Author Archives: scousegamer88

Nanotale: Typing Chronicles: First Impressions

Currently under development by independent outfit Fishing Cactus based in Mons in Belgium, and available on Steam Early Access, Nanotale is a top-down RPG with a difference; the game incorporates a combat system based on typing in words to deal attacks as opposed to traditional hack ‘n’ slash RPGs made in the same vein such as Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. Even in its early stages of development, this game has made me particularly excited for its full release in light of how much potential it has. It impressed me in almost every aspect possible and although there is room for improvement in my opinion so the full potential of this title can be realized upon release, there is indeed a great deal of scope to go on to become one of the standout indie games of 2020. Going into this game in details, this is what I thought of the game in its current state:

Graphics

Unlike many other top-down RPGs, this game unusually makes use of cel-shaded visuals as opposed to other more realistic-looking top-down RPGs such as Diablo III and Victor Vran. As it stands, the world of Nanotale that has been created up to this point is one of the most vibrantly designed in-game worlds I’ve seen throughout the entire community of indie developers and the tranquil soundtrack accompanies it perfectly. Making use of a full orchestra, it changes depending on the player’s situation in lieu of RPG tradition, but it will be interesting to see how this aspect of the game is developed further as the making of it progresses. 

Gameplay

However, what I thought to be the most impressive factor of this game is its style of play. Going against almost every tradition of the RPG genre, it relies on the player having to type words in as quick a succession as possible in order to not only string attacks together but to solve environmental puzzles in order to uncover secrets and progress further across the game’s world. The combat is intense on a level that I hadn’t thought possible for a system that works the way it does. On top of that, there is also a certain degree of strategy that can be employed which makes the combat system even more varied and enjoyable. It doesn’t go against every RPG tradition, as there is also a level-up system whereby players must increase their stats to progress further and to fight more complex battles, but the way in which it has been handled by the developers has made for a very enjoyable experience up to this point. 

Controls

In addition, the game’s control scheme also presents no unnecessary complications, which going into it, I thought might’ve been the case, since I personally prefer playing these types of games with a controller. But as it happens, what concerns I thought I may have had have been addressed and I felt the game’s unique controls only add to the charm of this title; it’s a bold re-invention of RPG combat that works incredibly well. 

Lifespan

The game in its current state can only be made to last there around 4 hours, which if it stays like this, will inevitably be the game’s biggest drawback. It would be an insulting amount of time for a game within its genre to last compared to the average RPG and at this moment, it is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed. With the creation of more locations to explore and sidequests to be carried out it can potentially be made to last as much time as any big-name RPG in the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series’, but for the game to last any less than a minimum of 20 hours would make the entire experience seem far too fleeting. 

Storyline

The story of Nanotale revolves around a young wizard, known as an archivist, who is embroiled in a quest to heal a dying world and to discover its secrets and wonders whilst restoring an entity known as the heart of magic. It’s a spiritual successor to a game made in the same vein by Fishing Cactus called Epistory. The plot certainly has the potential to provide players with a great many twists and turns along the way and the elements such as the soundtrack and the general feel of the game’s environments can only work to add to the overall atmosphere of the story, similar to games like Ori & The Blind Forest and Ato. 

Originality

Predominantly in terms of gameplay, this is one of the most unique titles I’ve seen in a long time; the combat system works to an extent that I hadn’t imagined at first glance to have worked, the use of cel-shaded visuals makes it stand out among a lot of fantasy RPGs developed throughout the years and the unique approach to combat gives it a certain amount of challenge that will feel like a breath of fresh air to many fans of the genre, as indeed it did with me. 

Deliirious

 

Overall, Nanotale looks set to be an exciting RPG experience with potentially a lot to offer gamers in every aspect. It looks as beautifully designed as any other top game in the genre without making use of cutting-edge graphics and if the game can be made to last longer than what it currently does, there is certainly scope for it to stand out among one of the better RPGs to be released in recent years.

Q&A With Brandon Song

Among the reviews I’d written, this was one for a newly released game on Steam entitled Ato; a beautifully crafted 8-BIT Metroidvania game with a lush open world to explore and a wonderfully varied combat system. But eager to learn more about the developmental cycle of this game, as well as the numerous challenges that came with it, I reached out to the game’s lead designer Brandon Song of Tiny Warrior Games to ask for his insight to what exactly went into Ato and where the developers may be going from this point concerning future games. Here’s what Brandon had to say:

Where does your passion for Japanese culture stem from that went into developing Ato?

What I appreciate about Japanese/Eastern art is the emphasis on nature and simplicity. I took inspiration from Korean, Chinese, and Southeast Asian designs as well.

What were the most challenging aspects of developing the game? 

Developing it solo, there are a lot of tasks that I’m not good at and had to make up my own solutions to coding/technical problems. There’s also the aspect of just mental health and it can be hard to be motivated to work on a project for a long time, especially when there isn’t much reception to be had. Financially has also been a struggle because I’m basically giving up having a career and living off of savings just to make something I love.

How well has the game been received so far?

I think people like it.

What was your favorite boss fight from the game?

The Second Boss, Jin. He was the very first enemy to be created as a test. While he is one of the easier fights, I enjoy the fact that he’s a very honest opponent, covers his bases well, and gives you plenty of approach options.

What is your favorite location within Ato’s world?

Finale

Were there very many other ideas that were considered for inclusion in Ato but never made it into the final game?

Yes, a lot, but it’s hard for me to remember. The story was going to go in a bunch of different directions and there were a handful of enemy and upgrade ideas that never got made (or were just plain bad). The game was supposed to be a small game jam game but kept growing.

What Metroidvania titles are among the development team’s favorites that impacted the development of Ato?

Metroid Fusion, Super Metroid, Hollow Knight. I would also say Shadow of the Colossus.

