Tag Archives: PC

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – Bombservice

Publisher(s) – Playism 

Developed by Brazilian indie outlet Bombservice Games and released on multiple platforms since 2016, Reverie Under the Moonlight is the fourth title in the relatively obscure Momodora series of Metroidvanias. Since the release of the third and fourth titles on Steam, the series began to gain much more momentum after being confined to the itch.io platform and it’s not hard to see why. I was taken aback by just how good this game is and it has made me want to try out the rest of the series; out of all the Metroidvania games I’ve played, this is one like no other. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

Making use of traditional 8-BIT graphics and inspired by the medium of Japanese anime, the game’s conceptual design is without a doubt it’s most wonderful and unique feature. It plays host to a number of unusual creatures scattered across the in-game world and takes place over a contrast of beautiful and horrifying locations, but it’s the latter that takes precedent. The amount of wonderfully dark and atmospheric locations in this game certainly makes it one of the grittiest Metroidvania games I’ve ever played; most definitely the scariest. Even scarier than any game in the Castlevania series by some distance. The game’s accompanying soundtrack also adds to the already wonderfully grim atmosphere of this title. Unlike most 8-BIT games, it makes no use of chiptune and relies heavily on traditional orchestral music and the extremely effective use of realistic background sound effects such as running water. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game plays out like a standard Metroidvania experience, with players having to discover new abilities to access different areas throughout and uncover hidden secrets to enhance the strength of the player character Kaho. It’s also quite heavily combat-orientated through combat options are slightly more limited compared to other games in the genre. The difficulty of the boss fights also ranges from easy to hard throughout, but the basic structure of each boss fight is very well handled, and again, some make for very memorable moments within the entire genre. There are also two different endings to unlock depending on the actions of the player, similar to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It starts out as fairly challenging, but as the player gains new abilities, the difficulty decreases considerably; but better for it to play out like that than having it be too inaccessible. It’s an enjoyable gaming experience with a lot to uncover throughout.

 

Controls – 10/10

Especially as the developers had had extensive experience in developing for this series before the fourth installment, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever. There’s not a great deal you could call unique about the game’s control scheme since it plays out typical of a Metroidvania game, but again, better to do that than take unnecessary risks. The shape-shifting mechanic was quite enjoyable for me, as Kaho gains the ability to turn into a cat in order to reach narrow passageways; I love cats, so it worked for me on a personal level. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

The aspect which didn’t work so well for me, however, was how short the game lasts. To complete it, even to 100%, can be done within 4 hours, and for a Metroidvania game, that’s criminally short. Although the developers would have inevitably been operating on a budget whilst making this game, I’ve played and reviewed longer Metroidvanias made by other indie developers with them having been their first title, and with graphics comparable to this on the technical level. A game as wonderfully unique as this one deserved to last considerably longer in my opinion. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of the game involves a young priestess named Kaho hailing from the village of Lun, who has come to Karst City seeking out its a queen in order to request protection for her home village, But things take a dark turn for the worst as Kaho ventures across the world to discover what has happened to Karst City and it’s queen. Throughout the game, players will come across a number of tortured characters with much depth to them, which is another reason why this game deserved to last longer; if it did, there would’ve been far more time to further develop on these individual characters and elaborate on their stories and fates; even the boss characters have layers to them, which could’ve been explored more. Although the game’s end boss is obviously the last trial the player must undertake, to me, the last boss isn’t even the most compelling villain; by far, that honor would go to Lubella, the witch of decay. The concept art for the game doesn’t really do her character justice, as she’s portrayed as being a size proportionate to every other character. But in the game, she’s a giant with a lot of power, which makes her much more menacing; she most definitely steals the show as the game’s best villain. 

 

Originality – 9/10

As I said before, the game’s conceptual design makes this title much different from any other Metroidvania game I’ve played; even amongst the many other indie Metroidvanias, I’ve played such as the Ori games, the Alwa games, Dust: an Elysian Tail, and Cathedral. The series’ mythology has been expanded upon with the original trilogy before this, so this fourth title does make me want to explore the series in much more depth. But this is my first experience with this series, and I was taken aback by just how unique a game this was. 

 

Happii

Overall, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is certainly worth at least one playthrough. I was disappointed with how short a time it lasts and I felt it could have easily been made to last far longer than what it does, but for the time it does last, it’s an enjoyable game with a  wonderfully morbid atmosphere and a lot of emotionally charged moments that players will not soon forget. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Verdict)

Cathedral (PC & Switch)

Developer(s) – Decemberborn Interactive

Publisher(s) – Decemberborn Interactive & Elden Pixels

Designers – Eric Lavesson & Mattias Andersen

 

Developed by Decemberborn Interactive based in Helsingborg and being the first publishing venture of Alwa creator Elden Pixels, Cathedral is a Metroidvania game featuring an extensive open world and offering players a level of challenge on the same scale as 8-bit classics such as Mega Man and Castlevania and taking inspiration from classic titles such as Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts and Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins, along with modern games made of the same ilk; most notably Shovel Knight. From beginning to end, I was engrossed in this game; there’s a great deal that it has to offer players who are looking for a game that is not designed to hold their hands throughout and looking for a solid nostalgic experience reminiscent of the NES days. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

Incorporating the aforementioned 8-bit visual style synonymous with the third generation of gaming, the best thing in terms of visuals is undoubtedly the environmental design. There is a large number of different locations to visit and backtrack across throughout the game ranging from underwater temples, dark forests, icy castles, and of course, the titular cathedral, which is to me, in many ways, is the star of the show; the game begins in the cathedral and without spoiling the story’s specifics, it’s also where things come full circle. In addition, the game’s soundtrack is phenomenal; for me, up there with the works of Manami Matsumae, Jake Kaufman, Robert Kreese, and others. In particular, the theme song for the cathedral itself is catchy, but with a subtle melancholy to accompany it. 

