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!

I’m excited about “Drake Hollow” by The Molasses Flood

It’s sadly not part of the Steam Game Festival but Drake Hollow is definitely something to look out for. I’m really excited about the game – and not only due it being made by the dev behind The Flame In The Flood! The Molasses Flood’s second game can best be described as a Base-Building Action-Survival-Game. 

What is Drake Hollow about?

Well, in the blighted world of The Hollow, you’ve got to defend the small vegetable folk known as the Drake from the deadly feral beasts that are threatening to attack them! The Drake can’t really take care of themselves, so you’ve got to provide them with gardens, wells, and entertainment as well as defences against the previously mentioned terrors. The Drake can literally die of boredom, so they need your attention and help in order to survive – in return, they provide you with buffs that are helpful in your quest of Survival!

Take back The Hollow as you strive for the perfect village! Build solar panels and other important machines to progress! Play with friends and hold your ground together against the imminent danger, craft weapons and gear, pack your things and migrate from place to place, from season to season. Do what it takes to live on!

I really have been excited about this game for ages now. We’ve reviewed The Flame In The Flood about a year ago, so everyone should know what The Molasses Flood is capable of (the studio, not the event). 

What do I expect from this game?

  • First up, the soundtrack is probably going to be amazing.
    The Flame In The Flood featured a lovely, adventurous soundtrack made by Chuck Ragan, and I can’t imagine what they are going to come up with for the soundtrack of this game. I’d expect maybe some more mysterious and enigmatic tunes, similar to the Dungeon of the Endless soundtrack, as well as some road trip vibes with other tracks for when you’re exploring, similar to Amarante Music. 
  • Secondly, the peaceful aspects are going to be super wholesome.
    Taking care of these little fellows is going to be great. Just imagine all the cute little noises and dances they might make. I’m in love with Dufflur, the Drake that can be seen in the Steam Store Page. It’s just adorable, featuring a very lovely colour and some insanely pretty eyes!
  • Thirdly, Co-Op is going to be great when I find the right people to play this with – and I already have some in mind!
    I’d imagine that the resource gathering and base-building get infinite times better with friends, probably, just like it’s so much better to play games like Satisfactory or Ark with friends. 
  • Fourth, the combat is going to be intense and exciting!
    A change of pace is always good, so the resource scavenging, base building, and Drake-caretaking are going to be rather relaxed and fun to play around while combatting the “raids” will result in your heart rate spiking, in a good way of course. I wanna feel that thrill and excitement when facing off against these eldritch-looking monsters!
  • And at last, exploration:
    There are going to be a lot of different regions and seasons with each region being over a square mile big! From what I’ve gathered, there are landmarks to explore and, well, with every passing season there is going to be dynamically generated and populated areas, so you’ll always have places to go and spaces to loot, I’d imagine. 

So, in essence, I’m hyped. I’ve been hyped for ages but with the game coming out on July 17th, 2020, I’m getting excited again. I probably won’t be able to play it until after the 22nd, though, as I’ve got some exams on that day, but regardless of that, this is going to be great.

So, yeah, this is my post on Drake Hollow. We’re going to write a review on this game after the release so that you can see if my hype was justified, and we soon will publish an interview with one of the lead devs on the game, so stay tuned for that!

Be sure to wishlist and follow it on Steam, if you’re interested! You may also be interested in checking out the website! Cheers!

Got too many games? Fear not, here’s more!

At this point, thirty minutes ago, StuffedWombat, the developer of Gutwhale, asked on Twitter what long term effect this 1000+ game bundle will have on the people that will buy games/that have big gaming backlogs already… and well,… here’s my answer to that.

When I speak of “this bundle” I mean the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality that the itch.io people put together featuring tons of great games and other lesser-known titles. For the next few days, you get about 1637 items by 1304 creators at a price of $5… instead of a regular price of $9,083. For only five bucks you can not only support the charity but also unlock DRM-free copies of MidBoss, Night of the Consumers, Odd Realm, Beacon, A Short Hike, Celeste, Overland, Night in the Woods, Long Gone Days, Tonight We Riot, Catlateral Damage, Nuclear Throne, Minit, Death and Taxes, OneShot, The Stillness of the Wind, a bunch of RPG assets, Fossil Hunters, Last Word, Crest, Pyre, Mon-Cuties for All, Octodad, and many more! 

