NieR: Replicant is so much fun!

So, I’ve been playing NieR Replicant √(1.5) as of late. I’m not gonna type out the string of numbers because it essentially is the root of 1.5 and it’s annoying to type, so uh… let’s just stick to √(1.5) or “NieR Replicant” since it essentially is a remake/remaster (or as Yoko Taro calls it: an “upgraded version”). Anyways, today, I wanted to talk about my experience with NieR Replicant and my thoughts on it.

Hence: SPOILER WARNING.

So uh, what is NieR/NieR Replicant? Well, originally there we the Drakengard games and there was this alternate ending (Ending E) that placed two of the characters in present-day Tokyo where they defeat that bad guy and then they get shot by a Fighter Jet… and a few hundred years later NieR Replicant takes place and exclusively in Japan there was also NieR Gestalt, which is essentially the same game but you play as the Father of Yonha who’s naturally older than Replicant’s protagonist. Either way, the brother doesn’t exist in Gestalt and the father doesn’t exist in Replicant and also… apart from a few voice lines, nothing changes really between the versions. NieR Automata takes place a lot later than Replicant and is the direct sequel. Originally, I thought there was a game before that called Grimoire Nier but apparently, that’s just a book that adds further information into the story.

So, in Replicant, we play as the main protagonist (titled by the community as “Nier” but you can name him whatever you want) who’s trying to save his sister from the black scrawl, a fatal disease that plagues our sister. To do so, we fight the Shades and get to know Grimoire Weiss, a magical book that may be able to help us against the Black Scrawl, the Shades and Grimoire Noir, an ancient book found in songs and legends that apparently is behind the Black Scrawl.

From the get-go, I’ll have to say that NieR Replicant is pretty but it isn’t super pretty if that makes sense. A lot of the character models feel unpolished and clunky in contrast to the main characters’ faces and models. Kainé, one of the characters you meet along the way, is very detailed, for instance, to the point where you can see her buttcheeks at times during cutscenes, which is… eh. Speaking of Kainé, her storyline is amazing and I love the character to bits due to her harsh nature and how she’s super honest and straightforward, to the point where she seems almost rude… Also, she swears a lot, which I personally find super cool, actually… What I don’t necessarily mind is her outfit… I’m not a fan of it really but I don’t hate it either. It just feels so out of place. And then there’s Grimoire Weiss as well who is great and who I love absolutely. I love Weiss’ voice acting to bits, although I must say that the English Dub seems to fit him a lot better than the Japanese Dub. Grimoire Weiss is a magical book that allows us to utilize magic and accompanies us on our journey to find and discover the sealed verses in our fight against the Shades!

So, I love the characters… Especially Emil and Weiss. It was nice to see Emil’s backstory and how he became what he is in Automata. And the soundtrack is amazing! But what’s truly fun is… the combat. It’s great! Loved how different weapons combine into new move-sets in NieR Automata… but Replicant has a completely different system with sword combos and a bunch of combo attacks and on top of that, you can also use magic and charge up spells to unleash stronger abilities. Once you get past the (SPOILER) point of no-return (hate that it’s there) aka past the time-skip, you can use two-handed swords as well as swords as well, which is great… and on top of that, you can customise your weapons and spells with “words” that essentially allow you to enhance them with status effects, increased drop rates, increased damage, and other effects! I also really like that you can change all of your shoulder buttons/triggers and re-assign spells to them and move around the ability to evade or defend or you completely remove it.

But yeah, combat feels good and is a lot of fun and I love everything, especially since the story becomes a mix of “wholesome” and “edgy” after the time skip. I absolutely love the different jabs that Yoko Taro took at the game industry and Nintendo in particular with some of the jokes and references there. For starters, there is a boss fight where you fight against this huge robot and Grimoire Weiss complains about his weakness being too obvious. Meanwhile, on another note, the game plays a silly tune when you acquire an item, akin to the Zelda tune that you have when you get an item… but it’s out of sync and sounds silly… and there are other places where I noticed something like that but I don’t wanna spoil that since I found it quite funny actually.

Meanwhile, the themes of the different areas are amazing as well and I really like them. Similar to Automata you have a desert area and a city area with forest and stuff… and you can ride animals, but Replicant’s setting is rather medieval despite it taking place in the future, which is interesting. At the same time, you have a haunted mansion and this lost forest where people are trapped in deadly dreams and where the game suddenly turns into something akin to a Light Novel. There are places where the game shifts into a 2D perspective or a top-down view. Heck, there’s even a space where the game suddenly looks like an isometric RPG akin to the first Fall Out Games, which I found lovely. But the themes that change from the dystopian settings of the junk heap to the ominous Deathdreams in the Forest of Myth to the rule-obsessed masked people in the Desert, there are a lot of topics and feelings that I associate with these areas and levels and places and it’s lovely. I love it. It feels different. It almost turns into a different game suddenly.

And the soundtrack? Well, even with Grimoire Weiss at my side, I don’t have enough words to describe it. It’s fantastic! Anyways, that’s about it for today’s post. I’ll continue to stream the game on Twitch every Friday and Saturday around 9 AM Central European Summer Time if you wanna see me live!

Have you started to play it or have you seen anything of the game yet? What are your thoughts on it so far? I’m really loving it but I also love the whole universe and setting and this weird mix of Science-Fantasy, if that makes sense. Anyways, stay cosy and hydrated.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Ever since I was a child, I’d end up gazing up to the night sky in awe as it was brightening up with the light of distant stars and other planetary objects. It was fascinating to imagine what it was like out there and I always dreamt of becoming an astronaut or travelling space someday… but I knew that I’d never actually make it up there, especially because space is actually quite terrifying. Either way, it’s amazing that people are already able to shoot space ships up there and travel to space stations with drones making their way to Mars and scientists searching for other exoplanets. It’d be amazing to live in a time where humans have set foot on other planets in the solar system already and where people could live far, far away from this problem-ridden planet here called Earth. Well, today’s review is about a title that plays in exactly that sort of time, Hardspace: Shipbreaker!

