Blogging: My Writing Process

I’ve been blogging for more than a year… actually nearly two years now and over time the process of writing these blog posts has shifted from me carefully planning out every post to me kind of just winging it. Today, I figured I should maybe write about how I write reviews. Since I don’t exactly recall the review process from a year ago apart from me taking a lot of notes while playing a game, I’ll just focus on the here and now, essentially.

So, for starters, I tend to play a game for a decent amount of time and while I do that, I used to take notes, but I now just tend to play it and take screenshots and think about what I like or dislike and what comes to my mind during the playtime. I try to find out about different skills, skill trees, and mechanics, as well features in the game like accessibility, remapping, settings, different modes, etc. Essentially, I try to get to know a game’s premise, play it for a while and then report on how much fun it is instead of explaining what the game is about and how you play the game. After all, people that read my review want to experience it themselves. My Moonlighter review did a lot like that btw. I would explain what the different buttons did and what weapons there are and I would give away a bit too much, which is not good for a review… At the same time, I didn’t spoil any bosses or other areas, really, if I remember correctly, so that’s good. That’s something I value. 

After playing the game for a while, I tend to go for the “rough sketch” where I write down everything I noted from the premise to the pros and cons, stuff I noticed, stuff that I loved, stuff I hated. I tend to listen to the game’s soundtrack if I can find it online, and just write up all kinds of things. Then I basically write down those notes into an actual text. A rough sketch, I guess, of the finished review, if that makes sense. So I basically go for notes first after I played it or during my playthrough of the game… and then I write up the whole post. This write-up doesn’t tend to take too long since I’ve gotten a bit better at writing reviews over time. I have the hardest time actually with the beginning of it since I want to write about a general topic that the game is about or about something that the game is very good at or that the game fails at and alluding to that without actually being very specific. So this beginning section of a review may talk about exploration as a mechanic in video games in general before talking about a game that revolves around exploration on its own without much else around it and how great that is – like I did in my review of Outer Wilds. I used to do science fair projects and when we were presenting, I tried to include a section in my speech that labels the status quo or a problem and then tells you about a solution so that you get invested as a listener in what’s coming up… and we kind of called that section the “Aufhänger” aka the “hooker” but I think hooker would be wrong in this context. Either way, I feel like that little piece that I come up with on my own is something that I very much like about review. I enjoy reading reviews that start off on an abstract level or talk about topics that a game is about instead of the actual plot or the actual gameplay. So, it’s essentially something I like and that I hence add to my reviews… or try to implement.

Once I’ve written up the post, I end up editing it, meaning that I go through it and try to get rid of typos that made it into the write-up and also get rid of unnecessary words like “really”, “absolutely”, etc. or hyphens that I add out of habit since we use hyphens a lot in German. I also tend to break up the text into a few paragraphs if necessary to make it easier to read. Sometimes I have two paragraphs about the same topic but then I add a screenshot after the second paragraph and before the first one to keep it kind of cohesive. As for screenshots, I prefer playing games on Steam because of the screenshot feature. I take the screenshots, upload them to my screenshot gallery, and then embed the pictures via a link into my blog post. In my review on Children of Morta, for example, I only included screenshots from the first area because I didn’t want to spoil anything past it. When I forget to take screenshots or when the screenshots didn’t turn out the way I wanted them or when the feature just didn’t work (as it’s sometimes the case on Steam), I resort to a press kit found online. That’s usually also where I take the header image from. After editing, the post should have about 1k to 1.3k words in it, so I add this info section into it via a Verse-block in Gutenberg and do some research on the release date, the platforms, the publisher and developer. At last, I end up adding an excerpt to the post since that will summarise the review quite well in the link text… and I edit the URL-text before I add tags to the post and write a little segment for social media since Jetpack shares the link on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook for me. Then, I check if it worked on Twitter (since the letter limit is kinda annoying) and then I post it on three different discord servers. At least, I post it on mine but I also tend to share it on the Blaugust and the SupportRole discord since I have no clue who follows me on WordPress or Twitter, etc.

Essentially that’s the writing process. I try to edit posts a day after the write-up and do the formatting, social media, screenshots, tags, etc. a day after the editing. Currently, I mostly do it all in one day, however, since I’m low on time and don’t really plan my posts too much… I wanted to write a review today but I didn’t have time to play the game as I took a one-hour nap after my stream and food and uni-work and now it’s 10 pm already. Hope you enjoyed this post! I’ve got another post similar to this lined up where I talk about a program I’ve been using to organise my blog and stream more… and I’ll let you know how that’s going in the next post!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Hardspace: Shipbreaker

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

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

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

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

Another day, another job!

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

Let’s upgrade our Grapple some more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Breathedge

After your grandfather’s funeral ship crashed, you’re stranded in space. Just you, your immortal chicken and an AI/board computer that tells way too many jokes. Welcome to Breathedge, the “ironic space survival game” by Redruins Softwork that is releasing its version 1.0 today! I’ve been playing it on and off ever since it came out in Early Access two years and a bit more ago… and as time went on, I really wanted to like but… you’ll see.

Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Genre: Open World, Survival, Space, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Sandbox
Release Date: February 25th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In Breathedge, you’ve got to survive hunger, thirst, radiation, freezing temperatures and the lack of oxygen in outer space. Easy enough. Throughout your playthrough, you’ll find resources floating around that you then can craft into tools and equipment to venture further into space or to access new types of resources, such as rubber, lead or paint. Your goal is first and foremost survival… but you also want to get to safety, which is why you’ll have to find ways to reach distant points of interest, such as an extraction point that is way too far away.

In the beginning, your oxygen reserves are limited. When you venture out from your shipwreck, you’ll find yourself quickly running out of oxygen, which is why you’ll have to come back to your ship and replenish your reserves. While this is somewhat interesting, especially with the fluid and fun movement in space, it also makes things rather tedious. Collecting resources and having to come back to base every time you run out of oxygen is annoying and while I get that resource gathering is key in these type of games… I don’t see a point in tool durability and having to craft a completely new drill whenever its durability/battery runs out… It’s quite maddening, to say the least.

