Tag Archives: Fighting

Blu Cover Art

Q&A With Damien Robinett

At the time as when I scouted Astral Ascent on Kickstarter, I also came across yet another French indie title made in a somewhat similar vein, but with a completely different, yet just as exciting, premise. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, is a Metroidvania centering around the titular ninja character set in a world reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a lot of twists in terms of conceptual design. Influenced by the likes of Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and the modern indie classic Dead Cells, it perpetuates many of the same awesome qualities associated with any classic Metroidvania game; exploration, intense combat, and epic boss fights. It also features a particularly catchy soundtrack composed by award-winning German composer Lukas Piel. Again, wanting to know even more about this compelling-looking Metroidvania, I contacted the game’s lead programmer Damian Robinett to see where the project is in it#s current state, when players can expect to see the finished product, and to learn more about the game’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign, due to begin on April 6th:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/-myowngames-/blu-vs-the-world

Here’s what Damian Robinett had to say about Blu:

 

Blu 1

What were the influences behind Blu?
Several indie games that have come out in recent years, Dead Cells and Hollow Knight in the lead. But also a lot the manga universe. Naruto for example for certain attacks and designs, or to a lesser extent One Piece where I draw on the richness and diversity of its environments.

 

What has the developmental process been like?
Although working alone, I try to manage the development of Blu like any midsize organization. It begins with a reflection phase that lasts several months. Followed by a design phase where I design my game (which often looks like a AAA production on paper). An analysis phase where, depending on the resources available, I extract the fundamental concepts from my game design document in order to reduce them and strengthen the consistency. And it is only then that I start the production phase. At this point, I am moving forward a little on all aspects at the same time, on the one hand, to keep the motivation, on the other hand, because it allows keeping the game balanced and to anticipate the problems in advance. I also devote a couple of hours a day to promoting the game and to discussing with my community.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?
The vast majority of the game mechanics have been implemented. Most of the Level design remains to be done, and as in all Metroidvanias, it will take a lot of time, in the end, to balance the game so that all players can enjoy a nice progression curve.

 

Blu 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Discover and test new things. I love to experiment, and being alone on a project means you have to diversify your activities and gain a lot of experience. Both at a practical level and in the organization of the work. Creating new relationships has also been extraordinary, the support in the game developer community is truly amazing, with great empathy and support.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Combat mechanics. Starting from nothing, it’s very quick to get something playable, and you progress quickly. But when you have to streamline the gameplay in order to get something really satisfying for the player, it quickly becomes hundreds of hours of testing and tuning to get the character to behave perfectly as the player expects. A good feeling of combat results from the meeting of all the components of a game: animations, visuals/sound effects, physics, code … It’s very hard to obtain.

 

How well has the game been received so far?
Very good. The community of players is extremely benevolent and knows how to judge a game according to its maturity. When I see the enthusiasm that Blu causes I am often afraid to disappoint the players, but although often bugged, the different releases always more or less look like what players expect.

 

Blu 3

How instrumental has fan feedback been across platforms like Discord and Twitter been in shaping the development of the game?
A lot! My community shapes the game in its own way. I take into account all user feedback. I can count on talented game devs, as well as seasoned users who see the game with a fresher eye than mine. All the people who come to give feedback do so in a constructive way. And as is often done in public chats, it allows you to quickly gauge the interest in a new feature. When the change is quick, I often try to make it within the hour rather than writing it down.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
My goal is to make a simultaneous release on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 before the end of 2022. The console version may be postponed to the first semester of 2023 depending on the scope of the work to be done to port the game. An Alpha, Beta, and several test builds will be released before that.

 

How has having Lukas Piel on board with the project helped to bring the game to life so far?

