Geneshift (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Nik Nak Studios || Overall: 7.5/10

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.

 

Hand of Fate 2 (PC) Review

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.

 

Strain Tactics (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Touch Dimensions Interactive || Overall: 6.0/10

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 Tactics 2 ever gets kicked around, or you plan on fixing the UI, I’ll be back to revisit.

 

Squackle Adages

A Squackle Adage follows the following formula:

1) Take a cliche/famous/inspirational/motivational quote.

2) Reverse two words in the phrase, particularly the important subject that is being addressed

3) Create new, hilarious meaning from something old and stale!

Here’s a list of the best ones and some sort of explanation as to what the “new quote” means.  If you’ve got some to add, comment below.

Better to not have it and not need it, than need it and have it.
(Original: Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.)

Explanation: You’d rather not have things you wouldn’t usually want and actually need to use it.

I am feet on my light.
(Original: I am light on my feet)

Explanation:  I’m just a normal ass person who walks on top of light just like everyone else.

Out of miracles grow difficulties.
(Oiriginal: Out of difficulties grow miracles.)

Explanation: Miracles are hard to compare to after they occur.

Try to be a cloud in someone’s rainbow.
(Original: Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.)

Explanation: Fuck happy people.

Change your world and you change your thoughts.
(Oiriginal: Change your thoughts and you change your world.)

Explanation: You won’t be the same person when the world around you is different.

No act of waste, no matter how small, is ever kind.
(Original: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.)

Explanation: If you waste something, you’re an asshole.

If lemons give you lemonade, make life.
(Original: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade)

Explanation: If you get lemonade from lemons, impregnate something.

You don’t take 100% of the shots you miss.
(Original: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.)

Explanation: If you miss you may as well have not done it.

Don’t smile because it happened, cry because it’s over.
(Original: Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.)

Explanation: You should feel bad about the thing you liked not being around anymore.

No gain, no pain.
(Original: No pain, no gain)

Explanation: If I don’t gain, then I don’t get hurt.  Cool.

What doesn’t make you stronger, kills you.
(Original: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger)

Explanation: Everything kills you.

If you don’t have anything at all to say, don’t say anything nice.
(Original: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.)

Explanation: You’re telling someone to shut up, basically, but in an even more assholish way than the “original” saying.

A doctor a day, keeps the apple away.
(Original: An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.)

Explanation: If you see a doctor everyday then you can refrain from having to eat so many damn apples.

Those who wait come to good things.
(Original: Good things come to those who wait.)

Explanation: If you wait longer you’ll “come” to something better than you had originally waited for.  So just keep waiting forever and never get anything!

Unexpect the expected.
(Original: Expect the unexpected)

Explanation: Forget what usually happens, even though its going to keep happening.

A thought for your penny?
(Original: A penny for your thoughts?)

Explanation: If I tell you something, will you pay me?

It’s going to be not impossible but hard is hard.
(Original: It’s going to be hard but hard is not impossible.)

Explanation: Don’t kid yourself, you’re going to have a hard time doing this shit.

If at average you don’t succeed; you are running about first.
(Original: If at first you don’t succeed; you are running about average.)

Explanation: If you usually don’t succeed, you’re probably doing something else.

Someday in a week, seven days isn’t one of them.
(Original: Seven days in a week, someday isn’t one of them.)

Explanation: One of the days in the week is not considered to be worth seven days.

People often complain about the lack of direction when the lack of time is the real problem.
(Original: People often complain about lack of time when the lack of direction is the real problem.)

Explanation: You might think you’re on the wrong path, but you really just don’t have enough time to do it right.  So half-ass it.

 

Bear With Me: Episode 3 (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Exordium Games || Overall: 4.0/10

Click here for the Bear With Me: Episode 2 review.

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.

**SPOILERS**

**SPOILERS**

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.

 

WoW Chat #25540

In trade chat, I’m trying to sell some pants…

davepoobond: WTS  [Phase-Twister Leggings] 5k

Headboss: lolwha

davepoobond: hard for you to read bruh?

Headboss: Those are worth about 100g brah

davepoobond: so youre an economist too?

Headboss: Did you want me to farm you an entire level 85 set in 5 minutes?

davepoobond:  so go do it

Headboss: Omw there now, prob upgrades to your chitty gear?

davepoobond: more like upgrades to your attitude

Headboss: Oh man

davepoobond: WTS  [Phase-Twister Leggings] 4.9k

Mirayu: is that meant for people leveling? or do people still play at lvl 85 cap?

davepoobond: transmog

Mirayu: oooh

Divinethis: look like shit

davepoobond: tell blizzard

Mirayu: guess i cant see it with my robe on, lol

Headboss: Pretty funny you’re trying to sell a vendor item in trade… for 5k

Headboss: Maybe you’re just exceptional at trolling

davepoobond: pretty funny that you care so much

davepoobond: go farm me an 85 set, what are you still doing in shrine

Headboss: I already farmed it bro

davepoobond: the only thing you sowed is your destruction

 

Orange Moon (PC) Review

Orange Moon

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.

 

Pylon: Rogue (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: QuantumSquid Interactive || Overall: 3/10

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.