Tag Archives: Scouse Gamer 88

Cuphead (PC & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Studio MDHR

Publisher(s) – Studio MDHR

Director(s) – Chad & Jared Moldenhauer

Producer(s) – Maria & Ryan Moldenhauer

One of the most highly anticipated games of 2017, following it’s initial showcasing at E3 four year prior, Cuphead is a traditional side scrolling run and gun game with an eye-catching and unique conceptual design and gameplay that is as challenging as it is satisfying. I first sampled this game at Play Manchester 2017 shortly after it’s release, and realized thought while it is indeed very challenging, it’s also a great deal of fun, and one of the better indie experiences of last year.

Graphics – 10/10

The game adopts the visuals style of the golden age of American animation of the early 1900s, having been influenced by classic cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop among many others. The games visual style was the most noteworthy aspect of it when it was first showcased, and arguably still is. Although the game’s play style is extremely enjoyable beyond it’s visuals, I believe it’s still the game’s finest point. Though plenty of games based on cartoon animation have since come and gone, few games have ever looked as compelling as Cuphead does.

Gameplay – 8/10

As stated, the game revolves around players running and gunning through a selection of side scrolling levels, but the most prevalent feature in the gameplay is the numerous boss fights throughout, which for the most part, are extremely well handled, and come with a fair amount of challenge to match. I had an extremely difficult time trying to pick a favourite boss fight in Cuphead because each one of them is memorable in it’s own right. But in the end, I decided to pick out Grim Matchstick as being my favourite, as for me, it provided the best blend of both challenge and individual conceptual design. Other outstanding boss fights in this in my opinion included Dr. Kahl’s Robot, Djimmi the Great, Ribby & Croaks and Cali Maria.

Controls – 10/10

With every intentionally difficult game I review, I always look at the controls with a greater sense of importance than other games, because control schemes in these kinds of games in my personal opinion are largely hit and miss, and can greatly affect the sense of challenge the game has to offer. For example, the original Mega Man was intentionally difficult, and as most players who have played it will testify, it is a particularly challenging game. But I personally found there to be some issues with the controls; especially in Guts Man’s stage where there is precision platforming required. Thankfully, however, Cuphead does not have these issues. If mistakes are made, it will be down to the player’s individual skill, which is the way it should be.

Lifespan – 6/10

The biggest gripe I have with the game is in its lifespan. The game, dependent on player skill of course, can take there around 6 hours to complete to 100%, which for the amount of time it took to finish, seemed somewhat uneven to me personally. I can’t deduct too many points from it in this aspect, however, for two reasons. It lasts longer than most classic games of it’s kind, and the development time was clearly put into getting every other aspect of the game right. It would have been nice to have a few more side scrolling levels added to balance out the amount of boss fights, but nevertheless, it’s a somewhat reasonably long game, and for the time players will spend playing it, they will thoroughly enjoy it for what it is.

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story follows the titular character Cuphead and is friend Mugman, who against the advice of their master, The Elder Kettle, wander off far from their home, and come across a casino. They find themselves on a winning streak at the craps table when they are suddenly interrupted by the Devil, who raises the stakes. If they win one more roll, the pair will get all the loot in his casino. But if they lose, they must forfeit their souls. Cuphead agreed, but rolls a snake eyes, and after pleading for their lives, the Devil makes Cuphead and Mugman a deal; if the pair can claim the souls of numerous runaway debtors for the Devil, he may consider pardoning them. The game’s story is simple in structure, but fairly unique in concept at the same time. It even has multiple endings, given the player’s choice. It’s the story, as well as it’s visual design, that make it clear that this game was quite simply a labour of love.

Originality – 8/10

The Moldenhauers created this game based on their own experiences of watching classics Disney and Fleischer cartoons in their youth, and in Chad Moldenhauer’s own words, sought to mimic the more subversive and surrealist elements of the classic cartoonists of the day. And subversive and surreal are some of the best words that I can possibly use to describe this game. It was enough to raise a great deal of eyebrows at E3 2014 with it’s own unique conceptual design, and it has since impressed a great deal of gamers since it’s release, including me.

Overall, Cuphead is a visually stunning and delightfully challenging game with a lot to offer both veteran gamers with an appreciation for their routes, and for newer generation gamers, who may be curious about experiencing some of the beginnings of video game design. Though it took an unusually long time to be released following it’s initial showcasing, it turned out to be more than worth the wait, and it comes highly recommended from me.

Score

49.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Koichi Hayashida

Released in the holiday season of 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey presents players with a return to the open-ended 3D style of play of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, and invigorates the series with new abilities and environments, as well as incorporating elements of classic Super Mario gameplay, such as side scrolling. From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this title, and whilst it didn’t become my favourite Super Mario game of all time, certainly goes above and beyond many other games in the series in recent years.

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing to say about the visuals is that on a technical level, this is the best that Super Mario has ever looked. Each character and level found throughout the game is wonderfully detailed, and the blending of 3D and 2D make for something particularly special in terms of graphics. Conceptually, the game does fairly well to stand out from the rest of series in addition, which is quite remarkable given the astounding amount of transition the series has gone through over the 32 years it’s been around. After having watched the trailers for the game before it’s release, I was sceptical as to how some of the environments that were shown would fit with a series like Super Mario Bros, but after playing, I was posthumously proven wrong. Each level especially the Metro Kingdom, which I was most sceptical about, adds a new dimension to the series that I hadn’t thought possible beforehand.

