Tag Archives: Adventure

Souno's Curse Header

Q&A With Kiro Team

A while back, I came across a new title in development that was nearing a launch on Kickstarter, and now I’m thrilled to bring it to the attention of an even wider audience than what it has been brought to already. Souno’s Curse, under development by Kiro Team based in Lyon in France, is an action-platforming game featuring staple elements of the Metroidvania genre. It features beautifully hand-drawn visuals reminiscent of games such as Hollow Knight and Cuphead and presents a narrative surrounded by mystery and focusing on such themes as love, regret friendship, and decisive action. Curious to learn as much as I could before the Kickstarter launches tomorrow, I reached out to Kiro Team’s Idir Amrouche to understand more about this wonderfully ambitious-looking title, and what gamers can come to expect whilst playing. Here’s what Idir Amrouche of Kiro Team had to say about Souno’s Curse:

 

Souno's Curse 1

What were the influences behind your game?

Different media like books, movies, and anime, and of course video games. If I were to name a few:

– Kingdom Hearts

– Metal Gear Solid

– Megalobox anime

– The Witcher (game and books)

My main inspiration comes from Hollow Knight and Journey

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

The game is around 30% finished. We plan a release window for mid-2023

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

One of them is the creative process when you let your imagination run wild and create new environments, characters, stories, etc…The second one is implementing the created assets in the game and seeing all that you imagined come to life.

 

Souno's Curse 2

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The team is composed of people from France, Canada, and the USA, and all of them except for me have full or part-time jobs on the side. The most challenging part was to plan a roadmap taking into account varying availability and finding a workflow that suits everyone’s plannings/time zones.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I started sharing info about the game on Twitter at the very early stages. I did not expect to have this much support and to have a community this big this fast. So I’d say it has been pretty well received so far.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Souno’s Curse release is planned for Steam and GOG.com. We’d be very happy to release it on Nintendo Switch as well, which is why it is one of our Kickstarter stretch goals.

 

Souno's Curse 3

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

A few yes. At first, the game was just an experimental project that was supposed to last 3 or 4 months. But seeing how well it was received we decided to make a full game out of it, so of course, some elements had to be changed in order to adapt to the new scope

 

How exhilarating an experience has it been with the amount of interest taken in the game’s mythology even at this early stage?

It’s honestly crazy. To see so many people following every step of the process is amazing. This also gives us more motivation to come up with the highest quality possible to live up to their expectations. We hope people will love the demo.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

I think player feedback is one of the main pillars of game development. We learned so much about the strengths and weaknesses of the game just from watching the players’ behavior. After spending a certain amount of time working on the game you become blind to certain aspects of it.

 

Souno's Curse 4

Amidst the influx of Metroidvania titles throughout the eighth and ninth generations of gaming, what would you say makes Souno’s Curse stand out in your opinion?

Well first it’s not a full-fledged Metroidvania but it’s borrowing elements from the genre. Second, I really think the themes and story of the characters and the plot will leave an impact on the hearts of the players. At least I hope so.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I’d love to work with Hideo Kojima. It always feels like he is 20 years ahead of everyone else in the industry.

 

What is your opinion of the recent influx of indie developers coming out of France?

It’s great! The indie community is growing bigger, and more and more structures are being developed in order to help the developers either financially or by providing more exposure.

 

Souno's Curse 5

Have there been any to have reached out to you guys for advice or to give advice throughout the development of Souno’s Curse?

Yes, many. That’s the good thing about Twitter, it’s always good to network and exchange tips and ideas between developers.

 

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

If I had one piece of advice to give it would be: Don’t hide your game until it’s “perfect”. Let people test your prototypes and ideas as soon as possible and get feedback from them. You don’t need art or animations for a mechanic to be fun. Fail early fail often.

 

Souno's Curse 6

Where on the Internet can people find you?

All the detailed information about Souno’s Curse is on our Kickstarter page. We will answer all your questions there:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kiroteam/sounos-curse.

 

If you want to chat and chill with us, you can join our Discord :

 https://discord.com/invite/ukSraCAaFg

 

We are posting daily content about the game development on Twitter : 

https://twitter.com/KiroTeamGames

 

Do you have anything else to add?

See you on October 1st for the Steam Next Fest and Kickstarter launch!

 

Souno's Curse 7

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Idir for taking the time to out to talk to me about Souno’s Curse and share more information about the game. If anyone is interested in backing this awesome-looking title, you can do so by visiting the Kickstarter page as of tomorrow when the campaign launches. I wish Idir and the rest of the Kiro Team the best of luck with Souno’s curse’ Kickstarter campaign and subsequent launch, and I hope you guys are looking forward to this game as much as I am!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Fur Fighters SG88 Header

Fur Fighters (PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 & iOS)

Developer(s) – Bizarre Creations

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Games

Designer(s) – Jeff Lewis

Producer(s) – Brian Woodhouse

ELSPA – 11+

 

Released originally on the Sega Dreamcast, and subsequently re-released on the PlayStation 2 as the Viggo’s Revenge edition, Fur Fighters is a third-person shooter 3D platformer hybrid brought to consoles by Liverpool-based developer Bizarre Creations, and whilst not performing particularly well financially, was universally praised by critics at the time of it’s released and has since gained somewhat of a cult following as one of the most overlooked games of the sixth generation. In my opinion, the praise was well-deserved. I remember watching video reviews of the game at the time, but I never got round to picking up a copy at the time of its release. But after finally getting my hands on it and finishing it in full, I wasn’t disappointed. 

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The game makes use of cel-shading, which was still in relevant infancy at the time with games such as Jet Set Radio, XIII, and the original Sly Cooper making waves in the early 2000s. The environments are quite varied and the character design is just as so to match. In terms of technical quality, it is about on par with most of what players can come to expect from a late fifth generation or early sixth generation game. Being cel-shaded, it didn’t stand out in terms of a technical marvel, but it comes with its own unique conceptual design, which brings a strong sense of charm to the title. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

A third-person shooting 3D platformer, the objective is to traverse through various different levels and hub worlds shooting enemies and procuring collectibles scattered throughout the game, including tokens and rescuable baby animals. It has an element of Donkey Kong 64 to it, in that the player can take control of several different playable characters, whose abilities must be utilized to progress through certain areas of the game; for example, the dragon character Tweek can glide to reach otherwise impassable ledges, and the penguin character Rico can swim through bodies of water to reach different areas. There is a fair amount of variety to be had in this game, and whilst it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the best 3D platformers ever released, such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, does relatively well to stand on its own two feet. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is faultless, provided the player picks the right control scheme; particularly in the Viggo’s Revenge edition. The default control scheme almost makes the game unplayable, however, with the movement controls being nigh-on impossible to get to grips with. It made me thankful that there was mercifully an auto-aim system for when enemies attack. In my opinion, the best control scheme to go with is the Beginner 2 control scheme; it makes life ten times easier whilst playing. I found it confusing, however, that the developers chose to associate the control scheme with the game’s difficulty because to me, a bad control scheme shouldn’t exist for the sake of adding to the difficulty, simply because it doesn’t; it just adds to the game’s frustration. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

Lasting around 30 hours, more intrepid players looking to collect everything within the game will not be disappointed. There is plenty on offer for players who want to make the experience last as long as possible, and I was pleasantly surprised myself that there was more to play for in this game than meets the eye. I went in expecting this to be a much more generic gaming experience than what I eventually got, and the game’s surprisingly long lifespan is the main reason why. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

What isn’t so great about this game is that the plot is pretty typical. The evil General Viggo has kidnapped the families of the Fur Fighters and the team resolves to defeat Viggo and get them back. Given that each of the Fur Fighters has his/her own personalities and traits, I would’ve thought the developers would’ve found a lot more room for characterization and plot than what was ultimately included, but I was unfortunately wrong. Luckily, the added voice acting in Viggo’s revenge edition and the fact in and of itself that the different characters do have outstanding personalities and traits keep the story from being overly terrible, but there was definitely room for elaboration in this respect. 

