Posts Tagged ‘platformer’

Super Lemonade Factory Review

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Developer: Initials
Publisher: Initials
Platform: Mobile – iOS Ouya PC – Direct, IndieGameStand,

Everything seemed like it was turning around for married couple Andre and Liselot when Andre’s father decided to turn his lemonade factory over to them. All they have to do to prove their worthiness is venture through the entire factory. What sounds easy becomes quite the challenge as the factory is sure designed in an inefficient, puzzling manner!

Of course, that’s to be expected as Super Lemonade Factory is a puzzle platformer. In this game you control both Liselot and Andre (or, if playing in two player mode, just one of them) and help them through each level. Andre can sprint, breaking large blocks while Liselot can double jump and talk to the factory workers. There are some 72 levels in all and working through the latter third of them is quite challenging.

Super Lemonade Factory Featured

Visually, Super Lemonade Factory stands out. Yes, it’s done in pixel art which is common in the indie scene but the color palette is quite pleasing. Each character design is also cute, although Liselot could have done without her frightened-looking run. Music is a different story. It certainly sounds retro, befitting the graphics, but doesn’t always sound particularly melodic. All in all, it’s a mixed bag.

Really that could be said for the rest of the game as well. The concept is solid but it doesn’t feel like it invigorates puzzle platformers in a way that makes it notable. Similarly, it is not the pinnacle of the genre to make it stand out regardless of sameness. Take into account some niggling design choices that can only be resolved with a stage reset and the game becomes much easier to put down. Super Lemonade Factory is cute and serves as a neat little time waster for yourself (or you and a friend) but is mostly forgettable.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Escape Goat 2 Review

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Developer: MagicalTimeBean
Publisher: MagicalTimeBean
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Escape Goat is a wonderful puzzle platformer that I finally had the pleasure of playing late last year. As a newfound MagicalTimeBean fan it was tremendously exciting to know that Escape Goat 2 was coming at some point in the future. Now it’s here! How does the game hold up against its predecessor?

Escape Goat 2 follows the hooves of the original, although diverges in unique ways. First, let’s go over what is the same. You’re still a purple  goat who platforms around increasingly complex puzzle stages to unlock the exit. A little mouse is also able to aid you at many junctures. Features that the mouse had before, such as a transportation ability, are back as well.

Puzzles have been given new twists and you’ve been granted new abilities to make everything more interesting. For one, the mouse now has an ability to spawn multiple versions of itself across a stage. It’s quite odd, but also handy! Stages now have branching paths as well. You can ascend the castle as quickly as possible, or take the time to veer off course to save more sheep. Personally, I made sure to visit every side area to get as much puzzling goodness as possible out of it.

Escape Goat 2 Featured

Puzzle games often add and tweak a few things upon their next iterations. The biggest change though might just be the art style. No longer is the game comprised of pixel art that looked at home on Xbox Live Indie Games. Now it has an attractive cartoonish glow about it. The soundtrack is as good as (if not better) than the first game. All in all, it might not look exactly like the Escape Goat you already knew but it certainly feels like it.

The puzzle platform genre is packed full of games but few are as uniquely entertaining as Escape Goat 2. If you’ve never played the original you’d be safe to jump right into the new game first. If you end up loving the purple goat’s adventures then you can always go back and buy the game that started it all after!

Score: 4

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Construction Bob Escapes from Hell Review

Construction Bob Escapes from Hell Featured

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Developer: OSP Enr.
Publisher: OSP Enr.
Platform: PC – Direct

Construction Bob Escapes from Hell is a game that grabbed my attention purely because of the name. How could you not want to play something with a title like this? Jumping right in, I found that the game was not entirely what I expected, but an interesting shareware title from the time period.

Basically, it offers three arcade-like stages which repeat over a series of levels. Levels themselves increase the difficulty each time, meaning that getting all the way to ten is tough. Getting past the thirty stages included with a purchase seems outright impossible.

The first stage is like a vertical Frogger. Mine carts run across a series of tracks above Bob and he must jump safely past them to exit at the top of the screen. Hitting mine carts does not kill Bob, but instead makes him fall down to the lower platform. The lowest one is just a steady stream of lava – and that kills you. Second is a side-scrolling stage where you ride a mine cart across broken tracks. Jump the cart over these gaps or rocks to survive. Finally is a sequence of walking across a bridge without letting (what appears to be) water droplets hit Bob.

Construction Bob Escapes from Hell Featured

After that, the whole thing repeats again just with faster objects and trickier platforms. As you only get three lives to start, it can be tough to progress far. A save/load feature lets you return to the start of a new level at any time. Finally, and most interestingly, a 360 gamepad totally works to control Bob, if you so choose.

