Tag Archives: Roguelike

Scrabdackle SS7

Q&A With Jakefriend

Once again scouring Kickstarter for more upcoming video game projects, I stumbled upon a simplistic-looking, yet potentially addictive title named Scrabdackle. Scrabdackle is a top-down RPG roguelike, heavily influenced by the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening, and incorporating a playstyle similar to that of The Binding Isaac, under development by the developer known as Jakefriend originating from Toronto, Canada.

 

The game incorporates a colorful and wonderfully simplistic hand-drawn visual style but incorporates gameplay centered around intense combat with players able to take advantage of a number of various different spells to take out hordes of enemies, and also features a non-linear open world which players can explore at their leisure. There are also multiple paths to go down and secrets to uncover along the way, facilitating multiple playthroughs. Set in the world of Scrabdackle, it follows an apprentice wizard named Blue, who is ejected from his own academy by a dark wizard and thrust into the harsh environment and its many dangers.

 

Eager to know more about the excellent-looking title, I reached out to Jakefriend to ask a series of questions about the game, and what stages in development it currently resides within following the recently successful Kickstarter campaign. Here’s what Jakefriend had to say about Scrabdackle:

 

Scrabdackle SS1

What were the influences behind your game?

There is no outright direct influence, but the biggest of them would be the Game Boy Zelda games: Link’s Awakening foremost, then Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages. I loved the idea that the world maps of these games were these finite things that you could explore one square at a time, yet still felt endless and always with something new to discover crisscrossing them. A lot of modern games inspired by LA can fall into the trap of having a world be very linear despite the presentation of openness; I’m actively pursuing the feeling of going exploring and getting a bit lost, and the reward of gaining a better understanding of the overall space once you find your bearings.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

So far, it’s been like continually delaying dessert until I’ve eaten all my greens, haha! I’m extremely excited to work on more content, especially bosses, but I’ve tried to be more responsible than that and get the fundamental systems in place first so that the demo represents an effective vertical slice of gameplay. For a long time, it was “I’ll finish the events system, then I’ll tackle the Ducklands content,” then “Okay, I should actually prioritize the GUI updates and lore system, but after that, it’s content time,” to “I don’t really have any time for anything but bugfixes and some polish before the Kickstarter!” Though I’m quite proud of the demo, content is the main thing it’s lacking, and both my longtime players and I are looking forward to having more to see and do in the world than just the ‘same experience, but increasingly polished! I’m adding some new gameplay content as a mid-campaign event right now for the first time since honestly maybe October, and it’s been sooooo enjoyable.

 

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How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Quite far! I did a rough map of the world at one point, not counting any content additions that backers have now funded, and Junk Heap (the tutorial area) was only about 3-4% of the rough full-scope. While the game is approaching systems-complete, it’s very much content-light at the moment, and expanding new areas and enemies is a big priority of full development.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I love doing everything. I mean it! Handling the art, music, design, coding, AND writing means whenever I start to feel burned out on one branch of development, I can skip to another, let that part of my brain rest and refresh, while still making forward progress. Being able to take a step back at something like the Peanut Village hub area – a congruence of all of those branches – and see a thriving place that matches my mental picture of vibrance and goofiness is one of the most rewarding things, barring seeing Let’s Plays of others having their first reaction to it.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

I’m not very back-end technical. I find figuring out things like multithreading for performance and faster loading quite challenging to wrap my head around; I’m a confident coder otherwise but it’s territory when even the “explain like I’m 5” explanations of how to handle it sound unintelligible. There’s plenty of performance improvements yet to be made as I’m still getting an understanding of that kind of thing.

 

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How well has the game been received so far?

Extremely well! At around 8,200 downloads presently since September, we’re still trending a 4.85 score in itch out of 5 with 90 ratings, as well as 4.83 on my private Google Form results

with 93 ratings where I ask for players to be critical about their experience. And the community around the game is extremely passionate – I really only pursued a Kickstarter because the demo seemed to be striking a lasting chord with so many people. It’s been really affecting.

 

Although you’ve cited various Game boy games as influences for the music, I got the impression that the soundtrack sounded quite reminiscent of the world of Rare composers such as Grant Kirkhope and David Wise. Would you say they are fair comparisons?

Yes, Grant Kirkhope is a pretty strong influence! Particularly his work on Rare’s Nintendo 64 titles like DK64 and the Banjo-Kazooie games. My soundtrack is still a little more geared towards the instrumentation found in Game Boy era music and is much sparser for exploration themes, but he’s been hugely influential to me in a way that I think is pretty recognizable in the Scrabdackle soundtrack! I don’t know David Wise’s work all that well, but I’d also call out Kozue Ishikawa, the composer of Wario Land II and one of the two composers of Link’s Awakening; her work in those games ranges from quirky and comic to empowering and driving to melancholic and reflective in ways that are very impressive for the limitations of the technology she was working with.