Developer: Blackbird Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Simulation, Sci-Fi, Space, Early Access, Physics
Release Date: June 16th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In the aforementioned age of planetary colonisation, space ships have become more and more common and companies have taken command of space travel and turned into their own business. I guess this is somewhat realistic if you think about how Google, Tesla, and other companies are being idolized nowadays and how these companies are getting contracted by countries and governments. Anyways, in this day and age, where many humans have fled to other planets, there is one company that owns and operates a network of massive rail gates that let you warp through the inner solar system. This company called LYNX is actually also your boss in this game as you’ve signed away your rights and as you became a cutter in order to pay off your massive debt of a billion credits.

Being a cutter entails taking apart ships during your 15-minute shifts and processing the parts to make money for LYNX and to ultimate dig away at the aforementioned debt. It may seem daunting but in the future, this is your only option really, which is why your playthrough is dictated by efficiency and debt. You own nothing. Not your tools, not your home, not even your life. If you die, you get resurrect since LYNX owns your DNA signature. This process of resurrection costs a hefty amount of money which will be added to your debt. So, let’s dive in and play some Reverse-Lego, shall we?

Another day, another job!

You, as the player and the so-called “cutter”, own a set of tools that help you with your work orders. For starters, you own a tether-powered grapple that can be utilized to move around or push/pull ship parts into the appropriate places. Raw metal belongs in the furnace. Nanocarbon goes into the Processor. Salvage-able parts like seats, terminals and cargo belong in the barge. In case you don’t know where a part goes, your UI will tell you, so don’t worry too much about it. Another tool of yours is a laser cutter that allows you to take apart the ships at certain points in it, as well as a scanner that can be used to locate rooms, objects and potential threats. Yes, there are threats in this game… Not only can you run out of oxygen or get melted in the furnace but there are also power cables that can electrocute you, fuel tanks that can burn you to a crisp and reactors that can blow up on you. Naturally, you’ll be cloned and hence, resurrected… but again, that costs money, not to mention that explosions will cause a loss of money.

Let’s upgrade our Grapple some more!

But overall, the game’s very chill. I wouldn’t worry about min-maxing your shifts or getting everything done in one go… I wouldn’t worry about the certification grades or whatever. Play the game at your own place. There even is a mode that allows you to play with only one life while another game mode allows you to engage in free play or play without a time/oxygen-limited. The game is meant to be relaxing. If you enjoy the challenge, there are weekly challenges in the game as well with leaderboards and an active community… but really, this is my go-to “chill out” game for when I need to calm down, relax, or distract myself. Taking apart space ships is amazing, the game looks stunning, and the soundtrack is wonderful. Pair that with the wonderful eye candy that has been added recently and the humour in some of the dialogue and you’ve got a fantastic game that is already quite polished despite being in Early Access.

Inside the processor it goes! This should give us some good money!

The game gets updated frequently and while the debt isn’t too much of a concern, it’s a bit annoying that your save file gets wiped whenever there is a major update. I’d love it if the developers would give you a way to keep your save file but still play the new update. Apart from that, though, there aren’t really too many concerns. I’d love to see more story-related interactions in the game, to be honest, but I don’t mind the lack of a story. There are data-boxes that you can encrypt with messages left by evil AIs, former crewmates of the ships you take apart, as well as other people involved with the crew, which is interesting.

We made a good profit in this shift… but the rental fees are wrecking me. -.-

As an insert here, I’d like to mention that my absolute favourite of the game is the ability to take apart ghost ships. They are seriously creepy, especially since they need to be “exorcised” by destroying AI Nodes… If you don’t do that, you may end up getting locked in by the AI, which is not only spooky but also quite fun. Apart from that, I also love the stickers you can put on your grapple and the cutter… and I love the little backstories you get from data caches.

There’s the power generator. Let’s take it out!

The game contains flashing lights at times, so I wouldn’t recommend this to you if you have any issues with that, but otherwise, it’s a very nice and chill experience in my opinion. It’s a lot of fun to take apart the ships and I’m looking forward to writing another post on future updates once there are more coming out. There may be bugs since it’s still in EA but personally, I have only encountered one crash in my 30 hours of playtime (so far) and I doubt that I’ll encounter many more since the game seems to be fairly polished. All in all, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a very satisfying and relaxing game that lets you take your time in space while you destroy or blow up abandoned space ships and slowly get rid of that debt! Highly recommend it!

Anyways, that’s it for the post today. Hope you enjoyed it!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Ape Out

When it comes to games, there are plenty of factors that make a good game great. In my opinion, you can have a relatively simple gameplay loop or relatively simple mechanics in a title and still make the experience incredible by adding your own style to it, giving the game personality, or by working with an interesting art style, nice animations, or even by working more on the soundtrack, the sound design, and the environment. A game that is doing all of that really well is Ape Out. Here’s my review!

Developer: Gabe Cuzzillo
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Beat 'em Up, Top-Down, Action, Indie
Release Date: February 28th, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Ape Out is a beat ’em up game developed by Gabe Cuzzillo and published by Devolver Digital. As far as I know, it’s the first title by Cuzzillo but his work on the art and game design is phenomenal, to say the least. Some of the art was made by Bennet Foddy who you may know from VVVVVV, QWOP or Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. And well, the soundtrack has been composed by Matt Boch, the former creative director of Dance Central. I’m starting here with the team because Bennett Foddy has been involved in plenty of interesting games and I kind of like that guy. Similarly, Matt Boch’s work on the game’s soundtrack is incredibly important for the game’s feel and presentation because of the way that Ape Out utilizes “emergent gameplay” and more importantly improvisation. 

