Posts Tagged ‘Itch.io’

Dingbots Review

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Developer: Cannibal Cat Software
Publisher: Cannibal Cat Software
Platform: PC – itch.io

The very first video game console I ever owned was an Atari 7800. Along with this came a host of excellent games such as Joust and Robotron 2084. It was thanks to these formative gaming experience that I developed a longstanding love of twin-stick shooters. That’s why Dingbots pulled me right out of a writing lull in order to play it.

Dingbots is a twin-stick shooter inspired by those classics of the genre such as Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. Unlike many modern takes on the formula, it opts to stay true to the flashy colors, incredibly fast action, and quarter-eating challenge of arcade games. Interestingly, it also takes stylistic cues from Jeff Minter’s work which was much appreciated.

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As someone who loves (but is absolutely awful at) twin-stick shooters, I was pleased to find that lives were abundant. After that, there were multiple continues to use up. With that said, the visuals caused a bit of sensory overload at times. With so much on-screen it often became challenging to tell where my dully colored vehicle actually was which led to some completely unneeded deaths.

After mostly cheesing my way through, I completed the 30 levels of Dingbots in a little over an hour. Considering the game is available on a pay what you want basis, this is a good bit of fun for those seeking a quick classically inspired shooter experience. I just wish there were even more to help really hook players in for the long run.


 

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


 

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Willy Bear Beach Episode 1 Review

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Developer: Artdecade
Publisher: Artdecade
Platform: PC – itch.io

As a fan of visual novels, I’m more than pleased to see how they’ve gained so much acceptance in the past few years. Even so, eroge titles tend to continue slipping under the radar instead of getting much recognition. However, it appears itch.io may become a method for indies to distribute them! The first I’ve seen on the platform is Willy Bear Beach Episode 1 by Artdecade. It’s cute, furry, and a nice bit of fluff between the more dramatic or dull visual novels out there.

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Bad Smell Review

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Developer: Magicdweedoo
Publisher: Magicdweedoo
Platform: PC – itch.io

After a while, top-down shooters start to feel really samey. This doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome – because they are – but it can get a little draining to see the same template again and again. Bad Smell positions itself within the genre while still offering a fresh spin on things. First off, just look at that art!

The art style seems tremendously like the sort of stuff you’d be able to draw in MS Paint. Yet, as this visual theme remains throughout, it helps to give Bad Taste a distinctly amusing vibe. The bright, cartoony world is very welcoming (and also lulls you into a false sense of security). There are two difficulty settings, normal and hard, though even normal can become overwhelming. In a way the art style hinders things occasionally when it’s simply too difficult to “read” where bullets are on-screen due to visual overload.

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Still, what is offered here is a competent and incredibly unique shooter. Not only are creature designs enjoyable but the music fits perfectly. You can jam out while playing Arcade or Adventure mode. Both offer a mechanically similar experience but Adventure includes themed stages and a few other differences. In either mode you can collect unused bullets back but it’s a fairly slow process. Reloading requires a humorous whack-a-mole minigame, although it gets grating after a while.

Bad Smell stands out in so many ways. Every design choice may not have been for the best, but it’s nice to see someone try different things. It’s a shame that there’s no controller support! If you don’t mind controlling a top-down shooter with mouse and keyboard then Bad Smell should provide a quick burst of colorful, slightly confusing shooter fun.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Polyology Review

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Developer: Gridlock Interactive
Publisher: Gridlock Interactive
Platform: PC – Humble Store, itch.io

Sokoban (block pushing) games are deceptively easy. If you’ve never played one, their name basically defines the goal of pushing blocks together or to a certain spot. In Polyology, your goal is to smush together blocks which bear the same number. You’ve also got to ensure that the number matches the amount of blocks touching. It sounds simple enough but as the game unfolds you discover all sorts of twists.

Polyology grades you on how many “pushes” it takes to complete any one puzzle. Meet the minimums and you have a chance at up to three stars. If you can’t, well, you’re still awarded one star for simply completing a puzzle. Stars are important since they unlock later stages. Eventually you will have to retry previous tough stages to collect more stars.

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Many levels also tweak the expected sokoban formula in interesting new ways. For example, switch blocks will switch places with the player rather than moving in a regular direction. Sometimes blocks even come in distinct, Tetris-ish shapes. There are a lot of variations which are fun, challenging, and occasionally frustrating. Controls (keyboard and gamepad) are good and you can even undo moves but I still would’ve appreciated a hint function.

The game might not have the fanciest visuals around but they’re serviceable for what’s going on. The colored sphere is cute as its face actually changes depending on what you’re pushing. Polyology also has some fantastic, low-key music for solving puzzles to. There are not an outrageous amount of puzzles but they should keep you busy for a couple hours.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Abomination Tower Review

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Developer: Adrian Sugden
Publisher: Adrian Sugden
Platform: PC – Desura, Humble Store, itch.io

I completely suck at platformers. Even ones designed to be family friendly often give me a run for my money. As such, it makes no sense for me to enjoy Abomination Tower. This fairly challenging platformer is procedurally generated with horrible spikes, fleshy monsters, and shooty globs that kill you in one hit. As you ascend the tower, each stage offers increased challenges to survive. And yet, I found it immediately enjoyable.