Eventually, you’ll venture out and find the blueprint for the oxygen station that you can then use to set up balloons that you can refill your oxygen at, making the journey and resource gathering less annoying. You’ll also craft other upgrades for your suit to withstand the radiation or to increase your oxygen reserves, but generally speaking, I feel like it all is more leaning into the annoying to the tedious side of things instead of actually adding value to the experience. The upgrades you can get for your tools merely function as some sort of band-aid that lessens the frustration… but it is not enough, in my opinion. Getting rid of the durability mechanic completely would have made the game more enjoyable in the early stages. As mentioned before, you’ll also need to watch out for your food and hydration, which is standard-survival-stuff… Breathedge doesn’t completely re-invent the wheel or the formula for survival with these mechanics. It just does things because other games did the same things, which isn’t very exciting.

Now, where Breathedge truly shines is actually the exploration and the presentation. As far as exploration goes, you’ll find different wrecks of different spaceships floating around, functioning as eye-catchers that will allow you to pin-point more points of interest. Your oxygen reserves are, as mentioned before, limited, so you’ll need to test your limits, find something good to utilize in your next exploration attempts, and get back to base. Slowly, you’ll learn where to find different resources and where you have to go later once you have more oxygen available. It is very much a trial and error kind of thing but I personally felt as if it was rather interesting and somewhat innovative… until I realised that Subnautica and other games did it before as well.

As far as the presentation goes, Breathedge delivers really well. The art style is rather pretty, outer space looks amazing, and eventually, you’ll unlock base-building and you’ll be able to add windows to stare out into the void… which is just beautiful when you play with the highest settings. The soundtrack features some interesting tracks… and some rather pretty tracks… all in all rather satisfying… if it weren’t for the AI thing that narrates your journey.

Now, I’ll have to mention that the developers label the game as an “ironic” space-survival game. See it as Subnautica… but less serious. You’ll find yourself in a setting that is truly difficult to handle with depleting resources and oxygen troubles… but the AI that accompanies you constantly mocks the game and tropes of the Survival genre and the gaming industry, resulting in the whole setting being rather laughable. The plot itself is somewhat presentable and fun… but the AI makes it feel less enjoyable by constantly cracking jokes at anything and everything. Breathedge opens with a message about how the game is just trying to entertain and how it doesn’t want to offend anyone… but… the jokes are hit or miss.

Most of the jokes that the AI tells you or that you encounter in the game are seriously offensive and inappropriate. There are some good ones here and there with references to Mass Effect or other games… There are jabs that the game takes at other games but generally speaking, you’ll find yourself trying to ignore the jokes as much as possible. The notice at the beginning references some real offensive and inappropriate jokes in the game that aren’t fun or anything. I’m alright with explicit or even some more offensive humour if it’s within certain borders (“haha, like East Germany in”… Okay, I’ll stop.) but this game is just trying too hard to be offensive and thinks that it’s alright to do so if you mention it at the beginning of the game. At one point, I found the game making fun of men that wear makeup while at another part the game makes fun of “libtards”… Generally, I didn’t enjoy a lot of the jokes because they were tasteless or silly. Crafting an accelerator powered by farts is something that grade-schoolers would laugh at but they are hardly the target audience of the game.

Apart from that the game also suffers from pacing. You’ll find yourself held hostage and interrogated by coffin-robots that want you to tell everything that happens but as time goes on, you completely forget about it, which is just… weird. The resource grinding, the durability of tools, the constant trips back and forth for oxygen, food and water,… there are so many things that slow you down considerably and it makes the game just feel very slow to the point where you lose interest in playing more of it. When you die, you’ll have to pray that there was an auto-save an hour ago or something, or you’ll quickly end up ragequitting because of all the progress you lost. Alas, I just save every few minutes in case something happens that makes me want to reload the save again… or in case I die… and all in all, I really wanna like the game but it’s just not that fun unless you only play it on and off…

And again, the game is trying so hard to be like other games but also not be like other games. I feel like they could have tried out more innovative ideas regarding food and oxygen or other mechanics of the game. Breathedge frankly only goes where other games have gone before and it doesn’t really try to do things differently or be crazy and creative around its systems. It’s only a small step for the gaming industry but a big step for this Indie Studio. I mean, RedRuins Softworks are a Russian studio whose first project, Breathedge, has gained a lot of

Hope you enjoyed this post. It’s a bummer that the game has so many shortcomings and I kind of enjoyed it after ignoring the jokes… but I just feel like I can’t get into it for too long unless I take some long breaks in-between sessions. Oh well…

Cheers!

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

Indietail – In Other Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – 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 – Monster Prom

Valentine’s Day is coming up and alas, I wanted to review a dating sim… and alas, here’s a review on my favourite dating sim: Monster Prom! Monster Prom is probably the first-ever competitive dating sim featuring a lot of different characters that all add their own flavour to the game and allow you to experience a plethora of endings.

Developer: Beautiful Glitch
Publisher: Those Awesome Guys
Genre: Party Game, Dating Sim, Multiplayer, Competitive
Release Date: April 27th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, XBOne, XB X/S
Copy was purchased.

But first things first, what’s Monster Prom about? Well, Prom Night is coming up and due to our procrastinating a lot, we only have three weeks to find a date! Alas, we go through absurd and rather funny situations to raise our stats, to seduce one of our classmates. And the best part about the game? It’s multiplayer! Play online or locally with up to three other players and ruin each other’s chances with their date in order to have a lot of fun! The developers even advise you to be your worst self. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂

As mentioned above, you can play the game locally on one PC using one controller or multiple ones or you use Remote Play Together on Steam to play with friends that don’t have a copy of the game. You can also (and it honestly doesn’t matter too much) share your screen and play it that way. The possibilities are endless! When you start up the game, you get to chose between four avatars, three different pronouns (he, she, and they) as well as your username. The characters represent the classic colours you know from party games (blue, red, green and yellow). Then you get introduced to the main cast of the game, aka your love interests, before heading into a personality quiz from one of those teen magazines you may know from your teen days. 

