Posts Tagged ‘platformer’

Eversion Review

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Developer: Zaratustra Productions
Publisher: Zaratustra Productions
Platform: PC – Steam

Eversion is one of those games that it seemed everyone had played back a few years ago. Time and time again, it saw mentions in articles and forum posts about creepy games. I bought it sometime around then, but never ended up playing the darn thing until now.

Mechanically, Eversion is a simplistic 2D platformer with a switching mechanic. It is possible to change the landscape/features of blocks at predetermined Evert portals. Aside from opening up paths through the stage, these also make the game gradually darker and disturbing. Well, as disturbing as a cartoony 2D platformer can be.

Eversion Featured

There’s no doubt that this bait and switch worked extremely well around the time of its initial launch. At this point, however, so many retro-styled “secret” horror games are out there that it’s much less shocking. I did get a feeling of tepid surprise, but not much else. Autoscrolling stages in particular proved far more frustrating than frightening.

I likely did myself a huge disservice by waiting so long to play Eversion. This is a game that worked in a specific time and place. Sure, it only takes about half an hour to beat (if you’re not seeking completion), but the greatest asset of the game now feels stale.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Pongo Review

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Developer: Drixy Games
Publisher: Black Shell Media
Platform: PC – Steam

There are practically zillions of platformers out in the world. However, very few have ever managed to scratch that same vertically-based itch that Jumping Flash brought into my life. I hoped Pongo might prove a solution that didn’t require pulling out a PlayStation console.

Well, Pongo is a bit similar in that you spend a lot of time jumping very high. This is due to the fact that you traipse around the stage with a pogo stick in first person. But that’s really where the charm ends, as gameplay itself is incredibly dull — and even becomes annoying due to iffy controls. There were a fair amount of times my jumps landed me on the very edge of a platform but unable to actually reach the flat surface. Instead, my only course of action was to fall off and try again.

Pongo Featured

When jumping betwixt platforms isn’t annoying, it’s actually a fairly simple experience. Enemies hang about stages but with a keen eye you can basically snipe most of them before they even get a chance to harm you. It’s only with bosses that you have to actually put your skills to the test. The goal? Jump across the stage until you reach the end gate and move onto one of the other 49 stages.

Then there’s the whole fact that (aside from your pogo stick) Pongo feels like a massive Lovely Planet ripoff. The graphics aren’t nearly as pleasant, though, looking more like something that I would draw before getting a glaring filter/effect placed over them. It’s definitely not attractive or stylish in my eyes. It seems a true “spiritual successor” to Jumping Flash 1 and 2 remains just a dream…

Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas

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JumpJet Rex Review

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Developer: TreeFortress Games
Publisher: TreeFortress Games
Platform: PC – Steam

There’s one creature I love more than alpacas… The tyrannosaurus rex. As such, I always adore games featuring dinosaurs of any sort, but JumpJet Rex immediately stood out. Not only did it feature a cute little dino, but it also wears cute jumping boots! The 2D pixelated platformer seemed simple enough, so I jumped right in and found it totally exceeded my expectations.

Unlike most platformers, Rex’s boots allow for infinite jumps. They also allow for horizontal speed boosts, and speedy, vertical rocket jumps. To descend quickly, Rex does a great butt stomp. Levels rely on speed, although it’s not necessary to play things quick if you don’t want to. Your main goal on each of the 40+ levels is to fly through gold rings which unlock an exit. Along the way you can nab gold coins to spend on t-rex customization.

JumpJet Rex Featured

What I like most is that JumpJet Rex gives a taste of speedrunning to folks like me who have no chance at otherwise jumping into that community. Every stage offers players three stars if they can survive without ever dying and also beat their par time. The latter proves quite a challenge, requiring careful Rex control and continual second shaving. After a while I gave up but it was fun to be super speedy while it lasted!

It’s only near the end that the game faltered. I beat the final boss in less than a minute on my first try – awesome! Then came the last stage. No spoilers, of course, but it amped up the challenge more than anything else before and threw in a count down timer and hard to see landscape for added fun. If not for banging around on that stage for half an hour my enjoyment would have remained high. With that said, there’s still tons of the game which was totally worth it.

JumpJet Rex brings platforming enjoyment to players of various skill levels and is fun almost the entire way through.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Gex Review

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Gex Boxart

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: 3DO, PC – GOG*, PlayStation, Saturn

Gex is one of those games that seems lost to time. As a child I really dug Gex: Enter the Gecko because of its bright worlds themed off real media (cartoons, horror movies, etc). But never before had I played the original Gex. As it turns out, the entire series seems predicated on the notion of jumping into film/television media parody worlds. It’s a fun concept, although the execution is lacking.

