficulty curve after the candle-room where you make your choice. One of the choices leaves you with a boss-fight that I found rather hard to deal with… the other choice brings you into a new area with stronger enemies and it’s also a bit hard to get through, compared to what came before, so essentially I didn’t enjoy how steep the difficulty curve turned out to be near the end of the game, resulting in me having to yet finish a run all the way through. But the time will come when the stars align, and eventually, I’ll be able to beat the Ring of Pain…

…and when that time comes, I’ll play another run. And another one. Because I like this game a lot. While the flaws are there, they probably will get balanced eventually and there are updates to come, from what I’ve gathered, so there is still a lot to do. On top of normal runs, you also can unlock items for your future runs or play daily challenges that are seeded and feature over 25 modifiers. You can essentially compete with other players in those for the leaderboard, which I found interesting, although not exactly my cup of tea. Being a roguelike, Ring of Pain offers a lot of replayability with its 150+ items and 50+ creatures to discover, a story to unravel, 25+ special rooms to find, a branching ending, hard mode, 50+ achievements, and a bunch of other features that make the game more fun as you go on. 

Another unlock for the future runs!

Hence, I’m recommending this game to everyone who’s in search of another roguelike to play in Spooktober or afterwards. It’s creepy, it’s ominous, it’s glorious. The gameplay is fun, I haven’t encountered any bugs and overall, it’s great.

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking forward to Lamentum

Lamentum is a pixel-art survival horror game set in New England in the mid-nineteenth century. I played the demo of it and honestly, I really liked the vibes that I got from it. Here’s why I enjoyed it so much!

Developer: Obscure Tales
Publisher: Another Indie
Release Date: 2021
Genres: 2D, Indie, Survival, Horror, Action Adventure, Lovecraftian

After no conventional method was able to cure Alissa’s deadly disease, the young aristocrat Victor Hartwell turns to unconventional methods and Grau Hill Mansion’s Earl, Edmond Steinrot, to find a treatment for his beloved wife. In Lamentum, we guide Hartwell in his desperate journey but nobody could have fathomed what unimaginable horrors were waiting for us over there. This is a story of love, sacrifice, and sacred otherworldy entities.

Lamentum takes inspiration from classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill along with cosmic horror masterpieces, like the Cthulhu mythos and other works by Lovecraft.

Obscure Tales is very much able to capture what makes the Lovecraftian horror stories so great: The fear of the unknown and the fear of the things that mankind shouldn’t have known. 

Terrible, terrifying creatures are lurking in the shadows while the Mansion has changed over one night. The paintings and statues have transformed into a terrible and grotesque state… and worst of all, there is just no trace left of Alissa!

That’s where the story really picks up. A note in the room that we wake up in reveals that Alissa made her way into the Earl’s office but the door’s locked from the inside and we don’t have any other way in. Hence, we have to go deeper and search other rooms for clues and useful items. In one room, we find a small box. In another, we find some mysterious runes. Alas, there’s a room with a sword but there is something off about it as well. It all feels like one big puzzle where you have to figure out how different pieces fit together and how you’re able to combine different items or use certain items.

The controls feel quite good, although I prefer the controller over the keyboard controls. When I found a gun, I had to get used to the aiming and the fact that you need to reload after every single shot, despite enemies moving towards you, which makes sense since mid-nineteenth century weapons weren’t automated or anything like that. Combat usually consists of figuring out the enemy patterns and kiting them while landing a hit or two in between their attack phases. With only one enemy or two, in the beginning, this can be rather easily done but over time, more and more enemies show up, so you really have to wage whether or not it’s worth it to risk damage or if you want to move past them. Generally, I’ve been trying to sneak past enemies as healing items and ink (to save the game) are rare in the game and as I wanted to try a more cautious approach, but if you’re good at kiting enemies, then you certainly can go for a more action-heavy approach!

The game allows you to assign three items to slots so that you can use them at any given time with just one button-press. Otherwise, you’ll have to move into the inventory and equip items manually, which can be a bit annoying at first as you’re still figuring out what you exactly need, but you’ll get used to it eventually. Generally, I kept my weapons in those slots as well as the lamp that I found somewhere but you can use them however you like. The inventory is limited to nine spaces but there are storage crates that share their inventory where you can put in a lot more items. Alas, you’ll have to manage your inventory space and be careful as to what you can bring with you and what you cannot. If you come across an item that you want to take but your inventory is full, you’ll obviously have to go back to a storage trunk and remove some of your items and go back to said room, if you can find it. I found that mechanic quite intriguing as a lot of the games I played tend to give you tons of inventory space or even inventory upgrades at the beginning, making the game a bit easier. 

Taking multiple trips back and forth is something that I tried to avoid as much as possible but due to the inventory situation, I sometimes had to do exactly that. The mansion is huge and despite having a map, it is actually quite easy to get lost in it, especially with all the doors that aren’t all accessible. And with enemies spawning in some rooms as you travel through them, multiple trips bear a lot of risks. This added a bit of difficulty to the game as I needed certain items for puzzles, such as keys and shards, but also didn’t know if I’ll need the runes and teeth in upcoming rooms. 

When you figure stuff out, you get that short moment of satisfaction that I really enjoyed in this game. When you’re stuck, however, it can be a bit frustrating but the game never really leaves you clueless. Certain doors are closed, so you have to search for something to do in the accessible rooms and hallways.

