Indietail – Fishticuffs

I’m a sucker for interesting takes on the rogue-lite formula. Games that are like Rogue are roguelikes, so they’re basically turn-based perma-death Dungeon Crawlers, I guess? I mean, definitions vary but a lot of people go by those while others think of roguelites as roguelikes with permanent upgrades that persist through runs. So while roguelikes may be somewhat limited to one or the other definition, Roguelites aka Roguelike-likes have so much more freedom available to them. From mythological roguelites to metal roguelites there are a plethora of games out there with similar features that bring their own twist on the genre and give people joy with the differences. Celebrating the differences is a great mantra to live by anyways.

Today, I wanted to talk about Fishticuffs by Yokcos, a game that combines the roguelite formula with the bullet hell genre and… fishing!

Developer: Yokcos
Publisher: Yokcos
Genre: Roguelite, Bullet Hell, Fishing, Arcade, 2D
Release Date: December 21st, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the dev.

In Fishticuffs you’re trying your best to get a high score and bring some fish back home to the dinner table… but sadly the fishes are fighting back. Play as a hook and embark into the depths of the sea where you kill enemies, dodge projectiles, collect powerups and money and become stronger.

While the chill tunes at the beginning make it seem rather harmless, appearances are deceiving! The game isn’t a bullet hell game for nothing, after all! Your only attack is your space/left-click ability that lets you dive a short distance downwards and strike one foe. This ability, however, goes on cooldown for a little while meaning that you may deal one damage point to an enemy but you won’t be able to spam it constantly. 

Enemies, on the other hand, shoot out missiles and projectiles in periodic intervals. From horizontal to diagonal shots to electric fields by electric eels, there are a bunch of different enemy types with all kinds of attacks to avoid. You only have three lives, so you’ve got try your best to, quite literally, dodge a bullet.

On your journey downwards, you’ll be able to collect money and powerups. Powerups help you in your runs by giving you a wider hook or giving you a chance to damage enemies when you collect money. A lot of the power-ups seems a tad underwhelming but once you get a bunch of them, you’ll end up with a nice build that works quite well. This has been quite pleasant overall, although I would have loved it if there had been some drawbacks to the perks you get. In other games, picking up one upgrade would, for instance, increase your damage at the cost of your attack speed while another would increase your defences at the cost of increasing your hitbox and slowing you down. In this game, you basically just have these minor passive upgrades that kind of add up and eventually feel good… but on their own, they aren’t that noticeable, which is something I would have loved to see.

At the end of each level, you can spend your collected money on items in the shop. More often than not, you end up with only enough to buy one of two options. There is also a mushroom-like fella that tells you to not kill him and to not go into the shop… as well as a bigger enemy that drops loot as well… and while these are neat ideas, they don’t really get explained anywhere and it can lead to some misunderstandings. At one point, I thought I got healed by the mushroom-fella so I hit him again in the next run and didn’t healed, so that left me confused. I would love it if there was more clarity in regards to where healing comes from or what certain things do.

Once you’re done with the area, you’ll go onto to the next area with a completely new theme, other enemies and other items. At different depths, you have completely new experiences and other things to watch out for, which makes the game quite challenging. What I loved about the second area, as an example, was just how ominous it was. From the soundtrack to the style of the enemies to the eyes that pop out in the background… it’s very dangerous and scary, all of the sudden, which is a welcome contrast to the bright and relatively friendly shallow waters that you were just in earlier.

As expected, killing fish also yields money. On top of that, some items are synergizing with each other better than others. This actually results in a bit of a meta that can be found in the game… So when you lose your run and see that graph of how far you’ve gotten compared to previous runs, you can actually think about it… but since it’s really challenging, I would have loved to see some options to maybe make it easier for people that aren’t that good at games. The furthest I’ve gotten so far was Level 2 and I’ve had a few runs behind me already and really enjoyed it but if I were to recommend this game to a friend, I’m not sure if they’d be too happy with it judging from the difficulty.

Options to make the game a bit easier, like giving you a “bomb” or whatever to clear projectiles, once per level, could make it already a lot easier. Adding difficulty settings like easy/normal/hard, giving you more damage/HP or less damage/HP based on the difficulty would be another way to add more accessibility to the game. I mean, you don’t have to make it harder or easier if you don’t want to but a lot of games have those options and they are more fun for more people. Apart from that, I would have liked it if there were some graphics options like the brightness levels or some sort of colour-options. But at least, you’re able to fully remap the controls!

The soundtrack is fancy, the art style is adorable, the game is quite enjoyable. For the price, you get quite the challenging experience for your buck and alas, I’d say I’d recommend the game. The game has some depth to it but isn’t the most complex and while it is challenging, it doesn’t feel too frustrating as you’re able to start up a new run in a matter of seconds, which is quite lovely. 

Hope you enjoyed the post! If you want to check out the game for yourself, you can find it over here. Make sure to check out the description for a lot of fish-puns! And take care of yourself!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Among Us

A while ago, I watched John Carpenter’s “The Thing” with a few people on Discord and enjoyed it quite a lot. The actors are doing an incredible job at conveying this feeling of anxiety and distrust they have… I mean, there is a thing that is possessing bodies, acting like them, and killing people there… But then I noticed that it’s really similar to a game I wanted to review: Among Us. Obviously, the similarities are there as Among Us even features a map inspired by the movie, Polis!

Alas, today we’re taking a look at Among Us by Innersloth, the popular party game of teamwork and betrayal.

Developer: Innersloth
Publisher: Innersloth
Genre: Space, Trustlike, Social Deduction, Social Deception, Multiplayer
Release Date: November 16th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, iOs, Android
Copy was purchased.

Among Us’ premise is simple. There are four to ten people on one of the three maps with one to two Imposters among them (roll credits!). The crewmates’ job is to finish the tasks to ensure victory. Meanwhile, the Imposters have to try and deceive everyone into thinking that they’re crewmates while also killing off people. To do so, they can kill people, vent into places, lock doors, and sabotage.

“Oh, hi, Skully!”

The main portion of the game, however, is social deception. Just like with other social deception games or trust-likes, as someone called them, you try to gaslight, manipulate, and deceive people. You want people to trust you so that you don’t get voted out. When a body is found, people will report it. The people near the body or whoever’s not accounted for is obviously the Imposter. Once a meeting is called on emergencies or when a body was found, everyone has time to discuss the matter, clarify where everyone was, deceive, or do whatever to prove that you’re innocent. Just like in other games, the crewmates then decide to vote someone out while hoping that that person is indeed the Imposter.

Unless you play with the proximity chat mod, you’re not allowed to speak during the actual rounds. When you die, you stay quiet. Meanwhile, you can only talk during the meetings. The Proximity Chat Mod allows you to talk to nearby people, which can be quite fun. There are also other additions to the game that can help you discover a playstyle you and your friends like.

All of this may sound complicated but you get the hang of it once you play a round or two. Be it at small gatherings, with friends or online with random people, you’ll be able to play it without much trouble.

Close enough to not be sus.

The more complicated bits are tactics like marinating* people (*marinating means that you’re “sticking around to give them a sense of comfort and trust when near you”) or the faking of tasks. While it is fun for the first few times that you play the game, it can be also rather taxing as you lie and deceive your friends only to backstab them in the end. At times you trick people into believing you while you gaslight others and accuse them, falsely, of being the Imposter even though you did it.

So, do I like a game like that? Not really. I don’t feel too good about it, so I can’t really play too many rounds at a time and I get tired of it quite fast and leave early most of the time. For a game that is available for free on the mobile versions (both Android and iOs), you can get a lot of entertainment out of it. The low cost of four bucks on Steam also helps with having access to it and inviting friends to play it with you. I easily got thirty hours of entertainment out of it, which is absolutely worth it, although that was partly due to alternate rulesets as well.