 

Originality – 7/10

The game stands out to a fair enough extent, but the main reason why it doesn’t stand with the best of the best 3D platformers is that it doesn’t do enough to stand out; maybe this is the main thing that hurt sales of the game at the time since it’s easy to make the assumption that this game is a lot less than what it actually is. It’s unfortunate, but to play devil’s advocate, there are also reasons why this game remains a beloved diamond in the rough in the eyes of many other gamers. It’s not a completely generic game, but there are a fair few things that could’ve been worked on to give the extra push it needed at the time in my opinion. 

 

Happii

However, that being said, Fur Fighters is still a very worthwhile title. It has great gameplay elements, it’s conceptual design is just about better than good, and I would recommend at least one playthrough of it. 

 

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Mages Defence Header

Q&A With Happy Eagle Games

Whilst browsing social media platforms for new video game prospects, I was approached by yet another indie developer looking to bring their game to a wider audience. Mages Defense, under development at Happy Eagle Games based in Brazil, is an action-strategy game with tower defense elements set in a fantasy world reminiscent of the works of Tolkein. The main objective of the game is to protect a crystal from dark creatures bent on destroying the world. Enemies attack in waves and to defend the crystal, players must place traps in increasingly strategic ways and use the magic of the mages to beat each wave. 

Wanting to know even more about this exciting and addictive-looking title, I proposed to the game’s project leader Felix Tedesco about the possibility of conducting a Q&A for the site to ask him some questions about the direction in which development has gone, and my go, and what players can come to expect with this game ahead of the launch of a Kickstarter campaign planned for October. Here’s what Felix Tedesco of Happy Eagle Games had to say about Mages Defense:

 

Mages Defence 1

What were the influences behind your game?

One of our first influences was that Orcs Must Die. Orcs Must Die is a 3rd person tower defense and we got a lot of elements from there and definitely this game shapes ours. The other game that inspired us was kingdom rush, another tower defense game that gave us a lot of new ideas…

 

What has the developmental process been like?

The process has been fun and positive. We committed so many mistakes, more than we can count, but all mistakes we made became part of us and we learned from them. Of course, we are going to commit a lot more, but we know that is part of the plan.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We intend to make a Kickstarter campaign in October to gather some money and finish our product. Depending on how the game goes on Kickstarter, we are planning to develop some new and unique levels and release the game early next year. Probably February or March…

 

Mages Defence 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

We think it was the fact that we are creating our own technique because it’s our first big game. We made a lot of mistakes in the process that made us much more ready for the next one. For the next game, we know how to avoid the mistakes we’ve made and that makes us stronger. We learn how to work as a team and to overcome problems.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The mechanics were the most challenging part of development. At the beginning of the project, we had some trouble making it fun, simple, and functional and even after making a lot of the game, we still needed to adapt and change some parts of it.

 

There was limited information on the Internet about Happy Eagle. Can you give a rundown of the history of the company, where you’re based and what prior developmental experiences you have?

We were acting in some game jams, especially here in Brazil. We made some small games and prototypes to train our abilities and gain some experience. The name came because we are focused on creating happy, fun, and positive games especially because of the world’s problems we had. We think the main goal of life is being happy and that’s why we are focused on creating a fun and colorful game. The eagle means that we want to fly as high as possible and we are going to do everything in our control to make it happen.

 

Mages Defence 3

How well has the game been received so far?

We just showed the game to a local community at the moment… The feedback is being pretty cool and helped us to build a new perspective of the game. Because of the feedback, we think it has a lot of potential, and we are making the best product we can! We are working on a great Demo that will be ready in October for our Kickstarter campaign.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We just have plans to bring it for PC right now. But we are open to new possibilities.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

We are reworking on the Boss fights. We planned something that we were pretty cool with in the beginning but when we build it, it wasn’t good enough. So we are making the fight with the bosses again. The initial idea was that the bosses would fight against the player 1 x 1. but now we are bringing the boss along the waves of enemies.

 

Mages Defence 4

Are you planning to make Mages Defense into a series, or are you and the development team looking to try something new following the release of Mages Defense?

Probably. We are going to try something new. At least this is our thought at the moment. Of course, if the game reaches great success, we are going to make Mages Defense 2 and grow our team.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

It was the most important thing! Their feedback made us change a lot of aspects of the game, including some parts of the mechanics making it more simple and easy to master. I think one of our difficulties right now is balance the game and the maps and the players are the keys to that.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Rockstar is my favorite company by far. I just love the idea of an open-world game where you can do everything and if I had the opportunity, I’d make a partnership with them.

 

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

Follow your dreams. Work with whatever makes you happy… Of course, that is not a possibility for everybody but go for passion instead of just money. Money needs to be the consequence, not the goal. If you are really committed to something, the money will come. Be Hunger!

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

We are working on our other media. You can find us right now on Twitter:

 

https://twitter.com/CreativeFelix

You also can WISHLIST Mages Defense now On STEAM!

 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1528330/Mages_Defense/

Do you have anything else to add?

We just want to thank you for the opportunity to spread our game and thanks to everyone who is helping us to make the project more and more attractive! You are awesome!!!

 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Felix for reaching out to me and bringing this game to my attention, as well as agreeing to our interview. Mages Defense looks like a game that can potentially make for ours of addicting gameplay, and as a fan of the conventional medieval fantasy genre myself, I’m very much looking forward to learning more about the mythology behind it. In recent months, I’ve interviewed a number of indie developers originating from Brazil, including 2ndBoss Studios, Statera Studios, and Orube Studios, and the indie scene in the country is looking very exciting at the moment, and Happy Eagle is set to be another prominent example of which. I hope you guys are looking forward to the game’s Kickstarter campaign in October, and hope that you’re looking forward to playing this game as much as I am

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Plot of the Druid Header

Q&A With Adventure4Life Studios

Some months back, I had discovered a promising title set for unveiling on Kickstarter rooted in wonder,  conspiracy, and British humor; this week, I’m happy to say I’m able to bring it to the attention of the wider audience it deserves. Plot of the Druid is a medieval fantasy point-and-click adventure game featuring humor inspired by the likes of Monty Python and other classic examples of British comedy. Developed by Adventure4Life Studios, it tells the story of a disgraced druid’s apprentice who sets out to restore the natural order of the world as we know it. What will make this point-and-click stand out on paper (depending on how funding goes) is the fact that it is potentially set to be open-ended, as players can choose to deal with different situations in however way they choose as opposed to it having one pre-determined path. The player must also use spells learned in order to solve puzzles, interact with NPCs, and progress through the game.

Eager to know more about this prospect-filled title amidst its current Kickstarter campaign, I got in touch with Adventure4Life’s CEO Yakir Israel and asked him a few questions in regards to the game, and what kind of weird and wonderful things players can expect going into it, and how it may stand among some of the very best games in the genre, such as Monkey Island, Broken Sword or Grim Fandango. Here’s what Yakir Israel of Adventure4Life Studios had to say about Plot of the Druid.