Gameplay – 9/10

Much like Super Mario Galaxy 2, the objective of the game is for the player to find power moons, instead of stars, to power up Mario’s newfound ship named The Odyssey to advance from one level to the other in order to reach Bowser and rescue Peach from him. The most standout feature in terms of gameplay is Mario using his new anthropomorphic hat named Cappy to possess certain enemies throughout the game, and thus use their abilities to the player’s advantage. Much like the new settings, it adds another unique twist to the series’ tableau, as well as a new approach to gameplay, which has scarcely been seen in games before. And in lieu of 3D Super Mario tradition, the game simply doesn’t end with Peach being saved from Bowser. After the main game has been completed, there is a plethora of additional power moons to find, as well as additional objectives given to players for completion on a scale never seen before in a Super Mario game.

Controls – 10/10

Since the 3D Mario formula has existed for over 20 years, it would be more than reasonable to think there would be no issues with the controls; and so there aren’t. Super Mario Odyssey plays out as seamlessly as any other 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64, and the way in which new combat abilities and enemy abilities that Mario can adopt are also seamlessly integrated into the rest of the formula.

Lifespan – 9/10

The base game will take players there around 10 hours to complete, but after which, that hardly even counts as scratching the surface. Each level has an amount of collectibles to pick up that is unfathomable compared to every other Super Mario game before it. It will easily make for 60-70 plus hours of gameplay, and an excellent addition to the collection of extremely long games on the Nintendo Switch along with Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Skyrim.

Storyline – 7.5/10

Following the usual Super Mario Bros formula, Super Mario Odyssey follows the story of Mario having to save Princess Peach from Bowser; only this time, Bowser plans to marry Peach after stealing various relics from each kingdom throughout the world. Mario is also joined by the aforementioned anthropomorphic hat named Cappy, who is also out to rescue a female anthropomorphic hat named Tiara, whom Bowser has Peach wear in preparation for the wedding. Though for the most part the story is largely unoriginal, especially for anything seen in a Super Mario game prior, what makes the way in which is story is told in Odyssey stand out fractionally more than other Mario games is the projection of emotion found throughout. Mario is portrayed as slightly less of an unstoppable superhero capable of beating anyone he comes across, and is shown to feel the difficulty and hardship of what it is he is setting out do. On several occasions, Mario comes painfully close to rescuing Peach from Bowser before the final battle, but he is shown to suffer setbacks, which visibly frustrate him, and though these are not things that haven’t been seen in games prior to this by any stretch of the imagination, it is something new to the series, which in terms of story, has needed for quite some time. But in terms of depth in plot, it still leaves players wanting much more in this respect. It’s certainly my biggest criticism that I have to levy against this game.

Originality – 8.5/10

With that one main qualm I have out of the way, the fact of the matter remains that this game is the most unique Mario experience released since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in terms of every other aspect aside from story. The settings are outstanding and the gameplay is even more so. In recent years, the originality of this series has been very much hit and miss in my opinion, with me contrasting the uniqueness of games such as Super Mario 3D World and Paper Mario: Colour Splash, but Odyssey could possibly pave the way for more unique Super Mario experiences in the future, introducing new elements to the series, which could potentially be either expanded upon or could be spun off into even more new elements depending on what direction Nintendo want to take it into.

Happii

Overall, despite lacking in story, Super Mario Odyssey delivers players, which is in my opinion, the best Super Mario game since Galaxy 2. And whilst it may not be anywhere near as good as the former, it certainly spells a bright future for the franchise, as well as giving players what is probably the longest Mario experience ever.

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great)

Q&A With Haywire Studios

During my recent hiatus from writing, I was contact by another independent game development studio I had approached some time ago about bring to the attention of my readers another upcoming indie game, which had successfully met it’s backing goals. Haywire studios, operating out of Adelaide, Australia are currently working on an open-world top-down RPG name A Matter of Time. Employing a classic 8-BIT visual style, and mixing aspects of medieval fantasy and science fiction, the game also incorporates the manipulation of time into it’s core gameplay, with the main character James being armed with a relic known as the Paradox Cape. Not a great deal is known about how exactly the Paradox Cape will affect the game’s mechanics, since it is still quite a ways away from being finished, but the main coder known as CamCog, agreed to answer some questions I sent over to him to get more of an insight into some of the game’s details. Here are their answers:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

The historical side of ‘A Matter of Time’ was very much influenced by my interest in historic battles and how they have shaped the way of warfare. Also, some of the gameplay was inspired by other indie RPG titles such as Hyper Light Drifter and Undertale.

What has the developmental process been like?

The developmental process of the game has definitely been a good experience overall. It has taught (and is still teaching) me much about how to create a great game and what to avoid when doing so. Unfortunately, given that this is my first time developing a big project, it’s been quite a new experience and there have been a lot of unexpected setbacks.  For example, it took way longer than planned to get a graphic designer which led to some of the game’s development being delayed. It’s also very time-consuming and tiring to code a whole game independently, even with the major help of a sound and graphic designer. Despite these setbacks, progress of the game’s development is beginning to go more smoothly and I am hopeful that the final product will be something that I can be proud of.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much work on the game previous to the Kickstarter so the finished product is still quite a long way away – winter 2019 to be exact. However, if all goes to plan, a demo for the game will be released in early 2018, which will at least be something for people to see.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

The most exciting aspect of development has definitely been the making of the ‘A Matter of Time’ universe along with the locations and characters that are included in it. Apart from that, the thought of seeing players’ immerse themselves in the universe that you created is something that inspires me to complete the game.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The most challenging aspect of development is that the whole game is mainly being coded by me. While it is great to be able to take the wheel and code whatever you want with the only limitation being your skill, it is very difficult for only one person to take this massive workload. I sometimes am finding myself staying up until 2am just trying to figure out how to get a simple issue fixed, which I know could be solved in a matter of minutes by a small team of developers. However, as I stated earlier, the whole developmental process has been somewhat educational and learning to do so much work alone has definitely helped in teaching me so much about game development.


