Tag Archives: Shooter

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:

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.

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.

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.

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

Axiom Verge (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch)

Developer(s) – Thomas Happ Games

Publisher(s) – Thomas Happ Games

Developed solely by former Petroglyph Game engineer Thomas Happ and five years in the making, Axiom Verge was released back in 2015 to overwhelming critical acclaim from critics, garnishing a plethora of favorable reviews and received a nomination for best indie game award for 2015 at The Game Awards. I felt no different about this game; it is most definitely one of the better Metroidvania games that I have had the pleasure of playing through delivering in every aspect.

Graphics – 9/10

The game is set on a planet called Sudra and in lieu of Metroidvania tradition features many varied and wonderfully designed environments with a lot of different enemies to contend with throughout. There is also a species of giant humanoid robots called the Rusalka, which are unlike most things I’ve ever seen in sci-fi. Most gamers will immediately be reminded of Super Metroid when looking at his game, as indeed I was. But there are elements of the conceptual design that reminded me of other games too. For example, the environments, which look almost alive with floors and walls moving and pulsating, reminded a lot of Abadox for the NES, although in the case of Axiom Verge, there’s even more attention to detail put in. The Rusalka also adds a certain eloquence to the conceptual design of this game, reminding me in particular of the film Ghost in the Shell. 

Gameplay – 9/10

The game plays out ostensibly like a traditional Metroidvania game, with the player having to navigate through a 2D open world and constantly backtracking to reveal new areas or secrets hidden within the game. But what makes Axiom Verge as exciting to play as it is is it’s combat, with the player being able to find a variety of different guns throughout and to strategize according to whatever enemies are in front of them. The world of Axiom Verge is reasonably big, so there is a lot of backtracking involved as players gain new abilities to access new areas. There is also a speedrun mode for more adept players who wish to complete the game in record time, which gives the game some additional replay value. 

But regardless of whether players may be veterans or entry-level, it’s a reasonable challenge I thought; not too hard to the point of being inaccessible but not too easy either. More important than that, however, the game is extremely satisfying to immerse in; backtracking to old locations is always fun as the opportunity to experiment with new weapons constantly presents itself and there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had in this respect. The boss fights are also as intense as that of any Metroidvania game, again requiring players to strategize according to what weapons they may have as well as enemy attack patterns. 

Controls – 9.5/10

The game’s control scheme also presents no problems for the most part; it essentially uses the blueprint of Super Metroid in its general gameplay and weapons system, as well as how ammo and health works. The one minor gripe I had with the controls, however, concerns how the address disruptor works. 

The address disruptor is a gun that either corrupts or de-corrupts enemies or certain walls. This is a tool that needs to be used in order to bypass certain areas of the game. The problem is with it is if a player removes a certain section of wall and not another if the player fires again it can reverse the process for the section of the wall that’s already been removed, leaving the player having to slowly reverse the process again in order to traverse through walls. However, it’s something that’s easily rectified anyway and I can’t fault the developer for trying something new. More important than my concern is that this is a game mechanic unlike many others seen in the Metroidvania genre and it adds more to the game than what it takes away. 

Lifespan – 7/10

On average, the game can be made to last there around 15 to 20 hours, which for a Metroidvania game is fairly impressive. A sequel is currently in development and is scheduled for release in the autumn of 2020, so here’s hoping that the lifespan is increased with the new game. Without giving the end away, I think there will be a great deal of scope to expand the lifespan for the sequel, but the first game lasts more than an adequate amount of time

Storyline – 8/10

The story follows a scientist named Trace, who is running a lab experiment in New Mexico. Suddenly, something happens in the lab that causes an explosion; after which, Trace wakes up on the planet Sudra and finds himself embroiled in a one-man fight for survival, all while uncovering the wonders and mysteries behind the planet Sudra and to help the Rusalka defeat the entity known as Athetos. As the story progresses, it unfolds into something a lot deeper, which makes for a story, which like the visuals, is unlike a lot of things I’ve seen in sci-fi.

IGN gave this game a somewhat less favorable review than me, citing several problems they found with the game that I whole-heartedly found myself disagreeing with; one such criticism was that they thought the story was forgettable. But in my opinion, the story is anything but forgettable. The most prominent theme throughout the story involves moral ambiguity; the intentions and the character of the Rusalka most definitely comes into question more than once and will make the player think whether what Trace is doing is right, which once players play through it, will make them anticipate the sequel even more. 

Originality – 8/10

Again, the originality of this game has been brought into question by many other reviewers, due to it’s obvious similarities to the likes of Super Metroid and Xeodrifter; the game clearly has its influences and most fans of the genre will be able to identify them from the get-go. But outweighing its similarities to other games is its differences; the conceptual design of this game really makes it stand out from other titles in the genre and its soundtrack is exceptional, sound even more otherworldly than Super Metroid in my opinion. Its story, as I said before, is also not as straightforward as Samus Aran striving to defeat Ridley, but rather making the player question what happens at the end was for the greater good; not just for Trace, but for the planet Sudra. 

The fact of the matter is that this game comes into its own with potentially massive mythology to be spawned from it with the introduction with even more games and scope for an even bigger plot to unfold along with it and in my experience, with the exception of games like Dust: An Elysian Tail and Ato, there haven’t been many Metroidvania games that have made me feel like what I felt after having played this one through to the end. 

Happii

Overall, Axiom Verge is definitely a must-have for fans of the Metroidvania genre; it’s also a must-have for any fan of science fiction. It’s a very enjoyable game with variety in combat and conceptual design with an extremely memorable story and a lot of promise as a big gaming franchise for the future. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Mothergunship (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Grip Digital Games & Terrible Posture Games

Publisher(s) – Grip Digital Games

PEGI – 7

Jointly developed and released by Terrible Posture Games and Grip Digital and released at the midpoint of 2018, Mothergunship is a spiritual successor to the indie shooter Tower of Guns, featuring much of the same gameplay elements but offering a great deal more than the latter with an improved number of gameplay features whilst also boasting better graphics on a technical level and a slightly more immersing story complete with all the humour of Joe Mirabello’s previous game. When I first played and reviewed Tower of Guns, I was immediately taken aback by just how unexpectedly fantastic a game it is, but I also pointed out a number of flaws that, although marred the game down to a small extent, didn’t stop it from being the best indie game of the eighth generation that I had played up to that point. However, Mothergunship not only addresses these flaws, but offers players all the immersion that can be had with Tower of Guns and then some; I was again taken further aback by how this game hadn’t equaled the quality of it’s spiritual predecessor, but surpassed it to a monumental extent. 

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing I noticed whilst playing this game was the significant improvements made to the game’s visuals on a technical level. Abandoning the cel-shaded style synonymous with Tower of Guns, the developers went for a much more realistic-looking sci-fi setting with more varied environmental features as well as a wider range of enemy types. A vast majority of the enemies (as well as a few of the boss fights) were largely recycled from Tower of Guns, but to counteract that, more enemy types were added to not only make the game more diverse on a visual scale, but to add new types of challenge for players to contend with; among the most notable are the robotic dogs that run towards players in certain phases of the game. 

I was extremely impressed with visuals from the get-go; most impressive were the very realistic-looking vistas of open space towards the start of the game and those that can be seen during the sequences whereby players must jump between gravity pads to reach another ship. But as well as that, although each room is randomly generated and as such, the scenery can become very repetitive very quickly, it’s not as much of a problem in Mothergunship as it is in Tower of Guns as each room feels much more unique from the last. The dice rooms in particular offer more diversity in scenery design, as they present different challenges found in typical rooms. 

Gameplay – 10/10

Mothergunship keeps to the same basic premise as Tower of Guns for the most part; a first-person shooting Roguelike with randomly generated content. But as alluded to before, new gameplay features have been implemented with this title, such as an RPG aspet in that players can level up their character to gain new perks such as increased health, an increased number of jumps, increased melee power etc. It also has a much less linear progression than the latter, with players being able to undertake sidequests for better loot. But speaking of the loot, that’s where the game’s most impressive feature comes in. Players also have the facility to make weapons from the ground-up, using various parts that are collected throughout the game. A player can modify a single gun to have multiple barrels and multiple modifications for perks such as increased fire rate, attack power and abilities such as ricocheting bullets and stunning enemies. The level of customization the players can indulge in is actually ridiculous to the extent that the guns can look like they couldn’t possibly be handled by a human being in the real world. 

But regardless, it makes for one of the most enjoyable features I’ve seen in any FPS game. It feels incredibly satisfying to step into a room with an unreasonably big gun (or two for that matter, since dual wielding is also an option) and blast through everything in sight. It’s equally satisfying to try and get by on a minimal amount of equipment throughout the beginning of each mission and then rely on your ability to strategize in accordance with what loadout a player starts with and then subsequently buys in each shop.

