Tag Archives: Windows

Fight’N Rage

fight-n-rage-gameplay-screenshot-1Developers don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make a great game. Sometimes a heartfelt love letter to games of old can be a lot of fun too. This is what we have with Fight’N Rage, an old school arcade beat ’em up. With beautiful sprites, exciting combat, unlockables, and branching paths to experiment with, there’s a lot to like here.

Taking place in a dystopian future where despotic mutants rule the world (basically animal people a la The Isle of Dr. Moreau), players control some of the few humans left (and their mutant sympathizers) in a fight for their freedom. There are three characters that can be played. First there’s Gal, a girl who escaped from human traders. She’s the most agile of the bunch, able to get in, do damage, then back off quickly. Next there is F. Norris, a runaway ninja with a mysterious past. He’s the glass cannon of the bunch, as he hits very hard but his defenses aren’t great. Finally, there’s Ricardo. He’s a minotaur human rights activist. Seeing as he’s a wrestler, Ricardo has a lot of strength and good defense, but due to his size is the slowest character.

fight-n-rage-gameplay-screenshot-2Once a character has been selected, it’s off to go punch mutants in the face. Here players will see that the combat in Figh’N Rage is actually quite robust. Of course, each playable character handles in their own unique way. Adding even more depth, though, is just how varied the enemies are. There are quite a few different enemy types, and they each have their own move sets and behaviors that players must learn. As the game progresses, there will be a lot of these creatures on screen at once all doing their thing. So, players are going to have a lot on their plate between managing the hordes of enemies, how they attack, and how to make the most of each situation depending on which character they’re using.

This doesn’t even begin to touch the bosses in the game. These things are orders of magnitude more difficult. They have powerful moves that are very much so telegraphed, but it takes time to figure out how to get past their defenses. Even when one manages that, it’s usually about the time where the game will decide its a good idea for henchmen to start spawning, making the fight all the more challenging. Players will likely get through these boss fights eventually since there are unlimited continues. However, doing well in these fights is something else entirely. It will take a lot of practice to really nail the fights and make them look easy.

While all of this is going on, Fight’N Rage adds one more layer to everything. There are actually a number of branching paths in the game. Some of these are fairly obvious, with arrows pointing to other areas players can go to. Other times, players’ actions will determine how the story unfolds.

fight-n-rage-gameplay-screenshot-3A quick example of this is the first boss of the game. He’ll take a human hostage and threaten to slit her throat if players approach. Ignoring him will result in that outcome, and send the player off to some sewers with a mole man boss in the next stage. However, if the player is holding a weapon and throws it at the boss, he’ll be startled and drop the hostage. After defeating the boss, the hostage will take players to a different underground path that leads to a village. So, players will need to experiment a bit to see all of the different areas that they can go to.

Each time one plays the game, they will accumulate points. These can be used to unlock all sorts of goodies. These include extra game modes, costumes for the main characters, as well as being able to unlock all of the different mutants and using them in the extra modes.

fight-n-rage-gameplay-screenshot-4As one can see just by looking at all of the screenshots here, the game goes for a retro, 16-bit look. The pixel work is very detailed, and all of the characters and enemies are oozing personality. Stages are varied and have nice little touches for those who care to look. Meanwhile, the music is high energy, guitar driven fair, just right for facing off with hordes of angry mutants.

There have been quite a few beat ’em ups to come along in recent years. Each is clearly heavily influenced by the classics of the past. They’ve captured what made these games great to varying degrees. However, Fight’N Rage stands head and shoulders above most of these. The sheer quality of the game’s combat alone is reason enough to play. Its quality visuals and music, unlockables, and such are just icing on the cake. People looking for a quality beat ’em up should seriously consider trying Fight’N Rage out.

Figh’N Rage is available for Windows.

Osmos

osmos-gameplay-image-1There are probably a lot of puns that could be used which describe Osmos as an absorbing game. So, let’s try hard to avoid that. This is a game where players control a circular blob, maneuvering it around a field so that it can run into other smaller blobs and get bigger, while avoiding larger blobs. It’s a simple concept that makes for a very relaxing experience.

