Indietail – TASOMACHI: Behind The Twilight

Back in February, I covered a lot of the Steam Game Festival demos but sadly didn’t get to cover all of them. One of the titles that looked very promising but didn’t get covered was Tasomachi, which is a 3D Platformer in a charming fantasy world. In TASOMACHI: Behind The Twilight, you step into the role of Yukumo, a young girl traversing the world in her beloved airship. Upon arriving at a certain town her airship gets taken down by a mysterious force, which is why she now has to explore the town in search of parts for repair… but something’s wrong since the town has fallen silent with no trace of its inhabitants.

Developer: Orbital Express, nocras
Publisher: PLAYISM
Genre: Atmospheric, Fantasy, 3D Platformer, Exploration
Release Date: April 14th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the devs.

First of all, I’d like to mention that the world is beautiful. Usually, I’d talk about the presentation later on in the review but I feel like a huge selling point for this game is the wonderful art and the atmosphere in the games. The artist-turned-indie-dev, nocra, has been known for contributions to the art of Final Fantasy XIII-2, XIV: A Realm Reborn, freelance 2D art on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the world of Tasomachi is beautiful, mysterious and enigmatic. The world is pretty and feels livelier every time you complete the challenges of the different places and every time you bring back more people. The music by Ujico*/Snail’s House certainly adds to this feel as well with chill and cosy vibes during the day and relaxed melodies during the night. The challenges that you complete feature some somewhat funky and futuristic sounds as well that certainly mix things up and overall, I love the presentation, the soundtrack, the art style and the character design to bits and feel like it’s outstanding.

The gameplay loop consists of you visiting these different places in the world, trying to collect Sources of the Earth, which are necessary to lift the fog and bring the towns back to life. By completing the challenges and getting the protection of the Sacred Trees, you essentially revitalise the places and get some repairs done for your ship, resulting in a bit of a Zelda-like experience minus the combat. There are a bunch of puzzles like mazes and switch-puzzles as well as some platforming challenges that involve mechanics that get introduced along the way. Some of the sacred trees also grant you powerups, like a mid-air dash or a stomp, that you can perform to get to Sources of the Earth around the map.

While I usually hate platforming in games, I actually don’t mind it in this game. The puzzles feel interesting and innovative in a way with mechanics you may know from other games but used in different ways. Similarly, I like that Tasomachi features multiple short sections that you have to overcome instead of one long painful course of jumping puzzles, which overall makes it more enjoyable. If you fail it a couple of times, it can get annoying but it’s not as bad as in other games which is why even I got a bit competitive. “Just one more time! This time I’ll get it” – And well, if you don’t want to do it, you can use coins to skip challenges completely. Usually, I don’t think highly of skip-buttons like that but the game has more than enough challenges for you to experience, so I don’t think it’s that bad to be able to skip a challenge or a few to make progress. The coins can be found around the map in random spots and they tend to respawn quite quickly, too, meaning that you don’t have to grind or anything like that. Once you got rid of the fog in a town, you also can use the coins to purchase decorations for your room in the silent valley or buy concept art and costumes, which is a nice little touch, in my opinion.

And then there’s also your trusty airship. I like the feel and the controls of it, especially as the areas are stunning and more than enjoyable to fly through. The plotline of your ship breaking down, sadly, puts a bumper into this as you’ll have to get through a few areas first before you can soar through the skies again… but once you get through that part of the story, it’s more enjoyable than it would have been before due to the revitalised towns and areas that now feature boats, new challenges and even more areas to explore. It’s an interesting take, in my opinion, especially as you can use your ship freely at that point, too, to fly through courses or flutter between buildings. On top of that, I love the nice little touches that the world has to offer like the day-night cycle and the animations and particles that your airship uses. It’s overall a very pleasant experience. I’d imagine, however, that the developers could maybe add some more life to the world in form of bugs, birds, and other critters to enhance the experience even more.

But even if I praise this game so much, I’ll have to say that there are things that I don’t like. First of all, I hate that you always “respawn” at the dock when you fall into the water in another part of the town. I’d enjoy it a lot more if you would just get put back at the last save spot or the last time you touched the ground… Failing a jump somewhere and falling into the water doesn’t have consequences for you aside from the fact that you have to go all the way over there again. Also, there are lanterns around the map that you can light and I find it hard to keep track of them all, especially as the light goes out when you enter a building or a sanctuary. I was wondering if something special happens if I light them all up but I couldn’t really find out as I would either lose track of where I’ve been already or I’d end up resetting it by accident. 

And then there are the settings for the game… There are no keybindings that can be changed, for instance, which is bad for accessibility. You also cannot change the gamma settings or turn off some of the particle effects. There is also an issue with the “Medium Resolution” that cause the water to flicker when you move the camera around, which is quite annoying… I would have liked it if you could change independent settings like particle effects, motion blur, bloom, lighting, control scheme, etc. in the settings instead of just being able to change the resolution. Stuff like that should be a given in 2021 in my opinion.

Apart from that though, I like this game. The puzzles have the right amount of challenge to them and can be skipped if you want to. The game is beautiful on the high to highest settings and presentable on lower resolutions. The soundtrack is amazing. The art and animation are great. I like that there is a photo mode in the game. I can recommend TASOMACHI to anyone that is looking for a nice and chill time in a pretty environment.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Luck be a Landlord

Sometimes life’s rough and you’ll struggle to pay the rent, afford food and all of that. There are times like that where you’re desperate and have to… take a gamble or get evicted. In Luck be a Landlord, your landlady is an asshole that raises the rent every time you pay it… because capitalism! Hence, it’s your job to gamble away, quite literally, at a slot machine located in your apartment, so that you can afford the rent and keep surviving or even quite potentially beat the landlady/landlord and chase them out!

Developer: TrampolineTales
Publisher: TrampolineTales
Gerne: Slot Machine, Roguelike, Deckbuilding
Release Date: January 8th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Luck be a Landlord is a casual Roguelite-Deckbuilder where you spin the slot machine and gamble away while building a strong deck, collecting items, and raking in the cash! There are a ton of synergies and elements to the game and it’s a satisfying experience overall, in my opinion, especially due to the game design.

You see, in Luck be a Landlord you use coins to spin the machine and earn money based on your symbols. Some symbols earn you a set amount of money, like cats and dogs that grant you one coin. Meanwhile, others interact with each other, destroy other symbols, multiply other symbols’ worth, or multiply their own based on certain conditions, like the Geologist that destroys ores and pebbles and stuff and adds one more coin to their own value, which can snowball by quite a bit. After every spin, you can add one symbol to your “deck” or skip. There are also other mechanics in place like Rerolls or Removal orbs that allow you to remove symbols from your deck or reroll to further change the shape of it and what you’re going for… or rather to increase profits and remove tiles you may not need anymore.

There are a lot of ways to play the game. There are a lot of strategies… and quite recently, they added a bunch of fun ones like the Holy Water that removes the Hex’ negative effects but still allowing to generate money. It’s a nice item that makes the Hex a viable option now. Similarly, you can go for builds centred around bees, flowers, honey, and bears… or maybe aim for a Geologist-build where your oysters produce pearls that your Geologist can eat to add more value to himself… or you go for a build centred around destruction, etc. Every time you pay the rent, you also have to select one of three items that work passively and help you out by increasing symbols’ values or that give you other effects. There are a lot of options and more often than not you’ll have to improvise to get to your goal. After all, every run is random. The rent is due every few spins but every spin is randomised and so is every selection of items and symbols. Luck be a Landlord is in essence purely about RNG and deckbuilding, which is fun, especially due to it being paired with its simple premise and the satisfying gameplay loop.

Holy Water makes it so that Hexes have no effect but still give coins.

What I love about Luck be a Landlord is that runs don’t ever last super long. Once you know the tiles well enough, you’ll be able to dash through the game quite easily and get through the slow early game quite easily and rather fast, too. Longer runs do exist, especially when you snowball out of control… but once you beat it, it probably won’t continue forever, if that makes sense. The difficulty of Luck be a Landlord comes from staying ahead of the curve. You’ll need to make enough money each spin to get to your rent, but you’ll ultimately also want to have some way of snowballing or maybe saving up money, even. Similar to other roguelikes, there are certain points you want to hit in your build… and once you’ve beaten the game once, you’ll be able to continue the game on a different floor with a higher rent at certain points, hence adjusting these aforementioned points, I mentioned, if that makes sense. It’s nice to see different modifiers getting introduced into the game that make the game more difficult while still keeping the premise the same, although I’d wish there’d be more varied ones like modifiers that change the tiles you find or that change the premise kind of. It’d be interesting to see weekly challenges or stuff like that as well. Maybe we’ll get some of that in the future!

But from good stuff to bad stuff: Luck be a Landlord is addictive… I mean, it’s gambling after all. I may be overthinking this a little bit but it is a slot machine simulation after all… so… it’s not good… and while you’re not earning real money or anything like that, it is still gambling, in a nutshell… So that’s my biggest critique for the game. I’m not too sure about how I feel about this… And apart from that, I hate the music. I hate it a lot. It’s alright at first and then it becomes worse and worse as it loops and loops more and more for longer and longer… you get my point. It’s repetitive like the gameplay and while the runs themselves are still quite a lot of fun every now and then, the music makes it a lot less enjoyable… to the point where I like to turn it off completely.

"You've reached the end of the Early Access version! Congratulations! This time your landlord was trampled by rabbits! Floor 2 unlocked!"