Controls – 10/10

Although the game in terms of its controls functions like most other first-person shooter games, most fans of the genre will be able to pick up the controller and play through it fluently, success also relies on a certain extent of strategy. It’s just as important to move as it is to shoot with so many potential enemies on-screen at any one given moment. People who may have played Tower of Guns can go from that game to this without skipping a beat (especially if, like me, they’ve had the practice of playing the latter game to death), but for other fans of the genre who may not have played Tower of Guns before, they will be forced to modify their tactics somewhat to stand any chance of success. 

Lifespan – 10/10

To complete one playthrough to 100% with most likely take there around 20 hours. But the thing with this game is that like Tower of Guns before it, because everything is randomly generated from the rooms to the loot, each playthrough presents a completely different challenge every time, giving it a virtually infinite amount of replay value. It has a linear progression ultimately, but the possibilities for each playthrough are endless and will only last as long as player interest, which given the amount of things to do in this game, is a potentially long time. 

Storyline – 7/10

The basic premise of the game is simple; the player is a new recruit of Earth’s governing body tasked with repelling an impending invasion carried out by a robotic race known as the Archivists. The player character must stop this invasion by taking out the Archivist fleet and along with it, its flagship spacecraft, the Mothergunship. Though the game’s story is pretty basic and overall bears next to no thinking about for the most part, it’s kept somewhat fresh throughout with a steady supply of humour. The element of comedy with rife in Tower of Guns as well, but because there’s full voice acting in Mothergunship, it’s much easier to indulge in. In particular, Dave Pettitt puts in a hilarious performance as the Colonel; it’s quite reminiscent of Jim Ward’s performances as Captain Qwark in the Ratchet & Clank games. 

Originality – 9/10

In my review of Tower of Guns, I’d commented how hard it must be for developers to make a unique first-person shooter experience, given how saturated the industry has become the genre taking precedent throughout recent gaming generations. Despite that, Tower of Guns felt like a fairly unique game. However, with the sheer amount of new and exciting gameplay features implemented in Mothergunship, this games works even better to stand out in an over-saturated gaming genre, making it, to me, not only one of the most memorable FPS game in recent years, but also one of the most unique gaming experiences of the eighth generation. 

Deliirious

Overall, Mothergunship is one of the best first-person shooter games I have ever played. It’s an immersing gameplay experience offering pretty much endless replay value with exceptional graphics and an obscene level of customization that will háave players indulging in for hours upon hours. I loved Tower of Guns, but for lack of a better term, this game quite literally blows it’s spiritual predecessor out of the water. 

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great) 

Platypus (PC, PSP, iOS, Windows Mobile & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Squashy Software

Publisher(s) – Idigicon

Designer – Anthony Flack

First released back in 2002 and then later ported to a wide variety of different systems, Platypus is a scrolling bullet-hell shooter that makes use of digitized sprites and scenery to create a claymation effect, similar to games like ClayFighter and Skullmonkeys. When I first picked this game up some time ago, I first got the impression that it was a particularly unassuming title, as it was insanely cheap and the box art looked quite substandard. But when I started playing it, I was immediately enthralled with it and largely taken aback by just how good it is. When I subsequently did my research on it, I later found out that not only did it spawn several ports to different consoles and even mobile phones, but that it also got a sequel five years after the release of the original. Researching this game also made me understand what a labor of love it is for many different reasons. 

Graphics – 8/10

To reiterate, the game adopts visuals inspired by claymation, making it a particularly quirky-looking title. It’s vibrant, colorful and it also has a decent amount of variety in both level and enemy design. I was also ready to argue that the game’s first two levels look somewhat similar to each other but after finding out the process behind the making of this game, I knew that I would’ve been far too over-critical. The game’s designer, Anthony Flack, cited that at the time of the game’s development, there had been limited availability of plasticine in his home county of New Zealand. Therefore, he used one lump of it to create every scenery element and individual sprite within the game, photographed them one by one, and used photo editing software to color them in various different colors. Personally, I’m amazed the visuals of this game were essentially the work of one man and how well it panned out given the outlandish creative process behind it. The soundtrack is also particularly impressive, comprising of remixes of tracks from old Commodore 64 games; it’s a pretty tokenistic thing for any Commodore fans playing the game who may spend time trying to figure out which game each individual track is taken from. 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game is also particularly fun to play; albeit challenging. It plays out very similar to the likes of Defender or Gradius, with players able to grab a variety of different power-ups throughout in order to gain a foothold against hordes of oncoming enemies. But what makes this game different to the aforementioned examples is that the power-ups, throughout certain instances within the game (especially the boss fights), become more or less a necessity, adding to the game’s sense of challenge. It’s difficult but not inaccessible, as although players may struggle at first, the general strategy is simple enough to exploit. The boss fights in each level are also pretty well throughout. For example, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not the first boss fight was inspired by the Forever Train from Star Fox 64. 

