Indietail – Submerged

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

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

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

What’s that place over there?

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

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

Gotta climb up this place!

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

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

Very lovely landmark!

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

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

Oooh, pretty and foggy!

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

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

Slowly… Slowly…

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

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

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

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

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

A ship part!

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

Oooh, Birds!

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Spellbreak

A while ago, I wrote a review on Hyperscape and actually recommended it. I mean, it was fun and felt like Quake, on top of being free-to-play. But then I stopped playing Hyperscape again since I wanted to play other games and when I came back to another round or two, I noticed how hard it is for a Non-FPS-player to react in time or to make the right decisions or to aim properly. On top of that, there were some balancing issues and it felt just very frustrating to play it.

So, then I got an E-Mail about Proletariat’s Battle Royale game, Spellbreak, which is available on Epic Games (among other places) and even features crossplay! I was eyeing it for a while before eventually realising that it should, in theory, be just my cup of tea. I mean… Magic…. Combos…. Boom!

My very first game and I won! Woohoo!
Developer: Proletariat, Inc.
Publisher: Proletariat, Inc.
Genre: Battle Royale, Fast-Paced, 3D, Action, Fantasy, Third-Person
Release Date: September 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XONE, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Game is free to play

In Spellbreak, you essentially play as a mage using two magical gauntlets to battle it out on a big BR-style map. Before the round starts, you’ve got the choice between six different elements to use for your primary gauntlet: Poison, Wind, Lightning, Fire, Rock, and Frost. This gauntlet grants you bonus effects whenever you level up. Those effects range from immunity to your own spells to utility to more damage, so it’s worth looking into those bonuses.

During the round, you essentially try to find equipment and scrolls, as well as gauntlets that have a different magical property to your primary one. For instance, if I were to play as a Conduit (Lightning Mage), I’d be able to pick up the five other elements but I wouldn’t be able to get a second lightning gauntlet. This is quite well-made since the different gauntlets influence each other in different ways. Using the Tornado spell for instance and infusing it with Lightning, Fire or Poison damage caused it to turn into a Lightning Storm, a Fire Tornado or even a Poison Tornado, which is quite nice.

Similarily the Poison Cloud can be infused with Electricity, Fire or Ice, resulting in either an electrifying poison cloud, a big explosion or a frozen poison cloud that entraps and poisons everything inside of it! Some elements don’t mesh well together while others are unique and have very good offensive capabilities, but overall you pick what you get or what suits your playstyle the most. After all, your primary attacks (aka not the spells) also change based on your elements. Rock mages only hit ground targets with their primary attacks but can generate shockwaves and armour using their class-specific skills. Ice mages are more precise but also rather slow while Tempest mages deal less damage but can shoot out a barrage of shots!

Another interesting mechanic in Spellbreak is the Mana bar that you deplete while floating or while shooting out your primary attacks. With amulets, you’re able to gain more maximum mana, while belts increase your armour and boots increase your movement speed. If you don’t find certain items, it can get a bit hard for you to spam or run all the times. Meanwhile, as a Tempest mage with a Legendary amulet, you could very much kite enemies away.

And then, you also have potions, shield shards and abilities. Abilities also have rarities like your equipment but basically enable you to use another set of utility. Chase enemies, fly through the air or become invisible. It enhances the playstyle and I really like how there are no offensive abilities for the Shift-Slot. Unlike Hyperscape, you have your damage in your gauntlets and spells, while you use the abilities to gain momentum, push forward or flee.

Poisonous Firewall!

And then there’s the art style. The game’s heavily influenced by shows and movies like Princess Mononoke, Akira, and Avatar – The Last Airbender. This is resembled quite well in the charakter designs and how the world looks. There are different parts to the map that all have a distinct nature to them and just feel different overall. That’s something that I really enjoyed. I really like the influences the game has in terms of the art, although it got a bit hard to discern certain damaging effects on the ground from normal grounds in certain areas, which is a bit troublesome.

