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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.


distance-gameplay-screenshot-1After all these years, Distance has finally been released. At first, the game’s developers turned some heads with the game’s predecessor, Nitronic Rush. It got people taking student projects a lot more seriously. Before this, game design schools were still in their infancy, and the few that did exist quietly pumped out graduates without drawing much attention to themselves outside of their regular ads in game magazines.

Then Nitronic Rush came along and showed a large audience what these places were actually doing. It was a really fun, futuristic racer with its high tech cars, towering skyscrapers, and dazzling neon lights. Folks who took it for a spin wanted more.

So, now out of school, the game’s developers got together and launched a Kickstarter all the way back in 2012. Their goal was to make a bigger, better version of this game. They wanted to make Distance. So, here it is. Six years have passed, the game spend quite some time in the oven, it’s finally out of Early Access, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Right out of the gates, it is clear to see that this is a very pretty game. The folks at Refract Studios took everything that made Nitronic Rush look so good and cranked it way up for Distance. The level of detail has been ramped up considerably. Lighting is extremely vibrant without becoming a distraction. There is also an excellent sense of speed. The game just looks fantastic with its futuristic cities and cars. It really drives home that this is intended to be much more of an atmospheric racing game.

distance-gameplay-screenshot-2Meanwhile, it also has a very nice soundtrack. It’s all electronic music, so no wheels have been reinvented in the creation of Distance‘s soundscape. There’s just a nice mix of catchy tunes that add a lot to the experience, getting players pumped as they soar down the game’s highways in the sky.

There are actually a number of different game modes available. These include a story mode, arcade mode, and a track editor. Story mode has a couple of different narratives. After players complete the first, which consists of a little over a dozen tracks, a new story is unlocked. There isn’t much too them, but they do touch on virtual realities and simulation theory with interesting little things the game does to drive the story as players are driving. In this mode, there aren’t any other cars on the road. As a result, the game feels more like an obstacle course than an actual race.

As such, there is a certain degree of trial and error as players get used to a course layout and how their futuristic car functions in different areas. The tracks can get pretty crazy with lasers, buzzsaws, and other obstacles that must be avoided. Meanwhile, there are areas where players must rotate their car 90 or even 180 degrees to ride the walls and ceilings. Then there are other sections that require the vehicle to sprout wings and fly. So, there is a lot to deal with just trying to get to the finish line.

distance-gameplay-screeenshot-3With that, players will quickly notice that their car has a lot of thrusters on it. These allow it to jump, rotate, push itself into the ground, and, of course, there is also a big one on the back of the thing for a speed boost. These provide quite a lot of additional maneuverability, open the door to tricks, and need to be constantly monitored so not to overheat the engine, destroying the car.

All of these flips and barrel rolls that the thrusters provide also come into play with some of Distance’s arcade modes. Some of these modes are very straightforward. For instance, there’s sprint. Here players just try to be the first to the finish or challenge mode which is more obstacle courses. Then there is stunt mode with tracks specially designed to accommodate particularly death defying maneuvers for big scores. There is also a neat mode where players can type in any word they want. The game will take this and generate a track based on it.

Due to all of the maneuverability of the cars, solid controls are important. With that, Distance is very responsive, but most players will likely go through a bit of a learning curve getting used to things. There are a lot of thrusters to deal with and it’s not exactly intuitive given how novel these vehicles are. So, players shouldn’t be too surprised if they spend their first hour or so in the game crashing into walls or falling off of the race course. Everything is going to feel a bit weird at first. It’s not the end of the world, though. Once everything clicks, it’s extremely satisfying nailing particularly tough parts of a given track, shaving seconds off of one’s personal best time.

distance-gameplay-screenshot-4If the modes and tracks that the game provides aren’t quite enough, there is also a level editor. Here players can design tracks to their heart’s content. It also means that people can download tracks from a massive database of user-created content. As such, there are a ton of tracks to fiddle around with for those so inclined.

Regardless of what mode one plays, there is just so much to enjoy in Distance. It looks and sounds fantastic. There is lots and lots of content. Then, once players get used to controlling the cars, it’s super rewarding nailing difficult tracks. It’s been a long time coming, but the finished version of Distance is here and it was definitely worth the wait.

Distance is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam.