Tag Archives: PC

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

Ato (PC)

Developer(s) – Tiny Warrior Games

Publisher(s) – Tiny Warrior Games

Designer – Brandon Song

Released on Steam following a successful IndieGoGo campaign, Ato is an atmospheric Metroidvania game set in Feudal Japan whereby players take on the role of an anthropomorphic samurai fox who sets out on an adventure to rescue his abducted child from a cult of deadly ninjas. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid a game this was compared to other indie Metroidvania games; it stands as a shining example of how a satisfying and immersive gaming experience can be developed on a budget.

Graphics – 8/10

The game makes use of 8-BIT style graphics with characters and settings inspired by Feudal Japan and the diversity in environmental design is quite staggering, ranging from cherry blossom forests to sunset mountainsides to snowy tundras. The game’s environmental design is most definitely the standout feature in this game from a visual standpoint; they also do exceptionally well to add to the game’s overall atmosphere in conjunction with what situation the player character is in at any one given time. The only minor issue I had with the visuals was that at one or two points there is a small amount of slow down, but overall, it does little to hamper the experience. 

Gameplay – 9/10

The title also incorporates the use of a wide range of gameplay elements. Like many other Metroidvania games, the objective is to explore as much of the world map as possible and uncover as many items as possible. Over time, there are new abilities introduced in order for players to explore other inaccessible areas throughout the game, as well as there being secret items to be found in order to either increase the player’s health or coins to progress further. But in my opinion, the most impressive gameplay element found in this title is the combat system. 

Players also gain different weapons and abilities to use in combat ranging from including a poisoned sword, dash attacks, a spiked shield, and later on in the game, even magic abilities; it’s quite similar to Dust: An Elysian Tail in its approach to combat. The wide range of boss fights is also quite impressive; there are a few starter boss fights in quick succession earlier on in the game to give players a feel for the combat system in general, but after that, they become even more varied in design. This amount of diversity in gameplay perpetuates the standard to be found in any great Metroidvania title; it’s satisfying to play and a genuine pleasure to explore through.  

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme of the game is also simple enough to get to grips with, which was impressive given the amount of variety there is in combat; it was yet another means for me to draw comparisons with Dust: An Elysian Tail. Though it may not have a combo system like the former, there would’ve been no need to include one as each battle, be that with bosses or general enemies, is still as satisfying as it is challenging; especially on the harder difficulty settings. 

Lifespan – 5/10

The only real downside to this title is that it can only be made to last for a maximum of 4 hours, which whilst doesn’t do a game like this justice, I suppose such is the reality of the situation when a game is developed with a limited amount of funds like this was. It lasts considerably less time than an average Metroidvania game, but it lasts slightly longer than a lot of other independently developed titles in the genre, such as The Swapper and Xeodrifter. Compared to those two titles at the very least, this game blows the both of them out of the water as far as I’m concerned (in terms of both lifespan and general gameplay) so the average runtime of Ato was enough to justify a hard 5 as opposed to a soft 4. 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Ato follows a father caring for his wife and infant child in a small house amidst a peaceful spec of land. But suddenly, the family is devastated when a group of masked ninja steal the infant child from its parents. The father then sets off on a quest to bring their child home. It sounds simple enough on the face of it, but without giving away anything that happens, the plot later unfolds into a lot darker and deeper than what the player will first imagine and things also escalate abnormally quickly. 

Although there’s either no spoken or written dialogue throughout the game, the characters’ emotions and hardships are wonderfully portrayed to convey the events of the story, which considering that this is an 8-BIT game, is even more impressive. Also, the game’s environmental design works exceedingly well to add the game’s atmosphere throughout with elements such as day-to-night transitions used to change the mood at specific times and rainstorms to add further tension to already exceedingly intense situations. 