Lukas brings poetry to the game that I hadn’t envisioned when I first started developing Blu. He weaves a musical universe over the levels that turns a fighting game into a heroic adventure. If there’s one thing I’m sure it’s that the soundtrack will be magnificent. Working with him is a pleasure, I hope I can count on him for all my productions in the future.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
Verry much! I write down all the ideas that come to mind. Half go by the wayside after a second reading. The second phase is longer, I let it ripen for a while to determine if these ideas really bring something coherent to my game. When you’re a developer, you often tend to program certain features because you CAN do it. But most of the time, the player doesn’t even notice it’s details. You have to know how to bring a little magic, but time is our enemy and you have to know how to do it with relevance.
Then the third phase will come, the one where I will no longer have time to do everything that I have stacked in my to-do list and that it will be necessary to reorganize in order of priority what it is imperative to include in the game and what is optional. We always keep them in a corner for later but even after the release the list of tasks often grows longer.

 

Will there be many stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign when it’s launched?
Yes, it will mainly be stretch goals aimed at lengthening the playing time with new modes and offering exclusive in-game content to my backers. At each level, the game will also be translated into new languages. I decided to focus my stretch goals and rewards on the game itself and not to diversify into derivative products.

 

Since Blu is heavily influenced by Smash, how exhilarating would it be to see Blu join the roster? What would her final smash move be?
I will quickly imagine that this is not reality and would definitely go crazy if it really was. But I guess it would be like having a part of myself fighting in the arena. I have spent more time with Blu than with any human being for the past two years and I regard her as my own daughter. I don’t think she would match the big names of Nintendo, but for her final attack, I would say a heavy diving attack, Ganondorf-like. She’s a ninja, but she’s not in the delicacy.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
We have some really cool development studios in France so I will probably stay here. I would say Motion Twin for its cooperative legal form, which encourages developers to believe in and get involved in the projects they develop.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Don’t go for it with your head down. You could miss beautiful things. If you are working on a title that is close to your heart, take your time to lay your project down, learn about best practices. Don’t take the easy road, experiment with new things, learn XP before finishing your quests, make friends on Twitter, make a Game Jam with them and meet them in real life if you can. Promotion is hard at first until the day you don’t call it “Promo” anymore, but just a productive break you enjoy. And persevere. Over time, it always pays off.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
Mainly on Twitter and Discord. I work alone at home so I often go there to chat a little:

Twitter – @blu_vs

Discord – https://discord.com/channels/722365912354652231/730153875901775903

 

Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, there are some friends of mine from Angouleme who are currently live on Kickstarter with their project Astral Ascent, and you should also take a look at it!

 

Indeed, if anyone is interested in checking out Astral Ascent, you can do so via their own Kickstarter page; a link to which can be found in my recent Q&A with the lead programmer at Hibernian Workshop Louis Denizet:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/03/31/astral-ascent-hibernian-workshop

But for now, I’d like to thank Damian for sharing what information he could about Blu and to wish him the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign launching April 6th. Blu, like most Metroidvanias released throughout the eighth generation, looks like a particularly engrossing and addictive game, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it’s finally released. In the meantime, I hope you guys check out Damian’s Kickstarter, and that I hope you enjoyed learning more about this awesome-looking game.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Super Smash Bros (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – HAL Laboratory

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Masahiro Sakurai

Producer(s) – Hiroaki Suga, Satoru Iwata, Kenji Miki & Shigeru Miyamoto

PEGI – 7

 

Released in 1999, following a long and lucrative development cycle, Super Smash Bros went on to become one of the most beloved games on the Nintendo 64 selling the best part of 5 million copies after other fighting games old poorly on the system and later spawned into one of the company’s flagship franchises that today acts as one of Nintendo’s biggest system-selling series’ upon release. However, the original game had far more humble origins and as such, started out as an idea that would later be built upon to an astronomical extent. It’s a very enjoyable game considered a classic by many Nintendo fans.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The game takes place among various different stages based on beloved Nintendo franchises such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Star Fox, and The Legend of Zelda. Namely, with some of the lesser-known franchises at the time, which were EarthBound, F-Zero, and Metroid, it’s impressive how the developers envisioned how these series’ would look in 3D despite the lack of source material at the time compared to the more well-known Nintendo series’ that was much more established, but besides which, every stage and every character looked brilliant for the time and hardware available, and it was all complete with the iconic opening cinematic that has since become synonymous with the franchise. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

Super Smash Bros was the fighting game that every Nintendo fan growing had long dreamed up since the game was ever created, featuring a selection of some of Nintendo’s most beloved characters hashing out with fists, iconic weapons, and other weapons or objects that can be used to the player’s advantage. In terms of the core gameplay, there was a great deal to keep players coming back for more, and continuing to do so even over 30 years on. Although the variety in gameplay would be improved upon massively (with it actually being shocking how few unlockables there are in the original game compared to future entries in the series), the first game offers more than enough incentive to last for hours upon hours. 