Players control a sphere of bio mass with the goal of absorbing other similar blobs, sometimes with specific types that need to be hunted or avoided. As the blob travels around, it will absorb any smaller blobs that it collides with. However, if it runs into a blob bigger than itself that larger blob will begin absorbing mass from the player’s bio matter. If the whole thing is absorbed, it’s game over. Complicating things further is that the blob propels itself by ejecting a bit of its own mass, causing it to shrink, and leaving a stream of tiny blobs behind it. So in order to move, accelerate, slow down, or change directions, players need to risk their blob getting smaller.

This creates a bit of a balancing act. Players need to decide when to be aggressive and when to be patient. There will be times where the game basically forces players on the offensive. This is especially the case on stages where there are a lot of other blobs slightly bigger than the player’s. This necessitates finding suitably sized blobs to collide with all while not bumping into the bigger ones, as well as to do at a fast enough rate to start going after the large blobs before they absorb too many blobs themselves and become insurmountable huge as a result.

Often times, though, it’s better to just wait it out. Simply allow your blob to slowly float across the screen, casually absorbing smaller ones. If one is smart, they’ll pick out an advantageous trajectory early on for their blob. Then all they need to do is let it keep going, getting bigger with ease.

osmos-gameplay-screenshot-2Osmos is actually very relaxing game as a result of all this. Blobs take a while to get moving or change directions. Their slow, fluidic nature is downright soothing to behold as a result of this. Often times, one doesn’t feel rushed to do anything, and can just enjoy watching their blob move around, absorbing others and getting bigger.

This is further amplified by the game’s aesthetics. The various blobs have a soft, warm glow to them, their illumination becoming brighter as they grow. All the while they appear to be floating along the surface of some sort of otherworldly intergalactic petri dish. While this is happening, tranquil ambient music is playing. As a result, much of the game culminates in providing players with a very relaxing experience.

Osmos is the sort of game that is great to spend some time with before bed when trying to unwind, or if one needs a brief oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic day. Just let it pull you in and enjoy the experience.

Osmos can available for Windows, Mac, and Linux (via Steam), as well as iOS and Android.

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.

Way of the Passive Fist

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-1Beat ’em ups are a genre of game that really took off about 30 years ago. Games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom, and scores of others were being devoured by people who couldn’t get enough of punching and kicking baddies in the face. Then the genre fell off the face of the earth for a while. In recent years, these games have enjoyed a bit of a return to glory. All sorts of passion projects have come along reminding people how fun it is to clobber virtual street thugs.

As entertaining as all of this is, Way of the Passive Fist takes a very different approach. Here, players don’t punch and kick their way to victory. Instead they block and and dodge attacks until enemies become exhausted. When this happens, a simple poke is all that’s needed to defeat them. The game very much takes a “the best offense is a good defense” approach to how it plays.

The game takes place on the planet Zircon V. It attracted a lot of ambitious colonists eager to strike it rich mining up all of the planet’s valuable resources. However, there were some who warned that the planet was too close to the sun. As such, they feared that this would create incredibly harsh conditions on the planet. Upon arriving, colonists were greeted with the hard truth that Zircon V is a desolate wasteland and living there will be tough.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-2Amidst all of this, the player takes control of a legendary hermit known as the Wanderer. He’s been living by himself in a remote part of the planet and is known for his unusual defensive fighting style. Only now has he emerged to fight the various raiders and other troublemakers of the planet in an attempt to make Zircon V a slightly less terrible place to live.

The art style in Way of the Passive Fist is somewhat reminiscent of cartoons from the 70s and 80s. Character designs have a fairly Mad Max-like look to them. Meanwhile, levels themselves are varied ranging from deserts to mines to exotic jungles among other locales. The sprite work in the game is quite nice, and it manages to set itself apart from other games that use a pixelated presentation. The soundtrack is also very well done with much of the music being guitar-driven. Listening to the music, it feels just like something one would hear from an arcade beat ‘em up circa 1990.

