Released in 2018 following a lengthy development cycle, and with much hype surrounding it at the time, Below is a roguelike action-adventure game with a top-down perspective set in a mysterious world with hidden secrets. When I first saw trailers for this game, I was quite excited about it myself; for first impressions, it looked like one of those games that players could sink their teeth in for hours on end. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find out just how minimalistic this game really is; in many respects.
Graphics – 8/10
The one aspect in which Below doesn’t seem minimalistic, however, is the graphics. Though relatively simplistic on the technical level, especially for an eighth-generation game, it more than makes up for this in its conceptual design, soundtrack, and overall atmosphere. The build-ups of tension throughout each area in anticipation of enemies attacking and uncovering traps that cause instant death (or failure to do so) are very well executed. The game can go from weirdly serene to incredibly tense very regularly throughout, and it can put players on edge and keep them on their toes in that respect.
Gameplay – 5/10
The game involves combat, exploration, and crafting to survive. There is a survival mode for the more avant-garde player, and an exploration mode for those not looking for the same level of challenge. But either which mode I played, I found the gameplay to be one of the minimalistic elements to it. Combat is intermittent, regardless of the fact that each room is randomly generated, and in my opinion, there isn’t enough incentive to explore as much of the world as possible like there is in a lot of open-world, or even semi-open world, adventure games. More definitely could’ve been added to this game.
Controls – 10/10
The control scheme presents no problems, however. The combat system is easy to get to grips with, and basic things like movement and camera angles also pose no unnecessary complications either. It reminded me a lot of Titan Souls in its basic layout, but it has that little bit more functionality. It’s just a shame the full potential of such functionality wasn’t used with how little there is in the way of gameplay.
Lifespan – 2/10
The lifespan of the game also disappointed me greatly. The game can last an average of around 4 hours, which for a game that supposedly encourages exploration, is nothing. It’s most definitely a far shorter game than what I was led to believe it would be after having seen the first trailers and experiencing all the hype surrounding it.
Storyline – 4/10
The story of Below is even more minimalistic than the gameplay. It follows a warrior of unknown origins having landed via ship on a mysterious island, and is left to explore. That’s it. Something abstract happens in the end, but it’s one of those story endings that is supposedly open to interpretation, but because everything is left to the imagination, there’s no real basis on how to interpret it. Some may say that this, in and of itself is what may make it a good story, but offering no means of emotional investment of any kind was not the way to go about it; and that’s the case here.
Originality – 6/10
I have to give praise where it’s due, however. The game’s overall atmosphere and conceptual design do make it stand out to a certain extent. There is indeed an element of players wondering exactly what the purpose of the setting was, what it was before the player character arrived, and the backstory behind it all, a lot like Shadow of the Colossus in that respect. But by comparison, Shadow of the Colossus did offer a lot of things for the player to become emotionally invested in; much more so than in this game.
Overall, Below was a bitterly disappointing experience, and the ending definitely left me thinking not to ever pick this game up again. Producer Nathan Vella described it as a “super video game-y video game.” In all honestly, when even the developers are struggling to give it even a semi-cohesive description, it should be taken as a red flag.
Publisher(s) – Sony Interactive Entertainment, Infinite State Games & Digerati
Designer(s) – Charlie Scott-Skinner & Barry Island
PEGI – 3
Developed by small indie outfit Infinite State Games based in Bristol back in 2014, Dont Die Mr Robot is an arcade game similar to the classic titles of the late 70s and most of the 80s, which is straightforward to learn, but exceedingly difficult to master. I’ve sunk a ridiculous amount of hours in this game, and for good reason; it’s just as addicting and as fun to play like the arcade games of old that it was inspired by.
Graphics – 7/10
The game takes place in a world known as the electro-abyss, where flashing lights and darkness go hand-in-hand with one another. The settings are most reminiscent of Pac-Man complete with fruit and a yellow-colored main character. Where this game stands out, however, is in its surprisingly diverse variety of enemy designs. The variety gets a lot more apparent the more the player progresses as well, with different types of robots with different kinds of attack patterns designed to throw the player at every turn.