 

Controls – 9/10

For a completely new franchise, the game’s control scheme works out well enough. There are only a few minor nitpicks I have about it such as the need to use the C-buttons for things like jumping, whereas later entries in the series would go on to improve on this. It’s kind of like the transition between Goldeneye and Perfect Dark in that respect, which is part of the reason why I ended up enjoying later Super Smash Bros games far more than the first, but for the most part, the controls are fine. 

 

Originality – 7/10

What made this game as original as it is is not the general concept of including Nintendo characters in a fighting game, because at the time it seemed like an obvious idea that Nintendo had astonishingly not undertaken themselves before Masahiro Sakurai showed them the initial demo he had worked on in secret. But what made this game truly stand out among other fighting titles is the way in which it plays out; not with health meters that need to be depleted, but rather a health meter that needs to be racked up to a high enough percentage that the opposition can be knocked out of the stage itself. It was a really unique idea and it’s a system that has been adopted and modified by several other developers throughout the years. It would’ve been more influential if original ideas like the final smash moves were implemented (which wouldn’t be until Super Smash Bros Brawl), but on its own merits, it turned a niche gaming genre on the Nintendo 64 into a beloved one. 

 

Happii

Overall, the original Super Smash Bros has remained, and always will remain, a classic game with a lot to play for. Other Smash Bros games would come along and blow this game out of the water in my opinion, but the original game was certainly a more than adequate starting point. 

Score

30/60

7/10 (Good)

SG88 SoulCalibur Header

SoulCalibur (Dreamcast & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Project Soul

Publisher(s) – Namco

Director(s) – Jin Okubo & Yoshitaka Tezuka

Producer(s) – Yasuhiro Noguchi & Hiroaki Yotoriyama

PEGI – 16

 

Released back in 1998 to widespread acclaim, to the point where it would be regarded as the second most critically acclaimed game of all time after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, SoulCalibur was a fighting game series that spun off from the PlayStation game Soul Edge, improving on the former game in significant ways, and later going on to become one of the most recognizable fighting franchises in all of gaming. As a child, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game trying to unlock all the extras and secret characters, and to me, it still stands as one of the best games on the Dreamcast and one of the most definitive fighting games of all time. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

Seeing the game’s sixth-generation graphics on the Dreamcast whilst at around the half-way point of the fifth generation, the game in this respect was years ahead of its time. Everything from the character sprites to the stages is wonderfully polished and beautifully rendered; the attention to detail in this respect is staggering. It’s evident that this was as much of a labor of love as many of the best games released in 1998, such as Banjo Kazooie, Tekken 3, and Crash Bandicoot 3. The soundtrack to the first SoulCalibur may also be my favorite soundtrack to a fighting game ever; the intro to the game makes the very clear statement that all these characters have a purpose and that this is a fighting game unlike any other, and it certainly delivers.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Although it wasn’t the first fighting game to do this, SoulCalibur’s appeal is the ability to use weapons in combat as opposed to bare fist fighting as what is perpetuated in most fighting games. It also has a ton of unlockable content; the game is comparable to Super Smash Bros Melee in this respect. It has a load of characters and alternative costumes to unlock as well as artwork and beautifully told backstory, which whilst playing this game as a kid, did exceptionally well to endear me to this series to a greater extent than what I could’ve possibly imagined after having p[layed the like of Mortal Kombat and Tekken. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As well as there is no problems with this game in any other respect, the game’s control scheme is also flawless. Playing this game, was the first time I found myself being able to string proper moves together instead of merely button-bashing, which is what I’m normally used to doing whilst playing a fighting game. It made me feel like I had genuine skill playing it, and there’s never been another fighting game that’s made me feel that way since truth be told. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Though it did definitely perpetuate many ideas that had been adopted in fighting games long before it’s release, the developers took these elements and made it into their own fully cohesive concept in the respect of every element down to the fighters, the combat style, the range of locations and the mythology behind it all. It lay the foundations beautifully for what was to come, whilst also still holding up as an enjoyable game to play even after all these years.

