Tag Archives: Puzzle

Q&A With Hiding Spot Games

Once again looking for more indie video game prospects over the last few weeks, I came across a new game in development somewhat reminiscent of my recent interview with Chris Seavor. Beacon Pines is a hand-drawn, open-ended 2D adventure game combining cuteness with horror. Developed by Dutch indie outfit Hiding Spot Games, the player takes control of both the characters in the story as well as the story’s narration itself in order to determine the outcome for themselves by filling in the gaps with words. The game also gives the player the option to reverse decisions made in order to reshape events as they see fit. The game has since been successfully funded on Kickstarter where it continues to gather momentum with several stretch goals having since been funded in addition.

Wanting to know more about this game, I contacted its soundtrack composer Matt Meyer and put forward to him and the team a few questions I had, and how the game will completely take shape by the time of its full release. Here’s what Matt Meyer and Hiding Spot Games had to say about Beacon Pines:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

There have been lots of influences on the game. Some that come to mind are shows like Dark, Twin Peaks, and Stranger Things, sci-fi books and old pulp novels, other games like Undertale, Night in the Woods, and Life is Strange. 

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been long and wandering. I’d reference this reddit post as a good summary of the development journey over the past few years: https://www.reddit.com/r/Unity3D/comments/lb1wzw/the_absurd_journey_designing_beacon_pines/

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

We’re shooting for a September release date.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

By far the most exciting part has been finally seeing people play the game on twitch and youtube after releasing the demo. Seeing people’s faces light up when they reach important or surprising moments or laugh at funny dialog or comment on how they love the art and music. It has been an absolute joy.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Getting all the parts of the game mechanics to just click was the most difficult. I could go through the details, but again the reddit article probably does a better job of describing the challenges.

 

On the Kickstarter page, it says in Ilse Harting’s description that “There must be something in the water in the Netherlands that produced great artists!” Did any aspect of Dutch culture or Dutch artists in particular influence the design of the game?

Absolutely. Ilse takes a lot of influence from her surroundings: the people and places in the Netherlands have been a big influence on the art she created for Beacon Pines.  Even many of the names of characters and places in Beacon Pines were her suggestions based on Dutch names.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

It has been lovely. We really weren’t sure if people would get absorbed into the story or understand how the mechanics work (with words, story branching, etc.) but most people seem to jump right in and enjoy it. 

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Steam, itch, Switch, and hopefully Xbox and Playstation

 

Is Beacon Pines a deliberate attempt at subverting the traditional cutesy adventure game to any kind of extent, similar to what Chris Seavor did with Conker’s Bad Fur Day?

No, we aren’t deliberately trying to subvert expectations with the art vs the story. We just want to make a game that both looks mysterious/fantastical but also has a mature story that we as adults would want to play.

 

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

Lots (again the Reddit article has some great examples)

 

What lessons have been brought into the development of Beacon Pines from past developmental experiences?

Not all that many, to be honest. I often work with different people and it depends on how they prefer to work. Beacon Pines is also a very different kind of game than what I’ve made in the past.

 

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

That Game Company has probably been the most influential on me as a game developer. I’d love to work with them and experience their process up close.

 

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

Making things, in my experience, is the best and most rewarding way to learn things. It also is massively beneficial to getting work in the field if you already have examples of completed projects. And when you make something of your own, try to pick a project that you will actually want to play yourself. That’ll help keep you motivated and focused. 

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

We’re pretty active with our discord community. That’s a great place to find us and chat: https://discord.gg/K4tbFWf

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thank you to everyone who has supported us on Kickstarter and those who have checked out the Beacon Pines demo.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Matt for his unique insight into this very unique-looking title. It certainly affords a deep look into a game that I’d made some incorrect assumptions about previously, and how the final product will pan out. I’m sure it will turn out to be a very enjoyable and addicting experience and I’m very much looking forward to it’s release. In the meantime, if you like the game, and think You’d like to contribute to it’s stretch goals, you can visit the Kickstarter page via the link below:

Beacon Pines Kickstarter

 

There is also a playable demo to download online via the game’s Steam page:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1269640/Beacon_Pines/

 

But in the meantime, I hope you guys had fun learning about this upcoming game as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup (PC)

Developer(s) – Gory Details

Publisher(s) – Gory Details 

Designer(s) – Chris Seavor

PEGI – Not rated (some horror elements)

Released in 2018 and designed by the lead programmer of Conker’s Bad Fur Day Chris Seavor, The unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is an open-ended puzzle game following a robotic dog named Rusty trying to find his way home through a wonderfully dark and dank 2D world. This game is an example of how I came into an indie title completely unprepared for what it had in store, and I was pleasantly surprised with the end result.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set in a steampunk-inspired world made up of cogs and machinery. It bears somewhat of a resemblance to games like SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist, but with a far more surreal and compellingly bleak atmosphere. Darkness follows the player character everywhere with few specks of light made available to players to activate along the way in order to guide Rusty throughout each stage. The soundtrack is also suitably creepy to go along with the game’s settings. The environments, in particular, made me wonder about the world’s backstory and how it was created, and who created it in a similar manner to what Shadow of the Colossus did; it’s almost a character in and of itself.

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Rusty Pup relies heavily on the player’s initiative in order to solve what is at times mind-bending challenging puzzles. Players must make use of light in each stage as well as robots that can be used to temporarily stop time and guide Rusty through certain areas. There’s also a small world-building element, whereby players must set up platforms for Rusty to follow in order to access otherwise impassable areas or to break falls that Rusty would otherwise not be able to survive. This mechanic can also be used to the detriment of NPCs by setting up traps for them. Aesthetically, it takes influence from the likes of Lemmings and Flockers, but it offers an entirely different experience from the aforementioned games that, as I said, was not prepared for in the slightest. It can take some patience to get into, as it’s a game unlike any other, but once the player figures out the core mechanics, it makes for a very enjoyable and mystifying experience.

