Posts Tagged ‘Desura’

Gigantic Army Review

Gigantic Army Featured

Gigantic Army Boxart

Developer: Astro Port
Publisher: Nyu Media
Platform: PC – Direct, Desura, GamersGate, Rice Digital, Steam

If mechs are your thing then Gigantic Army is probably already on your radar. The doujin title brings back memories of classic SNES and Genesis games, although it isn’t attempting to recreate any of those titles exactly. What Gigantic Army does best is give more realistic control of a huge robot on a 2D battlefield.

Your machine is massive and it feels the part. Each step is slow and heavy, clunking as you progress forward. This isn’t a bad thing in the least, although you might need to get used to the feel of controlling such a hefty robot. Enemies blast you continuously but most shots feel like nothing against your machine’s powerful armor. In fact, often times you can simply trod up to a weak little enemy and destroy it point blank. It’s pretty cool how powerful the game allows you to be!

Does that mean Gigantic Army is a super easy game? Not at all. Levels get progressively tougher, although if you need a better challenge you can always switch difficulty. If anything, it seems your toughest enemy is the clock. It counts down as soon as you start the stage – impatiently waiting for the player to finish. With that said, you can make the game easier (or harder) on yourself by the right selection of main and sub weapon as well. They aren’t all balanced in power levels meaning ones like the grenades are super powerful while others are far less so.

Gigantic Army Featured

The graphics paint a pretty dismal picture for the state of this war-torn world. Everything is painted in hues of brown and orange, with bullets being the most brightly-colored objects around. Enemy designs aren’t particularly inspired although bosses are still pretty neat and huge. Unlike most action shooters, this one doesn’t have a tremendously inspiring soundtrack either, which is a definite shame.

Still, Gigantic Army is a ton of fun to play. It feels great to be in control of such a powerful mech as it sprays enemies with bullets, boosts up to higher ground, and defends against weakling attacks. The ponderous movement definitely enhances the concept that you are in control the minute you enter a stage. Kicking robot butt is always entertaining and if you love that then Gigantic Army is a game you should play.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Oniken Review

Oniken Featured

Oniken Boxart

Developer: JoyMasher
Publisher: JoyMasher
Platform: PC – Desura, Steam

I hate to admit it but I was not raised on the era of tough as nails NES games. Nope, instead I became friendly with an Apple IIe, Atari 7800, and off-brand Pong console. These devices offered their own difficult games but it was quite a different experience when you typically only had one button and a joystick. Missing out on the greats like Contra, Ninja Gaiden, and innumerable others has caused me to wonder what it was like to grow up with them, though. So, from my perspective, it does feel like Oniken is bringing a classic experience to players.

It starts things off on the right food with a wonderfully cliche storyline. The Oniken – bad guys – are attempting to seize control of humanity. A ragtag trio of resistance fighters aren’t having any of it! They jump into action to stop Oniken by any means necessary. Lead character Zaku is armed only with a sword and grenades but will work his way through countless enemies through the game’s six stages.

Oniken Screenshot

As you might expect from a title hearkening back to the NES era, Oniken is a 2D side-scrolling action game. You slash up foes, jump over dangerous areas, and generally kick a lot of butt in order to beat bosses and complete stages. Each area might seem fairly tough the first time but repeated plays make them seem increasingly manageable. For me, that meant maybe ten or so rounds on the second stage, but I’m not as skilled as players actually honed on NES games are. After watching a few people play it, I found that perhaps the game wasn’t even that hard at all – my skills simply weren’t up to the task.