 

Plot of the Druid 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

I’m a big fan of everything related to fantasy and comedy. I also grew up on point-and-click adventure games such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Simon the Sorcerer, and Monkey Island, which shape the main course of my game. When I played Book of Unwritten Tales ten years ago, I realized that the PnC genre hadn’t died, and it inspired me to make my own game with a similar fantasy setting.

King’s Quest, Harry Potter, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz all had an impact on the setting as well. More than that, Plot of the Druid has a big mixture of influencers: The whole focus on druids comes from the Asterix comics and Radagast from Lord of the Rings, the shapeshifting mechanic comes from Visionaries – Knights of the Magical Light, the art style was inspired by the 2D beautiful hand-painted Broken Sword series, and all the wacky characters in the game took inspiration from Simon the Sorcerer, Discworld, and Monkey Island.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I’ve been working on this game for almost six years, and there were many ups and downs. I worked full-time in hi-tech and saved some money each month to pay expert freelancers for aspects of the game that I can’t do myself, but it was a very tight budget. Some of the team members lost motivation when the budget ran out. And each time someone leaves, it causes delays to find a replacement.
Luckily, since this game is my dream, I keep moving on even so and never stop making it. Now, in the last year, I can say the team has become more stable, and I’ve also gotten small investments from people who believe in the project. These helped me release the prologue, and I came to the conclusion I have to go as soon as possible to crowdfunding if I want the full game to happen.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

My goal is to finish it by the beginning of 2023. Right now only twenty percent of the game is done, but if the game will get funded that can boost the development process. And I can reach that goal.

 

Plot of the Druid 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

After the prologue was released I got a lot of feedback, and with the experience, I gained during the years I decided to rewrite some of the story elements. It was very exciting to spot parts that weren’t working very well and improve them. I was very proud of the final result.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Doing optimization – I had to decrease the build size and manage the memory more efficiently. The animations are frame-by-frame, so I had to put a lot of effort into making the loading time shorter. Each load took more than 15 seconds. After optimization, it took less than 2 seconds and the build size decreased by 70 percent!

  

How well has the game been received so far? 

I would say pretty good. It’s listed as Very Positive on Steam and often I get positive messages from around the world. It’s really encouraging me to keep moving, knowing that things are going in the right direction!

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC is my main priority, which I think is the main audience for point-and-click games. But if I get lucky and reach certain stretch goals, I will be happy to port to mobile and consoles as well. 

 

Are there any stretch goals planned for the Kickstarter campaign?

Yes, besides the typical goals such as localization, adding voice and mobile versions, I would like to add multiple paths, two different endings, more shapeshifting abilities, CGI cutscenes, and a comic book.

 

What examples of British humor influenced this game?

In addition to the British point and click games I mentioned, Monty Python and Blackadder. 

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

When I rewrote the story elements, some of the concepts had to be removed or adapted to fit the new ideas. I kept the polished parts, which had taken lots of time and effort, and applied them in a different context. It’s funny since people that tried the first rough versions back in 2017-2018 won’t recognize the new version especially in terms of story and puzzles.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been? 

Usually, I trust my gut feeling, but of course, making a game isn’t just about the creator. The phase where the player’s feedback has the most impact is beta testing. I listen carefully to what they have to say and decide if their suggestion is practical and if it enhances the game experience, like if something isn’t clear or additional hints are needed. After the release, I tend to work mostly on major bug fixes to avoid unnecessary ripple effects.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I would like to make an alternate sequel to Simon the Sorcerer 2! My idea is to keep the game in the same 2D pixel style, but with a different story that starts immediately after the cliffhanger at the end, when Simon and Sordid switched bodies. So you can play as Simon in Sordid’s body at the start of the game, while you see cutscenes of Sordid in Simon’s body in the real world, trying to be menacing but no one really cares. How funny would that be?!

 

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

  1. Work on something you would like to play yourself. 
  2. Start with a small project – you can learn a lot from the dev process… you will improve later.
  3. Break your work into small milestones – each milestone achieved can boost your motivation, you will have something to show, and you can get feedback from it.
  4. Don’t wait to finish your game and then start to promote it – you need to build a community around it as soon as possible. Building a fan base takes time and effort. Spreading the word is more than 70% of a project’s success, BUT make sure the contents you send to the press are high quality!

Where on the Internet can people find you?

The best place to start is the website – www.plotofthedruid.com, from there you can subscribe to newsletters to get updates and reach our social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Discord.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

We released a free prologue last year, you can play it here:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1544570/Plot_of_the_Druid_Nightwatch/
And like I already mentioned, being funded is crucial for making the full game, please consider

backing it: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/plot-of-the-druid/plot-of-the-druid
There are cool rewards, such as an original big box version like the old school game used to have, the backers can make contributions and even appear in the game itself!

 

I’d like to thank Yakir for taking the time out to answer my questions on Plot of the Druid. Alongside names such as Lucy Dreaming, there seems to be an incoming influx of indie point-and-click adventure games, and Plot of the Druid, at first glance, looks like a game that is sure to deliver an extremely memorable experience to both fans of the genre and newcomers. If you’d like to back the game on Kickstarter, you can do so via the link provided, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed this one because I certainly did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Land of Illusion Header

Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Master System & Game Gear)

Developer(s) – Sega

Publisher(s) –  Sega

Director(s) – Yoshio Yoshida

Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore

PEGI – 3

Released on third-generation hardware well into the fourth generation, Land of Illusion was brought out following the immense success of the previous Mickey Mouse game developed by Sega, Castle of Illusion, and for the most part, received the same level of critical acclaim being considered an adored classic by most who played it. Out of the original Illusion trilogy, Land of Illusion was the one entry that I never got to play, as, at this time, I was firmly immersed in fourth-generation hardware, such as the Super NES and the Mega Drive; and it’s a shame that this game never saw a release on the Mega Drive, because a multitude of reasons, it is the best in the Illusion trilogy in my opinion; superior to both Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

Where the technical side of things is concerned, the game kind of looks like a mixture of both 8-BIT and 16-BIT visuals, seemingly going above and beyond what many gamers may have thought the Sega Master System was capable of. People who have never played this game would most probably take a cursory look at it and maybe too hasty to write it off immediately as a game that seemingly came to a generation too late. But the fact of the matter is Land of Illusion looks too good to be a third-generation title. The conceptual design is also even more of an improvement on what the developers did with Castle of Illusion to me, as it borrows elements from much darker Disney films than that of its predecessor; most notably The Black Cauldron, as the antagonist is The Horned King under the guise of a new villain, The Phantom. There are certain elements of certain levels that also look to be inspired by previous third-generation classics, such as Super Mario Bros 3 and Castlevania.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

Perpetuating many of the same gameplay elements as seen in Castle of Illusion, Land of Illusion is another 2D side scroller whereby the player must traverse, explore, defeat bosses and take on the game’s end boss. What separates this game from Castle of Illusion, however, is that there’s a small Metroidvania element to it, allowing for players to backtrack to an extent with newly acquired abilities to reach otherwise impassable areas. There’s even a sidequest whereby there are a number of stars to collect throughout, giving the game slightly more replay value than the average side scroller. The boss fights throughout also provide a nice balance of challenge for players. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The biggest problem I had with the game is only a minor one, which is that the jump mechanics can seem a little inconsistent, and as a result, gameplay can be hindered to a small extent unnecessarily. The same problem exists in the next game in the series, World of Illusion, but to a lesser extent. However, the jump mechanics are nowhere near as bad enough to be able to call the game unplayable by any means. Like the last game, the controls are as fluent as what is needed to be for the most part. 