  

Controls – 10/10

A simple point-and-click game by design, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever. It can be played either on PC or on iOS and for both platforms, the game worlds out just fine. It may offer a different experience if the game was ever ported to conventional consoles, but it wouldn’t create anywhere near enough of a problem for it to render the game unplayable. If Plants Vs Zombies can be ported to consoles, this game certainly can be as well. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

The base game can be made to last a minimum of 20 hours, but to complete the game to 100% will take a fair bit of additional time. There is also DLC planned for the game in the future, so this will further add to the game’s lifespan in turn. But ostensibly, to make a puzzle game last for the amount of time it does is an impressive feat in any case, with or without DLC, and there would certainly be scope to expand the series at a later date given how potentially extensive the series’ mythology is. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story follows Rusty Pup, a mechanic dog on a single wheel who has apparently been flushed down a drain prior to the start of the game, with ambiguity about whether or not he fell down or if someone or something pushed him down there. Alone, but with an optimistic attitude, he resolves to find his way out of the steampunk labyrinth and make it back home. The game’s story is as ominous and as wonderfully dark as its settings, with a lot of mystery surrounding how Rusty got to this stage in the first place, and with how wistful he sounds at times in stark contrast to the foreboding situation he finds himself in. All characters, including Rusty, speak in rhyme, which again adds to this contrast; seemingly carefree, yet obviously in a terrible situation.

 

Originality – 9/10

Especially over the last gaming generation, coming across a unique indie title is becoming exceedingly difficult, with me looking for unique settings, unique gameplay, unique control scheme, and unique story. But much to my delight, this game ticks all the boxes flawlessly. After having interviewed Chris Seavor himself:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/01/24/the-full-twelve-tales-of-chris-seavor/

It became obvious to me that his creative talent was nurtured during his time at Rare, and that having played Rusty Pup, he has demonstrated that he is certainly as capable as Rare’s most standout alumni, such as Gregg Mayles, Kevin Bayliss, Martin Hollis, David Doak, etc, of creating wonderfully weird and delightfully fun games to play as the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. 

 

Happii

Overall, The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is an unbelievably well thought out, and compelling title that’s every bit as enjoyable to play as any top indie title and I can’t recommend it enough. To me, it’s no wonder why Chris Seavor is most proud of Rusty Pup, as, in my opinion, it’s his best project to date. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

The Full Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor

Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.

 

The fifth generation of gaming is one of the most beloved periods in the medium, with consoles such as the Nintendo 64, the original PlayStation, and the Sega Dreamcast going on to become among the most popular and well-received platforms in the history of video games. However, come the end of the fifth generation, as the transition to the sixth was being made, among the last games published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 was Conker’s Bad Fur Day; a game which garnished critical acclaim upon release and has since gone on to become a favorite among fans of the console.

I was lucky enough to have an interview this week with the lead programmer of the game; Chris Seavor. Chris joined Rare back in 1994, where he was tasked with developing for the Killer Instinct series initially; he then went on to not only work on many Rare games on the programming side of things, but also voice many characters created by Rare, such as Spinal from Killer Instinct, Gruntilda of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, and of course several characters in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, including Conker himself.

After having left Rare in 2011, he most recently established Gory Details Ltd with former Rare collaborator Shawn Pile, and together have developed both Parashoot Stan and a dark adventure game named The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup, and as of this writing, there is also a new game in development from Gory Details, said to be a twin-stick dungeon-bash title. I had a lot of questions for Chris concerning his early life, his time at Rare, the development of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, as well as the ultimately canceled sequel, and of course, his work at Gory Details Ltd and what gamers can expect from their new project. Here’s our in-depth interview: The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor:

 

Where did your passion for video games originate from?

Playing them as a kid… That and board games…. A friend had been bought Dungeons and Dragons for Christmas (the pink edition which I still have) and he couldn’t understand it so he gave it to me… It was a revelation. This is where my love of ‘game mechanics’ came from which then evolved into video games when I had access to a BBC Micro and eventually the eponymous Spectrum 48K.

 

What games would you play as a child and how would they go on to influence you as a developer?

Ironically the first game I ever bought was Knightlore. I got it from a mate for half price. 5 quid I think. My favorite game from childhood though is RebelStar Raiders which was a turn-based squad game where you had to infiltrate a base on the Moon. Still holds up. Obviously, Ultimate games were in there, but also John Ritman’s variants on the genre like Head Over Heals, which brilliantly introduced a second character to add a cooperative element to the puzzle solving. Quite groundbreaking. The list is huge though; Elite, Paradroid, Out of the Shadows, The Hobbit, Lords of Midnight, Bards Tale, Chuckie Egg, Monty Mole, etc. Oddly though, I never really liked Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy as I found them too difficult. What a scrub eh?

 

What consoles did you own early on?

None. I was at college when the NES and SNES and Mega Drive came out, so had little money and was too busy drinking and dossing around on the beach (I was at college in Cornwall for 4 years, then Bournemouth for 1). Games kinda left my life for a long time…… Next device I bought after my C64 was a SNES whilst working at Rare just to play Zelda and DKC, so yeah!

 

What is your earliest memory of game design?

I would design whole RPG systems for tabletop gaming. My 2 favorite systems were MERPS and Warhammer Fantasy RPG. MERPS for its crazy crit tables (and the lore) and WHRPG for the gothic world-building. Loved em to bits. I stole from both. I also wrote a Fighting Fantasy novel, but only got as far as about 100 entries before losing track. Those things are hecka-complex to write.

 

Were there any development companies you aspired to work with before you went to work with Rare?

Psygnosis. I didn’t know who Rare were, to be honest… Psygnosis were in Liverpool as well, so I could stay with the parents and save some cash. Lazy fucker I was. I had an interview with a few; EA, Psygnosis, and Rare included. Not sure what happened with Pysg, but EA offered a job eventually but I’d already started at Rare and liked it. Mainly because I’d made some friends and to be honest, that’s always the most stressful part of starting out somewhere new: being alone. The job turned out okay too 😉

 

Where there any other careers you attempted to pursue before going into games design and game voice-over work?

Not attempted, but I’d always planned to go into the film industry. My actual skill set was 3D graphics (a career path very much in its infancy in ‘93, unlike now) so film / TV seemed a natural fit. Games I never considered and in the end just sort of fell into it with a chance conversation with a long time friend Ady Smith (Rare, Eidos). Ironically Ady is teaching game stuff down at my old college in Cornwall now.

 

What was your upbringing like? Did your parents have any positive or negative reaction to your enjoyment of games, or was there even an element of that during your childhood?

I’d have to say it was pretty negative when I was 13 -15. I always like to remind my Mum of a comment she made once after I spent a whole day playing The Hobbit on the big TV.. ‘You’ll never make any money playing games all day…. It’s not a proper job’. She’s right about one thing though… It’s not a ‘proper job’, thank the maker!