Controls – 10/10

As I always point out with games like this, what cannot be tolerated in a game that relies heavily on individual skills to get through, are problems with the control scheme because, in a massive way, it negates the point of having a challenging title and makes it pretty much unplayable? I was very happy to discover in this game that there are no issues with the controls, which although was to be expected since the formula has been tried and tested for many years throughout various generations of gaming, it’s always reassuring when a player dies in-game, it will be down to awareness of their surroundings whilst playing. 

Originality – 8/10

Although this wasn’t the first game to use digitized sprites or even claymation, Platypus is one of the games that make players think that it’s far too distinctive to be unheard of on an unjustifiable scale. It blends classic side-scrolling shooting action with a quirky, colorful, and unique art style, which certainly will have made it stand out within the circle of independent PC developers throughout the early 2000s and it’s still an experience that remains quite distinctive today. 

Happii

Overall, Platypus is a fun, great-looking game with a great deal to offer in terms of both and replayability. It’s a game that I thought would most likely be another write-off from the word go, but it ended up being something far more special than that and I whole-heartedly recommend it. 

Score

30/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Space Invaders 99 (PC, PS1, Nintendo 64 & Game Boy Colour)

Developer(s) – Z-Axis & Activision

Publisher(s) – Taito

ELSPA – 3+

Paying homage to the original 1978 classic arcade title, the updated version of Space Invaders, released back in 1999, was far more than a simple remake; the developers rebuilt the game from the ground up, giving it a new lick of paint in terms of visuals and concept design and giving players much more to play for than a high score. Recently, I reviewed an example of how not to revive a classic arcade franchise in Dig Dug Deeper. But to counteract that, I thought I would write a review of an example whereby the developers got it right and Space Invaders 99 certainly got it right. Although I do have to say as a prerequisite that I did spend a lot of time playing this game when it was first released, it’s an experience that still holds up to this day. 

Graphics – 8/10

From a technical standpoint, Space Invaders 99 is more or less on par with most PC games released at the time, as well as what was being showcased on fifth-generation hardware; which makes it seem all the more disappointing to know that there was a canceled Dreamcast version. It makes me wonder how the graphics would’ve possibly been updated for early sixth-generation hardware. But nevertheless, it’s in the conceptual design where this game truly comes into its own. The developers redesigned everything from the player’s ship to the enemy ships and added new graphical features such as the selection of different levels to progress through, as well as a series of boss fights. The soundtrack that was composed for the game also fits the game’s atmosphere perfectly, sounding foreboding yet otherworldly at the same time. 

Gameplay – 8/10

Having the template of the original game to work with, the general formula is the same; players must destroy incoming alien ships before they reach the bottom of the screen. However, what makes this incarnation of the game stand out from the original version is the plethora of new gameplay features, including a variety of different weapons to use, boss fights at the end of each level and a surprising amount of unlockables, including a port of the original game thrown in for good measure. It also exemplifies how new gameplay features can coincide with new enemy designs, in that different weapons are accessible by killing four of one enemy type in a row. Players also have to strategize differently in accordance with each boss fought throughout the game. It’s a lot like Titan Attacks, only released over fifteen years earlier. 

Controls – 10/10

On console and PC and like the first game, the control scheme is easy to get to grips with, even for entry-level players, not coming with any unnecessary complications or the kind of silly oversights that came with the likes of Dig Dug Deeper. They’ve also been updated in accordance with the additional gameplay features available to be taken advantage of, which only makes this game all the more impressive. 

Lifespan – 10/10

Although the main game can take less than 2 hours to complete, depending on the difficulty settings, it’s a game like Star Fox 64, which although it can be rushed through, it can also be played and enjoyed on far more than one occasion and in a relatively short span of time. It is most definitely a game good enough for repeated playthroughs; add to that the fact that the original game can be unlocked, thus increasing the game’s longevity even further. Whilst most kids I knew at the time was playing Gran Turismo 2, I was hooked on this. 

Storyline – 6/10

The game’s story is simply a basic premise; Earth is under attack by alien invaders and a sole fighter pilot is tasked with repelling them. But what makes this game’s story excel beyond it being a simple basic premise is how it is portrayed. There’s a cutscene for both the start and the end of the game, which portray the player-characters struggles and triumphs, as well as a foreboding portent at the end. Of course, players ought not to be looking to play a game like this to immerse themselves in the story, it’s just a small tokenistic thing added to the game to give it that extra push over the line and it does make the experience all the more enjoyable for it. 

