The Legend Of Tianding – First Impressions

Recently I was granted access to an early version/demo of The Legend of Tianding, a 2D Beat ‘Em Up game about the legendary Taiwanese folk hero Liao Tianding. Explore the dazzling streets of Colonial Japanese Taiwan in the early 20th century as you rob the rich, feed the poor, and expose the darkness lurking in the heart of Taipei.

Developer: CGCG
Publisher: Neon Doctrine
Genre: 2D, Platformer, Beat 'Em Up, Action, Indie
Release Date: TBA
Key was provided by the publisher.

The game itself utilizes a somewhat simple but really satisfying combat system where you can chain up special techniques and normal attacks to overpower the many foes that stand in your way. You can disarm enemies using your waist sash, taking their weapon and beating your enemies with poles, guns, swords, axes, and other weapons. As you move on, you’ll unlock techniques that will help you, both in combat and in traversing the areas. The Legend of Tianding allows you to perform a kick in the air for instance giving you more vertical movement while you can perform a rising kick to gain extra height and reach new areas. I found the movement and the combos to be quite dynamic and satisfying personally and even though I’m not that good at platformers, it didn’t seem too hard for me to solve some of the jumping puzzles!

Enemies vary from corrupt police officers to goons hired by evil officials and other people. Relatively early on, you’ll see how the antagonists are unscrupulous as one of the early antagonists, for instance, robs even beggars. Either way, you’re not just any other guy but actually, a folk hero that fights for justice and comes to people’s aid. Lia Tianding aka Liāu Thiam-Ting is a vigilante that is wanted by the Colonial Japanese authorities. 

The art style is very comic-like or more accurately inspired by Chinese Manga and provides stunning visuals. The game’s cutscenes are presented as comic panels that make the story relatively easy to follow, even though I would have liked it if the subtitles and page flips would have stayed longer on screen. This in particular is important to me since the plot is very interesting. It’s based on real events, real people and real situations and what’s more intriguing to me is that this time and place is rarely presented in games and gets overlooked in media in general.

On top of that, you can also customize your character using a bunch of talismans found through exploration. These magical equipables grant you bonuses that essentially make it possible for you to even the battlefield and try out different playstyles. Take less damage, restore more health, deal more damage with certain weapons, and other talismans let you cover your weaknesses and make the game more enjoyable, overall.

And apparently, you can also take on side quests by other people to help them out while helping out beggars with the money you acquire… and you can play a traditional Taiwanese board game that looks interesting on the store page.

I’m honestly quite happy to see this era get covered in games and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product by CGCG. You can wishlist The Legend of Tianding on Steam! The Release is yet to be announced.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Merchant of the Skies

For ages now, I’ve loved the idea of airships and merchants travelling to floating islands. It’s a bit of a trope in a lot of shows but I personally really liked the idea of exactly that and I’d imagine a wandering merchant who’d trade away and… today’s Indietail is exactly about that!

Merchant of the Skies is a casual Exploration-themed game about trading wares in at a cheap price and selling them for a high price in other places while balancing your maintenance fees and fuel costs. There are a lot of layers to this game and I’m happy that I got to play this game… As mentioned yesterday, however, I just didn’t get to review it quite yet which is why I’m here today, apologising for the long delay. Here’s my review.

Developer: Coldwild Games
Publisher: Coldwild Games
Genre: 2D, Pixel Art, Casual, Base Building, Trading, Exploration, Indie
Release Date: April 17th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Copy was sent by the devs.
Let’s get some apples!

You start off inheriting a boat and just getting sent off on a journey. The beginning is relatively hard actually since you don’t really have too many options. So you embark on a journey after refuelling your ship and deliver some letters as well as a few goods to a different place. The game has a bunch of different modes that you can select for a plethora of win conditions, but in the end, it really just depends on what you’d like to do. You can try and amass as much gold as possible or try to set up supply chains between islands. You can become a wandering capitalist or more of a postman of the skies if you want to. While you’re somewhat limited at first and while you’re at risk of soft locking yourself by driving off into the distance and getting stuck with no fuel, I find the freedom you enjoy later on quite amusing and entertaining.

