Tag Archives: Side Scroller

SG88 The Addams Family Header

The Addams Family (Super NES & Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – Ocean Software

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software & Flying Edge

Designer(s) – Warren Lancashire

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

 

Initially released in 1992 by Software for fourth-generation hardware, The Addams Family game, based on the 1991 movie starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, received mixed reviews when it came out, (much like the film), is described as a boring Mario clone, or Mega Magazine even advising players to either “watch a tree, or grow something instead”. Versions for older consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even handheld consoles were also developed, but each of these versions is like their own games in and of themselves. 

With the original port, however, it’s interesting to me how the perception of an old game can potentially change over time. If I’d been reviewing back in the time of the Super NES, I may very well have had similar concerns to the likes of Mega Magazine, but even still, my overall opinion would have been very different, since not only do I enjoy this game a lot today, but I also played the hell out of it back when it was released. I enjoyed it thoroughly back then, and I still enjoy playing it now. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals differ slightly between both the Super NES and the Mega Drive version, but both versions do exceptionally well to capture the feel of not only the 1991 film but the franchise in general. It’s one of those games based on a license that tries to celebrate the license as much as possible, and I always enjoy a licensed game for that reason. The game takes place in and around the Addams residence, which is plagued by creatures of the night that Gomez Addams must contend with. Each area of the house is uniquely designed and differentiated from one another, giving it a strong vibe of classic Castlevania games. In particular, the portraits on the walls of the portrait gallery are excellently detailed in terms of technical performance, with the characters bearing striking resemblances to the real-life actors; not only that of Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester but also of Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Not quite a traditional 2D side scroller, the player has the option to come and go as they please throughout the Addams residence, giving it far more of a Metroidvania feel. The objective is to navigate the Addams residence and rescue each of the other family members; Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma Addams, Uncle Fester, and finally Morticia. Throughout the game, there are several secret areas to uncover along the way, as well as different power-ups to use in order to reach otherwise impassable areas or to give the player an edge in combat. There’s also a series of pretty challenging boss fights to contend with at the end of each area; and challenging is the right word for this game, as there are also many different platforming sequences that will test even the most hardened of platformer fans. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are also as fluent as any good platformer was at the time. Featuring other items to use throughout, it’s actually given more variety in terms of gameplay than the average side scroller, and therefore, more functionality in terms of controls than in other games of the same ilk. There’s so much in this game to differentiate it from others in terms of controls alone that it made me wonder how even reviewers at the time couldn’t recognize that back then. 

 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

The lifespan is even longer than the average platformer, clocking in at around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether or not the player decides to complete it to 100%. Of course, there would be other games in other genres that would blow this amount of time out of the water, and would only continue to do so going into the fifth generation of gaming, but there’s a lot to be said for a game like this that dared to defy convention, even if it went pretty much unnoticed at the time. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The plot of the story follows the second half of the films quite closely, Tully Alford, the Addams Family lawyer, has taken over the Addams estate and captured the remaining Addams family members, and Gomez resolves to rescue them. The plot element of the film concerning Uncle Fester is also present, as he has amnesia and he is cured of it once Gomez releases him. The plot is presented nowhere near as well as what it is in the original film, but it does a good enough job setting up the premise of gameplay.

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s very easy to overlook how quietly innovative this game was back in its time. It perpetuated a lot of the same ideas that the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did birthing the entire Metroidvania genre a full two years before the release of Super Metroid. It was even quite easy for me to take it for granted back in the day since I was unfamiliar with the concepts of gaming history and even the differentiation of gaming genres at the time, but as I’ve grown older and learned far more than I knew about games since, It’s made me appreciate truly how innovative this title was. 

 

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Overall The Addams Family remains every bit as much of a joy to play today as what it was back when it was released. I highly recommend this game to any side-scrolling fan who may be either looking for a challenge or looking to try a silently original game that unfortunately fell through the cracks at the time of its release. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 World of Illusion Header

World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – SEGA AM7

Publisher(s) – SEGA

Director(s) – Emiko Yamamoto

Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore

PEGI – 3

 

Released as a Sega Genesis exclusive, unlike its predecessors Castle of Illusion and Land Illusion, World of Illusion is the third game in the series, which puts players in the shoes of not only Mickey Mouse but also his companion Donald Duck, offering two different experiences depending on which character the player chooses at the start. It was released to rave reviews back in 1992 with critics praising the graphics and multiplayer, but it also had one or two detractors in addition, which some labeled the single-player mode as dull or bland. 

