Tag Archives: Action

Jotun

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-1Games that throw huge bosses at players just feel epic. They instantly illicit a, “Yikes!” as battle begins. From there things evolve. First one runs around desperately trying not to get killed. The monstrosity in front of them is probably blasting stuff, smashing things, and barely giving players a moment to catch their breath. There’s a lot going on and there’s just this massive creature there that would like nothing better than put an end to players’ adventures.

Then something happens. Players start to figure out the patterns. At first one starts to discover the best way to dodge incoming attacks. Then openings to counterattack become noticeable. Suddenly, the player lands a blow on the boss. From there, momentum slowly begins to shift. Then, finally, after a pitched battle, the player emerges victories.

Of course this is simplifying things just slightly. It’s highly likely that players died several times and had to redo the battle. However, at some point they figured out what to do, and executed it reasonably well. Then they found their on screen alter ego standing over the corpse of a once terrifying boss. With that, a tremendous sense of satisfaction washes over the player, only to be yanked away as the process repeats on the next boss. That’s okay, though, because eventually the game will be completed, all the bosses dead, and those who finished this will be able to enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Even if one doesn’t finish the game, they’ll likely have the good sense to point at it and tell friends, “The fights in that game are epic!”

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-2Jotun is one such game that deserves these accolades. The game follows the story of a recently deceased viking woman named Thora. Her death was less than glorious and as a result she has to prove her mettle to the gods. Doing so will ensure her a place in Valhalla. The gods are fine with this, so they issue her a challenge. If she is able to defeat a number of Jotun, giants of viking mythology, they will grant her a place in paradise.

From there, players venture forth exploring a number of different worlds. The game is structured as half boss fights and half exploration / puzzle solving. First one must explore a couple of areas in the domain of a given Jotun. Here Thora will look for runes that open up the sealed door to the giant of that realm. She’ll also occasionally find fruit that will increase her health pool, as well as alters to various viking gods. When she comes across these alters, she is granted new abilities, which are quite helpful. The exploration and puzzle solving usually have little to no combat. It’s more about figuring out how to get all of the runes and power ups in the area. It makes for a slower pace, but is a nice counter balance to the extremely busy boss fights.

Meanwhile, fighting the actual Jotun is as epic and exciting as the little story at the start of this article implies. Seeing as the game is presented from an isometric view, it’s all about dashing in, getting in a few swings and getting out after. There will also be specific mechanics to engage in, but never get caught out. Doing so will likely result in a very large foot coming down on Thora’s head, or some other unpleasantly over-sized outcome that will take off a ton of health.

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-3These beings are giants after all, and the game really emphasizes it. When Thora engages one of these creatures, the camera pans out until she’s just a tiny little person on the screen. Often she barely comes up to the ankle of a Jotun. Seeing this is imposing enough as it is, but then the giant starts attacking.

From here it’s all about learning patterns, battle phases, and figuring out how and when to attack. Each boss will have multiple phases, so there’s a lot to sort out, but it’s very satisfying when one does. Battles are tough but fair. If a player dies, it’s clear it was because of something they did or didn’t do. Maybe they didn’t see an add. Perhaps they got greedy and tried to get in one too many swings with Thora’s ax when it was obvious the Jotun was about to attack. Another possibility is that one neglected to look for alters of the gods and / or fruit to make Thora stronger, and are now at a disadvantage in the fight.

The game is such, that it pretty much bombards players with opportunities for self-reflection when things go wrong. If a player dies a few times on a particular Jotun, the best thing to do is pay a little more attention in the fight. Make sure there isn’t anything that one is missing. Most players will have a eureka moment where they figure out what they need to do. Not long after that, the boss is usually dead, with the player sitting triumphantly in front of their monitor.

jotun-gameplay-screenshot-4With regards to graphics and music, they both add so much to the experience. Visually everything has been hand drawn frame-by-frame. The art style is reminiscent of cartoons from the 1970s with bold colors and just enough detail to add personality to the Jotun. They’re usually angry, or at least thoroughly annoyed that a mere human would have the nerve to poke them in the toe with her ax. Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack is fantastic. It’s all orchestral pieces with a mix of softer tunes for exploration areas. Here, it runs the gamut from the serene to the foreboding. When a boss fight commences, players are greeted with a cacophonous explosion of instruments that instantly signal that shit just got real.