 

Did any facet of your childhood go on to influence you as a developer, similar to how traveling through the forests of Kyoto inspired Shigeru Miyamoto to create The Legend of Zelda?

Not directly. I’ve always loved the cinema experience and would watch every movie I could… I guess that helped in later life. I read a lot of Horror and SciFi, not so much fantasies apart from Prof T the bulk of it back then was, to be blunt: Shit. I read a lot of Fantasy today though, the grim, dark stuff. It’s so much better nowadays.

 

What was it like for you to experience the medium of gaming taking off back in the 70s and 80s?

It just was… You don’t really know you’re IN something when it’s happening around you… Like DKC or the N64 period at Rare. It was just a job, and you were hoping your game would sell more than the other Barns did. Only now looking back do you realize the fondness people have for that time, and the games we’d made as a company… It’s kinda weird as I don’t think of it in those terms.

 

Was the aspiration to become an actor or voice-over artist from an early age as well, or was that something that manifested later on?

Nope. I’m not a voice actor, I’m a 3d Artist / Game Designer. The voice work was a time saver and for practical issues. It seems to be its own thing now in games, with big names getting involved… Fair enough I suppose, but I think it’s a waste of money. Keanu Reeves is a great guy by all accounts but he can’t act for shit. Spend the money on some unknowns who need the break instead…
To be honest, I think the influx of big Hollywood names into the games industry is largely down to the egos of the Production Managers, Execs, and Bosses… It’s the only chance these people will ever get to hang out with the Stars!! Also, BAFTA can try and inject their dull game awards ceremony with a bit of glitz and glamour… Game development has little glitz, even less glamour. And then of course there are Mr. Keighley’s Game Awards… I mean, really? I rest my case, your honor. Here’s the proof it’s a bullshit waste of money .. Name me one person who bought Cyberpunk 2077 because Keanu Reeves was in it? You found one?? They’re a fucking liar.

 

Who were your inspirations where your voice acting was concerned?

Again, no one really. I just did some silly voices based on accents and the range of my voice. Conker’s voice came pretty easily, in fact, I think I just did it instinctively the first time Robin and I were in the studio.

 

Were there any teachers you had at school who would have a lasting impression on you where your career was concerned?

Absolutely not, Fuck those idiots.

 

My teachers tried to tell me that the best years of my life would be my school years, but I disagree with them; my best years have been everything that came afterward. But did you enjoy school when you were a kid?

Absolutely not. Fuck those idiots even more… School was shit. Sadists and morons. I fucking hated it with a vengeance. Imagine trying to encourage 14-year-old lads to enjoy reading then dumping Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park in their lap. WTF!? Stephen King, Tolkien, Sven Hassel first… THEN Jane Austin, in later life, when you have enough life experience to relish in its satire.

 

What was the best piece of advice you were given as a child?

That kind of thing only happens in YA fiction… I never much paid any attention to adults as a kid. I think I became aware of how flawed they all were at a very young age. The one bit of advice I do remember was from my Nan: ‘Christ lad, don’t get old…’

 

Rare had been renowned for their sense of humor with hidden jokes and Easter eggs in their games and Conker was no different. But where did your sense of humor stem from early on?

I wasn’t particularly funny as a kid. In fact, I was and still am almost terminally shy. I still find it stressful to group up with people in games and be expected to have a conversation, even in chat. (except when I’m shouting abuse 😉 I think my humor stems from looking at life’s absurdity and just laughing at it all. People can be so fucking dumb, so finding comedy gold in the actions and words of others is a never-ending resource. I’m a pessimist and a cynic. That’s where my humor comes from I think….. Plus I’m a bit weird and apparently lacking intact (although I am usually told this after the fact…)

 

How did the opportunity to work for Rare first come about?

Shared petrol money and a day out from Uni. I just turned up and they offered me a job. That’s it really.

 

What was your first day at Rare like and what were you tasked with working on initially?

It was fine… I was pretty nervous but that went very quickly…. I shared a room with Kev Bayliss, and we got on fine. Still do (which is amazing for me 😉 ) My first job was to sketch out and start building the environment for Sabrewulf in Killer Instinct.

 

In terms of working on the Killer Instinct series, what are you most proud of?

Killer Gold I reckon… Just because it was my first experience with actual polygons in a game, rather than pre-rendered. A whole other kettle of fish. I had to convert my original Nurbs Models from KI2 to work in the new engine. First game out from Rare with actual live 3D models… Quite proud of that. And they look okay I reckon, particularly Spinal’s Slave Galley…. (Early nods to Sea of Thieves there ;)) joke.

 

Did you ever come up with any ideas for any additional characters for Killer Instinct or Diddy Kong Racing?

I did a couple of characters for Killer Instinct 2 (arcade) which were not used. Fully modeled one of them, a Vampire Prince with long white hair. Even did a set of animations. I wish I still had the frames but nope… All gone.

 

How rewarding was it seeing your work come to fruition with the release of a game at Rare?

Best thing ever… Really, everyone should try it.

 

Are there any interesting stories about how the voice of Spinal first came about?

Same as Grunty really.. Scream and Cackle. I’m a one-note pony when it comes to baddies.

 

The concept for Gruntilda’s voice, I’d imagine, would’ve been one of the most straightforward ones to have had to come up with, but was that the case? Was there another different approach taken where she was concerned?

I just screamed and cackled… That’s what witches do right? 😉

 

How exhilarating was it knowing you had just voiced a major Nintendo villain at the time?

It was 10 minutes of work, and the tight arses didn’t even give me a free copy of the game… To this day I have never owned a copy of Banjo. Not sure but think it’s probably the same sample they use in the new Smash?? Maybe?

 

Who was your favorite character to have voiced before Conker?

The ones that didn’t have me coughing my guts up and no voice for 2 days. Conker. it has to be him really… Death, Conkula, Frankie, any with interesting dialogue and motivations.

 

Which additional character in Diddy Kong Racing (with the exception of Conker) do you feel would’ve been worthy of a spin-off series?

I don’t care enough about Diddy Kong Racing to be honest. Wasn’t there a Tiger? The Tiger then.

 

What were the Stamper brothers like to work for?

