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7.21.2020

Terraforming Earth: A Genuine Procedurally-Generated, Puzzle-Platforming Pleasure

     It isn't often I come across a game so lovely and well put together that I'm taken aback. Terraforming Earth is exactly that type of game.  It's a beautifully stylized, procedurally-generated, puzzle-platforming game completely loaded with heaps of style and charm.


     The premise is that something has gone awry and life on Earth has been eliminated.  Three robots are sent in to remedy this terrible situation and bring life back to the dead planet.  What makes this so wonderful, not including the charm of the robots (who are considerably more entertaining than Portal 2's Atlas and P-Body), is that you can play infinitely and never have repeat levels.  It's a puzzle-platforming gamer's heaven- infinite puzzles to be solved.  Sure, you'll be bringing life to a dead planet, but those puzzles, that's where it's at.

     The levels are each a puzzle to solve in gathering supplies or completing a task.  In doing this, each of the 3 core robots you use to solve the puzzles has an ability to aid in these tasks.  The blocky blue bot (Opi) can lift, jump, and throw things, the yellow orb bot (Curi) can hover and fly at a certain height, and the triangular pink bot (Spiri) can make short range teleports.  Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but pretty early in the game the puzzle difficulty starts compounding rapidly.  It should be noted that, that statement is NOT a complaint.  I had a few puzzles within the first couple hours that really pushed some abstract thinking- in particular, I had to use the blue robot to throw the yellow bot over a wall and let it fall to a certain height and then hover it all the way across the map to land on a platform.
     That small change made me really explore and reconsider the levels as a whole, and it was a truly wonderful experience- you can't simply look at it as necessarily a step by step process.  Sometimes you have to backtrack or think way outside the box  It is rare that a puzzle can make you push the boundaries of "how" it can work, and it's made even more impressive that it was a procedurally-generated level- meaning the developers put in the extra effort to consider what many players might not have ever remotely thought of, and that sets it above so many other puzzle games.

     One thing that nagged me is the fact that procedural generation can have the potential to create levels that cannot be solved.  I personally had not encountered that issue in all the time I've put in, but it seems like a valid concern that will come up, and the longer I play the higher the probability.  The downside is you'd have to abandon the level, losing robots in the process, and possibly have to regain "Trust." The loss of robots isn't too awful, but the "trust" is a bit annoying.
     The Trust system itself seems a bit to harsh in that you can lose a bunch really fast, due to things outside your control, and then have to spend a ton of time rebuilding it.  Honestly, it needs a bit of tweaking, and definitely could use some better explanation in the game while you're playing.

     The story, which will likely take a backseat for many players, is to return life to the planet and figure out what actually occurred that wiped it all out in the first place.  Along the way there are plenty of hints- even right at the beginning of the game- and it's hard not to make comparisons to Wall-E, but Terraforming Earth really makes it their own here.  But what got and kept me intrigued was all the little banter between the army of robots you create along the way. They complain, comment, and offer tips as you are on your way to fixing the ruin the Earth has found itself in.  It isn't a ton of variety, but it adds a fun layer of AI's perspective on the situation and what should be done.  There's times when a bunch of them are talking over each other and their word bubbles overlap en masse.


     Overall, Terraforming Earth is a tremendously fun game.  The flaws are quite minor, and it is just fun to play.  It's got great music and sound design (the noise of Curi rolling around is outstanding in its own right), truly stunning hand-crafted art for visuals, clean and responsive controls.  The game is an all-around amazing experience.  I got stuck on puzzles and had to step away a bit, I lost robots through trial and error, but I never wanted to quit playing at any point.  As I said in the title for this review, Terraforming Earth is a genuine procedurally-generated, puzzle-platforming pleasure, and I highly recommend it.

     Terraforming Earth on [ Steam ]

     Their [ Official Site ] & [ Twitter ]

6.12.2020

Aqua Lungers: An In-the-Depths Review

     If you've ever heard that a game is easy to learn, but difficult to master- then you know the gist of Aqua Lungers.  The goal is simple- loot sunken wrecks for gold, and return it to your own treasure chest. The obstacles to that goal are small groups of annoying enemies that knock gold out of your hands and slow you down, large boss enemies that can one-shot you, and the absolute worst of the bunch- other players vying for that sweet, sweet gold!


     Players must navigate dangerous depths to break open sunken ships to obtain the golden treasures held within, and carry up to 10 bits at a time back to their stash.  It really is extraordinarily simple- get loot as fast as possible.  If you are attacked you drop some, if you die you lose it all.  A seemingly straightforward challenge.