An issue that I have with the game, though, is how you at times can get locked into walls and you just get combo’d away. On top of that, some enemies play quite good but you have no way of adding them or making friends, overall, which is a bit of a bummer, in my opinion. Unless you write down their names or memorize them or whatever, there is not really an option, from what I’ve seen.

Don’t mind me, just hiding in this push…

And at last, I had the issue of me having a hard time with the map borders. At times, I’d go and loot a place but then the circle would move again and suddenly, I’m more than 2000 meters away from the next safe zone and the circle just runs over me. This gets annoying and frustrating over time when the game just decides to place the inner-most circle on the other side of the map. I mean, the map also gets slower at a more drastic pace compared to other games, so personally I would have changed the interval or allowed bigger circles, potentially.

In the end, Spellbreak is just another battle royale game. You have good players in there and bad players. Aiming is not as hard and important as in other games, though zoning, strafing and fast reactions are even more so.

Spellbreak has a certain tactical component to it but in the rounds that I played it always ended up being about me and other players butting our heads in when the circle stops by. It’s a battle royale, after all. It’s different from Fortnite and other games, for sure, but I’m not sure if it’s something I’m going to play forever. This is going to be something that I’ll play with friends now and then, I guess, and then I’ll get frustrated because of the meta or because of my lack of skills… and then I’ll play something else.

In the end, Spellbreak is a free-to-play battle royale game, so try it out if you wanna and don’t if you don’t wanna. I enjoyed it so far but I’d imagine that others wouldn’t. Due to the nice combo system and the mobility you have in the game, though, I’d recommend it to fans of the genre or fans of Quake and Unreal Tournament!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Outer Wilds

Exploration is one of those key features used by a lot of video games these days. Usually, you end up exploring an area for secrets, collectables and shortcuts, which – when done right – can be very satisfying and essentially encourage you to do it more. In today’s review, we’re talking about a game that is all about exploration and that doesn’t rely on any of those features but rather makes the player piece together all the different clues and information in order create a bigger picture of sorts. Today, we’re taking a look at Outer Wilds.

Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Jun 18th, 2020
Genre: Space, Exploration, Puzzle, Mystery, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX 1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

In a distant Solar System, we are tasked with finding out clues about an ancient civilisation only to find ourselves in a time loop similar to Majora’s Mask and Minit. After 21 real-time minutes, the sun is bound to explode, leaving us with the mission of finding out why this is happening.

Why does this universe end?
What do the ancient Nomai have to do with this?
How can we stop it?

To do this, we set out to different planets, solve a variety of puzzles, translate scrolls and ancient scriptures, so that we can get closer to the truth, one step at a time.

The Reveal Trailer is probably one of my all-time favourite trailers!

This is where the game shines. You retain all of your information whenever you die or whenever you reset. Hence, at the start of every loop, you get to lift off from the launch pad on Timberhearth, after having seemingly just dozed off at the campfire.

By scanning and translating different scriptures on walls and ancient ruins, you find out more about this ancient civilisation of the Nomai, who at first seem quite noble and distant but later become rather relatable and “normal”. You end up learning more about different tribes of Nomai that all worked together for Science and that all lived on different planets after they crashlanded in this universe.

While the leads and clues may, at first, seem daunting and overwhelming, your ship log usually tends to help you out by telling you if there’s more to explore in certain areas. It also displays the clues, all linked together, hence giving you some sort of lead to explore, if you ever find yourself in trouble.

There are two “modes” of movement in this game. You either travel from planet to planet and manoeuvre around the planets’ surfaces with your small little ship. Or you explore by foot, relying on your jetpack to reach high places if the gravity allows, and scanning things using your transcriptor. When you have a rough landing, you have to repair certain parts of your ship, like its oxygen tanks, electrical systems, the landing gear and other ones that are essential for safe travels. When you travel on foot, on the other hand, you have to watch your health and oxygen but also be sure to not get stuck somewhere without fuel. This makes for some interesting mechanics as different planets come with different hazards and gravity levels. On top of that, you, at times, have to reach certain places before your oxygen supplies run out, hence adding a little bit of pressure to you.

