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.

Looking forward to Bright Memory

Just recently I found out about a game that has been developed by only one developer using the Unreal Engine that combines action genres with the FPS genre and looks stunning. It’s an Indie Game that has been in development for quite some time and released last year in March, actually,… and I only just found out about it. Now, Bright Memory is amazing, and I wanted to talk about the first chapter that is playable over here for not too much of a price and I also wanted to talk about my expectations of the full version, Bright Memory: Infinite.

Developer: FYQD-Studio
Publisher: FYQD-Studio, PLAYISM
Genre: Hack and Slash, FPS, Action, Indie, Boomer Shooter
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

As already mentioned Bright Memory combines various genres into one smooth and satisfying experience. Take a little bit of DMC, a little bit of Bioshock and maybe even a little bit of Doom and mix it with a ton of nice graphics and a lovely soundtrack… and then you’ll essentially have Bright Memory. The game’s set in an alternate universe where the SRO (Supernatural Research Organisation) is researching the so-called “Kanshou and Bakuya”, 1000-year-old relic swords that contain a mysterious substance known as the “Soul of Jiu Xuan” that has capabilities that allow you to reanimate the dead. A terrorist organisation named “SAI” infiltrates SRO in an attempt to steal top-secret data and we, playing as Sheila (one of SRO’s agents), have to stop them but accidentally hit up that Quantum Transporter and get transported to the Floating Island, an airborne continent near the North Pole where the Soul of Jiu Xuan reanimated the various beats and corpses that once populated the island.

So, the story’s kind of packed and full of information but in essence, we try to not die and to retrieve the swords and other things…. and also there’s Carter who’s the Founder of the SAI and who’s trying to stop us at all costs… There are a few bits and pieces in the plot that aren’t clear just yet but it sounds promising so far… Now, but in the game actually, we only get to see the first chapter. I had to retrieve most of this extra info from the store page that goes a bit further than the first chapter… in a way, Bright Memory is a paid demo that is filled with a lot of satisfying action, actually.

For starters, the gunplay is amazing. You’re equipped with three different guns: A shotgun, a pistol and an assault rifle. Every shot fired feels like it packs a punch and it feels good to land them. Meanwhile, you also are equipped with a plethora of skills that can be acquired throughout the game as well as a bunch of other weapons, like an EMP Force Field, a Grappling Hook that you can use offensively, and a sword that can be used to slash up enemies, blast them into the air, juggle them, or deliver light slashes from afar! Combat itself offers a lot of combo potential as switching between weapons is nearly seamless and as you can quickly dodge enemy attacks via the Shift-key and the movement directions. I believe that the game has partial controller support but I’d imagine that it would work quite well if played with the controller.

On top of the high mobility that the game offers you, you can also rake in bonus points via the Combo-Meter that is very much like DMC’s… damaging enemies can keep the combo meter up and at the end of the chapter, you’ll receive a grade of sorts based on your deaths, the time needed, the combo-time you had, as well as the points and damage you achieved. In a way, Bright Memory reminded me of Boomer Shooters like Serious Sam and Doom Eternal, which is a good thing since I have wonderful connotations when I think of those games!

The gunplay is amazing and despite the game being developed by only one person, it is fully voiced and features an amazing soundtrack and there even are secrets, achievements, subtitles and different localisations.

The best part about the game, next to the pretty graphics that rival AAA titles, is probably the sense of immersion that I’m getting from it. Obviously, I wasn’t sucked into the game yet… but there’s a lot here that works quite well for me and for the experience. For starters, you don’t see any health bars and your ammo is only displayed through the hud on your weapons. You only see what Sheila sees with her HUD on. The same goes for skill-cooldowns and other information. I feel like that works really well for First-Person Shooters like this game, especially with this mix of swordplay and gunplay where every bullet and every slash counts. I think it would be bad if I had to watch more graphical elements on the screen like the bullet count in a corner of the screen or stuff like that. Instead, you have the bullet count exactly there where you’re aiming: On the gun. Love it! Similarly, the world feels alive with “Air Serpents” (aka dragons) roaming the skies, snakes and turtles occupying the areas and even other foes coming back. While there is an easter egg that kind of breaks the immersion, I didn’t quite mind it as I had a lot of fun with it!

Now, since I don’t want to get into the two boss fights from the first chapter, I’d like to go for some speculation… What do I expect from the full game?

Well, the full game, which will release sometime in 2021, will probably feature a bunch of different chapters. Chapter 1 has been more of an introduction/demo. I had fun with it for two hours… and during Bright Memory: Infinite’s development new features will be tested/showcased in this chapter, meaning that it might actually be quite nice to tune into it now and then. I got to play through the New Game and New Game+ about four times total… so I’d imagine that all chapters are somewhere between 30 minutes to 60 minutes in length with lots of achievements and secrets left on the level. I’d love to see this trend of the game just giving you checkpoints left and right since nothing’s worse than having to start over after forgetting to save for so long, you know? Apart from that, I’d love to see the skill tree getting developed more and there being new weapons, weapon types, and maybe even weapon upgrades. The combo system already feels quite nice but I’d like it a lot if the combo counter wasn’t present at all times and if there were some special interactions if you weave in your slashes between your gun rounds, etc. Overall, I like the game, don’t get me wrong… It’s just that there have been some things that I, if I had the know-how, would have done differently. Everyone’s a critic, right?
Apart from that, I’d love to have an endless mode or some sort of modifier in the game to make runs/playthroughs harder. The game is currently being remade/turned into a full-release, so I think that it will get added… Also, I’d love it if you could see lore entries in the game and if there were costumes that you could unlock in the game. There are currently four variants to Sheila in the game but having some variants of sorts would be quite interesting, like re-colours or even SAI’s armour on her… And yes, that latter suggestion wouldn’t make any sense at all… but neither does the “Schoolgirl Sheila Costume”, so there’s that.

Let’s summarise what’d be great:
– Full Controller Support
– More Skills/Better Skill Trees
– More Weapons/Weapon Upgrades
– Endless Mode
– More Customisation
– Slower Subtitles (didn’t mention it here… but yeah, just remembered that that bothered me and Idk where to put it here)
– More Chapters
– More Enemy types

I’m looking forward to the full release and can recommend trying out Bright Memory. It’s a demo. It’s short. I know. But there you’ll find plenty of information on the game, the graphics, and everything, so… Check it out and support the developers by wish-listing it! That’d be amazing!

Anyways, that’s it for today’s post. Have you played this game yet? Are you excited for the full release? Again, it flew completely under my radar but hey, I got to it eventually, right? What are your opinions on it so far or after reading my post? 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 – Osteoblasts

I honestly wanted to write about this title for a while now… In fact, you may have actually read my post on the demo before and then after I published it, the developers hit me up and I got a review key for the full game… and then I’ve been playing it for a few hours… and then I tried other classes… And now we’re here, way too late, and I’m lowkey-addicted to Osteoblasts. That’s a good thing. I like playing RPGs but I’ve been a bit burned out from the genre since it always seemed like the same thing being made with different storylines… and Osteoblasts does appeal to me on a lot of levels and makes it seem new and fresh.

