Indietail – Really Big Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – 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.

Indietail – Headbangers in Holiday Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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