What other kinds of additional abilities will the Paradox Cape have
?

A lot of The Paradox Cape’s details are going to stay a secret until the game’s launch. However, I can give some small details to give you a ‘taste’ of its power. For example, the Paradox Cape will be able to act as a temporary ‘invisibility cloak’ when stealth is key. It will also, when the ability is unlocked, be able to pacify enemies up until a certain strength. Additionally, it can also act as a comfy blanket on a cold day!

 

How well has the game been received so far?

There have been some positive comments on the game’s Kickstarter which indicates that people are somewhat excited for the game’s development. There has also been some small discussion on the game’s Discord server which is good to see as well. Apart from that, however,  not much has been going on in terms of the game’s audience due to there not being much gameplay available for people to witness.

How big a part will time paradoxes play in the outcome of the story?

Time paradoxes aren’t too huge in terms of the game’s storyline, but they will definitely have a big part to play in the game’s mechanics. Unfortunately, due to this being a feature of the Paradox Cape, I am not willing to share the exact details of what will happen.

Was real-life history part of the influences behind this game?

It certainly was, with an obvious example being the place where James is first found, the Battle of Hattin. Groups that are famous in history are also influences for the game. In fact, they are a big part of the game. Some examples are the Templar Knights and the Ayyubid forces.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

The demo will be available for free on itch.io, and the finished game will be available on Steam for an estimated $5 (USD).

Will time travel be implemented into the gameplay?

Definitely. You will even see time travel in the game’s demo when James is transported from the Battle of Hattin to the future.

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

Given that I am a new developer, there is not much amazing feedback I can give. I suppose that the biggest piece of advice I can give based on my experience with this game is to PLAN AHEAD. You do not want to be going into a big project with a ‘just wing it’ attitude. This is one flaw in the way I’ve developed this game that even I have to admit. Not planning ahead caused me to run into a lot of obstacles that I am even now still having to overcome. I will say it again – before you start any big project, it is VITAL that you plan your storyline, mechanics, approach to marketing, budget, etc.

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Website: http://haywiregamestudios.weebly.com/

Discord: https://discord.gg/pbjyb5B

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/haywiregamestudios/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameHaywire

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEcnPRw3knE2OzBtfycc6jg

PayPal donation pool: https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/7Z7UNggAQc

 

Do you have anything else to add?

To everyone that has shown support to me throughout the creation of this game. You guys have been a massive inspiration for me. I would certainly not be creating this game if it wasn’t for you. Thanks 🙂

 

Though we may be a long way from experiencing this unique take on the action RPG genre, I have every confidence that this game will be worth the wait. I would like to take this opportunity to thank CamCog and for answering my questions, and to wish him and the rest of Haywire Studios the best of luck with A Matter of Time.

I hope you guys enjoyed my first article back, And there will be many more to come soon.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The 2017 Play Blackpool Special

This month marked the seventh anniversary of Replay Event’s Play Expo at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool. Eager to see what Replay Events had in store, I made my way to Blackpool for the third time to see what indie games, guest talks and throwbacks to classic gaming were being showcased at the expo; and I wasn’t disappointed. Following on from last year’s proceedings, a lot of classic games were back, as well as one of last year’s guest speakers, and a few more gaming veterans, along with some more new up and coming developers showing off their latest video game projects; and here’s what Play Blackpool 2017 had to offer.

Bloody Zombies

The first indie game I encountered was a Streets of Rage style beat up set in a post-apocalyptic world entitled Bloody Zombies. Aside from up to four players having to hash it out with zombies along 2D side scrolling environments, one player also wears a VR headset in order to uncover secrets that may be hidden within each stage, and to help the accompanying three players to seek out hidden items for additional points and stronger weapons. A combo system is also incorporated similar to classic fighting games in order for players to compete among one another to see who can earn the highest score at the end of each stage.

The hand-drawn 2D visuals of the game mixed with cel-shaded graphics gives the game diversity in technical design, and although it is generally speaking quite difficult to make a story centred around zombies stand out from a conceptual point of view, the developers of Bloody Zombies, nDreams, have so far done a pretty decent job of it, with things like character and boss designs doing pretty well to stand out. The VR aspect of the game also makes it stand out further, giving it a level of diversity in gameplay never before seen in a 2D beat ‘em up.

 

Mao Mao Castle

Having first laid eyes on this game at Play Manchester last year, Asobi Tech were back to showcase further adjustments made to their on-rail 8-BIT obstacle game Mao Mao Castle. In it, the player controls a ginger cat, be that with a mouse or touchscreen, (or as was showcased at the expo, a motion sensor), the player must guide the cat through obstacles that come towards the player at increasingly high speeds and to survive the constant onslaught for as long as possible. Since the game was showed off in Manchester, new game mechanics have been added; most notably, the inclusion of a power-up that makes the cat temporarily increase in size and bypass ever obstacle effortlessly.

In my opinion, the new mechanics added to the game add a great deal of depth to it, and it also makes it a lot more accessible for entry-level players too, which is needed since it whilst it’s easy to get competitive playing it, speaking from experience, it could be seen as somewhat inaccessible before. But this issue has been fixed with the introduction of the newly implemented gaming features, and I can’t wait to see what the final product has to offer.

All Contact Lost

 

Speaking of challenging games, the next game I tried out at the event was an FPS called All Contact Lost. The object of the game is not too dissimilar to the Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot add-on for the original Borderlands game, whereby players must defend themselves against hoards of oncoming enemies in order to survive for as long as possible and attain the highest score possible. Players have limited time between each round to organise and heal themselves before the next wave is introduced, which get exponentially bigger and harder to deal with in turn.