 

Happii

Overall, the original SoulCalibur remains to me, one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. There are other genres of gaming that I’ve taken to better than fighting games, but I still revisit certain titles within it including Tekken 2, Dead or Alive 4, Ready 2 Rumble, and my favorite game in the series, SoulCalibur IV; the first SoulCalibur still fits into that category for me. 

Score

34/40

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Tekken Header

Tekken (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Namco

Publisher(s) – Namco & Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Director(s) – Seiichi Ishii

Producer(s) – Hajime Nakatani

PEGI – 12

 

Beginning as an internal experiment at Namco for modeling 3D characters, and later going on to become an early break-out hit on the original PlayStation as well as tearing up arcades everywhere, Tekken was Namco’s answer to the greatest fighting game series at the time such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Virtua Fighter (indeed, with many of the original Virtua Fighter team going to design This game). I wrote a more in-depth article going into the facts about the development of the original game, as well as the Tekken series in general for ActionAGoGo a while back in my 10-Hit Combo series:

https://actionagogo.com/2016/05/30/10-hit-combo-volume-v-tekken/

But as far as I’m concerned, although the best of the original Tekken trilogy would be yet to come, the first game in the series remains a favorite among fans of the original PlayStation, and for good reason. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

For what started out as a simple experiment, It’s amazing to see what the game would later go on to be in every aspect. In terms of the visuals, it features a memorable cast of characters with stages set in real-life places, such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the countryside of Windemere, England, and the landscape of Athens complete with the backdrop of the Acropolis. The scenery would go on to become more diverse with later installments, but each area is represented well for the time on a system with limited graphics by today’s standards.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game centers around the player characters competing in the King of the Iron Fist tournament for global supremacy in the field of martial arts. Playing out much differently from a traditional fighting game, and not making as much prevalent use of combos as many other fighting games at the time, it provided players with a very different experience to what they would have been used to at the time. The style of play has gone on to be modified and perfected throughout the rest of the series, but for the starting point, it plays out much more fluently than Virtua Fighter. There is also a host of unlockable characters to acquire in the home console version, giving it that much replay value. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Again, for what was to become the introduction to a beloved series, it’s surprising how well the controls were handled considering the fact that the same developers had previously worked on a fighting game that had arguably worse controls on a system that was comparable in power to the original PlayStation in the Sega Saturn. The fact that it runs on 80 frames per second really helped to achieve the desired effect, but although it may have seemed, even at the time, a step back where fighting games were concerned due to the lack of a defined combo system, the developers handled the control scheme as well as what could have been expected within its confines. 

 

Originality – 7/10

The aspect in which this game stands out above all else is in its unique cast of characters compared to most other fighting games. Compared to Virtua Fighter, introducing fantasy and science fiction elements also helped to distinguish it from the former in infinitely significant ways. Characters from the Tekken series have gone on to become iconic video game characters, such as Yoshimitsu, Heihachi, and King; and this is where it all started.

 

Happii

Overall, the original Tekken, whilst not being my personal favorite from the first three games (my favorite being Tekken 2), was nevertheless the ideal starting point and a gaming experience that still very much holds up. Its quirky characters, excellent game design, and somewhat stern level of challenge have had fighting game fans revisiting it for over 20 years, and will also do well to entertain players for generations to come. 