They were great, very hands-on when needed, very hands-off when we were getting on with it. I mean, things could from time to time get fractious but it was usually just clashing egos (mine mainly) Tim’s passion for games when I first joined Rare was in his very being. All he cared about was the game/games. Chris, I saw less of because he tended to be the business side of things, and was a software guy anyway. They had a certain dynamic as brothers, sort of like a video game boss ironically. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts… (hmm, sounds like shade, but I don’t mean it in that way)

 

Were there any Rare games that you would’ve liked to work on, but never got the opportunity to?

From a purely mercenary cash standpoint? Oh DK 64 and DK Racer. They made fucking TONS of cash for the teams. But creatively? Nah, I’m happy the way things were. But what about Goldeneye, You say!? Cashwise? Nah… old deal. Creatively?? I think I would have done things to stop it from being the game it is now. Not good things… I was still in a DOOM 2 mindset at the time.

 

Were you scheduled to work in some capacity on Rare’s canceled game Project Dream before it later became Banjo-Kazooie?

Nope. Definitely nope…

 

If you could’ve voiced any other Nintendo character (or Rare character) at the time, who would it have been and what approach would you have taken to do it?

Never really thought of it. The only character I would love to have voiced which Rare (almost) got to do was Harry Potter. It would have meant I’d have been the first person to perform that character in media. A good one for the CV. Plus I think I’d have made a decent enough game out of the books (only 3 were out at the time) as I was already a big fan, had I been asked… Nevermind.

 

Who were the funniest people in the Rare office to work with?

That’s a tough one. Everyone pretty much made me laugh, sometimes unintentionally… Grant Kirkhope has ‘funny bones’ just because of his outlook on life and his rock ‘n’ roll stories. Robin’s funny as well, particularly when he’s drunk……. Martin Hollis has a very dry sense of humor and Noz always made me laugh at his various woes over the years…Doaky though, he’s just sick that man.

 

What was your reaction when you first heard about Microsoft buying out Rare?

Yay!! EA and Activision were the 2 other main contenders. Whatever criticisms people have for MS, I have no doubts whatsoever Rare as a studio would not exist now if they’d succeeded. Nintendo though? They made a great off by all accounts, and already owned nearly half the company… I don’t even want to think about that.

 

What made you come to the decision to leave Rare back in 2011?

I didn’t. I was happy to stay but things were, shall we say, engineered to make sure I didn’t….. Long story, not a pleasant experience, and some of the people involved, one in particular can go fuck themselves. They know who they are; not that things didn’t turn out well in the end… I got a nice fat cheque to send me on my way and here we are.

 

What is your opinion on the current state of Rare?

At the time I left it was not very good, what with a combination of Don Mattrick and his cronies not to mention that Kinect abomination. I was 90% sure we would be shut down within a few years… Since then though, along came Sea of Thieves .. Amazing what can happen when you just let a team get on with things and stop fucking them about. I think they’re in a very strong position now, although they really do need to mine that IP goldmine a bit more … Baffles me that they don’t.

 

What was the developmental process like early on during when the game was supposed to be either Twelve Tales or Conker 64?

I was only doing art at that point, and the direction the game was taking design-wise was not something I could influence. We were essentially trying to make a Mario 64 type platformer. It was…. Fractious.

 

How did you initially feel after being moved up to the project’s leader by the Stampers?

They knew it was what I wanted so they gave me a chance. Seemed to work out, although I think I was expected to fail.

 

What was it like working with Robin Beanland?

Yeah, okay. We don’t really get along 😉 Nah, he’s always been a talented bastard, unlike me who’s been winging it for years…. I think we get on workwise because we understand what we both want versus the limitations of the medium. It’s important to temper your expectations and ambitions with what’s actually possible. Plus we both like lager and vindaloos. Although age has finally caught up with me on both counts there.

 

What was the feeling across the team following the game’s showcasing at E3 1998?

Was that the BFD first showing? I remember the TT one being a fucking disaster. The BFD one was as good as it got. Great stand by Nintendo, free beer, most of the team was there too so it was a decent crowd. And no interview pools, which I really hate… There’s nothing like a bunch of bored games journos asking tedious questions for 12 hours straight to break your soul.

 

What was the revised pitch to Nintendo like when the intention changed to make the more mature game it turned out to be?

I don’t know. I pitched it to Tim and Chris, not Nintendo. I didn’t work for Nintendo; I worked for Rare, but I’m sure some discussions were had. To be honest, if T+C were happy with what we were doing then Nintendo would have been too. Rare was the golden goose at that point don’t forget, and it gave us a good deal of leverage.

 

What was the feeling across the development team when the project was finally finished after the long development cycle the game had?

We went home for some sleep. Then I went to Edinburgh for the New Year and got completely smashed. I also bought a sword which I then had to carry around all night. There’s a great restaurant on the Royal Mile called The Witchery, it’s basically like something out of Harry Potter. The maitre’de rather than scowl at me and my sword she kindly took it and hung it in the coatroom citing an old rule of no swords in the dining area. (I think she might have been joshing me )

 

How rewarding was it to see the game garnish as much critical acclaim as it did?

Validation. And relief. I wish we’d have launched in Japan too… I think they’d have liked a pissing, drunk, cute squirrel.

 

How did the voice for Conker come about?

It was the first voice I did. No process, just came out fully formed on day one…. One of those things I guess, The lisp was to add a curtness that belied the character but apart from that it was spontaneous.

 

Where there any other references to popular culture that were planned to be included in the game, but never made it, apart from the Pokemon reference?

There were a few levels that got cut, but that was for the sake of time rather than censorship. Pokemon is the only really notable one. There are a few easter eggs though… more than a few. Oh, wait there were two scenes cut from L&R for, reasons. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

 

What was the feeling about experiencing the game’s ending for the first time, as it provides such a stark contrast to the comedy perpetuated throughout most of the rest of the game?

I had that ending in mind right from the very start. If we were going to subvert the genre then let’s go for it. I don’t think I agree with the premise of the game being a comedy in a light sense. The game is DARK all the way through, and the laughs tend to stem from the misery and bad luck of others and the unintentional actions of the protagonist. I make it clear right in the very first shot of his eyes on the throne that this won’t end well for Conker.

 

What would you change about the game if you had the opportunity?