In Among Us, you’re able to customize the game’s rules to fit your needs as well. Want to make the game more challenging? Turn off confirmed ejects and visible tasks. Want to make the games shorter? Lower the tasks and the kill cooldown. Want to play Hide n Seek? Change the Vision settings for crewmates and imposters to fit that playstyle. In the end, it allows you to have a pleasant experience no matter who you are, as long as you have the right people.

Just the routine check up in the medbay I guess.

The online portion of the game sucks, however. Lobbies are either toxic with people having “bad words” in their names and these randoms just randomly voting you out. The absence of voice chat makes it hard for you to defend yourself, especially since the majority of these random peoples in public lobbies seem to be unable to write full sentences if at all. It’s hard to have fun in public lobbies, in my opinion, frankly because the game got so popular that a lot of kids ended up getting into it. Alas, I’d recommend private games.

Even with private lobbies, however, the game’s popularity is harming the game more than it helps. I’m sure the developers are aware of this but at times it can be rather hard to get into games, even when they’re private, as there are times when the server is just full with too many people logging into the game.

Apart from that, I would love it if you were able to change the number of Imposters as well as the map in the lobby-settings. If you want to change the map, you’ll have to quit and enter a new lobby. If you take too long to decide, everyone gets kicked. With a lot of settings being in the lobby, I don’t get why the map, the number of crewmates and the number of Imposters are only accessible in the pre-lobby-settings.

But at the end of the day, I end up excusing those small issues as it is a rather cheap game that can be played with people anywhere and everywhere.

Purple just claimed that white killed someone in this public lobby I joined. Everyone voted white. White wasn’t it. I called an emergency and voted purple. We won. I got banned from that lobby because I’m making sense. Fun.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed the Hide n Seek ruleset where Imposters see nothing while Crewmates see everything. At the beginning of the round, the Imposter announces that they’re “it” and they’ll count down to zero. The Imposter has to “find” people (aka kill them) while the Crewmates try to avoid the Imposter at all cost while finishing their tasks. Another ruleset that I really liked is “Chaos” where you’re allowed to talk whenever and where you can’t talk at all during the meetings. Vote time is decreased to 15 seconds with no discussion time. You have to vote people or else you’ll get voted off next. Once the meeting is over, everyone tries to finish their tasks while keeping quiet about previous rounds. As the name suggests, that’s really chaotic, especially as anyone that reports the body sounds suspicious when they can’t defend themselves.

In the end, it’s a fun game with an adorable art style, gruesome kill animations, an okay soundtrack but a lot of value for the little money you spent, if at all. Due to crossplay, you can enjoy the game with your friends on Steam, iOs, and Android without any issues, allowing a lot of people to join in. In the same manner, you can try and alter all of the rules, resulting in a pleasant experience that can be customised to fit your needs. Hence, the recommendation.

Although, I’d say that you should leave the game be a game. If you end up taking the gaslighting and everything into the Real Life, you may end up destroying friendships. Oh well,…

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Hades

I’ve always been a sucker for mythology. From Norse to Egyptian to Greek mythology, I’d take everything in and read up on all sorts of articles and myths and thoughts. I honestly loved it to bits. In the same manner, I love it when games incorporate mythology into their lore and build a universe around it that brings life to these old legends and stories. A game that does that really well is Hades!

Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Genres: Action, Roguelite, RPG, Indie
Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Early Access) - Left Early Access on September 17th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Dive into the underworld where the god of the dead and the king of the underworld, Hades, is reigning with an iron fist and where his son, Zagreus, is trying to escape hell. Meet a bunch of different characters, interact with them, romance some of them, gift nectar and ambrosia to your favourite people and the Gods of the Olymp themselves, and experience the story of Hades, one run at a time. Hades is an Action-Roguelite by Supergiant Games and in this review, I’ll tell ya why it’s such a great game!

Well, in this game, we play as Zagreus, who very much has a reason to leave Hell and to be angry at his father, which I won’t get into. Zagreus uses one of six different weapons in each of his escape attempts powered by Boons of the Gods of the Olymp. These weapons were used to slay the titans and are, alas, strong on their own already but as you progress further into the depths of Hell, you have to face stronger foes and more challenges, which is why the Gods help you. A variety of gods are there to assist you in your dangerous endeavour, most likely since they’re bored. From your uncles, Zeus and Poseidon, to your grandmother, Demeter, there are a plethora of interesting characters ready to provide you with their assist.

Your weapon tends to have a normal attack and a special attack which both are quite unique. Each weapon has four different aspects that each play differently and make use of different mechanics. On top of that, some weapons (like the shield) have other move sets that make use of holding buttons down or timing attacks properly. On top of that, you have dashes and the ability to perform dash strikes.

The various boons you encounter offer bonus effects to your character, making you stronger or more sturdy, or they change how your weapons work. Demeter is the goddess of the seasons, fertility, and death. Her boons help you afflict enemies with the “Chill” status effect, making them slower or dealing damage at certain conditions. Aphrodite helps you weaken enemies while Ares, Zeus and Artemis are all about that damage. There are a plethora of status boons, passive boons, and raw damage boons in the game and they all synergies quite well with each other, to the point where there’s also duo boons that combine the boons of two gods into one stronger perk. If you have high DPS, you may consider stacking Dionysus’ “hangover” status effect on enemies, while you may consider going for raw damage with Ares if your weapon is slower.

These boons can be acquired by getting through rooms. Gods tend to give you a selection of three boons and you don’t know what you’ll get beforehand. Rooms also can feature other rewards such as Gold to purchase boons and other items in the shop, gems and darkness to use after the run has ended, maximum health, hammers or other rewards. Each run can feature up to two Daedalus Hammer boons which basically change how your weapon is working, making each build stand out even more.

What I love about Hades is that a lot of it feels rather intuitive. You see enemies, you strike them. You see boons, so you go for ones that sound nice. You don’t really have too many “noob traps” in the game and generally, you can progress quite well, especially once you invest your Darkness into that mirror of yours – aka permanent character progression that helps you get stronger after your runs.

But apart from combat being very fast-paced and fun to play with and apart from the plethora of possible builds with each of the four aspects of the six weapons available to you, the game also has another component: The Story.

The Story of Hades evolves whenever you talk to characters. From Achilles to Nyx to Thanatos (I love him), there are a plethora of characters ready to assist you by guiding you or helping you out with trinkets. By giving nectar to the different characters in the game, you receive trinkets that grant you benefits in the run. On top of that, each of the characters in the game has a ton of voice lines and a quest of sorts where you try to help them get through some of their problems which ends up benefitting you as well. Simply speak to characters after your run whenever you see an exclamation mark on their heads and enjoy the fully-voiced and witty lines that both refer to mythology but also have a lot of character. Each of the figures that you encounter has its own problems, traits and personality, which is awesome as it brings life to the mythology that people often refer to as “boring”.

And the game isn’t over yet once you’ve completed a run successfully and escaped Hell as there are various things to do like renovating hell, helping the characters out, fulfilling prophecies, fishing, achievements, and completing the runs with higher difficulties that you can assign yourself to the run. Once you manage to leave Hell once, Hades puts up a pact of punishment onto the gate, resulting in you being able to complete runs again with rising heat levels and more challenges such as more challenging bosses and special enemies. But if you’re actually struggling with beating runs, I can also recommend activating God Mode with grants you a 2% damage reduction bonus whenever you die. You start at 20% already which is A LOT but you can gain up to 80% damage reduction to help you experience the story without getting frustrated with the runs.