Amidst a massive influx of FPS games to have hit the gaming industry within the last 20 years, it’s interesting to see how new developers are coming up with new ways to modify the formula and to make playing first-person shooters as enjoyable and as challenging as it ever has been. Where All Contact Lost is concerned, it’s developers, 1st Impact Games, have done a decent job showcasing what could be a potentially insanely addicting game. They told me that their next objective is to add more enemies into the game, which can potentially give it more cause for players to have to adapt to different situations within the game, but it will be interesting to see how 1st Impact implement that.

Medieval Steve

Next, I tried A 2.5D side scrolling game called Medieval Steve developed by jForth Designs. The game was in the early stages of development, but it centred around having to complete various different tasks throughout each level, including collecting hidden items throughout, and even time trials; similar to many features found in modern Super Mario games.

As the game is only in a very early stage of development, there is much more to be added in. But from what I played of the game, I really enjoyed. The time aspect of it was extremely unique compared to many other games to implement similar mechanics like New Super Mario Bros U and Super Smash Bros Melee’s story mode, and with the right amount of attention and further development, it could become a really enjoyable game when its released. If a decent story concept is also added, it could make for a very interesting franchise in years to come too in my opinion.

Space Toads Mayhem        

Space Toads Mayhem was the next game I tried, developed by programmer Lukasz Snopkiewicz. It’s an arcade style bullet hell top-down rail shooter that it insanely addictive, yet gruellingly challenging at the same time. Whilst progressing, players are periodically given a choice between to power-ups, which can either help or hinder the player accordingly dependent on choice the player makes.

In my opinion, this aspect gives the game Roguelike quality to it, which I’ve struggled to find in an arcade game amidst the influx of indie games out there. I’ve seen in other genres with the like of Rogue Legacy and Tower of Guns, but the only other arcade Roguelike I’ve played recently is Don’t Die, Mr Robot. Lukasz was quite surprised to me hear use the word Roguelike to describe his game, but he was intrigued at the same time. It could possibly provide him scope to develop the game later on dependent on when he plans to release it by.

Hyper Sentinel

The last indie game I tried at Play Blackpool this year was a game I’ve grown particularly fond of since I first saw it; Hyper Sentinel created by Huey games under the supervision of Robert Hewson. Combining elements of arcade classics such as Uridium and Bosconian, it involves the player carrying out an assault on different spaceships and taking out it’s weapons and subsidiary ships before having to take on a boss fight at the end.

The game I tried in Blackpool was exactly as how I remember it from the first time I saw it; it was addicting without it being too inaccessible, and it provides a welcome combination of old 8-BIT style visuals with a few modern-day graphical effects thrown in for good measure, such as dynamic lighting. After an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign, the game is edging closer to release, and I personally cant wait to try out the finished product. To read my Q&A with Robert Hewson published during the Kickstarter campaign, follow the link below:

http://scousegamer88.com/2017/03/09/qa-with-huey-games/

David Pleasance

Guest speakers were also present at the event with stories of their time in industry, and what impact it had on them personally, and how their actions and successes changed gaming forever. One such speaker was the former marketing director of Commodore, David Pleasance, (Accompanied by Mark Cale of System 3 Software and Gary Bracey of Ocean Software), whose influence went on to make the Commodore 64 one of the highest selling home computer consoles of the 80s in Europe and beyond following the video game crash of 1983. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, David will be releasing a new book towards the end of the year detailing in greater depth his time with Commodore and the great highs and great lows of his career. Throughout the talk, he discussed his role in the overwhelming sales of the Batman pack for the Amiga 500, and the events that led to the success and downfall of Commodore through the company’s long and storied existence.

With most Play Expos I go to, most often at least one talk given by legends of the industry, and how their influence and actions helped the industry become what it is today, and I always found them to be fascinating as a gamer myself; and David’s talk was no exception. Though I was born towards the end of the third generation of gaming, it’s always enthralling to hear from industry veterans their inside stories and how they shaped the industry into what it is today.

Jim Bagley

As well as home computer consoles having a great impact on gamers during the earlier games of gaming, their influence still continues to impact the current market in a similar way; the subject of the next talk was a case in point. Jim Bagley, a Liverpudlian developer who was at Play Blackpool 2016 detailing his long career developing games for a wide variety of consoles from the ZX80 to the PlayStation 4, was back again this year to discuss another console he has had the pleasure of developing for over the last year; the new ZX Spectrum Next. Announced exclusively last year by the console’s creators at Play Blackpool 2016, Jim Bagley was at the same talk, and immediately asked the team where he could pick up a dev kit. Ever since, he has been programming a number of games intended for released on the system for when the console sees its full release. He also announced his plans to create a series of YouTube videos whereby he will educate viewers how to program video games, whether they have experience or not.

After seeing the ZX Spectrum Next unveiled at last year’s Play Blackpool, I was intrigued to see how after all years, people are still dedicated to developing new games for retro consoles, and how the legacy of the ZX Spectrum has carried on to the current generation of gaming. This year, I found out that many more big-name developers than I first realized have signed up to develop games for the ZX Spectrum next for when it releases, and at the moment, I’m extremely tempted to buy one when it comes out. I never got to play the Spectrum during the console’s heyday, but after having sampled it and other consoles of the same era at many Play expos over the last three years, I’m seriously thinking about starting once the Spectrum Next is released, and I was also very interested in the prospect of learning from Jim Bagley of how to create games at entry level.

Big Boy Barry

The final talk of the expo was with Alex Verrey, AKA Big Boy Barry of the Games World TV program that aired throughout the 90s. Alex gave an extensive account of his time within the gaming industry, his experiences as a presenter, and his thoughts of how the gaming industry has evolved since the fifth generation, as well as his plans for the future. As well as that, he was also hosting tournaments at the expo, as well as taking part in other activities on the main stage.