How important has the game’s fan community been throughout its development?

While the community I have is very, very small compared to others with millions of users. They have been very helpful with finding issues, mostly because they have helped stream and record their gameplay vs just writing feedback essays saying something is bad and it’s unclear why.

 

If a sequel to Ato were ever developed, what new gameplay aspects would you think of introducing?

I don’t know

 

What’s next for Tiny Warrior Games?

Probably a medieval fantasy action platforming RPG? I feel a bit concerned because my next idea is kind of ambitious, and it probably won’t click with the people that like Ato. Also frankly I’m burnt out and keep having nightmares.

Are you looking to bring Ato to multiple platforms outside of Steam?

I wish

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

When it comes to interviews that I’ve seen online, a lot of the time they come off like they had it all figured out, life just worked out perfectly for them and success just fell on their lap. While I think some of these might be the case, usually what they neglect to talk about is emotional/mental struggle and motivation problems. At least for me, making this game was not smooth sailing and daily I had very little motivation to keep working on it. What I can say to you (the aspiring developer/artist) is that it’s normal to have bad days where you don’t like what you’re creating. But I want to tell you that you don’t need to work hard 12-16+ hours a day to make a game. The key to finishing a long term project is consistency, work daily but on those really crappy days, give yourself an extremely easy to surmount goal, and when you complete it, you can choose to keep going or not, but what matters is if you had to choose between progress vs no progress, I think this answers itself. At least…this has worked for me and often I end up continuing to work after accomplishing my really basic goal.

Do you have anything else to add?

I feel like there’s a lot of luck in this industry, both with reception, review scores, fandoms, awards, and so on. I don’t really think I can give advice when it comes to this sort of thing because I don’t have it figured out. I just want to say that there’s only so much you can do when it comes to success of this kind. Because I obviously am not as successful as _(name of famous/successful developer)_ and clearly am not making enough to live off of to keep making games. The only real advice I can leave here is that it’s very hard to tell if an idea is fun or not until it’s actually in front of you. Often, the idea has to be fully fleshed out and in a near-final state in order to get a proper opinion which can take a lot of work and energy. So I know that if there’s the stuff that isn’t quite as fun as some other stuff in Ato, an idea in your head doesn’t always turn out to be fun. I feel I should probably stop because I have plenty to say regarding advice but feel people just want the quick instant-gratification answers to their problems so I’ll just leave it here.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank Brandon for taking the time to discuss Ato and for sharing his unique insight into the developmental process of his exceptional Metroidvania title. You can follow Tiny Warrior Games via their Twitter page and their main website via the links below:

https://twitter.com/TinyWarriorDev

https://tinywarriorgames.com/

If anyone reading would also like to experience this game for themselves (Which I whole-heartedly recommend), it’s currently available on Steam:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1096180/Ato/

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish Brandon and Tiny Warrior Games the best of luck with Ato, as well as with future games. Though it’s unclear whether there may or may not be a sequel to Ato, it is, in my opinion, a game that is well-deserved of a sequel, but regardless it’ll be interesting to see what Brandon’s possible upcoming RPG has to offer and I wish him all the best of luck with it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Monster Finger Games

This week, I have been reaching out to a vast number of independent video game developers to discover new titles in the works throughout 2020. One such game is Alien Scumbags; A 2D 8-BIT side-scroller survival horror shoot ‘em up developed by Monster Finger Games operating out of Southampton, England. The game offers players a balanced blend of horror and comedy, with it being set on the Nostrami; a ship that has gone dark and is then invaded by a hostile alien race, which the players must combat to survive, whilst on the way, uncovering what happened onboard the derelict spacecraft. I composed an article details my first impressions of the game in its preliminary stages of development:

https://scousegamer88.com/2020/05/09/alien-scumbags-first-impressions/

However, I have also been in contact with the game’s principal designer James Ross, who agreed to answer a few questions ahead of the game’s release, regarding how the game’s development is progressing and what players can expect to see with the finished article. Here’s what James had to say about Alien Scumbags:

What has the developmental process been like?

The development has had its ups and downs, it’s crazy to think how much can happen in 2.5 years spent working on a game. Life can get in the way and it’s tough to push through it. One of the hardest things was creating the lighting system as ending up rebuildings the existing levels from scratch, the way the lighting looks now is so worth it though. I’ve learned a lot on the development journey, one lesson, in particular, is to always keep backing up regularly. I lost around 3 months’ worth of work just before Christmas which hit me hard, but again Alien Scumbags has come back better than before.

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

I aim to have it finished by the end of the year, of course, we still have the game in early access as we like the idea of people who play it having the opportunity to have their say. 

Though the influences for the game’s style of play have been outlined on your GameJolt page, where do you draw influence from where the story is concerned? 

It’s a tough one as I just came up with the story out of the blue really. I watch a lot of horror films and wanted the story to reflect my love of that film genre. A lot of what created the story is the monsters that I created prior to it being created, I needed to be able to link everything together.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Seeing it grow from being a gamejam title to something that people really love to play. I would say also managing to create the lighting system was super exciting as I really enjoy playing around with the different effects I can create with it.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Staying motivated when something goes wrong, losing all my data, issues in my private life, sometimes it makes you want to throw the towel in and give up, not to mention having anxiety issues too can also give you the feeling that your game is not good enough. I have kept pushing forward though and every step is worth it when I look back. 

How important has community feedback been in shaping the game into what it is now?

Extremely important, for example, the game didn’t have an aiming reticule, to begin with, no run, no airboost, and right at the beginning no health bar. A lot of these improvements may not have happened if it wasn’t for the amazing Streamers/YouTubers and other devs that have given their feedback. 

What further cultural references are being planned for inclusion in the final game? 

