Tag Archives: PC

Aleya's Ascent Header

Q&A With Ursa Minor Games

A while back, I came across another very promising title on Twitter that I wanted to bring to the attention of gamers for a multitude of different reasons. Aleya’s Ascent, under development at Ursa Minor Games based in New York, is a Metroidvania title making use of superbly rendered 8-BIT visuals with a heavy emphasis on exploration, combat, and precision platforming. The player assumes control of the main character Aleya, who is chosen by fate to tame a series of feral and long-forgotten deities, giving the plot a strong feel of the likes of Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian in my opinion. But seeking further clarification of what influenced the game, what bumps and scrapes there had been along the way in the developmental process and when the game will be released by, I reached out to the game’s lead developer William Henderson for more details about what’s been going on behind the scenes of this excellent-looking game. So here’s what William of Ursa Minor Games had to say about Aleya’s Ascent:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Main influences at this stage in development include games like Celeste (big one), both Ori games, Hollow Knight, Castlevania SOTN, etc. The usual suspects as far as Metroidvania go. Also, the style/aesthetic/story is heavily inspired by Legend of Zelda.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I carried game dev as a side project for about 3 years before deciding to try and push for a full-fledged commercial indie game as a solo developer, so the process has included a lot of learning the indie game landscape, reading articles, and watching youtube videos.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

As a solo indie developer working his first game, it can be hard to tell. I hope to release a polished demo Q3/4 2021 and then reassess the timeline based on player feedback. There isn’t any real pressure to release ASAP, so I want to take the time to make Aleya’s Ascent exactly how I envision it without cutting any corners to meet a deadline.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

For me, the most motivating part has been sharing some of the art and gameplay that I worked hard on. It’s exciting getting positive feedback, whether it be through Twitter, Reddit, Discord, or with friends and family in person.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

I think for Aleya’s Ascent, it has to be finding the time. Life gets in the way and I can’t spend as many nights or weekends as I’d like on development.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I’ve been very happy with the response it’s received on the platforms I’ve presented on, but I know I still have a long way to go so I’m excited to share more in the future.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC is a definite, with the possibility of a Switch release down the line.

 

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What were your prior programming experiences before developing Aleya’s Ascent?

I have an engineering degree so I was exposed to programming in college, but not object-oriented. I created a handful of game prototypes as practice while in Graduate school before I felt comfortable committing to a first commercial game.

 

Are there any preliminary plans to expand on the world of Aleya, either through a sequel or DLC?

It’s hard to say at this point. While I have an overarching story prepared, it’s unclear where Aleya 1 would end and Aleya 2 (or DLC) would begin. I certainly would love to continue Aleya’s story, but don’t want to force a sequel before the first is finished.

 

Are there any programmers or game creators you took influence from?

Definitely. The developers/programmers from the listed influences above would be a good place to start. It’d be impossible to list them all, but the Twitter indie game circles share so much information about neat tricks/tips/shaders, etc. that it really has been vital to my development process.

 

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

A whole lot. I’ve had levels and entire maps scrapped to allow for core gameplay changes. In one iteration Aleya was a robot. I’m not afraid to axe anything if I feel it isn’t good enough or doesn’t quite fit.

 

What would be next for Ursa Minor Games following the release of Aleya’s Ascent?

Another game for sure. What form or shape or genre that takes is up in the air. I’ll probably develop a couple of game prototypes on itch.io or something and see if any of them get really positive feedback.

 

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

Nintendo for sure. I grew up playing/loving their games and it would be a dream come true to work with them.

 

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

Well, I hesitate to offer advice as I’m just a first-time game developer and a hobbyist at that but for other hobbyists/solo developers, I found success in chasing inspirations and following whims, I think my best/best-received work has been things that strike me when I’m not working on the game. And definitely take notes once an idea pops into your head, it’ll help you remember and flesh it out into a definitive game concept.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

You can find me on Twitter as @UrsaMinorGames, Reddit as /u/ursa-minor-games, and find Aleya’s Ascent on steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1470540/Aleyas_Ascent/ Also join into the Aleya’s Ascent Discord channel for early concepts, works in progress, and other discussions: https://discord.gg/e5qvqkT78z

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I’d like to thank you for taking the time and having the patience to reach out and ask questions about Aleya’s Ascent.

