Tag Archives: PC

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)

Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast (PC)

Developer(s) – Vile Monarch

Publisher(s) – Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Following on from Vile Monarch’s previous indie title, Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator, The Holly Roast, takes the franchise into the Hollywood movie industry, and delivers the same level of quirky humour, and the same interesting twist on both turn-based and traditional fighting game combat, and builds on what the first game perpetuated to deliver a greater experience. I first saw this game at EGX Rezzed 2017, and was immediately smitten with it; it drove me to play the original game, but by comparison, the second is even better in my opinion,

Graphics – 7.5/10

The graphics in the series have undergone a significant overhaul compared to the original game, and the characters and setting look even better. There are more varied character and level designs than in The Insult Simulator, deviating away from the Monty Python themes of the first game, and it features a much greater level of detail. It also opens up possibilities in terms of future games in the series, and how they could be based on a wide variety of different subjects.

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay of the Hollywood Roast is almost identical to that of The Insult Simulator, but this time round, the developers have added a few new mechanics to the combat system; most notably the comeback ability. Player now have the options to add a comeback onto the end of their insults for bonus points. New comeback can also be unlocked for each character as the game progresses. But the biggest and best new addition to the series is the modding system. Players now have the ability to create new characters and stages within the game, which definitely gives the game an even greater level of variety what I personally thought to be possible after having played the demo.

Controls – 10/10

Just like the original game, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever, with it being a simple point and click game typical of most games that run best on PC.

Originality – 9/10

The Insult Simulator was an original game on it’s own, but The Hollywood Roast still maintains that same level of uniqueness; the difference being between the two of them is that there is far more to play for in the second game. The original demonstrated an entirely new way to play a fighting game, but this title has perfected this new style of play.

Happii

Overall, Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast is a more than welcome addition to one of the most unique indie gaming series I’ve ever come across. It’s fun to play, can last even longer than the original with modding possibilities, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score

33.5/40

8/10 (Good)

Reus (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Abbey Games

Publisher(s) – Abbey Games

Designer(s) – Adriaan Jansens, Dennis Pullens & Nick Witsel

Programmer(s) – Bas Zalmstra, Maarten Wiedenhof, Manuel Kerssemakers, Dennis Pullens, Tim de Jager & Jacco Krijnen

Developed and self-published by indie developers Abbey Games, Reus is a unique type of real-time strategy game, whereby the player must create a world and influence the populace to maintain as peaceful a civilization as possible. Overall, I was extremely impressed with how original this game is, and I would recommend it to any fan of the strategy genre who may be wanting a much different experience to what they may normally be used to.

Graphics – 7/10

Making use of hand-drawn 2D graphics, I really like the conceptual design of this game. It gives it a deceptively innocent look about it, when in fact, it can become a wonderfully hectic challenge to maintain civility among the world’s people, and provide resources as and when they’re needed, and to not overdo it in any way. The game’s soundtrack can also add to this depth in deception, as it sounds very peaceful against a potential foreground of problems that muse be solved.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game puts the player in control of four ancient gods, who must be used to create different form of terrain across the planet to allow for the development of civilization, and it’s expansion. The more food and gold mines the people are able to utilize, the more prosperous it’ll be, but more prosperous societies may become greedy and complacent, and be the subject of envy amongst other civilizations that may exist across the world, thereby increasing the risk of conflict between them, and effecting the level of peace throughout the land. Though it may not be the first game to introduce mechanics of the same ilk, as it does draw inspiration from strategy games such as Empire Earth and Sid Meier’s Civilization, it does it in a very different way to either of the aforementioned, and provides a challenge unlike any other.

Controls – 10/10

As a strategy game, it is inevitably best played on PC, as it can be quicker to issue commands to the gods and carry out tasks as and when required through the use of hot keys. But on console, it’s not unplayable; it’s still quite easy to get to grips with the controls, and the overall gameplay system. In fact, it can arguably be seen as a greater challenge playing games like this on console. I felt the same way when I played Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4, and Reus is no exception in my opinion.