In Ape Out, you control a gorilla who’s running through a maze while pushing, grabbing and evading gun-wielding enemies that are pursuing you. You’ve been caged and mistreated, so now you try to break out and achieve freedom. It’s simple but a lot of fun. The controls utilize only the AWSD keys for movement as well as the mouse buttons for your attacks. Gamepad controls feel good, too, although I preferred the keyboard controls. When you encounter enemies, you can simply run away, grab them and use them as a shield or you simply push, punch and slam them into walls. The Free Jazz soundtrack that accompanies you throughout the game interacts with your in-game actions, resulting in the experience becoming even more fun. Be it the drums, the piano or the sax, there are plenty of instruments in the soundtrack and they all seem to improvise and work together, blend together and have their own little solos. Free Jazz is amazing. It’s creative and innovative at times, which is why I personally absolutely adore this game’s soundtrack. The snares that you hear when you kill enemies, when you push them or when you slam them into the wall make it seem as if you’re part of the crew that is playing there on a stage. It’s fun and engaging. This is what emergent gameplay is about. Games like Untitled Goose Game did it before and honestly, it still works and brings life into a world that seemingly is only inhabited by you and your pursuers. But the emergent gameplay aside, the soundtrack is even more important because it reflects the gameplay quite well. Free Jazz is all about improvisation and creativity, just like Ape Out.

In Ape Out, there isn’t just one solution to all of your problems. Levels are similar but there seems to be a procedurally generated element to it. Each time you restart, die or pick the game up again, levels are slightly different, enemy placements change and the game feels different. Because of that, you’ll need to reevaluate your strategy non-stop. Do you slam enemies into the wall or do you just run leaving your enemies behind? Do you tackle them head-on or do you strategically take them out one by one? In one case, I grabbed one of the shotgun-wielding enemies and used him as a shield. Enemies that you grab, fire off a shot that can hit their allies. I used that to my advantage, taking out enemies with machine guns before eventually pushing my human meatshield into a crowd and taking out more enemies. I then proceeded to hurl legs, arms and torsos at enemies to give me some time to grab them, throw them, punch them again. Improvisation is key. Not everything goes to plan and while the game can be difficult at times, I never found myself getting frustrated. I got closer and closer to my goal and re-evaluated my strategy, reflected on what went wrong and more often than not spend many more tries to get that perfect goal.

But not only does the soundtrack add to the experience, but also the art direction that the game was taken in. Ape Out is incredibly stylized. Blood splatters are colourful while the world is dark at times. There are bright and vibrant colours wherever you go. The game changes colours frequently, plays with the environment and adds different mechanics to the game that add a different look to the game. The top-down perspective makes it easy for you to enjoy this art style a lot more while you’re still able to discern enemies, weapons and the like. There are 32 levels in total and they all are connected in one way or another. Instead of featuring a world-map of sorts, the game celebrates the jazzy soundtrack by splitting the game up into four disks with an A-side and a B-side, each. The four disks are presented with four different album covers, thematically tied to the chapters covered in the disks. The art style that the album covers have been taken into, or maybe even the whole game, kind of reminds me of 60s movies and Saul Bass’ typical graphical work. I love this minimalistic approach to the game. I really do. It’s amazing.

And, well, Ape Out is frankly a great game. It combines destruction and percussion, adds style to it, and lots of satisfaction… and it does it bloody well! I can highly recommend it. Try it out!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – A Short Hike

With A Short Hike, adamgryu managed to create a wonderful experience that I’ll never experience again in the same way I did just a while ago. The tunes by Mark Sparkling complement the carefree journey you embark on phenomenally and I absolutely adore this short little game that is all about exploration, although I also associate a certain kind of sadness with this sort of experience… but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

Developer: adamgryu
Publisher: adamgryu
Genre: Exploration, Indie, Adventure
Release Date: July 30th, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

In A Short Hike, you take control of Claire, a young canary that visits her aunt at Hawk Peak Provincial Park. There she’s waiting for a call but can’t help but notice that she doesn’t have any phone reception… Hence, she sets off on a journey to trek towards the summit of Hawk Peak Mountain in hopes that the reception there is better… but despite Hawk Peak Provincial Park’s somewhat rural appearance, there are plenty of things to do on your way to the summit, which is why A Short Hike isn’t exactly about reaching a certain goal or about reaching the summit of the mountain… but rather about the journey there.

Since we’re playing as a bird, we can fly up into the air, glide and dive through the valley and reach areas that we haven’t been to before. Reaching the summit should be rather easy, right? Well, our stamina is kind of a limiter in that regard, which is why we have to collect golden feathers around the islands and complete quests to acquire some of them. One of the earliest encounters we find is a small frog at the beach who’s trying to build a sandcastle but is struggling to do so due to him not having the proper tool for his endeavour. Instead of a regular toy shovel, he’s using a full-sized shovel, which makes detailed work a bit hard for the little guy. Similarly, there is an artist around the map who is trying to find the perfect spot to paint a nice picture to submit to a gallery while another person is trying to collect shells. There are countless encounters around the map and a lot of activities to partake in. You can learn to fish or appreciate racing someone. You can collect hats, sticks and coins or even go on a treasure hunt. There are a lot of things to do but nobody forces you to. Whenever you complete a quest, you’ll earn a reward of sorts that in return can help you reach the summit easier. Similarly, you can find golden feathers that expand your stamina bit by bit throughout the map, resulting in you being able to reach places that you haven’t been able to reach before.

Exploration is rewarding and relaxing. I honestly forgot why exactly I wanted to reach the summit but then I got there and… it was nice. I was still able to continue with the game and fly around, collecting coins and going on fishing sprees… but the short hike really is rather short, though the many tasks and activities you encounter along the way can give you a bit more playtime, for sure. As I mentioned before, A Short Hike isn’t exactly about reaching the summit but more about enjoying the way there. The journey is the goal and the goal is the journey, you could say.