     In a single player game, there'll be no other divers to beat you to the loot, but be warned there's significantly more enemies to make your expeditions troublesome.  And the bosses can collect gold as well.  I had a couple matches where the boss was collecting gold while the camera panned to the spawning area before I could get into the match.  A little frustrating, but still fun to try and loot the shipwrecks before being mutilated by giant monsters and their annoying little minions.
     There's also a boss mode, wherein the typically invincible bosses must be slain before the timer ends, and as soon as it dies, whoever has the most gold wins.  Players must find a balance between collecting gold, messing with opponents, and working cooperatively to kill the boss before the timer runs out.


     BUT!  What makes Aqua Lungers stand out even better is that players can change the parameters, which can drastically alter how you play.  The base amount of gold that must be looted per level is 3000 to win- but maybe you want a much longer game- crank it up to 10k!
     Would you like a time limit to dial up the pressure in a stressful rush to snag all that loot!  Turn the game into a "mad splash" to see who can grab the most gold in a minute! The winner in that event is whoever has the most gold when the timer hits zero.
    Making this just a little bit more difficult is the fact bosses can gather gold as well in all modes and can win a level.  So sometimes, it's best to play the long game and work cooperatively for a time to kill the boss before it gets the gold, because players cannot reach the next level without actually working together and regardless of who wins- as long as it isn't a boss monster.

     All players begin with a simple harpoon with a quick jab attack that can kill small enemies and slow down other players, as well as a charged attack that gives you a short dash and does increased damage.  It also serves as a wonderful tool to quickly escape from bosses and a makeshift jump when out of the water.  Players can break open little skull shrines strewn among the levels to obtain special items such as a bubble shield for damage protection, throwing spears for long-ranged stabbery, dynamite bundles to blow up friends and enemies alike, and- my personal favorite- spiked boomerangs that can all be flung around to stun and damage enemies/bosses/other players and then re-caught for repeated use.  The devs made a pretty brilliant move in making these item caches respawn items continually throughout the matches.  It offers a nice rotation of things to make the battle for loot that much more hilariously intense.

     As for critiques of the game, honestly there isn't much to complain about.  I did find it a bit odd that you can't play without a controller, and there isn't an inbuilt online multiplayer (there are workarounds with Parsec), and- I cannot speak for everyone on this- I like the idea of couch co-op & pvp, but how many people have up to 4 controllers for a PC setup?
     But I digress, these are minor gripes.  The game's fun factor more than compensates for these petty issues, especially in the versatility of modes when the players set their own rules.

     In the end, Aqua Lungers may be reminiscent of Smash Brothers, but the added co-op element makes it one of those truly special games that perfectly straddles the line between co-op and competition that sets it ahead.  Aqua Lungers is an absolute gem of a game from newcomers WarpedCore Studio, and offers a ton of fun and replayability, and so I can safely say that I highly recommend it.  You don't need to invest much time to enjoy it either, it's an easy game to pick up and play for short bursts- for 10 minutes or 10 hours- it's just a really great time in the field of silly, yet skilled, watery warfare.

     Aqua Lungers on [ Steam ] [ Nintendo Switch ]


*Review copy provided for me, thank you!

6.12.2018

Maneater: The Open World, Action-RPG About an Evolving Shark Out for Revenge

EAT.

     There's certainly been no shortage of shark related games since the 1975 Atari Arcade game Shark Jaws, and later the much more entertaining film-related Jaws hit the Nintendo in 1987.  We've had a number of good ones (Depth and Shark Attack Death Match 2), bad ones (Shark), some hilariously absurd ones (Shark Simulator and Shark Dating Simulator XL), and a whole plethora of mobile ones (Google Play).   


     Now, the people behind Killing Floor, a splinter group from the previously mentioned game Depth team founded by Alex Quick called Blindside Interactive, are bringing us an action RPG where players take on the role of a Bull Shark menacing the Gulf Coast.

     According to the official website:
     "You were cut from your mother's body and left to die in the unforgiving waters of the Gulf Coast. Your only tools are your wits, your jaws, and an uncanny ability to evolve as you feed. 
     Anything and everything is on the menu... 
          ...provided you kill it before it kills you."
     Quick told PCGamer in an interview that, "Maneater was originally planned as an “expansion pack” of sorts for Depth. The idea was kicked around internally but never got traction. Eventually several members of the original Depth team splintered off to do our own thing."

GROW.