Originality – 9/10

To put it simply, I’ve never seen or played a game like this before. It’s 2D graphic design and unique way of playing makes it stand out from every other strategy game ever developed. It gives testament to how willing and capable indie developers are of creating new concepts for games of pre-existing genres. There’s been Don’t Starve, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Super Meat Boy to name but a few, and Reus is as every bit as innovative as those examples in my opinion.

Happii

Overall, Reus is an enjoyable and insanely unique gaming experience that comes highly recommended from me. As a fan of strategy games, I had a lot of fun playing this title, and I’ve no doubt that other strategy game fans will feel a very similar way about it.

Score

33/10

8/10 (Very Good)

Earthlock: Festival of Magic (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Wii U)  

Developer(s) – Snowcastle Games

Publisher(s) – Snowcastle Games & Soedesco

Director(s) – Bendik Stang & Fritz Olsen

Producer(s) – Erik Hoftun

A turn-based RPG reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games, Earthlock is a game developed by Norwegian outlet Snowcastle Games after securing $250,000 funding amidst a successful Kickstarter campaign, and later published by Soedesco Entertainment; currently one of the most prominent publishers of indie games in, having marketed games like Tower of Guns and Teslagrad to name but a few. Whilst not lasting anywhere near as long as games in the aforementioned tow major RPG series, it retains a lot of the addictive gameplay and satisfaction to be had for developing player characters, as well as a fairly intriguing story set in a wonderfully outlandish world.

Graphics – 7.5/10

The conceptual design of this game speaks to me as a combination of Final Fantasy IX and Star Wars, in that there is the element of futuristic steampunk technology, much like the classic Squaresoft game, and then there’s also the element of different alien species co-existing together, as the character Amon and his uncle Benjo scavenge together at the start of the story; reminiscent of how species exist together in the likes of Star Wars or Mass Effect. Specifically, the desert areas remind me a lot of the planet Tatooine. Though it may not stand out greatly on a technical level, the conceptual design certainly makes up or that.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Earthlock is a story-driven turn-based RPG; the objective of which is to recruit the main characters to the party, and engage in randomly prompted battles in order to level up each characters to make them as strong as possible, in turn, advancing the main story. In addition, there are also side quests and causes to revisit previous areas, as there are places with stronger monsters, which players need to become stronger over time in order to go back to and explore. Though the gameplay formula has been replicated many times before, Earthlock still gives player a lot to play for in the time that it lasts. It also always addicting to level up characters, and gain new abilities that can be used in combat to achieve more of an edge in battle.

Controls – 10/10

The controls for these games are always very straightforward, and Earthlock is no exception. Exploration and combat are extremely easily to get to grips with, and players will not experience any unnecessary complications while playing. Seeing games like this surfacing within the indie gaming community since the start of the eighth generation has been a breath of fresh air following the unnecessary and frustrating changes made to the combat system in the Final Fantasy games since Final Fantasy XII, and the controls are a massive part of this. Earthlock is a game that gets turn-based combat right in this respect.

Lifespan – 7/10

Earthlock can take on average around 20 hours to complete, but if players are more thorough, and want to do everything possible, it can be made to last around 30 hours, and although this falls short of the average lifespan of a typical turn-based RPG, it’s still more than a reasonably long time for a game to last; especially one that was initially developed on a lower budget than the average mainstream game. To compare it to another, although the game may not have the phenomenal conceptual design of Child of Light, it still lasts a lot longer than a game in the same genre developed by a mainstream company.

Storyline – 7/10

Taking place in the fictional setting of Umbra, the story follows a young man name Amon, a scavenging adventurer, who eventually gets caught up in a huge conflict involving the Suvian Empire. The game’s plot is also quite reminiscent of that of both Final Fantasy IX and Star Wars, as many different characters from a multitude of different backgrounds form an extremely unlikely alliance to save their world from an impending threat. It’s always interesting to see these kinds of stories come together, and Earthlock, albeit to a smaller extent, tells this kind of story well.