If you like roguelike-deckbuilders that are “not like other games” then Luck be a Landlord may be the game for you. You can also pet the dog btw. If you like doing that, this game is a winner. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it. It gets updated quite frequently and despite it being in Early Access, I haven’t encountered any bugs yet. There’s even a countdown to the next update on the title screen, which is a nice gimmick, in my opinion. If you can look past the fact that this game basically glorifies gambling (again, I’m overthinking this a bit here), it can be very enjoyable… but I personally have some mixed feelings on that subject despite still enjoying the game.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Really Big Sky

When I created my Steam Account in 2014, I spent a lot of time playing a game called Really Big Sky. It came out in 2012 and since I was really into Indie Games at the time, I spent a lot of time with this game in particular. I only have fond memories of this title, hence today’s question is whether Really Big Sky is just benefitting from the Really Big Nostalgia or if it’s actually a Really Great Game! We’ll see!

Developer: Boss Baddie
Publisher: Ripstone
Genre: Shoot 'Em Up, Space, Bullet Hell, Action, Arcade, Indie
Release Date: February 24th, 2012
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

The premise is simple. Just like in other Shoot ‘Em Ups and Bullet Hell games, you’re aiming for the high score and nothing but the high score. Try to survive as you’re flying through space debris, planets and gas giants and basically upgrade your ship to the max while you face off against alien invaders.

I mean, it’s really just that. There are a lot of different variables to the game, though, like different boss fights and special events that include black holes, wormholes, and other things. The game is hard as it tests your reflexes and your decision-making. You’ll have to dodge bullets, enemies, asteroids, lasers, and other projectiles. It’s quite literally bullet hell, which is fantastic. There are powerups in the game as well as space bits that you collect to upgrade your ship. Upgrades include random shoots at various angles as well as shield, speed and weapon upgrades. It adds a little bit of extra fairness to the game as you can upgrade your ship more and more throughout runs if you need to… but you can also make it harder for yourself by playing without that. Similarly, different game modes disable these features or play around with other aspects of the game like unlimited lives and a timer to get as many points as possible… I used to love to do the boss rush mode and challenge myself to get better and further into the game…

And the environments that you see are unpredictable and nearly random. Every run is procedurally generated from the way you play the game, meaning that everything changes based on your playstyle and how you do. If you’re getting better at the game, the game will get harder as well. Similarly, there will be fewer enemies and projectiles early on if you’re still not that good at the game. Really Big Sky analyses your movements and adjusts the game as you move on, giving you a rather interesting experience. As I moved on and on and got further into my runs, the game adapted and it got a lot better, going from an easier to difficulty to a much harder and more challenging experience within minutes. Once I started to lose more runs, it started to adapt slowly and change back, which is quite nice. On top of that, you can check out your data yourself after every run and compare your last run to the ones before that. It’s super detailed and there is probably more data in there than you’ll ever need but it’s quite motivating to see small improvements along with your playthrough and it kind of makes you want to strive forward and reach new highs!

The boss fights and special events are a lot of fun actually. One of them is a huge ball inspired by the death star and you’ll have to activate your drill to get inside and shoot the core… meanwhile, there is a different one that is literally too big to fit on the screen while another fills the screen with bullets making it harder to decide whether or not you want to aim at him or rather watch your step and dodge stuff right now. It’s interesting and dynamic. It feels satisfying to battle against these foes and eventually bring them down… and every run feels unique with the different events and the changes in the environment.

Those environments are generally bright and full of life and colour. There are a lot of different filters and particle effects that work really well with the space-theme within the game and its levels. The issue is that the constant flashing and some other issues with the rapid changes between filters and colours could cause issues for people that are sensitive to flashing lights. This is bad. There aren’t even any settings for it. You can turn down the quality of everything which kind of has an effect on the brightness of these effects, but overall, I’d just recommend not to play this game if you can’t deal with flashing lights. Even for people that aren’t photosensitive, this can be problematic since it sometimes is a bit hard to see where you are on the screen or what is actually damaging you right now. Clarity is important in games, in my opinion, and in that regard, this game certainly is lacking. I’d like it if your space ship would always be in the foreground so that you can basically always see it and detect danger. With the fog and the clouds and all of the other filters in the game, it can get very hard to dodge everything, which can get annoying or even frustrating.

At the same time, the game seems to have some issues with the menus and the resolution. If you play in 720p/fullscreen, you should be fine, but the game tends to struggle in 1080p a lot, even if that’s your normal resolution. Despite that, however, I’ve really liked the game and I enjoyed playing it again. I last played it in 2015 and really liked it back then, and well, even in 2021, I really am enjoying it. It’s a great game to play on and off… Part of the enjoyment comes from the amazing soundtrack. It’s a bummer that it has all those flashing lights with nothing really to do against it but other than that, Really Big Sky is a Really Nice Game to pick up if you’re searching for a quick and challenging fast-paced bullet hell game!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Osteoblasts

I honestly wanted to write about this title for a while now… In fact, you may have actually read my post on the demo before and then after I published it, the developers hit me up and I got a review key for the full game… and then I’ve been playing it for a few hours… and then I tried other classes… And now we’re here, way too late, and I’m lowkey-addicted to Osteoblasts. That’s a good thing. I like playing RPGs but I’ve been a bit burned out from the genre since it always seemed like the same thing being made with different storylines… and Osteoblasts does appeal to me on a lot of levels and makes it seem new and fresh.

Developer: Moonana, Anglerman
Publisher: Moonana
Genre: RPG, Turn-Based Combat, Adventure
Release Date: February 12th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent to me by the developer.

I mean, the premise is simple. You’re a skeleton, you get revived by a Witch Cat, and now you… do stuff. You fight against dogs, skeletons, ghosts, demons and elephants. You level up your character, equip new randomised gear, fight enemies, crawl through dungeons, and eventually, you’ll still understand nothing. The gameplay is satisfying, the story not so much. My issue with the story is that it’s just super confusing. On the one hand, the dialogue sometimes is hard to understand and whenever there is supposed to be a revelation of sorts, the NPCs just drop more riddles and mysteries onto you, making the story less of a satisfying experience, in my opinion. The gameplay, on the other hand, is excellent and while some of the dialogue can be hard to understand, most of the jokes and puns actually land and made me chuckle.

Btw, you’ll need to use your bonemark to cast spells/skills! Ain’t that fun?

As you rise from your grave, you get to choose between six different classes ranging from the Shaman to the Scavenger to the Stranger. I would have liked it if you were shown example skills or maybe more info on the different characters. The game certainly is lacking in the clarity department and leaves you hanging when it comes to explanations regarding your class or skills. I noticed that weapons would have similar names but have randomised skills and stats. This is a great thing, in my opinion, as it adds replayability and lets you customise your class a lot more. In the same way, you have a lot of different stats that influence combat in a plethora of ways from enhancing your attacks to letting you counter attacks or making you heal more. Stats also determine whether or not you can draw out the full potential of your weapons. Skills often are tied to certain stats. Buffing up stats in combat using spells, however, can also enable you to use the according skills. Overall, I like that mechanic a lot but it took me ages until I figured it out. The manual didn’t really help me in-game and I feel like the tutorial should’ve given me more of a helping hand, even if I hate tutorials that hold your hand too much…

Being able to use your skills only when you meet the requirements is interesting since it also influences how you gear up for certain encounters. Equipping different gear shapes your character in a lot of ways, giving you more attacks and helping you out stat-wise. If enemies use debuffs on you, you may lose out on the stat-requirement for certain attacks, which adds a bit more depth to combat. Just like how they can stop you from bashing their heads in, you can also debuff enemies and reduce their stats, preventing them from returning the favour. It’s interesting and fun. I like that a lot about this game. Similarly, you attack enemies, they have a chance to counter you. They attack you, you get to counter them. It’s great to see that rules apply to all characters in the game and it’s refreshing that they have the same chances at taking jabs at you, raising the difficulty a bit more.

Exploration is fun. You don’t need to travel far away to get to different parts of the world and friendly villages. There are a lot of Metroidvania-ish roadblocks in the game that urge you to find other ways to get to the next area like keys that you get from different boss battles or boulders you need to mine with pickaxes. It’s interesting and exploration gets generally rewarded since you’ll unlock shortcuts as well along the way. Through Exploration you also find statues of the old gods. There are six different gods that you can pray to earn bonuses to your stats. On every level up, you get to pray to one of three gods that each grant you two stat increases. Meanwhile, the aforementioned statues grant you those regardless of the level up and also can give you passive bonuses, a checkpoint, fast travel points or even shops, making them quite the reward for exploration.

My favourite part about Osteoblasts, however, is the presentation and the personality that comes with it. The game’s soundtrack is amazing and adds a lot to the atmosphere, especially since the world’s tracks play in battles, too, making the changes from exploration to battle not too abrupt. Similarly, the art style is phenomenal with abstract background art in battles, cute pixel art in the overworld and amazing pixelated character models in the actual turn-based battles. The animations for the different attacks range from simple sword swings to spell effects that appear on the target. The sound design is fun and adds a lot to the game.

But yeah, clarity is the big downside to Osteoblasts. I had to try a lot and fail at it until I figured out that my stats are the reason behind me being able to use a specific spell… or not being able to use it. Similarly, I’d love to see the debuffs and explanations about the enemy by hovering over it, so that I can plan the battles even more… but the game doesn’t have that. And I’d love it if I could get more information on items but, again, the game doesn’t have that. Once you find out about things, you can have a great time,… but until then it can be frustrating unless you catch on quickly about how things work in this game.