 

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What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Scrabdackle is coming to all PC platforms presently. I’d like to bring it to consoles someday, but am waiting to do that alongside a publisher rather than go it alone. I recognize it’s a gray area of unexplored, back-end-technical space to me, and I can’t sufficiently budget or estimate the time it would take me to do it myself. In a perfect world, if I could only get one console port, it would be Nintendo Switch – I think it’s the perfect market for the game.

 

How fundamental has the Scrabdackle community been in shaping the course of development?

In terms of actually creating a path from a demo to full game development, very! I’ve been pushed forward on a sea of steady encouragement and support. In terms of my development plans, I would say my original vision has largely not been externally shaped – I find it very effective to clarify your own vision then stick to it and to consciously not pursue most suggestions thrown your way unless you’re changing the core vision or it fits within it.

That said, in the original demo I almost didn’t add dialogue at all, and eventually put in a few conversations just before making it public. The feedback on the dialogue was really, really positive, and made it clear that talking to people in the world was a highlight – so that’s been heavily emphasized in the game by that community feedback. The standout “lore book” feature recently implemented also comes from a community suggestion.

 

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

Well, the idea of the game being a boss battle game with just a little bit of empty world traversal has definitely been done away with, but that happened well before the public demo was released. The level design has changed a lot to be less completely hands-off since the first demo. Initially, you could go anywhere and wander around potentially nearly all of the game’s map without coming across (or requiring) the wand, or coming across any save points or focal goals. I’ve made small but important adjustments in my approach to guide players through one of two routes towards the wand (the game’s immediate first goal), both of which directly pass save points, and to limit the initial exploration space until the wand is found. Players were feeling frustrated that they could explore too broadly without a critical tool; having a soft gate to ensure they collect that tool first has actually really improved the rest of the non-linear exploration experience.

 

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

I don’t think I’d want that – the larger the company, the more you have to fill a tight niche, and what I really enjoy about the work as a small fish is the breadth of exposure and jack-of-all-trades nature. I really love all of the things I get to do, and giving any of them up to mainline just AI coding or just art or something would be a sacrifice of my continued development of those skills, and of my ability to “refresh” by mixing up my creative focus, and of my ability to influence the game in a more meaningful way. If I was offered a game designer role or a sub-director role where I did still get to work closely with the entire development team, that’d be something I’d really love to try but isn’t necessarily company-dependant or franchise-dependant.

 

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Have there been any ideas incorporated into Scrabdackle that you’ve carried over from games you used to develop as a hobby?

From my own previous projects, honestly, not really! Pretty much everything I’ve worked on has been a different genre – puzzle platformer, arcade shooter, etcetera. I have some strong feelings about what makes for good game design in a holistic way, but nothing game-specific has really traveled between projects. The closest I can say is that the Skrine character, presented as some sort of omniscient entity, is a character brought over from my long-running homebrew D&D campaign, where they played a similar role as an archfey trickster.

 

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

If you want to start as an indie dev… just start! Join a 2-day jam, grab an asset pack, forget about quality, and just try slapping something together as fast as you can. The time restrictions of jams are freeing because you can’t endlessly get lost in perfectionism or uncertainty.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

I’m active on the very wholesome and welcoming Scrabdackle Discord regularly, post neat gamedev updates and gifs to Twitter, and am currently flying past 100% towards stretch goals on Kickstarter (campaign ending April 15th!).

 

Do you have anything else to add?

A huge thanks to the Scrabdackle community for the long road of support over the last 7 months towards the successful Kickstarter funding milestone! It’s genuinely been life-changing, and I’m so excited for what giving Scrabdackle my full-time attention will bring.

 

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I want to take this opportunity to thank Jake for taking the time out to answer my questions and to wish him the best of luck with the game’s launch. You can check out the game and its progress via the links below:

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jakefriend/scrabdackle?ref=discovery_category

Official Website: https://scrabdackle.com/

Twitter: @jakefriend_dev

Discord: Scrabdackle

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE1rInyJzMREQTUFjFV-i0w

You can also download the demo of the game via Jake’s itch.io page:

https://jakefriend.itch.io/scrabdackle

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoy the demo, and that you enjoyed learning more about Scrabdackle as much as I did.