People in the mood for some epic battles against giant bosses mixed with a nice serving of viking mythology would do well to take a look at Jotun. The battles really are fantastic. Even the exploration can be fun, not to mention relaxing. Meanwhile, the game looks and sounds amazing. All in all, it’s definitely worth a play.

Jotun is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG. It is also out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Switch.

Akane

akane-gameplay-screenshot-1Sometimes it’s nice to get dropped straight into the action in a game. Little to no preamble explaining the protagonist’s motivations, story trickled in only as necessary. Put the player in an arena with a few weapons, then begin the unyielding onslaught of enemies. This is what players can expect from Akane. It’s a very straightforward overhead view arena battler in a cyberpunk setting.

Taking place in Mega Tokyo in the year 2121, players control Akane as she fights hordes of yakuza, street thugs, and hitmen. She wants out of the street life she’s been stuck in. However, she’s going to have to fight for that future.

With that, players take on wave after wave of bad guys. Akane is equipped with a katana and pistol, so there are a few ways to deal with them. She definitely leans toward her sword due to limited ammo and reload times. However, slicing up enemies speeds up reloading. As such, there’s a symbiotic back and forth between Akane’s melee and ranged attacks.

akane-gameplay-screenshot-2As the game progresses, the number of enemies increases, requiring players to be on their toes. It will get to the point where Akane is being chased by dozens of yakuza, street punks, and the like. When this happens, it’s best to find ways to herd them such that they bulk up. When this happens, either turn around and slash them up until Akane’s stamina runs out, stay back and open up with her pistol (you’ll get about ten shots before she’s out of ammo), or, if there’s enough meter, use Akane’s special move. This will cause her to instantly charge through a huge swath of enemies slashing them to pieces all at once.

She won’t always have this luxury, though. Often the game likes to throw a spanner in the works by spawning priority targets. Some of these are very large enemies that Akane doesn’t want to get near. In this situation, she cannot use melee attacks on them because they’ll just grab her and beat her to a pulp. As such, she needs to keep her distance and use her pistol here. The other troublesome enemy is a hitman. Players will know one has spawned because they will see a retical over them. When this happens either take cover, dash in and kill the hitman right away, or start swinging Akane’s sword to deflect incoming bullets. When all of this happens at once, things get very intense.

As Akane defeats enemies, a counter at the top of the screen keeps track of this. Once the player has hit a certain number of kills, the boss will spawn. His name is Katsuro and he’s a cyber ninja. Players will fight him over and over again, and he’ll evolve with each subsequent fight. He’s not too bad at first, but will get pretty tough later on.

The game itself is actually quite difficult as Akane can be killed in one hit. As such, players need to be very careful. It’s not hard to come across the game over screen if one gets overly aggressive. Then again, if you pull off a really in-your-face set of attacks, it’s extremely gratifying.

akane-gameplay-screenshot-3While all of this slashing and shooting is going on, players will have a bunch of goals presented to them. These can include reaching certain kill string counts, katana accuracy, number of enemies shot, and so forth. When players achieve these, new gear will be unlocked that can Akane can equip. As more items are unlocked, players will have more and more options in terms of their loadout. Equipment includes obvious stuff like new swords and guns, but there are other interesting bits like gloves, boots, and different brands of cigarettes for Akane to smoke.

The game’s aesthetic is simple, but gets the point across. It has a nice pixel art visual style that does a decent job of capturing the gritty neon look central to cyberpunk. Music, though, is very repetitive, so players may want to consider muting it and putting on their own stuff if they are planning to play for a while.

With all of this, Akane is the sort of game that can be enjoyed in both short spurts and marathon sessions. Whichever way one goes, the combat is very enjoyable, and people who like unlocking new equipment will have a lot to sink their teeth into. Better still, the game is super cheap at only around five bucks, making it a nice distraction for cyberpunk fans.

Akane is currently available on Steam.

Downwell

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-1Boots have always been popular attire in video games. Often times they have special abilities imbued in. They might let players do all sorts of things be it walk on ceilings, or jump super fast, or run faster. One type of boot that never really got explored was one with a gun on it. Sure, it sounds good on paper. However, the practicality of such a wondrous device was always a question.