Gameplay – 9/10
The concept of Dont Die Mr Robot is simple, as is what is outlined at the beginning of every game by the announcer; get the fruit, avoid the enemies. Fruit blows up when collected, killing almost any type of enemy within the blast radius. Bonus points can be attained by collecting the coins that enemies drop when killed, or by merely brushing up lightly against enemies. There are several different game modes to perpetuate even more variety, including a time trial and even a mission mode. What a lot of indie developers have done whilst having made games of the same ilk as the classic arcade titles of old is to add more than what can be expected in order to keep things fresh and give players more to play for past the satisfaction of exceeding a high score, and Don’t Die, Mr. Robot is no different; that’s part of why I like this game so much.
Controls – 10/10
The control scheme is perfect, presenting no problems to players with its simplicity in basic design. But at the same time, it also leaves a great deal of scope for players to hone their abilities and become as proficient at the game as possible, as more time will be spent trying to master the game as opposed to learning how it’s played. The learning curve involves finding out how to approach each game type and trying to develop specific strategies in order to take each stage as it comes; it’s especially hard, as in arcade mode, everything is procedurally generated and each playthrough presents a new challenge each time.
Originality – 7/10
An arcade game with as much variety in gameplay as Dont Die Mr Robot cannot be overlooked in terms of originality. It does indeed have its influences where its basic premise is concerned, but it’s just as wonderfully varied as most of every other modern arcade game I’ve played over the last few years, including Titan Attacks, Ultratron, Curses N’ Chaos, Pix the Cat, and Resogun. It’s always refreshing to see developers keep the classic way of playing video games alive, whilst at the same time, giving old and new players a new challenge.
Overall, Dont Die Mr Robot is an innovative, addicting and exceedingly tense, and fun game to play. I highly recommend it to either old-school gamers looking for a new challenge, or to newer-generation players looking to get a glimpse into how we used to play games back in the day.
Today brings a developer interview that has been a long time in the making, and one that I’m thrilled to be bringing to you guys. One of the bigger success stories in the circle of independent video games development throughout the eighth generation was the studio Terrible Posture Games. The company was founded in Boston Massachusetts by industry veteran Joe Mirabello, who previous to this had worked with 38 Studios, working on titles such as Titan Quest and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. After 38 Studios went bankrupt in 2012 following the release of Kingdoms of Amalur, despite the game’s overwhelming critical success, Joe and a number of programmers formed Terrible Posture, and together developed the breakout indie hit, Tower of Guns in 2014, which garnished positive reviews from critics and wowed gamers with its variety in combat, catchy soundtrack and quirky sense of humor.
The ideas perpetuated in Tower of Guns would then later be built upon massively with their subsequent release, 2018’s Mothergunship, which built on the basic premise of Tower of Guns but also introduced a number of new mechanics, such as gun building and a more cohesive story mode. Most recently, Terrible Posture has been developing an episodic gamed named 3 out of 10, described by terrible posture as a playable sitcom and centering around the ill-fated game studio Shovelworks, with the game being much heavier on story than the two former titles, but at the time still perpetuating the same level of humor that Terrible Posture has come to be known for.
With myself having been curious to learn more about Terrible Posture for quite some time, I reached out to the company’s founder Joe Mirabello and requested an interview with him, and he agreed, much to my excitement. So this is what Joe Mirabello had to say about Terrible Posture Games:
Where did your passion for video games originate from?
From playing games, of course! And from reading comics and watching movies. As a kid growing up, games and books and movies all kind of blended together into a creative mush; I had limited amounts of time I was allowed to stare at a screen, and so I filled up the gaps with drawing, writing, and creating my OWN games and movies… just on paper.
I can’t quite say when, but sometime between the ages of 7 and 10 I switched from enjoying experiencing stories/games to wanting to MAKE stories and gameplay for others to enjoy; whether that was writing my own Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, making levels in Hyper Lode Runner, or trying to teach myself QBASIC; I found the very act of creation itself to be addicting. Even today, when I get caught up in making something it feels less like work and more like play.
Did you have aspirations to develop art for video games from an early age, or was there anything else you wanted to design art for before you decided to go down that route?
Oh, I want to make everything. The lines between art and story and even code are very blurry to me since they all scratch that creative itch… and I feel like you could have flipped a coin and I just as easily could have ended up making comics or films instead of games.
That said, while I did love art from a young age and wanted to work as an artist in some trade, this was in the 90s and you have to understand that no one knew you COULD even be an artist for games back then. The idea that the games were made by people with jobs? Wild! Games were magic, made by magicians only. As I grew up I started modding PC games a little and gradually that route kind of began to reveal itself but it wasn’t until college that it really dawned on me that game art specifically was a valid career path. At that point, I was already studying art and had become quite proficient in working with computers… so it was a natural transition to start messing with game art pipelines.