There are a ton of titles in there that I’ve got wishlisted on steam for a while now or that I’ve seen screenshots of over on Twitter and that I wanted to review for my blog and now I’ve got them all… for five bucks. Sure, I own a lot of them already and some of these titles (like the RPG maker assets) are probably not going to get installed any time soon… but regardless of that there’s a ton of value in this package as well as a great cause as all proceeds will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund split 50/50! Isn’t that lovely?

But now, back to the original post idea: StuffedWombat (jokingly) said that people won’t buy any small games any time soon as they already have so much to play, which leads to the question of if that’s true. 

I personally have a fixed budget for each month that gets spent on free-time-activities, be it new books, games, going out with friends or games. With the lockdown being a thing “going out with friends” is not much of an option for me personally and with my backlog of books being a thing and exams coming around the corner, I don’t really need new books, to be honest, so naturally, I spend a lot of it on these kinds of things. This month, for instance, I’ve purchased this bundle, used my twelve bucks on Humble Choice, and bought Sea of Thieves, so that leaves me with little to nothing else.

By limiting myself to a certain amount of money I don’t get to go on these spending-sprees when the different sales are around the corner, like the upcoming Steam Summer Sale.

…and since I didn’t spend all that much last month, I decided to donate twenty bucks to the Trevor Project as part of our recent charity-stream and donate some money to some other projects. I feel like that’s a good cause and ever since I quit smoking two months ago, I’ve got more money available for games, which is a good thing. It’s a bit of a motivational thing. 

Now that I own this bundle, I obviously won’t need to spend too much money on titles in this bundle, right?

Well,… technically yes. I guess I won’t have to buy titles like Pyre or Tonight We Riot as I already own them… but I kind of want to also have them on Steam, if that makes sense?

Nuclear Throne, for instance, was one of my first purchases on Steam. Regardless of that, I also own it on the Epic Game Store and (now) twice on itch.io thanks to huge bundles. Do I need this game four times? No. Is it worth it? Hell yes. It was free on Epic Games but Epic Games doesn’t feature a lot of the features that I like in Steam like Achievements or INGAME SCREENSHOTS, FFS. WHY THE FUCK IS THAT NOT A THING YET? – sorry, I lost my composure. 

And well, itch.io is something I browse now and then, but I haven’t made any purchases on here apart from the bundle for racial justice and equality as well as the COVID-relief bundle. 

And there are still plenty of games on my steam-wishlist like Firewatch that I really want to play someday that we don’t have in this game yet. If it ends up to be in the upcoming steam summer sale, I’ll happily grab it if my funds allow it. And that although I already own 700+ unplayed games. I’m already spending a lot less on games and my backlog is shrinking slowly (if you don’t look at the pile of 1000+ games from itch.io that I now have) but regardless of that there will be times where I’ll buy releases that I find interesting, simply for the sake of owning and eventually playing them. 

Of course, eventually, I’ll have to limit the funds that I can spend on free-time-activities. When I have to deal with taxes and kids and pets and stuff, I’ll have different priorities. When I have a cat, I reckon that that cat will get a separate set of funds dedicated to its food and toys and whatever… and whenever I need to, I’ll reassign the game-funds to it or my food-funds or whatever. Yup, sounds like a fool-proof plan to me. Obviously, the game-funds would have to decrease… but I’d also have a job then, so that’d mean… more money! Maybe I’ll be able to work through my backlog and review more games, that way, but for now, I think my limited funds are alright. It’s an alright measure. 

And to get back on track, people will always spend money on games. Even if some of us will spend less in the future, we will still spend now and then and support the (Indie) Game industry in one way or another. 

And that’s fine. I doubt that any devs will have to fear that they’ll go extinct eventually. And I’m sure among all the hoarders and buyers there’s plenty of indie game promoters that have to buy games to get their blog posts and youtube videos and whatever out, so at least those will fuel that ever-raging and never-ending fire called the “backlog”. 

Either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It’s a bit of a silly prompt, I guess, but I wanted to give my two cents to the topic and also mention that I plan on getting a cat once I’m done with my studies. Lovely. 

I wish you a wonderful day. 

Cheers!

TSS #62 – On the Lookout!

The last Stray Sheep has been half a month ago already so I thought I’d post something in that section already. This time around, we’re talking about categories!

Currently, I’m doing mostly reviews (Indietail) since I originally wanted to do exactly that, review titles in my library and work through my backlog. The Gaming Journey also helps with that as I get to stream games and post about it (MHW, D2, etc.) that aren’t exactly “Indie” Games. So, overall, I really am enjoying that. And “everything else” is the Stray Sheep, I guess?