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Land of Illusion can be made to last around an hour, which though was the average lifespan for a game in the fourth generation, is actually quite impressive compared to other third-generation titles. The amount of backtracking the game warrants makes it slightly longer than the average 2D side scroller that was a mainstay in the industry at this time, and it does fairly well to stand out on its own as a result. Of course, other games have been released by this time that lasted considerably longer like A Link to the Past and the Final Fantasy games, but for what is a very retroactive experience, it succeeds to deliver.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The plot of Land of Illusion is extremely similar to that of Super Mario Bros 2. Mickey is reading a book one day only to fall asleep and awake again in an unfamiliar and fantastical land whereby he must recover a stolen magic crystal in order to help the inhabitants of a small village protect themselves from an entity known as The Phantom. Along the way, the player encounters several classic Disney characters to rescue, and along the way providing a greater deal of substance in the story and more memorable moments than Castle of Illusion. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Although it was released arguably three years too late, the fact of the matter is the game stands out for all the right reasons regardless of its late arrival on the Sega Master System, and for a game that at first glance would seem completely outdated, is immensely impressive. It’s amazing what developers have been able to do with basing games off of a pre-existing license before and after Land of Illusion, but very few developers took that concept to the heights that Sega took many Disney franchises in the realm of games, and this game stands out as yet another shining example of that.

 

Happii

 

Overall, I was surprised to find out that I would end up enjoying Land of Illusion more than any of the other Illusion games. It’s got a great deal to play for, for its time, the story is much more involved than in previous game, and although it seems to be Castle of Illusion that gets the accolade of the classic Mickey Mouse game, the fact of the matter is that Land of Illusion is in many ways superior. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Braid Header

Braid (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Number None

Publisher(s) – Number None & Microsoft Game Studios

Director(s) – Jonathan Blow

PEGI – 12

 

Released back in 2009, Braid was one of the games that truly Kickstarted the influx of independently developed games, which would be seen throughout the eighth generation and beyond, along with the likes of Minecraft, Fez, and Castle Crashers. It was received with universal acclaim upon release proving to be one of the most influential games of the 21st century, with many critics even citing it as one of the very games of all time. Although I found it to be game brimming with artistic merit and certainly having well earned its place within gaming history, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of the best of all time, but nevertheless, there was a lot to be enjoyed with this one

 

Graphics – 10/10

The first thing to notice and to truly be awe-inspired by is the visuals. Hand-drawn and taking place within environments are equally vibrant and colorful as well as dark and ominous, visually, the game was expertly put together to the extent that it makes players feel that this wasn’t programmed on a computer by a developer, but rather painted onto a blank canvas by a master artist. The game’s soundtrack is also expertly composed by three classically trained musicians, further perpetuating the contrasting feeling of calmness and ambiance with that of danger and dark portent. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a 2D side-scroller with puzzle-solving elements to it, similar to a lot of indie experiences to have seemingly been influenced by it, such as Chronology and The Swapper, but also featuring a lot of gameplay elements similar to that of the Super Mario series. The puzzle-solving element is not quite as intricate or subtle as what it is in Jonathan Blow’s future game, The Witness, but nevertheless, players will have to have their thinking caps on in order to progress through this game, as the puzzles can be particularly challenging at times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Aside from the jumping controls feeling somewhat stiff, the game’s control scheme poses no problems at all. All I would suggest is to get either the console or Steam version, since all these versions offer controller support, unlike the PC version on CD-ROM which forces players to use the keyboard, which is exactly how a game like this should never play out. At least with the Steam version, keyboard mapping becomes available. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

Braid can only be made to last around 2 hours, which for a game that came out in the middle of the seventh generation, is nothing; especially when since its release, there have been plenty of other games made in the same ilk that have been made to last considerably longer than this. This is the main reason why I’ve not been so hasty as to label it one of the best of all time, since whilst having as much artistic credibility as this game does, it should only be secondary to things like gameplay, and in this day and age, lifespan, and I didn’t find that it was in this case. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Braid tells of a man named Tim who is searching for his princess that has been taken by an evil monster. Like Super Mario Bros, the game’s story sounds extremely simplistic in scope, and again, for a game that was released when it was, you may think that wouldn’t be enough since games were becoming more geared towards telling stories. But what makes this game hold up in that respect is in the details. Plot threads and backstory are accessible throughout the game, and it gives it more substance than players may think at first glance. There are also a few twists and turns before the end that players will not see coming at all. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Whilst this game was by no means the first game to do the majority of things that it does do, the fact of the matter is that it went on to inspire a new generation of developers to come up with their own ideas and share them with the world, and props need to be given to both Jonathan Blow and the team of developers behind it. This game, along with many other released around at the same time, taught the new generation that they don’t need to be part of the mainstream to realize that they can become successful developers, and that with the know-how and the effort, that a great game can be developed on a budget. 

 

Happii

Overall, Braid, whilst I can’t bring myself to consider it one of the best, is certainly one of the most influential, and still quite a lot of fun for the short time it lasts. Jonathan Blow went through an arduous process to bring this game to life, and in the end, he deserved his success. 

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

Lucy Dreaming Header

Q&A With Tall Story Games

Whilst once again scouring Kickstarter for more new video game prospects. I came across a couple of games in a genre that generally speaking, I don’t spend enough time covering, but this game captured my attention in a way that few that others do. Lucy Dreaming is a point-and-click adventure game made as a love letter to the works of LucasArts, including Day of the Tentacle, the Monkey Island series, and Full Throttle. Developed by Tall Story Games based in the English West Midlands, it centers around a young girl named Lucy, who must travel between dreams and reality to discover a disturbing truth about Lucy’s sub-conscience. Eager to know more, I contacted the game’s lead developer Ton Hardwidge to pose some questions in regards to not only the game but also in regards to the point-and-click adventure genre itself, as I was curious to get an indie developer’s perspective in regards to how well the genre is represented compared to the likes of the 2D Sidescroller, Metroidvania or 3D platforming genres. So that being said, here’s what Tom Hardwidge of Tall Story games had to say about Lucy Dreaming:

 

Lucy Dreaming 1

What were the influences behind your game?

It’s fairly obvious to anyone looking at the pixel-artwork or user interface of Lucy Dreaming that the LucasArts adventure classics from the 1990s are a huge inspiration for the game. I’ve made no effort to hide this fact, and I am proud to call it a love letter to all of the titles that gave me so much joy growing up. Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle made a huge impression on me and I never, even in my wildest dreams, thought it would be possible to create my own point & click adventure games.

The initial concept for the game came from the fact that our house is littered with children’s books. We have a six-year-old son who loves reading and often dreams about characters and scenarios in his books. I was already trying to think of a concept that would provide flexibility in terms of scenes, characters, and artwork, and dreams were the perfect candidate. I won’t divulge too much about the mechanics of the full game, but books play an important part.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

This is our first full-length title, so we knew it was going to need a bit more planning than some of our previous, shorter games. That said, a lot of the puzzle development in the game is organic. I have a narrative plan mapped out which contains all of the important milestones and plot points along the way, but in terms of the puzzles themselves, a lot of them are created in situ. I will design a scene and start cramming it with random objects. I hate large areas of empty space, so I always want to put a picture on the wall, or stuff the shelves to help add interest to the scene and support the wider story of the game. Once I have filled up a scene with bits of random crap, I then look at the task in hand and think to myself “If I were in this scene, what would I do next?” or “I wonder what’s in that cupboard over there.” As I oversee the story, artwork, and development I can change anything on a whim if I think I can make it work better, or there’s an opportunity for a gag.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We’re aiming to have a finished game within 12 months of the Kickstarter campaign ends. I have a tendency to get carried away and over-deliver, so although we have proposed 8-10 hours of playtime, it may well be a bit over that. The version of the demo available to play on Steam and Itch.io is actually the second one that we’ve produced. The first one was finished at the end of 2020 but, when tested, had an average playtime of over two hours. We felt this gave away a bit too much of the full game’s mechanics and story, so made the decision to “bank” it as the first two hours of the full game instead and create an entirely new demo prequel that had unique puzzles not found in the full game.

