Tag Archives: Steam

Q&A With Jon Bookout

After once again scouting Kickstarter for more new video game prospects, I came across a title that is exceedingly different from any that I’ve yet to encounter this year. Lucid Soul, developed by a team of numerous artists, coders, and musicians, and fronted by indie developer Jon Bookout of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a JRPG blending horror and dark fantasy inspired by classics of the genre such as Chrono Trigger and the Lunar series; namely Eternal Blue and Silver Star. A turn-based RPG in basic design with a planned minimum of 30 hours hours of lifespan, it boasts a number of gameplay features new to the genre such as two-tier combat flow, the ability to play bosses, and a feature known as cinematic encounters, whereby certain battles take place across multiple screens. The game’s story revolves around the villains taking center-stage as opposed to the heroes, presenting a vast amount of wonderfully sadistic player characters to play as and develop over time. Wanting to know more about this fantastically brutal-looking JRPG experience, I contacted Jon, the game’s head programmer to answer questions I had about the game, and what the final product will possibly bring to players looking for a potential game-changing entry into the widely popular genre. Here’s what Jon Bookout had to say about Lucid Soul:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

I’ve been writing Lucid Soul since high school, but the game was written as a hero’s journey from Rubin’s perspective til about 5 years ago. I, like many others, got hooked on a little show called Game of Thrones. For those of us who love fantasy, it was the first to really embrace a true-to-life adult feeling to it. What WOULD happen if an evil prick ran the country? It wouldn’t be like Emperor Gestahl where the lust for power isn’t shown, it would be FELT. So that show and the fact that you recognize MILLIONS of people gravitated to raw, gritty, adult fantasy, caused a massive shift in my concept. It influenced the design from the ground up to not only do maturity but what about the next evolution of our nostalgic JRPGs and RPGs of old… what about the villain? Not a “SURPRISE! YOU WERE EVIL!” style game, but one you knew going in, you will be the ‘bad guy’ or ‘girl’. So Game of Thrones-inspired what Lucid Soul is today feeling the time was right, but the history of it is the great classics, Chrono Trigger, Lunar: Silver Star, and more importantly Eternal Blue, Final Fantasy (Specifically 6 or 3 in the U.S. and 4 or 2 in the U.S.), Final Fantasy Tactics, Shin Megami Tensei (Specifically Digital Devil Saga), and Silent Hill. Horror tends to be all modern-day, so it felt fresh to bring Horror into the world of fantasy. And we hope our influences shine through to all players.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Once Sangrde, our character artist came on board, pretty smooth. The past is littered with reaching out to people, asking their expertise and thoughts, trying to have them understand the Horror and artistic styles we’re after, and feeling out who can best slip in. Once the team has been finalized development is smooth, and it’s a treat to be able to know there’s quality because no one would want this game with my talent at the helm for art and pixel work.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Depending on the final funding of the Kickstarter, I hope to speed our production up by hiring a Programmer, as that’s my task. The projected date is October of 2022 and we feel we can hit that mark, but if I could grab a professional that could drastically speed us into the Beta phase. But to try to be as professional as possible for all involved, 2022 October.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Oh man, everything! Honest truth, it’s a learning experience ground up, so every time you catch a bug, or pull a Picard Facepalm, or see a wandering pixel and blurt out “Oh hai Mark!”, it’s fun, knowing you have improvements to make on yourself and a game. But the best part is meeting new people, talking about Lucid Soul never gets old for me personally, but it’s that look on a person’s face when you explain it for the first time and feel the response sinking in. That’s what I’m personally after with the players, so it’s great to see and feel it during development as a new person comes on board for acting or art.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Translating concept to the actual controller in hand gameplay. I imagine this is what anyone who creates goes through, but learning it and experiencing it, that’s a challenge. Notebooks in the house are filled with mechanics and being an algorithm guy more than a coding guy, that’s the most challenging aspect.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

The backers we’ve managed to bring in are absolutely amazing to communicate with and get their feedback on the game’s subject matter, characters, and future plans. Through them I’d say those that put in the pledge to be able to talk, the reception is positive. In truth, the one thing I WISH as a creator I could say is that I can’t reach out to those who don’t pledge or move on. Those that click your title picture but leave. I truly wish I could hear from them as well, because we as creators can never stop learning, and failure I think is the key to success. I’d like to know where I could improve, or what failed to appeal. Praise makes you feel good, and it IS wonderful, but it’s the harsh truths and criticisms that make the end product a better experience, and I openly expect and respect it.

 

Do you and the development team see Lucid Soul as an attempt to subvert the traditional Japanese RPG?

Subvert isn’t the word I’d use completely, because you don’t want to break a wheel that we all know and love. But subverting the EXPECTATION of the JRPG fan, then yes. We want the player to enter Lucid Soul fully feeling comfortable in traditions, the menu, the map interface, the overworld feeling bigger than hubs, a home base to put your feet up, the adventure, the exploration, the artifact gathering, the growing in power. We FULLY want those to be expected and embraced. Much like Undertale’s revelation of what EXP meant to the player, we do hope that the same fun takeaway occurs with our changes. Our team couldn’t think of a mainstream JRPG in which the hero is the villain, and the villain is the protagonist, so how does that affect those traditional elements, is major on our priority and creativity list.

 

Which entries in the Final Fantasy series have you and the team had in mind most during development?