As a kid, I used to watch Games World a lot of the time, and to meet Big Boy Barry in person was an amazing experience. As an aspiring journalist myself, I took home a great deal of inspiration and advice from Alex’s own experiences of reviewing and discussing video games on a professional level, and that it also reaffirmed my opinion that it’s always about keeping ideas fresh, and to not focus on one thing for too long a time to the point where it becomes stale. The success of the industry and people like Alex has always revolved around introducing new things and keeping a great sense of originality. It’s the same with every successful video game franchise, and it’s also the same with every other success within the industry, just like Alex himself.

 

In summation, Play Blackpool was a fantastic experience as always, and I’m very much looking forward to next year’s proceedings in light of it. The indie games I got to try and critique were outstanding this year, and as I said before, it’s always a pleasure to meet and mingle with so many industry veterans, and to expand my own knowledge of the history of the industry that I love. I will also be attending Play Manchester this year too, but in the meantime, there will be more articles and reviews to come in the preceding weeks.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast (PC)

Developer(s) – Vile Monarch

Publisher(s) – Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Following on from Vile Monarch’s previous indie title, Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator, The Holly Roast, takes the franchise into the Hollywood movie industry, and delivers the same level of quirky humour, and the same interesting twist on both turn-based and traditional fighting game combat, and builds on what the first game perpetuated to deliver a greater experience. I first saw this game at EGX Rezzed 2017, and was immediately smitten with it; it drove me to play the original game, but by comparison, the second is even better in my opinion,

Graphics – 7.5/10

The graphics in the series have undergone a significant overhaul compared to the original game, and the characters and setting look even better. There are more varied character and level designs than in The Insult Simulator, deviating away from the Monty Python themes of the first game, and it features a much greater level of detail. It also opens up possibilities in terms of future games in the series, and how they could be based on a wide variety of different subjects.

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay of the Hollywood Roast is almost identical to that of The Insult Simulator, but this time round, the developers have added a few new mechanics to the combat system; most notably the comeback ability. Player now have the options to add a comeback onto the end of their insults for bonus points. New comeback can also be unlocked for each character as the game progresses. But the biggest and best new addition to the series is the modding system. Players now have the ability to create new characters and stages within the game, which definitely gives the game an even greater level of variety what I personally thought to be possible after having played the demo.

Controls – 10/10

Just like the original game, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever, with it being a simple point and click game typical of most games that run best on PC.

Originality – 9/10

The Insult Simulator was an original game on it’s own, but The Hollywood Roast still maintains that same level of uniqueness; the difference being between the two of them is that there is far more to play for in the second game. The original demonstrated an entirely new way to play a fighting game, but this title has perfected this new style of play.

Happii

Overall, Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast is a more than welcome addition to one of the most unique indie gaming series I’ve ever come across. It’s fun to play, can last even longer than the original with modding possibilities, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score

33.5/40

8/10 (Good)

Reus (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Abbey Games

Publisher(s) – Abbey Games

Designer(s) – Adriaan Jansens, Dennis Pullens & Nick Witsel

Programmer(s) – Bas Zalmstra, Maarten Wiedenhof, Manuel Kerssemakers, Dennis Pullens, Tim de Jager & Jacco Krijnen

Developed and self-published by indie developers Abbey Games, Reus is a unique type of real-time strategy game, whereby the player must create a world and influence the populace to maintain as peaceful a civilization as possible. Overall, I was extremely impressed with how original this game is, and I would recommend it to any fan of the strategy genre who may be wanting a much different experience to what they may normally be used to.

Graphics – 7/10

Making use of hand-drawn 2D graphics, I really like the conceptual design of this game. It gives it a deceptively innocent look about it, when in fact, it can become a wonderfully hectic challenge to maintain civility among the world’s people, and provide resources as and when they’re needed, and to not overdo it in any way. The game’s soundtrack can also add to this depth in deception, as it sounds very peaceful against a potential foreground of problems that muse be solved.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game puts the player in control of four ancient gods, who must be used to create different form of terrain across the planet to allow for the development of civilization, and it’s expansion. The more food and gold mines the people are able to utilize, the more prosperous it’ll be, but more prosperous societies may become greedy and complacent, and be the subject of envy amongst other civilizations that may exist across the world, thereby increasing the risk of conflict between them, and effecting the level of peace throughout the land. Though it may not be the first game to introduce mechanics of the same ilk, as it does draw inspiration from strategy games such as Empire Earth and Sid Meier’s Civilization, it does it in a very different way to either of the aforementioned, and provides a challenge unlike any other.

Controls – 10/10

As a strategy game, it is inevitably best played on PC, as it can be quicker to issue commands to the gods and carry out tasks as and when required through the use of hot keys. But on console, it’s not unplayable; it’s still quite easy to get to grips with the controls, and the overall gameplay system. In fact, it can arguably be seen as a greater challenge playing games like this on console. I felt the same way when I played Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4, and Reus is no exception in my opinion.

Originality – 9/10

To put it simply, I’ve never seen or played a game like this before. It’s 2D graphic design and unique way of playing makes it stand out from every other strategy game ever developed. It gives testament to how willing and capable indie developers are of creating new concepts for games of pre-existing genres. There’s been Don’t Starve, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Super Meat Boy to name but a few, and Reus is as every bit as innovative as those examples in my opinion.

Happii

Overall, Reus is an enjoyable and insanely unique gaming experience that comes highly recommended from me. As a fan of strategy games, I had a lot of fun playing this title, and I’ve no doubt that other strategy game fans will feel a very similar way about it.

