samurai_jazz

Today’s game is called samurai_jazz. No caps, and an underscore instead of a space. I think that’s meant to be a joke, because the game has 8-bit graphics. You know, back in the 8-bit days, people used punctuation. Get it? It’s an anachronism! Ha! Haha!

Or it wasn’t meant to be a joke, just a stylization thing. Well, I laughed either way.

What I’m not laughing at is the game itself. samurai_jazz is a prime example of how I can’t get into a game at all if it controls poorly. The basic concept is you hack-and-slash your way through enemies, occasionally taking part in key quests that open up more levels for you to hack-and-slash through. It gets dull really quickly, though that’s because you spend the majority of the experience fighting with the controls.

To the game's credit, it does make a joke about the name of the diner being "EAT."

To the game’s credit, it does make a joke about the name of the diner being “EAT.”

I’ll give samurai_jazz this: it does feel like an early NES game. I mean, besides the tiny little squirts of blood that come from enemies. Not to mention the first thing you see when you start the game is a guy commit Seppuku. By the way, is there a more horrific act that one can do that has such an adorable-sounding name attached to it? It’s a cute word! It sounds like something you would name a baby penguin. But really, I’m over the whole “graphic 8-bit violence” thing. Was novel for a while. These days, it’s about as common an indie convention as it gets. I’m also still not fully sure what the opening suicide had to do with the game, since the story unfolds only in dialog and, as far as I can tell, wasn’t brought up again over the next three chapters. In fact, there’s not an actual lot of storytelling done at all. Weirdly enough, the marketing blurb brought up the writing, but what little is here didn’t exactly stand out to me. Most characters that do talk only do so to note that you need to fetch an item to proceed to the next part of the game. Maybe the story becomes more in-depth later. I wouldn’t know. I quit midway through the third chapter. I know some people don’t like it that I still go forward with writing reviews for games that I quit early. My response is I paid for the game, I put a couple hours into it, I didn’t like it and I know why I didn’t like it. I think I have a right to say why I didn’t.

I’m a control freak. I need accurate controls. Ideally, I should not even notice the controller at all when I play. If a developer accomplishes that, they’ve done a spectacular job. With samurai_jazz, the controls were so unresponsive that I actually thought my Xbox pad was broken. I switched to a different one. Then I switched from using Xbox One controllers to Xbox 360. I mean, maybe an elephant had gotten loose in my house and stomped on all my controllers. Well, something was broken, but it wasn’t them. Unlike a martial arts movie, enemies in samurai_jazz do the sensible thing with you: gang up and attack all at once instead of being polite and engaging you one at a time. That would be fine if controls didn’t have a massive delay. Turning to face the enemies you intend to slice-up shouldn’t be so difficult. But sometimes the inputs just do not respond to you. I don’t know what else to say. When you try to face an enemy and the controller is fickle about when it listens to you or not, that’s sort of a deal breaker for any action game. It’s not just movement, either. Often when you press the attack button, you don’t actually swing your sword. I think it might have to do with how the game requires you to stop moving before changing direction or going into an attack. If that’s by design, it’s a horrible idea, plain and simple.

Because movement is so inconsistent, it screws up almost every other aspect of the game. There’s a block-counter system in place, but you can’t possibly get the timing of it down because the inputs don’t always listen to you. There’s also timed spike-trap puzzles that become infuriating because the act of simply walking in anything but a straight line can be subject to the whims of the game. I figured maybe switching over to the keyboard would help. Although that does improve things (especially attacking), movement can still be sticky and unresponsive. The majority of my deaths playing samurai_jazz would not have happened if the character had done the stuff my button presses had told it to do. I’m sorry to say this, but yea, it does render everything else irrelevant. Someone argued against that idea when I posted my Shovel Knight review and said If the controls had been sloppy, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate all the other stuff that people have been raving about. It would have all been irrelevant, because the game would have been no good.”