Both the visuals and music seem to accurately recreate the era as well. I can’t say for certain if the color pallete and amount of pixels are right on, but they seem good enough to me! It’s exciting to see that even at this point in time there is still something uniquely engaging about a game that operates with such a bare minimum of keys. Oniken is a ton of fun even for people like me who don’t feel indebted to the systems of their past. Basically, if you’re in the mood for a retro-styled romp then Oniken is a fine choice.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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The Cat Lady Review

The Cat Lady Featured

The Cat Lady Boxart

Developer: Harvester Games
Publisher: Screen 7
Platform: PC – Desura, Direct, FireFlower Games, GOG*, Phoenix Store, Steam

Adventure games have been one of my favorite genres for a long time. Although some call them archaic, I find them innately enjoyable. There’s something to inhabiting worlds that are usually very fleshed out, often humorous, and full of puzzles. Somehow, I managed to avoid playing The Cat Lady for an entire year. Now that I have, I feel the need to make sure anyone else who has ignored it plays the game immediately. Be warned that the main focus is on depression and suicide, so it could easily distress or trigger some players.

The story centers around a woman named Susan Ashworth. She lives alone in an apartment and likes it that way. For a long time, she has suffered from depression and the only joy she still gets out of life is the stray cats who come whenever she plays the piano. As the game begins, she has finally mustered up the courage to commit suicide. From there, things get strange as it quickly becomes apparent that even death won’t stop the suffering.

The Cat Lady Screenshot 1

Susan is a novel protagonist and I immediately grew attached to her. Although I have never experienced depression myself, I do know others who have and her character and condition were treated with respect. This is something you rarely see in games (and oftentimes, any other media). Her journey is unusual, dark, and disturbing but also empowering. Other characters are also well-written in their creepiness, annoyance, or friendliness. Although the events depicted become quite unreal, Susan is still a very grounded character.

Unlike most adventure games, The Cat Lady dodges a point and click interface. Instead, you move through 2D screens using the arrow keys. Picking up and using items also is handled in this manner. I felt this was very convenient because you always know what items to interact with and how that might work. Overall, the game is fairly simple puzzlewise which keeps it open to both gamers and non-gamers. This is a huge deal considering that the story is one that I think many people would benefit from experiencing.

Atmosphere is one of the strongest elements aside from story, and this game provides an incredible one. The art is unlike anything else out there, with usage of drawing, collage, pixel art, and seemingly painting and CG art. Although this sounds like it could spell disaster, the end result is stunning. Some say the game is ugly, but if it is that only enhances the off-kilter mood. Much of the world is black and white with only touches of color at times. It really sets the scene for Susan’s mood and the dire situations she encounters.

The Cat Lady Screenshot 2

Then there’s the audio which is nearly perfect. Musically, there are a great deal of tracks that immerse you further into the experience. There were only a couple times when I felt the music was out of place. Voice acting is also impressive, and much more so than some more “commercial” adventure games. Susan gets by far the best voice actress, but other characters are also well-acted. Only two (of many) characters sounded a bit silly to me. It’s quite an impressive effort, overall.

I do not think The Cat Lady is perfect, but it proved to be an experience that resonated with me. It brings depression to the forefront and discusses it honestly. Because of that, it’s hard to not get pulled into the world and need to see it through to the end. At times, it was hard to play (because of how it affected my mood) but incredibly worth it. If you have any interest in the subject matter or adventure games, The Cat Lady is simply a must-play game.

Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Ballpoint Universe – Infinite Review

Ballpoint Universe Infinite Featured

Ballpoint Universe Infinite Boxart

Developer: Arachnid Games
Publisher: Arachnid Games
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Desura, Direct, Steam

 Do you remember the days when you would be too bored in class to pay attention? Instead, you’d doodle away on a sheet of paper. Maybe you still do! Ballpoint Universe – Infinite is a game that transports those kinds of doodles into their own world. But instead of just being within the margins, the entire game is comprised of ballpoint drawings! They’re much better than anything I ever drew in class, too.

It’s mightily impressive. But what is the actual game like? Even that is a bit hard to pin down at first. As a cute, but measly little doodle, you wander around a hub world talking to other doodles. They will offer up tasks and it’s your goal to complete them. However, each mission boils down to basically the same thing – a shoot ’em up level. Sidescrolling shooter segments are what the game is all about.