The game itself is relatively simple: Buy at cheap prices, sell at high prices, invest in more goods, rinse and repeat. You’ll get the idea quite easily. Eventually, you’ll see the benefit of the expensive but a lot larger ships that may fly slower but store a lot more goods, so you’ll upgrade for those…

The best part about Merchant of the Skies is probably the fact that there is so much to explore. The map is covered at first in a mysterious fog of war, which is why you need to take expeditions into different parts of the map. You’ll simply click there and enter different places. It’s all relatively simple, again, but quite satisfying. On top of that, there are different quest lines and options for you to opt into. You can build a trading company of sorts and try to optimise resource deliveries from your different workshops and areas… Completing quests unlocks tickets that can be used to reduce the taxes… and when you purchase a lot of goods or trade with a lot of people, they develop over time and they unlock more features.

And well, what wouldn’t a game like this be without special islands and buildings. There are inhabited islands where you can refuel, trade or upgrade your ship. You can also deliver letters and tourists if you want to. Doing so will give you quest markers to point you in different directions, which is very nice as it incentivises the player to explore different parts of the map. There are also uninhabited islands that you can buy and exploit for resources such as iron, wood or stone. At the same time, you can also encounter special islands with a Majestic Carrot, for instance, or a God of sorts that needs to be fed. I personally had a lot of fun with this game and didn’t even realise how quickly time passed while playing.

Docked in Cloudcrag!

But there are still some issues that I have with the game even when it’s really satisfying and enjoyable. For starters, I would have loved more variety in terms of music and sounds. The game’s music gets somewhat boring as time goes on and there were times where I had to just mute it completely and play other music over it. Sure, it’s soothing but I don’t want to fall asleep while I play games. At the same time, the game doesn’t seem to allow you to quickly move all or 5/10/a bunch of materials. I would have liked to see controls that allowed the player to move half a stack or a full-stack instead of rapidly clicking on the goods. It’s a bit unhandy and annoying.

At last, you may or may not be swimming in gold at some point. You can upgrade your ship relatively early and while there are a lot of things to do, you can eventually just complete tasks quite easily with the surplus of money you have. I would have liked it if the game was a bit more challenging. The only threats in the game are your cost-related. I would have liked it if there were express-delivery quests, sky pirates, expiration days on quests or goods, as well as more upgrades and threats. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, in my opinion, but overall, it’s a nice game, even if it may get a bit easy as time goes on.

So, Merchant of the Skies is essentially really relaxing but is lacking in challenge and musical variety. The game is definitely worth it on a sale. If you’re into Offworld Trading Company or games like that, you may want to try out this title, too.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Lost Castle

I’ve been meaning to check this out for quite a while now and today I figured, hey, why not give it a go? The game I’m talking about is Lost Castle by Hunter Studio which is published by Neon Doctrine. Honestly, I’m not sure why I put it off as I got it ages ago and as it’s been out since 2016. I think my main issue was just that I had too many other games to play. When I got the game, I was still playing Team Fortress 2… meanwhile, when I stopped playing TF2, I started playing League of Legends, and then I was into a lot of MMOs and HotS and other Indie Games and Minecraft… and then I got back into League of Legends. Either way, after playing Lost Castle for a while I kind of ended up being bummed out about the fact that I didn’t play it sooner. Here’s why!

Developer: Hunter Studio
Publisher: Neon Doctrine (fka Another Indie)
Genre: Hand-Drawn, Action, Roguelite, Beat 'em up, 2D, Indie
Release Date: September 1st, 2016
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Lost Castle is an action-roguelite with inspirations taken from beat ’em up games. An earl performed a summoning ritual to summon a demon from hell to take over the world but failed and ended up letting the portal open. With the gates of hell being wide open, demons started swarming out and taking over this castle and threatening the world. They made themselves at home in the castle turning the castle into the way to go for greedy adventurers such as yourself!

Head into the castle only to get captured and thrown into its jail! Hooray! You can roam away but beating the castle is rather hard. The gameplay itself is somewhat simple. You hit enemies with your weapons using one button, you have one skill, and then there are certain stats. You can only damage enemies in the horizontal which makes hitting them a bit tricky but the hitboxes seem generous enough to make it not frustrating. While tackling enemies is quite easy, their numbers and the lack of mobility is the most challenging factor about the game.