 

Gameplay – 9/10

Aesthetically, the game plays out like a typical Metroidvania title; it relies on players uncovering each new area by gaining specific abilities and backtracking across the world map to uncover every secret and hidden item there is to find. It’s also very heavy on combat; the aspect in which this game does not play out like a typical Metroidvania title. It offers players a heightened level of challenge compared to most other games; players need to adapt to each area, as many different types of enemies have different attack patterns that must be learned in order to survive. Weapons and armor upgrades are also for grabs as the game progresses, with enemies getting stronger with every new area. There are also a number of grueling boss fights to contend with throughout; each with their own very unique strategies required to beat them.

 

Controls – 10/10

I was relieved to learn that there are no issues with the control system in this game as I was playing it, as with a game like this, there can’t be any issues with the controls, otherwise, it becomes an unfair challenge. In my opinion, it was a problem throughout the NES days with games such as the original Mega Man and Castlevania games, but in Cathedral, the control scheme poses no issues; it’s a challenging game, but not to the point of it being inaccessible. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

To complete the game to 100%, it would take around 25 hours, which is slightly longer than the standard Metroidvania game. In addition to the main story, there are also a number of side quests that can be obtained from the hub village, which involve collecting items scattered throughout the game’s world and finding additional weapons and armor upgrades. Whilst it’s certainly a concept that could be expanded upon if ever a sequel is made, it nevertheless offers gamers a satisfyingly long experience with plenty of reason to backtrack across the game’s vast open world. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story involves an unnamed knight, who must first find his way out of the titular cathedral. On his way, he joins up with a companion named Soul. Having escaped the cathedral, they intend to collect four orbs hidden throughout the land guarded by various monsters, with which they resolve to enter the cathedral’s inner sanctum to defeat the demonic Ardur the World Eater. Whilst the basic premise of the story is relatively typical for a fantasy game (sometimes to the point of self-parody, as Soul occasionally offers comedic advice), it’s the subtle details that add to the game’s atmosphere, which makes the story stand out. Most notably for me was during the boss fight in the sunken temple. As the player descends into the boss’s lair, 8-bit harmonies can be heard, which is the singing of the siren-like queens of the depths. It’s beautiful and eerie at the same time, which made that for me, the best boss fight in the game. There are plenty of other moments like it. Sometimes it may be a foreboding silence, other times, it may be something more detailed, but it all adds to the game’s atmosphere in an excellent way. 

 

Originality – 7/10

As I mentioned, this game does not entirely play out like a typical game of the genre. Ever since the beginning of the eighth generation of gaming, one of the genres I’ve delved in above many others is Metroidvania. There have been ups and downs for me whilst I’ve been going through as many as what I have done (thankfully, there have mostly been ups), but this game is definitely one of the more standout experiences I’ve come across within the genre. It’s a wonderfully exciting, atmospheric, and challenging experience that is deserving of at least one playthrough. 

 

Happii

Overall, Cathedral took me by surprise with just how good a game it is. On the surface, it seemed quite a typical 8-bit game like most others that have been developed since indie development became as popular as it has done over the last few years, but as I delved deeper into this game, there was a lot more to appreciate than I could’ve first imagined. It’s an excellent gaming experience, and I would highly recommend it to seasoned gamers looking for a legitimate challenge. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Elden Pixels

With Metroidvania titles being one of the most prominent genres developed for among the ever-growing indie development community, one series of games I’ve been following closely over the last three years is the Alwa series. Created by Swedish indie outfit Elden Pixels under principal designer and former developer at Zoink Games, Mikael Forslind, the series began with the release of Alwa’s Awakening in 2017, and most recently in 2020, Alwa’s Legacy. Both titles were initially launched on Steam with Awakening seeing releases on multiple platforms with Legacy set for a release on the Nintendo Switch. In three short years, the series has gained popularity among fans of the Metroidvania genre and among gamers in general, and with the sequel possibly set to make it on multiple platforms in addition, the series’ popularity is set to only increase further. Wanting to find out more about the conception of Alwa, as well as the future of this exciting new series of games, I posed a few questions to Mikael of Elden Pixels to find out more. Here’s what he had to say about Alwa and the future of Elden Pixels:

 

How has it been to experience such an influx of interest surrounding the Alwa series and the fanbase it has already garnished?

Amazing! Every time someone reaches out to us talking about how they enjoyed our games it feels great. We were proud over how well Alwa’s Awakening was received but we felt we could add more to the formula so the design for Alwa’s Legacy came to us quite easily and we were able to improve on everything that the first game offered and this, of course, led to more and more people discovering both games.

 

What were the influences behind the world of the Alwa series?

It was a mix between the fast gameplay of Battle Kid and the more puzzle-platforming style of Trine that was the main inspiration for the first game. After a long night of playing these two games, I blurted out to my friends – “Let’s make a game. How hard can it be?” And here we are a couple of years later.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Alwa’s Legacy?

To me, the best part of making games is actually looking back at a released game and thinking – “Damn, we made it. It’s out there.” I’m not one of those developers that spend years and years on one game. I think a maximum of two years is perfect for a game and I’m proud that both our games took about that time to finish. But seeing a game come together is always nice, and the way we built Alwa’s Legacy was that very early in the process we had all rooms in place but they were basically empty and stayed empty for the longest of time. But once all design was locked down, all art was done and all sprites were done we basically filled the entire world with content in a 3-4 month period. All of a sudden it went from looking empty to being shippable. That’s a great feeling.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Alwa’s Legacy?

Wow, where do I start? I actually wanted to delve into this subject for a long blog post sometime in the future but I’ll try to keep it short here but basically these things were the major headaches during our development – Cancer scare, anxiety, personal finances, IVF treatment, potential pr disaster using Kickstarter, political heatwave during launch and the constant scare of bankruptcy. I’m just happy we were able to overcome all obstacles with our sanity and health intact and we’re all still good friends. And we managed to release a game that everyone seems to really like! That’s a major accomplishment.

 

What’s next for Elden Pixels?

We’re not really sure. We’ve made enough money to breathe for a month or two but nowhere near enough money to fund the next game so right now we’re just exploring what and if we can start a new project. But we’d love to take a stab at porting our first game to NES 8-bit so we’re going to put out a job ad for that very shortly. We might have found some cash to fund this project so we’re very excited, especially since it was already made with the 8-bit restrictions in mind.