It kind of reminded me of how I would go out and explore the town as a kid and just go around town and see where different streets would lead to. I’d end up in a forest, eventually, or find a shortcut to a place I liked. I also ended up enjoying the exploration bit and the hiking, travelling and walking around a lot more than me actually finding something. Sure, when you explore a lot and end up finding a secret or a reference to a different game in A Short Hike, it’s amazing and rather rewarding but there were times where I was just hoping that the map would reveal even more passages and areas that I haven’t explored yet. I was just hoping that I’d end up spending all day exploring this peaceful and colourful world that I found myself in. Maybe it was that sort of nostalgia that I felt and referred to before… maybe some sort of escapism… but sadly, I had to return to the real world eventually again, which is why it was nice to find refuge in a little adventure game like this for once.

But while the exploration is fun and all, it also comes with a few points that made the experience at times nearly a bit frustrating. Not super frustrating and not so much that I’d have to ragequit or anything… but it could have been done better… For starters, you can’t really move the map around too much which can be a bit frustrating. You’re semi-locked into this one perspective with the map changing the direction a bit when you reach certain spots or when you dive/fly around. That’s a bit tricky to use and can put a damper on the experience in my opinion. At the same time, I loved exploring the map but found it hard to navigate through it due to the lack of a map. Sure, you can get a compass if you want to but it’s not exactly the same as navigating through an area with a bird’s view map of sorts that you could put markers on if you wanted to. That’s something that I personally would have loved in a game like this.

Other than that, though, I absolutely adore this chill and relaxing, gentle and beautiful game that frankly allows you to calm down and enjoy the ride as you move on. It’s peaceful and lovely. The art style and the mellow tunes are perfect for this sort of game and if you ever feel like you need a change of pace from the constant distress that the outside world is putting us under, I can highly recommend this game to you… But I need to warn you that while the first playthrough (around 3 hours at most, I’d say) is great, every other playthrough may not be the same anymore, which is sad in a way. A Short Hike is a short game that comes with a nice experience at a reasonable price. In terms of replayability, it is nice to explore the map, trek along the many roads, or attempt a speedrun, but you won’t be able to spend hundreds of hours in here.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – TASOMACHI: Behind The Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Late to the Party #9 – Yakuza 0

For quite a while now, I’ve been hearing great things about the Yakuza series. I mean, thanks to Humble Monthly and Choice, I own Yakuza 0, Kiwami and Kiwami 2 already, so it was only a matter of time until I’d play one of the games and despite me being late to the party here, I was quite overjoyed with having played and beaten Yakuza 0!

Note: This is not a review… It may look like one… but it’s not… I just played through the game and made a post about it… Enjoy the post! Also remember to hydrate properly because Kiryu and Majima make me thirsty!

Kiryu may be scary sometimes but he ain’t a killer!

So, so,… where do I start? Uh, we play as two characters in the game. Kazuma Kiryu who’s a young yakuza in his 20s and who’s part of the Dojima Family gets framed for a murder he didn’t commit (because he canonically never officially killed anyone) and that’s quite bad for the Family since yakuza don’t kill civilians. Since Kiryu has been taken in by Kazuma, Kazuma is supposed to be held accountable for Kiryu’s murder, which is why Kiryu’s trying to leave the family and to find the actual culprit. This whole thing, however, is part of something much bigger because of the empty piece of land that the murder was committed on. Meanwhile, we also play as Goro Majima, an ex-yakuza that runs a cabaret in Sotenbori to pay off a debt and to get back into the yakuza. There are a lot of circumstances going on but eventually, his story gets intertwined into Kiryu’s and it all becomes a bit of a mess that can be a bit overwhelming and confusing… but in a good way. I won’t spoil anything but I loved it and loved seeing the parallels between the characters’ ideals and playstyles. Similarly, I had to pause the game now and then to think about what the implications and revelations meant for the story and why things were turning out the way they were turning out. There are a lot of parties involved, a lot of characters get introduced, and a lot of things happen, resulting in a brilliant story that ends up getting resolved with basically no plot holes left. I enjoyed it.

Kiryu is such a cutie. I love it!

At its core, though, Yakuza 0 is an Open World Action game where you fight off enemies using three different fighting styles (per character) and a plethora of weapons and techniques. It’s fun, it’s entertaining and kind of challenging, at first. For my playthrough, I played on the Hard difficulty and struggled quite a bit against the first boss, Kuze, but after that, the game turned out to be rather easy… which may be due to the upgrades I got. I ended up abusing the food system that lets you heal even during combat and ended up investing all of my money into my own body to unlock new abilities, more health, and stronger attacks. The damage you receive in fights can be healed using food from your inventory or by visiting eateries outside of combat. There are also a lot of side-quests and activities around town to get you sidetracked and make you lose your time. You know that amazing story I mentioned? Yeah, I delayed by an hour to play Shogi instead, after learning in the game how to play shogi… and then I delayed for another two hours after finding out about Karaoke and Pocket Circuit, the local racing game.

GOOOOOROOOOO MAJIMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

The substories are the best part of the game, though. These sidequests are hilarious and ridiculous and it suits the game a lot. The rewards may not be worth it at first… but eventually, when you progress through the game, a lot of the side characters return to help you out, which is quite nice. And the ridiculous stories fit quite well into the game because of the fun little conversation choices and the over-the-top-combat. The story may be serious but when I can ram a bike into someone’s head and they still survive that, I can’t take a game that seriously… I mean… Again, the story is brilliant,… but at the beginning, I didn’t think that the main plot would be so good, judging from the amusing combat experience. Eventually, I ended up rushing through the game as I wanted to finish it before NieR Replicant comes out, so I ended up not doing too many sidequests for a while and didn’t regret that actually, at all. I even cried for a bit during one of the scenes.

It burns… a lot…. it pains me in my kokoro to be called out like that.

You may notice that I’m a bit all over the place right now but I still can’t believe that I’m done with Yakuza 0 already… and I’m a bit bummed out about it but there are still 34 achievements for me to collect and I really wanna clear them all… or at least most of them! Apart from that, the game’s somewhat old… I mean, it’s from 2015 as far as I know… but it still aged well! Don’t look at the water and you’ll be fine, though. The rest of the world is super pretty and the characters look and sound amazing. The Japanese dub is great and I loved listening to the fun soundtrack, too. It certainly aged well for a game that is six years old – I’ve seen newer games that looked a lot worse!