At last, I’d like to say that the art style is wonderfully dark and detailed. The Top-Down-ish view highlights the art style as you get to see a lot of the big rooms and small details that they feature. The animations are fluid and unique for all of the different enemy types and I love to see the different cut scenes in the game that depicted the horrors of the nightmare that we’ve found ourselves in. The dark and gory beauty of the game gets complimented by the beautiful and ominous music that switches from enigmatic and sad sounds to darker and creepier tunes. 

The full game will feature an array of 19th Century Melee and Ranged weaponry that isn’t just limited to the pistol, the knive and the sword found in the demo. Apart from that it will also include branching paths and multiple endings on top of “a terrifying plot for a mature audience”.

If you’re looking for a Horror Game to play, then I’d definitely recommend checking out Lamentum’s Demo over here. The game fully releases in 2021 but I really enjoyed the demo that is actually rather long for a demo. In case you want to get notified when it launches or in case you want to support Obscure Tales already, you should definitely wishlist the game on Steam. Personally, I’m really excited about this title, despite being more of a scaredy-cat. 

Either way, that’s it for the post. I meant to write this post for a long time already but ended up not really being able to do so, due to university stuff, exams, paperwork, family stuff, and all of the things that stop you from doing what you really want. When I got to write it, I really enjoyed the process. The beginning part of this post was a bit hard to work out without spoiling anything but I think I did a pretty good job at it (feedback appreciated!).

This post wasn’t meant to be a review, especially as this is a demo but in the end, it offered a lot of entertainment, so the post turned out a lot longer than originally planned. Generally, I try to just go with my first impressions and thoughts on games and their systems in these types of posts and since I didn’t play the full game just yet, there’s obviously no telling what the endgame looks like or future bosses or how the story unravels, and I can’t quite judge the whole of the game solely based on the beginning. Alas, take this post with a grain of salt until I’m able to write an actual review on the game. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the demo and I hope that you’re checking out the game yourself.

Again, I highly recommend it!

Cheers!

I’m not a gamer

So, yesterday, I made a post on a couple of topics, including toxicity, bad game design encouraging certain , “tryhards”, the terminology of “being a gamer”, gatekeeping and other stuff. My problem with that post was that it started with a question, then it suddenly branched out into three different topics and at the end, it concluded without ever answering the question. That’s what I’d consider a confusing and bad post. 

So, I edited the post and it didn’t help bring my point across because that post was overloaded and bad in quality. Hence, I’m splitting it up into multiple posts, each dedicated to their own topic so that I can get my idea across as intended. After all, I’m really bad at putting my thoughts into words and I should just write about one thing instead of trying to add in more and more herbs to the soup, if that makes sense.

This post is about “being a gamer”. 

A while ago, I had this experience with a German streamer who I followed for a bit who wanted to learn English. I thought that that was cute and wanted to help, so we hopped into Valorant and played a few rounds and I corrected him whenever he did use words in the wrong way, which he really found helpful.

During one of the games, he got frustrated. He was playing Jett, a duelist-class agent that has high mobility and an ultimate with some nice kill-potential. I was playing Sage, a support-class agent that has zone-control with an ice wall and a slow area but that can also heal and revive people. Sage doesn’t have any damaging abilities. Other people in our team would play Raze and Pheonix, as well, which are also duelists with tools in their kit to kill people with. Raze is also able to one-shot people with three of her abilities, which is major bullshit btw. 

That guy’s frustration came from him doing really well with 27 kills and us still losing the game. I, on the other hand, died a bunch and got a lot of assists for helping my team kill people – but I didn’t get that many kills. My KDA was, hence, not as good as his, so he insulted and “flamed” me. I told him that my or his KDA or stats don’t matter if we end up still losing the game because of bad team play. In the end, you can be the best player on your team but it doesn’t matter if you don’t win – and winning was our common goal. 

Roger said a while ago that there is always someone who wins and someone who loses in competitive games. You cannot change that unless it’s a tie of sorts… but those are quite unlikely with overtime mechanics in place and that kind of stuff. It’s a given that you cannot always win or that there is always someone better than you in any game. 

So, this guy who was insulting me on his stream also said that I’m not a “gamer” because I don’t care about those stats. And it’s true. I don’t care about stats and care more about having fun in games. Winning is also fun btw so obviously it’s not that I don’t care about winning and doing my best. I’m just fine with losing if I’m able to gain experience, practice or just have fun.

Practically, I’m really bad at FPS games and even worse in Valorant as I haven’t had any practice in it for quite some time. I also haven’t played CS:GO or any of those other games, so I’m lacking experience. The only way for me to improve would be to play more. Playing more, however, requires me to have fun as I’ll get frustrated if the game gets boring, stale or if I just don’t enjoy it. I told him beforehand that I’m not good at the game and when he insulted me based on numbers without acknowledging that him playing Solo and for his stats only in a TEAM GAME wasn’t exactly “good” either,… well…. I just didn’t wanna bother with him anymore. I felt that he was toxic, selfish and honestly quite cringy. Him throwing a tantrum over me not being a “gamer” was childish at best. Him rushing in to kill people without pinging, communicating or saying anything was really bad, actually. Him getting a kill but then dying, alone, with the spike on him, is a bad move. But that doesn’t matter apparently when you have good stats, right? Because people just look at the stats and not your individual plays or whatever.

So, what’s a “gamer” then? 

First up, I won’t include the urban dictionary definition because of obvious reasons.