Originality – 8/10

Between everything that this game does as well as it does, from the combat system to the environmental design to the manner in which the story is told, it also makes for a rather unique experience. In a gaming mainstream that relies heavily on cutting-edge graphics and motion capture to effectively tell an emotionally charged story, very few 8-BIT games I have played have portrayed themes and emotions, as well as this, does. Also, to at the same time keep the general focus on gameplay is welcome in a market saturated with games putting story ahead of gameplay such as The Last of Us and the Telltale games. 

Happii

In summation, Ato is a wonderful title that exceeds in almost every aspect and I can recommend it to any Metroidvania fan out there reading this review. It’s a well-crafted blend offering great gameplay and an enthralling story, which had me taken aback by just how good it is. 

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Mothergunship (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Grip Digital Games & Terrible Posture Games

Publisher(s) – Grip Digital Games

PEGI – 7

Jointly developed and released by Terrible Posture Games and Grip Digital and released at the midpoint of 2018, Mothergunship is a spiritual successor to the indie shooter Tower of Guns, featuring much of the same gameplay elements but offering a great deal more than the latter with an improved number of gameplay features whilst also boasting better graphics on a technical level and a slightly more immersing story complete with all the humour of Joe Mirabello’s previous game. When I first played and reviewed Tower of Guns, I was immediately taken aback by just how unexpectedly fantastic a game it is, but I also pointed out a number of flaws that, although marred the game down to a small extent, didn’t stop it from being the best indie game of the eighth generation that I had played up to that point. However, Mothergunship not only addresses these flaws, but offers players all the immersion that can be had with Tower of Guns and then some; I was again taken further aback by how this game hadn’t equaled the quality of it’s spiritual predecessor, but surpassed it to a monumental extent. 

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing I noticed whilst playing this game was the significant improvements made to the game’s visuals on a technical level. Abandoning the cel-shaded style synonymous with Tower of Guns, the developers went for a much more realistic-looking sci-fi setting with more varied environmental features as well as a wider range of enemy types. A vast majority of the enemies (as well as a few of the boss fights) were largely recycled from Tower of Guns, but to counteract that, more enemy types were added to not only make the game more diverse on a visual scale, but to add new types of challenge for players to contend with; among the most notable are the robotic dogs that run towards players in certain phases of the game. 

I was extremely impressed with visuals from the get-go; most impressive were the very realistic-looking vistas of open space towards the start of the game and those that can be seen during the sequences whereby players must jump between gravity pads to reach another ship. But as well as that, although each room is randomly generated and as such, the scenery can become very repetitive very quickly, it’s not as much of a problem in Mothergunship as it is in Tower of Guns as each room feels much more unique from the last. The dice rooms in particular offer more diversity in scenery design, as they present different challenges found in typical rooms. 

Gameplay – 10/10

Mothergunship keeps to the same basic premise as Tower of Guns for the most part; a first-person shooting Roguelike with randomly generated content. But as alluded to before, new gameplay features have been implemented with this title, such as an RPG aspet in that players can level up their character to gain new perks such as increased health, an increased number of jumps, increased melee power etc. It also has a much less linear progression than the latter, with players being able to undertake sidequests for better loot. But speaking of the loot, that’s where the game’s most impressive feature comes in. Players also have the facility to make weapons from the ground-up, using various parts that are collected throughout the game. A player can modify a single gun to have multiple barrels and multiple modifications for perks such as increased fire rate, attack power and abilities such as ricocheting bullets and stunning enemies. The level of customization the players can indulge in is actually ridiculous to the extent that the guns can look like they couldn’t possibly be handled by a human being in the real world. 

But regardless, it makes for one of the most enjoyable features I’ve seen in any FPS game. It feels incredibly satisfying to step into a room with an unreasonably big gun (or two for that matter, since dual wielding is also an option) and blast through everything in sight. It’s equally satisfying to try and get by on a minimal amount of equipment throughout the beginning of each mission and then rely on your ability to strategize in accordance with what loadout a player starts with and then subsequently buys in each shop.