 

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I also want to thank William for agreeing for sharing more information about Aleya’s Ascent, and to wish him and Ursa Minor Games the best of luck throughout the rest of the developmental process as well as luck with the eventual release of the game. Aleya’s Ascent was a game that immediately caught my eyes in terms of retroactive graphical quality, and I have hopes for the great gameplay to match. In the meantime, you can visit Ursa Minor Games’ social media pages and the Steam page, but for now, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Gears of War header

Gears of War (PC & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Epic Games

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Game Studios

Designer(s) – Cliff Bleszinski

Producer(s) – Rod Fergusson

PEGI – 18

 

Released back in 2006 to widespread critical acclaim from both gamers and reviewers alike, Gears of War went from a beloved third-person shooter to go on and spawn a huge system-selling franchise for Microsoft, with 5 main entries in the series and 2 spin-off titles thus far. Out of the original three games, to me, the original still remains the best, as it delivered the best in every aspect that the next two games would both fall short on and failed to expand on at the same time. The original game remains a seventh-generation classic and for good reason. 

 

Graphics – 9.5/10

The first thing to notice is the visuals, which stood out as not only technically marvelous, doing incredibly to show off early on what the Xbox 360 was capable of graphics-wise, but out of the original three games, it also does best to perpetuate the inexplicably wonderful sense of dread that the series came to be known for, literally from the start of the game, as it begins in a dank prison cell with a history of violence. The settings are also incredibly diverse, and although it can be argued that the settings of the second game were possibly more so, in my opinion, the first still did better to set the tone of the entire series. It definitely does this better than the third game, and the settings are still more diverse than that of Gears 3.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

In its basic design, Gears of War, as well as every other main entry in the series, is a third-person shooter involving blasting through hordes of alien enemies, limited to just the Locusts in the first game, as well as finding strategic cover to become protected from enemy fire, and subsequently advancing through each phase of the story, as well as there being a very progressive online multiplayer mode. There’s not much to the series in general than that, and that’s why in my opinion, the following games in the series failed to impress me as such as what should come to be expected from sequels, but as this was the first, it seemed less disappointing, and it was a relatively new style of play at the time of when it came out. It was a breath of fresh back in 2006 to play a game structured like this after the market had become firmly oversaturated with FPS games throughout the sixth generation. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s movement controls and shooting mechanics were also very crisp and fluent, even for what was at that time a relatively new idea. Though it had borrowed from games like Resident Evil 4, Kill Switch and Second Sight, Gears of War, in my opinion, did a lot of the same things bigger, better, and all at once, and it made for a far superior game; not only in terms of controls but in terms of overall quality as well. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

Lasting around 5 to 6 hours, the lifespan of the game is not great, but at the time, it was just about tolerable since it seemed inevitable after playing that there would be a sequel or two. The lifespan of each game remained there about the same, and so later entries seemed much more disappointing than this because of that, but regarding the first game, the amount of time seems more acceptable; though not outstanding. There could have been a lot more added to the first game to make it last even longer outside of the small side quests of collecting the cog tags.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Gears of War centers around Marcus Fenix, a soldier fighting an interplanetary war between humanity and an alien race known as the locusts for the human faction known as the Coalition of Ordered Governments, or COG. After recently being reinstated into COG following his prior court marshaling, he is joined by his best friend Dominic Santiago, as well as a contingency of other COG soldiers, to continue the fight against the locusts and one of their highest-ranking leaders General Raam. The first game contains a lot fewer emotionally charged scenes than what the next two games would bring, however, to me, it still has the best story, since it accommodates for the lack of the tragedy element with things such as horror, mystery, and build-ups of tension. For example, the sequence in which the team is being chased around by the berserker remains my favorite moment in the series to date. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Though again, the series would seem far less unique as time went on, since the developers seemed far too reluctant to switch things up to any great extent (at least with Gears 2 and 3 anyway), the first game was far more unique at the time because it was an idea that had yet to be expanded upon with future games that played out similarly to it, such as Uncharted and Mass Effect. The first Gears of War set a trend throughout the seventh generation that was welcomed with open arms by gamers, and for a game that’s able to do that, you can’t help but consider it a unique experience. 