And I haven’t even gotten into the amazing art style or the fantastic soundtrack or the wonderful voice acting. I haven’t even gotten into the romance options and the further challenges as well as all of the different secrets in the game and the different areas that each have their mini-bosses and mechanics and traps. There is a ton to talk about in Hades and while I once thought that it was a bit “grindy” at times when it comes to gems, that thought simply vanished after unlocking a few of the house contractor projects. So, I don’t have anything bad to say about Hades and I can understand why it was nominated as Game of the Year, among other titles, and why it won “Best Indie” and “Best Action”. I really can understand that as I haven’t seen a game as polished and as wonderfully crafted as this one in ages.

And more updates are coming out here and there, as well, adding a ton of things, which shows the love and care that Supergiant Games puts into their titles, to the point where I had to rewrite this review about nine times so far. I hope that you enjoyed reading about this game and that you’re checking it out yourself eventually.

For me personally, Hades might very much be my Game of the Year 2020.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Kernmantle

So, a while ago, a developer sent me a request to review their game via my Steam Curator page. The developer in question developed Kernmantle and I kind of put off reviewing this game for quite a while since I’m not sure how to start or end it.

The problem with reviewing games is that I personally want to give every game a fair chance of getting played and reviewed. If a game seems to be abysmal or anything like that, I tell the developers in a kind e-mail that I think that it’s for the better if I do not review their game.

Developer: North of Earth
Publisher: North of Earth
Genre: Platformer, 2D, Physics-driven, Adventure
Release Date: October 5th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the developer.

In the case of Kernmantle, I accepted the game and decided to play it until I noticed that it’s absolutely not to my liking, despite what it seemed like. For anyone wondering, it’s a physics-based 2D Adventure where you climb up a 2000-meter-deep canyon and attempt to reach the top. It seemed interesting since it works with lighting in a pretty way while having a rather simple art style and I guess some mechanics behind it. Hence I gave it a chance.

At last, however, I noticed that that’s about it. Simple style, no story, pretty lighting, annoying soundtrack, abysmal controls.

A game that is all about climbing sounds like fun in a way… but the checkpoints are far away between each other and when you fall down once it’s more frustrating than Getting Over It or any other game, in my opinion. That’s not because of the depth that you’ve fallen or the lost progress… but for a different reason.

In Getting Over It, a game that I adore to be fair despite not being good at it, I know that I fell down because I didn’t get enough momentum or because I aimed at the wrong spot. It’s basically just me being at fault.

In Kernmantle, the controls are super janky and sometimes do not respond. So, while I’m holding onto the trigger of my controller, the grip just loosens it despite there still being plenty of stamina left in my hands. And that’s annoying when it happens once. It’s annoying when it happens twice. It’s frustrating at the third time and I stopped after the fourth time when I realised that it all was for nothing since there seems to be an invisible wall ahead of where I wanted to go with no other way to go from there.

At the same time, the game is incredibly condescending. The signs that are supposed to explain the game to you always end with something along the lines of “you moron” or “you idiot”, which is just rude. I feel like the developer is trying to be funny when they’re just insulting people that will refund this game afterwards anyways.

The character design and controls feel similar to Mount Your Friends but for whatever reason don’t work like that, although ripping off the controls would have been a lot better, in my opinion. A controller is required to play the game while Mount Your Friends at least allows Mouse+Keyboard: A feature that is much needed in games like these.

All in all, it’s a mediocre game that would be better with keyboard controls, akin to Getting Over It or Jump King. Paying ten bucks for this would be a waste. I can’t recommend Kernmantel, at all. Play Getting Over It or Jump King instead if you really want to.

Cheers.

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

Indietail – Disc Room

Are you ready to get sliced? Are you ready for science? Are you ready to die? If you answered any of those questions with anything, then fear not, you’re on your way on one helluva ride with today’s review, Disc Room!

The year’s (not 2021 but) 2089 and a giant disc has appeared in Jupiter’s orbit. Now, it’s your job to explore said Disc… FOR SCIENCE! Explore a majority of rooms filled with deadly discs and survive until all the goals of the room are completed. Compete against your friends, solve puzzles, unlock abilities, and die! 

Developer: Terri (Vellmann), Dose(one), Kitty (Calis), JW (Nijman)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Action, Adventure, 2D, Violent, Difficult, Indie
Release Date: October 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Disc Room is a Race-Against-The-Time-ish Action-Adventure where you dodge deadly blades, discs, or whatever you want to call them. In about 50 different rooms, you need to keep all your eyes open and look around you in 360° to be able to dodge everything and anything. There are a plethora of disc types from big ones to small ones to homing and time-slowing discs. Dying at the hand of different blades can result in you unlocking abilities that help you survive, like the time-slow ability, the dash or the cloning-ability.

At first, the game seems rather simplistic and not that challenging – but eventually, you end up having to solve puzzles in the rooms. How are you supposed to die in less than 0 seconds? How do you die while there are four discs in the room, when there are only two, to begin? What does “Feed ????? 4 ?????” mean, and how do you accomplish it? The game grants you a lot of different puzzles that revolve around using the game’s mechanics to survive or not-survive in creative ways, which is awesome! 

Once you end up fighting so-called Gatekeepers aka Bosses and unlock new areas, each with their own themes, the game’s pace really picks up, as you get to explore each area independantly as long as you complete some goals. Just backtrack later and check older rooms out again once you feel confident in doing them! Each of the areas is special with different enemy types and new mechanics introduced. 

On top of that, the game offers a lot of replayability because of… a little friendly rivalry! I played it for the first time while watching my friend Jimmi play it on Stream. Whenever he beat a room, I was already on beating his time and surviving longer than him. I loved it when he was shocked to see that I was already at 24 seconds in one of the rooms when he was stuck at 16. While he tried to beat my 24-second-record in said room, I was beating his other records. Eventually, he got better than me, but if I try very hard, I’ll manage to screw him over again, for sure! I love it. 

I feel like the goals of the rooms and the Metroidvania-ish aspects of it (solving puzzles and problems with abilities that you unlock later into the game) really make this game special and a ton of fun, especially since these aspects are paired with tons of achievements, collectables, and the friendly rivalry integrated through your Steam friend list. 

The art style is simple but the game really doesn’t need to be more detailed, to be honest. The animated cutscenes are cute and offer a bit of mystery about the game’s story while also providing you with some interesting comics here and there. In General, the game has this web-comic-vibe that I really fancy. 

On top of that, the soundtrack is awesome! It’s a real SpaceWave/SynthWave banger that I could listen to for ages. Good thing that you can buy the Soundtrack as well over here, featuring 53 tracks. It’s anthemic, adrenaline-inducing, and just great! Might become one of my favourites!

All that being said, there are a few issues with the game. Being a game with saw blades and a lot of Violence, you may encounter a lot of Gore, which is unsettling and displeasing… but you have a warning for that on the Steam store, so that’s completely fine. My issue with it is that some of the rooms contain flashing lights and effects where the light turns dark and then bright again, which really messed with my eyes. Personally, I don’t have a problem with epilepsy but since it even fucked with my eyes, I’d imagine that other people could have real problems with it… but there is no warning about flashing lights and potential epilepsy triggers in the game, which is somewhat upsetting.

Apart from that, while I love the puzzles, I feel like it sometimes is a bit hard to get to clues on your own. A few times, I had to ask friends for input on the golden discs and what they think. I would have preferred if a room on the other side of the map would offer a clue to the puzzles in some way rather than you just have to do things.