You can easily get swarmed in Single Player and with traps and projectiles to dodge, you can easily get knocked out by an axe or an arrow that rushes towards you. Unlike other games, you don’t have any dashes or other means of mobility. Instead, you may jump or walk around and some of your attacks and skills can lock you into animations, making it rather hard for you to survive. And then you have these enemies that have a plethora of attacks and later on can tie you up in nests or poison you even, which is tricky.

To add to the challenge, you may try out some of the challenges that get added daily and test your skills in another hardcore retro-action run. Also, knowledge is very much key. You will have to figure out how certain mechanics and items work since the game doesn’t tell you much about anything. You get a quick pop-up when you acquire items but I find it, especially when you’re in combat, very hard to get to items and use them. Items like the bramble seed and the crystal didn’t make sense to me. It’s not like the descriptions are bad or anything but the issue rather is that they’re very vague. I guess roguelite games like The Binding of Isaac also do that where they leave the discovery to the player instead of telling you everything about the game and holding your hand until you reach the first boss. So, what I experienced was more of a trial and error approach to things, which isn’t my cup of tea personally but could very much work out for other players.

The items themselves are randomly generated as well. I believe the stats are set for every piece of equipment but you may find the same staff twice for instance and they may have different abilities each time, which is cool overall as you can adjust your build based on that. You as a player are an adventurer and more of a jack of all trades, which I didn’t like. I mean, you can swap between weapons but you can only carry one weapon at a time. You could run around like a rogue with dual daggers or cast magic like a mage but it doesn’t feel like there’s classes or anything and you’re not forced into one specific archetype, which is a nice thing. Form your own build. You’re an adventurer without a class essentially.

Lost Castle is really cute but also really hard. I love that about this game since you wouldn’t expect the challenge from a game that has an art style this adorable. The hand-drawn characters and environments stand out and make the game look unique. I guess that’s the best way to describe it. At first, I didn’t like the character design but every time you die, a new character gets thrown into the dungeon or you get reborn as a new one, which is something that I’m not entirely sure about. Either way, it’s nice to see randomly generated characters being playable in each and every run. It’s interesting and a fun little concept that reminds me very much of games like Rogue Legacy.

So, the game is challenging mostly because of the lack of mobility. You can counteract that by giving you defence or mobility via permanent character upgrades after your run, so it’s not too much of an issue. I think I have a bigger issue with the fact that potions are randomised each run, similar to pills in The Binding of Isaac. It made me as a player question if it’s worth taking them if I could lose 20% of my health in seconds by taking one. The benefits don’t seem to outweigh the negative effects and I had more bad potions than good ones in my runs so far.

But apart from that, I don’t have much of an issue. You can get some good runs that are very powerful by acquiring weapons, gear and artefacts. Items can be used quickly and there are plenty of heals. I’d imagine the game to be more accessible or a bit easier in multiplayer but even in single-player, I more than enjoyed myself and I find the mashup of “beat ’em up” and “action-roguelite” quite fascinating and interesting. Definitely worth a try!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Elden: Path of the Forgotten

I’m a huge fan of all things eldritch and Lovecraft’s stories left a mark on me. The way his words entrap you and pull you in until you’ve absorbed every single one of the letters feels astonishing at times and while I’m obviously not a fan of the racism featured in some of the stories, I feel like the stories that don’t involve any bigotry are probably some of his best works. Either way, today we’re taking a look at a game that features eldritch themes and is very much inspired by Lovecraft’s works but that doesn’t use words to describe its story. Today’s review is about Elden: Path of the Forgotten.

Developer: Onerat Pty Ltd
Publisher: Neon Doctrine (formerly known as Another Indie)
Genre: Action, RPG, Adventure, Challenging, 2D, Eldritch
Release Date: July 9th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Copy was sent by the publisher.

Elden is a 2D-Action-Adventure where you follow Elden who witnessed a ritual performed by his mother that dragged her into another world. Set on saving our mother, we follow her steps onto the Path of the Forgotten into a world filled with brutal enemies and a lot of combat. The game’s art direction is inspired by 8-bit and 16-bit titles which looks amazing when it comes to bosses and some of the enemies but I feel like the world is lacking in some regards. There is a cathedral that looked stunning but all the other areas look somewhat bland. The first two areas feature a lot of the same colours and while I understand that pixel art is hard, I would have loved to see more texture in the ground and the vegetation.

