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 originated on Indiecator and was first published on there 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 originated on Indiecator and was first published on there 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 originated on Indiecator and was first published on there 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 originated on Indiecator and was first published on there 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!

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!

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!

Indietail – Submerged

I enjoy exploration-based games a lot. That’s a statement that I made in the past when I reviewed Outer Wilds, a game all about exploration. Similarly, I really enjoy other games like Subnautica or Breathedge where you end up challenging the oxygen limit that has been placed onto you or where you try to survive at all costs and still explore the world. Today’s Indietail is about Uppercut Games’ “Submerged”, an exploration-based Adventure game playing in a post-apocalyptic world.

Developer: Uppercut Games
Publisher: Uppercut Games
Genres: Exploration, Adventure, Third-Person, Single-Player, Parkour
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, XB1, IOS, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Our younger brother is sick, the world is flooded and the resources are scarce. Playing as Miku our main goal is to explore the world in search of rations, medicine and other items to help cure our brother. Other humans? We can’t seem to find any as nature seemingly won its fight against civilisation and as the city is in ruins. What has happened? What is this sickness? Is there a way to cure it? Questions among questions enter my head but luckily, the little drawings and journal pieces seem to help me out to understand the situation better.

What’s that place over there?

Since our brother lies sick in the little base we built, we need to find these rations. To do so, we map out the city, search for shiny objects on rooftops and other places and we set out on our fishing boat to take care of our brother. The premise is straightforward but it seems to work quite well. 

As we map out areas and look through our telescope, we find entrances to the ruined areas. While the movement on the ship is very horizontal and limited to the waterways, we get to climb these high places and ruins of hotels, libraries and hospitals. The game picks up pace as we climb higher and higher, explore different paths to find collectables, and eventually reach these red chests with the rations we need. The sudden verticalness of the game was much to my liking as you suddenly gain access to points that allow you to spy farther. Once you’re up at some of the high areas, you’re able to search for more rations and collectables. It works quite well together.

Gotta climb up this place!

These collectables range from drawings (lore) to boat-upgrades that increase the duration of your boost. As you go on, you get to see landmarks and fauna, eventually filling out your journal, which gives you a nice sense of accomplishment. The exploration aspects of the game seem more than satisfactory, which was surprising since I felt a bit overwhelmed with those sixty lore-entries and the landmarks, creatures and other collectables. Eventually, I noticed that it’s actually quite doable. 

In the beginning, I felt more than overwhelmed with how the game did things. I was just thrown into it and had to figure out stuff on my own. Luckily, the game’s premise and the gameplay that doesn’t rely on combat at all is rather simple and straight-forward: You start at one point and try to explore the world and when your eye catches something of interest, you go there and see if you can dock somewhere and enter the building’s ruins. Then you climb up and find stuff to progress the story. 

Very lovely landmark!

Personally, I feel like this game does that quite well. Thatgamecompany’s “Journey” also had this premise of exploring the world and just going to points of interest, also known as “eyecatchers”. In Submerged, you see a Ferris wheel for instance or the outlines of a bridge or a very high building at the horizon, so you’re naturally drawn to those and see the entry point where you dock your boat and explore the building. By climbing up ledges, ivies, boards and other structures, you end up finding what you need before seeing another cutscene. Exploration feels rewarding which is really important in games like these that rely so heavily on it. 

Meanwhile, we find and see the wildlife of this world over time. Whales, dolphins and birds accompany our boat as we travel alongside them. Are there no humans left, though? What happened to everyone? 

Oooh, pretty and foggy!

Again, these questions pop up and as you progress through the story, you get ominous clues as to what happened or what is happening. You slowly piece it together as the language is obscure and as you only get drawings for the lore pieces. 

While this game is already five years old, I’d like to mention that it’s beautiful. There is a day-night cycle in the game with its own weather and all of that but even when it’s raining, the game manages to look spectacular. Being a rather vertical game, the perspective tends to get switched up now and then, showing you climb up a ladder or balance yourself to the other side of a building from a different point of view, which really showcases the beautiful scenery. Despite being somewhat old, Submerged is a pretty game. Sure, you have some graphical glitches here and there and the graphics settings are somewhat limited but overall, I feel like it certainly aged well.

Slowly… Slowly…

But despite all of that praise, I’ll have to say that the game is not too accessible. While you’re able to remap keys on both the keyboard and the controller, I would have liked to see other options supported in the game, like audio subtitles for waves, animal sounds or other options for people that don’t hear that well. On top of that, the game is way too loud in the beginning and it’s really hard to adjust to a “normal” volume level without nearly turning off the beautiful music directed by Jeff van Dyck. 

On top of that, I was a bit bothered by the fact that there is no jump or sprint button. A game with this much platforming and freedom seems a bit limited by not being able to choose freely where you go. I would have liked it a bit more if I was able to go and climb wherever I want to, maybe with a stamina bar as a limiter or some gadgets or whatever. You certainly are free… and yet you’re quite bound to ledges that are rather conveniently placed on the buildings.

There is a photo-mode for your postcard-needs!

And while I get that the red chests are your main goal, I would have liked it if you were prompted something along the lines of “return to base?” instead of just getting teleported home. It’s just a small thing that annoyed me as I’d have to climb all the way up again and remember the other paths if I wanted to explore more.