6 is the most influential to style, and a number of distinct personalities. 7 is the most influential for the villain’s journey alongside the heroes. Lastly, 10 plays a major part in influencing the idea of Cinematic Combat, or Combat that continues on multiple screens without actually leaving it, with dialogue and story, reinforcements and such playing a part to be more dynamic. 4 is, forever and always, my personal nostalgic favorite, but it’s also the only of those which kept far away from technology until the Blue Whale and the Babil Giant, keeping its roots very deep in fantasy. One of my favorite conversations with our tile artist starts something like “Ok, but if this were Final Fantasy, how would they make this ship fly. Ok now, how would we do it?”
I think Sephiroth is considered by most to be the single best remembered Villain, at least every gamer I’ve ever mentioned him too, can give me a response on how they feel about him or things they remember. The remake going mainstream of 7 really helps cement him too. So for our JRPG, it’s taking the impressions people have, and then asking the obvious follow up to us: “Would you play Final Fantasy 7, if he was the main character, and if so…” going from there. I LOVE the responses you get from that, and it’s how we adapt and add little pieces to those responses.

 

How instrumental has the involvement been of so many different musicians famous from all over YouTube?

Youtube is massive, and I dare say the single most important key to if we succeed. Through Alyssa Gerwig (SpectroliteAAA), and approaching her for our animated trailer idea, she introduced me to Diwa De Leon (String Player Gamer), and then the network kind of grew from there. I’m lucky, blessed, touched, and thrilled that the famous ones like these and the juggernaut Camila Cuevas staked their reputation to show us support and introduce us to friends and acquaintances of theirs for getting work done. Sound, animation, music, vocalists, all through their good graces. The only musician I can say I personally played a hand in, is Lauren Kinkade, of Laurenkinkademusic.com and if you went to Dodgers games she sang the anthem for many live performances. She’s a girl I luckily went to highschool with and is actually where the Goddess got her name when she agreed all those years ago to sing in the game.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC and Mac are first, Steam and Itch are the approved distributors, and our first Platform stretch goal is the Switch. Beyond that we’ll happily do others, Stadia has reached out to me personally, it simply is a budget and programming issue, but we expect to have to gauge feedback on the game first to distribute to more.

 

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

Feeling out spriting budgets, so far the number of Bromides and Souls is the first to be affected, this is why we put those as Tier rewards in our Kickstarter hoping we could take a more personal approach to them also while allowing more in the game. In Lucid Soul, we want the main character Scythe to truly feel like an Everyman/Everywoman to the player, but unlike say Chrono who is played without speaking, you never get to change anything about the visual nature. So a female player may like his story and bond with the team, but feeling like “Chrono is Me” never lets him evolve beyond “I control him first”. How MUCH customization to our main character will directly relate to budget, and that’s the first thing I and the others had to talk about and tone down. Most, for now, have not had to be scrapped, and that’s the only (knock on wood) to need reworking.

 

Which characters have been among the most fun to design out of so many outlandish individual personalities?

That’s tough, lol. I mean even as the one who created them that’s tough. My goal’s always been, RPGs are for their characters, people remember Marle hugging Chrono 20+ years after the game’s out, people still have youtube reactions posted or recount that moment Aerith meets her fate. While I want each one to have a memory when it’s all said and done that makes you even recount some things about the ones you didn’t like, my personal favorite is Synella. I play Tanks mostly in MMOs, WoW, SWTOR, etc. so designing how a Tank could translate to the JRPG tactics style and feel like they had character, has been fun… challenging but fun. Since she speaks in groups of 3, one word for each month, trying to convey her stories and dialogue choices and emotion through ‘which’ 3 words she says, that’s by far the most fun. The other is Wick. She’s my son’s favorite and blew him away when I said she’s my second favorite, just because she’s a unique race design, so you don’t know if the slow-moving, long-eared, magical race that let their blood spill and congeal to make hair and Runes, and you never know if she’ll be liked for that alone. But for her, it’s the personality and making sure it’s presented and played properly. All are fun for different reasons but those 2 stand out for me.

 

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

Disney. It may shock a reader for that one, but because they have the biggest franchises and genres of fantasy that could be taken down different paths, and the money to be TRULY creative with it if they ever chose to. They shoot down Tim Burton for years, and the irony of ironies, bring him back to do a “his style” Alice in Wonderland. I would LOVE to have an hour just to hear what that experience is like. But I have to give credit where it’s due, the 1 game that I never played until the sequel came out, and truly impressed me and changed what video games are capable of, is Kingdom Hearts. When 2 companies with that much history come together and decide to let the storytellers do their thing… Just the ingenious culmination of that was mindblowing. But their franchise now I would love to see how they’d react on a creative team, is doing a Heist movie in the Star Wars universe, like call it Trick, and have this elaborate subverted movie as a husband leaves out his house without any explanation as the wife gets concerned and starts a “what’s going on moment”, all your typical tropes of breaking into vaults, holding up hostages, etc etc but at the end, the coveted Heist item is brought to a man in a robe that waves his hand in front of him and says “You’ve done all you need for the Jedi console… go home to your wife…” and it’s all a Jedi Mind trick.

 

On your Kickstarter page, you expressed the sincerity that to prove your intent to your backers, you will take accountability on a personal level. Although this indeed sounds like a personal passion project to you, how supportive have your team been throughout this entire process so far?

As supportive as anyone can be on the outside joining in, I think. I truly hope if you asked their opinions they’d say that this is as much THEIR game now as mine. The artists especially, from pixel to drawings, tile, and Alyssa’s animations, are just a blast to bounce ideas off of, that you sense they genuinely take an interest in improving things, and I hope I do a good job adapting THEIR creativity into everything also. But they’re an amazing group of people I’m fortunate enough to work with and have been in my life and this project as a result. I know for a fact I’d not be on Kickstarter without each and every one of them, from Augustinas to ZeitDieb.

