Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Indie Preview - FranknJohn


Back it now on Kickstarter!

from bitSmith Games

FranknJohn is an upcoming action dungeon crawler with roguelike elements from bitSmith games, creators of the dark and beautiful Celtic adventure Ku: Shroud of Morrigan, and has been getting a lot of attention lately with it's new Kickstarter campaign. One look at the B-movie horror themed head swingin' action and our grotesquely mutilated yet cute Frankenstein's monster protaganist makes it obvious why; the game oozes with style.

FranknJohn, an irresistible horror mascot for the new age.

I was instantly drawn to the game based on the different unique head changing abilities that mix up your playstyle which give me vibes of the Treasure classic Dynamite Headdy, and combined with the quirky horror movie tropes strongly reminiscent of the original Castlevania along with the randomized top-down action of games like Binding of Isaac or Full Mojo Rampage checking it out became a top priority. bitSmith has recently released a playable Arena demo to the public that any non-backer can try to see if the gameplay lives up to it's appearance.

As the readme states, the game is best enjoyed with a gamepad to compliment the 360° movement on your chained head attacks which feel very precise but without any upgrades a little slow for properly taking on the swathes on enemies you're instantly surrounded by. Your first few tries will most likely end in your frustrating demise to a giant mob of piranha plants before you find anything of substantial use if you're anything like me, but buckling down and enduring the army of monsters that greets you is incredibly rewarding when you do eventually make it to that first sweet head transforming contraption.

Right out the gate I'm swamped with all sorts of foul creatures.

I found myself fully relying on twitch-based skills to run and jump out of the way of every attack just in time as a single hit would drop my health a great deal, there are hearts to collect but they seemed to have a very random chance of dropping sometimes not even finding a single one on a specific run. The enemies themselves are very effective in their creepy appearance ranging from ghastly carnivorous plants with exposed guts to decrepit corpses who use their own tombstones as a shield, all of which have their own defined attack patterns and weaknesses.

At the far end of the Arena is the most terrifying of creatures you'll face.

The first Skullcap I was granted by the strange and complex transmogrifying machine was the demon head, Cherufe's Rage, and quickly spiced things up giving me the ability to shoot fireballs in more of a classic twin-stick fashion that would incinerate my foes on contact. The huge, arduous mobs of enemies became easier to deal with and I was moving along at a quicker pace showing that these items are an integral part of your survival especially in this demo, as attempting to live without them is a true test in patience. Already in the demo the variety of Skullcaps I've come across and the diversity in their abilities is very wide and makes replaying the Arena to try out different ones fun. There are apparently around 100 different caps planned, and if the current quality of different heads and the creativity shown in their distinctiveness is any sign we're going to have many hours of exploration and discovery to look forward to in FranknJohn just from the sheer number of interchangeable headtypes to play around with.

Skullcaps give you the fighting chance you desperately need.

 The demo is currently just the arena and the only randomized features seem to be the enemies and which Skullcap you acquire from the machine, it's definitely a little difficult and many will probably give up before getting to experience the cooler head modifications which are very fun, but it is a demo and I'm sure we can look forward to some tremendously creative level designs with addictive random elements as well a much more progressive learning curve (but even if not I am more than up to the challenge). The action already feels very tight and the head altering concept shows enormous promise, and with FTL composer Ben Prunty on board producing some seriously spooky and groovy beats this is absolutely one roguelite to keep your eyes on.

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