Still, despite the clarity issues, I had and am still having a great time with this game. Osteoblasts breathes life into a genre that has been quite dead to me for quite a while now and is delivering a satisfying experience despite its shortcomings in terms of clarity and plot. I would say that you’re making a grave mistake (pun intended) if you don’t at least try out the demo. The full game certainly has a lot to offer and I can highly recommend it.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Curse of the Dead Gods

You seek untold riches, eternal life, divine powers and in your attempt to satisfy your greed, you step into an accursed temple only to be trapped in a seemingly infinite labyrinth of bottomless pits, deadly traps, and various monsters. Today we’re taking a look at Curse of the Dead Gods, an isometric rogue-lite game that I’ve been eyeing for quite a while now. On February 23rd, it left Early Access which is why I figured that it was time for a review. Enjoy!

Developer: Passtech Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Action, Roguelite, Isometric, Dark Fantasy, Challenging
Release Date: February 23rd, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, XB1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

Curse of the Dead Gods doesn’t offer you much when it comes to lore. You’re trapped in this temple and you want to get out. Your only way out is the temple itself that is filled to the brim with riches for you to collect and challenges for you to overcome. One misstep, however, can cost you your life and bring you all the way back to the starting point. Death isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning. So, your job is to do your best in these different temples and become stronger by using a variety of resources to unlock new weapons, features and skills for your next runs. The premise is simple, the game itself, however, is quite challenging.

While you start off with 1000 hitpoints, which is a lot compared to other games in the genre, enemies are many and most of them are vicious. Fight your way through waves in each room, dodge traps and utilize your environment in order to survive. As you move through the temple and conquer rooms, you build up corruption. Once corruption reaches 100, you’ll reset the corruption meter and obtain a curse in the next room. Curses are a bit of a double-edged sword. The fifth curse you obtain is the deadliest as it reduces your health every second… the other curses, however, can actually benefit you even when they’re designed to make the game harder for you. I personally really liked this system, especially as it gives incentive to avoiding damage, collecting gold or offering items to the gods to prevent corruption. Once you beat one of the bosses, you’ll be able to collect a weapon, remove a curse and get some riches. Overall, really fun mechanics!

Combat itself can be a bit overwhelming with projectiles flying at you while you’re dodging traps and lighting braziers, etc. You have a torch that illuminates the area and can light things on fire, which is important as you take more damage in the darkness. Meanwhile, you also have a combination of two single-handed weapons that you can use to chain attacks together and finish off enemies. During any time of your combos, you can weave in attacks from your main or secondary weapon, allowing for some rather satisfying moments and a nice skill-ceiling. Performing finishers and killing things quickly, awards you with so-called “greed kills” and more gold. While, obviously, riskier it’s also more rewarding to go for those as you need gold later on down the line. And then there’s also heavy/two-handed weapons that require stamina upon usage but hit rather hard. While Stamina recovers rather fast, it’s a bit tricky to not get hit for a while and know when you’re able to take a quick break in order to regain it.

Curse of the Dead Gods provides you with a map of sorts that enables you to choose your own path through the temples in a Slay The Spire like fashion. There are special rooms and guaranteed rewards at the end of them, allowing you to choose your own adventure, in a way. Do you want to go for more gold or maybe a new weapon? Do you want more relics to enhance your build or would you rather like to get a weapon upgrade instead? The choice is yours, which feels amazing and adds a bit of a strategic layer to the game.

Your build, your choices, your relics, your weapons – everything can be customised to your needs if you find the right items. Relics can be switched out for new effects and better properties that work better with your choice of weapon. At times, I had very bad runs but opted in for the two-handed hammer I was wielding, specialising into relics and stats that worked well with it… and I actually really liked the feel of it, despite me enjoying swift attacks more than heavy hitters.

The magic of Curse of the Dead Gods is that you can turn every run around. You get a bad run with weapons you don’t like that much? You can still win it and end up creating an amazing synergy of sorts that you wouldn’t have expected in the first place or you switch it up later through weapon or relic drops from enemies. I feel like there’s less RNG involved in Curse of the Dead Gods compared to other games. You know what bosses you’ll face and it’s mostly based on your skill.

While the gameplay-side of things is great and all, I would have loved to see at least a bit of lore. Maybe it’ll get added later on down the line, but honestly, I doubt it. The game is very stylised and the music sounds amazing. The temples have at times areas that feel very mystical and mesmerising to the point where I would have loved to read more about the world than just the Bestiary… so that’s a bit of a bummer…

But overall, it’s really enjoyable. It’s fun to get into, has a high skill-ceiling and can provide a lot of enjoyment for bursts of play sessions… I guess another concern for me would be that there isn’t really an end-game since you don’t have a story apart from wanting to get out. You do have challenges and a hard mode in the game as well as a bunch of achievements, unlockables, and even event dungeons and mixed temples… but the end-game may just very much be about challenging yourself rather than beating a story or something, which may be a downside for some people.

Anyways, I personally enjoyed Curse of the Dead Gods a lot. I could recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a bit of fun and a bit of a challenge. Fans of games like Hades or Dead Cells will probably enjoy combat a lot in this game… but the lack of a story can be a bit of a turn-off for a lot of people, so don’t expect any of that.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Loop Hero

The Lich has thrown the world into a timeless loop and plunged its inhabitants into never-ending chaos. This time around it wasn’t me, though, as I stumbled across this game during the last Steam Game Festival and got hooked to its simple yet satisfying premise and truly addictive game loop. (Get it?) Today, we’re taking a look at Four Quarters’ Loop Hero.

Developer: Four Quarters
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: RPG, Strategy, Roguelite, Card Game, Idle Game (ish?)
Release Date: March 4th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Loop Hero starts by having the protagonist of the game walk away from an amnesia-like haze. The world is plunging into chaos and darkness as the Lich or potentially something bigger than him is destroying the world over and over again. But you have the power! You remember! You walk into the world and can reconstruct it using different tiles and equipment pieces to get stronger and shape the world. You don’t control the game, however, as the game controls you.

Your character walks down a fixed path and battles against monsters that spawn every few days. You can pause the game or speed it up a little bit but there isn’t much for you to do… until you beat some slimes up. Monsters either drop card tiles or items. Items buff up your stats and increase your chances of survival in this hamster wheel of an idle-ish RPG while tiles can be placed to restore the world. Mountains and rocks buff up your HP when placed next to each other. Groves will give you sticks when you walk through them but spawn ratwolves every few days. Villages heal you and grant you quests while battlefields give you a chest or mimic to fight at the start of every loop, rewarding you with items, but may also turn nearby enemies into Ghosts. There are various interactions between different tiles, creating new tiles and allowing you to strategise about how you want to rebuild the world. Placing down nine rocks or mountain tiles in a 3×3 shape will turn into a big mountain which also buffs you up furthermore with more HP but may spawn Harpies on nearby tiles. Meanwhile, other tiles can create interesting synergies, like Vampire Mansions that ransack villages and turn them into the count’s lands after three loops. It’s an interesting loop of fighting, levelling, equipping and placing before you fight again, but a lot of things are out of your control.

At any point during the loop, you can decide to return to the camp that somehow still prevails. If you continue onwards, you risk dying to the enemies that get stronger with every loop… and you may lose it all, so be wary of that fact! But speaking of the camp,… There is something about you that gives the people there hope, and as you gather resources like metal, rocks and rations, you’re able to upgrade the camp and expand it, unlocking new tiles, features and even new classes, which certainly reinforces the people’s beliefs in you. If you don’t return to the camp and end up dying, you’ll lose a lot of your gathered resources and be forcefully ejected to the camp. The world gets reset and you’ll have to go on an expedition, yet again, to rebuild the world slowly.

By placing down more and more tiles, you’ll fill up the world completion meter. Completing that will summon the boss to your camp. Each boss plays differently and can be rather challenging. The Lich’s health pool is bound to different temples near the camp, for instance, that can be removed with Oblivion cards while other bosses utilise other interesting mechanics that make every chapter more interesting than the one before it. Once you’ve reached the boss stage of the game, you complete your final loop and are graced with an amazing soundtrack created by blinch, one of the developers. The soundtrack is amazing and I linked one of the pieces above. The combination of the rather detailed pixel-art style that is a throwback to old retro titles and the chiptune-y and classically 8-bit tunes is amazing and works really well for the game… but more than anything, Loop Hero’s soundtrack gets me hyped up. It’s unique and fun and amazing and I love it to bits. 

I truly love these interactions between cards and characters that suddenly emerge from the tiles. You encounter vampires, harpies, and bandits, and your character talks to all of them, triggering interesting voice lines, even with bosses. Loop Hero may fall into the idle game (ish) genre but adds its own twist to the formula and seems unique. Loop Hero has personality, which is something I really like.

And once you’ve built the different camp buildings needed for those, you can play as a Rogue or a Necromancer even. These come with different stats and mechanics. The Rogue, for instance, can only get items by exchanging trophies at the camp upon entering a new loop, which makes him quite hard early on but rather satisfying to play as once you get those fast attacks and big crits in. My favourite class, however, is the Necromancer (I may be biased) as you let your little skeletons tank and hit for you and turn the battle into a battle of atrocity. Will you be able to summon enough to deal with your foes or will they target you and end you before your army is up and running. Stats like “magic HP”, which is an over-health shield that protects the Necromancer at the start of every battle, or the Summon Quality, which dictates special skeletons’ summon rate, become rather interesting to play with. The Loot in general is very fun to play around with as your inventory is constantly fixed to the UI at the right and as all equipment pieces may grant you stats that are more important or less important for you. I kind of felt like I’m in Diablo 3 again where my specific build required more attack speed or higher skeleton levels and I had to wait for that specific drop with a specific roll. It was interesting and fun.