Score

31/40

7.5/10 (Good)

Q&A With Peyton Burnham

Following another Kickstarter excursion, I came across yet another great-looking game boasting a massive amount to offer players in terms of gameplay, story and wonderful-looking scenery; Rose of Starcross. Inspired by classics such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Undertale and others, the game is a top-down turn-based RPG platformer making use of an intricate 8-BIT art style and conceptual design heavily inspired by Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe series, of which I am personally a big fan of.  Wanting to learn even more about this ambitious title, I got in touch with the game’s designer Peyton Burnham who had a lot to say about the game, as well as it’s development cycle and challenges to have been overcome. Here’s what Peyton had to say about Rose of Starcross:

What were the influences behind your game? 

Way too many to list, honestly! As far as games go, the most obvious ones at first glance would probably be Zelda, Mario, the Toby Fox games, the Mother series and the Souls series for sure but I would mostly just say “games” in general. I take plenty of cues from stuff like Bayonetta to Silent Hill and Resident Evil so really it’s just whatever I love, which is a lot! Same can be said for other media like music, film, and TV!

What has the developmental process been like?

Pretty weird! This is (arguably) my first game so learning EVERYTHING from the ground up has happened during the development process. For a very long time I was fighting my own limitations, getting rid of old systems that were broken, and getting exponentially better at everything so it’s been hectic and super frustrating! But I’ve gotten to a point where I feel confident in my abilities and the base systems I’ve set up for the game! Recently things have been going much more smoothly and I expect that to more or less remain throughout the development.

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

I would say 2-3 years. Like I said I’ve only just recently gotten a good flow and process so it’s hard to judge how long certain things should take. So between feeling like I’ll be getting into a good pace and the fact that the game will be pretty sizable, I think that 2-3 years is a solid prediction.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Getting to write my music, choreographing cutscenes to it, and then seeing that actually happen in the game is pretty exciting! That’s mostly because I’ve been a musician longer than I’ve been anything else so it’s really cool to get to write music that gets to go with other things. Also, just getting to make a game that I really like is insanely exciting!

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Aside from when I was basically learning how to program and always having to fix stupid and weird bugs, the most persistent challenge has been art 100%. And ESPECIALLY animation. It’s hard, man! Luckily I’ve found an animation method that works for me, but still. 

What has been the most frustrating aspect of development? 

See above! But here I’d also like to add in… marketing! Marketing is a lot of frustration for a ton of reasons. It’s not fun, I can’t work on the game while I’m focusing on it, I feel awful if I DON’T do it, and it’s SUPER IMPORTANT! So a perfect storm of frustration.

As a Steven Universe fan myself, I was chuffed to have confirmed my suspicions that this game drew influence from the show. Do you plan to implement gameplay features reminiscent of the abilities of the Crystal Gems?

I have TONS of gameplay ideas and a few major mechanics that I didn’t introduce or fully exploit in the Demo and it’s very likely some of that stuff might be similar to things you’d see in the show! I don’t normally directly go “oh hey that would be awesome to do in my game.” It’s normally a situation where I just put something in the game because it’s just in my head from watching stuff and playing other games. So short answer… maybe!

How well has the game been received so far? 

As for the few people who’ve actually played it or seen trailers/let’s plays, really well! The people who like it seem to care about it a good bit and want it to succeed which is incredibly flattering and cool.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Right now the plan is PC(Steam and DRM-Free) and the Nintendo Switch!

Will the final game have an even more varied colour palette than what’s been showcased so far?

Absolutely! The main first area is very purple indeed but every major area will similarly be based on different colors. Plus I’m doing a ton of mini-dungeons that’ll just let me do whatever I want color-wise so that’s exciting! Just don’t expect a huge amount of green.

Out of so many wonderful-looking locations, what has been your favourite area to have in the game so far?

I am soooo excited to work on ALL of the major areas that come after the demo. Since it’s my game I got to very selfishly pick all of my favorite types of places! But I will say, the first area after the demo really has my heart in it. It’s cold, cozy, and moody and I love working on it. That being said I seriously can’t wait to get to Demon City.