One night while Gex is simply watching TV he gets transported to the TV dimension by some evil being named Rez. Once in the world he traipses though increasingly challenging levels all based around genres and locations for films (horror, kung fu, futuristic). Every 2D stage features copious enemies, collectible golden bugs, and lots of ways to die. Like many early 90s platformers it is far more challenging than it seems! The best aspect is how playing as a gecko lets you do things like climb ceilings and walls with ease.

Gex Featured

The biggest issue with Gex is not the inherent challenge but how out of place it feels now. Gex routinely shouts out “witty” one liners in reference to pop culture from around 1994 (when the game first launched on 3DO). Although some of the jokes and references make sense to me, none are particularly funny regardless. Then there are ones that seem completely nonsensical such as Gex grumpily complaining, “when is Grace Jones gonna retire?” What, pray tell, is wrong with Grace Jones?! Weirdly, many of the same lines were reused for 1998’s Enter the Gecko, and they were probably already stale then.

In all, the framing of Gex proves its most interesting aspect. Having a real reason to adventure through thematically different worlds is kind of neat, and each boss proves cool. Gex himself though is grating and his dialogue is a lazy excuse for actual characterization. The platforming is inspired, but the negatives balance out the positives. Instead of being iconic, Gex is just average.

Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Shovel Knight Review

Shovel Knight Featured

Shovel Knight Boxart

Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platform:  3DS, Wii U PC – GOG*, Steam

In one of the cuter moments in Kickstarter gaming history, a goofy 2D pixelated platformer by the name of Shovel Knight saw itself funded to 415% of its $75,000 goal. I’d believed the “retro craze” was all over – but gamers proved me wrong! In 2014 Shovel Knight launched and made its way onto many Game of the Year lists. But really, how good could it really be? On the eve of release onto PlayStation platforms I decided it was finally time to give the game a go.

Now, before we get all into this, I do not feel particularly nostalgic about the NES. Instead, my tastes fall more in line with the Atari 2600 – but few folks are capitalizing on that! In any case, Shovel Knight still looks quite a bit like a NES classic and captures much of that same appeal. The platformer is immediately simple to grasp. You’re a blue knight who jumps and hits things with a shovel.

Of course, the game quickly ramps up the difficulty (and ways to play it). After accumulating enough gold you can buy new items and abilities. Or, you can boost the health and magic meters. Gold itself isn’t a scare commodity but upon each death some scatters off in floating money bags. Even so, be careful about reclaiming them the next run as greed can be deadly. For about the first half of the game I found Shovel Knight ridiculously enjoyable.

Shovel Knight Featured

Once things really started to ramp up in difficulty I noticed some issues (either with the game or myself!). My Xbox 360 controller didn’t seem to register inputs upon every button press. Sometimes skill usage simply wouldn’t fire off when needed, or Shovel Knight wouldn’t stop his shovel jumping despite me trying to get out of the maneuver. Every so often I couldn’t even get out a swing with a shovel despite having a perfect shot at a boss. Whey’re they’re “authentic” or not, precise controls should have been implemented by Yacht Club Games.

I appreciate what Shovel Knight is going for and wholeheartedly believe they achieved it. From the awesome chiptune soundtrack to lovely pixelated graphics this looks just like a retro game. Then there’s that simplicity of play which helps to emphasize its excellent platforming. The biggest issue simply appears to be controls which were acting up for me on PC. Given perfect control I’d still probably be awful, but at least feel that every death was entirely my fault!

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Freedom Planet Review

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Developer: GalaxyTrail
Publisher: GalaxyTrail
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

You know, people talk about Sonic the Hedgehog as if it were once a golden standard of 2D platformer. To be fair, the first few titles definitely brought a ton of great gameplay to the table… But they were also incredibly difficult! Freedom Planet is game which completely reveres Sonic, and as such, doesn’t stray far from the formula. You play as one of a team of brightly-colored creatures attempting to collect gems and save the world, all the while going really fast.

Freedom Planet certainly looks the part of a Sega Genesis classic. All the cast members are anthropomorphic animals because “mascots” rule! Enemies are evil because of course they are. Each stage offers copious collectibles and even a few secrets. In keeping with the time, it’s also a very brief game (if you’re skilled). Or, if you’re like me and almost immediately switched to “casual” difficulty.


My main motivation to swap difficulties was due to a variety of problems inherent with Freedom Planet. The biggest is finicky controls. When playing with my 360 gamepad my character sometimes failed to do as I desired. Instead of jumping up, she’d simply look up. At other times I’d want to jump bouncily from a wall climb only to glide off. This caused tons of problems, especially during boss fights where I’d consistently miss hitting their weak point because of ill-performed jumps.