Originality – 7/10

Though Earthlock draws a lot of inspiration from many different sources of fantasy and science fiction, as well as many classic series’ of RPGs, it still has a unique level of conceptual design that does well to make it stand out from a great deal of games; most notably in it’s character and enemy designs. Or example, in most Final Fantasy games, most, if not all of the main party, is made of humans, but in this game, almost every playable character is member to an entirely different species, and it makes the game seem extremely diverse in that respect.

Happii

Overall, Earthlock was a very enjoyable game to play, and I would recommend it to any fan of the turn-based RPG formula. It has massive abundance in gameplay and diversity in conceptual design, in addition to an intriguing story that does well to keep players gripped from start to finish.

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PC & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – The Chinese Room & SCE Santa Monica Studio

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Jessica Curry

Designer – Andrew Crawshaw

Developed as a spiritual successor to the game Dear Esther, and picked up by Sony after the developers failed to crowd-fund the game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture turned out to be one of these games that is driven solely by story, and is told through a first person perspective with a fairly sizeable open world with nothing to do in it but walk around. After first seeing this game announced back in E3 2014, I was quite excited for what potential this game had; even going so far as to list as one of my top ten most highly anticipated games at that time. Upon playing it, however, I was glad I didn’t pay any additional amount for it on top of my PlayStation Plus subscription. I was bitterly disappointed by this title. Ben Croshaw of The Escapist described this game as a “walking simulator”, and that’s all, and exactly what it is.

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set in Shropshire in England in the early 80’s, and features a lot of staples of English architecture, such as Victorian style houses and local pubs. One positive thing I can say about this game is that the visuals were handled fairly well, being more impressive on the technical level as opposed to the conceptual level. The game’s soundtrack also does fairly well to add to the game’s deceptively calm atmosphere throughout.

Gameplay – 1/10

The game simply has the player walking around the town trying to piece together exactly what happened to the inhabitants who have mysteriously disappeared. There are no additional quest or combat elements, and the gameplay is almost non-existent. This is where it’s squandered potential comes into play, as there was definitely enough room to add more to it than simply walking around, making it feel like a very insulting gaming experience amounting to nothing more than a very long film.

Controls – 10/10

Mercifully, walking around is as easy as it is in most decent first person games, as there are no problems with the controls. But in a game where the only objective is to walk around, it would probably have been easier to get it right than to mess it up.

Lifespan – 3/10

Clocking in at around 4 and half hours, this is another aspect in which the game’s wasted potential sticks out like a sore thumb. Given the addition of more things to do, it could have been made to last a great deal longer. But given the fact that going outside for a walk would be a much more preferable alternative to playing this game, it’s just as well that it lasts as short a time as it does. I myself could only manage 20 minutes of it.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game centres around the player character trying to deduce exactly what happened to the inhabitants of Shropshire, and why they have disappeared so abruptly. The plot does take a few unexpected twists and turns, which is good, but not exceptional in my opinion. Overall, it still doesn’t come close to making up for the severe lack of gameplay. At the same time, the fact that the story isn’t even overly good cheapens the experience further, as there have been countless that have told better stories, yet have had much more in the way of gameplay.

Originality – 4/10

The developers were clearly trying to create something different with this game, but to me, there is hardly anything unique to talk about. The premise is relatively original, but short of that, there is of course no innovation in any other aspect, i.e graphics gameplay etc, which again to me, further cheapens the experience, and defeats the object of what the developers were clearly trying to do in the first place. When I looked at the awards this game has garnished, I don’t believe it’s deserved of any of them, since there were games in both 2015 and 2016 which had better stories; Batman: Arkham Knight, SteamWorld Heist and Undertale to name but a few. And it certainly didn’t deserve the award it got for creative gameplay in the UK from the TIGA Games Industry Awards; I had to laugh when I read that one.