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

There’s tons of advice out there that’s much better than what I could give and also a lot of similar/repeated advice out there. So I’ll try something more practical and design related! While learning to make games it can be SUPER tempting to put everything you know how to do into your games. Try not to get caught up in showing off what you can do as a programmer or how many features your game has. Try to make decisions for your game that don’t just add to it but enhance it! Harmony is important! We’ve all played games that have stamina bars, crafting, and experience points that don’t need them, right?

Do you have anything else to add?

I could definitely say thanks to the people supporting me! Anyone just following me and my game on twitter, anyone supporting my game in any way, and my incredible parents who any of this would be totally impossible without! So thanks! Oh and if you feel like it, consider helping out my game on Kickstarter! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/roseofstarcross/rose-of-starcross

As well as the link to the Kickstarter page, you can also download a demo of the game via this link:

https://peytonburnham.itch.io/rose-of-starcross-demo

You can also follow the development of the game as it happens by following Peyton on Twitter:

@peydinburnham

I’ve briefly played the demo myself and I’ve been particularly impressed with what the game has to offer at even this preliminary stage of development; especially considering that we are still a fair distance away from seeing the finished article. I thoroughly recommend anyone reading this to try the demo out for yourself and to back the Kickstarter campaign, which as of this writing, is there about halfway towards reaching its goal. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peyton for agreeing to answer my question and wish him the best of luck with the game as well as to thank everyone who took the time to read about Rose of Starcross.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast (PC)

Developer(s) – Vile Monarch

Publisher(s) – Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Rating – N/A (Discretion advised)

 

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

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

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

 

Gameplay – 7/10

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

 

Controls – 10/10

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

 

Originality – 9/10

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

 

Happii

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

Score

33.5/40

8/10 (Good)

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

Developer(s) – Vile Monarch

Publisher(s) – Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Rating – N/A (Discretion advised)

 

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

 

Graphics – 7/10

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

 

Gameplay – 6/10

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

 

Controls – 10/10

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

Originality – 9/10

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

 

Happii

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

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

https://store.steampowered.com/app/512250/OhSir_The_Insult_Simulator/

Scouse Gamer 88 The Last Guardian Header

The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Japan Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Fumito Ueda

Producer(s) – Fumito Ueda & Kazunobu Sato

PEGI – 12

 

Released in late 2016 following a lengthy development cycle, The Last Guardian is a follow-up to Fumito Ueda’s previous PlayStation 2 masterpiece games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In development since 2009, Ueda was inspired to create the game on the back of fan opinion that the connection between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus was much more emotionally charged than Wander’s commitment to reviving Mono. Ueda expanded upon this by creating a friendship between a young boy and a towering creature called Trico. Whilst I did experience some difficulties with the game’s controls, as did many other players, I found that The Last Guardian ranks in as second in my opinion of the quality of the three Fumito Ueda games; not as good as Shadow of the Colossus, but better than Ico.

 

Graphics – 10/10

In my opinion, it was well worth the wait to behold the transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, as within that time, the graphics were given a dramatic overhaul to fit in with the standard quality of the eighth-generation gaming. But I found that both graphically and conceptually; the visuals far exceed the standards of an eighth-generation game; in particular, the creature Trico’s features are intricately detailed, with its feathers reacting to respective indoor and outdoor environments accordingly, and its eyes giving it as much of an impressive emotional and lifelike appearance. The individual environments and dungeons are also something to behold, many of which reminiscent of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; many of which interestingly posing the question as to whether or not they are the same areas just in a different span of time, tying the game in with the mythology of the other two games nicely.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The object of the game is to guide Trico through many of the different dungeons and environments in order to both solve puzzles and progress through the game. There is also an element of combat to it, as the player is persisted throughout the game by the so-called suits of armor, and the boy must use both Trico and any nearby weapons to defeat them. The game borrows elements from both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to deliver a very unique gameplay formula, with payers having to fend off the suits of armor using multiple combat methods, and the player having to manipulate, and even climb upon Trico in order to reach otherwise impassable areas. The game is better than Ico in that the combat is a lot more intricate than the latter, since players simply had to hit monsters with a stick and advance to the next area, but it doesn’t measure up to the quality of Shadow of the Colossus since it follows a linear progression as opposed to an open-world one, and consequently, there is less to do throughout. There is replay value to be had since there are achievements to unlock for playing the game more than once, but what I found, in particular, was that the world in which the game is set offered more than enough scope for it to be developed as an open-world game; especially judging by the opening sequence, which suggests that there were many more guardians in the world than Trico at one point. Nevertheless, what there is in gameplay is enjoyable as well as challenging, and there are a fair few secrets thrown in for good measure to uncover along the way.