Growing up, World of Illusion was the Illusion game I spent the most time on, and as a prerequisite, I enjoyed it very much back in the day. Nostalgia aside, I still enjoy playing it. In terms of quality, I put it in between the original two; it’s quite as good as Land of Illusion, but it’s slightly better than Castle of Illusion in my opinion.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The first thing to notice right off the bat compared to the other two Illusion games is that the graphics outstrip both of them on the technical side. Everything from the environments to the characters looks better than they ever had done before, showcasing in spectacular fashion what the Sega Mega Drive was capable of as the fourth generation was well and truly established. On the conceptual level, it still impresses, having been influenced by a number of Disney films such as Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and Sleeping Beauty to name but a few; similar to how Castle of Illusion was put together, but on a greater scale.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The gameplay also follows a very similar formula to that of Castle of Illusion, being a traditional 2D sidescroller offering two different adventures; one as Mickey Mouse and the other as Donald Duck. It’s nowhere near as open-ended as Land of Illusion is, but both playthroughs offer a very different experience to one another, as Donald Duck is forced to find alternative paths across each level due to him having different capabilities to Mickey Mouse. The multiplayer is also an outstanding experience to indulge in as it requires slightly more cooperation to progress through than in other side scrollers of the time. 

 

Controls – 9.5/10

The only minor fault I found with the controls, as I discussed in my review of Castle of Illusion, was the crawling mechanics. Whenever the player character crawls, it seems way too dragged on and nowhere near as fluent as a normal movement. But as I said, it’s only a nitpick; it doesn’t hinder gameplay to the point of it being unplayable, and regular movement is as fluent as it is in any of the best platformers released at the time. 

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Clocking in at around an hour, World of Illusion lasts about the same time as Land of Illusion despite its linearity, which for the time is pretty impressive in all fairness, especially compared to what is essentially a Metroidvania. It racks up around the average lifespan of a game back in its time, so it may seem like nothing compared to what gamers will be used to in this day and age, but for the time, it’s impossible to complain about too much. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of World of Illusion is almost identical to that of Land of Illusion. It involves Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck being swept away on yet another adventure, as they are taken by an evil magician in the form of Mickey’s long-standing arch-nemesis Pete. Again, like in the previous Illusion games, the cutscenes do as good a job as what could’ve been expected to tell the story as effectively as possible, but in the respect of the game’s story, it falls a little short in terms of uniqueness.

 

Originality – 7.5/10

The aspects in which this game doesn’t fall short of in terms of uniqueness, however, are in both the graphics and the gameplay. The conceptual design, despite the fact they were inspired by several different Disney films, still feels like it’s its own cohesive idea as opposed to it feeling like a mish-mash of different previously conceived elements. And although the game isn’t quite on par with Land of Illusion in terms of gameplay, it’s necessary to appreciate the fact that the developers tried something new instead of simply giving the players the same experience all over again.

 

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In summation, World of Illusion holds a lot of nostalgic value to me personally, but in the grander scheme of things, it’s still a great game to play. The multiplayer is immersing, the graphics look great, and whilst the story isn’t very original, especially by Disney’s own lofty standards, there’s more than enough here on offer to make up for it.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Land of Illusion Header

Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Master System & Game Gear)

Developer(s) – Sega

Publisher(s) –  Sega

Director(s) – Yoshio Yoshida

Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore

PEGI – 3

Released on third-generation hardware well into the fourth generation, Land of Illusion was brought out following the immense success of the previous Mickey Mouse game developed by Sega, Castle of Illusion, and for the most part, received the same level of critical acclaim being considered an adored classic by most who played it. Out of the original Illusion trilogy, Land of Illusion was the one entry that I never got to play, as, at this time, I was firmly immersed in fourth-generation hardware, such as the Super NES and the Mega Drive; and it’s a shame that this game never saw a release on the Mega Drive, because a multitude of reasons, it is the best in the Illusion trilogy in my opinion; superior to both Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

Where the technical side of things is concerned, the game kind of looks like a mixture of both 8-BIT and 16-BIT visuals, seemingly going above and beyond what many gamers may have thought the Sega Master System was capable of. People who have never played this game would most probably take a cursory look at it and maybe too hasty to write it off immediately as a game that seemingly came to a generation too late. But the fact of the matter is Land of Illusion looks too good to be a third-generation title. The conceptual design is also even more of an improvement on what the developers did with Castle of Illusion to me, as it borrows elements from much darker Disney films than that of its predecessor; most notably The Black Cauldron, as the antagonist is The Horned King under the guise of a new villain, The Phantom. There are certain elements of certain levels that also look to be inspired by previous third-generation classics, such as Super Mario Bros 3 and Castlevania.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

Perpetuating many of the same gameplay elements as seen in Castle of Illusion, Land of Illusion is another 2D side scroller whereby the player must traverse, explore, defeat bosses and take on the game’s end boss. What separates this game from Castle of Illusion, however, is that there’s a small Metroidvania element to it, allowing for players to backtrack to an extent with newly acquired abilities to reach otherwise impassable areas. There’s even a sidequest whereby there are a number of stars to collect throughout, giving the game slightly more replay value than the average side scroller. The boss fights throughout also provide a nice balance of challenge for players. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The biggest problem I had with the game is only a minor one, which is that the jump mechanics can seem a little inconsistent, and as a result, gameplay can be hindered to a small extent unnecessarily. The same problem exists in the next game in the series, World of Illusion, but to a lesser extent. However, the jump mechanics are nowhere near as bad enough to be able to call the game unplayable by any means. Like the last game, the controls are as fluent as what is needed to be for the most part. 