Perhaps it has to do with the humor inherent from the get go. The protagonist is an abomination in the most obvious sense. It is a being created by a mad scientist that moves and jumps but has no head. This no head bit actually has a gameplay aspect too. You see, after collecting enough eyeballs you unlock wearable heads. Each confers its own special ability – but you can’t stack heads. Even after unlocking a few more I still found myself sticking with “Save My Butt” since that allows the abomination two hits rather than one hit KOs.

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The humorous theme thrives thanks to Abomination Tower’s visuals. That aforementioned unlock, for example, actually places a round rump on the abomination’s head. Everything has a nice cartoony vibe despite the blood splatters decorating walls and floors. It’s also great that unlocks remain unlocked even when you die and/or restart. This is important when you (or me, in this case) die constantly.

Issues I noticed were that platforming is not as precise as it could be. Jumps in particular all have a minimum left and right motion, meaning you must account for these specifics when jumping through dangerous sections. Some procedurally generated bits also seemed to offer impossible fragments. Perhaps I’m not skilled enough yet, but they did seem problematic. Abomination Tower offers a quick burst of platforming fun in an inexpensive package.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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16 Bit Rally Review

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Developer: Proton Creations
Publisher: Proton Creations
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – itch.io

So, maybe this is abnormal, but I have a serious reverence for arcade-style racing games. Cruisin’ World and Daytona USA are some of my favorites, although there are others on the list as well. 16 Bit Rally doesn’t quite pull from the same deck (it’s pixelated rather than polygonal) but it enthralled in much the same ways.

The best aspect of 16 Bit Rally is the sense of speed and movement it provides. Thanks to a super cool “3D” effect going on with the ground it really feels like you’re moving through the world. This sense of speed is only increased as you continue to play and upgrade car stats. Eventually, vehicles seem impossibly fast but still remain controllable.

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Racing against 20 other cars typically means you won’t get last place. Of course, netting a top three result is best as you’ll nab the most points and cash. Points simply tally toward an overall leaderboard while money is used to upgrade or buy new cars. I would have liked to see a few more cars, as the third and final is great until all your teammates finally purchase one as well.

For as fun as 16 Bit Rally is there are a few iffy bits. When you’re in the lead there’s no way to tell how far (or close) opponents are! There’s also a lack of controller support which is a tad annoying but not a game breaker. In any case, I was immensely surprised by how much fun the title was. I worked to complete most of the world racing rally in one multi-hour sitting and that’s saying something when my average gameplay session is an hour or less.


Score: 3.5
3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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LYNE Review

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Developer: Thomas Bowker
Publisher: Thomas Bowker
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Windows PC – Direct, itch.io Steam

What makes a puzzle game enjoyable? Usually, it’s a heavy focus on one very simple concept that takes skill to master. LYNE follows this principle perfectly thanks to an easy to grasp component of drawing lines. All you have to do is make connecting lines between shapes of the same color. The tricky part comes in thanks to limited spaces in which to draw these lines, as well as the requirement of connecting multiple colors without crossing pathways. Things quickly get challenging, but in a way that facilitates continued play.

I won’t lie, my first attempt at LYNE was superbly pitiful. After barely being introduced to the core components I found myself completely stuck. After frustrated fumbling I closed the game and came back to it later. Lo and behold, that brief time away allowed me to think about the problem from a different angle and solve it. Many puzzle games are like this and it’s that moment once you first start to really “grasp” the core mechanics that you can feel smart while whizzing through puzzles. The more I played, the better I became. Eventually there were even periods that I entered into the “puzzle zone” and seemed to solve many in a row with no issue at all.

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LYNE is a game for people who enjoy these types of experiences, and simply want a playful title to mess with. The price is super low at $2.99, but the amount of puzzles included is frankly astronomical by comparison. Beyond the main selection of hundreds of puzzles there are also daily puzzles. These procedurally-generated puzzles come in different difficulties and are all still quite fun. Although I’ve yet to complete it, there’s probably at least six hours of main-game puzzles to work through. It would be nice if hints were available though to help in those moments where you feel impossibly stuck.

Beyond the enjoyable, and sometimes super difficult puzzle gameplay, it just looks good. The calm colors, paired with some really stylish design, helps it stand out from the puzzler pack. It also functions well, although a few tweaks could help a lot. My biggest gripe is not being able to partially redraw lines on my own terms instead of being forced to undo on their terms. Really, what needs to be emphasized about LYNE is the incredible wealth of solid gameplay you get. This is an excellent puzzle game and players get a huge value for their money.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Words for Evil Review

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Developer: Dylan Loney
Publisher: Dylan Loney
Platform: PC – Desura, itch.io, IndieGameStand

RPGs usually seem a bit too unwieldy for me to play. I can’t help but view them as such long journeys with a requisite amount of dull grinding. Words for Evil, although a bit of an RPG itself, is much more my speed. This 2D pixelated adventure lets you and a band of adventurers explore new lands and vanquish enemies in your path. However, it does so with a Scrabble-like mechanic rather than turn-based actions.