But despite all the praise, there are a few things that I didn’t like. For starters, the game can be sped up to double speed but doesn’t go further than that. I would have liked it if you could maybe speed it up to 4x or even more than that since the first and even second beginning loop can be rather slow after every run. At the same time, the world would have felt more immersive if some weapons, rings, and gear, in general, would have had special RPG-item-names that potentially get randomly rolled. I feel as if that would add a lot of flair to the game…

Other than that, I don’t have any complains really. Loop Hero is an interesting take on the “One Hero has to save them all” kind of RPG where your hero is actually trapped in a hamster wheel. The game can be challenging and unforgiving, like other roguelites, but overall, I enjoyed this one to bits and haven’t seen a game this polished in quite a while. It’s easy to understand, quite accessible and even has options that allow you to make the fonts dyslexia-friendly or to remove the CRT Shader for better visibility. Honestly, more developers should do add little features like this to their games in 2021!

Edit: As Naithin pointed out in a comment below, I phrased a sentence in a confusing way that can be interpreted as if every loop brings you closer to the boss. That is not the case. I changed the according passage to get rid of that confusing part and make it more clear. Apart from that, I also removed part of the sentences about the bosses as I figured that it would be more interesting if you saw it for yourself, aka I reduced the spoilers to basically little to nothing here, although it’s nothing big really, I guess.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Iris and the Giant

While it has been a bit of a taboo to talk about Mental Health publicly in the past, the world is slowly opening up to the destigmatization of these rather important topics, such as Burnout, Anxieties, Depression, and other issues and emotions that humans tend to feel when they aren’t at their best. I think it’s important for the media to tackle these topics head-on and to spread awareness on how to identify them or how to deal with it. What do you do when one of your family members or friends is depressed or is experiencing a panic attack? How can you help them? Questions like these tend to remain unanswered since it’s rather hard to find a universal approach to all individuals’ issues. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this kind of stuff but by sharing experiences and talking about these things, we actually can understand each other better and potentially help each other out. 

Games are a great medium to do this. By introducing these topics into the world of games, you can make them more approachable and interesting, in a way, while also sharing experiences or letting players experience these situations, thoughts and emotions, even if it’s only a little. Games like Night in the WoodsFlorence, and GRIS, to name a few, are really good at this. They share stories about grief, depression, loss, and other topics, and do so in a way that is more approachable for people that aren’t necessarily experienced in that area. Today’s review is about another title that is doing an amazing job with the destigmatization of Mental Health topics, Iris and the Giant.

Developer: Louis Rigaud 
Publisher: Goblinz Publishing, Maple Whispering Limited, Mugen Creations 
Genre: Roguelite, Strategy, Card Battler, Deckbuilding, Indie 
Release Date: February 27th, 2020 
Reviewed on: PC 
Available on: PC, Switch, Android 
Copy was purchased. 

Iris and the Giant tells the story of a girl named Iris who is struggling with anxieties and depression and who suddenly finds herself on the river Styx, which inside of her mind links the imaginary world and reality. There she has to face her inner demons, fears and sorrows in order to climb a mountain and overcome them.

In its heart, this game is a roguelike deck builder with some CCG and RPG mechanics. It’s an interesting mix with a cute art style and melancholic and crippling topics. Your will is the only thing that is guiding you through this world and thus, it is your lifeline. To protect your will from the demons you’re facing, you’ve got to use a plethora of melee weapons, ranged weapons, shields, heals, and spells in turn-based combat to protect yourself and march forward. The game itself is set up in a bunch of lanes from where enemies and objects come from. Hovering over anything tells you everything you need to know immediately and due to the turn-based nature of the game, you’ve got all the time in the world to overthink your strategy and the potential next move. Your deck can be customised along the journey by adding cards and upgrades as you move on. If you end up dying, you can start a new run with the new cards you unlocked, the skills you selected, and imaginary friends that function as a handicap.

What I really like about Iris and the Giant is the customization aspect of the decks and runs. You can opt-in for a lot of different builds and use the skills that you unlock along the way to further specialise in different aspects. What cards do you want to see more of? The choice is yours to make, no matter what you do and whether or not you decide to rely on these “memories” or to go in completely naked! In a way, it is very intuitive and beginner-friendly but then it also has a big learning curve and some real challenge to it, which is to be expected.

It’s a roguelike after all, so it is supposed to be challenging. While the tutorial actually explains a lot of things rather well, it took me ages to fully grasp everything. The game’s principle is easy to understand but hard to master and offers a lot of skill expression, in a way. 

The demons you’re fighting represent fears and issues that Iris has and struggles with and are inspired by creatures from Greek mythology, which is really cool. The story is told through the eyes of Iris in a rather sophisticated way, which is quite nice to see. I don’t think you’d expect a game that looks this cute to talk about some heavier topics so eloquently while portraying inner demons as actual enemies that you need to battle. The story is melancholic and grim at first but eventually becomes rather heartwarming and wholesome, which is incredible, and while the issues presented here are rather real, it all still is quite a lot of fun, which is important to me. In case you’re not up for an emotional ride, you can just skip the cutscenes and play the game, but if you like the story, the game offers you decreased difficulty and lots of handicaps to make it easier for you to see the ending of it. On top of that, there is also a harder difficulty for fans of the game as well as different game modes and challenges to complete, so overall, it’s quite accessible to different types of players.

And I haven’t even touched on the minimalistic style and the great soundtrack as well as the fabulous voice acting. I love the colours and the art style that the game has going for it. There are some colder areas with more blue-ish colours as well as some brighter ones representing hell, for instance, where you have fiery enemies and warm colours. The atmosphere changes as you go on, and I really like what direction the developer took the game in. It’s lovely to see a game this polished, although I’ve also got some minor issues with it.

For starters, the isometric style is quite interesting but could’ve been handled differently. Sometimes, you don’t see what’s behind certain enemies, which can lead to you potentially missing out on loot or maybe even not seeing an enemy that has been lurking there… On top of that, there is also the issue of the sound settings not being that well-designed. You can turn the game sound and the music on or off but there isn’t much of a menu here. Luckily, the graphics settings aren’t needed here since this should run on even the oldest laptop… but I still would have liked to see more options, especially in regards to the colours used in the game and so on.

But overall, I don’t think that the cons outweigh the pros of this game. I really enjoyed it and liked the approach the developer took in regards to describing depression and anxiety while also creating a fun game. If you’re into card battlers/roguelikes, I can highly recommend Iris and the Giant to you. Even if you’re new to the genre, you may still like this game for the lovely soundtrack, the cute art style, the amazing story and the well-made strategy elements.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Dyson Sphere Program [Guestpost]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guestpost on Indiecator, and alas we’ve got yet another review today here written by Naithin from Time to Loot. The game featured here, Dyson Sphere Program, is a lovely factorio-like game where you set out on a journey to create the ultimate intergalactic factory in space. I just recently played some of it myself and have really been enjoying it but as Naithin’s more into the whole genre, you should maybe listen to what he has to say about the game. If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out Naithin’s blog for more posts on all kinds games from RPGs to MMOs to Looter Shooters and even gaming-related topics like new trailers, interesting up-coming games, or Humble Choice. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may know that Naithin’s a big inspiration of mine and that I really like his blog, posts and the events that he likes to plan or participate in. My series on the Humble Choice of each month is inspired by him as well, so there’s that, too. I highly recommend checking out his blog!

Anyways, I hope you enjoy Naithin’s review:

Dyson Sphere Program has thrown down the gauntlet to Factorio and entered the ring with a select few other titles I consider to be part of the ‘Factorio-like’ genre. A genre that now ranges from the medieval with Factory Town through to the far-flung reaches of sci-fi space with this entry.

Developer: Youthcat Studio
Publisher: Gamera Game
Genre: Sci-Fi, Space, Automation, Base-Building, Simulation, Strategy, Management
Release Date: January 21st, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Despite the technological era — these games have a number of features incoming. The defining one perhaps being to solve the puzzle of bringing the ever-increasing material and component pieces together in the right places to automate the production of yet more things.

The risk is in getting lost and overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Particularly if you let the ruthless pursuit of efficiency be your guiding principle. I felt this starting out in Dyson Sphere Program. It is just so easy to get carried away by seeing the experts play and how they think about and approach the game.

The problem with that is you’ll hit a wall — likely sooner than later — and just stop. My first try at the game ended in exactly that way. I was already thinking several steps down the track to the automation of product manufacture that I wasn’t anywhere near yet. In response, my brain flipped me the double-bird and shut-off.

The early beginnings of my second start. I’ve brought the base materials together into a basic bus, and automated the generation of blue-science.

Where Dyson Sphere Program perhaps excels over Factorio — although this will of course be a matter of taste, I would argue it as a positive particularly for those looking to make a start in the genre — is that no given factory by necessity has to be overly large. The fact you can ultimately separate functions by planet and use interplanetary logistics systems to ship what you need around the place is a Godsend for making things perfectly playable in more manageable bite-sized chunks. What that means is, as I alluded to way back in the introduction, is that you can treat the game as a series of mini-puzzles. Small challenges to be met as and when they make sense for you to do so.

And I highly recommend approaching the game this way. Setting yourself mini-goals. Work toward the production of just one more thing at a time. It will become a spaghetti scramble your first time through.

Grown… Just a little since the last shot. Oil is now being extracted and refined into two different by-products, with the hydrogen being in turn fused with energised graphite into red science cubes!

But it doesn’t matter. Even if you work yourself into a corner — here’s the thing:

You are never penalised for building ‘wrong’. You can uplift any structure, conveyor belt, sorter, or anything else and be just… Yoink it into your inventory. Generally, with no materials lost either — the exception here being fluid storage. If you need to move a fluid storage container around, you will lose it’s contents, unfortunately.