Score

33/10

8/10 (Very Good)

Earthlock: Festival of Magic (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Wii U)  

Developer(s) – Snowcastle Games

Publisher(s) – Snowcastle Games & Soedesco

Director(s) – Bendik Stang & Fritz Olsen

Producer(s) – Erik Hoftun

A turn-based RPG reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games, Earthlock is a game developed by Norwegian outlet Snowcastle Games after securing $250,000 funding amidst a successful Kickstarter campaign, and later published by Soedesco Entertainment; currently one of the most prominent publishers of indie games in, having marketed games like Tower of Guns and Teslagrad to name but a few. Whilst not lasting anywhere near as long as games in the aforementioned tow major RPG series, it retains a lot of the addictive gameplay and satisfaction to be had for developing player characters, as well as a fairly intriguing story set in a wonderfully outlandish world.

Graphics – 7.5/10

The conceptual design of this game speaks to me as a combination of Final Fantasy IX and Star Wars, in that there is the element of futuristic steampunk technology, much like the classic Squaresoft game, and then there’s also the element of different alien species co-existing together, as the character Amon and his uncle Benjo scavenge together at the start of the story; reminiscent of how species exist together in the likes of Star Wars or Mass Effect. Specifically, the desert areas remind me a lot of the planet Tatooine. Though it may not stand out greatly on a technical level, the conceptual design certainly makes up or that.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Earthlock is a story-driven turn-based RPG; the objective of which is to recruit the main characters to the party, and engage in randomly prompted battles in order to level up each characters to make them as strong as possible, in turn, advancing the main story. In addition, there are also side quests and causes to revisit previous areas, as there are places with stronger monsters, which players need to become stronger over time in order to go back to and explore. Though the gameplay formula has been replicated many times before, Earthlock still gives player a lot to play for in the time that it lasts. It also always addicting to level up characters, and gain new abilities that can be used in combat to achieve more of an edge in battle.

Controls – 10/10

The controls for these games are always very straightforward, and Earthlock is no exception. Exploration and combat are extremely easily to get to grips with, and players will not experience any unnecessary complications while playing. Seeing games like this surfacing within the indie gaming community since the start of the eighth generation has been a breath of fresh air following the unnecessary and frustrating changes made to the combat system in the Final Fantasy games since Final Fantasy XII, and the controls are a massive part of this. Earthlock is a game that gets turn-based combat right in this respect.

Lifespan – 7/10

Earthlock can take on average around 20 hours to complete, but if players are more thorough, and want to do everything possible, it can be made to last around 30 hours, and although this falls short of the average lifespan of a typical turn-based RPG, it’s still more than a reasonably long time for a game to last; especially one that was initially developed on a lower budget than the average mainstream game. To compare it to another, although the game may not have the phenomenal conceptual design of Child of Light, it still lasts a lot longer than a game in the same genre developed by a mainstream company.

Storyline – 7/10

Taking place in the fictional setting of Umbra, the story follows a young man name Amon, a scavenging adventurer, who eventually gets caught up in a huge conflict involving the Suvian Empire. The game’s plot is also quite reminiscent of that of both Final Fantasy IX and Star Wars, as many different characters from a multitude of different backgrounds form an extremely unlikely alliance to save their world from an impending threat. It’s always interesting to see these kinds of stories come together, and Earthlock, albeit to a smaller extent, tells this kind of story well.

Originality – 7/10

Though Earthlock draws a lot of inspiration from many different sources of fantasy and science fiction, as well as many classic series’ of RPGs, it still has a unique level of conceptual design that does well to make it stand out from a great deal of games; most notably in it’s character and enemy designs. Or example, in most Final Fantasy games, most, if not all of the main party, is made of humans, but in this game, almost every playable character is member to an entirely different species, and it makes the game seem extremely diverse in that respect.

Happii

Overall, Earthlock was a very enjoyable game to play, and I would recommend it to any fan of the turn-based RPG formula. It has massive abundance in gameplay and diversity in conceptual design, in addition to an intriguing story that does well to keep players gripped from start to finish.

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PC & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – The Chinese Room & SCE Santa Monica Studio

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Jessica Curry

Designer – Andrew Crawshaw

Developed as a spiritual successor to the game Dear Esther, and picked up by Sony after the developers failed to crowd-fund the game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture turned out to be one of these games that is driven solely by story, and is told through a first person perspective with a fairly sizeable open world with nothing to do in it but walk around. After first seeing this game announced back in E3 2014, I was quite excited for what potential this game had; even going so far as to list as one of my top ten most highly anticipated games at that time. Upon playing it, however, I was glad I didn’t pay any additional amount for it on top of my PlayStation Plus subscription. I was bitterly disappointed by this title. Ben Croshaw of The Escapist described this game as a “walking simulator”, and that’s all, and exactly what it is.

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set in Shropshire in England in the early 80’s, and features a lot of staples of English architecture, such as Victorian style houses and local pubs. One positive thing I can say about this game is that the visuals were handled fairly well, being more impressive on the technical level as opposed to the conceptual level. The game’s soundtrack also does fairly well to add to the game’s deceptively calm atmosphere throughout.

Gameplay – 1/10

The game simply has the player walking around the town trying to piece together exactly what happened to the inhabitants who have mysteriously disappeared. There are no additional quest or combat elements, and the gameplay is almost non-existent. This is where it’s squandered potential comes into play, as there was definitely enough room to add more to it than simply walking around, making it feel like a very insulting gaming experience amounting to nothing more than a very long film.

Controls – 10/10

Mercifully, walking around is as easy as it is in most decent first person games, as there are no problems with the controls. But in a game where the only objective is to walk around, it would probably have been easier to get it right than to mess it up.