Originality – 7/10

Although this game largely copied a blueprint that had been around since 1978, this version of the classic arcade game didn’t simply copy the formula, but it reinvented it with the inclusion of the many new graphical and gameplay features it has. It was games like this that also would’ve been instrumental in setting the precedent for many indie developers to do the same, such as with Titan Attacks and Ultratron. It’s a shining example of how a team of developers doesn’t simply revamp a classic game for the sake of it, but also making the gameplay experience their own. 

Happii

Overall, Space Invaders 99 is a wonderfully crafted and highly recommended take on the original arcade version of the game. It’s a wonderfully innovative and charming labor of love that shows the developers all put 100% into making it, evidenced in every detail. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Resonator

In my ongoing bid to cover and expose as many different independently developed games and indie studios as possible, I discovered a game currently up on Kickstarter entitled Anew: The Distant Light. An action adventure Metroidvania title, there is a heavy emphasis on combat and exploration, as well as a vibrant science fiction setting that contrasts between the beauty and devastation of an endangered futuristic world. Creating the game are two veteran AAA developers; game director and programmer Steve Copeland and art director and sound designer Jeff Spoonhower, collectively known as Resonator. Between then, Steve and Jeff and worked on a multitude of major gaming releases over the course of fifteen years, including BioShock 2, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth, Borderlands 2, Command & Conquer and Uncharted: Golden Abyss to name but a few. After reaching out to Resonator, both Steve and Jeff agreed to answer some questions I had about their upcoming game, their Kickstarter program and their past and present developmental experiences. Here’s what they had to say:

What were the influences behind your game?

SC: For me, the classic Metroid games were a big inspiration.  After all, there is a reason our game’s genre is named after it.  You can probably also spot influences from Ori and the Blind Forest, Dark Souls, and Mario Galaxy.  We’re constantly looking for ways to fit fun game mechanics from other genres into Anew: The Distant Light.

JS: I am a big fan of platformers as well. I grew up playing the Mega Man, Mario, and Contra games, so in addition to the non-linear Metroid-style exploration elements, I am excited about including lots of fun platforming elements in Anew.

What has the developmental process been like?

JS: Steve and I have been working on the game, full time, for several years now. It’s been hugely challenging and rewarding. We spent a lot of time up front working on gameplay systems, player mechanics, development tools and pipelines, and we’ve also built a pretty big section of the game world itself. A lot of the struggles up front we the unknowns – “things we didn’t know we didn’t know about” situations. These were mainly technical in nature, so it was tough to anticipate how long it would take to solve them. We’re happy to say we’ve largely moved through that phase of production and are concentrating on creating content and filling out the game world.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

SC: A lot of that will depend on how funding goes.  We’re expecting to complete the PC version in about a year, but if we have to stop work to look for investors or a publisher, it will tend to slow things down quite a bit.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

JS: For me, several things. For one, overcoming difficult technical and artistic challenges, learning a lot, and growing as an artist and designer has been tremendously rewarding. I am also very proud of the world we are creating. We hope that players will find it not only fun to play in, but also visually interesting and enticing to explore and discover. It’s been awesome to be able to tell people that just two people have built the game from the ground up.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

SC: With just two people making the game, it can be exhausting to cover all of the needed roles in development and business.  If we could afford to, we’d hire some help.

JS: The number of “hats” Steve and I wear, as far as the roles we are playing in production, is pretty overwhelming. We are each doing the work of 5-10 employees in a traditional studio production! It’s been tiring, and often times stressful to have to rapidly switch between these roles on a daily or weekly basis.

How well has the game been received so far?

SC: Feedback has been very positive on all fronts and in all contexts, especially so when demoing in person at trade shows where players can feel the agility and depth built into Anew.  We’re proud to have received the Audience Choice Award at Comicon Phoenix and I think Jeff sleeps with the golden controller under his pillow.]

JS: Haha, yeah the golden sheen is starting to wear off. In all seriousness, we are thrilled with the response Anew has received so far. On a personal level, I am so happy that people have responded positively to the look and feel of the game. It’s been my goal to design a world that looks and sounds truly alien and unfamiliar. Those two words have come up repeatedly in press articles we’ve received, so I feel like I’m doing something right.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

SC: We’re leading with PC, including Steam and at least one non-DRM platform for PC.  If our Kickstarter succeeds, we’re also committing to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.  We also have a stretch goal that will fund research for porting to Nintendo Switch.

How have your past developmental experiences influenced Anew: The Distant Light?

