Tag Archives: Nintendo

SG88 The Addams Family Header

The Addams Family (Super NES & Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – Ocean Software

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software & Flying Edge

Designer(s) – Warren Lancashire

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

 

Initially released in 1992 by Software for fourth-generation hardware, The Addams Family game, based on the 1991 movie starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, received mixed reviews when it came out, (much like the film), is described as a boring Mario clone, or Mega Magazine even advising players to either “watch a tree, or grow something instead”. Versions for older consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even handheld consoles were also developed, but each of these versions is like their own games in and of themselves. 

With the original port, however, it’s interesting to me how the perception of an old game can potentially change over time. If I’d been reviewing back in the time of the Super NES, I may very well have had similar concerns to the likes of Mega Magazine, but even still, my overall opinion would have been very different, since not only do I enjoy this game a lot today, but I also played the hell out of it back when it was released. I enjoyed it thoroughly back then, and I still enjoy playing it now. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals differ slightly between both the Super NES and the Mega Drive version, but both versions do exceptionally well to capture the feel of not only the 1991 film but the franchise in general. It’s one of those games based on a license that tries to celebrate the license as much as possible, and I always enjoy a licensed game for that reason. The game takes place in and around the Addams residence, which is plagued by creatures of the night that Gomez Addams must contend with. Each area of the house is uniquely designed and differentiated from one another, giving it a strong vibe of classic Castlevania games. In particular, the portraits on the walls of the portrait gallery are excellently detailed in terms of technical performance, with the characters bearing striking resemblances to the real-life actors; not only that of Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester but also of Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Not quite a traditional 2D side scroller, the player has the option to come and go as they please throughout the Addams residence, giving it far more of a Metroidvania feel. The objective is to navigate the Addams residence and rescue each of the other family members; Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma Addams, Uncle Fester, and finally Morticia. Throughout the game, there are several secret areas to uncover along the way, as well as different power-ups to use in order to reach otherwise impassable areas or to give the player an edge in combat. There’s also a series of pretty challenging boss fights to contend with at the end of each area; and challenging is the right word for this game, as there are also many different platforming sequences that will test even the most hardened of platformer fans. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are also as fluent as any good platformer was at the time. Featuring other items to use throughout, it’s actually given more variety in terms of gameplay than the average side scroller, and therefore, more functionality in terms of controls than in other games of the same ilk. There’s so much in this game to differentiate it from others in terms of controls alone that it made me wonder how even reviewers at the time couldn’t recognize that back then. 

 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

The lifespan is even longer than the average platformer, clocking in at around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether or not the player decides to complete it to 100%. Of course, there would be other games in other genres that would blow this amount of time out of the water, and would only continue to do so going into the fifth generation of gaming, but there’s a lot to be said for a game like this that dared to defy convention, even if it went pretty much unnoticed at the time. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The plot of the story follows the second half of the films quite closely, Tully Alford, the Addams Family lawyer, has taken over the Addams estate and captured the remaining Addams family members, and Gomez resolves to rescue them. The plot element of the film concerning Uncle Fester is also present, as he has amnesia and he is cured of it once Gomez releases him. The plot is presented nowhere near as well as what it is in the original film, but it does a good enough job setting up the premise of gameplay.

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s very easy to overlook how quietly innovative this game was back in its time. It perpetuated a lot of the same ideas that the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did birthing the entire Metroidvania genre a full two years before the release of Super Metroid. It was even quite easy for me to take it for granted back in the day since I was unfamiliar with the concepts of gaming history and even the differentiation of gaming genres at the time, but as I’ve grown older and learned far more than I knew about games since, It’s made me appreciate truly how innovative this title was. 

 

Happii

Overall The Addams Family remains every bit as much of a joy to play today as what it was back when it was released. I highly recommend this game to any side-scrolling fan who may be either looking for a challenge or looking to try a silently original game that unfortunately fell through the cracks at the time of its release. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Pocket Bravery Header

Q&A With Statera Studio

My second of two Q&As today concerns a quirky and diverse fighting game and its crowdfunding campaign. Pocket Bravery, under development at Statera Studios based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a fighting game reminiscent of the classic 90s fighting games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and the works of SNK such as Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. Another example of the ever-growing indie development scene in Brazil, the game’s IndieGoGo portrays a game with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, locations to fight, and single and online multiplayer. With 2 weeks left to go for the campaign, I reached out to the game’s executive producer Jonathan Ferreira to learn more about this game and how they hope to make the game stand out among the many classic fighting games it was inspired by. Here’s what Jonathan Ferreira of Statera Studios had to say about Pocket Bravery:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Games that marked the era, classics from the 90s like Street Fighter and The King of Fighters. And about the aesthetic part, it’s a mix from games like Pocket Fighter, KOF from Neo Geo Pocket Color, Scott Pilgrim, and Metal Slug.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

We’re a team with 6 full-time professionals and some freelancers. For a fighting game, it is a small number since the genre is one of the most difficult to produce.