At the same time, the game sometimes needs you to die from different disc types… but apparently, the different boss forms also count towards that, which is annoying, to say the least, because it shouldn’t be a thing. If a boss is already accounted for, why does the boss’ husk count as something separate. Otherwise, I’m completely fine with the difficulty and the challenge of the game but that little thing there just annoyed me a little bit.

Overall, however, the game’s great and provides a lot of entertainment, especially with the Achievements, the Steam Leaderboards, and the awesome soundtrack. I’d love it if more people could check this title out over here.

Post review commentary:

Anyways, I hope you’re having a great start into the new year! Personally speaking, 2020 has felt like a meat grinder (haha) – but I have high hopes for 2021! Hope you do, too! Happy New Year! Today’s review is the last one that I’ve prepared before going to my parents at the end of last year. Hence, look forward to more *fresh* content with that 2021-flavour in it!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – We Become What We Behold

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.”

Marshall McLuhan

Today, we’re taking a look at a game from itch.io called We Become What We Behold. WBWWB is all about cycles: How does the media influence us? How do we influence the media? How does this cycle start and does it ever end?

Developer: Nicky Case
Publisher: Nicky Case
Genre: Free-to-Play, Comedy, Experimental, Dark
Release Date: October 18th, 2016
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was available for free on itch.

In the beginning, we’re tasked with pointing and clicking anywhere in the window. People are walking around and we can take a snap of them. Everything that happens on the screen can become something worthy to be shown on television in the middle of the screen.

“#ooh nice hat” makes a headline and everyone wears hats now! “Violence goes viral” though, so you try to provoke and get people to do stuff that you can take out of context. As time goes on and on, more events lead to other events and eventually, the catastrophe arrives. People go crazy. People go mad. People kill people. #bescaredbeangry

We Become What We Behold is a fun little experience with a playtime of roughly five minutes. I personally like the theme of it even though the ending becomes a bit extreme.

The art style really compliments the simplicity of the title, allowing you to enjoy and understand what’s going on on-screen. Take a dive into the topic and the philosophy behind and speculate on a metaphysical level if you want to… or try to find some of the fun easter eggs built in by ncase!

Generally, I feel like this is a fun title to try out. It’s free. You can support the developer if you want to. If you’re into that kind of stuff, you can check out the open source behind the game yourself and remix it.

Feel free to check out the game on itch.io over here if you haven’t yet.

Don’t go crazy. #2020isoverparty

Happy New Year!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Headbangers in Holiday Hell

It’s Christmas time… so it’s time for Christmas games with annoying elves, vomiting reindeer, lots of candy, and explosions! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, I’m talking about Headbangers in Holiday Hell, of course, the new Action Roguelite by Vikerlane that brings you the good ol’ festive goodness paired with blood, explosives, guns, and metal.

Developer: Vikerlane
Publisher: Hammer&Ravens
Genre: Action, Roguelite, Hack and Slash, Twin-Stick-Shooter, Arcade, 2.5D
Release Date: December 7th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent to me by the developers.

So, why do we shoot elves? Well, mostly because Christmas never changes. People get obsessed over it and turn into little elf-freaks lead by some bearded maniacs, so of course, someone has to stand up against them… and that’s us!

Inspired by Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Beavis & Butthead’s heavy metal comedy, Headbangers in Holiday Hell combines some absurd themes with Arcade-Twin-Stick-Shooter mechanics – granting you a rather entertaining experience.

When you start a run, you’ve got to rescue the Headbangers that are being held hostage by those bloody elves. Simply stand by them to untie them, similar to how you free hostages in the Metal Slug games. The catch is that those bloody elves shoot back and a lot of them are rather scary if you think about it.

Ammunition is limited, creating a sense of emergency when you run out and have to melee your way through missions. You can spend credits to buy ammunition or weapons but the same credits are also used for permanent upgrades that you can buy at the end of your run. Alas, you’ll have to measure if it’s worth it to buy ammunition or just try to melee and risk your life to get some drops from enemies.

Headbangers has a bit of stealth mechanics as well. You can use gas tanks and batteries to blow enemies up or electrocute them when there’s water around. At the same time, you can trick elves into watching the TV or you just “Rambo” your way through the game… but you’ll have to balance it to a degree as your hitpoints are important and as the game gets harder and harder as you proceed…

And well, there’re bosses and stuff as well. Fight your way through Malls and houses to end the Christmas tyrany imposed by that big fat bearded man. Honestly, I haven’t been able to finish the game just yet but it feels somewhat addictive, especially when you get so close to finishing off bosses or making it to new levels.

Runs can be short and painless or long and stealthy. I feel like that’s great for the current times when you have a lot going on and cannot spare too much time to play games. Alas, an Arcade title like this kinda fills in the gaps quite nicely, which is why I like it quite a lot to be honest.

And the whole premise is absurd and stupid – I just love it! Especially as the game is littered with small gags and easter eggs. On top of that, the game’s soundtrack is amazingly brutal. “In-Your-Face” Metal has to be done well and this game really nailed it. So far I haven’t gotten sick of it or anything like that… I feel like it fits the theme and premise of the game quite well and it’s certainly fun to have those hard tracks hit you while you blast through little elves in slo-mo. Check out the artist behind the soundtrack over here.

But not everything is perfect when it comes to Headbangers. When it comes to accessibility, I wasn’t able to find any settings to turn on a tutorial of sorts. There is a button for it that basically removes or turns on the tutorial-hints… but it left me confused at first, as I thought that I had multiple weapons and as I had no idea what the controls are like.

At the same time, the volume settings are rather limited, as well as the other settings, and I wasn’t too sure as to what to do when the game was too loud in-game. There are no settings in-game once you start the run, resulting in a frustrating experience of either bearing with it or ending the run and starting again. I would have loved for this to be different. Why can’t the settings just be in the game?

Apart from that, the art style sometimes makes it hard to see where bullets are on the screen while the controls feel somewhat sluggish at times, especially when you’re rolling around and dodging stuff. For a cheap game like this, however, I feel like the positives outshine the negatives by far, which is why I’m recommending this game to you.

You can find Headbangers on Steam over here. I feel like it’s a good game that certainly scratches that certain itch for Twin-Stick-Shooter Action and festive goodness. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Cheers!

Review – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Ever since I started blogging, I wanted to try out different review formats. This ranged from long to short reviewsfirst impressions and even a Manga review. While game reviews (and more importantly, Indie Game reviews) are probably going to stay in focus for me personally on Indiecator, I’d like to try the occasional odd one here and there with a book, show or, like in this case, a movie review. Today I wanted to talk about one of my favourite Christmas movies: Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).

The movie is about the Grinch who lives just outside of Whoville on a remote trash mountain and who hates Christmas. While the Whos are full of anticipation for the upcoming Christmas holiday, the Grinch is out for revenge instead.

Starring Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, and Jeffrey Tambor, among others, this is basically the Dr Seuss book turned into a full movie. The rhymes and sentences from the children’s book got adapted into the movie well although slightly changed at times while story elements (like Cindy Lou Who being turned into the main character) have been changed to make up for the short source material. All in all, I feel like it’s a good adaptation although it struggles here and there to make full use of the concepts and ideas it touches on.

The narrator, Anthony Hopkins, initiates the story with the words “Inside a snowflake, like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe”. The Whos are a jolly kind of seemingly-pig-snouted people that live in Whoville and are eager to celebrate their favourite holiday. Marching with a band and swarming into the stores, everything seems to brim with life and joy. The only one who questions the mass of presents that people are buying is Cindy Lou Who, a young Who that not only likes Christmas but also ends up asking the important questions. 