Well, I was planning for a while now to start up a category with informational pieces about upcoming games, new releases and promotions as well as new games that I’m excited about or that I’ve newly discovered or added into my pile of games to play. I really am looking forward to that as I’d also add the past interviews with Devs into that section and as I’d also talk about stuff like Witchmarsh, which I’ve been backing for a while now on Kickstarter!

Informational pieces would be mostly about “hype” or things that look interesting without the evaluation of potential repetitiveness or design flaws or whatever else I’d say about it. Of course, I may talk about those, too, but generally, I’d love to keep it less review-ish and actually only talk about why I personally am excited about those games and why it looks so interesting to me. I also could post my Revisited-series in there and move some of those posts to that category since they’d go hand-in-hand with the reviews, I guess?

Updates, press releases, new information, new discoveries, interviews – “On the Lookout” or “The Watch Tower” or whatever I can come up with will be the category for it! I personally am quite fond of “On the Lookout” but I’m a bit worried that it may be too obvious or too concrete in a way… it’s not like “Indietail”.

Currently thinking about using something like this as a “Logo” of sorts. Maybe with a tagline?

I even have a few games in mind to post about in that sense. I’m looking forward to it!

Before I set everything up, though, and before any of those drafts can be finished and posted, I’d have to come up with a fitting name for it and hence, I gotta find something that “sticks” or that is “easy to remember” or “fitting for my ‘brand'”. I personally am not really too coherent with it just yet, although I may redesign my blog soon…

Edit: The newly created category is called “The Lookout Post” with some puns and all of that in there…

I hope you enjoyed this quick little post on categories and upcoming WIPs!

Stay safe!

Cheers!

Indietail – Catlateral Damage

If Earth was flat, cats would have thrown everything off of it by now. 

In today’s Indietail, we’re taking a look at a game about doing just that: Flipping stuff off shelves, tables, and basically making a mess. After having been left alone by our dear owner, we’ve got to trash the owner’s place. We’re cats after all. 

Understandable…

Today, we’re reviewing Catlateral Damage!

Developer: Chris Chung, Fire Hose Games
Publisher: Chris Chung
Genres: Simulation, Cats, Casual, Destruction, First-Person, (VR)
Release Date: May 27, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Just like Kill It With Fire, House Flipper and other games in the genre, Catlateral Damage, the First-Person destructive cat simulator, is making use of the joy the player feels when they’re wrecking a place. It’s the joy you feel whenever you break some pots in a Zelda game or when you shoot big ridiculous enemies with big fucking guns in Serious Sam. The premise works, I’d say. 

Wow, that’s huge! We can’t possibly destroy that, too, right?

You’re a cat that is wrecking its owner’s place… or the supermarket… or the museum. There are a whole bunch of different places that you’ll be able to wreck and mess with and usually, there are hundreds of objects to toss around! 

The controls are rather easy and quite intuitive as you just move around with space and AWSD while striking stuff with the three mouse-buttons. While the game can be played in VR, I was not able to test that experience since I don’t own a VR-headset. But, judging from my experience, I would say that I personally would never try the game out in VR simply for the reason that I already felt quite dizzy rather often while playing the game… and I don’t want to deal with motion sickness in VR. 

Never mind!

The game features the Litterbox Mode (Sandbox) and the Objective Mode (Campaign). The Litterbox Mode has no time limit and allows you to just go into any level of the game and use a seed of your choice so that you can wreck a place as much as you like. The Objective Mode, on the other hand, brings you into a level and gives you a certain time-limit to wreck a certain amount of objects.

During the course of your playtime, you’ll encounter several in-game-events from “Disco Fever” to hunting a mouse around the house. There are a bunch of events that are just fun and don’t do anything for you while there are also others that reward you after you have completed a challenge of sorts. I personally really enjoyed one of the more “trippy” events where all of your stats are maxed out and where you jump around and strike things at hyper speed. There is also another one with “moon gravity” that allows you to… well… fall very slowly and jump very high. 

Speaking of rewards and stats, you have three stats that can be upgraded through upgrade-boxes or through event-rewards:

  • Swat (determines the force of your paw-strikes)
  • Speed (self-explanatory)
  • Jump (self-explanatory)

I found speed and jump to be the most useful, although having all of them upgraded usually helps you a lot with the wrecking and stuff. 

By striking certain plants and interacting with other (sparkling) objects, you’ll receive upgrades as well, which is a fun idea to change up the gameplay loop. 

