Tag Archives: PS4

Blu Cover Art

Q&A With Damien Robinett

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Twitter – @blu_vs

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Astral Ascent Header

Q&A With Hibernian Workshop

After scouring the Internet for more promising video game prospects, I came across yet another simplistic-looking, yet ambitious title looking to make waves among the indie community. Astral Ascent, the second title from France-based indie outfit Hibernian Workshop following on from their first game, Dark Devotion, is a 2D rogue-lite with intricately rendered 8-BIT visuals, intense combat sequences, and RPG elements in the form of a unique magic-building system. In development since 2019, the game was recently funded on Kickstarter within 36 hours of the campaign going live, and now the target has switched to fulfill the project’s next stretch goal. Wanting to know more about what this will have to offer players upon release, I reached out to the game’s creative director and chief programmer Louis Denizet to ask a few questions about the game, and what drove them to make such a radical departure from their previous game. So  here’s what Louis Denizet had to say about Astral Ascent:

 

Astral Ascent 1

What were the influences behind your game?

We play a lot of indie rogue-lites such as Wizard of Legend, Dead Cells, Hades but games like Children of Morta have been very influential on us for their artistic style.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

We were two, me and Alexandre the artistic director, for several months to set up the intentions then we started working with Gaël and Renan for more than a year on it. The studio works remotely and we mainly iterate a lot on elements we produce until we think things are good enough.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

The game is scheduled for 2023 with an Early Access early 2022 but there is already a demo live on Steam for PC & Mac that includes the co-op with a good level of quality.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Freedom! We are self-published so we can do what we want and so far every aspect of the game feels exciting to us.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Staying motivated in the long run can be challenging in particular at the beginning where things seem to be very very slow: making the big systems like remapping inputs, localization, etc really took us a lot of effort but this is behind us now!

 

How important has player feedback been throughout the development of Astral Ascent; especially from those players who had played Dark Devotion beforehand?

For now, we are just starting to have player feedback thanks to the demo, for that we even created a specific channel in our discord server where you can post a suggestion and if people upvote your suggestion it can end up in our workflow so we can check that. We think it will very important for the game as we are making a rogue-lite we want to really rely on these suggestions to improve the game. For Dark Devotion fans, so far, feedback has absolutely great and we are very happy about it!

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How well has the game been received so far?

Absolutely great, it was quite a challenge to deliver a good quality game in addition to the Kickstarter campaign, we are a small team so it meant extra efforts but we are happy with the quality!

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We will release on PC, Mac, PS4, PS5, Switch, so far we did not announce Xbox and DRM-free.

 

In the last few months, I’ve noticed there has been an influx of indie games to have come out of France. Have there been any other French developers out there that have been there to offer further advice or to have taken inspiration from?

Oh yes; the French game developers community is very welcoming and we often talk together to give advice, this has been very helpful so many times!

 

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It’s mentioned in the press kit for the game that Astral Ascent is a far more ambitious project than what Dark Devotion was. In what respects is it more ambitious?

In my opinion: every aspect! The game scope is so much bigger with all the rogue-lite elements, we have 4 playable characters, co-op mode, the dialog system, the controls remapping, etc. This is a very big step up from our previous/first production.

 

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

Yes, a lot! We had an 8 slot inventory for spells for both players, for example, each hub NPC has been reworked at least 2 times and we completely changed our main hub, believe it or not, it used to be 3 times bigger with completely different assets.

 

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

Dead Mage who released Children of Morta seems like a very good choice from my point of view!

 

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From a developmental standpoint, what have been the most important lessons learned from the development of Dark Devotion going into Astral Ascent?

Good question, again I would say everything! Dark Devotion was started as a learning project, we knew nothing about game development or coding or anything so it was pretty chaotic. Apart from that, I would say pre-production is really something important to learn!

 

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

Do game, do game jams! That is the way!

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

As a studio you can follow us on Twitter we are very active as our Kickstarter campaign is live and we have so much to reveal: https://twitter.com/HibernianWS As a developer you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DenizetLouis, or itch.io: https://louis-denizet.itch.io/

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks for the opportunity and thank you for taking the time to read!

 

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I also want to thank Louis for taking the time out of development to provide the answers to my questions and to wish him and all the team at Hibernian Studios the best of luck with Astral Ascent. In recent months, I have encountered a lot of indie developers to have originated from France, and Hibernian Workshop is the latest in an ever-growing list of new and exciting programmers looking to make waves and break new ground. I certainly can’t wait for the release of this game, and I hope you can’t too. If you’d like to check out their Kickstarter page, you can do it via the link below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hibernian-workshop/astral-ascent

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article because I had a particularly exciting time learning more about this insanely ambitious game.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer  88

Q&A With Greg Lobanov Volume 2

Back in 2016, one of the games I came across on Kickstarter as part of my ongoing efforts to discover new and exciting gaming experiences and bring them even further attention, was Wandersong. Before it was funded, I reached out to the creator, Greg Lobanov, for an interview to ascertain more information about what looked like a truly promising title in the making:

https://scousegamer88.com/2016/07/09/qa-with-greg-lobanov/

And in the end, I was proven right. Ever since the release of the game, it has garnished universal acclaim from a great number of gamers and critics throughout the industry, including yours truly.