Among the first of your works was designing the art for the Titan Quest games for Iron Lore Studios. What game in the series was your favorite to have designed for?
There was only one game in the TQ series, and then an expansion pack. While I worked on a lot of the art for both titles, the first one was my entry into the industry and it wasn’t until the expansion pack that I was trusted with more ambitious assets like characters, monsters, and some set pieces. I loved making monsters specifically.
Were there any elements of the Titan Quest series that influenced your later work?
Honestly, the biggest lesson from Titan Quest for me was that sometimes there is extreme value in quantity. I was tasked with building hundreds of weapons on the game. To hit my deadline I would have to make them fast. Really fast. Sometimes eight or ten of them a day. And the thing is; I wanted to spend days on each one, and could have…. I could have made those weapons look amazing… and the game would have been worse for it.
The leads knew that the game’s success relied on a large number of unique special items; not just a handful, but tons. “Quality not Quantity” is a nice and easy motto to remember.. but can be the death sentence for making an actually good game. The flip side of that phrase is recognizing precisely when “Quantity is itself a Quality” of importance. It’s not every game, but with a game like Titan Quest, that mindset was crucial. While I can work with either mindset, the mark of my progress as a developer has been learning when I need to be deploying one strategy over the other.
One of the biggest projects you’ve worked on to date was of course Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. What was it like to work on that game, and what approach did you take to designing what art you did?
I actually didn’t work on Reckoning! I mean, I guess I helped concept out the base world, and some zone concepts were shared between the two games technically but I can’t claim any credit for anything in the game. While the Reckoning team was working away on a single-player game, I was on the MMO team at 38 Studios.
What was it like to work with Todd McFarlane?
Todd was hilarious. All of us, including himself, would poke fun of him for wanting to put chains and skulls on everything. I didn’t get to know him too well; as he would only check in periodically with each team, but even still I picked up a few interesting art fundamentals from him. Having grown up loving his artwork, it was pretty cool to know he knew my name, even if only for a short while. I doubt he’d remember it now after all these years. 😀
Has Todd reached out to you at any point since the founding of Terrible Posture?
Nope! Every couple of years I get to either see or chat with RA Salvatore though, who was the NYT bestselling writer and third celebrity involved with 38 Studios. He’s very cool and offered some feedback on early builds of Tower of Guns.
How rewarding was it to see Kingdoms of Amalur garnish as much critical acclaim as it did at the time?
I felt really happy for the team down in Baltimore. They were kicking their own butts into high gear in order to get Reckoning out the door and it was a heck of a rough development cycle for them—predating that team’s relationship with 38 Studios actually. They should be proud of all the work they did.
Of course, 38 Studios folded shortly after the release of the game. What was the experience like on the last day in the office?
It was rough for a lot of people. There were people who were heartbroken. There were people who were in incredibly dire situations financially, medically, or emotionally. Curt Schilling, the celebrity that ran the studio, kept leading everyone on like there was going to be some last-minute financial solution to keep us all working, but it never materialized and toward the end, a lot of people felt conflicted and betrayed.
For my part, I felt guilty; like perhaps I hadn’t worked smart or hard enough. I also felt extreme guilt because there was so much stress and hurt amidst my colleagues… and I did not feel the same. I felt guilty because I was already thinking about “going indie” someday… and the whole closure of 38 was literally the kick I needed to start making Tower of Guns.
Were there any further projects planned by 38 Studios following the release of Kingdoms of Amalur, and any information about that which you can share with us?
Well, I was on the MMO project.. that project was the one that started it all, and then Reckoning came along while we kept plodding away on the MMO. There’s some video footage around the web if you look around enough. It was an ambitious project and I spent years working on the technical systems for the environment team, working closely with engineers on terrain, lighting, cinematics, dungeons… it always felt like I was working on something different there and I was quite proud of the visual richness of the world we’d created.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your former colleagues at 38 Studios, or have any of them since gone on to join you at Terrible Posture?
Oh, we keep in touch. When a studio as big as 38 implodes, which does happen from time to time in this industry, the team scatters all at once. In a way, it leads to a network of former coworkers, all looking together, and all sharing the same, well, trauma. I would happily work again with many of these people, and I like to think many would want to work with me again. And, in an instant, we scattered all over the world. This network was crucial to helping a lot of the team find new jobs at other companies, both right after the closure and then later, throughout our careers.
