Thursday, July 31, 2014

Indie Impressions - Crypt of the Necrodancer

Crypt of the NecroDancer

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Brace Yourself Games

"Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind."

These words were spoken by the great Tamanegi Sensei (better known as Chop Chop Master Onion) over 15 years ago when music-based games were first making a name, and they ring even truer today as the rhythm genre takes an evolutionary step into the dungeon crawling arena.

NecroDancer is the holy matrimony between addictive rhythm game grooviness and challenging roguelike complexity, and I'll be damned if it doesn't hit the spot. It's amazing that a concept this unique took as long as it did to come to fruition, but it's been more than worth the wait.

Not only is the concept unique but it's done right, something we hardly ever see when a new mechanic or gimmick is introduced to the gaming world for the first time. We see so many "new" ideas that are merely just a melting pot of previously established genres.

Lo and behold, these developers have obviously set out to refine and perfect their concoction of varied gameplay elements on their first attempt and that is highly admirable. Necrodancer stands not only as a magnificently well-realized combination of genres but as a completely new experience of it's own and the start of what is hopefully a new trend of taking fun and risky chances in game development.

The in-game music is dark, fantastic and quite danceable itself lending to the blissful feeling of hitting each beat of the song with perfect timing. The precision of the music-based movement has lead lots of early adopters of the game to swear by playing with DDR dancepads which apparently add a lot to the fun and engaging nature of exploring the Crypt.

This shows a serious level of dedication from the rhythm game community and has already garnered enough attention to spawn it's own design of custom NecroDancer dancepads.

And if you somehow are crazy enough to get tired of renowned composer Danny Baranowsky's heavy electronic horror jams, the game features an intuitive beat detection function for usage of songs from your own library.

The detection of beats in your songs is generally spot on, and makes trying and discovering those perfect tunes for the game infinitely explorable and replayable for audiophiles in the same way games like Audiosurf and Beat Hazard  provide endless entertainment. Even for those songs that might be a bit too fast or slow for manageable NecroDancing, there's a feature to alter the speed of in-game beats to give more accessibility for a wider range of genres. No form of music shall go undanced in the heart of these Crypts.

There are four main floors to the game with three levels and a boss-type enemy each, but beating any single one of them won't be an easy task. You will retry many times being forced to scour every diamond, buy up all the upgrades, and loot your way through multiple plays before you succeed.

What makes this so much more of a pleasure to replay than any other games which borrow rogue elements, however, is the musical nature of the game. NecroDancer replaces the repetitive and stale turn-based combat of traditional roguelikes with the fun and engaging audio interaction of the best rhythm games made to date.

With a touch of the strategic approach of traditional tactics games, the enemies each have a very distinct pattern to their movements and attacks that the player must learn through multiple failures and awareness.

Starting out you encounter the easier monsters such as slimes that move passively back and forth as well as skeletons that follow behind in a predictable way that is easy to counter. Protecting the exit of each floor are the harder and more complex mini-bosses, ranging from hulking Minotaurs that charge towards you in a straight path or determined Dragons that you must outsmart and keep just out of harm's way in order to retain your doomed life just a little longer.

Throughout your journeys into the crypt you'll have two different forms of currency, first being gold coins that you can spend within the levels at merchants on equipment and items to help you on your current run.

Second, and most importantly are the much harder to find Diamonds which are the only thing that carry over into the lobby after death, allowing you to purchase upgrades to the gear and loot you come across during your runs. This adds an insanely addictive level of persistence in the same way that the character growth in Rogue Legacy or shortcut system of Spelunky do.

The shops you purchase these upgrades from won't be made available to you that easily, however, as each of the different merchants and trainers you need will be imprisoned and strewn about the various dungeons forcing you to dance deeper and deeper to rescue the people you will rely on in the future.

The game is hard and you'll die many times, but the deeper you go the more you discover, and the more you discover the easier your respective trips will become. This adds a ridiculous amount of replayability and persistence to an already engaging and genre defying new formula.

