Q&A With Moebius Games

Searching once again for up and coming indie games, I recently came across a procedurally generated sci-fi survival game named Exotic Matter. Developed by Moebuis games operating out of Munich, Germany, Exotic Matter, inspired by numerous works of science fiction and exploration games, similar to Minecraft has players needing to craft, build and solve puzzles in order to survive within the vast in-game world that surrounds them, whilst at the same also offering players a very story-driven experience in addition. Curious to learn more, I approached the game’s designer Florian Frankenberger to ask a few questions about the game, which was last week released on Steam Early access, and these were the answers:

    

What were the influences behind your game?

I always loved voxel games but most of them sadly get boring after playing them for some time. But why is that? Mainly because most of those games are sandboxes – they allow you to do all sorts of cool things but what they lack is a mission, something to accomplish. Sure you can level up all your gear and build fortresses but there is no set goal. So I thought one day that I should create my own game that actually gives the player a mission. And with that came the idea to go the Metroidvania approach as that some regions are accessible only after you have a certain gear, which gives the game a story but doesn’t force it upon the player.

What has the developmental process been like?

Hard I’d say, but also a lot of fun. I mean when I started I hadn’t developed a single game for some time. And the games that I created when I was younger were all 2D. So I had to learn all the fancy OpenGL stuff, matrix calculus, quaternions, shaders. And because I wanted not only to create a game but rather an engine for voxel games it took even longer to bring it to a releasable state.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I think game development in general is quite exiting. If you compare it to what I did before: writing boring software that ran on servers, it is just so much more rewarding if you hit “run” and you could instantly see the changes you just made.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?                          

The most challenging has been to actually create the modding interface for the engine. The problem is that everything I wanna do in the game also needs to be available for modders later on, so that the game itself actually is a mod for the engine. For example if I wanted to have a new block type that would do something when the player gets close to it, I would have to create a new block trait that would also then be usable in all current blocks types and all blocks types that modders might add later on. You see there is a lot of things you need to consider and to think about when adding something like that. That sometimes makes adding new things more complex than you’d think but it will help later on when you combine different traits to form completely new types of blocks without ever changing the engine again.

 

What’s next for Moebius Games?

Although I already have a few ideas in my head for new games, the most important thing now is to add more content to Exotic Matter and to remove all the bugs that most likely are still in there. I’m really looking forward to see what the game will become and also to see what worlds people will create once we open up the modding via Steam Workshop in one of the updates that will come in the next few months.

 

What sci-fi books, films or games were most influential in the development of Exotic Matter?

One of my all-time favourite books was a big inspiration for Exotic Matter: Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. Even though the story of our game is not anywhere close to the book, the visuals are heavily inspired by it. For example, the purple colour as one of the key colours for the game comes from the fact that in Solaris the planet has two suns, one red and one blue, which tints the planet in violet light.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I’d say although there are still some issues in the game, most people that played it so far really liked it. But some argue that getting into the game is not as easy as it should be and we’re currently working on ways to help that by showing more hints and making sure players are not able to loose important items.

How excited were you to have David Levy on board to compose the game’s soundtrack, and what was the primary aspect that his music added to the game?

It is a great honour to have someone like David on the team. When I first discovered the work he had done before, I was stunned. I knew that this is the kind of music I wanted to have for Exotic Matter. And I think the music he created for the game just so perfectly fits the mysteriousness of the planet you are stranded on, and the excitement of exploring it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Hmm … if there is one thing I’ve learned then it is that while writing your own engine is really a lot of fun, today it’s more important to have portability. So if I were to start all over again with Exotic Matter I’d use one of the big engines like Unity or Unreal Engine so that bringing the game to consoles is a much easier task.

 

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

People can find us on https://exoticmatter.io or on Steam, just search for Exotic Matter 🙂

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I just wanna thank you for giving me the opportunity to give people this small insight into our game 🙂

I would also like to thank Florian for answering my questions about Exotic Matter, and wish him and Moebius best of luck with this extremely promising title. Anyone who may want to download Exotic matter on Early Access can check it out via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/459760/Exotic_Matter/

I will also be posting a review of the game very soon.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

World to the West (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – Rain Games

Developed by Rain as an extension of the mythos of their breakout Metroidvania game Teslagrad, World to the West offers a completely different gaming experience to the former with a 3D top-down adventure game rather than a 2D Metroidvania. Having played this follow-up game and weighed it up against Teslagrad, this game comes out in front of it’s predecessor in terms of quality, as it exceeds it in almost every aspect.

Graphics – 9/10

First of all, the visuals are just as impressive as they were in the previous game in terms of both a conceptual and technical level. The conceptual design of the in-game world is a lot more diverse than in Teslagrad since it takes place in a much more vast landscape as opposed to being confined to one single area. It also does well to keep the same cartoon-like style that the first game had with it’s character and enemy design, along with both the design of the map and selected scenery within the game as well. That the developers made the transition from 2D to 3D, identical to the transition between the fourth and fifth generation of gaming in general, it made sense for them to have used cel-shaded 3D visuals to coincide with the visual ideas perpetuated within Teslagrad.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Gameplay is also much more varied than it is in the first game, with there being a much more heightened sense of both exploration, combat and puzzle solving. The players controls four main characters, which all must be used to explore the in-game world and gain access to new areas in order to progress throughout. Each character has their own unique abilities and combat moves that the player can utilize to suit whatever situation they may find themselves in. Whilst it is much more diverse than Teslagrad, the main gripe I had about the gameplay is that it has only one side quest just like it’s predecessor, which is in fact the exact same side quest as in it’s predecessor, and completing part of it is also necessary to progress with a certain section of the main story, which was disappointing considering the size of the open world, and how it compares to the first game. Regardless, however, it’s still a particularly fun game to play, and what time is sent on completing the main story can be thoroughly enjoyed. And like in Teslagrad, there are some particularly impressive boss fights too.

Controls – 9.5/10

The only problem I had with the game’s controls were that at times, they seemed a little unresponsive, which proved annoying; especially in pivotal moments like boss fights. Otherwise, it’s quite impressive how the developers were able to implement so many different types of controls for the four different playable characters from Teri’s ability to possess animals to Knaus’s ability to dig underground to get around certain areas.

Lifespan – 7/10

Overall, the game can be made to last around 15 to 20 hours, which is a massive improvement compared to Teslagrad, which could only be made to last there around 5 hours. Though there is only one side quest in World to the West, it takes much longer to complete, as there is much more back story to cover than what there was in the first game.