These fireball-throwing ladies are indicative of everything wrong with samurai_jazz. How would you like to die against them? Option A: try to block their attack with your sword, press the attack button, not have your sword actually attack, die. Option B: try to dodge the fireballs. Press a direction to move out of the way of an incoming fireball, but have your character ignore your commands, sit perfectly still, and die. It's nowhere near as bad if you use a keyboard, but I would never want to play a game like this with a keyboard. I only bought it because it had Xbox 360 controller support.

These fireball-throwing ladies are indicative of everything wrong with samurai_jazz. How would you like to die against them? Option A: try to block their attack with your sword, press the attack button, not have your sword actually attack, die. Option B: try to dodge the fireballs. Press a direction to move out of the way of an incoming fireball, but have your character ignore your commands, sit perfectly still, and die. It’s nowhere near as bad if you use a keyboard, but I would never want to play a game like this with a keyboard.

I don’t understand how anyone can argue against that. If the controls are awful to the point of distraction, how can anyone say a game is worth playing? Controls for me will always be paramount. Get them wrong, and nothing else matters. This concept should not be controversial.

I don’t know if I would have liked samurai_jazz if it had decent or better controls. It seemed kind of dull. Light on story, incredibly repetitive combat, bland setting, and boring mechanics. But who knows? Maybe I would have appreciated the gameplay itself if I hadn’t been forced to repeat room after room just because I wanted to face an enemy to the right of me and kept facing anywards but the way I wanted to. It certainly would have made the pace faster, making it harder for tedium to set in. But, honestly, I don’t think it would have been my thing either way. The 8-bit violence thing is old hat by now. Everyone does it. I had the slightest hint of a smile when I killed my first enemy by literally cutting them in half. But then, enemies started showing up that had no actual attack animation themselves, and when you kill them, they don’t have any death animation. They just sort of blink out of existence. I can’t help but wonder if this is one of those games where the developer started the project all full of energy and enthusiastic to get the ball rolling, but just ran out of will halfway through. Instead of shelving the game or taking a break, they rushed it through just to say they finished it. No clue if that’s the case here, but I’ve seen it enough that I at least wonder if that’s what happened. Either way, it’s a shame. The concept is solid, and it certainly looks and sounds the part, but samurai_jazz had me singing the blues.

samurai 1samurai_jazz was developed by Blaze Epic
Point of Sale: Steam

$0.99 kept calling it “samurai_jack” in the making of this review.

 

Luna’s Wandering Stars

Lunas Wandering Stars - PlanetsMy nine-year-old crashed through the door one day excitedly demanding a piece of paper and pencil.

“Why do you need them?” asked my wife as she handed them over.

“SCIENCE!” And, off he went back outside writing down his observations.

I guess it doesn’t help that both my sons have been on a MythBuster’s binge on Netflix and have grown an incredible fascination with science. My eldest has been very interested in studying airplanes and flight, so when I heard about “Luna’s Wandering Stars”, it was the perfect opportunity to see what he thought of this educational game.

“Luna’s Wandering Stars” is a series of challenging physics puzzles staring our moon, “Luna.” Luna visits the nine planets* of the Solar System solving various physics puzzles. Each planet presents a unique set of challenges centered around a playable theme using Newtonian Physics. In the early levels, you launch Luna on various trajectories, much like “Angry Birds: Space.” In later levels, you are only given the ability to use thrusters to change your trajectory. And in another set of levels you can “change the gravitational constant of the universe”, with a flick of the mouse. And that is just for the starting planets! There are six more fun and interesting themes to discover.

To complete a level, you have to guide, launch, or boost Luna to collect asteroids. Once you collect enough asteroid mass, you pass the level. This can be easily accomplished, but the real challenge is collecting gold asteroids which unlock the other planets in the Solar System. To complicate matters, for every asteroid that is collected, Luna gains mass. This can affect the momentum and velocity of Luna in mid-flight, making it much more challenging than merely flinging birds in zero gravity.

*Kid's today aren't told the true story of Pluto, the missing planet

*Kid’s today aren’t told the true story of Pluto, the missing planet

The presentation is top-quality with beautiful space backgrounds and epic music encouraging you to step up to the challenge. To counter the almost overblown feeling of awesomeness is an ironic self-awareness: the game’s instructions and narration is loaded with dripping sarcastic humor. There are also a lot of quotes from all over geek-culture. I have to admit that I had to research the Shakespeare quote, but I laughed out loud when I saw a “Community” reference. It was hard explaining to my nine-year-old what was so funny with the commentary at the completion of each level and even with the narrator’s jabs for making epic failures.