Apparently, a gamer is someone who is not contempt with losing and who only cares about winning no matter what playstyle and what tool they have to resort to. Cheating or hacking is most likely not included in that definition. Ninja said that someone who is contempt with losing has lost twice and that you have to get angry and rage when you lose, to be considered a gamer – or something like that.

My problem with that sort of definition is that it is kind of wrong? I mean, it doesn’t include casual gamers, otome gamers, mobile gamers, simulation-type gamers, and other types. I’d say that a “gamer” is someone who plays games a lot. A “competitive gamer” would be someone as mentioned above who is very competitive (duh.) and who really wants to improve and get better at the game. A “casual gamer” would be someone who rather focuses on having a fun experience and enjoying their time. 

Problem is that no matter what my personal definition is, there will always be people that won’t acknowledge it. “You’re not a gamer” is a form of gatekeeping that excludes me because I’m not honing my skills in certain games. It also excludes people that play games casually and people that play other types of games that cannot really be played competitively. There are a lot of people in “gaming communities” that don’t consider Visual Novels, otome games, mobile games and simulation-type games as “games”. I mean they are games but if a “gamer” is someone who “plays games” then those people that play the game types that I mentioned above aren’t “gamers” or “true gamers” in their eyes

That’s what I noticed in a lot of places like Twitter, Reddit, Twitch, and Discord. It’s gatekeeping at its finest and I don’t like it. It’s unhealthy for communities and toxic, at best. That’s why I don’t consider myself a “gamer” because that term is just oozing with toxicity. It’s a term that people use to label others while excluding other people. A “gamer” is more often than not almost obsessed with winning or obsessed with having high stats. You cannot always do good, though, and despite what Ninja may say on the topic, losing is completely fine as long as you did your best. There is always someone who is better than you after all. In the time that you rage or insult or badmouth others, you could easily try again and get better by reflecting on what you did wrong and what you can do better. And then you get better. That’s the way it is.

So, to sum it up, there is not really any definition of what a “gamer” is that literally everyone would accept, duh. There is a meme, as Jett and Dan pointed out once in my stream, of “getting your gamer card revoked” for liking certain types of games or certain game mechanics (e.g. escort missions) – and that’s really just gatekeeping, in my eyes. People that want to belong to a gaming community get excluded for not being “gamers” because they do things differently. 

Obviously, people will always be assholes and the only real solution to that is to ignore them. If you want to be a gamer, be a gamer. Fuck their opinions, just go for it. Nobody can stop you. If you want to consider yourself a core gamer or a true gamer or a veteran gamer or whatever, then just call yourself that. 

If someone calls me a “gamer”, then I’ll politely say that I’m not a “gamer” because I don’t like the term and because I have negative connotations with it. It’s a terminology that is oozing with toxicity and that seems gatekeep-ish and that does more harm than good, in my opinion. Also, I don’t like labels like that, be it “otter” or “gamer” or “otaku” or whatever.

Rather, I’m “someone who likes to play games” or rather “gaming is a big part of my life” or a “big hobby of mine”. Terminology like that puts it better into words and really helps me because it’s not negative or positive. It’s just neutral and objective. Similarly, I like watching anime but I wouldn’t consider myself an “otaku” because I have negative connotations with the term – or rather, it’s an insult, to begin with, and I hate the anime community because of my negative experiences with a lot of people in said community. Being an “otaku” and “liking anime” are two different things for me, personally, with a very small difference.

Wearing the “same trousers” and wearing “trousers that look the same” are two things as well, btw.

Furthermore, I’d like to say that I don’t care about how you play your games. You can be a speedrunner (which is awesome btw!), a competitive gamer (I play games competitively as well, at times), a casual gamer (I mostly play games casually), a mobile gamer (it’s still a game, innit?), or anything else. You can be someone who plays games or someone who is a gamer. Whatever floats your boat. I’m not critiquing the way people play their games but rather the terminology and the gatekeeping that I associate with it.

I just wanted to comment on the terminology of “being a gamer” and why I don’t like the terminology, personally

What are your thoughts on the matter? What are statements that would “get your gamer card revoked”? Have you had any toxic experiences with gatekeeping in regards to being or not being a “gamer”? Would you consider yourself a “gamer” or rather “someone who plays games”? Do you see any difference at all? 

Cheers!

Steam Game Festival: Autumn Edition – Part 2

Today, I wanted to take another look at some other demos. 

Just like yesterday, the Steam Game Festival Autumn Edition is still a thing and it’s going to be a thing for another few days, so make sure to check out its page for some more information and some cool demos. 

Neurodeck

Neurodeck is a difficult card-based Roguelike Dungeon Crawler with a psychology-theme. Dive into your psyche, challenge your fears and face your phobias to defeat them through the power of life-inspired cards.

The game feels alright. You have to balance your two main stats: Your sanity and your stamina. To play cards you need to invest action points that refresh each round or get refreshed using card effects. As you use different cards, you require different costs of your stamina. Your Sanity resembles your Health pool and can be restored using hugs and snacks and other card effects. Most of the time, you’ll fight phobias (enemies) that inflict status effects such as Sorrow (lock cards for a turn at the end of your turn) or Anxiety, which I find quite interesting overall…

…but for whatever reason, I don’t like Neurodeck too much. It is very strategic but it doesn’t feel as strategic as Slay The Spire or Ring of Pain, for instance. You have traits and equipment that you can get throughout the run but the game does poorly to explain those systems. Combat feels a bit too slow, despite it being similar to Slay The Spire which feels quite a lot faster and more strategic. I should like Neurodeck but for whatever reason, it is not my cup of tea, which is totally fine but just something I noticed over the course of half an hour or so. If you wanna try it out, you can download the demo over here

Ponpu

Ponpu is an action-packed party game that is heavily inspired by Bomberman. Play as one of four different ducks (?) and bomb your way to victory. Since I don’t have a second controller, I wasn’t able to play the local co-op and hence, only tried out the Store Mode that features a whole world with different areas, levels and bosses.