For anyone backing the game on Kickstarter, we will be involving them in discussions about the game on our VIP Discord channel too, so they can help to shape the game they have supported.

 

Lucy Dreaming 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

As I’m doing the whole lot, it’s very hard to separate them into different aspects. It’s all a single, intertwined process. If I had to pick one element, it would probably be the puzzle design itself as it involves a little bit of everything. Sometimes a puzzle will be purely visual,

sometimes it relies heavily on the dialogue and other little clues. Honing a puzzle so that it’s just the right level of difficulty is so much fun, I’ll watch testers and streamers play through a puzzle and try to spot where they get frustrated, bored, or delighted – I can then tweak the whole experience to make it as smooth as possible without handing them the answer on a plate.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Without a doubt, it’s been the publishing of the game to the various app platforms (namely Steam and the Google Play Store). As a first-timer to the process, I can honestly say that it’s been one of the most confusing and frustrating things I’ve had to deal with. It’s like a badly designed adventure game puzzle in itself. The clues poorly signposted and the dialogue is unhelpful but, as an adventure game puzzle, there is immense satisfaction in finally figuring it out on your own.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

So far it’s been received really well, and anything that has been picked up in terms of bugs or potential improvements to the puzzles has been sorted in subsequent releases. I’ve watched a lot of gamers playing the demo since it launched, and so far it seems to have been universally enjoyed. A few people apparently find a northern British accent inherently annoying, but they are vastly outweighed by the number of players who love Lucy and the voice actor’s sassy northern lilt (which is just as well, because it’s my wife and business partner, Emma!)

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching people laugh out loud at the jokes, and there are hundreds in there if you like exploring. The demo alone contains over 1,100 unique responses and dialogue, if you really want to suffer an onslaught of bad puns and “dad jokes” try talking to all the objects in each scene, you might discover a few hidden references and Easter eggs too.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

The game engine that I’m using is called Visionaire Studio, it’s purpose-built for point & click adventure games and supports a huge number of platforms. For the basic level of funding on Kickstarter, I am promising releases for Windows, macOS, and Linux, but there’s also a stretch goal for iOS and Android (the demo is already available to download from the Google Play Store). Point & click games with a traditional SCUMM-style interface really lend themselves to touchscreens. I would absolutely love to release Lucy Dreaming on Nintendo Switch too, but publishing a game for Nintendo is a bit of an unknown for me, even though the game engine supports it from a technical point of view.

 

Can you tell us anything about the pending stretch goals planned for the Kickstarter campaign?

Since the campaign launched, a lot of people have reached out to me to ask about support for different platforms and languages, so in the name of transparency, I have actually taken the decision to publish the initial plan for stretch goals. At the time of writing we haven’t fully funded, although we did manage to reach 50% of our goal in the first 11 hours of the campaign, and were handpicked as a Kickstarter “Project We Love”, so we’re hopeful!

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

Probably more than I think! If I got back and check my original notes there will undoubtedly be things that I’ve forgotten or moved away from since I started this project 12 months ago. The main thing that has changed is the name of the game itself. We originally called the game “Lucid Adventure”, which we subsequently had to scrap a couple of months into the project. I had failed to do my research properly and completely missed the fact that there was already a game with the same name. After a quick brainstorming session with other indie developers and game industry professionals, we settled on “Lucy Dreaming” which is a play on “Lucid Dreaming”, the key concept behind the full game.

 

Do you believe the point-and-click adventure genre has been adequately represented throughout the indie community?

Absolutely, the indie game community is keeping the genre alive, and there are some spectacular new titles being produced all the time.

I am relatively new to the whole indie game dev scene. I started by making a browser-based point-and-click adventure for The Roman Baths in 2019, programming the whole thing from scratch in HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Then, a year later I used the same “engine” to build another game to raise money for charity Women’s Aid during the first UK lockdown. After this was well-received by adventure game fans online, I looked into game development in more detail and discovered a whole world of professional game engines, and the most welcoming, creative, and supportive community it’s ever been my pleasure to be a part of. A year later, here I am, constantly rubbing my eyes in disbelief and immensely proud to call them my friends.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

Feedback from players, other devs, publishers, friends, and everyone around me is a huge factor when producing a game like this. There’s no room for arrogance, if players falter and don’t have a smooth, enjoyable experience, it’s my fault.

At the beginning of the project I went back and forth for a long time just working out which verbs to include in my SCUMM UI, there are strong opinions in both the “I want all of Ron Gilbert’s original verbs” and “No verbs, just a left, and right-click!” camps and I wanted to strike a balance between the two. It seemed like a huge deal in the early stages of the development, but not that the demo has been honed and polished, no one playing the game has had any cause to complain or even mention the UI. That for me is the greatest compliment, as it means it is doing its job perfectly. I still welcome feedback on all platforms and on all subjects. I am new to this industry, and if I don’t listen to my peers and my audience, I’m going to fall at the first hurdle.

 

Do you find that taking such a self-reflective approach to make this game through your own blog posts has improved your personal developmental skills?

I think it’s helped me retain my humility. I don’t plan my blog posts, I just open up a blank screen and let my brain spew out all over it. It’s hugely cathartic and the blogging process has helped me to understand how I feel at each stage in the process. If I’m happy, frustrated, or confused, I let it all out and it somehow solidifies into something I can reflect on. I’ll read them back and think “Oh, so THAT’s why I’m so annoyed.” Or “Tom, you’re being a nob, just listen to your critics.” It’s also great to have a record of all my transient thoughts and feelings throughout the project. I’m sure if I read some of my early posts now I would have forgotten nearly everything I wrote at the time.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I’ve been running my own design agency for over a decade, and I’m not used to being told what to do. I’m also not very good at managing other people, so if I was going to develop something for another company, it would probably have to be a client/agency relationship as opposed to working within a larger games studio. Under these circumstances, I think I’d probably like to work on a point & click adventure for a book like Luke Pearson’s Hilda. The characters and settings are an absolute wonder, and if I had similar freedom to expand and build on the world he’s created – as Netflix has done – then that would be truly magical. Of course, it would need to be a pixel-art interpretation, which is probably sacrilege but, hey, this is my fantasy!

 

It’s also mentioned on the Kickstarter page that your young son Robin has made unintentional contributions to the game too. Do you see a lot of your own creative side in your son from his early age, and would you like him to possibly follow in your footsteps as a developer?

I will be delighted with whatever he decides to do as long as he’s happy. At the moment I am loving collaborating with him as we walk over a mile to school every morning. We play a game called “puzzles” where we take it in turns to make up a puzzle that needs solving, then look around us and solve it with whatever comes to hand. This has created some incredible ideas that I would have never thought of, and I write them all down. From a penny-farthing skateboard to a woodpecker-on-a-stick for digging holes. The little chap is a veritable goldmine!

He also draws, and writes, a lot! I have a whole stack of Lucy Dreaming “fan-art” on my desk created by Robin, and I hope that his delight in creativity stays with him.