Here I am hopping and slashing away to the beat of Castlevania's 'Vampire Killer', and I come across a Blood Whip. Things could not be more perfect. NecroDancer isn't just a gimmick, it's the start of something beautiful. It's a new kind of entertainment that can be enjoyed from the hardecore-est of dungeon delving roguelite aficionados to the most casual of rhythm game fans, but there is one thing that all of these demographics must have in common; a dedication to the sound of music.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Indie Impressions - Lovely Planet

Lovely Planet

Coming Soon to Steam


The world is kind of a heavy place lately, and it's become hard to escape and find that moment of peace we all could really use. Everywhere we look for entertainment or relaxation reminds us of the discord and disorder seen more and more through images of violence and confrontation. Where do you turn when you want to get away from the realities of the world we're being reminded of every day?

Of course everyone enjoys the challenge and hyperactive action of first person shooters but as some of us grow older we tire of their melodramatic, heavy handed, and needlessly intense nature. Could it be possible to have that same action in a more refined, artistic, and abstract style? Lovely Planet is exactly the kind of shooter to bring us this sort of peace so needed in an entertainment industry fueled by glorified aggression.

Like a series of condensed blasts of Unreal Tournament's frantic chaos rolled up into a Katamari Damacy world of simple origami aesthetics and uplifting sounds, this is certainly a game for the open minded.

Lovely Planet has a very esoteric and eastern feel to it with it's outgoing style and upbeat pop melodies composed by multi-talented musician Calum Bowen, giving me nuances of Saturday mornings as a youth watching Japanese children's programming on old VHS my Grandparents would tape and mail. While this is obviously a very personal feeling of nostalgia, there's a different form of it each player will end up discovering in their own way and tied somehow to their own past. If that reminiscent feeling isn't there for the player initially, it will be a new memory engraved into their mind in the same way our favorite things as a child stick with us.

Despite the heavy Japanese overtones from the bits of stylized text and the simplicity of it's cute and attractive design, the game was actually created by Delhi based QUICKTEQUILA and the bridging between cultures by this up-and-coming developer gives the surreal nature of it's atmosphere a touch of authenticity.

Beginning your journey into this Lovely Planet is almost overwhelming, assaulted with bright and stupefyingly cheerful audiovisuals. You're presented to an abstract world of random and seemingly unrelated trinkets and collage of colorful shapes,  sitting somewhere between the mysterious indie charm of Proteus and the otherworldly grandiose of Katamari Damacy.

 Although the attractive and charming visuals may ease you into a false sense of ease and comfort, the game is no pushover. It features a very progressive learning curve that keeps you on your toes and constantly alert. The stages require finesse as you dance around a well choreographed ballet of bullets.

The first world titled simply 'City' gets you into the motions with some short and mostly linear pathways sprinkled with some adorable visual design through bright colors, odd decorations, and an onslaught of peculiar words and phrases in Japanese strewn about. Beating this first handful of levels is a lightning quick affair where each attempt will be over before you even realize it, leaving you craving the next hit of fast paced shooting and jumping action.

This pace quickly changes as you enter the second world and on as the levels begin to twist and turn into more complex patterns. Different enemies and obstacles appear forcing you to think quicker before every jump or turn of a corner, and new increasingly peculiar tasks become prevalent from protecting your distressed looking blue companions to shooting down cartoonish apples before they plummet to the ground. The obstacle-course like stages just get harder and harder, you'll begin retrying more and more, and you'll slowly become consumed in the competitive spirit of the World Records shown at the end of each stage.

The inhabitants of Lovely Planet welcome you.

Repeated tries will cause you to wear out your restart key as you mash it mercilessly to conquer that one seemingly simple stage and in good time. You'll eventually beat these difficult and meticulously planned later levels and instantly get a feeling of satisfaction, which quickly turns into the crush of defeat as you're shown a world record only to realize you are still seconds from being the best.

Lovely Planet is a game with roots in culture, art, and the essence of what 'fun' used to stand for. It proves that art games don't need to all have the same boring or pretentious gameplay, and can be just as engaging and fun as anything else out there.