Worst thing is… it’s still cleaner than my place even after the “Wreckoning”

Overall, I feel like the premise of the game is fun and interesting but the gameplay loop is rather lacking in a way. Having certain challenges like “the floor is lava” or some sort of race would certainly mix things up and provide more value for the money you’re paying. There are about twenty playable cats that you unlock through achievements and challenges, as well as a bunch of collectables that are just waiting to be found. On top of multiple secret levels, you can also find references to other games on DVD-covers or action figures, which is rather amusing, in my opinion.

While the idea of collecting pet pictures, is rather neat, I don’t necessarily find it that exciting. The game is fun at first, especially due to the rather colourful environment, the chill tunes and the “destroy everything before your human returns” premise… but it gets stale, which is a bummer. 

They even referenced Easha over here!

Catlateral Damage is available on steam for about ten bucks but personally, I’d wait for a sale on that game. After about two hours, I already got bored of it. I guess I’d get back to it here and there again but unless they add a whole bunch of new tasks and challenges as well as more gameplay-elements that up the challenge or add more variety to it, I wouldn’t be willing to play more of this or pay the full price of ten bucks.

So, would I recommend it? Yeah, but with a discount on it. 

Lovely kitty!

Hope you enjoyed this review. It’s been a while since I last posted but University is keeping me busy and my game time seems to be limited to the occasional stream, so I’m not really getting to blogging or reviews in general unless I do these reviews on stream. If you’d like to see me play some of these Indie Games on Stream and if you’d like to see the process of me playing something, talking about it and taking notes/screenshots of things, be sure to check out my twitch channel over here. 

Either way, I hope that y’all are staying safe over there!

Cheers!

Indietail – Kill It With Fire: Ignition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oooooooooooooh!

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

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

I gave “hot tub” a new meaning.

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

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

Still tidier than my room :c

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

An early look at Ring of Pain

April’s Humble Choice offered you the option of downloading a DRM-free demo of Ring of Pain (v0.8.21) if you signed up for the choice, so I not only got some nice games this month but also got to see how much the game changed ever since the demo I played last year in August!

But first things first: What exactly is Ring of Pain?

Ring of Pain is a card-based Rogue-like-title by Twice Different, an Indie Studio responsible for Satan’s Workshop and Bounce House. Ring of Pain features a labyrinth of darkness and small shimmers of light that you get lead through in hope of finding out who you are, why you’re there and what exactly that place is.

Owl is as charming as ever!

The game features turn-based combat where you either try to sneak past enemies or battle them, always planning ahead of time to make use of the game’s mechanics and essentially survive. You get stronger through stat upgrades and by obtaining items, though some items not only increase but also reduce certain stats. The game also features some roll-mechanics similar to DnD as well as other mechanics where you block the damage completely if you have more armour than the attacker or where you outspeed enemies.

At last year’s GamesCom, I actually also did an interview with Simon Boxer (who’s the lead artist at Twice Different, responsible for all the amazingly creepy and dark but also colourful art in the game), so check that post out if you’re interested in some more info about the game or some “weird and quirky questions”.

The story is still rather enigmatic..

Naturally, I just hopped into the game and started clicking myself through it. You get to play through a small tutorial where you also meet our guide through the labyrinth, Owl, who acts as our mother of sorts, always taking care of and helping us while also quickly killing us if we were to defy it (Don’t do it. Owl is love, Owl is life).

The tutorial brings you to the end of the first floor where you essentially meet a boss monster that tells you that you’re not ready to proceed yet, hence killing you, which is a bit of a forced ending but better than an abrupt “demo ends here, screw you”-screen!

At this sacrificial well I was able to offer maximum health to receive items… but I didn’t… guess I’m not that lucky or not brave enough!

I’ve noticed that there’s plenty of new areas in the game right now and potentially a whole bunch of areas, similar to how you can access different biomes/areas from the different levels in Dead Cells.

Some of the items work only under certain conditions. I’ve seen one that had some nice stats but would have given me more stats/value if I had less than five items equipped, which I personally found quite interesting. One of my favourite items was the Mace of Banishing that gave me quite a bit of extra damage and other stats on top of the effect of teleporting enemies to a random area whenever you attack them. I found that quite neat in situations where enemies would attack you after you attack them as they can’t get their hit off unless they are ranged. Enemies that explode on death explode after the teleport, too, damaging other foes.

There are also plenty of effects like Poison, Freeze, On-hit-heal, reflecting damage and other boni that allow a bunch of customization for you build, similar to how there’s a lot of synergies in Slay the Spire.