As for me personally, I did end up working with a couple of former 38 Studios folks. Most specifically, Chris Zukowski, Master of all things Tech Art and Beyond. He and I have worked closely for years now as a duo, both on Mothergunship and on 3 out of 10. I’ve also gotten a lot of them to help playtest, occasionally help with a little art or sound, and similar things. I would not be surprised if I work with more of them in the future.
How exhilarated were you to see Kingdoms of Amalur remastered recently for eighth-generation consoles?
I felt amused, actually. Reckoning’s rights were purchased by THQ Nordic, which used to be just “Nordic Games” or something like that… but they seem to be going around buying everything I’ve ever worked on. They bought the rights and remastered Titan Quest as well! And the rights to the THQ name itself, who published Titan Quest! It’s like they are chasing me! If they are true completionists maybe they’ll ask if they can remaster Tower of Guns someday!
Where did the name Terrible Posture come from?
I earned that name through years of hard work not sitting up straight.
The impression I got from playing both Tower of Guns and Mothergunship was that the team had a lot of fun during development putting a lot of humorous and random things into the final game. Is having fun one of the main focuses for you and the team while making a game?
Hah. I’m glad the games have that impression. Not all parts of making a game are fun, but generally speaking, if you’re not enjoying the work then that will be reflected in the final game. Enjoying yourself is crucial to making something that fosters, well, joy.. which is what we wanted from both of those games.
Of course, going from designing games for others to designing games yourself would’ve come with its own series of complications and challenges. But what was the feeling around Terrible Posture when Tower of Guns went on to become as successful as what it did?
Honestly? It’s been such a whirlwind that I haven’t been able to take a step back and take stock of it. I went from being solo and thinking that Tower of Guns was just a sabbatical to suddenly having a second career on my hands. It’s been a fun, wild ride and I have no shortage of other ideas to bring to people in the future, so I sure hope we can continue to do what we do.
I remember Mothergunship being a pretty big deal for an indie game at the time. What was it like seeing that game receive as much critical acclaim as it did; especially when compared to many of the mainstream games you worked on?
It’s interesting that you say that; we were seeing a wave of other excellent titles coming out around then and were intimidated. It was simply a more crowded place to make games than it had been when Tower of Guns was released. That said, I am pleased so many people have enjoyed the game, as it really was a blast to make. I still think future games could even go further though; Tower of Guns and Mothergunship were popular, but I don’t feel like they broke into the mainstream the same way a game with a multi-million dollar marketing budget does. It would be wonderful to work on that sort of game again someday.
What was it like for you and your team to make the transition from developing more traditional games to something a little more akin to a visual novel with 3 Out of 10?
3 out of 10 isn’t really a visual novel as much as a playable sitcom… and it was really a labor of love. We had wanted to work on something more story-based for a while and we had a blast developing a unique pipeline and content creation toolset. In a way, me and Chris Zukowski, saw an opportunity to do interesting things using Unreal 4, storytelling, and fast iteration animation, and when we presented the project to Epic, they saw the vision as well. That aspect of the project; working closely with Epic Games to make something completely different, was the chance of a lifetime.
What’s next for you and Terrible Posture?
We’re always working on interesting things, most of which I can’t talk about just yet, but I can say that we recently partnered with a company named DJ2 to start working on a television adaptation of 3 out of 10. The project is a natural fit for TV and we’re eager to see where that goes, but we also know that the TV industry moves at a much different pace than games… so we’re keeping ourselves plenty busy with other projects as well.
Is there any genre of game that you haven’t yet tried to develop that you might like to at some point?
Well, due to the nature of 3 out of 10 we were able to explore a TON of different genres; puzzle games, rhythm games, Zelda clones, pinball, platformers, car combat… heck, even a physics-based-stealth-quasi-golf-game where you put around a pet crate. That said, I have always wanted to work on a stealth FPS.. so perhaps someday that will be in the cards (although I’m not working on one currently).
If you had the opportunity to work with another developer on any franchise of your choice, which one would it be, and why?
Oh, man. That’s a tough question. Honestly, I consider myself lucky to be working with Zuko, my coworker I mentioned earlier. He and I work very well together and we do pretty awesome stuff. That said, there are other developers I really admire and would love to work with someday. For example, I’d love to work with EdmundM on“The Maxx” game or a horror game with Kenneth Scott. I’d love the chance to make a Tremors game. Or to work on a new Thief game. Or to revive the No One Lives Forever franchise, a criminally forgotten series.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring developers who may be reading this?
