TYPOCRYPHA – An Interview/Postmortem

TYPOCRYPHA 7_15_2018 12_43_47 AM

Typocrypha is an experimental typing JRPG visual novel about social and cultural alienation. Armed with the Typocrypha spellcasting device, a young member of the EVE-IRIS Counter-Demon Force confronts the demonic forces of the Evil Eye, an unknown enemy whose gaze is felt everywhere – including in themself.

I would have liked to write about it, but also, Hughe, the game’s lead developer, is also my friend, which would really cloud my judgement. I even made him fanart for his birthday, dangit. But I thought, hey, since I know him, I should hit him up to answer some questions on the game.

And so here we are today with an interview that’s also effectively a postmortem on the game and the experiences making it. Hughe’s responses are joined by James (producer, programmer, writer), Valentino/Tino (designer, programmer, writer), Herman (artist, animator) and Paige (artist). Many of these responses are pretty long, though I found them insightful and hopefully, you will too.

On the questions regarding the future of the game, please note that as the game is still in development, things may not be set in stone.

Continue reading “TYPOCRYPHA – An Interview/Postmortem”

Type Knight

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I have something special coming up, buuuuuut it’s not ready yet. So until then, let’s check out something vaguely related to that. Today we look at Type Knight, a game by chaikaDev. It’s a typing game where you play as a knight that fights skeletons and wizards through words. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

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Skeletons shamble toward you with words hovering above their heads to type out. It starts out with small, simple words, but later waves throws in longer, harder words that can trip you up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can actually type out “bomb” to clear the screen, which I think is a cool addition. Every proper kill increases your score and consecutive kills increase your multiplier and it all keeps going until you die.

Every few waves you run into a boss encounter, who types out their own words to hurt you while you have to blitz through their series of words to take them down. These encounters are my biggest problem with the game because, at least in the game’s current state, you’re pretty much guaranteed to take damage, as the list is long enough that you’re typing not to prevent damage, but to mitigate it. To balance this out, I feel that the boss’ list of words should be shorter so that a reasonably good typist can get through it without getting hurt or provide ways of blocking damage – like at the very least, bombs should interrupt the boss’ attack.

You can create custom games, though only a few options currently work. You can import text files for the game to draw its dictionary from, which can actually make the game harder (not necessarily a bad thing) because it may end up throwing in case-sensitive words and punctuation. You can also edit what keys the game is now allowed to use; so if you take out all the vowels, the game will just give you a bunch of words with “y.” Outside of the custom mode, you can also switch to using a French dictionary, which opens the way for this game to use different languages that’ll make it more accessible.

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On the aesthetics of the game, I think it’s nice. I actually really dig the background, I think it looks neat while not being too distracting, nor does it mix in with the white text. There are fog and rain effects, but if those are too much, you can change their intensity. The music is okay, though I noticed that around the fifth wave, the music cuts out, so it may not be looped properly. Overall, pretty serviceable.

Type Knight, as it currently stands, is simple – perhaps too simple. You never have to type anything beyond single words and there’s just the one enemy type. However, the options in the custom game menu indicates that different modes, items and difficulty options are considered. Type Knight has some good foundations so far, but the addition of those things and more variety, I feel, will greatly improve this game.

7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack

I’ve mainly played visual novels for the past few weeks and I do love them, even though it makes me “a weeb, a gamer and a fucking nerd all at once.” But sometimes, I like to sit down with something more arcade-y, so I decided to hit up something I saw in my feed a while back.

The 7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack is by Morning Toast, a developer that mainly dabbles in Pico-8. The mega pack is a collection of arcade games that they have previously released in one package, plus a game that they haven’t released before.

BuzzKill

 

I actually wrote about BuzzKill before and it was the game that got me to follow this developer. I gave it another go in the collection and honestly, my thoughts still stands.

Yes, I am indeed shamelessly using the pictures I took before.

Invader Overload

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Invader Overload is partially inspired by Space Invaders Extreme, an updated, flashier version of Space Invaders that was originally released on DS and PSP that has also recently been updated for Steam a few months ago.

Those doofy invaders do what they always do, shuffling back and forth while shooting down wiggly lasers. What’s different is that they now drop different colored squares, and getting all three of the same color gives you a temporary power-up like a laser beam or an explosive weapon. Occasionally, a little UFO flies at the top of the screen that drops a gold power-up that activates a fever mode where enemies start dropping golden squares. Pick up enough of them and you’re thrown into a hectic boss fight against a huge invader that throws down huge beams and its tinier fellows. It’s all very fun and a nice take on Space Invaders.