And yeah, I’m comparing the game to a whole bunch of games here, but mostly to Slay the Spire as both RoP and StS are card-based Rogue-likes that can be played rather fast and that feature a lot of strategizing and customization. In fact, I would even say that Ring of Pain might become “the new Slay the Spire”.

I really enjoy the darker art and the themes of it. The music and animations were really cool and I had a lot of fun with all kinds of different builds. Sometimes I’d go for a whole bunch of speed and damage, like a Rogue that outspeeds enemies and hits them hard before they can damage you… some other times I’d rather go for a whole bunch of defence and poison to parry enemies and whittle them down eventually.

And yeah, I’m hyped for this game and I’m looking forward to playing more of it when it comes out in Mid 2020. Next week there is going to be another demo with an improved build, so I’ll probably post about that one, too. If you’d like to, check out the Ring of Pain discord, the twitter account or wishlist the game on steam. 🙂

For now, though, I hope that you are doing alright over there. Hang in there!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Gutwhale

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be inside of a giant whale? Or what it’s like to manage your inventory properly if you only have one spot? Or have you ever thought about the possibility that a van is currently chasing you… from ABOVE?!

Well, if you didn’t really know what I want from you with any of these questions, then you’ve come to the right place! After all, we’re looking at the newly released arcade-ish rogue-lite-title “Gutwhale”!

Developer: Stuffed Wombat, Franrekkk (Art), Britt Brady (OST)
Publisher: Stuffed Wombat
Genre: 2D, Action, Indie, Roguelike
Release Date: April 6, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
I got a review-key for this game by the dev.

At the beginning of March, Josh from Stuffed Wombat was fired from his job due to the Corona-Virus-outbreak, so he started developing this game. In the game, you essentially engage in a gameplay-loop where you dive into the whale’s gut and have to shoot enemies with your gun and die when you run out of lives. Your gun only holds one bullet at the time, so when it hits a wall or enemy, it bounces off and you’ll have to pick it up again before you’re able to shoot again. The enemies either move, jump or shoot at you as well, resulting in a little bit of a bullet-hell-feel that I overall found rather enjoyable.

Patience is key

If you die and your bullet is still on the ground, you may use it in the next life as well, which leads to strategy-opportunities. Each area or biome is divided into different levels where you need to clear all the enemies. Using arrows, the enemies of the next level below you are indicated to you so that you can position yourself in a good position.

Despite the in-your-face-techno kind of music that is blasting your ears in a rather fast manner that was created by Britt Brady (known for the Gato Roboto soundtrack), the game actually requires a lot of patience. I guess you can rush into the fights without any strategy at all but in my case, it never worked out and I got a bit frustrated. Not at the game but at myself for not doing what I wanted to do: Not Die.

You have to patiently wait for enemies to move a certain way and you have to position yourself accordingly, aim steadily and know when to move fast and when to wait for a second and reconsider your next move. Sure, the game may be a tiny bit fast-paced when you’re getting swarmed by four frogs at once or when it suddenly turned into a bullet hell game with all the mushrooms shooting at you… but it still punishes you for being overaggressive, which I found rather enjoyable.

The artstyle is…. gutsy?

Frankrekkk did a great job to portray the inside of a whale. It’s very red and it almost feels as moist as I’d imagine a gut to be… The enemies also come in a bit of variety with new enemies for each area and new patterns for their movement. There are small jellyfish that chase you around in the first level alongside mushrooms that are shooting bullets at you and small whales eating away at the blocks that stand before you. Down below, in the next bigger area, you’ll find a lot of skeleton foes that move based on your movement while there’s tankier enemies further below that hit hard and are able to take more than just one or two hits.

Overall, I didn’t get too far into the game yet. It’s mostly just this one frame away and I always get a bit too tilted when I play Gutwhale as I just am not really good at it. Regardless of that, I made it to the third area and nearly have beaten it… and I’ve unlocked new hats that unlock new modifiers for your gameplay like getting more points (that then can be spent on extra lives or extra bullets) but also only having one life or like replacing all enemies with frogs… or like having a high jump… and all of these hats and modifiers make the game not necessarily easier… they just change it up a bit keeping the difficulty and bringing something new to the table so that you can enjoy this finite rogue-like-experience for a ton of time.