Developer: Moonana, Anglerman
Publisher: Moonana
Genre: RPG, Turn-Based Combat, Adventure
Release Date: February 12th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent to me by the developer.

I mean, the premise is simple. You’re a skeleton, you get revived by a Witch Cat, and now you… do stuff. You fight against dogs, skeletons, ghosts, demons and elephants. You level up your character, equip new randomised gear, fight enemies, crawl through dungeons, and eventually, you’ll still understand nothing. The gameplay is satisfying, the story not so much. My issue with the story is that it’s just super confusing. On the one hand, the dialogue sometimes is hard to understand and whenever there is supposed to be a revelation of sorts, the NPCs just drop more riddles and mysteries onto you, making the story less of a satisfying experience, in my opinion. The gameplay, on the other hand, is excellent and while some of the dialogue can be hard to understand, most of the jokes and puns actually land and made me chuckle.

Btw, you’ll need to use your bonemark to cast spells/skills! Ain’t that fun?

As you rise from your grave, you get to choose between six different classes ranging from the Shaman to the Scavenger to the Stranger. I would have liked it if you were shown example skills or maybe more info on the different characters. The game certainly is lacking in the clarity department and leaves you hanging when it comes to explanations regarding your class or skills. I noticed that weapons would have similar names but have randomised skills and stats. This is a great thing, in my opinion, as it adds replayability and lets you customise your class a lot more. In the same way, you have a lot of different stats that influence combat in a plethora of ways from enhancing your attacks to letting you counter attacks or making you heal more. Stats also determine whether or not you can draw out the full potential of your weapons. Skills often are tied to certain stats. Buffing up stats in combat using spells, however, can also enable you to use the according skills. Overall, I like that mechanic a lot but it took me ages until I figured it out. The manual didn’t really help me in-game and I feel like the tutorial should’ve given me more of a helping hand, even if I hate tutorials that hold your hand too much…

Being able to use your skills only when you meet the requirements is interesting since it also influences how you gear up for certain encounters. Equipping different gear shapes your character in a lot of ways, giving you more attacks and helping you out stat-wise. If enemies use debuffs on you, you may lose out on the stat-requirement for certain attacks, which adds a bit more depth to combat. Just like how they can stop you from bashing their heads in, you can also debuff enemies and reduce their stats, preventing them from returning the favour. It’s interesting and fun. I like that a lot about this game. Similarly, you attack enemies, they have a chance to counter you. They attack you, you get to counter them. It’s great to see that rules apply to all characters in the game and it’s refreshing that they have the same chances at taking jabs at you, raising the difficulty a bit more.

Exploration is fun. You don’t need to travel far away to get to different parts of the world and friendly villages. There are a lot of Metroidvania-ish roadblocks in the game that urge you to find other ways to get to the next area like keys that you get from different boss battles or boulders you need to mine with pickaxes. It’s interesting and exploration gets generally rewarded since you’ll unlock shortcuts as well along the way. Through Exploration you also find statues of the old gods. There are six different gods that you can pray to earn bonuses to your stats. On every level up, you get to pray to one of three gods that each grant you two stat increases. Meanwhile, the aforementioned statues grant you those regardless of the level up and also can give you passive bonuses, a checkpoint, fast travel points or even shops, making them quite the reward for exploration.

My favourite part about Osteoblasts, however, is the presentation and the personality that comes with it. The game’s soundtrack is amazing and adds a lot to the atmosphere, especially since the world’s tracks play in battles, too, making the changes from exploration to battle not too abrupt. Similarly, the art style is phenomenal with abstract background art in battles, cute pixel art in the overworld and amazing pixelated character models in the actual turn-based battles. The animations for the different attacks range from simple sword swings to spell effects that appear on the target. The sound design is fun and adds a lot to the game.

But yeah, clarity is the big downside to Osteoblasts. I had to try a lot and fail at it until I figured out that my stats are the reason behind me being able to use a specific spell… or not being able to use it. Similarly, I’d love to see the debuffs and explanations about the enemy by hovering over it, so that I can plan the battles even more… but the game doesn’t have that. And I’d love it if I could get more information on items but, again, the game doesn’t have that. Once you find out about things, you can have a great time,… but until then it can be frustrating unless you catch on quickly about how things work in this game.

Still, despite the clarity issues, I had and am still having a great time with this game. Osteoblasts breathes life into a genre that has been quite dead to me for quite a while now and is delivering a satisfying experience despite its shortcomings in terms of clarity and plot. I would say that you’re making a grave mistake (pun intended) if you don’t at least try out the demo. The full game certainly has a lot to offer and I can highly recommend it.

Cheers!

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

Looking out for Anuchard

Today I wanted to take a look at Anuchard‘s Demo. It’s a retro-inspired 2D Action RPG where you play as the Bellwielder whose job is to retrieve the souls of people that went missing in the dungeon. Dive into the dungeon, solve puzzles, fight monsters and restore the world’s fallen civilization!

Developer: stellarNull
Publisher: stellarNull
Genre: Indie, Action, RPG, Pixel Art, Adventure

The game’s release date is yet to be announced (TBA) but there is a demo available on steam right now. It starts off a bit clunky with you getting swarmed in a dream, dying and then waking up in bed… but the game is very much aware of tropes like that and makes fun of them, which is kind of interesting. You then get prompted to meet up with other people at the town hall where you end up finding the Audros Bell, an ancient bell that the Bellwielder uses to free the trapped souls in the dungeon. With it in hand and multiple spirits’ voices in your head, you end up venturing into the dungeon to free one of the villagers.

Combat features mostly three buttons. I’d recommend using a controller since… while you can rebind keys on the keyboard it feels weird if that makes sense. You have a normal attack that does some damage and can strike multiple foes at once as well as a heavy attack that makes you dash forward a bit and launch a powerful attack that will launch enemies away. Enemies often have armour that breaks when they’re launched into objects or walls. Beating enemies can drop crystals that you can use to place down a spire that heals you. Overall, it’s somewhat simple but it works. I would have personally liked it if there was a dash or something in the game to reposition yourself or mitigate damage by rolling away. Apart from that, attacks feel slow at times and you have this weird delay after attacking a few times. I’d like a stamina system more where your attacks either get weaker if you end up spamming them… or where you can’t dash or attack anymore once your stamina is down.

The dungeons also feature puzzles that utilize the knockback mechanic – at least in the demo. There may be more and different puzzles in the game later on but in the demo, it was limited to two similar puzzles – one of them took me a bit to figure out as well, though. Once you solve puzzles or beat rooms, you end up unlocking doors, similar to the Zelda games, although the puzzles are less elaborate. Then you fight a boss, get a relic and use that relic to revive a villager.