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story takes place in the same universe, but in a land far away from the city of Elektropia from Teslagrad. It follows the exploit of a teslamancer named Lumina, a bodybuilder names Clonington, and miner named Knaus and a bounty hunter named Teri, and how their story all come together for them to realize their end goal; to bring down a ruthless entrepreneur named Tychoon who is planning to use an ancient machine capable of manipulating the weather for his own financial gain. Unlike Teslagrad, there is most definitely a greater emphasis on the story going forward than there is of back-story, which is what the first game was primarily based on. And although I prefer the story in Teslagrad fractionally more than in this game, as it told the story in a much subtle, thematic and interpretive way, I like the story in World to the West for different reasons; that it tries much harder than Teslagrad to connect the players with the characters.

Originality –7/10

Although this game has its obvious influences (games in The Legend of Zelda series definitely came to my mind as I was playing this), it presents a gaming experience that is considerably different to the former, as in a way, its arguably more variable than the likes of Tri Force Heroes or Four Swords. Out of both of the gameplay formulas that have been tried and tested by Rain Games, I would much rather see them build upon this as opposed to the Metroidvania style of play in Teslagrad, as I think doing this has more potential and scope for expansion.

Happii

Overall, I enjoyed World to the West quite a lot. It’s a deliberately paced, varied and entertaining game with plenty of story going forward and back-story for players to sink their teeth in for a much more reasonable amount of time than Teslagrad. It’s better than their former game in every respect, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Omensight (PC & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Spearhead Games

Developed by Spearhead Games, the same team behind the critically acclaimed indie title Stories: Path of Destinies, Omensight is a hack and slash adventure murder mystery game, which plays out unlike many other games of it’s kind, heavily relying on a combination of both combat to progress through hordes of enemies at a time, and lateral thinking to determine how best to proceed throughout the course of the story, and to figure what paths to take as events unfold. Though not without its flaws, I can safely say this is one of the best murder mystery games I’ve ever played, easily outclassing the likes of LA Noire and Heavy Rain, as the gameplay is a lot more engaging than either of the former titles.

Graphics – 7/10

Inspired by numerous comic strips and Japanese manga series’, the conceptual design reminded me a lot of the game Dust: An Elysian Tail; a universe populated by anthropomorphic animals with cartoon-style visuals. But in this case, in-game graphics are cel-shaded, which contribute to the game’s vibrancy in colour and variety in environmental design, as well as character design. Architectural and structural features are also varied in that they are designed by the different races of people throughout the game’s world, which adds even more to the game’s diversity in visual design.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game plays out very much like a combination of God of War, Majora’s Mask and Heavy Rain, with players having to fight their way through hordes of enemies, whilst all the while attempting to gather clues from characters to solve an intricate murder mystery by constantly reliving the last day before the world’s apocalypse through the perspectives of four different characters in order to influence their actions and gather information on each of them in order to piece together the events of what happened.

With so many different paths to go down through the perspectives of each of the four different characters, and having a lot of combat to deal with along the way, I really enjoyed this game. It’s a nice blend of action and drama, which come together to bring gamers something pretty exceptional; especially for an independently developed effort.

Controls – 9/10

The game’s controls are almost perfect, bar the fact that even when special abilities were fully charged, the game would sometimes take unusually long to respond to commands that I would try to register, and to execute the special abilities such as slowing time or dashing. Otherwise, the game’s controls and movement mechanics during battle sequences are completely fluent. The game itself also provides a stern challenge, and in games like this, acceptable controls are a must, and the controls are more than good enough in this respect.

Lifespan – 7/10

Dependent on the actions the player chooses to take, the game can take there are around 8 to 12 hours to complete, which for a game that has multiple paths, but is essentially non-linear, is fairly impressive; especially for a murder mystery game. It’s another reason to me why it is far better than Heavy Rain, since regardless of the different paths that can be taken in Heavy Rain, that game can only be made to last there around 6 hours with each playthrough. So for Spearhead Games to have made a longer lasting game on a lower budget is really quite remarkable.

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story follows an entity known as The Harbinger, who has been called upon after the final day of the war-torn world of Urralia to save it from the different battling factions, as well as solving the mystery of the murder of the priestess Vera, and therefore also saving the land from the impending doom being brought upon by an omnipotent beast named Voden. The game’s plot in and of itself is extremely well written, with each aspect of the characters stories in conjunction with the mystery at hand all falling into place like perfectly lines up dominoes. Each of the four sub-characters have heaps of back-story, and they all play their own important part in the grander scheme of things.

The only thing that stops this game from getting a higher rating in terms of story is the voice acting. Whilst it was easy to take the ploy seriously, I thought the voice actors involved could’ve done better. For example, the actor who plays the character of Ludomir seems to swap between a traditional English accent and a Cockney accent, and I found myself really frustrated by this given how well the story is written. Also, Patricia Summersett, who played Zelda in Breath of Wild, also has a bit part in the game playing the character if Vera, and essentially recycles the same voice she uses in the former game, which again seems to be a mix of British and North American accents, and it can be hard to take seriously. On the other hand, the voice actors who played the character of Indrik and Ratika did a pretty good job, so the voice acting isn’t completely terrible.

Originality – 8/10

Though this game may essentially be a collection of different pre-existing video game ideas, they all come together to make one of the best murder mystery games I’ve played in an extraordinarily long time. Though many murder mystery games have story before gameplay in an attempt to relay the mystique of the game better, the fact of the matter is that this game proves that the best way to do that is through the gameplay itself. The best way to convey mystery through story is with a film in my opinion, which I think the likes of Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit would’ve worked better as. But the developers hit the nail on the head with this game in it’s attempt to convey the mystery primarily through gameplay instead.

Happii

Overall, Omensight is a solid gaming experience in every aspect, and I would highly recommend any hack and slasher or murder mystery fan to try it. The action is intense and game’s story is almost masterful, with many different ways to play throughout, which keeps it fresh, and will have gamers on the edges of their seats.

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Shape of the World (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Hollow Tree Games

Developed by Hollow Tree Games, and inspired by the landscape and wilderness of the developer’s basis in Vancouver, Shape of the World is a procedurally generated first-person exploration game, whereby the object is for the player to walk around uncovering new facets of the world around them, and to lightly interact with environmental elements such as trees. After first previewing this game, I expected much more out of it than what was on offer, and after playing it for less an hour, I became quite bored of it.

Graphics – 6/10

The one aspect I can give this game some praise for at least is it’s conceptual design. The environments are made to look like something from a different world entirely, with vibrant uses of colour and outlandish scenery design. The soundtrack also does well to add to the sense of serenity, which the developers were trying to achieve. There are no graphical glitches to be found, but the problem with the visuals is that they can start to feel incredibly repetitive after a while, and unless players are solely in this game for the sense of calmness, it can get very old very fast.

Gameplay – 1/10

The objective of the game is to travel the world and uncover as many object hidden within the environment as possible and proceed in accordance with what paths are discovered. Short of that, there’s really nothing else to do, which to me, was incredibly disappointing. As a gamer, when I hear the terms “open-world” and “procedurally generated”, my first reactions are to assume that these elements are there for more reasons than simply setting out to make developers feel relaxed. I expect there to be things to do within the game beyond simple and bland environmental interactions. Frankly, I haven’t been this disappointed to play an open-world game since I played Proteus.

Controls – 9/10

With basic first-person mechanics, the game’s controls do what they are supposed to do, but my main gripe with the control scheme was that the movement was far too slow, which whilst may have been a desired effect to add to the game sense of peacefulness, to me, it was simply another frustration I had with it.

Lifespan – 3/10

Though the game may be procedurally generated, the game’s lifespan will only last as long as the gamer can hold their own interest in it, which if you’re a gamer looking for a traditional gaming experience, you will be extremely disappointed. Personally, as I said, I got bored after less than an hour of playing this game, and I commend anyone not looking for the developer’s desired intent who can manage to get further than that.

Storyline – 0/10

As there is no narrative, I suppose the only positive thing I could theoretically say about this aspect of the game is that it could possibly encourage a gamer’s imagination to think of their own story as they go; kind of a throwback to how video games used to be seen back in the days of the Atari. But otherwise, there is nothing in terms of a pre-written story, there is nothing, which again to me, was just another frustration to add to the long line of which when it came to playing this.

Originality – 0/10

Though a game may be able to argue the fact that the concept of this game being made for a purpose different to a traditional gaming experience is original in and of itself, it’s not the first time a game like this has been made; and a distinct fear of mine is that it won’t be the last either. To me, uniqueness in video games is how they look and play out differently to how other great games do so, and in this game, there is nothing unique as to how it plays out. With minimal mechanics and objectives, it is something far less than any other FPS game ever developed, and it’s simply not worth the asking price when there are bigger, better, and most like cheaper FPS games out there.

Angrii

Overall, Shape of the World will be a massively disappointing game to anyone who may be looking for an immersing video game experience. If there are gamers who are looking to waste a few hours wandering around a procedurally generated limbo for the purposes of relaxation, then this may be up your street, but to me, this was ironically one massive frustration of an experience.

Score

19/60

3/10 (Bad)

Q&A With Michael N. Briscoe

After being away from Kickstarter for a while I decided to explore the platform again for indie game creators looking for funding on their latest developmental ventures. One such project that stood out was a 3D platformer named Accessible Early. A throwback to the early days of 3D platforming, but boasting a much more stern challenge than many other games of its Kind, Accessible Early is a game conceptually influenced by a range of different world cultures similar to most modern Mario games, but most evidently to me, Mexican culture, most evidenced by it’s character design similar to Grim Fandango. Intrigued, I sent over a few questions to one of the game’s programmers, Michael N. Briscoe, who had some interesting things to say about Accessible Early. Here were his answers:

What were the influences behind your game?

Primary influences have been 3D platformers developed by the Rare of old. Games like Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, as well as Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. The humour in Accessible Early has also been inspired by the writing in Undertale.

What has the developmental process been like?

Extremely laborious. As a solo indie developer, I have to do everything myself. This means working 60 hours a week on average, and working extremely efficiently at that.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, I estimate the final game to be released in 2020.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

How challenging it’s been. I enjoy all the different problems pop up in everything from coding to design. Creating a video game is very stimulating, both mentally and creatively.

In what respects will game differ from other 3D platformers?

Accessible Early will focus on platforming far more than any other 3D platformer, will have more impactful characters and storylines, and be more challenging than anything out there. Most video games these days seem to hold the player’s hand, and platformers are no exception. I’m not creating the Dark Souls of 3D platformers or anything, but I am developing a game that respects the player’s ability to learn and overcome challenges.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Marketing. It’s the one thing that you can’t overcome by working hard and creating something of quality. People like to say that quality products float to the top, that if you make something good then it will become popular, but this sadly isn’t true. There’s a reason why the AAA industry pumps absurd amounts of money into marketing campaigns. Trying to get the word out about Accessible Early while on a shoestring indie budget has been more difficult than everything else combined, because it seems that successful marketing requires a lot of money or a lot of luck.

How well has the game been received so far?

Accessible Early has garnered a lot of positive feedback so far. Pretty much every person who’s touched the demo has loved it. In particular people seem to really enjoy the music, which is especially reassuring to me since I’m just an amateur composer!

What games did you play, and how did this impact the development of Accessible Early?

Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Yooka-Laylee have impacted general 3D platforming features, Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy for platforming design (in particular for designs that offer the player learning experiences; Nintendo is very good at teaching people how to play their games), and Undertale and A Hat in Time have impacted the comical tone of Accessible Early.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Accessible Early will be available on PC initially, followed by a Mac release and then a push for a Nintendo Switch port.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

If you’d like to be an independent developer, then you will have to work hard. Harder than you’ve ever had to work before. But if you’re excited about your project, then the work will be fun. And whatever you do, make sure to start marketing immediately. I’ve read that a lot of people start sharing their project too late. So I started early. It was still too late. Share as much as you can, as often as you can. Independent developers can’t rely on ad campaigns or brand recognition to sell their games, so they need to rely on fan communities that grow very, very slowly.

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

The Kickstarter campaign and myself can be found here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1105728559/accessible-early-a-new-3d-platformer-collectathon

For social media I’m more active on Twitter than anywhere else:

https://twitter.com/AccessibleEarly

People can send a message directly through the Accessible Early website:

https://www.accessibleearly.com/

And I welcome people to email me directly at the following address:

info@accessibleearly.com

Do you have anything else to add?

I’d encourage anyone who’d like to make a video game to give it a shot. All of my favourite titles these days have been made by independent developers, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people create in the coming years!