Overall, I’d say that Gutwhale is a great game. The art style, music and gameplay are completely satisfactory but there are some issues that may get fixed in the future (the game just came out after all):

In the settings, the game gives you “options” but not really options. You’re able to play in “Fullscreen”, “Smollscreen” and “Bigscreen”, which is amusing at first but it gets rather annoying when you don’t have the option of turning on Borderless Windowed or change the resolution at all. Similar problem with the sound: Sure, the soundtrack is nice… but being able to either turn it on, off or have someone whistle, isn’t really helpful. The game is really blasting the music into your ears and generally, I find it rather annoying when I cannot turn down some of the volume settings or the brightness or anything like that.

I get it. These settings are supposed to be for entertainment only and stuff but “serious settings ON/OFF” would be a nice setting to have as well where you have these joke-settings on “on” and normal %-volume-settings for sound and music and brightness and everything else, too, on “off”. At first, I found them fun and even chuckled at them but over time it just got annoying, though I guess that you can either turn everything off or you use the computer’s audio mixer for it.

Apart from these issues with the settings, I didn’t encounter any other flaws or bugs or whatever and really enjoyed the game. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes but I never felt like the game killed me. It always was my over-eagerness or my impatience or a false input.

Hence, I do recommend the game. For four bucks on Steam it’s a grab that is absolutely worth it, so check it out if you enjoyed this review.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Adore

What happens when we mix rogue-lite mechanics with an isometric perspective, an up-beat and rather colourful world, monster-taming and kiting-mechanics? Well, we would probably end up with a title that would be quite similar to Cadabra Games’ Adore!
Welcome to today’s Indietail where we see what this new Brazilian studio has to offer and if their first project is worth backing!

Developer: Cadabra Games
Publisher: Cadabra Games
Genres: Rogue-lite, Isometric, Action, Indie, RPG
Release Date: February 18, 2020 (Early Access)
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In Adore, we’re playing as Lukha, a young lad who’s able to tame and summon monsters to fight by his side. We create special bonds with them and train them in fights in rogue-lite fashion.

Well, the God of Creatures, Draknar, is losing his power and is placing all of his hope into the hands of Lukha, the – presumably – last of his tribe of young Adorers (Summoners). Our mission is to venture into different areas and to free the creatures that are getting possessed and harmed by a mysterious curse. On our journey, we not only discover many secrets of the immense and enigmatic world of Gaterdrik but we also unravel a conspiracy to kill Draknar!

But why do we fight? Why are we doing this? What is our purpose?

Hence, we venture into the world and bond with creatures/tame them. Lukha himself can’t fight and is hence relying on summoning the tamed creatures and using their different attacks, abilities and synergies to win the upper hand in battle while also kiting damage and dodging wild monsters whose curse hasn’t been lifted yet. To tame creatures we need essences that we get in most rooms after clearing them. But since we’re only an apprentice, we also need to adore Draknar at his statures to upgrade the creatures’ abilities and to unlock new slots to be able to tame more creatures.

These creatures level up when they slay enough beasts and have all kinds of different characteristics. While Abbu is a squishy arcane-type that shoots out magic projectiles at enemies from a distant range, Zella, for instance, is a balanced Nature-type that is able to charge at enemies for a normal melee-attack and stun them with her special ability!

Thus, there are a lot of different monsters that can be used in different ways but you shouldn’t focus on just the monsters whose attacks you like but also take a look at and strategize with the synergies they have to offer. Every creature has different sets of available synergies to them that they receive when you upgrade them or when they level up. Some already have certain synergies, some others develop better ones later on but overall they are quite random and you can even get the same ones multiple times, which can be quite fun.

But how do Synergies work?

Well, if my Abbu (I love it so much so I will probably use it quite often as an example) has a synergy with other Beast-type creatures then it needs a Beast-type to be in your “team” to get a bonus. This can be a temporary damage buff or energy for its special attack when that other creature hits a target but it can also be just a passive synergy where Abbu itself shoots three extra projectiles when there’s a Beast-type like Meecra on your team. There are currently Mystic, Nature, Arcane and Beast types and every creature usually has at least one set of synergies with each type.

Creatures get summoned using your Stamina, so the more you have, the more Stamina you’ll need. Whenever you pick up an Essence, you’ll receive an upgrade for your stamina or your movement speed or your health. I quite often prioritize Stamina over Movement speed over Health as you don’t need maximum health if you don’t get hit (pro-tip).

Well, overall, I don’t see a point in getting more health, other than the fact that you receive damage when your creatures die or when you get hit and the fact that you lose when your health reaches zero or when your creatures all die. Stamina is needed for dodging, summoning and kiting, so I definitely find that more important, especially when you are fighting with a lot of tamed creatures! And the base movement speed seems to be on the low end, which is why generally that is my second priority.