I’ve thought about this a lot. Maybe pare things back a bit to get a lower rating (which actually wouldn’t be as much as you think) or maybe not… It is what it is. I do regret not doing the fake outtakes after the credits, I had that planned quite early on when we’d started experimenting with 4th wall breaking stuff in the game. Just not enough time, sadly.

 

How satisfying an experience has it been seeing Conker’s Bad Fur Day being updated for new audiences in the form of both Live and Reloaded and Rare Replay?

Yeah, it gave me a chance to make a PVP combat game which is a difficult thing to get right.. I also added a narrative thread through it as an experiment to a further idea (Getting’ Medievil). I think it worked quite well… They shut the servers ages ago though….. Rare Replay I had nothing to do with… It’s a thing I guess. Sold well, so says a lot about there being plenty of old-school Rare fans still out there spending money.

 

As it’s one of the most outlandish stories I’ve heard in all of gaming I have to ask; whose idea was it to come up with the Conker’s Bad Fur Day condoms campaign?

Not me. It’s a bit tacky, literally 😉

 

What new Gameplay elements were planned for inclusion in Conker’s Other Bad Fur Day?

More of the same really…. Who can say? That’s the kind of detail you get to when at the coal face and we didn’t get that far.

 

Early concept art has since been released on the Internet of the Conker sequel, but what other new types of locations and characters were planned to be included?

About half the game was completely new areas and the other half was updated and evolved areas from the original. The structure was pretty much the same, hub world, then smaller story worlds…. Familiar, extended with a fine blend of old and new.

 

Have you further developed the idea of a sequel since leaving Rare?

Nah of course not. No point.

 

If Rare ever called you back to develop the sequel to Conker, would you do it?

Depends on what I’m asked to do. If it’s just to read someone else’s lines then nope. If they want me to write and direct it, then maybe, but it would be a lot of work and cost a lot of money for something so niche. Who can say.. MS have got deep pockets. Risk wise it makes a lot more sense to make BK3 and they haven’t done that either, so go figure.

 

How did the idea come about for you and Shawn Pile to establish Gory Detail?

Boredom, plus I knew if I didn’t do something with all the time I suddenly had then I’d go insane. Shawn was the same I think, but you’d have to ask him. We’d actually talked about it long before mainly as a creative outlet, never really thinking it would happen. Then circumstance changed and here we are.

 

What were the influences behind Parashoot Stan and Rusty Pup?

Stan is a cliché, which was the point of the character. The kid pretending to be the hero but actually IS the hero. Rusty Pup is forged from a similar fire influence wise but is a lot more subtle. It’s actually set in the same world as Stan if you look closely but is a lot more tragic. No one has decoded Rusty Pup yet, which I’m fine with but it isn’t some vague metaphor or opaque fable. It’s a series of events, in order, which really happens. The clues are all there.

 

What were the most exciting aspects of developing the games?

‘Exciting’ is not a word I’d use to describe game development. A bunch of execs off to some launch party or awards ceremony to get drunk might disagree but that’s not development.

 

What were the most challenging aspects of developing the games?

Getting past pre-production and into full production. Until your that factory, churning out assets and regular versions there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of your mind this might be canceled any second. Pre-production is nice creatively and full production is a grind, but the security of the product is a huge weight off your mind. (hey, that rhymed!!)

 

How satisfying had it been seeing both these games garnish what commercial and critical acclaim they have?

Commercially? Yeah right, we’re millionaires now Rodders. Critical, well I think they’re great little games (Rusty not so little) Labour of love, both of ’em. I wish more of the mainstream media had bothered to review Rusty. We sent out a ton of codes. They claim they support indies etc, but they don’t really… Not really. I actually had one outlet say they weren’t interested unless I gave them an interview about our next game which I’d pitched as a Conker Spiritual Successor. It was kind of a publicity stunt (though true in essence). Needless to say, we said no. If I was in the games biz to make lots of money I’d have crawled my way up the corporate ladder, squeezed the right prostates, and jumped ship every time I fucked up. I’d rather be poor. I’m fine though but no more Porsche’s. Not this week anyway.

 

Were there any ideas planned for inclusion in either game that were later scrapped or reworked?

Yeah, loads. Rusty had a whole crafting system and twice as many mechanics including mind control baddies, loads more platform types, and a whole extra world… it was just too much, and the crafting would have made testing all the possibilities pretty much impossible. Stan was going to have 2D side-scrolling mini-bosses where he landed on a large Zeppelin and would run through with guns blazing. We just didn’t have the time and I also felt it was a bit jarring with the rest of the mechanics.

 

Is there any DLC planned for Rusty Pup in the future?

I did some stuff, even made some assets. It was an extra chapter, a deeper area with shorter, very difficult one-shot puzzles. A haunted house theme. But it would have taken 6 months to make, largely down to me and was and also totally free. Time is precious, so I decided it was best spent on developing the new IP.

 

What can you tell us about Gory Detail’s third project?

It’s coming on okay. I spent the bulk of last year preparing assets and I’m pretty happy with the tone and look of the game. It’s a typical twin-stick dungeon bash game but with a twist… Fast-paced, silly characters voiced by me and lots and lots of bad language, blood, and guts. COVID didn’t help though. At some point you need to sit with people and point and talk… I’ve not seen Shawn for a year now. Still, we’re not slaves to publishers and huge wage bills so it’s not a problem. You really only want the stress of making the game, which is more than enough.

 

Would you still like to see Urchin be brought to life under Gory Detail?

Yes… But we can’t call it that. Anyway, games aren’t the only medium in which to explore interesting narratives. 😉

 

Have any of the former Rare alumni at Playtonic Games had any advice to share with you and Shawn or has there been any general conversation between you all?

Yeah, we’ve chatted a few times… Gavin has been really helpful and made some gracious offers of help with production but the studio environment isn’t something I find appealing… It’s just me. I’m an old fart. In the future though, who can say? They’ll certainly have first dibs on the next game we do if they want it.

 

What are your opinions of the indie development scene today?

Business-wise, it’s very healthy for a lucky few, but for most I suspect it’s a struggle in a saturated market. Getting eyes on your work is increasingly difficult, and for the very small indies such as Gory, it’s almost impossible. From a gamer’s point of view, it couldn’t be any better. There’s a lot of good stuff out there and with the big boys taking fewer and fewer risks with their products, ironically people are turning away from their games as they tend to be over-produced and under-developed.