So, when Downwell came along it turned a lot of heads. It took a simple concept and made it extremely fun. Players would control their little on-screen dude as he jumped down a well, blasting monsters in his way with his trust gun boots. Gun Boots! They just make sense in a game that has nothing but vertical environments.

Basically, players want to get to the bottom of the well in order to win. So, from the surface they jump down and begin their journey. As they continue to plummet downward, the denizens of the well will begin to attack. Controls simply allow for moving left and right, jumping, and firing the gun boots. As such, players will leap from ledges and rocky outcrops, then either attempt to maneuver through all of the monsters trying to attack, or blasting them to bits with their boots.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2At first, things aren’t too hectic, but after a few stages the pace really picks up. Players begin to strategize on the fly, figuring out the safest path to fall, when to go on the offensive, constantly monitoring how many charges the boots have left. The last bit there is important because if players are trigger happy, the current clip of ammo in the boots will run out. When that happens, players won’t be able to shoot again until after they land on a ledge. At that point, the boots automatically reload.

Downwell has some roguelike qualities to it as well. Each playthrough, the stage layouts are a little bit different. There are themes to different sections of the game, which remain consistent (the first few stages are caverns, followed by catacombs, etc), but where the ledges, bonus rooms, shops, and monsters show up change with each run. At the end of each stage, players will also get to choose from three power-ups to help them on their journey as well. These can range from health boosts, to improved accuracy, bullets blasting out of bricks that are destroyed, and a bunch of others.

With each playthrough, progress points are accumulated and as milestones are reached various goodies are unlocked. Some of these give players new styles they can utilize in the game. For instance, one causes far more weapons to spawn in a run, but reduces the likelihood of shops appearing. Another gives players more hit points, but there will be less power-ups to choose from between levels. It’s also possible to unlock new color palettes over time. These give players all sorts of options for how their game can look if the red, white, and black default isn’t to their liking.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2Aesthetically, Downwell goes for a very simple, retro look. Stages have very catchy chip tunes playing, and the visuals have a fairly minimalist pixel styling. What it lacks in fidelity, the game more than makes up for in personality. The way players’ character waves its arms around trying to stay balanced on the edge of a ledge is adorable. Meanwhile the game’s shopkeeper comes off as quite cordial in a way that makes it clear he’s happy to take your money.

Since the game first released in 2015, it has gradually been ported to a number of different platforms. It is available digitally for the PS4 and soon the Nintendo Switch as well. There are iOS and Android versions, and the game is also available on Steam, of course. Downwell takes a very simple, but also very unique concept that makes for an extremely enjoyable experience. It’s great for both people who just want to kill 10 minutes and those who want to get sucked into a game and lose themselves for an hour or so.

Roguelight

roguelight-gameplay-1There can never be too many rogue-likes out there. Well, there probably can be, but if they’re good ones, then the more the merrier. Roguelight was released by Daniel Linssen a few years ago and it brings its own set of features that help it stand out from the crowd.

The game is a side-view action platformer. In it players control a green-haired girl exploring some caverns. As one might expect, caverns are dark places and it’s tough to see in them. In order to address this issue the girl is carrying a bunch of fire arrows with her. These can be used in a few ways. The most obvious is to fire them at oil lanterns conveniently strewn around the levels. This will ignite the lantern and illuminate quite a bit of the surrounding area.

She can also simply have an arrow drawn and use it to temporarily light the area immediately around her. This only lasts a short while, as the arrow will eventually run out of fuel and go out. At this point, it is only useful for killing enemies and players won’t be able to see around them anymore. Finally, it is also possible to fire a burning arrow into the ground or a wall, with those areas being illuminated for a short time.

With that, players do have a few options for how they can light up their surroundings.  Even with this, they still need to be careful, as they will only have a limited number of arrows. If one gets trigger happy and runs out of ammo, they are going to have to wander around and find more arrows.

roguelight-gameplay-2Once they do, they may not even have the option of lighting more lamps. They may have to focus on taking down enemies instead. The caverns have various denizens lurking about, some more dangerous than others. If our green-haired hero isn’t careful, she may be killed by them. Taking them down first will yield coins and extra arrows, though, so hunting these things down is well worth the effort.

Early on, this will be a big priority for players. Collected coins can be spent in a shop after each death. Here one can improve their character in various ways for subsequent trips into the cavern. Upgrades include items that give more health, extra arrows, enhanced arrows, and various other doodads that will make life easier for our green-haired protagonist. So, it will make a lot of sense to unlock things that increase the speed with which one gets coins. From there, go with whatever upgrades best suit one’s play style.