The cultural references are things that tend to be added as my mind thinks of them, I can tell you that I have planned for a while to add some other gaming references including Metal Gear Solid, you will have to wait for the next update to see that though. 

How well has the game been received so far?

So far people have really enjoyed playing it, throughout its development people have found little bugs and such but the majority of people have really enjoyed it. I make sure to patch out any issues people find on streams asap as I want the game to be as polished as it can be. We have built a small community of great people and hope this continues as we continue with Alien Scumbags.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to? 

PC is the only platform at the moment, however, we would be open to chatting with publishers about bringing it to other platforms if there was interest.

What would be next for Monster Finger Games? Have further ideas for games been considered yet?

Not sure what our next title will be following Alien Scumbags. We had started work on Super Bombardier, but who knows what the future will bring.

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

The best thing to do if you want to make something is to do it, I would also say to try and think about something small initially and work up from that, releasing a game really teaches you a lot of lessons. Above all else enjoy the journey and don’t think too much about the finish line.

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

I am most active on Twitter @kkindiegame, you can email us at:

monsterfingergames@mail.com 

We have a Facebook page too at https://www.facebook.com/monsterfingeruk/ We also have a website at www.monsterfingergames.com 

Do you have anything else to add?

I want to thank you for this opportunity, it’s been great and really enjoyed chatting, DM me anytime. I also want to say a massive thank you to every Streamer, YouTuber, Blogger and fan that has supported the development of Alien Scumbags.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank James for agreeing to answer what questions I had and to wish him the best of luck with the game. I certainly had a lot of fun playing Alien Scumbags even this early on in development and if anyone wishes to experience this title for themselves, the game is available to download from the team’s GameJolt page via the link below:

https://gamejolt.com/games/alienscumbags/312460

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed composing it and hope you all enjoy playing Alien Scumbags.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Alien Scumbags: First Impressions

Currently under development and set for future release on Steam, as well as being available on the team’s GameJolt page, Alien Scumbags is an upcoming 2D side-scrolling 8-BIT sci-fi shooter survival horror developed by Monster Finger Games; the team behind various titles released on the OUYA such as Mr. Monocle’s Travels and Super Renegade Response. Taking influence from the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem, the player must traverse through an abandoned spaceship called the Nostrami, combat an alien horde that has plagued the ship and uncover what happened aboard the vessel leading up to present events. Impressed by what previews of the game I had seen, I picked up a copy of the game in its current state and decided to give my first impressions of it before it’s full release. Here’s what I thought of Alien Scumbags:

Graphics

The game makes use of 8-BIT graphics and is set on an abandoned station out in the middle of space called the Nostrami. The game’s visual style does well to perpetuate the horrific atmosphere of the spaceship as there is superb use of lighting (or lack of) to induce feelings of tension and suspense throughout. In many respects, although the developers trace their influences for the game to the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem, and these influences are apparent (even more so as the game progresses), I was reminded more of Dead Space than most other games, as, like the former, the game does pretty well to build tension, with not only it’s visual style, but also through its soundtrack, which is the kind of technique used in top-notch horror films. The sound effects that have been used for the enemies add an even more heightened sense of horror; despite the fact that it’s interspersed with dialogue from the main character that includes a number of humorous cultural references. 

Gameplay

Whenever I sit down to play a survival horror or a game that perpetuates elements of survival horror at least, my first hope is that the efforts to make the game as scary as possible don’t work to outweigh the amount of gameplay to enjoy, which is what I’ve found to be the case with many other mainstream survival horror series’ such as Silent Hill or Outlast. But in Alien Scumbags, there is a nice balance; the player must kill all enemies between them and the next level and there are sidequests to be completed, such as collecting audiotapes recorded by various Nostrami crew members, as well as there being a number of unlockables to collect throughout the game, such as different characters. The game also requires somewhat of a strategic approach unusual for a survival horror game, as different enemies perpetuate the use of different guns and it can be easy to run out of ammo for specific weapons. I’m impressed by what this game has to offer in its current state but the developers are planning to add even more to it, which will inevitably only serve to heighten the gameplay experience even more.

Controls

The game’s controls are also easy enough to get to grips with. The developers have created a game with a simple control scheme attached to it with no unnecessary complication; it’s a nice and traditional 2D side-scroller that has players blasting through each level in order to progress to the next. The developers haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel in respect of the game’s controls, but with a game like this, it wouldn’t really be necessary. 

Lifespan

As it stands, the game boasts a total of 12 levels; a tutorial level, 9 main levels, a boss fight, and a bonus level. The estimated lifespan as things are at the moment is up to 10 hours taking what replay value there is to be had in replaying the game with different characters. However, the developers are also planning to add another 8 to 9 levels with an additional boss fight and bonus level, which would most likely accelerate the lifespan to 20 hours plus, which for an independently developed 2D side-scroller would be quite impressive.

Storyline

The storyline perpetuates a blend of horror, comedy, and references to old and modern culture. It follows the player character uncovering the events of what happened to the derelict spaceship, the Nostrami, which has been overrun by murderous alien creatures. Again, I found it as funny as I did horrifying with jokes thrown into the background, such as an advertisement for something called The Uranus Probe and items on the cafeteria menu alluding to the film Alien. But at the same time, learning about the Nostrami’s backstory is a particularly harrowing experience making for something as tense as many other survival horror games. The game’s use of full voice acting also makes for a further element of horror that no player will expect to find in an 8-BIT game. 

Originality

Although the game does conform to a lot of tropes associated with the traditional 2D side-scrolling style of play, it has elements to it that make it stand out among many others. It makes me think that this game is what would be developed if id Software decided to make Doom 3 in this style. I was attracted to this game on the basis that it’s a survival horror with not too much emphasis on horror and as much emphasis on gameplay as possible, which, in and of itself, would make it unique among many games in the horror category and I wasn’t disappointed with it; even in it’s unfinished state. 