Actual combat is the meat of the game, though, and as was mentioned earlier, it is very unique. While standard beat ‘em ups commonly have crowds of enemies swarm players, this isn’t the case in Way of the Passive Fist. Doing so would break the game. Instead enemies will take turns trying to attack the Wanderer. With that, they’ll give audio and visual cues that they are about to attack, then players need to block and dodge appropriately. As the game progresses, these enemies get smarter and will try to fake out the player. This usually happens with an audio cue, but a delayed attack. So, players need to watch out for this. As attacks are avoided, a stamina bar above enemies’ heads is depleted. Once it is empty, they are exhausted and all the player need do is poke them once to defeat them.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-3Even though players largely deal with enemies one at a time, they need to keep an eye out for ranged attacks and environmental hazards. These can still happen, and may require dashing away in order to avoid being hit by something, breaking a parry chain. These chains are important because they build meter. As the meter fills, increasingly powerful special attacks become available. With them comes a risk-reward system as players need to decide when best to utilize these attacks. These attacks are also necessary for inflicting damage on bosses, so building and maintaining parry chains is very important.

At its core, the game has a 10 chapter story mode. However, there are also additional chapters that are unlocked after completing the main game. Completing the initial game also unlocks a roguelite mode. There players take on all manner of additional battles, surviving as best they can.

As unusual as Way of the Passive Fist might sound, the game is a ton of fun. It takes some getting used to blocking and dodging attacks. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to the cues and adjusting as enemies try to confuse the player. Once the player gets a handle on this, blocking and dodging one’s way to victory is quite enjoyable, not to mention a humorous change of pace from basically every other beat ‘em up on the market.

Way of the Passive Fist is available for Xbox One, PS4, as well as PC.

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.

In Development: Garrison: Archangel

garrison-archangel-gameplay-screenshot-1Back in the 80s and 90s, mecha anime was all the rage. Shows like Gundam, Macross, VOTOMs, and countless others battled it out for viewers’ attention.  For a lot of fans, these things were the future. Who cares about flying cars when you could have giant robots instead?

Of course, as these things’ popularity grew, all sorts of merchandise related to them began to spring up. It was only a matter of time before mecha video games would become a thing. During the late 90s and early 2000s, there were two series that captured people’s imaginations for a time. The first was SEGA’s Virtual On. The second was From Software’s Armored Core.

While they both had players doing battle in giant robots, the series took decidedly different approaches to them. Virtual On went for a pure arcade experience. As a result, combat was very fast as players whizzed around arenas blasting at their opponents before hitting their thrusters and going in for a melee attack. Each robot was like a character in a fighting game. The mechanized killing machine was pre-made with a very distinct identity to it.

Meanwhile, Armored Core felt a bit more like it was trying to be a simulation. There was a lot more variety in how mechs handled. Some were pretty nimble, but there were a lot of other ones that had a slower, lumbering feel to them. This is largely a result of the extreme levels of customization that players had at their fingertips when choosing a mech here. They could swap out torsos, arms, heads, legs, even do away with legs in favor of tank treads. There were internal systems that could be swapped out as well. This doesn’t even take into account weapon load outs. Really there was a ton of options in terms of how players could go into battle when it came to the Armored Core series.

garrison-archangel-gameplay-screenshot-2So, there were two very good mecha games that each approached the genre in their own way, each garnering their own audience of dedicated fans in the process. They were both good games, but that’s all in the past now. Studios haven’t made games like that in a very long time. It’s kind of sad, really. But perhaps fans of giant robots shouldn’t give up hope just yet.

Indigo Entertainment has been working on a mecha game of their own for the last while: Garrison: Archangel. What makes it particularly interesting is that they are trying to combine a lot of what made Virtual On and Armored Core great, and put it all into one game.

It takes the fast-paced arena combat of Virtual On while giving players the customization of Armored Core. As such, players are given a lot of options for how they want their giant robots to perform with regards to stats, appearance, load outs and the like, while being greeted with very frenetic gameplay when competing in matches.

So far, customization provides a lot of options, with millions of possible combinations as to how one’s robot will look and perform. This mode will give players a lot of avenues as to how they want to approach combat. There is a worrying lack of tank tread or quadruped options in the leg department, but here’s to hoping that maybe these get added at some point.

garrison-archangel-gameplay-screenshot-3Meanwhile, the matches’ tempo are very quick, making them very reminiscent of Virtual On. Mechas have thrusters equipped the that allow for quick side dashes, blasting forward to close space, as well as taking flight. All the while, players will blast away at their opponent and / or slice them up with a melee weapon. It all happens very fast, keeping fights very exciting.

At the moment, many of the arenas are very sparse. In versus matches, they tend to be large, open rings. While these give a lot of room to maneuver, having terrain to work with would add a lot to the experience.