Unfortunately, the route I took to get into the industry isn’t the same one most developers take now; back in the early 2000s you simply had to show up and be moderately skilled in a technical discipline (like game art is/was) and the industry would pluck you up.
The show-up-and-be-skilled part is still partly true, but the base skill level is much much higher these days. That said, another tactic I used; teaching myself as much as I could through tutorials, side projects, modding scenes, and online communities has become even more viable than it was 20 years ago. These days, the knowledge of how to make games isn’t nearly as gated and tools like Blender, UE4/5, and similar are ever-more accessible. So, today the trick is not getting discouraged. It takes time to gain skill. It takes work and momentum and motivation to keep going. Find ways to give that motivation and you’ll have half the work done. For example; make a lot of smaller projects so you will finish them. Or, instead, enter game jams, which have a set deadline. Or, instead, join a mod team for some project, where you will have teammates. Or enter an art station contest. Or basically, do whatever it takes to fool your brain into not freaking out about what you don’t know and to just create—that’s the most important thing. Make terrible stuff and then edit your next thing to be a little better than the last. It’s easier said than done, but that tactic is still a valid route to improvement at most trades, game development included.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Sorry, it took me so long to reply to you! Thanks for having me though!
I’d like to take this opportunity to give a massive thank you to Joe and wish him and Terrible Posture Games the best of luck for the future. Joe and Terrible posture have produced some of the most creative and addicting titles of the eighth generation in my opinion, and I can’t wait to see where the company goes next in terms of new ideas and new projects. With the many ideas that Joe has in the pipeline, I believe Terrible Posture has the potential to go even further than what they have already gone in such a short span of time, and It’ll be very interesting to see what they come up with next. If you’re interested, you can follow Terrible Posture by subscribing to their mail list via the link below:
My second of two Q&As today concerns a quirky and diverse fighting game and its crowdfunding campaign. Pocket Bravery, under development at Statera Studios based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a fighting game reminiscent of the classic 90s fighting games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and the works of SNK such as Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. Another example of the ever-growing indie development scene in Brazil, the game’s IndieGoGo portrays a game with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, locations to fight, and single and online multiplayer. With 2 weeks left to go for the campaign, I reached out to the game’s executive producer Jonathan Ferreira to learn more about this game and how they hope to make the game stand out among the many classic fighting games it was inspired by. Here’s what Jonathan Ferreira of Statera Studios had to say about Pocket Bravery:
What were the influences behind your game?
Games that marked the era, classics from the 90s like Street Fighter and The King of Fighters. And about the aesthetic part, it’s a mix from games like Pocket Fighter, KOF from Neo Geo Pocket Color, Scott Pilgrim, and Metal Slug.
What has the developmental process been like?
We’re a team with 6 full-time professionals and some freelancers. For a fighting game, it is a small number since the genre is one of the most difficult to produce.
We have tried to do our best and we believe that we are achieving good results. Everything is going as planned. We will soon focus on making the online mode, which will be via netcode rollback.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
We have 50 – 60% of the game’s basics done, we still have to start making the online. We believe that in 15 or 16 months the game will be ready for launch.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
I believe that is everything, as we are a team in love with the fighting genre, every stage, from the conception until its implementation is exciting. All the ideas come from the people passionate about what they are doing.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Finding a balance between what we want to do and what we should do. As much as we treat the game with all the care and passion, it is also a product that needs to be public attention, and not just another drop in the ocean.
How well has the game been received so far?
Very well! And this has been fantastic for us. We were looking forward to watching people around the world playing Pocket Bravery. People’s reception and feedback were better than we could imagine.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
It’s mentioned on the IndieGoGo page that one of the stretch goals is to introduce a story mode to Pocket Bravery. How would the story mode be structured compared to games like Super Smash Bros Brawl or the 2011 Mortal Kombat revamp?
It will have its own structure adapted to a 2D game. Mortal Kombat 2011 not only innovated but also renewed how offline content in a fighting game can be added. Our idea is to bring that into the 2D style, an experience that catches the player’s attention and makes him want to follow the characters’ story, interacting and evolving with them along the way.
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?
Certainly! This game came from a need to see that what we really want to produce is still a step bigger than our legs. With that in mind came the Pocket Bravery idea, which would be more simplified, bringing only a small fragment of what we want for the future, however, as the game was being produced, the affection grew along with the potential of not just being a simple game with SD aesthetics, getting deeper layers in its gameplay and focus on small details.