What keeps me from fully enjoying the game, however, are the backgrounds. Now don’t get me wrong, the backgrounds are actually cool to watch, but from a practical standpoint they can be too distracting. It’s especially bad with the boss battles for me, because the screen is very busy with falling green lines of code that get mixed up with all the actual shots you have to dodge. Honestly, if it went a bit easier with the backgrounds, this would have been my favorite game in the collection. With that, Invader Overload is fun yet flawed.

Alien Harvest

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Alien Harvest looks like if Alien had a tie-in game for the ZX Spectrum and feels like a tie-in game that would have been pretty okay for its time. The grandson of Burke plans to finish his work and you, as a faceless entity, are tasked with collecting alien eggs to prevent the legacy from coming to fruition.

Your main goal is to collect 12 eggs (or 20 on Terror Mode) to unlock the final level. You don’t necessarily have to collect every egg on a level, because if you leave an egg lying around long enough, it’ll hatch and evolve into a proper alien. You have a scanner that shows all the biological stuff scattered throughout the maze environments, showing you the locations of eggs, dead bodies that can give you power-ups and fully grown aliens. To stop you from just letting you walk to your doom, you also have an audio scanner that starts beeping the closer you are to a threat. As there’s no music playing in the main game, the scanner makes for a tense atmosphere.

Personally, I didn’t get into the game because it’s not what I look for in an arcade-y game. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Sure, I sometimes got stuck on walls while moving around, but the it’s otherwise a solid survival game. In fact, I’d say that it’s the most unique game out of the bunch.

Bustin’

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Bustin continues the movie based Pico-8 action with a game based off of the new Ghostbusters. The Ghost Lord is out and about trying to unleash slimy ghosts into the world and it’s up to one of the gals to stop him.

Gameplay has you moving between four rows, blasting your photon pack at ghosts and the portraits they’re coming out of. You move on to the next stage after destroying all the portraits, with portraits getting repositioned to give you less breathing room while the latter stages have the portraits move on their own with the Ghost Lord himself stepping in to hassle you. I wasn’t into the game initially, especially since the first few levels are at their hardest in the beginning, but it settles into a frantic pace in the later levels that I really got into.

The photon pack can overheat, so you have to be careful about its usage. Or you could just move into a different row, which resets the overheating bar in what is certainly a glitch, but I’m not complaining. You can also deploy this thing that sucks up ghosts in a row for a few seconds, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with it for a bit. Touch a ghost and you can’t do anything for a few seconds, which can make a major difference. I kinda feel that you’re stunned for too long, though the game is still manageable.

The music can get a bit repetitive and the beginning is slow, but Bustin‘ made me feel good.

Mass 360

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Stepping away from the games based on other properties, Mass 360 is based off the real life story of the developer’s dad’s fight with cancer. Mass 360 has you control… something to fight off your dad’s growing cancer. I guess it’s metaphorical like Edmund McMillen’s stuff except tasteful and not gross.

You rotate around an arena while shooting inward, which is an interesting way of playing this. You progress by shooting apart cores, which are protected by cancerous masses that branch out when left alone and some virus things that shoot at you. It initially starts out slow, but it soon evolves to bullet hell levels, colorful sprays bursting out of the center.

Your dad starts out with a mere two minutes to live, but you can get more time every time you destroy a core. You don’t lose lives if you get hit, but you do lose your precious time. Ideally, you should focus on building up a time bank so you can spend the latter parts of the game focusing on destroying the turrets, because you’ll probably waste more time trying to dodge their nonsense.

Honestly, this may be my favorite game out of the pack. My biggest issue was that I kept getting disoriented playing this, but that’s a personal flaw more than anything.

Bullet Cave

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Bullet Cave is another shooter game with an interesting gimmick. Bullets fly toward you, but they’re completely harmless. Unless you let one of them fly past. A wall of spikes appears behind you, threatening to get closer with every bullet you let slip by. You think, “okay, I’ll just shoot them down.” You do that and suddenly the cave is getting more cramped in a different way, the cave walls below and above extending with every bullet you shoot down.