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Land of Illusion can be made to last around an hour, which though was the average lifespan for a game in the fourth generation, is actually quite impressive compared to other third-generation titles. The amount of backtracking the game warrants makes it slightly longer than the average 2D side scroller that was a mainstay in the industry at this time, and it does fairly well to stand out on its own as a result. Of course, other games have been released by this time that lasted considerably longer like A Link to the Past and the Final Fantasy games, but for what is a very retroactive experience, it succeeds to deliver.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The plot of Land of Illusion is extremely similar to that of Super Mario Bros 2. Mickey is reading a book one day only to fall asleep and awake again in an unfamiliar and fantastical land whereby he must recover a stolen magic crystal in order to help the inhabitants of a small village protect themselves from an entity known as The Phantom. Along the way, the player encounters several classic Disney characters to rescue, and along the way providing a greater deal of substance in the story and more memorable moments than Castle of Illusion. 

 

Originality – 8/10

Although it was released arguably three years too late, the fact of the matter is the game stands out for all the right reasons regardless of its late arrival on the Sega Master System, and for a game that at first glance would seem completely outdated, is immensely impressive. It’s amazing what developers have been able to do with basing games off of a pre-existing license before and after Land of Illusion, but very few developers took that concept to the heights that Sega took many Disney franchises in the realm of games, and this game stands out as yet another shining example of that.

 

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Overall, I was surprised to find out that I would end up enjoying Land of Illusion more than any of the other Illusion games. It’s got a great deal to play for, for its time, the story is much more involved than in previous game, and although it seems to be Castle of Illusion that seems to get the accolade of the classic Mickey Mouse game, the fact of the matter is that Land of Illusion is in many ways superior. 

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Momodora III (PC)

Developer(s) – rdein

Publisher(s) – rdein

PEGI – Not yet rated (some non-graphic violence)

 

Released on Steam back in 2014, three years after the release of Momodora II, Momodora III largely reverted back to the basic gameplay structure of the first Momodora; a semi-open world side scroller requiring a small amount of backtracking, but not to the same extent as a traditional Metroidvania game. There were a few new elements synonymous with the series introduced as well as some perpetuated from the first two games, and delivered a fair amount of variety in gameplay, garnishing generally favorable reviews from gamers and critics. In terms of quality, I would put it second out of the original trilogy; not quite as good as Momodra II, but much better than the first game.

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The first thing to notice when comparing Momodora III to the previous two games is that in terms of concept, it does far better to come into its own and stand out among many other side scrollers. Gone is any trace of science fiction, or the recycled setting of the second game in favor of more varied landscapes from vibrant and colorful forest lands to snowy tundras and deep underground caves. The next game, Reverie Under the Moonlight would then go on to differentiate itself even more from other games in terms of conceptual design, but the third game is where the series truly started to take on a life of its own.  

 

Gameplay – 6.5/10

The gameplay compared to the first two games, however, seemed a lot more underwhelming, as there was simply less to do. Taken away were the facilities to discover new weapons from the first Momodora, and like the second game, it was replaced with finding new items that grant new abilities. But the reason why it works worse in this game than it does in Momodora II is simply that the additional abilities aren’t ostensibly needed to complete the game. It works better on hard mode, but on normal mode, it can simply be rushed through without having to make use of anything else other than the main attack, so the gameplay feature is made quite redundant. The linear gameplay structure also doesn’t help things either, as there is very little cause to backtrack through the game anyway. The third game felt like it needed much more of a boost in terms of gameplay, which unfortunately it didn’t get. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As it plays out more or less identical to both of the first two games, there are at least no problems with the control scheme. But at this point, it was to be expected if the developers were simply going to release a game that didn’t make any strong leaps away from its predecessors and added very few new features in terms of gameplay. 

 

Lifespan – 1/10

Clocking in at around an hour once again, the lifespan of Momodora III is very much below par compared to that of most sidescrollers released either at the time or even back in the fourth generation. For what is supposed to be an ultimately retroactive experience, it does very little to differentiate itself in terms of gameplay, and in turn, the game’s lifespan is abysmal even compared to what was acceptable in days gone by. The hard mode necessitates an additional playthrough for more intrepid players, but completing the game on hard mode offers no incentive, so there’s not much point. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows either one of two priestesses depending on which difficulty the player selects; Momo or Dora, who are charged with investigating supernatural goings-on around the land of Koho. For me, the highlight of the game’s story was the encounter with the main character of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight; Kaho. Apart from that, the game’s story has slightly less substance than that of the second game, but much more than the original Momodora, as there is a lot more text, and a lot more going on. It also has multiple endings, which would also be included in Reverie Under the Moonlight, but overall, the story is fairly generic. 