But here’s the other thing. There’s also no time pressure beyond what you bring with you. You won’t lose for having a low APM. Nothing is going to explode. So, if it’s a fluid you’ve had difficulty storing, you can — if you wish — choose to drain it out to a new site before moving the original container.

You have time.

What I’m trying to get across here is that Dyson Sphere Program can be played without any stress. It is in fact quite a peaceful, chill game to play. But only with the understanding that nothing bad will happen if you slow down. I don’t think the game conveys that very well. So I hope to do it for it, for your benefit.

A look at my position on a solar scale. On a wiiiiddle tiny moon, orbiting a gas giant.

If it isn’t clear yet — I’ve really enjoyed my time with Dyson Sphere Program, and it’s an easy recommend to anyone who either enjoys the Factorio-like genre already or those who just like puzzle games. For genre veterans, the expansive interstellar scope is something you just won’t get in any of the other genre offerings to date. The ability to send logistics drones across the dark void of space to meet the supply and demand of your earlier bases is fantastic.

All this is supported by the research tree you might be familiar with from these games, opening up new materials or componentry or best of all — new logistics options! But on top of that, there is also a set of upgrades specific to your mech — your avatar in the game — ranging from the basics like faster movement speed or bigger inventory to increased construction drone capacity to varying levels of flight and more.

Hard to see from this angle, but I’ve essentially used all available land behind the factory there. So I’ve brought my main bus up and over the coal and water here, onto some pristine land for future development.

So! Don’t let the Early Access label scare you off. Dyson Sphere Program is one of the more complete Early Access titles I’ve seen. If I was to quibble about anything it would be the New Player Onboarding process (aka, the tutorial). Which is a giant shame given the potential appeal Dyson Sphere Program could have in bringing new players to the genre. The tutorial right now is… lacking, to say the least. The guided play portion is incredibly brief with the remainder being largely presented via the occasional pop-up pointing you at the game’s in-built encyclopaedia. Which to be fair — isn’t bad by any stretch. It just isn’t the most welcoming thing ever for a new player to deal with. Normally in this case, particularly for a game with this potential for complexity I would say — watch Let’s Plays to learn. And I think I still will offer that advice. Just… Don’t forget what I told you here today. Don’t let any optimisation considerations from others shape your own concerns while playing.

Just take it at your own pace and enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Magi here, again. Personally speaking I also really enjoyed DSP and can also recommend it. As Naithin mentions, there isn’t really a wrong way of doing things in the game. You can get away with a lot of things and I love that there’s no pressure in it, especially as someone that likes to optimize things in these types of games. Really glad to be able to feature Naithin over here. Can’t recommend his blog enough! Check him out!

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on DSP or the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Naithin from Time to Loot.

Indietail – Breathedge

After your grandfather’s funeral ship crashed, you’re stranded in space. Just you, your immortal chicken and an AI/board computer that tells way too many jokes. Welcome to Breathedge, the “ironic space survival game” by Redruins Softwork that is releasing its version 1.0 today! I’ve been playing it on and off ever since it came out in Early Access two years and a bit more ago… and as time went on, I really wanted to like but… you’ll see.

Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Genre: Open World, Survival, Space, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Sandbox
Release Date: February 25th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In Breathedge, you’ve got to survive hunger, thirst, radiation, freezing temperatures and the lack of oxygen in outer space. Easy enough. Throughout your playthrough, you’ll find resources floating around that you then can craft into tools and equipment to venture further into space or to access new types of resources, such as rubber, lead or paint. Your goal is first and foremost survival… but you also want to get to safety, which is why you’ll have to find ways to reach distant points of interest, such as an extraction point that is way too far away.

In the beginning, your oxygen reserves are limited. When you venture out from your shipwreck, you’ll find yourself quickly running out of oxygen, which is why you’ll have to come back to your ship and replenish your reserves. While this is somewhat interesting, especially with the fluid and fun movement in space, it also makes things rather tedious. Collecting resources and having to come back to base every time you run out of oxygen is annoying and while I get that resource gathering is key in these type of games… I don’t see a point in tool durability and having to craft a completely new drill whenever its durability/battery runs out… It’s quite maddening, to say the least.

Eventually, you’ll venture out and find the blueprint for the oxygen station that you can then use to set up balloons that you can refill your oxygen at, making the journey and resource gathering less annoying. You’ll also craft other upgrades for your suit to withstand the radiation or to increase your oxygen reserves, but generally speaking, I feel like it all is more leaning into the annoying to the tedious side of things instead of actually adding value to the experience. The upgrades you can get for your tools merely function as some sort of band-aid that lessens the frustration… but it is not enough, in my opinion. Getting rid of the durability mechanic completely would have made the game more enjoyable in the early stages. As mentioned before, you’ll also need to watch out for your food and hydration, which is standard-survival-stuff… Breathedge doesn’t completely re-invent the wheel or the formula for survival with these mechanics. It just does things because other games did the same things, which isn’t very exciting.

Now, where Breathedge truly shines is actually the exploration and the presentation. As far as exploration goes, you’ll find different wrecks of different spaceships floating around, functioning as eye-catchers that will allow you to pin-point more points of interest. Your oxygen reserves are, as mentioned before, limited, so you’ll need to test your limits, find something good to utilize in your next exploration attempts, and get back to base. Slowly, you’ll learn where to find different resources and where you have to go later once you have more oxygen available. It is very much a trial and error kind of thing but I personally felt as if it was rather interesting and somewhat innovative… until I realised that Subnautica and other games did it before as well.

As far as the presentation goes, Breathedge delivers really well. The art style is rather pretty, outer space looks amazing, and eventually, you’ll unlock base-building and you’ll be able to add windows to stare out into the void… which is just beautiful when you play with the highest settings. The soundtrack features some interesting tracks… and some rather pretty tracks… all in all rather satisfying… if it weren’t for the AI thing that narrates your journey.

Now, I’ll have to mention that the developers label the game as an “ironic” space-survival game. See it as Subnautica… but less serious. You’ll find yourself in a setting that is truly difficult to handle with depleting resources and oxygen troubles… but the AI that accompanies you constantly mocks the game and tropes of the Survival genre and the gaming industry, resulting in the whole setting being rather laughable. The plot itself is somewhat presentable and fun… but the AI makes it feel less enjoyable by constantly cracking jokes at anything and everything. Breathedge opens with a message about how the game is just trying to entertain and how it doesn’t want to offend anyone… but… the jokes are hit or miss.

Most of the jokes that the AI tells you or that you encounter in the game are seriously offensive and inappropriate. There are some good ones here and there with references to Mass Effect or other games… There are jabs that the game takes at other games but generally speaking, you’ll find yourself trying to ignore the jokes as much as possible. The notice at the beginning references some real offensive and inappropriate jokes in the game that aren’t fun or anything. I’m alright with explicit or even some more offensive humour if it’s within certain borders (“haha, like East Germany in”… Okay, I’ll stop.) but this game is just trying too hard to be offensive and thinks that it’s alright to do so if you mention it at the beginning of the game. At one point, I found the game making fun of men that wear makeup while at another part the game makes fun of “libtards”… Generally, I didn’t enjoy a lot of the jokes because they were tasteless or silly. Crafting an accelerator powered by farts is something that grade-schoolers would laugh at but they are hardly the target audience of the game.

Apart from that the game also suffers from pacing. You’ll find yourself held hostage and interrogated by coffin-robots that want you to tell everything that happens but as time goes on, you completely forget about it, which is just… weird. The resource grinding, the durability of tools, the constant trips back and forth for oxygen, food and water,… there are so many things that slow you down considerably and it makes the game just feel very slow to the point where you lose interest in playing more of it. When you die, you’ll have to pray that there was an auto-save an hour ago or something, or you’ll quickly end up ragequitting because of all the progress you lost. Alas, I just save every few minutes in case something happens that makes me want to reload the save again… or in case I die… and all in all, I really wanna like the game but it’s just not that fun unless you only play it on and off…

And again, the game is trying so hard to be like other games but also not be like other games. I feel like they could have tried out more innovative ideas regarding food and oxygen or other mechanics of the game. Breathedge frankly only goes where other games have gone before and it doesn’t really try to do things differently or be crazy and creative around its systems. It’s only a small step for the gaming industry but a big step for this Indie Studio. I mean, RedRuins Softworks are a Russian studio whose first project, Breathedge, has gained a lot of

Hope you enjoyed this post. It’s a bummer that the game has so many shortcomings and I kind of enjoyed it after ignoring the jokes… but I just feel like I can’t get into it for too long unless I take some long breaks in-between sessions. Oh well…

Cheers!

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

Indietail – In Other Waters

It’s always a pleasure to see well-executed world-building in games and media. Reading up on lore entries, piecing together a world and exploring every nook and cranny for potential hints at what holds the world together at its core (yes, that’s a Faust reference). It’s a pleasure to see games create an immersive experience that enables exploration and narration in different ways than what we’re used to, and while “immersion” has become more of a buzzword as of late, I’m more than happy to have played through “In Other Waters“, game that made me understand better what immersion actually is.

Developer: Jump Over The Age
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Genre: Non-Violent, Sci-Fi, Underwater, Adventure, Exploration, Simulation
Release Date: April 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

In “In Other Waters”, you play as an Artificial Intelligence (or A.I. for short) that is guiding a stranded xenobiologist through a beautiful and mysterious alien ocean. Explore the depths of Gliese 677Cc and help Ellery Vas uncover the secrets that lie beneath the secret. After being called to this planet by Minae Nomura, Ellery finds herself in an abandoned base in an ocean of secrets with only you around to keep her company.