Angrii

In summation, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture thoroughly deserves it’s designated title of walking simulator; it’s a modern example of wasted potential in video gaming, and in my opinion, should be avoided at all costs.

Score

33/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

Overcooked (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Ghost Town Games

Publisher(s) – Team17

Released in late 2016, and published by Team17 after various expo tours to bring the game to the attention of wider audiences, Overcooked is a cooking simulator in which the objective is to raise as much money as possible in each respective level by preparing as many dishes as possible. I first became aware of Overcooked hen I went to my first expo, Play Blackpool 2015, and I had been following the progress of the game closely until it’s release. After playing the final product, I can say that I was not at all disappointed.

Graphics – 7/10

The game’s variety of conceptual design is heavily based on the layout of each level’s kitchen; many taking place in outdoor and indoor restaurants, whilst other levels take place in more varied locations, such as volcanoes and pirate ships. It also comes with quite an impressive soundtrack, but it’s the variety in scenery that truly makes the game stand out. It speaks of games with some of the most diverse settings conceived, including Super Mario Bros and Banjo-Kazooie to sight a few of many examples.

Gameplay – 8/10

The object of the game is to serve as many customers as possible in each level, and to finish with a possible total of three stars, similar to Angry Birds or 10 Second Ninja X. Interestingly, it alludes to the fact that 3 Michelin stars is the highest accolade a chef can attain in the cooking profession. It’s an extremely challenging game, but at the same time, it’s also extremely fun. It’s satisfying to be able to adapt to the layout of each kitchen, and plan your strategy in accordance with the food that is being ordered by the customers; much like being an executive chef, in fact. There are penalties for overcooking food, as well as sending the wrong orders, which is also an integral part of where game’s level of challenge lies. Whilst looking simplistic, beneath the surface, there is a system that is easy to learn, yet difficult to master.

Controls – 9/10

At times, the controls can be somewhat unresponsive, but not to the extent that it ruins the gameplay, like what has happened with many other challenging games that have been developed in the past. Most often than not if a player makes a mistake, it is down to how they perform in the game, which is how it should be. Apart from this one minor gripe I have, I was particularly impressed with how the developers had handled the controls scheme; it makes it unlike any other game I’ve played.

Lifespan – 7/10

The single player campaign mode has 28 different levels, as well as and end boss fight, which dependent on player skill, can take up to 4 or 5 hours to complete. However, the game was designed to be a primary multiplayer experience, whereby two players control two chefs at the same time, which can make for many hours of entertainment. There was also DLC released for the game in addition, but with or without it, it does have a great deal to offer in terms of longevity. The only thing it lacks is online multiplayer, which I think would go a long way to improving the experience even further, but that may be an idea to implement with a possible sequel. The idea of a second game would be particularly exciting to me, since there is potentially a lot the developers could do to expand upon the concept even further,

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story involves the chefs having to save the world from an entity known as the Ever Peckish by travelling the world and cooking. Although a story may not have been necessary, it is a nice extra detail the developers added to give the game that little more substance. The concept may sound ridiculous on paper, but some of the greatest games developed have had very outlandish stories attached to them, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing speaking from experience. For example, a plumber saving a princess from a dragon may sound strange, but it’s made for the most iconic gaming franchise ever created.

Originality – 8/10

As I pointed out, Overcooked is unlike any other game I’ve ever played; it’s gameplay layout and control scheme does extremely well to make it stand out from both mainstream and indie releases, which is why I had been excited about it ever since I first laid eyes on it. As I watched it develop, my excitement and expectations only increased as time went on, and in retrospect, I think it’s deserved of the accolades it’s received since it’s release.