What is your opinion on the ever-growing development scene in Brazil with the likes of yourselves, 2ndBoss, and Orube Studios?
There are many talents in Brazil, as an example, many Brazilians work in great gaming companies around the world. That said, I am sure that many good new games will be created around here since the gaming companies in Brazil are getting more professional. We hope to be one of those exponents.
How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?
Although we have a lot of experience with fighting games, receiving feedback from players is always amazing, especially when it comes from pro players, since they have a detailed view of the gameplay that we haven’t yet achieved.
Has the team considered the idea of building a traditional arcade cabinet for Pocket Bravery, or has there already been one created behind the scenes?
Of course, this is something that crosses our minds, but to be honest, it is not in the plans. Would be a step much bigger than our legs could reach.
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
As we said earlier, we are a team passionate about the fighting genre, so what marked us was the 90s. Street Fighter and The King of Fighters were the biggest references quality and innovation, work with any of these games and those two companies would be a dream come true.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Try to specialize in something of your preference and never give up! The difference between those who succeed and those who do not is that they achieved to not give up, even with all adversities. Life is not easy, neither is making successful games.
Where on the Internet can people find you?
People can find us on any social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) by @PocketBravery, or on YouTube as Statera Studio. Will be a huge pleasure if you could follow us. We are always posting news about Pocket Bravery’s development.
I’d also like to thank Jonathan and Statera Studios for taking the time to talk to me about Pocket Bravery and the promise that the final product hold for both newcomers and veterans of the classic fighting genre. There are now less than 2 weeks to go for the IndieGoGo campaign, so if you like the look of the game and want to play it, you can back the game via the link above. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about Pocket Bravery, and are looking forward to playing the final game as much as I am.
Publisher(s) – Number None & Microsoft Game Studios
Director(s) – Jonathan Blow
PEGI – 12
Released back in 2009, Braid was one of the games that truly Kickstarted the influx of independently developed games, which would be seen throughout the eighth generation and beyond, along with the likes of Minecraft, Fez, and Castle Crashers. It was received with universal acclaim upon release proving to be one of the most influential games of the 21st century, with many critics even citing it as one of the very games of all time. Although I found it to be game brimming with artistic merit and certainly having well earned its place within gaming history, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of the best of all time, but nevertheless, there was a lot to be enjoyed with this one
Graphics – 10/10
The first thing to notice and to truly be awe-inspired by is the visuals. Hand-drawn and taking place within environments are equally vibrant and colorful as well as dark and ominous, visually, the game was expertly put together to the extent that it makes players feel that this wasn’t programmed on a computer by a developer, but rather painted onto a blank canvas by a master artist. The game’s soundtrack is also expertly composed by three classically trained musicians, further perpetuating the contrasting feeling of calmness and ambiance with that of danger and dark portent.
Gameplay – 7/10
The game is a 2D side-scroller with puzzle-solving elements to it, similar to a lot of indie experiences to have seemingly been influenced by it, such as Chronology and The Swapper, but also featuring a lot of gameplay elements similar to that of the Super Mario series. The puzzle-solving element is not quite as intricate or subtle as what it is in Jonathan Blow’s future game, The Witness, but nevertheless, players will have to have their thinking caps on in order to progress through this game, as the puzzles can be particularly challenging at times.
Controls – 10/10
Aside from the jumping controls feeling somewhat stiff, the game’s control scheme poses no problems at all. All I would suggest is to get either the console or Steam version, since all these versions offer controller support, unlike the PC version on CD-ROM which forces players to use the keyboard, which is exactly how a game like this should never play out. At least with the Steam version, keyboard mapping becomes available.
Lifespan – 3/10
Braid can only be made to last around 2 hours, which for a game that came out in the middle of the seventh generation, is nothing; especially when since its release, there have been plenty of other games made in the same ilk that have been made to last considerably longer than this. This is the main reason why I’ve not been so hasty as to label it one of the best of all time, since whilst having as much artistic credibility as this game does, it should only be secondary to things like gameplay, and in this day and age, lifespan, and I didn’t find that it was in this case.