Overall, I’d recommend old-school gamers, and fans of the survival horror genre for that matter, to check this title out for themselves before it’s full release. You can find it on their GameJolt page at the moment via the link below: 

https://gamejolt.com/games/alienscumbags/312460#video-81040

I will also be conducting a Q&A with one of the game’s principal designers James Ross soon on the blog, so keep a lookout for that. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoy Alien Scumbags and I hope you’re looking forward to the follow-up Q&a.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Ato (PC)

Developer(s) – Tiny Warrior Games

Publisher(s) – Tiny Warrior Games

Designer – Brandon Song

Released on Steam following a successful IndieGoGo campaign, Ato is an atmospheric Metroidvania game set in Feudal Japan whereby players take on the role of an anthropomorphic samurai fox who sets out on an adventure to rescue his abducted child from a cult of deadly ninjas. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid a game this was compared to other indie Metroidvania games; it stands as a shining example of how a satisfying and immersive gaming experience can be developed on a budget.

Graphics – 8/10

The game makes use of 8-BIT style graphics with characters and settings inspired by Feudal Japan and the diversity in environmental design is quite staggering, ranging from cherry blossom forests to sunset mountainsides to snowy tundras. The game’s environmental design is most definitely the standout feature in this game from a visual standpoint; they also do exceptionally well to add to the game’s overall atmosphere in conjunction with what situation the player character is in at any one given time. The only minor issue I had with the visuals was that at one or two points there is a small amount of slow down, but overall, it does little to hamper the experience. 

Gameplay – 9/10

The title also incorporates the use of a wide range of gameplay elements. Like many other Metroidvania games, the objective is to explore as much of the world map as possible and uncover as many items as possible. Over time, there are new abilities introduced in order for players to explore other inaccessible areas throughout the game, as well as there being secret items to be found in order to either increase the player’s health or coins to progress further. But in my opinion, the most impressive gameplay element found in this title is the combat system. 

Players also gain different weapons and abilities to use in combat ranging from including a poisoned sword, dash attacks, a spiked shield, and later on in the game, even magic abilities; it’s quite similar to Dust: An Elysian Tail in its approach to combat. The wide range of boss fights is also quite impressive; there are a few starter boss fights in quick succession earlier on in the game to give players a feel for the combat system in general, but after that, they become even more varied in design. This amount of diversity in gameplay perpetuates the standard to be found in any great Metroidvania title; it’s satisfying to play and a genuine pleasure to explore through.  

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme of the game is also simple enough to get to grips with, which was impressive given the amount of variety there is in combat; it was yet another means for me to draw comparisons with Dust: An Elysian Tail. Though it may not have a combo system like the former, there would’ve been no need to include one as each battle, be that with bosses or general enemies, is still as satisfying as it is challenging; especially on the harder difficulty settings. 

Lifespan – 5/10

The only real downside to this title is that it can only be made to last for a maximum of 4 hours, which whilst doesn’t do a game like this justice, I suppose such is the reality of the situation when a game is developed with a limited amount of funds like this was. It lasts considerably less time than an average Metroidvania game, but it lasts slightly longer than a lot of other independently developed titles in the genre, such as The Swapper and Xeodrifter. Compared to those two titles at the very least, this game blows the both of them out of the water as far as I’m concerned (in terms of both lifespan and general gameplay) so the average runtime of Ato was enough to justify a hard 5 as opposed to a soft 4. 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Ato follows a father caring for his wife and infant child in a small house amidst a peaceful spec of land. But suddenly, the family is devastated when a group of masked ninja steal the infant child from its parents. The father then sets off on a quest to bring their child home. It sounds simple enough on the face of it, but without giving away anything that happens, the plot later unfolds into a lot darker and deeper than what the player will first imagine and things also escalate abnormally quickly. 

Although there’s either no spoken or written dialogue throughout the game, the characters’ emotions and hardships are wonderfully portrayed to convey the events of the story, which considering that this is an 8-BIT game, is even more impressive. Also, the game’s environmental design works exceedingly well to add the game’s atmosphere throughout with elements such as day-to-night transitions used to change the mood at specific times and rainstorms to add further tension to already exceedingly intense situations. 

Originality – 8/10

Between everything that this game does as well as it does, from the combat system to the environmental design to the manner in which the story is told, it also makes for a rather unique experience. In a gaming mainstream that relies heavily on cutting-edge graphics and motion capture to effectively tell an emotionally charged story, very few 8-BIT games I have played have portrayed themes and emotions, as well as this, does. Also, to at the same time keep the general focus on gameplay is welcome in a market saturated with games putting story ahead of gameplay such as The Last of Us and the Telltale games. 

Happii

In summation, Ato is a wonderful title that exceeds in almost every aspect and I can recommend it to any Metroidvania fan out there reading this review. It’s a well-crafted blend offering great gameplay and an enthralling story, which had me taken aback by just how good it is. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Russian Subway Dogs (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Spooky Squid Games

Publisher(s) – Spooky Squid Games

Developed by Canadian independent outfit Spooky Squid Games and inspired by the real-life international phenomenon of Moscow’s metro stations, Russian Subway Dogs is an arcade game whereby the objective is to rack up as many points as possible by stealing food from passing commuters. To me, it’s one of those wonderful gaming ideas that was inspired by a pretty unlikely source, but at the same time making for a whole load of fun to be enjoyed in game form. 

Graphics – 7/10

The game is wonderfully varied in terms of graphics, as not only are there different types of gods to unlock throughout the game that players can use as alternative skins, but there are also different variations of Russian subways with their own unique designs and colour palettes. Variety only becomes more apparent as time goes on, since new and more challenging enemies are introduced with each stage. At first, I was pretty curious as to what would inspire the developers to make a game based on this whole visual concept, but after I did my research and found out that it’s all actually based on a very real and very prominent aspect of Russian culture (so much so that street dogs in Moscow have become pretty much a national symbol), I found myself wondering how no one had picked up on this idea before this game. 