 

Happii

Overall the first Gears of War is most definitely the best entry in the original trilogy. It’s fun to play with a decent story, and though it doesn’t last as long as what it had the potential to (along with the next 2 games), there is a fair amount of fun to be had for the short time it lasts. 

Score

49.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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Clodhoppers: First Impressions

Following on from my initial discovery of this game back in early 2020, I decided to write about my first impressions of this insanely unique-looking and promising title. Clodhoppers, under development at Claymatic Games and led by Platypus creator Anthony Flack, is a free–for all fighting game similar to Super Smash Bros whereby quirky and uncouth characters fight each other with fists, guns, bombs, and bails of hay (among other things) across traversable stages, with the game making use of the claymation visuals synonymous with Anthony Flack’s games. The spiritual successor to Flack’s canceled game Cletus Clay, the current build was recently added to Steam and is now free to play whilst the game remains under development. Eager to find out how this game now plays out after having briefly played the original prototype, I downloaded it and played a few rounds, and I was impressed, to say the least, with the title shaping up to be what Flack is promising fans.

 

Graphics

Like Platypus, the game makes use of visuals made entirely of clay and set in rural countryside areas throughout. Each stage that has been designed so far has been very well executed, giving it the clear impression that this game is a labor of love, even at this early stage in development. What tracks compose the game’s soundtrack at this point also fit in perfectly well with the game’s tableau, and the game already has the sense of humor attached to it that any player can come to expect from the first glance.

 

Gameplay

Playing out very similarly to Super Smash Bros, the game revolves around being the last man standing by either depleting the health of the other players by attacking them or knocking them off the stage. It works differently to Smash in that players don’t become more liable to fly off the stage the more damage they take, and they instead have a certain amount of hit points to be depleted. In addition, there also weapon drops available for players to take advantage of, but at this point in development, there is only a certain amount of them, and the quantity of which would most likely have to be increased before the game goes out to keep it as wonderfully varied as possible. 

 

Controls

It took a bit of control mapping on Steam to get the keyboard to correspond with the controller, but once this is sorted out, the game poses no problems; I certainly couldn’t cope with playing the game on a mouse and keyboard in any case, this is a game made for a controller. Maybe more elements can be added to the control scheme before release, such as activating additional moves, maybe reminiscent of final smash moves in the Smash Bros series, but for the most part, the control scheme is fine. 

 

Lifespan

If executed correctly, and if perhaps more game modes are added before it goes out, then this game can potentially be made to last as long as the player’s interest is held; especially as the game is specifically marketed as an online game. I think the main thing is that the developers focus primarily on adding more variety in gameplay than what there already is; if that happens, I think this will end up becoming an insanely popular title. 

 

Storyline

There is certainly scope to add a story mode to Clodhoppers, with so many eccentric characters and its unique settings and premise.; It could function in a similar way to Super Smash Bros Brawl, whereby players will be forced to take different paths with different characters in the lead-up to the ending, and have everything come full circle by centering around a specific endgame enemy or location where things come to the fore. Whether or not there will be a story mode added remains to be seen, but the potential for which is quite exciting to think about. 

 

Originality

Though this game is clearly influenced by a specific gaming series, everything about Anthony Flack’s games has always had uniqueness attached to them, and Clodhoppers looks to be no different. Before I played Platypus, there were very few games around that used this visuals style, except the likes of ClayFighter. But it will be a welcome addition to the indie community to once again see this graphical style once again perpetuated, and in a new type of game to match.