 

Gaem on,

ScouseGamer 88

Scouse Gamer 88 Dwarf Journey Header

Dwarf Journey (PC)

Developer(s) – Orube Studios 

Publisher(s) – Orube Studios 

PEGI – 7

 

Released by Orube Studios as one of two titles in the works simultaneously, Dwarf Journey is a rogue-lite Metroidvania heavy on combat and character development imposed by both Norse mythology and high fantasy. Having been excited by the looks of this game for quite some time, I was eager to play it and see what Orube had to offer; especially following our Q&A;

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/02/12/qa-with-orube-game-studio/

After having played this game all the way through, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

This title featured wonderfully detailed 8 BIT visuals in a world inspired by Norse mythology and the works of fantasy novelists such as JJR Tolkien and Gary Gygax, featuring enemies such as goblins, dragons, and beholders; indeed the second boss fight is very reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins encounter with Smaug in The Hobbit. But besides which, there are also a lot of unique creatures included for good measure, particularly in this level. A lot of the monsters in that dungeon actually reminded me somewhat of the guardian in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild. The soundtrack accompanying the game is a very interesting mix of orchestral music and 80s synth-pop, which I never would’ve thought would work in a fantasy game, but to my surprise, it does work very well. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Heavy on combat, upgrading, and exploration, the game is a rogue-lite so every playthrough provides a different challenge each time. The player must traverse through four separate dungeons incorporating one of a great number of different play styles best suited to them, whilst along the way finding the resources to forge better equipment or upgrade the equipment they already have. Whilst not providing as much challenge as the average rogue-lite, or roguelike for that matter, it still provides an extremely satisfying gaming experience, and for me, serves as an ideal starting point for anyone looking to get into the genre and to move on to more difficult games made in the same vein like Rogue Legacy or Skul: The Hero Slayer

 

Controls – 10/10

A traditional 2D side scroller being easy to learn and only moderately difficult to master, Dwarf Journey no issues with its control scheme. It’s actually well thought out how agility and power can affect an individual’s style of play and how it can be afforded for players to strategize accordingly. The wall-jumping mechanics are also strangely satisfying, allowing for the opportunity to make certain enemy skills have a much more cinematic feel to them. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

One playthrough of this game, depending on player skill, can take there around 5 hours. However, this is a game designed to be played a minimum of two times, since there are two different endings. But besides which, each playthrough offers a different experience, as I said before, so avid players can draw even more playtime out of it than that. It may become somewhat monotonous after a certain amount of playthrough, which would probably be down to a lack of content compared to other rogue-lites, but it can be made to last a significant amount of time regardless. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story of Dwarf Journey follows an elderly Dwarven warrior named Gallar, who after having achieved everything he ever wanted is suddenly drawn towards a mysterious place known as The Valley of Eternity, where within its depths lies an artifact of immeasurable power, which he resolves to recover for himself. The game’s story hearken back to the NES days when most games had only a basic premise as a story,m and not much besides. What separates this story from a lot of others, however, is the fact that it has multiple endings to attain, giving it that little bit more replay value in turn. The basic premise is interesting and the endings will do fairly well to surprise players after Gallar’s arduous journey through the depths. 

 

Originality – 7/10

The game’s level of uniqueness may not be overwhelmingly high, as it is in many other indie titles released in recent years but it is unique in the sense that it provides a much more laid back rogue-lites experience, which many players who may feel jaded by other games in the series they may consider to be too hard, will seem like a welcome breath of fresh air. If there are any players looking to get into this genre of gaming, I would personally recommend they start with this game, as it provides a decent introduction without it being overly easy at the same time. 

 

Happii

In summation, Dwarf Journey is a decent rogue-lite and a solid first developmental effort from Orube Studios. Their next game, Super Mombo Quest, looks to provide a very different experience to that of this title, but nevertheless, I recommend anyone looking to get into rogue-lites that they try this game since as well as being a decent jumping on point, also provides a very enjoyable gaming experience. 

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SG88 Skul Header

Skul: The Hero Slayer (PC)

Developer(s) – SouthPAW Games

Publisher(s) –  NEOWIZ

PEGI – Not Rated (some graphic violence)

 

An early indie title released in the first part of 2021, Skul: The Hero Slayer is a rogue-lite that provides a new gameplay experience with every playthrough offering intense combat, platforming, and an insane amount of customization options for the player character throughout each time playing. Similar to the likes of Rogue Legacy and 88 Heroes, the game can make for hours upon hours of playability and a level of variety in gameplay that I haven’t seen for quite some time. It makes for a far better game than either of the aforementioned examples as well as other games of the same ilk developed in recent years. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

Skul makes use of a traditional 8-BIT visual style with a mythology heavy inspired by high and dark fantasy; it’s basically The Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons in 8-BIT form, featuring creatures straight from the works of Tolkien and Gary Gygax such as ents, chimeras, liches, and demons. But it also has elements inspired by the modern world too; for example, one of the power-ups allows the player to take the form of a biker who attacks with chains and rides a motorbike for a limited amount of time as one of his special moves. It fits interestingly with the tableau of the game, as the character was clearly inspired by the comic book Ghost Rider, but that, along with many of the other powerups found throughout the game, such as the genie and the samurai, add an unexpected, yet welcome level of diversity in character design that I never saw coming at all. 