Playing Construction Bob Escapes from Hell is an incredibly simple experience. This game is more of an odd footnote of shareware history than a worthwhile waste of time.

Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas

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Storm in a Teacup Review

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Developer: Cobra Mobile
Publisher: Chillingo
Platform: Mobile – iOS, Windows Phone PC – Steam

Have you been looking for a simple, yet fun new platformer to futz around with? There are a great many titles to choose from, but Storm in a Teacup is one great option to consider. Arriving two years ago for various mobile platforms and in 2012 on PC, the game didn’t take the game by storm. But perhaps it should have considering how much more fun it is than the infamous Angry Birds (and others).

The setup is a little weird. You play as a dude named Storm who sits in a teacup because, why not? Of course, this isn’t an everyday teacup. Instead it is magical which means the thing can move and levitate. You use the teacup to platform through fifty levels. There are definitely physics puzzle elements as you try to discern how to best jump and dodge dangerous objects.

Storm in a Teacup Featured

Visually, it looks pretty. The world is colorful, bright, and cartoony. Disregarding Storm’s completely average experience (white, blonde guy) the world is fairly creative. While passing through a stage, there are also multiple goals to attain. First, you can try to grab all the collectibles. A sticker can also always be found on a level. You just need to figure out how to find or grab them.

Storm in a Teacup controls well despite being made with touch screens in mind. I played through with a Xbox 360 gamepad and it functioned perfectly. The trouble comes simply from tough positioning of objects on stages. You’ll likely die a lot running into spinning saw blades and the like before learning the floaty jumps work.

There are a great many physics/puzzle platformers out there and Storm in a Teacup is one that happens to be worth your time. You’ll get a good deal of gameplay from it at a budget price!

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Teslagrad Review

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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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MURI Review

MURI Featured


Developer: Ludosity, Remar Games
Publisher: Ludosity, Remar Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Although my first computer was an Apple IIe, some of my fondest memories came after obtaining a magnificent machine running Windows 95. It was then that I gained a taste for rip-offs of more popular games. I didn’t play DOOM –  I had Chex Quest. I didn’t play Command & Conquer but took up 7th Legion instead. In any case, even these titles were fairly similar to what they duplicated. MURI, a modern shooter evoking a retro aesthetic, brings me right back to my youth.

The game is most comparable to titles such as the original Duke Nukem and Commander Keen. In MURI, you play as a scientist and mother named Adwoa. She has just helped design a new and powerful armored suit, but this causes unrest. Suddenly, as Mars disappears, everyone dons their suits and engages in battle. Although the story isn’t particularly deep, it was really cool to see Adwoa as the lead.

As would be expected from a retro PC game, it is a 2D platformer and shooter. There are four stages in all and you must work through them to find the exits. Of course, enemies dot the landscape and hardly want to let anyone pass. By default, the gun is rather weak, but this all changes upon grabbing power-ups. Goodies like “Mega” grant powerful homing bullets while “MKV” spews bullets out in a fan shape. Despite the simplistic play, it is a ton of fun.

MURI Screenshot

However, modern players might be fussed by MURI’s slow controls. This is because the game can run at 16FPS – an atrocity in this age. Personally, I really dug it but it’s easy to see why this could bug people. For one, it is harder to switch directions and time dodges as well. If this is an issue for you, simply switch to the turbo mode which brings the framerate up to 32. With that framerate selected the game moves far smoother.

Attention to retro detail wasn’t just provided in gameplay style and framerate. The visuals and audio also stand up to a DOS feel. The colors and blocky pixels feel directly out of the era. This definitely isn’t a game simply using the term “retro” wildly. Research was obviously done to make the color palettes as accurate as possible. Similarly, the sound attempts to emulate PC speaker sound. Yep, in all its blaring glory. It wasn’t annoying to me but there is an option to turn the sound off if need be.

MURI comes with multiple difficulty selections meaning most will be able to beat it. Playing on easy took me under two hours to complete, but normal took a little longer. I’ve yet to try the next difficulties but they are likely a far greater challenge. After all, the game’s name does translate to “impossible”. All in all, MURI was a tremendously fun experience and I just wish there were more levels to play. Maybe if I send a letter to the developer they’ll mail me a floppy with more?

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Stick It To The Man! Vita Review

Stick It To The Man Featured

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Developer: Zoink!
Publisher: Ripstone
Platform: PC – Steam PSN – PS3, Vita

“Stick it to the man” is a phrase I don’t think I’ve ever heard used in a serious context. The Man, of course, is meant to be big government or any sort of authority figure. In the case of Stick It To The Man!, there is actually someone called The Man and he’s coming for Ray. Ray’s story begins on the way home from work. Everything is going fine until a secret government weapon flying overhead crashes directly on top of him. Ray doesn’t die but he does end up with this weird thing lodged in his brain. Now, Ray has got a noodly pink arm coming out of his head and it can read people’s minds.