The future is NOW! (The game plays in the 1980s btw)

Now apart from that, there are a few things I don’t like. For starters, food is overpowered. Once you stock up on Sushi Sets you are nearly invincible. The combat felt great at the start but eventually, I noticed, that on Hard Difficulty the fights just turn into a button-mashing contest. Two styles aren’t that good in my opinion while the other two are overwhelmingly good, so there’s a balancing issue. The “Breaker” Style that you unlock later on, for instance, lets you deal with a ton of enemies at the same but it’s also great in One-on-One situations. I won’t spoil the other ones but I noticed that eventually I was quite strong and I frankly didn’t have a hard time at all. Fights were just me getting the heat gauge up and then smashing the enemies with motorcycles and stuff. Until the final chapter, combat felt somewhat easy, to be honest, so again, balance. I would have enjoyed a more even difficulty curve that would steadily make things harder, either by equipping guns onto them and other stronger weaponry or by buffing their damage more. There is also this one guy that you defeat a bunch of times and he just doubles up on health but doesn’t get stronger, in my opinion, making him a bad boss fight in a way…

Gotta beat up the imposter!

So, I’d love to talk about characters that get introduced more but that’d be a spoiler… the story then? Oh, right, that’d be a spoiler… The minigames? Well, one of them can get you banned on Twitch, but the rest are fine. Also technically spoilers. I’d recommend Yakuza 0 to anyone and everyone. It’s a great game and after 42.7 hours in it, I don’t think I’ll be done with the game just yet. There is still so much to do! I want to be good at most of the minigames and be friends with all the NPCs and fight Mr Shakedown until there is none left… and then there’s the different fighting styles I need to improve, all the food I need to taste, and just so much more. Great game! Looking forward to Yakuza Kiwami!

What are your opinions on the Yakuza series or Yakuza 0 in particular? Have you played it yet? Do you plan to? Let me know!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Really Big Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – In Other Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Hades

I’ve always been a sucker for mythology. From Norse to Egyptian to Greek mythology, I’d take everything in and read up on all sorts of articles and myths and thoughts. I honestly loved it to bits. In the same manner, I love it when games incorporate mythology into their lore and build a universe around it that brings life to these old legends and stories. A game that does that really well is Hades!

Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Genres: Action, Roguelite, RPG, Indie
Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Early Access) - Left Early Access on September 17th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Dive into the underworld where the god of the dead and the king of the underworld, Hades, is reigning with an iron fist and where his son, Zagreus, is trying to escape hell. Meet a bunch of different characters, interact with them, romance some of them, gift nectar and ambrosia to your favourite people and the Gods of the Olymp themselves, and experience the story of Hades, one run at a time. Hades is an Action-Roguelite by Supergiant Games and in this review, I’ll tell ya why it’s such a great game!

Well, in this game, we play as Zagreus, who very much has a reason to leave Hell and to be angry at his father, which I won’t get into. Zagreus uses one of six different weapons in each of his escape attempts powered by Boons of the Gods of the Olymp. These weapons were used to slay the titans and are, alas, strong on their own already but as you progress further into the depths of Hell, you have to face stronger foes and more challenges, which is why the Gods help you. A variety of gods are there to assist you in your dangerous endeavour, most likely since they’re bored. From your uncles, Zeus and Poseidon, to your grandmother, Demeter, there are a plethora of interesting characters ready to provide you with their assist.

Your weapon tends to have a normal attack and a special attack which both are quite unique. Each weapon has four different aspects that each play differently and make use of different mechanics. On top of that, some weapons (like the shield) have other move sets that make use of holding buttons down or timing attacks properly. On top of that, you have dashes and the ability to perform dash strikes.

The various boons you encounter offer bonus effects to your character, making you stronger or more sturdy, or they change how your weapons work. Demeter is the goddess of the seasons, fertility, and death. Her boons help you afflict enemies with the “Chill” status effect, making them slower or dealing damage at certain conditions. Aphrodite helps you weaken enemies while Ares, Zeus and Artemis are all about that damage. There are a plethora of status boons, passive boons, and raw damage boons in the game and they all synergies quite well with each other, to the point where there’s also duo boons that combine the boons of two gods into one stronger perk. If you have high DPS, you may consider stacking Dionysus’ “hangover” status effect on enemies, while you may consider going for raw damage with Ares if your weapon is slower.

These boons can be acquired by getting through rooms. Gods tend to give you a selection of three boons and you don’t know what you’ll get beforehand. Rooms also can feature other rewards such as Gold to purchase boons and other items in the shop, gems and darkness to use after the run has ended, maximum health, hammers or other rewards. Each run can feature up to two Daedalus Hammer boons which basically change how your weapon is working, making each build stand out even more.

What I love about Hades is that a lot of it feels rather intuitive. You see enemies, you strike them. You see boons, so you go for ones that sound nice. You don’t really have too many “noob traps” in the game and generally, you can progress quite well, especially once you invest your Darkness into that mirror of yours – aka permanent character progression that helps you get stronger after your runs.

But apart from combat being very fast-paced and fun to play with and apart from the plethora of possible builds with each of the four aspects of the six weapons available to you, the game also has another component: The Story.

The Story of Hades evolves whenever you talk to characters. From Achilles to Nyx to Thanatos (I love him), there are a plethora of characters ready to assist you by guiding you or helping you out with trinkets. By giving nectar to the different characters in the game, you receive trinkets that grant you benefits in the run. On top of that, each of the characters in the game has a ton of voice lines and a quest of sorts where you try to help them get through some of their problems which ends up benefitting you as well. Simply speak to characters after your run whenever you see an exclamation mark on their heads and enjoy the fully-voiced and witty lines that both refer to mythology but also have a lot of character. Each of the figures that you encounter has its own problems, traits and personality, which is awesome as it brings life to the mythology that people often refer to as “boring”.