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/01/24/wandersong-pc/

The game has intricate puzzle-solving, an extremely unique approach to combat and progression, and one of the most beautifully composed soundtrack to come out of the indie development community complete with a rollercoaster of a story chocked full of emotional moments of discovery, comedy, and drama. Eager to discover how the experience panned out for the development team on a personal level and what’s next for the people involved in the project, I got back in touch with Greg to find out more information about what more can be expected of this promising young developer and his team in the future, and exactly how the experience of developing this game impacted on their lives and his. Here’s what Greg Lobanov had to say about Wandersong, his new upcoming game Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and his experiences as a developer thus far:

 

How satisfied have you and the team been on a personal level to see Wandersong receive the overwhelmingly positive response it has done since its release?

It’s been very satisfying. 🙂 I always said at the outset that all I really wanted was for at least one person to really, really love the game a lot and we had that happen many times over. It’s very warm to put so much heart into something and see it resonate with people. I’ll be grateful forever that I got to have this experience.

 

How satisfied have Em and Gordon been with the positive response the game’s soundtrack has received?

Very happy, for sure. Gord uploaded all 100+ tracks to youtube and he still sees exuberant youtube comments come in every day and it warms his heart. 

 

You came up with the idea for Wanderson following a cross-country biking trip you took across the US. Were there any particular locations you passed through or people you met that stand out as being more influential than the other?

There were a LOT of tiny pieces borrowed from a lot of places to patch together the diverse cast and world in Wandersong. I’ll mention that I named the first town, Langtree, after a tiny town in Texas called Langtry that only has a dozen people in it in the middle of the desert. I stayed there for a couple of nights through a hailstorm.

 

Of course, Gordon and Em had composed for video games before this. Were there any games that they had worked on that they kept in mind when composing the soundtrack for Wandersong?

Actually, Wandersong was Em’s first game project when she started out, although by the time it came out she had also started and finished working on Night in the Woods ;p In general I don’t think games were a key inspiration, instead we were looking at different musicians and bands and genres and instruments to get inspiration for the musical and audio touches.

 

The last time we spoke, you mentioned the most exciting and challenging aspects of developing the game were the color design and missing audio respectively. But did any of what the most exciting and challenging aspects of development were change later on throughout the process?

Oh, yes… I think at the time I was fixated on the immediate concerns, but once I had Em and Gord audio wasn’t a stress. I think ultimately the biggest challenge was telling a meaningful story. We really wanted the game and everything in it to matter, so we took great care in how we presented things. It’s a lot of careful, thoughtful work to do right.

 

Nintendo titles made up a great deal of the influence behind the game, such as Ocarina of Time and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. If you, Em, and Gordon were given the opportunity to work for Nintendo on one of their series of your choice, which one would it be, and why?

I don’t know about Em and Gord, who aren’t especially big Nintendo fans. But I would really like to work on a Pokemon game. I think it’s a really rich world and game concept that could be explored a lot of ways that haven’t been touched yet. And I just really love Pokemon.

 

Apparently, Steven Universe was a major inspiration for the game’s visual style. From one fan of the series to another, what is your favorite Steven Universe song, and why?

“Love Like You” is a pretty special song. I think I’d have to pick that one.

 

Were there any ideas at this stage of development that had been scrapped or reworked throughout?

A lot of small ideas came and went. I had in my notes for a long time that it would be cool to do a punk show/punk-themed section, and I was curious if there was a way to do something with rap/RnB as well. Neither of those ever found the right spot in the story, though.

 

You abandoned the initial idea early on of making a game about biking when it came to Wandersong. Is that a concept you think you would like to revisit at some point?

Maybe??? There would have to be something more to it for the idea to be interesting to me. There was a new game called “Season” announced recently which looks kind of like the game I would have made, probably.

 

If you could choose any video game character to make a cameo appearance in Wandersong, which one would it be, and why?

Well, we put Mr. Oshiro from Celeste and Ima from Ikenfell into Wandersong; those were my friends’ characters, and we started all our games together when we were roommates so I thought it would be fun to pay them an homage like that.

 

What lessons were learned by yourselves as developers throughout the entire process?

I think I refined my game writing skills a lot by sheer force of effort. Em was extremely maximalist and detailed with the sound design, but in her following projects, she learned to tone it down a bit and focus her effort in the most important places. And this game definitely took Gord on a crazy creative adventure, composing so many songs in so many styles and genres; I think it helped him find the confidence to be creative and try new things at a time when he was starting to feel like he was falling into a rut.

 

What’s next for Greg, Em & Gordon?

Em and I are finishing our next project, Chicory: A Colorful Tale. Em also released work on a lot of really cool indie titles since Wandersong came out a couple of years ago, including Untitled Goose Game and Ikenfell. Gord’s released some OSTs as well, including one for a game called Stela he’s quite proud of, but right now he’s working on his first solo album in many years and having a great time with it–watch for that in 2021.

 

Have there been any ideas contemplated to develop a sequel to Wandersong?

Maybe some passing thoughts, but there’s a lot of other things I want to do and I think the story of Wandersong is complete on its own.

 

What genre of gaming would you like to undertake that you haven’t tried?

That I haven’t tried? Hmm… I’ve tried so many, haha. I’m most interested in taking  ‘creativity’ mechanics and combining those with other genres the way we did with platforming in Wandersong. I also have some other ideas for things I can’t talk about yet.

 

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

Try finishing something small so you can get into the practice of finishing things. 🙂 Find your peers and work together and learn from them, not from people like me.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Video games are cool.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Greg for taking the time out to talk to me again about Wandersong and his own developmental experiences. Wandersong turned out to be every bit as wonderful, enjoyable, and innovative as I suspected it would be thanks to the successful Kickstarter project, the involvement of Humble Bundle, and of course, the love and attention that went into crafting this truly immersive and intricate title, and I on a personal level, also feel proud to have helped in my small part to bring this game to a wider audience earlier on throughout its development. In addition, I’m also very much looking forward to playing Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and I sincerely hope to work with Greg again in the future.