 

Originality – 5/10

Although the third game in the series does far better to stand out in terms of visuals, that’s about the only way it does stand out. Gameplay is very typical of a generic 2D sidescroller, and it needed a massive boost in terms of quality in this aspect compared to the first two games, and I don’t think it got it in my opinion. The series would later be taken to its apex with Reverie Under the Moonlight, but the original Momodora trilogy was overall a fairly disappointing experience, and the third game caps it all off in a very boring and dissatisfactory manner.

 

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Overall, Momodora III is a pretty standard 2D sidescroller, which for reasons beyond me, has been touted as one of the best side scrollers on PC. In my opinion, it’s tedious, lacking too much in substance, and only served as a precursor for better things to come; as did the original Momodora trilogy on the whole. 

Score

36/60

6/10 (Average)

SG88 Momodora II Header

Momodora II (PC)

Developer(s) – rdein

Publisher(s) – rdein

PEGI – Not yet rated (Non-graphic violence and some strong language)

 

Released one year after the original game, Momodora II took a different approach to gameplay, playing out as a Metroidvania as opposed to a linear 2D platformer, and carried on the story almost directly after the events of the original Momodora. Although this game pales in comparison to other classic Metroidvanias, the second game is decisively the best out of the original trilogy that was developed before the release of Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The graphical quality of the game is just as good as the first, and it seems a lot more cohesive somehow. Gone are the science fiction elements of the first game, such as guns and aliens in favor of a much more fantastical look, with the second game perpetuating a lot of the common elements found in later Momodora games, such as the save points and the variety of enemies found throughout. Gone also is the 8-BIT soundtrack in favor of a more orchestral brand of music, which in all honesty, fits the tableau of the series far better.

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Playing out like a traditional Metroidvania game, there is a variety of new abilities to collect in place of different kinds of weapons, and additional items can be found to give the player additional health. There are also a couple more boss fights thrown in as opposed to the one found in the first game, and although again, it falls way below par of what many other games in the genre have to offer, such as Blasphemous, the Ori games, and even Xeodrifter, it is still a pretty fun game to play a good few challenges and secrets to uncover along the way. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Again, like the first game, there are also no issues with the controls, since they practically play out identical to each other. The second game is almost like an extension to the first in respect to controls, but there are a couple of new mechanics introduced in the form of new types of abilities to wield compared to the previous game to at least keep things relatively fresh.

 

Lifespan – 1.5/10

Clocking in at around 50 minutes in total, the second game only lasts fractionally longer than the first, and especially as the second game is a lot more open-ended, it seems all the more underwhelming because of that. I can’t help but think that with a little more thought and time put into it that this game could’ve ended up being far more than what it ruined out to be; after all, Blasphemous had a particularly lengthy development cycled before finally seeing the light of day, and turns out to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of the eighth generation. But the developer seemed to prioritize getting the game out as fast as possible as opposed to putting in that little more effort than was needed, unfortunately.

 

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of Momodora II, however, is a drastic improvement compared to that of the first game. It follows a young girl who has made a journey into a mysterious lair outside of Koho in order to find and defeat an entity known as the Underworld Queen, who has been terrorizing the land. There’s a lot more dialogue, and therefore, a lot more story and emotion conveyed throughout, and it has a particularly interesting outcome that again, makes it a much more interesting narrative to experience than that of the first Momodora.

 

Originality – 4/10

Momodora II does far better to stand out from other Metroidvanias in comparison to the first game, but still, there are a lot of familiar elements that make it seem quite typical of any game in the genre. Eventually, the series would go on to become something much more distinct than what it started out as, but it was a lengthy process that happened over the course of several years, and it was something that could’ve happened a lot sooner if the developers had tried a few new things like new gameplay mechanics or something newer in terms of conceptual design. Some small contribution to that was made here, but not enough in my opinion.

 

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Overall, Momodora II goes leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, but it is still a fairly generic Metroidvania title compared to others. It may be the best of the original Momodora trilogy, but unfortunately, it is the best of a bunch of below-par games in the lead-up to Reverie Under the Moonlight, which would blow them all out of the water. 

Score

36.5/60

6/10 (Average)

Momodora (PC)

Developer(s) – rdein

Publisher(s) – rdein

PEGI – Not yet rated (non-graphic violence)

 

Released back in 2010 in a very low-key and obscure manner, Momodora went on to develop somewhat of a cult following, spawning two sequels and a spin-off, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, which along with Momodora III, saw a full release on Steam. Though this game clearly has its fanbase and did lead the developers to go on and do even greater things, the series had a very slow start in my opinion. Releasing the original two games on Steam would only probably work as a bundle along with the other Momodora games with how short they are as well. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals are much different to the types of locations and the mythology that the Momodora series would later perpetuate, with the game having much more of a science-fiction look to it as opposed to high fantasy or gothic horror. The game bears a striking resemblance to the likes of Metroid, Xeodrifter, and Axiom Verge; especially as they’re 8-BIT rendered. The soundtrack is also in chiptune, which would change from Momodora II to a more orchestral soundtrack, but the tracks in the game are quite well composed. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay is also fairly entertaining in addition. It’s a linear 2D sidescroller, whereby the player must collect various different items throughout and discover new and better weapons to become more effective in combat with a boss fight thrown in at the end. Again, perpetuating a very different style of combat to the rest of the series, players are given guns to use as opposed to swords, bows, and magic spells. It’s obvious that this series was something extremely different at first, and was later envisioned as something else entirely. There are a couple of common elements linking each game, but how it later evolved is very interesting indeed. In terms of gameplay, later entries would also go on to become even more entertaining than the first, but what is here in the way of that is pretty good.