The questions in that personality quiz offer a bunch of different choices and are randomly selected. Answering the questions allows you to gain some starting stats that range from fun, charm and boldness to creativity, money and smarts. Some of the questions also allow you to score bonus points with certain characters from the get-go which is a nice addition to this Dating Sim. 

When you go for longer or shorter games you have more or fewer opportunities to score points with your love interest. Generally speaking, the “weeks” consist of two day-times where you can go to different areas to increase your stats as well as a lunch break at noon where you can meet up and chat with different characters, including the love interests. During these dialogues and conversations, you have the option of scoring points with one out of two characters, which breathes a bit of life into the game. Usually, in dating sims, you end up only having one-on-one conversations with the cast, resulting in the illusion that people only have you in their life and no other friends, hobbies or interests. In Monster Prom, there are different cliques and people that hang out together, giving the game a more lively feel, even if some of the characters aren’t the liveliest.

Speaking of characters, the cast is amazing. Among the love interests, there is a partying poltergeist called Polly as well as a Yandere-type mermaid princess and a bloodthirsty demon as well as a Hipster vampire. Obviously, there are more characters and the DLC also adds more love interests and side characters, but what I’m getting at is that you don’t have the average joe in there. Every single character is unique in some way and has a unique personality. On top of that, Liam (the Hipster Vampire) is clothed in the Ace-Colours, potentially hinting at him being asexual, which is a nice addition to the game. Generally, I feel like the game is quite LGBTQIA2S+ inclusive as you get to chose your pronouns no matter the character you chose and as it doesn’t matter what character or pronouns you use when it comes to love interests. You can get with all of the cast, even if you’re of the same gender or if you’re using they/them as pronouns, which is something I welcome more than anything. I frankly love that about the game.

Do I wanna screw him over? Hmmm…

On top of that, the game features a bunch of replay-value with a ton of secret endings and events/quest-lines as well as a huge repertoire of dialogue-options and choices to make that all resort to some shock-humour that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Personally speaking, I loved the humour a lot and really enjoyed exploring different endings but I could see how some people could get offended by some of the dialogue options, which is totally fine.

Despite all the praise, I’d have to say that sometimes it can be a bit frustrating when you notice that you’ve hit the same questline again in the game. The “quests” or events are all randomly selected. Different play-sessions feature a seed, it seems, and hence you can encounter similar dialogue-options or similar quests in different playthroughs, which could end up boring some people. In the same way, you eventually get used to the humour and it doesn’t affect you as much anymore once you’ve played a bunch of the game, but I still am enjoying the game whenever I get to hang out with friends and start up this title.

Oh no, I’m so dead.

Apart from that, I also noticed that the soundtrack isn’t that diverse. The score is quite catchy and funky at first but eventually, you feel like it’s playing the same song over and over again. While it may seem like that, the soundtrack actually just features a lot of songs that don’t change too much. They are just very similar resulting in them feeling as if they’re the same. 

Despite that, I love this game. I can highly recommend Monster Prom (and the “Second Term” DLC) to anyone looking for a fun party-game or maybe just a dating sim to play on Valentine’s Day (or any other day)! Right now you can get the game at a -69% discount (hehe) for relatively cheap as well, so I’d recommend buying it right now, but I bought it at the full price and haven’t regretted it at all since the purchase. Even if you don’t have anyone to play it with, the singleplayer playthroughs are nearly as enjoyable as the multiplayer ones!

POLLY = BEST GIRL!

Hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day (or whatever you celebrate if at all) and I hope you enjoyed this post! Stay safe! And if you want to, I’ll actually be live with some Monster Prom on Sunday, the 14th of February, at around 9 AM GMT over here on Twitch. If you want to, you can hang out a little bit and experience this game with me and the other people in the Crypt.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Darksburg

These are dark times with God having left us and Zombies swarming our beloved town of Darksburg. Alas, it is our duty to rid this town of this plague – if not for our beloved fellow citizens, then at least for the sake of survival. Alas, let us dive into this adventure with up to three other comrades and… kick some Zombie Ass.

Today we’re taking a look at Darksburg, which is an isometric and cooperative Action-Roguelite in a Medieval setting and with Zombies. It has a bit of an ARPG style going on with hack-and-slashy combat, hordes of enemies and perks to level up your abilities with. 

Developer: Shiro Games
Publisher: Shiro Games
Genre: Isometric, Co-Op, Action, Roguelite, Hack n Slash, Zombies, Medieval
Release Date: September 23rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy received via Humble Choice.

The game features five different characters ranging from Damage Dealers, Tanks, Supports, and other characters with their own unique characteristics. Every character has a normal attack, a passive ability, as well as four abilities, with each character playing around different mechanics. Varag, for instance, is a wild wolfman that can dish out damage but at his core, he is very tanky and blocks damage for his allies with his shield, only to then unleash a powerful counterattack once he has absorbed enough damage. My favourite characters, however, are Abigail and Dr Dolorosa. Sister Abigail is another melee-character that can deal a lot of damage but she also features a great utility-spell called “The Bell” that draws nearby enemies’ attention towards the bell. Meanwhile, Dr Dolorosa is all about her experiments and is embarking on this journey to find a cure for Zombies,… although her experimental cure mostly kills them. She utilizes poisonous knives and her kills allow her to collect samples that decrease her Asphyxiant’s and her Experimental Cure’s cooldown. At the same time, she applies a lot of damage over time, making her a great damage dealer, in my opinion.

On level up, you get to select one of three perks, each upgrading some aspect of your kit differently. This allows you to create your favourite build and experience a different playstyle that might suit you better than what others might recommend. So, while you may enjoy an auto-attack or ability focused build on Rose, you could also enjoy going for a build revolving around Rose’s pet squirrel Twig, adding more utility to that ability or increasing its damage. You get nine level-ups throughout each run by killing enemies, and alas can create countless of different builds with other priorities based on how you’re doing. This was something that I really enjoyed in my runs so far and I’m not done yet with experimenting more in this game.