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The game is a rogue-lite whereby players must face off against hordes of enemies whilst both conserving as much as what they have as possible, including health, whilst at the same time, using items and upgrades collected throughout as wisely as possible. There is an insane amount of power-ups that can be used by players to adopt a ridiculous amount of playstyles, making each playthrough a completely different experience. In that respect, you can draw comparisons to 88 Heroes, only in this case, the feature of being able to play as what are essentially different characters throughout is a lot better thought out in this title and makes for a much more accessible experience overall. Because with 88 Heroes, characters are given to the player at random, and it can hinder the gameplay through no fault of the players. But here, the player gets far more of a choice, making for a better experience overall. On top of that, there are also a great number of perks that can be acquired throughout each playthrough that offer increases in attack, speed, and magic and that also offer passive benefits such as freezing, poisoning, or burning enemies for dealing additional damage. The base stats can also be upgraded before each playthrough such as the attack power and amount of health that the player starts with, making each playthrough more accessible over time, like in Rogue Legacy. But again, in this game, that element is also handled in a far better manner. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is also very interesting indeed. Whilst there are common control elements with each playthrough, such as the ability to attack, jump and dash, each character is controlled differently through all their different movement capabilities, attack patterns, and special moves; so the player has to strategize in accordance with what power-up they have equipped. The controls will seem familiar to players whilst at the same time also offering more than what they’ll be used to in the form of the different power-ups, and it’s really quite an impressive feat that’s been achieved. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

Seasoned players have been able to play through the main game in its entirety in just shy of an hour. However, this is a game that has clearly been designed to be played through many, many times, and players should not stop at one playthrough by any means; even if they somehow manage to beat it on the first time of asking. With everything taken into account in terms of gameplay, there is enough on offer to make this game last an ungodly amount of hours; players may wish to go through the game using different power-ups, or they may wish to try and go through it without using any power-ups or passive abilities at all. The customization options are that insane.

 

Storyline – 7.5/10

But in addition to the compelling gameplay, there’s also a surprisingly touching story behind it as well. The game follows Skul, who is a lowly minion in service to the army of a Demon King. As heroes of humans storm the Demon King’s castle and take him captive, Skul evades capture and resolves to destroy the human army and free his master. The game puts the player on the side of evil and paints Skul, the Demon King, and their allies as the heroes almost, and it’s done in a way that I’ve never seen in a video game before. There have been games that have tried similar things, like Overlord for example, but it’s presented much differently in this game. There’s a sense of elegance about it in each intermittent cutscene that I wasn’t expecting at all. 

 

Originality – 8/10

I’ve mentioned throughout this review that this game threw stuff at me that I was not prepared for in the least bit, and I was pleasantly surprised by all of it. It’s a game that gets the fundamentals right as if it was created by a team of seasoned developers, but yet it also gives players an experience unlike most that have been created throughout the years, and considering that it came from an indie studio really is something. It wasn’t the first game developed by the South Korea-based studio (that would be an app game called BSTG), but their first effort of creating a game designed for conventional consoles, really is phenomenal. 

 

Happii

Overall, Skul: The Hero Slayer is a fantastic rogue-lite with almost limitless possibilities in terms of gameplay, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an exciting and dynamic title in every respect and is not one to be overlooked. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 The Meldstorm Header

Q&A With Liam Dehaudt

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

 

The Meldstorm 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

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

 

What has the developmental process been like?

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

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

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

 

The Meldstorm 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

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

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

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

 

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

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

 

The Meldstorm 3

How well has the game been received so far? 

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

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

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

 

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

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

 

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Where on the Internet can people find you? 

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

https://twitter.com/TheMeldstorm

Also if you like my game, wishlist The Meldstorm:

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

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Have a nice day ^^

 

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

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Scouse Gamer 88 Ironcast Header

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, Ironcast 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 up 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 has ever played Jelly Splash will have a lot of fun with this game in particular.

 

Lifespan – 10/10

As I alluded to, Ironcast 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 it even more remotely interesting than those games are. Alas, the developers of this game have come up with a very interesting answer to that question, and have made for 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)

SG88 Super House of Dead Ninjas Header

Super House of Dead Ninjas (PC)

Developer(s) – MegaDev Games

Publisher(s) – Adult Swim Games

PEGI – 12

 

Developed as a browser game and later ported to Steam, Super House of Dead Ninjas is a 2D platforming roguelike with randomly generated elements making each playthrough a unique experience. Players must fight their way through hordes of enemies whilst descending a tall demonic tower to defeat the game’s end boss. Expecting a very casual experience, I was delightfully surprised to learn what an addictive game it truly is and ended up spending a lot of hours playing it. 