 

Controls – 10/10

There are also no issues with the controls as expected; it’s even bearable to play this game using a keyboard, and I don’t often think that of platformers exclusive to PC. If it was a more fast-paced platformer, then most likely the controls would’ve been a huge problem, but thankfully, that isn’t the case here. It’s a reasonably paced platformer with no additional complication in terms of its control scheme. 

 

Lifespan – 1/10

Lasting less than an hour, the game is criminally short; especially for 2010 when other indie games were being released that could be made too far infinitely longer. It may be easier for fans of the series to simply rate the series as a whole as opposed to rating each installment separately, especially as in all fairness, each game is relatively cheap, but looking at the first game on its own merits, 40 minutes is a pitiful amount of time to last; not since the mid-80s has less than an hour been the industry standard. 

 

Storyline – 5/10

The story of Momodora takes place in the land of Koho where a young orphan girl has entered a forbidden land after her mother had been sacrificed, as is customary in Koho. The orphan girl travels to this forbidden land in order to find a hidden power reputed to bring the dead back to life. The closest game I could draw comparisons with in terms of story is Shadow of the Colossus, albeit regarding concept as opposed to quality. The story sounds good in its basic premise, but there isn’t much, at least until the end, to get players particularly invested in the narrative. And even come to the end, the way the story is closed out is very questionable. It doesn’t challenge players to speculate about what the ending means, but rather it’ll make them question why this was the best ending the developers could come up with. 

 

Originality – 2/10

The game’s second-biggest problem (second to lifespan), is how unoriginal it is. As I said before, the series would go on to become something far more distinct than what it started out as with the first game, but in every way, it’s possible to draw comparisons with many other games that came before it; some for the right reason, but many for the wrong reasons as well. I can’t help but feel that this was largely a question of trial and error on the developer’s part; a learning curve before building on the series in a far more positive way. 

 

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Overall, while the first Momodora game has its merits here and there, it is ultimately a very flat and generic gaming experience that’s screaming out for improvement. It’s fairly fun to play and the graphics are good to look at as well, but there’s simply not enough of any of that to be had with lasting as short a time as it does, and there’s not much separating it from games made of the same ilk. 

Score

32/60

5/10 (Far Below Average)

Zapling Bygone Header

Zapling Bygone: First Impressions

I recently came across yet another Metroidvania title with a great deal of promise and a great deal of substance in its early stages of development. Zapling Bygone is a sci-fi Metroidvania following the story of an alien asylum seeker named Zapling, who after fleeing his home planet comes across a completely new world inhabited by strange and dangerous creatures and must traverse it in a bid to call it home. I’d had one eye on this game for a few weeks leading up to this article, and a Q&A will be to follow as soon as possible, but for now, I wanted to give my verdict on the game in this early stage of development, and happily, my verdict is extremely positive. 

 

Graphics

The game makes use of traditional 8-BIT visuals set on a weird and wonderful alien planet reminiscent of many classic or independently developed games within the genre, such as Metroid, Xeodrifter, and Axiom Verge. What has been shaped in the way of environmental design is very interesting to look at, albeit it’s only a very small section of what is soon to be a particularly sizable open world, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of it looks like when the full project is released. Already packed with numerous different areas to explore, it’ll be even more interesting to see how the mythology of the game is expanded upon. 

 

Gameplay

The game is a traditional Metroidvania and primarily takes inspiration from Hollow Knight, relying on exploration, combat item collecting, and gaining new abilities in order to discover new areas. The player character must find different types of skulls in order to gain additional abilities that can either fool enemies into thinking you are one of them or to gain other strategic advantages; it works in a somewhat similar way to Skul: The Hero Slayer. Something else I was pleasantly surprised to find was that there is actually an easter directly referencing another indie game currently in development that I covered some time back; Scrabdackle by Jakefriend. I interviewed Jake some time ago:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/03/23/qa-with-jakefriend-scrabdackle/

And so I slipped the lead developer of Zapling Bygone Stevis Andrea an additional question about their relationship and how the easter egg came to be, so it’ll be interesting to learn more about that in addition. But besides which, the game in its current state shows great promise in terms of its wildly varied combat system, level of exploration, and the design of the boss fights, which reminded me of Teslagrad in particular. 