Using the A-button you place down explosive eggs that either detonate after a while or when they hit something. Using the B-button you shield yourself, stunning enemies in the vicinity and propelling your egg forward so that it either destroys the environment or damages enemies. 

Since it’s heavily inspired by Bomberman the gameplay doesn’t feel too innovative. What’s really great about Ponpu, though, is the hand-drawn art style, the weird but cool music and the enemy and character design, that I personally enjoyed a lot. If you search for a game to play with friends, I’d reckon that Ponpu could be right up your valley. The single-single player-campaign was quite nice. The other modes include a paint battle, coin battle, death battle and some other modes that you may know from Bomberman already. You can find the demo and wishlist the game over here.

Webbed

Webbed is a physics-based 2D Puzzle Platformer where you swing through the trees, spin sticky webs and make friends with bugs – Oh, and you play a very adorable spider!

I’ve been following Webbed for some time already on Twitter and was quite excited to finally play it this time around! Despite my big fear of spiders, I really like the design of the critter that we’re playing and – worst case – you can still turn all spiders into blobs using Arachnophobia mode. The demo plays a day before the events of the actual game (that should come out in 2021) and features you getting to know the controls and the different bees, flies, moths, ants and other insects that inhabit the demo-forest. You can swing and fly through the air, eat bugs, collect pollen for the bee next-door. You also get to spin your own webs in a very nice fashion and while there is not much to do in the demo, it certainly is still a lot of fun to play as a spider and actually be nice and not pop up in some corner of the room and be disgusting and horrifying and whatever. 

Anyways, you can find the demo and wishlist the game over here! I highly recommend it to you! Lots of fun!

Xuan Yuan Sword VII

Being developed by Softstar, I’m not sure if this is still an Indie Game or not. Either way, Xuan Yuan VII Sword seemed interesting as its demo was available during the latest Steam Game Festival and as it seems to combine Chinese mythology with Action-RPG mechanics.

Play as Taishi Zhao, a calm and reliable swordsman who accidentally got involved in a tragic fate and now has to start a journey to find out about the truth. At first, I thought that this game was really nothing special combat-wise. You have your light and heavy attacks. You can parry. You can dodge away… felt like the classic Action-RPG-experience to me… but then I got introduced to the Martial Arts Stances that unlock different variations of your heavy attacks with bonus effects and special attacks that have a cooldown. On top of that, you have different skill trees and trinkets that you can equip and change to customize your play style. Also, a glimpse at the inventory reveals that your weapon apparently consists of multiple parts that may be exchangeable, improving different aspects of your weapon. Overall, I really enjoy the demo. While the story feels generic and slow, combat is actually a ton of fun! 

So, after an hour, I was able to play through the tutorial and the first boss fight as well as some other small fights. The story feels generic at first but the loading screens tease different empires and mythological aspects to the story that I’d look forward to, personally. Combat was where the game really shines and in case, you wanna play it yourself, go visit the store over here.

F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch

F.I.S.T. is a challenging Metroidvania Action Platformer where you play as a rabbit with an exoskeleton and you battle against enemies. Story-wise, you’re playing as Rayton, a former resistance war soldier who’s been living in seclusion ever since the Machine Legion invaded and colonized Torch City – a city inhabited by animals. After his friend was forcibly arrested, Rayton gets his weapon back and gets ready to strike his enemies with an iron fist! Literally!

The demo shows you two out of three weapons but oh boy, it feels so good. You can either hand out high single-target damage using your fist or you slash through enemies using the drill, featuring high AoE damage. The fist is a lot faster while the drill is able to fix you up with some nice damage if you manage to hit a few targets. Using heavy and light attacks, you’re able to perform powerful combos, grab enemies and throw them away, as well as stun-lock enemies when you time your attacks right. Overall, really satisfying! The Dieselpunk aesthetic of the game (powered by Unreal Engine 4) just looks stunning, especially when you perform some powerful combos on enemies and successfully trigger some of the stunning animations that come with them. 

The full game will feature the classic Metroidvania experience with an interconnected game map and secrets but also a total of three weapons: The fist, the drill, and the whip! F.I.S.T. has been on my wishlist for quite a while already, so I was really happy about finally being able to play it! The game’s supposed to come out in April 2021 but in case you want to play the short but fun demo yourself or maybe just wishlist the game, click here!

Superliminal

Superliminal is a First-person Puzzle game that plays with the ambiguity of depth and perspective. 

Generally, it reminded me a bit of CrowCrowCrow’s “The Stanley Parable”, mostly due to the style and the Narration that the game uses. The demo lets you play the first few puzzles where you essentially get to make objects bigger, smaller, move them away or create new ones using the angle and distance that you look at them. I’m actually quite excited about playing this game myself when I get my hands on it! 

The game’s coming out on November 5th and honestly, I really enjoyed the general vibe as well as the creative puzzles in it. You can check out the demo yourself over here

Undungeon

Undungeon is a hand-drawn Action Roguelike with RPG elements where you travel between dimensions and change the world around you in an attempt to reconstruct the shattered Multiverse. I’ve been following the Instagram account for a while now and it looked really promising so far! In the demo, you play as Void, an interesting character that uses normal attacks and mines and has some other interesting abilities – and you try to find the Heralds.