Lovely Planet launches July 31st on Steam for a mere $5.99 and comes easily recommended for shooter fans who want a relaxing escape from the monotony of everyday life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Indie Impressions - Shadow Blade: Reload

Shadow Blade: Reload

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Dead Mage Studio


Gone from the days of gaming are the distilled shot of adrenaline and the twitch based action from titles such as Shinobi or Strider that pressed us to try again and again. Now replaced with fluff and filler, the complex tutorials and drawn-out narratives that take the place of what could be great gameplay. Shadow Blade follows in the spirit of the aforementioned hack'n'slash titles with it's to-the-point levels and their memorable designs.

Shadow Blade: Reload is a speed runner's paradise, through and through.

Challenge and variety are present in these solid level designs.

It includes all of the usual markings you'd expect from a solid action game from it's straight-forward yet deceptive level designs, to the quick arcade-like combat and addictive score chasing incentives. Your initial runs will be easy but they will be sloppy, and as you play you'll discover tricks and shortcuts that make conquering your past efforts a serious treat.

 The levels come in bite-sized pieced which keep the pace perfect and easy to jump into again and again to tackle your previous scores.

With 60 levels and counting set across 4 differently themed stages and a wealth of modes like easy and robust level-editor and a multiplayer Race mode for up to 4-players that brings SpeedRunners style competition to the living room, this is already showing some serious potential in it's Early Access state as it continues to receive updates.

It's also received a hefty amount of changes and polishes to the combat since it's highly acclaimed mobile origins, most importantly the layer of depth and strategy added by Shurikens for well planned ranged shots, effecting how you approach each situation. With the addition of new levels, more secrets, more exploration and features, it's easily worth it even for those who have played the hell out of the original version.

The dark urban setting suits the stylish nature of the game well.

Seemingly simple first glance, Shadow Blade: Reload really begins to shine as the player revisits past stages and begins to explore it's possibilities for a faster run. There are loads of hard to spot tricks and little shortcuts that will cut down on your time, and going back to discover them and besting your previous scores just feels really good. All in all, this is the kind of game that should be played from the perspective of a speed runner to be enjoyed to it's full extent.

Shadow Blade: Reload hits the spot and keeps you coming back for more long after you've overcome the obstacles of it's many cunning levels.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Indie Impression - We Are Doomed

 We Are Doomed

 Now Available and on Steam Greenlight

Developed by Caffeine Monster Software


We Are Doomed brings us a new kind of experience in the shooter genre.
Set to a vibrant world of colorful collage cut-out visuals and featuring close-quarters action through use of the very powerful but short beam, elements that make this a great change of pace from the general crowd of twin-stick shooters we're so used to seeing.

You'll have to approach every situation carefully to avoid being overwhelmed

The abstract nature and risk taken in going against the general space shooter themes of this genre attracted me to We Are Doomed at first glance, I was too curious not to try. It ended up the gameplay lives up to it's distinct appearance with the use of some genuinely engaging design choices in enemy placements and their behaviors.

Not only do you have the standard little baddies swarming around to get you but well placed lines of patrolling foes along walls to keep you from coasting on the sides, as well as stationary turret enemies that shoot lightning quick bullets for you to maneuver around as you dash to safety. The tougher, almost mid-boss like enemies start to appear the deeper into the game's 30 waves you get, keeping you on your toes throughout your short but sweet frenetic blast of lazerbeaming action.

The myriad of different enemy designs and patterns keep you on your toes.

The fact that your beam is so short makes the game feel as intense as it does and gives an almost strategic approach to each situation, since you'll have to get up unnervingly close to foes without getting swarmed or caught in their crossfire.

It's a much more forgiving shooter than most are used to overall, but it manages to keep the challenge fresh and interesting with the addition of increasingly harder and smarter enemies every ten waves, evolving progressively with the enchanting melody you hear throughout.

During your hyperactive brawl for supremacy you'll be scrambling to collect the glowing power-up cubes used to power your Superbeam, which is a bit like a bomb/ultimate weapon. It takes awhile to build up but it decimates anything in your path within seconds and feels pretty damn satisfying.