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay revolves around the player controlling a street dog and barking to startle passers-by so that they drop their food allowing the dog to steal and eat it. That’s the basic gist, but there soon comes other obstacles for the player to have to contend with, uch as rival dogs who steal food first if the player misses out on it, as well as certain commuters who attack the dogs with huge fish. Players can also startle people carrying bottles of vodka that act like molotov cocktails that can be used to either eliminate rival dogs or even attack commuters so that the food they carry is cooked by the attack making the food dropped worth more points. Later on throughout the game, there are other unique commuters whose food offers special abilities that the player can take advantage of to rack up more points or one-up the rival dogs in the stage, as well as contending with bigger animals that are later introduced such as bears.

As well as there being the unprecedented amount of variety in graphic design, there’s also an unprecedented amount of variety in gameplay; just as much as any other respectable arcade franchise like Pac-Man or Dig Dug. A lot of indie developers have attempted to rehash old arcade classics by adding new features to them, like what Puppy Games did with both Ultratron and Titan Attacks. But it’s arcade games like this and Pix The Cat that really do bettger to catch the attention of arcade game fans by offering something new and this game certainly does not disappoint in that aspect. 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme also poses no problems to the player; in fact, it’s quite innovative for an arcade game along with the general gameplay concept. Again, it’s yet another reason why this arcade game is able to stand out better than many other arcade titles developed across the indie gaming community, as many of them, including the likes of Pix the Cat, Curses ‘N’ Chaos and Hyper Sentinel are based on the control schemes of many ‘80s classics such as Defender and Pac-Man.

Originality – 7/10

I’ve already pointed out on numerous occasions that this game does well to stand out among not only newer arcade games made by indie developers, but also amongst the arcade classics of the late ‘70s and those throughout the ‘80s. It’s one of those ideas that if looked at on paper, you’d think it may be rejected immediately. But when designed for use on console and PC, it makes for something particularly special; something that players can potentially invest a great deal of time in. 

Happii

To summarize, Russian Subway Dogs is an enjoyable arcade title that offers virtually unlimited replay value, since there is not only a general story mode, but an endless mode as well. It’s a charming, addicting game that is worth investing in and I highly recommend it. 

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Himno (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

Developer(s) – Ratalaika Games

Publisher(s) – GrabTheGames, Ratalaika & Electronicsgames LLC

This article is not so much a review as it is the first impression of a game that is yet to be released. The reason why I say that is because I had a hard time knowing what to think going into it since there was an unusually large amount of things to take into consideration with this game. Himno is a 2D semi-open world side-scroller available on multiple platforms, which simply involves the player traversing through multiple stages in an endless loop and collecting as many experience points as possible without dying. There is not much else to do within the game besides which, something that normally would have caused me to give a game like this an overwhelmingly negative assessment, as, without anything to do beyond that, it would simply compel me to pick up another game that I’d otherwise know would have more to it. 

However, I found myself making an exception to this game for a number of reasons. Firstly, it does what the developers set out to do with it, which was to provide a relaxing platforming experience as opposed to more intense action-oriented titles of its kind like Symphony of the Night or Rogue Legacy. Secondly, I picked it up for free on Steam, which is what I would recommend anyone else do if they’re thinking about giving it a try, since the console version is £4.99 and I don’t know about anyone else who may be reading this article, but I personally would’ve felt suckered if I’d bought the console version given what kind of a game it is. Thirdly, and the most important reason, in my opinion, is that the developers are currently working on a sequel to the game called Himno: The Silent Melody, which is actually more or less the same game, but with combat elements thrown in for a more immersing experience. 

So the way I see it, Himno is not so much a full-fledged game as it is a demo of the sequel, which caused me to approach it in a much different way than I normally would otherwise. It’s a nice, atmospheric, relaxing title that does deviate away from the norms of a typical game of it’s kind and there is a certain amount of enjoyment to be had from it.

 

Graphics

The game’s visuals seem to take influence primarily from medieval England judging by the architectural style of the structures the players must traverse across in order to progress through each level. But in addition, the player character seems to have a more futuristic look about him, wearing attire similar to that of Tekken 2 variation of Yoshimitsu, looking almost robotic and wielding a green glowing sword. Besides the basic structures to traverse, there is only a black background along with rain effects at certain levels, which further adds to the atmosphere ostensibly. The game’s soundtrack is also appropriately relaxing; it’s slow-paced and easy to listen to, as the game itself is slow-paced and easy to play. It does give the game a certain ambiance to be enjoyed throughout for players who simply want to switch off for an hour or so and immerse themselves into something much simpler than the average action-adventure title. 

 

Gameplay

The game is a simple 2D side-scroller that relies most on idle exploration. Players can collect experience points to level up their character as much as possible (though there is no real incentive for doing so) and along the way, can also gain certain power-ups, depending on what level they’re at, to gain temporary abilities such as higher jumping, softer landings and being able to find the other side of a level quicker. As I said, I would’ve been particularly annoyed if I’d spent any amount of money on this game, as certainly the asking price for the console versions of £4.99 is still too much in my opinion, but having spent nothing on it, it was far easier to appreciate the game for what it is and what it sets out to do. If anyone is looking for a much more relaxing gaming experience without the urgency of having to progress through such as with other titles, then I can recommend the free version. But for anyone looking for a more action-packed title and the satisfaction that comes with it, then you will be disappointed. 