 

We have tried to do our best and we believe that we are achieving good results. Everything is going as planned. We will soon focus on making the online mode, which will be via netcode rollback.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We have 50 – 60% of the game’s basics done, we still have to start making the online. We believe that in 15 or 16 months the game will be ready for launch.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I believe that is everything, as we are a team in love with the fighting genre, every stage, from the conception until its implementation is exciting. All the ideas come from the people passionate about what they are doing.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Finding a balance between what we want to do and what we should do. As much as we treat the game with all the care and passion, it is also a product that needs to be public attention, and not just another drop in the ocean.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Very well! And this has been fantastic for us. We were looking forward to watching people around the world playing Pocket Bravery. People’s reception and feedback were better than we could imagine.

 

Pocket Bravery ss3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

 

It’s mentioned on the IndieGoGo page that one of the stretch goals is to introduce a story mode to Pocket Bravery. How would the story mode be structured compared to games like Super Smash Bros Brawl or the 2011 Mortal Kombat revamp?

It will have its own structure adapted to a 2D game. Mortal Kombat 2011 not only innovated but also renewed how offline content in a fighting game can be added. Our idea is to bring that into the 2D style, an experience that catches the player’s attention and makes him want to follow the characters’ story, interacting and evolving with them along the way.

 

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

Certainly! This game came from a need to see that what we really want to produce is still a step bigger than our legs. With that in mind came the Pocket Bravery idea, which would be more simplified, bringing only a small fragment of what we want for the future, however, as the game was being produced, the affection grew along with the potential of not just being a simple game with SD aesthetics, getting deeper layers in its gameplay and focus on small details.

 

What is your opinion on the ever-growing development scene in Brazil with the likes of yourselves, 2ndBoss, and Orube Studios?

There are many talents in Brazil, as an example, many Brazilians work in great gaming companies around the world. That said, I am sure that many good new games will be created around here since the gaming companies in Brazil are getting more professional. We hope to be one of those exponents.

 

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

Although we have a lot of experience with fighting games, receiving feedback from players is always amazing, especially when it comes from pro players, since they have a detailed view of the gameplay that we haven’t yet achieved.

 

Has the team considered the idea of building a traditional arcade cabinet for Pocket Bravery, or has there already been one created behind the scenes?

Of course, this is something that crosses our minds, but to be honest, it is not in the plans. Would be a step much bigger than our legs could reach.

 

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

As we said earlier, we are a team passionate about the fighting genre, so what marked us was the 90s. Street Fighter and The King of Fighters were the biggest references quality and innovation, work with any of these games and those two companies would be a dream come true.

 

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

Try to specialize in something of your preference and never give up! The difference between those who succeed and those who do not is that they achieved to not give up, even with all adversities. Life is not easy, neither is making successful games.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

People can find us on any social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) by @PocketBravery, or on YouTube as Statera Studio. Will be a huge pleasure if you could follow us. We are always posting news about Pocket Bravery’s development.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

We thank you for the time and ask, if possible, to support us in our crowdfunding. Any amount will make a big difference to Pocket Bravery. You can access the campaign page here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pocket-bravery/

 

 

I’d also like to thank Jonathan and Statera Studios for taking the time to talk to me about Pocket Bravery and the promise that the final product hold for both newcomers and veterans of the classic fighting genre. There are now less than 2 weeks to go for the IndieGoGo campaign, so if you like the look of the game and want to play it, you can back the game via the link above. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about Pocket Bravery, and are looking forward to playing the final game as much as I am.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Grant Kirkhope Header

