Posts Tagged ‘platformer’

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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Freedom Fall Review

Freedom Fall Featured

BoxArt

Developer: Stirfire Studios
Publisher: Stirfire Studios
Platform: Android, iOS, Ouya, PC (Reviewed)

Freedom Fall is one heck of a game. It might not be long or incredibly complex but it offers up some entertaining platforming play alongside really neat writing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s discuss the basics of the game before showering it with positive platitudes.

In this game you play as a shoe-less boy with hair that looks like fire and is apparently named Marsh. Young Marsh is trapped in a tower filled with traps. His goal is to fall from the top of the tower to the bottom but it’s far from easy. If you’ve never played a vertical platformer before then this might take a little getting used to. After all, it can be hard to judge your fall if you can’t even see what’s below you. Usually it isn’t so bad as to cause many repeat jumps, at least.

Why is Marsh in this tower seeking his freedom? By reading the scrawls painted on the wall, you quickly become introduced to a princess character. She is the one who has placed diabolical spikes and saws all about the tower as a means to stop you. Try and avoid them but you’ll definitely hit many on your way down.

Freedom Fall Screenshot

The princess serves as by far the most interesting character (of the two) because she pushes the narrative forward. She describes how and why she must punish Marsh, as well as how she abhors the typical princess narrative. This includes wearing dresses, being saved, and apparently talking to birds. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a character like this although we primarily see her through her personal graffiti.

Controls are a bit finicky, though. I played with a 360 controller on PC and found them to be not as precise as they could be. Primarily my issues were with hanging/climbing on parts of the wall. Of course, the 360 gamepad is known for being rather imperfect for specific control so who knows who really is at fault here.

In any case, Freedom Fall is a very brief but fun experience. It only took me an hour to play through once, although there is definitely reason to replay if you want to collect all the gears and reach a higher score. I just wish we could have seen even more of the princess and her story.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Iron Soul Review

Iron Soul Featured

Iron Soul Boxart

Developer: BluBee Games
Publisher: BluBee Games
Platform: PC
Review code provided

The ideas behind Iron Soul are great. The game is a mix of 3rd person shooter and platformer in a sci-fi future filled with robots. Developer BluBee Games even name-dropped MDK as one source of inspiration for their title. With that being the case, they have some big shoes to fill. But it doesn’t seem to reach that lofty goal, or perhaps MDK is just not that fun in the modern era.

Players interact with the game through a robot by the name of H-25. H-25 is equipped with a laser gun (to start) and able to jump pitiful distances before obtaining double jump. With that said, the bot does look pretty snazzy in its cab-colored paint job. In the beginning, players are simply tasked with following orders from omnipotent voices – presumably, one is your creator.

Iron Soul Featured

One thing that Iron Soul gets right is the visuals. It’s rare to see independent developers create fully 3D environments but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Once you get out of the lab, things start to look quite pretty as well. Robot designs are a little silly though as your main enemies are orb-shaped bots that either walk on the ground or zip about in the air.

So what brings this game down from being great? Despite the serious work on visuals, the world itself is hard to traverse during platforming segments. Super Mario 64 was not the first game to attempt 3D platforming, but it was the first time it was done well. Iron Soul falls into many of the pitfalls of a bad platformer. It is hard to tell where H-25 will land! Thankfully, most platforming segments are brief, but they can be incredibly painful.

Firefights suffer as well, unfortunately. Perhaps in regards to keeping this game “authentic” to older PC titles, there is no automatic cover system in place. You can cover, but it requires pressing CTRL twice by a wall. This adheres you to it, allowing you to pop up for shots. With this half implementation of a feature it adds more annoyance to fights than there needs to be. After all, you just want to run into cover, not focus on making sure you’ve set it up right.

Iron Soul Screenshot

 

Shootouts are also usually not massive but they can be incredibly annoying as well. For example, an early boss fight features an enemy with an instant kill laser attack. It’s easy to dodge if you can see it coming. However, little enemies will scatter behind you, making you need to face them to shoot. Doing so turns your back to the big enemy though leaving you entirely prone to unexpected laser deaths. Overall, fights are more frustrating than fun, but at least health is plentiful.

This is such a shame because Iron Soul looks great. It just feels bogged down with the worst aspects of older games. There’s nothing wrong with chasing a hard, authentic experience (see another game with the name “Souls” in it) except when it will primarily alienate the players. With that said, Iron Soul may find an audience thanks to fairly good (and unintentionally campy?) writing that is marred by oddball voice actors. There’s something to the game that is intriguing, but you have to get through all the frustrating bits to see it.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse Review

Castle of Illusion Screenshot

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Game Gear, Genesis (Reviewed), Master System, Sega Saturn

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a game that many players have held dear for years. Recently, Sega went back and re-envisioned the title to be suitable for modern gaming platforms. Having never played the original before, I decided to give it a go before trying the remake. How does it stand up for someone who doesn’t get nostalgic recalling the title?

The people at Sega certainly tried hard to make something special with the licensed character of Mickey Mouse. Honestly, it seems like we haven’t seen as many excellent licensed titles since the era of SNES and Genesis. The world is bright and colorful and Mickey looks just as expected. Levels are imaginative and mesh with a Disney aesthetic.

It seems the game shouldn’t be that difficult, but it still ended up being somewhat tough for me. The primary offender was that Mickey has a weirdly heavy jump. He can get up pretty high in the air, but it sometimes felt that he wasn’t responding as accurately as he should have to my button commands. This could be due to the controller or aged game, though. Who can say? I do know the remake suffers its own lag but that was obviously not purposeful.

Castle of Illusion Screenshot

Aside from that, the platforming is interesting. A mechanic showcased in an early level even allows the map to be flipped upside down/right side up. It seems a bit ghastly, though, considering each flip causes the enemies to fall down and die immediately. Well, they disappear rather than die, but the implication is the same. Mickey himself never dies but instead is given a handful of “tries” before a final game over. Considering this is a game primarily targeted to children why couldn’t there have been infinite tries?

All things considered, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a pretty good platformer. It has all the aspects you expect of one, such as  great music and attractive visuals. Still, those controls were problematic. And then aside from some neat concepts, the game doesn’t do much to make it stand out above the rest when it should. After all, this is a Mickey Mouse game!


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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