It feels like Roguelight‘s developer really likes the GameBoy Color. The game’s aesthetics are very reminiscent of titles in that system’s library. The game has a very lo-fi pixelated look to it with minimal detail, while the music and sound effects very much come off like something one would hear on Nintendo’s classic handheld. The simple look and feel certainly have their charm. People who are fans of these retro games will enjoy the aesthetic and it also enhances the sense of mystery in the game. It’s already hard to see much detail far off from the lanterns, and this simple 8-bit graphical style makes it all the more difficult to figure out what might be lurking in the shadows.

roguelight-gameplay-3At its start, the game will be pretty tough. There will be frequent deaths as players get a feel for things. However, once people have gotten the hang of balancing lighting their way and killing baddies, things should progress far smoother. From there it is simply a matter of making the game’s heroine stronger. Then she can delve as deep as possible into the cavern with a much higher chance of survival.

There are a ton of rogue-likes out on the market right now with more and more on the way all the time. Roguelight does a good job of setting itself apart from the crowd with its light mechanic. People who are curious about the game can download it for free at Itch.io (and possibly donate a few bucks to the developer if so inclined).

Door Kickers: Action Squad

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-1Door Kickers: Action Squad has turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. With the original game being a much slower-paced, tactics-heavy experience, this arcade-styled spin off has shaped up to be a very nice stab at doing something a little bit different.

In the game, players will have five sets of 12 missions, with each set having its own theme. This includes going up against organized gangs, radical terrorists, cartels, and the like. With that, players will choose which squad member they wish to use. From here they proceed to infiltrate whatever house, apartment block, or other nefarious facility that these evildoers happen to be evil-doing in.

Busting down doors and capping criminals is the name of the game. It’s oh so very satisfying to burst into a room full of crooks and gun them down before they realize what’s happening. Even better is that there are five different characters to play as while doing this. First there is the Assault who uses a semi-automatic rifle. He has the most accuracy out of everyone in the squad. However, it’s not advised to just lay on the trigger. His gun does have a decent amount of recoil. Doing that will result in him spraying bullets everywhere as he loses control of his gun. Just a quick pop-pop-pop is all that is needed, then wait a moment before firing again. That’s the way to keep his aim on point.

Next there is the Breacher. This is a no nonsense, shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy. His weapon of choice is a shotgun, and he likes nothing better than to kick in some doors, and mow down whatever baddie he finds on the other side. His guns are quite powerful and can take down multiple enemies in one shot at close range.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-2Almost acting as a counterpoint to the Breacher is the Shield. She carries a large, heavy shield that protects her from incoming fire while shooting back with her trusty pistol. She takes a slow and steady approach to clearing rooms. Her shield is pretty heavy after all. While it reduces its user’s speed, it more than makes up for this with the added protection. She still needs to be careful though, because despite being able to block bullets, the Shield is extremely vulnerable to melee attacks. As such, she needs to prioritize particularly stabby enemies before they get too close to her.

Taking an even more cautious approach to things is Recon, who relies more on stealth to get around. Several of his guns have suppressors on them so as not to draw unwanted attention. He also has devices that help him to see what is happening in locked rooms. This allows players to see its layout and what sort of enemies are in it. He is very squishy compared to other members of the squad, though. As such, the element of surprise is of the utmost importance in taking down criminals before they all gang up on him.

Finally, there is Agent Fergie from the FBI. She’s an extremely aggressive character to play as. Armed with a pistol as well as knives, she’s the only member of the squad with both ranged and melee weapons. She can take a bit of a beating, but needs to get in fast and dispatch of enemies ASAP in order to survive. Agent Fergie is much better suited to people who want to play with the pedal to the metal and be a lean, mean killing machine.

Those wishing to take this approach, may want to wait for subsequent playthroughs of each mission, after they’ve had a chance to familiarize themselves with the stages. This is because despite all the crooks players will need to put bullets in, there are also a lot of hostages on most of the stages. If players aren’t careful of where they’re shooting, or are not cognizant of which criminals don’t care about their hostages well-being, then there may be a bunch of dead hostages by the end of the stage. This is bad because then the player won’t get a three out three star rating at the end of the level, and who doesn’t want a three star rating? Stars can be used to unlock new weapons and items. This stuff is important! There’s probably some moral argument in there for saving hostages as well, but come on! Power-ups!