The game is an interesting take on shooters in that the difficulty comes not from dodging intricate patterns, but managing the environment around you to live as long as possible. You may be tempted to let bullets pass by you to avoid the cave walls from growing too far out or you may risk getting crushed by the walls to prevent the spikes from getting closer. You can collect an item that fills up a gauge that lets you freeze time and flip what the bullets do. Bullets will now hit the spikes back and destroying bullets also destroys parts of the wall, but now, you’ll be asking yourself which is more important to destroy.

You can also collect power-ups, which manage to be a blessing and a curse. Sure, you can shoot down bullets more easily, but also, that may not necessarily be what you want. Spread shots are important because they could shoot bullets that are blocked by walls, but that just risks bringing that wall closer. Then there’s the power-up that just shoots one slow big bullet, which actually kinda sucks no matter how you cut it. They can’t all be winners.

I wish that you could turn off your time freezing ability mid-use in case you want to conserve it, but otherwise, it’s a solid game with a neat concept.

Bunyan’s Rage

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This last game is the only fresh one out of the bunch, exclusive to this collection. The title screen is evocative of a fighting game, but in reality, it’s another shooter.

Bunyan’s Rage puts you in control of a jetpacking lumberjack shooting at hostile squirrels, ending in a fight with a bull piloting a UFO. It’s definitely the wackiest game thematically. However, from a gameplay standpoint, I actually consider it the most boring game out of the collection. It is a straightforward shooter, which comes off as disappointing after playing the more ambitious Mass 360 and Bullet Cave. You go through a gauntlet of enemies, you pick up power-ups to increase the power of your shots, the only thing different from a standard shooter is that you have unlimited lives and you’re held to a time limit that gives a score bonus for beating the boss at the end.

It’s still kinda okay, though the game lacks music and I think it’s hard to get a read on the character’s hitbox. It’s not terrible, but it’s not terribly exciting either.


Overall though, the 7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack is a good collection, providing a series of arcade games with different ideas. The collection is pay-what-you-want, though I suppose nothing’s stopping you from checking out the games’ individual pages.

We Know the Devil

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I’ve had We Know the Devil sitting around in my Steam library since 2016, which I probably got from the Halloween sale that year. I kept putting off playing it since that’s what anyone with a large Steam library does, but I thought, “hey, I’m doing this Pride Month thing, I should finally get around to playing it.”

We Know the Devil takes place at a summer camp dedicated to fighting the devil. The story follows the antics of Jupiter, Neptune and Venus as they get to learn about each other and themselves in a nice coming-of-age story. That also happens to be a horror. This story is brought to us by Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz, under Date Nighto (who was also behind Hustle Cat).

[As always, spoilered text is put through ROT13]

Continue reading “We Know the Devil”

Untitled Dating Sim (First Three Dates)

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Pride Month is still going on and I will not let work get in my way! I continue my coverage with Untitled Dating Sim (First Three Dates) by Nilson Carrol (or just “nilson” on itch.io). The game recommends playing this with somebody else, presumably to make choices together, but I have no one to hang out with. So anyway.

You are first confronted with a series of choices. While what you identify as is a cosmetic decision, the other choices build up to who you end up dating (though I don’t understand how the system works). Your three choices of dates are… Nilson, Nilson and Nilson. You date different versions of the game’s creator that mostly acts the same and they instead offer different situations to engage in. The artist Nilson shows off his office and takes you for a walk through an artsy park, the barista Nilson takes you out for drinks and the playful Nilson… dates you at a supermarket.

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The reason why these Nilsons are essentially the same is that the goal isn’t to date a dating sim archetype that you’re into, but to use the dates as a form of reflection. One of the main aims of the dating sim is to sorta act as a tool of self-reflection and it accomplishes this through the game’s choices. There are no branching paths to the game, there’s no secret date night to be found if you pick a certain combination of choices. Nilson generally acts the same no matter what or is written to work around your decisions. The choices you make are the choices you feel. You can express affection toward this weird geeky caricature or act cold. You can express your love for JRPGs and type out your favorite one. You can give your takes on pizza and Nilson will nod along. You are ultimately the only judge of your decisions (unless you’re playing with someone else) and they say more about you than the story.

