Developer: Desert Owl Games | Publisher: ToHeroes Game Studios || Outlook: Not Good
Space Wars: Interstellar Empires ventures into the bold frontier of slow, turn-based MMO. Space Wars: Interstellar Something or Other takes the usual issue you have with this genre, speed of gameplay, and doubles the issue by having two phases per turn. It’s a bit baffling how anyone can have the patience to play when the rule-set is laid out like this, not to mention since this is an MMO where you have to grind to get anywhere. Uhh… No thanks.
For me, it was easy to make the comparison to Star Trek: Online. You have warring factions, you get a ship, then you have space battles. You allocate shields, power, choose which weapons to shoot, yadda yadda. Except where Star Trek: Online is all real-time, you have a slow and plodding turn-based mechanic in Space Wars. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms with it being turn-based by design, where it becomes an issue is speed and seemingly needless complexity.
As stated, Space Wars has two phases per turn — an Allocation phase and a Combat phase. Each turn has an Allocation phase where, depending on the stage of the battle, you decide what issues to fix and how to change your combat posture. Your combat posture includes allocating power to different systems such as shields, movement, weapons, etc. You can also repair damage if you’ve got any to repair. This phase lasts until everyone hits “End Turn” but the maximum amount of time is sixty full seconds. Then, you have the Combat phase where everyone gets their own sixty full seconds to make their moves and attack considering the preparations they made in Allocation mode. Depending on how many ships are in battle, your turn may not come for another few minutes, and after you’re done with your turn, it could be another few minutes before the Allocation phase starts all over again. We’re talking about the potential of ten to fifteen minutes per turn at this point, and I already want to open the airlock and get sucked into the emptiness of space. At least I’d die quicker that way, and wouldn’t have to live knowing how much of a disappointment Star Wars: The Last Jedi was.
The interface isn’t bad, but does feel outdated. It isn’t really pleasurable to hit the different buttons and modify shields by clicking just the right pixel or clicking multiple times to modify one piece of your Allocation phase’s bells and whistles. The interface adds to the feeling that there is a layer of needless complexity involved, and many of the numbers/doohickeys don’t feel rewarding considering the gameplay flow. Each weapon you shoot has a targeting arc meaning you have to be pointing the right direction to shoot. You can change the direction your ship is facing to shoot with your other weapons in the same Combat phase, so its like why do I have to go through all of those hoops? Just automate it for me, or simplify it with some other value. I don’t want to control my weapons through three different mechanics, I just want to control them directly.
On a grander scale the game is based on PVP between factions, which two of the four are currently available during this phase of Early Access. The map is persistent as each faction vies for more territory and the only way for a faction to expand is to take over another faction’s slice of the galaxy. Entering on-going fights to help out in this effort is the highlight of this dynamic. However, if you enter a sector already in the midst of battle, you’ll be stuck in a limbo of sorts until the battle has a “Transit” phase, typically after a full turn has been completed. I can appreciate that tactics may all of a sudden change when new players enter the battle as existing battles rage on, but it sucks for the person waiting upwards of what could be five or ten minutes before they get to do anything without forewarning. Also, there is information on what ships are currently fighting, but this can change at any point since players hop in and out all the time. If you go into the sector looking to fight similar ships to you, you may just end up fighting ships that can one-shot you instead. Now that’s what I call fun!
There are some PVE missions to take part in. While the gameplay flow is much less cumbersome, it’s also not as eventful and half of the time you’re searching for the enemy on a large map, hoping you run across them before Alt-F4 becomes a viable plan to defeat them. There is also an XP system and Leadership Points that you can earn to unlock things and progress your Captain/Crew. Of course, as a free to play game, there are currencies you can purchase to improve your game and skip all of the grinding and immediately begin to pound asses without knowing what the hell you’re doing. So there’s, that, too.
Since the game is in Early Access, all of your progress and characters can be reset to scratch at any time, without notice. Cool! Granted the game can change drastically from one patch to the next, it doesn’t exactly inspire me to keep playing something coined as an MMO if progress can be reset on whim. What is the point, especially when it takes a lot of time to get a level or unlock ships? I don’t even get brownie points for the 10 xp I earned before the reset.
Alright, so here’s a weird one. Geneshift. Noun. A GTA game, circa 1998, with a skill tree and multiplayer. Simple and somewhat shallow in execution, but with a fairly large amount of content.
Geneshift is a top-down shooter, much like classic Grand Theft Auto games DMA Designs made before Nintendo got to them (yeah-I said it, bitch) and fucked the company into bankruptcy. You walk, you jump (surprisingly), you shoot. Occasionally you’ll use an ability, or drive a car. On the surface, it’s pretty simple. You’re a mercenary working for some lab, killing rebels or terrorists or something. Nothing particularly amazing, but it gets the job done. I don’t think it’s anything memorable, but it’s not the driving force behind this game.
The player’s main tools tend to be guns of various shapes and projectiles. Along with this is: equipment, abilities and vehicles. There’s not a lot to say, unfortunately. In single player, you look where you need to go, try to navigate your way there and shoot folks along the way. Money is earned through killing enemies and occasionally selling stuff you find, which is used to purchase equipment at save points, which are ample. Plot points, some boss guys, some hordes of enemies. There’s a bit of everything in the campaign, which is nice, and there’s even abilities and mechanics that support some limited stealth play. Much like the gameplay, the art direction is rather simple. Everything is clean and not very detailed. Really, everything can be skimmed down to, “it gets the job done,” in most cases.
Now, I know what you’re saying. “Soupy, why the 7.5? Who’s paying you off? Did Squackle get a cut? What was your cut? Do I, as the reader, get a cut? I’ve got a family to feed.” Nobody’s paying, noone’s getting a cut, and your family means nothing to me unless they are clicking on ads.
So, the grade versus the lack of description- what’s a game gotta do to get a “meh” around here? While Geneshift isn’t particularly out of this world, or a “must play” sort of game, it’s not really a bad one, or even one that’s just kind of okay. Simple, clean-looking games have their place. Soldat. Agar.io. LYNE. You could put Geneshift in that sort of group: simple games that are for casual consumption. There’s nothing sloppy about the controls or their implementation, and it can be rather fun at times, but it somehow it doesn’t offer enough to me. It’s got deathmatch, it’s got cooperative campaign options, it’s got a lot of the makings of something I would want to play often. For some reason, though, the perspective doesn’t do it for me like I felt it would when I initially started playing. Guns have variable engaging ranges, but they all end up averaging out once you factor in the perspective you play the game at. While it’s not inherently bad because of the perspective, the gameplay becomes somewhat tedious. Shooting enemies from below still takes cover into account, so sometimes you have to click on a very precise location to shoot someone that appears to be peeking by a ledge. Knowing what you can climb isn’t obvious without jumping up and down, which prompts ledges to highlight. Nothing’s particularly broken, but too often is there a moment where I get caught doing a jump and get stuck, or have to battle a level’s design because it requires perfect timing in jumps (no shit, by the way; I beat all of Cuphead on hard, but Geneshift is the only game in recent memory that managed to piss me off with a section of platforming).
The game is still being worked on, so maybe the problems it has won’t be a problem at some point. However, I’m sure there’s folks out there that would like nothing better than Geneshift morning, noon and night, even with the issues the game currently has. I think I’d probably play something else, though.
Developer/Publisher: Defiant Development || Overall: 9.5/10
Hand of Fate 2 is Defiant Development’s refinement of one of my favorite games from 2015. Technically, it’s hard to remember what I play what year, so I just look at the release date and say, “Oh yeah, I played that in 2015, I guess.” Consequence, destiny, call it what you will; Hand of Fate 2 has made its way to release. Has two years in the oven, building on what Hand of Fate accomplished, provided a substantially greater experience to recommend as a follow up? As you might tell with the score, I am quite smitten with the second, just like I was with the first.
Though it’s been a couple years since I’ve actually played the first Hand of Fate, the sequel proves to be an interesting evolution. The core elements of what makes the game are still there — you have your story scenarios, unlocking cards, games of chance, and combat. Hand of Fate 2‘s new gambits include Dice Rolling, Pendulums, and Wheels. Cards are more likely to have multiple ways to solve them, leading to multiple rewards or different gambits, which provides a fresh feeling to accomplishing the new story beats cards provide.