To summarize, Overcooked is a charming; yet challenging gameplay experience that is certainly worth playing again and again. The developers had outlandish ideas ever since the game’s inception, and to see all these ideas come together so well in the final product made believe it was well worth the wait to see it fully released.

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Alwa’s Awakening (PC)

Developer(s) – Elden Pixels

Director – Mikael Forslind

The debut title of Elden pixels, and developed under the supervision of Zoink Games’ Mikael Forslind, Alwa’s Awakening is a throwback to the classic games of the NES era, including Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Metroid and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. An 8-bit Metroidvania game, it focuses heavily on exploration, combat and acquiring a range of different abilities in order to progress from area to area. Playing this game felt like an absolute pleasure, as well as a fitting tribute to games of the late 80s, and I would recommend it to any fan of that era of gaming.

Graphics – 8/10

Conceptually, where this game stands out is the design of the enemies, as well as the boss battles. Though clearly influenced by many aspects of medieval mythology, including other fantasy franchises (elements of Dungeons & Dragons seemed most evident to me personally), the developers took these influences, and formed their own cohesive concepts in terms of visual design, which is quite difficult to do when dealing with medieval fantasy, making it seem all the more impressive. The soundtrack, recorded by Robert Kreese, is also nothing short of stellar, being on par with, if not better than, many classic NES games.

Gameplay – 8/10

Alwa’s Awakening is a Metroidvania game focusing on adventure and exploration, but the developers also boasted a heightened level of challenge compared to many other classic NES games during development, promising an unforgettable throwback experience to suit both the seasoned and casual classes of gamers of that time. When Elden Pixels first announced this, I did get nervous that they would develop a game that was nigh on inaccessible, as what I’ve found in many NES games, such as those in the original Mega Man series. However, wile playing through it, I found it offer a level of challenge that is stern, yet reasonable; a level of challenge on par with Shovel Knight, for example. It came as a relief to me, and I was able to enjoy the game with minimal frustration because of it. There are secrets to uncover along the way, and some of the most invigorating boss fights I’ve seen in a 2D game.

Controls – 10/10

Part of the reason why I found the game to be more accessible that many fully NES titles purposefully made to be hard was because the controls are also flawless. In many Mega Man games, I have experienced problems with the controls, and time and time again, it defeats the object of demanding skill from the player if the developers can’t program the game properly. In this game, however, no such issues exist; the controls are perfect, and any error made will be down to player performance.

Lifespan – 6.5/10

The game can be made to last around 6 to 7 hours in total, taking everything to do within it into account, which by NES standards at the time may have been outstanding, but in the current era, especially for a Metroidvania, it does fall somewhat short in this respect. It is the game’s biggest issue in my opinion, and I think it could have been made to last at least 12 to 13 hours given more things to do within it. However, there is more than enough substance in gameplay for how long it does last, which does emphasize quality of over quantity.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Alwa’s Awakening follows a girl called Zoe, who is playing video games one night, and after dozing off, she finds herself in the land of Alwa, where her favourite video game is set, and she is thrust into a quest in order to save the land for real. The plot itself may be quite straightforward, but there are certain aspects of it that do well to foster an air of mystery about the game, as was customary among NES title in the console’s heyday. It’s a nice touch the developers added that makes the game more enjoyable to play through overall.

Originality – 7/10

Taking everything into account, I was impressed with how many unique aspects there were within this game compared to other classic 2D titles. As someone who first started out playing video games on the NES, my first ever video games being Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, it was refreshing to take a step back from AAA mainstream titles, and play a game that not only hearkens back to the days of gaming simplicity, but also offers something different to any other NES title.

In summation, Alwa’s Awakening is a welcome addition to ever-growing indie scene, and a definitive joy to play. There’s great gameplay, atmospheric visuals, an excellent soundtrack and a level of challenge that will satisfy all classes of third generation gamer.