     When it comes to the growth of the shark, the developers are still toying with some ideas.  They want the game to be open world, but creating one that feels properly scaled for a 3 foot shark AND a 13 foot shark has posed some problems for the growth mechanic.  Currently, they're trying to limit growth to some more linearly-designed levels at the beginning of the game, which will switch over to the "evolution" system when entering the larger, more open world portion after that.  Doing it this way allows for a more adequate environment adjusted for the player's size at the moment, opening the door for player customization at the same time they enter the open world.
     Meaning that while the story is still in development, it sounds like the early game may start with the baby Bull Shark in captivity, exploring the surrounding area and feeding while growing into an adult, and then making its way into the open where it begin to gain notoriety and grow into the beastly moniker of Maneater.  The narrative itself is through human characters reacting to what the player is doing, and Blindside is playing with the idea of giving the shark an inner monologue.  They've made it clear that there won't be any dialogue between sharks, but tease that they don't want to give anything away yet either.
     So far enemies range from jellyfish and alligators to geared up shark hunters.  Players will be free to engage in all manner of activities like gobbling down jet skiers, battling other sharks, or even sinking ships.  Right now the goal is to create enough chaos to attract the shark hunters, and they currently serve as bosses.  But be warned, as your notoriety grows, the shark hunters gain in strength and difficulty as well.

EVOLVE.

     To become the ultimate killing machine players will need to explore a huge open world, from roaming the vast ocean full of wrecked ships to wreaking bloody chaos along the coastal waterways.  All of it is for a quest of vengeance against the human that killed your mother.  After using your deadly maw to consume the flesh of your rended victims, whether they be whales or hapless divers, players will be able customize the Bull Shark through two different paths of progression- evolving different parts of their bodies and assigning attribute points.
     Attribute points will be divided up into 5 distinct categories- Ferocity, Endurance, Perception, Vitality, and Agility- with each focusing on a particular area of the shark's power level, such as Ferocity increasing critical damage.
     Evolution will be through equippable items obtained through killing things to augment the shark.  This shark loot will have a variety of rarities, as well as being upgradable.  The evolutions will enable players to improve parts of themselves, by boosting stats or bestowing you with new abilities.  One of the choices described was between a getting a tail-whip AoE attack or an effect that can add bleeding to bites.
     It's also been stated that the attribute points the player chooses will directly effect the evolutions can equip- so if you put a lot into the Ferocity attribute, you'll be able to equip more jaw/teeth evolutions, and conversely if a player dumps a bunch into Endurance, they'll have possible survivability potential with skin/hide evolutions.  In addition to this Quick told PCGamer that, "Rarity inversely scales the equip cost of an evolution, so you can stack more of them on a single part of the shark’s body."
     For the overall evolution system, they want to ride the line between "plausible and ridiculous."  We wont be growing legs or multiple tails, but we will be able to alter the shape of our teeth or grow serrated scales.  Quick says they, "Want it to feel ‘just’ grounded enough in reality so as not to break immersion, but wacky enough that you can do some creative and fun stuff with your shark."

     Maneater has definitely peaked my interest and is definitely shaping up to be one entertainingly gruesome feast.

     Maneater is "Coming Soon" and will be available on [ Steam ]
          (The game currently has no release date) 

     Source [ Maneatergame.com ] via [ PCGamer

6.10.2018

Play as a Tiny Heroic Fox in TUNIC: E3 2018 Announcement Trailer

     I've been keeping an eye on this game since late 2016 when it was known as Secret Legend.  Since then, it has come quite a long way, and looks even more wonderful under its new title Tunic.



     This beautiful isometric action-adventure game about a sword-wielding fox certainly draws inspiration from The Legend of Zelda, with its bright, colorful world full of curious friends and strange creatures to encounter.  Washing up on a strange shore, the little heroic fox will be able to explore a vast land full of forests to wander through, ruins to delve into, houses full of pots to smash, treasure chests to plunder, new weapons to find, and dangerous enemies to defeat to make it in this exquisite new world.

     The one-man development team of Andrew Shouldice (and publisher Finji) should be proud, Tunic looks to be a truly heartwarming gem to play.  He's really pushing the boundaries of the Unity engine- I mean just look at the breathtaking lighting effects, especially in the woodland areas!  Definitely keep an eye out for this game.

     TUNIC will arrive one XBox One and PC [ Steam ] in 2019.

     Official Site [ Tunic Game ] [ Tunic Twitter[ Andrew's Twitter ]

11.08.2017

[ UPDATED ] Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition: Pre-Registration has Begun on Android & New Trailer

[ UPDATE ] Both the trailer and Google Play's pre-registration pages have been removed.
[ UPDDATE 2 ] Newer Trailer provided, Pre-registration has been returned.