Some of the levels are pretty challenging, and after about 30 minutes of deep concentrated play, my nine-year-old had to take a break. I continued to play, and there were even a few levels I had to skip or had to accept a less than perfect solution just to move onto the next challenge. Mileage may vary, but I thought that this game was perfect for teens to adults in terms of challenge.  However, one of the things I found missing was some sort of indicator that I had unlocked the next planet. An indicator for when the next planet unlocks is not only just for a good reference point, but for me it serves as a motivator to keep trying for more gold asteroids.

Even failing still looks spectacular.

Even failing still looks spectacular.

Just when I had thought that I had discovered everything the game had to offer, I noticed another button on the Start Menu that I hadn’t clicked before. I clicked the “Custom” button. I was entirely oblivious to what that meant. I thought it was just an “options” screen, but it turned out to be a full-fledged level editor! Here, I could recreate and expand on levels that I liked in the original game itself. And then my jaw dropped even further when I learned that I could also upload my levels and download levels created by other people to try. In fact, someone had already made and uploaded a “shooting” arcade-style survival game starring Luna.

Space FoundationIt made me wonder what else would be created if this game was given to a much larger audience, and I was very pleased to find out that “Luna’s Wandering Stars” is being featured at the Space Foundation Symposium later this week. I am certainly looking forward to seeing even more levels once more people start trying it out.

A week after our initial test run, my son was asking how gravity works. To help my son understand, I showed him a YouTube video of a professor using a spandex sheet to demonstrate what gravity fields look like. He watched as ball bearings made their little orbits on a warped surface representing “space-time.” Almost immediately, the lightbulbs in his head went off and he yelled, “That’s exactly like ‘Luna’s Wandering Stars’!” Suddenly, my nine-year-old son understood what the game was really all about: learning truths about science.

That’s what makes “Luna’s Wandering Stars” not just an excellent game with fun mechanics, a wicked sense of humor and a wide variety of levels and designs, but also a great educational experience.

Luna's IconLuna’s Wandering Stars was developed by Serenity Forge

IGTlogo-01$9.95 for not just a fun game, but for the lights going off in a curious child’s mind while learning about space and physics. It was worth infinitely more than the single CFL lightbulb I could get at the same price. (And less toxic for the environment!)

Luna’s Wandering Stars is Indie Gamer Team Approved.

Influent

ImageCathy’s Note: Please welcome to Indie Gamer Chick Mr. Paolo Munoz, known here as Indie Family Man. Both myself and Miko get a lot of requests to review indie games aimed at young children. I guess a lot of you developers were influenced by the Carmen Sandiegos, Reader Rabbits, and Oregon Trails of the world. Although Mike and I get accused of being childish all the time, we’re not exactly the right people to be critiquing educational games for wee-ones. Paolo is a father of three kids, ages 9 to 1, and he enjoys playing games with them. Not only is he an excellent critic himself, he can also gauge how well his children respond to games in both the entertainment and educational factors. He’s the perfect man for this gig. Like Miko and myself, he doesn’t take review codes, paying for all the titles he reviews here. This is his first ever review, and he’s looking for feedback on it. Also, make sure you follow him on Twitter. If you’re a developer of games for young children, you can request a review from Paolo here.

“Influent” follows the story of a young inventor named Andrew Cross. Andrew created a hand-held device he calls the “SanjigenJiten” which allows the user to point it at any object in the world and the device finds the word for the object in any language. Unfortunately, Andrew’s invention was stolen by an evil corporation, and it is the player’s job to help him prove that he is the true inventor.  With the introduction to Influent, both my nine-year-old and six-year-old co-testers enthusiastically jumped at the chance to learn Japanese and to help Andrew in his quest. There is an amazing number of words you can discover in Andrew’s tiny apartment. The game has over 400 words that it introduces. My boys and I spent a lot of time finding out the Japanese names for common household items. Part of the fun of Influent is trying to find these words because so much of the apartment can be searched to find more things. Lots of pieces of furniture open to reveal even more items inside, such as cabinetry, drawers, and even the refrigerator. However, you are only able to explore items in Andrew’s apartment and cannot venture to the outside world.