 

How important has fan feedback been throughout the development of Alwa’s Legacy?

Since Alwa’s Legacy is a standalone sequel to our first game Alwa’s Awakening we kind of knew what we were doing during the development. So we took more notes from what we didn’t like with the first game to build our second game. But community involvement is very important and we had a lot of feedback from our Kickstarter backers and we did a huge semi-open beta where we built this custom tool so any player could directly report feedback into our project management tool. I love building games with the community involved and it’s definitely something that I want to consider doing in the future.

 

Have any of the guys at Image & Form or Zoink had any input into the game, or any advice to offer you?

Yeah, I worked at those companies for about four years so I made a lot of friends and they’re all beautiful people. A few of them do consulting work so we actually ended up working with Pelle Cahndlerby with the script, Joel Bille did the sound effects and Julius Guldbog did our trailer, all of them are from those companies.

Every now and then I also get a chance to grab some lunch with Brjann Sigurgeirsson, who’s the head honcho at Thunderful, the owner of Image & Form and Zoink Games and I cherish those lunches because I get so much valuable information and tips from him. He’s such a nice guy. I also get free lunch!

 

If you had the chance to develop for any mainstream development company or work on any gaming series, which one would it be?

I don’t know how much it would be considered mainstream but our first game Alwa’s Awakening was heavily inspired by an NES game called Battle Kid and I would LOVE to develop a game in that series. I think in the hands of Elden Pixels and the original creator we’d be able to make a really cool and fun game. I can easily think of a bunch of cool and creative ideas for a potential sequel.

 

The progression of the series is obviously reminiscent of the transitions between past generations of gaming; i.e. 8-BIT to 16-BIT. Do you see the Alwa series making the transition from 2D to 3D in the future?

If someone asked me to design a 3D game I wouldn’t know how to even approach it. I’d probably have as much as luck as I would if I decided to take up opera singing. So I don’t see that happening in the near future. But who knows, if we find a talented 3D designer somewhere in the future it might happen. Right now we’re more exploring ideas that aren’t based in the Alwa universe.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Right now the game is out on Steam and GOG and we’re releasing it on Switch soon. We want to take it to Microsoft and Sony as well and ask them for a release on their platforms but we haven’t yet. We’re such a small team so we got to think carefully about each decision making sure we don’t take on too much work and releasing on a new platform is a lot of work.

 

Do you have any advice to give to any aspiring developers who may be reading this?

Don’t go into indie development thinking you’ll make money. If you want to make money, get a job in the IT business or something. For me making indie games is like playing in a small rock band. You don’t get to play at the big arenas right away, you probably never will. And it can take years before anyone even notices you. Don’t expect to make that one indie game and make it Shovel Knight style. Sure, it can happen but most likely not. But if you’re dedicated, make cool stuff that people want to enjoy and stay at it, maybe in a few years, you’ll be able to make a living from it. I’m confident that Elden Pixels will eventually be something I can live off full-time, but we probably need a game or two more out before we can do that. But we’ll get there.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, if you take 3 deciliters of water, add 2 deciliters of sugar, 1 deciliter of vinegar essence, 15 small peppercorns, and 2 bay leaves. Boil for a few minutes and then let cool off you’ll have an awesome brine for pickled herring. A Swedish classic!

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Mikael for sharing everything he had about the Alwa series and about Elden Pixels and to wish them the best of luck with what the next title they develop may be. Both Alwa’s Awakening and Alwa’s Legacy are available on Steam and I would highly recommend anyone reading who hasn’t played either title that they check them out; I’ve played and reviewed both games and they’re definitely worth playing through at least once. Thanks for reading this Q&A and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Alwa’s Legacy (PC)

Developer – Elden Pixels

Director – Mikael Forslind

 

Following on from the Success of Elden Pixels’ breakout indie game Alwa’s Awakening, Alwa’s Legacy continues the series, introducing a number of new gameplay mechanics and challenges, as well making use of graphics more reminiscent of the 16-BIT era, which was hinted at with the end of the original game. Having been impressed with the first game when I played through it, I was fully expecting yet another immersing gaming experience with the sequel, and to say the least, I was not disappointed. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The games makes use of a 16-BIT art style similar to that of Super NES classics such as Super Castlevania IV and Secret of Mana; there is a wide range of beautifully vibrant and eerily dark locations throughout the newly designed world of Alwa, which look far better than what even the small glimpse at the end of the first game seemed to touch upon. The environments are each wonderfully designed and despite there being a few locations being recycled from the original game, the areas that have been recycled have been drastically improved upon compared to Awakening. The game’s soundtrack, again composed by Robert Kreese, is also stellar; some of the tracks used for many of the dungeons specifically gave the game more of a Castlevania feel to it than the last game; atmospheric, foreboding and catchy as all hell.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

Keeping to the same principle formula of the first game, Alwa’s Legacy is a traditional Metroidvania game with light RPG elements, with players being able to learn new abilities and unlocking new areas with each new ability acquired. But it also has the very strong feeling of a dungeon crawler to it like a traditional Legend of Zelda game, with players having to traverse a stronghold by solving puzzles and going up against a boss. 

Overall, there have been significant improvements made to gameplay as well as visuals, with the player having a lot more to play for and to discover than the previous game. The boss fights, in particular, are also a lot more creative than in Awakening in both appearance and in the required strategy to beat them. The additional abilities make it so that players can strategize in their own ways in accordance with what boss they’re up against, giving the game a pleasant amount of variety

 

Controls – 10/10

Even taking into account the introduction of new mechanics such as the shield boots and the ability to temporarily slow down time, Legacy plays out pretty much identically to Awakening and as such, the control scheme presents no issues. In addition, a few new control mechanics have been introduced to the formula; most notably the anti-gravity sequences whereby players have to walk on ceilings to solve puzzles, much like Mega Man 5’s Gravity Man stage. Although the visuals were clearly taken from 16-BIT classics, there are a lot of nods to the 8-BIT era, which served as the inspiration for the original game in the series. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

Another aspect in which this game is an improvement on the original, albeit to a lesser extent than the graphics and gameplay, is in its longevity. On average, the game can take around 8 to 10 hours to complete to 100%. Although this amount of time is still relatively short for a Metroidvania, it certainly answers for the short amount of time it takes to complete Alwa’s Awakening and it’s a step in the direction of possibly making a third game in the series last even longer; if Elden decides to make a third game.