 

Controls

The idea of the game’s general control scheme is fine, and once it’s released I’m sure the concern I’m about to express will be ironed out during development, but my advice would be that if you’re playing with a PlayStation 4 controller, the controller mapping is not immediately established, and it takes a little bit of adjustment. Below is my own personal mapping of the controls for Zapling Bygone, which worked just fine to me, so if anyone is thinking of trying the demo, and are using a PS4 controller, refer to this mapping:

 

But otherwise, many of the control mechanics themselves are either very unique or very reminiscent of other Metroidvanias, such as the Ori games or Blasphemous.

 

Lifespan

With only a portion of the game’s world revealed, and the promise on the Kickstarter page of at least 6 different areas to explore throughout, it indeed has the potential to last an extraordinarily long time. Whether it does end up lasting as long as the average Metroidvania, or maybe even longer, depends on how much is given to players to do throughout. But with the insane amount of collectibles, there are throughout the demo alone, I’m confident it will be made to last an exceptional amount of time. 

 

Storyline

The basic premise of Zapling Bygone follows the alien lifeform Zapling as he crashlands onto a brave new mysterious world in a bid to call it home and overcome the many dangers it poses to him. The charm of the game’s story exists not just in its basic premise, but in its backstory, which can be periodically discovered across the entire game, similar to the likes of The Swapper, though I can already tell that this game’s story is going to be far more immersing than the former. It certainly has the potential to spark wonder, controversy, and fan theories that can possibly make for one of the most interesting Metroidvania mythologies yet. 

 

Originality

Though clearly not without its sources of inspiration, it certainly had the potential to stand out among the circle of indie Metroidvania games. The extent of which would depend on how it does to try and break away from the likes of Super Metroid, Guacamelee, Dust: An Elysian Tail and others, and how much emphasis there is on this being its own fully cohesive concept. The combat system and the world mythos has a lot to them, and elements are there unlike a lot of Metroidvanias I’ve played, but it will be interesting to see exactly how much effort the developers put into making this game truly their own, and not just coming across as a collection of features and ideas based on other games. 

 

But overall, I was extremely impressed with how Zapling Bygone looks, plays, and tells the story of the main character and of the world around him. Since the Kickstarter campaign began, the idea has gathered a great of momentum from backers, gamers, and streamers alike, and it’s not hard to see why. If you’d like to try the demo out for yourself, you can download it now for free via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1489110/Zapling_Bygone/

 

Or if you would like to back the game on Kickstarter, you can do so via this link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/9fingergames/zapling-bygone

 

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoy playing Zapling Bygone, and tell me what you think of this game. I hope you enjoyed reading my assessment as much as I did putting it together.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Nubarron Header

Nubarron: The Adventure of an Unlucky Gnome (PC, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer(s) – Nastycloud

Publisher(s) – Hidden People club

Designer(s) – Ignacio Rud & Federico Segovia

PEGI – 3

 

Released on Steam in early 2020 to a mixed critical reception of gamers and reviewers, Nubarron is a semi-open world 2D side-scroller following the adventures of a Gnome being persisted by an ever-changing cloud, tasked with recovering the pages of a magic book. For the first hour of playing, it seemed like a pretty generic platforming game; I can best compare it to Chronology by Bedtime Digital. But after getting past that initial period, it did become progressively better, and I ended up enjoying it very much.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

To begin, the game’s hand-drawn visuals are quite stunning; almost on par with the best games to use this graphical style, such as the Ori games, Dust: An Elysian Tail and Hollow Knight. It takes place in a fantastical forest home to many weird and wonderful creatures, with a blend of both medieval fantasy and science-fiction elements. The reason I say that this game is almost on par with the aforementioned games is that it doesn’t quite stand out as much on the conceptual level, but nevertheless, it is one of the better-looking indie games developed in 2020. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a semi-open world puzzle-solving 2D side-scroller that requires some tracking back to previous areas to complete quests. Gameplay is made as variable as possible with acquiring new abilities throughout and the unusual combat system. Combat is engaged through the cloud that follows the player character. It can be used to subdue enemies, but in certain sequences throughout the game, the cloud can become either more difficult to control, or out of control altogether, with the player having to avoid being killed by the cloud when it becomes uncontrollable. Aside from the combat element being wonderfully outlandish compared to other games, the puzzle-solving element is also pretty well-executed with some of which, especially towards the end of the game, being particularly challenging. 

 

Controls – 10/10

One of the main reasons why I would still most closely compare Nubarron to Chronology is because the controls are almost the same; nearly to the point where you would think both games were made on the same engine. The movement controls are somewhat wooden compared to other side scrollers, but with so much more functionality and abilities to take advantage of than the former, it’s a far better game to control. The slowness of the movement commands is also not hindering enough to be considered a significant problem. The game’s control scheme poses no unnecessary complications, as any good game should be made. 