Villagers rejuvenate the village. You unlock a chef, for instance, whose dishes make you stronger based on the ingredients, similar to Monster Hunter World’s food system, which is a nice touch. Later you find other upgrades and abilities, potentially, but the demo doesn’t really give me any information on that, so I don’t really know.

Anuchard is intersting. The art style, music and world feels good, the combat is a bit sluggish, though. I wonder how the full game is going to look and feel like. Only time will tell.

Make sure to wishlist Anuchard and maybe even play the demo yourself!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Loop Hero

The Lich has thrown the world into a timeless loop and plunged its inhabitants into never-ending chaos. This time around it wasn’t me, though, as I stumbled across this game during the last Steam Game Festival and got hooked to its simple yet satisfying premise and truly addictive game loop. (Get it?) Today, we’re taking a look at Four Quarters’ Loop Hero.

Developer: Four Quarters
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: RPG, Strategy, Roguelite, Card Game, Idle Game (ish?)
Release Date: March 4th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Loop Hero starts by having the protagonist of the game walk away from an amnesia-like haze. The world is plunging into chaos and darkness as the Lich or potentially something bigger than him is destroying the world over and over again. But you have the power! You remember! You walk into the world and can reconstruct it using different tiles and equipment pieces to get stronger and shape the world. You don’t control the game, however, as the game controls you.

Your character walks down a fixed path and battles against monsters that spawn every few days. You can pause the game or speed it up a little bit but there isn’t much for you to do… until you beat some slimes up. Monsters either drop card tiles or items. Items buff up your stats and increase your chances of survival in this hamster wheel of an idle-ish RPG while tiles can be placed to restore the world. Mountains and rocks buff up your HP when placed next to each other. Groves will give you sticks when you walk through them but spawn ratwolves every few days. Villages heal you and grant you quests while battlefields give you a chest or mimic to fight at the start of every loop, rewarding you with items, but may also turn nearby enemies into Ghosts. There are various interactions between different tiles, creating new tiles and allowing you to strategise about how you want to rebuild the world. Placing down nine rocks or mountain tiles in a 3×3 shape will turn into a big mountain which also buffs you up furthermore with more HP but may spawn Harpies on nearby tiles. Meanwhile, other tiles can create interesting synergies, like Vampire Mansions that ransack villages and turn them into the count’s lands after three loops. It’s an interesting loop of fighting, levelling, equipping and placing before you fight again, but a lot of things are out of your control.

At any point during the loop, you can decide to return to the camp that somehow still prevails. If you continue onwards, you risk dying to the enemies that get stronger with every loop… and you may lose it all, so be wary of that fact! But speaking of the camp,… There is something about you that gives the people there hope, and as you gather resources like metal, rocks and rations, you’re able to upgrade the camp and expand it, unlocking new tiles, features and even new classes, which certainly reinforces the people’s beliefs in you. If you don’t return to the camp and end up dying, you’ll lose a lot of your gathered resources and be forcefully ejected to the camp. The world gets reset and you’ll have to go on an expedition, yet again, to rebuild the world slowly.

By placing down more and more tiles, you’ll fill up the world completion meter. Completing that will summon the boss to your camp. Each boss plays differently and can be rather challenging. The Lich’s health pool is bound to different temples near the camp, for instance, that can be removed with Oblivion cards while other bosses utilise other interesting mechanics that make every chapter more interesting than the one before it. Once you’ve reached the boss stage of the game, you complete your final loop and are graced with an amazing soundtrack created by blinch, one of the developers. The soundtrack is amazing and I linked one of the pieces above. The combination of the rather detailed pixel-art style that is a throwback to old retro titles and the chiptune-y and classically 8-bit tunes is amazing and works really well for the game… but more than anything, Loop Hero’s soundtrack gets me hyped up. It’s unique and fun and amazing and I love it to bits. 

I truly love these interactions between cards and characters that suddenly emerge from the tiles. You encounter vampires, harpies, and bandits, and your character talks to all of them, triggering interesting voice lines, even with bosses. Loop Hero may fall into the idle game (ish) genre but adds its own twist to the formula and seems unique. Loop Hero has personality, which is something I really like.

And once you’ve built the different camp buildings needed for those, you can play as a Rogue or a Necromancer even. These come with different stats and mechanics. The Rogue, for instance, can only get items by exchanging trophies at the camp upon entering a new loop, which makes him quite hard early on but rather satisfying to play as once you get those fast attacks and big crits in. My favourite class, however, is the Necromancer (I may be biased) as you let your little skeletons tank and hit for you and turn the battle into a battle of atrocity. Will you be able to summon enough to deal with your foes or will they target you and end you before your army is up and running. Stats like “magic HP”, which is an over-health shield that protects the Necromancer at the start of every battle, or the Summon Quality, which dictates special skeletons’ summon rate, become rather interesting to play with. The Loot in general is very fun to play around with as your inventory is constantly fixed to the UI at the right and as all equipment pieces may grant you stats that are more important or less important for you. I kind of felt like I’m in Diablo 3 again where my specific build required more attack speed or higher skeleton levels and I had to wait for that specific drop with a specific roll. It was interesting and fun.

But despite all the praise, there are a few things that I didn’t like. For starters, the game can be sped up to double speed but doesn’t go further than that. I would have liked it if you could maybe speed it up to 4x or even more than that since the first and even second beginning loop can be rather slow after every run. At the same time, the world would have felt more immersive if some weapons, rings, and gear, in general, would have had special RPG-item-names that potentially get randomly rolled. I feel as if that would add a lot of flair to the game…

Other than that, I don’t have any complains really. Loop Hero is an interesting take on the “One Hero has to save them all” kind of RPG where your hero is actually trapped in a hamster wheel. The game can be challenging and unforgiving, like other roguelites, but overall, I enjoyed this one to bits and haven’t seen a game this polished in quite a while. It’s easy to understand, quite accessible and even has options that allow you to make the fonts dyslexia-friendly or to remove the CRT Shader for better visibility. Honestly, more developers should do add little features like this to their games in 2021!

Edit: As Naithin pointed out in a comment below, I phrased a sentence in a confusing way that can be interpreted as if every loop brings you closer to the boss. That is not the case. I changed the according passage to get rid of that confusing part and make it more clear. Apart from that, I also removed part of the sentences about the bosses as I figured that it would be more interesting if you saw it for yourself, aka I reduced the spoilers to basically little to nothing here, although it’s nothing big really, I guess.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Iris and the Giant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Do Not Feed The Monkeys [Guest Post]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guest post for my blog. Today’s review is written by Quietschisto from RNG and features a game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“, which is a dystopian digital voyeur simulator where you watch strangers through surveillance cameras. You invade their privacy and witness their most intimate moments… but you shall not interact with the subjects as anything could happen if you dare feed the monkeys! If you enjoy this post, make sure to check out Quietschisto’s Blog for more video-game related content. His posts mostly focus on how the games he played could be improved but Quietschisto also writes about food around the world and cocktails. 