 

Storyline – 7/10

Essentially, the story of Legacy is pretty much a carbon copy to that of Awakening, whereby the main character Zoe awakes in the land of Alwa, and by traversing the land and honing her abilities as a powerful sorcerer, must save the land from the villain Vicar, who plots to invade Alwa. There are a couple of differences and certain plot threads which help to advance the story in a different way, so I can’t bash on it too much for being unoriginal; it’s an epic odyssey with plenty of twists and turns along the way and plenty of quirky characters to meet. It would be hypocritical of me as a fan of a lot of games that tell virtually the same story with each installment, such as Mario and Zelda, to criticize the Alwa games for doing the same thing. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Taking into account the many similarities that this game has with not only it’s predecessor, but many other Metroidvania game that served as the basis for it. It still has its own unique brand of gameplay, visual design, and story structure that makes it stand out among many Metroidvania titles, despite the greatly increased output of games in the genre in recent years, such as Ori & the Blind Forest, Dust: An Elysian Tail and Guacamelee. Legacy greatly expands on the ideas perpetuated by Awakening and delivers a challenging and satisfying gaming experience that ought not to be overlooked.

 

Happii

In summation, Alwa’s Legacy is certainly a must-have for Metroidvania fans. If you’re a fan of 2D exploration, dungeon crawling, 16-BIT graphics, and epic 8-BIT music, I can’t recommend this title enough. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Ori & The Will of the Wisps (PC & Xbox One)

Developer – Moon Studios

Publisher – Xbox Game Studios

Director – Thomas Mahler

Producer – Blazej Zywicyriski

Following on from the success of Austrian developer Moon Studios debut title Ori & The Blind Forest, Ori & The Will of the Wisps is another expansive Metroidvania title making use of wonderfully crafted hand-drawn visuals and adding new gameplay elements building on the concept perpetuated by the first game. Personally, I was hooked on this game from start to finish, and whilst I have my nitpicks to address, I was far from disappointed with it. 

Graphics – 10/10

The visual style of the game once again makes use of a hand-drawn art style, taking place in new forests separate from that of the first game called Niwen. Like the last game, it has a variety of different land biomes. Including snowy mountains, barren deserts and dark spider-infested caves. It once again also makes use of a traditional orchestral soundtrack; albeit each individual track does better than Blind Forest to suit the tableau of each different area. 

The game in terms of visual style is certainly a lot more varied than the first, as Blind Forest’s individual areas were mainly different sections of forest with some exceptions, such as Mount Horu. But in Will Of The Wisps, there are areas like Luma Pool, Baur’s Reach, and Windswept Wastes that perpetuate far more of a sense of variety than in the original game.

Gameplay – 10/10

Another area where variety is a lot more prevalent than in the first game is in the gameplay. The combat system has been given a massive overhaul with Ori being given far more combat options than in Blind forest, including a sword for fast-paced combat and a hammer for players preferring power over speed. A lot of the older abilities acquired in the first game are also added for good measure, but they’re acquired earlier on to reacquaint players with classic mechanics in preparation for the introduction of new mechanics throughout the rest of the game. 

Another very welcome addition to the series with the second game is the inclusion of boss fights throughout; they present a level of challenge that wasn’t seen with Blind Forest and add even more depth to the gameplay that is more prevalent in and reminiscent of other Metroidvania titles such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Guacamelee. There are also various sidequests to be undertaken throughout, which is something else that was desperately needed for improvement over the first game. It all makes it even more enjoyable to play than Blind Forest and less of a criminally fleeting experience 

Controls – 10/10

Players will be able to move from the first game to the second without skipping a beat; the core mechanics are the same as what they were in Blind Forest, but even with the introduction of a plethora of new mechanics, the game’s control scheme presents no issues. In this game, it was even more vital for the developers to have gotten the control scheme right with the introduction of time trial sequences involving a lot of intricate platforming and the developers did a flawless job of getting the controls right. 

Lifespan – 6/10

To complete the game 100% takes slightly longer than its predecessor, clocking in at just over 15 hours of gameplay. Although there is the inclusion of so many new gameplay features, I think more of the same could#ve been added to pad out the game even further. But again, my biggest criticism of this game, as it was with Blind Forest, is that it doesn’t last anywhere near as long as what it had the potential to do. Although it’s less of a fleeting experience than the first game, it’s still not long enough of an experience in my opinion. 

Storyline – 7.5/10

Picking up where the last game left off, Ori, Naru, and Gumo are now caring for Ku; the baby owl that hatched from Kuro’s last egg at the end of Blind Forest. After repairing Ku’s damaged wing with one of Kuro’s stray feathers, Ku flies with Ori on her back and the pair crashland into the forest of Niwen. Ori then becomes embroiled in a quest to restore balance to the forest of Niwel by seeking out forest spirits called wisps, whilst also confronting new threats, including a deformed and hateful owl named Shriek.

The story of Will of the Wisps draws a great deal of comparison to that of its predecessor, with Ori Basically having to do the same thing as what she had to do in Blind Forest; just within another forest. Although the themes of loss and tragedy are present and are presented in different ways to the original, there are other elements that are a lot more straightforward than they are in the first game. There’s not much moral ambiguity involved in the second game like in Blind Forest; the player will know who the hero is and who the villain is; where Kuro was a much more sympathetic villain, Shriek, whilst having underlying reasons for being the way she is, is a lot harder to empathize with.

However, there are certain plot threads throughout the story, especially around the mid-way point, which contribute to the narrative in extremely positive ways, and whilst not being anywhere near as unique as the first, certainly makes for an enjoyable story overall. 