 

Controls

The game’s control is also simple enough to get to grips with; be that either through using a keyboard or a controller and mercifully with the PC version, both those options are available; I personally prefer to use a controller whilst playing a game like this. There are a number of additional mechanics that can be used, which give the game some variety in that respect, but it’s definitely much more evolutionary than it is revolutionary. 

 

Originality

As this is a game that goes on forever and that there’s no attached story, I’m jumping straight into how unique a game it is, which I guess for many players, the fact that there is no story or any further incentive to play the game or any prolonged period of time may be either another reason to either get it or avoid it dependent on what way they may look at that. But also depending on what way you may look at it, the fact that there’s nothing to do in the games besides what I’ve already described may be cause enough to decide against playing it for long; as indeed was the case where I was concerned. After watching the trailer for Himno: The Silent Melody, there looks like there will be a number of unique combat elements introduced, which is one reason why I’m very much looking forward to playing it, but where the original Himno is concerned, there are certainly more unique titles out there that offer players a plethora of more unique features than what this has to offer.

Hesiitant

To summarize, buy Himno on Steam if you’re thinking of playing it, otherwise, particularly where the more action-driven gamer is concerned, there will be a disappointment to be felt. But if the intention of the developer was to release this game effectively as a demo to Himno: The Silent Melody all along, then it would seem like a stroke of genius, as releasing this game for free would give players a taste of what’s to come.

88 Heroes (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch)

Developer(s) – Bitmap Bureau

Publisher(s) – Rising Star Games

Developed by Bitmap Bureau and released in March 2017, 88 Heroes is a 2D side-scroller whereby the player assumes control of 88 pointless superheroes to defeat the evil Dr H8 who plans to destroy the Earth in 88 minutes. After having first played this when it was still under development at Play Expo Manchester all the way back in 2015, I first viewed it as a potentially addicting title with a great deal of replayability. The finished product, whilst not being a terrible game by any means, is a respectable title and whilst not being as addictive as I thought that it had the potential to be at the time, does certainly have a fair amount of replay value. 

Graphics – 7/10

The game is set across 4 different worlds for the player to progress across a total of 88 levels, each world has its own unique look ranging from office buildings to dungeons to space stations. The variety in world design is pretty impressive but it can get somewhat repetitive across a total of 22 levels each. The majority of the game’s visual variety is represented through that of the character designs, which there are a lot of; 99 in total counting the characters featured in the physical release of the game. 

Gameplay – 6/10

The character design is also where the variety in gameplay is incorporated. Each hero has their own unique abilities and limitations making each playthrough different in both variety and challenge. Playing this, I was as challenged as I was amused by how both wonderful and terrible each hero is; the game being nigh-on impossible to get through with certain heroes such as Captain Colossus and El Delayo. On the flipside, there are heroes that can be used to either pass levels with ease or bypass most obstacles altogether such as Mighty Mite, Bat Bot and Tech Tank. Overall, I’d describe it as a fair challenge; traversing through each level can get a little repetitive in terms of game as well as visual design and the boss fights are somewhat repetitive as well, but it played out well enough to have held my interest for a fair few playthroughs.

Controls – 7/10

The control scheme is largely hit and miss depending on what hero the player has control of at the time. Some are easier to handle than others, which can either help or hinder the gameplay accordingly. I’ve already mentioned this hero, but the one that did cause me the most problems was El Delayo, as his actions are delayed after the player registers them through the controller, which whilst I can appreciate is part of the challenge, can start to get pretty frustrating at times. A couple of others, like Gonan and Tommy the Gun are also not able to move and attack at the same time, which again, helps or hinders the game depending on whatever way the player looks at it. 

Lifespan – 7/10

A single playthrough can take there around an hour or two, dependent of course on player skill, but if players are looking for a stern challenge each time, there is a fair bit of replay value to be had playing through the game multiple times, as the heroes are picked at random every time a hero dies posing a different challenge every time, almost giving the game a Roguelike feel to it, albeit with the levels are laid out exactly the same as opposed to being randomly generated. It could be an idea to do that with a potential sequel, though they would have to make the heroes fractionally less useless, otherwise the game would be practically impossible to complete. 

Storyline – 6/10

The basic premise is simple enough; 88 pointless superheroes are called in to stop an invasion of Earth carried out by the evil alien Dr. H8. The game is light on plot otherwise, but I could fully appreciate the sense of humour that was incorporated into this title with the sheer variety of terrible, terrible superheroes and how their abilities seem more of a hindrance than a help. You can appreciate the humour to be had in that, especially if you’ve seen films like The Mystery Men or Kick-Ass. 

Originality – 7/10

Overall, despite its lack of originality in terms of environmental design, the point is that no 2D side-scroller like this has ever come about and is a pretty creative title in terms of gameplay because of that. It was created by two old-school gamers who wanted to take the old way of playing games and make something new out of it, which I think they did a particularly good job of despite the game’s flaws. There aren’t many 2D side-scrollers with as much replay value as there is in this title.

Niiutral

 

In summation, whilst lacking in certain areas, 88 Heroes proved to be a fairly enjoyable title and one definitely worth more than a single playthrough. It provides challenge and humour, which ultimately for me outweighs the frustration of trying to make it through the game with certain heroes on the roster, accomplishing what the developers set out to do with it. 

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

Mothergunship (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Grip Digital Games & Terrible Posture Games

Publisher(s) – Grip Digital Games

PEGI – 7

Jointly developed and released by Terrible Posture Games and Grip Digital and released at the midpoint of 2018, Mothergunship is a spiritual successor to the indie shooter Tower of Guns, featuring much of the same gameplay elements but offering a great deal more than the latter with an improved number of gameplay features whilst also boasting better graphics on a technical level and a slightly more immersing story complete with all the humour of Joe Mirabello’s previous game. When I first played and reviewed Tower of Guns, I was immediately taken aback by just how unexpectedly fantastic a game it is, but I also pointed out a number of flaws that, although marred the game down to a small extent, didn’t stop it from being the best indie game of the eighth generation that I had played up to that point. However, Mothergunship not only addresses these flaws, but offers players all the immersion that can be had with Tower of Guns and then some; I was again taken further aback by how this game hadn’t equaled the quality of it’s spiritual predecessor, but surpassed it to a monumental extent. 