In the meantime, you can check out Greg’s website via the link below to keep up with the development of Chicory as well as any more new gaming ventures of his:

http://greg.style/

And if anyone hasn’t tried Wandersong, I highly recommend that you give this game a go; It’s available to download on a number of platforms, including Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. I also sincerely hope you guys enjoyed reading these articles with me and Greg and for those of you who played Wandersong, that you enjoyed playing it as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Orube Game Studio

Pursuing a new upcoming video game experience currently under development, another two games that I have had my eye on for a long time is Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey.  Both developed by Orube Game Studio based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Super Mombo Quest, in development since 2018, is a colouful Metroidvania inspired by the like of Super Meat Boy heavy on combat that requires players to string together combos reminiscent of classic arcade fighting games, similar to Guacamelee or Dust: An Elysian Tail. Dwarf Journey, on the other hand, is an action-adventure Roguelite inspired by Norse mytholgoy and that incorporates heavy RPG elements, such as levelling up the player character and collecting materials in order to forge stronger equipment. With both games set for release in the early part of 2021, I was curious to find out more about these two great-looking games, I got in touch with Orube Studio and their founder Pedro Savino to pose a few questions about the games and what players can come to expect from the final builds. Here’s what Pedro Savino had to say about Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey.

 

What were the influences behind your games?
Our biggest inspiration is to keep in mind that we can bring the playful spirit of games to any type of person, through simple, affordable, and super fun products. As ours are platform games, we have to mention our biggest influences: Super Mario World, Super Meat Boy, Celeste, and Kirby. All of these have incredible mechanics and game feel that were certainly inspiring for our games.

 

What has the developmental process been like?
It’s been great! We are a team of eight people who work remotely and we are all passionate about what we do. Always seeking to learn more and grow together.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished products?
Both games are almost ready to be released. Only a few artistic details are missing. We are already testing the final versions with people from our Discord server to make everything with the best experience possible.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing both games?
The most exciting part is seeing the number of people that we are captivating with our games that haven’t even been released yet. There are people who have been accompanying us for a long time, giving feedback and supporting our work. It is very gratifying to receive this support.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing both games?
The biggest challenge, I believe, is to manage everything so that all we’ve planned for comes out in the best way possible. The challenge in Super Mombo Quest, for example, is making this huge game a reality. The final version will have approximately two hundred and fifty levels. We are producing the biggest game ever made by the company!

 

How well have both games been received so far?
We were surprised by the number of people who were captivated by our games. At TikTok, for example, we were able to build a community of more than 30k people, and we brought over 1,5k to our Discord server. They are always supporting the development, giving feedback, and testing versions so that everything is fine.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the games to?
We are looking to bring them to computers (at Steam), Mobiles (Android and iOS), and consoles (such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation).

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked where both games are concerned?
Throughout the development process, there were things that didn’t work and that needed to be redone. In Super Mombo Quest, for example, we changed the main currency of the game and the mechanics related to it in the middle of development.

 

Has the studio been mindful of the influx of Metroidvania and rogue-lite titles within the indie scene in order to make this game stand out among the many others?

We produce games that we have had in mind for a long time. The character Mombo, for example, appeared in my graduation work. We developed and learned more about platformers, which today is one of our specialties. But we are always attentive to trends and trying to predict what will be best received by the public.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Aiming high, I believe with Nintendo. It is a company with young spirited games that inspired me a lot and were part of my youth.

 

What’s next for Orube Game Studios following the release of Dwarf Journey and Super Mombo Quest?
We still don’t know for sure how the next project will be, but we intend it to be one of the big ones. You will have to follow us on social media to find out!

 

Are there any other genres of gaming that Orube Game Studios have thought of working on in the future?
We are planning to make a multiplayer RPG. There is nothing right yet, but it’s a wish that we have for the near future.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Currently, Super Mombo Quest has more than two hundred levels, which we consider to be a large scope. However, before producing it, we released several smaller games. The main tip for those who are starting is: make small and simple games. Understand the process and be very aware of how long it takes to produce a game. A game of scope or complexity greater than the team’s capacity can take a long time to produce, increasing its cost and reducing the chances of profit. Sometimes it even happens that the project is not launched because there is no budget to complete, or even that the producers give up on development.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
You can find us on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram @OrubeGameStudio! You can join our Discord server too. Here is our Linktree so you can find us everywhere https://linktr.ee/orubegamestudio.

 

Do you have anything else to add?
I think that for those who are looking to live from games, it’s important to know that it’s a very competitive market. Currently, it’s difficult to undertake in the area without having accumulated prior knowledge, much because of the lack of incentives in the sector in some countries. On the other hand, we have an industry under construction and with a lot of potential. More and more companies are consolidating and creating job opportunities for those looking to work in the environment. The game market is growing and will grow for many years to come. With intelligence, dedication, and a little creativity, it is possible to live from games!