Originality – 7.5/10

The game originality was probably the hardest aspect of it for me to cover. In certain areas, it does stand out from other Metroidvania titles, such as it’s combat system and inclusion of sidequests. But in other aspects, it fell short of other aspects in which the first game excelled in; most notably the story. Overall it was a fairly unique game, but I can’t help but feel that there is still a lot more untapped potential for this series overall. Without spoiling any details in regards to the ending, all the signs seem to point to there being a third game sometime in the future, and I think that there is still room for improvement in both the first and second games. 

 

Happii

In summation, however, regardless of the amount of criticism I’ve given Ori & The Will Of The Wisps, I still think that it is fractionally better than Ori & The Blind Forest. The one aspect that it excels in compared to its predecessor is the gameplay, which is, after all, the most important aspect of any game. Its story is unoriginal compared to Blind Forest and it’s relatively short lifespan can still leave players wanting more at the end of it, but that’s not to say that it isn’t worth playing through from beginning to end.; it certainly is. 

50/60

8/10

(Very Good)

Soviet Jump Game: First Impressions

Although I spend a lot of time scouring the Internet in search of upcoming titles in development, there are still those that I fail to notice as they gain momentum across a widespread community of fans; even whilst the game is still in the early stages of development. I need to give a shout-out to my friend Antonia Fraser AKA Dolly Mix Cosplay for recommending this one, as, without her suggestion, I wouldn’t have even known this game exists. It’s entitled Soviet Jump Game and in my opinion, may become one of the most beloved future indie games in recent years once it sees full release and continues to garner popularity at the rate that it is now.

Developed by California-based outlet Fantastic Passion and published by Dan and Arin of the YouTube channel Game Grumps and currently on Steam Early Access as a free download, Soviet Jump Game is a 2D side-scrolling battle player vs player MMO, which has players battling against each other by either jumping on one another, Similar to how enemies are defeated in traditional Super Mario games or using various power-ups that can be found throughout the game’s map. After playing this for only a few short days, I’ve become hooked on it. I don’t normally player multiplayer games, generally preferring the single-player experience, but this game may very well be instrumental in changing my perception of how I view MMOs.

Graphics

Adopting a traditional 8-BIT visual style, the game’s conceptual design is largely inspired by Russian culture and the way of life under the Soviet Union before it’s dissolution back in the early 90s. There are several references to historical figures and events that happened during the USSR era, such as heads of Joseph Stalin that act like Thwomps from Mario, moving platforms in the form of tetrominoes from Tetris and stage designs alluding to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. As a long-time Tetris fan and coming off the back of recently playing Russian Subway Dogs in particular, it stands as yet another example to me of how Russian culture has had a significant impact on video games. The scenery is very well designed and the game’s soundtrack threw me with just how stellar that is in addition; certain aspects of it reminded a lot of Shovel Knight in fact; another game soundtrack I think extremely highly of. 

Gameplay

The gameplay is extremely simple in its basic premise, but exhilarating on a scale that I didn’t think possible going into it. It’s simply a matter of the last man standing at the end of each round, including around 38 different players at once generally speaking, battling to stay alive, eliminating other players and collecting tokens used to purchase new characters or customize the characters players already have with new skins, emotes and taunts. I’m biased towards this game to an extent, due to the fact that I’m relatively good at it, having now won 30 games in only a few days of playing. Speaking honestly, multiplayer games generally tend to put me off, since, by the time I come to play one, there is already an influx of people playing who have mastered it and are easily able to dispatch me, bogging down the experience. But probably because this game has much less of a learning curve than an MMO first-person shooter for example, I found that it was easy to get to grips with and learn how to improve with more experience. There’s also a great sense of satisfaction to be had after winning a game to have won out over so many other people at one given time. 

Controls

As the gameplay concept is simple, so too are the controls. The biggest learning curve there is involved with this game is understanding how each power-up works and how they can be best employed to suit the player’s situation. The controls are perfect; as responsive as what a game like this is needed.

Originality

For a game that adopts so many traditional gameplay features that have been seen time and time again throughout the industry, it’s staggering how much this game stands out despite its obvious influences. Where it does stand out is in its conceptual design as well as it’s a differing approach to gameplay compared with other 2D side-scrollers. It almost feels like a genre of its own with how it plays out. It’s also unusual for a side-scroller to have this much variety in terms of unlockable material and gameplay elements and for it to have virtually unlimited replay value. 

Overall, Soviet Jump Game, upon release is set to be a beloved indie classic and I recommend anyone reading to give it a try. The game seems practically complete, but if there’s even more than Fantastic Passion has to add to this already robust title, then I’m excited to think of what the final product will have to offer in comparison to the game’s current build. 

Q&A With Fishing Cactus

Whilst looking all over the Internet for new upcoming gaming experiences within the indie community, where they have been available, I have tried out either demos or reviewer copies beforehand and given my first impressions on how the game is during their current stages of development and given a subsequent assessment of what I believe the final product can bring to the table. One such game has been Nanotale: Typing Chronicles. Developed by Belgian outfit Cactus Games and acting as a sequel to a previous game made in the same vein called Epistory, Nanotale implements an extremely unique style of combat for an RPG, with players having to type in words to string attacks together, to cast spells or even to solve puzzles to progress throughout the game’s open world.

Wanting to know even more about this insanely distinct project, I contact Fishing Cactus in the hope of securing another Q&A for the site. I received a response from Fishing Cactus’ PR manager and the development team had answered what questions I had regarding the game and they made for some particularly interesting reading. Here’s what Fishing Cactus had to say about Nanotale:

Where did the idea stem from having a gameplay system revolved around typing in the first place, back with Epistory? 

For our very first game, we wanted to do something different from what you can find on the market. One of our Game Designer had the idea of challenging the Typing genre. The rest of the team was not very convinced about it since all the Typing Game we knew where boring and educative while others like Typing of the Dead were more gimmicks. He did a prototype of it and we were all convinced about the potential of the idea. 