When you embark on your run, alone or with friends, you spawn in an area of Darksburg that is swarming with enemies. There are four areas in the game: The Harbour, the Marketplace, Faubourg, and the Graveyard. After that, you’ll have to face off against Baron Manfred von Darksburg himself who has been infected himself and must be defeated to rid Darksburg of this plague. To get through areas, you need to defeat the Infected and Revenants, achieve side-goals like blasting open walls, lighting fires, finding items, and more, and eventually, you’ll have to get to the end of the level. While the beginning is rather easy, new enemies have introduced every few levels as well as traps and other events that happen, which is why you’ll have to explore and find so-called artefacts that you can use on top of your kit. Artefacts can be upgraded by picking another artefact of the same type, unlocking new abilities. These can enhance your build even more and grant you mobility, more damage, utility or even survivability based on what you get. 

On top of that, you also find chickens in each of the levels that then can be used to unlock skins for your survivors, as well as Dreadium Ingots that you use in the Cabinet of Curiosities where you exchange the ingots for so-called “Curios” that further enhance your build. This adds a bit of permanent-character-progression to the game, although it probably is more of another way of customizing builds.

But while the gameplay itself offers a lot of creativity as far as your build goes and while it is fairly accessible with the amount of remapping and control-customization that you can do, I still find the game kind of lacking. Once you beat the final boss, you unlock Ascension levels, granting you more challenging runs, but apart from that, there isn’t much to do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself so far, partly thanks to friends I’ve been playing with but also because a lot of builds make you feel quite strong… but at the same time, the game definitely is lacking content for a game that costs 20€ on Steam Store at full price. On top of that, the loading screens at times are stuttering, the audio can bug out as well, and while bugs are a thing, I just feel like the game isn’t optimized too well, especially with these graphics.

Another issue I found was that the voice lines that the characters use get repeated quite often, which loses its charm after the first few times. More variety here couldn’t have harmed the game that much… and while the levels are procedurally generated, I would have loved seeing more areas, different enemies from time to time, as well as some variety as for the colour-scheme and the soundtrack. The music of Darksburg is alright but I wouldn’t call it “great”, simply for the fact that I hardly remember any songs from it. It just doesn’t stick to your ears that well and you wouldn’t immediately recognize it unless its the only game you’re playing, I guess.

In the end, the lack of content and bad optimization are the biggest drawbacks here. The game only came out in September of 2020, so maybe they’ll add more characters, more levels, more enemies, and more bosses to the game as well but for a game that costs 20 bucks at full-price, I feel like it’s not worth it. I’d recommend this game if you’re looking for a fun challenge to go through with your friends. I wouldn’t recommend this at the full price. We may revisit this in the future again if there is another update coming in that adds more levels to each run or other content but right now, I just don’t really see how this would be worth 20 bucks.

Hope you enjoyed this review! If you grabbed November’s Humble Choice, you may actually already own it, so let’s play some time! Do you feel similarly about this game if you already checked it out? Let me know!

Cheers!

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

Review – Dr Pepper Vanilla Float, Cherry Vanilla and Dark Berry

For nearly a year now, I’ve been meaning to write this post… and now it’s here. For my birthday last year, I thought I’d order some Dr Pepper with flavours that I can’t get in Germany. Among them are Vanilla Float, Cherry Vanilla and Dark Berry. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance, at the time, to check out Cream Soda, but eventually, it made come over here as well, who knows?

As a bit of context here, I’m a Dr Pepper addict. I love it way too much. It’s a nice flavour that tastes kind of differently whenever I try it. Sometimes, it reminds me of spices and sometimes it kind of tastes like cherry. At times, it even tastes like marzipan, which is great. I mean, I have no clue what is in there apart from lots of caffeine, sugar and more caffeine but I love it regardless of that!

The flavours I can get over here are the standard Dr Pepper, Dr Pepper Zero, Dr Pepper Energy, and Dr Pepper Cherry. I don’t like cherries too much, which is why Dr Pepper Cherry isn’t my favourite here… and I don’t really notice a difference in taste when it comes to Zero and the Standard, apart from one being a tad less sweet, I guess… and the Energy-Drink-variant is alright, although there’re better energy drinks out there… but when it comes to sodas, Dr Pepper is clearly my favourite.

Left to right: The Standard Dr Pepper from over here, Vanilla Float, Cherry Vanilla, Dark Berry

This has many reasons apart from the taste as well. The branding is great and the design of the cans are lovely. On top of that, I can get 24 cans of Dr Pepper for only 7€ in Luxembourg if I ever go there again… and overall, it’s a taste that not everyone likes, which kind of makes it special. In Germany, it was advertised with the slogan “Schmeckt, aber nicht jedem”, after all. This roughly translates to “Tastes good, but isn’t for everything” but can also be interpreted as “Not everyone likes it” or “It tastes good but not everyone sees it” due to the wordplay there. They are aware of the unique flavour and cash in on that, which is something I like. It’s self-aware, kind of ironic, a bit quirky, and I guess that’s the average Dr Pepper fan in a nutshell as well, which works.

Now, as far as the sodas here go, we usually have 0,33l cans here but the cans that arrived actually came in bigger cans. In America, everything is bigger, after all, I’ve been told. The cans I got are a tad taller and feature 0,355l of soda in them aka 12 FL OZ.

Anyways, first up, we’ve got the Vanilla Float flavour! Personally speaking, I’ve never heard of this one before and I’ve never heard of Vanilla Float, period. The concept of dumping ice cream into a glass and pouring soda over it felt so foreign and barbaric to me that I immediately fell in love with it. I’d imagine that root beer (something that I only recently enjoyed myself for the very first time) would taste incredible with the addition of vanilla ice cream.

As far as the presentation goes, the can looks great! The “vanilla” colour of the can works incredibly well with the dark red of the logo and the small vertical stripes on the can make the can really stand out. As far as the soundtrack goes, it sounds like any other can. No matter if you kick it, tap it, or throw it, it always sounds, feels and hurts the same as any other can.