And the game isn’t over yet once you’ve completed a run successfully and escaped Hell as there are various things to do like renovating hell, helping the characters out, fulfilling prophecies, fishing, achievements, and completing the runs with higher difficulties that you can assign yourself to the run. Once you manage to leave Hell once, Hades puts up a pact of punishment onto the gate, resulting in you being able to complete runs again with rising heat levels and more challenges such as more challenging bosses and special enemies. But if you’re actually struggling with beating runs, I can also recommend activating God Mode with grants you a 2% damage reduction bonus whenever you die. You start at 20% already which is A LOT but you can gain up to 80% damage reduction to help you experience the story without getting frustrated with the runs.

And I haven’t even gotten into the amazing art style or the fantastic soundtrack or the wonderful voice acting. I haven’t even gotten into the romance options and the further challenges as well as all of the different secrets in the game and the different areas that each have their mini-bosses and mechanics and traps. There is a ton to talk about in Hades and while I once thought that it was a bit “grindy” at times when it comes to gems, that thought simply vanished after unlocking a few of the house contractor projects. So, I don’t have anything bad to say about Hades and I can understand why it was nominated as Game of the Year, among other titles, and why it won “Best Indie” and “Best Action”. I really can understand that as I haven’t seen a game as polished and as wonderfully crafted as this one in ages.

And more updates are coming out here and there, as well, adding a ton of things, which shows the love and care that Supergiant Games puts into their titles, to the point where I had to rewrite this review about nine times so far. I hope that you enjoyed reading about this game and that you’re checking it out yourself eventually.

For me personally, Hades might very much be my Game of the Year 2020.

Cheers!

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

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.

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 was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking out for “Automaton”

Another interesting title that caught my eye during the Steam Game Festival (Summer Edition) was Cicle Interactive’s “Automaton”, which is planned to be released on August 3rd 2020! It’s a Puzzle-Adventure set in a post-apocalyptic desert world where a small little robot ventures out in search for fuel. You explore abandoned bunkers, stations and other facilities, solving puzzles, in a quest to find out what that thing was that fell from the sky. 

When I started this game up, I saw a lot of potential in it!

Similar to NieR: Automata, Automaton features mixed third-person mechanics and 2D perspectives on top of vast open areas, which I find rather cool. You go from one landmark to another, only limited by the fuel reserves that shut you down when you run empty. There is little to no introduction into the game and little to no hand-holding. The game leaves you be, similar to thatgamecompany’s Journey where you also only orient yourself through different eyecatchers and landmarks that you see in the distance. 

The world is really pretty, the protagonist is insanely adorable (a common theme at this point) and the soundtrack is just astonishing so far! 

The only issues I have with the game are the fuel-mechanic itself. While limiting your access to the World with that mechanic is rather interesting and quite innovative, I find it a bit harsh on the player and flat-out frustrating to have the player die and start anew. A checkpoint here or there would have been really appreciated – but maybe that’s something that’s a thing in the full release. 

Automaton will come out on August 3rd, 2020. Check it out yourself or wishlist/follow it on Steam if you’re intrigued by this little piece. 🙂

Cheers!

Indietail – Westerado: Double Barreled

Howdy, fellow cowboys and cowgirls! Today we’re taking a look at Westerado: Double Barreled, a game where we chase a buffalo on the loose before finding out that someone not only burned down our ranch, but also gravely injured our bigger brother, and killed our mother! Our mission is to find the killer and take revenge! To do so, we’re equipped with a revolver and some other tools! Yeeha! 

Developer: Ostrich Banditos
Publisher: Adult Swim
Genres: Indie, Action, Adventure, Shoot 'Em Up, Western
Release Date: April 16, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Xbox One, Mac OS
Copy was purchased.

Let’s get to the plot:

After these incidences happened, we’ve got to “take care” about our brother and head to our uncle’s place where we learn that the killer is most likely in Clintville. Once we arrive there, we’ve got to earn Clintville’s citizens’ trust by completing quests and errands for them, including escort-missions, bounty-hunts and lots more! 

One of our first quests brings us to a graveyard.. Is that a premonition?

Gameplay-wise, it’s relatively simple:

Since we’re in the Wild West, we’ve got to solve everything with guns. There are multiple guns, ranging from shotguns, revolvers, bolas, to dual-revolvers, and even a sniper rifle. You can switch between weapons without any issues but have to load them up and unlock the gun while dodging bullet shots in the meantime. While the Bola doesn’t deal damage and holds only one shot, it instead captures enemies rendering them unable to shoot, which I found quite interesting. Meanwhile, the shotguns are able to hit multiple enemies, though only having two shots and being short-ranged, while the rifle is more precise, is able to pierce enemies and has five shots. 

One of two factions! Help them free the buffalos or fight them to the death! Your choice!

To kill enemies, you need to shoot off their hats before landing the killing blow. In the same manner, they’re able to shoot off your hat, before being able to kill you, too. Luckily, you own two reserve-hats that you automatically get used once you lose a hat, hence blessing you with basically four lives (three hats and your head). When killing enemies, you can pick up their hats to restock on lives. When you die, though, you are saved by someone who carries you to a nearby bed, refilling your hats and magazines but also helping himself to some of your riches. Hence, you lose money whenever you die which is why you need to go to banks relatively often, although they also help themselves to your bank account now and then – still, the bank is a lot safer than carrying your money around and risking to lose everything else, although not dying is probably the safest! 

Our Journal is helping us with keeping track of the Killer!

Speaking of the bank, there’re a lot more buildings in the towns that help you: 

The Sheriff’s and the bank often need help with killing bandits, while you may as well play some cards, have a drink or talk to other people at the Saloon, sometimes granting you hints on what the killer looks like. To find the killer, you need to find a few different hints in a “Who is it?” manner. As “clothes make people”, you only gain hints on what the killer looks like. The killer, though, could be nearby at any time, which is why you probably could kill him at any time in the game, if you wanted to. In fact, you’re able to solve all problems in the Wild West, using your guns. 