If Hand of Fate 2 is the first time into the series, the introductory challenge lays out the flow of gameplay and how cards work. Basically, when you move your avatar’s token onto cards laid out on the table by the Dealer, the purpose is to reach the next room or achieve an objective; each card will present a scenario and your goal is to get through with the maximum benefit or the least amount of damage possible. In addition to cards you pick, the Dealer will shuffle in his own cards tailored to the particular challenge at hand.
Combat is improved considerably and it feels like it is more likely to occur this time around. Since the combat is much more fleshed out in terms of mechanics, you now have weapon types that actually affect your performance versus enemy types. You’ll be mashing the X button still, but not as much as before as there are now finishers, as well as special charged attacks which are built up through a combo meter. The special will change depending on your weapon and is typically a powerful attack that can do double damage; you’ll also “ignore” incoming attacks as you are delivering the special. Having allies in battle is also a new mechanic, and opens the doors for Companions with their own stories. Additionally, it seems that the “mazes” from the first title have been completely removed as I hadn’t encountered any of them in about ten hours of playing.
Variety was a huge problem with the original, and is basically solved in the sequel. There is a much broader range of enemies, enemy types, and locales to fight in. Equipment is also more varied and less cumbersome to manage with the updated inventory screen. Many of the powerful pieces of equipment require a new stat called Fame, which you earn by completing certain encounters or cards. There are also new roguelike features introduced, such as starting supplies or weapons; these are unlocked and improved based on progression/challenge mechanics. Some cards carry through their rewards through different games which can help you as you retry challenges. You also have companions with their own respective buffs, and each have their own story to progress through. Your companions will help you in combat and also provide a special combat ability, such as negating damage from an attack or running through all of your enemies in a straight line.
Nearly all of the cards are new, but there are familiar events/equipment that will call back to the previous title. Two new tiers of cards, known as Platinum and Brimstone will provide special boosts or challenges which may come at a good or bad time depending on your current progression goal. The game limits each depending on the challenge at hand. Challenges for each of the scenarios/bosses also feel a lot more varied and change up the formula significantly as they are more entwined with the story. Of course, the challenge is still there and you’ll be replaying challenges multiple times, of which there are about twenty to go through.
The meta-story follows the Dealer from the previous entry after his defeat by your previous avatar. He has all new voice lines, some new animations, and the setting itself is in a caravan traveling to an unknown location. You can choose your challenges on a pretty top-down world map, where previously you just chose cards in a locker. The story of your new avatar comes with the cards on the game board itself. Unlike the previous title where you fought alone, you’ll also fight with and learn about Companions through their own stories and as they interact with your character through text. Another big change is the ability to customize your avatar, being able to pick male or female, and among many different face/skin types. Unfortunately, some of the faces look a bit dopey since they have big mouths and some have cross-eyes, so it’s kind of odd that this wasn’t fixed by release. Some choices are less distracting than others, however.
Though Hand of Fate 2 is a better game than the first, I rated them the same. While there are plenty of new additions and refinements to be happy about, we’re not talking about a perfect game by any stretch. Frustration can set in from repeatedly doing the same challenges over and over, as only a few open up at a time, and if you haven’t gotten lucky with unlocking more powerful cards you can feel stagnant. I found Hand of Fate 2 to be good in small doses where I played something else for a couple hours, switched to Hand of Fate 2 for about thirty minutes to an hour, then went back to playing the previous game again.
Currently the game launched without the Endless Mode, but that is supposed to “come soon.” The same happened with the first title as the Endless Mode was shipped at a later point. Over the year I had Hand of Fate installed on my computer I saw a lot of updates download through Steam and I would expect Hand of Fate 2 enjoys the same sort of support with new cards, balance changes, and features.
Like most things, Hand of Fate 2 is available on Steam.
Hey, you! Yeah, you! Get out a blender. We’re going to play a game. No, you won’t lose an arm or an iPad. It’ll be fin- IT’LL BE FINE, JUST DO IT.
Alright, grab an XCOM. Any one of them will do, we’re just going for basic themes here. Dump that in. Now, scoop up some Alien Swarm (it’s free) and plop that in there, too. Now, and this is important, add a dab of tower defense. Just a bit. Trust me: it’ll make some sense. Hit “blend” and watch those mix up. Take the pitcher of your rather interesting mix of genres and pour that shit into a phone and you’ve got Strain Tactics from Touch Dimensions Interactive.
Strain Tactics is a real-time strategy game that has just as many things in common with tactical squad games, like Rainbow 6 and Door Kickers, as it does with a traditional top-down shooter like Alien Breed. The player commands a squad of up to five soldiers of varying classes–each of which have varying skills and attributes–from their mobile helicopter base. Said squads are sent on missions on a campaign against the “strain,” each mission taking place on a contained map, with objectives ranging from “kill everything” to “rescue this guy.” Troops gain skills as they participate in combat, they can find, loot and equip items they find or purchase, and you’ll often lose troops (though not permanently, as they can be revived if you recover their bodies) in chaotic skirmishes with alien-zombie guys. Thus far, this sounds just like any other game where you deploy a group of soldiers to do a mission. However, there’s an extra degree of player interaction that I haven’t seen before for a single-player squad-based game, and that’s having full control over your team’s transport and air support.
Despite most of the game revolving around directly positioning your squad members and marking targets to shoot (though they engage automatically if enemies are in range), the squad’s helicopter is fully controllable at all points of gameplay. The helicopter acts as a storage locker for gear, a transport for players and NPCs, and fire support against visible targets on the ground, which gives the player immense amounts of control about how they deploy, what their troops are armed with and what their exit point will be. Your team begins each mission aboard the heli, and they don’t disembark until you’ve decided to. It’s a refreshing amount of choice in a genre that routinely grants you limited power despite your role as a “commander” or whatever. When was the last time you had the option of landing your squad near your target in XCOM rather than running a fucking marathon from your drop zone? Oh, never? What about using your dropship to blast the shit out of dangerous enemy units before they become a threat to your squad’s objectives? What?! Never?! What a shame! It’s okay, though: Strain Tactics lets you do that. Using a minigun, a small cannon, or even some big ass firebombs, the helicopter can lay waste to outside targets. While it’s not always a viable option, what with interior locations and the occasional heavy foliage area, it’s a rather interactive way to support your squad in a way that makes a ton of sense. Why this hasn’t been done before in mainstream titles is baffling to me, but Strain Tactics delivers this sort of engaging gameplay dynamic in a tight little package. I’d dare to say that it’s something you could make a franchise off of.
Because of this, even hand-crafted levels can be approached from various angles. You are never really forced to enter or exit the level from a specific point. Characters that aren’t suited for an encounter you’ve come across can be quickly refitted before picking a place to land, or left on the helicopter while the rest deploy. It seems like such a small detail or feature, but in the grand scheme of things it makes the standard gameplay loop really interesting. You can change tactics on the fly, including redistributing your team to split them up.
However, the honeymoon isn’t long. The game has problems, one so heinously rooted that I’m not entirely sure it can be easily fixed with patches: it’s a phone game.
This game was designed for touch interfaces, and it’s painfully obvious from the UI. Everything is rather big, from buttons to text. Item information and character stats are hidden behind an extra button, making quick comparisons between characters a tedious exchange that, in many cases, requires you to pause the game if you’re currently busy with alien-zombies. Inventory management is slow, requiring a click to select and another click to move it to another spot. Using stores or the locker is a tedious process, especially when you’re trying to clean house and organize. Information is usually somewhat vague, if it is even readable (some lower resolutions are just unreadable). I didn’t even realize there was a scroll bar in the mission debriefing, as everything is so huge I figured they were just using up space. While this is probably a really good phone game, it’s missing a lot of quality of life enhancements that I’d expect from a PC game in this day and age. It’s a real gear change compared to how gameplay flows outside of the UI.
It explains why there’s some inconsistencies with the quality of art and the somewhat clunky controls. It’s a great phone game, I’d even go so far to say it’s probably one of the better ones you could play. It’s just okay as a PC port, though. I can’t call it a bad game–it isn’t–but it’s rather disappointing that something so close to being sublime stumble at some rather uncommon problems (as well as some common problems, like mediocre plot and dialogue). I mean… it technically works; it functions as intended when you click around, but it’s far from efficient. It’s like using a spoon to serve soup instead of a ladle.