Moving onwards, I’d have to say that I love the ominous sounds and the enigmatic soundtrack that is befitting of an eldritch theme. You swing three different weapons: A sword, a spear and an axe that each excel in different areas. The sound design makes hits sound powerful and in a way satisfying… but some of the enemy sounds are a bit confusing at times and left me at a loss. Combat itself isn’t groundbreaking or new. You have directional attacks with your weapons and can use spells to damage your foes. The game is rather punishing at times and while the combat system is somewhat average in itself, it was nice to see that strategy and timing are a lot more important than actually dishing out a lot of damage. You’ll have to decide when to hit and who to hit while dodging enemy spells and kiting enemies. On top of that, you need to balance your mana pool and your stamina bar while keeping track of your health gauge. It’s interesting in a way but some of the hits don’t feel like they connect. Sure, when you hit an enemy, you hear it land and it damages the foes as seen in their health bars. When you hear it, it sounds good, but sometimes you don’t really hear it. The different weapons work quite well against different enemies. The axe hits slow but hard while the spear gives you range at the cost of damage. You can hit rather fast with your spear while avoiding enemy attacks and poisonous slimes but more often than not you need to line up correctly and hit them while you can. Moving even a pixel downwards can already make the spear a lot harder to hit, which is a bit of a bummer. Meanwhile, the sword is the allrounder between all of these weapons allowing you to deliver decent swift strikes at the cost of range and stamina. Spamming it will leave you breathless, not allowing you to roll. You’re also rather close to enemies and they may land hits on you, too.

Combat is hard and punishing, often setting you back countless times. There aren’t many healing items and some of the items may have effects that you may only find out after using them a bunch of times. Since there are no item descriptions, a lot is left to your understanding. Trial and error are key here, I guess, but it often doesn’t feel as rewarding as it should feel when you find something out and I would have liked some guidance in terms of that here and there.

The lack of item description ties into what I was alluding to in the beginning: The world you entered features a different language and cryptic symbols that you cannot understand. More often than not you find yourself wondering what you’re doing here and where you’re exactly headed. What are these creatures? What does this switch do? What is going on here? Questions over questions and not too many answers. In an interview I had with the lead developer, he talked a bit about environmental storytelling and about how the player finds out about the story using drawings and pictures rather than words and letters and I personally find that Elden is doing a semi-good job at that. While it is a very neat concept and while the game tries very hard to do a good job at it, I find it hard to grasp the plot or the lore through the game as the game doesn’t give me much here. I think to make this concept work, Elden: Path of the Forgotten should have added more statues with poses, more paintings, drawings and picture books to the world. The player can’t learn a lot about the game unless there is something to learn from and so far I didn’t find too much here.

My main issue with the game is the challenge level. Dying is frustrating as it sets you back a bunch. You don’t really have a map so you may easily miss something or get lost in the world. The gameplay loop consists of fighting enemies, finding a switch or keys, opening a door and fighting a boss before heading to the next area… but it doesn’t have many new enemies and it feels a bit lacking in a lot of regards like new mechanics. On top of that, the estimated game length is on the shorter side with 2-5 hours. I don’t mind a good challenge in a game when it is rewarding to overcome the challenge. Elden doesn’t give me that reward really, which was a bit of a letdown. And then there’re the clunky controls that hurt you more than they actually feel good, which is the biggest issue with this game.

All in all, I’d like to recommend Elden: Path of the Forgotten but I can’t since there is so much amiss here in terms of reward and satisfaction. The environments feel bland, the sound design confuses me, the controls and the hitboxes are your biggest enemy and overall, it is not my type of game. Hence, no recommendation here unless you’re very into challenging and frustrating titles.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Skul: The Hero Slayer

Roguelites can be rather difficult and sometimes even frustrating. At times it’s very important to see what you already and what you still need in terms of specific stats or items. Knowledge is key more often than not and can turn a bad run into a good run. That part specifically is what makes me appreciate roguelikes so much. I really like them. More importantly, it’s important to remain calm and not lose your head… or maybe you need to do exactly that like in Skul: The Hero Slayer!