Alas, enjoy Quietschisto’s review:

My name’s Quietschisto, and I’m super stoked to be here! Our host, the gracious Dan, has offered some spots for guest posting, and I was more than happy to oblige. Today I bring you a short review of a fun little game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“.

Originally, Do Not Feed The Monkeys was just one of many observation-based games (like Beholder or Orwell) I wanted to try out. However, I ended up playing through it in a single night…twice. That alone should tell a lot about the game’s quality since none of its main features are things that I normally would enjoy.

Developer: Fictiorama Studios, BadLand Games Publishing S.L.
Publisher: Alawar Premium
Genre: Simulation, Choices Matter, Resource Managment, Voyeur
Release Date: October 24th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, Android, XB1
Copy was purchased.

For example, I couldn’t care less about pixel-graphics, I’m usually not a fan of slapstick humour, and resource management/survival mechanics and time-limits are things I try to avoid most of the time. But “Do Not Feed The Monkeys” carefully balances all of its elements to deliver a fun, streamlined experience that lasts around two or three hours, plus more if you want to see other cages and more monkeys.

The core gameplay-loop is always the same: You obtain information mostly by watching the monkeys in their cages at certain times, listening to their conversations, and writing down keywords. Through making connections on your own and “googling” the correct combination of phrases you gain more and more information that you can use to affect the outcome of the situation, for better or for worse.

At the same time, you have to manage your sleep, hunger, health, and money, all while continually buying more rooms/cameras. For adversaries of resource management, this might seem off-putting at first, but these mechanics essentially only boil down to managing a single resource: Time. These mechanics and time-limits are pretty bare-bones, however, and I believe they are only in place so players can’t “farm” resources at the start of the game and then just breeze through the whole experience.

I don’t think the resource-management aspect adds a lot to the game, as I personally am against creating an artificial sense of urgency. Instead, additional cages could unlock automatically, and the optional objectives could have been mandatory. This way, I feel players could have been enabled to spend more time interacting with the interesting part of the game, watching the monkeys.

There is a game mode where your resource meters drain significantly slower (and achievements are disabled) as some sort of “easy mode” but I think this is a relatively weak solution since making a potentially unattractive feature less important makes players wonder why it is in the game in the first place.

Despite their simplicity, the puzzles or “cages” offer surprising depth and encourage multiple playthroughs. Due to the short nature of the game and relative density of the lore (as well as multiple endings for all rooms), Do Not Feed The Monkey never overstays its welcome, even when the player inevitably will revisit the same rooms over and over again.

Notice how I said density of lore instead of depth. While not connected, every room has its own short story going on, ranging from comedy classics (although some might call them “cheap jokes”) like a paranoid alien-conspiracy theorist, a discount Hitler, or a mind-controlling plant, all the way to more serious topics like an astronaut trapped on an abandoned space station or an ageing rock singer who suffers from a terminal disease. 

First and foremost, Do Not Feed The Monkeys is a comedy game, so the jokes are always in the foreground, although the “lighter” comedy elements were sometimes a bit too hamfisted for my taste. What impressed me was the elegance with which the “heavier” topics were handled. A lot of the rooms have at least one or two moments that can make you stop and think about what’s going on and what you’re doing there. At the same time, the game made it easy to ignore all that and just stroll along for some laughs if that’s more to your liking. Part of this definitely is due to the pixelated art style, which helps with the comic-like presentation and softens the blow a bit for the more serious (or gross) bits. 

Do Not Feed The Monkeys further adds to the comedy of the game by displaying the protagonist as a run-down lowlife, barely making ends meet through dead-end jobs. He’s unwittingly getting ripped off by his landlady and lives in a filthy apartment, yet he still believes himself to be above other humans. Even the sound design is used to reinforce this portrayal. You see, there is no soundtrack in the traditional sense. Instead, your “neighbours” are blasting distorted music throughout the day and even the night, adding a bit of a muffled sound to your observation while other times you get to listen to crickets, cars and other “sounds”.

All in all, I don’t think that Do Not Feed The Monkeys will make you see the comedy genre with new eyes but be prepared for a few all-nighters. The game is serious enough to make you stop and think about morality and empathy and other topics while it is also lighthearted enough to simply serve as a fun experience. Hence, I recommend this game to you.

Editor’s Note: Magi here. I personally really enjoyed Do Not Feed The Monkeys but haven’t had the time yet to review it or write about it. I honestly have some drafts on topics featured in the game but thought I should review it first before I could write about it. Alas, I’m glad that Quietschisto got to write about it. Make sure to check him out if you haven’t yet! He’s a great friend of mine and blogger that more people definitely should check out, in my opinion. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on Do Not Feed The Monkeys? Got any feedback for the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Quietschisto from RNG.

Indietail – Morkredd

When there’s light, there’s darkness… and when there’s an Indietail, there’s probably a good game as well! The game we’re reviewing today is Morkredd, a tense, physics-based co-op puzzle game for one to two players. It combines skill-based puzzle-solving, a challenging balance of light and shadow, and a dark world full of secrets to unlock!

In a world shrouded by darkness, a wisp-like light awakens two characters. Guided by the light, they traverse through this dangerous place. Every step too much can result in sudden death. Stay close to this orb of light. Caution is of utmost importance, though, as your shadow is also able to eradicate your other companion.

Developer: Hyper Games
Publisher: Aspyr
Genre: Physics, Puzzle, Dark, Local Co-op, Exploration
Release Date: December 11th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series
Copy was purchased.

Morkredd is a light-based puzzle game where stepping into the shadows, kills you. In a way, it’s similar to Lightmatter which was also published by Aspyr. The difference here, however, is the perspective and the role you play in this. You’re not actively placing down light sources but rather guiding this orb of light that awoke you in the first place. At times, you’ve got to push a big orb of light around and chase after it while being careful of not potentially overshadowing your partner in the process. At other times, you need to press buttons and pull levers while you’re protected by the orb. On top of that, the game suprises you by changing the perspective from this basically isometric view to a more horizontal view while you’re in a tunnel. When the two characters get too far away from each other, the camera pans out while it pans in when you’re near each other. This creates a bit of immersion which is quite lovely and very welcome!

The orb is love, the orb is life.

From the get-go, the puzzles seemed interesting and rather challenging. In Single-Player, you control both of the characters using your gamepad sticks and the shoulder-buttons to interact with things. Using the A button, you switch between the female and the male character, so that there’s no confusion when you switch sides. In Co-Op, the challenge comes from coordinating and communicating what you want to do and what you’re actually doing. I played this with a friend and really enjoyed the puzzles.