The game feels quite nice actually. There is real-time combat and you essentially are able to equip different body parts for different abilities on each of the characters. While the demo has only Void as a character, the full game has six heroes (like Void) planned, as well as some other dimensions and new abilities and story-lines for each of the characters. What bothered me a bit is that it doesn’t feel too good to hit enemies or objects in the world. You strike something and it seems to just slash through it without an additional sound-effect or something that signifies that you hit the target. Personally, that’s something that I would have liked a lot more in this game. After all, the animations in combat look great! Why wouldn’t they also sound great? The story is a bit complicated to explain and I’m not sure I get it either… but I enjoy the travelling mechanic and the way that the story seems to get connected eventually with some bits and pieces that you learn through conversations. 

At some point in the game, the developer arrives and wants to talk to you. He can’t leave the game until you wishlist it, so if you want to do that or maybe talk to him in the game as well, check out the demo and the steam page over here! If you’re not convinced yet, you can also end his suffering and send him home by stabbing him in the gut. Your choice!

Castle Flipper 

Castle Flipper is a Medieval First-Person Simulation where you clean, destroy and rebuild houses in a similar fashion to House Flipper! 

At first, I thought it was by the same devs as House Flipper… but it’s not. It’s by Pyramid Games who also made Occupy Mars: The Game. The game plays similar to how House Flipper works. You’re tasked with restoring a house or furnishing it or just cleaning an area. When you finish those tasks/quests, you earn gold that you then can use to build your dream Castle… or House or whatever. The game feels rather janky, though. I cannot build up the second floor without placing a ton of walls on the first wall, resulting in a rather limited environment that House Flipper doesn’t have. The game also limits you with the resources that you have. Building materials don’t grow on trees… or rather, they do but they also run out and it’s annoying. 

Maybe it’s not fair to compare this to House Flipper but House Flipper was at least a bit more fun and left you with more creative freedom. Occupy Mars also felt rather janky, from what I remember, so maybe it’s just a thing that Pyramid Games does with its games. If you want to try it out yourself, you can do so over here. I personally didn’t enjoy it too much when I noticed how limited you actually are. 

Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp

I’m actually a fan of Monster Prom, so I’m actually quite excited about this release. Instead of the usual school setting, we’re now at a Camp and the demo lets you play two turns with 9 events and some “smol surprises”. The final game will feature 360 events, 50+ characters, 20+ secret endings, 40+ drinks, 2 prologue minigames, and lots of new special outfits! 

For anyone that doesn’t know Monster Prom: It can be best described as a competitive dating sim. You are tasked with finding a date until Prom Night – and to do so, you go to different places and talk to the person that you like and eventually, you may end up with them liking you and going with you to Prom. Oh, and the cast of characters mostly consists of monsters, demons, and other interesting personalities! 

In the demo, you essentially play a four-player game with two rounds aka 8 events that you do by selecting different places and by making different choices. In one scenario, we got lost in the woods and were about to starve, so Damien wanted us all to cut off our arms and eat it for the sake of survival. Luckily, a pizza delivery person stops by and is completely lost. We have to convince them that this is the place that she’s looking for… so instead of convincing her, we end up doing the creative/bold way: By glueing animals together and sewing a heart to one of them. There we go! For whatever reason, it worked out just fine and I got boldness and creativity for it! These stats are important as they influence the way you react to different choices and scenarios. On top of that, you can get away with certain choices when you’re bold, creative, charming or smart enough. Just like in real life! 

Honestly, I love Monster Prom’s concept and everything. The conversations are fun and intriguing. At times it gets weird, sometimes it’s hilarious or just plain cute. Highly recommend the first game here (remind me to link back the review here once I’ve finished editing it!). The demo for the second game that, quote on quote, is coming out “SOON!” can be found over here – so check it out and wishlist it yourself!

Ring of Pain

Honestly, I love this game way too much and I’ve only played demos so far… it’s another card-based roguelike-ish dungeon crawler set in a dark and horrifying world. 

We already interviewed Simon Boxer from Twice Different more than a year ago at last year’s GamesCom and we even took a few other looks at the game so far, so I’ll just refer to those posts in case you want to see some screenshots and more information. Generally, this game didn’t change too much. The animations are a lot more polished and the stats and different items got changed a little bit here and there, so overall, it’s still difficult but satisfying and very much up my alley! Highly anticipating this title!

If you want to check out the demo, you can do so over here! Check out my other posts on Ring of Pain if you want to! 

Black Border

Black Border is a political game where you’re tasked with controlling papers at the border. The game is heavily inspired by Papers, Please and… I feel like it’s a rip-off.

And I don’t like to use the word “rip-off” or “copy” or whatever, but the systems, the speech, the rules, and even the responses feel like they were copy-pasted into the game from Papers, Please. The developer mentions that they are “inspired” by Papers, Please and they prompt the player to check the original out themselves… but I just don’t feel like playing a game that has no identity and that is just there to try and copy what another game did. 

Black Border is a Papers, Please rip-off that wasn’t even “better” or “as good”, so I’m honestly not a fan of it at all. You can try it out yourself if you want to over here. I’ll also link you Papers, Please over here so that you can play that yourself. Surely, while the styles are generally different, Black Border just doesn’t seem to have any new ideas to bring to the table, which is a bummer. It’s essentially a skin that you purchase of a different game – with the original game looking and being better. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but… it looks and feels like a copy and I’m not a fan of plagiarism.