The different planets all shine in their own way. While Brittle Hollow has a black hole at its centre and while Dark Bramble is an enigma of its own, Giantsdeep features high gravity and a very harsh climate that allows vortexes on its surface to lift your ship and even islands into the air. I could assure you that every single planet and planetary body features a unique experience and that every journey to different sites and locations feels unprecedented and adventurous! At least, that’s something I fancied in my playthrough. Since there is no set starting point for every planet, though, you have to figure every planet out yourself and understand its systems, although you should have plenty of times for that – being trapped in a time-loop gives you a lot of time to think, eh?

Making use of a time-loop mechanic gives every 21-minute long adventure a unique vibe, that I really dig. At first, I felt a certain rush to find out as much as possible in every single loop, but then I noticed that it’s alright to take a breather at times and to enjoy the views. After all, Outer Wilds is a charming and gorgeous game, featuring a great score, some lovely dialogues, and a lot of clues, secrets and easter eggs to find in the ruins of the “old world”.

The soundtrack, composed by Andrew Prahlow, gives this title a certain adventure-vibe that helped me enjoy the ride a lot better. Different places feature different tracks while some other tracks get played when you’re getting close to your inevitable death, creating a rather fluid and non-linear experience every time you venture out into the Outer Wilds.

I love the soundtrack. I love the graphics. I love the gameplay. I love the story.

In summary, I love Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds created a novel experience for myself, even when it has some shortcomings here and there:

Your experience at the beginning can be somewhat slow, for instance, as you try to figure out how certain planets work, where you have to go, what you’re supposed to do. I enjoyed that, myself, but I’d be able to see how this would influence other people’s experiences and how it could bother others.

You don’t have a lot of directions given to you, although there are other astronauts on every planet that you can visit to ask them for “interesting places”. Based on where you land on a planet, you get to see different places to find out other clues. At times, this can mislead you into thinking that you found out everything about a planet, resulting in you seemingly “getting stuck”. At other times, you may just be wondering how an end-game location like the Hourglass Twins tie into the whole story and what you’re supposed to do with these “timed locations”.

Overall, I wouldn’t deem this too much of an issue though. By revisiting places and by making use of your ship log, you should be able to get “unstuck” in no time and figure out new leads whenever you try out a different location or find out a new piece of the puzzle.

Another issue that I found with the game is the fact that there are some issues in the PC version of it. Your ship can seemingly take way too much damage when bumping into certain objects and at other times, you may just die from a fall that you usually would make, which I found a bit frustrating at times. Bugs are, however, very few and very rare, so usually, this just left me in confusion and didn’t make me suffer too much.

Alas, my verdict is that Outer Wilds is an exceptional game that is worth checking out if you’re interested in a “true” exploration experience with a non-linear time-loop-based story. The presentation is just magnificent and charming, the story and the end of it are just more than grand, and I’m really glad about having played through it after 24.4 hours. That whole day that I spend in there was 100% worth it!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Necrobarista

At last year’s GamesCom I interviewed Ngoc Vu, the lead artist from Route 59, who at the time worked on Necrobarista. Now that the game is out I got a key for review purposes and, well,…

TLDR: I love it. It’s a great game. Why? Find out here!

Developer: Route 59
Publisher: Route 59, Coconut Island Games
Genres: Supernatural, 3D, Story Rich, Visual Novel
Release Date: July 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - but PS4 and Switch are planned soon as well!
Copy was provided by the Devs.

Necrobarista is about time. Time to move on – or time to stay. Somewhere in a backstreet of Melbourne, there’s a Café where both the alive and the healthy come to. When you pass away, you have 24 hours to stay in that Café, have a drink and then move on… and Necrobarista tells a story about the owners of that Café and the people that come there. It’s a story about the ethics of Necromancy, hipster coffee, and letting go.

Strap on for a haunting and innovative experience and a haunting, yet cosy, time!

Meet Maddy, Chay, Ashley, and Ned – as well as a bunch of other characters! Get to know them! Listen to them and have a cosy time. I really liked the characters as all of them had a certain depth to them (without spoiling too much here). There’re all kinds of characters in all kinds of shapes and colours, so there’s some degree of inclusiveness here with representation for all kinds of people, which is something that I really fancy.