“In Other Waters”‘s non-violent Sci-Fi story is portrayed through the eyes of Ellery/EV who’s trying to find and rescue her old partner, Minae. To do so, she needs you, an A.I., to guide her through the ocean. Alas, you need to scan the environment, find points of interest and navigate towards them. You are experiencing the game through the UI, rendering the world around you in a topographic visual style. You only see the UI, which is interesting as a design choice. I found it rather intriguing and really enjoyed this take on exploration. These overlays, buttons and features at first feel clunky and hard to navigate through but eventually, these menus actually feel somewhat homely and suddenly, you actually know how to move through the world swiftly and what to look out for.

As time goes on, you’ll encounter life on this distant planet. Creatures roam the area, plants inhabit different biomes and areas. A click on them reveals information on their behaviours and once you’ve scanned multiple specimens, Ellery will end up naming them and adding theses to the taxonomy as well as observations and quite possibly even a sketch of them. The game actively encourages you to collect samples of plants and other matters by tying them into the world-building or introducing gameplay mechanics around them. Some of the plant seeds can be used to open pathways while others can protect you from vicious currents.

Since you’re the UI of Ellery’s dive suit, you’ve also got to manage your oxygen and power reserves and keep an eye on them as you explore more and more. Your lifelines can be resupplied with plant matter and animal tissues, among other things. There are also other ways to create safe zones or help you out in the game and I found these interactions rather amazing as they added value to what you found out about the world and to how the world works. Frankly, you make an observation of the world around you and make use of that observation, which is a rather interesting take on gameplay, but I would have loved to see more of those in the game apart from the three or four that you have in there.

The immersion is further enhanced by the fact that different areas look differently in the UI. In the abyss of the oceans, there is little to no light, so your sensors can’t pick up on your surroundings that well, resulting in your UI being darker. In other areas, the colour of your UI changes completely due to rust and other materials covering your lamps and tinting them. It’s an interesting mechanic and with the bright colours that usually make up the world, I feel like these UI colour changes add a bit more to the world. It kind of makes sense, after all. You’re a program, a machine, after all, so you get influenced by that kind of stuff.

You are Ellery’s eyes and legs in this world, controlling every move and action. But you’re also Ellery’s friend and only companion in this somewhat depressing world. Frequently, Ellery talks about the observations she makes and her feelings on the events happening to you and her. Her discoveries are shared with you. In a way, it reminds me of Robinson Crusoe’s ball that acts as if his only friend for the early days before he eventually meets Friday. Talking to you keeps Ellery sane to the point where she asks you questions on speculations and theories, even if you’re just an AI. She asks for your input at times and you can answer with just a no or a yes… but while your options are limited in that way, it feels truly meaningful when you get a response from EV and when you actually can communicate with her and help her out from time to time. This aspect of the game felt really meaningful and awesome to me.

The gameplay mechanics range from research and exploration to these brief interactions with Ellery. You can read up on logs written by Ellery whenever you’re in your base or you can dive into the waters to collect samples and complete the taxonomy. In the lab, you’re able to analyse matters and unlock more entries for the taxonomy, too. Nothing’s ever forced and you can go on with the exploration and the story whenever you want to. This sort of pacing felt incredibly well-executed. If you don’t like the research, for instance, you can just go on with exploration or the story. Dying brings you back to a nearby checkpoint with no losses, which is quite nice. At times, I wanted to find out more about the story… at other times, I just wanted to roam the area more and find out about the world and see places I haven’t been to. When I died, I got set back a bit on the map but it didn’t feel too bad or frustrating, which is great as frustration would have ruined the experience for me.

All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and was able to play through “In Other Waters” after about eight hours. Depending on how much you explore and how long you spend in different areas, you may find yourself spending more time on this title. The soundtrack is amazing, the game is pretty, the story is interesting, and the world… is alive. Being the A.I. and seeing the world through that UI makes it all fit together and enables you to experience the game differently from how other games would have handled it and while I obviously haven’t been sucked into the game completely, I’d still call this “immersion”. I’m sure there is more to the term than just that but all in all, I can’t stress enough how great this game is and how “In Other Waters” actually is a great example of what “immersion” actually is, in contrast to the buzzword that big magazines throw around in their reviews on Cyberpunk 2077, for instance.

Alas, that’s my recommendation for today. I really hope you enjoyed this review. After writing this review, I checked what the negative reviews on Steam had to say about this game and overall, I just feel like people got into the game expecting something else entirely. The story is conveyed through text. The UI is the main feature. The world feels lively. I don’t get why people play a non-violent game about exploration only to complain about it being “actionless”, which is a bit of a bummer… Certainly, it’s not a game for everyone but if you tackle it in the right way, it can be certainly worthwhile.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Do Not Feed The Monkeys [Guest Post]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guest post for my blog. Today’s review is written by Quietschisto from RNG and features a game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“, which is a dystopian digital voyeur simulator where you watch strangers through surveillance cameras. You invade their privacy and witness their most intimate moments… but you shall not interact with the subjects as anything could happen if you dare feed the monkeys! If you enjoy this post, make sure to check out Quietschisto’s Blog for more video-game related content. His posts mostly focus on how the games he played could be improved but Quietschisto also writes about food around the world and cocktails. 

Alas, enjoy Quietschisto’s review:

My name’s Quietschisto, and I’m super stoked to be here! Our host, the gracious Dan, has offered some spots for guest posting, and I was more than happy to oblige. Today I bring you a short review of a fun little game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“.

Originally, Do Not Feed The Monkeys was just one of many observation-based games (like Beholder or Orwell) I wanted to try out. However, I ended up playing through it in a single night…twice. That alone should tell a lot about the game’s quality since none of its main features are things that I normally would enjoy.

Developer: Fictiorama Studios, BadLand Games Publishing S.L.
Publisher: Alawar Premium
Genre: Simulation, Choices Matter, Resource Managment, Voyeur
Release Date: October 24th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, Android, XB1
Copy was purchased.

For example, I couldn’t care less about pixel-graphics, I’m usually not a fan of slapstick humour, and resource management/survival mechanics and time-limits are things I try to avoid most of the time. But “Do Not Feed The Monkeys” carefully balances all of its elements to deliver a fun, streamlined experience that lasts around two or three hours, plus more if you want to see other cages and more monkeys.

The core gameplay-loop is always the same: You obtain information mostly by watching the monkeys in their cages at certain times, listening to their conversations, and writing down keywords. Through making connections on your own and “googling” the correct combination of phrases you gain more and more information that you can use to affect the outcome of the situation, for better or for worse.

At the same time, you have to manage your sleep, hunger, health, and money, all while continually buying more rooms/cameras. For adversaries of resource management, this might seem off-putting at first, but these mechanics essentially only boil down to managing a single resource: Time. These mechanics and time-limits are pretty bare-bones, however, and I believe they are only in place so players can’t “farm” resources at the start of the game and then just breeze through the whole experience.

I don’t think the resource-management aspect adds a lot to the game, as I personally am against creating an artificial sense of urgency. Instead, additional cages could unlock automatically, and the optional objectives could have been mandatory. This way, I feel players could have been enabled to spend more time interacting with the interesting part of the game, watching the monkeys.

There is a game mode where your resource meters drain significantly slower (and achievements are disabled) as some sort of “easy mode” but I think this is a relatively weak solution since making a potentially unattractive feature less important makes players wonder why it is in the game in the first place.

Despite their simplicity, the puzzles or “cages” offer surprising depth and encourage multiple playthroughs. Due to the short nature of the game and relative density of the lore (as well as multiple endings for all rooms), Do Not Feed The Monkey never overstays its welcome, even when the player inevitably will revisit the same rooms over and over again.

Notice how I said density of lore instead of depth. While not connected, every room has its own short story going on, ranging from comedy classics (although some might call them “cheap jokes”) like a paranoid alien-conspiracy theorist, a discount Hitler, or a mind-controlling plant, all the way to more serious topics like an astronaut trapped on an abandoned space station or an ageing rock singer who suffers from a terminal disease. 

First and foremost, Do Not Feed The Monkeys is a comedy game, so the jokes are always in the foreground, although the “lighter” comedy elements were sometimes a bit too hamfisted for my taste. What impressed me was the elegance with which the “heavier” topics were handled. A lot of the rooms have at least one or two moments that can make you stop and think about what’s going on and what you’re doing there. At the same time, the game made it easy to ignore all that and just stroll along for some laughs if that’s more to your liking. Part of this definitely is due to the pixelated art style, which helps with the comic-like presentation and softens the blow a bit for the more serious (or gross) bits. 

Do Not Feed The Monkeys further adds to the comedy of the game by displaying the protagonist as a run-down lowlife, barely making ends meet through dead-end jobs. He’s unwittingly getting ripped off by his landlady and lives in a filthy apartment, yet he still believes himself to be above other humans. Even the sound design is used to reinforce this portrayal. You see, there is no soundtrack in the traditional sense. Instead, your “neighbours” are blasting distorted music throughout the day and even the night, adding a bit of a muffled sound to your observation while other times you get to listen to crickets, cars and other “sounds”.

All in all, I don’t think that Do Not Feed The Monkeys will make you see the comedy genre with new eyes but be prepared for a few all-nighters. The game is serious enough to make you stop and think about morality and empathy and other topics while it is also lighthearted enough to simply serve as a fun experience. Hence, I recommend this game to you.

Editor’s Note: Magi here. I personally really enjoyed Do Not Feed The Monkeys but haven’t had the time yet to review it or write about it. I honestly have some drafts on topics featured in the game but thought I should review it first before I could write about it. Alas, I’m glad that Quietschisto got to write about it. Make sure to check him out if you haven’t yet! He’s a great friend of mine and blogger that more people definitely should check out, in my opinion. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on Do Not Feed The Monkeys? Got any feedback for the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Quietschisto from RNG.