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator (PC, Android & iOS)

Developer(s) – Vile Monarch

Publisher(s) – Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Developed by Austrian indie outfit Vile Monarch, Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator combines turn-based style combat with the layout of a fighting game to deliver a unique twist on both styles of play, and quirky humour to match. Whilst not having a great amount of replayability for a fighting game, it can make for hours of entertainment, and for the relatively short time it took me to unlock everything, I enjoyed this title.

Graphics – 7/10

Rendered using 8-bit graphics, the developers took influenced most notably from the Monty Python troupe in both it’s character and stage designs. As a fan of Monty Python myself, it was fun identifying where the references were placed; be that either the obvious ones, like the character of John P. Shufflebottom being an obvious caricature of John Cleese’s character from the world famous dead parrot sketch, or obscure ones like the trumpets being blown by rear end in the background of the afterlife stage, reminiscent of a scene from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. There are also references to other aspects of modern and classic thrown in for good measure, which enhance game’s level of visual variety in terms of conceptual design.

Gameplay – 6/10

The object of the game is to string together the longest insults possible by picking from a selection of phrases and conjunctions in the best order to deal as much damage as possible to the enemy, and deplete their health bar before they can deplete the player’s. There are additional characters to unlock, as well as an additional stage, and then there’s also a multiplayer mode whereby people can compete online. For a fighting game, it doesn’t have a great deal of content, and I’m hoping that’s where the games upcoming sequel will come in; Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast. It’s not the most plentiful experience available, but well worth the price posted on Steam of £1.59. Stringing elaborate insults together feels satisfying, and it’s also rewarding to be able to identify individual characters weaknesses to deal extra damage.

Controls – 10/10

Issues with the controls are non-existent unless gamers have a problem with their mouse. It’s a simply point and click game typical of a vast majority of PC games, and suffers from no problems in this respect.

Originality – 9/10

In terms of uniqueness, it stands out from any other fighting game ever made. It thrills me to see independent developers trying out new ideas never seen in gaming before, and making them work extremely well, like what has been accomplished with title. The developers have promised a more plentiful experience with the next game, as well as it being much more open to modding like Civilization 5 perhaps, but the first game is definitely a standout starting point worthy of more attention than is has received so far.

Happii

Overall, Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator, whilst having a fleeting single player experience, makes up for that in its quality. It’s an entertaining, reasonably priced and funny gaming experience, and I would recommend it to all fighting game fans out there.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Twirlbound

In my ongoing bid to cover more Independently developed games and indie developers, and ahead of my trip to London this weekend for EGX Rezzed, this week lead me to discover a  game on Kickstarter called Pine. Pine, being developed by Twirlbound games operating out of the Netherlands, is an open world survival adventure game made in the same vein as the likes of Don’t Starve, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Horizon Zero dawn. Incorporating many of the same gameplay elements from the aforementioned titled, albeit with it’s own unique graphical style and conceptual design, it also incorporates a combat system heavily influenced by Bloodborne, and from the looks of it, requiring a comparable level of skill and caution to master. This week, I had a Q&A session with the game’s creative director Matthijs van de Laar about what gamers can expect with Pine, and what influenced the game’s creation. Here were his answers:

What were the influences behind your game?

We’ve been mostly inspired by the great action adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and Fable – they tend to strike a chord with people that isn’t being struck enough, we think. Only once every few years a game like that comes by, and there’s still so much to explore within that genre. A very physical, natural feeling to the game was important to us – everything should feel grounded and real, with an easy-to-grasp groundwork of physics and interaction. We look at platformers and jolly action adventures for fun, but we look at more serious games for this grounded look and feel. Some of our team members have credits in cinema, and we all have a general interest in movies and TV – which has been a good influence for Pine’s storytelling, camerawork and rhythm.

What has the developmental process been like?