So far, the game’s horde mode appears to be the only place players will find this. Here, players find themselves in a seemingly virtual environment with wire frame buildings. These give one places to take cover from incoming fire, as well as opportunities to take advantage of high ground. This adds a lot to combat and it would be nice to see this in other modes as well, or at least make it available as an option.

Thus far, the game’s graphics are looking pretty decent with some nice mechas to choose from. Meanwhile, the soundtrack has a feel to it that is very similar to arcade games of the 1990s. One can quickly tell that the game’s developers have spent a lot of time with classic mecha games and are pouring their enthusiasm for these into the game’s aesthetics (and everything else too, obviously).

There will plenty of game modes for players to sink their teeth into in Garrison: Archangel. The game will include both a single player and online versus mode. Versus combat will actually support up to four players, so things can get pretty hectic. There will be a survival mode where players face off against one robot after the next. Also, there will be the horde mode alluded to earlier, which does exactly what players will expect. Between all of these and heading off to the garage to make custom robots, things are shaping up to give players plenty to do.

As it stands, there is a lot to like in Garrison: Archangel. The game has quite a bit of potential. At this point, it largely needs more meat on its bones. It’s still in early access, though, so there will be plenty of opportunity for that. Versus-styled mecha games sort of fell off the face of the earth. This game could help to bring them back. It’ll be exciting to see where the developers take things from here.

The game is currently available on Steam Early Access.

Distance

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.

SHINKENDO

shinkendo-gameplay-1There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned sword fight to bring people together. Two opponents facing off with their elongated stabby tools of choice can manifest itself in so many ways. In the case of SHINKENDO, it was an entry for GBJAM5. GBJAM is a game jam where entrants’ games must meet certain technical specifications in relation to the original GameBoy. These include a maximum resolution of 160px x 144px and using only four colors. As readers will see by the screenshots, this leads to a very minimalist approach to presentation for the games submitted.

However, not only does this game’s aesthetic abide by a very simplified approach, but the gameplay also follows this ethos. Players control a samurai and fight a rival on a bridge in medieval Japan. It’s a very typical setting for this sort of thing. It looks good, gets the point across and is very functional.

There are only four buttons to control the person. One for moving forward and another for moving back. Another button is for an overhead slash, while one final button does a slash that sends the sword in a sweeping, upward movement.

Despite there being so few buttons, there’s a lot that players can do with their little samurai. The movement buttons can actually be double tapped to dart forward and back, and can even be used to cancel attacks. This turns combat into a bit of a mind game as combatants try to trick each other into committing to an attack. Because actual sword swings are a fairly involved process, if one of these samurai miss their attack, their opponent cant capitalize and land a blow before the other person has a chance to get their defenses back up.

shinkendo gameplay screenshot 2Of course, if the first player actually manages to cancel an attack, the tables could also be turned. The person looking for the opening may wind up exposing themselves instead. There is a constant back and forth like this as players look for openings while feigning to lower their defenses.

It’s possible to play against the computer or to go with two-player local coop. The CPU is pretty manageable for the first two or three fights, but after that difficulty ramps up quickly with the opponent getting much more aggressive. Also, the stage is the same, as is the rival, each fight. This is a game jam entry after all, so this sort of thing is to be expected.

Those interested in the two-player local coop mode will have a lot of fun. The only concern here is that both people need to use the PC’s keyboard while playing. This will leave folks playing shoulder-to-shoulder and makes for a tight squeeze.

SHINKENDO captures a lot of what makes fighting games great: the mind games. Stripping away so many buttons and tossing fancy inputs by the wayside keeps the game very pure. Players will spend their time trying to get in their opponents’ heads reading their moves while trying to trick them into making mistakes. This is a game that both fans of fighting games and those who have never played will enjoy.

SHINKENDO can be downloaded at the game’s Itch.io page.

In Development: WORLD OF HORROR

world-of-horror-gameplay-screen-1Games on the original Macintosh had a certain charm to them. There was so much detail for the time in many of the games to appear on it, especially graphical adventures. Seeing as the computer didn’t have a colored monitor, developers had to make do with the gray scale graphics that it was capable of.  Games like Deja Vu, Corruption, and Shadowgate all wowed players with what they could do with the Mac’s graphics.