The flavour is very good. You can easily taste the vanilla-ice-cream-esque flavour out of it but it still has that Dr Pepper after taste – and interestingly, that works really well together. I’m honestly quite intrigued about trying out making an actual Vanilla Float with Dr Pepper but maybe I’ll wait with that until Summer when the heat is going to kill me over here in my top-floor-flat with the sun burning me to a crisp through that window right there that you (hopefully?) can’t see from wherever you’re reading this from. Now, I love vanilla but the fact that it actually tastes so strongly like it and the fact that you still can taste the Dr Pepper flavour out of it… is incredible. I would have thought that it either tastes like Dr Pepper or like Vanilla but they did a great job with conveying this feeling of unity between the two, and I love that.

Next up, we’ve got Dr Pepper Cherry-Vanilla. I said earlier that Dr Pepper already kind of has the taste of Cherry in it and that I don’t rate the cherry-flavoured variant that highly, but in this case, I was quite intrigued as it’s Dr Pepper with Cherry-AND-Vanilla-flavour. First up, the presentation looks fresh and adorable, in a way. The can features a lovely dark red in the background with slightly lighter tones of red in the form of vertical stripes that then get complimented with thinner bright-yellow/vanilla-ish stripes as well. The Dr Pepper logo also has a mix of two types of red and a bit of black in it and has the addition of a vanilla-ish-coloured “Cherry Vanilla” circle and some cherries nearby. The soundtrack of this can also sounds quite similar to other cans if not the same. The kick, tap and throw taste resulted in the same results: It sounds, feels and hurts the same, especially when your flatmate shouts at you for not washing the dishes again and throws it at your head. (I’m just kidding, or am I?)

But in the end, the only thing that matters is the taste and I must say, it does taste like Cherry-Flavoured Dr Pepper with a slight note of vanilla that is barely tasteable. I would have loved it if the vanilla-flavour was more present in this one and the cherry on top, was probably that the cherry-flavour was even overwhelming the DrPepper-ness of the soda itself, which is not that good in my humble opinion. Alas, this one isn’t my favourite but I’d imagine that other people that don’t like Dr Pepper that much but who appreciate the taste of cherry-flavoured sodas might actually fancy this.

At last, I also tried out the limited edition Dr Pepper Dark Berry! The can features a very dark blue with a white font on it and the announcement that Spider-Man: Far From Home is out. On top of that, the can reveals that Mysterio guy on the back. I don’t know that guy and had to ask a friend about who that guy is. I called him Dark Berry Guy before and he got mad. I’m not doing that anymore. As far as the presentation goes, I am a fan of the dark blue but I absolutely hate Dark Berry Gu- Mysterio. I mean, I don’t know him and can’t say if I hate him or not… but I don’t like him on the can. It kind of looks washed out and weird and I just don’t think it suits the style and brand that much, although I appreciate Big Ben in the background. Just not my cup of tea, I guess. Anyways, the can feels, sounds and hurts the same as others although I didn’t wanna kick it since it looks quite cool. If you wanna kick the can, do it on your own. Watch out that you don’t hurt anyone. Thank you.

The taste itself is… berry good. I’ve been waiting for a whole year to make that joke. But yeah, it’s a great soda that has that Dark Berry juice in it that you may know from flavoured Energy Drinks… It also smells very much like black berries and blue berries and other berries. Honestly, who knows what’s in there but it tastes good and I like it a lot. The after-taste, though, is the best thing about it as it really tastes like a can of Dr Pepper. It may be differently flavoured but the original flavour is still there which makes it quite nice. This is probably my second-favourite taste so far. I like Vanilla Float a bit more than this one but this one certainly is better than Cherry Vanilla, in my opinion, without wanting to degrade Cherry Vanilla. Cherry Vanilla is still a top-tier soda for me!


Anyways, in the end, I wasn’t much of a Cherry-Vanilla fan but the other two flavours were awesome. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on other flavours eventually as well! As mentioned before Cherry Vanilla is still Top-Tier-Soda simply because it still kind of tastes like Dr Pepper and also because nothing really compares to Dr Pepper anyhow. In a way, in my opinion, Dr Pepper might surpass the concept of tier-lists and rankings and actually be the God of Sodas, period. Not much to discuss here.

Have you tried any of these before and if so, what were your thoughts?

Hope you enjoyed my post. I’ve been meaning to write a review on these flavours before but I actually don’t really know anything about taste-testing things and thought I’d just handle it in the same way as I did with games… and that can’t possible go wrong, right? If you have any feedback and suggestions for the Cream Soda review that’ll come out eventually, let me know. Take care of yourself and stay hydrated!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Hades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Kernmantle

So, a while ago, a developer sent me a request to review their game via my Steam Curator page. The developer in question developed Kernmantle and I kind of put off reviewing this game for quite a while since I’m not sure how to start or end it.

The problem with reviewing games is that I personally want to give every game a fair chance of getting played and reviewed. If a game seems to be abysmal or anything like that, I tell the developers in a kind e-mail that I think that it’s for the better if I do not review their game.

Developer: North of Earth
Publisher: North of Earth
Genre: Platformer, 2D, Physics-driven, Adventure
Release Date: October 5th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the developer.

In the case of Kernmantle, I accepted the game and decided to play it until I noticed that it’s absolutely not to my liking, despite what it seemed like. For anyone wondering, it’s a physics-based 2D Adventure where you climb up a 2000-meter-deep canyon and attempt to reach the top. It seemed interesting since it works with lighting in a pretty way while having a rather simple art style and I guess some mechanics behind it. Hence I gave it a chance.

At last, however, I noticed that that’s about it. Simple style, no story, pretty lighting, annoying soundtrack, abysmal controls.

A game that is all about climbing sounds like fun in a way… but the checkpoints are far away between each other and when you fall down once it’s more frustrating than Getting Over It or any other game, in my opinion. That’s not because of the depth that you’ve fallen or the lost progress… but for a different reason.

In Getting Over It, a game that I adore to be fair despite not being good at it, I know that I fell down because I didn’t get enough momentum or because I aimed at the wrong spot. It’s basically just me being at fault.