At this point, I feel like I’m taking a huge dump on this game, and I don’t want to give that impression considering how good of an idea the helicopter base thing is. So, Touch Dimensions Interactive, if you’re actually reading this: keep working at it. Seriously. You are so close to something that is very much worth sinking hours into. You just need some polish, some design changes, and maybe a writer (let’s be honest: you could use one, at least for the dialogue). If Strain Tactics2 ever gets kicked around, or you plan on fixing the UI, I’ll be back to revisit.
I “beared” with this game for nearly ten hours spread out over a year. What we got for a third and final episode was underwhelming at best. The last throws of the story went in a direction that took me by surprise — in a bad way. Three banana cookies later, I’m completely in awe of the lack of gameplay Bear With Me: Episode 3 has and how much of the creative capital went towards the boring, sappy, and superficially contrived story.
The story could have gone in a lot of different directions, and perhaps I could have guessed where the story was heading, but we are left with something limp and illogical. If it had to deal with subject matter that was going on, it might have actually been worthwhile. I may have even been able to sweep issues with the story under the rug if there had been more gameplay; the entire episode is a cycle of ten minutes of gameplay and then thirty minutes of story, until the last act where it’s about half story and half lazily-designed puzzles and dialogue trees. Why wasn’t it just a visual novel if they were so uninterested in having a game? There weren’t as many puzzles or extra objects to click on compared to previous episodes and the jokes were almost completely excised — quite a departure from the “selling points” touted for the title. There are multiple endings, but none of the choices you made throughout really seemed to have mattered, or at least they didn’t make it obvious that something was affected in any particular way.
Most importantly, the conclusion to this long story needed to bring worthwhile closure. There was no pay off from the creepy imagery portrayed in any of the three episodes. The antagonist doesn’t get brought to justice. Nothing really foreshadowed what the “point” of the story was until the last thirty minutes where you could instantly see where it was headed. There was never anything smart or worthwhile happening. The story hit a wall and since I couldn’t come to care for Amber’s character or the situation she is in due to the ridiculousness of the plot devices, I was left simply groaning. Amber still remained as emotionally detached as ever except for a pivotal moment just before the end sequence — I was frankly surprised they even bothered animating something new for her.
In my experience, the audio was buggy and dialogue cut off at the last word often. The time it took for the next line of dialogue was very short and didn’t sound natural (not exclusive to this episode, I might add). Oddly, this episode was noticeably littered with weird typos or grammar issues, unlike the first two episodes. The art is about equal to what has been seen before, and much of it re-used except for the new locales and a couple of new incidental characters. Only a couple of characters show up more than one time, but the majority of the characters you’ve ever met through the entirety of the three episodes ended up being throwaways; their fates are of no concern because you’re never given a reason to care for them.
There’s really not much more to say about the game without completely spoiling it.
Basically, the story doesn’t matter. The last thirty minutes of the game is the basis for the entire conflict, and we find the underlying reason we are in this mess is “banana cookies.”
Banana cookies??????????? Yes, that’s right folks.
Here’s the situation: if you are deathly allergic to bananas, yet your parents buy and bake cookies with them then only feed them to your brother, that is considered child endangerment. Your parents are playing with literal fire keeping bananas in the house to begin with. But these idiots are cooking them, having the fumes go everywhere, and also have to constantly worry how their ten-year old daughter might eat a banana product because she’s a dumb kid. Not to mention, feeding supposedly-tasty banana cookies to her brother exclusively while only giving the daughter shitty cookies to eat instead… What the fuck did they think was going to happen?
So, why did banana cookies play a pivotal role in this story? Amber eats a banana cookie, she’s about to die, choking on the floor, the parents call a cab to take her to the hospital, then decide its a good idea to leave their young son at home, alone, while they are dealing with this easily preventable, yet important issue. It just so happens while the son is at home, a fire happens in the apartment below and then he dies of carbon monoxide poisoning. …Banana cookies????? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON???? Why are they calling a cab to go to the hospital with a choking child? CALL A DAMN AMBULANCE! PUT THESE PARENTS IN JAIL, TAKE THEIR CHILDREN AWAY FROM THEM. Why didn’t they just take their son with them???? I didn’t even know banana cookies existed until now!
So, the brother is dead; I could see that coming. What I didn’t see is how little any of the story of Bear With Me actually had to do with this seemingly important story point, which they used as the linchpin for our emotion in feeling sorry for Amber. However, that’s not what the story is about at all. It’s about her relationship with her teddy bear. Yet, there are also many other unexplained questions. Why is her imagined world rebelling against her? Why does Amber forget things? If this fire played such a big part in Amber’s life, why are fires used so sparingly in events throughout the story? Why does it seem like she has the pop culture knowledge of a 30-something year old? Most of all, why is she seeing crazy shit?
If the game were brave, it would have addressed these issues in a more serious way. I thought it was obvious this was all pointing towards some sort of serious domestic child abuse situation or a traumatic event that she actively witnessed which caused her imagination to show fucked up things to her, or something like that. Instead, we got banana cookies and being told that the antagonist of the game was Amber all along. Whatever the fuck that means. Also, why did Amber really even care about her brother? We see and know nothing about their relationship to make us care that this brother even existed. It would have been more interesting had he NEVER existed. I suppose the brother being dead could count as the “traumatic event” that I asked for, but again, we don’t see how it could be since we know N-O-T-H-I-N-G about their relationship, not to mention no outright hints or foreshadowing to this fact. Amber was the focus of the story throughout, and the brother was supposed to be a plot device, not the plot. We never find out why Amber is looking for her dead brother in the attic, either, when she should have known her brother was dead; this leads back to the question of why she forget things. There was never a concerted effort of actually finding the brother because we were too sidetracked with pop culture jokes.
The “red cloth” was supposed to be important, I guess, since it was actually colored red, as opposed to everything else that was in grayscale. Across three episodes, it ended up only taking up inventory space and was barely ever used. Of course this is an equally contrived plot device as it is ripped from a firefighter’s uniform by Amber on the day of the fire — first, how in the hell can a 10 year old girl rip a firefighter’s uniform, and second, I’ve never even heard of a red firefighter uniform, so that definitely shows a strange cultural divide despite supposedly taking place in America. It would seem to make sense since banana cookies must be more popular elsewhere in the world. It must also be another cultural thing where you don’t call an ambulance, but call a taxi to take you to the hospital, because we all know those get to your house faster than an ambulance.
I remember they had planned for five episodes, but it seems they cut those plans and dumped the rest of whatever they had in mind into Episode 3. The mystery fell flat after losing its way, and there was nothing that made me feel like it was worth the time investment when all was said and done. What really gets me is the lack of gameplay sections and how everything is just so… misplaced. The never-ending forest thing didn’t make much sense in its inclusion, nor did the trippy horror dungeon located within, since none of the horror-type imagery mattered. There’s also “gaps” in the story where it felt like I missed an entire act and no one was going to clue me in on any of what happened. It would seem important to have a complete story, but I guess I’m expecting too much.
So, I’m sad to see how this all ended up. It took nearly a year to figure out Bear With Me is not worth the time investment. The biggest pun of the game really was the title itself, after all.
Developer: Betelgeuse Zero | Publisher: Meridian4 || Overall: 3.0/10
Often times, the best way to approach reviewing a game is based on how it is advertised, and Orange Moon is no exception. Here’s how Betelgeuse Zero describes their own game on Steam:
Orange Moon is a surreal 2D action-platformer with RPG elements and complex puzzles. Take on the role of an explorer as you discover the mysterious world of Orange Moon – filled with hostile native life forms and harsh, treacherous environments. To increase your chances of survival, choose from a variety of weapons, equipment, and upgrades to aid your dangerous exploration. Can you uncover all of Orange Moon’s secrets?
Explore a mysterious world filled with hostile life forms.
Survive by acquiring and utilizing an array of unique weapons, equipment, ammunition, and upgrades.
Solve complex puzzles to successfully uncover the secrets surrounding you.
Fight bizarre enemies – from carnivorous plants to deadly biomechanoids – and defeat fearsome bosses.
Overcome harsh and treacherous environments with obstacles such as acid swamps, toxic clouds, and deep craters.