 

 

Overall, Clodhoppers does extremely well to show off what I think the game will eventually go on to become; a very enjoyable and addicting brawler with plenty of variety and plenty of potential to take the indie games community by surprise. If you like the look of Clodhoppers and would like to try the current build out for yourself, you can do so via the link below, and I highly recommend you do:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1066420/Clodhoppers/

 

You can also click the following link to read my prior interview with Anthony Flack back in 2020:

https://scousegamer88.com/2020/01/23/qa-with-claymatic-games-anthony-flack-clodhoppers/

 

But in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed learning more about this game or experiencing it even in its preliminary stages of development as much as I certainly did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – IO Interactive

Publisher(s) – Square Enix

Director(s) – Karsten Lund & Kim Krogh

PEGI – 18

Released in 2010, among a plethora of other critically acclaimed mainstream titles, such as Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII and Red Dead Redemption, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a third-person shooter that was received with mixed or average reviews upon its release, with many citing its lack of fun or substance; and in this case, I’m inclined to agree with the general consensus. There were far better games made of the same ilk at this time with much more substance to them, making it stand out like a sore thumb among the best of what the seventh generation had to offer. 

 

Graphics – 6.5/10

The game’s settings are of modern-day China perpetuating one gritty and horrific atmosphere after another, with a film grain effect to compliment it. I understand that this was done to add to the game’s feel of dread, but overall, it just makes things needlessly complicated during gameplay; especially whilst trying to take out enemies from a distance. The way the game was designed visually was far more of a hindrance rather than being compelling to look at. For the most part, the game’s settings in general also seem far too generic. Even compared to other games like it that were out at the time, such as Grand Theft Auto IV and the games in the Saints Row series. It should’ve been expected from a development team that game artist Rasmus Poulsen once said that they were trying to make it look non-pleasing.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

The game is a third-person shooter, whereby the sole objective is to simply get from A to B, with no secondary objectives to keep things varied, or any further incentive to play other than simply advancing the story. There are a few instances of vehicular combat throughout, but not enough to maintain a decent level of variety; especially compared to most other games throughout the seventh generation in general, let alone 2010. This game certainly needed an extra push to make it better than what it turned out to be, but the lack of substance makes it come across as if the developers couldn’t be bothered trying. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The only aspect in which there are no flaws in the game is in the control scheme. But scenes as they had a blueprint to follow at this point with the likes of Gears of War and Uncharted games having been released prior, there shouldn’t have been an excuse to get the controls wrong. But the fact that no unique control mechanics were added to make this game stand out didn’t do the developers any favors. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Clocking in at around 5 hours, the game is also criminally short. Third-person shooters at the time seemed to be relatively short by nature anyway, with Uncharted and Gears of War games taking around the same time to complete, but the difference being is the two former examples offered far more in terms of gameplay than what Kane & Lynch 2 does, and therefore both warranting more than one playthrough, whereas depending on what way players may look at it, Kane & Lynch 2 may not even be good enough for even one playthrough. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

Taking place four years after the original game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days reunites Kane & Lynch in Shanghai, China, where they become embroiled in a generic gangster plot where they must stick together in order to survive. Yes, it is honestly as forgettable as it sounds. I couldn’t even be bothered remembering the character’s names for the most part as I was not inclined at all to become emotionally invested in the story. The only reason I remembered the names of the two main characters is simply because the game is named after them.

 

Originality – 3/10

Simply put, there is next to nothing unique about Kane & Lynch 2; it perpetuated many of the same things that a lot of other seventh-generation games had done years before this but offers players nothing to make it stand out among the plethora of great games that had come prior. Somehow, there were talks emerging at one point of this game being adapted into a film, but due to the lack of interest in general, it never happened. But given how little there is to it in gameplay, it probably would’ve worked better as a film than it does as a game. 