Storyline – 7/10
The story of Braid tells of a man named Tim who is searching for his princess that has been taken by an evil monster. Like Super Mario Bros, the game’s story sounds extremely simplistic in scope, and again, for a game that was released when it was, you may think that wouldn’t be enough since games were becoming more geared towards telling stories. But what makes this game hold up in that respect is in the details. Plot threads and backstory are accessible throughout the game, and it gives it more substance than players may think at first glance. There are also a few twists and turns before the end that players will not see coming at all.
Originality – 7/10
Whilst this game was by no means the first game to do the majority of things that it does do, the fact of the matter is that it went on to inspire a new generation of developers to come up with their own ideas and share them with the world, and props need to be given to both Jonathan Blow and the team of developers behind it. This game, along with many other released around at the same time, taught the new generation that they don’t need to be part of the mainstream to realize that they can become successful developers, and that with the know-how and the effort, that a great game can be developed on a budget.
Overall, Braid, whilst I can’t bring myself to consider it one of the best, is certainly one of the most influential, and still quite a lot of fun for the short time it lasts. Jonathan Blow went through an arduous process to bring this game to life, and in the end, he deserved his success.
Designer(s) – Abdel de Oliveira & Fernando Rodrigues
PEGI – 7
Developed as a love letter to a number of NES classics, most notably Castlevania and Contra, Savage Halloween is an 8-BIT side-scrolling shoot ‘em up set in a world based on several tableaus associated with Halloween and boasting a massive amount of variety in gameplay. I’d seen previews of this game prior to playing, and yet, I was still taken aback by just how good it is; it’s definitely one of the standout retroactive indie experiences of 2020.
Graphics – 8/10
Taking place in a world reminiscent of classic works and characters of horror, including Frankenstein and Dracula, there is as much variety in terms of visual design as there is in gameplay. With multiple characters and as well as its horror-styled setting, the game it reminded me of most in its graphical design is actually Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. But at the same time, the game also does well to differentiate itself from the former, as each level perpetuates a different subject of horror, such as circuses complete with clowns and circus monkeys along with a couple of elements that don’t necessarily do that, such as the mini gun-wielding Santa Clauses.
Gameplay – 8/10
Though the game is primarily; a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, there are also a number of gameplay sequences that challenge the player in a number of different ways reminiscent of other classic games, such as Battletoads and Gradius, including on-rail shooting sequences. Like in Contra, there is also a massive amount of variety in terms of weapon choice, with machine guns, burst weapons, and guns that fire ghosts and exploding chickens. There are three characters to choose from at the start, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, so the game is designed to be played 3 times at a minimum, and each of these three playthroughs offers a new experience and challenge; a challenge which also doesn’t seem too inaccessible like the likes of Mega Man.
Controls – 10/10
The game’s control scheme is also exceedingly simple to get to grips with, especially if you’re a fan of the third generation of gaming, and poses no problems whatsoever. The only distinction that I suppose can be made is whether players may prefer to use the analog stick or the D-pad; either one works fine. That being said, it is also quite impressive how the developers managed to cram as many different control mechanics into this game with the amount of gameplay variety there is compared to other titles of the era of influence.
Lifespan – 7/10
One playthrough of the game can be made to last about an hour and a half. But as I said, this was a game designed to be played multiple times, so it can be made to last as long as the player desired ostensibly. Especially with the included traditional incentive to trying to beat your high score. So the bare minimum that this game should be made to last is 4 and a half hours, but there is definitely scope for more playtime than that.
Storyline – 7/10
The story of Savage Haloweeeon is that a vampire hosting a 24-hour Halloween rave for creatures of the night has decided to close the portals leading back to Hell so they can continue to rave forever. The three main characters, James, Dominika, and Lulu have been called in to defeat the night creatures and stop the rave. It’s not exactly a story that reinvents the wheel, but it’s just wonderfully insane and outlandish as any story associated with gaming in the third generation. It’s a concept somewhat reminiscent of A Nightmare Before Christmas, in fact, which as that’s one of my personal favorite films, the story concept of this game works pretty well for me.
Originality – 8/10
Although Savage Halloween has been influenced by a great number of games that have come and gone before it, all the elements of which do come together to nicely form its own cohesive concept, and it stands out to a great extent as a result. It was also rare in the third generation to come across a platformer whereby the high score played as much of a role as it does in this one; something which only generally has meaning in arcade games such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man, so this game does quite well to go against that tradition as well.
Overall, Savage Halloween is a title I can’t recommend enough. It’s entertaining, challenging, wonderfully varied, and will provide players with hours of fun.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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!
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?
Thanks for the opportunity and thank you for taking the time to read!
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.