I apologize to everyone that wants me to cover more non indie-RPG games, but the Indie Game Making Contest has returned! This was a game jam run by the people behind the RPG Maker line of engines, encouraging people to make something in RPG Maker or any of its sister engines for prizes and clout! To celebrate its return, participants were asked to follow a theme of resurrections or rebirth, and more than 150 games stepped up to the plate to do so, and like in the past, I’m looking through a bunch of them.
For full disclosure, I submitted an entry, Hand of the Goddess, to this contest, which was only made possible by me being fucked up at home with Covid-19. Gotta make lemonade from lemons, you know. And honestly I have no problem advertising this because the only people that could vote in the People’s Choice Award are other participants. That said, if you’re a participant that feels obligated to say nice things about my game because I complimented yours here, please only judge it based on what you sincerely feel about the game. Sincere posters only.
Friend of the site and tester Infomantis invited themself to watch me play IGMC entries. I really appreciated their presence, it made things more fun. Plus, having a pair of eyes on me ensured I was fully focused on playing things, when my attention probably would have ended up wandering otherwise,
In the past, I normally picked whatever game and wrote about it, regardless of quality. However, with the supporting eyes of someone else, I’ve been playing through a whole bunch of games. So with that, I’ve chosen to just write about the highlights. This isn’t the only highlights we found out of the jam, just the highlights out of the batch of stuff I played this week.
So, without further ado…
The first game that truly grabbed our attention was Gacha Hell, by Apho. Hm, that game title seems familiar to me. Oh well.
You play from the perspective of a young man that died crossing the street because he was too busy playing a gacha game to pay attention. With the desire to come back to life, he travels through the circles of hell, and of course, it isn’t hell without a fitting punishment. He must lead a crew of fighters through legions of monsters… who are chosen and equipped through a gacha pull system.
Like most gacha games, you start out with a free 10-pull. You’re guaranteed two characters alongside an assortment of weapons and cards. Most weapons and cards give stats, while others give passive abilities like buffing defenses when two stat numbers match. The characters themselves – an assortment of default RPG Maker characters and characters from the creator’s other works – also have abilities that scale with certain stats, so maybe those useless low ranking luck cards can come in handy with the right kind of characters.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, you have no control over it. The characters engage in auto-battle, trying their best to clear their way through the enemies. For the most part, the characters are generally pretty good at targeting, so it rarely feels unfair. Instead, your input comes entirely in outfitting your characters. Give good weapons to your best fighters, give cards that synergizes with a character’s innate skills so that they can make the most of it, etc. As such, you can really think of Gacha Hell as less of an RPG and more like an auto battler ala stuff like Super Auto Pets.
And you know what? I love that shit. I love planning stuff and watching to see if my decisions pay off. I feel like a villain just sending in jobber minions to do my dirty work. I crave power and auto battlers give me that high.
I feel that some people will hate the gacha aspect of this game, but within the framework of auto battlers, it works. Auto battlers have a degree of randomness in that the choices it presents you with are random and you simply have to make the best out of the choices presented. Infomantis and I are Super Auto Pets stans, so it was good for us, actually.
As Gacha Hell gets harder, you have to be fairly good with decision making to tip the scales in your favor. Though, if no good choices present themselves, you can actually replay a past level for some gacha drops, which is no big deal since you aren’t actively fighting on your own. As a result, I found my time to be fairly enjoyable; it especially feels worth it because the final battle is actually pretty unique with some music that genuinely makes it hype.
Adding onto this, beating Gacha Hell presents a hardcore mode, where you have to play through the game with no healing between rounds. So, you’re gonna have to swap out the dead party members for the surplus ones you inevitably get. I… don’t want to play it, but also, the fact that a game jam game is out here presenting replay value is admirable!
But forget about gacha. Your parents would be disappointed in you if you spent a bunch of money chasing after anime characters. Speaking of parents…
We soon got our next highlight, Dad on Arrival, by Honk Honk Studio. This is actually the first game by the group, and you know what? Pretty fucking strong first impression, I gotta say.