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing I noticed whilst playing this game was the significant improvements made to the game’s visuals on a technical level. Abandoning the cel-shaded style synonymous with Tower of Guns, the developers went for a much more realistic-looking sci-fi setting with more varied environmental features as well as a wider range of enemy types. A vast majority of the enemies (as well as a few of the boss fights) were largely recycled from Tower of Guns, but to counteract that, more enemy types were added to not only make the game more diverse on a visual scale, but to add new types of challenge for players to contend with; among the most notable are the robotic dogs that run towards players in certain phases of the game. 

I was extremely impressed with visuals from the get-go; most impressive were the very realistic-looking vistas of open space towards the start of the game and those that can be seen during the sequences whereby players must jump between gravity pads to reach another ship. But as well as that, although each room is randomly generated and as such, the scenery can become very repetitive very quickly, it’s not as much of a problem in Mothergunship as it is in Tower of Guns as each room feels much more unique from the last. The dice rooms in particular offer more diversity in scenery design, as they present different challenges found in typical rooms. 

Gameplay – 10/10

Mothergunship keeps to the same basic premise as Tower of Guns for the most part; a first-person shooting Roguelike with randomly generated content. But as alluded to before, new gameplay features have been implemented with this title, such as an RPG aspet in that players can level up their character to gain new perks such as increased health, an increased number of jumps, increased melee power etc. It also has a much less linear progression than the latter, with players being able to undertake sidequests for better loot. But speaking of the loot, that’s where the game’s most impressive feature comes in. Players also have the facility to make weapons from the ground-up, using various parts that are collected throughout the game. A player can modify a single gun to have multiple barrels and multiple modifications for perks such as increased fire rate, attack power and abilities such as ricocheting bullets and stunning enemies. The level of customization the players can indulge in is actually ridiculous to the extent that the guns can look like they couldn’t possibly be handled by a human being in the real world. 

But regardless, it makes for one of the most enjoyable features I’ve seen in any FPS game. It feels incredibly satisfying to step into a room with an unreasonably big gun (or two for that matter, since dual wielding is also an option) and blast through everything in sight. It’s equally satisfying to try and get by on a minimal amount of equipment throughout the beginning of each mission and then rely on your ability to strategize in accordance with what loadout a player starts with and then subsequently buys in each shop.

Controls – 10/10

Although the game in terms of its controls functions like most other first-person shooter games, most fans of the genre will be able to pick up the controller and play through it fluently, success also relies on a certain extent of strategy. It’s just as important to move as it is to shoot with so many potential enemies on-screen at any one given moment. People who may have played Tower of Guns can go from that game to this without skipping a beat (especially if, like me, they’ve had the practice of playing the latter game to death), but for other fans of the genre who may not have played Tower of Guns before, they will be forced to modify their tactics somewhat to stand any chance of success. 

Lifespan – 10/10

To complete one playthrough to 100% with most likely take there around 20 hours. But the thing with this game is that like Tower of Guns before it, because everything is randomly generated from the rooms to the loot, each playthrough presents a completely different challenge every time, giving it a virtually infinite amount of replay value. It has a linear progression ultimately, but the possibilities for each playthrough are endless and will only last as long as player interest, which given the amount of things to do in this game, is a potentially long time. 

Storyline – 7/10

The basic premise of the game is simple; the player is a new recruit of Earth’s governing body tasked with repelling an impending invasion carried out by a robotic race known as the Archivists. The player character must stop this invasion by taking out the Archivist fleet and along with it, its flagship spacecraft, the Mothergunship. Though the game’s story is pretty basic and overall bears next to no thinking about for the most part, it’s kept somewhat fresh throughout with a steady supply of humour. The element of comedy with rife in Tower of Guns as well, but because there’s full voice acting in Mothergunship, it’s much easier to indulge in. In particular, Dave Pettitt puts in a hilarious performance as the Colonel; it’s quite reminiscent of Jim Ward’s performances as Captain Qwark in the Ratchet & Clank games. 

Originality – 9/10

In my review of Tower of Guns, I’d commented how hard it must be for developers to make a unique first-person shooter experience, given how saturated the industry has become the genre taking precedent throughout recent gaming generations. Despite that, Tower of Guns felt like a fairly unique game. However, with the sheer amount of new and exciting gameplay features implemented in Mothergunship, this games works even better to stand out in an over-saturated gaming genre, making it, to me, not only one of the most memorable FPS game in recent years, but also one of the most unique gaming experiences of the eighth generation. 

Deliirious

Overall, Mothergunship is one of the best first-person shooter games I have ever played. It’s an immersing gameplay experience offering pretty much endless replay value with exceptional graphics and an obscene level of customization that will háave players indulging in for hours upon hours. I loved Tower of Guns, but for lack of a better term, this game quite literally blows it’s spiritual predecessor out of the water. 

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great) 

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch)

Developer – Next Level Games

Publisher – Nintendo

Director – Bryce Holiday

Producer – Alex McFarlane, Bjorn Nash & Kensuke Tanabe

Originally intended for release on the Wii U, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was eventually released on Halloween of 2019 for the Nintendo Switch and garnished both critical and commercial acclaim new ideas. After having played through this game myself, I was thoroughly impressed by what it had to offer; so much so I consider it to be one of the best releases on the console so far. 