Despite the sheer volume of things you can click on (and there is a LOT of high quality assets in the game), I couldn’t shake the notion that the game feels “incomplete.” Influent suffers badly from a lack of gameplay and it completely abandons its compelling story and characters.

The only available “game-like” mode is “Time Attack.” In “Time Attack” you take 10 words from a list and try to find them in the various rooms. However, you can create and organize those lists yourself, which can make tests incredibly easy. Moreover, a lot of Japanese words for household items come directly from English. So words such as “door” (do-ah), “curtain” (kah-ten), “computer” (kon-pew-tah), “keyboard” (ki-boh-doh), etc. are all over the apartment and are easy to understand. This can make “Time Attack” challenges too easy and not very good for language retention.  “Mastery” of a word can be achieved by simply repeating “Time Attack” three times for the same set of words. And, the only variation to the game play happens after you “master” 50 words. It unlocks a tiny, infuriating, crash-prone remote control airplane that you can only use while doing more “Time Attack” exercises.

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Learning Japanese is hard. “Orange” in Japanese is “orenji”.

What I think is a bigger tragedy is how the character and story of Andrew Cross, the intrepid inventor, completely disappears from the game. The loading screen itself features Andrew, a spunky female friend, and a charming robot – all three of which are compelling and interesting characters.  The robot only makes a brief and shallow appearance in the tutorial. The girl is non-existent in the actual game, as is a mysterious second female character in sunglasses who only shows up in the loading screens. It almost feels like these characters were intended to be part of the narrative, but the developers ran out of time in development.

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Who’s that girl? Why is she on the main screen?

Another major oversight is that the handheld “SanjigenJiten” itself never once makes an appearance in the game. Andrew wanders around his apartment with no such hand-held device in his hands. In fact, the game never tells you what “SanjigenJiten” means. I only found out by digging through their original KickStarter page that it means “3D Dictionary.” It is as if the creators assumed you already have some background knowledge of the game’s development and crowdfunding history before even playing the game. So what happens to the corporate crony who stole the original invention? How are we progressing in proving Andrew is the original inventor? How does memorizing these words advance the story? The original and very compelling invitation to play the game is completely lost and never makes another appearance beyond the introductory video.

I believe that Three Flip Studios has a good start with great art assets, an excellent sense of humor (tons of gamer references), and characters I want to know more about and discover. But Influent does not seem like a finished product. I sincerely hope that the developers continue expanding on what they have created. As it is, Influent is a neat language “toy”, but it isn’t a compelling game, nor is it as effective as a dictionary for learning words to common household items.

As of this writing, there are already 10 language packs available for “Influent” at $9.99 each, with dozens more planned. In my opinion, Three Flip should concentrate more on adding interactivity, story, learning challenges, and games, than simply adding swap-able audio files and text via DLC as an easy way of monetizing.

ImageInfluent was developed by Three Flip Studios

$9.99 for a brief family distraction in a foreign language, but a good episode of Bakugan is more motivational for me and my sons to keep learning Japanese.

ReignMaker

You can watch me play some of the game here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFnSbog9PKg

In this latest installment from Frogdice, they take a tried-and-true puzzle concept and add to it by throwing in some magic and incorporating city management, which makes for a unique experience.

Building on the Bejeweled match-three (or more) system, your rune combinations send out a magical onslaught against invaders that slowly walk towards your castle walls as they try to destroy your defenses, thus ending the stage. Making a vertical match sends out a wave that attacks a spread of three lanes, whereas a horizontal match sends out a row of attacks that hits multiple targets in the same lane. Complete a series of waves of monsters, and you advance to the next stage until you reach a boss fight.

The boards that hold your runes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own challenges.

The boards that hold your runes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own challenges.

