Posts Tagged ‘Greenlight’

Finding Teddy Review

Finding Teddy Featured

Finding Teddy Boxart

Developer: LookAtMyGames
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DesuraSteam

When I started up Finding Teddy I really had no idea what to expect. It begins with a view of a young girl in her bedroom. While she’s sleeping a gigantic hairy spider limb reaches through her closet and steals her teddy bear. She wakes teddy bear-less and ponders for a moment before heading into her opened closet. From there, players are transported to some entirely different realm.

This simple introduction really excited me to sit down and play the game all the way through in one sitting. Of course, it’s a fairly short experience (one to three hours) but neat nonetheless. Finding Teddy is a point and click style adventure game with a couple of puzzle types. There are the standard item puzzles which require you to use a certain object with the right thing to make something happen. However, there are also puzzles related to repeating back songs in the right place.

Finding Teddy Featured

It’s the musical puzzles that help set this game apart mechanically from others. Each music note stands for one of the letters of the English alphabet (and even have similar shapes). Through music the player conveys words and ideas to the world’s inhabitants. This could mean you ask for “help” from one or tell another to “dig” a hole. I liked this concept and was sad to see how short the game is.

Most puzzles make a lot of sense just as long as you’re very aware of weird bits in the environment. Also make sure to use your fly and/or cat partners once they’re added to the team. Finding Teddy is a brief but very nice adventure game. It’s obviously optimized for touch devices (as you click on edges of the screen to move) but the PC release better showcases the pixel art. Basically, you’re in for a treat regardless of the platform you choose to play Finding Teddy on.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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1849 Review

1849 Featured

1849 Logo

Developer: Somasim
Publisher: Somasim
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – IndieGameStand, Steam

There is something about city management sims that hooks people. Most of us probably have no desire to ever deal with the realities of legislation, building codes, and the vast expenditures that a real city planner has to deal with. Put them in a game though and suddenly it’s fun. What if you could manage a city during the California Gold Rush? If that sounds awesome to you then you’re definitely going to want to check out 1849.

In this game, you’re the mayor of a newly settled town somewhere in Northern California. The goal is to hopefully capitalize off the sudden immigration of people as Gold Rush fever sets in. With good enough planning, the town will boom with people. Fail to provide them with the right resources though and they’ll simply move on to another town.

1849 Screenshot

Maps come in three varieties (small, medium, large) and have an isometric viewpoint. Players must build their town up with homes, wheat fields, jailhouses, and a good deal of other buildings. Many buildings require a chain of other buildings to produce any items at all. For example, you can make fancy clothes for the citizens but that requires first harvesting cotton, turning it into fabrics, then transforming the fabric into an outfit. This same style of mechanic holds true for creating wine and other specialties.

Getting all the buildings required for these types of chains is expensive, but pays off. Other towns need things that you can provide. Some may spend money for your excess fabrics and wood, while others offer to sell pickaxes to you. For the most part, players always have to manage both exporting and importing because no plot of land has everything. Sometimes, events crop up that task the player to do certain things before the time runs out.

Although it might seem a bit simpler than other games of the genre, 1849 is fairly difficult to do well in. Many of my missions ended in failure as I bought the wrong buildings or didn’t realize what other towns would want to trade for. After a while you do get the hang of things, though. It’s a total joy to see your town grow into a bustling, successful place.

1849 Featured

There are a few ways in which the experience could be improved. The view cannot be rotated, only zoomed in on. This leads to many times you can’t see where exactly to click or tell if something was placed properly. It is also unfortunate that there is no easy reference to view what chain of item creation is needed before creating specific buildings. Finally, it appears there are not multiple saves for sandbox towns, which is a definite disappointment.

Even with a handle of troubles, 1849 is a game I find myself coming back to often. The core gameplay mechanics are fantastic and easy to learn. It’s always fun to try fussing around in a new town to see how much it can expand. As such, anyone with a taste for city management games should definitely embark on a digital Gold Rush journey with 1849.