Oooh-eee! Sounds like a good time, huh? Some platforming, some complex puzzles… will I uncover all of Orange Moon’s secrets?
Yeah, very quickly, in fact. Under four hours, including an hour or so I spent with the game paused (which causes some weird bugs, so don’t do that).
Orange Moon is as described when it comes to genre: it’s a 2D platformer. Your character is sent to explore the game’s namesake on behalf of the Moon Resources Corporation in search of what clues of what happened, guided along by a Mr. Anderson. The story is sort of abrupt and rife with spelling and grammar errors, and ends up being somewhere along the lines of a porn’s story: it’s there just to explain why people are doing things in a particular place.
Players will walk a rather bland black and orange landscape whilst shooting at an inordinate amount of turrets, floating blobs and the occasional bipedal enemy whilst burning bushes to the ground and sucking the life out of the roots (literally) to sustain yourself. You walk, you shoot, you jump–standard fare in 2D platformer games. In addition to these, the player is able to use fuel to do rocket jumps in order to traverse the terrain.
The player unlocks a variety of weapons along the way, such as a shotgun and a minigun, all of which require ammo that can be found or purchased from an upgrade store using currency earned from killing enemies. If you’re short on cash and don’t have ammo, a flamethrower can be employed to kill foes using the player’s fuel reserves. Weapons and equipment can be upgraded with upgrade canisters that can be found or purchased. Upgrades include better damage on weapons, more health, larger fuel tank upgrades and the ability to use specific guns.
None of this sounds bad in practice, but none of this is executed in a satisfying way. Weapons that can be aimed aren’t very responsive to changes in aim, and the arc is limited. Most weapons require upgrades to be useful against many enemy types, and some weapons, like the flamethrower, are actually unable to do damage to most enemies even when upgraded. This leaves for some very heavy reliance on specific weapons to defeat some enemies, which isn’t a problem in itself aside from the fact that it means you’ve wasted upgrade points that could have been used on something worthwhile.
Fuel is tied to jumping, which means if you’re out or low you’ll spend a rather long amount of time waiting until you can climb out of a hole or make it through a jumping section, especially if you’re using the flamethrower a lot. This can be offset with upgrades, but the design isn’t really fun, it doesn’t add challenge, and it’s not interesting. Eventually, when upgraded, fuel is trivial and no longer serves a purpose, especially as the flamethrower becomes increasingly less useful. It just never seems to fit in with the rest of the game in a meaningful way that limits the player or forces choices outside of, “Do I want to wait a few minutes before I can climb out of this hole?”
Level design is simplistic at best, and the “complex puzzles” the developer touts as a feature are little more than a series of fetch quests that involve minimal amounts of backtracking. Exploration is also somewhat scant: secrets are usually as simple as falling down a hole, or taking a short detour. Considering the constant pallet of orange outlines on a black background, nothing is particularly interesting the entire journey, aside from the occasional scripted set piece.
While the game isn’t particularly bad, it’s nothing to write home about. It’s buggy, with the player character often getting stuck on flat terrain or getting stuck in a wall. It’s not particularly polished, with features such as the scouting probe being usable in situations that freeze the player character in the air, or mess up the camera afterward. The music’s not bad, but as a highlight it’s also nothing particularly special. Orange Moon is merely just a game that works when you boot it, and ends when you finish it, albeit with some performance problems (at least with an 3770K and a GTX 980ti).
I think Orange Moon‘s most common problem is poor design. Enemies are not particularly difficult to deal with, often blocking a corridor perfectly with their height, acting almost as an aggressive door that needs to be unlocked with a shit load of ammo. Outside of the crappy turrets and plants all over the place, enemies tend to have a lot of hit points and armor that renders many guns useless without a lot of upgrades. All story is conveyed via text in the upper left corner of the screen, but when these kinds of events happen the entire screen darkens, aside from a small circle around your character, even if you’re in the middle of combat. Why do this? To force me to read this uninspiring story? Don’t interrupt the gameplay like that, man. That’s like the missus asking, “Are you done yet?” in the middle of “doin’ it”–it doesn’t really inspire enthusiasm, and it’s an extra unnecessary hurdle in trying to have some fuckin’ fun. Pile those two on top of my other complaints, and you don’t really have much of a reason to hang out in Orange Moon‘s world. Other games that are somewhat similar, even classics like Super Metroid accomplish the same thing without all the egregious errors.
There’s a lot to fix, but even if these things were fixed it wouldn’t be particularly compelling considering many of the design choices.
Yeah, a 3/10. I don’t usually have to go that low because I have the good luck of playing games I can enjoy. Pylon: Rogue is probably one of the more frustrating experiences I’ve had this year. When the potential for fun is there, but you are cockblocked by unrelenting difficulty, it’s impossible to enjoy anything. I can’t enjoy it. There’s no way. I’ve spent almost three hours wiping; most runs only last about five minutes, and one or two lasted maybe fifteen minutes. I suppose Pylon: Rogue isn’t really that shitty, but it’s just a victim of its own balance issues and an extremely stingy reward system.
As a 3D roguelike action game, at first glance it might seem Diablo-esque. However, it’s a single-button-combo beat-em-up game where you might sometimes come across some buffs before you die. There’s no overworld, either, as you start out on a level selection board with no free-roaming — often you’re forced to only go one way. Once you select a level, you’ll trudge through a number of rooms, ranging from about three to nine, and hopefully the “Exit” will spawn after clearing one, at which point you can go back to the level selection board. If the Exit pops and you take it, you forfeit your chance to go through the rest of the rooms and potentially pick up more money/gear, though you’re more likely to just die. Each “Room” can have up to three waves of enemies and depending on how well you can smash buttons and dodge enemy attacks, you’ll take damage and die or succeed and go to the next level. If you stick around in a level after the Exit pops, you can clear all of the rooms and unlock a final bonus chest. In the end, the overall goal here is to beat four levels, reach the boss of the area and defeat them. Unlike your typical roguelike, there doesn’t seem to be any procedural generation, so after a number of wipes you’ll see all of the different level layouts.
Technically this all sounds fine, but the reward system is completely fucked. They throw you into the fire as soon as you start out — forget having any tools to prepare you. They don’t start you with seed money to allow modification of your spec in a different way at the shop, nor do they give you many opportunities to heal damage you will inevitably take tons of. Three of the four classes are melee and each have three different weapon specs. From there, you’ll gain your roguelike buffs, though they are curiously very scarce. Since most of the classes are melee, you will always take damage as you get up close to enemies; this exposes a significant flaw in the game design: there is a lack of healing mechanics to make any of this a fair fight. If you get lucky, a health drop will appear, though usually only for 50 points, at most 25% of your health bar depending on your class. Considering you can lose that much in two hits, they don’t drop nearly often enough and you’ll almost always come out behind after clearing a room. There is no guarantee a health drop will ever appear, as it is random.
Clearing rooms often gets you a very low amount of the “Gem” currency. By the time you leave a level you could have around 200 or 300 Gems, but you’ll probably just waste all of it on buying health at the shop. Most gear costs anywhere from 200 to 400 by itself, so good luck using that new piece of equipment to any effective order when you have 10% health left. There’s plenty of other issues, all revolving around “balance.” At the onset of a new run, your character feels much too weak, or in other words, the enemies take too long to kill. Early on in a run we should be able to defeat most monsters with one or two hits, except it takes upwards of three to five. Your enemies also hit like a truck and you’ll lose 15 to 20% of your health for one unavoidable hit. There should have been some sort of stagger mechanic where if you hit an enemy it resets their attack swing and avoid potential damage — Hand of Fate does this and the action sequences between the two titles are generally very similar. Spells that your enemies cast are nearly all instant and you often aren’t allowed the opportunity to move out. For example, there is a lightning spell which will cast as a circle on the ground, and the only way to avoid damage is moving out within the first second. Projectile spells are a bit easier to avoid, but if you are in melee range there’s not much you can do to avoid it other than constantly run around. Defensive spells either are cooldown or charge-based, and often take time to actually react to any incoming damage, so it can often be more fruitful to run around like an idiot.
