LudoNarraCon 2021 – Demos

I’m a bit late on this train but the LudoNarraCon has been going on since Friday and well, it will end today. I hence wanted to talk about some of the games that I got to play in light of the new demo releases presented by Fellow Traveller (the publisher of In Other Waters).

One of the titles that I’ve been especially excited about was Tunic but sadly I couldn’t get the demo to work. There are no settings in there nor are there any control schemes. You just spawn in and the game kinda tells you what to do when you need it but for whatever reason, it didn’t want to respond to my controller/keyboard inputs. After a while, it worked and I got some slashes into a slime-thing but then it stopped working again, so uh,… I guess the demo is VERY early, which is disappointing since what I saw at the GamesCom was amazing and worked just fine. But regardless of that, I’m quite excited about Tunic. Not only is it published by Finji but it also is an action-adventure that has a lot of exploration in it as well as some obvious Zelda references. The cute art style paired with the nice combat that I got to see at the GamesCom demo… It was amazing. Really enjoyed it. Looking forward to checking it out eventually once there is a better demo out or once the full game releases!

Moving on, we’ve got a demo here for a game called NUTS where we research squirrels and their behaviours. From the get-go, I’ve got to say that Melmoth Forest and our little research caravan looks stunning. NUTS is very stylised with few but very vibrant colours and a lot of interesting mechanics. In a way, this game kind of reminds me of Firewatch and maybe even Papers, Please? It’s an interesting title where we place down cameras to track down squirrels’ nests and nut staches and document it and I’m also looking forward to this title, although I’m wondering where the story will lead us. While the demo is rather short (at only half an hour), it’s quite enjoyable. I guess people could take less time in the demo but I was messing around quite a bit and also ended up failing the camera placement a few times, resulting in me taking eight nights to figure out where the nut stash is.

As for the next demo, it took me a while to get it but Mind Scanners seems to be a “Papers, Please!”-like simulation type game where you cure insane people or declare people sane. There is this big authority in that world that lets you scan people’s mind to figure out their mental illnesses and rid them of anxieties and other issues… but not all of what they’re doing is good and because of that it’s your choice if you want to listen to the orders from above or if you want to help the rebel group, Moonshine, to accomplish their goals. I had fun but the demo is relatively short, so I’ll have to see how the full game plays out.

Out There: Oceans of Time looked interesting but ended up being rather frustrating. It’s supposed to be a Roguelite-Survival game with Exploration and Space-RPG elements to it and there is this story about an Archon that you’re pursuing but the demo just drops you into that whole world and does little to explain anything. “These places have resources that you need, so go there if you wanna” and then you take your crew there and they have abilities (that the game doesn’t really tell you about) and you can scan planets and drill or probe them but it’s all super weirdly presented. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be up for a roguelike-survival experience with exploration, alien races and this sort of art style but I don’t think that Out There is going to be the game for me if there’s not even going to be a tutorial or any sort of help for new players.

Last but absolutely not least, Minute of Islands is a hand-drawn puzzle platformer about a young mechanic called Mo on her quest to repair a world on the brink of collapse. The art style is adorable and the world is… maybe a bit disturbing, which is something that I adore and love. It kind of reminded me of a mix of Little Misfortune and Adventure Time, in a way? Disturbing elements paired with topics like Mental Illness, Anxiety, and maybe even Depression all packed together in a very cute and adorable hand-drawn art style. I can’t get too much into any details here because of spoilers but I’ve really enjoyed this game to bits for the last hour or so, and honestly wouldn’t have imagined that this demo would go on for this long. I’m excited about the full game and I’m looking forward to potentially writing about it! On another note, this game’s developer, Studio Fizbin, is also from Germany and they developed The Inner World before, which is a very cool title that Ms Magi actually likes a lot. Hence, I’m really looking forward to playing that since I own it as well on some platform… maybe I’ll write about that as well since I haven’t covered anything by Studio Fizbin before.

Anyways, since I’ve been so englamoured by Minute of Islands, I didn’t get to play the other demos I had planned for today, hence here are some honourable mentions in case that the demos aren’t available tomorrow:

  • Exocolonist
  • Chicory: A Colourful Tale
  • Do Not Buy This Game
  • The Murder Mystery Machine

I would have liked to play those games already today but it seems like I’m running out of time,… so let’s hope that they’re still available tomorrow for me to check them out after university. My highlights today were definitely Mind Scanners, NUTS, and Minute of Islands!

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this post! Make sure to check those demos out yourself or maybe wishlist the games on Steam/follow them on social media for more updates. 

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Iris and the Giant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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