Necrobarista has a certain cosy slice-of-life-ness to it that I really enjoyed while playing. On top of that, though, it also has some intense moments here and there as well as some rather emotional moments. Think about it: It’s your last day on earth. I’ll just leave that there and you can think about it all you want, get emotional or shrug it off. Whatever you feel like. The story leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis, which is something that I personally really enjoyed doing. At some plot points, it made me feel down a bit but other plot points felt really nice and wholesome in a way. And while overall cosy, it gets intense later on as well.

What’s interesting is that you don’t spectate the story from the lens of one character that looks at all the characters interacting with only them, like in a lot of other visual novels, but rather you get different perspectives and points of view. You get to see the characters from the POV of one character or from above or the camera moves around a bit, panning while you read the text. There are no text boxes on the bottom side of the screen. Instead, you see them floating near the characters. You always know who’s talking but they are always somewhere else, making the game feel more whole and organic. It’s lovely.

A lot of these feelings are conveyed through the colours and the soundtrack. Necrobarista’s soundtrack has been composed by Kevin Penkin who’s known for making the soundtrack of Under The Dog, Made in Abyss, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. I’d put Necrobarista’s soundtrack on the same level as Made in Abyss. I love it to bits. It’s cosy and joyful, endearing and amusing but it also can be intense and mystic, enigmatic and threatening. That – combined with the lo-fi style that uses not only gorgeous images and colours but also some slight animations here and there – makes this just a wonderful experience.

And while I would have loved this game to branch out into choices and a story with different kinds of stories that you can explore over time, it really is not that kind of game.

It’s linear but still quite rich. I love the story and the aesthetic. The characters are great. The soundtrack underlines the plot points and brings the best out of everything. Again, I can’t praise Kevin Penkin enough but after what he did in Made in Abyss, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack for this game turned out so great. It sticks to your head and you notice a “sound” that you ultimately recognize as “Necrobarista-like” – or at least that’s what I feel like when I hear those tunes somewhere else now.

The story is linear but doesn’t need the branches. Of course, there is still some degree regarding choices.

For instance, you get to pick words that you’ve heard from different people at the end of every chapter. These words get associated with different meanings and subjects or people depending on the context and the character that said them. When you pick them, you then gain memory fragments from different categories. You then can use these fragments in the Café while walking around before continuing the story. You use them to unlock side stories or “memories” (essentially extra lore) that you can read on to learn more about the characters.

You click on “Blood” and get a fragment for “Magic” as it was mentioned in that context. You click on “Weather” and get a fragment for “Melbourne” as they were talking about a storm brewing. You click on “Minor Demon” and get a fragment for “Lore” as it’s part of the world that those exist… and “bowl of peas” belongs to “Food” as Ned loves them. Use these different fragments up for some nice and short stories in between chapters and collect more to unlock more stories. At some point, you’ll get through the main story but you can always load previous chapters and load previous save states, so it shouldn’t be a problem to unlock all of them, especially as you can view what you need and what you have already in the “memories” section of the pause menu.

I liked this feature. It creates a bit of replayability which is quite nice overall.

And you also get to explore the space a bit to unlock more short stories. Visit the basement or the bar, the Café’s upper area or the outside area. Look at different objects.

Enjoy the view. Take some pretty screenshots! I did, too! A lot of them!

But seriously. It’s a great game. I guess this is not a game for you if you’re not into reading or if you don’t like Visual Novels or anime or stories revolving around life and death… or if you feel like there’s not enough action in this game… but that’s your loss then. I highly recommend this game. I didn’t find any issues with it. The story, presentation, the characters, the gameplay, and the score were just great if not even superb and I loved it.

Necrobarista just came out on Steam! Check it out or wishlist it! Highly recommend it!