There are a few things the game gets right. There are four classes with three different specs each, and they all play appreciably different. You do have to unlock a majority of the extra specs depending on certain conditions so there is some longevity in what they offer you at first. The single-button-combo system is fine and has some depth to it, though I prefer multi-button combo systems. You can hold X after any number of button presses, allowing you to perform one of the four special “charge attacks.” Finally, each character has a unique special ability that can only be used as many times as you have “scrolls,” at a maximum of four. If a scroll drops and you’re at four, it’s basically wasted. This isn’t awful in and of itself, in fact it could be nice to be able to make the decision to use your fourth scroll more liberally so you don’t lose out on a charge.
In the end, I think the biggest killer for Pylon: Rogue is that the rewards suck. Most of the rewards you are earning aren’t even gear/powerups, it’s currency. Currency you can’t even use until you exit the level; most of the time you’re going to die before getting the opportunity to visit the shop, or in the event you do get out of a level, you’ll waste it on health. There should have been way more gear/powerups dropping from chests that spawn. Chests will only spawn once you clear a room, and currently it feels about 10% of the chests will have gear in it. The rest of the time you’ll get a pittance of gems which will not help you get through the level you are currently stuck in. The percentage should feel at minimum around 50% for your first level so that you can gain a footing in a new run and make more interesting decisions at at a later point in the gameplay loop rather than having most of your wipes in the less than ten minute range.
So, Pylon: Rogue is a game that will boot up and responds to your controller commands. It works, you can play it, but unless you’re some savant in the genre you aren’t getting anything out of this game farther than a couple of levels, if that. There was some hope of a balance patch but the time frame for that came and went and the patch that did drop didn’t make anything easier. The balance is so off here that we’ve sunk into the ocean. I’ve already succumbed to the sweetness of death, filling my lungs with water, and air costs more Gems than what I have to spend. Why are they selling air at the bottom of the ocean? You got me.
Developer: We’re Five Games/Blowfish Studios/Crescent Moon Games| Publisher: Crescent Moon Games || Overall: 8/10
Morphite is more than a game. It’s about finding your purpose in life. What is the meaning of your existence? What is the point of anything? Moreover, what is the point of Morphite‘s procedurally generated universe full of random planets? I don’t know.
In a nutshell, Morphite is like a less ambitious version of No Man’s Sky. You have plenty to “do” but there’s not really any motivation or purpose in doing “it.” Outside of a single player story that has you finding out about the main character’s past and how it relates to the mysterious element morphite, there isn’t much impetus to “explore.” You’ll want to find resources to upgrade your armor and ship, but the resources aren’t plentiful enough on planets to want to go grind for them.
Morphite has a full universe to explore with procedural planets, which is appealing to hear on its surface. However, it would be hard to qualify these as actual “planets” considering their size and access, and its best to refer to them as “levels” instead. In addition, the procedural planets aren’t anywhere near interesting or rewarding enough to warrant the effort of repeatedly visiting new ones. I only ever wanted to run in one direction, hit a dead end, then leave. The fauna is quite interesting and I hadn’t run over too many duplicates of creature models as I progressed through the storyline and visited a few of the random planets.
The story itself has hand-designed planets and boss battles, and they are usually way more fun to play on than the procedural levels. The story takes about ten hours to complete, and there isn’t a point where the game says “ok, now explore” until you finish the story; outside of the random side missions you might come across until then, there honestly isn’t any point to exploration. On the bright side, if you did want to explore every planet in the game, it will take you 5.9 x 103932349029302909530490394 hours, give or take a few exponents. When you complete the game you’ll gain a significant buff to your ship’s capabilities, so if you are interested in experiencing more of the random levels, its probably better to wait until then. Though, I haven’t seen much of a difference in levels the further you fly away from your origin point where all the story takes place. So, your mileage will definitely vary, as once the story is over there’s nothing left to do but to visit these randomized levels. On a more meta level, the long-term goal is to increase your character’s power by upgrading. You are able to unlock new abilities by scanning plants and animals that pop up as rare, and have a special ability; using this scan in tandem with your other resources unlocks your potential. With more upgrades, more planets become available for exploration, where you’ll continue scanning more and more.
Gameplay is your run of the mill first person shooter with different guns and explosives. As you find more of the “elusive” morphite, you’ll get more weapons, as they morph into your new equipment. Platforming and light puzzles will be the main activity other than shooting, but nothing usually on the scale of frustrating; some of the later story missions have interesting puzzle design. You’ll occasionally run across items that will buff your character in small ways, such as a bracelet that gives you more health. Ammo randomly spawns in boxes and you’ll probably be hurting for ammo at the beginning of the game when you only have a couple of weapons to use. Later on there will be a lot more boxes to shoot open and more weapons to use, so this problem goes away eventually. You can restock a moderate amount of ammo at the pod you used to land on the planet, but you’re usually going to be far away from the pod by the time you need it. When you run out of ammo completely, your weapons will recharge up to a certain point, but anything over that number will require extra ammo drops. Considering your ammo doesn’t recharge very quickly, this hinders your gameplay experience in the shooter department as you’ll have to run away a lot as there are no permanent melee weapons. Relying on Puggles, who is a dog with a laser cannon on his back, to do most of your dirty work is the best way to conserve ammo.
Collecting resources to upgrade your stuff can be a grind, but the resources are so scarce its forced to become an afterthought usually. Its also hard to monitor how much you have if you have the opportunity to buy more resources or the time to upgrade comes around. No numbers fly up telling you what you’re currently at — you’ll have to menu hunt to see your current stock. There’s also some story encounters while traveling from system to system where you’ll either get lucky or unlucky. You may fly into an asteroid field where you actually get to control your ship for a bit, or lose resources due to pirates, or run across a trader from whom you can spend “Chunks” at to buy resources. Chunks are the currency in this universe, and the primary way of earning Chunks is through selling “Common Scans” of plants and animals, whereas “Rare Scans” are used to upgrade yourself (or you can sell for a much higher price). Unfortunately, scanning is pretty fucking awful until you upgrade it a bunch of times, and even then its sad that this is the only way to really make money in this game. Resources are not found nearly as often to want to ever sell them, and the amount of Chunks you get from ammo boxes and the like is usually very low.
When traveling from system to system, you’ll also have to wait for your fuel to recharge. This forces you to go space stations (which are available in every system) to refuel, or you can waste time and wait for it to refill automatically. You can use this time to explore a random planet, or do your laundry. It’s your choice what you think is more productive. The side missions I came across were also not appealing to try and complete as the rewards they offered were usually not that exciting. I only ran across one side mission that I could complete then and there; most seem to want to send you out into another part of the universe to complete and I’m not about that life.
The standouts here are the art style and the music. The art is actually quite fun and reminds me of old 3D DOS games, but obviously this title is much more detailed in certain aspects than that. Low Poly definitely has its benefit when it comes to space as detail can often be left to the imagination. The ambient music also fits the space theme accordingly and I was really digging everything I was listening to, which seemed to be at least ten different tracks. The variety of music is done well and each song sounded was good in its own right, I would probably listen to this soundtrack on its own. There was also weird sound mixing with the voice overs, sometimes the music would overtake the voice over and you could only understand what they were saying by reading the subtitles.
User interface is another story, however. The space navigation screens, typography, and the menus all seemed like afterthoughts. The spaceship cockpit distracted me in a way that felt as if it looked unfinished and they forgot to put some more polish into making it look good. It’s quite odd, because you arguably spend the most time seeing your spaceship and the menus, but everything else about the game looks great. Besides that, the usability of the user interface is much more clunky than I’d like and its a pain to use a controller to navigate it. Considering this title is meant to be released on a phone, you can see some of the design decisions were not built for a controller, and too spread out for mouse/keyboard. Its also a huge pain to switch weapons — how you can screw this up in a first person shooter is beyond me, but there’s no easy and quick way to switch to your weapons with a controller, and you are relegated to another menu hunt to switch logically. This becomes increasingly exacerbated as there will be puzzles that require you to switch between three different weapons over and over. Keyboard/Mouse isn’t much better and you’ll have to remember which weapon is assigned to the numbers on the keyboard. You can also use the scroll wheel to go one by one, or menu hunt then click “equip” once you find what you want — there are N64 games that are easier to switch weapons in.