Regardless of that, however, I enjoyed this game. The world is beautiful, the exploration is highly enjoyable, and while the story seems melancholic, it is also very lovely, despite not using a single word. I hence recommend this experience to all fans of combat-free and chill exploration-based games. 

A ship part!

You can find the game on Steam over here – but if you want to support me (and the Trevor Project), you may want to use this affiliate link of mine to grab the game over at the Humble Store where it’s currently 92% off for the next week or so. You can also use my link to make other purchases and I’ll get some revenue as well unless of course, you use the honey-browser extension as that one overrides affiliate-links.  

Oooh, Birds!

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this post. I had a lot of fun playing Submerged and was happy to cross off another game of my big plan-to-play list on Steam! I haven’t posted reviews in a while since the university has been keeping me busy but if you want to get notified immediately whenever I post something on this blog, consider joining my discord server and grabbing the Scholars role over there! 

Cheers!

Indietail – Behind Every Great One

Behind every great man, stands a great woman – but who stands behind that woman? 

From the makers of The Red Strings Club and Gods Will Be Watching comes a game that explores the life of Gabriel and Victorine, a couple in their 30s that live a comfortable life. Gabriel’s a famous artist who’s currently working on his next grand piece. Victorine, his loving wife and muse, is supporting him in every way possible but as time goes on, it all becomes a burden for Vic and we start to run out of space.

Developer: Deconstructeam
Publisher: Deconstructeam
Genre: Interactive Fiction, Adventure, 2D, Drama
Release Date: August 23rd, 2018 (updated: February 18th, 2019)
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (itch.io)
Copy is available for free.

Originally made for the Ludum Dare 42 with the concept of “running out of space” in mind, Behind Every Great One explores serious topics like gaslighting, guilt-tripping and toxic relationships by putting you into the role of one of those great women. Time passes slowly and you only have so much time to get done with your chores. 

Clean the house, water the plants, do the laundry, wash the dishes, prepare dinner,… there is way too much to do for just two people, especially when Gabriel is obsessed with his magnum opus and hence doesn’t bother helping at all. Slowly, the small rooms of the flat feel bigger and bigger. I felt so small when I tried to get done with my tasks. 

And there’s more to it. The conversations we have with our husband change over time. From him putting us on a pedestal at the beginning to eventually him blaming us indirectly for his problems.

Stuff happens and eventually, Gaby’s parents stop by and stay for a few days. Needing a place to sleep in, they take up the small library, which results in us losing our refuge and one of our hobbies. When we’re feeling down, we don’t have anyone to turn to. Gabriel’s mother is a viper and his father is often not the most tactful person. 

It’s hard to breathe air when these people quite literally take space away from you. When you feel like crying, you need to find a place to be alone. With more people joining, that’s not quite possible. Eventually, it all is too much to handle for us and only time will tell what we’ll do about it.

Though relatively short, Deconstructeam managed to create an interesting and deep experience that really captures the feel of toxic relationships well. Abusive relationships don’t need domestic violence. It can be a few simple words, sentences, and demands to ruin someone’s day, week or life. 

The game utilizes a minimalistic style and bright colours to show us the world we live in. It doesn’t matter who these people are or what they look like. They could be anyone and everyone. The bright colours contrast the dark feelings quite well and the changes in camera-movements and perspectives really add a lot to the experience.

A rather atmospheric soundtrack accompanies the experience that is fitting. For a game made in a day, I’m impressed at how well this all fits together.

Sadly, I’m not able to talk about anything else really since the risk of spoiling something is rather high with a game like this. It’s a short experience that still has a lot of surprises to offer that I haven’t touched upon in this review.

Personally, I really enjoyed the experience, although I hated the oppressive feeling that goes with it. I hated more toxic relationships that I had in the past and this game really reminded me all too well about those. It’s saddening that Victorine’s experience is so relatable. 

Hence, I’d recommend this title. It’s a really well-made narrative experience by Deconstructeam. You can find Behind Every Great One over here on itch.io.

Cheers!

Indietail – Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I’d review my favourite Horror Game to play every year. It’s a free-to-play title that is truly horrifying and gets me every damn time. It may not be the scariest or the most refined game – but it does its job well at luring you into a sense of security before striking with a nice little scare! Welcome to my review on Spooky’s House of Jump Scares Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion!

As a quick note before we head into the review, the game does contain violence and flashing lights, so be warned if you have issues with that!

Developer: Lag Studios, Akuma Kira, AMGSheena
Publisher: Lag Studios
Genre: Horror, Cute, Atmospheric, First-Person
Release Date: July 28th, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy is available for free.

So, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is, as the title suggests, about Spooky’s Mansion that is filled with an abundance of Jump Scares. You have to make your way through 1000 rooms in order to get out of there, diving deeper and deeper into the depths of the Mansion, finding bits and pieces of the lore of previous survivors or survival attempts, and in the end, you’re trying to survive.

Oh , gosh darnit, this is so cute but scared the living hell out of me!

As previously noted, the game lures you into a sense of security before striking with a nice little scare. The game does that by setting a certain atmosphere with creepy sounds, some memorable music as well as passages that are plain silent. Personally, I adore the use of silence in Horror Games as it allows the player to relax every once in a while before adding more suspense to the experience. It also lets them take a breather before striking even harder, something that usually works well. And well, the game does that often and exceptionally well, working with chase sequences, cardboard cutouts and different enemies to scare the shit out of you.

And that’s lovely. Usually, I don’t like cheap tricks like Jump Scares but, in this case, it’s the overall premise of the game, so I don’t really mind, especially with how cute the jump scares are at the beginning.