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The game adopts 8-BIT graphics to create a dark fantasy world inspired by medieval England and feudal Japan. Although the game’s setting and scenery can become somewhat repetitive after a while, where this game’s conceptual design truly impresses is in the wide variety of monsters to fight. As the player progresses through the game, new enemies constantly appear for the player to have to contend with as well as differently designed versions of previous enemies to keep the variety in check. The game’s bosses are also superbly varied, which again makes each playthrough wonderfully tense as players must strategize on the spot. The game’s soundtrack, whilst I thought it was enjoyable to listen to, I also thought it was a little out of place. Personally, I think a soundtrack that was more akin to the game’s opening theme would’ve fitted better. 

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

The objective of the game is to descend a huge tower whilst hacking and slashing a path through a plethora of enemies in order to reach the bottom where the game’s end boss is waiting. To do so is an insanely addicting experience and since the game is for the most part randomly generated, each playthrough offers a new challenge every time down to the positions of enemies, the layout of each floor, and the boss-type the player encounters at the end of each segment. The purpose of each playthrough is to collect each of the unlocked weapons and concept art so that gameplay varied is furthermore increased offering players the scope to either try new playthroughs using different kinds of weapons or to eventually mix and match weapons and abilities in order to find the best way of traversing the tower as quickly and as unharmed as possible. For such a simplistic concept, it’s staggering to discover just how much variety and how replay value there is to be had with this title. 

 

Controls – 9.5/10

As the game is built on a formula that has been around for almost half a century, it’s to be expected that there shouldn’t be any problems with the controls and for the most part, there isn’t; for as fast a paced game this is designed to be, everything is set up for players, particularly more seasoned ones, to make it flow as naturally and as fluently as possible. The only minor gripe I have with the control scheme is the duck mechanic. It took me a while to figure out how to duck and dash at the same time and to do so using a controller is slightly awkward, which did make me unnecessarily die a lot of the time before I finally discovered how to do it, by using both analog sticks at the same time. Even then it can mar the experience down somewhat, but thankfully, there are generally speaking very few instances within each playthrough that don’t call for the use of ducking and dashing so it’s by no means a problem to make the game unplayable. 

 

Lifespan – 10/10

Although seasoned players will be able to beat Super House of Dead Ninjas within ten minutes, the randomly generated content makes for an entirely new experience every time, giving it virtually unlimited replay value. Although some players may seem like all-purpose to playing the game is lost once all weapons and abilities are unlocked, this, however, is only the beginning as players can also choose to play through the game using these different weapons every time and effectively give themselves the new challenge that comes with this. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

As there is only the basic premise, which I’ve already covered, the game offers fairly little in terms of story. It’s very reminiscent of how the story in video games would typically be told in old 8-BIT games of the third generation; usually, players would have to rely on the manual to learn more about it, whereas, with this game, more details on the story can only be found on the game’s official website or on the Steam page. But with that, there comes the security of not knowing there are no ridiculous plot holes or bad voice acting at least. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Although the game copies a formula that has existed for a long time, few games provide this much simplicity in design and this much variety in the gameplay at the same time. The game’s enemy design also does well to keep the game fresh throughout without things getting too repetitive and the entire basic premise in and of itself is also fairly unique. There is certainly scope to expand on the game mythology if ever the developers were to make a sequel and the original game would’ve provided enough of a springboard to make that happen. 

 

Happii

In summation, Super House of Dead Ninjas is an immersive, addictive, and insanely fun game to play. It can be played for countless hours thanks to the wonderful amount of variety in gameplay and it’s a title that I can’t recommend enough. 

Score

47.5/60

7/10 (Good)

Aquamarine Header

Q&A With Moebial Studios

Continuing on with my efforts to discover new and upcoming video games and sharing them with my readers, last week, I stumbled on another ambitious and exciting title in the works. Aquamarine, developed by Moebial Studios operating chiefly out of Yreka California, is an open-world underwater survival game influenced by an insanely wide array of different science-fiction games, comic books, and films and upon release will be boasting a wide range of gameplay mechanics including vehicular travel and upgrades, morality mechanics, unearthing secrets the world has to offer and wide-scale exploration (to name but a few), which players will have to take advantage of in order to survive in a beautifully designed outlandish underwater world that is the game’s namesake.