While the puzzles themselves may not be the hardest in the world, at first, the game actually picks up the pace rather hard by throwing in enemies that try to destroy your orb or moving objects that cast a shadow onto your characters. The most harmless things in the world can present a grave danger to you if you don’t watch your step – and that’s thrilling! Morkredd is tense and eventually becomes really challenging as it’s continuing to introduce new, rather creative mechanics to the game, throwing more and more roadblocks into your way.

Meanwhile, the game has some sort of story and presents it to you vaguely. By exploring the world and not always following the path you’re supposed to take, you find different ornaments on the wall that tell you a story of sorts. How did this world come to be? What happened to all other sources of lights? Where did the orb come from? Are there other people? Find out by exploring all kinds of secrets!

And once you’re done with the game after three to four hours based on how fast you proceed, you still have the “ODE” DLC that presents you a bunch of “mutators” that allow you to change the game’s renderer, the orb’s shape, and the characters’ hats… which is a nice gimmick overall.

While the plot of the game is rather vague and mysterious, the game generally adds to this using a magical soundtrack, enhancing the soundtrack. I was chuffed to bits to experience this eery and baffling atmosphere. Morkredd’s score in combination with the art style and design choices really make for a unique and interesting experience that is certainly worth its money.

But while I’m praising it so much so far, I also have a few things that I didn’t like about the game.

For starters, the sound effects and music are constantly humming in your ears when you start up the game, which was rather hard to adjust in the settings. While there is a slider of sorts that enables you to music and SFX down, I had a hard time finding that sweet spot between “I have a headache” and “the game’s too quiet”. I would have loved it if there were numerical values here so that I could adjust it using arrows, like in other games. At the same time, the game sometimes picks up the volume and gets rather loud again, despite the game being already turned down a bunch, which I personally didn’t like too much. It may not bother other people but my ears didn’t really appreciate the buzzing sounds.

In the same manner, the graphics settings are somewhat limited as well with three graphics quality settings: Low, Medium, and High. I would have liked some more detailed options here. You can turn VSync fully on, half on, or off, you can limit the frame rate, show a game timer, change the language, and adjust the brightness. Some more details as to other options to turn on or off would have been quite nice.

And at last, the game only features local co-op, which is a bit of a pain in the butt to set up. Steam Remote-Play-Together is available for the game but doesn’t really seem to work too well, which is a bummer… and while Parsec obviously is still an option here, it’s a bummer that there wasn’t a fix utilizing something that isn’t third-party software.

A pleasant surprise, however, is the fact that you can remap everything. A controller is highly recommended with this game as it influences how fast you pull, push, run and walk… but it still works with the keyboard. In Online-Co-Op (using parsec), you can easily play this with only one hand and since the buttons are customisable, this should enable a lot of people to play the game.

Personally, I really enjoyed the experience and I feel like a lot more people need to play this game. It’s a lovely experience for puzzle-newbies and puzzle-lovers alike. Morkredd‘s atmosphere is awesome and while the puzzles are relatively easy in the beginning, it actually gets quite challenging later on, which is lovely to see as it eases the player into the game. Alas, that’s a recommendation by me!

I hope you enjoyed this review! Leave feedback if you’ve got any. I’m looking forward to playing this game eventually with Ms Magi once the exams are over, especially as the game requires a lot of communication and coordination. Despite her not being the biggest videogame fan, I’d imagine that she’d still enjoy this title quite a bit.

Cheers!

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

TheSupportRole is SUS

For anyone that doesn’t know, I’m part of a lovely community of streamers, content creators, and bloggers called TheSupportRole created by Kim. The other day, we actually managed to get a lobby together of a few people who wanted to play some Among Us. Among them, we had DanamasX and his wife, Minx, as well as MPGFrostiOmni, and a friend of mine called Liam. Minx joined us in the later rounds while I invited Liam as it wasn’t that much fun with only five people. To my surprise, Liam and Frosti actually really hit it off and became best friends throughout each round, tightening their bond and creating a wonderful bromance that isn’t limited by death or murder. Lovely!

Among Us is one of those games that I just return to every now and then… It can be a lot of fun but I’ve been rather rusty since the last time I played has been quite a while ago. Frosti and Omni, however, haven’t played it at all, yet, so MPG and I had to teach them how it goes. Dana was somewhat experienced but in the end, everyone got the hang of it rather quickly.

During the first rounds, I was able to play as Imposter in two consecutive rounds, killing MPG first in one of them and trolling through the other one. Overall, I didn’t want it to end too fast as Frosti and Omni had yet to figure out how some of the tasks worked. At the same time, I also wanted to see some fun interactions between us and teach them what’s possible as Imposter, so I’d vent in and out of different places, kill someone here or there and generally, it was quite fun. 

For whatever reason, though, Frostilyte was more often than not the first one to be killed, so we made it a bit of an unwritten rule to not kill him first if we have the option of not doing it. Later on, Frosti also decided to change his name to “ITS FROSTI” so that we’d know who not to kill first. 

Alas, in the next few rounds, I decided to hang out with him to protect him from harm’s way, only to then realise that my good intentions backfired on me, as Frosti didn’t wait long to kill me first.

Later on, we had some fun rounds where both MPG and Minx were being suspicious and where everyone was set to kill one of them during the meetings. Since we were only seven people, we ended up playing with only one Imposter, meaning that we could have gone for a 50/50… but for the sake of having fun, I didn’t mention that strategy of voting off one of them and then voting off the other one in an emergency meeting… On top of that, it was actually me that was Imposter, and they just stumbled across people’s bodies. At last, I ended up fat-fingering and pressing “Q” instead of “W”, killing Minx by accident and alas, falling into Meghan’s hands who quickly reported the body before deporting my body, leading to the Crewmate’s win. 

Regardless of that, it was fun, though. I had a blast playing it again and since nobody was taking it too seriously, there wasn’t too much gaslighting going on in most of the rounds, resulting in me looking forward to playing it again soon.

I hope we get to record or stream more Among Us next time so that we can share it with more people. I’d love to link clips of it somewhere in this post if it weren’t for the fact that “recording” or “streaming” the play-session didn’t come to anyone’s mind. Maybe next time!

Cheers!

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

Looking forward to Pawnbarian

One of the titles that I’ve been eyeing for a while now has been Pawnbarian! It’s supposed to come out in Q1 of 2021 and I’d be happy to review it once it’s out… but for now, I’ll have to make do with the first few impressions I got from the demo that is available here

Developer: j4nw
Publisher: j4nw
Genre: Minimalistic, Roguelike, Chess, Puzzle, Card Game
Release Date: Q1, 2021
Played on: PC
Available on: PC

Pawnbarian is a roguelike based on Chess. Play as a brave fighter of the Northern Chesslands, always on the lookout for a new challenge. Fight your way through the dungeon, one turn at a time! There are more characters planned for the full version as well and while the Pawnbarian may sound like more of a “more brawn than brain” type of character, he actually offers a lot of versatility. By moving to the top row, having three pawns in hand or by starting the turn at the top row, you get to promote a pawn into a queen. Other classes/characters will have other rulesets.