Indietail – qomp

Today we’re taking a look at qomp by the guy behind Gutwhale, Stuffed Wombat! qomp is a small game about freedom. You are a ball. Your job is to escape. Become a free bird… I mean, ball!

Developer: Stuffed Wombat, Britt Brady, Miroko, Clovelt
Publisher: Stuffed Wombat
Genre: 2D, Precision Platformer, Pong
Release Date: February 4th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the developer.

Controls are rather simple as you only need a button for pausing and a button for moving. Movement is tied to a pong-style system where bouncing onto walls changes your direction while using your movement-button allows you to go upwards or downwards. While it’s easy to learn, the system is hard to master. In the beginning, you’ve got to escape that game of Pong while you, later on, have to dodge saw blades, press buttons, solve small puzzles, and in general, there are a lot of things that the game does with this simple system.

For instance, some levels are underwater and alas, your ball behaves differently while in other levels, everything only moves when you change directions (aka hit a wall). What I love about qomp is that these systems geet introduced without any text at all. In the beginning, you figure out controls yourself (again, rather quickly) while you quickly understand how certain features and mechanics work. Due to the checkpoints that are placed frequently, it doesn’t even feel that frustrating when you die once or twice to a new object or mechanic.

The game is rather short with an estimated playtime of one to three hours. I was done with 50% of the game after an hour, so I feel like the time estimate is rather accurate. There are a lot of mechanics as well as some boss fights in the game that all play out quite interestingly. In one of them, for example, you become the snake from… Snake… and you have to hit the boss three times while not biting your own tail, which is quite interesting and actually harder to accomplish than you think.

While the difficulty of the game isn’t the hardest, there are still times where you can struggle a bit, which is why the game offers some accessibility options from invincibility to zooming out, aim-assist and autofire, just to help you get through some of the parts where you get stuck. I like this approach as there is always a level that you may not enjoy and the developer clearly doesn’t want you to get too frustrated.

While I like the accessibility options in there, I don’t actually like the normal settings that are available to you. You can only turn the music and sound effects on or off but can’t change the volume of them. You can get rid of the bulging effect and the screenshake if those effects bother you but… I’ll get into those later. I would have liked it if there had been more options here to potentially change the brightness or the volume in detail. Obviously, you can go into your PC’s audio mixer to adjust the volume for any game and any program, but nowadays most games have options for that in-game. 

But yeah, speaking of the bulge and the screenshake, the game features some stunning presentation akin to Gutwhale’s with some lovely pixel art and an amazing soundtrack. I really enjoyed spending my time in qomp, especially due to the soundtrack by Britt Brady and the art by Miroko. I love and adore franek‘s pixel art but it’s nice to see other artists and art styles in the different games. Animations in the game were made by Clovelt and also fit the game rather well. Stuffed Wombat and his co-devs essentially created a stunning atmosphere in qomp that feels quite enigmatic in a way. The story is not that deep but the mysterious vibe, the amazing tunes, the lovely art, and the fun gameplay mechanics really bring out the game a lot and make it feel really good.

Alas, I’d like to say that while the game isn’t the longest game, I definitely think that you get your bang for your buck. It’s rather short but it also features challenges that you unlock after beating the game, and all in all, I really enjoyed and can recommend qomp a lot. 

It’s nice to feature games by the same dev multiple times. I really enjoyed Gutwhale and also really enjoyed qomp. It’s good to see developers creating interesting titles with simple premises like this one that don’t feel too simple or anything like that if that makes sense. I hope you enjoyed my review on this one. Let me know what you think about it! 

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Monster Prom

Valentine’s Day is coming up and alas, I wanted to review a dating sim… and alas, here’s a review on my favourite dating sim: Monster Prom! Monster Prom is probably the first-ever competitive dating sim featuring a lot of different characters that all add their own flavour to the game and allow you to experience a plethora of endings.

Developer: Beautiful Glitch
Publisher: Those Awesome Guys
Genre: Party Game, Dating Sim, Multiplayer, Competitive
Release Date: April 27th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, XBOne, XB X/S
Copy was purchased.

But first things first, what’s Monster Prom about? Well, Prom Night is coming up and due to our procrastinating a lot, we only have three weeks to find a date! Alas, we go through absurd and rather funny situations to raise our stats, to seduce one of our classmates. And the best part about the game? It’s multiplayer! Play online or locally with up to three other players and ruin each other’s chances with their date in order to have a lot of fun! The developers even advise you to be your worst self. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂

As mentioned above, you can play the game locally on one PC using one controller or multiple ones or you use Remote Play Together on Steam to play with friends that don’t have a copy of the game. You can also (and it honestly doesn’t matter too much) share your screen and play it that way. The possibilities are endless! When you start up the game, you get to chose between four avatars, three different pronouns (he, she, and they) as well as your username. The characters represent the classic colours you know from party games (blue, red, green and yellow). Then you get introduced to the main cast of the game, aka your love interests, before heading into a personality quiz from one of those teen magazines you may know from your teen days. 

The questions in that personality quiz offer a bunch of different choices and are randomly selected. Answering the questions allows you to gain some starting stats that range from fun, charm and boldness to creativity, money and smarts. Some of the questions also allow you to score bonus points with certain characters from the get-go which is a nice addition to this Dating Sim. 

When you go for longer or shorter games you have more or fewer opportunities to score points with your love interest. Generally speaking, the “weeks” consist of two day-times where you can go to different areas to increase your stats as well as a lunch break at noon where you can meet up and chat with different characters, including the love interests. During these dialogues and conversations, you have the option of scoring points with one out of two characters, which breathes a bit of life into the game. Usually, in dating sims, you end up only having one-on-one conversations with the cast, resulting in the illusion that people only have you in their life and no other friends, hobbies or interests. In Monster Prom, there are different cliques and people that hang out together, giving the game a more lively feel, even if some of the characters aren’t the liveliest.

Speaking of characters, the cast is amazing. Among the love interests, there is a partying poltergeist called Polly as well as a Yandere-type mermaid princess and a bloodthirsty demon as well as a Hipster vampire. Obviously, there are more characters and the DLC also adds more love interests and side characters, but what I’m getting at is that you don’t have the average joe in there. Every single character is unique in some way and has a unique personality. On top of that, Liam (the Hipster Vampire) is clothed in the Ace-Colours, potentially hinting at him being asexual, which is a nice addition to the game. Generally, I feel like the game is quite LGBTQIA2S+ inclusive as you get to chose your pronouns no matter the character you chose and as it doesn’t matter what character or pronouns you use when it comes to love interests. You can get with all of the cast, even if you’re of the same gender or if you’re using they/them as pronouns, which is something I welcome more than anything. I frankly love that about the game.

Do I wanna screw him over? Hmmm…

On top of that, the game features a bunch of replay-value with a ton of secret endings and events/quest-lines as well as a huge repertoire of dialogue-options and choices to make that all resort to some shock-humour that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Personally speaking, I loved the humour a lot and really enjoyed exploring different endings but I could see how some people could get offended by some of the dialogue options, which is totally fine.

Despite all the praise, I’d have to say that sometimes it can be a bit frustrating when you notice that you’ve hit the same questline again in the game. The “quests” or events are all randomly selected. Different play-sessions feature a seed, it seems, and hence you can encounter similar dialogue-options or similar quests in different playthroughs, which could end up boring some people. In the same way, you eventually get used to the humour and it doesn’t affect you as much anymore once you’ve played a bunch of the game, but I still am enjoying the game whenever I get to hang out with friends and start up this title.

Oh no, I’m so dead.

Apart from that, I also noticed that the soundtrack isn’t that diverse. The score is quite catchy and funky at first but eventually, you feel like it’s playing the same song over and over again. While it may seem like that, the soundtrack actually just features a lot of songs that don’t change too much. They are just very similar resulting in them feeling as if they’re the same. 

Despite that, I love this game. I can highly recommend Monster Prom (and the “Second Term” DLC) to anyone looking for a fun party-game or maybe just a dating sim to play on Valentine’s Day (or any other day)! Right now you can get the game at a -69% discount (hehe) for relatively cheap as well, so I’d recommend buying it right now, but I bought it at the full price and haven’t regretted it at all since the purchase. Even if you don’t have anyone to play it with, the singleplayer playthroughs are nearly as enjoyable as the multiplayer ones!

POLLY = BEST GIRL!

Hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day (or whatever you celebrate if at all) and I hope you enjoyed this post! Stay safe! And if you want to, I’ll actually be live with some Monster Prom on Sunday, the 14th of February, at around 9 AM GMT over here on Twitch. If you want to, you can hang out a little bit and experience this game with me and the other people in the Crypt.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Vigil: The Longest Night

We must stay vigilant for the night is long and full of terrors. Today we’re taking a look at Vigil: The Longest Night – a 2D action platformer with precise, technical combat and a strong narrative. The developers have taken inspiration from Salt and Sanctuary as well as Castlevania, resulting in a challenging game with Metroidvania-mechanics and a lot of endings.

Developer: Glass Heart Games
Publisher: Another Indie
Genre: Action, RPG, Metroidvania, Horror, 2D, Platformer
Release Date: October 14th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, XBOne, Switch
Copy was received from the publisher.

Step into the role of Leila who just absolved her Vigil training and returns to a town in fright. You thus have to attempt your best to save your hometown from the creeping evil that is infesting this world. You have a lot to do to help the people, including finding a missing girl or getting rid of some of the enemies. On top of that, you’ve got a vast world to navigate through between dream and reality, sanity and madness, all for the sake of uncovering the secret of the longest night and the monstrous entities invading your world.