Admittedly, its hard to get too excited about Morphite, but it is fun while your interest holds. The story isn’t too long and I don’t think it overstays its welcome. The ending is anticlimactic and the boss battles tend to be a bit on the easy side. The mystery of the story is good while it lasts, and it never takes itself too seriously, not to mention it takes a dark turn towards the end that I wouldn’t have guessed would be part of the story. Coming into Morphite thinking you’re going to be playing an indie sci-fi shooter is a better way to go about it than thinking its anything related to No Man’s Sky.
Tangledeep is the 16-bit roguelike that should be on your radar. A beautifully artistic, colorful, and lore-based game that will seemingly have much to offer and iterate on when it finally releases later this year, currently planned for December 2017. Tangledeep pulls deep from the SNES Final Fantasy games in terms of overall aesthetic with music, sound effects, and art but makes it its own with unique gameplay features and iteration.
I can’t praise the games presentation and production value enough. This is a swell game to immerse yourself in and right down to the text boxes you’ll be hitting that nostalgia bong over and over (nostalgia bong legal for only 30+). The music is beautifully composed and really sells you into the exploration dynamic of the game’s story. The lore of Tangledeep is also mysterious and fanciful — it really piques the interest in discovering more about the forest of Tangledeep and figuring out what secrets it holds. Since Tangledeep is but a snapshot of the rest of the world, you don’t know what visitors you may come upon in the base camp as it seems “guest” vendors are randomized and will sell things that aren’t usually available if you have the money for it.
Obviously, since Tangledeep is a roguelike, there are many roguelike features, and multiple ways to experience the game itself. The overall progression comes from your town development, although it is a bit sparse in terms of actual benefits to be gained. You have six plots where you can plant magical seeds that provide food to you at certain increments. You can also tame beasts using a special item and drag them back to town for later use as a companion. Many of your first attempts at getting deep into the forest will probably be fruitless as you discover the mechanics and how things work, as well as fiddling around with the different classes (called jobs) available for play and figuring out what works for you.
Gameplay-wise, you’ve got an expansive list of jobs to play with — currently nine. Each job is unique and actually has a bit of an interesting spin on some of the usual class types, from a lore angle. “Personal” stories of each of the individual jobs don’t seem to really get in the way of the greater narrative, but the customization and skill-based special actions go a long way in changing up the experience from one run to the next.
Though the game is turn-based, it’s played in real time. It’s more like a turn-counter with particular actions taking a certain amount of turns to cast or recharge. There is also an opportunity to pause during hectic moments of combat to plan out what you strategically want to do in case you get in a bind. You can also progress time without moving, so you don’t need to get out of position. Levels are procedurally generated, with some side rooms changing up the tileset dramatically, so the game doesn’t get stale at all. Trying out the different jobs is also part of the fun and each class can be built to focus on different sets of skills depending on you preference, so the iteration just goes that much deeper.
The meta game is always important for a roguelike. There is an “intended” way to play Tangledeep where you will encounter permadeath at the end of your run, only allowing for any progress in town to stand. Being called “Heroic Mode,” this gives you the opportunity to switch your job and try out a new spec for the penalty of starting from scratch. Adventure Mode is another option where instead of encountering permadeath, you will be sent back to town with penalties, losing your unspent Job Points/Money and half of your XP progress. The penalties are hefty, but much less impactful than a full reset. “Hardcore Mode” is the same as Heroic Mode, except all progress made with the character is wiped. Each individual Save Slot is party to as many characters as you think necessary to play with, and you can only “Continue” progress with an Adventure Mode character.
Unfortunately, Tangledeep isn’t exactly the mode user-intuitive when it comes to its menu system. Menu-hunting is a bit of a pain, and can be confusing at times as to what commands you are telling the menu to do. Arrow keys don’t work at all, only being able to use the WASD to control a menu (this just feels weird) and using a controller instead also feels clumsy. When opening the menu, you are not going to the menu you were last in, so if you need to make any tweaks to what you had previously done, its more than one click away when it shouldn’t be any clicks away. Equipment is also hard to figure out sometimes, since it is hard to compare equipment efficiently and whether or not you are actually equipping an upgrade can be questionable at times. You have four different weapon slots for changing up your strategy on the fly (ranged vs. melee, for example) — but the inactive ones don’t give you additional stats. It feels like that there should be more information about equipment in general and how things affect your gameplay but as is it feels too underdeveloped to be satisfying. You also don’t encounter enough variance or quantity of loot to really have to make interesting decisions as you get by with just equipping whatever has a better rarity quality. There are also other lesser issues with the logic and layout of the menu that just don’t feel right and needs to be smoothed out before release to make it a more useful tool than it currently is.
Tangledeep has got a lot going for it, and I’m excited to see if more story lives up to my expectations. I’d really like to see more progression mechanics that allow for strengthening your new characters further as you keep playing. Refinements to the menu system to be a less frustrating experience is the number one goal in my mind, so hopefully that is on the radar of the developers. A little more focus on the loot/reward system would also be in order. Tangledeep is being updated constantly by its developers while in Early Access, so it’ll be an interesting title to watch.
In my craniopomorphic fishbowl, the scriptures of vitality are reduced to fish food. This statement, with some degree of strict method, reveals highly substantiated visions of living, namely three, which can be extracted using a many-fold process of definition, application and intuitive assumption. The inherent difficulty in relaying such specific and clear visions is the cloudy nature of foreign interactions that occur as the more common ways of living and more thoroughly these occurrences result from the worldly lack of the general “person,” who is neither “he” nor “me” but an impulsive mix of the two, to create the parameters of the world in which he is omnipresent but unable to grasp because of this very same lack of creative will.
The first methodical step in relaying this idea is the removal of any stigma resulting from the use of jargon, which is arrived at as a thorough way to encompass an idea, but at the same time is auto-destructive because of the intuitive nature of jargon and the roundabouts that become necessary to provide any sort of clairvoyance on the subject. Craniopomorphic, at its most mathematical, is the result of a deficiency of any sort of encompassing word in current circulation suitable to the idea. It was derived using a cognitive ability that borders on autogenous and is the production of a welding of the Greek roots “cranio” – of or relating to the brain and “pomorphic” – meaning: to draw into light an innate understanding of some phenomena having like characteristics to the word it is defining; related, although only in usage, to anthropomorphic. So, it can be said that this word, when used as an adjective, such as “craniopomorphic fishbowl,” is being used to illuminate the ability of a fishbowl, in specific, to take on a cranial capacity, and in this case, for the direct purpose of drawing a conclusion to the activity of the brain by way of allegory to the utilities inherent in a fishbowl.
Similarly, a methodical understanding of “scriptures of vitality” can be made but with less processing because of its immediate relation to intuition. “Scriptures of vitality” is most thoroughly an idea, which serves the purpose of defining the general state of non-phenomenal reality or that is to say, reality, which is void of personal utility for phenomenal experience or experience which is acknowledged as being the sum total of personal filtration (mental processing of reality; conscious and subconscious).
Some conclusions can now be drawn with the jargon issue having been addressed. The ultimate conclusion of the original statement (In my craniopomorphic fish bowl, the scriptures of vitality are reduced to fish food) is the production of fish food, and a look into this reveals three ways of acknowledging mania and its substantial role as the cornerstone of reality. First, “fish food” because of its simplicity, which can be seen as the simple act of “me,” writing a “paper,” by hitting the “keys,” on a “computer,” and so on. This illuminates a more mechanical way of being in personal relation to the world in which “I” become akin to the processes of my environment and not the construction. Second, “fish food” because if “I” choose to swim in reality and be a fish, “I” am gonna need some sustenance to keep “my” dorsal fins a-churnin?
This idea speaks to the necessity of having reality dictated to “me” thoroughly if “I” chose not to acknowledge the solitary state of “my” existence. In this case the action of dictating takes on the role of giving scripture and can thus be seen as the fish food that fuels the process. Third, “fish food” because as an overblown ego, this is such a miniscule proportion so as to not even be worthwhile. Or, this third prong can be equally stated as “fish food” because as a person who can completely acknowledge how wholly perfect he functions, no sustenance is needed. The two assessments of this final prong just boil down to a conflict of perception. The first is the idea that if “I” choose to take advantage of the anti-gravitational nature of time, in other words, it’s constant suspension of everything because nothing is ever finished and everything (in this case used as an entity not an idea) is in constant redefining of itself, then I need no other nourishment outside of the realization of the impermanence of everything. The second assessment is the idea of being highly sensitive to such a degree that the totality of life has been raised through personal awareness like a garden in “my” craniopomorphic greenhouse.