I’d like to thank Michael for taking the time out to answer my questions on Accessible Early, and to wish him the best of luck with the project. I’m certainly looking forward to the release of the game; I hope all my readers are too. For any fans of 3D platforming games, this title looks particularly promising.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Moonlighter (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Digital Sun Studios & 11 BIT Studios

A joint venture between Digital Sun Studios & 11-BIT Studios, Moonlighter is a top-down action RPG Rogue-lite with community simulation elements similar to games like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. Picking this game up for the first few times, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of depth and replayability this game has to offer, and I enjoyed it a great deal.

Graphics – 8/10

Rendered in an 8-BIT visual style similar to classic adventure games such as the Legend of Zelda and Ys, the game takes place in the village of Rynoka with dangerous caves on it’s outskirts containing a plethora of intricately designed creatures each with their own unique individual looks and concepts. The variety in conceptual design is unprecedented, and the scenery is just as wonderful to look at throughout the entire game. There are also a series of cutscenes rendered in 8-BIT at the start of the game, which are fantastically well presented, and do extremely well to set the premise of the game.

Gameplay – 9/10

The game requires the player to delve into a series of dungeons battling against dangerous enemies to gather up as much loot as possible in every one venture, and then to sell what loot is acquired at a shop in Rynoka named Moonlighter for prices that can be adjusted by the player in accordance to what customers deem acceptable. Each dungeon is procedurally generated, so each venture in the dungeons offers a new challenge to the player and different loot with every playthrough, including weapons, enemy components and armour among many other things. The game has an overwhelming amount of replayability, and whilst it is a challenging game from the start, it does get exponentially harder as time goes on, whilst remaining thankfully accessible to players; much like Rogue Legacy, but on a much grander scale in terms of gameplay value.

Controls – 10/10

I say this many times with a lot of games I review, but as Moonlighter’s gameplay follows a formula that has been tried and tested many times, it’s reasonable to expect that there should be no problems with the controls, and so there aren’t. What makes this game stand out from the likes of The Legend of Zelda, however, are the additional mechanics such as rolling around to avoid enemy attacks. It’s similar to Titan Souls, but a lot less simplistic in basic design, as there is arguably more strategy required in Moonlighter to defeat the greater amount of enemies.

Lifespan – 9/10

The game’s replay value can make for hours upon hours of entertainment, which is always fantastic to experience; especially in an indie game. A lot of indie developers tend to make games, which are much shorter for various reasons, but games like this just go to show that limitations can only exist in the imagination, and that smaller budgets don’t necessarily mean indie games have to last only a few hours each. But with Moonlighter, it can be played for far, far longer, and whilst some gamers may think that lifespan isn’t as important, I’m firmly in the belief that the longer a game can be made to last, the better it is; and that’s certainly the case with this title.

Storyline – 6/10

The story primarily focuses on a basic premise as opposed to a progressive narrative. It follows a man named Will, who is the owner of a shop in the village of Rynoka named Moonlighter, who has aspirations to become a great adventurer in addition. There are hints of an ongoing narrative with the various clues that the player can find throughout each dungeon to progress through the game, but it can be quite difficult to present a story in that way and to keep it emotionally charged in a game; especially if it’s heavily text-based like Moonlighter is. If, however, players have the patience to discover the depth in story in this way, then the game’s story isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination.

Originality – 8/10

Though this game is not without it’s influences, each element comes together to form something particularly special and unique. I said earlier that developer limitations can only exist in the imagination, but after playing this game, it became obvious to me that the developers of Moonlighter certainly have abundance in imagination in most of every aspect that players can hope to find evidence of it in. The way the game looks, the length that it last and the manner in which it plays out is makes it unlike many other games I’ve played, and its earned every bit of the popularity it has done through it’s community if players.

Happii

In summation, Moonlighter is a fantastic game that I would greatly recommend to any fan of either RPGs or simulator games that may also be looking for a stern challenge in gameplay. It looks great, plays great, and stands out more than many other indie titles I’ve played over the years.

Score

50/60

8.5/10 (Great)

Teslagrad (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U & Switch)

Developer(s) – Rain Games

Publisher(s) – Rain Games

The debut title of Norwegian indie outfit Rain Games, Teslagrad is a Metroidvania game heavy with puzzle solving elements as well as elaborate boss fights from beginning to end. It was released to positive critical reception back in 2013, praised for it’s unique art style and brand of gameplay, but criticized for it’s supposed steep difficulty. After playing it, I also received it quite positively, but my concerns about the game were in places different to many other critics.

Graphics – 9/10

First of all, the artistic direction taken with this game is in my opinion nothing short of phenomenal. Combining medieval fantasy with steampunk culture, the character designs (particularly that of the player character), are also seemingly influenced by rubber hose animation; somewhat similar to Cuphead, but on nowhere near the same scale. Parallels with other games, however, are difficult to come across with this title in terms of visual representation. Simply because there are very few games I’ve seen like it. The only prior game to this that I could think had an impact on this title is Heart of Darkness, as the common enemies (the Grues) closely resemble the shadow creatures found in Eric Chahi’s puzzle side scroller. The Grues can also be killed in identical fashion towards end of Teslagrad to how the shadow creatures can be killed in Heart of Darkness. But I digress; Teslagrad is a visually compelling with a lot of diversity in scenery design and combining different cultures and periods in time to form it’s own cohesive concept.

Gameplay – 7/10

Though not having a great deal of depth in combat (at least not until the latter stages of the game), the player is kept busy throughout, having to solve puzzles with every step of the way, and most often than not, getting through boss fights using acquired gadgets as opposed to conventional weapons. There is also a collecting side quest the player can undertake in order to piece together the game’s tragic yet gripping back-story. Whilst playing, though I was challenged by the puzzles put before me, I found that the difficulty level was by no means too frustrating, as what many other outlets seem to think; certainly not difficult in the same sense as a traditional Castlevania or Mega Man game. I actually ended up enjoying it quite a bit. My favourite aspects of the gameplay by some distance were the boss fights, however. Each one was more elaborate than the last, and all having a certain sense of foreboding about them from beginning to end. The game’s soundtrack added great atmosphere to the game in general, but its in the boss fights where the music truly stands out.

Controls – 10/10

Playing out like a traditional Metroidvania game, it functions on the basic principal of 2D side scrolling mechanics, with which there are no problems in Teslagrad. But more interesting than that are the unique mechanics that are employed with each gadget the player obtains throughout the game. I particularly liked the magnetism mechanics, which allow the player to attract themselves to platforms or objects to either solve puzzles or get around. They also play a significant role in one of the later boss fights.