Developer: SouthPAW Games
Publisher: NEOWIZ
Genre: Action, Roguelite, 2D, Platformer, Indie
Release Date: January 21st, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

After the Adventurers joined forces with the Imperial Army and the “Hero of Caerleon”, the Demon King’s castle has fallen. All of the castle’s demons were taken prisoner except for one lone skeleton named “Skul”… So, it’s time for us to step into the role of Skul who’s doing his best to save the Demon King by himself!

BEASTMODE ACTIVATED

Skul is a challenging Action-Roguelite-Platformer that seems to have taken some inspiration from Dead Cells and maybe even Majora’s Mask. Your character may not be the strongest but you can switch out your head throughout your journey and enable yourself to inherit its unique abilities and characteristics. There are 30 different skulls to find throughout your journey, ranging from a fast-hitting and agile thief to a slow archmage to a Dead Cells cameo. Being able to swap skulls on a button press, enables you to change your playstyle on a whim and pick a bone with enemies while covering your weaknesses with different synergies between characters. At the same time, you can enhance your character by acquiring items that on their own also feature unique abilities like dropping a bomb upon swapping or enhancing your physical/magical attack but that also feature synergies in the form of traits. Traits add another layer to builds and strategies in Skul: The Hero Slayer as they can stack and form your build as you move on. You can equip up to nine different weapons and two skulls as well as one equipment piece that you can actively use in combat. The traits you have work in a lot of different ways. The Chase Trait enhances your damage based on the distance to your enemy while the Endure Trait reduces the damage taken. There are also more elaborate traits in the game that summon spirits, magma balls or even increase the damage you take and deal by a percentage, enabling you to really add a lot of synergies and develop incredibly strong runs, which is amazing!

Is that a Naruto-reference? Of course it is!

On another note, you’ll encounter doors to other maps after you complete a map and clear the encounter. Similar to games like Slay The Spire and Curse of the Dead Gods, you can choose where you go and shape your build even more based on what you need. Are you in need of more gold or a new item? Do you want more bones or rather a new character? The doors lead the way. Duh. I like these small additions that on their own may not contribute to a lot but overall give you a lot of freedom as to how your build will shape out and how you want to play the game. There are also special maps like the Bazaar where you can heal up, buy items, get a skull or even other powerful pieces of equipment. There are also mini-bosses in the form of Adventurers that have been hired to deal with you, challenge rooms that can award you with amazing additions to your build but that will also pose a serious threat to you and your run, or even boss encounters where you face off against the Elder Treant or a mad Alchemist. There are five different areas in the game, each with their unique mechanics and enemies. The further you proceed, the more dark quartz and money you’ll earn. Money can be spent in the run itself while Dark Quartz is a permanent currency you use to improve your skull or get a headstart into your run through the power of vendors that you unlock as time goes on.

So many enemies… and only one lone skul.

Skul not only shines through the strategic potential and the challenging yet satisfying combat but also through the Art it uses. Each skull feels unique and looks amazing. The spell effects of your skills range from powerful energy balls and summons to blink and slash effects, and overall also look powerful. That’s something that is just as important to me as gunplay in shooters. If you use a spell and it doesn’t feel as strong as it is, it takes away from the overall experience. In Skul, however, you can summon a giant meteor and feel the impact through the screen as you see your enemies get obliterated. Your slashes feel fast and satisfying. Your stomps feel heavy and strong. Your arrows are alright. I love the art style and the effects and while the music in the game is nothing special, it still adds to the experience, at least a little bit.

UwU it’s a witch and a cute one at that! OwO

But apart from that, there are also a few weaknesses to Skul… For starters, the major bosses you encounter feel nice when you beat them for the first time but they eventually turn into annoying roadblocks instead of actual foes that you need to slay. They still are challenging but I would have liked to see modifiers in the game that make the bosses more challenging or add unique attacks to it, similar to how Hades does it or even Risk of Rain 2. At the same time, I’d like to make another comparison to Hades as that game showed how well story-telling can be done in Roguelites, so it’s kind of bad to see how poorly the (rather obvious) story is executed in Skul. I either would have liked a better story with more interesting dialogue or just no story at all. It’s a bit of a bummer but can’t be helped. 