Controls – 10/10

Although the game in terms of its controls functions like most other first-person shooter games, most fans of the genre will be able to pick up the controller and play through it fluently, success also relies on a certain extent of strategy. It’s just as important to move as it is to shoot with so many potential enemies on-screen at any one given moment. People who may have played Tower of Guns can go from that game to this without skipping a beat (especially if, like me, they’ve had the practice of playing the latter game to death), but for other fans of the genre who may not have played Tower of Guns before, they will be forced to modify their tactics somewhat to stand any chance of success. 

Lifespan – 10/10

To complete one playthrough to 100% with most likely take there around 20 hours. But the thing with this game is that like Tower of Guns before it, because everything is randomly generated from the rooms to the loot, each playthrough presents a completely different challenge every time, giving it a virtually infinite amount of replay value. It has a linear progression ultimately, but the possibilities for each playthrough are endless and will only last as long as player interest, which given the amount of things to do in this game, is a potentially long time. 

Storyline – 7/10

The basic premise of the game is simple; the player is a new recruit of Earth’s governing body tasked with repelling an impending invasion carried out by a robotic race known as the Archivists. The player character must stop this invasion by taking out the Archivist fleet and along with it, its flagship spacecraft, the Mothergunship. Though the game’s story is pretty basic and overall bears next to no thinking about for the most part, it’s kept somewhat fresh throughout with a steady supply of humour. The element of comedy with rife in Tower of Guns as well, but because there’s full voice acting in Mothergunship, it’s much easier to indulge in. In particular, Dave Pettitt puts in a hilarious performance as the Colonel; it’s quite reminiscent of Jim Ward’s performances as Captain Qwark in the Ratchet & Clank games. 

Originality – 9/10

In my review of Tower of Guns, I’d commented how hard it must be for developers to make a unique first-person shooter experience, given how saturated the industry has become the genre taking precedent throughout recent gaming generations. Despite that, Tower of Guns felt like a fairly unique game. However, with the sheer amount of new and exciting gameplay features implemented in Mothergunship, this games works even better to stand out in an over-saturated gaming genre, making it, to me, not only one of the most memorable FPS game in recent years, but also one of the most unique gaming experiences of the eighth generation. 

Deliirious

Overall, Mothergunship is one of the best first-person shooter games I have ever played. It’s an immersing gameplay experience offering pretty much endless replay value with exceptional graphics and an obscene level of customization that will háave players indulging in for hours upon hours. I loved Tower of Guns, but for lack of a better term, this game quite literally blows it’s spiritual predecessor out of the water. 

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great) 

Ori & The Blind Forest (PC, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer – Moon Studios

Publisher – Microsoft Studios

Director – Thomas Mahler

Producer – Gennadiy Korol

Created by a massive collaboration of developers worldwide over a period of four years, Ori & The Blind Forest is a Metroidvania game following the adventures of the game’s titular character Ori and companion Sein as they set out to restore the forest of Nibel, which has come under threat having lost the balance between three elements; waters, winds, and warmth. After having played this game almost 100%, I was enthralled with it from beginning to end. Everything from its art style and the soundtrack to it’s direction in terms of gameplay and story made for one of the most standout gaming experiences of the eighth generation. 

Graphics – 10/10

Similar to games like Cuphead and Child of Light, the game features entirely hand-drawn graphics, though in this case influenced largely by the works of Hiyao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Locations within the game range from a mixture of light-filled and dark forest settings to vibrant, sunny glades, icy chasms, and fiery volcanic formations. No matter the specific location, however, everywhere in this game has a level of eloquence to it in one way or another and it all highlights the meticulous dedication the development team showed to bringing the project to life. The accompanying soundtrack perfectly fits every location, as well as every situation the player finds themself within the game; be that whilst peacefully traversing through sunlit greenery or whilst having to dash away from a volcanic eruption. But even during moments of both absolute tranquility or absolute calamity, the game still maintains that same level of eloquence throughout; in my case, so much so that I didn’t care how many times I died in moments of urgency, which was a lot. I thought it was worth attempting that many times just to soak up the game’s wonderful atmosphere.