Not only is the game a puzzle game—it has some elements of city management as well. Between each stage, or battle, you are brought back to your town, which requires some administrative attention. While you’re off fighting, the citizenry either get themselves into trouble or quibble over disputes of various kinds and need your help in deciding what to do. Depending on the nature of your decisions over time, you may receive bonuses in the playfield.

The proud town of Mikoville.

The proud town of Mikoville.

The city also includes such areas as a farm, lumber mill, granary, and others to gather resources. You use these resources to build or research items that aid you while defending your towers such as explosives, weapons, and offensive and defensive magic. These items are key for the more difficult stages where there is wave after wave of attacking mobs, and there would be no way you could stop the sheer amount of monsters by using the runes of the puzzle alone. Using your spells to their maximum efficiency and saving them for just the right moment is fun and rewarding when you take out a number of foes in one blast.

While ReignMaker is a fun game, it isn’t without a few flaws. One of the issues I had was that when starting the game, you’re dropped into your mostly vacant city and told to build a few things. At this point you don’t truly understand why and say, “Okay, I guess I’ll build a farm. That sounds like a good thing. Lumber mill? Sure! I have money!” While there were some pop-ups describing some of the concepts to me, I didn’t feel like I actually understood the game without some trial and error on my part after playing a few rounds. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and once I did get it, it was an easy concept; however, I felt as though I fell into it and didn’t actually learn it.

I rule!

I rule!

Some additional guidance on the benefits of using items would have been beneficial as well. I almost stopped playing the game out of frustration somewhere after the first boss because stages were getting too difficult. After a series of defeats, I turned off the game, only coming back hours later after telling myself, “There must be something I’m missing or forgetting.” Sure enough, I was right. With a bit more experimentation, I discovered that the frustration I felt was related to the fact that there were a number of situations in which there was no way I could make a match in the lane that a monster was using, and no amount of clearing runes was helping me. It turns out that I could craft a dagger that allowed me, as the player, to attack a particular monster. Later on, I figured out that some magic allows me to destroy a single rune which helps against tricky, out-of-the way monsters, and other magic helps me to restore the hit points of my castle.

These flaws, though, are minor. ReignMaker is a genuinely fun experience you shouldn’t miss if you are a fan of the genre. Frogdice has proven once again that they know how to make a well-crafted puzzle game.

ReignMakerlogoReignMaker was developed by Frogdice Games.

IGTlogo-01$15 is all it costs to have your own kingdom these days. It’s a pretty good deal for a game to play on a reigny day. OH COME ON! That’s comedy gold! Hey, don’t walk away. Come back!

Rad Raygun

When people mock the 80s, they tend to mock synthesizers, tall hair, and movie montages. When games mock the 80s, they joke about how we accepted a lot of shit when it came to video games. Strangely enough, it’s not all that common for games to mock the other big event from the 80s, apart from New Coke of course. By that, I mean the Cold War. Finally someone has stepped up to the plate. Enter Rad Raygun.

I previously hadn’t read up on the game much other than to see that it looked like a Mega Man clone. I haven’t played one of those since Vintage Hero so I was ready to give it a shot.

After a few minutes, it was clear that I was wrong in that it isn’t a Mega Man clone but more of a Mega Man-inspired game. It has some similarities in that you’re a robot with a blaster and that it’s a platformer with boss battles at the end of each stage, but there are many differences that make this title stand apart.

White House Down!

White House Down!

In this trek through 198X, you are Ray Raygun, a robot on a mission to bringing the war Soviets have started back to Russia after they attacked Washington DC. In your adventure which takes you to the Berlin Wall, Chernobyl’s nuclear plant, and the Kremlin, you’ll encounter the cutest little Soviet robots and missiles to destroy in this light-hearted look at the Cold War.

Setting itself apart from Mega Man, rather than copying the abilities of the bosses you defeat, you gain abilities as you find them on the ground such as a slide maneuver to sneak under things, a mid-air moonwalk that allows you to cross gaps, and an aimable cannon shot that helps you reach enemies placed at an angle your blaster has trouble reaching.