Once in shooter land, the ship can be customized via ink. Ink is gathered by destroying enemies as well as bestowed upon you by fulfilled mission-givers. In any case, it’s possible to level up weapons and shields or buy entirely new ones to level. There are a great deal of items to choose from and some work better in specific circumstances. It’s always possible to change them out before a mission to give your ship the greatest advantage. Beyond the missions, there is also an infinite mode which works sort of like a boss rush mode.

Ballpoint Universe Infinite Featured

Shooters are often great fun, and Ballpoint Universe – Infinite certainly has its heart in the right place. With creatively designed creatures, excellent music, and a ton of ship customization it seems that there’s no way the game could fail. Unfortunately, the shooting itself isn’t that engaging. Instead of feeling exciting, it somehow turns into a chore. At the very least, the ship control via mouse is very responsive. Currently there’s no controller support.

It’s a shame that the main focus of the game isn’t more engaging! By all accounts it should be but for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. With every other aspect of the game being so stand out though it’s hard to discount this one. Considering the super cheap price, feel free to take a chance on Ballpoint Universe – Infinite. If you’re still unsure, check out the demo!

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Zigfrak Review

Zigfrak Featured

Zigfrak Boxart

Developer: Entheogen Studios LLC
Publisher: Entheogen Studios LLC
Platform: PC – Desura, Fire Flower Games, GamersGate, Indie City, IndieGameStand, Shiny Loot, Steam

Outer space has been the backdrop for many, many games over the years. The 4x genre thrives there and many other games attempt to utilize the immense landscape to their benefit. Most of these titles end up feeling quite dry, though. Zigfrak has a very different tone and ends up being just the kind of space-based action RPG I was looking for.

Zigfrak begins with you being a new pilot on the side of the humans. As you play through missions, your rank increases and your ship gets decked out with increasingly cool wares. There is a story progressing about aliens and whatnot, but it doesn’t feel tremendously important. This is because the gameplay completely overshadows anything else with how entertaining it is.

Commanding your spaceship in Zigfrak is pretty easy. By using either the keyboard and mouse, or just mouse, you can zip around with little issue. Collecting space junk, cloaking, and other features are also simple to pull off. Many missions result in unexpected dogfights which is where the game really shines. With enemies on you from all angles, it quickly becomes a frantic test to see if you can stand against all of them. The music becomes fast-paced in response and it’s extremely cool to see enemy ships explode in ridiculous fashion.

Zigfrak Featured

Even though I wasn’t enamored with the story, the writing is very well done. Instead of trying to be serious, there is a lot of humor involved. I couldn’t help but laugh at a few missions due to their phrasing. When it seems that a lot of space games lately focus on dull specifics, Zigfrak stands out as simpler to pick up and play. The only issues I had were sometimes being confused by how to complete a mission task. Although the game is very good at writing out the steps, some of them came across as unclear to me.

Overall, I don’t know the last time I had so much fun with an action RPG set in the vast expanses of space. I love that Zigfrak doesn’t take itself too seriously and loads players up with exciting firefights, loot, and amusing mission prompts. If you’d like to test pilot the game first, you can download the demo off the official website.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Teslagrad Review

Teslagrad Featured

Teslagrad Boxart

Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG*, Steam

What is it about the puzzle platformer that continues to draw independent developers to the genre? In many respects, it doesn’t seem the easiest type of game to make. Instead, it seems one that (despite rampant saturation) is a genre full of new and exciting possibilities. Teslagrad is the latest puzzle platformer out that shows the greatest promise. Whether it lives up to expectations, however, is debatable.

Teslagrad is most certainly trying very hard. By simply starting up the game for the first time you’re greeted to a rainy night against gorgeous hand-drawn backdrops. Without any words, the story begins, as a young boy is forced to run far away from home in the stormy night. He comes upon the Tesla Tower and enters, wherein he will face a great many puzzling challenges.