Gameplay – 8/10

As a Metroidvania, the game follows most of the typical tropes you would expect to find in a game of the genre; most notably having to gain all manner of different abilities to access each area as the play progresses. However, Ori & The Blind Forest offers players a very interesting spin on things with a unique combat system encouraging players to strategize in accordance with what enemies they’re up against. Combat can also even be a means to access new or hidden locations throughout the game. There is also an ability tree that players can use to upgrade pre-existing abilities or learn new ones by gaining experience in combat, giving the game an RPG feel to it. The combat isn’t as intense as what it is in other Metroidvania games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Dust: An Elysian Tail, but it demands almost as much from gamers as enemies become stronger over time and different abilities need to be used to overcome them. The game also demands a fair bit from players in the respect of exploration, as there are many challenging platformer obstacles to traverse and puzzles to be solved throughout. It challenges players, but not to the point of it becoming inaccessible. 

Controls – 10/10

As in many Metroidvania titles, the staggering variety in controls becomes more and more apparent as the player progresses through the game with the different abilities to learn and incorporate throughout. At first, I thought that it may become a problem, as the same buttons are used for different abilities in varying different respects, but all it is is a matter of getting used to strategizing in accordance with whatever situation the players may find themself in. It reminded me a lot of Metroid Prime in that respect because although that game was a first-person shooter, it doesn’t entirely feel like one in many respects and I found it to be the same case with Ori & The Blind Forest; it’s a Metroidvania game, but there are certain instances in which it doesn’t feel like one in the respect of its control scheme, further adding to the game’s sense of uniqueness. 

Lifespan – 5/10

To complete the game to 100% can take there around 12 hours, which to me, is undoubtedly this game’s biggest drawback. Although this game was undeniably labor of love and that it shows in every little detail, it just seemed to be a criminally short amount of time for a game of this quality to last. It’s in this aspect where I’m desperately hoping that this is where the sequel, Ori & The Will Of The Wisps comes in; similar to the transition between Onimusha and Onimusha 2. 

Storyline – 8/10

The game’s plot follows Ori, a guardian spirit that fell from the Spirit Tree of the forest of Nibel. Ori is later found by a forest inhabitant named Naru, who adopts Ori and raises her. Later, Naru dies of starvation, and Ori is left to fend for herself. She later becomes embroiled in a quest to restore the forest of Nibel, which has begun to deteriorate since the forest has lost balance between the elements of waters, winds, and warmth. Matters have also been worsened by the fact that the core of the Spirit Tree had been stolen by a demonic, shadowy owl named Kuro. Throughout, Ori has to traverse the forest to restore the three elements and the core of the Spirit Tree, whilst coming under the threat of the forest’s many dangerous creatures and natural obstacles whilst also avoiding the clutches of Kuro.

The game’s story, as well as it’s art direction, was also heavily inspired by the works of Hayao Miyazaki; it’s vivid, fantastical, and packed with emotional moments that will have players on the edges of their seats. But it also perpetuates a sense of moral ambiguity; especially towards the end. So much so that I found myself questioning who the real hero was and if the villain truly is a villain at heart. This works to separate it from the works of Studio Ghibli as moral ambiguity isn’t that prominent a theme in the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and others who worked for the company and it’s something new to compliment a story that was heavily inspired by the two aforementioned film directors. 

Originality – 8/10

Whilst critiquing the control scheme, I mentioned that there are certain instances in which the controls make it feel like more than a conventional Metroidvania game. But this can be said for every other aspect of Ori & The Blind Forest in addition. It’s largely unconventional in its gameplay, it’s the scenery, the soundtrack, and its story. Ahead of playing it, I knew that I was in for something special with this title, but I wasn’t quite prepared for exactly how special it would turn out to be. Everything from its combat system to it’s environmental design to its themes of loss, tragedy, and moral ambiguity makes it stand out from most of every other game I’ve ever played. 