Poking fun at the 80s era of video games is a tried and true method to get a few laughs. Right away you’re treated to a joke about how enemies will reappear the instant you backtrack even a few pixels. While typically annoying in the games it’s mocking, it’s not a big deal here because none of the enemies are overly difficult and serves its purpose as an amusing quirk.

There is a fun nod to Tetris while inside the Kremlin where you can actually play the classic game in order to, I assume, gain bonuses to your power-ups. I only assume because while it is a cute nod, unless I’m missing something, controls for this mini-game were brutally difficult in that every few seconds, a piece would fall in a certain location depending on where your character was on the board and which direction he faced. If you want a piece to fall where you are standing, you’re out of luck for there is little you can do to get out-of-the-way before the piece comes crashing down. It would have been nice if the player could control when the piece fell rather than let it be a timed event since a game like Tetris requires careful placement of blocks.

The levels are laid out in a fashion along the same vein of Mega Man with a few key differences.

The game makes it a point to simulate the way stages, as in Mega Man, would “scroll” when you reach the border of an area, but it forgets one thing. Enemies and enemy attacks that occur during the scroll should be forgotten by the game and disappear. Something so seemingly minor in text here comes off as quite an annoyance while playing. I encountered a few areas where an enemy was able to fire homing missiles at me off-screen and I would have to flail about to avoid the attacks.

A Tetris minigame found in Moscow.

A Tetris minigame found in Moscow.

While there is never a dull moment in fighting off the sheer number of baddies in Mega Man, many of the areas in this game are devoid of any life at all. These areas are purely for aesthetic reasons such as, “A cooling tower is tall so we will make it tall in our video game.” This is all fine and dandy but give me something to shoot! No one wants to walk through an empty game where they’re encouraged to kill all the things and there are no things.

I encountered a few bugs along the way but nothing game-breaking and not really worth mentioning other than one that was a bit strange. If backtracking and you cross back through one of the “scroll” areas and were hit while the game scrolled, crossing back through that scroll would cause you to take damage again, even if there were no longer enemies there. While I did die to this once, the game is easy enough and lives are plentiful that it wasn’t anything more than a small annoyance.

It may seem like I’m picking on a number of things here but actually, I had a lot of fun with this title and children of the 80s and those with a little knowledge about the global politics of the era will laugh at the nice touches the devs added to make this title stand out. It’s a cute homage to the time of my youth that, for the most part, does what it tried to do well.

At its cheap price ($1), this is a fun title that you can finish in a short amount of time and I highly recommend it. Between the Tetris area mentioned above, Matryoshka Sputniks, and a lone red balloon floating, there was plenty to make me giggle with delight.

title

Rad Raygun was developed by Trufun Entertainment.

IGTlogo-01For 36 rubles, you can pick up this game and beat up Soviet-era commies with capitalism.

Rad Raygun has been awarded the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.

Deo

Deo is a 3D platformer for the PC that is, for me, reminiscent of games from yesteryear. When I turned on the game, I was reminded of the Playstation 2 days with its soft, bright graphics and even softer music as a backdrop for whatever new 3D world I was about to be roaming around in. This one definitely feels like it took some cues from Spyro the Dragon in graphics and then looked at, well, just about any platformer from that era on collection quests. We were really excited to collect all sorts of shit in those days, weren’t we?

The mushrooms laugh at you when they kill you, which happens often.

The mushrooms laugh at you when they kill you, which happens often.

The story for this game is that a dragon stole your crown and you must get it back. That’s about as good a reason as any for me! I’ve played a bunch of games that had even less going for them. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for a gaming era gone by, but I had hope for this game when I read up on it. Unfortunately, right from the initial boot-up, things went downhill quickly.

Some of the features that are advertised for this game include:

  • Full controller support.
  • Unique input model.
  • The rich set of actions and game mechanics make Deo a truly challenging game for even the most experienced gamers.
  • Featuring a cutting edge “smart” camera system for seamless, dynamical game experience.

The first three can be lumped together, so let’s talk about them first, shall we?

Full controller support. That’s great! No one wants to run around in a 3D platformer that requires quick reflexes with a keyboard if they can help it. Don’t get too excited too quickly, though, because the controller is a huge burden on the menu screens. The smallest movement on the analog stick sends your cursor flying, requiring you to switch to your keyboard when you want to do anything such as go to the options screen or load up a previously started game. It’s so awkward!