 

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

Depending on when this article is published or when the person reading it says it… know this: you’re reading this from someone not proven to be a success story or even representing a product that will ever be considered a success. My influences to develop, are Dwarvenaut the movie, Indie Game: The Movie, the creator of Pokemon’s history, Sylvester Stalone’s rejection and aspiration to see Rocky be made, and Tim Burton’s career long before Batman but in the days at Disney when Pee Wee’s Big Adventure wasn’t yet in production. Follow your dreams, believe in yourself enough that people will one day WANT to be a part of whatever world you create, and hold to that. Never believe differently. Creativity is the key to us all playing games and experience things we didn’t know we wanted yesterday, yet today tell our friends we can’t live without, and tomorrow influence someone else’s creation.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

I can’t be the only one who reads this question wanting to channel my inner superhero nerd, and write “Where there is injustice… you will find me… where there is suffering… I’ll be there… You can find me using the Bookout signal!” But sadly nothing so dramatic, our website is the easiest, https://lucidsoulgame.com, and our Kickstarter at the moment, where I’ll happily answer any questions to the best of my ability.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Just that it’s a true honor to have met you and be going through this experience. I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to talk to others about Lucid Soul, myself, and my development team. We’re nothing without them. Thank you for the questions and your time!

 

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Jon for taking the time out to talk to me about this promising-looking game, and to wish him and the various different musicians and artists working on it the very best of luck with its Kickstarter project and subsequent release. Lucid Soul is indeed set to be an incredibly unique take on the traditional JRPG and a standout title compared to many of the classic games in the genre, and I can’t wait to play the game when it comes out. In the meantime, if you wish to support the Kickstarter page, you can do so via the link below:

Lucid Soul Kickstarter

But in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much I and Jon did putting it together.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88.

Q&A With Hiding Spot Games

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

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

 

What were the influences behind your game?

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

 

What has the developmental process been like?

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

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

We’re shooting for a September release date.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

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

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

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

 

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

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

 

How well has the game been received so far?

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

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Steam, itch, Switch, and hopefully Xbox and Playstation

 

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

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

 

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

Lots (again the Reddit article has some great examples)

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

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

 

Do you have anything else to add?

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

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

Beacon Pines Kickstarter

 

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

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

 

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

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Skul: The Hero Slayer (PC)

Developer(s) – SouthPAW Games

Publisher(s) –  NEOWIZ

PEGI – Not Rated (some graphic violence)

 

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

 

Graphics – 8/10

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

 

Gameplay – 9/10

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

 

Controls – 10/10

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

 

Lifespan – 8/10

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

 

Storyline – 7.5/10

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

 

Originality – 8/10

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

 

Happii

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

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Parhelion Rift

Once again on the lookout for new upcoming games, I came across yet another awesome-looking indie Metroidvania title currently under development. Twofold Tales, developed by indie outfit Parhelion rift based in Vienna, Austria, is a Metroidvania heavy on combat and exploration, as well as incorporating a strong RPG element in the form of character building and learning new abilities along the way. The story involves the main character named Pars, as she embarks on a journey across an entity known as the Iceberg in order to uncover the mysteries that are buried within. With a desire to learn more about the game, I got in touch with Michael and Evelyn, the couple currently working on the game, to ask a few questions I had about it in this early stage of development, to learn more about what can be expected from the finished title. Here’s what Michael and Evelyn had to say about Twofold Tales:

 

What were the influences behind Twofold Tales?

Michael: It probably all started when I played The Battle Of Olympus on the NES in 1991. From a gameplay perspective, we were mostly influenced by classic 2D Metroid games and Axiom Verge. One of our game-defining skills was inspired by an episode of Rick and Morty, called A Rickle in Time.

Evelyn: Aesthetically it’s difficult to pinpoint a single source of influence. We love hand-drawn animations like the movies The Secret of Kells, Song Of the Sea, Ghibli movies, but are also very fond of the Art Nouveau art style like Alphonse Mucha, I think it’s kind of a marriage between both meeting on an arctic island.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Evelyn: It has been an interesting and challenging learning process so far, as developers and as a couple. In the beginning, we were only able to work on our game in the evenings after our day jobs. Also, it’s a learning process in itself how to work together with your partner, especially when you’re living together and the line between private life and job is blurring. It can be quite daunting sometimes, I have to admit, but on the other hand, it’s the most fantastic thing in the world to be so lucky to create something together with an excellent partner who understands you so well like no one else.

Michael: Currently, we’re fortunate to have personal savings to sustain ourselves for the near future and to channel our whole energy into developing Twofold Tales and raising our baby daughter who was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when there are sometimes tough stretches, we love how liberating it is to have total creative freedom in designing the game we want to make and to be in the driver’s seat.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Michael: We’re still in the middle of the development process, with no fixed date for the final release. A public alpha demo that includes the entire first area is planned for summer 2021 together with a Kickstarter campaign and we’re really excited to be able to get some additional gameplay feedback, to be able to further improve Twofold Tales.

Evelyn: Most of the underlying systems for the game are finished, the game mechanics are set, the whole world is playable in development mode. What remains is creating a lot of artwork.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Michael: As with most Metroidvanias, certain parts of the world will be ability-gated. It was exciting to create branching exploration points where depending on what you discover, different areas open up to you first and you often can decide where you want to go next. For most of the game, we want to offer a very non-linear experience where players can explore the world very openly and arrive at different points of the game via a different route and with a different set of main upgrades. All areas had to be balanced around which abilities you might or might not have at that point.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Michael: While Unity generally was good to prototype and develop in, we were quite unhappy with the physics system for certain aspects of the game, for example for player and enemy movement – especially with high-speed projectiles. We replaced that with a raycasting solution to make this aspect of the game feel more responsive and accurate. The same goes for rope physics, where the hinge- and distance-joints just didn’t look satisfying, so we switched over to Verlet integration.

Evelyn: Also as we’re only a two-person and three-cats team, there is quite a big workload we have to handle ourselves. Developing, creating graphics and audio, writing updates for social media. It sometimes feels a bit overwhelming, but it’s also very exciting and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Evelyn: We have only started to release information about the game last month and so far we have received very positive reactions to the aesthetics of our game. It’s exciting and encouraging to see what people think of it. Also mostly you’re living inside your head when you’re developing a game and to correct that possible tunnel view, it’s very helpful to get feedback.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Evelyn: Our launch platform will be PC, followed by Linux and probably Mac. We would love to port it for the Nintendo Switch. We actually got quite fond of the Switch mockup screens we made for ourselves.