 

I’d like to thank Pedro for taking the time out to answer what questions I have as well as providing a very unique insight into the competition that comes with taking the plunge into indie development. It has indeed become an extremely competitive market over the last few gaming generations, as I have witnessed firsthand, but both Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey look to be strong competitors in the plethora of indie games in their genres and I wish them the best of luck with them both, and I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about these two potentially game-changing titles.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Gaterooze Ink

Whilst scouting out for new indie developers over the past few weeks, there’s been one developer working on a particular title in particular that I’d had my eye on for quite some time. Ampersat, developed by Gaterooze Ink operating from Australia, is a rogue-lite bullet hell RPG, whereby players must guide an anthropomorphic ampersat across a wide array from different environments, along the way solving various puzzles and contending with hordes of enemies in order to progress. The RPG element exists in the ability to upgrade the player’s stats for things such as attack, defense, and critical hit rates to make the player character stronger over time. The game was heavily inspired by the likes of old-school Legend of Zelda and arcade classics such as Smash TV.

Wanting to find out even more about this game, I contacted the lead developer, known across the indie community as The Pale Gibbon, and asked him a series of questions relating to the game and what players can expect to see upon the release past the initial Steam demo. Here’s what The Pale Gibbon of Gaterooze Ink. had to say about Ampersat:

 

Where exactly did the idea to use an ampersat as the game’s main character come from?

I was a huge fan of the original Rogue games – Nethack, Moria, TOME, and especially Angband – which all used an ampersat for your hero (out of necessity in those days). The original spark of an idea for Ampersat was combining ASCII characters for your avatar and enemies with colorful pixelesque environments in “proper” 3D top-down. I thought the mix would be interesting, and it turned out exactly how I imagined so I’m extremely pleased with that.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Incredibly fun! I’m lucky enough to be able to develop full-time, so every day (and I mean EVERY day, for 12-16 hours) I just sat down and worked through the massive list of things in the dev plan. Broke it into workable chunks so that every day I achieved something, then overnight I “dream coded” so that I could hit the ground running the next morning with a bunch of code already written in my head. I have to say, nearly all of the actual development was an absolute joy, I loved creating something every day.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

It’s done! Well, barring anything else coming out of the console QA (like the gamepad UI handling improvements from the first round) – and there is always the temptation to keep tweaking the balance, like armor stats or perk attributes. The idea was to have the Steam and console releases be in the same week or so if possible, so Steam has been pushed back a bit to accommodate. The demo on Steam now is essentially the final game but with only 2 (of 50) levels accessible, and the village Well (procedurally generated levels) can’t be unlocked.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I wanted to make every element from scratch – coding, art, music, etc, and I have to say coding was by far the most enjoyable aspect. It combines my “past life” of long-form writing (in the sense of macrostructure and micro succinctness, though coding is far more creative than it seems) with a love of problem solving and puzzles. I found it very addictive!

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

It’s all the little things that add up. It’s great when you want to make over 200 unique items but for each one you need to make a 3D model, pixel art, descriptions, animations, sound effects, particle effects, etc, so the effort just multiplies and can become overwhelming if you don’t compartmentalize.

The UI was also very troublesome as I didn’t architect it properly from the start, didn’t consider gamepad control fully, didn’t include hooks for localization, didn’t leave enough space for languages that use more words, didn’t accommodate different language fonts, etc, etc. I really should have just scrapped it and started again at some point! It worked out in the end, but it was really much harder than it would have been if I’d done it right from the start.

The most challenging aspect of the project, though, is everything that comes after development. Ugh. Marketing and PR – no thanks. My wife (partner in Gaterooze, Ink) had been handling that, but we were very happy to sign with a publisher ( @GrabTheGames ) to take over!

 

How well has the game been received so far?

The response has been fantastic so far for such a niche title. Aside from the amazing playtesters we’ve had a bunch of early players who have really “gotten” the game. It’s unabashedly old-school and you start off with weak-ass weapons so it can be disconcerting at first, but people can really get sucked into it – a couple has even played for around 40 hours to find everything in the game (though a normal playthrough would be 6-12 hours depending on skill).

I think the other challenge for people coming new to the game is that it’s marketed as appealing to fans of Roguelites, but it isn’t actually a Roguelite. The main 50 levels are all handcrafted/designed, with only The Well being procedural, and it’s not about multiple “runs”, it’s a single quest that you gradually make your way through, building up your character – though you can approach areas in any order and after death, start from any place you’d been before. Once you have that realization, everything “clicks”.

I’ve also been really pleased with tons of positive comments on the art style, appreciating that blend of ASCII and a more defined world. Oh, and similar comments for the Commodore 64 SID chip sound effects mixed with the more real-world music in parts – I wanted to use that same ethos from the graphics in the sonics and I think that worked too.

 

What had been your prior developmental experiences before founding Gaterooze, Ink?

Before starting development on Ampersat, I’d never actually done any development at all. So I took some crash courses in C# coding in Unity and learned the rest (voxel models, pixel art, music production, etc) along the way.

Prior to that, we had made design documentation for a studio physically-released Xbox 360/PC game, and I’d “managed” some amazing AAA developers on a large, multi-year project so we were at least familiar with the concepts. That helped, as did being a hardcore gamer since the Atari 2600.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

On Steam, Ampersat has PC, Linux, and Mac versions, and GrabTheGames is porting it to Switch, Playstation, and Xbox platforms. I saw it running on the Switch handheld the other day – what a thrill!

 

Has the idea been considered to use other textual characters as a recurring theme in other games you develop in the future?

There’s a sequel in mind for Ampersat that will definitely use ASCII enemies again, though with another new custom font that will change things up again with some new themes.

 

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

I’m glad to say the end result has matched the original design documentation very closely! The only element that was scrapped entirely was random weather in the village – with the top-down view it just didn’t work well and had no actual impact anyway.