Already having reached the halfway point in their Kickstarter campaign at the time of writing, I reached out to the game’s lead designer Patric Fallon to find out more about this game and its breathtaking conceptual design as well as to unearth some facts about what games influenced this title and about its developmental process thus far. This is what Patric had to say about Aquamarine:

 

Aquamarine 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

So many! We actually listed some of the main ones on our Kickstarter page. But everything from Lucasarts-style adventure games, to old-school roguelikes, to Dark Souls and Metroidvanias, to survival games like Don’t Starve and The Long Dark has influenced Aquamarine’s design. Aesthetically speaking, we’re pulling a whole lot from psychedelic sci-fi art of the ’70s and ’80s, as well as the comics and animated films of that time. Our core influence for the visuals is French artist Moebius, who’s been having a bit of a popularity resurgence in games lately.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been slow, sporadic, and long. Development is tough to do without funds of any kind, but developing while trying to raise funds is also tough. We’ve had some major team changes over the years as well, but once those were handled we finally could move forward at full power. Since planning for this new Kickstarter with our current team, development has gone swimmingly, and we’ve brought Aquamarine to new heights that even surprise me sometimes.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

Our goal is to have development wrapped by Q4 2020. Many things can change about the game and its release during that time, but we’re making sure our Kickstarter backers will have access to what we’re making ASAP.

 

Aquamarine 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

For me, it’s most recently been bringing together the current team we have now and seeing how well all of their work clicks together. Our new lead artist Leo d’Almeida is incredibly imaginative with color and concepts, and our new composer Thomas Hoey is massively talented at evoking a mood and fleshing it out through a composition. All of that coupled with my designs and our animator Drew Brouillette‘s eye for movement and detail has been so satisfying to see come together.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?   

At this point, the only real challenge has been funding. No one works for free, nor should they, and so self-funding development ahead of this Kickstarter has been difficult. I had to uproot myself from living in Brooklyn, NY, for 8 years to move to a tiny Northern California mountain town in order to be closer to family, save money, and finish Aquamarine’s development.

 

What has been the most frustrating aspect of development?   

I’m not sure if there have been any major frustrations yet, but it can occasionally be problematic that our team is spread around the world in different time zones. But that’s really more about me wrestling my own brain about maximizing this, that, or the other. The truth is that everyone working on Aquamarine is reliable, professional, and above all else EXCITED about making the game. Nothing frustrating about that at all. 

 

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Something I’ve noticed about the game is the comic book art style. Were there any comic book series in particular that influenced this game?

Absolutely! In fact, I don’t think the game would exist at all if it weren’t for Moebius’s comic anthology The World of Edena. It’s such a beautiful and ground-breaking book that reading it immediately made me think, “How in the world is there no video game that looks like this? Or feels like this?” That’s how this whole thing began.

 

In terms of gameplay, how have you and the team been working to deliver a relaxing experience whilst having been influenced by some of the most action-packed games ever developed like Metroid and Castlevania?

Well, we’re essentially talking about two different aspects of game design: overarching design concepts vs. moment-to-moment action. Many of Aquamarine’s overarching design concepts come from my love for Metroidvania and Soulslike games, such as open-ended exploration, little to no hand-holding, item-locked progression, a single currency to collect and spend, and so on. But our moment-to-moment action comes from different genres, such as classic roguelikes, point-and-click adventures, and turn-based tactics games. Having a slower, more contemplative gameplay loop allows us to explore these mechanics from more action-y titles in a different way.

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

I think we’ve had nothing but positive reactions so far since the Kickstarter launch, and it just keeps ramping up every day. And back when we were showing off super early versions of the demo, people were intrigued by the design ideas we were experimenting with. We even got a snazzy write-up in PC Gamer Magazine in early 2019. We’ve also been approached by a handful of publishers and tons of fans curious about getting involved with Aquamarine in some fashion. I think that response will only continue to expand once we reach people who still don’t know we exist.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Currently, we are looking only at PC, Mac, and Linux, simply because that’s been my bread and butter for years. But I’m absolutely interested in what a console port of Aquamarine might look like and will be exploring that possibility if/when the time is right. I think Switch would be our first move on that front.

 

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

Follow what you care about, not what everyone around you seems to be interested in. I think it’s far too common for game makers to want to capitalize on a trend or make something that’s easy to explain to the majority of gamers. But that’s always a quick way to become another generic title in an ocean of generic titles and lose yourself in the process. Only by sticking to your passions will you make something true to yourself and not get burnt out as you go through the difficult journey of actually making it.

 

Do you have anything else to add? 

Please check out our Kickstarter and consider backing us. We’re over halfway to our goal!