That’s essentially it for the Steam Game Festival Autumn Edition!

I wanted to try out a few other games. After all, Stronghold Warlords, Undying, Pumpkin Jack, Dwarfheim, Haven, Manifold Garden, Say No More, and Backbone looked really interesting. There are a fair few titles that are on my wishlist that also are available as demos during the Festival and honestly, it’s just way too much for me to look at. I’ve got a few other posts that need to get finished in the next few days and I’m not sure if I have the time to look at those. If I do, it may also be too late and the Steam Game Festival may already be over… I’ll see what I can do about it! 

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this post. I hope you play and maybe even wishlist some of the games here! Also, stay healthy! My city has become a Corona-Hotspot and I don’t want anyone else to also get restricted! Stay at home and wear your mask and stuff!

Cheers!

Steam Game Festival: Autumn Edition – Part 1

The Steam Game Festival is here! 

This time it’s the Autumn Edition, so strap on for a bunch of demos that I found intriguing! All in one post! Kind of! As you can see by the title of the post, there is going to be a second part and potentially a third part about the Steam Game Festival (if I end up finding even more demos to play), so uh… enjoy!

First up, I’d like to say that the Steam Game Festival is available until October 13th, 10 AM PDT! So, if you want to check out any of these or other game demos, be sure to grab them while they’re here! You can also check out the Steam Game Festival page on Steam to see some live streams, dev talks and other interesting things, available for a limited time!

So, while we did cover a whole bunch of games in a whole bunch of solo-posts in the past about the Steam Game Festival, I wanted to try something different and post about them while I’ve played all of them and summarise my thoughts a bit more precisely. The problem with the way I handled it last time was that a lot of the posts about the games came out AFTER the Steam Game Festival was over, resulting in you potentially not having played some of the titles. This time around, I heard about it a lot earlier and got to play the demos a lot earlier as well, resulting in me being able to work on this post *on time*. Hence, you’ll get a long post about the games that I played and that seemed interesting… and some recommendations!

Natural Instincts

Natural Instincts is a God-Sim where you manipulate animals into moving to different places, eating, drinking, mating, and essentially, living. You can do your best to protect the environment and save it from harm… or you’re just a normal human who’s effectively ruining the environment since forever and doesn’t give a fuck about nature. 

The demo only lets you play in and observe the European Forest where you get to see and influence Boars, Rabbits, Deers, Wolves and Bears. There are lush forests, long rivers, some small lakes and only limited resources available and overall, I enjoyed the experience there. Just observing these rabbits has been wonderful although I would have hoped for more quality settings since my PC can handle a lot more and since I would have loved to see the animals up close! Apart from that, it looks solid so far, although I’d love to have more information available on the screen as well as potentially some options to influence the climate, let stuff grow or let rabbits take over the world and whatever. 

The full game will feature the European Forest alongside the Arctic, Savannah, Pacific Ocean, Tropical Forest, and the Gulf of Mexico, so there is a variety of places to observe and to meddle in. You can find the game over here where DreamStorm Studios has yet to announce a release date.

Carto

Honestly, this was the title that I’m looking forward to the most. It’s an insanely adorable 2D Puzzle-Adventure where you find card pieces and piece them together to shape the world around you. By talking to people and interacting with different landmarks in the world, you get hints that tell you how to find new landmarks and people in the world. 

In one instance a fisherman got lost and only remembered that his house was on the West. It’s our task to guide him home, so we just quickly pop into the Card-Screen (Tab) and move his tile to the West to then unlock his house on the map tile. Obviously, we can still move everything around but we have to be careful as not all pieces fit together. There are different biomes, quest lines (sorta?) and a whole bunch of exploration fun – all tied up in a very cute and charming art style, an adorable soundtrack and an interesting mechanic about world-alteration and finding your family. 

I’m wish-listing this game for sure and I highly recommend checking out the short but charming demo for yourself over here! Sunhead Games’ title comes out on October 27th, so not too long until you get to piece together more of this wholesome game! 

Garden Story

Speaking of cute games, there’s also Garden Story! It’s amazingly cute and looked like just the right game for me in these times. You play as Concord, the youngest grape in “The Grove”, and as the newly-appointed Guardian, it’s your job to help restore the island!

But since that’s a huge task for a young grape like you, you’ve got to rely on your friends, consisting of shrooms, frogs and other fruits! The demo lets you explore the first part of the game a little bit and explains the basic mechanics with combat, loot and items. There are a lot of different characters and overall, I was a bit overwhelmed at first but as time went on, I kind of got the gist of it. We have to cultivate our home, foster the community, explore the world, fight the “Rot” and solve puzzles – and we have to do all of that to connect the different towns and repair old ties! Hooray! While I felt as if I got thrown into cold water at first, I actually learned to swim quite fast and really enjoyed my short stay in this vibrant world.

Picogram’s title is going to come out at some point in 2021, so be sure to play the demo yourself and wishlist the game right here

Calico

And since I already covered two cute titles, why not also talk about Calico? Well, I’d like to talk about this game but… I’m confused. 