This guy leaving notes and comparing himself to a story’s sidecharacter… SMH

The simplicity of the UI combined with the easy-to-understand premise of the game allows for a great and memorable experience that I enjoyed. The gameplay consists of you walking through one door after another while the counter at the top-right corner of the screen counts up until it reaches 1000. You’re able to sprint, making use of your stamina, as well as take a few hits (as indicated by the health bar) and, well, that’s it. It’s simple but as time goes on the game features vast corridors, grand rooms and even forests filled with its enemy times.

As time goes on, the game also adds completely separate areas to the game, counting as one room but factually offering way more than just that. There you have to hide from enemies or find a key or solve another puzzle to get to the next “room”. The way that Lag Studios set up their game and the way that they execute the scares and the changes in the atmosphere is rather superb. They got me good quite often and were able to surprise me several times with new mechanics and areas.

The simple-looking graphics are effective at conveying a certain feeling with you, which is something that I really need in Horror titles. Meanwhile, the room-count that is steadily getting closer and closer to the big 1000 is giving you that feeling of progress that you need to go on. Personally, I had a blast, trying to complete it in one sitting, and as time went one, I ended up really enjoying this race to the thousand and my attempt of staying perseverant.

A MANSION IN THE MANSION?! WOAH!

Furthermore, the soundtrack of the game is just superb. From time to time, you’re greeted by each of the specimens’ themes indicating who’s following you. There are a few different encounters but whenever you hear a certain tune, you know that it’s that specific encounter and not some other monster or ghost or puppet. That’s something that I enjoyed about the game. The sounds, the voice acting, and the times of quiet were well-placed and added a lot to the game!

But that’s not all there is to this game: There’s also the great and self-ironic writing, the cameos and easter eggs found in the Mansion, and the countless other jokes and references that really made me chuckle. Seeing Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica on a poster in the elevator was great, seeing a “Doom 1”-styled poster in another was even better, realising that there’s a Hatsune Miku doodle in one of the rooms, reading these self-aware notes as well as seeing images inspired by the SCP Foundation, and experiencing some areas themed around other horror games, really made my day. Rooms that look similar to some of the Silent Hill Games or other areas that were designed like a part in Amnesia: The Dark Descent freshen up the game and bring more variety into the pot of goodness that is cooking over this metaphorical fire of uh… jump scares… or something.

Is it gone? Can I leave my hiding place? Am I safe?

Aaaanyways,… the game is great – but here and there you can still find some issues with it.

An issue that I had, for instance, was that the screenshot-function in Steam as well as the in-built Screenshot-Function doesn’t seem to work properly. At times, you would get bad and weirdly cropped screenshots that are heavily delayed. At other times, it doesn’t take the screenshot at all, which is something that I as a reviewer didn’t like, mainly since I enjoy taking screenshots and posting them in my reviews – taken from the original game by me for you. Regardless of that, I still managed to get some good ones here and there, as you can see in this post.

Another thing that I disliked about the game was the use of graphical glitches to represent “hallucinations”. Now and then the room turns into a mess and the textures get switched out, making the game rather hard to play. This happens only for a short while or only one room but it makes it hard to see where the doors are, which is its intension… but it can also get quite frustrating, especially when you’re being chased by something. I don’t know how colour blindness would work with these features, so in theory, this could ruin someone’s experience a hefty amount… and overall, it doesn’t add much to the experience, so I would have left that out.

Heh, this brings back memories…

In the end, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion manages to scare the heck out of you while also amusing you with some great dialogues, interesting mechanics, cool easter eggs, and the cutest ghost in the world! I can highly recommend this game to anyone who’s in search of a short but scary experience! It’s available for free on Steam. I think you can also grab it on PlayStation VR but as I don’t have any consoles, I wasn’t able to check that out.

The main game can be played through in about three to four hours – but you also have some replayability with the Endless Mode that features an all-new mansion and a leaderboard. There is also a DLC for the game called Karamari Hospital, featuring less of a perserverance-challenge and more of a puzzle-area where exploration is rewarded and where try to progress through this bizarre and scary hospital!

I wish you an early Happy Halloween! If you end up playing this on October 31st, Spooky (the ghost from above) actually is shown in a different get-up, so I can highly recommend trying it out then!

Cheers!

Indietail – Ring of Pain

"Roguelike flavour, card game pacing, 
dungeon crawl, chaos embracing. 
Shadows cast a truth to see. 
In the darkness, you can visit me." 
Join me as I venture deep, 
fear not you don't have to take a leap. 
Since if you're looking for something to play that's new, 
I've got you covered with my Ring of Pain review.

Honestly, Simon Boxer and Twice Different did such a great job with the rhymes, so I shouldn’t really bother with it and just leave it to them. Oh jeez, that sucked. Anyways, welcome to yet another Indietail!

Ring of Pain, a title that I’ve been excited for quite some time, has come out just a few days ago and honestly, I love it. It’s dark, mysterious, and creepy. It leaves you in the shadows so that you learn on your own and essentially, it really gives me that “one more run” feeling whenever I die, which is glorious and something that I’ve been missing from other titles that I’ve played lately. 

Developer: Simon Boxer, Twice Different
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, Roguelike, Card Game, Difficult
Release Date: October 15th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
I received the copy by the devs but the opinions are my own.