 

What genre of game have you and Shawn never undertaken before that you would like to do one day?

I have folders full of stuff. I think the next game though will be our last probably, as its core game is just the beginning. It’s designed around mini self-contained storylines, like the chapters in Conker. So if it’s a success I’ll be happy to just keep making and selling new Chapters as DLC so long as people still keep buying them. That’s the plan anyway.

 

Which pre-existing video game character would you like to see make a cameo in either Parashoot Stan or Rusty Pup?

They’re not that type of game, particularly Rusty. The next one though… I have plans for lots of cameos, although not very complimentary ones. 😉

 

Do you and Shawn find that having creative freedom is one of the best things about developing games for yourselves?

It is. It’s the price you pay for having to fund everything yourself. We’re not averse to having a publisher, just not during development. Finish the game first, then see if anyone fancies tackling all that marketing, support stuff I fucking hate doing.

 

Have Rare since reached out to you following the establishment of Gory Detail or the release of the two games?

Only for Conker stuff. I’m happy to do it although I suspect it was a last resort. I was sent some recordings of a guy they’d hired to mimic Conker and it wasn’t very good. Point is, they tried to do it with someone else and must have realized the fans would not accept a fake Conker. Heh! I also offered to do other voices, for the Young Conker app, but they already had someone for them. Just Conker for me…

 

What have you been most proud of throughout your career?

Rusty Pup… So far. I filled that game with my very soul.

 

Is there any advice you would be able to offer any aspiring developers who may be reading this?

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.. …. It might be true, but the best way to find out isn’t by shrugging, but by trying to make it work and then finding out they were wrong.

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Chris for agreeing to answer my questions, and for sharing so much about his storied career and what we can expect to see from him and Gory Details Ltd in the future. If you’re interested in what Gory Details has to offer, you can view their steam page via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/search/?developer=Gory%20Detail%20Limited

You can also keep up with Chris’s posts on Twitter via his Twitter handle:

@conkerhimself

A full review of The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup will be coming to the site very soon but in the meantime, I’d also like to wish Chris, Shawn Pile, and Gory Details the best of luck with their current games as well as their new upcoming project… MARVELLOUS!!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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)

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 it’s 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)

Portal 2 (PC, Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Valve

Publisher(s) – Valve

Director(s) – Joshua Weier

Producer(s) – Gabe Newell

PEGI – 12

Released some years after the original game to widespread critical acclaim, Portal 2 is considered one of the best titles of the seventh generation, perfecting the formula of the original game and expanding on it in many different ways. Whilst I had a few issues to address where the game was concerned myself, it is still a decisive improvement over the first title and still holds up as being one of the more unique gaming experiences of the last decade or so.

Graphics – 8/10

One of the most notable improvements in the conceptual design of the game over the first. A lot of the settings were pretty much identical to one another in the original game before the end of GLaDOS’s trials, but in the second, the replication of textures and scenery is much less noticeable. It reminds me very much of the same improvements made with Skyrim over Oblivion, where every ruin or cave no longer looked the same as one another and had a lot more individual diversity to them. The inclusion of new enemies to have to deal with only adds to the conceptual design of the overall series in addition. 

Gameplay – 8/10

The core gameplay has remained the same as that of the original; the player must use the Aperture Portal device to create portals in order to solve puzzles and progress through the game. However, far more elaborate puzzles have been included that build on the premise of the original game, which has helped to diversify and broaden the entire concept. The inclusion of a plethora of easter eggs to discover throughout the game also does exceptionally well to expand on the mythology of the series, whilst at the same time, further linking it to the Half-Life universe. The ending boss fight is also handled wonderfully differently from that of the original game

Controls – 10/10

There were no issues with the control scheme of the first game, and as the second game was built using the same engine and including the same principle gameplay features, there aren’t any issues to be had in the second game either. It’s actually quite impressive to me how the developers managed to further build on the concept of the original game without having to alter anything about its control scheme. They managed to keep things as simple as possible whilst developing a game to be as intricate as possible. 

Lifespan – 4/10

Where the game still doesn’t excel is unfortunately in its lifespan. The second portal game can be made to last a maximum of 3 hours, not counting multiplayer. This is the only factor whereby decisive improvement was not made but was for me, needed the most improvement in order for it to stand among the very best games ever developed. Maybe one day Valve will get around to making a third game in the series, but inevitably, this game’s short lifespan has left gamers, including me, wanting so much more. 

Storyline – 9/10

The game’s basic story is not too dissimilar to that of the first. The game’s main character Chell remains trapped within the Aperture Research Facility and must find a way out. This time, however, she is up against a new threat in addition to the facility’s supercomputer GLaDOS, but also a sociopathic drone robot named Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. Wheatley appears as a friend at first, but his true intentions soon become clear and it is up to Chell to stop him and find a way to escape Aperture once and for all. The story, as well as most of every other aspect of the game, is also made even more diverse with its further developed sense of dark humor. Although GLaDOS still contributes to that side of it greatly, so does Wheatley, and it’s hard to pick a favorite out of the two. 

Originality – 9/10

As I alluded to before, the original Portal presented players with a new outside-of-the-box way of playing a puzzle game originally dreamed up by a group of programming students who were later scouted by Valve after their work on the game Narbacular Drop. But the second portal game went above and beyond what the original offered to players by keeping the concept fresh with new mind-bending puzzles to solve and backstory to discover. There are many why these games have gone on to become cult classics, and the main reason I attribute to that is because of how well it stands out from every other game that has been developed before and after.

Happii

In summation, Portal 2, whilst still far too short in my opinion, is an enjoyable time for the criminally short time it lasts and will provide players with a far more stern and entertaining challenge than its predecessor. Before they became focused on the maintenance of Steam, Valve was renowned for giving players something new to play that they hadn’t played before, and Portal 2 certainly does not disappoint in this respect

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Primordial Game Studios

Whist scouting for even more exciting looking games on crowdfunding platforms, I came across yet another ambitious and promising title boasting a lot of very potentially groundbreaking gameplay features. The Silent Tombs, currently under development at Dundee-based Primordial Game Studios and recently posted on Kickstarter, is a procedurally generated, puzzle-based exploration game planned for release on Steam in December 2021, whereby players must explore tombs and uncover deep-rooted secrets of ancient British civilizations such as the Celtic, Gaelic, and the Anglo Saxons. The gameplay makes use of a decibel meter, which incorporates a strong element of psychological horror, similar to the likes of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, but in a much more open-ended environment.