 


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Rogue Shooter: The FPS Roguelike

Rogue Shooter: The FPS Roguelike Featured

Rogue Shooter: The FPS Roguelike

Developer: Hippomancer
Publisher: Hippomancer
Platform: PC – Steam

Rogue Shooter: The FPS Roguelike is a brand new video game with the heart of something released in the early 90s. All you have to do is look at one crude screenshot and nearly believe this is lost FPS shovelware. If you can get past the ridiculous visuals, there is one heck of a compelling game to dig into.

As the name implies, Rogue Shooter combines retro 3D FPS stylings with roguelike elements. These include randomly generated levels, a perk system, restart upon death, destructable weapons and armor, and tough bunches of enemies. As you progress through the 100 floors (50 on easy), you’ll check out a wide variety of weapons. Some are pretty average while others, such as a gun that shoots out goofy dogs, verge on the hilarious.

Rogue Shooter: The FPS Roguelike Featured

Although all perks are deleted after a death, there is an overarching upgrade system that carries over between playthroughs. You can use it to increase health, attack power, and inventory slots. Getting enough points for these upgrades takes a while but the fun gameplay makes accumulating enough intel manageable.

If you did not enjoy games like the original DOOM, Quake, or even knock-offs like Chex Quest then Rogue Shooter isn’t likely to please you either. However, it doesn’t exist to simply cash in on nostalgia. Playing is tremendously fun once you get accustomed to retro elements such as no ability to aim your gun up or down. I wholeheartedly recommend this oddball game to anyone who harbors a crush on 3D FPS games of yesteryear or unique roguelikes.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Fading Hearts Review

fhh

Fading Hearts Logo

Developer: Sakura River Interactive
Publisher: Sakura River Interactive
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

I’ve enjoyed using Steam for years but have always felt disappointed at the lack of visual novels on the platform. Fading Hearts is part of a small group of games from the genre cropping up on the storefront, which leads to quite mixed results. Fading Hearts isn’t a brand new game as it actually launched in 2009. But is it a worthwhile title to play today or should you look to something else?

Well, first it must be said that there’s an incredibly diverse reaction to the game. Some love it and some hate it! I’m in the camp that was pleasantly surprised, although not everything about the experience was wondrous. With that said, let’s get into the review already.

Fading Hearts Screenshot 1

Fading Hearts is a very unique visual novel. You play as a teenager named Ryou who has two best friends – Rina and Claire. As you might expect, there is some romantic triangle stuff going on, but you don’t have to pursue it either. What got me so captivated was realizing that the game wasn’t just a droll cutesy dating sim. Instead, it can take a great many paths, many of which are far more interesting than Fading Hearts initially lets on.

Because there are so many ways the story can twist and change, you’re going to have to beat the game a few times to see everything. With a first playthrough taking 3 to 5 hours, it isn’t a massive time investment to explore a bit more to complete it. Different characters have different stories whcih are revealed if you befriend them, while whole other avenues open up if you make the right series of choices. The game definitely gets weird at times, but I enjoyed it.

Fading Hearts Screenshot 2

Alongside hanging out with friends, you are also trying to unravel strange occurrences going on around you. Beyond this, you also work on improving the stats of your character. Some of this aids with earning more money from part-time work, while others help you gain battle stats, but I won’t say anything more about that…

The negatives that many people appear to harp on are the fact that the story is sometimes silly (Y2K orphans, anyone?), has a few seriously odd twists, utilizes a fairly standard anime-style art, and is overall not a polished experience. These things are true but I don’t at all find them game breaking. Still, players should go in expecting that every once in a while there are typos, the music isn’t particularly endearing, and perhaps some of the plot points will seem too outlandish. With all that said, I had a lot of fun playing through Fading Hearts and will definitely be checking more alternative paths soon!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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American McGee’s Grimm Review

American McGee's Grimm Featured

American McGee's Grimm Boxart

Developer: Spicy Horse
Publisher: Kiss Label
Platform: PC – GameTapGOG*

American McGee’s Grimm was an interesting experiment when it launched in 2008. The 23-part episodic series came out in three seasons and was presented by GameTap. It was part of their “original content” lineup, which I don’t think has seen much attention since. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that the gaming world was quite ready for episodic games at the time. The product will hopefully get a second wind once it launches on Steam.