Right from the get-go, you’re thrown into action as you encounter a mysterious rat-like monster that is threatening your life. Dodge attacks, strike at the right times and figure out the enemy attack patterns! Once you’ve struck it down, you’ll stumble across your hometown, Maye, where the guards inform you about the situation. While the combat feels fluid and fun, the story is actually somewhat skippable. You try to find out about the monsters that invade the lands and you are searching for your sister and all kinds of stuff is happening… but I can’t really follow it. Most of the story is rather cryptic and offers little to no sense to me. Sometimes dialogue felt clanky as well and I just wanted to get to the next area in order to fight more eldritch creatures. Despite that, however, there are a plethora of quests in the game that require you to kind of follow up on clues that you stumble upon. After finding out something interesting in dialogues and conversations, the notes get updated with meaningful information that you can use to get closer to the goal of your quests. This kind of mechanic reminded me of some mystery games that I’ve enjoyed in the past, and alas, I really enjoyed questing in Vigil, even when the actual story felt a bit too cryptic for my taste.

The combat that I mentioned above features five different skill trees and two different attack buttons. There is one skill tree for each weapon-class from heavy weapons and swords to bows and daggers. There is a fifth tree that is all about your stamina, health, items and other statuses, resulting in a lot of different options for your playstyle and specialisation. I really enjoyed playing with heavy weapons like the halberd, for instance, as the charge attack allows you to deal a considerable amount of damage on top of offering you a bit of range in your repertoire. Similarly, the daggers feel swift and rather mobile while the bows are nice additions to your kit. Sadly, there aren’t any staffs in the game that would allow you to utilize magic for your main attack but there are some spells that you can equip for like an item and just activate whenever you need them. All of your attacks use up stamina which can be seen below your health bar and one you’re out of stamina, it only slowly recovers, which adds an extra layer of difficulty to combat.

As far as enemies go, I must say that I really enjoyed fighting most of them. There are a lot of quick enemies or enemies with annoying attacks that you’ll have to dodge. In the same manner, most of the enemies tend to hit rather hard and punish you for making a mistake, which is very much like Salt and Sanctuary, from what I recall.

Both enemies and Leila are designed well. The enemies remind me of eldritch creatures you’d face in Lovecraftian games while Leila’s animations are fluid and fit the game equally. The attacks that you dish out feel and look like they pack a punch, which adds a bit of satisfaction to combat, even when some boss fights can be somewhat hard on you. A great feature that I love about Vigil: The Longest Night is the fact that your equipped armour and weapons can be seen on Leila in the game. This is not a given in most games and adds a nice touch to Vigil, that I really was happy about. In contrast to that, however, is the lack of character animation. I would have enjoyed the game more if Leila would change stances more often, be it in combat or while talking to people. Her always standing there, awkwardly, with her weapon in hand felt off to me.

At last, the game generally is gorgeous. I loved the small details they added to the game like droplets that you can see on the hud and screen when it rains or the changes in the colour scheme of different areas. It certainly adds a charm to the game that is unique to Vigil and can be best described as disturbingly lovely. At times, it kind of reminded me of Darkest Dungeon and the Souls games, at other times I felt as if I was strolling through the landscape of the Fable series. All in all, it’s a beautiful game with some interesting soundtracks and some great combat.

Despite all of that, I’d have to say that the lack of meaningful dialogue and the cryptic storytelling have been a bit of a turn-off for me. On top of that, I felt as if the huge maps that you can find in the game offer too much exploration if that makes sense. At times I’d be completely lost and wouldn’t know where to go whereas other games would provide you with at least some guidance in that regard. At the same time, a lot of the areas feature tons and tons of items, secrets and chests, but sometimes I would follow through a path only to be disappointed with a dead-end or a walled-off area. I feel like having more smaller areas would have been better for a game like this, although that may be personal preference.

Notwithstanding these last few issues, I can only highly recommend the experience of Vigil: The Longest Night. There are multiple endings, a bunch of cool boss fights, a lot of different weapons to collect, and there is a lot to do in the game with more updates coming out every now and then.

I hope you enjoyed this review. I ended up putting off writing about Vigil for a rather long time since I’d often get busy with other things and now exam-season has started as well, resulting in even less time for reviews. Luckily, I managed to finish one of my exams today and alas, was able to write up and edit today’s review.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Morkredd

When there’s light, there’s darkness… and when there’s an Indietail, there’s probably a good game as well! The game we’re reviewing today is Morkredd, a tense, physics-based co-op puzzle game for one to two players. It combines skill-based puzzle-solving, a challenging balance of light and shadow, and a dark world full of secrets to unlock!

In a world shrouded by darkness, a wisp-like light awakens two characters. Guided by the light, they traverse through this dangerous place. Every step too much can result in sudden death. Stay close to this orb of light. Caution is of utmost importance, though, as your shadow is also able to eradicate your other companion.

Developer: Hyper Games
Publisher: Aspyr
Genre: Physics, Puzzle, Dark, Local Co-op, Exploration
Release Date: December 11th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series
Copy was purchased.

Morkredd is a light-based puzzle game where stepping into the shadows, kills you. In a way, it’s similar to Lightmatter which was also published by Aspyr. The difference here, however, is the perspective and the role you play in this. You’re not actively placing down light sources but rather guiding this orb of light that awoke you in the first place. At times, you’ve got to push a big orb of light around and chase after it while being careful of not potentially overshadowing your partner in the process. At other times, you need to press buttons and pull levers while you’re protected by the orb. On top of that, the game suprises you by changing the perspective from this basically isometric view to a more horizontal view while you’re in a tunnel. When the two characters get too far away from each other, the camera pans out while it pans in when you’re near each other. This creates a bit of immersion which is quite lovely and very welcome!

The orb is love, the orb is life.

From the get-go, the puzzles seemed interesting and rather challenging. In Single-Player, you control both of the characters using your gamepad sticks and the shoulder-buttons to interact with things. Using the A button, you switch between the female and the male character, so that there’s no confusion when you switch sides. In Co-Op, the challenge comes from coordinating and communicating what you want to do and what you’re actually doing. I played this with a friend and really enjoyed the puzzles.

While the puzzles themselves may not be the hardest in the world, at first, the game actually picks up the pace rather hard by throwing in enemies that try to destroy your orb or moving objects that cast a shadow onto your characters. The most harmless things in the world can present a grave danger to you if you don’t watch your step – and that’s thrilling! Morkredd is tense and eventually becomes really challenging as it’s continuing to introduce new, rather creative mechanics to the game, throwing more and more roadblocks into your way.

Meanwhile, the game has some sort of story and presents it to you vaguely. By exploring the world and not always following the path you’re supposed to take, you find different ornaments on the wall that tell you a story of sorts. How did this world come to be? What happened to all other sources of lights? Where did the orb come from? Are there other people? Find out by exploring all kinds of secrets!

And once you’re done with the game after three to four hours based on how fast you proceed, you still have the “ODE” DLC that presents you a bunch of “mutators” that allow you to change the game’s renderer, the orb’s shape, and the characters’ hats… which is a nice gimmick overall.

While the plot of the game is rather vague and mysterious, the game generally adds to this using a magical soundtrack, enhancing the soundtrack. I was chuffed to bits to experience this eery and baffling atmosphere. Morkredd’s score in combination with the art style and design choices really make for a unique and interesting experience that is certainly worth its money.

But while I’m praising it so much so far, I also have a few things that I didn’t like about the game.

For starters, the sound effects and music are constantly humming in your ears when you start up the game, which was rather hard to adjust in the settings. While there is a slider of sorts that enables you to music and SFX down, I had a hard time finding that sweet spot between “I have a headache” and “the game’s too quiet”. I would have loved it if there were numerical values here so that I could adjust it using arrows, like in other games. At the same time, the game sometimes picks up the volume and gets rather loud again, despite the game being already turned down a bunch, which I personally didn’t like too much. It may not bother other people but my ears didn’t really appreciate the buzzing sounds.

In the same manner, the graphics settings are somewhat limited as well with three graphics quality settings: Low, Medium, and High. I would have liked some more detailed options here. You can turn VSync fully on, half on, or off, you can limit the frame rate, show a game timer, change the language, and adjust the brightness. Some more details as to other options to turn on or off would have been quite nice.

And at last, the game only features local co-op, which is a bit of a pain in the butt to set up. Steam Remote-Play-Together is available for the game but doesn’t really seem to work too well, which is a bummer… and while Parsec obviously is still an option here, it’s a bummer that there wasn’t a fix utilizing something that isn’t third-party software.

A pleasant surprise, however, is the fact that you can remap everything. A controller is highly recommended with this game as it influences how fast you pull, push, run and walk… but it still works with the keyboard. In Online-Co-Op (using parsec), you can easily play this with only one hand and since the buttons are customisable, this should enable a lot of people to play the game.

Personally, I really enjoyed the experience and I feel like a lot more people need to play this game. It’s a lovely experience for puzzle-newbies and puzzle-lovers alike. Morkredd‘s atmosphere is awesome and while the puzzles are relatively easy in the beginning, it actually gets quite challenging later on, which is lovely to see as it eases the player into the game. Alas, that’s a recommendation by me!

I hope you enjoyed this review! Leave feedback if you’ve got any. I’m looking forward to playing this game eventually with Ms Magi once the exams are over, especially as the game requires a lot of communication and coordination. Despite her not being the biggest videogame fan, I’d imagine that she’d still enjoy this title quite a bit.

Cheers!

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