 

Controls – 9/10

As I pointed out, I did have a couple of issues with the controls along with many other people who have played this game; most notably with Trico’s AI. Sometimes, the creature wouldn’t do what I either wanted or needed it to do right away in some given situations despite following the in-game instructions, and on occasion, this would also affect combat. But it doesn’t become as much of a problem as to hinder the flow of the game completely, and for the most part, Trico responds as well as what is needed to most commands given to it by the player. I particular, I do like some more subtle control features, like how the creatures instinctively catch barrels in mid-air when thrown. Features like that give the game a certain charm not found in every title in my opinion.

 

Lifespan – 6/10

One playthrough of The Last Guardian clocks in at around 10-15 hours, which is yet another improvement on Ico, as that game lasts only a fraction of that time. For a linear game, however, that is about the standard time, which whilst maybe fair, isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. Personally, I would have been willing to wait even longer if it meant the developers could make the game either last longer, or set it in an open world, which I’m hoping is what Fumito Ueda does with the next game he develops that ties in with the same mythology, if and when he does.

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of the Last Guardian follows a young boy and the towering creature Trico in their bid to escape from a huge and elaborate prison. To do this, the boy and the creature develop an intricate and complete understanding of one another, which blossoms into a strong spiritual connection that becomes even stronger throughout the course of the game. Ahead of the release of this title, I had read articles expressing opinions and concerns that the game would not be released in time to fill a gap for games that primarily told stories, and consequently, it would not be as effective as it could be. In response to that, I say the game is as effective in terms of story as it can be regardless of the fact that it has been released after titles such as The Last of Us, Journey, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and despite this, the game is better than any of those previously mentioned titles in my opinion. Regardless of the fact that there is no minimal dialogue with the exception of the occasional narration, the game is more emotionally charged and elaborate than many other story-driven games on the market, with the addition of offering more in terms of gameplay.

 

Originality – 9/10

The Last Guardian, in my opinion, is unique in story and gameplay, but most importantly, it’s unique in terms of the general concept. It may not be the first game released to do many of the things that it does, following on from releases such as Papo & Yo and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, but it does these things better than both of these latter games, and more intricately too. I can honestly say that it is unlike any other game I’ve ever played and one of Fumito Ueda’s most outstanding efforts to date.

 

Happii

In summation, whilst it does have its flaws, The Last Guardian provides a solid gameplay experience, excelling in the aspects of story, gameplay, and visuals. It may not be as enjoyable as Shadow of the Colossus was, but it is worth at least one playthrough, and proved to be worth the wait of its development cycle, thankfully not succumbing to many of the complications that sometimes come with games that have had lengthy development cycles.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Dishonored 2 Header

Dishonored 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)

Developer(s) – Arkane Studios

Publisher(s) – Bethesda

Director – Harvey Smith

Designer – Dinga Bakaba

PEGI – 18

 

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

 

Graphics – 9/10

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

 

Gameplay – 9.5/10

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

 

Controls – 10/10

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

 

Lifespan – 7/10

Each individual playthrough of Dishonored 2 lasts about as long as it did in the first game, clocking in at around 20-25 hours, which for me, was mildly disappointing, as a game like this can have a campaign that can be easily made to last longer. However, the game’s lifespan is in its potential replay value, of which there is a great deal for those willing to delve deeper into the game. So whilst it may not have the lifespan that a Dishonored game could have, it still has a great of longevity attached to it, and will make for hours upon hours of entertainment.