In Kernmantle, the controls are super janky and sometimes do not respond. So, while I’m holding onto the trigger of my controller, the grip just loosens it despite there still being plenty of stamina left in my hands. And that’s annoying when it happens once. It’s annoying when it happens twice. It’s frustrating at the third time and I stopped after the fourth time when I realised that it all was for nothing since there seems to be an invisible wall ahead of where I wanted to go with no other way to go from there.

At the same time, the game is incredibly condescending. The signs that are supposed to explain the game to you always end with something along the lines of “you moron” or “you idiot”, which is just rude. I feel like the developer is trying to be funny when they’re just insulting people that will refund this game afterwards anyways.

The character design and controls feel similar to Mount Your Friends but for whatever reason don’t work like that, although ripping off the controls would have been a lot better, in my opinion. A controller is required to play the game while Mount Your Friends at least allows Mouse+Keyboard: A feature that is much needed in games like these.

All in all, it’s a mediocre game that would be better with keyboard controls, akin to Getting Over It or Jump King. Paying ten bucks for this would be a waste. I can’t recommend Kernmantel, at all. Play Getting Over It or Jump King instead if you really want to.

Cheers.

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

Is another review needed?

Some games out there are real gems but will never get any attention. And that’s sad, so I started reviewing games on this blog and recommending underrated games to friends and eventually, this became a big part of my life. It’s a hobby that I’ve been doing for more than a year now and it’s always fun to find gems and recommend stuff and write down my thoughts about all of these things. Lovely!

Meanwhile, other gems out there are well-known and have their own dedicated communities. People know titles like Slay the Spire, The Binding of Isaac, Stardew Valley, etc. already. Do they need more reviews or should I even write about titles like that?

Note: Since I forgot to take any screenshots for most of the games I’m mentioning in this post apart from Hades, I’ll only use screenshots from Hades. I’ll keep it spoiler-free, though, so no worries about that.

That’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot for the past couple of months. I’ve got countless posts sitting in the drafts about titles that I wanted to review and that I wanted to talk about. Just when I was about to get ready for the finishing touches, I ended up hesitating: Do I add something to the world by just saying what is already known? There are too many reviews for me to add any new thoughts to the same topic, after all, right? 

And that’s where my opinion changed recently: The fact that it’s a review by me should be enough to make my review different from other reviews.

The Steam Curator “Can you pet the dog?” would now say “yes, you can pet the dog”, I guess.

Even though everyone has probably said everything about every popular game out there, I can’t be 100% sure about that without having read all of the reviews out there. Obviously, that’s not possible. I can’t read every review out there and honestly, I don’t want to. In the first place, I don’t read reviews on games that I’m reviewing until after I’ve posted them as I don’t want to get influenced by other people’s opinions on the matter. I feel like that’s quite important, especially as I don’t want to accidentally or subconsciously write something similar or maybe even the same sentences as someone else has. 

Alas, I kind of changed my opinion on the matter. Of course, countless people probably know about Graveyard Keeper, Monster Train, Celeste, and the like, but I think that my opinion should matter as well. Maybe I actually do have something to add to the giant pool of reviews out there. Maybe I actually do have a different point as to why a game should or should not be bought. 

Every opinion matters, after all, and alas, every review is important. There probably is someone out there that hasn’t played Celeste yet or that has been hesitating to play it because they don’t like Platformers… and only recently, I played it for the very first time and enjoyed it a lot! It made me feel good about myself as a person that plays games as I was dashing through the air in levels that other people thought were really difficult. Meanwhile, Celeste was thought-provoking and challenging in other rooms when people said that it was an easy level while I was struggling to figure out what the intended way was and whether or not my way was doable, at all. There are countless reviews on Celeste out there but I’m not sure if any platformer-haters out there have taken a look at the game only to say that it’s actually great as an introduction to platformers. I don’t know if people that hate the genre would pick it up. Alas, my opinion as someone like that, as someone who hates and sucks at platformers, matters! My opinion matters and in that instance I probably have something meaningful to add to the ocean of reviews.

Well, who would have thought that there’s lava in hell, eh? What a surprise… /s – no spoiler. 😛

Or take Hades, for instance, the game that got updated so much during Early Access that I ended up having to rewrite my review a total of nine (!) times because things that I didn’t like got changed or updated and suddenly with new implementations old weapons and boons actually were incredibly strong or powerful. I suddenly enjoyed those, so I rewrote a few paragraphs, only to realise that it all didn’t work out too well, as my style changed in that time. When I was done with rewriting it for the ninth time, it has already been released with its version 1.0 and everyone hopped onto the hype train, resulting in me feeling like my review wasn’t needed. Again, that mindset is bad. 

I can praise and love Hades as much as I want to and I’ll do so eventually. I’ll be able to add a lot to the discussion as I’m a mythology-crack and as I love Transistor and Bastion. I probably have other takes on the game that other reviewers may not have had.

Alas, since I have had different interests in my life and since I’ve been enjoying different games, movies, books, poems, shows, and other media, my reviews may already have a different take on things. Just because I am obsessed with mythology, I may already have different bits and pieces of information to add to the discussion. Just because I’m into Drama and plays and stuff, I may already be able to connect lore pieces together or laugh about something that other people may not get. 

No turning back now.

I’m not saying that I’m better at reviewing games than other people or that my reviews are better or worse. I’m just saying that every review is unique and that every reviewer has different tastes, interests and takes on the same topic, making them unique and special and alas, their opinions are important. 

What does this mean for me and my blog? Well, I’ll revisit all of those drafts and try to publish some of my older posts throughout the year and rework them to fit my current style and you’ll probably see some newer games in there as well as some more popular ones. There will be the odd one here and there with a very underrated and unknown game and I’ll just hope that it’ll get more attention. 

I hope you liked my take on the matter. I feel as every take on a topic is important even if some if not all points are the same. As long as it’s written independantly it should be allowed to exist. As long as it’s a different person writing it, it already should be able to provide some new thoughts and opinions on it. And well, obviously, the people that read my blog posts are not the same that read Frosti‘s or Krikket‘s, right? 