I think the main plan that had to be reworked was the music. I was far too ambitious there for someone who’d never played an instrument or written/studied any music before. My original plan was for a completely different musical track for every single level (yeah, 50) but it was just taking so long it wasn’t feasible. So instead, on top of the intro/epilogue/main menu and such, I focused on a handful of main tunes (village, dungeon, tower, boss) and then switched up the instrumentation to suit the different regions. So the “fire dungeon” uses the same underlying tune as the “ice dungeon”, but instead of icy pianos, bells, violins, and spooky synths, it has a growling organ, power chord guitars, and sharp horns.

That approach worked surprisingly well and the resulting tunes sound quite different. I also realized the actual level music should be more background/atmospheric anyway, so it all suits.

 

What do you feel would be next for Gaterooze, Ink following Ampersat’s release?

I mentioned the sequel earlier, but we also have other games planned, all with a retro/old school bent but in different genres. Got to keep things interesting! While Ampersat is the first game we’ve done, Gaterooze has been our (my wife and me) creative partnership for twenty years with projects in various mediums as well as lots of contract work for third parties. We’re able to focus on our own stuff now though, for example aside from Ampersat we recently released a great photography zine (https://bit.ly/3jkn9LY). Some future games may actually be combined with books, graphic novels, etc to compliment them!

 

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

Honestly, that doesn’t sound appealing at all. We wouldn’t want to deal with restrictions, external pressure, etc. Life’s too short. Sure, in my fantasies I’d love to work with Elder Scrolls or Zelda, but I know the reality would not match the fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, if I was young and starting a career I would be honored to get a job at Bethesda or Nintendo, but we’re very happy having the freedom to do whatever the heck we feel like now 🙂

 

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

Jump in and get cracking! Seriously, just start fiddling around, experimenting, and learning everything you can. There’s nothing holding you back – start with something like Unity or Godot, some free tutorials, and just have fun. Find what you enjoy and what to focus on.

Probably the biggest advice, though, is if you’re taking the indie route make sure you’re doing it out of passion, not as a way to make money. Because on average you will make less than flipping burgers, possibly a lot less. Long-term sustainability is hard and rarer than you think, and financially life-changing hits are far rarer. But if you are developing out of the pure love of it, nothing else matters.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

www.gaterooze.com, however, the best place is probably on Twitter: @gaterooze

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks for the support, it’s really appreciated! Ampersat is the game I always wanted to play – the action of Gauntlet and Smash TV (in the Tower levels) with RPG depth and real progression – so we’d love to make like-minded people aware that it’s (soon to be) out there.

 

I’d like to thank Gaterooze and The Pale Gibbon for taking the time out to talk more about this game and to wish the team the best of luck with it upon release. Ampersat is one of the most wonderfully outlandish titles I’ve seen for some time, and from what I’ve seen of gameplay, it holds a lot of promise in my opinion. If anyone is interested, you can play the demo on Steam via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1356040/Ampersat/

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed this article because I particularly enjoyed putting it together.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Resident Evil 2 (PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast & GameCube)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director(s) – Hideki Kamiya

Producer(s) – Shinji Mikami

PEGI – 18

Released in 1998 has generated more revenue than most Hollywood movies at the time, Resident Evil 2 is a continuation of the story of the original with new characters, new setting, and new dangers to overcome besides the zombies littering the mansion on the borders of Raccoon City. For various different reasons, I found the second game, whilst suffering from a few of the same problems as the first, to be a decisive improvement on its predecessor in a number of respects. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The most notable improvement of which, in my opinion, is in terms of its visual quality, with the player no longer being confined to a single mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City, but rather in the heart of Raccoon City itself. Locations range from the ruins of Raccoon City streets to the Raccoon Police Department to research facilities and it was a welcome change of scenery at the time that made the franchise a lot more diverse. The quality of the zombie sprites was also a lot more varied than in the original game with different outfits for zombies, zombie policemen, and even female zombies too. There were visible improvements in both the technical and conceptual aspects of the game, which were pleasant to see. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

In terms of gameplay, it plays out pretty much like an extension to the first game with a couple of added mechanics thrown in for good measure. Like in the first game, there are two scenarios to play through with two different characters, so it almost felt like two different games at the time, especially as it came on two discs.  It also presents more of a challenge in the respect that it has new kinds of puzzles and new enemies to fight that require different strategies to take down, as well as a greater number of boss fights, which would later become a staple of the series. 

 

Controls – 7/10

The game’s control scheme, as such, is also the same as it was in the first game, and therefore, it suffers from very much the same issues as it did in the first game, with movement feeling very stiff and clunky, seemingly needlessly when compared to other games on the system. There had been some minor adjustments made, but enough for the game to deviate away further enough from the problems that came with the first game. The whole formula would go on to be improved with games like Onimusha, but overall, it didn’t make the game unplayable. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last the same amount of time as the first game; 15 hours give or take. That’s to play through both scenarios on both discs. There are a few more side quests in comparison to the original game, but overall, it lasts as long as Resident Evil. As a fan of the Onimusha series, I can’t help but think what the game would’ve been like if Capcom had implemented the same kind of ideas they with Onimusha 2 in comparison with the original Onimusha; how even more varied gameplay would’ve been and what different kinds of events could have been made to happen as a result. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story takes place around 2 months after the events of the original Resident Evil. It follows the journeys of Leon Kennedy, a STARS officer on his day with the department, and Claire Redfield, the brother of the previous games’ main protagonist Chris Redfield, whom she has come to Raccoon City to try and track down. The two soon become embroiled in a zombie outbreak across Raccoon City and they set out on a journey to discover the source of the outbreak. The quality of the story is much better than in the original game, with a better script and even better voice acting to a certain extent. It still comes across as somewhat corny and cliche at times, but it was certainly an improvement on the quality of writing that the first game had to offer. I’ve yet to come across many bigger memes in gaming than the whole Jill Sandwich thing; thankfully there’s nothing quite as laughable in this game as that. 