 

Storyline – 7/10

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

 

Originality – 7.5/10

Though the structure of Dishonored 2 remains relatively the same as its predecessor, the formula is kept fresh enough with the introduction of so many new features and abilities added. It’s most definitely evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, expanding on what was already good about the first game with the exception of the story. In my opinion, it does still leave room for both improvement and development in the event of a possible third game, but having played through both, I would welcome a third with open arms. The second game cemented the fact that both the concept and mythology behind the series is more than worth further expanding upon still.

 

Happii

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

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Zombie Vikings (PlayStation 4 & PC)

Developer(s) – Zoink Games

PEGI – 12

Following the immense success of their adventure puzzle game Stick It To the Man, Zoink games followed up with an adventure beat ‘em up title name Zombie Vikings, but was met with unjustifiably mixed reviews, at least as of now, garnishing an average Metacritic score of just 61. Personally, I found it to be much better than the former game for a variety of different reasons, and hope that other review sites that haven’t yet provided a review see the game for its many different qualities.

Graphics – 8/10

The general design of the game is extremely similar to Stick It To the Man, with characters and scenery hearkening back to the 2D hand-drawn style of the previous game. However, the conceptual design of the game is drastically different, taking place in a world inspired by Norse mythology as opposed to a world inspired by the trappings and intricacies of modern life. Even despite how weird and wonderfully outlandish their previous title was, this one is just as magnificently strange; if not more so. The game may not run on 60 frames per second like the former, but to me, that’s semantics.

Gameplay – 8/10

Taking a drastic departure from Stick It To the Man, Zombie Vikings presents players with a wonderfully varied linear beat ‘em up game reminiscent of the like of Streets of Rage or Final Fight, and packed with variety in weapons, abilities, character choices and even side quests thrown in for good measure; something I’ve personally rarely seen in games of this kind, which after playing this, make this game seem as if a trick has been missed for many years. It all makes for a wonderfully fulfilling and addicting gaming experience, which in my opinion is much more satisfying to play through than Stick It To the Man.

Controls – 9/10

The game is a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up, so by default, I would have problems with its control scheme to a certain extent; but much to my pleasant surprise, nowhere near as much of a problem as I have found with many of the games of its kind that many other gamers consider to be classics. The main reason for this is that movement is infinitely more varied, and players can not only run but can dodge enemy attacks by rolling in different directions, which certainly help to alleviate many previous frustrations I have personally had with other games of its kind in the past.

Lifespan – 7/10

As well as being bigger and better than Stick It To the Man, Zombie Vikings is also a much longer gaming experience, which always goes down well with me personally. Although the main story can take around the same amount of time to complete as the former, the increased amount of gameplay variety by proxy gives this title much more replay value, and of course, there’s also the multiplayer to indulge in afterward, which can make for many more hours of entertainment.

Storyline – 8.5/10

The story of Zombie Vikings revolves around four zombie Viking warriors who have been summoned by the thunder god Odin to retrieve his stolen eye from the trickster god Loki. The basic of the game’s story seems simplistic, yet outrageously abnormal in scope at first glance, but it is also made enormously interesting throughout with its references to modern life, breaking of the fourth wall and quirky sense of humor. I was personally delighted to see that the developers had incorporated these same elements as they did in Stick It To the Man, and to witness them having built upon it. The game also excels in storytelling as well as gameplay, which in a market saturated with AAA games seemingly focusing on one and not the other, is always a breath of fresh air to me.

Originality – 8/10

This title is wonderfully unique in every single respect, from its wonderfully weird visuals to its staggering amount of gameplay variety to it’s coming together of many different ideas, which all form it’s own fully cohesive concept in terms of story. Ever since the start of the influx of indie games throughout the last two generations, it’s been fantastic to see so much depth and imagination implemented in the majority of these kinds of titles coming from many vastly creative developers, and this game is yet another excellent example of this.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Zombie Vikings is most definitely one of the best indie games I’ve played through 2015, and I would highly recommend it. It’s a vast improvement on what was a similar-looking yet exemplary game in its own right, and it makes me excited for what Zoink have in store in the future.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)