I look so evil! I love it!

The characters in the game, though, are more than endearing and adorable. There is a shapeshifting witch and an ogre merchant as well as an evil druid that all help you out on your runs. Similarly, you get to free people and get rewarded for it and there are special encounters at times that are challenging but fun. The whole narrative of the bad guys (aka us, the skeletons, demons and the Demon King) actually being the good guys is something I love and adore and I want more of that. It’s nice to see a change of pace. The Pixel Art and Gameplay are amazing and while I would have liked a better story and more variety in the boss fights… and while some of the translation errors bother me at times, I can look past those weaknesses and say proudly that I love Skul: The Hero Slayer and that I can highly recommend it.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

The Slormancer (Early Access) – First Impressions

Over the past couple of years, I’ve always had a fable for Action RPGs and Dungeon Crawlers. Heading into an unknown place full of enemies and loot, exploring it, slaying foes, finding better gear and repeating that gameplay loot always felt intriguing and fun to me but as time went on, I didn’t find too many games that piqued my interest… until recently where I found The Slormancer, a new 2D ARPG by Slormite Studios that just released on Steam. Hence, today I wanted to take a look at it and tell you about my thoughts and impressions.

Developer: Slormite Studios
Publisher: Slormite Studios, Abiding Bridge, TILT
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, 2D, ARPG, Hack and Slash
Release Date: April 6th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the devs.
Screenshots were taken from the Press Kit. I forgot to take screenshots during my playtime so far.

The story is somewhat irrational. You were born with absolutely no skill whatsoever but kind of end up being the hero that everyone needs, even if you don’t really want to. I guess you do have some talent after all but it’s the motivation that you’re lacking, though peril seems to be the best motivator. So, you end up being wound up in the apocalypse as the Slormancer and his underling try to conquer the world again. Long story short, you pick one of three classes and try to rescue the townspeople that have vanished. 

Combat is quite classic for an ARPG. You have your health bar and your mana bar and have to watch over those resources since you need mana to cast spells and health to live. You get overwhelmed with a plethora of different foes that each on their own may not be the strongest… but the hordes can really get to you if you don’t watch your step. As you move on you unlock skills that give you powerful abilities, specific to your class. I spent most of my time playing as the “Mischievous” Mage who’s got a lot of AoE spells and high damage spells at the cost of defence… and I’ve been having a blast with it. The “Mighty” Knight was described as a tank that can take a hit but deals less damage while the “Fierce” Huntress is an agile archer with lots of attack speed. The reason why I didn’t play the other classes as much so far is probably just that I’m having way too much fun with the Mage.

The three classes have over 200 unique abilities, upgrades and passives each with unique combinations. Skills can be upgraded as well and there are a lot of different aspects that you can change the skills to. The degree of customization also extends to the randomised loot that comes in normal, magic, rare and epic grades. The properties get randomised but legendary items have more than 80 unique affixes and can be upgraded infinitely. Similarly, there are 120 unique and game-changing weapons called “Slorm Reapers” available to every class that can be levelled up and evolved as time goes on.

My favourite part about The Slormancer, however, is probably the art style. It’s this charming pixel art style that I really adore with pretty backgrounds and interesting character designs. I really like it. The spell effects look amazing and satisfying, the enemies look unique, the combat feels good most of the time and the soundtrack is beautiful, in my opinion. Presentation-wise this game is really alluring and charming which is a great change from the grim styles that other ARPGs go for usually.

Apart from that you can change all the keybindings, play with the controller if you want to, change a lot of the settings, rebind your spells and even get a free refund on the skill points you invested previously. Classes can be changed later on as well with no issue at all and there are expeditions, bosses, and lots of content available in single-player… but that’s a bit of an issue for me personally as I mostly enjoyed playing ARPGs with friends and the roadmap doesn’t indicate any plans for multiplayer… I’d love to play it with friends but maybe the devs will consider some way of implementing that into the game eventually. The game is, after all, still in Early Access.