 

As well as checking out their Kickstarter page, you can also visit Moebial’s social media platforms via the links below:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/moebial?lang=en

Tumblr – https://moebial.tumblr.com/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/aquamarinegame/

The game’s Kickstarter campaign is continuing to gather momentum and you can help bring the project to life by donating towards the goal. Aquamarine is most definitely a game worth backing and I can’t wait until its release to see what kind of experience the finished product brings. As always, I hope you guys had as much fun checking Aquamarine out as I did and hopefully the title will gain enough momentum to be successfully backed before the deadline.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer88

SG88 Ziggurat Header

Ziggurat (PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC)

Developer(s) – Milkstone Studios

Publisher(s) – Milkstone Studios

PEGI – 12

 

First released on Steam Early Access back in 2014, and going on to see both digital and physical releases on multiple platforms, Ziggurat is a Roguelike first-person shooting dungeon crawler, somewhat reminiscent of Tower of Guns, with a heavy emphasis on combat, player character development, and above all, challenge. After having played Tower of Guns, I had fairly high expectations of how good this game would be, and how it would do the things is does; overall, I was not disappointed.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The game takes place in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world bearing resemblance to game series’ such as Warcraft or Baldur’s Gate. The graphical quality of the title is stunning, especially for a game developed independently, but more importantly, it also does extremely well to break away from games that were clearly taken as an influence by incorporating a massive variety of unique creatures and boss characters, such as Sir Arthur and Lady Audrey. Cutting edge graphics can mean much less if there isn’t variety in conceptual design, but this game has both.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The basic premise of gameplay, along with the game’s story, is that an apprentice wizard must take on the challenge of the Ziggurat in order to graduate from his order. Players must undertake increasingly difficult tasks of ascending the floors of the Ziggurat, which are filled with dangerous monsters and challenging obstacles throughout. Players can take advantage of a massive choice of different weapons, spells, and perks that can found across the game in order to survive for as long as possible and to try and eventually graduate from the wizard’s order. Locations, enemies, and bosses, in Roguelike tradition, are procedurally generated, and thus does each playthrough provides a new set of challenges every time, keeping the game insanely fresh, and giving it virtually infinite replay value, which can make for hours upon hours of fun.

 

Controls – 10/10

Belonging to a genre that has dominated the video gaming market since the sixth generation, Ziggurat’s controls are perfect, providing no unnecessary complications, straightforward control mechanics, and incorporating all aspects of gameplay seamlessly. The fact that the player character moves faster than in most other first-person shooters also provides quite a lot of fluency for players who have mastered it after a while, as it can become quite satisfying to be able to effectively dodge a wide variety of simultaneous enemy attacks. By the same token, it can also provide an equal amount of challenge to newcomers, since it can be quite easy to rush through unexplored areas, and accidentally fall for a number of given obstacles such as lava pits.

 

Originality – 7/10

Though Ziggurat is not the first game of its kind to incorporate the basic premise of gameplay that it does, it stands out for a massive number of different reasons; the variety in gameplay combat options it provides, as well as its conceptual design and artistic direction in terms of visuals. Although it’s clearly not without its influences, it provides a marvelous gaming experience that greatly shines throughout the indie developer community, and it’s certainly worth playing again and again.

 

Happii

Happii

Overall, Ziggurat is a highly enjoyable game, filled with challenge, entertainment, and a staggering amount of replayability. It looks great, it plays out wonderfully, and stands out as one of the better gaming experiences on eighth-generation hardware.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 The Binding of Isaac Header

The Binding of Isaac (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS & Xbox One)

Designer(s) – Edmund McMillan & Florian Himsl

PEGI – 16

 

Created by Edmund McMillan, the same mind behind the infamously difficult Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac is a Roguelike that can be seen as a love letter to the original Legend of Zelda game, but with its own very unique twists. Regardless of how morbid this game can seem to many people, it’s also a particularly enjoyable one to play. But be warned: it isn’t for those who are easily offended.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals, rendered in the same artistic style as Super Meat Boy, contain a lot of unique, yet taboo elements in things like the various power-ups that can be found in the game, and especially in its creature roster, with it being capped off by some of the most compellingly disturbing bosses I’ve ever seen in video games. The only gripe I have with it is that the settings can get a little repetitious at times, but the various DLC packages and re-releases fixed that problem to a certain extent.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Playing out with mainly the dungeon crawling aspects of The Legend of Zelda series, it involves simply killing all enemies, and the boss at the end of each stage, then rinse and repeat. But each playthrough is different, as every section of every stage is randomly generated, presenting players with new power-ups and a new challenge every time. It’s quite testing, but not to the point of being unforgiving, which after playing Super Meat Boy, was like a breath of fresh air to me.

 

Controls – 10/10

There are also no issues with the controls. There are obstacles present in certain areas of each stage, such as floor spikes and bombs that could detonate unexpectedly, but whether or not the player survives is entirely dependant on their own level of skill, which is how I think games like this should be. At times, players are required to think on their toes in order to accommodate for what abilities and perks they may or may not have; especially during boss fights.