Whether you find a connection or not is also dependent on you. After a date, you could choose to bail or go on another date. Maybe you didn’t like the first night and wanted to give it another shot, to see if you connect to this version of Nilson. Personally, the playful Nilson kinda reflects my actual relationship in some ways and honestly, I appreciate anyone that loves a good JRPG.

As one can clearly see, the visuals are photographs of Nilson and the environments themselves. I love it because it sorta recontextualizes standard visual novel stuff into a real world setting. Nilson does static poses like a visual novel character and it looks silly, yet endearing. Using photos of real locations also gives this sense of place, like, “hey, I can go out on a date with this person here.” This presentation feels personal, which again ties into the dating sim being a personal experience.

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Going through the dates lasts you an hour. In that hour, I confirmed stuff about myself like that I fucking love JRPGs and anime and that I hate cold days. It’s a simple game, but an interesting approach toward dating sims that acts as a self-portrait for the creator and yourself. It is normally $1.21, but I bought it for a price of $0.68 as part of itch’s summer sale, which is a sale I suggest checking out as an alternative to Steam’s monopoly as Valve continues its spiral into libertarianism.

Coming Out Simulator 2014

And so, we continue this pride month with Coming Out Simulator 2014. The game is by Nicky Chase, who at the time identified as a bisexual guy. It’s a personal, semi-autobiographical story of a guy trying to come out to his conservative Asian parents that you can play in your browser.

The game starts out with a meta narrative of you talking with the creator. It’s a bit silly, but it acts as a lighthearted prologue to the game’s serious subject matter. The narration is told through text message format and while I think it’s neat, I think the writing was generally too formal for the presentation. Then again, I’m writing this four years later where there’s more emojis and textspeak parlance, so what do I know? You are then thrown into the past, after Nicky and his then-boyfriend went on a date, with the boyfriend encouraging Nicky to come out.

Choices have some sway, with dialogue reflecting past choices like the mother character calling you out as a liar if you contradict yourself with your choices. However, the main story is the same. Nicky’s environment is controlling, the mother already having read his texts. The father is an even more controlling piece of shit and the only somewhat good outcome is to pretend that Nicky is as straight as possible, which also manages to be very uncomfortable. No matter what you do, coming out will be a failure.

But of course, the game is semi-autobiographical. You can’t exactly wish a good outcome on something that has already happened. And really, your choices not mattering much in the grand scheme of things is true to life. Coming out isn’t guaranteed to have a good outcome. In an abusive, conservative household, coming out may as well be a losing game, no matter how hard you wish for a different outcome. The game is an uncomfortable contrition with a ticking clock as background noise, keeping the moment as tense as it’d be in real life.

While the game is Nicky’s story, if you’re LGBT, you may end up relating to it. With my own life situation, wow, did this game make me feel awful. I mean that in a good way, but damn.  This was a very tense experience for me and had me thinking about it when I went to sleep. The game can last up to twenty minutes, but it’s an impactful twenty minutes. Just know to expect some homophobia and abusive situations going into the game.

Hustle Cat

I originally planned to write about a smaller game, but that’s when I noticed the post-count. This post right here is the 100th post for Indie Hell Zone! Wow! A real milestone! To commemorate this, I felt that a larger game would be more appropriate for the occasion!

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Hustle Cat is a visual novel by Date Nighto. I’m pretty sure I got the game a year or so ago from a Humble Bundle. I originally got it because I’m a sucker for cat people – turns out the game isn’t about cat people but people that could turn into cats. Close enough.

[All bracketed, gibberish text are spoilers that you can re-translate through ROT13 if you wish.]

Continue reading “Hustle Cat”

We Met Once, Perhaps in a Dream

It’s June, the month of gaymers for being Pride Month and for E3. Last year I spent half of Pride Month dedicated to covering stuff from Dream Diary Jam because I’m a fucking Yume Nikki nerd. This year, I decided that I should focus on stuff befitting the occasion, so I’m spending this month looking at games by LGBT devs.

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The first game I’m looking at is We Met Once, Perhaps in a Dream, by Metaparadox. It is a visual novel made in Ren’py for Accessajam, a game jam with accessibility as a focus.

Okay, so first off, I dig the setting and the premise of the game. In the game, the characters are immortal, but it isn’t a big deal in itself. The game doesn’t try to look at the big picture of the whole thing like the logistics of resources in a world of immortality nor does the story’s conflict have a big impact where the world or the state of eternal life is at stake. The story instead focuses on characters who are minor in the grand scheme of things and how they’re affected by the whole immortality shtick. I always kinda live for when background things get more focus over bigger picture stuff, it’s relatable and it kinda leaves room for you to wonder about the daily lives of other people in the world.