The Superbeam is your key to a successful run and even more vital to achieving a higher-score (the core of these sort of games). Forgetting to grab each power-up and building it's meter is the surest way to being overtaken in the most hectic of situations, when you'll need it most.

Despite the relaxing aesthetics, We Are Doomed has plenty of challenging moments.

It's a game that on the outside, is sweet and simple. It's the perfect title for quick play sessions, but breaking away from it will be a hard task as you are sucked into the need to surpass each previous score and make it further into it's 30 waves. The game is fun and accessible enough for all levels of play but will hook the most dedicated of score-chasers.

Available now for only $4, We Are Doomed is an easily recommendable twin-stick shooter for those looking for a game that tries something new while retaining the solid and precise action of its predecessors. You should also consider going over to Steam Greenlight and giving it your vote, because this is exactly the unique new perspective we need to keep the genre fresh and interesting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Indie Impression - PARTICLE MACE


Available Now, Coming Soon to Steam

Developed by Andy Wallace

PARTICLE MACE is a frantic blast of space trash smash'emup action where you will spin it to win it. The elegant movements of your ship are like a ballet of geometrical anarchy.

In the same way that games like Nidhogg bring the local multiplayer insanity to the platforming brawler genres, PARTICLE MACE brings the same level of abstract and chaotic couch co-op to the action arcade genre.

The next e-sports phenomenon? Probably not, but it's still great.

The controls and the physics revolving around your cluster of tethered space garbage really hit the nail on the head. There's a serious feeling of weight to the mace you're swinging around as you swerve to each side trying to get it's momentum going, and when you do it feels very natural.

There are different ships of different speeds to accommodate each and every play style, ranging from the super slow ship with a large and effective particle mace to the extremely fast and speedy ship with a longer and harder to control mace.

Getting into the groove of the game is a very zen-like experience, becoming lost in the motions of your ship weaving in and out of clusters of asteroids. The movement of your chosen ship feels incredibly fluid and responsive, giving you the edge you need to navigate through the narrowest of passages in-between asteroids and your intimidating red foes.

Even in it's early stages there's already a whole slew of really great modes and options you would expect from a polished full release, including the progressive mission mode which dishes out a series of unique and increasingly harder tasks to take on  that will earn you new ships, à la Luftrausers.

The multiplayer co-op is where PARTICLE MACE really shines as it isn't just the simple addition of new players on the screen, but features some discoverable techniques like the combining of Maces or the revival of fallen teammates floating by helplessly which will require the full coordination of each participating player.

Stills just don't do it justice, this is a game that needs to be felt.

Although seemingly simple on the surface, PARTICLE MACE is a huge game with huge polish and an almost infinite learning curve, making this one hell of an addictive ride to pick up and play for the shortest bursts of play to the longest couch co-op jam sessions. It's already Greenlit and on it's way to Steam so don't hesitate and pick it up now!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Indie Impression - Retrobooster


Available Now on Steam

Developed by Really Slick


There are games that cash-in on our nostalgic values and harken back to the 8 or 16-bit era without changing or adding much at all, in a way that just makes some content with taking a trip down memory lane.

Then there are games that turn that nostalgia upside-down on it's head, taking the retro formula and bending it into an intense and cutting-edge new experience. Retrobooster falls into this second category, taking the familiar space shoot'emup concept and injecting it with refined and stylish modern flair.

Retrobooster sports some impressive set pieces

Most noticeable early on in the players' journey is the very responsive control of your ships main thrusters. Reminiscent of classics as far back as Asteroids all the way up to more recent space shooters such as Sub-Space or Continuum is the full 360° control as well as precise propelling forward and backwards.

 Getting a hang of the super sensitive and extremely spot-on controls of your individual thrusters is as imperative as it is fun, given that overshooting your propulsion will end in the humiliation of smashing your ship into pieces against the rocky surface of the terrain below. It takes a bit of practice and some determination but the better you get the smoother things feel, and the quicker you'll be powering your way through levels.

Retrobooster is a game of skill, reflexes, brain power, and top-notch hand-eye coordination. The speed is set to overdrive and the only limit is your ability to master the maneuvering of your ship.