I’m glad that I saw it at last year’s GamesCom. I’m glad that I did that interview. I’m glad that I started this blog. Next week, the blog turns a year old and if it wasn’t for the blog I wouldn’t have been able to write about all kinds of topics and about these kinds of games. I love it. I hope you’re enjoying the blog posts, too. Until then.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Kill It With Fire: Ignition

It’s springtime… for spiders… in Germany! (Uh, I hope nobody minds that reference…)

Yeah, spring has already kicked in with its sweet scent of flowers and lawns, with pollen flying through the air (I’m not bothered by it), wasps bothering me on my balcony, with sunny and rainy days and generally a forecast that leaves me wondering if I’m dressed too warm or too cold. It’s springtime! And you know what that means:
I’m getting spooked by our dear eight-legged friends and even now I’m constantly in a state of panic as the last spider was bigger than the other one… and as I hated it so much when it came down from the ceiling Mission Impossible style and nearly landed on my hat before I swatted it with a roundhouse kick against the wall and started burning down my flat… again…

But all jokes aside, I really hate spiders and ever since having gone to that spider convention nearby, my fear of spiders has been brought to new levels. Luckily, I haven’t encountered any of these critters in Winter… but now that it’s getting warm again, these spiders are crawling out of their holes again and I’m just not good at all with them. At my SO’s place, I was tasked to capture this horrifying creature with a glass and a piece of paper – after all my girlfriend’s flatmate is vegetarian and doesn’t want to shed any animal’s blood… so, I essentially did it but it took me ages to approach this monster and eventually release it into the wild… Meanwhile, the two spawns of hell that have shown themselves in my flat were not as lucky… they did suffer my full wrath on top of my barbaric YAWP as I smashed them with my house shoe of DOOM and then vacuumed them with my vacuum of FATALITY.

And essentially, that leads me to today’s game which goes by the title of “Kill it with Fire” or in case of this demo (the game has yet to release!) “Kill it with Fire: Ignition”! A game that I’d describe as a demolitionist’s wet dream that allows you to kill these ugly critters with a flamethrower, bombs, shurikens, a shotgun and essentially everything that is lying around in your house.

Developer: Casey Donnellan Games LLC
Publisher: tinyBuild
Genres: Casual, Indie, Action, Destruction, Simulation, 3D
Release Date (demo): April 28th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was available for free as it's a demo. 

At the beginning of the game, you’ll spawn into your low-poly-house and are tasked with picking up your vase and opening a few drawers but little did you know that a spider was awaiting you in a spot nearby to spook you! Naturally, you follow it into the living room where you find the clipboard. Not only does this weapon smash spiders but it also shows you your different tasks.

Oooooooooooooh!

From there on, you’ll essentially figure stuff out on your own. There are drawers that require you to complete tasks from your clipboard in order to unlock new weapons. There are doors that require a certain amount of spider kills in order to unlock more areas (with more weapons and more spiders) and eventually, you’ll end up causing more harm to your sweet home than to actual spiders.

The game constantly accompanies you with a piano track that reminds me of Untitled Goose Game in a lot of ways. When you’re close to spiders, however, you end up hearing a very dramatic and threatening track that reminds me quite a lot of the JAWS theme. Once you’ve actually killed monstrosity, you get to hear a nice little tune that further underlines the wonderful comedic nature of this game. Lovely!

I gave “hot tub” a new meaning.

The game also makes use of sounds to show you where the spiders are! They usually are hidden behind or underneath objects, so you’ve got find out about the general direction by either listening to the spiders’ sounds (which are utterly disgusting!) or by using the spider-tracker that you can also use to crush these ugly foes.

The art style is quite colourful and really seems to convey the feelings of this being a nice and family-friendly game, until you eventually see those disgusting spiders that are actually rather big and really terrifying. When they survive your initial hit, they usually speed up and become even more terrifying, which results in quite a lot of moments where I noticed myself jumping. While the game itself is quite entertaining, I noticed that I’d get startled rather often, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I really enjoyed this thrilling experience.

Still tidier than my room :c

But what about flaws? Well, the fact that there’re spiders in the game should be considered a flaw in itself… but as you are exterminating these hideous lifeforms from Earth’s face in the most drastic and absurd ways, I’d say that one may be able to look past that fact… Of course, if you like spiders, then this game may not be for you… and if you hate spiders like I do but you don’t want to get spooked by them, then you may not like this game either… but overall, I really enjoyed this game so far.