Starting out as a floating idea about 3 years ago, we’ve done an insane amount of research and prototyping. We wrote several theses on the subjects that are tackled by Pine (mainly about adaptation in game design, machine learning and natural environments), and all that knowledge was brought into a bigger game after graduating last year. It was only when we knew we had something that worked and after thoughtful consideration, that we decided to go at it full time. We worked really hard on the next step, which became Kickstarter – this included trailers, but also a lot of groundwork for the game and systems. Maybe cool to show is this 12-week video of that graduation phase:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhLdiLPQ2Ng

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

The idea process. There is such a wealth of ideas among team members that every meeting is a joy. We’re always bursting with inspiration, and seeing those ideas come to life in the form of environments or specifically the species, is really fun to witness. The alternative evolutionary course of Albamare has been a lot of fun to think about, and we’re not even remotely running out of ideas!

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Being only with 6, we have to make really important decisions sometimes. It’s important to keep the game small enough, but make it feel like an adventure that can last. We have a very strong vision of what it should play like and what the focus should be, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with that vision with only the few people we have. The open-world nature of the game has certainly been one of the tougher aspects (e.g. building the island, letting assets stream and simulating the ecology).

How well has the game been received so far?

We’ve always been blown away by the response, actually since the start! For example, we started out with sending out demos only five weeks into the process. We expected a few dozen testers, mainly from our school, but after about 6 weeks we had 3000 testers – people had been sharing it on Reddit and NeoGaf, and we got a lot of good data out of that. Things kept going like that. We went on the Square Enix Collective without any expectations, and became the highest rated project to date. We signed up for the Unity Awards, and in a completely surprising turn of events even won that one! We applied for a small grant and we got it – and now, on Kickstarter, we raced past 50% in 10 days. Like I said, we’re just pretty much blown away sometimes – the demand for a game like Pine seems to be real.

In respect of the game’s theme, do any of the team have any experience of outdoor survival?

Not really, to be honest – we all have been on camping trips before, but no real survival. It’s more about the theme of adaptation, change and evolution for us. We’ve always had an interest in evolution theory, for its beauty and undeniable systems behind it. When we realized these could be translated into a game, the theme took shape even more.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We’re currently developing on PC, aiming to bring it to Mac, Windows and Linux. But consoles are definitely in the future vision – depending on publishers and the platform holders’ interest in Pine, we really hope we can take consoles into account early on in the process.

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

The only advice I always give to developers or those starting their own company: it’s all about the people you do it with. If I hadn’t met my co-founder Marc early on in high school already, finding out we worked together really well, nothing would have happened. If we hadn’t had such a good cooperation with my companions, Pine wouldn’t have existed. Like Pixar’s president Ed Catmull says: find people you’re intimidated by, professionally. Find those who are absolutely better at things than you are, that’s the only way you can make something truly great! It’s really about the people and what they bring to the table. Recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses, be honest to each other!

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Everywhere! More specifically, we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and email:

http://twitter.com/Twirlbound

http://facebook.com/Twirlbound

http://reddit.com/r/pinegame

pine@twirlbound.com

Do you have anything else to add?

Kickstarter is scary, as you’re putting your whole game AND team online, but it’s so cool to see people engage that it’s all worth it!

Lastly, I would like to thank Matthijs for agreeing to our Q&A, and would like to take this opportunity to wish him the best of luck with the remainder of the Kickstarter campaign.

Dishonored 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)

Developer(s) – Arkane Studios

Publisher(s) – Bethesda

Director – Harvey Smith

Designer – Dinga Bakaba

Developed primarily at Arkane Studio’s Lyon branch, and released in late 2016, Dishonored 2 was released later last year to critical acclaim, with player and reviewers citing major improvements made over the first game; most of which concerning the game’s difficulty, as many players opinionated that the last game seemed too easy. Personally, I agree that the sequel is better than the original game in almost every respect, and whilst the gameplay wasn’t structured as well as I believe a Dishonored game has the potential to be, it was more than a worthy sequel.