The game boasts some of the most impressive and engrossing visuals I've seen for any title in the genre, with the wonderfully detailed lighting and particle effects giving a realistic look to the dust flying up from nearby rocks, the exhaust from your individual thrusters, and the flames of burning enemies all powered by very convincing physics.

The visual effects provide some serious eye candy.

 The puzzles, an element rarely seen in these sort of games, are actually enjoyable and very engaging even for those like myself who aren't too great at them, which really took me by surprise. They don't feel tedious or overly complex, giving a lot of breathing room for how players approach each solution.

They require not just logic solving skills but the addition of quick reflexes and coordinated shooting in order to pass each cleverly constructed obstacle. This makes figuring out solutions challenging yet appealing and accessible to all levels and class of skill.

Many levels will require some real brain power to navigate.

With elements in bullet-hell style shooter action, tricky physics evading cave exploration, the sometimes brain-wracking yet clever and engaging puzzles, Retrobooster is the kind of space shooter any action fan can easily become hooked into.

It's insanely hard at times in classic retro fashion, but the controls and laser guiding system are intuitive and provide a robust learning curve which give it that edge of progression and accessibility that the classics just don't have, giving Retrobooster an addictive and lasting appeal.

Your laser pointer can be used to navigate the more complicated corridors.

The variety of diverse gameplay mechanics is incredible, especially for a shooter. There's a memorable experience to be found for all types of players; from speed running demons, puzzle masterminds, to reflex endowed shmup aficionados who remember the days of 1 credit clearing their favorite arcade games.

Retrobooster has no "pre-fun bullshit", no filler or fluff, no complex systems to learn, hand-hold-y tutorials, or overcomplicated plots. You're thrown right into the thick of things. Just you and your ongoing struggle against gravity, the fear of realistic physics crushing you from all sides, and the terror of watching your human compatriots trampled by a robotic spider in your panic stricken efforts to save them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Indie Impression - Black Ice

Black Ice

Get It Now on Steam Early Access

Developed by superdupergc


Black Ice is a colorful, eye-catching FPS where players will jack into cyberspace and experience it's wide and open world.

The game boasts a combination of Borderlands-like loot addiction, with the retro-future aesthetics of the TRON world or the computer science concepts of Snow Crash. I had to check it out and see if it lived up to these claims and came away more than impressed.

Leveling and powerful loot are vital to not being overwhelmed early on.

Vibrant and neon minimalist structures sprawled out before you, seemingly endless. The expansive and cluttered glitchy landscapes of Black Ice call for some serious exploration with the promise of great discovery and rewards.

The more you hack, the deeper into the thick of the mainframe you get and the more colorful buildings of various size and level will be found.

You'll start off fighting the smaller buildings you find in order not to overwhelm yourself with hordes of high leveled enemies and your puny starting weapons. As you fight, you'll level. As you level you'll find better loot, and damn does it feel good when you locate that one super rare rainbow rifle with insane DPS.

The amount of randomized loot is massive with stat modifications to each one creating a near infinite array. It seems to scale with your level making the progression feel great, keeping you constantly hunting for that next sweet piece of destruction.

A powerful weapon makes taking on the hordes much easier.

The music from artist V-Axys is rad and it befits the cybernetic nature of the atmosphere perfectly. There's a really good variety of tracks already with some serious quality and you'll come across different pulse-pounding rhythms with each new structure you hack and battle your way into, keeping the encounters fresh and intense each time.

The addition of these new tracks is one that wasn't in the game last I played and just shows the dedication that will be going into making the game into the most engrossing experience possible, it's already looking fantastic.

Exploration of the map is impossible to resist.

Black Ice is just a hell of a lot of fun, especially with a friend. With the amount of procedurally generated cyber-land to scour and the increasingly awesome and empowering loot held within the hackable towers players just won't want to stop playing.

You'll always spot something in the distance to check out, some new piece of equipment you'll want to keep leveling a bit more just to try out, and every time you feel like you're about to stop playing you'll get just one more reason to keep going. It's very hard to put down.

Hacker extraordinaire, Zingrook, lazers a spider in the face.