You essentially are tasked with rebuilding the town’s cat café. The demo, however, runs super poorly, gives you little to no tutorial information and is full of bugs. At one point, I wanted to decorate a cake (as I had to, mostly) and the whole world got coloured weirdly, resulting in some trippy experience for me where I had to restart the demo. This happened a few times, so I then just decided to explore the seemingly hand-drawn world and play with kitties… but the controls feel janky and overall, my experience with this demo was more than frustrating. Personally, this game should be a good pick for me as it combines cats, a cutesie art style, and managing your own café. I like the way the world looks and the idea behind it but the execution is more than lacking and while the demo isn’t the full game… I would have wanted to play a more polished version of the demo to actually want to play the full game. 

More than anything, I really wanted to play with cats in this game and bake cakes and try out different features but it feels very Early Access to me. Bugs, janky controls, crashes, and the fact that there are no sound effects whatsoever (apart from the same loop of the same song) is just a giant turn-off, in my opinion. Idk, if you wanna check the game out for yourself, click here… and if not, then don’t. 

…there was no trailer for this one available…

Defenders of the Camp

With Defenders of the Camp, I thought that we had a sort of promising candidate at our hands. The idea behind leading a party of adventurers into forests, deserts and other places isn’t new or innovative but I thought that its style looked quite cool and expected a bit more. 

Just like with Calico, however, this is a barely playable demo. DotC seems to be a prototype where you can check out the base characters: A mage, a knight and a priest. Each with their own distinct roles: DPS, Tank, Support. They each have different skills but it all felt quite janky. At one time, my priest pulled a Leeroy Jenkins on me and charged into goblins who then slew the priest. My knight walked into a wall and got stuck so that the goblins were able to fight them off. Honestly, though, my mage did enough damage to mess everyone up, so I didn’t really think about it too much. Who needs a tank anyways? Who cares about the Support anyways?

But as time went on, and as I wanted to progress, I clicked on the different menus only to see that nothing’s really implemented. The skill tree menu is there but it’s not in the demo/prototype and while the stats are great and all… you have no way of moving faster. Alas, try it out if you wanna but personally, I found it frustrating to move at a snail’s pace, especially when you wanna kite enemies or when you want to actually enjoy the gameplay. 

Ecosystem

Just like Natural Instincts, Ecosystem tasks the player with taking care of a natural environment, with the difference that you actually create it yourself and observe the creatures as they evolve over time. 

You generate some terrain, add mountains, hills, caves and other formations into the map, then you add plants and animals and… after the spores grow up, you get your first few species! Play GOD as you decide who dies and who lives! You can boost some creatures using points and overall, you strive to protect the environment you created and to see what crazy creatures are born. The strongest and fastest survive and reproduce while others with their own mutations and evolutionary steps end up dying. You can also edit the creatures yourself and see how they fare.

Originally, I really liked the idea but thought that it may be a bit frustrating to play as your favourite creatures may not fair so well while your fewer favourite creatures end up triumphing… but that fear wasn’t justified at all. I really enjoyed meddling with all of these monstrosities, creating long predators and growing caves and other formations to make plant life possible. In the end, I had a blast and you should definitely check it out yourself!

Rawmen

Rawmen is another title that I tried out and honestly, it’s a lot of fun. 

Rawmen could best be described as a fast-paced Arena-Shooter where you fight other players using kitchen utensils and ingredients. There are a lot of fun items as well as a lot of puns in the game. The different game modes seem entertaining but what’s bothering me is that you queue up for a random game mode but during the queue time you get to see what mode it is. So, if you don’t like climbing a tower by bombing yourself to the top using exploding tomatoes… then you just leave the queue and queue up again. Especially as it’s a demo, it’s a bit rough to find players to play with. Hence, while it can be fun when you get into a game, it’s a bit rough when you have to wait for a while or when people decide to just leave the game when they start losing.

Overall, though, it’s a lot of fun. Especially as you get to customize your character a fair bit, play with different items in different modes and it’s just hilarious in its own way. You can find the game over here

A lot of demos this time around…

…and we’re still not done with them. The problem with the Steam Game Festival is that just like in Summer, there are way too many titles to play. Alas, I’ve made one post now and I’ll play more demos later and publish a second post on this season’s Steam Game Festival. I hope you enjoyed this post and be sure to recommend some demos to me as well. As for Part 2, I’d like to take a look at a bunch of titles, including Undungeon, Ponpu, Neurodeck, Monster Prom 2, F.I.S.T., Xuan-Yuan Sword VII, Webbed, Superliminal, Castle Flippers, Ruin Raiders and maybe I’ll make yet another post about Ring of Pain! There are a bunch of other demos that I wanted to play but haven’t downloaded yet… but those will have to wait until I’m done with these posts. Time’s limited and the Steam Game Festival is over soon, so be sure to check at least some of them out!

To keep up-to-date with all of my posts on the Steam Game Festival, you can visit this link here where you can find all posts with the “Steam Game Festival” tag! So, check out the other posts, if you want to!

Anyways, stay healthy! Happy Gaming!

Cheers!

Indietail – Drake Hollow

After my post about Drake Hollow and why I’m so excited and after the interview we did with TMF’s Forrest Dowling,… It finally is time for my review on Drake Hollow. Welcome to yet another Indietail! And I’m excited about this one!

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Genre: Colony Sim, Base Building, Exploration, Co-Op, Open World
Release Date: October 1st, 2020
Reviewed on: PC (solo)
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

Drake Hollow is an action village-building game that you can play solo or with your friends. After a breakup, the protagonist is seen dwelling on a rock before a speaking crow approaches them and invites them into a new world where they are needed. Welcome to the Hollow where the Drakes are threatened by various creatures and where familiars roam the lands searching for people like you that can help the Drakes. The Drakes are small little creatures that need food, water and entertainment. They can literally die of boredom as the game emphasizes on multiple occasions. You build your small little village, go out on explorations and defend against the various enemies found in the game.