 

What were the team’s prior developmental experiences before the formation of Parhelion Rift?

Michael: We both studied media informatics and in fact, this was also when we first met each other. Afterward, we both worked as full-time developers in medium-sized companies, creating desktop and mobile applications for telecommunication- and internet-service-providers.

 

Have there been any lessons brought into the development of Two Tales taken from the development of Cats Who Stare At Ghosts?

Evelyn: When we developed Cats Who Stare At Ghosts, we used the libGDX framework for development. It’s fine to do as much as possible yourself, but once you meet a comfortable game engine like Unity that takes over a lot of tasks, you never want to go back.

 

As a cat lover myself, I have to ask will there be cats in Twofold Tales as well?

Michael: There are a lot of secrets hidden in our iceberg, some of them fluffy 😉

 

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

Michael: As we’re more gamers and programmers than artists ourselves, we’ve re-iterated over certain parts of the graphics and animations several times already and will continue to do so.

 

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

Michael: At the moment, I actually like the freedom of not having to work for another company or being limited by an existing franchise.

Evelyn: I would so love to work on a Zelda title, especially if it follows in the footsteps of Ocarina of Time.

 

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

Michael: Do what you really want to do, not what others deem good or what society thinks you should do. This does not mean that you should ignore feedback, feedback is extremely important and vital during the entire development process and other people spot flaws way better than you ever could. However, in the end, make it your game, the game that you would love to play, but hasn’t been invented yet – make it for yourself.

Evelyn: Start today! Don’t wait for that big idea, but start with something small and just keep learning.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

You can follow us on social media, we love to share the progress of our game and chat.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/parhelionrift

Twitter: www.twitter.com/parhelionrift

Facebook: www.facebook.com/parhelionrift

And there is also our website www.parhelionrift.com

Feel free to get in touch with us! 🙂

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thank you very much ScouseGamer for the opportunity to give others insights into our game and a huge thank you to everyone interested in Twofold Tales. Your kind words of encouragement and comments mean the world to us and keep us going.

 

I’d also like to thank Michael and Evelyn for their unique insight into what players can expect to see from their game upon release, and also to congratulate the couple on the birth of their baby girl. Twofold Tales holds promise as an extremely standout Metroidvania title with a new and wonderfully cohesive concept, and I’m very much looking forward to what the final game has to offer. In the meantime, anyone wanting to keep up with Michael and Evelyn as development unfolds can do so by following their various social media pages and visiting their website, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed working with Michael and Evelyn.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Orube Game Studio

Pursuing a new upcoming video game experience currently under development, another two games that I have had my eye on for a long time is Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey.  Both developed by Orube Game Studio based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Super Mombo Quest, in development since 2018, is a colouful Metroidvania inspired by the like of Super Meat Boy heavy on combat that requires players to string together combos reminiscent of classic arcade fighting games, similar to Guacamelee or Dust: An Elysian Tail. Dwarf Journey, on the other hand, is an action-adventure Roguelite inspired by Norse mytholgoy and that incorporates heavy RPG elements, such as levelling up the player character and collecting materials in order to forge stronger equipment. With both games set for release in the early part of 2021, I was curious to find out more about these two great-looking games, I got in touch with Orube Studio and their founder Pedro Savino to pose a few questions about the games and what players can come to expect from the final builds. Here’s what Pedro Savino had to say about Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey.

 

What were the influences behind your games?
Our biggest inspiration is to keep in mind that we can bring the playful spirit of games to any type of person, through simple, affordable, and super fun products. As ours are platform games, we have to mention our biggest influences: Super Mario World, Super Meat Boy, Celeste, and Kirby. All of these have incredible mechanics and game feel that were certainly inspiring for our games.

 

What has the developmental process been like?
It’s been great! We are a team of eight people who work remotely and we are all passionate about what we do. Always seeking to learn more and grow together.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished products?
Both games are almost ready to be released. Only a few artistic details are missing. We are already testing the final versions with people from our Discord server to make everything with the best experience possible.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing both games?
The most exciting part is seeing the number of people that we are captivating with our games that haven’t even been released yet. There are people who have been accompanying us for a long time, giving feedback and supporting our work. It is very gratifying to receive this support.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing both games?
The biggest challenge, I believe, is to manage everything so that all we’ve planned for comes out in the best way possible. The challenge in Super Mombo Quest, for example, is making this huge game a reality. The final version will have approximately two hundred and fifty levels. We are producing the biggest game ever made by the company!

 

How well have both games been received so far?
We were surprised by the number of people who were captivated by our games. At TikTok, for example, we were able to build a community of more than 30k people, and we brought over 1,5k to our Discord server. They are always supporting the development, giving feedback, and testing versions so that everything is fine.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the games to?
We are looking to bring them to computers (at Steam), Mobiles (Android and iOS), and consoles (such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation).

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked where both games are concerned?
Throughout the development process, there were things that didn’t work and that needed to be redone. In Super Mombo Quest, for example, we changed the main currency of the game and the mechanics related to it in the middle of development.

 

Has the studio been mindful of the influx of Metroidvania and rogue-lite titles within the indie scene in order to make this game stand out among the many others?

We produce games that we have had in mind for a long time. The character Mombo, for example, appeared in my graduation work. We developed and learned more about platformers, which today is one of our specialties. But we are always attentive to trends and trying to predict what will be best received by the public.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Aiming high, I believe with Nintendo. It is a company with young spirited games that inspired me a lot and were part of my youth.

 

What’s next for Orube Game Studios following the release of Dwarf Journey and Super Mombo Quest?
We still don’t know for sure how the next project will be, but we intend it to be one of the big ones. You will have to follow us on social media to find out!