Lifespan – 3/10

Clocking in at around 4 and half hours, this is another aspect in which the game’s wasted potential sticks out like a sore thumb. Given the addition of more things to do, it could have been made to last a great deal longer. But given the fact that going outside for a walk would be a much more preferable alternative to playing this game, it’s just as well that it lasts as short a time as it does. I myself could only manage 20 minutes of it.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game centres around the player character trying to deduce exactly what happened to the inhabitants of Shropshire, and why they have disappeared so abruptly. The plot does take a few unexpected twists and turns, which is good, but not exceptional in my opinion. Overall, it still doesn’t come close to making up for the severe lack of gameplay. At the same time, the fact that the story isn’t even overly good cheapens the experience further, as there have been countless that have told better stories, yet have had much more in the way of gameplay.

Originality – 4/10

The developers were clearly trying to create something different with this game, but to me, there is hardly anything unique to talk about. The premise is relatively original, but short of that, there is of course no innovation in any other aspect, i.e graphics gameplay etc, which again to me, further cheapens the experience, and defeats the object of what the developers were clearly trying to do in the first place. When I looked at the awards this game has garnished, I don’t believe it’s deserved of any of them, since there were games in both 2015 and 2016 which had better stories; Batman: Arkham Knight, SteamWorld Heist and Undertale to name but a few. And it certainly didn’t deserve the award it got for creative gameplay in the UK from the TIGA Games Industry Awards; I had to laugh when I read that one.

Angrii

In summation, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture thoroughly deserves it’s designated title of walking simulator; it’s a modern example of wasted potential in video gaming, and in my opinion, should be avoided at all costs.

Score

33/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Hidemaro Fujibayashi

Producer – Eiji Aonuma

Our years in development, and released as a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, as well as being the last game to be produced by Nintendo for the Wii U, and met with an overwhelming amount of critical acclaim, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild retains some conventions of the Zelda series, but gives players a much more open-world and open-ended experience than ever before. It also incorporates elements new to the series, such as breakable weapons, cooking food and brewing elixirs, using a variety of different armour sets and a massive variety of things to do and quests to complete, which puts many open world games to shame. Whilst this isn’t my favourite Zelda title (that honour would go to Ocarina of Time), Breath of the Wild has unanimously cemented itself as, in my opinion, one of the greatest video games ever developed, and most certainly worth the amount of praise it has been given worldwide.

Graphics – 10/10

Incorporating cel-shaded visuals reminiscent of games in the Wind Waker series, as well as Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild takes place in a post-apocalyptic Hyrule, which is mostly abandoned countryside with the exception of a few small settlements and towns, including Gerudo Town, Rito Village, Goron City, Zora’s Domain and both Kakariko and Hateno Village. Despite the devastation that ravaged Hyrule a century prior to the start of the story, the in-game world looks captivating to say the least. Hyrule still retains a staggering level of natural beauty, as well as curious ruins and additional places to explore.

It’s also interesting as a Zelda fan to be able to identify the many different buildings that have appeared throughout the series that now lie in ruins, such as Lon Lon Ranch, the Temple of Time and the Bridge of Hylia. The game’s soundtrack also does extremely well to add to the atmosphere o this new Hyrule, as well as fit in with each respective situation the player may find themselves in, be that either simply travelling throughout the land in peace, or when battling monsters or mini bosses. It’s also refreshing to see that the conceptual design of the series in general has undergone some dramatic changes, concerning elements like Link and Zelda’s conceptual design, as well as the elements of futuristic technology that existed in mass before the events of the game, such as the Guardians, the shrines and the watchtowers scattered throughout Hyrule.

Gameplay – 10/10

The gameplay has also been dramatically changed to give players a Zelda experience like no other since. The main objective is of course to defeat Ganon, but players may choose to either put this off for as long as possible and go off and do many other things there are to do in the game, or they can even choose to go straight ahead to the final boss from the get-go. Either way, players will not be at a loss for how best they wish to approach the game. Players will also not find themselves with a lack of things to do, since there are a wide range of different side quests and collectible items to find, such as building your own house, completing all 120 shrines, finding all 900 Korok seeds, finding Link’s lost memories, filling the Hyrule Compendium and conquering the four divine beasts to name but a few. As far as gameplay goes, it is unanimously the most extensive Zelda game in terms of things to do, and I was thoroughly impressed from start to finish.

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, I also didn’t come across any unnecessary complications. The climbing system is actually reminiscent of what a lot of people tend to do when playing games such as Skyrim and Oblivion; trying to find the best route to climb up mountains despite how steep they may be. In Skyrim and Oblivion for example, players do this without the game encouraging them to do so, but in Breath o the Wild, this is actually an integral part of the gameplay, and is widely encouraged. The combat system can also present a welcome level of challenge in my opinion; especially against multiple enemies.

Lifespan – 10/10

With a massive amount of activity to engage in, Breath of the Wild can easily be made to last over the 100-hour mark, which dwarfs the lifespan of every other major entry in the Zelda series, as well as a vast majority of video games in general. Zelda games would generally last a long time prior, but the sheer scale of this game puts every one of them to shame in this respect.

Storyline – 10/10

The place of Breath of the Wild in the Zelda timeline is uncertain, as Nintendo have not revealed that, but the game takes place in the land of Hyrule 10,000 years after Calamity Ganon had attempted to invade the land, but was thwarted by Link and Zelda, with the aid of four divine beasts and futuristic technology developed by the Sheikah race. A century prior to the start of the story, Princess Zelda conducted further research on Sheikah technology and chose four champions to pilot the divine beast in case Ganon were ever to return. Upon Ganon’s return, he turned the divine beasts and the Sheikah technology against Hyrule, using it to ravage the land, while he remained confined to Hyrule Castle. After fighting the menace, Zelda return to Hyrule Castle in order to ensure that Ganon is kept confined there, whilst link is taken to the Shrine of Resurrection to awake 100 years after Ganon’s return, when he is then tasked with freeing the divine beasts, and to finally defeat Ganon, and drive him out of Hyrule once again.