Happii

Overall, Ori & The Blind Forest is a must-have not only for Metroidvania fans but for gamers in general. It’s a title that has had every element handled with a degree of love and care that every standout game should have and whilst it didn’t last as long as what I thought it had the potential to, it’s certainly worth at least one playthrough at minimum. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Remnants of Isolation (PC)

Developer(s) – Team Isolation 

An indie turn-based RPG developed with the popular RPG Maker engine, the same engine used to develop other indie RPGs, such as Chronicles of a Dark Lord, Remnants of Isolation has a story and an artistic direction different to that of many other games of its kind. Unfortunately, the game does have its fair share of faults and drawbacks, unfortunately making it dwarf in quality compared with some of the great titles of the genre, such as Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. 

Graphics – 8/10

The most interesting thing about the game, in my opinion, is the visuals and the conceptual design. Taking place in a mysterious and enchanted prison, it features imagery and characters inspired by a multitude of different cultures and mythologies; most prominently, medieval fantasy. But aside from that, there are also quite a few uniquely designed monsters, such as the Twisted Sentry as well as many of the varied boss fights that take place throughout. 

Gameplay – 6/10

The game plays out very much like a traditional turn-based RPG, such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest; it’s addictive and satisfying to level up characters. Instead of using money as currency, however, the player must collect souls in order to make better equipment and buy items. The biggest problem with it, however, is the fact that unlike most other games of its kind, which have many different playable characters with different abilities, there are only two in this game, thus it doesn’t have anywhere near as much variety as many of the great games that inspired it. It’s especially underwhelming to me, as I have played RPGs, which make use of the same engine, but that has much more substance to them. 

Controls – 10/10

The game incorporates as simple a control scheme as can be found in a video game, and as such, I’m at least satisfied to report that there are no issues with playing the game to address. Many turn-based RPGs over the years have modified the overall formula with varying degrees of success, but over the years, it has been refreshing to see a resurgence of games to incorporate the basic structure of this formula; and this game is no exception. 

Lifespan – 0.5/10

The worst aspect of this game, however, is it’s cripplingly short lifespan. At a stretch, it can be made to last about 2 hours, which for a turn-based RPG is deplorable in my opinion. Normally, this kind of game can be made to last considerably longer; some of which surpassing the 100-hour mark, but due to this game’s lack of substance and variety, it lasts only an extremely small fraction of the time that a standout game of its genre can be made to last; even irrespective of the fact that this game was intended to be played multiple times.

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story is particularly well written and made even more immersing by the fact that there are multiple endings to be triggered. It follows two prisoners, Celesta and Melchior, as they resolve to find a way out of their prison together, in a somewhat similar fashion to Ico. They both need each other to stay alive as they encounter danger after danger throughout the prison. It’s engrossing to see how their relationship develops throughout the course of the game, and how it impacts the rest f the story. 

Originality – 2/10

The only vaguely original mechanic this game has going for it is that of using souls as currency to both buy items and upgrade equipment. Some may say the mechanic of fusing magic together maybe something new to the genre, but Final Fantasy IX incorporated a similar, and frankly more satisfying mechanic between the characters Vivi and Steiner, and overall, did little to add any real uniqueness to the game’s combat system. Other than souls as currency, the only way in which the game stands out is in both its artistic direction and how short it is. And the latter of the two makes it stand out for largely the wrong reasons. 

Niiutral

Overall, Remnants of Isolation does have elements of redeeming value, but as far as an immersing gameplay experience goes, there are far better turn-based RPGs out there. To make a game of its potential as short as they did was in my opinion criminal, and if the developers decide to make a sequel or another turn-based RPG, they need to make some dramatic improvements in my opinion. 

Score

33.5/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)