Q&A With Grant Kirkhope

Watch my interview with renowned video game composer Grant Kirkhope. Born in Edinburgh and later raised in Knaresborough in Yorkshire, music has always been a huge part of Grant’s life having learned how to play both the trumpet and the guitar from an early age and growing up listening to a wide range of artists and bands. Throughout his storied career, Grant Kirkhope has composed the soundtrack for some of the biggest video games in history during his time Rareware in the days of the fifth generation of games with games such as Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Perfect Dark. A freelance composer since 2008, he has also composed for a number of hit games, such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, A Hat in Time, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Amidst his current ventures of composing for films such as The Wrong Rock, The King’s Daughter, and The Handler, I chat with Grant on his early career as a traditional musician after having toured with some of the biggest names in heavy metal, his time at Rareware composing for some Nintendo’s biggest games, the Microsoft buyout of Rare, his time as a freelance composer, his film composing career, and some of the fondest memories he has as a composer of video games:

Flowstone Saga Header

Q&A With Impact Gameworks

After having once again scoured social media for more indie game developers looking to raise their profile and get their game brought to the attention of a wider audience, I discovered another upcoming JRPG that shows all the promise that many of the other games in the genre I’ve covered this year show. Flowstone Saga is a JRPG that takes a drastically different approach to combat than many other classic games that it was inspired by. Combining RPG elements with that of traditional puzzle games such as Tetris, Players attack by clearing lines with tetromino shapes known as flowstones and gaining bonuses in battle such as enhanced attack power, interrupting enemy attacks, and boosting defense by clearing more lines at once. Players can also customize flowstones to gain strategic advantages in battle. The game also has a heavy emphasis on elements such as exploration, character building, and epic storytelling.

The story of Flowstone Saga takes place in the mysterious island landscape of Ocean’s End; it centers around a young lady named Mirai and her pet companion Sprig as they set out on a journey to discover the many hidden secrets of the long-forgotten ruins of Ocean’s End, meeting a massive cast of quirky characters along the way.

Eager to know about what players can come to expect from this game compared to other JRPGs amidst the game’s Kickstarter campaign, I contacted Impact Gameworks, the indie outfit developing the game based in Columbia, Maryland in the United States, to speak with lead designer and artist Andrew Aversa and producer Andrew Luers to discuss with them the influences behind their game, when players can expect to see it released following the Kickstarter campaign and to ask about the challenges and bumps along the road the developers have encountered thus far. So here’s what Andrew Aversa and Andrew Luers of Impact Gameworks had to say about Flowstone Saga:

 

Flowstone Saga 1

What were the influences behind your game?

AL: The most obvious influences are the old school Final Fantasy and falling block puzzle games like Dr. Mario or Tetris. Some that might not be as apparent would be the myriad of deck-building games, like Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone, and more character-driven RPGs like the Persona or Trails of Cold Steel series.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

AL: Challenging but a lot of fun too! The concepts and mechanics in Flowstone Saga are quite a bit different than our first game, Tangledeep, so in a lot of ways, we had to start from scratch before we really found something that worked for us. While some concepts (core gameplay loop, town-building, etc) have remained somewhat unchanged since the beginning, several have been iterated on multiple times, using player feedback to improve the fun and remove the frustration. The mining mini-game, for example, went through several changes until we landed on the time-attack version that we have today.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

AA: We’re looking at a release in Summer 2022, but in terms of visuals, audio, and story in the demo so far, it’s pretty polished. The least polished elements in the demo are all UI. Gameplay is somewhere in the middle: a lot of systems are working really well, others we’re constantly iterating on, such as making the battle mechanics even more interesting and engaging.

AL: Content-wise, the demo is just a small piece of the overall story we are looking to tell. We have a ton of new areas to create, and custom animations for cutscenes that we are slowly putting together. We have a lot created, but we want each area to have something exciting to discover in it, and of course, that takes time and planning.

 

Flowstone Saga 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

AL: For me, it’s seeing the world come to life and the players enjoying the game. Watching the game improve through various iterations, and having the team be excited about building a fun experience for players has been so exciting.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

AA: From the programming perspective, while creating game systems and code foundations can be a lot of fun, it can be challenging to extend or revise those systems down the line. For example, we might decide to change a feature coded two years ago, or add something to it that wasn’t part of the original design. Not only does this usually produce the most bugs, but it also doesn’t feel as exciting to work on. Nobody wants to feel like they are doing the same work twice or paving over old work.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

AA: I’d say as of right now – during our Kickstarter – the reception has been really good. The KS numbers and Steam wishlists are doing well, and player feedback as of the latest versions has been very positive. The best part is that it’s really only going to get a lot better from here on out.