As time goes on, she begins to question whether the Grinch is truly mean and evil and if there’s more to the story. As we find out, the Grinch was raised like any other child but always seemed different, hating Christmas and having a beard at the age of eight. Being the target of bullying scarred him for life which is why he now spends his time in solitude with his dog, Max, on a garbage mountain – dreading the upcoming 1000th Whobilation! 

Jim Carrey is truly shining in his role as the Grinch, bring the titular character to life. He’s taunting and sneaking, sneering and snorting, dreading the day of Christmas and really seems to be this mean-spirited mind that just seems to be there to ruin other people’s days. All of this is directed well and while I love his acting and the expressions that Carrey is able to pull off, I’m not entirely sure if it really was that important to focus more on his demeanour. Like, I get it. The Grinch is supposed to be this bad green guy living alone while everyone seems jolly and cheerful in the city. The contrast is established well and it works. But as time goes on, I would have loved to see some change. Instead, the movie focuses on the mean parts of the Grinch (and his backstory) whenever they show the Grinch… but the Grinch doesn’t get all that much screentime to really add depth to the character. 

Most of the movie, after all, revolves around the Whos and most importantly, Cindy. While she’s adorable in her role and always curious about people’s intentions and feelings, I just feel like the movie has not done enough with its characters. Cindy feels like more of a plot device than an actual figure in a story, let alone the main character.

The Whos of Whoville, adults and children alike, are all endazzled and charmed by Christmas anticipation. They all just follow tradition and follow their leader, the antagonist of the story played by Jeffrey Tambor. Nothing seems to change, everything is the same and it gets boring. The characters of the story shouldn’t be as tolerant with the status quo. If I was a Who and if I was looking forward to the big day like that, I’d want to make it the best Christmas ever. I’d want to make it even better than before. 

The only character with intentions like that is Cindy who joyfully nominates the Grinch as the Cheermaster for the 1000th Whobilation! The audacity! I like it!

While it’s an interesting twist in the story, it seems as if Cindy is only there so that the story can move forward. Without Cindy, the Grinch wouldn’t have come down over Christmas. Without Cindy’s goodwill and intentions, the Grinch wouldn’t have been driven to the point where he’d steal the Christmas presents. Without Cindy, the Whos in Whoville wouldn’t have understood that Christmas isn’t all about presents and spending money but rather about spending this great holiday with the people you love and appreciate. Cindy’s a great character, don’t get me wrong, and Taylor Momsen did a great job bringing life to this pig-snorted girl… but there could have been more. There could have been a change in the people at an earlier time in the movie. When the Grinch finally arrives to get his award, the Whos are frightened by his appearance and his manners… but all of a sudden they just flick the switch and they accept that he’s just as much a Who as everyone else.

Being a kids movie, I understand that the gags and gimmicks, the jokes and little sketches, and all of that are important to fill out air… but I feel like the movie could have had so much more than just that. There could have been more change, more on the topics of “What is Christmas about?” and “What makes a good Who a good Who?” but instead… it just falls flat. Adults will enjoy the occasional innuendo or dark joke here and there, that completely went over my head when I watched it ages ago. Christine Baranski, playing Martha May Whovier, really adds a… different flavour to the movie. But personally speaking, while I love the movie and the characters, I would have wished for more. I would have liked it if they went more in-depth with how the Grinch, the titular character, feels and changes, but they ended up merely touching on it instead, leaving much to desire for boring people like me.

The plot itself works, though. It’s a great movie. It made me chuckle plenty of times and the occasional song here and there really made it all the move enjoyable. The world of the Whos and the Grinch is wonderfully Christmas-y and glim and bright but while red is one of the main-colours, it’s not as bright and shiny as Santa’s clothes… but rather dark and muddy, showing that there is more potential for this Christmas to become better and showing that there lies more under the wrapping paper and mistletoes.

All in all, a great movie to watch with your loved ones in this wonderful time, despite the criticism that I had at the depth of the topics and subjects that the movie touches on. I’d really recommend it to ya if you’re still searching for a great movie to watch. It’s twenty years old at this point and, believe me, or not, Ms Magi hasn’t seen it until last Saturday and she loved it to bits.

Finishing post-review thoughts: 

I haven’t really thought about how to write movie reviews before. I would have thought that it works the same as with game reviews where you start at one point, start writing, look into your notes, and just end up finishing it up eventually. Movie reviews are different as you need to be more aware of spoilers and what you can talk and cannot talk about. With Christmas movies, you basically know how it’s going to turn out anyway, so that’s a different story, but personally speaking, I’m not entirely sure if my thoughts on it aren’t potentially too analytical or if they maybe even go too far into the interpretation. 

After writing it up, I wanted to see if Peril has written about this movie in particular yet but apparently, there is no post on it available just yet. As far as other reviewers out there go, I don’t really like the style of many others and hence just didn’t check on other bloggers, but I’m sure there will be plenty of critics out there, just waiting to give me feedback on my first-ever movie review. I’d appreciate that a ton. In hindsight, this post turned out quite well. It doesn’t really feature any spoilers and while it doesn’t go too in-depth on the movie’s score and the graphics and all of that, I feel like it’s still a solid review. Maybe straying away from the visible and audible was a good choice after all, though, as I have no clue about componists and that kind of stuff.

And yes, I criticised the story somewhat… and I referred to the Whos as pig-nosed characters… But I feel like you can criticise something and still like it… and the Whos do kind of look like they’ve got inverted pig-snouts on their faces… I mean, they’re adorable… but also kind of weird, which is great.

Anyways, I hope you’re having a great time. Stay safe and healthy and regardless of what’s going on and how 2020 has been, I wish you a few happy holidays, a merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Cheers!

Indietail – Yuppie Psycho

I remember my first day at work as if it was yesterday. It wasn’t at some weird office job with construction going on or whatever but in an old mill that got transformed into a restaurant. I wanted to make a quick buck by working as a waiter on top of getting some experience in. I got the job immediately but it caused me a lot of anxiety having to start in a new environment. This sense of anxiety got even worse when my coworkers would bark at me for no reason while an Irish man called me a “fish out of water”. And while I’d never like to get back to that sort of anxiety again, I thought I’d dive into the corporate horror that Yuppie Psycho presents us with.

Developer: Baroque Decay
Publisher: Another Indie
Genre: Survival, Horror, 2D, Stealth
Release Date: April 25th, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Yuppie Psycho is a Survival Horror Game developed by Baroque Decay where we take control of Brian Pasternack who is about to start his first day at Sintracorp. “Uncertain, unprepared, and massively unqualified” we’ll try to rise and shine in Sintracorp’s hierarchy. Our first assignment? Kill the witch that is influencing the workers around here in a negative way.

In Sintracorp, there are no supervisors! Do whatever you want to! Work whenever you want to! Explore the area whenever you want to! Yuppie Psycho doesn’t really give you instructions but hints you at directions. In the beginning, you need to find the Hexenhammer in the Archives on Floor 7. Alas, you go there and get riddles and puzzles to solve. Later, you just have to figure out where you can unlock abilities or new ways to access older levels. The game hints you at directions but you’re free to go wherever you want to! The whole world is open to you… Well, apart from the exit door that you literally cannot go through since Sintracorp needs you and it’s only your first day of work.

Something that I really liked about the game was the tongue-in-cheek humour that you encounter. Saving the game is done by copying your face using Witch Paper, for instance, and coffee heals you. Albeit these examples not sounding too original, there are a lot of other moments in the game that made me chuckle out loud more than just once. Sometimes, I’d just remember that one event where we got our nickname and I’d just be chuffed to bits. Obviously, I cannot spoil those.