Alas, I hope you enjoyed this post and the next few on other stuff. Have a nice day and stay awesome!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Disc Room

Are you ready to get sliced? Are you ready for science? Are you ready to die? If you answered any of those questions with anything, then fear not, you’re on your way on one helluva ride with today’s review, Disc Room!

The year’s (not 2021 but) 2089 and a giant disc has appeared in Jupiter’s orbit. Now, it’s your job to explore said Disc… FOR SCIENCE! Explore a majority of rooms filled with deadly discs and survive until all the goals of the room are completed. Compete against your friends, solve puzzles, unlock abilities, and die! 

Developer: Terri (Vellmann), Dose(one), Kitty (Calis), JW (Nijman)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Action, Adventure, 2D, Violent, Difficult, Indie
Release Date: October 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Disc Room is a Race-Against-The-Time-ish Action-Adventure where you dodge deadly blades, discs, or whatever you want to call them. In about 50 different rooms, you need to keep all your eyes open and look around you in 360° to be able to dodge everything and anything. There are a plethora of disc types from big ones to small ones to homing and time-slowing discs. Dying at the hand of different blades can result in you unlocking abilities that help you survive, like the time-slow ability, the dash or the cloning-ability.

At first, the game seems rather simplistic and not that challenging – but eventually, you end up having to solve puzzles in the rooms. How are you supposed to die in less than 0 seconds? How do you die while there are four discs in the room, when there are only two, to begin? What does “Feed ????? 4 ?????” mean, and how do you accomplish it? The game grants you a lot of different puzzles that revolve around using the game’s mechanics to survive or not-survive in creative ways, which is awesome! 

Once you end up fighting so-called Gatekeepers aka Bosses and unlock new areas, each with their own themes, the game’s pace really picks up, as you get to explore each area independantly as long as you complete some goals. Just backtrack later and check older rooms out again once you feel confident in doing them! Each of the areas is special with different enemy types and new mechanics introduced. 

On top of that, the game offers a lot of replayability because of… a little friendly rivalry! I played it for the first time while watching my friend Jimmi play it on Stream. Whenever he beat a room, I was already on beating his time and surviving longer than him. I loved it when he was shocked to see that I was already at 24 seconds in one of the rooms when he was stuck at 16. While he tried to beat my 24-second-record in said room, I was beating his other records. Eventually, he got better than me, but if I try very hard, I’ll manage to screw him over again, for sure! I love it. 

I feel like the goals of the rooms and the Metroidvania-ish aspects of it (solving puzzles and problems with abilities that you unlock later into the game) really make this game special and a ton of fun, especially since these aspects are paired with tons of achievements, collectables, and the friendly rivalry integrated through your Steam friend list. 

The art style is simple but the game really doesn’t need to be more detailed, to be honest. The animated cutscenes are cute and offer a bit of mystery about the game’s story while also providing you with some interesting comics here and there. In General, the game has this web-comic-vibe that I really fancy. 

On top of that, the soundtrack is awesome! It’s a real SpaceWave/SynthWave banger that I could listen to for ages. Good thing that you can buy the Soundtrack as well over here, featuring 53 tracks. It’s anthemic, adrenaline-inducing, and just great! Might become one of my favourites!

All that being said, there are a few issues with the game. Being a game with saw blades and a lot of Violence, you may encounter a lot of Gore, which is unsettling and displeasing… but you have a warning for that on the Steam store, so that’s completely fine. My issue with it is that some of the rooms contain flashing lights and effects where the light turns dark and then bright again, which really messed with my eyes. Personally, I don’t have a problem with epilepsy but since it even fucked with my eyes, I’d imagine that other people could have real problems with it… but there is no warning about flashing lights and potential epilepsy triggers in the game, which is somewhat upsetting.

Apart from that, while I love the puzzles, I feel like it sometimes is a bit hard to get to clues on your own. A few times, I had to ask friends for input on the golden discs and what they think. I would have preferred if a room on the other side of the map would offer a clue to the puzzles in some way rather than you just have to do things.

At the same time, the game sometimes needs you to die from different disc types… but apparently, the different boss forms also count towards that, which is annoying, to say the least, because it shouldn’t be a thing. If a boss is already accounted for, why does the boss’ husk count as something separate. Otherwise, I’m completely fine with the difficulty and the challenge of the game but that little thing there just annoyed me a little bit.

Overall, however, the game’s great and provides a lot of entertainment, especially with the Achievements, the Steam Leaderboards, and the awesome soundtrack. I’d love it if more people could check this title out over here.

Post review commentary:

Anyways, I hope you’re having a great start into the new year! Personally speaking, 2020 has felt like a meat grinder (haha) – but I have high hopes for 2021! Hope you do, too! Happy New Year! Today’s review is the last one that I’ve prepared before going to my parents at the end of last year. Hence, look forward to more *fresh* content with that 2021-flavour in it!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Headbangers in Holiday Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Review – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Ever since I started blogging, I wanted to try out different review formats. This ranged from long to short reviewsfirst impressions and even a Manga review. While game reviews (and more importantly, Indie Game reviews) are probably going to stay in focus for me personally on Indiecator, I’d like to try the occasional odd one here and there with a book, show or, like in this case, a movie review. Today I wanted to talk about one of my favourite Christmas movies: Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).

The movie is about the Grinch who lives just outside of Whoville on a remote trash mountain and who hates Christmas. While the Whos are full of anticipation for the upcoming Christmas holiday, the Grinch is out for revenge instead.

Starring Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, and Jeffrey Tambor, among others, this is basically the Dr Seuss book turned into a full movie. The rhymes and sentences from the children’s book got adapted into the movie well although slightly changed at times while story elements (like Cindy Lou Who being turned into the main character) have been changed to make up for the short source material. All in all, I feel like it’s a good adaptation although it struggles here and there to make full use of the concepts and ideas it touches on.