 

Flowstone Saga 3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

AA: We’re releasing for PC, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo Switch for sure. Everything else is on the table, but no definite plans yet. (It’s actually the kind of game that would work well for streaming services, such as Amazon Luna, where our first game Tangledeep is available!)

 

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

AA: Absolutely. We’ve done an incredible amount of iteration on this game. For one thing, the entire visual style of map/town exploration and cutscenes was scrapped toward the end of 2020. That style had more of a side-scrolling profile, but we decided the top-down look was better.

The battle system has been continuously improved and overhauled. We’ve added and removed mechanics. There have been several iterations of various UI elements. And while the core story hasn’t changed, the writing and presentation definitely have undergone several major changes. Even the name of the game changed from “Puzzle Explorers”. Ultimately, we think this is a healthy approach to game development. Like with Tangledeep, we think it’s vital to listen to player feedback, rather than sticking to a rigid and inflexible design document.

 

Flowstone Saga 4

The soundtrack promises to deliver the soul of 16 and 32 BIT JRPGs to Flowstone Saga. Who is composing the soundtrack, and what styles of music influenced it?

AL: I am the composer for this game’s soundtrack, and I’d describe the overall mood as a classic fantasy RPG soundtrack- An upbeat main theme, rocking battle themes, lots of different moods for various areas, and dungeons, and emotional cutscene moments. Good RPG soundtracks have a huge variety of styles and feelings, and the great ones do well with all of them.

I am going with the approach of making memorable and tuneful melodies that bring out the spirit of adventure of the game, and I hope that players enjoy it! Obviously, the biggest influence is classic game music, but there are a lot of rock and EDM flourishes. 95% of the songs feature live performers, and they are the real stars in bringing the music to life.

 

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

AA: If it’s not clear from my above answers, player feedback has been essential! Developing games in a vacuum is dangerous. It’s easy to lose perspective. Something can seem fun to us that isn’t fun to anyone else. Or, there could be features or characters people love that we didn’t expect.

 

What have been the most significant lessons learned from the development of Tangledeep going into Flowstone Saga?

AA: On the programming side, there are tons of best practices I’ve learned and that I’m applying to the Flowstone Saga codebase to make it far easier to work with. The same goes for player-facing things like UI. There’s also the importance of things like paying for great art contractors, listening to player feedback (notice a theme here?), and being open with your community.

AL: from the creative side, improving the asset pipeline and knowing how to organize and schedule has definitely been an iterative process that I feel we’ve improved on. One thing that is very different with Flowstone from Tangledeep is that this time we wrote our narrative first, whereas the story for Tangledeep was written while we were building. Not only does the story-first approach allow us to have a good idea of what assets we will need ahead of time, we have the chance to add extra details that might foreshadow things as we are building them.

 

It’s mentioned on the Kickstarter page that your previous game Tangledeep ran into issues when ported to the Switch. Would the Switch be the second console you port Flowstone Saga to as well?

AA: Yes, definitely. I’m a huge fan of the Switch and portable gaming in general, so it’s a very high priority. Having gone through the process once, I have a vastly improved understanding of how to avoid some of the same time-consuming pitfalls we hit during the Tangledeep porting work.

 

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

AA: I would love to work with one of Square Enix’s franchises, to make a smaller scale game in an established world using well-known characters. Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, the Mana series… any of those would be incredible to work on. I have so much nostalgia for these series.

 

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

AA: Spend less time planning, researching, and learning (in the academic sense) and spend more time making your game. I can’t overstate how unprepared I was at the start of Tangledeep’s development. My early code was awful, I was using all placeholder graphics, and I had basically no design document. But every day I kept chipping away at it, and little by little, I absorbed more knowledge and created a full game.