Lifespan – 4/10

Lasting just shy of 6 hours, Teslagrad falls short on lifespan compared to a vast majority of Metroidvania games; even indie ones such as Dust: An Elysian Tail or Axiom Verge. It was the main gripe I had with this game. Whilst I was able to thoroughly enjoy everything the game had to offer, I felt it could have easily been made to last much longer than what it does; especially with the inclusion of a few more side quests here and there as opposed to just having the one. The level of combat that is introduced late on in the game would also have warranted even more lifespan than what it has, since it does change the feel of the game significantly, and I liked to have seen more done with it.

Storyline – 8/10

The game’s story follows a young boy growing up as an orphan in the city of Elektropia. One day, whilst on the run from the authorities that be, he comes across a huge tower called Teslagrad, where he learns of Elektropia’s violent and tyrannical history, and he seeks to solve the mysteries lying within the tower and eventually to overthrow the king. Particularly for a game with either no text or dialogue, I found the game’s story to be fantastic. There are strong elements of tragedy similar to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as well as that of totalitarianism reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much depth in back-story there was to this game, and when I got to experience it, I was transfixed from beginning to end.

Originality – 7/10

In terms of gameplay, it’s the mechanics that make it stand out among many other Metroidvania titles; as I’ve alluded to many times already, the boss fights are more than noteworthy. The game’s story stands out as well, as I’ve very rarely seen games, which have as much depth in back-story as in main story, and one where the back-story plays as just as significant a role as the story going forward does. I had find all the scrolls given with the side quest, as I wanted to know as much about it as possible and I wanted to dissect for myself every ounce of it’s depth. There aren’t many games that are this story-driven as this that I generally believe warrant any more than a six out of ten, as they tend to undercut the gameplay. But with this title, there is a nice balance between the two.

Happii

Overall, Teslagrad, though for how short a time it unfortunately lasts, is a gripping game in terms of both story and gameplay. I enjoyed having to solve whatever puzzle was put towards me, and to defeat whatever boss I was put into contention with. And whilst it wasn’t an overly easy game, it wasn’t an overly difficult one either, as what many people seem to think. And whilst I found myself left wanting more (which is where their follow-up game World to the West comes in), I really liked what depth this game had to it despite its short lifespan.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

The 2018 Play Blackpool Special

Last month saw an early return of the annual Play Expo at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool. As per normal, there were a vast array of new, up and coming developers showcasing new and exciting indie games, as well as a few returning developers displaying improvements made on previously showcased titles, and a thrilling lineup of guest speakers from the home computer era of UK gaming throughout the 80s, as well as some of the country’s most well-known YouTube personalities. There was a great deal on show at this year’s proceedings, so without further ado, here’s what was on at 2018’s Play Expo in Blackpool.

Mao Mao Castle

One of the returning developers present at the show was Quang Nguyen of Asobi Tech once again showcasing his arcade rail shooter Mao Mao Castle heavily incorporating old-school graphics as well as conceptual design inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli. It was to my great delight that this game returned, since I have become quite proficient at playing it, and as of this writing, I have now set the high score on it at Play Expos three times. The game is extremely fun and addictive, and will have players coming back time and again upon release on Android and iOS.

Major differences have been made since the last time the game was on display back at Play Manchester; the current build has been shortened down to a demo mode, and there are also now the new check mate challenge for players to have to contend with, which involves having to fly through chequered formations aside from the pre-existing challenges such as avoiding the trees and flying over and above walls. Though the new demo build was fantastic, I hope that endless mode is included in the final build of the game, and I’m very much looking forward to its release.

http://aso.bi/maomao/

 

The Mystery of Woolley Mountain

Robert Hewson of Huey Games also made a return to Play Blackpool to showcase a title co-developed by them and Lightfoot Bros Games entitled The Mystery of Woolley Mountain. Conceived by indie developer James Lightfoot, The game is a classic point & click style adventure game set in a semi-steampunk fantasy world in which five renegade scientists seek to rid Woolley Mountain of an evil witch. I discuss the influences behind the game with Robert Hewson, who explained classic games of the genre, such as Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango were among sources of inspiration behind the game’s story and gameplay aesthetics. Having played the demo, I could see the similarities in this game’s quirky sense of humour and hidden secrets throughout, of which there is set to be much more of.

Point & click is a genre that I have intermittently indulged in over the years I’ve spent playing games, but what I have experience in this particular style of play, I have thoroughly enjoyed; games like Broken Sword and Sanitarium spring to mind. But since Broken Age, there haven’t been a great of new games in the genre that I’ve seen. It was a breath of fresh air to see a new genre being integrated into the indie scene, and having seen early footage of The Mystery of Woolley Mountain, along with recent re-masters of classic point and click games, it all bodes well for the future of the genre.

http://www.woolleymountain.com/

 

Employee of the Month

Multiplayer games also maintained a strong presence at Play Expo in 2018 following the popularity of previously displayed games in 2017 such as Nippon Marathon and Bee Bee Q. One of many multiplayer games central to this year’s show in Blackpool was Employee of the Month; a game that has up to four players hashing it out to see how can clean up most of in the in-game stage than the other three, and having players combat each other by picking up items available that give players the ability to increase their speed or slow opponents down among others. Out of every multiplayer game at the show, Employee of the Month was my favourite to be showcased, since it reminded me of Mario Kart to a certain extent; not in the sense of gameplay, but in the sense that the course of a game can be turned around exponentially fast. One minute the player may be winning, then the next, they may be miles behind the opposition. It’s a deceptively competitive game, but a whole load of fun at the same time.

http://cupofchar.team/

 

Mechanic Panic

Another fun-filled multiplayer game at the show was Mechanic Panic, which is a co-operative multiplayer game developed by a team operating out of the University of Northampton centring around up to four mechanics who must put together as many cars as possible before the timer runs out. This is done by retrieving car parts from revolving conveyors, which match the patterns generated by the CPU to put each car together correctly. In its basic design, it’s not too dissimilar to Overcooked, which was at Play Blackpool back in 2015, but though it’s little more simplistic than the former, it still seems like a pretty fun game. It’s early in development, so there may be more added to it in order to intensify the challenge and introduce new possible elements, but from what I played of it, I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

Mr. Grayscale

One of the more unusual games I saw on display was a puzzle platformer called Mr Grayscale. Extremely similar to a game called Glo, which was on display at Play Manchester last year, it involves navigating a small square character through mazes of elaborate platforms in order to reach the portal to the next level. Each puzzle is solved by either traditional platforming and/or rotating the obstacle itself in order to get around; similar to Fez, but much more simplistic in it’s design, and potentially harder.