Wanting to know even more about this project, I reached out to the game’s principal designer Vaughan Holloway to ask some further questions in regards to the project, and about what gamers can expect to indulge in whilst playing this wonderfully innovative title. Here’s what Vaughan Holloway of Primordial Game Studios had to say about The Silent Tombs:

What were the influences behind the game?

The original idea actually came from the tabletop game ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple!’; I used to play it with friends when I was working at Junkfish; while brainstorming betas, I put together a culling system that allowed for a real-time progen system that kept 95% of the game culled at any time. I put those two things together with my love of history, and the original build of ‘Silent Tombs’ was born!

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been about 8 months since I met Konstantinos at a networking event in Dundee, and since then we’ve gathered a really great team of people around this central theme. We all have full-time jobs, so we’ve been working on ‘the Silent Tombs’ in our evenings and weekends, mostly. I did the design and programming and constructed the build, while Konstantinos built and imported artwork and Alasdair provided the music.

How close are we to seeing the final product?

We’re hoping to have a soft release for our Kickstarter patrons in Nov 2021, and the game will be officially released in Dec 2021.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

The first time I was able to test the game using Konstantinos’ artwork in the game was amazing; we were able to build the game and test it with the HDR Pipeline. The Volumetric Lighting and new materials just completely blew me away.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Before we did the Kickstarter, we were preparing a video and pitch deck for the Global Games Pitch in Nov 2020; before that, we mostly working in our spare time and suddenly having a set deadline, especially for a Livestream pitch was the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of the development, so far.

Have there been any Gameplay elements planned for inclusion that have been scrapped or reworked?

Originally, we were planning on having ghosts and skeletons coming after the player if they make too much noise, but the animation / AI elements of creating enemies would have been too much. Like a lot of games like Slenderman / Phasmophobia, it’s not the enemy that’s scary but the anticipation of running into the enemy anywhere… so, instead I wanted to have the feel of the tomb itself bearing down on the player. We’re planning on using scripts called Proximity Shaders to change the level around the player. We haven’t ruled out the possibility of physical or otherworldly enemies in the game yet in some form, but I want the threat to be more subtle.

How well has the game been received so far?

It’s been slow going trying to get the game out to the community at large, but of the people that have looked at the game on our website, socials, or Kickstarter, it’s been a mostly positive response! I think people are excited to see more, and we’re looking forward to buckling down to developing the game again.

You and the team clearly have a deep-rooted passion for ancient British history. Where did all that originate from?

Personally, my grandfather was a teacher, and we visited a lot of ancient sites in my childhood; I’d visited Sutton Hoo at least three times before I was 15. As I’ve grown up I’ve tried to get out and visit places myself, especially after my grandfather passed away. I’ve been lucky to find work in Scotland, there is so much to see! I don’t think people, especially people outside of the British Isles realize how deep and amazing British history is, and I’m hoping this game not only inspires them to have a look but also gives them some information on sites that can get them started!

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, to begin with; we will be launching on Steam and GoG.com in Dec 2021.

Have any elements of the previous titles game that your or the rest of the development team been incorporated into The Silent Tombs?

For me, there haven’t been any direct elements to inspire ‘The Silent Tombs’; I drew a lot of design inspiration from ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple!’, which I played a lot during my time at Junkfish. While working on Monstrum 2, I did a lot of work using procedural generation and I tended to experiment with building progen prototypes. It was these two elements, plus my passion for British history combined to make the first early build.

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

Absolutely! First, it sounds kind of rough, but ideas are cheap. If you want to build something people want to play, build a lot of -one-day prototypes’ (really simple gameplay concepts that only take an afternoon or evening to flesh out) and get lots of different people to test them. Don’t get discouraged; you learn more from negative feedback than positive feedback.

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

We have a website at www.primordialgamestudios.com, and our Twitter / Insta handles are GamePrimordial; our Kickstarter is currently running under ‘The Silent Tombs’, go check it out!

You can also check out The Silent Tombs on Kickstarter via the link below if you’d like to support the project:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/vfholloway/the-silent-tombs/?ref=kicktraqKickstarter Page

but for now, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Vaughan for sharing as much about The Silent Tombs as he could, and to wish him and the rest of the development team the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign and the release of the game. The Silent Tombs is one of the most unique upcoming games I’ve come across in a long time, and I for one can’t wait to sink my teeth into this title upon release. I hope you guys have enjoyed learning more about this, as indeed I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Toy Story (PC, Super Nintendo, Game Boy & Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – Traveller’s Tales, Psygnosis & Tiertex Design Studios

Publisher(s) – Disney Interactive, Sega, Nintendo Australia, Capcom & Black Pearl Software

Producer(s) – Craig Annis & Steve Riding

Designer(s) – John burton & Andy Ingram

ELSPA – All Ages

Released to coincide with the hit Disney film of the same name, Toy Story was developed for several different systems and was released to critical and commercial success despite having been at the back end of the fourth generation with the transition into the fifth generation looming round the corner. To me, this game is another one of the more impressive licensed titles released before they were further popularized during the seventh generation and still holds up as one of the most varied 2D side scrollers of the era. 

Graphics – 8/10

The graphical style is extremely similar to that of Donkey Kong Country, implementing 2.5 graphical sprites provided to Traveller’s Tales by Disney themselves (albeit Traveller’s Tales has their own sprites on standby in the event of time constraints), portraying all the central characters in the film, as well as several minor ones, and featuring a massively varied range of level designs; some of which add to locations found in the original movie. The game’s soundtrack also features a collection of pretty catchy soundtracks that sound like they would’ve fit flawlessly if they were again included in the film as well. As far as fourth-generation games go, this is one of the best-looking titles of that era in my opinion; the visuals are both colorfully vibrant and wonderfully dark wherever needed, and the character sprites are wonderfully animated in addition. 