 

Originality – 7/10

A common problem I encounter with survival horror sequels is that when the same threat is included as in the original game, it seems far less scary when the player knows what they’re up against. But in Resident Evil 2, there is a new threat added to keep things diverse, which has become another staple within the series. The second game introduces players to the Lickers and other eldritch abominations that spawn from the new G-virus that acts as the main threat of the game, which at the time did relatively well to keep things fresh in comparison to the first game. The zombies didn’t seem as scary anymore, even at the time, but encountering a Licker for the first time most definitely instilled fear in me back in the day. 

 

Happii

Overall, Resident Evil 2 made some very definitive improvements over the original game in almost every respect. I recommend it far more than I do than the first game as even taking the recent remaster into account, the original experience still holds up to this day. 

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Wandersong (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Greg Lobanov

Publisher(s) – Humble Bundle

PEGI – 7

Released in 2019 to an overwhelmingly positive reaction from gamers and critics alike, Wanderson is a 2D platformer centering around music; puzzles are solved with music, new areas are uncovered with music, and abilities within the game are taken advantage of through music. Developed by Greg Lobanov with the music and sound put together by Em Halberstadt and Gordon McGladdery, it’s one of those games that is a true labor of love and is evident within every aspect of it. I interviewed Greg Lobanov sometime before the initial Kickstarter program was successfully funded:

https://scousegamer88.com/2016/07/09/qa-with-greg-lobanov/

And I’m glad I did; looking back, I’m thrilled that this game has since garnished the critical and commercial acclaim that I felt it deserved before release, and the game did not disappoint by any means. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

Firstly, the conceptual design of the game is nothing short of beautiful. Each area is vibrantly colorful and a pleasure to beyond, be that whether the game takes the player into dark caves, skyward temples, and peaceful towns. Each area has a different main color palette, similar to the original Yoshi’s Island, and works flawlessly to distinguish each area as the player visits them. Influence from several cultures and periods in human history is also evident in the architecture of the game, such as Indian culture and even modern-day culture, and overall simply adds to its visual diversity. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

As I alluded to, the gameplay involves the player taking control of a young bard and must progress through the game by singing. Singing is at the core of the gameplay; the player sings to move platforms for jumping across, to manipulate wind traps to move ahead, to advance the story, and to solve puzzles among many other things. It’s definitely one of the most interesting and innovative platformers to have been developed in recent times, and to me, even outstripping many other indie titles in terms of gameplay, including Journey and Flower. There’s much more to play for in this game than in many indie titles to have been developed throughout the eighth generation; players will not be disappointed going into it. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme has been handled as well as any other platformer; in that respect, there are no negative issues to be addressed. I’m actually quite impressed with just how singing and dancing are incorporated into the game’s control scheme very effectively to allow for a lot of things the player must do in order to progress through each area of the game. There have been indie games released, such as The Swapper and Contrast, that have had innovative gameplay mechanics but have arguably not been used to their full potential to provide as great an experience as what could have been; but Wandersong delivers on that spectacularly. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

What the game also delivers in a big way, compared to many other indie games, is lifespan. Taking around 12 hours to complete fully, it’s definitely one of the longest linear 2D side scrollers I’ve played in a long time. Side scrollers that long don’t normally get released unless it’s by a mainstream development company. It could be argued that it was to be expected given the somewhat lengthy development cycle this game had, but it still excels compared to many other indie games that have taken just as long to develop, if not longer.

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story follows the young bard, named by the player in-game, who embarks on an adventure to learn what is known as the Earthsong, which according to prophecy, is the only way to prevent the upcoming end of the world. Along the way, the players will meet a massive cast of characters, each with their own stories and situations to be resolved, which all add so much depth to the story. A lot of the different situations in this world can be seen as very true to life and it does incredibly well to connect with gamers. This game actually has a better story than a lot of other indie games that focus on story sacrificing gameplay in the process. With Wandersong, there is a clear equilibrium between the two. 

 

Originality – 10/10

Simply put, there is no other game like Wandersong. I’ve never played a game whereby music and singing are so integral to how the player must progress through it, and enjoyed it as much as this. Games like Parappa the Rapper and Guitar Hero are obviously titles that make use of music within the gameplay, but Wandersong does even better to integrate it into gameplay, making for, as far as I’m concerned, better titles than the two formers. Platformers have been coming and going since the 80s, but never handled in the way as what it is in this game. 

In summation, Wandersong is an excellent game from start to finish. Any platforming fan needs to give this game a try; it’s innovative, enjoyable to play, beautiful to behold with a wonderful soundtrack to listen to along the way, and again, I’m happy for Greg Lobanov and the team to have gotten the recognition they deserved for it.