Also, there are items. These are quite interesting as they work off your monsters and generally, you’re able to always find something that fits your playstyle in the store, if you’ve got enough money to buy anything. One of my favourite items in Adore is, for example, the Dodge Claw (the actual name may be different) that essentially gives the next summoned creature a damage buff whenever you dodge and cast the summon button in the right time-window.

There are also other items that last for your whole run as well as use-items like keys and potions but upon returning to the temple of creation, you’ll start at zero again, which is what makes a rogue-like a rogue-like. You keep the “fragments” you earn and can use those for permanent upgrades, however, which is why Adore is more of a Rogue-lite than a Rogue-like, but then again a lot of people don’t see a difference between the two and generally the whole rogue-like genre doesn’t really have anything to do with the original title, Rogue…

Adore is a rogue-lite at heart and with its interesting mechanics and build-customization.

It really was interesting for me to play and I really enjoyed my journey with this title. You have a lot of ways to play the game and you can go for a more damage-oriented glass cannon build or balance out your comp for fewer weaknesses. I really enjoyed that part!

But as always there are flaws that need to get worked on. These would include the music and presentation being on the rather weak side. While the world is colourful and mysterious in a way, it really is boring to see the same levels over and over again, even with its procedural generation and different creatures – and the soundtrack is too similar from track to track. Even the boss-monster-fights are rather calm when it comes to the musical tempo. I don’t expect the devs to add in-your-face-metal to them but I’m sure they can add new tracks to the game.

And aside from bugs, that, of course, are a thing, there are rather boring synergies in the game right now. Not all synergies are boring but a lot seem rather passive and easy to use, which is not good for an Action game.

I personally would get rid of the passive synergies like “This creature gets more attack speed when you have another Arcane Creature” and add more interactive ones like “If this creature receives damage, empower all other creatures’ attacks for a short period of time”. That way you wouldn’t just stack Abbus for the sake of them being quite strong and having so much range: Instead, you’d have a tank that would trigger certain buffs and you would care more about healing consumables in shops, hence adding risk and a reward to the gameplay.

But then again, this game is in Early Access and there are frequent updates. It only just came out a few weeks ago and the plan right now is for it to exit Early Exit in 2021, so I will revisit this title again in a different post once more stuff got added into the game.

My Conclusion is…

I would say that it definitely is worth considering. The gameplay is a lot of fun and the customization can be quite rewarding even if some synergies aren’t as fun as some of the items and even if the levels right now are quite similar while the music is rather underwhelming. If you’re not sure if it’s worth it, you may always take a look at it further into the future when it got updated a lot more. Cadabra Games is really into this and judging from their discord and the frequency of their updates, I really feel like this game could be one of many good games in a few years that comes from this small and new studio.

Until next time,

Cheers!

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

The Stray Sheep #32 – Early Access Titles

Today I wanted to talk about Early Access titles and my thoughts on it.

I sometimes get hyped about certain games even when they are in Early Access. Early Access, however, offers such a high risk in some cases. After all, you’re purchasing an unfinished product that still needs polishing, bug fixing and may even miss core features.

In the past, I’ve purchased Early Access games on Steam like Universim, Goblins of Elderstone, Dead Cells, Risk of Rain 2, Oxygen Not Included, Littlewood, Undholm, Slay The Spire, and Silver Knight. A variety of games, as you may be able to tell, that all had some sort of premise going for them that I found intriguing. 

I love base/city building games that require some sort of understanding of certain mechanics of the game while also some foresight and strategy when it comes to planning. Universim and Goblins of Elderstone are games just like that. 

In Universim, you are playing god, giving your little settlers a helping hand to have them reach higher stages. You work your way up from the Stone Age to Modern Age and… Well, when I played it there was still just the Stone Age or my colony just died at some point thanks to people getting stuck in the ground, getting sick but not treating themselves, starving although there’s food right next to them, or the A.I. just wandering off into the distance for no apparent reason. Highly frustrating. But the game keeps getting updates and I can be proud of being one of those guys whose names get featured on a Monument in-game for being there in Early Access and living through this journey. I saw different stages of the game so far, improvements to the game, minor and bigger updates, and eventually, I’ll see a finished game that I’ve seen from the get-go.

And just recently a new update came out that lets your expectation skyrocket (sorry, had to) through the roof! Awesome!