Imagine climbing a tall mountain for the first time. That’s what making a game is like – a long, arduous task that seemingly goes on for ages. But rather than staring at the whole mountain and worrying, planning, or researching, you’d be surprised at how far you can go by taking it one step at a time. Another much shorter tip is to pay for good art, particularly cover (or capsule) art. Promoting and selling games is hard. When people browse for games you have literally only a few seconds to capture their attention. Amateur-looking art can blow up your first impression in an instant.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

The Flowstone Saga Kickstarter is live from June 9th:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zircon/flowstone-saga-a-charming-jrpg-inspired-16-bit-adventure/

Our Steam store page is also up, where you can wishlist the game (which really helps us!) 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1372000/Flowstone_Saga/

Our site, Twitter, and Twitch (where we do live dev streams) are:

https://impactgameworks.com/

https://twitter.com/ImpactGamew

https://twitch.tv/ImpactGameworks

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank both Andrew Aversa and Andrew Luers for taking the time out of development during the Kickstarter campaign to answer my questions about Flowstone Saga. To me, it looks like a very unique JRPG with a lot of potential, and with the capability of delivering on what is being promised by the developers, and I can’t wait to get started on this game when it finally releases. The planned release period is in the summer of 2022, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this exciting-looking game, and hope you’re all looking forward to playing it as much as I am.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88.

SG88 Nubarron Header

Nubarron: The Adventure of an Unlucky Gnome (PC, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – Nastycloud

Publisher(s) – Hidden People club

Designer(s) – Ignacio Rud & Federico Segovia

PEGI – 3

 

Released on Steam in early 2020 to a mixed critical reception of gamers and reviewers, Nubarron is a semi-open world 2D side-scroller following the adventures of a Gnome being persisted by an ever-changing cloud, tasked with recovering the pages of a magic book. For the first hour of playing, it seemed like a pretty generic platforming game; I can best compare it to Chronology by Bedtime Digital. But after getting past that initial period, it did become progressively better, and I ended up enjoying it very much.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

To begin, the game’s hand-drawn visuals are quite stunning; almost on par with the best games to use this graphical style, such as the Ori games, Dust: An Elysian Tail and Hollow Knight. It takes place in a fantastical forest home to many weird and wonderful creatures, with a blend of both medieval fantasy and science-fiction elements. The reason I say that this game is almost on par with the aforementioned games is that it doesn’t quite stand out as much on the conceptual level, but nevertheless, it is one of the better-looking indie games developed in 2020. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a semi-open world puzzle-solving 2D side-scroller that requires some tracking back to previous areas to complete quests. Gameplay is made as variable as possible with acquiring new abilities throughout and the unusual combat system. Combat is engaged through the cloud that follows the player character. It can be used to subdue enemies, but in certain sequences throughout the game, the cloud can become either more difficult to control, or out of control altogether, with the player having to avoid being killed by the cloud when it becomes uncontrollable. Aside from the combat element being wonderfully outlandish compared to other games, the puzzle-solving element is also pretty well-executed with some of which, especially towards the end of the game, being particularly challenging. 

 

Controls – 10/10

One of the main reasons why I would still most closely compare Nubarron to Chronology is because the controls are almost the same; nearly to the point where you would think both games were made on the same engine. The movement controls are somewhat wooden compared to other side scrollers, but with so much more functionality and abilities to take advantage of than the former, it’s a far better game to control. The slowness of the movement commands is also not hindering enough to be considered a significant problem. The game’s control scheme poses no unnecessary complications, as any good game should be made. 

 

Lifespan – 5/10

The aspect which lets this game down, however, is in its lifespan. The problem being is the games I have compared this to in terms of graphics are Metroidvanias, and therefore require far more backtracking. I can’t help but feel that if this game was made in the style of a Metroidvania, then it would’ve been made to last far longer than what it does, but since there is only a minimalist amount of backtracking to be done, the game clocks in at only around 5 to 6 hours, which in this day and age, is pretty underwhelming. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

What wasn’t underwhelming, however, was the story of Nubarron. It follows a Gnome, simply named Gnome, who one day has not only, unfortunately, lost his lucky hat, but is also persistently followed by a cloud, whose behavior changes on a whim. Wanting to get rid of the cloud and find his hat, he enlists the help of a magical omniscient owl who requests that Gnome recover all the missing pages from a spellbook called the Nubarron, and so Gnome sets out on his quest. At first, my first impression of the game’s story was that it’s quite typical; a bog-standard fantasy story if you will. However, as the game progresses, it becomes something far better than that. Without spoiling the details of the ending, it’s perfectly poised for a sequel to happen, and I’m very much hoping that it does happen; there’s a lot of scope to expand on the mythology of the series, as well as the gameplay mechanics and the lifespan, so here’s hoping that this game gets the follow-up it deserves. 