In-game movement is not much better, as the smallest nudge on the analog stick registers as applying full force. No! No no no no no. Even Super Mario 64 back in 1996 got this right. Hell, I got this right in my Intro to C# game I made last autumn. When someone asked about movement on Desura’s page for the game, the developers kept insisting it has eight-directional movement, something completely different.

I alt-tab a lot during games to either check emails, post classy things on Twitter, or be distracted by cats on Reddit. Imagine my surprise, then, when I alt-tabbed and came back to the game a moment later to discover that it had completely lost the ability to recognize controllers. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Another promoted feature states the game has “rich actions and game mechanics”. Okay, well, there’s run, jump, glide, and shoot. To their credit, this is over three times the number of actions in Star Runner that I played a while back.

One of the first things you’ll experience when you load up the world is that your weapon is awkward but effective. It’s short-ranged, spreads fireball of sorts, and allows you to hit enemies in an arc which is useful since the controls aren’t all that hot. You can also charge up your fireball, which turns it into a powerful, fireball that shoots straight ahead. However, being that you can’t aim it worth shit, there’s no point in charging it up.

Suggestive feature in the distance.

Suggestive feature in the distance.

In order to progress through the game, you need to gather musical notes in each world’s stages. Hidden in various places, they typically lay encased in large, crystalline monoliths that look like something from bad-dragon.com (not that that’s a bad thing). To reach to the note, you need to touch the dildomonolith to make it dissipate. Don’t stand too close to the object when it’s finished dissipating for it explodes and will kill you. ಠ_ಠ

Another “mechanic” is gathering gems throughout the maps which don’t actually seem to do anything. Coins in Mario games add up to give you extra lives, and rings in Sonic games allow you to be hit without dying, but these gems seem to be there for nothing more than to serve as things to gather that make blips when you pick them up. There are two types of chests that hold crystals: silver ones that are destroyed with by fireball and gold ones that require a key to open but hold the exact same loot as silver chests. The game tries to encourage you to pick up keys, but there’s no point. All you need to do is find musical notes and advance.

The “smart camera” that the description boasts about? It means that you have to control it 95% of the time with the L and R buttons. You are the brains of a camera which, when left to its own devices, has no issue with trying to kill you. Sometimes you’re launched into the air, and where you land is vital to you not being hit by an enemy. What does the camera do? It locks itself under you, giving you no idea where you should try to land to avoid an untimely death. At other times you will turn a corner but the camera angles itself in such a way that it’s impossible for you to know an enemy is waiting to take you out until you’ve memorized its location after dying a few times.

You'll never kill those bats because they don't fly low enough to hit them.

You’ll never kill those bats because they don’t fly low enough to get hit.

The music isn’t atrocious though it, too, has a problem. On occasion, some sounds effects such as the one that plays when you blow up one of the many chests lying around cause the music to restart. Sometimes it restarts twice in the same second!

A lot of passion goes into making games, and I’ve no doubt the brothers who made this gave it their all. I hope these criticisms are taken to heart and consideration is given to improve the game. There’s potential to make it not that bad, but in its current form, it suffers heavily. Unfortunately, the devs seem to have abandoned the project as it is still on version 1.0 and has been out since May 2013.

I like to take my own screenshots when I can, but for Deo I had no choice but to use press kit pictures because none of my screenshots would turn out. If you’d like to see footage of the game and some of its problems, you may rewatch my stream here: Miko Plays “Deo”.

DeoDeo was developed by linman3D.

This game is $13 and I’m going to go find a copy of Spyro to play.

Valdis Story: Abyssal City

To quote a song from one of my favorite musicals, “The more you love someone, the more you want to kill them.” That’s how I felt about Valdis Story: Abyssal City.

Valdis Story is an action platformer with RPG elements thrown in, not at all unlike Muramasa: The Demon Blade if you’ve played that. You choose a character to play through the game with and complete missions or quests for NPCs. Experience is granted based on monsters you kill, and loot is used to craft items.