The game seems to pull no punches in terms of challenging players and demanding a great deal of platforming skill, as well as encouraging players to improvise along the way. Though it’s linear in it’s core design, potential replayability could lie in a wide range of ways that players can solve each puzzle. I was both intrigued by the game’s visual design, as well as it level of stern, yet accessible difficulty. There is an early build of the game available to play on Newgrounds, but the full version will be coming to both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in the not too distant future, and I can’t wait to play the finished article.

https://mrgrayscale.com/

 

Tanglewood

One of three games to make a re-appearance at Play Expo, along with Mao Mao Castle and All Contact Lost, was Tanglewood; a retro-style 2D platformer being developed as an initial excusive for the Sega Mega Drive by Big Evil Corp. Seemingly inspired by the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and the Lion King, it revolves around both traditional platforming and puzzle solving, as well as day-to-night transitions playing a central role in the game’s style of play, similar to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. The story follows a fox-like creature name Nymm, who must find a way to survive and adapt to the world around him having been separated from his family.

Following the last time I played this game, a lot seems to have been dramatically improved in terms of it’s mechanics. The puzzle element was a lot more prevalent this time round, and the design of the stages were a lot more honed than before. I had much more of an idea of how I was supposed to traverse obstacles as they came, and the puzzles were far more practical, without it being too obvious how to solve them. I was impressed with the improvements made to Tanglewood since Manchester, and I have even more confidence that this game may go on to impress a wide range of audiences everywhere, from people who wish to experience a sense of nostalgia to players who may wish to experience some of the early years of traditional platforming games.

http://tanglewoodgame.com/index.html

 

Guardians of the Past

Guardians of the Past was the last game at the event I tried that centred around multiplayer. In it’s design, it is somewhat similar to Bullion, which was on display at Play Manchester 2017, but in my opinion, it played out infinitely better than the former. A multiplayer brawler, it emphasizes the use of a wide range of weapons available in-game, as well as setting up traps and gadgets that players can place within the arena in order to catch out their opponents and gain as much of an edge as possible in battle, whilst the player must also ensure that they do not fall for the traps set by opposing players.

After having attended a number of video game expos events now, I have seen a lot of this type of game, and it’s been difficult to determine a definitive favourite, but Guardians of the Past is certainly among my favourites along with De Mambo and Porcunpine. I was particularly impressed with the amount of variety within the game, and the different ways in which players can strategize for each battle before and during. It was always going to be difficult for games of this play style to stand out among each other, as there have been so many displayed at these events that I’ve attended over the last four years. However, Guardians of the Past did particularly well to stand out, and it will be interesting to see where the developmental process takes this title.

http://squidpunch.com/

 

All Contact Lost

The last returning title that I have been continuously impressed by, and did not fail to impress this time round either, was All Contact Lost. Developed by 1st Impact Games, All Contact Lost is a competitive survival shooter in which the player must survive for as long as possible with a set amount of time against hordes of oncoming insect aliens by replenishing health and ammo regularly, as well as maintaining the defences of their base of operations. It present gamers with an extremely stern challenge on a level that I have rarely seen in an FPS, as well as stunningly high-quality graphics that I have rarely seen in indie games.

The improvements that were made for Play Blackpool was an increased variety in level design, with stages set in caves as well as space stations and wide open planet surfaces. Over the last two years, I have watched this game continuously improve in both graphics and gameplay, and every time I see it, I grow more and more confident in it’s quality. It still poses a challenge without being inaccessible and the increased variety in level design compliment it’s stunning visuals to a greater extent than ever before. The game is currently on Steam early access, but the finished article will truly be something to behold.

http://1stimpactgames.com/home.php

 

Lost Wing

 

In recent years, what I’ve notice in the indie gaming scene is an influx of on-rail games in the absence of mainstream series in the genre, like the likes of Star Fox and Sin and Punishment. I’ve seen games like Nerve and Race the Sun continue to impress audiences everywhere, and they all work well to keep the genre fresh and exciting. One such game at Blackpool this year was Lost Wing; an on-rails game whereby layers must manipulate speed in order to traverse oncoming obstacles and collect as many orbs as possible, and in turn, racking up as high a score as possible. In conceptual design, it reminded me a lot of the zone challenges in Wipeout HD, but in it’s gameplay, it’s extremely similar to Nerve.

Though it wasn’t as intense as Nerve (certainly as the game is not available for VR peripherals), it was still as challenging; if not more so. Though there has been a small resurgence of this genre in the mainstream with the return of Star Fox on the Wii U, it hasn’t been enough to rekindle its former popularity, and it still leaves a space to be filled. Games like this could do extremely well to contribute to a return of the popularity of rail shooters given the right amount of originality, and dependent on how development of Lost Wing progresses, it could possibly be an extremely strong contributor to that end.

https://boxfroggames.itch.io/lostwing

 

Positron

The last game I tried at the expo was an extremely unique title called Positron. Designed by Retroburn Games, and Seemingly taking visual influence from the classic sci-fi film Tron, as well as 80s culture in general, Positron involves players having to navigate a man on a bike through a series of elaborate mazes in order to progress to each level, whilst also being careful not to touch any of the walls or their previous path. If either is touched, it’s game over.

Out of every game that featured in this year’s proceedings, this one was the most unique in terms of gameplay by some distance. I always have a great deal of fun experiencing a new way to play games, and Positron was no exception.   I’m always thrilled when developers try their hand at the type of game that has never been created before. It can be a long and drawn out process to ensure that each element of it is handled correctly, but when it comes together at the end, it usually makes for something special; and Positron could certainly fall under that category dependent on how the rest of development progresses.

http://retroburngames.com/news

 

YouTube Panel

Play Blackpool 2018 also had a wide range of guest speakers from the world of gaming to offer their insights and experiences within the medium. One of which was a special panel comprised of various YouTubers from the UK. There was Daniel of Slopes Game Room, Peter Leigh AKA The Nostalgia Nerd, Kim Justice and Stuart Ashen, the author of Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard of, and it’s sequel Attack of the Flickering Skeletons.