American McGee apparently really loves fairy tales. After all, his best known products are based on one (the Alice series). American McGee’s Grimm doesn’t focus on one story but a whole heaping bunch of them. Each episode tackles one from Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ expansive literary library. As a fan of fairy tales and their history, I was quite eager to give the game a shot.

As it turns out, the gameplay is very minimal. Mostly, you explore the worlds as a gross little gnome monster named Grimm. His goal is to change stories by dirtying them up. Because he is such a stinky, yucky fellow, all he has to do is wander over the fanciful landscape to turn it dark. Townsfolk and cute critters will attempt to clean the world as you do so, but once you have enough power even they are changed into disgusting/scary versions of themselves.

American McGee's Grimm Featured

Mainly all you have to do is walk and “paint” the world. The more things get turned, the stronger Grimm’s powers become. Eventually, he can transform everything around him. However, each stage usually just wants you to reach a certain level of yuckiness before proceeding on to the next area. Everything gets reset at that point and you go at it again.

If you don’t want to simply enjoy the landscape, stories, and ruckus caused by Grimm then this won’t be a fun game at all. However, if you like seeing fairy tales reverted to more crude and dangerous versions then it’s worth the time. Maybe. Playing through all three seasons takes over a dozen hours and there are points where the repetitive play is too much. American McGee’s Grimm looks great and offers an entertaining story to play along with.


Score: 3

3 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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Tiny Barbarian DX Review

Tiny Barbarian Featured

Tiny Barbarian Logo Boxart

Developer: StarQuail Games
Publisher: StarQuail Games
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

Did you ever play a little game by the name of Tiny Barbarian? No? Did you perhaps see a Kickstater of the same name succeed last year? If neither is the case, then don’t worry, as I was actually in the same boat. Despite trying to be well-versed in the world of crowdfunded and/or indie titles, some always manage to slip though. That’s why Tiny Barbarian DX’s sudden appearance on Steam surprised me – but I had to play it.

The game itself is a new experience over the older Tiny Barbarian. DX has better graphics as well as a fantastic new retro soundtrack. The pixellated platformer also retains a classic style of difficulty. It might not be as hard as contemporaries such as Volgarr the Viking, but still puts up a good challenge. Controls are also quite simple with one button to jump and a single attack button.

Simplicity is definitely in Tiny Barbarian DX’s favor as it makes the experience easier to get into. Here I didn’t have to worry about dull introductions or tutorials and could get straight into the action with some degree of skill. Even so, it still took me over ten attempts each to take down each of the bosses. Thankfully, everything happens so fast that death is no hindrance at all.

Tiny Barbarian DX Screenshot

Right now the only downside to playing is that there is only one chapter released. This initial chapter included multiple themed stages as well as bosses to go with them. Still, it was sad to see the journey (temporarily) end after two hours. But don’t let this dissuade you completely as the following episodes will be given to owners for free. At the very least, it’s possible to try to better your score to rank higher on the built-in leaderboards.

Tiny Barbarian DX isn’t the kind of game I normally look to play, but that’s part of why it was so much fun. As shameful as it is to admit, I don’t regularly dust off my NES or SNES and play classic beat ’em ups and platformers. And yet, without feeling that nostalgic appeal, I still enjoyed my time with Tiny Barbarian DX. It’s simplistic, quick, and well put together.  Now I’m just stuck anticipating the second, third, and forth episodes!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Savant – Ascent Review

Savant - Ascent Featured

Savant - Ascent Boxart

Developer: D-Pad Studio
Publisher: D-Pad Studio
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Direct, GamersGate, Steam

Usually, when musical artists venture into the world of video games the results are, well, not so great. There are such “classics” as the Make My Video series on Sega CD featuring INXS, Kriss Kross, and Marky Mark. Then there are more modern but equally unusual titles such as 50 Cent’s shooters. Those who recognize SAVANT as a musician might fear the same fate for Savant – Ascent. Thankfully, his input didn’t create some ego-stroking game-based catastrophe.