 

Are there any other genres of gaming that Orube Game Studios have thought of working on in the future?
We are planning to make a multiplayer RPG. There is nothing right yet, but it’s a wish that we have for the near future.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Currently, Super Mombo Quest has more than two hundred levels, which we consider to be a large scope. However, before producing it, we released several smaller games. The main tip for those who are starting is: make small and simple games. Understand the process and be very aware of how long it takes to produce a game. A game of scope or complexity greater than the team’s capacity can take a long time to produce, increasing its cost and reducing the chances of profit. Sometimes it even happens that the project is not launched because there is no budget to complete, or even that the producers give up on development.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
You can find us on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram @OrubeGameStudio! You can join our Discord server too. Here is our Linktree so you can find us everywhere https://linktr.ee/orubegamestudio.

 

Do you have anything else to add?
I think that for those who are looking to live from games, it’s important to know that it’s a very competitive market. Currently, it’s difficult to undertake in the area without having accumulated prior knowledge, much because of the lack of incentives in the sector in some countries. On the other hand, we have an industry under construction and with a lot of potential. More and more companies are consolidating and creating job opportunities for those looking to work in the environment. The game market is growing and will grow for many years to come. With intelligence, dedication, and a little creativity, it is possible to live from games!

 

I’d like to thank Pedro for taking the time out to answer what questions I have as well as providing a very unique insight into the competition that comes with taking the plunge into indie development. It has indeed become an extremely competitive market over the last few gaming generations, as I have witnessed firsthand, but both Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey look to be strong competitors in the plethora of indie games in their genres and I wish them the best of luck with them both, and I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about these two potentially game-changing titles.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights – First Impressions

Whilst scouting out new developers on Twitter, I came across another indie Metroidvania game in development that caught my eye and decided to get into contact with the team involved about further coverage. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a Metroidvania game influenced by a plethora of different titles from what I could deduce at first glance, including Dark Souls, Castlevania, and Shadow of the Colossus. I was captivated by this game after watching the trailer, and even more so after playing merely the first ten minutes. Developed by Binary Haze Interactive based in Tokyo, and released on Steam Early Access later last month to an overwhelmingly positive response from players, it shows a great deal of promise in almost every aspect and I’m very much looking forward to playing the full title. Here is a full account of my first impressions of the game. 

 

Graphics

The game is set in a lost kingdom which the player must explore and uncover the mystery of as the game progresses. The kingdom is a desolate abandoned place with a strong sense of melancholy, but at the same time, perpetuating a strong sense of eloquence and beauty. The orchestral, primarily piano-based soundtrack does well to add to that feeling. Even during boss fights, the music sounds very sorrowful in stark contrast to what are some particularly intense combat sequences. Gothic architecture and Japanese landscape are at the center of the design of the in-game world, which gives it a prominent feel of games such as Okami and Blasphemous. 

 

Gameplay

The game is a 2D open-world Metroidvania title heavy on combat, puzzle-solving, and item collecting. There is a massive amount of collectibles to attain throughout the game and even new abilities to learn as well as the facility to find and upgrade weapons. Already I can tell this title has a lot more to offer than many of the other story-driven indie games I’ve played, including Journey, The Swapper, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. When a game is heavy on story, like Ender Lilies is set to be, there’s always a risk of the story taking precedence over the gameplay; but even after having played around twenty minutes of this title, I can already deduce that this won’t be the case.

 

Controls

By proxy, I’ve also found no issues with the controls, even in this stage of development. Combat is incredibly fluent, as what is required in a game like this that has a number of particularly challenging boss fights. It plays out very much like Blasphemous in the respect that enemies and bosses deal an incredible amount of damage and that players have to take to strategizing throughout to stay alive. There is a great deal of skill required from players to progress through this game and the control scheme allows for players to do so without any unnecessary compilations from what I can surmise at this point in development. 

 

 

Lifespan

With so many collectibles, weapons, and secret areas to discover across the game’s open world, the likelihood is that this game can potentially make for an experience that will last 20 hours minimum; maybe even longer. It would depend on what more may be added later on in development to determine exactly how long it can be made to last, but it certainly has the potential to beat out a lot of the competition across the indie scene if it can be made to last a substantial amount of time. There have been many indie Metroidvania games that have come and gone that have amazed me in terms of gameplay but lacked in lifespan such as Dust: An Elysian Tail and Ori & the Blind Forest. But with the promise of so many things to do within Ender Lilies, the prospect of this game lasting a long time are indeed there. 

 

Storyline

The story follows a young girl named Lily, who wakes up to find an unknown guardian specter tasked with protecting her, and who sets out on a journey to recover her own memory, as well as uncovering the past history of this lost kingdom. The reason why this game reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus is because of the direction in which the story seems to be steering towards, involving a series of tragic realizations with a potentially bittersweet outcome. Even at the same points, the spirits of the defeated bosses join Lily at her side as and when the player defeats them; similar to how the spirits of the colossi gather to stand over Wander’s body as he returns to the shrine of worship after he defeats each of them. The game’s story has the potential to make as much of an impact on the player as the gameplay has the potential to satisfy them; to a great extent. 

 

Originality

With a clear oversaturation of Metroidvania titles continuing to seep into the community of indie games development, it had inevitably become harder and harder to make one in the particular title stand out among so many others. But with Ender Lilies’ approach to gameplay, conceptual design, and story arc, it does have the potential to stand out among most others. There is a strong similarity between this game and Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, but whether or not Ender Lilies ends up bearing too close a resemblance to the former will depend on how development progresses before its full release.

 

Overall, I was extremely impressed with what Ender Lilies has to offer gamers at this stage in development. It has great potential to offer gamers more than simply being another combat-orientated Metroidvania game and it will be very interesting to see how the final product plays out compared to where Binary Haze is with it at this point in time.