You can play the first proto here:

http://epistorygame.com/prototype/

What has the developmental process been like?

We didn’t plan to do a new typing game at first. Epistory was a success and we were afraid to fail at making it better. But, we decided to do it after getting a lot of emails from the community asking us for a new one. It was like “that’s OK. The community is behind us. They will guide us”. So, we asked them how they wanted that new typing game and we developed Nanotale according to what they liked less and more in Epistory, what they would like to see improved, etc… 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

We just released the second update of the game. The final game is planned for October 2020.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

The Cellular Automata! Cellu-what?

It’s a way of simulating a world using a divide and conquer strategy. Instead of having a massive “World Simulator™” it’s often easier to simulate each object when making a game, This strategy goes further by dividing the world into uniform cells. Each cell has a state and a set of rules to change, if possible, into another state. Cellular automata are used in a very wide range of scientific domains, including computer science, mathematics, physics, and many others. The most famous is probably Conway’s Game of Life, it has only four rules and two states and you can already see a lot of patterns emerging from its simple concept.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Having the game translated in 11 languages during early access. It was a bad idea and represents a lot of work but we really wanted to do it for our community. Also, players seem pickier when they can play it in their own language. It’s hard to have something that works perfectly in all these languages but I think we are doing OK with it thanks to the community who helps a lot locating bugs. 

Which RPG series’ had the most impact on the development of Nanotale?

None. I admit that for Nanotale, we mostly started from Epistory and continued following what our community wanted. 

There is a great emphasis on the beauty of nature in Nanotale. Does any of that stem from the personal experiences of the development team?

Not really. We just wanted to have fun and create something different from Epistory but as memorable. 

How well has the game been received so far? 

Good! The community is really happy and people who discover Nanotale love it and usually by Epistory after trying Nanotale. 

Have there yet been any ideas considered for the game that have since been scrapped?

Many of them. We always start with too many ideas then you cut according to your budget. Many of the new things we have in Nanotale come from what we had to cut from Epistory. Maybe the next typing game will have what we had to cut from Nanotale. 

The thing is, that if we don’t cut, the game would never go out. And we really have to stick to deadlines. For our community and for the team working on the project.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Windows, MAC, Linux

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

I just want to say that it’s OK not having exactly the game you wanted for the first time as soon as you take pleasure working on it and don’t disappoint your community. 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/944920/Nanotale__Typing_Chronicles/

Twitter: @nanotalegame
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nanotalegame
Instagram: @FishingCactus

Do you have anything else to add?

Don’t hesitate to add us to your wishlist!!

I hope you guys check this game’s Steam page out too; as I said in my first impressions article, Nanotale is one of the most unique-looking RPGs I’ve seen for quite some time and having played it, it brings a certain level of satisfaction to be had whilst playing with its very different take on what an RPG should be. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Fishing Cactus for agreeing to answer my questions and to wish them the best of luck with this potentially game-changing title.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Liam Dehaudt

Whilst scouring the internet for new indie game prospects, I came across another title that caught my attention slate for release in the near future. The Meldstorm is a 2D side-scrolling rogue-lite with item synergy elements. Players will be able to customize their own weapons on the same level as games like Mothergunship and Fallout 4 with the game revolving around the player character (either a knight, rogue or sorcerer depending on the player’s choice) undertaking the deadly pillar trials; a series of tests requiring combat with an ungodly number of alien enemies and puzzles to solve. Wanting to know more about this game, I contacted its sole developer, Liam Dehaudt, and put forward to him a series of questions regarding how development has progressed and what players can expect to see when the game is fully released on Steam. Here’s what Liam had to say about The Meldstorm:

What were the influences behind your game? 

Risk of Rain influenced the item system but I wanted more deliberate combat (less but more powerful enemies) so I borrowed a lot from Gungeon’s enemy feel, except as a platformer.

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s fun, it started as a hobby but became a bit more. I’ve worked on a few projects before so this is like a test to put everything I’ve learned together. Of course, there are ups and downs but that’s to be expected.

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

I honestly don’t really know. I would have a few months of development left but since I just got a job it’s most likely going to be a while longer. Let’s say late 2020 to early 2021 but that’s a super vague guess.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Programming is my jam so making the big systems has to be my favorite part. I had a ton of fun making the mods interact with the weapons, and making a general system to create new weapons easily.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Marketing is tough and makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes. I’m quite new to it so I’m learning a ton, but for now, I’m still pretty clueless.

What has been your favorite boss fight to have created so far?

The final boss is cool and pretty different. I got some cool feedback from Reddit that helped me make him look a lot cooler too. You get the first phase to learn his attacks, then he spices things up in the second.

How well has the game been received so far? 

People seem to like it. The few players I’ve had try it had fun. Like mentioned prior I am struggling with marketing which I think is slowing me down a lot but I think my current audience likes what I’m doing

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC/Mac first, if the response is good then I’ll consider everything else.

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

Manage the scope of your game to something doable. Try to stand out. Aim for the top but expect not to get there. Reach out to people who are working on stuff you like.

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

I post all my work on twitter, you can also DM me there if you want: 

https://twitter.com/TheMeldstorm

Also if you like my game, wishlist The Meldstorm:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1220300/The_Meldstorm/

Do you have anything else to add?

Have a nice day ^^

I also want to thank Liam for agreeing to this Q&A and hope you guys enjoyed reading more about The Meldstorm as much as I enjoyed drafting it up. The Meldstorm looks like a very promising game with virtually an infinite amount of replay value and I’m certainly excited for what the final game will have to offer players compared to its current build. I will draft up a review of it upon release, but in the meantime, I wish Liam the best of luck with his debut title.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Axiom Verge (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch)

Developer(s) – Thomas Happ Games

Publisher(s) – Thomas Happ Games

Developed solely by former Petroglyph Game engineer Thomas Happ and five years in the making, Axiom Verge was released back in 2015 to overwhelming critical acclaim from critics, garnishing a plethora of favorable reviews and received a nomination for best indie game award for 2015 at The Game Awards. I felt no different about this game; it is most definitely one of the better Metroidvania games that I have had the pleasure of playing through delivering in every aspect.