Graphics – 9/10

Taking place in a new city away from Dunwall known as Karnaca, there are many new aspects of conceptual design added to expand upon the series’ mythology, as well as an overhaul of graphical quality, making the game just as compelling and wonderful too look at as the first game; if not, more so. There are new machines to have to contend with besides the tall boys, and a new set of city streets and buildings to navigate through and discover new secrets and vantage points. The second game also seems even darker than the original, giving it more of a gritty feel to it appropriate for the feel of the story. The setting of the Void is where this aspect of the game seems most prevalent as the Outsider is also portrayed as a much darker character in himself.

Gameplay – 9.5/10

This time round, the player is given the option to select from two characters from the start of the game, both with their own unique set of abilities; there’s Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the original game and the empresses royal protector, or Emily Kaldwin, the empress of Dunwall. The game itself is also structured very similarly to the last, taking place in a semi-open world and offering players the option to either take a stealthy approach or run rampant and kill every enemy standing in the way. The game also presents the option of going the duration of it without killing a single person. The best thing about this game is that the character choice not only offers a new dimension of gameplay with so many new powers and options to experiment with, but it also gives it even more replay value than the first, warranting at least four different playthroughs. So even though it didn’t offer a completely open world, which I think can be implemented very easily in a game like this, there is plenty of replayability to be had making for a fairly long gaming experience.

Controls – 10/10

As with the previous game, there are no issues with its control scheme, despite the fact that there are more options and abilities available. It’s actually quite impressive how the developers have managed to incorporate so many new features whilst at the same time keeping the fundamentals of the game to a perfect standard. Keeping a control scheme unique in a gameplay perspective that has also taken and maintained prominence throughout the industry for almost twenty years also makes it seem even more impressive in my opinion.

Lifespan – 7/10

Each individual playthrough lasts about as long as it did in the first game, clocking in at around 20-25 hours, which for me, was mildly disappointing, as a game like this can have a campaign that can be easily made to last longer. However, the game’s lifespan is in its potential replay value, of which there is a great deal of for those willing to delve deeper into the game. So whilst it may not have the lifespan that a Dishonored game could have, it still has a great of longevity attached to it, and will make for hours upon hours of entertainment.

Storyline – 7/10

The sequel to Dishonored takes place fifteen years following the events of the original game. Whilst Emily Kaldwin has long since been installed as the rightful empress of the city of Dunwall thanks to Corvo, the empire has prospered, but it has not been without challenge. A serial murderer knows as the Crown Killer is murdering enemies of the state left, right and centre, and has led many in Dunwall to believe the Crown Killer is Emily herself. Whilst Corvo and Emily are attending a remembrance ceremony for Emily’s mother Jessamine, a powerful witch named Delilah Copperspoon is introduced to Emily, and claims to be her older half-sister and rightful heir to the empire. Whichever character the player chooses at this point manages to escape Dunwall, whilst the other is subdued by Delilah, who usurps the throne, and the player character is tasked with putting an end to Delilah’s regime and rescuing either Corvo or Emily depending on the character’s choice. Whilst I thought the game’s story was not as suspenseful as the last, since there is not as much of a elaborate twist to it, it still has the same level of political intrigue, and just as much emotional charge; especially as this time round, Corvo is given a voice as opposed to being confined to the role of the silent protagonist.

Originality – 7.5/10

Though the structure of the game remains relatively the same as it’s predecessor, the formula is kept fresh enough with the introduction of so many new features and abilities added. It’s most definitely evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, expanding on what was already good about the first game with the exception of the story. In my opinion, it does still leave room for both improvement and development in the event of a possible third game, but having played through both, I would welcome a third with open arms. The second game cemented the fact that both the concept and mythology behind the series is more than worth further expanding upon still.

Happii

Overall, Dishonored 2, whilst not being exactly the sequel I had hoped it would be, still present massive improvement upon the first game. It’s enjoyable and lengthy with a decent story, and plenty of gameplay options to match; well worth one playthrough at the bare least.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)