     Back in August we we're given quiet the odd surprise with the announcement of a "chibi style" port of Final Fantasy XV coming to iOS and Android devices under the title of Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition.  The Android devices' pre-registration has opened and can be found here.
     The tiny new trailer gives us a look into combat, button layouts, and general action- a lot of little new bits of information.


     This new episodic take on the game will allow players to enjoy the world of Eos in the cutesy new style without being tied to a console, or beset by an overwhelming amount of side quests.  It'll be just the core story spread out over 10 episodes and done up as an isometric action game with an optimized and casual control scheme.

     [ Supported Models ]
iOS 11.1 or later
iPhone 6s (9th generation) or later / iPad Pro / iPad (5th generation) or later /
iPad Air 2 (2nd generation) or later / iPad mini 4 (4th generation) or later

Android 5.0 or higher model (RAM: 2 GB or more)
* Some models are not supported.
     [ COST ] 
Chapter 1: Free
Chapters 2-3: each 120 yen (approx. $0.99)
Chapters 4-10: each 480 yen (approx. $3.99)
Complete 10 chapter set: 2,400 yen (approx. $19.99)
※ The price is the same in the App Store, Google Play, Windows.
     This new version of the game looks to be strangely entertaining and fun.  The episodic nature of how they are breaking it up is a little concerning, but if the price to gameplay is balanced well enough, it could be a great deal.  And honestly, I'm curious to see if we'll get some other Pocket Editions such as Final Fantasy 8 or 10.

     Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is slated for a Fall 2017 for Android and iOS,
          -and the Windows 10 version will be a bit later in Winter 2017.

     Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition [ Google Play ]

     Source [ Final Fantasy Official ]

10.27.2017

Where Cards Fall: The Dreamlike Game gets Delayed

     Snowman Games has announced that they have a second game being delayed this year following Alto's Odyssey being pushed back earlier this year.  Snowman, along with developer The Game Band's, upcoming title Where Cards Fall is being delayed from its original Fall 2017 estimate with no firm release window.


     Where Cards Fall is a beautiful and curious looking game from humble beginnings as a student project, and that over the course of its last 5 years of development has recently needed a change in direction.  The creators' final vision of it is finally being put on the right course, and on this new path, they are reassuring us that the end project will be made much better for it. 

     The Game Band’s creative director Sam Rosenthal said:
     "When we first announced Where Cards Fall, I talked about how the game is meant to feel like a bittersweet memory. By revisiting the past, we want to explore how we build our futures over many years. 
     We chose our cards. We put them together. We built a house. The house wasn’t quite right. We knocked it down. We started again. 
     When we teamed up with Snowman, we caught a glimpse of our dream house. So we took everything down to the studs and built a much stronger foundation. With all that said, it’s looking like we’ll need some more time to finish decorating."  
     The Game Band says they've found the dream version of this project is in sight and they will be slowly updating us with news in the coming months of Where Cards Fall's game mechanics, its story, and peaks into the dreamlike world they've been building- along with a much more firm release date when it becomes clear.

     Rosenthal finished his message with the lovely sentiment, "Thank you for your support, and for your patience. I know delays have become a bit of a cliché in video games, but new ideas are hard to build properly on the first try. Sometimes you need to let your creation fall to see what it can become."
     It's good to hear that they have put a large importance on making the best game possible, and taking the time to do it right- instead of forcing something out as fast as possible.

     Source [ Official Snowman Blog ]

10.26.2017

Starman: Tale of light: Launches November 7th

     A Spanish indie developer, Nada Studio, comprised of two brother architects, Jacobo and Sergio Abril have created a wonderful little monochromatic puzzle game called, Starman: Tale of Light, coming to iOS soon.


     Starman: Tale of Light the story of a man attempting to bring light back to a darkened universe, with a particular interest in plot development relayed through the use of light and shadow.
     Requiring players to think outside the box, Starman is a beautiful isometric puzzle game that was designed to gradually increase in difficulty by continually adding new mechanics throughout the duration of the game.  The developers have focused on creating a complex system of interactivity through the use of both appropriate and creative feedback.  They want to give players new mechanics every level, and have players receive feedback for every click- this ranges from the usual lights and sounds, and adds more depth with haptic feedback (vibrations), and "other effects," giving players as much to work with as possible in new and original ways.

     Just from the trailer and descriptions, Starman: Tale of Light looks to be a tremendously promising puzzle game with an extremely atmospheric experience on top of it- so it's definitely one to keep an eye out for.

     Starman: Tale of Light lands on iOS devices November 7th.