You begin with a lone adventurer as they battle through countless enemies. Each battle presents a board of letters on the screen. Your goal is to make as many words from it as possible, by string adjacent tiles together in 3 or more letter words. There’s a wrinkle to all this. Certain letters are colored. Only breaking these special tiles allows your side to attack. So it quickly becomes a game of not only finding any word on the field, but making sure you get in a lot of attacks as well.

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There are two control schemes: One designed for keyboards and one for mice. Of course, the mouse clicking and dragging one seems to emulate a touch screen control concept. Using the mouse was my preferred play style early on until enemies became stronger. When it became necessary to string words together super quick, mouse play bogged me down with errors. On the other hand, keyboard controls work quite well. Just start typing out a word you see and Words for Evil immediately finds where you are to clear that space. One issue I did notice were certain words were not recognized by the game’s dictionary. Those moments were unexpected (and frustrating).

Although there’s not much story, you’ll spy a lot of other RPG genre conventions. Monsters drop loot, player stats increase over time, and there’s even room to stock a few potions. A few minigames also crop up from time to time. While still word-based, they offer a varied form of gameplay. Words for Evil is a pretty simple, fun way to spend a few hours. It might even teach you a few new words along the way.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Snake Blocks Review

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Developer: Spooky Cat
Publisher: Spooky Cat
Platform: itch.io

As a fan of snakes, I could never pass up a game called Snake Blocks. The name might be initially confounding, but it all makes sense once you see this is a puzzle title. Every stage includes 2 to 5 snakes and your goal is simple: Move snakes from their starting position to a goal. However, each snake can only be extended a certain amount of blocks. That’s where the puzzling element comes in. How can you organize snakes so they all reach their destinations?

It’s a lot harder than you might think! At first, only stages with 2 snakes are available and turn out to be fairly easy. Sometimes you must work snakes through blocky obstructions and other times work them around each other. In any case, once those stages are completed you enter the 3 snake arena (then 4 and 5). With more snakes comes far greater challenge. Sometimes you might think a puzzle is easy only to realize every snake but one can reach its goal. Thankfully, there’s no time limit or other factors forcing players into annoying conditions.

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Snake Blocks is full of visual personality. The color combinations between snakes and the striped backgrounds just pops in the best way. Similarly, the stylized block snakes are far more adorable than they have any right to be. I found myself taking screenshots simply thanks to the great aesthetics. An included puzzle editor offers creative players full power to create new stages (and tweak visuals as well).

The biggest issue I had while playing was moving snakes. Although you can move the camera it snaps to certain positions. Often, these angles obscure snakes. As such, I had to click and drag where I assumed a snake’s head was to get it moving into view again. Due to the isometric perspective there were also times that dragging a snake moved it to locations other than intended. Issues like these didn’t destroy my ability to play but did cause moments of frustration.

Check out Snake Blocks if you’re looking to give your mind a workout in short bursts throughout the week. It’s not perfect from a control standpoint, sure, but puzzles are still smartly designed. Beyond all that there’s the aesthetic which is simply too cute to ignore!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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PixelPics Review

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Developer: Stompy Blondie Games
Publisher: Stompy Blondie Games
Platform: itch.io

If you’re a puzzle game fan then chances are you’ve come across a nonogram game or two. The most prevalent series utilizing said logic puzzles is Picross. Basically, you utilize listings of numbers to discern where to color in blocks. With all the blocks completed you have a nice “pixel” image. PixelPics is, as you might guess, a neat nonogram game.

Now, it’s been a while since I dug up Picross DS, but PixelPics seems like  a marvelous package for the price ($11-ish). The game comes with 200 puzzles divided into chunks for various difficulty settings. At first it seemed I was powering through stages as I advanced through beginner, easy, moderate, and tricky… then I realized a ton of difficulties still laid ahead! In any case, puzzles definitely ramp up in difficulty and the grid grows larger.

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You’re only allowed a set amount of mistakes before “losing.” Unfortunately, there’s no hint engine built-in for getting out of a bind. Once you’ve over-exerted your brain power you can check out the in-game puzzle designer. Select a difficulty and size, draw in pixels, avoid invalid positioning, and you’re good to go! PixelPics can then send these to an online puzzle bank. Theoretically, you can download tons of user made puzzles as well but unfortunately I was unable to get this to work. Having reached out to the developer, I’m hoping to see this aspect fixed up soon!

PixelPics is an enjoyable way to burn some free time and get some mental gymnastics in at the same time. The massive amount of included puzzles means you can play for at least 10 hours! If downloading user-made puzzles worked right off the bat this would definitely become my go-to puzzle game. In any case, PixelPics is a lovely rendition of a classic logic game on PC.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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