Gameplay – 8/10

For what is primarily a 2D side scroller, the gameplay is surprisingly varied for a game from this era. Not only does it feature side-scrolling sequences, but it also features light puzzle elements, car driving sequences, and even a first-person sequence very similar to Doom. But to experience all of these different styles of play, I would recommend playing the Mega Drive/Genesis version; as this version was dubbed the lead version by Disney, it is the only port to feature all 18 levels created for it; the Super NES version is missing the first RC sequence towards the end and the PC version only has 10 of the original 18 levels. The game also features situations that are unique to the franchise and that don’t appear in the actual film, such as Woody navigating his way through the interior of the claw machine, whereas in the film, he and Buzz simply slip in among the toy aliens instantly. The designers of this game made something very unique to the original film, and it really shows in every respect. 

Controls – 10/10

Regardless of having cramped in a huge amount of different play styles, I was amazed to find that there were no problems with the controls after replaying it. I had to go over it again, as although I’d spent a great deal of time playing this when I was a kid, I realized that I’d forgotten just how good a game this was going into it again with a much more subjective viewpoint. The only minor issue I have with the controls is that during the first-person sequence inside the claw machine, turning can be a bit wooden, but that’s just semantics, as it’s only for one level. It may have posed more of a problem if there were more sequences like it, but besides which, there are no other issues with the controls at all. 

Lifespan – 6/10

To complete the game will take about the average lifespan for a game of this kind, which is around an hour. I found myself not being able to give the game too much flack in this respect because it was after all perpetuating the source material of an 80-minute film; in fact, if the player explores enough, they can potentially make the game last slightly longer than the film. My initial thought was that if the game could incorporate so many different play styles that the developers may have been able to make it last a lot longer than what it does, but there are too many different factors to consider for me to criticize it too much in this respect, such as the time frame they would have needed to work to in order to get it out at the same period as the film. Regardless, for a game of its generation, it lasts a fair amount of time. 

Storyline – 7/10

The game is simply a retelling of the events of the film; two anthropomorphic action figures, the cowboy Woody and space ranger Buzz Lightyear, become separated from their owner Andy and must find a way back before the family are due to move house. The game does well enough to portray these events in it’s own way without much of the classic dialogue of the film and the soundtrack does particularly well to add to the game’s atmosphere further aiding in the portrayal of the story; especially in unique sequences not present in the original film.

Originality – 7/10

Especially as 2D side-scrolling was the most prevalent genre within the industry at the game, this game does extremely well to stand out among a vast majority of others with the sheer amount of different play styles it incorporates throughout. It was rare for a game of this genre within the fourth generation to offer so much variety in gameplay and especially for a licensed game, which back then was much more of a niche interested among gamers than what it is now, is particularly impressive indeed. 

Happii

Overall, Toy Story, to me, frankly remains one of the better 2D side scrollers of the fourth generation of gaming; certainly among the best of early Disney games. It offers players an unprecedented amount of variety for the time that it lasts and portrays the film in a very satisfying way, not only using the license but celebrating it in an appropriate manner. 

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

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

Developer – Moon Studios

Publisher – Microsoft Studios

Director – Thomas Mahler

Producer – Gennadiy Korol

PEGI – 7

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

Graphics – 10/10

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

Gameplay – 8/10

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

Controls – 10/10

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

Lifespan – 5/10

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

Storyline – 8/10

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

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

Originality – 8/10

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

Happii

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

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Ironcast (PC)

Developer(s)Ripstone Games, Dreadbit & Polygon Hearts

Ironcast is an indie game, developed with the likes of Candy Crush and Jelly Splash in mind, but offers something extremely different; blending it with customization options as well as turn-based RPG combat. For me, it has been one of the best games released on Steam this year so far, since it goes far beyond the level of enjoyment that a simple puzzle game can bring.

 

Graphics – 7/10

Aside from having a fairly decent range of different robots to command with each playthrough, the game is set in an alternative reality, where the English are still warring with the French by the year 1886, and England has taken on more of a steampunk theme during the Industrial Revolution. The only gripe I have with the game’s visuals is that the setting of each individual stage can become somewhat repetitive after a while. But where the game’s visuals truly excel is in the level of detail of the robots, as they either generate shields, fire weapons, or take damage.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

To progress through each fight, the player must match u different symbols together to collect four different kinds of main resources for their robot; coolant, weapons, energy, and repair substance. These are used to maintain and defend the robot during combat, as well as take down the opposing robot on the other side of the screen. After each battle, the player earns experience points to gain upgrades, as well as money to buy improved weapons and armor. With its Roguelike approach to gameplay, it offers a great deal of entertainment value, as well as a challenging learning curve for players to adapt to in order to progress.

 

Controls – 10/10

Since it’s a turn-based puzzle game exclusive to PC, there was never going to be an issue with the game’s controls, since the scheme is as straightforward as it could possibly have been. It’s actually quite interesting to learn new ways of joining icons on the puzzle board in order to gain as many of the resources on it as possible. Anyone who as ever played Jelly Splash will have a lot of fun with this game in particular.

 

Lifespan – 10/10

As I alluded to, this game incorporates elements of the Roguelike genre of gaming, similar to either Rogue Legacy or Tower of Guns, which gives it infinite replay value. Since there are quite a few gameplay options and different styles of play to explore, this makes it all the more meaningful and varied. It has been very refreshing to see the resurgence of the Roguelike genre within the indie industry, and this game is most definitely one of the prominent examples of which.

 

Storyline – 7/10

The basic premise of the game’s story, as I mentioned, is that the English and the French are at war, and a new ability to wage war has been born in an alternative reality to our own. Soldiers are now fighting with machines known as Ironcasts, and the player character is on the side of the English and must do everything in their power to stave off the French advancement. It’s a pretty typical story, reminiscent of any story in either the Battlefield or the Call of Duty franchises, but although there isn’t any spoken dialogue, the characters still have a lot more personality than many of the characters in any of the aforementioned examples at least.

 

Originality – 7/10

For the longest time, I would look at games such as Candy Crush and Jelly Splash and think that there surely must be some way to modify the same existing formula to make even more remotely interesting than what those games are. Alas, the developers of this game have come up with a very interesting answer to that question, and have made possibly the most interesting puzzle game I’ve seen since Tetris. If this is the kind of gaming experience that Ripstone Games can conceive, I’m looking forward to what they can possibly go on to do in the future.

Happii

Overall, Ironcast is an immensely pleasing title, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a Steam account. It’s an interesting puzzle-based RPG, which can be enjoyed at player’s leisure as opposed to them having to wait for hours at a time for lives to regenerate.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)