 

Angrii

Overall, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is definitely one of the most unoriginal and tedious games of the seventh generation. A black mark on the developers of the Hitman series, nowhere near as much thought was put into this series as there was with either the former or their obscure gem, Mini Ninjas

Score

35.5/60

5.5/10 (Far Below Average)

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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)

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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 Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace Header

Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace (PC)

Developer(s) – Megaware Games

 

Released back in 2002 as a PC exclusive, Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace is an isometric top-down turn-based RPG similar to the original 2 Fallout games following the story of an elite army of soldiers known as the Arcangels sent by the titans of the Earth to protect themselves. It was developed by an independent Dutch company called Megaware Games, which were most active throughout the early 2000s and made promises that they couldn’t effectively deliver. The way it went with Megaware is that they would go from one extreme to the other, by either releasing mediocre versions of other people’s games in an attempt to modernize them, or coming up with a few of their own cohesive video game concepts, but never developing them to the best of what could’ve been. 

Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace falls into the second category. It’s a game that attempts to perpetuate new ideas, albeit not without its influences, but fails miserably. It’s a far worse game than what it was billed as by the developers, and very much deserves its place in video game obscurity. 

 

Graphics – 3/10

The thought process behind the visuals was to deliver an experience like the original Fallout games that looked more like a 3D game to fit in with where the market had been going at that time, and what it was still steering towards. But the problem being with that is that although the intentions were there, the developers neglected to focus on the conceptual aspect of the visuals as well as the technical aspect, and as a result, pretty much every level in the game looks like it was recycled from the previous. At least with the original Fallout, whilst being a 2D game, it still had its distinct charm and contemporary setting that did exceptionally well to separate it from other RPGs at that time. But with Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace, that quality is severely lacking.

 

Gameplay – 2/10

Likewise, the gameplay is also as bland as the visuals. It’s turn-based, so it focuses on the player using action points to do things like move around and battle enemies. But it’s a very linear experience with extremely little to play for with the exception of getting from A to B. And again, both Fallout and Fallout 2 offered far more than that 5 years prior to the release of this game. In every aspect, but particularly in terms of gameplay, it needed much more of a push than what it got to make it as great an experience as it could possibly have been, and the developers didn’t deliver. They would’ve clearly been banking on games like this and Alien Logic (another abysmal Megaware game that I will have to tear into another time), to be their breakout hits. But it wasn’t to be, and for good reason.

 

Controls – 3/10

In my review of the original Fallout, I commented how difficult I found the control scheme was to come to terms with, but in this game, it’s even more of a problem. There’s the traditional fog of war effect found in other strategy games such as Civilization of Age of Empires, whereby players must traverse through in order to navigate their way through each level or to find secrets. But again, it’s not implemented properly, and simply serves to create confusion among players. Likewise, even the combat system is not the most well thought out. 

 

Lifespan – 5/10

For those diligent enough to bear with the many, many flaws that this game suffers greatly from, there are actually around 60 hours of gameplay to be had. But given how much is wrong with this game, 60 minutes would be a test of endurance on its own. If there’s anyone who has actually been inclined to spend 60 hours playing this game, I’d to speak with him/her to find out exactly what the appeal is, because I couldn’t see any appeal after 10 minutes.

 

Storyline – 0/10

The story involves the Arcangels, a group of soldiers out to protect a race of titans that rule the Earth. You would have to question exactly how powerful these titans are if they have to have a bunch of regular-sized people with guns protecting them, and why they’re incapable of protecting themselves. If any of the story was perpetuated throughout actual gameplay, I missed it; that’s how difficult it is to become emotionally invested in it. It’s like the developers went back to the NES days whereby you had to read the manual to find out. Unfortunately for them, the times had very much changed by then, which for a gameplay experience that was supposed to be retroactive to an extent, is somewhat understandable, but players wanted the story to be implemented within the game in a meaningful way at this point, and that wasn’t the case here. 

 

Originality – 0/10

Although Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace was one of the more original experiences to have come out of Megaware, there’s still nothing original about it. It’s a mess of a game that is best left forgotten. The developers haphazardly attempted to make this game seem bigger and better than what it actually is, and it turned out to be one of the worst and most humiliating titles of the sixth generation.

 

Furiious

In all, Arcangel: The Legacy of Peace is one of Megaware’s biggest failures. It’s a joke of a game, and nowhere close to topping the titles that it was influenced by. 