Being the first main entry in the Zelda series to include voice acting, the story is a lot more emotionally charged than ever before, and it offers a much newer perspective on each character, excluding Link, who is still the same silent protagonist. Although the voice acting is a little below par, the game’s story is a welcome departure from many conventions of past Zelda titles; the portrayal of Princess Zelda herself, for me, being the best feature. Players are sternly reminded of the reason why the series is named The Legend of Zelda, since she carries an aura of mystery and beauty, and to a much greater extent than before, a great depth to her character that Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired by in the first place when naming her after Zelda Fitzgerald; the wife of the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Originality – 9.5/10

Breath of the Wild is definitely much more evolutionary than it is revolutionary in my opinion, which is why I would personally place it beneath Ocarina of Time. Regardless, the game takes the concept of open world gameplay, and introduces a wide range of new ideas and gameplay elements, making it one of the most unique titles of the eighth generation. It seems Nintendo has looked at a lot of limitations in open world gaming, and developed on them, such a in the case of climbing mountains compared to The Elder Scrolls games. I’ve heard people complaining that there isn’t enough in Breath of the Wild to make it seem like a Zelda game, but to me, that’s a reason that makes the game stand out so much in a positive way, since Nintendo have become accused by critics of merely recycling the games, and giving them a new coat of paint; particularly where games for the Wii U are concerned. But to me personally, the departures that this game seem to have taken from the rest of the series are positive ones, and it makes for the best Nintendo gaming experience in a very long time.

Deliirious

Overall, Breath of the Wild is most certainly one of the best games Nintendo have ever developed, as well as being one of the best games ever developed in general. There is a great deal of things to do, the world of Hyrule has never looked so compelling, and layers will be engaged in the story on an entirely different level to anything seen in the series before.

Score

59.5/60

9.5/10 (Outstanding)

Alwa’s Awakening (PC)

Developer(s) – Elden Pixels

Director – Mikael Forslind

The debut title of Elden pixels, and developed under the supervision of Zoink Games’ Mikael Forslind, Alwa’s Awakening is a throwback to the classic games of the NES era, including Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Metroid and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. An 8-bit Metroidvania game, it focuses heavily on exploration, combat and acquiring a range of different abilities in order to progress from area to area. Playing this game felt like an absolute pleasure, as well as a fitting tribute to games of the late 80s, and I would recommend it to any fan of that era of gaming.

Graphics – 8/10

Conceptually, where this game stands out is the design of the enemies, as well as the boss battles. Though clearly influenced by many aspects of medieval mythology, including other fantasy franchises (elements of Dungeons & Dragons seemed most evident to me personally), the developers took these influences, and formed their own cohesive concepts in terms of visual design, which is quite difficult to do when dealing with medieval fantasy, making it seem all the more impressive. The soundtrack, recorded by Robert Kreese, is also nothing short of stellar, being on par with, if not better than, many classic NES games.

Gameplay – 8/10

Alwa’s Awakening is a Metroidvania game focusing on adventure and exploration, but the developers also boasted a heightened level of challenge compared to many other classic NES games during development, promising an unforgettable throwback experience to suit both the seasoned and casual classes of gamers of that time. When Elden Pixels first announced this, I did get nervous that they would develop a game that was nigh on inaccessible, as what I’ve found in many NES games, such as those in the original Mega Man series. However, wile playing through it, I found it offer a level of challenge that is stern, yet reasonable; a level of challenge on par with Shovel Knight, for example. It came as a relief to me, and I was able to enjoy the game with minimal frustration because of it. There are secrets to uncover along the way, and some of the most invigorating boss fights I’ve seen in a 2D game.

Controls – 10/10

Part of the reason why I found the game to be more accessible that many fully NES titles purposefully made to be hard was because the controls are also flawless. In many Mega Man games, I have experienced problems with the controls, and time and time again, it defeats the object of demanding skill from the player if the developers can’t program the game properly. In this game, however, no such issues exist; the controls are perfect, and any error made will be down to player performance.

Lifespan – 6.5/10

The game can be made to last around 6 to 7 hours in total, taking everything to do within it into account, which by NES standards at the time may have been outstanding, but in the current era, especially for a Metroidvania, it does fall somewhat short in this respect. It is the game’s biggest issue in my opinion, and I think it could have been made to last at least 12 to 13 hours given more things to do within it. However, there is more than enough substance in gameplay for how long it does last, which does emphasize quality of over quantity.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Alwa’s Awakening follows a girl called Zoe, who is playing video games one night, and after dozing off, she finds herself in the land of Alwa, where her favourite video game is set, and she is thrust into a quest in order to save the land for real. The plot itself may be quite straightforward, but there are certain aspects of it that do well to foster an air of mystery about the game, as was customary among NES title in the console’s heyday. It’s a nice touch the developers added that makes the game more enjoyable to play through overall.

Originality – 7/10

Taking everything into account, I was impressed with how many unique aspects there were within this game compared to other classic 2D titles. As someone who first started out playing video games on the NES, my first ever video games being Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, it was refreshing to take a step back from AAA mainstream titles, and play a game that not only hearkens back to the days of gaming simplicity, but also offers something different to any other NES title.

In summation, Alwa’s Awakening is a welcome addition to ever-growing indie scene, and a definitive joy to play. There’s great gameplay, atmospheric visuals, an excellent soundtrack and a level of challenge that will satisfy all classes of third generation gamer.

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)