JS: Our prior AAA studio experience has directly impacted the development of Anew. Steve and I learned a tremendous amount working on games over the past 15 plus years. That includes not only the nitty-gritty of the crafts we practice on a day-to-day basis (modelling, texturing, animating, lighting, programming, designing, tools development, marketing, etc) but how to set realistic goals and achieve them. We were both senior/lead developers on projects, so we know how important it is to properly schedule a project, and avoid common development pitfalls like feature creep and over-scoping. We try to bring everything we’ve learned on these big studio projects to the production of our indie game.

Outside of indie development, what would you say yours and Steve’s favourite projects to have worked on throughout the years?

SC: It was cool to get to work on games related to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.  I’m proud of having had a small influence on Command & Conquer: Generals Zero Hour, which RTS fans still talk about nostalgically.  Many of those projects required crushing amounts of hours worked in a week, so it’s hard to call one a favorite in light of that.

JS: I’m really proud of all the games I’ve worked on. Making games is a huge struggle, so I feel like shipping each one has been quite an accomplishment. As a personal fan of the BioShock and Uncharted series, I really got a kick out of working on BioShock 2 and Uncharted: Golden: Abyss.

Has having creative freedom made working on Anew: The Distant Light feel like a better experience than any other?

SC: On the creative freedom front, yes it’s been the best game development experience I’ve had.

JS: Yes, the creative freedom of making our own game has been very liberating. That freedom comes at a high cost though. We have taken on a great deal of financial risk, and are pretty much working on the game all the time! It’s a big commitment and we have sacrificed a great deal in our personal and professional lives to make it a reality.

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

SC: I’d advise them to make and complete things with very small scope before getting super ambitious.

JS: Agreed. Try and find the one or two things you really enjoy doing (be it art or programming), and then really dive head-first into practicing those crafts. It requires a lot of patience and persistence to get good at this stuff. At the end of the day, if you want to get a job in games, you’ll need to show a potential employer that you work is of extremely high quality, and would fit into the type of games they are making.

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

JS: We are currently on Kickstarter through March 19th, 11:59pm

SC: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1799572177/anew-the-distant-light. Our official website is:www.anewthegame.com. We are also on Facebook and Twitter at @anewthegame.

Do you have anything else to add?

SC: Please check out our Kickstarter!  If you like games with action and exploration, mystery, and a high skill cap, you’ll find a lot to like about Anew: The Distant Light.  We’re making a game that will scratch the itch for Metroidvania fans, while also bringing some fresh gameplay to the genre with giant mechs and other vehicles that you can pilot, an upgradable home ship, and exotic environments that play quite differently from each other.

Lastly, I would like to thank both Steve and Jeff for agreeing to answer my questions, and to wish them best of luck with Anew: The Distant Light. I would highly recommend that any gamer who may be looking for an upcoming Metroidvania title to check out their Kickstarter page, and back the project. Looking at early footage of it, I myself am extremely excited for the game’s release, and cannot wait to play the finished game.

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 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 it’s 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 it’s the 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)

Doom (2016) (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – id Software

Publisher(s) – Bethesda Softworks

Director(s) – Marty Stratton & Hugo Martin

Producer(s) – Timothy Bell

PEGI – 18

Twelve years in the making, and finally released to positive reviews in mid-2016, the re-vamp of id Software’s classic shooter Doom presents players with an experience more akin to Doom 1 and 2, deviating away from the survival horror approach taken with Doom 3, and given an overhaul in visuals as well as having numerous different features thrown in for good measure. I thought that whilst it was pretty light on story, again alluding to the first two games, it was overall a fairly decent gaming experience worth at least one playthrough, and was left relieved that it didn’t become another Duke Nukem Forever, as it easily could have been if history has gone another way.

Graphics – 10/10

The game runs on the id Tech engine; one of the most advanced gaming engines on the market. And as a result, it looks nigh-on flawless in terms of technical performance. It’s certainly one of the best looking video games I’ve seen throughout the eighth generation so far; if not, the best. The conceptual design is also very well handled, as it looks even more akin to the classic box art than any other Doom game to date, with the red skies and terrains of mars, and the hordes of demons players must have to contend with. Although the game itself plays out much like the first two games in the series, I like that they also kept the scary atmosphere and limited lighting in UAC facilities, which were established in Doom 3.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game has a standard level-based campaign mode, whereby players must shoot their way through hordes of demonic creatures and complete a couple of collectible side quests along the way, but on top of that, there is online multiplayer included as standard. But the most interesting feature the game has to offer is undoubtedly the SnapMap system, which allows players to create their own arenas and stages, and holds their own online multiplayer battles and single-player levels as well as other game modes; a direct response to the overwhelming legacy the original game created in terms of user-generated content. The SnapMap feature makes this game stand out among the many other generic FPS games that are released every year, and after completing the main story mode, will provide much more replay value for people left wanting more.