Another issue is that the game simply overloads itself with enemies later on. Some stages are packed full of monsters and missiles, leaving very little room for error. On the lowest difficulty I safely soaked up tons of hits, at least! Freedom Planet looks fantastic and features a lot of great moments. It just happens to fall into the same trap that Sonic games did of not letting speed be the driving gameplay force. Still, it’s a mostly cool 3 hour ride for those who do appreciate Sonic and its many imitators.

Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike Review

Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike Featured

Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike Logo

Developer: Dodge Roll
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC – Steam

Holiday-themed games are pretty common in the history of video games but most of them aren’t particularly good. Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike has a little something over most of these simply because it’s completely free! Of course, even freebies can be stinkers so let’s dive into what exactly this game is all about.

You play as Fork Parker, an apparent stodgy, rich CEO who is on the verge of being canned by the Board of Directors. Seeking to make the company’s profits rise once again he goes on a quest through some snowy vertical cave… to collect random stacks of cash throughout your ascent. Yeah, I sure wish that’s how easy it was to make thousands of bucks.

Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike Featured

The gameplay itself is a mix between platforming and a bit of puzzling. This is because Mr. Parker has a hiking rope and spike which he can use to reach new heights. Throw a rope, hook it on a wall, and then you can continue a rope chain from that last anchor point. However, the rope is limited in length meaning you can’t make a huge spider web contraption to climb up.

It’s a fairly challenging concept at first and honestly it doesn’t become too much easier once you understand. This is simply because the mechanic of aiming is barely present, leading to a lot of mistakes. Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike is frustrating but still a bit addicting. Most players will probably give up before reaching the top of their climb, though.

Abomination Tower Review

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

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.

Abomination Tower Featured

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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140 Review

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

One of my greatest loves in gaming is seeing how people create aesthetically interesting experiences. If they have some good gameplay to back it up then that’s just an added bonus. 140 by Carlsen Games is a pretty good, if imperfect example of a game focused on creating a very specific look and feel. It was obvious as soon as the multi-colored menu loads that I would enjoy this game.

The graphics are incredibly minimal. Your avatar is a square/circle/triangle when the mood suits it. As you travel along the 2D stages, sections animate in time with the music. For example, a platform might move with the beat or disappear at that moment. This lends itself to rhythm-based platforming where you must always be on time to make jumps safely. It’s not too difficult, although bosses prove a tougher challenge.

140 Featured

I can’t get over how much these simplistic, stylish visuals appeal to me. All the color palettes work together perfectly. The shifts of color after collecting orbs, as well as how everything syncs and moves to the music is heavenly. Of course, some of this has to do with my enjoyment of the soundtrack to. To be fair, there don’t appear to be that many songs, but they’re good all the same.

My problem with 140 is not that it becomes challenging or unfair. Instead, I simply had a technical issue that made the timing on a jump nearly impossible. It seems at least one other person out there had the same issue. If not for that I would have completely fallen in love. Still, for most everyone else, I’d say 140 is a must-play.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Monster Bash Review

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Monster Bash Boxart

Developer: Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platformer: PC – Direct, DOS, GOG*

Monster Bash is an early 90s platformer featuring a protagonist who fits right into the time period. Johnny Dash is a cool kid (you can tell because he wears a baseball cap backwards). Along with his trusty slingshot he delves into the world of monsters. An overall theme might be that these are just dreams, as little Johnny wanders through dangerous stages in polka-dotted pajamas. In any case, the goal is to save caged animals without letting him meet an untimely end.

With a child protagonist and cute goal of saving cats and dogs you might think Monster Bash is effectively a kid’s game. And maybe it is, but it’s also an incredibly violent one. Your slingshot fires rocks (primarily) and when these hit enemies they bleed. Yep, it’s red blood too, not some fanciful alien goop color. Locations are definitely creepy too with hanged skeletons, hearts suspended via hooks, and other nastiness. In comparison to Apogee’s earlier works it has a more detailed, less garish visual aesthetic.

Monster Bash Featured

Platforming itself is pretty precise and challenging. Even in the first episode there are stages with a huge amount of animals to free – some of which are difficult to reach. Along the way you must always watch for enemies, enemy projectiles, and other dangers. For example, if you shoot light fixtures the glass will fall down and pose a brand new threat. Staying alive is tough even though you have five lives to start. Thankfully, checkpoints are liberally dispersed and extra lives are available as well.

Still, Monster Bash is quite the relentless platformer. My attempts to reach beyond Episode 2 were a tragedy. Those who love hard platformers should definitely find this one appealing. After all, it offers large levels and many secrets which seem to draw the attention of genre fans. Here’s hoping Apogee games continue to see modern releases even if they’re all likely a bit too much for me!

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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