Combat is turn-based, leaving you plenty of time to plan out your next few moves. When it’s your turn, you have limited moves, indicated by the yellow pieces below the chessboard. Some of your pieces (indicated at the top left by a lightning symbol) refresh these moves, allowing you to move another time. 

The enemies also move in different patterns and all feature their own mechanics. Some of them are nimble, meaning that they’ll dodge away when you attack them unless they’re against a wall. Others spread blight, have more range or split into multiple enemies upon death. 

By hovering over enemies, you get to see these rules yourself and hence learn about them. At the same time, you can see how much damage you receive when you hover on different tiles. 

If you’re familiar with chess, you’ll know how the pawns, rooks, knights, and so on move. If you’re not, then the game will help you out by showing you the moves that you’re allowed to do with the selected piece. 

When you get hit, you lose hearts, indicated by the (anatomically correct) heart symbols below the chessboard. Hearts can be guarded via shields that you get for moving pieces with a shield symbol. At the same time, you can reacquire hearts in the shop that you encounter after every floor. At the top of the chessboard, you can see your current gold as well as a bunch of gold chunks and gems. Every turn one of those gold chunks vanishes but if you manage to finish the current floor with any of them left, you’ll be able to spend that gold in the next shop. This is a somewhat interesting mechanic as you have to try to solve these floors in the least turns possible… but at the same time, you’ve got to be careful and not get too far ahead of yourself as every floor can be deadly!

In the shop, you’re able to upgrade your deck by adding more effects to your pieces. At first, I thought that the pieces there would get replaced by other pieces… This was an oversight of mine as it actually says that you get permanent upgrades for your cards… in the tutorial… that I skipped. The tutorial itself is quite beginner-friendly. It tells you the basics of the game within seconds and lets you experience two floors before heading into the actual tutorial dungeon. I somehow completely missed the fact that there is a tutorial, although I’m blaming that on my headache.

What I love about this game (or the demo of the game, to be more precise) is the fact that the art style is super minimalistic. It shows you what you need to see without overwhelming you with all kinds of gimmicks, UI shenanigans or complicated tooltips. Instead, you see what you want to see immediately – and if you need to know more, you hover over tiles and pieces.

At the same time, the game is able to communicate rather well where the damage comes from, how much damage is dealt and where/how you died. After about 90 minutes, I actually was able to defeat the demo dungeon, which I was quite surprised about. The Blight mechanic, as well as the Nimble mechanic, were somewhat hard to deal with but I’d imagine that without those, the game would be rather plain and easy to beat. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of other enemies the full game will have to offer.

Apart from the interesting and challenging mechanics, as well as the minimalistic art style, the game also features a lovely soundtrack so far that doesn’t get on your nerves after you’ve listened to it for an hour and a half. I mean, a lot of demos feature the same track over and over again, which can be quite annoying. In this demo, the gentle sounds convey this feeling of adventure quite well while at the same time allowing you to relax while playing.

Pawnbarian is a lovely chess-roguelike hybrid that adds its own twist to the Rogue-formula while sticking to the core premise of permadeath and turn-based combat. Personally speaking, I’m really looking forward to seeing the other enemies as well as the other characters that will be introduced into the full version. 

If you want to, you can check out Pawnbarian over here. It is also available on itch.io if you want to play it over there! Make sure to wishlist it if you haven’t yet – and if you want to, you can always try out the demo over there as well!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Feel free to leave feedback or any suggestions for other demos to check out!
Take care!

Cheers!

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 – Yuppie Psycho

I remember my first day at work as if it was yesterday. It wasn’t at some weird office job with construction going on or whatever but in an old mill that got transformed into a restaurant. I wanted to make a quick buck by working as a waiter on top of getting some experience in. I got the job immediately but it caused me a lot of anxiety having to start in a new environment. This sense of anxiety got even worse when my coworkers would bark at me for no reason while an Irish man called me a “fish out of water”. And while I’d never like to get back to that sort of anxiety again, I thought I’d dive into the corporate horror that Yuppie Psycho presents us with.

Developer: Baroque Decay
Publisher: Another Indie
Genre: Survival, Horror, 2D, Stealth
Release Date: April 25th, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Yuppie Psycho is a Survival Horror Game developed by Baroque Decay where we take control of Brian Pasternack who is about to start his first day at Sintracorp. “Uncertain, unprepared, and massively unqualified” we’ll try to rise and shine in Sintracorp’s hierarchy. Our first assignment? Kill the witch that is influencing the workers around here in a negative way.

In Sintracorp, there are no supervisors! Do whatever you want to! Work whenever you want to! Explore the area whenever you want to! Yuppie Psycho doesn’t really give you instructions but hints you at directions. In the beginning, you need to find the Hexenhammer in the Archives on Floor 7. Alas, you go there and get riddles and puzzles to solve. Later, you just have to figure out where you can unlock abilities or new ways to access older levels. The game hints you at directions but you’re free to go wherever you want to! The whole world is open to you… Well, apart from the exit door that you literally cannot go through since Sintracorp needs you and it’s only your first day of work.

Something that I really liked about the game was the tongue-in-cheek humour that you encounter. Saving the game is done by copying your face using Witch Paper, for instance, and coffee heals you. Albeit these examples not sounding too original, there are a lot of other moments in the game that made me chuckle out loud more than just once. Sometimes, I’d just remember that one event where we got our nickname and I’d just be chuffed to bits. Obviously, I cannot spoil those.

The art style is rather detailed for a 2D-title featuring impressive cutscenes and fun pixel-art that really made the game seem grotesque and scary at times but also kind of cute in a bizarre way. On top of that, the game confronts you with a very fantastic soundtrack that just gives me the creeps and fills me with joy whenever I think back at it. Honestly, I’m in love with the presentation and the absurdity of the whole game.

So, back to gameplay, a lot of things are trying to kill you and to prevent them from doing so, you essentially need to make cup noodles, sandwiches, and coffee, grab snacks and water, or stick items into other objects to solve puzzles. A lot of the boss fights seem kinda intuitive. You see stuff that hurts you and use it to hurt the boss instead. I feel like I did the first boss in an intended way… but I’m not entirely sure just yet. I feel like the game is giving the player a lot of freedom in how they can and want to play the game.

This stretches even further when you take a look at how the game is built up. You have different areas that are accessible through the elevator. You check out all of the different floors and see where you need certain abilities or items to get through but you don’t know what items or abilities you need until you find them. Brian, the main character, is sometimes giving you hints but more often than not you’re left alone and while that may leave people wondering on how to produce results, you’re never really forced to. You always tend to have enough time to figure it out on your own and the puzzles don’t feel too far-fetched. Instead, Sintracorp really lets you be your own boss. And that’s great.