 

Happii

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Spyro 2 Header

Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Insomniac Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Artist – Charles Zembillas

Producer(s) – Grady Hunt

PEGI – 7

 

Developed as the sequel to the immensely successful Spyro The Dragon, Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer, or Ripto’s Rage as it was known across the pond, was like its predecessor, released to universal acclaim by critics and gamer alike selling over 200,000 copies in the UK alone at the time. To me, though I have since re-assessed my opinion of which game is the best in the original Spyro trilogy, Spyro 2 remains a decisive improvement over the first game for many reasons, and still remains a classic of the original PlayStation. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

In terms of the technical side of the graphics, there hadn’t been a great deal of improvement made over the first; the textures and sprite for Spyro remain pretty much the same. However, in terms of the conceptual design, there were massive improvements made. The game is set in a number of diverse different areas governed by different species across each of the hub worlds. It also breaks away from the first game in the respect that it’s no longer confined to the medieval fantasy setting, but there is also scenery reminiscent of science fiction, the Scottish highlands, and Polynesian culture. 

 

Gameplay – 9.5/10

The most notable improvement between the first and second games, however, is undoubtedly in the gameplay. Boasting more side quests and more to explore across each level throughout, gave the game a lot more of a sense of purpose and enjoyment. Though there may be fewer bosses than in the previous game, the challenge that comes with them, especially the second boss Gulp, had been improved considerably. The game also introduces us to Moneybags; a rich devious bear who Spyro must pay at certain points to progress through levels, giving the idea of collecting treasure that much more meaning. The concept also leads to a very satisfying outcome at the end of the game. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is identical to that of the first game, playing out like the type of hones 3D platformer the likes of Croc, Tomb Raider, and Blasto should’ve been made to play out like. The one massive improvement the developers made to the controls, however, was the ability to hover during a flight in order to gain a touch more momentum at the end of a glide to reach far away ledges. It’s similar to how Insomniac games would add the sideways jump mechanics to the Ratchet & Clank; it’s a simple mechanic that provides a significant improvement over the previous game.

 

Lifespan – 8/10

The average time it takes to beat the game 100% is 8 hours, which was higher than the average back when the 3D platformer genre was still in its relative infancy. It lasts there around the same amount of time as the first game, something which would eventually be improved slightly with the third game, but overall, it provides a satisfyingly long gaming experience. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

In the sequel, Spyro, looking to go on holiday to Dragon Shores, is instead transported to the world of Avalar by three of its inhabitants; The professor, a fawn named Elora, and a cheetah named Hunter. They brought him into Avalar to fight Ripto; an evil tyrant who has invaded Avalar and brought evil and destruction throughout the land. Spyro resolves to defeat Ripto and bring peace back to Avalar. With more characters involved this time around, it definitely adds more to the story in terms of depth, but Spyro was also given a lot more of an impulsive attitude as well, which helped to add to the humor and make him more of a likable hero; especially when he shows his compassionate side to characters like Elora. Of course, Moneybags also adds to the story in multiple ways as well; mostly for the better. 

 

Originality – 8/10

The most original element of this game is its diversity in scenery design; it’s the aspect that truly helped to break the mold early on and give the world of Spyro The Dragon a lot more depth than what was established in the first game. Even more so than the gameplay improvement because again, more or less the same gameplay principles apply as what they did in the original Spyro; travel and collect items to advance the game. Although gameplay elements would be expanded on even further with the third game, the diversity in level design would remain intact in Spyro 3, but the second is where that would stem from. 

 

Happii

Overall, Spyro 2, whilst not my favorite of the original trilogy, is still every bit as fun to play today as it was to play back in 1999. It provides one of the most memorable gameplay experiences of the fifth generation, and I’m personally happy that it got the remaster it deserved because it needed to be brought to a more modern audience. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Zero Uno Games

In my search for more promising games seeking crowdfunding, I came across an upcoming title that caught my eye as an avid Brutal Legend Fan; Metal Tales: Overkill. Developed by indie outfit from Span, Zero Uno Games, Metal Tales: Overkill is a top-down action-adventure rogue-lite heavy on combat and heavy on metal. Players customize weapons by finding new guitar parts and modifying them to take advantage of new abilities and increased attack power, giving the game a plethora of variety. The game boasts 4 playable characters, 6 stages, 8 boss fights, local multiplayer, and a soundtrack consisting of various international heavy metal bands. Eager to find out more, I contacted Zero Uno Games and arrnaged a Q&A with co-founder Juan Cañete for more information on this exhilarating-looking new title. Here’s what Juan and the game’s puiblisher had to say about Metal Tales: Overkill:

What were the influences behind your game?

Brutal Legend, Binding of Isaac & Furi.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It took over 15 months to have the game finished, and it’s taking like 6 months to do the ports, so it’s been complicated.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We need to finish the ports to consoles, but the game is already done and working.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Being able to have real bands music and doing a rogue-lite game.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The music part has been quite challenging, but it was worth it.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Publisher: We think it has had a good reception. It got financed on Kickstarter in only 8 hours… and we are now on Indiegogo. We have to work hard to let the world know we are here.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, PS4 & Switch.

 

Which heavy metal band’s songs have been included in the soundtrack?

Publisher: We have talked with Eclipse Records to add some interesting songs. Here’s a poster with the bands:

 

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

Yeah! a lot, starting with some bosses (we had designed a boss compounded by Twins) and some items. At the start, there was a more Guitar Hero-like approach to boss fights but it did fall through quickly.

 

As one heavy metal fan to a group of others, what are the team’s favorite metal bands and how did their music help to shape the game specifically?

Basically, in the team we had a metalhead which was the designer, He is more into death metal: Carcass, Entombed, Wormed, Avulsed. The lead programmer was more into power and progressive metal and also we had some people with other influences outside the metal world.

 

How have the company’s prior developing experiences helped to shape Metal Tales: Overkill?