 

Originality – 7/10

It’s not until after the first hour or so that players will be able to fully appreciate the depth and the unconventional aesthetics that this game truly has to offer players. So it is something that will have to be borne with at first, but when that initial period passes, there’s so much to be had in terms of uniqueness. Sure, I was left thinking to an extent that if a little more effort was put in, that this game could’ve ended up being even more than what it is, but for what there is here, it’s still a pretty standout experience.

 

Happii

Overall, Nubarron was a game that I looked at and thought was going to be a very generic gaming experience. It turned out to be anything but that. It’s enjoyable to play with a surprisingly in-depth narrative, and I would advise anyone looking at this game to ignore the mixed reception that it has received. It’s certainly worth at least one playthrough. 

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

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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)

SG88 Savage Halloween Header

Savage Halloween (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – 2ndBoss

Publisher(s) – 2ndBoss

Designer(s) – Abdel de Oliveira & Fernando Rodrigues

PEGI – 7

 

Developed as a love letter to a number of NES classics, most notably Castlevania and Contra, Savage Halloween is an 8-BIT side-scrolling shoot ‘em up set in a world based on several tableaus associated with Halloween and boasting a massive amount of variety in gameplay. I’d seen previews of this game prior to playing, and yet, I was still taken aback by just how good it is; it’s definitely one of the standout retroactive indie experiences of 2020. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

Taking place in a world reminiscent of classic works and characters of horror, including Frankenstein and Dracula, there is as much variety in terms of visual design as there is in gameplay. With multiple characters and as well as its horror-styled setting, the game it reminded me of most in its graphical design is actually Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. But at the same time, the game also does well to differentiate itself from the former, as each level perpetuates a different subject of horror, such as circuses complete with clowns and circus monkeys along with a couple of elements that don’t necessarily do that, such as the mini gun-wielding Santa Clauses.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Though the game is primarily; a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, there are also a number of gameplay sequences that challenge the player in a number of different ways reminiscent of other classic games, such as Battletoads and Gradius, including on-rail shooting sequences. Like in Contra, there is also a massive amount of variety in terms of weapon choice, with machine guns, burst weapons, and guns that fire ghosts and exploding chickens. There are three characters to choose from at the start, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, so the game is designed to be played 3 times at a minimum, and each of these three playthroughs offers a new experience and challenge; a challenge which also doesn’t seem too inaccessible like the likes of Mega Man.

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is also exceedingly simple to get to grips with, especially if you’re a fan of the third generation of gaming, and poses no problems whatsoever. The only distinction that I suppose can be made is whether players may prefer to use the analog stick or the D-pad; either one works fine. That being said, it is also quite impressive how the developers managed to cram as many different control mechanics into this game with the amount of gameplay variety there is compared to other titles of the era of influence. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

One playthrough of the game can be made to last about an hour and a half. But as I said, this was a game designed to be played multiple times, so it can be made to last as long as the player desired ostensibly. Especially with the included traditional incentive to trying to beat your high score. So the bare minimum that this game should be made to last is 4 and a half hours, but there is definitely scope for more playtime than that. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Savage Haloweeeon is that a vampire hosting a 24-hour Halloween rave for creatures of the night has decided to close the portals leading back to Hell so they can continue to rave forever. The three main characters, James, Dominika, and Lulu have been called in to defeat the night creatures and stop the rave. It’s not exactly a story that reinvents the wheel, but it’s just wonderfully insane and outlandish as any story associated with gaming in the third generation. It’s a concept somewhat reminiscent of A Nightmare Before Christmas, in fact, which as that’s one of my personal favorite films, the story concept of this game works pretty well for me. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Although Savage Halloween has been influenced by a great number of games that have come and gone before it, all the elements of which do come together to nicely form its own cohesive concept, and it stands out to a great extent as a result. It was also rare in the third generation to come across a platformer whereby the high score played as much of a role as it does in this one; something which only generally has meaning in arcade games such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man, so this game does quite well to go against that tradition as well.