Q&A With Timeless Hourglass Games

In my efforts to discover more promising upcoming indie games, I stumbled across another great-looking title on Kickstarter entitled Reaper’s Remorse. Developed by Timeless Hourglass Games based in Vancouver, Canada, Reaper’s Remorse is a JRPG heavily inspired by other various titles in the genre such as Witch’s House & Mad Father. A turn-based RPG similar to EarthBound or classic Final Fantasy games, the difference being is that players must also collect the souls of ghostly spirits that inhabit the game’s world by completing side quests they have to offer. There is also an element of puzzle-solving similar to detective games, whereby players must investigate certain situations strewn throughout, which in turn, affect the ending of the game.

Wanting to find out even more about this uniquely crafted JRPG, I contracted its lead designer, Jessica Devitt. She, and the project’s artist, Veronica Prentice, answered what questions I had about this game, and explained in depth what players can expect to see with the finished game. Here’s what Timeless Hourglass Games had to say about Reaper’s Remorse:

 

What were the influences behind your game? 

The biggest influence behind making this game is based around depression and helping recognize its symptoms along with helping others who have it. It is common for people to hide their true feelings. The game follows a similar style. This game comes across as friendly and happy, but deep down lies a dark story. In this game, you will face characters who are struggling in one way or another and will learn how to overcome these struggles.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Starting the development process has been slow, but if funding goes well I plan to pick up the pace.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

The target goal is summer 2023.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Seeing your work come to life is really rewarding. After spending hours working on a scene and then seeing it run smoothly is always exciting to me.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?   

Mostly I have had trouble with finding good art assets for making the sprites and maps that match my vision of how the game should look. Though I am hoping to hire someone who can make all the game assets and help better portray the game.

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

I’m still in my first week of bringing my game to the public so there hasn’t been much news yet, but so far, I think it’s been fairly positive.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

I am planning to bring the game to Steam.

 

The music accompanying both game trailers on the YouTube channel seems very contrasting; almost like two different types of atmosphere are being perpetuated with the game. Is that a sign of things to come with the final product?

Yes, the mood in Reaper’s Remorse can change quite quickly so you don’t know what you’re expecting as you make your way through the world.

 

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

Originally the player was going to play the full childhood of the main character first but there was concern that it would take too long, and the player would get bored. It seemed more effective to put pieces of the childhood throughout the game to keep things going at a good pace.

 

Since anime seems to be at the core of the game’s conceptual design, were there any particular anime series’ that inspired the creation of Reaper’s Remorse? 

I’m a horrible artist so I commissioned my friend Veronica Prentice to do this artwork, so I asked her to answer this question:

Veronica Prentice

“Anime artwork has always been a favorite of mine. A lot of my character inspiration comes from JRPGs. Games like Ib, Mad Father, and Witches House, where the characters are still cute and fun to play while still keeping that dark element to them.”

 

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

I have always been a huge fan of Square Enix and would love to work for them. I think the stories they make have amazing detail and depth to them, along with beautiful visuals and soundtracks.

 

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

When I started developing my game I was unmotivated and wasn’t sure if it was possible to make a whole game on my own. But taking the game apart and working on small pieces at a time brought everything together. So my advice would be to breakdown your goals and start small and slowly build your way up.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

I’m still pretty new but I have a website where you can check trailers and the demo game:

https://timeless-hour.com/index.html

The Kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timelesshourglass/reapers-remorce?ref=user_menu

You can also get updates on my game on my Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TimelessHourglassGames

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I don’t really have anything more to add, but thanks for conducting this Q&A and I hope it helps get people interested!

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Jessica and Veronica for taking the time out to get to me with these answers and to wish them the best of luck with the Kickstarter program. After having played the demo, I’m confident that this game will go on to impress a wide range of JRPG fans, as well as gamers in general, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what the final game has to offer. I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title as much as I had fun discovering the game and learning for myself.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PC, PlayStation & Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Rixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer(s) – Amy Hennig, Andrew Bennett & Rosaura Sandoval

PEGI – 16

Developed and released by Crystal Dynamics following a lengthy legal battle with original creators of the Legacy of Kain series, Silicon Knights, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, like Blood Omen, was also met wide widespread critical acclaim in what was considered an ideal time, as it coincided with the release of several horror films, such as The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. It went on to be considered the best game in the series by most critics, and whilst I don’t agree with that assessment, (by far I think the best game in the series is Soul Reaver 2), the original Soul Reaver is still to me, a classic of the fifth generation and still an absolute joy to play through.

Graphics – 7/10

Soul Reaver easily has one the darkest approaches taken to conceptual design out of most games I’ve played throughout my lifetime. It takes the players back into the fictional dark fantasy land of Nosgoth, but in a post-apocalyptic state. There are new locations added to Nosgoth’s landscape, as well as the ruins of some of the previous locations found in Blood Omen, such as The Pillars of Nosgoth and Nupraptor’s Retreat. It also has the player alternating between the underworld and the physical world in order to gain access to new areas, or areas otherwise impassable in the opposite. Gamers may argue that in terms of the technical aspect of the game, it hasn’t aged particularly well, and with that, I would agree to a certain extent, but the conceptual design more than makes up for that in my opinion. For the best version of the game, I would recommend the Dreamcast port, which runs at 60 frames per second and has the most polish to it. The Dreamcast version actually makes it look far more like a sixth generation game than a fifth.  Both planes of existence within the game are as dark as the other, with a wonderfully horrifying soundtrack to accompany the game. 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Somewhat similar to Blood Omen, Soul Reaver plays out more like a 3D platformer than a top-down RPG, but combat is still at the heart of the game’s design, with players having to subdue abominable enemies throughout and being able to learn new abilities and increase their health and magic capacities to use these abilities more efficiently and frequently. Although the main combat system is not as diverse as Blood Omen, it does make up for that by challenging players to strategize in accordance with their surroundings, as the enemies are only killed in a handful of specific ways, at least in the physical world. The boss fights, though fewer, are also far more creative than in Blood Omen; again requiring specific actions to take in order to best each one. Like in Blood Omen, there is also a fast travel system and a plethora of hidden items and abilities to discover along the way.