Now, as far as things go that I got bothered by, I’d like to mention how the saving system of using Witch Paper and Ink Cartridges kind of feels a bit too complicated. I don’t like it when you cannot save whenever and the overall system is just a bit too “eh”. Also, I would have liked at least one auto-save in the beginning after getting to your office, as the game crashed there twice and as I had to redo the beginning twice, which was a tad annoying. To be fair though, crashes didn’t seem common. On the contrary, my streaming of the game probably took a hit on my computer, so I’d let that pass.

Apart from that, I wasn’t really bothered by anything. I would have maybe enjoyed having more accessibility options in the menu like turning off flashing lights and replacing it with a dimmed option or something like that. On top of that, it could have been nice to get some options to highlight interactable objects or make the game easier for people that have a hard time with survival horror titles, to begin with.

Yuppie Psycho, in essence, is a game that surprised me in a lot of ways. It’s a fantastic game with a great art style, story and soundtrack. The puzzles mostly feel good to solve and more often than not I had to chuckle instead of getting scared. I’m not a huge fan of Horror games but this game was actually quite bizarre and fun with fewer scares and more creeps going on. On top of that, choices matter as well to a degree here and sinfluence the ending considerably, so I’m looking forward to going through it again, eventually, as there is a lot of replayability with these seven endings, all of the collectables and the amount of things to do in the game. To sweeten the deal, Yuppie Psycho also got a free DLC upgrading the game to the “Executive Edition” adding new bosses, areas and more stuff overall neatlessly into your game, so that’s quite cool, in my opinion.

Now, I don’t give scores but I definitely recommend this game to fans of the genre that want to experience true corporate horror. If I was to give a score, it’d be a solid 9 out of 10, I think. It’s a great game but the missing accessibility options turned me off a tad.

Don’t get fired, stay healthy, and be kind to others!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Per Aspera

Ever since I was a child, I had this fascination with space. I’d often catch myself wondering what’s out there and how far it goes. My parents often wouldn’t be able to answer some questions, and I often would end up just wondering and dreaming of becoming an astronaut or maybe even living out there in that dark space full of shining stars. When I then realised that I needed to learn to swim and study a lot, I quickly gave up on that dream. Luckily, games let us experience those adventures and that sense of exploration without us needing to study or train a lot – games like Per Aspera, for instance.

Developer: Tlön Industries
Publisher: Raw Fury
Genre: Colony Sim, Base Building, Space, City Builder
Release Date: December 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the publisher.

Per Aspera lets you step into the role of AMI, an Artificial Consciousness that can feel and think like any human but without all the physical limitations. Our mission? Terraform and colonise Mars! Build up a base with mining sites, factories, power production and maintenance facilities. Research tech trees for alternate ways of terraforming Mars, like guiding methane meteoroids into the atmosphere, creating or importing greenhouse gases, and always keep track of the colonies that are already arriving, as well as the changes that you’re causing the planet to go through. 

In essence, it feels like a neat little Colony Sim in Space with its own systems, challenges and features. But what surprised me initially is that the game features a story. As we continue AMI’s mission, we face a lot of different hardships and challenges. At one point, we’re getting meteor showers, at another we’ve got to brace ourselves against dust devils, and at another… we are being sabotaged? What is going on on this planet?, I ask myself, before trying to figure out solutions to my problems. A lot of colony sims don’t feature stories since it’s literally a game where you create your own colonies, cities, or countries. You reign over your patch of dirt and just think of “lore” as time goes on… if at all. 

The story’s well-written and the voice cast is just phenomenal. Troy Baker and the others are really bringing the game to life. 

Instead of an intrusive and annoying tutorial, you’re being greeted by voice lines from different characters in the beginning hours of the game. The “tutorial” is basically making you do things by listing objectives in the directory, but you’re free to do whatever you want at any given time until you run out of resources. Alas, you build your first aluminium mine, get factories and power going, build up space-ports and colonies, research things, and eventually, you’ll just explore, expand, exploit, and… you don’t exterminate, I guess? There are enemies at one point but you’re trying to bring Mars to live and not destroy it, right?

Anyways, while the little worker-robots are not that detailed, the game looks stunning otherwise. Most of the time, you’re zoomed-out anyways, so I was able to overlook the less-detailed workers, drones and buildings. The planet is amazing and as you pan the camera and zoom in and out of orbit, you get to take it all in, take a breather and relax a little while your workers are gathering resources. I’d say that the atmosphere wasn’t that great (ha, space joke) but it’s been a great game for the most part.

And I say “for the most part” because I had some struggles with it as well. Having played the game for longer sessions mostly and having started colonies multiple times now, I noticed that the soundtrack – while somewhat funky and great at the beginning – just got on my nerves. Hearing the same track over and over again really annoyed the heck out of me until I eventually turned it off and listened to some other spacey soundtracks or playlists. At the same time, I often would end up getting soft-locked into stages where my workers were not doing the prioritised work and I would constantly lose some until I eventually gave up after accepting that this indeed is a soft-lock. 

Starting a new base, again, is annoying and frustrating, as you’ll have to make your way through the same opening dialogue and the same story again. Building up your base feels the same more often than not. You can tweak your decisions and try to do something different but eventually, the excitement falls off. This continues into your longest colony as well: As you unlock more sites to play with, you land there, build up your production line and have to hope that the RNG doesn’t screw you over with resource nodes in the weirdest places. Starting a new base at another location in addition to your current base gets annoying and doesn’t feel too good, to be honest.

What got me hooked initially is the fact that you’re actually able to change the planet. You’re not accepting it the way it is but instead, you do your job and terraform the heck out of the planet. Using C02 you’re able to raise the temperature of the planet to melt the ice caps. Then you import different gases to raise the temperature… eventually, you’ll end up pumping oxygen into the atmosphere but if you do soon, you’ll end up burning your base up since oxygen, in fact, is really flammable. It’s a bummer, however, that you aren’t able to move parts of the mountains away, giving you more space to build in, or maybe just forming the planet using other techs or builders of sorts to fill in craters and change the shape of things. I would have wished for something like that.

Another thing I would have wished for would have been more priority levels, an overview of the buildings and materials you’ve got going on, or maybe even options to point your factories into producing specifically for the other factory or whatever. While the minimalistic approach to the UI is fancy in a way… It also was not to my liking. The information I needed wasn’t available to me. At the same time, I didn’t get notified at all about resource nodes running out, colonists starving, workers getting destroyed, etc. When I wanted to do something about that, I could prioritize one building over another… but that’s it. With only one priority level, the worker bots would just let the world burn and do nothing or rather do something… just not what I want them to do. 