The demo did amuse me for about an hour, challenges included. After that, I stopped playing as the demo didn’t have to offer all that much more apart from these few weapons and two apartments. The full game will be available in Summer 2020 and I definitely recommend checking out this demo if you found this review entertaining. Also, you may consider wishlisting the game so that you get to know when it releases!

But for now, I wish you a wonderful day without any spider encounters in your homes and I hope that all of you stay safe.

Cheers!

This post is part of a challenge called BLAPRIL. The goal is to post as much as possible during the 30 days of April. There are different themes during some of the weeks and a lot of mentors, newbies and participants participating. Feel free to check this hub-post out and check out the other participants!

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

Indietail – Lightmatter

When I was younger I discovered a game called “Portal” and I just fell in love with it. It was one of the first “better looking” games that I played. The puzzles were interesting, the aesthetics were great, I loved the music, the humour was really dope and made me chuckle a lot, and I ended up just falling in love with the game overall. Portal 2 was great as well as it added new mechanics to the game and as it really added a lot to the overall story. There have been just so many new layers to it and GLaDOS was just great in that one. Oh, and Co-Op. I loved the Co-Op campaign and playing through it. I still need to take a look at the Timemachine fan-made content and play through that eventually, so I’ll look forward to that.

But in today’s review, we’re not talking about the Portal-franchise but rather about a small Indie Game called Lightmatter by Danish Studio, Tunnel Vision Games! Lightmatter is essentially a homage to all kinds of first-person puzzlers, including Portal. It even plays in the same universe (which was made possible due to a contact with Valve that the Publisher, Aspyr, had!) before the first game and overall feels like a love-letter to the whole genre with its shifting and mind-bending mechanics involving… Light… matter.

Developer: Tunnel Vision Games
Publisher: Aspyr
Genres: First-Person, Puzzle, Indie, 3D, Adventure
Release Date: January 15th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on:  PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Copy was purchased. (Full Game Upgrade)

Lightmatter can be described as “The Floor Is Lava!” but with Light and Shadows. Essentially, you’re in a scientific company, called Lightmatter, that tried to create a CORE which would be providing sustainable and renewable energy to millions, using a crystal that is able to materialize Light! Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well… something went wrong during the launch and us, the protagonist, ended up not getting evacuated with the remaining guests that were part of the tour. So, the facility is falling apart and we have to get out of there: Though be careful: Just like Light, shadows also materialized and thus, you’re not allowed to touch any of them since they will absorb you and suck out any life you have in your brittle body!

Hence, Virgil, one of the CEOs of Lightmatter (voiced by David Bateson), is accompanying us throughout the facility in order to guide us into freedom and help us get out of here. Virgil is more of a sinister character. He’s unfriendly and very rude in the beginning but begins to open up over time as we solve puzzles after puzzles to reach the goal, in the end. He tells us about the project and his plans. He tells us about his achievements and what went wrong and over time he develops as a character, revealing his hatred towards journalists and his arguments with his former partner. He even compares himself to Cave Johnson, who was alive at the time before eventually dying to moonstone-poisoning, and he’s even putting himself over Cave.

Virgil’s first appearance!

David Bateson is able to breathe so much life into this wonderful character that Virgil is. He’s an overall fan-favourite in the community and is able to fill the gaps and pauses in between and during puzzles just wonderfully. When you take too long to open a door or move on, he’ll mock you in a cynic and rude way that just makes you chuckle. He’s like GLaDOS but male and less robotic (and less potato-y). He’s very charming and charismatic in a way and he really tried his best to provide the world with a… brighter future, even though all his efforts were for nought in the end, as the project ultimately failed.

Gameplay-wise the game is working with a ton of different elements. Since shadows are dangerous, you need to illuminate your pathway to the next exit using lamps. These lamps, however, are rather heavy, resulting in you not being able to jump with them, ultimately making the game a lot harder than it would be if you could. You have to rethink your approach to a level quite often – and while earlier levels are rather easy to solve with just a button press needed, later levels get rather difficult.