Yes, Teslagrad is so named for Nikola Tesla. Why? Because the primary feature of most puzzles deals with electricity (and magnetism). You begin with nothing, but gain new items which allow you to interact with electrically charged platforms, charge items yourself, and the like. For some reason it was hard for me to get a firm grasp on electricity puzzles, though. It’s not as if I hate the genre. On the contrary, most of my free time is spent playing various puzzlers. So why these puzzles continued to feel more like guesswork than skill was an incredibly odd experience. It shouldn’t have to be said, but your own playthrough may very well feel different.

Teslagrad Screenshot

Metroidvania fans will be happy to know that Teslagrad also fits into that style. Tesla’s Tower is not a completely linear thing and you can charge into a variety of rooms whenever you want. If one puzzle seems too hard at the moment, go elsewhere. Maybe you’ll find a new item! Or, maybe you’ll stumble across one of the game’s five bosses. Considering how expansive the game feels, it was a bit of a letdown to see there were not more boss encounters. They are pretty neat battles, even if they rely very heavily on simple pattern recognition.

So we’ve got a game that is entirely ambitious, looks great, and has a huge non-linear castle to explore. Yet, something about it only ends up feeling slightly above average. Puzzles that required very precise jumps were incredibly annoying, especially when there were not checkpoints in the middle of them. Making a game mechanically tough can be done well, but it doesn’t feel like Teslagrad pulls that off. After all, it varies back and forth between easy and hard. Usually, if a game is hard it stays that way throughout, or slowly ramps up in difficulty.

There are definitely players out there that will love the intriguing experience that Teslagrad provides. If you think that’s you then go ahead and buy it! For me, I just couldn’t get over the feeling that the designers crammed all their expertise into creating something gorgeous and expansive but forgot the most important ingredient – heart.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Eryi’s Action Review

Eryi's Action Featured

Eryi's Action Boxart

Developer: Xtal Sword
Publisher: Nyu Media
Platform: PC – Desura, Direct, GamersGate, Playism, Steam

I rarely get angry at video games. When people talk about wanting to throw their controllers across the room I just look on in abject terror. What about a video game could make you so mad that you want to damage $40+ peripherals? Last year I played Eryi’s Action for the first time and found it ridiculous, but purposefully so. Now that I’m revisiting it on the Steam launch, my feelings have changed slightly. My rage was stoked, but not so much to ignore the inherent funniness of the experience.

Eryi’s Action looks like a cute little platformer. The world is cartoony and brightly colored. Lead character Eryi seems quite pleased with her adventure, swaying her arms to and fro for an idle stance. Music plays like some sort of cheesy Super Mario Bros. ripoff that is just catchy enough to get stuck in your head. Then you step forward and – conk – a pan falls from the sky and KO’s Eryi. Wait, what?

Oh, so it’s that kind of game. This incredibly cruel tricking of the player begins and never lets up. Whenever anything looks safe you quickly realize it isn’t. Moments like this are common: Hey, look at that easy jump over a ledge! Suddenly a block appeared that made me fall right down into the pit?! Memorization of trap patterns is required. Levels aren’t that long, at least, but that didn’t stop me from retrying puzzles zillions of times over.

Eryi's Action Featured

There was a part early on that stumped me. I racked up 50 deaths in attempts and then realized something. For some reason, my Xbox 360 controller was not allowing Eryi to run at full speed. She was instead running at a slower pace, making a certain jump impossible. I had in fact been making this fiendish game even harder (as it turns out, running requires pressing a button instead of analog stick control)! From there, I lovingly admired Eryi’s “new” speed by using a keyboard. Of course, this was a short-lived moment as the obstacle suddenly leapt up and crashed down onto her head. Normally, my screaming is internal, but this time I let out a real sound – a laugh.

Had I gone insane? No, it was the result of Eryi’s Action being purposefully evil that was so amusing. My frustration would always get close to boiling over but then subside thanks to unexpected traps. Sometimes, the traps are absolutely hilarious. For example, after experiencing normal enemies until this point, the second chapter features a chicken that will actively jump up and carry you skyward if you try to stomp them. Why? Because it’s a game about messing with expectations!