Due to the quick, addictive pacing and progressive nature of the game it's the perfect title to pick up for quick hacking sessions as well as to get immersed in the deep leveling and loot system for hours with a friend.

Black Ice comes highly recommended to anyone who's a fan of Shooters, Co-op, craploads of meaningful loot, or retro and cyberpunk aesthetics in general.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Indie Impression - Shadowcrypt


Developed by One-bit Punch Studios

Shadowcrypt presents players with a big question; are you in touch with your roots?

There's two big reasons, two different types of people who play games. There are people who play video games to unwind, because they had a hard day at work and they want to let loose and not have to think, people who want to have fun without the worry of being stuck or presented with obstacles.

Then there are those who love punishment, people who live to play games like Journey to Silius, I Wanna Be The Guy or the more recent Dark Souls series. Diehards who don't want their hand held and want to be beaten mercilessly over and over until they finally learn what they've been doing wrong this whole time.

Shadowcrypt is absolutely a game for the latter, and I'm proud to say I'm one of these deranged masochists.

The shield is your most valuable tool, gaining you the ground you need.

As the torches of the title screen begin to flicker around the ominous skull decorating the entryway the haunting chants of the intro music beckon you to the dank and dark depths of the most brutal arcade platformer I've had the pleasure of playing.

Shadowcrypt is all about the combat. The bleak and claustrophobic level designs of the game only lend to your unbridled focus on the task at hand. All of your attention will be drawn to the beautifully crafted sprites and their precise animations as you slash and bash your way to the heart of the Crypts in pursuit of the wicked Necromancer.

Quick wits are required in tense situations.

Only 4 rooms into the game my mysterious cowled hero crumples to the floor dead..again..for the third time. "I-I'll just try this again later.." I whimper to myself, tucking my gamepad away and walking away to make a sandwich to hopefully forget about this brutal game that just made me it's slave.

Not even a minute later, I toss my buttered knife to the ground and declare "Eff that, I can do it!" and find myself rushing back to the computer where I give these beckoning crypts another go. I feel that same kind of determined spirit I held in the Famicom days.

 The gameplay with it's visceral combat and the insane amount of concentration needed exceed my expectations, it's almost a little overwhelming. I've heard people call other games "the Dark Souls of 2D gaming" before many times in the past but Shadowcrypt is probably the first title I've played to actually match and truly capture the punishing and calculated approach to combat Dark Souls has, where every little move you make has a huge impact and consequence.

Even more-so are the striking similarities to what seems to be the developer's hugest influence, Zelda II, from the candle finding objective needed to progress to the highly memorable and iconic shield-wielding Iron Knuckle battles that the combat here seems to inspire from heavily. It's the refreshing change of pace I've been waiting for since the golden-era of games.

Even the options proudly display where Shadowcrypt's roots lie.

While I can see a lot of less patient players outright quitting in frustration the moment they die and are reduced to the starting 3-7dmg sword prior to a strong foe, the more retro-minded of players will remember this sort of challenge from our earlier and most important days of gaming.

We'll stick with it and experience something exceedingly rewarding. You'll die often, but everytime you start again you'll feel better, stronger, and make it a little bit further. And when you do finally beat those rooms? Holy crap, it feels good.

Victory will be achieved through restraint and perseverance.

Though the system of losing your only reliable weapon will feel almost too brutal for newcomers, it's what gives Shadowcrypt the refined gameplay it has. To give a sense of real distress in every confrontation and to make death that much more consequential.

 The punishing nature is extremely familiar to the first Castlevania titles where dying would lose you your chained whip, sticking you back with the puny leather alternative in the midst of a tough level. Konami in general were masters of this formula, as my other favorite series Gradius was very similar in nature with deaths reverting you back to the almost useless pea-shooter.

 That fear of losing what was making me do better in those classics caused a much higher level of awareness and addiction to the game. To succeed in Shadowcrypt you will need to adapt and get into the motions of the combat. You will block, dodge, and bash your way through enemies, you will learn to stand face-to-face with your most feared adversaries. Eventually, things just start to 'click' with the player.

Timing is everything.