Score 

13/60

2/10 (Terrible) 

Blu Cover Art

Blu: First Impressions

Among the many video game projects I’ve scouted out through social media or crowdfunding websites is a very promising Metroidvania title with a great deal of potential. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, France, tells the story of the titular character and takes place in a setting reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a more varied range of influences in terms of conceptual design. The ninja apprentice Blu must save the land of Talpa from an entity known as The Corrupted amidst a conspiracy that has gripped the land for centuries. The game is almost funded on Kickstarter after what has been a very popular campaign, and with 11 days left to go, I thought it was about time that I gave my verdict on my first impressions of this title after playing the demo. If you’d like to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, you can do so via the link below:

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

 

You can also download the demo from the Game’s Steam page via this link: 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1339960/Blu/

 

And if you would also like to read my Q&A with the game’s lead programmer, Damian “Dam” Robinett, you can do so via this link:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/04/02/qa-with-damian-robinett-blu/

 

But in the meantime, here’s what I thought of Blu in the beta stages of its development:

Graphics

As I said, the game is set in a world largely based on Feudal Japan, but the Corruption has taken hold of enemies that are very much based on Medieval fantasy, resembling trolls orcs, whilst at the same time, including mechanics enemies similar to those of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s from there that players can understand how Dead Cells became a huge influence on this game, but even in the early stages of development, I can understand how some of these new ideas also come together to form their own cohesive concept. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Lukas Piel, is also extremely catchy and befitting of the settings of the game. 

 

Gameplay

A traditional Metroidvania, players must scour the world in search of collectibles and new abilities in order to advance. It’s also heavy on combat, puzzle-solving, and leveling up preemptively acquired skills, giving it an RPG feel similar to the likes of Dust and Ori 1 and 2. Again, from early on, I could see the potential this game has, with the number of different weapons available to purchase throughout, and the satisfaction to be gained by upgrading abilities and equipment as the game goes on. There is also a fair bit of strategy involved, and different approaches that need to be taken in accordance with what enemies the player faces, similar to Blasphemous, but nowhere near as unforgiving. For as much as I love Blasphemous, the lower difficulty in comparison is welcome.

 

Blu 4

Controls

Since the game is still in the preliminary stages of development, the controls are a little stiff, and the character animations in accordance with them, have not yet been perfected it would seem. But once they have been refined to a greater extent, the controls should be no problem. The demo’s control scheme is far more tailored to the mouse and keyboard, though it can be played with a controller, which in the long-term, will be preferable to most players, so they just need to make sure that controller support is built upon before release, and then there should be no problem with the control scheme whatsoever. 

 

Lifespan

With so many things to do, so many abilities to acquire and upgrade, so many weapons to choose from and so many story elements to it, Blu has the potential to last an exceptionally long time, especially for a Metroidvania game. How long it lasts, to me, depends on the full size of the world, which doesn’t seem to have been revealed yet. My biggest hope for this title is for it to include an open world that, at the bare minimum, is comparable to that of the Ori games, or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or another upcoming Metroidvania that I’m currently keeping tabs on; Anew: The Distant Light. As long as that is the case where Blu is concerned, then I think we will have quite an impressive title on our hands.

 

Storyline

The storyline also has a lot of potential for expanding upon. The basic premise is interesting on its own, but I can’t wait for the introduction of things like support characters, sub-plots, and whatever themes will be perpetuated throughout. Being reminiscent of Feudal Japan, there are a lot of stories told throughout that era that the developers could potentially hearken back to or reference, but as this game clearly is its own fully cohesive concept, there is potential for even more to happen within the story. 

 

Originality

Though clearly not without its influences, Blu certainly has the potential to stand out among the many different Metroidvania titles that have been released throughout both the eighth and ninth generations of gaming so far. It will certainly do well to top a lot of the games in the genre that have lacked in more than enough aspects such as Exodus, The Swapper, and Xeodrifter. The game also seems to do better to perpetuate the culture and behavior of ninjas than what many other games do; not to the same extent that Mark of the Ninja, but to a better extent than the likes of Strider or Ninja Gaiden, which portray ninjas as kill-crazy warriors as opposed to how they really operate. 