Dad on Arrival is a bizarre comedic mystery game taking place on a train. A detective, fresh off of arresting a serial killer, is currently coping hard with the fact that his wife is giving birth. He goes around to clear his head a bit before the big moment, talking to the various weirdos on the train… right before another murder happens on the scene.
And… I really, really don’t want to say more, because the game’s unhinged energy can only truly be appreciated with fresh eyes. I will say though that we found the story super satisfying. The dialogue’s fun, the mystery’s enjoyable, and it all ties together well in the end. If you want to check out an IGMC game on the simpler side, I definitely suggest checking out Dad on Arrival.
Though, if you want a compromise between the mechanics heavy stuff of Gacha Hell and simple story of Dad on Arrival, you got Bloom Underworld, by Alice Gristle. Another first time game, another good first impression.
You play as Ben, a miserable wretch condemned to the Hell innards of Sar-Dhakka for unknown crimes he’s done in life. He honestly can’t remember what he did to deserve this fate, but he wants to fight his way back to the world of the living.
In Sar-Dhakka, gold is just as worthless as actual shit. What actually is valuable in the underworld are seeds. By planting seeds into the cooler parts of Sar-Dhakka’s stomach acid, a safe patch of flowers spawn. You are encouraged to find seeds so that you can create optimal routes around the demons patrolling the underworld – as well as to grant some of the decaying living skulls a little peace of mind.
Speaking of the demons, there’s a lot of them! Fights are super simple in that both you and the enemies have bones made of glass. Straightforward fighting is a foolish endeavor, as demons will simply dodge with a scoff before tearing Ben’s neck bone out. Rather, you got to be pathetic – or make the enemy pathetic. Placate the demons with sobs to make them drop their guard, or make them so mad that they forget to bother dodging attacks. Give them an offering of gold, or throw shit at them, anything goes. It’s a really simplified battle system, but it’s one that feels evocative of the setting. Like really, other adventure/horror RPG Maker games that do the bare minimum with battles should take notes – you can make a simple battle system while making it feel like part of the narrative.
But of course, you don’t need to fight them. You can create paths of flowers around to avoid them – in fact, it’s encouraged. As stats mostly don’t exist in this game, I really feel that this is an RPG that invites speedrunning effort.
And yeah, I really love the vibes of Bloom Underworld. You’re a rude skeleton boy that can fling shit at people in a miserable hell world. It’s all wrapped up in nice NES pixel art and a flowery writing style that feels evocative of more serious early RPGs, all drawn together with chiptune versions of various old pieces of music that old religious guys probably would have appreciated. It rules.
But hey, let’s take a brief step away from turn-based RPGs to look at a tactical RPG. Capsule Monsters – Rebirth, by TheLastYuriSamurai, is a tactical RPG that you can play directly in the browser right now! Do you miss the gacha mechanics of Gacha Hell? We got more gacha.
A bunch of people find themselves in a pretty chill afterlife. In fact, the host of the whole thing is willing to just revive everyone… if they play a game. No, there’s no dangerous catch, as I initially thought. In fact, everyone’s instead fighting for a bonus: whoever wins the tournament gets a wish fulfilled on top of coming back to life, which many would like to have for the sake of course correcting their lives.
(To be honest, I feel that the theme is extremely superfluous to this game, but let’s just roll with it.)
And this tournament? It’s a capsule monster tactics tournament. You pay money into a gachapon machine, make a team of little monsters, and direct them through glorious cute combat. You move your little guys around on a map, direct them to do a physical or magic attack, and keep those good times going until the enemy team is defeated.
Outside of the main fights, you can go around and talk to your fellow dead competitors. You can trade monsters and do some friendly exhibition matches – which you really need to do. The rare monsters are straight up busted compared to the common ones, and with how the endgame fights are, you’re pretty much required to trade up to some better monsters or get lucky with the gacha. While you can get what you need with a little persistence, having to depend on luck so much in a tactical game kinda feels kinda aggravating compared to an auto-battle experience.
That said, Capsule Monsters does deliver on the tactical RPG front. It’s pretty simple and easy to grasp, as somebody that’s barely touched anything like Fire Emblem. The UI is a bit bothersome, though, because it could easily cover things up. Otherwise, pretty good showing!