 

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

Get involved in the indie dev community. Anything and everything can be learned from the best, and nicest people in the industry. Don’t be daunted by the prospect either, you’ll assume that everyone knows more than you do, but your thoughts and feelings are valid too. Have confidence in your own ability and don’t forget to have fun. I mean, that’s why you’re doing it, right? Getting involved in a wider community gives you a sounding board for ideas, collaborators for the future, constructive criticism when you don’t think you need it, and tremendous support when you do.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

I’m on Twitter mainly, but we also have spots in all the usual haunts. Facebook, Discord, Instagram, Steam, YouTube, Itch.io, our website … take your pick!

https://twitter.com/tallstorygames

https://www.facebook.com/tallstorygames

https://www.instagram.com/tallstorygames/

https://lucy-dreaming.com/

https://discord.gg/aExm5ZhtdE

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCByVD7k0-JiLw5Cv80mS8kA

https://store.steampowered.com/search/?publisher=Tall%20Story%20Games

https://tallstorygames.itch.io/

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I love what I am doing and am always happy to talk (at length) about it, so if anyone has any questions, or just wants to say “hello” you know where to find me!

Oh, and back Lucy Dreaming on Kickstarter now!

 

I’d just lastly like to thank Tom for taking the time out of development to answer my questions in regards to this exciting title. It was quite interesting to get his take on this game, as well as the point-and-click- adventure game in general. It looks like the genre has a brighter future than what I’d realized and I’m looking forward to this title, as well as any more upcoming games within it that may be coming out soon in addition. If you like the look of Lucy Dreaming and want to see the project brought to life, you can back the Kickstarter campaign via this link:

Kickstarter Page

But in the meantime, I hope you’re looking forward to this game and enjoyed learning more about it from Tom as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Metroid Header

Metroid (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D1 & Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Satoru Okada

Producer(s) – Gunpei Yokoi

PEGI – 7

 

Released at around the midpoint of the third generation on the NES to generally positive reviews, selling best in America, Metroid became a favorite among fans of the original NES, and of course, would go on to become one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises along with the likes of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong. I was excited before first going into this one some years ago because it wasn’t a game I got to experience at the time of its release, and I was very much looking forward to seeing the beginnings of this franchise after hearing what I had done through word of mouth. But although I do think it is one of the better games released on the NES, and that I can understand why so many people regard it as a beloved classic, to me, the series did get better as it went on; especially as this game suffered from a lot of limitations that the era of gaming in which it occupied presented. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

The best quality this game has, in my opinion, is the visuals. Set across an expansive alien world, it presented something extremely different from what Nintendo was putting out at the time, which mostly involved worlds made up of anthropomorphic animals and contemporary fantasy settings. Although there were plenty of games with sci-fi elements on the NES, such as Abadox, Contra, and Metal Gear, it was indeed interesting to see the makers of the console try their hand at it themselves, and the end result is one of the best-looking games on the system. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, also compliments the game’s atmosphere in a way that also goes above and beyond that of which many other NES games attempted.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

Although the original Metroid is generally described as an action-adventure, ostensibly it’s a Metroidvania, although that term at the time had yet to be coined, of course, until Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night were both released many years later. The player must navigate their way through an open world, collect items, upgrades, and new abilities, and defeat bosses in order to unlock new areas, and ultimately face off against the end boss. But as this particular genre of game was yet to be built on, it suffers from limitations such as there being no in-game map, which in the Metroidvania genre, has become a staple element. Being a by-product of its time, players were reliant on either a strategy guide or even drawing up rough maps for themselves to make sure they don’t get lost or explore an area twice needlessly. It’s enjoyable to play with a strategy guide, but a nightmare without one. 

 

Controls – 7/10

Another area where problems exist is also the control scheme. As the game also has a lot of sequences whereby players must jump up vertically elongated areas, this presents issues because the game’s jump mechanics can feel quite inconsistent. Super Metroid had the same problem, as well as a few others, but not to the same extent as the original Metroid does. What’s also sorely lacking is the ability to shoot diagonally, which again, would be something that would be greatly improved on with future Metroidvania titles.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last around an hour and a half, which in all fairness, whilst that seems like nothing compared to games today, was actually a fair bit of time longer than the average game in the late 80s. In this respect, the original Metroid was somewhat ahead of its time, along with the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Again, it may be down to the limitation of what hardware was being used back then that the game couldn’t have been made to last longer than what it does, but the lifespan did manage to break some new ground at least. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Metroid is that the Galactic Federation has sent a bounty named Samus Aran to the planet Zebes, which is infested with mysterious hostile aliens known as Metroids, in order to take out Mother Brain, a biochemical life form controlling the Space Pirates, who were responsible for the Metroid outbreak. Not a lot of that is made clear throughout the game, as in lieu of third-generation tradition, players had to read the manual in order to learn as much about the narrative as possible. But the reveal that Samus is in fact a woman is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in gaming history, as the concept of a female protagonist was pretty much unheard of in video games at the time. 

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s for that same reason, as well as its contemporary sci-fi setting, style of play, and accompanying soundtrack, that Metroid stands out as being one of the most unique titles on the system. Although the series would go on to reach greater heights, and that the character of Samus Aran would go on to become even more admired by gamers everywhere, this is where it all started, and for many gamers, this title broke a lot of new ground in ways that no one could have expected. Satoru Okada would go on to become one of Nintendo’s most iconic figures until his retirement in 2012, and it’s not hard to see why with the legacy he and the late great Gunpei Yokoi have left behind with the release of titles like this.

 

Happii

Overall, Metroid, whilst it indeed has too many flaws for me personally to be able to label it as such, is still considered by many to be a classic and an NES favorite, and for good reason. It was a Metroidvania before the genre was even properly conceived, and no game had played anything like it at the time. 

Score

45/60

7/10 (Good)

Chuhou Joutai 2 Header

Q&A With Drillmation Systems

Looking out for more indie game prospects on social media, I recently got in touch with another indie developer to discuss their upcoming project. Drillmation Systems, operating out of the United States, is a games developer and animation studio heavily inspired by Japanese culture, as well as games such as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda currently working on 2 gaming franchises; Touhou and Chuhou Jotai. Currently in development is the sequel, Chuhou Jotai 2: Paraided, a bullet hell game based on multiple facets of the Japanese way of life accompanied with a strong sense of humor. Slated for release within the next few months, it boasts significant improvement over the previous game including greater visuals and enhanced and more intense gameplay. Wanting to know more, I got in touch with the game’s lead developer, known only as The Prophet, to ask about the game, what improvements players can expect to see, and to learn more about Drillmation systems in general. Here’s what The Prophet had to say about Chuhou Jotai 2:

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

The main game that influenced the whole look of the game had to be Konami’s 1991 game The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, the entire Ganbare Goemon series influenced the game as a whole, as many songs in Chuhou Joutai 2’s soundtrack took influence from that franchise. The Mario & Luigi series, alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, were major inspirations for the game’s humor.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I had a strict time deadline to get the game done, and as of this writing, the game is 80% done. Development on Chuhou Joutai 2 began before the first game had even released. After Chuhou Joutai 1 released on Steam last year, development on Chuhou Joutai 2 began almost immediately. To test the engine for this new game, a complete NES-styled remake of the second Touhou Project game, Touhou 2: The Story of Eastern Wonderland, was created to demonstrate the new engine. Despite this, I actually reused the same engine as the first game, although the only changes I made were the graphical design and color palette.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

As I mentioned before, the game is almost done. The endings and achievements are all I have left. After I get the endings programmed, I might as well release the beta. The game is scheduled for release on July 2, 2021.