But what is Ring of Pain about? After awakening, an owl greets us from our slumber, handing us a candle to light at the depths of this ominous place that we find ourselves in. Hence, we venture deeper and deeper, facing more and more challenges, getting stronger and eventually, we reach the depth of this place and have the choice of engulfing the world in shadows or enlightening it to change it forever. Apart from that, we also get to meet a dark entity of sorts that advices us to do the opposite of what owl says and to not trust owl at all… although the owl says the same about that dark fellow, so there are a lot of rhymes, lore snippets and other information to be gathered in the game as you go on but after a few hours, I know basically nothing about the game, to be honest.

The superior choice!

When you start off, you’re essentially only equipped with a candle that grants you some clarity and improved stealth chance. You venture deeper into the dungeon, fighting foes by clicking onto them, finding items to get stronger and essentially improving your stats to fare better against your foes. The better your stats and your build, the better your chances of survival – but mostly, you need your wits.

Enemies come in all kinds of forms with their own patterns and stats. Some of them explode on death, dealing damage to you and foes alike. Some other enemies attack you relentlessly, some attack you only when they pass you, while others don’t allow you to pass at all, essentially blocking the road. There are all kinds of enemies and once you discover them and learn how to deal with them, the gameplay becomes very tactical and strategic, which is something that I really enjoyed. 

Sam got a gift for us!

Do you move to the right to prevent that exploding fellow from blowing up in your face but risking that that right fellow hits you, or do you take the hit but kill the right fellow in the process? Do you take the risk of reducing your defensive stats by taking the Glass Shield, only for better dodge chance and more attack damage? Honestly, at times it feels like a huge gamble when you go through the dungeon and pick up items and later come to regret them. Sometimes you have to calculate and take risks but more often than not, these risks paid out for me, which is why the game is so much fun to me. Personally, I’m more of a careful and tactical player in other games but Ring of Pain makes it easy for me to take risks at times as it never fails to project the consequences for my actions. Enemies show their intentions for the next turn while damage numbers are reflected on my health bar when I hover over the options available to me. This damage projection in the game feels really good as it lets you plan out your next, if not “your next few”, moves.

Deeper and deeper!

And while I could mention how the stats work, I don’t really have to because it’s as simple as it gets. You strike harder when you’ve got a high attack stat, for instance, and the other stats are quite self-explanatory as well. The game systems make sense and the game teaches you those systems quite well. If you hover over the stats and card-keywords, you learn about them, too, which really helps beginners get into the game while helping veterans freshen up their memory. On top of your “standard” stats, Ring of Pain also features a chance to perform critical strikes, dodge damage or potentially sneak away, all influenced by either your items, your speed stat or your clarity stat, which I found quite neat. 

The game is easy to get into but hard to master. The UI being very intuitive is essentially necessary for a game like this that punishes you for every wrong choice you make. 

Where to go? What to do? Oh wait, it’s a gg!

So, I really enjoyed the gameplay side of things and the countless runs that I had so far and could go on and on about builds that I tried out and about why the spoon is so overpowered… but there’s more Ring of Pain. The whole aesthetic of the game, the enemy design, the writing and the art of the game, created by Simon Boxer, on top of the phenomenal soundtrack created by Belinda Coomes, and the spine-chilling and terrifying sounds made and implemented by Damion Sheppard really give this game this certain dark and creepy vibe that I just love. I love Ring of Pain for the specific reason that it’s fun and creepy. It’s dark, it’s gritty. At times, it’s horrifying. I love it. 

But despite loving it so much, there are some flaws here and there. For instance, there are the monument rooms that just never really seem to pay out? The fountain of life, as an example, reduces your maximum health but heals you fully, which is something that works but the game never tells you that it does that. You have to figure it out yourself. Another monument room seems to destroy your gems and give you a stat payout but the game – that is otherwise really good at projecting the consequences of your choices – doesn’t really tell you what happened after it happened, which made me just avoid those rooms. 

…was a good run!

Another flaw in the game is the difficulty curve after the candle-room where you make your choice. One of the choices leaves you with a boss-fight that I found rather hard to deal with… the other choice brings you into a new area with stronger enemies and it’s also a bit hard to get through, compared to what came before, so essentially I didn’t enjoy how steep the difficulty curve turned out to be near the end of the game, resulting in me having to yet finish a run all the way through. But the time will come when the stars align, and eventually, I’ll be able to beat the Ring of Pain…

…and when that time comes, I’ll play another run. And another one. Because I like this game a lot. While the flaws are there, they probably will get balanced eventually and there are updates to come, from what I’ve gathered, so there is still a lot to do. On top of normal runs, you also can unlock items for your future runs or play daily challenges that are seeded and feature over 25 modifiers. You can essentially compete with other players in those for the leaderboard, which I found interesting, although not exactly my cup of tea. Being a roguelike, Ring of Pain offers a lot of replayability with its 150+ items and 50+ creatures to discover, a story to unravel, 25+ special rooms to find, a branching ending, hard mode, 50+ achievements, and a bunch of other features that make the game more fun as you go on. 

Another unlock for the future runs!

Hence, I’m recommending this game to everyone who’s in search of another roguelike to play in Spooktober or afterwards. It’s creepy, it’s ominous, it’s glorious. The gameplay is fun, I haven’t encountered any bugs and overall, it’s great.

Cheers!