This game is pretty.

This game is pretty.

The characters you can access right away are people caught in a war between angels and demons, a war where people forced to fight for one side or the other. There are renegades who are trying to stay out of the conflict, and you had a ship full of them before it crash landed. Now you are trying to figure out just exactly where you are and where your missing crew members may be found.

The graphics and music here are beautiful. Everything looks hand-drawn and is reminiscent of Capcom’s work (which I say as a compliment). I love trekking through each new environment to see what it looks like, and the character art is beautiful. Everything looks like it was carefully created to stand out and to look amazing. The music for each area is really fantastic. I admit, I’m terrible when it comes to talking about music, but I know what I like and I like this. That, too, is a compliment.

With exploration comes special powers, such as wall jump or speed burst, some of the typical fare for such games. Many of your other powers, bonuses, etc. come in the form of a skill tree system that you build upon with each level gained. Examples of what you’ll earn as you make your way down the skill tree are small increases to hit-points, combo attack bonuses, and damage increases.

Skill trees.

Skill trees.

Combat is similar to that of brawlers. You’re able to rack up combos and are graded on how well you do during boss fights. Avoid getting hit or kill the boss quickly, and you’ll gain bonus XP and stats. Melee combat feels pretty good overall and there are strategies to learn the best way to take down each enemy faster.

There is a magic system within the game as well. As you progress you will learn new spells that you are able to assign to your character. They include offensive spells, spells that aid you in reaching things, and defensive spells such as a ray of light, ice block, and restorative shield.

All of the above? That was me gushing to neutral. The following is me getting more and more upset.

Action games typically have an invincibility period built-in for when the player is hit, usually lasting up to a few seconds. This allows them to reposition or try to figure out what their next move will be to overcome an obstacle. Valdis Story doesn’t have that, and it leads to very frustrating situations when a monster shoves you up against the wall and you have no way to fight back, letting them essentially stunlock you until you die and have to resume from your last save point. Little is more frustrating than dying to something when all you can do is flail, hoping your button mashing will do something but ultimately failing.

Another frustration I had was actually something that I stumbled upon by having a ridiculously busy, and unexpected, end of year. If I was able to attack this game all at once over a few days, which I prefer, I wouldn’t have experienced this. The game has no way of reminding you of the controls when you have to put it down for long periods of time. Some of the controls, particularly those for magic, are not intuitive at all. You’re left flailing around, hoping that you’re not forgetting anything important as you move about. The guidance system the game uses to tell you where you need to head next is a bit too vague. For example, “Go west to [location].” The map branches so that there are multiple wests and areas are not labeled, leading to player confusion.

valdisstory_042Controls aren’t always as sharp as they should be for a platformer with boss fights where you need quick movement. One such boss fight had me racing around a room to avoid falling poison clouds while avoiding pits of poison (the fights are thematic). This wouldn’t have been so bad but there were many, many instances of my character refusing to automatically grip ledges as it is supposed to do, causing me to fall into poison. In another fight, you have an onslaught of attacks coming your way, all of which should be avoidable. However, because of how clumsily your character moves when you’re trying to be quick, such an attack will give you one second to respond but the jump you started before the attack takes 1.5 seconds to execute, leaving you completely vulnerable and unable to avoid the incoming damage. I’m not accurately conveying the huge rage fits I was having while screaming at the game. “FUCKING GRAB THE LEDGE!” “THE FUCK? THERE IS LITERALLY NO WAY FOR ME TO AVOID THAT!” “FUUUUUUCK!” It was approaching Angry Video Game Nerd levels.

I loved this game but there are some strong rage-inducing aspects that make me leery about suggesting it. At $15 it’s not a bad commitment and I’m sure they’re working on some updates. Definitely get the soundtrack, however; it’s pretty good.

Final thought, I won’t say that all of my rages above should be fixed but I’d to give a second chance review if the controls are fixed at the very least.

logo_valdisstory

Valdis Story: Abyssal City was developed by Endless Fluff Games.

“Ruv…and hate…, they rike two blothers, who go on a date.” -Avenue Q.

The game’s $15.

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