If you think you can handle rigorous and continual game-based punishment then, by all means, pick up a copy. Those who would rather play a “fair” difficult platformer have a wealth of other choices. Eryi’s Action is not fair. It is a monstrous exercise in player-focused cruelty and I dig it.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine Review

Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine Featured

Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine Boxart

Developer: Himalaya Studios
Publisher: Himalaya Studios
Platform: PC – Desura, Direct, IndieGameStand, Zodiac

Even though most gamers seem to have forgotten adventure games existed until recently, developers have continued to make them year after year. There are a great many classic point and click adventures from the 80s and 90s but there are also those made in the past ten years. Some don’t quite stack up while others are actually quite good. Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine initially came out in 2007 but has since been granted an Enhanced Edition. Regardless of the edition, Al Emmo is skippable.

As the title implies, this is a game about a guy named Al Emmo. He’s 42, lives with his parents, and is a virgin. If you ignore the parents bit he’s practically an alternate Larry Laffer. Perhaps facsimile would be the better way to describe him. Although he hits most of the same beats, Al is not likeable in any sense because he is devoid of any true kindness. He carries out his tasks while whining and does some messed up stuff in the process. Instead of simply laughing at his antics, I cringed. By the end, Al’s quest leads him down some interesting paths but it’s not worth the journey.

Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine Featured

Perhaps the problem isn’t so much with Al but with the humor of The Lost Dutchman’s Mine as a whole. Including a transphobic incident masquerading as a joke in the first five minutes was certainly not the way to get my attention, at least. As the game proceeds, there are only more problematic jokes issued left and right related to women, sex workers, and Native Americans. To top it all off, the joke I had hoped would be thrown away at the very start was brought back on multiple occasions as a requisite plot point. The concept of a “man” dressing “as a woman” being ridiculous was apparently too hilarious to pass up a second and third jab. No, I’m sorry, but it’s not funny at all.

“But what about the gameplay?!” cry adventure game fans. It doesn’t amount to anything special either. The best features of the game is that it’s hard to die (and may be impossible?). This is no Sierra adventure. Even so, The Lost Dutchman’s Mine manages to be an almost stereotypical point and click experience. The story follows Al as he falls in love in Western town and seeks to get the lady’s attention. As a suave man has already made her acquaintance, it proves difficult for him. Everyone in the game has tasks for you and they spell them out directly. No matter what, there are always new puzzles to solve. Most aren’t particularly interesting, although some manage to be unique. For as long as the experience takes to build up though it feels like much of this could have been removed. It serves more as padding than truly entertaining quests.

Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine Screenshot

The game has received a few upgrades for the enhanced version. A new voice actor does his best to squeak away like Al, and does so in a slightly less annoying fashion. Cutscenes have also been changed from their original CG graphics to 2D animation. The animation isn’t particularly fantastic, but it does look better than the original CG art. All the same, Al retains a 3D model when wandering around the hand-painted style 2D town. It’s an unfortunate clash of art types because the backdrops are actually quite good.

Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine is an adventure game that functions as intended. I experienced no glitches and could solve each puzzle. However, it is a puerile adventure that should be easy to ignore. I know the developer can do better as they have proven themselves to in the past. Unfortunately, this is not an example of their skill.

Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas

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Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender Review

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Featured

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Boxart

Developer: Tikipod
Publisher: Tikipod
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG* PS Vita – PSN Xbox 360 – XBLIG

One of the first video games that ever hooked me as a child was Seaquest for the Atari 2600. It basically placed players in control of a submarine that had to ferry divers to the surface. However, sea creatures would attack the people first if you couldn’t get to them in time. It still stands as one of my favorite games. This is relevant because Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender by Tikipod reminded me of those past experiences. They created a similar, but far more engaging, title.

Aqua Kitty situates players in a world where kitties are in desperate need of milk. They’re not just our pets, but instead seem to have taken the place of humans. The top feline scientists have found milk within the Earth and you are now part of the crew who is harvesting it in the oceans. There’s only one problem – tons of weird, robotic fish are trying to stop the harvesting effort! As one or two cats (in two player co-op), you run around in a submarine trying to keep the crew safe from the malevolent bots.