Savant – Ascent is a 2D shooter with a bit of a twin stick vibe even though that’s not really the case. On each stage you control Savant and must shoot up enemies that come at him from all angles. However, stages are quite small. Instead of running around you simply dodge left, right, or jump. Shooting is controlled via mouse or a controller’s analog stick. Sometimes, baddies will explode and leave a CD piece behind. Collecting and completing the four CDs grants Savant upgrades.

Upgrades are incredibly useful and basically necessary to beat the game. Therefore, you’ll probably spend a lot of the first stage trying to collect them. Savant – Ascent is pretty fast paced so it won’t take long. The most useful upgrades for me were the first and third, as they allowed for an extra powerful shot and markers for incoming enemies respectively. One negative thing is that it can be hard to notice the enemy notifications and sometimes there are none if the game thinks you already see the approaching attack.

Savant - Ascent Featured

So basically, this is quite a tough experience. Even after obtaining all upgrades there’s still a degree of skill (or just plain persistence) required to win. But doing so doesn’t take very long at all. There are three quite cool stages and a cool two-part boss fight… And that’s all. Completing the story mode took under an hour and that’s coming from someone who is not particularly skillful with most games. Yes, there is a time trial and endless mode, and Savant – Ascent is based on scoring, but it’s still quite short. When you factor in the price – $1.99 – it seems far more sensible.

Although the game has fully launched on PC there are some issues that need addressing. For one, having an Xbox 360 controller plugged in at launch causes issues with keyboard and mouse control. All you have to do is unplug it if you wish to use them, but the simple error is unfortunate. There was also a time when I received a “fatal error” upon barely starting a level and had to quit the game entirely. Blemishes like these are far from game-breaking but will definitely turn some people from it before even playing.

Interestingly, D-Pad Studios have committed to providing more stages and music in the future at no extra cost. If this turns out to be true then it’ll be a great way to enhance the value. As it stands, the current music is a lot of fun even if you’re not a SAVANT fan. Similarly, the visuals are crisp although I have to wonder if the final boss design was wise. As it stands, Savant – Ascent is a brief, but entertaining little game. If it can be spruced up to fix a couple of errors and see new content then it will definitely be worth returning to.


Score: 3

3 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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Ethan: Meteor Hunter Review

Ethan: Meteor Hunter Featured

Ethan - Meteor Hunter Logo

Developer: Seaven Studio
Publisher: Seaven Studio
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG* PS3 – PSN

Platformers are a lot of fun but it can be hard to dig through the piles of samey stuff to get to innovative games in the genre. The issue gets compounded once you realize that some of the innovations made don’t improve the existing formula. Ethan: Meteor Hunter is one such game that attempts to tweak things with a neat mechanic. But does it work?

In Ethan: Meteor Hunter, you must venture through a ton of levels as a little mouse. Yes, that cute rodent is Ethan, and he’s searching for meteorite fragments scattered around the environment. These serve primarily as collectibles as you try to grab each one on every stage. But there’s more to Ethan than his anthropomorphic ways. He also has the power to stop time and manipulate objects in the environment.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter Featured

How does this play out? Oftentimes, you’ll come across boxes and other items which block the way. At their easiest, all you have to do is move them aside. The difficulty progresses and requires more careful movements, sometimes interacting with other items on the screen. You might even have to make Ethan jump, pause, and move objects to keep him safe when he lands. It’s all very interesting, although it escalates in difficulty faster than might be expected.

But is there much beyond these powers to help Ethan: Meteor Hunter stand out? Unfortunately, there’s not much. The graphics are serviceable, but seem perhaps too “serious” for a game with a cute mouse lead. The music is pretty cool, although it also clashes a little with the game. Even though there are interesting pause/manipulation mechanics in play, the rest of the experience still feels like a standard platformer. It’s not bad, but not exceptional either. Still, it is exciting to see a new developer trying to do something different. Hopefully they’ll continue to push forward with changing gameplay mechanics with their future titles.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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