 

Lifespan – 10/10

As each playthrough presents a new challenge and experience every time, the game quite literally has infinite replay value. I love to see this in any game, but it’s particularly noteworthy when an indie developer manages to accomplish this since I hear many developers and critics citing that the budget may have been a factor in a game’s development cycle. But especially considering that this started out as a mere Flash game, and would have cost next to nothing to create, it says to me that the limitations stem from the developer’s imaginations.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story is extremely reminiscent of the Bible story of the same name. It follows a young boy named Isaac, who once lived peacefully with his mother until the voice of God called out to her to “cut her son off from the world’s evils”, and lock him in his room. God finally calls out to Isaac’s mother, demanding that she sacrifice her son to him as proof that she loves God above all. But before his mother can burst to kill him, Isaac jumps down a trap door in his bedroom to plunge into the dangerous depths below, and into a world of danger. The story is extremely controversial, containing a number of mature themes and taboos, including, suicide, child neglect, religious hypocrisy, infanticide; the list goes on. But above all, it’s very enjoyable for those willing to take heed to the lessons conveyed within it.

 

Originality – 7/10

Though there have been many Roguelike games to have come and gone, this is a game that stands out among most others. It goes where other games and developers are generally afraid to go. After Super Meat Boy, I resented the development of such a game. But The Binding of Isaac has made me respect Edmund McMillan a great deal more than I did as a developer; especially since this was also a very personal game for him, as many of the game’s events were in fact based on his own childhood experiences.

 

Happii

Happii

Overall, The Binding of Isaac, whilst being the most controversial game I’ve ever played, is also one of the more enjoyable. It has everlasting replay value, as well as a story and premise that has rightfully propelled Edmund McMillan into a very special place in gaming history.

Score

50/60

8/20 (Very Good)

SG88 Rogue Legacy Header

Rogue Legacy (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Cellar Door Games

Designer(s) – Kenny & Teddy Lee

PEGI – 12

 

Rogue Legacy is a 2D randomly generated semi-open world side scroller RPG roguelike, requiring the player to adapt to a wide variety of different dangers throughout, and coming up with as much gold and as many different upgrades with each playthrough. Although it is particularly demanding of its players in terms of individual skill, and it does take a bit of time to get the game’s fundamentals right to start, it can turn into a very enjoyable gaming experience within a quick enough time frame, without it being far too inaccessible like the games that it was based on.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals of Rogue Legacy are extremely reminiscent of that of some of the earlier years of console gaming, containing finely designed 16-bit pixel art throughout, as well as even some 8-bit music in its soundtrack. In many different ways, besides the graphics, the game can be seen as a love letter to a number of early Castlevania games; namely the original trilogy, as well as Symphony of the night, given the fact that the majority of the game takes place within and around a castle filled with tons of different enemies to have to overcome.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game requires the player to traverse Castle Hampson, and its other surrounding areas, to simply kill as many enemies as possible and accumulate as much gold as possible in order to pay for upgrades, which will, in turn, make each succeeding player character stronger in order to eventually conquer the castle’s four bosses, and open the door to the game’s final boss. Every time a character dies, the player must then select an heir to that character, and return to the castle to simply rinse and repeat. What I like about this game so much is that the player character is almost always different in stature, ability, and strength, forcing players to compromise accordingly, and adapt to multiple styles of play. The game demands diversity, exploration of gameplay variety, and experimentation; all whilst not being too punishing like many other retro 2D side scrollers.

 

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I have with the controls is that they can be a little bit unresponsive at times, which in turn can lead to making unforced errors here and there. But by no means does this make the game unplayable. The control scheme, as well as the success of the game heavily relies on the player’s ability to adapt to things such as character variety, enemy patterns, and being as prepared as possible for the unexpected.

 

Lifespan – 10/10

With an intense learning curve, as well as the facility to fight harder variations of the five bosses in the game, with the reward for beating them being an additional unlockable character, this game offers almost unlimited replay value; especially since it offers a different experience every time. It could be argued that one playthrough would take a few hours, but I believe playing through the entire game in one sitting will be a rarity.

 

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

The game is also like an arcade title, in the respect that there is really no fixed plot, but only a basic premise, which is described through the basic premise of gameplay. There is a side quest present in which the player must find a series of journals left behind by the castle’s prince, giving a small element of back story, which to me, acts as nothing more than a bonus, since this game didn’t need a fixed story, and by proxy, it isn’t marred down by any kind of feeble attempt at establishing one.

 

Originality – 6/10

Let it never be said that Rogue Legacy clearly has its influence in terms of both visual style and the basic premise of its gameplay. It even bears some resemblance to the same basic premise of many other video games before the story was as much of a focus as it is today. It does, however, score points in terms of originality for its positive modifying of a very popular gaming formula, since no other game of its kind (that I’ve played anyway), has been able to offer such a huge amount of replay value.

 

Happii

Happii

To summarize, I would go so far as to say that Rogue Legacy is one of the greatest roguelike games I have ever played. It may sound like an extremely controversial opinion, but I’ve never played Rogue. But as it stands, this definitely makes the list of the best as far as I’m concerned.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)