Especially from a journalistic point of view, I knew that this talk was going to provide quite a deep insight into how the medium is portrayed through what is essentially televisual personality, but I wasn’t prepared for how deep that insight would be provided; particularly concerning the subject now and before.

Kim Justice made this point best I found. She discussed her opinion on the reason why TV programs about video games were never quite as popular as other shows at the time were back then, or as popular as YouTube is now. She argued the case that since video gaming has been seen as a rival to television by many production studios, they would never do as well as other programs, or they would be confined to their own networks even, and not be as prevalent throughout other mainstream TV networks such as BBC or ITV. Until then, I never actually thought about this in as much depth, since I suppose I was always quick to believe that the problem may have simply been down to viewing figures. However, the more I think about Kim’s point, the more sense it makes. Even back when I was a kid, I remember video game programs being confined to digital networks such as Game Network for example. And even today, GINX seems to be the only TV channel dedicated to gaming specifically. Even Dara O’Briain’s Go 8-BIT is confined to a regular spot on Dave despite the fact that Dara O’Briain has been a prominent figure on mainstream TV for a number of years.

Stuart Ashen also provided a rather unique insight of his own, elaborating on many of the things that he’d written in his two books about extremely obscure games that are of exceptionally low quality. As a reviewer, I have played a number of games that I consider to be of exceptionally poor quality, such as Bubsy 3D and Tunguska. But Stuart went through a lot of the presentation talking about games that had seen an official release but in even an unplayable state. I’d read Terrible Old Games That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of after my best friend bought it for me, but there seemed to be games described that were even too bad to mention in his book.

 

Paul Rose

Continuing the line of guests from the medium of video games journalism, Paul Rose, AKA Mr Biffo was also there to describe his history in the gaming industry. Back in the days of Teletext, Paul Rose created Digitiser; a Teletext page dedicated solely to gaming. I addition, he also wrote the script for a sixth generation game called Future Tactics released on PS2, GameCube and the original Xbox. Chronicling a long career of great ups and great downs, Paul has seen Digitiser grow from a niche interest into something that was adored by people all over the country, eventually leaving behind a cult legacy the UK gaming industry.

Since the show in Blackpool, Paul has also since announced a crowd funding project on Kickstarter to fund a full-fledged show of Digitiser, which has since received five times more than the initial £7000.00 goal. The show will be co-presented with Larry Bundy Jnr and Gameplay Jenny, with several potential guests already announced. Though it surprisingly wasn’t mentioned in the show, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Paul and his co-presenters best of luck with the Digitiser show when it airs, and that his talk at the show was extremely intriguing, and boded well for the show’s hopefully successful future.

 

The Oliver Twins

 

Capping off a great weekend at Play Blackpool, The Oliver Twins, Phil and Andrew Oliver also returned to the Norbreck following their appearance back in 2015 presenting their MMO game SkySaga: Infinite Isles, to talk more about their biggest success as games developers; Dizzy. For my younger readers, Dizzy was a series of platform adventure games, which featured primarily on home computer consoles in the UK throughout the 80s, and went on to become one of the most beloved series of games on the likes of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC.

The first talk they attended on the Saturday was their taking part in a panel of developers creating games for the upcoming ZX Spectrum Next along with the likes of Jim Bagley, Mike Dailly and Clive Townsend. The second of their talks, however, was a presentation chronicling the history of the Dizzy games, and how the Oliver Twins went from developing games on their original Dragon 32 system to creating one of the most prolific game series’ on home computer consoles. It was great to see the Oliver Twins back at Blackpool and to hear more about their quite illustrious place in UK gaming history, and it will be extremely interesting to see the result of what they will create for the ZX Spectrum Next along with the long list of developers creating games for it.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff and volunteers who helped Play Blackpool to be as enjoyable and as safe an events it could possibly have been, and I’m looking forward to attending another Play Expo later on this year; particularly the one-off retro special, which again will be held at the Norbreck later on this year in October. I hope you guys had as much reading this article as I did writing it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Cuphead (PC & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Studio MDHR

Publisher(s) – Studio MDHR

Director(s) – Chad & Jared Moldenhauer

Producer(s) – Maria & Ryan Moldenhauer

One of the most highly anticipated games of 2017, following it’s initial showcasing at E3 four year prior, Cuphead is a traditional side scrolling run and gun game with an eye-catching and unique conceptual design and gameplay that is as challenging as it is satisfying. I first sampled this game at Play Manchester 2017 shortly after it’s release, and realized thought while it is indeed very challenging, it’s also a great deal of fun, and one of the better indie experiences of last year.

Graphics – 10/10

The game adopts the visuals style of the golden age of American animation of the early 1900s, having been influenced by classic cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop among many others. The games visual style was the most noteworthy aspect of it when it was first showcased, and arguably still is. Although the game’s play style is extremely enjoyable beyond it’s visuals, I believe it’s still the game’s finest point. Though plenty of games based on cartoon animation have since come and gone, few games have ever looked as compelling as Cuphead does.

Gameplay – 8/10

As stated, the game revolves around players running and gunning through a selection of side scrolling levels, but the most prevalent feature in the gameplay is the numerous boss fights throughout, which for the most part, are extremely well handled, and come with a fair amount of challenge to match. I had an extremely difficult time trying to pick a favourite boss fight in Cuphead because each one of them is memorable in it’s own right. But in the end, I decided to pick out Grim Matchstick as being my favourite, as for me, it provided the best blend of both challenge and individual conceptual design. Other outstanding boss fights in this in my opinion included Dr. Kahl’s Robot, Djimmi the Great, Ribby & Croaks and Cali Maria.

Controls – 10/10

With every intentionally difficult game I review, I always look at the controls with a greater sense of importance than other games, because control schemes in these kinds of games in my personal opinion are largely hit and miss, and can greatly affect the sense of challenge the game has to offer. For example, the original Mega Man was intentionally difficult, and as most players who have played it will testify, it is a particularly challenging game. But I personally found there to be some issues with the controls; especially in Guts Man’s stage where there is precision platforming required. Thankfully, however, Cuphead does not have these issues. If mistakes are made, it will be down to the player’s individual skill, which is the way it should be.