Want some more monster combat? Next up is Resurraptor, a game by Wumbohek. A high school boy somehow managed to resurrect a raptor from a fossil, who he comes to name Nugget and treats them as his best friend. Alas, like most media where a young person bonds with an unnatural creature, the government hates that shit and they wind up taking the raptor away for experiments.
For years, Nugget grows, rage building up in their heart. And soon, the chance to escape opens up. And so, you must lead this raptor on a quest to rip, tear and devour through this research facility!
You spend the game wandering through the research facility, doing color gate opening puzzles and going through teleport mazes. Of course, there’s a whole bunch of government agents around, and boy does the raptor hunger for revenge.
Battles are simple. Besides the basic attack and guard, all of Nugget’s moves costs MP, with MP getting recovered each turn or with a guard. You can upgrade these moves to use stronger variants, but you actually get the option of using their weaker variants for the sake of using MP effectively.
I guess if I had a big criticism of the game, it’s that the combat gets really easy and repetitive, especially since the enemies have no other move besides shooting. It’s not much of an issue with how short the game is but ehhh, it was hard to get invested.
Besides, the main draw of the battles is really the animations. There’s so much loving craft put into Nugget launching himself at enemies and tearing them apart that it’s honestly really entertaining. Sure, fighting them is repetitive, but seeing the guards get reduced to chunks is still good to see. In general, the game’s art style is really solid. There’s just so much love put into Nugget’s animations; I particularly love that they have completely separate running animations from their walking ones, that’s some good-ass attention to detail.
As for the story, I found it kinda cute. I feel… weird about the ending, but Resurraptor finds a way to avoid addressing the moral dilemma I had with it. Honestly, I respect the audacity.
Finally, we finished this week off with To Be Continued. I really looked forward to playing this because the main developer of it was Melon Kid, who previously made the IGMC game Magical Disaster X and went on to work on OMORI. So, I had big expectations going in, and you know what? Expectations totally met.
There is an afterlife where dead characters from fictional works converge to fight in a tournament where the winner can get revived in their world. Dead YA novel side character Mar, finds himself here, and he teams up with fridged” RPG character Neli and vague SCP-style horror girl Z-07 in hopes of one of them getting a satisfying narrative.
This underworld is full of an assortment of extremely distinct weirdos, whose origins are really open to interpretation. Your YA character, Marr, is absolutely one of those cartoonishly smug side characters with a little meta awareness, constantly insulting the natures of other characters – including his own teammates. Meanwhile, Neli has an existential crisis over barely being a character besides being a shock value death, while Z-07 openly hates her role in life so much that she initially chooses not to try. Overall, the characters have a great dynamic that makes them likable (or just fun, in Marr’s case).
But eventually, your crew has to come to blows with rival characters. Movesets work on a flow of moves that recover MP and moves that spend it, with bonus limit breaks on the side to push things in your favor. The movesets are actually surprisingly versatile; like, you could use Marr’s ability to make an ally taunt on Neli so that she could hit harder with her slash from the buff it also gives her, or you could use it on Z so she could get more mileage out of her health drain attack.
And you’re going to have to make the most of these moves against your enemies. Each enemy is distinct with unique moves to give you a good impression on what their deal is. The battle sprites are a bit messy, but that’s really balanced out by the intricate attack animations that they’ve got. Guy with time powers going apeshit on everyone within the stopped time? Maid dude that tosses his platter into the air to strike and catches it when the animation ends? It’s just exquisite. Well done stuff.
Also, the music, by @TheJTrigger, absolutely rules. Furthering the vibes each enemy brings to the table, every match-up has a unique theme that captures the essence of the characters involved. Infomantis kept comparing these enemies to Guilty Gear characters, and these sure are some Guilty Gear characters with Guilty Gear-type beats.
So far? To Be Continued is my favorite game from IGMC. It’s got fun writing, it’s got strong gameplay, it’s got strong aesthetics, all told within a cozy package. My only real problem with it is that I wish for more, but sometimes you gotta accept that short things gotta be short.
I don’t quite remember how many IGMC games we’ve played through so far, but we’ve got a pretty good showing so far. I’m off to work for now so I’ll probably be normal posting for the rest of the week, but rest assured, I vow to look at some more games next week.