Goblins of Elderstone is similar to Universim in some regards, as it also is a City Builder that is being published by Cryptivo. GoE’s premise is completely different, though, in some regards as you are controlling Goblins, giving them jobs, making them survive waves of enemies and harsh winters while also expanding, trading, and eventually befriending other races or going to war with them.

In earlier stages of it, it was just a shell of a game with some basic features like placing buildings and assigning jobs, while not having much more content to offer. And well, over the course of time they added in new jobs, new functions, actual effects for the gods you worship, and just recently more features and two new jobs/buildings: The Kindler (+ Kindler building) who produces firewood out of logs, and The Enforcer (+ jail) who “encourages your Peons to work better” and who locks up rioting or mischievous Peons in his jail. Interesting mechanics and I can’t wait to see more of this game as I love those titles where you’re not the “good” humans who slaughter those monsters or who are super-advanced, etc., but that’s material for a future post.

While there are games like this that are getting updated frequently and have nice features going for them from the get-go, there are also games in Early Access that, from what I’ve seen, are quite polished or even nearly finished, with only a few tweaks and fixes needed . 

A game like that is Dead Cells!
When I started playing, I ended up binging it as the combat felt really fluid, the itemisation was interesting and lead to some strategy-possibilities, and as there were other takes on the Metroidvania and Rogue-like genre than the ones that I’ve already seen. I didn’t regret buying that game at all. Maybe it was due to the fact that the game has been in development for a while at that point and that I only found it rather randomly a few years ago… I mean, it left Early Access only half a year later if I remember correctly. A few months later, the game received another few major updates and I doubt that they will stop any time soon. The last major update was released on August 13th, while the latest (minor) update got out on Oktober 9th. Updates are quite frequent in this one and overall I just love the combat and the rate of new content. I can’t wait to see what the finished game looks like.

Also, Motion Twin, the studio behind Dead Cells decided to split up into two groups for Dead Cells’ Future: Those that won’t work on it anymore (aka Motion Twin) and those that “will keep on keeping on” (aka Evil Empire). Evil Empire will still work in the same building as Motion Twin and it’s still the same people working on it but in the end this means that there are going to be a lot more Dead Cells updates while also more interesting games in the future without having to compromise! I’m excited!

And yeah, those are good examples of Early Access Titles but there are also bad ones. Games where the devs have just given up. Games where the devs left the players with an empty shell or no game at all. 

Risk of Rain 2, a great game by Hopoo Games with tons of frequent updates!

Cube World was a big thing quite some time ago and the devs seemingly vanished due to personal reasons. There are circumstances that one can’t easily resolve and depressions (apparently they were a reason) are something severe that one shouldn’t just shrug off like it’s nothing. Releasing an “imperfect” game was one of Wollay’s fears! But Cube World indeed is a game where some people thought that it was a scam of sorts, though I doubt that that was the intention.

In Cube World’s case, the game was luckily released only recently and it had some drastic changes to its systems and mechanics, which I won’t talk about in this post. Also, those people that bought the Alpha version of the game, received this newer version of the game for free on Steam.

But there’re other cases of Indie Devs that players put trust into and that had a premise going for their games but that didn’t deliver at all, as it was in Silver Knight’s case. The game reminded me of Undertale but with more of a Rogue-like/Dungeoncrawler theme and while it sounded interesting, the game’s core mechanics are just.. unfinished or just not there. The hitboxes don’t align at all, the music is the same track in a loop wherever you are. You don’t have a save function at all nor a tutorial and in the end, you purchased an empty shell of a game that looked interesting but turned out to be a prank of sorts.

Those cases are bad for the players, of course, but also for small indie devs that may rely on Kickstarter or Early Access to fund their game careers. When people get scammed, they lose faith and trust, and that harms other devs, which I find quite bothersome as I’ve met Indie Devs that are great and that worked on their games with a burning passion.

Another great EA-title that only recently left the Early Access stage! Lovely!

So, I’d say that I’ll keep on trusting in some Early Access titles here and there when they show promise, and I’ll still hope that they make it to the end and can present us a great game that we all appreciate. 

If you didn’t read those posts already, I’d recommend The Stray Sheep #18-24 where I covered interviews with some Indie Devs at this year’s GamesCom. I highly recommend checking those devs out on Twitter and follow their upcoming releases! 

Anyways, have a nice day and take away whatever you want from this post!

Edit: Fixed some typos here and there while also linking Naihin’s post about Cube World in that paragraph as he talks a bit more about it.