The art style is rather detailed for a 2D-title featuring impressive cutscenes and fun pixel-art that really made the game seem grotesque and scary at times but also kind of cute in a bizarre way. On top of that, the game confronts you with a very fantastic soundtrack that just gives me the creeps and fills me with joy whenever I think back at it. Honestly, I’m in love with the presentation and the absurdity of the whole game.

So, back to gameplay, a lot of things are trying to kill you and to prevent them from doing so, you essentially need to make cup noodles, sandwiches, and coffee, grab snacks and water, or stick items into other objects to solve puzzles. A lot of the boss fights seem kinda intuitive. You see stuff that hurts you and use it to hurt the boss instead. I feel like I did the first boss in an intended way… but I’m not entirely sure just yet. I feel like the game is giving the player a lot of freedom in how they can and want to play the game.

This stretches even further when you take a look at how the game is built up. You have different areas that are accessible through the elevator. You check out all of the different floors and see where you need certain abilities or items to get through but you don’t know what items or abilities you need until you find them. Brian, the main character, is sometimes giving you hints but more often than not you’re left alone and while that may leave people wondering on how to produce results, you’re never really forced to. You always tend to have enough time to figure it out on your own and the puzzles don’t feel too far-fetched. Instead, Sintracorp really lets you be your own boss. And that’s great.

Now, as far as things go that I got bothered by, I’d like to mention how the saving system of using Witch Paper and Ink Cartridges kind of feels a bit too complicated. I don’t like it when you cannot save whenever and the overall system is just a bit too “eh”. Also, I would have liked at least one auto-save in the beginning after getting to your office, as the game crashed there twice and as I had to redo the beginning twice, which was a tad annoying. To be fair though, crashes didn’t seem common. On the contrary, my streaming of the game probably took a hit on my computer, so I’d let that pass.

Apart from that, I wasn’t really bothered by anything. I would have maybe enjoyed having more accessibility options in the menu like turning off flashing lights and replacing it with a dimmed option or something like that. On top of that, it could have been nice to get some options to highlight interactable objects or make the game easier for people that have a hard time with survival horror titles, to begin with.

Yuppie Psycho, in essence, is a game that surprised me in a lot of ways. It’s a fantastic game with a great art style, story and soundtrack. The puzzles mostly feel good to solve and more often than not I had to chuckle instead of getting scared. I’m not a huge fan of Horror games but this game was actually quite bizarre and fun with fewer scares and more creeps going on. On top of that, choices matter as well to a degree here and sinfluence the ending considerably, so I’m looking forward to going through it again, eventually, as there is a lot of replayability with these seven endings, all of the collectables and the amount of things to do in the game. To sweeten the deal, Yuppie Psycho also got a free DLC upgrading the game to the “Executive Edition” adding new bosses, areas and more stuff overall neatlessly into your game, so that’s quite cool, in my opinion.

Now, I don’t give scores but I definitely recommend this game to fans of the genre that want to experience true corporate horror. If I was to give a score, it’d be a solid 9 out of 10, I think. It’s a great game but the missing accessibility options turned me off a tad.

Don’t get fired, stay healthy, and be kind to others!

Cheers!

Indietail – Per Aspera

Ever since I was a child, I had this fascination with space. I’d often catch myself wondering what’s out there and how far it goes. My parents often wouldn’t be able to answer some questions, and I often would end up just wondering and dreaming of becoming an astronaut or maybe even living out there in that dark space full of shining stars. When I then realised that I needed to learn to swim and study a lot, I quickly gave up on that dream. Luckily, games let us experience those adventures and that sense of exploration without us needing to study or train a lot – games like Per Aspera, for instance.

Developer: Tlön Industries
Publisher: Raw Fury
Genre: Colony Sim, Base Building, Space, City Builder
Release Date: December 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the publisher.

Per Aspera lets you step into the role of AMI, an Artificial Consciousness that can feel and think like any human but without all the physical limitations. Our mission? Terraform and colonise Mars! Build up a base with mining sites, factories, power production and maintenance facilities. Research tech trees for alternate ways of terraforming Mars, like guiding methane meteoroids into the atmosphere, creating or importing greenhouse gases, and always keep track of the colonies that are already arriving, as well as the changes that you’re causing the planet to go through. 

In essence, it feels like a neat little Colony Sim in Space with its own systems, challenges and features. But what surprised me initially is that the game features a story. As we continue AMI’s mission, we face a lot of different hardships and challenges. At one point, we’re getting meteor showers, at another we’ve got to brace ourselves against dust devils, and at another… we are being sabotaged? What is going on on this planet?, I ask myself, before trying to figure out solutions to my problems. A lot of colony sims don’t feature stories since it’s literally a game where you create your own colonies, cities, or countries. You reign over your patch of dirt and just think of “lore” as time goes on… if at all. 

The story’s well-written and the voice cast is just phenomenal. Troy Baker and the others are really bringing the game to life. 

Instead of an intrusive and annoying tutorial, you’re being greeted by voice lines from different characters in the beginning hours of the game. The “tutorial” is basically making you do things by listing objectives in the directory, but you’re free to do whatever you want at any given time until you run out of resources. Alas, you build your first aluminium mine, get factories and power going, build up space-ports and colonies, research things, and eventually, you’ll just explore, expand, exploit, and… you don’t exterminate, I guess? There are enemies at one point but you’re trying to bring Mars to live and not destroy it, right?

Anyways, while the little worker-robots are not that detailed, the game looks stunning otherwise. Most of the time, you’re zoomed-out anyways, so I was able to overlook the less-detailed workers, drones and buildings. The planet is amazing and as you pan the camera and zoom in and out of orbit, you get to take it all in, take a breather and relax a little while your workers are gathering resources. I’d say that the atmosphere wasn’t that great (ha, space joke) but it’s been a great game for the most part.

And I say “for the most part” because I had some struggles with it as well. Having played the game for longer sessions mostly and having started colonies multiple times now, I noticed that the soundtrack – while somewhat funky and great at the beginning – just got on my nerves. Hearing the same track over and over again really annoyed the heck out of me until I eventually turned it off and listened to some other spacey soundtracks or playlists. At the same time, I often would end up getting soft-locked into stages where my workers were not doing the prioritised work and I would constantly lose some until I eventually gave up after accepting that this indeed is a soft-lock. 

Starting a new base, again, is annoying and frustrating, as you’ll have to make your way through the same opening dialogue and the same story again. Building up your base feels the same more often than not. You can tweak your decisions and try to do something different but eventually, the excitement falls off. This continues into your longest colony as well: As you unlock more sites to play with, you land there, build up your production line and have to hope that the RNG doesn’t screw you over with resource nodes in the weirdest places. Starting a new base at another location in addition to your current base gets annoying and doesn’t feel too good, to be honest.

What got me hooked initially is the fact that you’re actually able to change the planet. You’re not accepting it the way it is but instead, you do your job and terraform the heck out of the planet. Using C02 you’re able to raise the temperature of the planet to melt the ice caps. Then you import different gases to raise the temperature… eventually, you’ll end up pumping oxygen into the atmosphere but if you do soon, you’ll end up burning your base up since oxygen, in fact, is really flammable. It’s a bummer, however, that you aren’t able to move parts of the mountains away, giving you more space to build in, or maybe just forming the planet using other techs or builders of sorts to fill in craters and change the shape of things. I would have wished for something like that.

Another thing I would have wished for would have been more priority levels, an overview of the buildings and materials you’ve got going on, or maybe even options to point your factories into producing specifically for the other factory or whatever. While the minimalistic approach to the UI is fancy in a way… It also was not to my liking. The information I needed wasn’t available to me. At the same time, I didn’t get notified at all about resource nodes running out, colonists starving, workers getting destroyed, etc. When I wanted to do something about that, I could prioritize one building over another… but that’s it. With only one priority level, the worker bots would just let the world burn and do nothing or rather do something… just not what I want them to do. 