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Drawing the cutscenes is something I generally did on the weekdays. On some days I even drew up to four assets in a single day. Of course, to keep in line with my academics, I dedicated programming only on the weekends, as programming takes a lot of time and effort.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Programming the bullet patterns takes a lot of time. All playtests are done on Lunatic difficulty to ensure the attack patterns are working. Perhaps the most difficult part of programming these patterns is difficulty balancing. If I can’t beat that pattern without getting hit once, I will have to tune the attack patterns to ensure the game is balanced.

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

Early reception when the demo came out has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Chuhou Joutai 2 will be a PC-exclusive. I really want to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch, but I can’t because I don’t have the money yet and there are a number of legal issues that I have to work out. In order to publish games for the platform, you have to have a contract with Nintendo.

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 3

What do you think will be the most significant improvements that the sequel will perpetuate compared to the original game?

The new art direction was the most significant improvement. After players were divided on the art direction for the first game, this change had to be made. Interestingly, the Chuhou Joutai 2 was originally going to use the cartoony art direction of the first game before the realistic switch.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

Risu Yokumaru, the stage 6 boss, was originally going to have blonde hair, but I changed it to magenta because there were too many blonde-haired characters in the game (being Maika Ohtake and Naoko Shigematsu).

 

I saw on your Twitter page not long ago that you recently applied for a composer role for another game. Will you be composing the music for Chuhou Joutai 2, and what approach have you taken towards doing that?

I have been the sole composer for Chuhou Joutai 1 and 2, and back in September of 2020, I tried to apply for the composer role for David Murray’s (aka The 8-Bit Guy) Attack of the PETSCII Robots. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it in as during my request, he told me there were dozens of people who want to compose for his projects. I understand he can do it himself. The only job he had open was programming the music into the game, and I don’t code for the C64, so I was pretty much out of luck.

Anyway, I took a mostly oriental approach to the game’s soundtrack. I’ve always wanted to make a game in the style of a PC-98 game, and I used the YM-2608 chip to compose the game’s soundtrack. I largely used the same instruments as the PC-98 Touhou Project games, though I included two original instruments, being a shamisen (FM instrument) and a taiko drum (SSG instrument). I also incorporated one thing that ZUN never used, being the ADPCM channel for a few mod tracker samples such as an orchestral hit and gong.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

After the second trailer for Chuhou Joutai 2 released on YouTube, I received praise for the improved art direction, and it ended up sticking as a result.

 

Do you think the bullet hell genre is adequately represented throughout the indie community?

The Touhou Project was responsible for popularizing the danmaku genre within the indie game community. Since it started on PC-98 and as I mentioned before, one of my goals was to make a game in the style of a PC-98 game, and I did that with Chuhou Joutai 2. In fact, both Chuhou Joutai games were featured on the Japanese gaming blog 4gamer.net. I even translated the articles on my website at drillimation.com.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

To continue the Drillimation Danmaku Universe, I might start making the franchise Nintendo-exclusive, and that Nintendo would be acting as publisher. One of my philosophies with the Chuhou Joutai series is incorporating elements from its inspiration franchise being Touhou Project. One of the things I want to do is remake the original Touhou games in between so that players could get the opportunity to play the original games. My goal is to remake all of the PC-98 Touhou Project games on Windows. When I begin making the games for Nintendo, I can always resort to Bandai Namco for outside help. However, Nintendo has seldomly published games from independent developers, and after I saw the success with games such as Cadence of Hyrule, I realized it was possible to create a game and have Nintendo publish it.

 

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

I learned that developing games is a great way to start a career, but running a successful franchise is a lot of hard work. This is why Super Indie Games exists, to help you with running campaigns. Another great way to get the word out is through the website Discord Me, which allows users to advertise within their space. Chuhou Joutai (including the second game) has been running as an ad there for over the past month.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

Anybody can search either “Drillimation” or “Chuhou Joutai” to easily find Drillimation. When Drillimation started out, the name was nowhere to be found within the search results, but nowadays, it is searchable thanks to Drillimation being a burgeoning brand.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I don’t have anything else to say, but it was nice speaking with you.

 

I’d like to thank The Prophet for taking the time out to discuss Chuou Jotai 2 and what players can come to expect from this exciting game. Bullet hell is a genre that seems to be neglected within the indie community compared to 3D platformers, RPGs, and Metroidvanias, so discovering Drillmation and this game was like a breath of fresh air to me, and I’m sure the final game will deliver something new and special. If you like the look of the game, you can download the demo via Drillmation’s itch.io page:

https://drillimation.itch.io/chuhou-joutai-2-paraidedhttps://drillimation.itch.io/chuhou-joutai-2-paraided

But the full game will be coming very soon. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed what The Prophet had to tell us and that you’re looking forward to Chuhou Jotai 2.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Down Ward Header

Q&A With Fisholith

After once again scouting Kickstarter for new video game developers looking for crowdfunding, I came across a stunning-looking 8-BIT title already available on Steam, but in the process of undergoing major changes. Down Ward is an 8-BIT 2D platformer telling the story of an owl named Gable, who sets out on a journey to rekindle dormant relics of a land long forgotten and abandoned, similar in concept to games like RiME and Journey. Not only does the game make use of 8-BIT visuals, but it also makes use of a monochromatic visual style very reminiscent of Game Boy classics such as Super Mario Land and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

Wanting to know about what changes this project is currently undergoing and the challenges that came with implementing such drastic improvements, I got in touch with the game’s lead designer, simply known as Fisholith operating out of Costa Mesa in California. It turned out that the influences and thought process behind this game was even more intricate than I’d realized at first glance, and Fi’s answers certainly provided a lot of clarity on where he hopes to go with this game following its successful backing on Kickstarter. So, here’s what Fisholith had to say about Down Ward:

 

Down Ward 1

What were the influences behind Down Ward?

This might not be too surprising but … birds. I got into photographing birds quite a while ago, and I gradually became more and more interested in learning about them. I think that has definitely carried over into a lot of the creative stuff I’m working on.
In terms of gameplay there are probably a lot of subtle influences, but certainly among them is Descent (1995) with its zero-gravity flight, exploration, and intrinsic verticality. Likewise, another influence has been some of the design philosophy that Shigeru Miyamoto described as how he approaches making games fun.

 

What led to the decision to implement the numerous monochromatic visuals styles in Down Ward?

I’m the kind of idiot that will find the color customization options for a text editor and make a “water level” for it, and then start working on lava and ice.

I’d say there are two reasons for the multitude of palettes. Firstly, the visuals in Down Ward only ever use four colors on-screen at a time. I decided early on that I wanted to try giving the game a sort of painterly look, and so I wouldn’t be using any outlines to visually separate the foreground objects from the background. Instead, I was going to try to rely on techniques found in traditional painting, like lighting and shadows, brightness, contrast, and texture.

So instead of having the four colors represent abstract things, like outlines, dominant color, secondary color, and accent color, I arranged the four colors to simply represent a range of brightnesses: dark, dim, light, bright. I had essentially a grayscale game, with a palette based only on lighting, and this is what opened up the possibility to have so many palette variations. An interesting concept from traditional painting is that the dominant readability of a scene comes from light and shadow first. So if a scene reads well in grayscale, then you can colorize those light and dark areas with whatever colors you want, and the scene will pretty much always read well.

This meant that I could dream up as many color palette variations as I wanted, and as long as they roughly followed that relative dark-to-light brightness scale, the scene would always be just as readable as the grayscale version. Secondly, I like colors… Specifically, I really like designing with colors, and in particular, how changing just the colors of a scene can dramatically change the mood and atmosphere.