Lifespan – 6/10

The biggest gripe I have with the game is in its lifespan. The game, dependent on player skill of course, can take there around 6 hours to complete to 100%, which for the amount of time it took to finish, seemed somewhat uneven to me personally. I can’t deduct too many points from it in this aspect, however, for two reasons. It lasts longer than most classic games of it’s kind, and the development time was clearly put into getting every other aspect of the game right. It would have been nice to have a few more side scrolling levels added to balance out the amount of boss fights, but nevertheless, it’s a somewhat reasonably long game, and for the time players will spend playing it, they will thoroughly enjoy it for what it is.

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story follows the titular character Cuphead and is friend Mugman, who against the advice of their master, The Elder Kettle, wander off far from their home, and come across a casino. They find themselves on a winning streak at the craps table when they are suddenly interrupted by the Devil, who raises the stakes. If they win one more roll, the pair will get all the loot in his casino. But if they lose, they must forfeit their souls. Cuphead agreed, but rolls a snake eyes, and after pleading for their lives, the Devil makes Cuphead and Mugman a deal; if the pair can claim the souls of numerous runaway debtors for the Devil, he may consider pardoning them. The game’s story is simple in structure, but fairly unique in concept at the same time. It even has multiple endings, given the player’s choice. It’s the story, as well as it’s visual design, that make it clear that this game was quite simply a labour of love.

Originality – 8/10

The Moldenhauers created this game based on their own experiences of watching classics Disney and Fleischer cartoons in their youth, and in Chad Moldenhauer’s own words, sought to mimic the more subversive and surrealist elements of the classic cartoonists of the day. And subversive and surreal are some of the best words that I can possibly use to describe this game. It was enough to raise a great deal of eyebrows at E3 2014 with it’s own unique conceptual design, and it has since impressed a great deal of gamers since it’s release, including me.

Overall, Cuphead is a visually stunning and delightfully challenging game with a lot to offer both veteran gamers with an appreciation for their routes, and for newer generation gamers, who may be curious about experiencing some of the beginnings of video game design. Though it took an unusually long time to be released following it’s initial showcasing, it turned out to be more than worth the wait, and it comes highly recommended from me.

Score

49.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Koichi Hayashida

Released in the holiday season of 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey presents players with a return to the open-ended 3D style of play of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, and invigorates the series with new abilities and environments, as well as incorporating elements of classic Super Mario gameplay, such as side scrolling. From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this title, and whilst it didn’t become my favourite Super Mario game of all time, certainly goes above and beyond many other games in the series in recent years.

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing to say about the visuals is that on a technical level, this is the best that Super Mario has ever looked. Each character and level found throughout the game is wonderfully detailed, and the blending of 3D and 2D make for something particularly special in terms of graphics. Conceptually, the game does fairly well to stand out from the rest of series in addition, which is quite remarkable given the astounding amount of transition the series has gone through over the 32 years it’s been around. After having watched the trailers for the game before it’s release, I was sceptical as to how some of the environments that were shown would fit with a series like Super Mario Bros, but after playing, I was posthumously proven wrong. Each level especially the Metro Kingdom, which I was most sceptical about, adds a new dimension to the series that I hadn’t thought possible beforehand.

Gameplay – 9/10

Much like Super Mario Galaxy 2, the objective of the game is for the player to find power moons, instead of stars, to power up Mario’s newfound ship named The Odyssey to advance from one level to the other in order to reach Bowser and rescue Peach from him. The most standout feature in terms of gameplay is Mario using his new anthropomorphic hat named Cappy to possess certain enemies throughout the game, and thus use their abilities to the player’s advantage. Much like the new settings, it adds another unique twist to the series’ tableau, as well as a new approach to gameplay, which has scarcely been seen in games before. And in lieu of 3D Super Mario tradition, the game simply doesn’t end with Peach being saved from Bowser. After the main game has been completed, there is a plethora of additional power moons to find, as well as additional objectives given to players for completion on a scale never seen before in a Super Mario game.

Controls – 10/10

Since the 3D Mario formula has existed for over 20 years, it would be more than reasonable to think there would be no issues with the controls; and so there aren’t. Super Mario Odyssey plays out as seamlessly as any other 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64, and the way in which new combat abilities and enemy abilities that Mario can adopt are also seamlessly integrated into the rest of the formula.

Lifespan – 9/10

The base game will take players there around 10 hours to complete, but after which, that hardly even counts as scratching the surface. Each level has an amount of collectibles to pick up that is unfathomable compared to every other Super Mario game before it. It will easily make for 60-70 plus hours of gameplay, and an excellent addition to the collection of extremely long games on the Nintendo Switch along with Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Skyrim.

Storyline – 7.5/10

Following the usual Super Mario Bros formula, Super Mario Odyssey follows the story of Mario having to save Princess Peach from Bowser; only this time, Bowser plans to marry Peach after stealing various relics from each kingdom throughout the world. Mario is also joined by the aforementioned anthropomorphic hat named Cappy, who is also out to rescue a female anthropomorphic hat named Tiara, whom Bowser has Peach wear in preparation for the wedding. Though for the most part the story is largely unoriginal, especially for anything seen in a Super Mario game prior, what makes the way in which is story is told in Odyssey stand out fractionally more than other Mario games is the projection of emotion found throughout. Mario is portrayed as slightly less of an unstoppable superhero capable of beating anyone he comes across, and is shown to feel the difficulty and hardship of what it is he is setting out do. On several occasions, Mario comes painfully close to rescuing Peach from Bowser before the final battle, but he is shown to suffer setbacks, which visibly frustrate him, and though these are not things that haven’t been seen in games prior to this by any stretch of the imagination, it is something new to the series, which in terms of story, has needed for quite some time. But in terms of depth in plot, it still leaves players wanting much more in this respect. It’s certainly my biggest criticism that I have to levy against this game.

Originality – 8.5/10

With that one main qualm I have out of the way, the fact of the matter remains that this game is the most unique Mario experience released since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in terms of every other aspect aside from story. The settings are outstanding and the gameplay is even more so. In recent years, the originality of this series has been very much hit and miss in my opinion, with me contrasting the uniqueness of games such as Super Mario 3D World and Paper Mario: Colour Splash, but Odyssey could possibly pave the way for more unique Super Mario experiences in the future, introducing new elements to the series, which could potentially be either expanded upon or could be spun off into even more new elements depending on what direction Nintendo want to take it into.

Happii

Overall, despite lacking in story, Super Mario Odyssey delivers players, which is in my opinion, the best Super Mario game since Galaxy 2. And whilst it may not be anywhere near as good as the former, it certainly spells a bright future for the franchise, as well as giving players what is probably the longest Mario experience ever.

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great)