The narrator, Anthony Hopkins, initiates the story with the words “Inside a snowflake, like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe”. The Whos are a jolly kind of seemingly-pig-snouted people that live in Whoville and are eager to celebrate their favourite holiday. Marching with a band and swarming into the stores, everything seems to brim with life and joy. The only one who questions the mass of presents that people are buying is Cindy Lou Who, a young Who that not only likes Christmas but also ends up asking the important questions. 

As time goes on, she begins to question whether the Grinch is truly mean and evil and if there’s more to the story. As we find out, the Grinch was raised like any other child but always seemed different, hating Christmas and having a beard at the age of eight. Being the target of bullying scarred him for life which is why he now spends his time in solitude with his dog, Max, on a garbage mountain – dreading the upcoming 1000th Whobilation! 

Jim Carrey is truly shining in his role as the Grinch, bring the titular character to life. He’s taunting and sneaking, sneering and snorting, dreading the day of Christmas and really seems to be this mean-spirited mind that just seems to be there to ruin other people’s days. All of this is directed well and while I love his acting and the expressions that Carrey is able to pull off, I’m not entirely sure if it really was that important to focus more on his demeanour. Like, I get it. The Grinch is supposed to be this bad green guy living alone while everyone seems jolly and cheerful in the city. The contrast is established well and it works. But as time goes on, I would have loved to see some change. Instead, the movie focuses on the mean parts of the Grinch (and his backstory) whenever they show the Grinch… but the Grinch doesn’t get all that much screentime to really add depth to the character. 

Most of the movie, after all, revolves around the Whos and most importantly, Cindy. While she’s adorable in her role and always curious about people’s intentions and feelings, I just feel like the movie has not done enough with its characters. Cindy feels like more of a plot device than an actual figure in a story, let alone the main character.

The Whos of Whoville, adults and children alike, are all endazzled and charmed by Christmas anticipation. They all just follow tradition and follow their leader, the antagonist of the story played by Jeffrey Tambor. Nothing seems to change, everything is the same and it gets boring. The characters of the story shouldn’t be as tolerant with the status quo. If I was a Who and if I was looking forward to the big day like that, I’d want to make it the best Christmas ever. I’d want to make it even better than before. 

The only character with intentions like that is Cindy who joyfully nominates the Grinch as the Cheermaster for the 1000th Whobilation! The audacity! I like it!

While it’s an interesting twist in the story, it seems as if Cindy is only there so that the story can move forward. Without Cindy, the Grinch wouldn’t have come down over Christmas. Without Cindy’s goodwill and intentions, the Grinch wouldn’t have been driven to the point where he’d steal the Christmas presents. Without Cindy, the Whos in Whoville wouldn’t have understood that Christmas isn’t all about presents and spending money but rather about spending this great holiday with the people you love and appreciate. Cindy’s a great character, don’t get me wrong, and Taylor Momsen did a great job bringing life to this pig-snorted girl… but there could have been more. There could have been a change in the people at an earlier time in the movie. When the Grinch finally arrives to get his award, the Whos are frightened by his appearance and his manners… but all of a sudden they just flick the switch and they accept that he’s just as much a Who as everyone else.

Being a kids movie, I understand that the gags and gimmicks, the jokes and little sketches, and all of that are important to fill out air… but I feel like the movie could have had so much more than just that. There could have been more change, more on the topics of “What is Christmas about?” and “What makes a good Who a good Who?” but instead… it just falls flat. Adults will enjoy the occasional innuendo or dark joke here and there, that completely went over my head when I watched it ages ago. Christine Baranski, playing Martha May Whovier, really adds a… different flavour to the movie. But personally speaking, while I love the movie and the characters, I would have wished for more. I would have liked it if they went more in-depth with how the Grinch, the titular character, feels and changes, but they ended up merely touching on it instead, leaving much to desire for boring people like me.

The plot itself works, though. It’s a great movie. It made me chuckle plenty of times and the occasional song here and there really made it all the move enjoyable. The world of the Whos and the Grinch is wonderfully Christmas-y and glim and bright but while red is one of the main-colours, it’s not as bright and shiny as Santa’s clothes… but rather dark and muddy, showing that there is more potential for this Christmas to become better and showing that there lies more under the wrapping paper and mistletoes.

All in all, a great movie to watch with your loved ones in this wonderful time, despite the criticism that I had at the depth of the topics and subjects that the movie touches on. I’d really recommend it to ya if you’re still searching for a great movie to watch. It’s twenty years old at this point and, believe me, or not, Ms Magi hasn’t seen it until last Saturday and she loved it to bits.

Finishing post-review thoughts: 

I haven’t really thought about how to write movie reviews before. I would have thought that it works the same as with game reviews where you start at one point, start writing, look into your notes, and just end up finishing it up eventually. Movie reviews are different as you need to be more aware of spoilers and what you can talk and cannot talk about. With Christmas movies, you basically know how it’s going to turn out anyway, so that’s a different story, but personally speaking, I’m not entirely sure if my thoughts on it aren’t potentially too analytical or if they maybe even go too far into the interpretation. 

After writing it up, I wanted to see if Peril has written about this movie in particular yet but apparently, there is no post on it available just yet. As far as other reviewers out there go, I don’t really like the style of many others and hence just didn’t check on other bloggers, but I’m sure there will be plenty of critics out there, just waiting to give me feedback on my first-ever movie review. I’d appreciate that a ton. In hindsight, this post turned out quite well. It doesn’t really feature any spoilers and while it doesn’t go too in-depth on the movie’s score and the graphics and all of that, I feel like it’s still a solid review. Maybe straying away from the visible and audible was a good choice after all, though, as I have no clue about componists and that kind of stuff.

And yes, I criticised the story somewhat… and I referred to the Whos as pig-nosed characters… But I feel like you can criticise something and still like it… and the Whos do kind of look like they’ve got inverted pig-snouts on their faces… I mean, they’re adorable… but also kind of weird, which is great.

Anyways, I hope you’re having a great time. Stay safe and healthy and regardless of what’s going on and how 2020 has been, I wish you a few happy holidays, a merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

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.