Indietail – Spellbreak

A while ago, I wrote a review on Hyperscape and actually recommended it. I mean, it was fun and felt like Quake, on top of being free-to-play. But then I stopped playing Hyperscape again since I wanted to play other games and when I came back to another round or two, I noticed how hard it is for a Non-FPS-player to react in time or to make the right decisions or to aim properly. On top of that, there were some balancing issues and it felt just very frustrating to play it.

So, then I got an E-Mail about Proletariat’s Battle Royale game, Spellbreak, which is available on Epic Games (among other places) and even features crossplay! I was eyeing it for a while before eventually realising that it should, in theory, be just my cup of tea. I mean… Magic…. Combos…. Boom!

My very first game and I won! Woohoo!
Developer: Proletariat, Inc.
Publisher: Proletariat, Inc.
Genre: Battle Royale, Fast-Paced, 3D, Action, Fantasy, Third-Person
Release Date: September 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XONE, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Game is free to play

In Spellbreak, you essentially play as a mage using two magical gauntlets to battle it out on a big BR-style map. Before the round starts, you’ve got the choice between six different elements to use for your primary gauntlet: Poison, Wind, Lightning, Fire, Rock, and Frost. This gauntlet grants you bonus effects whenever you level up. Those effects range from immunity to your own spells to utility to more damage, so it’s worth looking into those bonuses.

During the round, you essentially try to find equipment and scrolls, as well as gauntlets that have a different magical property to your primary one. For instance, if I were to play as a Conduit (Lightning Mage), I’d be able to pick up the five other elements but I wouldn’t be able to get a second lightning gauntlet. This is quite well-made since the different gauntlets influence each other in different ways. Using the Tornado spell for instance and infusing it with Lightning, Fire or Poison damage caused it to turn into a Lightning Storm, a Fire Tornado or even a Poison Tornado, which is quite nice.

Similarily the Poison Cloud can be infused with Electricity, Fire or Ice, resulting in either an electrifying poison cloud, a big explosion or a frozen poison cloud that entraps and poisons everything inside of it! Some elements don’t mesh well together while others are unique and have very good offensive capabilities, but overall you pick what you get or what suits your playstyle the most. After all, your primary attacks (aka not the spells) also change based on your elements. Rock mages only hit ground targets with their primary attacks but can generate shockwaves and armour using their class-specific skills. Ice mages are more precise but also rather slow while Tempest mages deal less damage but can shoot out a barrage of shots!

Another interesting mechanic in Spellbreak is the Mana bar that you deplete while floating or while shooting out your primary attacks. With amulets, you’re able to gain more maximum mana, while belts increase your armour and boots increase your movement speed. If you don’t find certain items, it can get a bit hard for you to spam or run all the times. Meanwhile, as a Tempest mage with a Legendary amulet, you could very much kite enemies away.

And then, you also have potions, shield shards and abilities. Abilities also have rarities like your equipment but basically enable you to use another set of utility. Chase enemies, fly through the air or become invisible. It enhances the playstyle and I really like how there are no offensive abilities for the Shift-Slot. Unlike Hyperscape, you have your damage in your gauntlets and spells, while you use the abilities to gain momentum, push forward or flee.

Poisonous Firewall!

And then there’s the art style. The game’s heavily influenced by shows and movies like Princess Mononoke, Akira, and Avatar – The Last Airbender. This is resembled quite well in the charakter designs and how the world looks. There are different parts to the map that all have a distinct nature to them and just feel different overall. That’s something that I really enjoyed. I really like the influences the game has in terms of the art, although it got a bit hard to discern certain damaging effects on the ground from normal grounds in certain areas, which is a bit troublesome.

An issue that I have with the game, though, is how you at times can get locked into walls and you just get combo’d away. On top of that, some enemies play quite good but you have no way of adding them or making friends, overall, which is a bit of a bummer, in my opinion. Unless you write down their names or memorize them or whatever, there is not really an option, from what I’ve seen.

Don’t mind me, just hiding in this push…

And at last, I had the issue of me having a hard time with the map borders. At times, I’d go and loot a place but then the circle would move again and suddenly, I’m more than 2000 meters away from the next safe zone and the circle just runs over me. This gets annoying and frustrating over time when the game just decides to place the inner-most circle on the other side of the map. I mean, the map also gets slower at a more drastic pace compared to other games, so personally I would have changed the interval or allowed bigger circles, potentially.

In the end, Spellbreak is just another battle royale game. You have good players in there and bad players. Aiming is not as hard and important as in other games, though zoning, strafing and fast reactions are even more so.

Spellbreak has a certain tactical component to it but in the rounds that I played it always ended up being about me and other players butting our heads in when the circle stops by. It’s a battle royale, after all. It’s different from Fortnite and other games, for sure, but I’m not sure if it’s something I’m going to play forever. This is going to be something that I’ll play with friends now and then, I guess, and then I’ll get frustrated because of the meta or because of my lack of skills… and then I’ll play something else.

In the end, Spellbreak is a free-to-play battle royale game, so try it out if you wanna and don’t if you don’t wanna. I enjoyed it so far but I’d imagine that others wouldn’t. Due to the nice combo system and the mobility you have in the game, though, I’d recommend it to fans of the genre or fans of Quake and Unreal Tournament!

Cheers!

Indietail – Kill It With Fire

Winter is coming… which means that it’s springtime for spiders again. Usually, you see more in spring and summer, which is horrifying, but lately, I noticed that the heinous beasts love to get inside when it’s cold outside. Hence, it’s springtime… for spiders… in Germany! 