Controls – 10/10

Handled by the godfathers of the first-person shooting genre, id Software, it was expected that there would be no issues with the game’s controls; and so there aren’t any. Doom’s controls are handled just as well as any other modern FPS game and present players with no unnecessary complications

Lifespan – 10/10

The campaign can typically last up to around 13 hours, which whilst isn’t exceptional is still much longer than the average FPS story mode. But on top of that, online multiplayer and the SnapMap feature will provide players with unlimited replay value, so the game will, in essence, last as long as the player’s interest, which given what this game has to offer, should be a considerably long time; especially veteran fans of the series.

Storyline – 4/10

As I said, this game is light on story; even in the campaign mode. The plot is that an unnamed space marine is traversing through the planet Mars, and is on the way eliminating as much of the demon horde as possible. There are slight instances of character development and a couple of different plot threads, but not enough to make it stand out from other games in this respect. Arguably, there didn’t need to be a story for it to work, and that does apply to a certain extent, but given how id Software have previously demonstrated that they know how to tell at least an interesting story, as evidenced with both Rage and Wolfenstein: The New Order, I still can’t help but feel that this game fell short in this respect.

Originality – 6/10

Another aspect that the game falls short on slightly is in terms of uniqueness; partly in conjunction with the fact that this is simply a second re-telling of the events of the original game. It’s also due to the fact that Doom does essentially play out like a standard first-person shooter, and that there are no unique mechanics within the gameplay itself outside the SnapMap feature. It could be argued that id Software may have wanted to keep things simple for the sake of delaying the game any more than they already had done. If true, the game was made to suffer slightly in terms of originality.

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In summation, however, Doom is a solid first-person shooting experience, and I would recommend it to both veterans and newcomers. It’s longer than the average shooter, and while it does play out a lot like an average shooter, there are enough additional gameplay features to keep players busy vanquishing the demon horde for a long time.

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yugo Hayashi & Yusuke Hashimoto

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Tadashi Sugiyama & Atsushi Inaba

PEGI – 7

Being the franchise’s first home console release for eleven years, and receiving mixed reviews upon release, Star Fox Zero brought the series back to its roots, but not without incorporating a plethora of new gameplay elements to perpetuate a great a deal of variety and replay value, as well as to satisfy both newcomers and veteran fans. There were some issues I had with the latest revamp of the classic Nintendo rail shooting game, but overall, I found it to be a fairly solid gaming experience, and certainly one of the more standout titles on the Wii U to have been handled by a third-party developer.

Graphics – 7/10

As expected, the Lylat System has never looked as detailed or as polished as it does in this game. Many classic planets make an appearance, such as Corneria, Venom, Zoness, and Fortuna, with the addition of new locations like Sector Alpha, Sector Beta, and Aquarosa. What I was especially impressed with was how most of the classic locations had been redesigned so dramatically to fit in with the unfamiliarity of all the new locations. The only two locations, which stood to me as being arguably overly reminiscent of Star Fox 64 were both Corneria and Titania, but even they differed from their Nintendo 64 counterparts; especially in terms of their respective boss fights.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from an overhaul of graphics, there is also a massive overhaul of gameplay too. The classic rail shooting mechanics of the original Star Fox game takes precedent, but in addition, there are multiple vehicles that must be piloted in order to traverse different sections of certain levels, as well as completing different objectives. The Landmaster from Star Fox 64 is used in addition to the Arwing, as well as the new Gyrowing, which is used to hack into computer systems via a deployable robot named Direct-I, and the Walker vehicle, which is used for ground combat; an idea reworked from a gameplay feature incorporated into the canceled Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo. Star Fox Zero also features side quests providing additional replay value; something that many Star Fox games have sorely lacked with the exception of Star Fox Adventure. Incorporating the addictive nature of the series, I found playing this game to be very enjoyable overall, and every bit as challenging as any other game in the series to date.

Controls – 6/10

The biggest reservation I had about this game whilst playing was how the control scheme worked in conjunction with the unique features of the Wii U. Aiming is handled by having players use both the control sticks and the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic controls simultaneously. There is an option the player can take to have the crosshair locked when steering, but the gyroscopic controls are then enabled again once the player starts firing their weapons, and in my opinion, it doesn’t work anywhere near well as the classic system. If the gyroscopic controls hadn’t have been incorporated, I would have thought much more highly of this game overall. But unfortunately, Nintendo tried to fix something that was by in large unbroken; and it made for an unnecessarily huge hindrance rather than a pleasure.