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-3With that, despite the strong action elements in Door Kickers: Action Squad, it still tries to stay somewhat close to its more tactical roots. A lot of times, players can see in surrounding rooms before busting down a door, so judgement calls need to be made. Would it be best to coax enemies away from hostages? Are there any highly explosive substances around, and if there are should they be avoided or taken advantage of? Are there particularly troublesome enemies in there? Should a sniper strike be called in? It’s not just wanton death and destruction. A certain amount of planning is still often required.

Players even need to consider resource management. The last thing someone wants is to be caught reloading while several enemies are bearing down on them. Also, whenever an enemy is killed or a hostage is rescued, a meter at the top left of the screen fills a little bit. The more full it becomes, the more options the player has for calling in useful items. Cheaper items include body armor. A little farther up is health packs, followed by extra lives. Then there are special moves at the high end of the meter. Most players have overlapping specials to a degree with the ability to choose between a couple while selecting loadouts at the start of a stage. These include the aforementioned sniper strike, while some people get access to small automatic weapons, and Agent Fergie gets a particularly badass special.

It’s important to manage this meter because it’s not uncommon to completely fill it up, so the player needs find ways to use some of it so that they aren’t just rescuing hostage and killing baddies without receiving the benefit of more meter. Doing otherwise is basically leaving money on the table so to speak. So, at the end of the day, there’s still a lot to think about while playing this game.

Action Squad is also pretty challenging. Early on there is mostly cannon fodder that is simple enough to deal with. As the game progresses, though, there are particularly violent enemies that won’t hesitate to use hostages as shields or perform reprisal killings if pushed into a corner. These guys are tough to deal with for players who want to minimize civilian casualties.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-4Then there are the worryingly large enemies that one can tell mean trouble. These guys have large clubs, flamethrowers, and the like combined with body armor and large hit point pools that guarantee they’ll be a huge pain to take down. By the time players get to latter levels, they’ll also have to deal with mad bombers that have explosives all over the place rigged up to a remote control. These guys are especially troublesome. Sometimes they’ll have bombs strapped to hostages. If you shoot these crooks, they’ll try to detonate their explosives with their dying breath. Fun times!

So, the game gradually becomes more difficult the further along one gets. However, there are some slight spikes in this later in the game. At that point, some particularly tough enemies get dropped on the player with significantly greater firepower and body armor.

Thankfully, the game provides two-player coop (both local and online). So, if things are starting to get dicey, players can bring someone else along to help. This makes taking down baddies all the more exciting while opening the door to interesting combinations of characters that can play off of each other’s strengths.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-5Unfortunately, despite all of these criminals to shoot, tactics to use, and squad members to play as, there isn’t much in the way of mission variety. The vast majority of the time players’ main objective will be to rescue hostages. A distant second to this are kill missions. Here all one has to do is slaughter every crook in the building, due process be damned. After that there is the occasional bomb disposal mission, and these are actually quite intense. Then once in a blue moon players will be asked to arrest a person of interest. These individuals must be taken alive. So, in terms of objectives that will be presented to players, there isn’t a whole lot on the table. Thankfully this lack of variety is overshadowed by all of the good things that have been mentioned up to this point in the article.

Aesthetically, the game went with a 2D pixelated look. It won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but there is a decent enough amount of detail to the levels. Rooms are well furnished and buildings set the tone for each stage. Enemies are easily distinguishable and have a bit of personality to them. Meanwhile, Action Squad’s soundtrack feels like something straight out of a 1980s police TV program. A lot of the game’s music would be right at home in something like Miami Vice. The pieces are well put together and add to the excitement. Also, they are regularly rotated while playing so as not to wear out their welcome.

Action Squad is a spin off that no one asked for but it sure is nice that it came along. Who would have thought that its developers would come along with an action packed, arcade-y reinterpretation of their tactical strategy game? It really does a wonderful job of capturing the thoughtfulness of its predecessor.  Meanwhile it injects a more cavalier, guns blazing attitude that both fans of action and strategy games can enjoy.

Door Kickers: Action Squad is currently available for Windows on Steam.