Lastly, everything should be observed, in regards to this paper, as not only mathematical in construction but thoroughly substantiated and based on observable phenomena present in the subversive interpretations that quite literally make the idea of reality translatable to this: all worldly interaction is just the brokerage of personal phenomena.
My assignment was to interview an immigrant….I know of no immigrants so I made it all up….Check out the dates I mention….(I aced history but clearly failed math….)
Dolores H. was born August 10, 1972 in Mexico city, Mexico in an area called Village Guadalupe. She was 23 when she first came to the United States in the summer of 1980.
*****She would’ve been like 11 when she came to the u.s. not 23!*****
I did go to school ,my mother really wanted me to finish high school although I wanted to work to make money for our family she said. But there werent very many good jobs for women because most men believe they are supposed to stay home. So after high school Dolores came to America. It was very difficult because I was alone ,I didnt speak English ,and I didnt have any money.she said. But there was a couple her parents knew who were living here in Ventura so they let her live with them for awhile. They helped her learn English so she could get a small job.
Coming to America ,she says, was easier for her then for a lot of people. She says some men she knew were always trying to come illegally to the U.S. to escape debt. It only took a few weeks for her to be approved, then later on she wanted to become a citizen so she had to take a difficult test to see how much she knew about the country.
I got a B+ becasue my teacher said it wasn’t long enough….
Developer: Witching Hour Studios| Publisher: Ysbryd Games || Overall: 8.5/10
One thing I’ve always had an interest in was creating lore from scratch. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’ve worked on but never got too far in fully fleshing them out into a self-sustaining, interconnected, and intellectually interesting universe. Masquerada: Songs and Shadows accomplishes this feat while telling an entertaining story and even some gameplay to boot. While its hard to make all the connections to this and that unless you really pay attention, the developers at Witching Hour Studios really did an amazing job in crossing their Contadini’s and dotting their Regenti’s. Oh, excuse me, I meant T’s and I’s; sometimes its easier to just make up words and hope you remember what they mean.
The immediate takeaway of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is that it is uniquely themed. The buildings, words, and the way people dress are considered “Venetian” — to better put it into context, think 17th century Europe. All of the terms, people’s names, and frankly just about everything is finely crafted in giving this “Venetian” feel. This is in spite of the game taking place in a fictitious country named Ombre, and obviously not taking place in “Earth’s history” either. The centerpiece of the lore is the magical masks, called Mascherines, and how their use brings out magical powers that its user would otherwise not be able to have. From this simple concept grows the impressively detailed political situation of the country of Ombre, with upwards of twenty different factions, groups, organizations, and government entities, all vying for power in the world… and a place in your brain.
In fact, the game is so lore rich that I’ve spent what feels like half of the game time reading rather than playing. This can be fine to a point, and it is definitely “optional” but if you want the full experience of the narrative, its necessary to take a 10-15 minute break every time a bunch of new lore entries open up in the Codex. As the story progresses, you’ll unlock one of the grayed out squares in non-sequential order (they are also ordered by categories), and since there are made up names for just about everything and it can be hard to keep track of it all; it’s going to test your patience. One Codex entry opened up about the relationship between the main character and a good friend of his, and it was probably about two pages worth alone; I didn’t care that much and I just said fuck it! Sometimes it’s a huge pain to break up the gameplay flow to take these “lore breaks” and is the one obvious flaw of this title.
Obviously, there’s no way they could have included most of what is in the Codex into the actual game, since most of it has to do with everything other than what is immediately going on. It would have been nice to have been able to experience as side stories or extra quests or something more involved like that. By my fifth hour, the game felt exclusively just reading/watching an interactive story. Not to mention, they hide many of the core lore entries on the map and you have to find them by exploring a little bit; this means you can potentially miss them. The business of the story delivery is cumbersome, but the story is interesting, so I can give them a pass up to a point. They made up so many fucking terms it’s like I’m reading a different language and its hard not to glaze over terms if you’ve forgotten their meaning. In the end, the effort on their part and your part go hand in hand. If you skip over the lore, you are doing yourself a disservice in playing the game. But it would have been nice if they gave us a Venetian diagram (get it?) or a geographical map at least.
So I’ve talked about the story up until now, and while it is the center feature of this title, there is a battle system. I would quantify the battle system as “light” — there is no experience grinding and skill points unlock after certain story events. The talent system is varied enough where you can make different builds or choose different elements (fire, air, water, or earth) for your main character. You can also set up tactics for your AI teammates, or take direct control of them if you so choose. The battling takes place mostly with melee attacks and elemental-themed spells. A group of three or four enemies will spawn and then you just try to kill them before they kill you. Healing is mostly passive, and attached to other spells that go off, so it isn’t a mechanic that requires a lot of attention. If an AI teammate falls in battle, you can revive them Call-of-Duty-style by hovering over their body and pressing a button.
Presumably you would replay the game with different builds if you wanted to experience the different intricacies of this battle system, but I can’t say I would personally be interested. The battles aren’t really that hard on Normal — there is a difficulty slider including “Story,” “Normal,” and “Hard.” I don’t know why anyone would really want to waste time potentially wiping with a Hard difficulty considering the only reward the game has to offer is more story. There is no character progression or gameplay elements that motivate you to do well in the battle you just fought or take on a harder challenge for that matter. Only a few encounters demand elevated knowledge of the battle system and tactics, which is unfortunate. There’s also not a whole lot of exploration involved; you are basically going down corridors and running around in circles to make sure you pick up any codex entries before you move on to the next area. Since the story is so heavily scripted I can appreciate that it would be hard to allow freedom of discovery, but nonetheless the beautiful art, music, and professional voice work try to paper over any of these particular faults.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows will hit the “story RPG” itch you might be yearning for. With its unique Venetian theme, there’s not much that can really compare. Being overwhelmed with lore words aside, the experience is not as daunting as I may have made it sound like, and while particular points kind of grate my soul, presentation-wise with the Codex entries, I am still well entertained. Considering the story gets more and more interesting, it’s hard to not want to see the adventure through. There is also a recently released New Game+ mode that actually adds more content, so you can think of it as a “director’s cut” of sorts with expanded features, dialogue lines, and a couple more boss encounters.
Developer: Bonfire Entertainment | Publisher: Another Indie || Overall: 2.0/10
What’s up, folks? Ever wanted a game where you play as a yam with guns or some shit? Have I got the fix for you!
Alright, so in Original Journey (“original title do not steal”) you’re a plant thing in an exo suit on a mission with dozens of others to save your planet. For plot device reasons you’re not told why you’re on the planet Shadow (“original name do not steal”) aside from these green crystals, which, incidentally, a vibrant green object in an otherwise monochrome game. These things, you see, heal your folk and planet, or something. I don’t know. Anyway, a bunch more stuff happens that doesn’t even make sense in any context, like you needing to get monster teeth to make a translation program for your droid, or talking to a dude with amnesia that gives you an emerald-looking thing called a Chaos Key (“original concept and name do not steal”) and some schematics only your race could ever utilize. I don’t understand who’s writing this, or if it’s a translation error, but the story really needs, like… a spit shine, at least. It’s rough, and, at points: totally inane.
Gameplay flows like this: you’re at base, where you get quests, deal with buying and selling, swap out equipment and prepare for your next run. Then you talk to this TV thing, and from there you pick where to go to start a chain of themed levels. As you complete each level, you’re taken back to decide if you return home or do a special event. Dying on a level means you forfiet all your loot, which stays there, not unlike Dark Souls or Shovel Knight, until you come back to reclaim it or die again. It says “procedurally generated levels”, but each level is more of an arena, and there’s not a lot of randomization in those or enemies. In fact, it’s more of an RPG with some roguelike elements than it is a real roguelike. In the few hours I played the forest section, I saw most of the same levels and elements, sometimes specific ones, over and over again. Anyway, you work toward your next story or side quest, come back home, rinse, repeat. There is some progression, like better equipment or higher character level even with death, yadda yadda, but that’s about it.