The game has a lot of issues and by throwing curveballs at you when you’re still fixing the issue from before, I had a rough experience that wasn’t that great at all after a while. While I enjoyed the game for eight hours straight, I got overly frustrated with it past that. The music is nice but gets annoying. The tech tree is boring. The sandbox mode is just a campaign without the story. The building feels janky… and eventually, the game turns into an RTS-ish game with enemies attacking you while your base is on fire. The developer says that the game is “hard” but even on the easiest difficulty, I feel like it’s just unfair and annoying, at best.

All in all, I really want to love this game. It’s great that a game is taking a shot at the whole “terraforming” thing through science and atmospheric stuff and all of that… and while the story and the look of it are lovely, I’m just not sure if I can recommend it, in its current state. I’d be more than happy to revisit Per Astera eventually again and see if it’s worth playing… but right now, I’m not too sure on the whole “per Aspera ad Astera” part as there are way too many hardships and not enough stars for that.

Cheers!

Indietail – Submerged

I enjoy exploration-based games a lot. That’s a statement that I made in the past when I reviewed Outer Wilds, a game all about exploration. Similarly, I really enjoy other games like Subnautica or Breathedge where you end up challenging the oxygen limit that has been placed onto you or where you try to survive at all costs and still explore the world. Today’s Indietail is about Uppercut Games’ “Submerged”, an exploration-based Adventure game playing in a post-apocalyptic world.

Developer: Uppercut Games
Publisher: Uppercut Games
Genres: Exploration, Adventure, Third-Person, Single-Player, Parkour
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, XB1, IOS, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Our younger brother is sick, the world is flooded and the resources are scarce. Playing as Miku our main goal is to explore the world in search of rations, medicine and other items to help cure our brother. Other humans? We can’t seem to find any as nature seemingly won its fight against civilisation and as the city is in ruins. What has happened? What is this sickness? Is there a way to cure it? Questions among questions enter my head but luckily, the little drawings and journal pieces seem to help me out to understand the situation better.

What’s that place over there?

Since our brother lies sick in the little base we built, we need to find these rations. To do so, we map out the city, search for shiny objects on rooftops and other places and we set out on our fishing boat to take care of our brother. The premise is straightforward but it seems to work quite well. 

As we map out areas and look through our telescope, we find entrances to the ruined areas. While the movement on the ship is very horizontal and limited to the waterways, we get to climb these high places and ruins of hotels, libraries and hospitals. The game picks up pace as we climb higher and higher, explore different paths to find collectables, and eventually reach these red chests with the rations we need. The sudden verticalness of the game was much to my liking as you suddenly gain access to points that allow you to spy farther. Once you’re up at some of the high areas, you’re able to search for more rations and collectables. It works quite well together.

Gotta climb up this place!

These collectables range from drawings (lore) to boat-upgrades that increase the duration of your boost. As you go on, you get to see landmarks and fauna, eventually filling out your journal, which gives you a nice sense of accomplishment. The exploration aspects of the game seem more than satisfactory, which was surprising since I felt a bit overwhelmed with those sixty lore-entries and the landmarks, creatures and other collectables. Eventually, I noticed that it’s actually quite doable. 

In the beginning, I felt more than overwhelmed with how the game did things. I was just thrown into it and had to figure out stuff on my own. Luckily, the game’s premise and the gameplay that doesn’t rely on combat at all is rather simple and straight-forward: You start at one point and try to explore the world and when your eye catches something of interest, you go there and see if you can dock somewhere and enter the building’s ruins. Then you climb up and find stuff to progress the story. 

Very lovely landmark!

Personally, I feel like this game does that quite well. Thatgamecompany’s “Journey” also had this premise of exploring the world and just going to points of interest, also known as “eyecatchers”. In Submerged, you see a Ferris wheel for instance or the outlines of a bridge or a very high building at the horizon, so you’re naturally drawn to those and see the entry point where you dock your boat and explore the building. By climbing up ledges, ivies, boards and other structures, you end up finding what you need before seeing another cutscene. Exploration feels rewarding which is really important in games like these that rely so heavily on it. 

Meanwhile, we find and see the wildlife of this world over time. Whales, dolphins and birds accompany our boat as we travel alongside them. Are there no humans left, though? What happened to everyone? 

Oooh, pretty and foggy!

Again, these questions pop up and as you progress through the story, you get ominous clues as to what happened or what is happening. You slowly piece it together as the language is obscure and as you only get drawings for the lore pieces. 

While this game is already five years old, I’d like to mention that it’s beautiful. There is a day-night cycle in the game with its own weather and all of that but even when it’s raining, the game manages to look spectacular. Being a rather vertical game, the perspective tends to get switched up now and then, showing you climb up a ladder or balance yourself to the other side of a building from a different point of view, which really showcases the beautiful scenery. Despite being somewhat old, Submerged is a pretty game. Sure, you have some graphical glitches here and there and the graphics settings are somewhat limited but overall, I feel like it certainly aged well.

Slowly… Slowly…

But despite all of that praise, I’ll have to say that the game is not too accessible. While you’re able to remap keys on both the keyboard and the controller, I would have liked to see other options supported in the game, like audio subtitles for waves, animal sounds or other options for people that don’t hear that well. On top of that, the game is way too loud in the beginning and it’s really hard to adjust to a “normal” volume level without nearly turning off the beautiful music directed by Jeff van Dyck. 

On top of that, I was a bit bothered by the fact that there is no jump or sprint button. A game with this much platforming and freedom seems a bit limited by not being able to choose freely where you go. I would have liked it a bit more if I was able to go and climb wherever I want to, maybe with a stamina bar as a limiter or some gadgets or whatever. You certainly are free… and yet you’re quite bound to ledges that are rather conveniently placed on the buildings.

There is a photo-mode for your postcard-needs!

And while I get that the red chests are your main goal, I would have liked it if you were prompted something along the lines of “return to base?” instead of just getting teleported home. It’s just a small thing that annoyed me as I’d have to climb all the way up again and remember the other paths if I wanted to explore more.

Regardless of that, however, I enjoyed this game. The world is beautiful, the exploration is highly enjoyable, and while the story seems melancholic, it is also very lovely, despite not using a single word. I hence recommend this experience to all fans of combat-free and chill exploration-based games. 

A ship part!

You can find the game on Steam over here – but if you want to support me (and the Trevor Project), you may want to use this affiliate link of mine to grab the game over at the Humble Store where it’s currently 92% off for the next week or so. You can also use my link to make other purchases and I’ll get some revenue as well unless of course, you use the honey-browser extension as that one overrides affiliate-links.  

Oooh, Birds!

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this post. I had a lot of fun playing Submerged and was happy to cross off another game of my big plan-to-play list on Steam! I haven’t posted reviews in a while since the university has been keeping me busy but if you want to get notified immediately whenever I post something on this blog, consider joining my discord server and grabbing the Scholars role over there! 

Cheers!

Indietail – Summerland

Are you a good person? I guess most people would answer that with an immediate “yes”. After all, you wouldn’t want others to think otherwise, usually. But if you had a chance to relieve your past, take a look at cases where you weren’t at your best and see how you exactly acted in those moments, would you still stick to your answer? Would you still think that you’re a good person?

In today’s review, we’re taking a look at FYRE Games’ Summerland. This short narrative experience explores the question of morality and the afterlife. What comes after you die? Where do you go? Are you a good person? Summerland is aiming to make you think about these questions, and more.