It’s been a while since we reviewed a title called “Kill It With Fire: Ignition“, which is why we’re now looking at the full game, “Kill It With Fire”. Before we get into it, let me just panic while I search for actual spiders in the different corners of my flat. It’s a scary world we live in, after all!

Developer: Casey Donnellan Games LLC
Publisher: tinyBuild
Genre: Action, Simulation, Comedy, Demolition, Casual
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Release Date: August 13th, 2020
Copy was sent by the devs.

So, what exactly is “Kill It With Fire“? – In Essence, it’s a “demolitionist’s wet dream” where you have to find and exterminate all kinds of spiders in different environments. To do so, you slap them, whack them, burn them, shoot them, slice them, and use all kinds of other weapons and objects to kill them all – while potentially also destroying a whole bunch of things in your flat, office, or in other areas.

Just like in the demo, you’re spawning into (presumably) your low-poly-house where you’re tasked with picking up your vase and opening a few drawers, as a small tutorial, I guess. Then you pick up your clipboard with more tasks and use it to punish spiders… for existing. 

Starting at that point, you’ve got to figure the game out yourself. You have certain drawers and doors, only available to you after you killed a certain amount of spiders. Other drawers aren’t available until you’ve finished a few tasks. Overall, this system gates your progress a little bit which I find necessary as you have to kill all of them. Kill them all. With Fire or not, whatever you feel like. 

In the starting level, I jumped a few times when I found a spider in an unusual spot. That’s something I could have and would have missed out on if I was able to leave immediately to go to the next area.

Among your repertoire of weapons, you have all kinds of tools to kill those gruesome creatures with. Use your clipboard, a pan, deodorant & a lighter, it’s your choice… but other objects have also found their way into your collection, like shurikens and C4! Hence, the weapons get more and more absurd and hilarious, the more you unlock and offer you a lot of different mechanics to play around with. For instance, spiders get lured in by cheese puffs… but the different flavours seem to have their own mysterious effects, as well!

All of this gets collected over a variety of nine different levels, including your home area, a Japanese-style garden, an office, a barn and a very secret military basis! 

The variety of levels is a lot of fun to play around, especially with certain side-tasks that you can do in different areas, like “washing the dishes” or “shopping”. It’s fun to go for those side-tasks, which was a bit of a surprise for me as I usually tend to get tired of games when there are tasks that are a bit fidgety or require you to have some finesse or patience.

The game’s held relatively simple with an aforementioned low-poly-style and little gimmicks in the world instead of grand graphics. The spiders are held a bit cartoony so they didn’t bother me too much. At times, of course, I got spooked by them, but over all, it wasn’t as bad as in other games featuring spiders. As far as the music goes, however, I must say that it’s grand! The jazzy vibes of the music are great and I love the small chime you hear when you open drawers or doors. Now and then, you hear some spider sounds but most of the time, you’ll get to experience a small tune here and there, accompanying your character, similar to the piano in Untitled Goose Game!

Overall, I really enjoyed Kill It With Fire. It offers you a lot of upgrades and customizable options on top of fun achievements to work towards, but there are a few things that I didn’t quite like.

One of them would be that the final level features a lot of content-gating as it urges you to backtrack but I didn’t enjoy that part too much. Instead, I would have loved to see small secrets in the final level that are gated to collectables and optional tasks, while still being able to continue with the final mission as usual. Just a small thing that I got a bit annoyed by. 

Another thing would be weapon variety… There are a lot of different weapons from normal utility items to guns to fire weapons and whatever category a saw launcher fits in… but I personally felt that all of the weapons leaned into only one direction or so. We have fire weapons and guns… Usually, fire is your weapon of choice anyway, but I just kind of felt like there was a market here that didn’t get touched upon. I would have loved to see more knives or even a katana. I would have loved to go crazy on people with a football. I would have liked it if you could pick up any and all objects and throw them at spiders as a weapon in all levels. Of course, you can pick up and throw books at them… but if that’s your weapon of choice, you won’t be able to use it in the Barn area as there’re no books nearby.

Overall, though, considering the game’s length, I wouldn’t say I minded that part too much. It’s just something that I would have liked to see more of. Overall, I had a lot of fun playing the game. After 4.3 hours, I got all the achievements and unlockables, which was fun to do. Considering the price, I would definitely recommend “Kill It With Fire” to others, though it is somewhat short, so keep that in mind.

As a small note at the end of this review, I requested to get an affiliate link for this game and actually got one. So, if you decide on buying this game, you may do so using this link and while you don’t have to pay any extra, I’ll get a commission for refering you over there. While I don’t want to commercialize my blog or anything like that, I’d like to potentially use links like that (with a big disclaimer like this) in the future to potentially earn a little bit that I then could invest into the blog again. I could, for instance, get my own domain and get it hosted somewhere else… or maybe go for a paid theme… or potentially, I could fund new game purchases using that.
Hence, you don’t have to do that, but you can if you want to.

Cheers!

Indietail – Outer Wilds

Exploration is one of those key features used by a lot of video games these days. Usually, you end up exploring an area for secrets, collectables and shortcuts, which – when done right – can be very satisfying and essentially encourage you to do it more. In today’s review, we’re talking about a game that is all about exploration and that doesn’t rely on any of those features but rather makes the player piece together all the different clues and information in order create a bigger picture of sorts. Today, we’re taking a look at Outer Wilds.

Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Jun 18th, 2020
Genre: Space, Exploration, Puzzle, Mystery, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX 1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

In a distant Solar System, we are tasked with finding out clues about an ancient civilisation only to find ourselves in a time loop similar to Majora’s Mask and Minit. After 21 real-time minutes, the sun is bound to explode, leaving us with the mission of finding out why this is happening.

Why does this universe end?
What do the ancient Nomai have to do with this?
How can we stop it?

To do this, we set out to different planets, solve a variety of puzzles, translate scrolls and ancient scriptures, so that we can get closer to the truth, one step at a time.

The Reveal Trailer is probably one of my all-time favourite trailers!

This is where the game shines. You retain all of your information whenever you die or whenever you reset. Hence, at the start of every loop, you get to lift off from the launch pad on Timberhearth, after having seemingly just dozed off at the campfire.

By scanning and translating different scriptures on walls and ancient ruins, you find out more about this ancient civilisation of the Nomai, who at first seem quite noble and distant but later become rather relatable and “normal”. You end up learning more about different tribes of Nomai that all worked together for Science and that all lived on different planets after they crashlanded in this universe.

While the leads and clues may, at first, seem daunting and overwhelming, your ship log usually tends to help you out by telling you if there’s more to explore in certain areas. It also displays the clues, all linked together, hence giving you some sort of lead to explore, if you ever find yourself in trouble.

There are two “modes” of movement in this game. You either travel from planet to planet and manoeuvre around the planets’ surfaces with your small little ship. Or you explore by foot, relying on your jetpack to reach high places if the gravity allows, and scanning things using your transcriptor. When you have a rough landing, you have to repair certain parts of your ship, like its oxygen tanks, electrical systems, the landing gear and other ones that are essential for safe travels. When you travel on foot, on the other hand, you have to watch your health and oxygen but also be sure to not get stuck somewhere without fuel. This makes for some interesting mechanics as different planets come with different hazards and gravity levels. On top of that, you, at times, have to reach certain places before your oxygen supplies run out, hence adding a little bit of pressure to you.

The different planets all shine in their own way. While Brittle Hollow has a black hole at its centre and while Dark Bramble is an enigma of its own, Giantsdeep features high gravity and a very harsh climate that allows vortexes on its surface to lift your ship and even islands into the air. I could assure you that every single planet and planetary body features a unique experience and that every journey to different sites and locations feels unprecedented and adventurous! At least, that’s something I fancied in my playthrough. Since there is no set starting point for every planet, though, you have to figure every planet out yourself and understand its systems, although you should have plenty of times for that – being trapped in a time-loop gives you a lot of time to think, eh?

Making use of a time-loop mechanic gives every 21-minute long adventure a unique vibe, that I really dig. At first, I felt a certain rush to find out as much as possible in every single loop, but then I noticed that it’s alright to take a breather at times and to enjoy the views. After all, Outer Wilds is a charming and gorgeous game, featuring a great score, some lovely dialogues, and a lot of clues, secrets and easter eggs to find in the ruins of the “old world”.

The soundtrack, composed by Andrew Prahlow, gives this title a certain adventure-vibe that helped me enjoy the ride a lot better. Different places feature different tracks while some other tracks get played when you’re getting close to your inevitable death, creating a rather fluid and non-linear experience every time you venture out into the Outer Wilds.

I love the soundtrack. I love the graphics. I love the gameplay. I love the story.

In summary, I love Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds created a novel experience for myself, even when it has some shortcomings here and there:

Your experience at the beginning can be somewhat slow, for instance, as you try to figure out how certain planets work, where you have to go, what you’re supposed to do. I enjoyed that, myself, but I’d be able to see how this would influence other people’s experiences and how it could bother others.

You don’t have a lot of directions given to you, although there are other astronauts on every planet that you can visit to ask them for “interesting places”. Based on where you land on a planet, you get to see different places to find out other clues. At times, this can mislead you into thinking that you found out everything about a planet, resulting in you seemingly “getting stuck”. At other times, you may just be wondering how an end-game location like the Hourglass Twins tie into the whole story and what you’re supposed to do with these “timed locations”.

Overall, I wouldn’t deem this too much of an issue though. By revisiting places and by making use of your ship log, you should be able to get “unstuck” in no time and figure out new leads whenever you try out a different location or find out a new piece of the puzzle.

Another issue that I found with the game is the fact that there are some issues in the PC version of it. Your ship can seemingly take way too much damage when bumping into certain objects and at other times, you may just die from a fall that you usually would make, which I found a bit frustrating at times. Bugs are, however, very few and very rare, so usually, this just left me in confusion and didn’t make me suffer too much.

Alas, my verdict is that Outer Wilds is an exceptional game that is worth checking out if you’re interested in a “true” exploration experience with a non-linear time-loop-based story. The presentation is just magnificent and charming, the story and the end of it are just more than grand, and I’m really glad about having played through it after 24.4 hours. That whole day that I spend in there was 100% worth it!

Cheers!

Indietail – Occupy White Walls

Art is something that should be accessible to everyone… but it’s a bit rough to get into. I don’t know a lot about art but I do enjoy going to exhibitions and museums – and while I don’t know a lot of the big names or techniques or epochs or whatever… I don’t think that I need to.

But there are often people that make it hard for newbies like me to get into that hobby. It’s hard to enjoy something like that if other people constantly are talking in a very condescending way with you while wielding big words and termini that you don’t understand.