The game has a lot of issues and by throwing curveballs at you when you’re still fixing the issue from before, I had a rough experience that wasn’t that great at all after a while. While I enjoyed the game for eight hours straight, I got overly frustrated with it past that. The music is nice but gets annoying. The tech tree is boring. The sandbox mode is just a campaign without the story. The building feels janky… and eventually, the game turns into an RTS-ish game with enemies attacking you while your base is on fire. The developer says that the game is “hard” but even on the easiest difficulty, I feel like it’s just unfair and annoying, at best.

All in all, I really want to love this game. It’s great that a game is taking a shot at the whole “terraforming” thing through science and atmospheric stuff and all of that… and while the story and the look of it are lovely, I’m just not sure if I can recommend it, in its current state. I’d be more than happy to revisit Per Astera eventually again and see if it’s worth playing… but right now, I’m not too sure on the whole “per Aspera ad Astera” part as there are way too many hardships and not enough stars for that.

Cheers!

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

I played Phasmophobia for the first time

So, Phasmophobia is a game that exists and is rather popular right now. Some friends of mine wanted to play it with me but I knew that if I were to pick it up, I’d end up playing it and then everyone would stop playing it suddenly. It’s a curse with multiplayer games that I’ve picked up in the past and hence, I hesitated on picking it up myself… but then MuddChi gifted it to me, so I played it for the first time with her and I had a lot of fun actually.

For anyone that doesn’t know Phasmophobia, it’s a game that explores the premise of investigating ghosts and paranormal activities. You take on jobs and search for clues that reveal the type of ghost you’re dealing with. These clues can range from temperature drops to it talking to you to flickering lights and other things.

For our first job, we went to a house where we found a random bone lying around. MuddChi took a picture of it while I was uwu-ing into the “Spirit Box” that allows me to talk to specific types of ghosts. We set up cameras and observed a “ghost orb”, a will-o-wisp kind of light that floats through the room. This already reduces the number of potential suspects from twelve to six! We then investigated the room more to see if we could find some fingerprints, using the UV light… nothing to be found. That means that it’s not a Poltergeist. My constant “uwu”-ing into the Spirit Box also didn’t result in any paranormal activities or other responses… the ghost must have thought that I’m an idiot. I tried asking it about its age, location, and whether or not it wants to hurt us: No response. 

We weren’t too sure if it was just shy or if it just doesn’t speak to us… but for now, we were able to rule out the Jinn, Poltergeist and Mare, leaving only the Shade and Yurei. The Yurei has a stronger effect on the players’ sanity while the Shade is really shy but apart from that, there aren’t any characteristics that would explain one or the other for now. Alas, we had to either detect Freezing Temperatures or an EMF 5 Reading… but since we couldn’t detect either and since we didn’t want to just guess it, we decided to go for a bold move: Provoking it.

Since it was in the main room of the house, right next to the door, we ended up having MuddChi check the activity while I’m throwing out insults at the ghost. The EMF reader was on the ground, giving out a reading based on nearby activity… and if it was nearby, it would either spike to a reading of 5 or I’d be able to see my breath. I decided to turn on the local voice chat and just constantly swear into my microphone, yelling “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck” into my headset. With the crucifix on the ground, I felt safe, until the EMF reader picked up a strong signal. I tried taking a picture using my camera but was too slow. The ghost’s shadow appeared, scared the shit out of me, and vanished. I took a step back and was out of its reach – outside of the house. We got it, I thought. It’s a Shade! 

We cash in experience points and money and moved on to the next job. 

For the next job, at some small street house, we first checked out the basement to see if we get any readings or anything like that… but there was nothing. No significant temperature drops, no fingerprints, or any EMF readings. In the entryway, however, we found yet another bone and took a picture of it. There, we noticed a painting falling down and dishes being thrown around. Is this a poltergeist or does someone just not like to do the dishes?

After a while, MuddChi found fingerprints, reducing the number of ghosts to a measly five: The Spirit, the Wraith, the Poltergeist, the Banshee and the Revenant. Since the fingerprints were nearby, we threw down our tripods and cams to observe potential ghost orbs and placed our ghost journal with utmost care. No Ghost orbs meant that it’s not a Poltergeist, leaving us with only four potential ghosts! Since the Spirit and the Wraith both can be found via the Spirit Box, I tried speaking to it. The other two ghosts would need EMF readings but I already had the Spirit Box with me. 

I really wanted to talk to it and maybe make a new friend, so I stayed in the vicinity of the Ghost Journal and started asking questions. “How old are you?” got an answer: “OLD.” I was surprised. It’s either the Wraith or the Spirit. I should be able to soon see Ghost Writing or Freezing Temperatures to identify which one of the two it is. I didn’t see my breath yet and the Ghost Journal was empty. I tried talking to it again, asking what it wants to do. “HURT”, the ghost responded. Shivers went down my spine and I hated every single bit of this job. 

Why is this so scary? Why am I so scared of this when there’s really just a voice speaking to me and nothing else? “Who do you want to hurt?”, I ask. No response. “Do you want to hurt us?”, I clarify… No response. “Are you here?” – The ghost didn’t seem to like my questions as the activity went up again and as it seemed to not like answering it. “Give me a sign”, I spoke, and candles started falling down from the desk. I let out a small “Oh, fuck” only to see that the Ghost Journal was filled with something. “DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE”, it said. I was both anxious and relieved. It’s a spirit. Ghost Writing, Fingerprints and Spirit Box? Yup, a spirit. We entered the evidence into the journal, packed up and closed the hatch. Our trunk went off and we got our experience and money. It was a successful day and while it was really scary… I’m somewhat looking forward to playing another time. 

So, Phasmophobia is quite scary. It’s more about psychological Horror and you do your best to actually get the right clues and find the ghost. It’s a nice game and I hope that it gets the necessary funding to eventually receive even better and more elaborate updates! For this play session, I was joined by MuddChi who does stream on Twitch more often than not. She’s a great streamer and a close friend of mine, so I’d highly recommend checking her stream out if you haven’t already! The game itself is great but I seem to get enough of it after a job or two since it can be really scary and since I’m a scaredy-cat. 

You can find Phasmophobia over here on Steam. It’s currently in Early Access, so it’s still in development and can feature a lot of bugs and crashes, potentially. So beware of that. Personally speaking, I’d recommend it, although I’m not sure if this post gives you any insights on the game and its issues or why it’s so good, so this is not necessarily a review or anything like that. If you ever feel like playing Phasmophobia with me and some friends, be sure to join the discord and chat with us!

For now, though, I’ll try to get some sleep. I just did two jobs with a few friends and I’m actually quite scared. I hope you enjoyed this post! 

Cheers!

Edit: This post was in the wrong category and is now properly placed in The Gaming Journal instead of The Stray Sheep. Sorry for that!