These games carved out a visual niche that hasn’t really been re-visited until now. One-person Polish developer, Panstasz, plans to do something about this with their upcoming adventure game WORLD OF HORROR.

The game will take the gray scale visuals of early Macintosh games, then combine it with the spooky sensibilities of Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft. Moreover, rather than telling a single story, WORLD OF HORROR will give players the choice of three creepy tales, each with their own protagonist. Well, there are three stories to choose from in the demo. Maybe there will be more in the full game? Who knows?

As mentioned, the game has three scenarios available thus far. One features Kirie Saito who is a recent transfer student to her high school. Students have been daring each other to stay in the abandoned washroom after school, which is apparently a scary place. However, when one of them dies trying this people start wondering if the legendary killer Aka Manto has returned. It’s up to players to help Kirie solve this mystery.

world-of-horror-demo-gameplay-2Next there is Kouji Tagawa, the classroom photographer. His friend was killed recently by an otherworldly being described as unnaturally tall woman with an monstrously wide smile. Kouji must go over his friends notes as to how he can correctly summon the creature to this world and kill it forever.

Finally, there is Mizuki Hamasaki who is an aspiring teen idol. She has been invited to a remote village for a festival that only happens once every 27 years. However, upon arriving she discovers strange sounds emanated from the nearby forest. This just don’t add up and Mizuki has to figure out just what is going on.

By the looks of things, there may be more that players will be able to do with these characters in the final game, but it’s hard to say. Presumably there will me more, otherwise WORLD OF HORROR would be very short.

Once players choose a scenario and are given the lowdown on what’s going on, they are then given a few choices on how to proceed. Some of these appear to have stat checks against the character being played. If their stats are too low, the check will fail. If it’s high enough things will be fine. This feels like it could wind up being a bit like Long Live the Queen where players will have to make mental notes of where they failed and either make sure their stats are high enough to succeed in future playthroughs, or simply pick another option the next time that choice appears.

While players are doing this, they will acquire items that should make life a lot easier. This is especially the case when discovering a weapon that they can equip. Battles aren’t terribly frequent, but being armed for them makes it easier to dispatch deranged foes. Combat itself is a simple turn-based system reminiscent of old 8-bit JRPGs. Players will be presented with a portrait of the enemy and a handful of options. These include observing the enemy to see what the player is up against. Then there is a special move (often associated with magic) and the ability to actually attack.

Events in the game give things a roguelite element, as they recur on multiple playthroughs and can happen in different characters stories sometimes. With that, there is a slight RNG feel to some of the events in the game.

Interestingly, with many of the choices that a player makes a Doom Meter of sorts begins to fill. It’s implied that when it reaches 100% an Old God of some sort will enter the world, and this really sounds like a bad thing. There doesn’t seem to be a way to reach 100% in the demo, presumably because there isn’t enough content to get there. However, it does act as a tool to nudge players along and not doddle. They will already have things that they need to do in a timely manner for their main quest (Kouji’s scenario in particular exhibits this), but the Doom Meter adds an extra layer of urgency / tension to the mix.

This is something that WORLD OF HORROR is doing a good job of so far: setting a tone. The game is heavily influenced by Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft after all. With that comes an onslaught of unsettling art and situations. For using such a simple color scheme in its graphics, the game quickly makes the player feel uneasy, worrying about something terrible happening to their character. There will be frequent situations where players enter a room and are greeted with a scene that makes them think, “Well, that isn’t good!”

There is also the constant reminder that Old Gods are returning to the world and people are losing their minds. As such, there will be random unsettling moments that may not even be entirely related to a given game scenario. These serve to give a sense that even if these high schoolers weren’t solving some creepy mystery, they wouldn’t have a happy, safe life to return to. The world as a whole is still going down the tubes in the worst Eldrich horror way possible.

From what can be seen of WORLD OF HORROR thus far, it looks promising. It has the art style and mood locked down. The stories being told are suitably creepy. Mostly what it needs is more content and maybe more ways to impact choices. There is plenty of time to work on that, though. The developer isn’t planning to release the game until at least 2019. As it stands, the game is being developed for the PC, PS4, and Switch, so a number of different platform users have something to look forward to. In the meantime, there is a demo available for those curious. Feel free to download it from the dev’s Itch.io page.

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).