Developer: FYRE Games
Publisher: FYRE Games
Genres: Adventure, First-Person, Narrative Experience
Release Date: December 2nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Key was provided by the developer.

But first things first: In Summerland, we take the role of the widower and single-dad, Mathew, who’s hardly scraping by with his detective job alone and is hence desperately in need for money to be able to raise his son properly and afford the pills he needs to treat his own sickness.

And apparently, we died. At least we’re in some sort of waiting area with a corridor and several doors. In the room that we wake up in, we can only find a rotary phone on the table that suddenly starts ringing. On the other side of the phone line is a man who’s telling us to go through several trials to relieve our recent past. This is important as that man needs to judge us to determine where we have to go.

It’s all rather mysterious and ominous at the beginning but eventually, it gets cleared up.

The trials that we have to go through basically are cases from our job or days at home or side jobs. We need to find certain clues or items, bring them somewhere else or get other tasks done. Most of the time, you’ll see a counter up at the top left count upwards but more often than not, you’ll miss that and be confused. I spend a rather long time in the first level until I noticed that I needed to click on a specific item on the ground, which was a pain in the butt. Once I had the eight clues needed for the first trial, I was back at the room and ready to go into the next trial.

As you go on and complete these trials, you’ll always find yourself back in the waiting room or purgatory or whatever you wanna call it. Yes, the room with the rotary phone. The phone rings, we get it, talk to the guy on the other side, and then we answer a philosophical question.

At one point, we’re being asked about our stance on the trolley problem. Do we kill one person to let five people live or do we do nothing to not become a murderer and let those five people die? Do we follow Kant’s philosophy or rather Bentham’s utilitarianism? It’s an interesting concept to add questions like these and as someone who does study philosophy, it was interesting to see that in this game… but I think it felt somewhat pretentious. The question didn’t add anything to the thought process behind the story. The question may help some people understand the meaning of the game or whatever… but it really is unnecessary in a way, especially as I’m not sure if it actually does influence the story in any way. Similarly, we are asked a few other questions, and I just personally don’t think that it adds to the experience at all.

The story, on the other hand, starts off a bit slow but eventually picks up, only to deliver a somewhat interesting plot. Sadly, we don’t get any choices or anything to influence the game. The puzzle-like trials break the story up too much. The characters don’t really have any development to them. It’s a bit of a tragedy. The choices that we take don’t end up reflecting in later trials. There is also just one ending, it seems. Make of it whatever you want to.

But if we let that slide since it’s a free and short game, we can still talk about the alright soundtrack and the graphics that are being powered by Unity and feel quite stunning. I found them quite pretty at first… although I had to turn off bloom and a lot of other settings since the game was making me feel sick, which is something that has never happened to me before.

And speaking of things that I didn’t like: There are a lot of things like that.

For instance, I found it incredibly hard to get into the mood to play the game after I saw that I wasn’t able to change the settings IN the game. Whenever I started the game and wanted to change something to feel less dizzy but still enjoy the graphics, I’d have to go to the main menu, change the settings, head into the game and “continue”… but since the game only saves AFTER the trials, I’d have to listen to that monologue at the beginning again… and again… and again… until I found the right settings. It was annoying. On top of that, there were a lot of settings amiss like accessibility settings, keymapping and different sound/graphics settings that I would have liked to see. It’s 2020 after all – and this is a new game, so I don’t know why I can’t customize the sound settings more, etc.

In the game, the “puzzles” felt interesting but slow. They were refreshing at the beginning but as time went on, I just didn’t really want to bother with them anymore. They slowed down the story unnecessarily and ended up ruining my experience for me, a little bit. I’d rather have a walking simulator than a narrative experience that is also trying to be smart and philosophical on top of being a game with “choices” without choices – that also has puzzles for whatever reason.

The game is coming out on the 2nd of December, 2020. It’s going to be a free-to-play game. While I’d imagine that it’s an interesting title for people that want to think about morality without getting too deep into philosophy, I’m not sure if I’d recommend it. I just didn’t enjoy it too much, personally speaking, and am hence not sure if it’s worth the time spent. Especialyl when you consider that its main selling point was the questions about morality and afterlife, with the latter falling somewhat short.

I think, I would have liked it more if you had actual meaningful choices. It would have been great if there was a dialogue in the waiting area with the man on the other line. It would have been great if I had had the opportunity to think more about these aforementioned questions but at one point they just fell short. The plot was already in progress and while the story is telling you that it’s not a clear black and white thing, I just think that when it comes to morality it really is just that. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so maybe you should check it out yourself if you want to. I just personally feel didn’t like a lot of the things in the game and hence am not recommending it.

Cheers!

Indietail – Behind Every Great One

Behind every great man, stands a great woman – but who stands behind that woman? 

From the makers of The Red Strings Club and Gods Will Be Watching comes a game that explores the life of Gabriel and Victorine, a couple in their 30s that live a comfortable life. Gabriel’s a famous artist who’s currently working on his next grand piece. Victorine, his loving wife and muse, is supporting him in every way possible but as time goes on, it all becomes a burden for Vic and we start to run out of space.

Developer: Deconstructeam
Publisher: Deconstructeam
Genre: Interactive Fiction, Adventure, 2D, Drama
Release Date: August 23rd, 2018 (updated: February 18th, 2019)
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (itch.io)
Copy is available for free.

Originally made for the Ludum Dare 42 with the concept of “running out of space” in mind, Behind Every Great One explores serious topics like gaslighting, guilt-tripping and toxic relationships by putting you into the role of one of those great women. Time passes slowly and you only have so much time to get done with your chores. 

Clean the house, water the plants, do the laundry, wash the dishes, prepare dinner,… there is way too much to do for just two people, especially when Gabriel is obsessed with his magnum opus and hence doesn’t bother helping at all. Slowly, the small rooms of the flat feel bigger and bigger. I felt so small when I tried to get done with my tasks. 

And there’s more to it. The conversations we have with our husband change over time. From him putting us on a pedestal at the beginning to eventually him blaming us indirectly for his problems.

Stuff happens and eventually, Gaby’s parents stop by and stay for a few days. Needing a place to sleep in, they take up the small library, which results in us losing our refuge and one of our hobbies. When we’re feeling down, we don’t have anyone to turn to. Gabriel’s mother is a viper and his father is often not the most tactful person. 

It’s hard to breathe air when these people quite literally take space away from you. When you feel like crying, you need to find a place to be alone. With more people joining, that’s not quite possible. Eventually, it all is too much to handle for us and only time will tell what we’ll do about it.

Though relatively short, Deconstructeam managed to create an interesting and deep experience that really captures the feel of toxic relationships well. Abusive relationships don’t need domestic violence. It can be a few simple words, sentences, and demands to ruin someone’s day, week or life. 

The game utilizes a minimalistic style and bright colours to show us the world we live in. It doesn’t matter who these people are or what they look like. They could be anyone and everyone. The bright colours contrast the dark feelings quite well and the changes in camera-movements and perspectives really add a lot to the experience.

A rather atmospheric soundtrack accompanies the experience that is fitting. For a game made in a day, I’m impressed at how well this all fits together.

Sadly, I’m not able to talk about anything else really since the risk of spoiling something is rather high with a game like this. It’s a short experience that still has a lot of surprises to offer that I haven’t touched upon in this review.

Personally, I really enjoyed the experience, although I hated the oppressive feeling that goes with it. I hated more toxic relationships that I had in the past and this game really reminded me all too well about those. It’s saddening that Victorine’s experience is so relatable. 

Hence, I’d recommend this title. It’s a really well-made narrative experience by Deconstructeam. You can find Behind Every Great One over here on itch.io.

Cheers!

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!

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!