The game is certainly short and decidedly so. It requires a level of focus that if prolonged would just cause player fatigue on unmanageable levels. The short, sweet, and very to-the-point approach gives a lot of breathing room for the hectic and chaotic nature of the player's progression.

Shadowcrypt is composed of one lengthy stage or "level" roughly the size of the original Castlevania, but the amount of practice and dedication required in order to pass even a small section will have most players retrying for days before they're able to conquer nearly all of the evils within.

Although simple and elegant at first, the levels quickly become diabolical in design

You will get no breaks nor will you receive any hand-holding, it's a game by the hardcore for the hardcore. Unfortunately that may drive the less strong-willed of players away, but it's that determination in presenting the game how the creator intends which is extremely admirable and is exactly what draws me to the titles I have the fondest memories of.

When video games are developed by people who genuinely love the culture and obviously grew up with a passion for them it's always a breath of fresh air, and Shadowcrypt is the kind of game I and probably many others have wanted to play since the late 80s as kids.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Indie Impression - Crystal Catacombs

Crystal Catacombs

Available Now or vote on Steam Greenlight

Developed by Levels or Lives

A lone captain hurtling through the recesses of space in his wooden flying ship, his captain's log scrawls across the opening screen telling of a journey for treasure and relics beyond earthly knowledge, a strange and heinous eye beckoning him to the depths of strange uncharted catacombs.

Crystal Catacombs mixes a healthy dose of fast action dungeon delving with the brutal difficulty and randomized level layouts of the roguelike genre for one addictive and challenging combination.

The discovery of artifacts is an important factor to your journey

Running and slashing your way through the corridors of the Crystal Catacombs is an almost ethereal experience, the monstrous and otherworldly designs of the grotesque enemies, dark corridors filled with countless hazards, the welcoming pulse of neon-light lit treasure and warp gate rooms all set in motion to MidnightEpsilon's incredible nostalgia-inducing chiptune soundtrack for a total arcade bliss-out.

Crystal Catacombs takes the classic stage select concept and kicks it up a few notches.

 For those who remember the days of slamming fistfulls of quarters into arcade cabinets or scribbling down complex series of passwords to retry that one impossible part of your favorite NES game for the millionth time, the difficulty and challenge of Crystal Catacombs will be a familiar affair.

 The unseen instant-deaths from crushing pillars and barrage of seemingly unavoidable and well-calculated enemy attacks will have even the most seasoned gaming vet yelling "Bullshit!". This is the exact the kind of spirit those of us who hold video games dear to our childhood miss these days.

The uniquely themed stages feature a consistently high challenge and although they can be tackled head on, exploring your surroundings is imperative to your success. Though you can prepare yourself with extended exploration and discovery of supplies the stage's boss cannot be defeated by means of grinding, but instead with reflexes and skill all brought out in full force.

Even the doors want you dead in this game.

It's tough. You'll give up. A lot. But it's that ridiculous difficulty, that seemingly unsurpassable moment in an old arcade game that had us returning to it so many times throughout our lives and that's the same kind of yearning I get to go back and play Crystal Catacombs, as hard as it may seem.

To people who have played it, Crystal Catacombs' current state in Greenlight limbo is confusing as it has all the markings of a classic action game with it's unconventional non-linear level designs, artistic and unique enemies, insanely memorable difficulty, and Mega Man styled stage selection. It only needs that extra little push so consider checking it out and giving your vote on Steam Greenlight

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Indie Impression - Shattered Planet

Shattered Planet

Now Available on Steam

from Kitfox Games

Despite roguelikes being just about my favorite genre around, I am admittedly not the best at them. They generally require a level of dedication and persistence I'm just not able to give, but that's what had me so addicted to Shattered Planet. 

The game has a very simple and seamless one-click control system for movement and attacks as well as an incredibly clean and easy to use UI. Armed with only your headgear, trusty weapon, and a plethora of helpful and sometimes unidentified and dangerous items gathered along the way you'll be tasked with exploring deeper in to the broken pieces of this strange and ancient planet collecting as much resource as you can for your next trip. You will die and lose your items. A lot. The only question is how far can you make it before you fail, passing this heinous task onto the next unsuspecting clone?