Today we’re taking a look at Occupy White Walls, an art gallery simulation game that is trying to fight that problem. It’s trying to make art accessible to everyone – in a very unique way.

Developer: StikiPixels
Publisher: StikiPixels
Release Date: November 14th, 2018
Genres: Casual, Art, Simulation, Multiplayer
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was available for free.

In Occupy White Walls, you create your own gallery. You build it from scratch using different floors, walls and structures, which feels quite sandbox-ish. You also are able to buy paintings, photographs and drawings of famous and underrated artists, so that you’re able to… occupy… those white walls… yup!

My gallery is nowhere near finished but it’s looking cool so far, even though I’m only using glass panes right now. I’ll probably completely rebuild all of this at a later date – but for now this is already turning out quite well!

By opening your gallery you’re able to earn more money… and by buying new artworks, you unlock new structures, frames and other cosmetic features.

What’s very lovely about this is that the whole game is kind of built like an MMO of sorts… You’re able to visit your friends’ galleries or teleport to a random user’s gallery: You comment in their guest books or have discussions with other people on different paintings. You open their gallery so that they earn money while you’re enjoying the paintings… and when you see something that you like, you can put it on your wishlist or buy it yourself!

The tricky bit to Occupy White Walls is that you cannot just search for paintings. You cannot go for Van Gogh, da Vinci, Munch or Sargent and just take their paintings. Instead, the game works with artificial intelligence called Daisy that essentially recommends paintings to you based on your preferences. You then are able to find more paintings that are similar to the paintings you pick or you even search for more paintings by the same artist.

I love this view over here to bits!

Using this method, I was able to find an artist called LARSKRISTO who does a lot of very colourful and obscure pieces but also creates very dark and enigmatic paintings… I really love his style!

Another great feature of OWW is the information that you get about each painting. You can learn about the background of the artist and some other information if you look at a painting. Most paintings have a ton of information available and hence you can also discuss interpretations with others and analyze these paintings yourself, if that’s your jam – or you just look at them and enjoy the view: All based on your preferences!

And Daisy learns from the pictures that you buy and is always to find something new and interesting for you – and if there is nothing of interest in the selection, you can always request more. So far it has been fairly accurate for me… and just now I found about de Goya and that I actually like his stuff…

The game is completely free to play and progression is purely based on your creations: You build up buildings and galleries and buy new paintings or unlock new cosmetic features for your avatar but you’re never asked to pay a single dollar out of your actual pocket – in case you really want to, you can support the developers by buying the game’s official soundtrack.

Moonlight Surgery by Alnilam is one of the paintings that I found today.

Speaking of the soundtrack, it is just enigmatic and mesmerizing. There are a lot of very relaxing pieces there that perfectly work with what you’re doing. It’s relatively easy to sink a lot of time into this game once you found some pieces that you like and once you’ve got an idea of what you want to do.

Originally, I planned on having a “café” or bar of sorts with a lot of different seating areas and art pieces around it… but I need to be a higher level for that to unlock some other furniture pieces. Hence, I’m right now working with a different concept of a gallery in a glass box of sorts that is surrounded by an ocean and that features a lot of surreal and contemporary pieces. So far so good… I’ll revisit the café/bar idea later, though!

When you open your gallery, you’re getting joined by bots that wander through your gallery and look at paintings. After a while, they explode into paint splashes and leave money on your desk that you then can collect to invest it into more paintings or more space, furniture and building materials. Every now and then, you’ll see actual players that you can interact with but more often than not, you’ll only see the bots and you’ll only notice that players have been there due to the comments in your guest book.

This is another painting that I really adore. It’s by John Singer Sargent and it’s titled “Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)” and there’s just something about it that I just love.

And of course, there is a chat function where you can discuss all kinds of topics with other people… but since it’s Free-to-Play and since it’s online, won’t there be any trolls or toxic people there?

Well,… the developers have heard all of these concerns before and I’ve heard that they are working on a system to remove comments that you don’t like from your guest book while also detecting hateful messages. The comment feature was only recently introduced and the game keeps frequently getting updates! With each update, the developers are introducing more art pieces (old AND new!), new features, and items.

The community is super helpful and seems quite alright. Of course, you get the occasional “I was here” comment but once you’re able to remove that kind of stuff, those won’t be a problem. My initial concern about toxicity and trolls has also not been that much of an issue, yet, since there just don’t seem to be all that many people out there that know about this title or that appreciate art in that way. On top of that, you have to create an account for the game and while that is a bit annoying, it apparently is helping a lot with the process of keeping trolls out. Hence, I’m quite confident that the game won’t get tainted that easily by the internet!

The only issue that I had with the game is how many resources it requires to run properly, as in: Having a lot of paintings, objects and effects can make the game lag at times… but a lot of people avoid that by just creating small galleries on multiple accounts and by connecting them with portals.

It is still in Early Access and it still is getting updated… so that kind of justifies all of that jankiness. You have to wait a bit for stuff to load up and there are some issues here and there with floor-tiles glitching out a bit, but it’s usually not that bad compared to other EA titles.

All in all, I’d say that this is a great game and if you’re into art or if you want to look at cool paintings or meddle with some architecture you should definitely check this title out!

Oh, and if you want to visit my gallery: My name in-game is MagiWasTaken. And on another note, if you wanna check out some of the art that is featured in-game, visit this side.

Cheers!