Graphics – 9/10

The game is set on a planet called Sudra and in lieu of Metroidvania tradition features many varied and wonderfully designed environments with a lot of different enemies to contend with throughout. There is also a species of giant humanoid robots called the Rusalka, which are unlike most things I’ve ever seen in sci-fi. Most gamers will immediately be reminded of Super Metroid when looking at his game, as indeed I was. But there are elements of the conceptual design that reminded me of other games too. For example, the environments, which look almost alive with floors and walls moving and pulsating, reminded a lot of Abadox for the NES, although in the case of Axiom Verge, there’s even more attention to detail put in. The Rusalka also adds a certain eloquence to the conceptual design of this game, reminding me in particular of the film Ghost in the Shell. 

Gameplay – 9/10

The game plays out ostensibly like a traditional Metroidvania game, with the player having to navigate through a 2D open world and constantly backtracking to reveal new areas or secrets hidden within the game. But what makes Axiom Verge as exciting to play as it is is it’s combat, with the player being able to find a variety of different guns throughout and to strategize according to whatever enemies are in front of them. The world of Axiom Verge is reasonably big, so there is a lot of backtracking involved as players gain new abilities to access new areas. There is also a speedrun mode for more adept players who wish to complete the game in record time, which gives the game some additional replay value. 

But regardless of whether players may be veterans or entry-level, it’s a reasonable challenge I thought; not too hard to the point of being inaccessible but not too easy either. More important than that, however, the game is extremely satisfying to immerse in; backtracking to old locations is always fun as the opportunity to experiment with new weapons constantly presents itself and there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had in this respect. The boss fights are also as intense as that of any Metroidvania game, again requiring players to strategize according to what weapons they may have as well as enemy attack patterns. 

Controls – 9.5/10

The game’s control scheme also presents no problems for the most part; it essentially uses the blueprint of Super Metroid in its general gameplay and weapons system, as well as how ammo and health works. The one minor gripe I had with the controls, however, concerns how the address disruptor works. 

The address disruptor is a gun that either corrupts or de-corrupts enemies or certain walls. This is a tool that needs to be used in order to bypass certain areas of the game. The problem is with it is if a player removes a certain section of wall and not another if the player fires again it can reverse the process for the section of the wall that’s already been removed, leaving the player having to slowly reverse the process again in order to traverse through walls. However, it’s something that’s easily rectified anyway and I can’t fault the developer for trying something new. More important than my concern is that this is a game mechanic unlike many others seen in the Metroidvania genre and it adds more to the game than what it takes away. 

Lifespan – 7/10

On average, the game can be made to last there around 15 to 20 hours, which for a Metroidvania game is fairly impressive. A sequel is currently in development and is scheduled for release in the autumn of 2020, so here’s hoping that the lifespan is increased with the new game. Without giving the end away, I think there will be a great deal of scope to expand the lifespan for the sequel, but the first game lasts more than an adequate amount of time

Storyline – 8/10

The story follows a scientist named Trace, who is running a lab experiment in New Mexico. Suddenly, something happens in the lab that causes an explosion; after which, Trace wakes up on the planet Sudra and finds himself embroiled in a one-man fight for survival, all while uncovering the wonders and mysteries behind the planet Sudra and to help the Rusalka defeat the entity known as Athetos. As the story progresses, it unfolds into something a lot deeper, which makes for a story, which like the visuals, is unlike a lot of things I’ve seen in sci-fi.

IGN gave this game a somewhat less favorable review than me, citing several problems they found with the game that I whole-heartedly found myself disagreeing with; one such criticism was that they thought the story was forgettable. But in my opinion, the story is anything but forgettable. The most prominent theme throughout the story involves moral ambiguity; the intentions and the character of the Rusalka most definitely comes into question more than once and will make the player think whether what Trace is doing is right, which once players play through it, will make them anticipate the sequel even more. 

Originality – 8/10

Again, the originality of this game has been brought into question by many other reviewers, due to it’s obvious similarities to the likes of Super Metroid and Xeodrifter; the game clearly has its influences and most fans of the genre will be able to identify them from the get-go. But outweighing its similarities to other games is its differences; the conceptual design of this game really makes it stand out from other titles in the genre and its soundtrack is exceptional, sound even more otherworldly than Super Metroid in my opinion. Its story, as I said before, is also not as straightforward as Samus Aran striving to defeat Ridley, but rather making the player question what happens at the end was for the greater good; not just for Trace, but for the planet Sudra. 

The fact of the matter is that this game comes into its own with potentially massive mythology to be spawned from it with the introduction with even more games and scope for an even bigger plot to unfold along with it and in my experience, with the exception of games like Dust: An Elysian Tail and Ato, there haven’t been many Metroidvania games that have made me feel like what I felt after having played this one through to the end. 

Happii

Overall, Axiom Verge is definitely a must-have for fans of the Metroidvania genre; it’s also a must-have for any fan of science fiction. It’s a very enjoyable game with variety in combat and conceptual design with an extremely memorable story and a lot of promise as a big gaming franchise for the future. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Little Ricebowl Games

Continuing on with my efforts to uncover new games coming out of the indie community, another Kickstarter project I came across this week was a simulator RPG named The Kingdom of Gardenia. Under development at Little Ricebowl games based in Birmingham, the game put the player in the shoes of Roman, a former soldier who has come to Gardenia looking for work. Stumbling across a job advert for a groundskeeper, Roman applies and the game begins. The player must plant flowers, hunt food, and interact with the townsfolk by catering to their needs in accordance with what their favorite flowers are and what food they like to eat. Along the way, the game’s main story also starts to unfold the further the player progresses, which is somewhat unusual for a simulator game. My first thoughts were that not only does it encompass elements from Stardew Valley (which was one of the developers principal sources of inspiration), but Dark Cloud also sprung to mind to a certain extent as not only does have an element of simulator games to it as a georama game, but it also has a rich story as an RPG.