Lifespan – 10/10

Like both Star Fox and Star Fox 64, there is virtually infinite replay value to be had in this game. Aside from the main story quest, there is an arcade mode, which players can take on in order to beat their high score as well as a multiplayer mode. One quick playthrough can take less than four hours to complete, but to complete the game to 100% can take anything between 15 to 20 hours, which to me was unprecedented for any game made in the same caliber.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Being the third re-telling of the events of the original game, the story centers on the anthropomorphic Star Fox team, consisting of Fox McCloud, the leader, Peppy Hare, the seasoned veteran, Slippy Toad, the complacent mechanic, and Falco Lombardi, the cocky ace pilot. Their mission is to aid the Cornerian army led by General Pepper in saving the Lylat System from the invading maniacal scientist Andross. Though I have already experienced this story many times and loved it, the main problem I had with this interpretation of it was the voice acting; despite the fact that almost all of the original cast from Star Fox 64 returned. In addition, I found it to be nowhere near as well scripted as Star Fox 64. To me, there wasn’t as much as there was in the former game that brought out the character’s traits and personalities. It was much like the same problem I had with the re-vamp of Ratchet and Clank; many returning characters, and not enough development. The developers tried adding a slight plot twist towards the end concerning General Pepper, but to me, it was too little too late.

Originality – 8/10

In terms of story, I wouldn’t say there was a great deal present to differentiate it from any other game in the series. However, from the perspective of both gameplay and conceptual design, there’s a great deal of uniqueness to experience. It will certainly provide both veterans and newcomers with one of the more special gaming experiences on the Wii U, and whilst the controls scheme can be infuriating at times, it’s not impossible to get to grips with. A lot of the boss fights are also very different from most boss fights in the series, with the strategy of beating Andross being something a little bit more than blowing his hands away and then aiming for his eyes. It also nicely paves the way for a possible continuation of the series in the future, as well as the possibility of even more unique ideas to be incorporated in future games.

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Overall, Star Fox Zero has its flaws, but it’s by no means one of the more frustrating games I’ve played. It’s addictive, challenging, beautiful to look at, and whilst it isn’t the best re-telling of the events of the original game, it does a good enough job at explaining the basic premise, and leaves the next direction the series could possibly take open to interpretation.

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

X-Type+ (Wii U)

Developer(s) – PhobosLab

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

PEGI – 3

Starting out as a simple browser game developed by the proprietors of the site PhobosLab.com, I was at first surprised to find a game like X-Type+ appears on the Wii U Virtual Console. But after playing it, and seeing just how addictive it can become, I found myself increasingly less surprised by its inclusion. After all, Nintendo knows a good game when they see one.

Graphics – 5/10

One of the less strong points of this game, however, despite its addictiveness, is the fact that the visuals are almost non-existent. Even though this is an arcade game at its core, there have been many games release like it that have implemented much more breathtaking and interesting visuals than this. Essentially, all it encompasses is a blank background, and ship after ship that looks exactly the same. Though it may have started out as a browser game, I think even under those circumstances better visuals could have been implemented.

Gameplay – 10/10

The objective of X-Type+ is simple; destroy each ship that appears on the screen, and rack up the highest score possible; all the while dodging bullet after bullet and rocket after a rocket is thrown at you. Like such games as Galaga and Gradius, it is incredibly addictive and will compel players to play again and again in order to simply improve their high score and post it on either the website or the Wii U scoreboard.

Controls – 10/10

The best way to play this game is to use a third-party Wii U controller. I found that with either the GamePad, or on the original website, the control scheme is not so easy to cope with, and poses a number of problems. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of using a keyboard to control PC games that aren’t simulators, and the GamePad also poses the same problem of the hands cramping up that I’d previously experienced whilst playing through Hyrule Warriors.

Originality – 4/10

The worst thing about this game, however, is how little it stands out compared to the likes of Galaga and Gradius. As I said, the visuals are almost non-existent and do little to differentiate this game from other of its kind, and unlike many other recent games released within this particular genre, such as Titan Attacks, there are no new elements introduced, such as upgrades or experience points, etc.

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Otherwise, however, X-Type+ is an extremely addictive game, and certainly one of the most interesting indie experiences available on the Wii U. Despite its flaws, it makes me wonder why Nintendo doesn’t keep a closer eye out for other indie developers to work with, as opposed to relying primarily on their own IPs to get by.

Score

29/40

7/10 (Fair)