Each level has at least one kitty to protect. If weird UFO-like robots get to it, they’ll slowly abduct it away until you can’t save them. The game would be super easy if that’s all you had to contend with, but each stage ups the ante with more fish/robot types to stand in the way. Some bounce and shoot while others act as shields. Things quickly become hectic, but thankfully, the play screen isn’t that large. It simply scrolls horizontally and you loop back to the other side after reaching the end of the screen.

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Featured

A little radar maps sits at the top of the screen to keep you alerted to when UFO ships are coming. However, it’s very easy to feel overrun by other enemies and completely miss that a UFO has arrived. That’s when audio cues come in, as the kitty researches will make a distressed mew upon being captured. Rush back and save them if you can! Aqua Kitty quickly becomes a very frantic game, even when playing on easy mode. The high difficulty might make the game impossible to finish for some players (try co-op to alleviate some challenge).

The visuals are another high point. They evoke retro games but also have enough style to be obviously modern. Of course, the pixellated kitties are incredibly adorable as well. Music in the game seems inspired from Commodore 64 greats, which I appreciated quite a bit. As a whole, Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender is a great, well-put together shooter. It’s a little short, but considering its origins on XBLIG and PS Mobile, that is forgivable.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Valdis Story: Abyssal City Review

Valdis Story: Abyssal City Featured

Valdis Story: Abyssal City Boxart

Developer: Endlessfluff Games
Publisher: Endlessfluff Games
Platform: PC – Desura, Direct, Steam

You might not be familiar with the developer Endlessfluff Games, but they are a group that deserves some definite attention. In 2011, their attractive puzzle game Legend of Fae came out (maybe you’ve played it?).  Well, they’re back with another game by the name of Valdis Story: Abyssal City. As with their last major release, it is a stunningly beautiful game. But, graphics aren’t everything, so how does the game stand otherwise?

In Valdis Story, you can choose one of two playable characters (with two more being added in later). Both are humans, although from different sides of the track, as it were. Wyatt is a guy who had been living up on “the surface” where he fought against demons and angels. As you might expect, this places Reina as an underground dweller.  For her, she still seeks out exploration and danger because being cooped up is not the life she wishes to lead. Demons, angels, and ferals are all major threats to the populace – which is why someone has to fight in order to change the lives of the citizens.

As either character, you’ll explore the world in a very Metroidvania style. This means that you’ll be exploring large maps with a variety of rooms. Rooms contain enemies, treasures, and the like. There are also sections which require players to “race” with skillful platforming to get through areas in time. This is probably harder than it should be though due to jumping controls that take some getting used to. Until then, be ready to fail a handful of times when these bits crop up. Otherwise, there’s a lot of fun exploration to be had. Beating up on enemies can get a little frustrating though if they knock you off tiny platforms.

Valdis Story: Abyssal City Screenshot

Alongside searching through room after room, you’ll also be able to level the character up after enough battles. There is a nice skill tree to work through as well as the ability to increase their general stats. The inclusion of upgrades definitely enhances Valdis Story, though it would have been workable without them. Of course, the graphics are another facet that don’t have to be good to make the game engaging – but they are absolutely fantastic. The cartoony characters are animated lovingly and the backdrops also look great. Polished is one word that comes to mind, with another being gorgeous. Graphics aren’t everything but it’s always fun to see a game with such impressive art!

It’s hard to condense my final opinion on Valdis Story: Abyssal City into a succinct statement. I think there’s a lot right about the game, but still found it challenging at points due to its platforming controls. They demand more than your average platformer and it wasn’t something I was prepared for. Struggling with them early on definitely hampered my enjoyment, but once that passed it was a worthy experience. Valdis Story: Abyssal City is most worth checking out for those who have been seeking out a new and worthwhile Metroidvania game for their collection.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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