But eager to find out more about the game, I contacted the game’s core designer Paul Trochowski to get a clearer insight into the development of the game and what players can expect to see with the finished project. Here’s what Paul had to say about The Kingdom of Gardenia:

What were the influences behind your game? 

I got the idea for the concept of the game after playing Stardew Valley a few years ago. I’m a huge fan of the game and I really liked the notification about the train passing through town, which you then run towards, to see if it drops any packages at the station. This got me thinking about having a train station as the focal point of the game and the player getting excited about who would be getting off the train each day.

Going back to my childhood days, I was first introduced to gaming with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. The art style and soundtrack were so iconic, and I loved the challenge of the boss battles with Bowser. I could never beat them as a child and I only properly beat the game recently when I played it on the Nintendo Switch! I’m working on a challenging boss battle for my game that will hopefully keep people coming back for the amazing satisfaction you can only get from beating a tough boss. There are also some adventure and puzzle-solving elements, inspired by games like A Link to the Past.

What has the developmental process been like?

I started out by learning how to make basic pixel art, I would sit with a mini laptop on my daily commute and draw NPCs, flowers and trees, a little bit at a time, then carry on in my lunch breaks and after work. Over time I realized I had enough content to start thinking about learning how to code and making the NPCs move around with some basic AI. I don’t have a background as an artist or a computer scientist, so learning both areas was a huge uphill battle for me, but also amazingly satisfying when I started to see things come together.

The game is based around a day/night cycle and train schedule, this became really difficult to put together with the more NPCs I started to create, as I found they would clash at certain points that I hadn’t anticipated and I would have to go back a re-work huge sections of their paths/timings. Each new visitor to the kingdom is a huge amount of work, but I’m planning on adding more visitors overtime via free content updates.

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

I’m at around 80% completion at the moment. I had originally planned on completing the game by April, but unfortunately, I fell really ill with coronavirus and had to put the release back a few months. I’m running a Kickstarter project to help fund production costs and the release of the game.

Made in GameMaker Studio 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

I would have to say putting in the sound effects, the game doesn’t really come to life until you start investing in some better quality sound effects and tweaking the settings to improve the audio. I still have a lot of work to do in this area but hearing footstep sounds change when the player moves from wood to the path to grass is really exciting for me.

Another exciting moment was when a colleague from work did some playtesting for me. Seeing someone new play the game for the first time was a great buzz, and I took away a lot of great ideas for how to improve the gameplay mechanics and things that were missing that the player needed to get accustomed to the world of the game, like adding in a compass! At one point I had a message in the game that tells the player to head east, but I hadn’t put in a compass yet!

Where did the inspiration come from where the soundtrack is concerned?

My favorite game soundtrack would have to be Undertale, Toby Fox is a musical genius, I’ve listened to that soundtrack so many times and I never get tired of it. I used to play guitar in a local indie band, we had some minor success and got some national radio play, but it didn’t quite work out. After leaving the band, I really missed creating music and was looking for another outlet to start recording again. You’ll hear a lot of guitar in the soundtrack, I’ve tried to work in some sounds inspired by some of my favorite guitar bands, like Thin Lizzy and The Strokes.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Solving coding problems! The soil tiles took me a long time to work out, all the possible iterations of what happens to the surrounding tiles when you dig holes in the ground was a challenge for me, but it felt great once I’d finally solved it.

I also came across a number of frame rate slow down issues with collision checking for the trees, I wanted all of the trees to turn semi-transparent when you walk behind them, so you can see where you’re going. Some of the trees in the game are really big and there were way too many collision checks going on, but I think I’ve fixed it now. Interestingly. they decided to avoid this problem entirely in the latest Animal Crossing game. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the camera angle issues of not being able to see behind trees!

  

Made in GameMaker Studio 2

How well has the game been received so far? 

A lot of people have shown interest in the Kickstarter project and given some great positive feedback to images and posts about the game on Instagram and Twitter. We have a small following at the moment, but I’ve been really pleased to see that people are genuinely getting on board with the concept of the game and eager to find out more about the story and the world of the game.

There has been some feedback too from fellow developers, who have warned me against putting a game out with such a stripped back, retro art style, insisting that I get a designer in to improve the look of the game. My motivation for continuing with this art style, which I know is going to be an acquired taste, comes from the overwhelmingly positive reception that Undertale received, despite the minimalist look of the game. There is something unique about a game that has been made entirely by one person, I’d be worried that the character of the game would be too far from my original idea if I get someone else to re-work all of the sprites. 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Initially, the game will be released on PC and then I’ll be looking at a Mac/Linux version before moving on to Switch. I might consider a mobile version after that, but porting to each new platform will bring significant challenges for me as a new developer, so I may need to get some outside help with this.

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

Making a game can at times feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall. You will come across design or coding problems that you feel like you’re never going to get past. But stick with it, come back to it the next day, and the next – don’t listen to people who tell you it’s not worth all the effort, there’s nothing more satisfying than solving problems that you previously thought were impossible. And when you’ve got something you’re happy with, which you’re ready to share with people, it’s a great buzz to find out that there are people out there who like your work and want to follow the project.

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

You can check out my project on Kickstarter: 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingdomofgardenia/the-kingdom-of-gardenia

You can also follow the progress of the game through these links:

Website: www.kingdomofgardenia.com 

Twitter: @LittleRice_bowl

Instagram: @LittleRice_bowl

Facebook: @kingdomofgardenia

Youtube: Little Ricebowl

Do you have anything else to add?

I would ask people to please check out the Kickstarter page for The Kingdom of Gardenia and back the project if you like what you see. I’ll be working hard to finish the game and spread the word over the next few months. Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported the project so far!

Made in GameMaker Studio 2

As always, I’d like to thank Paul for sharing his insight into this wonderful-looking game and hope you guys will check out the Kickstarter project as well as Paul’s additional links to more information about the game as development progresses. The Kingdom of Gardenia looks to be a particularly promising game in my opinion and I can’t wait to see what the finished will have to offer players. I’d also like to wish Paul and Little Ricebowl Games the best of luck with the project. 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88