Controls – 10/10

Even when 3D gaming was pretty much in its infancy during the fifth generation, there were some games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon that handled their control schemes extremely fluently; Soul Reaver is one such example; there are no issues with the controls whilst playing with a joypad, and it also handles stealth combat in a very fluent manner as well, which at the time, was a relatively new concept. 

One thing I would advise, however, is this; avoid the Steam version like the plague. Controller support is not officially part of it with players having to rely on keyboard commands, and keyboard mapping doesn’t currently work for some unknown reason. The same also goes for every other Legacy of Kain game ported to Steam. No one at Valve, Square Enix, or Crystal Dynamics has ever seen fit to rectify this, and it’s a great shame. Again, the best way to play this game is on the Dreamcast; in every respect.

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last for a total of around 25 hours, which was relatively impressive at the time. The one thing I would say is that, although there are a good few collectibles to obtain throughout the game, the game’s world is still a bit too bare for how big it is, and more could have been added to it, in turn, add to the substance of the game. Nevertheless, there is enough in it to make it last for a fairly impressive amount of time. 

Storyline – 10/10

The story continues over 100 years following the events of Blood Omen. Having condemned Nosgoth to an eternity of decay by refusing the sacrifice of his own life, Kain has since established his own vampiric empire out of his own contempt for humanity. However, things change after his first-born lieutenant, Raziel, surpasses Kain in terms of vampiric evolution by growing a pair of wings. In anger, Kain tears off Raziel’s wings and condemns him to death by throwing him into The Lake of the Dead. Burnt by the acidic touch of the lake’s waters, Raziel is then resurrected by a god-like entity, known only as The Elder God, as a wraith, endowed with the hunger for souls and other supernatural abilities, unlike any vampire. Raziel then resolves to destroy Kain and his vampiric brothers and consume their souls returning them to the wheel of fate. 

Like Blood Omen, the story of this game, as well as the dialogue were masterfully executed. The voice acting of Simon Templeman, Michael Bell, and Tony Jay help to truly bring this title to life in a story centered around the nature of death and immortality and the price of power. To me, The Legacy of Kain easily has the best story ever told in all of gaming, and it’s that more impressive considering how much of a strong note of finality there is to the original Blood Omen. To have picked up where Blood Omen left off and evolved the series into what it would become in terms of story, was truly an impressive feat of video game narrative and helped to establish Amy Hennig as one of the greatest storytellers in the medium, as she would later go on to establish the stories of Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed.

Originality – 9/10

In terms of gameplay, as well as the story, it’s also impressive to think of how the developers took the concept of Blood Omen, made something drastically different from the former, and make work and work well, is also extremely impressive; especially given how young the concept of 3D gaming was at the time and how risky it would have inevitably been to make that transition. Some people have even cited this as an early example of a 3D Metroidvania, predating Metroid Prime by a full three years, which although I don’t think you can consider it a 3D Metroidvania, as it plays out more like a 3D platformer than anything, it’s still interesting to think about, and it all still works to separate this title from most not only released at the time, but most games released since.

Happii

Overall, the original Soul Reaver remains a classic to this day, and if anyone can pick up a copy of it on either the original PlayStation or the Dreamcast, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a game with terrific combat, a plethora of gameplay variety, additional sidequests, and a level of storytelling, which in my opinion, has never been topped within the medium of gaming since. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Chronology (PC)

Developer(s) – Bedtime Digital

Publisher(s) – Bedtime Digital

PEGI – Not rated (Suitable for all ages)

The debut game of Danish indie outfit Bedtime Studios, who would go on to develop the critical acclaimed indie hits Back to Beg and Figment, Chronology is a 2D platforming side-scrolling puzzle game, which puts the player in the shoes of a kindly old inventor and an anthropomorphic snail with the ability to manipulate time in various ways. Although I had my minor issues with this game, it is a very fun title, which provides an insight into how future Bedtime Digital games would be influenced and where many of their ideas for games came from. 

Graphics – 7/10

The game’s visuals are entirely and lovingly hand-drawn taking place in a contrast between the lush green environments of the present day and the dark, gloomy, and seemingly lifeless environments of the future; visible depending on which timeline the player is in at any given moment. The scenery is almost like a character in and of itself with a contrasting personality and a perpetuation of a theme; that theme being the nature of time itself. The game’s soundtrack is for the most part very calm and relaxing but can start to add to tension during precarious platforming sequences for example. 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game relies on the player’s ability to effectively platforming as well as puzzle-solving in order to progress. The player must switch between both characters in order to solve puzzles by manipulating time and changing elements of the world in conjunction with how things will be in the future or present if certain things are done within the opposite times. It’s really satisfying to be able to solve each puzzle as it comes, as the entire game can challenge players vigorously to think on their toes for the most part. 

Controls – 10/10

The controls, as the 2D side-scrolling genre has been around for over 40 years, were expected to have done correctly, and so they are in this game. There are no unnecessary issues with platforming interacting, and it’s quite clever the way the developers handled the snail’s part in this game in terms of movement in order to progress; for example, the player may have to position the snail in a certain way for the inventor to be able to reach particularly awkward ledges. 