Personally, I didn’t have any issues with the game really. I could see myself sinking a lot of time into this and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next chapters will turn out and what the end game will have to offer. I’ve really liked it so far. I’ll probably stream it in the next few days, too, over on my Twitch channel, if you wanna see some of those dungeon runs for yourself. There will be bugs probably although I haven’t encountered any… So, take everything with a grain of salt, but I’d recommend checking out the Early Access as it is quite a lot of fun so far… or at least wishlist it over on Steam.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know what you think of this game so far once you get to it. Take care of yourself!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Looking out for We Are The Plague

We Are The Plague (formerly known as “Plague in Us”) is a tactical turn-based game set in a hand-drawn dark-fantasy world where you join the Plague and seek your revenge. The story is very cryptic but you essentially escape from prison and, with the power of the Plague, you find other team members, get rid of enemies and fulfil these missions of sorts. It’s an RPG that looks quite interesting and I’m looking quite forward to it.

Developer: Forever Entertainment S.A.
Publisher: Forever Entertainment S.A.
Genre: Tactical, Strategy, Turn-Based, RPG, Adventure, Dark Fantasy
Release Date: Q3 2021
Played on: PC
Demo available on Steam.

The game’s going to come out in 2021’s Q3 but you can play a demo right now right here. It’s an amazing experience in my opinion, which is why I planned on writing about it and my thoughts on it.

From the get-go, I’ve been intrigued by this game. The story is quite cryptic and you’ll have to piece it together slowly whenever you get bits of information here and there. Who are we? Who or what are the Plague? What is our goal and what are we trying to accomplish with our crusade/revenge? What did they do to us? What’s happening in the world? Questions upon questions but answers are only slowly trickling in, which is why we need to move forward. The hand-drawn art style reminds me a lot of Darkest Dungeon and the amazing soundtrack adds a rather nice feel to the overall atmosphere, which really compliments the themes of the story.

You move your character around and can command it to attack or defend. Combat is initiated by walking into the line of sight of enemies. Then your party gets pulled out and you move around in turn-based and, I guess, RTS-ish fashion? You position your units in a way so that you can get some good attacks in, reposition or kite enemies away. Different units have more movement points and can travel further. The different stats also influence other aspects of combat, like defence and attack, for instance. The three characters that you play in the Prologue/demo each fulfil a class of sorts. Your main character is a knight of sorts that does pack a punch and does have a few hit points but it’s not a tank. Another character can reduce his health by half to deal double damage while your third character utilizes a crossbow and can hence attack from afar at the cost of being fairly squishy. 

You can customise your characters using weapon runes and tattoos that grant you power. It’s an interesting mechanic but nothing too different from other RPGs. If anything, I’d say that the equipment that was shown in the demo leads to assuming that equipment itself doesn’t play too much of a role in the full game… I mean, I don’t know anything about other items that will come later, so it’s a bummer that nothing more is shown apart from one tattoo that you can put on one of your three characters.

What’s more pleasant, however, is how the side objectives in the story influence the game or give you new ways to play the game. There is a prisoner that you can choose to free or you leave him behind and your choice influences how the game plays out, making it harder to easier for yourself. I like that level of choice that you can have in the game and ultimately it adds a bit more of a challenge to the game. You can also level your characters and potentially unlock more abilities but some of the instructions feel a bit unclear.

I’d love it if there was a tutorial-section in the journal that allows you to look things up. How do certain stats work? How do abilities work? That kind of stuff, just in case you need to refresh yourself, you’d be able to look up what you learned so far, making the game more accessible, in a way.

Overall, it was pleasant though. There are some achievements in the demo and I got through the Prologue within two hours, so it was quite nice. I really dig the hand-drawn style and the overall aesthetic. I wonder how the story will pan out and what other weapon runes and tattoos there will be… Cool game! Looking forward to it!

You can try out We Are The Plague yourself by playing the demo!. You may also want to wishlist it, just in case! I hope you enjoyed this post! What do you think of the game? Have you played the demo yet? If you have or if you end up playing it now, feel free to share your opinions on it! I’m burning to see your thoughts!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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: Neon Doctrine (formerly known as 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. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Fishticuffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Kernmantle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Disc Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post review commentary:

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

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Yuppie Psycho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

Indietail – Behind Every Great One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.