You are Amberlynn, a girl who is 671-years-old who has long given up keeping track of her own history. However, her interest in the journals she wrote renews when a girl named Gemma moves in next door. While immortality is sweet, it does have an awful side effect in that people that don’t actively record their histories wind up forgetting decades to centuries of stuff since the brain can’t handle holding all those memories. Amberlynn, however, faintly remembers her.

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Amberlynn could hang out with Gemma and ignore the journals, eventually hitting it off naturally. If you want fully happy lesbians, stop right here. You can then choose to ruin this by reading the journals and going through her old memories. Ignorance is bliss, as you’re pretty much doomed to have a gray ending the moment you start reading those books. Eternal life may have the curse of making you forget your past, but sometimes, there are things worth forgetting. Much like the endings, immortality is a gray concept with regards to memory, holding the ability to make you forget those you care about while allowing your sins to be forgotten.

I kinda wish that there was more, because I feel the story moves a bit too fast. However, as something made in a week, it’s pretty neat for something made within that timeframe.

And speaking of that jam, let’s look at the accessibility options. You can change the font to OpenDyslexic, a free font dedicated to mitigating reading problems caused by dyslexia. If you’re generally hard at reading, you can enable a voice over option that reads the text boxes and choices that you hover over. While that’s a good addition, it is flawed if you have “auto” enabled, as the game will often move to the next box before the voice over is done reading.

We Met Once, Perhaps in a Dream is a nice examination on the trope of immortality and how it plays into memory and relationships. Art is serviceable but isn’t a big focus of the visual novel. The game is pretty short and you can probably see all the ending variants within an hour. Metaparadox is working on other games, with three demos up on her itch.io, so check those out if you’re interested in her work and in gay stuff.

Island of Terror

I’ve recently been thinking about playing shorter games for this site. The stuff that I’ve been planning to play on my backlog are kinda longish or have a bunch of replay value that it’ll take a lot of playing to form a solid opinion. And so, I decided to hit up itch.io’s randomizer and see where that’d take me.

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The randomizer took me to Island of Terror, by tripodattack. On the eponymous island, a experiment went horribly wrong and opened a portal unleashing monsters, which seems to be how these kinds of experiments go.

The game bills itself as a survival horror. Your standard environmental storytelling of computer logs speak of dread and keys hidden around the place and the game is presented through a cramped circle, representing the radius of your lantern while you explore a one-bit world. Your lantern is constantly dying, so you’ll have to pick up fuel while you’re poking around to avoid plunging into darkness and getting a game over. There is a lack of music outside of the title screen, with only footsteps and the roar of monsters as common sound effects. It’s a sort of minimalist way of presenting a survival horror, building atmosphere through presentation instead of giving hard scares.

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Which is good, because the monsters themselves are considerably less scary. For me, they look kinda cutesy, like a weird Kirby enemy. Love these guys. What is scary however is that these monsters are invincible. You can collect limited throwing daggers, but that only stuns these fellas so that you can run past them. The only way to beat them is by outrunning them, which doesn’t sound hard (especially since their AI isn’t exactly perfect), but in more closed off spaces they’re more of a nuisance.

The game is spent gathering keys to advance and picking up fuel. You also need to gather dynamite to blow open brick walls, which pretty much serves the same function as keys. I kinda wish that the game had a display showing you which keys you currently have on you, but then again, that’d might mess with the clean look of the game.

My issues in the game lie in the movement and enemy spawns. You do not have diagonal movement, so movement is not as fluid as it could be. Try to do that and you’re stuck moving in a cardinal direction, which can screw you up if you’re being chased. Another thing is that while the game does seem to base when an enemy spawns on proximity, it doesn’t seem to check if you’re too close. As a result, enemies sometimes spawned right on top of me, resulting in unavoidable damage/deaths. While enemies do seem to have set spawn points, it’d be troublesome for people coming into the game. And you know, that’s just lousy anyway.

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Island of Terror is a simple survival horror with a nice minimalist presentation, however, I feel that the issues above keep it from being as smooth of an experience as it could be. If those issues were fixed up though, it’d be a decent short time killer.