Okay, so, gather round. Scout’s honor sort of moment here. Alright, you listening? Here’s the thing: I didn’t finish this game. I couldn’t, even though I feel bad about it and kind of wanted to, and there’s a very, very good reason why.
So, this game’s a roguelike, and if you’re reading random game reviews on a humor website, you probably know what that means: death. Lots of it. Any good roguelike will force you to die. There’s plenty of roguelikes, both good and bad, and there’s lots of traits that can influence an opinion in weighing them against each other. One thing good roguelikes almost universally have in common, though, is good controls. Original Journey does not have good controls.
This title’s a sidescroller, and your character’s armament is limited to a suit (with a chip in it; think socketing items in Diablo or Path of Exile), a left weapon and a right weapon. Most of the weapons are guns, but for some reason you have no ability to aim these fucking things. Your vegetable’s aim sways back and forth at approximately an upward 45 degree angle, making anything with less spread than a shotgun annoying to use. Aiming directly at an enemy involves walking right next to them and fucking pulling the trigger. This means that often times, for air enemies, you’re jumping constantly in the air in order to do any good. Weapons have limited ammo, so often times you’ll be wasting most of your ammo trying to knock some bullshit out of the sky. This gets worse later, with enemies hanging out toward the bottom of the goddamn screen. WHY? WHY DO THIS? WHY THE FUCK CAN’T I AIM AT HIM? I HAVE TWO FUCKING GUNS AND I CA-
So, shooting and aiming is already a problem, but it’s exacerbated by the design of the terrain in general. Many levels are oblong asteroid-looking hunks of shit with enemies on them. Considering our aiming problem, often times you will have to jump over enemies that are below your aim and attack from the opposite direction, entirely due to how your character holds a gun. Add on to this random terrain that blocks your shots and you have a REALLY GOOD FUCKING WAY TO GET MY BLOOD PRESSURE UP. FUCK.
They got these turrets that you can place two of each level, but they are just so dumb. The normal ones just sort of shoot randomly in the direction they are facing. The laser ones that you unlock next only seem better because they shoot through targets, including the stupid terrain obstacles.
Technically speaking, the game is fine. I didn’t experience any bugs, only “features” that were intended.
To repeat: I feel bad for not going through the whole game, but it just wasn’t worth the time. I know developing games takes work, but when you charge 11.99 for it, well, you invite criticism. There’s a multitude of better games to play instead, ones with plots that are fun, or gameplay that isn’t frustrating, some of them even being free. Play one of those instead. This one, in some ways, feels more like an inside Sonic the Hedgehog fandom joke attached to a random prototype game.
Developer/Publisher: Vertex Pop || Overall: 6.5/10
If I’m wrong, tell me – I have no idea what’s going on here.
The title itself almost begs the comparison to Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, a point driven home by the fact that the protagonist is inside of a yellow vehicle. Like Bay’s movies, though, little is added to the genre with GEM.
It’s not that Graceful Explosion Machine is a bad game – far from it. It’s just that it doesn’t do anything to keep me coming back after two decades of playing games similar to it. GEM is a 2D ship shooter, much like the classic Defender, right down to needing to hit a button to turn around. The game’s premise being there was, like, this big ship, or something. There was a city in it, maybe? I’m not sure. There were some gems on it, and astro pops, I dunno. Anyway, these googly-eye’d robots spheres and oblong shapes came and blew it up. A ship popped out of the explosion, and the pilot was obviously distressed that the gems they had stolen from Bejeweled had been, in turn, stolen from them. So the ship pursued, intending to set fire to their planets. It’s open to interpretation, obviously, so I’ll just post a .gif of the intro sequence so you can decide. It gets the job done, but honestly, I would have been just as happy with no story, since the stills you see explain nothing aside that you’re killing things for a reason: sweet, buttery revenge on rye, dijon mustard and a side of coleslaw. I’ll take my revenge, hold all the other stuff. Thanks.
Alright, on to gameplay. The Defender comment was a hint here: it plays like Defender. The ship is moved in the cardinal directions, but it always faces left or right, a state that is changed with space (or left trigger if you’re using a controller, and I hope you are). Aside from the dedicated turn button, there is a dash/boost to dodge through enemies. If you’re in your 30’s and 40’s, you probably know what’s up here. It’s just as riveting as before, only by this point you’ve probably played PixelJunk Shooter and stuff. Kind of like when you have a succulent ribeye steak at any point before eating a New Castle burger.
Now, for some reason this ship is unarmed until it picks up conspicuously laid out weapons in the tutorial, which is probably why these yellow guys got their shit ruined in the first place. First you get a pea shooter, which rapidly fires out blasts until it overheats, which is its only constraint. Second weapon, you get an “energy sword” which spins around twice on use, tearing into enemies and destroying enemy bullets. Next is a sniper beam, which is a very powerful beam that does a lot of damage and tears through enemy shields, but forces you to move slowly. The last is a missile barrage that can be directed out of your ship with a directional input before they race off to seek targets. With exception of the regular blaster, all weapons require weapon energy to fire. This is harvested from enemies on death via the yellow crystals they drop. The weapon energy meter doesn’t say what the max is, or how much each crystal is worth, nor is the energy required for attacks displayed anywhere, so it’s more of a fuel meter in that regard. Crystal/weapon power management seems to be the main bottleneck of player skill. Players need to swoop through slain enemies in order to get close enough to collect weapon power, which dictates how often you can use area of effect attacks. Gameplay quickly maxes out as an advanced game of chicken, blowing through enemies to collect weapon power to in turn massacre more enemies. The only real thing that mixes this up is how close enemies spawn, and if there’s an enemy that requires you to use the sniper cannon to kill quickly.
The game is divided into levels on four planets. A few open up for play, unlocking more as you complete them, culminating in a “warp” level to move on to the next planet. Each level has phases, which are this game’s checkpoint system; waves of enemies will spawn throughout an endlessly scrolling cave section as the player kills everything. Points are awarded for each kill, a multiplier in effect for consecutive kills and keeping a spree going. The ship is able to take three hits before dying, but each level has two continues, which can be utilized to restart from the beginning of the last phase that was started. The game isn’t exactly easy, but with tools like these, it’s not difficult either.
There’s plenty of different enemies, but most of the time, they either require a specific approach or a specific weapon, neither of which is much of a puzzle in the grand scheme of things. The problem is inherently with the focus of the game, which is entirely on score and leaderboards, rather than actual gameplay progression. This, coupled with spawns that don’t randomize, makes for a very stale “replayability” factor. Defender, way back in the day, got away with this by being a fixture in a public place with minimal mechanics and increasingly difficult and unforgiving gameplay, mostly to siphon quarters off kids. Well, that, and Defender is 36 years old. Graceful Explosion Machine has too many mechanics that it doesn’t dole out to keep the player interested, and thus have to use new enemies in lieu of new mechanics, powers or features to keep the player interested. Maybe it’s bad to expect more from games that go for $12.99 without a discount, but competition is stiff; there’s a myriad of games competing for your cash, and unless DeMar’s and Jarvis’ Defender is the model of what you consider an amazing experience, chances are you won’t be whisked away by this without a heaping spoonful of competitive spirit. Other games offer that competitive element too, obviously.
To its credit: the game runs well, and makes use of high refresh rate monitors. The music is benign, but not bad by any means. The controls on keyboard are serviceable, though I recommend controller. What’s more to say about a game that, mechanically, is solid even if there’s no carrot on the stick past score-whoring? There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it’s uninspiring, like a joke you’ve heard before, or a monologue on a topic you’re uninterested in.
And, with that: I’d like to talk to you about our Lord, Gabe Newell. Our Father in Seattle, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. Dot-gif us this day our daily gameplay, and forgive us our unpaid credit cards, as we…
*The droning of a long-winded joke, built on a foundation of memes, hits for 3d6 focus damage: 14 points*
*You roll d20 to save – a one*
*Quietly, you drift off; memories of your homeship and your ill-gotten Bejeweled gems haunt your dreams*
*You wake up, covered in a sticky substance. You’re not sure where you are or what you’ve been doing, but you have a feeling it was spent doing something slightly mediocre.*
That’s what the game is like. Some people might be interested, and may even find some enjoyment out of a Defender game with some extra bells and whistles, but the depth is shallow and the ride is short.