Graphics – 9/10

The latest installment of the series is set not in a mansion, or a series of mansions like in the previous games, but in a 15-floor hotel; each floor with it’s own distinct theme, such as one for Medieval England, another themed on film, one on fitness and one on Ancient Egypt to name but a few. From the point of view of conceptual design, it’s certainly a lot more diverse than the previous two games, which whilst they remained fresh with different kinds of rooms throughout, the third game simply enhances what was already great about the first two games, which will be a recurring point I’m going to be making throughout this entire review.

The only minor gripe I had with the game in terms of graphical quality was that the areas surrounding the mansion, ie grassland, trees, mountains, etc, are greatly simplified compared to everything else in the game. But it’s only a minor issue since they’re just that; they’re additional background details that aren’t to be paid too much attention to anyway. The real attention to detail is perpetuated within everything besides; the textures the developers used for Luigi, in particular, are extremely impressive, with everything down to visible stitching on his clothes to the internal machinery in his latest weapon, the Poltergust G-00.

Gameplay – 9/10

Again, the gameplay in this title is yet another example of how the developers took the blueprint of the original two games and greatly expanded upon them. It perpetuates most of the ideas that were established with Luigi’s Mansion 2, such as the dark light mechanics to uncover hidden secrets and the strobulb used to stun enemies, but also combines them with the Gooigi mechanic that was first preliminarily introduced as a co-op mechanic in the 3DS remake of the original Luigi’s Mansion and making it an integral part of the single-player campaign, with players having to use Gooigi to traverse through insubstantial barriers such as drainpipes and shuttered doors to either uncover more secrets and solve puzzles. It reminded me of the mechanics in the original Soul Reaver that allows Raziel to pass through similar obstacles.

The setting of the game also clearly allowed for expansion on the general idea of gameplay, giving players a lot more to do than in the previous installments, which in my opinion, was greatly needed for if Nintendo ever did decide to develop a series of sequels to the original Luigi’s Mansion. The second one came close to being better than the first, as there was more added to that game in comparison to the original, but the third expands on this idea to an even greater extent, making for an extremely enjoyable gaming experience overall. 

Another aspect in which this game improves on its predecessors is the quality of the boss fights. The boss fights in the first game were particularly good and the second game offered creativity in this respect but failed to top those of the original game, but the boss fights in the third are even more well thought out and even more challenging, as some of which require the use of Gooigi and therefore require the player having to periodically switch between him and Luigi to beat some of the bosses. The best example of that is the boss fight against Hellen Gravely, whereby the player must use Gooigi to switch off security systems that can hurt Luigi from underneath the floorboards, whilst also using Luigi to avoid Hellen’s attacks and defeat her. 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme of the third game is taken largely from Luigi’s Mansion 2, which in itself was a largely simplified variation of the control scheme for the original game, but it also introduces a lot of new mechanics to keep things fresh. But at the same time, it presents no issues. The combat system is largely refined in comparison to both 1 and 2 and the increased ghost types also necessitate the modification of strategy to best suit them; it all makes for one of the most unique titles to have ever come out of Nintendo in my personal opinion. 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

Whilst not being quite as long as Luigi’s Mansion 2, it still makes for a delightfully lengthy gaming experience, requiring at least 20 hours to complete to 100%. Again, it’s the idea of having a hotel with multiple floors is the means by which Nintendo have expanded on the lifespan of a game within this series. I think If they were to make a fourth game, a good idea would be to set it inside a haunted skyscraper with over 100 floors and more side quests complete with a courtyard at the base. But I digress; an expanded lifespan is exactly what was needed to further develop the ideas perpetuated by the original two games and Nintendo delivered on this greatly with the third game. 

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story begins with the Super Mario Bros along with Princess Peach, three Toads and Luigi’s pet ghost dog Polterpup taking a vacation to The Last Resort Hotel, whereby once they all check-in and settle into their rooms, Luigi falls asleep whilst reading a book. When he wakes up, he finds that the hotel has turned into a ghostly apparition of itself and that the others are missing. It turns out that with the help of the hotel’s owner, Hellen Gravely, King Boo has returned, possessing the hotel and capturing Mario and the others and trapping them in picture frames. Luigi must defeat King Boo whilst finding and freeing the others from him with the help of Luigi’s old ally Professor E. Gadd, who sets up a secret lab in the hotel basement once Luigi finds and rescues him from his own picture frame, whilst also offering Luigi advice from afar and modifying his Poltergust G-00 with new abilities throughout. 

Whilst basically copying the plot of the original Luigi’s Mansion, I like this game’s story for the same reason why I liked Super Mario Odyssey’s story. Despite the fact that both games simply perpetuate the same idea in terms of story as most of every other game in their respective series; before it, Luigi’s hardships and successes are conveyed better through emotion and body language than in previous games, which is most likely part of the reason why this game won the award for best in-game animation of 2019. Spoken dialogue within the game is strangely a lot more diverse than what players would normally find in a Super Mario game, with Luigi saying various phrases upon defeating bosses.

Originality – 10/10

As I pointed out before, this game perpetuates some of the most original ideas that I’ve found in any Nintendo game before it. Not only because of the modifications that have been made to the game’s control scheme, but in every other aspect as well, from the gameplay to the conceptual design. It always baffles me how Nintendo are able to take their series’ and expand on the ideas perpetuated by previous installments and the third Luigi’s Mansion game is no exception.

Deliirious

To summarize, when I first started playing Luigi’s Mansion 3, I immediately thought it was going to be at least on par with the original two games. But having played it through to the end, I put it above the other two. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is unanimously the best game in the series; it takes the best of Luigi’s Mansion 1 and 2 and expands on them to introduce new gameplay mechanics, better boss fights and overall far more enjoyable gaming experience. I can’t recommend this title enough. 

Score

54/60

9/10 (Excellent)