Lifespan – 6/10

The game lasts there about the average lifespan of a traditional 2D side scroller, which is around an hour and a half. Although at this point, Bedtime Digital would’ve inevitably have been operating on a budget since this was their first title, I think there was certainly scope for it to have been made to last a little longer at least. Lifespan in their games is something that would be decisively improved upon with games that the company would go on to develop in the future, such as in Back to Bed, Figment, and their upcoming game Figment 2: Creed Valley, but Chronology is a pretty short game. But given how inexpensive it is, it’s not something it should be marked down on too much. 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Chronology follows the exploits of an old inventor, who had been forced into exile by his mentor after having developed a device known as the Verve. Encountering a huge anthropomorphic snail, they resolve to find the mentor and confront him in a plot that provides an intense twist ending. The concept of the game’s story is quite unique and well presented for the small amount of time the game lasts. It’s packed with comedic moments between the inventor and the snail and all comes to a head between the inventor and his former teacher in the final confrontation. 

Originality – 6/10

Although the story’s concept is relatively fresh in terms of gaming, where the game stands out most is its approach to gameplay. I’ve seen many puzzle-solving platformers since the start of the eighth generation, but very few have been handled in the same way as in this game, save for titles like The Swapper, Fez, and Guacamelee. For their first foray into gaming, Bedtime Digital did fairly well to provide players with a fresh new experience and would provide the ideal springboard for where their later games would go.

Happii

Overall, Chronology, though short, is a fun game for the time it can be made to last; it’s a fairly unique side-scrolling game filled with brain-testing puzzles and a story concept that stands out relatively well within the indie development circle. 

Score

43/60

7/10 (Fair)

Q&A With The Gentlebros

The eighth generation of gaming had seen a further influx of independently developed video game titles garnish mainstream success, with gamers being hungry for not AAA big-budget blockbuster games, but also titles that hearken back to the simpler times of the older generations before it; working for the plethora of gamers either wanting that sense of nostalgia from a 16-BIT rendered title like Blasphemous, or gamers wanting to try out new ideas perpetuated by indie developers, such as Scott Cawthon with the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. One such game studio that garnished the same level of success over the last four years is The Gentlebros.

Based in Singapore, The Gentlebros have since established Cat Quest; a series of open-world adventure RPGs set in a world governed by both cat and dogs, from the cat-ruled realm of Felingard to the dog-governed Lupus Empire. Both Cat Quest and Cat Quest II had been met with both commercial and critical acclaim from both gamers and reviewers alike and have since established themselves as one of the more successful indie development studios in recent years along with the likes of The Game Kitchen, Cellar Door Games, and Housemarque. wanting to know more about The Gentlebros, and what the future holds for the company, I got in touch with the studio’s CEO Desmond Wong to ask a few questions about what the developer’s prior experiences with games were and what they plan to do going into the ninth generation of gaming. Here’s what Desmond Wong had to say about The Gentlebros and the Cat Quest series:

Where did the idea to make a series about cats and dogs originate from?

It actually started as a dancing game! Full story here: 

https://www.thegentlebros.com/blog/general/story-open-world-rpg-actually-started-dancing-game/

What was the most exciting aspect of developing the Cat Quest series?

I think the most exciting thing from a writing perspective was how we could cat-ify all our favorite RPG tropes and just have a lot of fun with it! Making Cat Quest has also enabled us to ‘fix’ a lot of the issues we had with open-world RPGs in recent years and give players a more streamlined and accessible experience.

What was the most challenging aspect of developing the Cat Quest series?

I think the toughest part in both games has always been how to create a robust adventure with the limited resources we have. We’re just a three-man team, and making an RPG that lasts many hours with so many mini-stories and challenges, is a huge undertaking. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of reusing level layouts and quest designs, and I think we did a slightly better job of this in Cat Quest 2(than CQ1), but it still took a lot of creative use of existing mechanics and assets to create something new each time.

Has the idea been contemplated of making a Cat Quest III?

Absolutely. Although we can’t go into details, we did end CQ2 with a tease for CQ3. We know where the story will go, and can’t wait to eventually get to it.

How rewarding has it been seeing Cat Quest garnish as much critical acclaim and popularity as it has over the years?

It truly has been a humbling experience and we never thought our game about cats would be played by so many people.

What were the team’s prior developmental experiences before The Gentlebros was formed, If any?

All three founders worked in Koei Tecmo, where we worked on games like Dynasty Warriors, Dead or Alive, and Fatal Frame.

What other types of games would the development team like to create in the future?

Personally, I would really like to design a game about traveling. I went on a road trip in Iceland a few years back, and the whole experience of just pushing onward, seeing new sights, finding places to sleep for the night, was just immensely fun. I would love to make an open-world game that focused less on completing side quests and just focused on traveling instead.

Had there been ideas scrapped from the Cat Quest series that you guys would’ve liked to have seen kept in?

Yes, we had so many ideas for weapons, enemy types, and abilities, but I think the one thing we would have liked to have kept into CQ2 was a relationship system where you could build friendships with certain NPCs in the game. It would have added so much to the theme of Unity for CQ2, and perhaps in the future, we could do something similar in another game.

What was the most important principle that was kept in mind by the studio as a collective whilst developing Cat Quest?

Accessibility, for sure. Our core design principle has always been how we can simplify and condense any mechanics to its essentials. Addition by subtraction is our mantra, and although some have found our games lacking depth because of this, seeing Cat Quest being enjoyed by kids, and even being able to bring non-gamers into the world of gaming, makes us believe our decision was worth it.

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

Never give up.

Do you have anything else to add?

Do follow us on our Facebook page and Twitter, or join our Discord if you want to chat with us!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gaming/catquestgame

Twitter: @TheGentlebros

Discord: https://discord.gg/AyUBfNfq

I’d like to take the opp-purr-tunity to thank meow, Desmond Wong for agreeing to do our Q&A and wish you and the rest of The Gentlebros the best of luck with the third Cat Quest game, as well as any new titles you decide to work on in the future. If you guys want to learn even more about The Gentlebros, check out their social meow-dia via the links above, or check out their main website here:

gentlebros.com

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning about this paw-some and promising new development studio as much as I did. The Cat Quest series is a very promising new saga in gaming and I’m so much looking forward to what the third game has to offer.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88