A quest by the bankers: Bring money to safety while killing those darn bandits!

See a saloon door? Shoot it open!
See someone funky? Shoot them dead!
Don’t like where the conversation is going? Pull out your gun, threaten them or even shoot them dead again! 

It’s hilarious. At all conversations, you’re able to pull out your gun, resulting in some funny moments where you randomly threaten people. 

We’re protecting buffalos from bandits – an escort mission from one ranch to the other!

Humour is a big part of this game, too, as well as references. Being a game published by AdultSwim, I had a great time throughout the game with random moments and references to tons of things, e.g. the founder of Clintville being “East Clintwood” or the fact that killing every NPC in one area results in you unlocking a horde mode for that area. Hillarious.

When you kill enough people, you also gain the reputation of a killer, leading to bandits randomly surrendering and stopping the fighting because they fear you so much.

Conversations are shown in this film-esque style! You always have the option of just leaving in the middle of the sentence or even drawing your gun, although those choices might not benefit you!

At some point, you might question whether or not you’re worse than the Killer you’re searching for BUT honestly, I don’t even know. It’s quite fun to just go all out on your revenge and the few casualties that it might take are the Killer’s fault, obviously. If he hadn’t messed with you, those people wouldn’t have died. (just kidding) 

Presentation-wise,

it’s got a lovely pixel-art style going that is enhanced by the liveliness of each area, with dogs, coyotes, scorpions, snakes, birds and all kinds of other animals being featured in the scenery. The music is also quite great and there haven’t been any issues with the sound just stopping or not fitting the area, in my opinion. Overall a great art style and great music.

On top of that, there are no restrictions to where you can go and where you can’t. A true open-world game, I guess! There are also factions in the game: Support the buffalo-friends or the militia, you’ve got the choice when it comes to alternate plots. 

The Map is huge but empty at the beginning. Over the course of time, you’re discovering more and more of this Western World, both over- and underground!

But let’s get to flaws. Overall, I really enjoyed the game, but the map sometimes seemed quite frustrating. There are tons of quests and all of them get marked on the map. When you’re unlucky, you just don’t know what you’re actually doing right now or you’re going to areas to do one thing and end up doing something else. Having the option to actually follow only one quest at a time, like in other games (i.e. Borderlands or MMOs in general), would’ve been nice, although this is an Indie Game and all that.

Another thing is the fact that there are no checkpoints that you can set yourself: 

When you respawn, you actually spawn in a “nearby bed” – which is at your Uncle’s. Before facing off against the Killer, you also get a checkpoint there, and although there are fast-travel-points here and there, scattered through the world, it gets quite annoying to always have to teleport somewhere or walk a while and it kind of feels lazy in some way. I would’ve liked it if there were rooms in the Saloon that you could pay for, to set a spawn point nearby. It’s not a big deal, I guess, but I personally got quite annoyed by it. 

But overall I had a blast during my playthrough. There is a learning curve at the beginning but once you get used to the aiming and all that, it’s actually quite enjoyable. My first playthrough was four hours long but there’s a lot of replay value, too, as you’re also able to go with higher difficulties, unlock new characters with new abilities and other properties and there are a ton of easter eggs to be found in the game. I definitely recommend this game!

Have a nice one! 

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

Indietail – Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)

Today we’re taking a look at Kind Words! We literally take a look at kind words, too. Hope that made you groan! Let’s get right into it!

Developer: Popcannibal
Publisher: Popcannibal
Genres: Casual, Indie, Experimental
Release Date: September 13, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased

What is Kind Words?

Kind Words is a social experiment, I guess. You are sending anonymous paper planes to people all over the world for them to read, though you gotta stay positive! You’re also able to receive paper planes and make or receive requests. On top of that, you’re able to collect, receive and send stickers to people, decorate your room with them, listen to chill lo-fi-music in the background, and receive new music for your virtual playlist by playing daily. 

I was kind of proud of this one.

It’s a lovely game and I only just stumbled across two blog posts about it, so I thought it’d be nice to write about my experiences with it after playing a bit for a bit. I don’t usually buy games right away but having Aywren and Belghast talk about them in such high notes really got me excited about it and it’s only four euros, so it doesn’t tear down a black hole into your wallet. 

I already covered all the gameplay there is, to be honest. I feel like it’s more of a social experiment than an actual game. There’s not much to do apart from being nice to people who need some kindness. I’m sending virtual hugs here and there, talking about my experiences with similar situations and overall try to comfort people. I feel quite nice and I also received some heartwarming answers to my requests even though I didn’t even feel down at all. 

In the beginning, you’re talking to Ella the post-deer who’s quite shocked about you not knowing post-deers. She’s quite cute and delivers your paper planes, requests and answers to everyone in the world or the people who need them right now while also explaining features to you and notifying you when there’s a new answer in your inbox or when people thank you for your answers. She only just started this job, so you first need to send her a letter, which I immediately began with “Deer Ella,…”. I just couldn’t resist but she didn’t feel upset about it at all, I guess. She may have groaned, who knows. I just got her standard-NPC answer after that quick tutorial.

But when you speak to real people, you get overwhelmed with warm messages, real problems and a bit of negativity here and there where people are worried about their futures or don’t know what to do with their problems. I like helping people but when you help too much, you might need some kind words yourself! Hence, don’t hesitate to send out some requests as well! 

When you read requests, you can just browse through them, answer them or even report them when they feature major negativity, innapropriate language, toxicity or even trolling. I don’t know what happens to the people behind those messages but I’m quite sure that a message with too many reports gets deleted. I so far received about 20 paper planes and answered even more requests. I only encountered one negative comment where someone was cursing and flaming their boss and just being overall negative and toxic. I could’ve answered that person, I guess, but I didn’t know what to do and instead decided to report the message for being toxic and inappropriate. 

After that, I needed some cheering up, too, so I went ahead and asked for some puns and received a good one here. 