 

Down Ward 2

What has the developmental process been like?

The most heartening part of it all has been creating something that I love and seeing others fall in love with it too. Over the last year, I’ve gotten several messages from people, telling me that they appreciate the game, or the art of Gable, or some bit of respite they’ve found in my project, amid the unusual circumstances we’re all in. I think some of that may just be due to the pretty stressful year 2020 has been. Nonetheless, I’ve tried to be a positive source of creativity in the maelstrom of this year’s strangeness. It’s such a different place to have ended up than I expected going in.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Close in some aspects, and semi-distant in others. There’s quite a bit I want to do to expand on Down Ward visually. There are gameplay mechanics I would like to add. I don’t want to get too ambitious though, as it’s my first major game, and it’s easy to get mired in feature creep. As with any creative project, when you’re the creator, your vision of cool things you’d love to do will always extend beyond whatever you create. Whatever interesting hill you reach the top of, you’re always rewarded with a sprawling vista of more intriguing distant hills.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Down Ward?

I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, and I’ve gotten to meet and talk with some incredible people who created some of my favorite games that I grew up with. At the same time, getting to see the little world I’ve created for Down Ward grow and take shape has been a joy.

 

Down Ward 3

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Down Ward?

Trying to learn the outreach and social media side of game development, and build up everything needed to make a Kickstarter work, while also trying to keep momentum working on the game itself. I love learning it all, and I love talking with people, but I don’t feel like I’m especially good at the outreach side of things yet. I’m trying to learn though. I have a lot of respect for the amount of work that publicists must do.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Early on, I was worried that not many people would be interested in a four-color monochrome game, but it has been received very well, much better than I’d have expected. Even outside of the game, people seem to really like Gable. It’s also nice that all of the constructive critiques I’ve gotten on the game have been very helpful.

 

In what ways are you looking to expand on the current game?

I have a lot of ideas, and I’m sure as I go I’ll gradually realize which I want to focus on. Outside of the things I’ve specifically promised in the Kickstarter, nothing is set in stone yet. Broadly speaking, I’d like to expand on the mechanics, hazards, enemies, and puzzles. I would like to expand on the graphics and style of the game a bit, with distinct environments, as well as music composed to fit each. In fact, at the moment, I’m working on a piece of music based on an in-world folklore song.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, Mac, and Linux. A lot of people have asked me about Switch, and while I’d love to try that, there’s a whole world of feature and design compliance requirements totally separate from just porting the code. I’ve researched it but I’ve never done it, and I want to limit my promises to things I’ve done before and know I can do since it’s my first game.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?

While touch screen controls have never been a planned feature, I have done some work on creating a flexible touch interface. It allows you to unlock the touch UI, move the buttons wherever you want, create unlimited copies of any buttons, and scale the buttons for larger devices. Though not scrapped, it has been put on a distant back burner for the time being.

 

Given how passionate you clearly are about art, did you find working with monochromatic visuals among one of your biggest challenges?

Not necessarily one of the biggest, but there are a lot of interesting and unintuitive challenges that emerge from 4 color graphics that I wasn’t expecting, going in. Some of that challenge came from the no-outlines style I decided to go with. For instance, still, screenshots can look nice, but the game has much more visual clarity when you see it in motion. Early on, I started making seamless looping gif animations of gameplay, as an alternative to screenshots, as I think the gifs do a much better job of presenting Down Ward’s look and feel. They definitely take longer to create than a screenshot, and evolving the workflow for creating them has certainly been a challenge.

Another tricky aspect is how to represent objects that are darker colors. For instance, a snowy white owl on a black background is not too hard, but if I wanted to add a crow, it would be a bit of a design challenge to figure out how exactly to make that work.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

In terms of refining the difficulty, solving level design ambiguities, and improving the introduction of mechanics, player feedback has definitely been instrumental. Even just watching gameplay videos from players is very enlightening.

I’m constantly trying to think through what I design from the perspective of a first-time player, but as the developer, my familiarity with what I’ve created works against me. I know what’s around every corner, and what’s just off-screen. So it’s easy to accidentally create something that makes sense to me, without realizing that a new player will encounter it with a different expectation that makes a lot more sense if you’ve never seen it before. Player feedback is like a kind of x-ray vision. You get to see the holes in your own perception. You get to “look” at your own blind spot. It’s pretty cool.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

This is an interesting question. On the one hand, there are quite a few companies that I think would be really interesting to work with, and on the other hand, I actually really like the creative freedom that comes from being a solo developer. Two companies come to mind though, Revival Productions and Stonemaier Games.

Revival Productions is the company behind Overload, the recent spiritual successor to Descent. It was founded by Mike Kulas and Matt Toschlog, creators of the original Descent franchise. They, and the Revival team, seem like a really cool group of people, who genuinely care about the player community that came together around the genre that they established. If I was going to work with a company on a six-degrees-of-freedom FPS game, that would be the company to work with.

The other is Stonemaier Games, created by Jamey Stegmaier, a tabletop game designer. I love tabletop games, I’ve created a few for fun, and for a long time I’ve been fascinated by the similarities and differences between tabletop games and digital games. I also really just love the design puzzle of making rules elegant enough to create interesting gameplay, while running on the notoriously slow and unstable People-at-a-Table operating system. Jamey of Stonemaier has spent a lot of time creating articles and videos sharing his thoughts, and what he’s learned in the course of designing and publishing tabletop games. He seems like a really creative and really nice guy, who grants a lot of creative freedom to the designers that work with him. So I think that would also be a pretty fun company to develop a game with.

 

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

I’m certainly not an expert, but I can share what has helped me. I think there are two different goals I could give advice about. Game development, and game crowdfunding.

The most concise bit of advice I can give that benefits both of those is, “Do game jams.”

To get better at game development you need to experiment quickly, release publicly, and plan around simple deadlines, and it helps if it’s a relaxed environment. To improve your prospects in crowdfunding, you need to begin building an audience and get comfortable interacting with people about your work.

Game jams will gift-wrap much of what you need to learn in both domains and present it to you in a fun, short, and bite-sized package. Even better is that there are lots of jams with all sorts of different creative limitations, timeframes, and skill ranges. So you can almost adventure your way through them, like different little island worlds, gaining experience as you go.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

Twitter @Fisholith

In the not too distant future, I’ll also be creating a website. There are a lot of subjects I’m interested in, and while I wouldn’t call myself an expert in them, I’d love to start creating tutorials and articles to share some of the stuff I’ve learned so far.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I began my prior Kickstarter for Down Ward, a little over a year ago, and without any advanced press coverage, and a much smaller audience, it didn’t make it to the funding goal. Rather than cancel it, I ran it to the end and thanked everyone. I explained in my thank you message, that I planned to relaunch in the future, and should my future campaign succeed, I would like to let this campaign stand as one more example, for anyone discouraged by a campaign that fell short, that you can always take what you’ve learned and try again. Perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned from games. 🙂

 

As always. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Fi for taking the time out of development to talk more about what players can come to expect of the final version of Down Ward compared to how the game currently plays out now. If you’d like to check out the game as it is, you can do so by visiting the Steam Page where it can be currently downloaded for free:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/904700/Down_Ward/

But if you think you’d like to back the project in addition, you can do that by visiting the game’s Kickstarter page in addition:

Down Ward Kickstarter Page

But in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title as much as I certainly did. As soon as I laid eyes on Down Ward, I had to learn more, and it turns out I got even more than what I bargained for with this one, and I was pleasantly surprised. I hope you guys were too.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88