 

Happii

Overall, Savage Halloween is a title I can’t recommend enough. It’s entertaining, challenging, wonderfully varied, and will provide players with hours of fun. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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)

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

SG88 Super Metroid header

Super Metroid (Super NES)

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

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yoshio Sakamoto

Producer(s) – Makoto Kano

PEGI – 7

 

Released in 1994 coming up to the twilight years of the Super NES, and finding critical acclaim worldwide and commercial acclaim mainly in North America, Super Metroid is considered to be one of the most influential games of all time, as along with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it helped to pioneer the so-called Metroidvania genre of games; the 2D side-scrolling open-world experience focused on combat, epic story, and exploration. I decided that as I’ve now reviewed a great number of games in the genre, that I’d examine the game where the groundwork was laid, and find out whether or not the experience still holds up to this day, and for me, it did not disappoint. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

One of the most standout features of the game is undoubtedly its beautifully crafter 16-BIT visuals with the game taking place across a number of locations that have since become iconic and synonymous with the Super NES era, including Brinstar, Norfair, and Maridia. This game’s visuals have gone on to inspire a number of retroactive indie titles over the last decade such as Blasphemous and Axiom Verge, and not just Metroidvania titles. For the time, these graphics were revolutionary, and the accompanying soundtrack, composed by Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano, perfectly compliments the wonderfully horrific atmosphere this game perpetuates throughout, which in and of itself, was very much out of character for a Nintendo game at the time, as most Super NES titles, for the most part, focused on happy-sounding music and brightly colored environments.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Super Metroid followed the basic model of the original Metroid, but with drastic improvements. Players could now combine different types of weapons to create more powerful ones, and the boss fights littered throughout are far better throughout. There’s even more cause for exploration that in the original game or Metroid 2: Return of Samus, and it also comes with the synonymous Metroidvania map system; something which was sorely lacking from the previous two games, and something which every other Metroidvania title would adopt in increasingly innovative forms from then on. Few side scrollers at the time encouraged exploration to the extent that this game did, and it was a welcome breath of fresh air for those who got the chance to play it back in the day. 

 

Controls – 8/10

The game’s control scheme, however, isn’t perfect. Whilst most Super NES games used the Y and B buttons for attack for primary movement and combat controls, this game uses the X and A buttons for that purpose, and among Super NES fans, this will have caused some confusion for players back when it was released, and can still potentially cause confusion for modern-day players looking to play it for the first time, as indeed I found, since I wasn’t introduced to this game back when it was released. Kind of like Metroid Prime, it can take a bit of time for players to get used to initially. What the developers did add in terms of controls, however, was the facility to shoot diagonally, which again, was sorely lacking from the original games, and furthermore included in the re-release of the first; Metroid: Zero Mission for the Game Buy Advance.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

A thorough playthrough of the game can take an average of around 4 hours, which is about an exceptionally long amount of time for a game to have lasted back in the days of the Super NES. Although the game can be completed within half an hour (indeed, as this title has become particularly popular among speedrunners), it’s not a game that’s designed to be rushed through, and whilst it may sound like a paltry amount of time for a game to last compared to what gamers are used to these days, it was relatively unheard of at the time and most fans of the game have ended up playing it multiple times throughout the years anyway. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

Taking place in the latter stages of the Metroid timeline, the alien lifeform (the Metroid) that bounty hunter Samus Aran had recovered from planet SR388 at the end of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, had been delivered to a research facility by her for further study. But shortly thereafter, the space station is attacked by the leader of the Space Pirates, Ridley, who then captures the Metroid specimen and takes it to the nearby planet Zebes, and Samus is in pursuit of him. The game is also a lot more cinematic than games of the previous generation; the game’s opening cutscene, in particular, has become an iconic moment in Super NES history. It’s also among one of the earliest examples of how gameplay sequences can be used to build up tension within the confines of the story, as there are sequences whereby Samus must escape from certain places within a designated time limit before it explodes. 

 

Originality – 10/10

There is no understating how unique and influential this game was back in the day. Any game from which an entire genre is created stands out as being among the most influential of all time. Doom gave birth to the first-person shooting genre, Rogue paved the way for the Roguelike genre and Super Metroid was the primary pioneer of the Metroidvania genre; even Castlevania: Symphony of the Night adopted several gameplay elements that this game had first. 

 

Happii

In summation, as well as being one of the most influential video games of all time, Super Metroid also stands out as one of the best titles on the Super NES and is an experience that still holds up and one that I would highly recommend. Regardless of the issues, I may have had with the controls, the immersive gameplay, wonderfully rendered graphics, and engrossing story more than make up for it. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)