Overall, this is a lovely game. It’s cheap but the music is good, the community has been nice so far and the decorations are insanely cute, too! 

The only concerns I have is the fact that it may be a platform for trolls to engage on but I’m sure that the report system will take care of that. As for flaws, I guess one could mention that apart from writing there’s not much gameplay. Also, some paper planes fly past and you’re not able to catch them quick enough whilst reading another one. This is quite annoying and I would have liked it if the paper planes would take a few rounds around your room before shooting off into the distance of the screen. Also, they sometimes fly through walls and the floor which can be patched, I guess. These are just minor flaws, so I’ll definitely recommend this game to everyone who may have a tough time once in a while. 

Sending love to everyone out there! – Cheers!

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

Indietail – Omensight

In today’s review, I’m talking about Omensight – a stylish third-person murder mystery action-adventure game with platforming elements and RPG aspects like “leveling, an interactive story, and character upgrades”. Dive into a story about intrigue, murder and treason as the Harbinger, a mythological creature that appears when the end of worlds is nigh!

Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Genres: Action, RPG
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Copy was purchased

But let’s talk about the story first. Omensight is the spiritual successor of Spearhead GamesStories: The Path of Destinies and tells you the story of the murder of the Godless-Priestess Vera and the destruction of the world Urallia by the hands of the dark god Voden. In the beginning, you witness the destruction of the world and are then teleported to the Tree of Life where you encounter the Witch. The Witch then explains to you that you need to relive this final day of Urallia and accompany four key-characters to find the culprit behind the summoning of Voden and the murder of Vera.

Ratika, my favourite character

This leads to a lot of time travelling as you’re about to solve this murder by reliving the same day over and over again. By experiencing the story from different angles, you’re able to find out about the murder and get hints at possible motives, alibis and suspects. This kind of reminded me of Ghost Trick – Phantom Detective where you hinder a group of killers from killing further victims after you already ended up as a ghost. Lovely!

The Harbinger

As for combat, a controller is recommended as you’re using a combination of heavy, slow attacks that can’t be blocked and light, fast attacks, as well as abilities and dashes. There’re a few combos that can be used as well as counter-attacks that empower your next attack when you’re successful in blocking enemy attacks and/or breaking through their lines. Every attack can be cancelled with your dodge-roll so that you’re not locked in any sort of attack-animation, which is a great feature. After not getting hit for a while, you’re gaining energy that can be used for special abilities. On top of that, you’re able to use enemies and objects in the area around you to destroy enemy hordes, which I found insanely fun.

It’s wicked fun to just combo your way through hordes of enemies, reaping through them with fast attacks, switching targets when they’re blocking, dashing around, dodging projectiles and other incoming attacks before you use some heavy attacks to finish off enemies or just grab and throw explodable barrels into enemies or into pillars that then fall onto enemies!

It all feels very fluid and intuitive combat-wise, although there’s still a learning curve as you need to time your attacks well and as you can get attacked from outside of your semi-locked camera-view. This often feels unfair but after a little bit of practice, you feel god-like which is quite fitting for your role as the Harbinger, the eyes and sword of Urallia. Sometimes enemies also use blocks or focus you instead of your companion but usually, you get the hang of it after a few tries, and you usually are able to find health potions in destructible objects scattered around the map.

While I didn’t really like Indrik all that much in the beginning, he at some point showed some interesting traits, leading to me actually kind of liking him. Just kind of.

The story is intense since you’re always getting new clues on the mystery of Vera‘s murder. Not every hint leads you into the right direction and since there’s a wide cast of characters from the emperor Indrik to the leader of the rebellion, Ratika, who’s receiving her powers from the might of music, you never know who it really could be! You have suspicions as the story proceeds but those get debunked eventually, leaving you clue-less from time to time so that you need to try out the same day from a different perspective, try out other dialogue-options and then find out more about the case. Sometimes the game feels like a TellTale game since you’re left with choices that have consequences, but since you’re able to start every day again from a different point of time, this feeling is kind of faint. The cast of characters is very interesting, as not even Indrik’s most loyal general, Draga, seems to be that loyal, as she wants to end the war with as few losses as possible, on both sides.

The Crimson Forest

What I didn’t like about the game, was mostly the fact that you’re not able to save a mission, leave the game, and continue from that point in time when returning. Some missions took me ten to fifteen minutes while others took me a lot longer due to unknown enemy-patterns and the fact that I sometimes just struggled with the game. I often died and then had to start anew from the checkpoints that are spread through the mission but when something comes up IRL, I had to quit, only to find out that you can’t continue a mission from the last checkpoint you reached. This kind of feels weird since you’re the mighty Harbinger who’s able to travel through time, but you’re not allowed to return to a checkpoint…

Another thing that I noticed is the fact that the camera-movement feels odd every now and then. You can move it a little on your own (hence it’s semi-locked) but sometimes pillars and other objects might get in your way. This is kind of solved in some areas where walls turn invisible but often it also happens that your view is blocked by some objects.

Other than that, I didn’t notice any other major flaws. The devs focused on the elegant presentation, a fabulous soundtrack, fluid and entertaining combat, and a great story with interesting characters. Hence, I recommend this game.

Anyways, cheers!

Note: This review is actually part of a series of shorter reviews at about half the size of my usual reviews. I’m trying out this style and compare its stats to another long review that comes out soon, to test out whether or not I should stick to longer more detailed reviews or shorter ones that are not only faster to produce but also faster to read.

Another Note: On Frostilyte‘s blog, I saw that little section with the infos about the dev studio, the publisher, the platforms, etc. and I found it quite neat, so I’m going to do that from now on as well. Check him out since he also publishes Indie Game Reviews, as well as other content! 🙂

This post is part of a contest/challenge called Blaugust! The goal is to post as much as possible and participants are awarded with different prizes depending on the goal they achieved. My aim is to post on all 31 days of August and if you’d like to know more about this “event”, you should check this post out.

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