Combat feels nice and easy for newcomers to the genre

 This is easily the most accessible, easy to get into and just plain fun roguelike of recent memory and yet still offers the same complexity and depth of other top games in the genre in terms of the huge scope of items, classes, events, and enviroments. At the center of the game is the Science Lab your cloned characters seem to be born from acting as the hub for your journey. You have tons of options here to prepare for the oncoming descent including the Clone Vat you're spawned from giving you multiple class and character appearance options, a shop to gamble crystals away for new equipment to save for later trips, a training console for using your hard-earned scrap to increase stats, and a pet cloner for storing DNA of found companions all unlocked through your progress on the unknown floors below.

My beloved Crablet Princess.

There are a multitude of modes to tackle all featuring engrossing procedurally generated alien landscapes, starting with the Explorer mode which is a progressive journey that slowly edges you deeper into the fragmented shards of these broken planets as you earn more scraps to better prepare yourself for each consecutive run. Players also have three challenge modes of varying difficulty to test your wits after prolonged practice and equipment hoarding and last but certainly not least the Daily Challenge which gives everyone a new planet generated every day and predetermined gear to try their luck with.

Sporting some spiffy equipment supplied by the Daily Challenge.

Shattered Planet is gorgeous and absolutely pleasing to the eyes to play, thanks to the stunning hand-drawn artwork and rich backgrounds that make you feel as though you've stepped into some otherworldly painting. The game has a very engaging sci-fi setting with a dystopic tale of impending human extinction, and while the overtone and story of your hundreds of re-cloned human explorers is mostly most serious there are some very humorous moments in your adventures. For example, going into battle near the beginning of my career as an explorer with nothing but my Cabbage Helmet and a rolled-up newspaper as my weapon gave me a good laugh.

The  environments look great, and keep you engrossed throughout the journey

Shattered Planet breathes a fresh breath of air into the roguelike genre and is easily recommendable for players of all skill levels, whether it be casual explorers looking for a relaxing bit of discovery and progression or more hardcore roguelike veterans who want to go for that perfect run on the daily challenge. It's only $13.49 right now including the 1-week discount so go check it out!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Indie Impression - Momodora III

Momodora III

Now Available on Steam

from rdein

Momodora III is the charming new installment in rdein's fast and fun series of action-platformers centered around the two priestesses of the game's namesake and takes a slight departure from the exploration-encouraged Momodora II for a more straight-forward and accessible action adventure. While some may be disheartened with the change I was more than happy with the almost arcade-like progression making it an incredibly addictive and easy to pick up game that still retains all of the depth and flair of it's predecessors.

Momodora III features some of the quickest action around.

There are still plenty of secrets strewn about the various levels for you to explore for and you'll have more than enough game-changing equipment to find for your journey, the platforming is precise thanks to simple controls, and the combat is lightning quick with a choice of split-second slashes or charged bullets for more strategic situations. The game can be very challenging, especially with the harder choice of sisters, since the enemy placements are very well thought-out and require some fast-thinking to deal with unharmed and the bosses will require lots of fast reflexes and coordination with their almost Megaman-like patterns.

There's lots of amazing lore to discover in this colorful world.

Fans of future-classic indie favorites such as Cave Story, or Noitu Love will be instantly attracted to the visuals as there is a lot to adore here from the cute and offbeat cast of characters to the lovingly crafted backgrounds all with a touch of that nostalgic old school flair. The soundtrack carries the same retro appeal with it's soothing melodies that change and intensify with each new area, all-in-all creating a package that any fan of old school indie platformers should not be able to resist.

The game is a short but sweet experience with lots of amazing creature designs and lore to learn.  Replayability here is extremely high and with it's secrets to find, multiple characters of varying difficulty, and diverse approaches to each boss the game clocks in at around an hour per play which in my opinion is just right as each level and setting changes often enough to stay engaging and not overstay it's welcome making Momodora III an easily recommendable experience at it's affordable $4.99 pricetag.

Don't forget, you can also check out the first two classics for free HERE