James and Lux!

But while difficult, you never really get set back too much and it never really feels too punishing. And while every lamp provides only limited light to a cone in front of it, you never had to fiddle your way to the end. It was more about utilizing the tools and mechanics you learned and then bending the rules to fit your goal. The game also works with other mechanics like shifting platforms, buttons that are activated via light, and other cool mechanics that I don’t want to spoil here.

Even falling into the shadows just resets the level a little bit (your last lamp-movement mostly) and brings you back to the last checkpoint. The shadows are like an obstacle, not a punishment. And that’s something I really appreciate about Lightmatter. Dying doesn’t feel frustrating and the puzzles were challenging enough for me to have fun and yet not just rush through the levels.

THE CORE! IT’S SO BRIGHT!

Rushing through the levels would have been bad, after all, since most of them are riddled with small secrets and collectables. You can find out more about the backstory by finding tape-recorders with Elle’s voice. You can also try to search for Lux, the security manager James’ cat! Here and there you also find other little easter eggs like a bath duck in a corner or the Gravity Falls journal, so levels are really fun to explore.

And then there is the presentation. The graphics really play with the Lights and the shadows, and hence with a lot of contrasts. I feel like the levels were designed quite well and ended up providing a lot of detail in rooms that were mostly riddled with shadows or filled with light. It never was just one thing or the other. When there is light, there are also shadows, which also reflects the question behind the whole game: At what cost can you ensure a brighter future? What risks would you take to save millions? What’s one life when waged against many, or rather a few hundred against the rest of humanity?

Dev Commentary: Lasse and Ulrik talking about one leve of the game here.

The music is quite ominous quite often and really got into my head. While Virgil is talking about his arguments and his struggles to complete this plan, there is this ominous and enigmatic sound lingering in the background that is just quiet enough for it not to be overwhelming but also loud enough for you to notice it.
The game even provides you, when turned on, with the devs’ commentary if you want to play through the levels for another time and hear something about the development and different stages of the game.

But flaw-wise… there isn’t really much to talk about here. I think that Lightmatter really is a very well-crafted game that is able to create a wonderful experience when you play it through the first time or when you even play it for a second time to unlock a different ending. Here and there I felt like there are times where a small “hint”-button would have been quite neat as there are two levels that are a bit tricky to solve, especially when you don’t know about moving sideways, which is something that even the devs noted themselves. It’s something that FPS-players will find normal while other people might not find that understandable and which would take them a while. But overall it didn’t really bother me too much. Apart from that, having a few other ways to engage and interact with your environment and objects would have been quite neat. There’s a vending machine at one point that can be used but apart from that there is not much to click and push in the levels.

Coming to a conclusion, I’d say that Lightmatter really is a love-letter to First-Person-Puzzlers that manages to not only create a beautiful atmosphere in challenging puzzle-levels but also create its own identity, so that it doesn’t seem like “just another puzzle game”. It really is creative in how it unfolds the story and how it makes you utilize different aspects of the game and you can essentially taste the blood, sweat and tears that the devs put into this lovely game. I’m chuffed to bits.

Beating the game takes about six hours, I’d say, or more if you explore more or need to take more time for certain puzzles. It took me about two hours to get through the first half of the game and about three or four hours to beat the second half.. and to unlock other endings you can also just hop into single levels later on, so there is no backtracking needed. The Dev-Commentary also adds a whole new level to it with voice notes that are four to nine minutes long and tell you more about the process of the level-design and different changes in the game, as well as funny things like running-gags (a cat called Lux) becoming a real thing and getting put into the actual game. It’s well worth a listen if you’re into that kind of thing!

The first hour of the game can be played for free on steam while the rest of the game can be purchased with a single upgrade, which I find quite fair. It’s worth the full price, I’d say but of course, you can also wait for sales or just playtest the demo first. Definitely a recommendation from me!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this review. Until the next time, have a nice day! 🙂

I wonder if they have Dr Pepper in there…

Cheers!

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