This gameplay loop of exploring, building and looting is the main aspect of the game. It keeps the game fresh and prevents it from becoming stale. As you find loot, you’re able to craft items, build defence and utility structures, take care of the Drakes and eventually, you’ll get a ten-minute countdown to the next raid that is coming in and needs defending. The Drakes help the player by being absolutely adorable and bringing in some life into the world… and they also gift you items and provide you with various buffs that help you survive, improve your combat capabilities, or influence your efficiency in various regards.

Speaking of combat, it is all relatively simple. You have a melee and a ranged attack on the mouse buttons. You’re able to find weapons and ammunition by looting old buildings and other islands. The fun thing is that anything can and will be a weapon: From a coat rack to a tennis bat to a rake or a weed whacker. I enjoyed finding fun and interesting weapons that could be categorized into heavy and light weapons. The aiming with the ranged weapons felt quite nice and while melee combat isn’t the most complicated, I noticed that you can cancel some of the animations and get more DPS in than usual if you put in some practice. Overall, I enjoyed the combat experience a ton! Especially stuff like jump attacks, combos and the right dodge timing can be more than satisfying – and then different enemy types feature different move sets and counters of sorts.

Where the game really shines though is the exploration part. A purple-ish mist known as the Aether envelops the world of Drake Hollow that damages the player. The world consists of mostly islands that aren’t connected at all. Hence, you’ll have to use craftable crystals to make yourself immune to the mist for a bit to get to the next islands. 

As time goes on, you’ll need other means of travelling where my highlight comes in: Waypoints. You place them down and connect them to supply trucks (with resources that you cannot access in any other way). Once two or more are linked up, you have a rail system of sorts where you grind your way rather speedily from one island to the next. I really enjoyed this part as I always wanted to explore more but then got disrupted by incoming raids, full inventories or dying drakes. 

Drakes tend to “die” of a lot of things. As you progress, you’ll have to take care of the various needs and pay attention to how much water, food and entertainment you produce. Resources around you deplete eventually, so you need to move on to the next set of islands, which is similar to The Flame In The Flood where you move your base/boat from one island to the next with a point-of-no-return mechanic. 

As you move on to the next set of islands, you get to explore and loot more without having to fear about your old buildings getting lost. The Drakes just pack up your base and take it with you to the next set of islands. The next set of islands plays in a different season with different mechanics. In summer, your water production may suffer a lot due to droughts. In Winter you have to build radiators and other buildings to thaw out your Drakes and production facilities. I found these mechanics quite neat but mostly, I loved how the islands change. The usually lush trees turn pink and red and white and lose leaves and the world is covered in a layer of snow when you encounter winter. The way you have to change your playstyle based on the seasons is a very interesting mechanic and I really enjoyed that.

Stronger enemies mean more damage and more danger. What happens when you die? Do you lose any progress when you die? No, not at all. You can revive at your camp and lose some weapon durability but you do not lose any progress. Your drakes don’t really “die”. You can revive them on the neighbouring island, although you will have to nurture them again. You can spirit walk to your dead body and resurrect it there as well. 

It comes to no surprise that I’m loving the overall presentation. I was the most hyped about the Drakes and was not disappointed at all when I saw their animations and behaviours. Follow the Drakes as they roam your small village, eat food, dance on the disco floor, go to sleep or burrow themselves when they get stuck somewhere. The world itself feels lively and features this vibrant style that changes with the seasons and is always stunning to look at. The Drakes have some great interactions with enemies and the player. The soundtrack is at times enigmatic and mysterious, at times adventurous! Overall, I’m loving the presentation, the soundtrack and the art style and I was quite satisfied with how the game turned out in the end.

And yes, of course, there are some issues here and there. When I started playing, the end-game was somewhat frustrating with resources running out, Drakes dying and enemies getting stronger while you felt a bit too weak… but that was mostly my fault as I moved on too fast or as I didn’t level my camp and didn’t unlock enough new facilities or I didn’t manage my camp properly. There are certain issues in the late game that can feel a bit overwhelming in solo, but I’m sure that you’ll do just fine if you play with up to four friends – with someone exploring and people defending and someone tending to the Drakes. For people that didn’t want to end their journey, the “The Molasses Flood” team added an endless mode (Sandbox) without a story but with a raised max camp level, new cosmetics and higher camp levels. The game will get more updates. They just added in filters for the depot to allow to view items by type as well as some other QOL changes.

In the end, the only thing that could be criticised would be the end-game that feels a tad frustrating or rather overwhelming as a solo player. The gameplay loop is satisfying, the combat feels nice, the Drakes are absolutely adorable, and overall, I’m loving this game so far and can’t wait to meddle with sandbox mode and to play it with friends eventually!

You can currently get the game on Xbox Game Pass and Steam. Cross-Saving between Win10 and XboxOne is available and there is Cross-Play available for the Windows Store, the Xbox One and the Game Pass versions of the game… but it doesn’t work for the Steam version as there is no native support for invites or hosting across these networks. The game keeps getting updated and I can highly recommend it! Check it out over here or on Game Pass, the Windows Store or wherever! 

As a side note:
You’re able to grab Drake Hollow on Steam with a 10% launch discount until the 8th of October! If you already own TMF’s “The Flame In The Flood” you also get an additional 15% off, resulting in a 25% discount on the game!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.