 

Lifespan – 5/10

The aspect which lets this game down, however, is in its lifespan. The problem being is the games I have compared this to in terms of graphics are Metroidvanias, and therefore require far more backtracking. I can’t help but feel that if this game was made in the style of a Metroidvania, then it would’ve been made to last far longer than what it does, but since there is only a minimalist amount of backtracking to be done, the game clocks in at only around 5 to 6 hours, which in this day and age, is pretty underwhelming. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

What wasn’t underwhelming, however, was the story of Nubarron. It follows a Gnome, simply named Gnome, who one day has not only, unfortunately, lost his lucky hat, but is also persistently followed by a cloud, whose behavior changes on a whim. Wanting to get rid of the cloud and find his hat, he enlists the help of a magical omniscient owl who requests that Gnome recover all the missing pages from a spellbook called the Nubarron, and so Gnome sets out on his quest. At first, my first impression of the game’s story was that it’s quite typical; a bog-standard fantasy story if you will. However, as the game progresses, it becomes something far better than that. Without spoiling the details of the ending, it’s perfectly poised for a sequel to happen, and I’m very much hoping that it does happen; there’s a lot of scope to expand on the mythology of the series, as well as the gameplay mechanics and the lifespan, so here’s hoping that this game gets the follow-up it deserves. 

 

Originality – 7/10

It’s not until after the first hour or so that players will be able to fully appreciate the depth and the unconventional aesthetics that this game truly has to offer players. So it is something that will have to be borne with at first, but when that initial period passes, there’s so much to be had in terms of uniqueness. Sure, I was left thinking to an extent that if a little more effort was put in, that this game could’ve ended up being even more than what it is, but for what there is here, it’s still a pretty standout experience.

 

Happii

Overall, Nubarron was a game that I looked at and thought was going to be a very generic gaming experience. It turned out to be anything but that. It’s enjoyable to play with a surprisingly in-depth narrative, and I would advise anyone looking at this game to ignore the mixed reception that it has received. It’s certainly worth at least one playthrough. 

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Aleya's Ascent Header

Q&A With Ursa Minor Games

A while back, I came across another very promising title on Twitter that I wanted to bring to the attention of gamers for a multitude of different reasons. Aleya’s Ascent, under development at Ursa Minor Games based in New York, is a Metroidvania title making use of superbly rendered 8-BIT visuals with a heavy emphasis on exploration, combat, and precision platforming. The player assumes control of the main character Aleya, who is chosen by fate to tame a series of feral and long-forgotten deities, giving the plot a strong feel of the likes of Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian in my opinion. But seeking further clarification of what influenced the game, what bumps and scrapes there had been along the way in the developmental process and when the game will be released by, I reached out to the game’s lead developer William Henderson for more details about what’s been going on behind the scenes of this excellent-looking game. So here’s what William of Ursa Minor Games had to say about Aleya’s Ascent:

 

Aleya's Ascent 1

What were the influences behind your game?

Main influences at this stage in development include games like Celeste (big one), both Ori games, Hollow Knight, Castlevania SOTN, etc. The usual suspects as far as Metroidvania go. Also, the style/aesthetic/story is heavily inspired by Legend of Zelda.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I carried game dev as a side project for about 3 years before deciding to try and push for a full-fledged commercial indie game as a solo developer, so the process has included a lot of learning the indie game landscape, reading articles, and watching youtube videos.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

As a solo indie developer working his first game, it can be hard to tell. I hope to release a polished demo Q3/4 2021 and then reassess the timeline based on player feedback. There isn’t any real pressure to release ASAP, so I want to take the time to make Aleya’s Ascent exactly how I envision it without cutting any corners to meet a deadline.

 

Aleya's Ascent 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

For me, the most motivating part has been sharing some of the art and gameplay that I worked hard on. It’s exciting getting positive feedback, whether it be through Twitter, Reddit, Discord, or with friends and family in person.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

I think for Aleya’s Ascent, it has to be finding the time. Life gets in the way and I can’t spend as many nights or weekends as I’d like on development.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I’ve been very happy with the response it’s received on the platforms I’ve presented on, but I know I still have a long way to go so I’m excited to share more in the future.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC is a definite, with the possibility of a Switch release down the line.

 

Aleya's Ascent 3

What were your prior programming experiences before developing Aleya’s Ascent?

I have an engineering degree so I was exposed to programming in college, but not object-oriented. I created a handful of game prototypes as practice while in Graduate school before I felt comfortable committing to a first commercial game.

 

Are there any preliminary plans to expand on the world of Aleya, either through a sequel or DLC?

It’s hard to say at this point. While I have an overarching story prepared, it’s unclear where Aleya 1 would end and Aleya 2 (or DLC) would begin. I certainly would love to continue Aleya’s story, but don’t want to force a sequel before the first is finished.

 

Are there any programmers or game creators you took influence from?

Definitely. The developers/programmers from the listed influences above would be a good place to start. It’d be impossible to list them all, but the Twitter indie game circles share so much information about neat tricks/tips/shaders, etc. that it really has been vital to my development process.

 

Aleya's Ascent 4

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

A whole lot. I’ve had levels and entire maps scrapped to allow for core gameplay changes. In one iteration Aleya was a robot. I’m not afraid to axe anything if I feel it isn’t good enough or doesn’t quite fit.

 

What would be next for Ursa Minor Games following the release of Aleya’s Ascent?