We started with mobile games, and then we jumped into Metal Tales. Our prior experiences helped up working together as a team.

 

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

We’d love to make a game for the band Ghost.

  

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

Play games and make games. Participate in gamejams to improve gameplay concepts and to challenge yourself trying to finish them.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

Zero Uno Games’ social media and Web Page, also on Kickstarter and Indiegogo:

Zero Uno Home Page

Kickstarter

IndieGoGo

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks for the interview!

Massive thank you to Juan and Zero Uno Games for taking the time out to talk to me about this awesome-looking game. Personally, I’ve been waiting for a long time to play a new game inspired by Brutal Legend, as it one of my favourite games, as well as my favourite Tim Schafer title overall. Metal Tales Overkill looks to have taken the overall feel of Brutal Legend to bring gamers an entirely new gaming experience, and I can’t wait to get stuck into this game.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Scouse Gamer 88 Onimusha Header

Onimusha: Warlords (PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director(s) – Jun Takeuchi

Producer(s) – Keiji Inafune

PEGI – 16

 

Released in 2001 and going on to become the first PlayStation 2 game to reach sales of over one million units, Onimusha provided a very different take on game design with the Resident Evil engine. Set in the Sengoku period in 15th century Japan, the story involves a samurai named Samanosuke Akechi and his resolve to save his cousin princess Yuki from a demon invasion of the Inabayama castle. It’s highly regarded as one of the best titles on the PlayStation 2 to date by most critics and to me, although I think the best of the Onimusha series would be yet to come, it still remains a classic to me.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set in a fictional take on the 15th century Japanese Sengoku period, which was something pretty unusual compared to what kind of settings Capcom was used to perpetuating in titles like Resident Evil, Street Fighter, or Mega Man. However, it works brilliantly, along with the conceptual designs of the various different demons the player will encounter along the way. It did a particularly good job showcasing what the PlayStation 2 was capable of doing early on in its shelf life, but more importantly than that, because the vast majority of the scenery is composed of detailed still imagery, it does even better to hold up even after 20 years. 

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The game is a hack and slash adventure with the player alternating between two characters; Samanosuke and his kunoichi companion Kaede. Samanosuke’s sequences provide the vast majority of the gameplay as well as the entertainment since there are far more abilities to take advantage of in order to subdue enemies in an increasing variety of ways as the game progresses. They are also upgradable giving the player that more incentive to play through to the end. Onimusha is also heavy on puzzle-solving to access new areas and find new items; the puzzle-solving element is handled in an almost identical manner to that of Resident Evil in fact and requires players to think on their toes at times. With Kaede, there is an additional weapon to find giving her marginally greater attack power, but Kaede’s sequences are few and far between and it’s easy to understand why. 

 

Controls – 9/10

Prior to playing Onimusha, I had had issues playing the Resident Evil games because of the somewhat clunky movement controls, but in Onimusha, it’s much less of a problem; somehow because the game seems much more fast-paced at 60 frames per second. Ever since the developers introduced the strafing ability and the facility to quickly turn 180 degrees, it sorted prior issues out massively. Apart from this, however, there are no issues with the control scheme of this game. Combat is as fluent as possible, allowing players to be as proficient as possible without having to worry about any silly mistakes on the part of the developers. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

The main gripe I had with this game, as well as everybody else who reviewed it at the time of its release was the lifespan. Clocking in at around 10 hours, most critics, including myself, felt as if it didn’t last anywhere near as long as it should have done, especially given the direction in which gaming was going at that time, and the standards that had been set during the previous generation. Thankfully, later installments of the series would go on to rectify this problem, but it is most definitely a problem where the first game in the series was concerned. 

 

Storyline – 9/10

Set in the fictional take on the Sengoku period, it all begins when princess Yuki of the Saito clan is captured by demons. Samanosuke Akechi and Kaede arrive too late to save her initially and Samanosuke is subsequently subdued by a demon far more powerful than himself, who then stows away with Yuki. Samanosuke is then endowed with a gauntlet that has the power to absorb the demon’s souls, thus being able to destroy them permanently. With this newfound power, Samanosuke vows to destroy the demons and save Princess Yuki. Since Capcom started implementing full voice acting in their games, the dialogue has ranged from mixed to laughable at times; musically with the whole Jill sandwich thing in Resident Evil. But in Onimusha, there are some examples of mixed voice acting again, overall, the dialogue implemented is a decisive improvement on most of anything they had come up with at that point. The concept of the story was also particularly well thought out, as outside the Dynasty Warriors and Tenchu series, there weren’t a lot of games themed around the Feudal era of Japan, or like in Onimusha, just after which. 

 

Originality – 9.5/10

It was interesting at the time when the game was released to see exactly what Capcom could do differently with the whole Resident Evil formula. In my opinion, the Onimusha series is far superior to the Resident Evil series, since there are more fun and enjoyment to be had in terms of gameplay, and the Resident Evil series has come with a lot of unnecessary complications throughout, such as the lack of movement during the shooting in Resident Evil 5 and the lackluster voice acting in the first 3 games. But the original Onimusha took the overall gameplay formula to new heights and it made for something that hadn’t been seen in gaming beforehand; it’s a shame to think that the Onimusha series faded into obscurity as it did since it makes me think about where the series could’ve possibly gone or worked on further. 

 

Happii

Overall, Onimusha: Warlords remains a PlayStation 2 classic to this day in my opinion. It has intense combat, a great story, and though the second game would go on to blow the first out of the water, this definitely was not a bad starting point. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)