 

Overall, Blu’s demo certainly perpetuates the potential that this game has to make waves throughout the indie community. The Kickstarter campaign needs to be funded as soon as possible for this title to see the light of day, and it will have certainly been money well spent by the backers and the developers.

Exodus (PC)

Developer(s) – Gahlmac Game Studio

Publisher(s) – Multi-Form

PEGI – 3

 

Released back in 2013 to a very mixed reception by the Steam community, Exodus is a Metroidvania that was brought out shortly before the influx of games in the genre that would follow from many other indie developers, including Dust: An Elysian Tail, Xeodrifter, Blasphemous, and Hollow Knight. For the most part, the Metroidvania genre has yielded some of the best games of the eighth generation for me with the likes of Axiom Verge, Ori & the Blind Forest, Ori & The Will of the Wisps, and Cathedral, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Exodus.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The one aspect in which I can’t fault the game for, however, is in the graphics. Hand-drawn and set on a mysterious alien planet, the game has been given a very vibrant and colorful atmosphere that has the feel of both tranquility and danger in equal measure. The environmental design is also as wonderfully varied as it should be in any decent Metroidvania title, taking place in forest lands, ancient ruins, and icy mountains. Unlike every other element of this game, the scenery leaves very little to be desired. 

 

Gameplay – 5/10

In terms of gameplay, however, especially compared to most other Metroidvanias, is extremely bland and uninteresting. The combat style is very unoriginal and the range of different abilities that can be acquired throughout for the most part seem to simply conform to the Metroidvania blueprint as opposed to them being a little more diverse than what they do. With games like Alwa’s Awakening and Alwa’s Legacy, both provide something very different in the way of combat and puzzle-solving that make them stand out among many others, but with this game, it doesn’t seem the developers even tried to be perfectly honest. 

 

Controls – 5/10

The controls in Exodus also seem embarrassing even compared to other generic Metroidvanias. The jump mechanics are extremely stiff, and many sequences involve both traditional controller movement and simultaneous point, kind of like in Terraria, but as some sequences require the use of both of these mechanics at the same time, it can cause problems for the player. And a lot of these different kinds of sequences were handled far better in older games in the genre such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so for the developers to have even failed to follow the initial blueprints just make Exodus seem all the more amateurish. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

The game can be made to last there around 3 hours, which again, falls way short of the average lifespan of a Metroidvania. Though given the number of problems there are with every other aspect of this game, I’m amazed that people have even made it through the first hour. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a few more things to do around the more open spaces than what there are, but it was a further push that this game needed which the developers seemed unwilling to implement. 

 

Storyline – 4/10

The story of Exodus involves either one of two selectable characters, Zoulux or Ly’sax, who have become stranded on an alien planet named Exodus and explore it in order to uncover the mysteries behind it and to save the populous along the way. Again, it simply follows the blueprint of the original Metroid as opposed to perpetuating a new idea for a story in the same way that Metroidvanias like Blasphemous did. Since there seemed to be very little to the personalities of any of the characters involved, it was far too difficult for me to become emotionally invested in the story.

 

Originality – 3/10

The main thing that I’ve touched on many times in this review is that the developers simply seemed to be following the blueprint of bigger and better Metroidvania games that came before it, and this can be said for pretty much every aspect of the game; even the visuals, which were the only redeeming quality in my opinion. But the thing is, it couldn’t even follow the blueprint right in terms of things like gameplay and especially controls. So, therefore, the game does stand out to a small degree, but for very much the wrong reasons. 

 

Angrii

In summation, Exodus is a game not to be taken seriously alongside many of the other greater Metroidvania titles that have since been released. It’s available for less than a pound on Steam, but frankly, with how little effort was put into it, players should really be offered money to play it. 

Score

28/60

4.5/10 (Mediocre)

Chuhou Joutai 2 Header

Q&A With Drillmation Systems

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

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

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

 

What has the developmental process been like?

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

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

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

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

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

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

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

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

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

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

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

 

Chuhou Jotai 2 3

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

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

 

Do you have anything else to add?

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

 

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

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

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

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88