Another game for sure. What form or shape or genre that takes is up in the air. I’ll probably develop a couple of game prototypes on itch.io or something and see if any of them get really positive feedback.

 

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

Nintendo for sure. I grew up playing/loving their games and it would be a dream come true to work with them.

 

Aleya's Ascent 5

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

Well, I hesitate to offer advice as I’m just a first-time game developer and a hobbyist at that but for other hobbyists/solo developers, I found success in chasing inspirations and following whims, I think my best/best-received work has been things that strike me when I’m not working on the game. And definitely take notes once an idea pops into your head, it’ll help you remember and flesh it out into a definitive game concept.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

You can find me on Twitter as @UrsaMinorGames, Reddit as /u/ursa-minor-games, and find Aleya’s Ascent on steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1470540/Aleyas_Ascent/ Also join into the Aleya’s Ascent Discord channel for early concepts, works in progress, and other discussions: https://discord.gg/e5qvqkT78z

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I’d like to thank you for taking the time and having the patience to reach out and ask questions about Aleya’s Ascent.

 

Aleya's Ascent 6

I also want to thank William for agreeing for sharing more information about Aleya’s Ascent, and to wish him and Ursa Minor Games the best of luck throughout the rest of the developmental process as well as luck with the eventual release of the game. Aleya’s Ascent was a game that immediately caught my eyes in terms of retroactive graphical quality, and I have hopes for the great gameplay to match. In the meantime, you can visit Ursa Minor Games’ social media pages and the Steam page, but for now, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Braid Header

Braid (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Number None

Publisher(s) – Number None & Microsoft Game Studios

Director(s) – Jonathan Blow

PEGI – 12

 

Released back in 2009, Braid was one of the games that truly Kickstarted the influx of independently developed games, which would be seen throughout the eighth generation and beyond, along with the likes of Minecraft, Fez, and Castle Crashers. It was received with universal acclaim upon release proving to be one of the most influential games of the 21st century, with many critics even citing it as one of the very games of all time. Although I found it to be game brimming with artistic merit and certainly having well earned its place within gaming history, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it one of the best of all time, but nevertheless, there was a lot to be enjoyed with this one

 

Graphics – 10/10

The first thing to notice and to truly be awe-inspired by is the visuals. Hand-drawn and taking place within environments are equally vibrant and colorful as well as dark and ominous, visually, the game was expertly put together to the extent that it makes players feel that this wasn’t programmed on a computer by a developer, but rather painted onto a blank canvas by a master artist. The game’s soundtrack is also expertly composed by three classically trained musicians, further perpetuating the contrasting feeling of calmness and ambiance with that of danger and dark portent. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is a 2D side-scroller with puzzle-solving elements to it, similar to a lot of indie experiences to have seemingly been influenced by it, such as Chronology and The Swapper, but also featuring a lot of gameplay elements similar to that of the Super Mario series. The puzzle-solving element is not quite as intricate or subtle as what it is in Jonathan Blow’s future game, The Witness, but nevertheless, players will have to have their thinking caps on in order to progress through this game, as the puzzles can be particularly challenging at times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Aside from the jumping controls feeling somewhat stiff, the game’s control scheme poses no problems at all. All I would suggest is to get either the console or Steam version, since all these versions offer controller support, unlike the PC version on CD-ROM which forces players to use the keyboard, which is exactly how a game like this should never play out. At least with the Steam version, keyboard mapping becomes available. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

Braid can only be made to last around 2 hours, which for a game that came out in the middle of the seventh generation, is nothing; especially when since its release, there have been plenty of other games made in the same ilk that have been made to last considerably longer than this. This is the main reason why I’ve not been so hasty as to label it one of the best of all time, since whilst having as much artistic credibility as this game does, it should only be secondary to things like gameplay, and in this day and age, lifespan, and I didn’t find that it was in this case. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Braid tells of a man named Tim who is searching for his princess that has been taken by an evil monster. Like Super Mario Bros, the game’s story sounds extremely simplistic in scope, and again, for a game that was released when it was, you may think that wouldn’t be enough since games were becoming more geared towards telling stories. But what makes this game hold up in that respect is in the details. Plot threads and backstory are accessible throughout the game, and it gives it more substance than players may think at first glance. There are also a few twists and turns before the end that players will not see coming at all. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Whilst this game was by no means the first game to do the majority of things that it does do, the fact of the matter is that it went on to inspire a new generation of developers to come up with their own ideas and share them with the world, and props need to be given to both Jonathan Blow and the team of developers behind it. This game, along with many other released around at the same time, taught the new generation that they don’t need to be part of the mainstream to realize that they can become successful developers, and that with the know-how and the effort, that a great game can be developed on a budget. 

 

Happii

Overall, Braid, whilst I can’t bring myself to consider it one of the best, is certainly one of the most influential, and still quite a lot of fun for the short time it lasts. Jonathan Blow went through an arduous process to bring this game to life, and in the end, he deserved his success. 

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)