As you might have already guessed, this is quite the silly game. Ray isn’t particularly adept at anything himself. Instead, the hand is used to interact with the world. After reading thoughts, puzzles are revealed. Sometimes, people even conjure up images in their mind for Ray to take in the form of a sticker. Here’s where the name mainly comes in, as these stickers must then be used to solve other people’s troubles. Removing and applying stickers is the main goal, although there are “stealth” sections as well.

Stick It To The Man Screenshot

There are times when The Man’s goons are on patrol on platforms. Your goal is to make it through without getting nabbed along the way. Although it seems simple enough, there is a lot of room for failure. On the Vita, you are supposed to be able to touch strategically placed pins so the hand will grab them and drag Ray safely along. Perfect timing is necessary because these areas are often cramped, meaning bad guys might be only an arm’s length away. Unfortunately, more often than not I found myself pressing the touch screen directly over a pin but the touch wouldn’t register. This caused many frustrating deaths. Although there are ways to make these sections easier (via sticker usage) I still found them harder due to technical troubles.

If you ignore those sections though there is definitely a lot to dig about Stick It To The Man! First, there is the world. Everything is done up to look like cardboard cutouts. Buildings and other features look simply like sharpie drawings and it is very cool. On the Vita the graphics shine and it seems they look even better on PS3. Stages have their own style and it’s a lot of fun to see what the world has in store for you.

Then there’s the writing. I won’t say the story is fantastic, because it’s still a pretty simple “go from point Y to Z – oh, and save your girlfriend” affair. What does stand out is the script for all the characters Ray comes across in the game. Each expresses their problems mentally with ridiculous candor. There were a multitude of times that I just had to stifle laughs at something a character had said. Many games try to be funny, but it’s hard to actually find one that is.

Stick It To The Man Featured

Of course, not everything is perfect. One of the strangest aspects of Stick It To The Man! is how much of a dark comedy it turns out to be. Despite having stickers and a pink noodly appendage on his head, Ray meets with primarily unhappy individuals. Many begrudge their horrendous life circumstances, poor jobs, lost loves, and more. Sure, many characters have positive conclusions, but the path to them can be quite awkward.

All in all, Stick It To The Man! is a fairly fun, but flawed experience. The weird sometimes non-functioning of the Vita touchpad is the biggest strike against it. Even so, some have complained about the PS3 version accidentally targeting the wrong objects. Perhaps the PC version will be the best way to play? In any case, check Stick It To The Man! out if you have three to five hours to kill and don’t mind putting up with a few technical snafus. The writing and attractive visuals definitely make up for it.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 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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Type:Rider Review

Type Rider Featured

Type:Rider Boxart

Developer: Ex Nihilo
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

My life is filled with typing. As someone who enjoys writing, how could it not? My penmanship is lousy and with a high WPM it is always the preferred mode of writing. Between pieces drafted for myself for websites, there are thousands of things being typed out by my fingers on a daily basis. Why then, do I have such minimal  understanding of the history of written language? I have my preferred fonts, but even then have never looked into why they’re named the way they are or the stories behind them.

Type:Rider is a video game but it’s also a teaching tool. Through completing each themed stage, I was able to learn about the history of fonts from Clarendon  to Helvetica. There are ten stages in all (with one secret level) and along the way you can read about what led to the development of certain fonts and what they were used for.

When it comes to playing, it is a standard platformer. Instead of being a little pixellated person though you’re two dots. They stick together mostly and you use them to jump, swim, and roll around stages. Because of the odd lead character, there are sometimes control issues. At times, the dots would end up “standing” on each other, which would mess up an otherwise easy jump. On other occasions, the dots flip around each other too much which causes other mistakes. It seemed most of the parts that made platforming a challenge were due to the unusual protagonist properties. Perhaps it would have been better to have a single dot.

Type Rider Featured

It’s a shame that the relatively easy game is bogged down by some annoying platforming bits because everything else is absolutely stunning. Type:Rider starts out with relatively dull looking stages, but getting past the first two or three is definitely worth it. It seemed that the developer really had a strong concept for what to do with more modern fonts and executed it perfectly. Futura had a similarly retro-futuristic vibe while Didot was filled with nods from the art world at the time. Before completing any level, I ended up taking copious screenshots because of how fantastic the visual design was.

In all, it seems that Type:Rider is a game full of surprises. It might look like a very simple platformer which teaches a bit about fonts, but there is much more at play. Yes, it’s pretty easy, and yes, it is really about fonts. But the way that they express the “feel” of each font is spot on. They’re not used simply as platforms or as background art, but are treated with reverence. If nothing else, playing Type:Rider will give players a new and much-deserved appreciation of fonts.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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