Highlights from IGMC Rebirth – 2

We return to another week of checking out games from the Indie Game Making Contest. Now, I haven’t checked out as many games as I did last week. One reason is because I got fired up to work a bunch on my personal project and did that instead. Another reason is that the AC in this house broke down and I’m in agony. This room is my oven, my grave. Every day I feel closer and closer to losing it and this goddamn heat is not fucking helping.

Anyway, let’s look at games. Just as a reminder, these are games that I considered highlights from the batch I managed to play. If you feel a game is missing, I either probably didn’t play it yet or maybe I did and I didn’t like it, but I’m not going to talk about games I thought was bad. You can read me getting mad at Cosmic Star Heroine for that instead.

Novus Anlus, by Knightly44, was the first game to really grab me out of this batch, which is something I looked at by myself. A space-faring angel crash lands in a desert with a really vague past. With their ship completely screwed up, they set out to explore the surrounding desert to gather the materials and “life energy” necessary to go back into space so that they may continue serving their Leader. Though… is that all they want to do?

The game is a good classic RPG Maker adventure game where you’re a funny little fellow solving puzzles. On the spectrum of adventure games, I’d say that it’s fairly in the middle with regards to tone. Much of the dialogue is lighthearted, but there’s some implied darker elements shoved in the background. While a bit of a goof, the goofiness of the main character’s also gets examined in a darker way in that they’re genuinely ignorant of life outside of serving a Leader, to the point that the concept of pain and death is completely nonexistent to them.

The puzzle solving is pretty easy to get. Find items, use items on highlighted objects, simple. There are two items though that I wish were hotkeyed instead of the honestly really superfluous “fuel” menu, since I found it really annoying to sort through the inventory and go through a cutscene every time I used them. There were also two points where I softlocked the game that really could have been tested harder on, so you should probably save often.

I’ve actually bailed on a few IGMC games that I won’t mention because they trapped me in softlocks. However, I found Novus Anlus endearing enough that I was willing to replay some parts to get back to where I was. I do enjoy the writing and I really wanted to see where the main character goes as they come to question their life’s purpose more and more.

On a personal level, I liked the game because it shares a similar beat to mine of somebody growing to question the religious dogma they were raised in and coming out the other side establishing their own identities. I liked seeing someone with that similar idea and taking it in a different direction.

The next day, I found the time to join up with Infomantis to look at some more games. A game we just had to check out was TheUnproPro’s I was reincarnated as a puppy!?, both because of the name and because I could just check it out in the browser. This game is fairly light on story, and in fact makes light of a game’s usual opening exposition. All you have to know is that a hero reincarnates into the form of a puppy, and that puppy is destined to defeat the final boss!

I was reincarnated as a puppy!? is a simulation game where you have to build up the strength of the puppy hero to face the final boss on the tenth day. Actions take up time, energy, and mood, so you have to put consideration into what to do with that time. Get the dog to practice on a punching bag to increase his attack and defense, get him howling at the moon to reinforce his spirits, then have him take a nice bath and a nap so he can face the next day head-on. Infomantis likened this to Princess Maker, which is a game that I know nothing about, so I’ll just take their word for it.

One of things to do is to go out on adventures. It’s sort of an autobattler where the hero dog automatically takes actions, but you can command him to do actions if his mood is good. The main goal of these adventure sessions is to fight bosses, because while they’re tough, the puppy’s stats increase based on a percentage of the stats of whoever they defeat; fighting bosses will be the most important way of growing if you hope to defeat the final boss.

Of course, you’ll inevitably fall behind the curve as enemies get tougher with each passing day. Thankfully, you can reincarnate and start from the first day with all stats carried over! However, this is something you can’t just use willy-nilly, because the enemies also get stronger with every reincarnation. So, think of this mechanic as another tool than the path to success.

Outside of the opening cutscene and the interludes from rests, I was reincarnated as a puppy!? is mainly mechanics driven, and I think it does a pretty good job at that! This is especially a game for people that like to see the numbers go up, because man, those stat numbers sure are huge. It doesn’t have much to offer beyond this, but I think it’s good at what it does.

Finally ending off this week, we got MissingSeven’s Ouroboros: A Dungeon Crawling Adventure. MissingSeven actually holds the distinction of winning 3rd place and Youtuber’s Choice in IGMC 2018 with nec[H]roma, so it’s not surprising that they brought some heat to this competition.

Ouroboros is presented as a tabletop adventure with environments designed to look like tabletop maps, as a DM narrator prattles on alongside the character chatter. In battle, all the sprites take the form of miniatures, with some of their actions based on dice rolls (with status effects that can even rig them). It brings a unique flair compared to the rest of the entries, and it certainly helps that the art is well-made.

In this particular tabletop session, we’re presented the story of the young wizard apprentice Seliqa on an adventure to find the Egg of the Ouroboros in hopes of resurrecting her teacher. She is accompanied by Sir Amber, a knight finding mercenary work in a post-war world, and they soon join forces with the thief Zorba, who’s a normal guy.

And things get even more normal when it becomes apparent that everyone is under a curse. The game’s defining mechanic is that everything is stuck in the Ouroboros’ eternal cycle of time. Every turn of battle, every world map interaction, every step, it all advances the clock that ages and de-ages people until they wrap back around. An old character with the mental experience to regenerate MP will loop back around to being a child, who is fast and passively recovers HP, while a stronger adult can also de-age back to a child.

Going further, the main characters also have passive quirks based on what age they’re currently trapped in. The child Sir Amber has the eagerness to fight, with surprising strength but a lack of accuracy to reflect his inexperience; meanwhile, Zorba turns into an adorable kitten at the same age, and enemies will ignore him unless he’s the last one alive. Seliqa meanwhile becomes more experienced with her magic as she ages, but she loses the more unique quirks of her younger states as she focuses her skills. All in all, the age mechanic of Ouroboros is not only unique, but it’s a unique mechanic that works toward giving more life to the characters.

Of course, the enemies are also hit by the same curse, which you can take advantage of by hitting them with a weapon blessed with the opposite energy the enemies have. You can also get to see funny old rats. However, you don’t get to see funny young/old ghosts because the undead are completely unstuck from time in that they not only don’t age/de-age in battle, but they can freely move around the map while everyone else only moves when you do.

The mechanics in Ouroboros are strong, and the writing doesn’t slack either. I really liked the main cast of characters and appreciate that they all have a defined arc within the short playtime. While some story revelations might feel like they come out of left field, I think it works within the tabletop game framing. I can imagine Sir Amber as a character used in a bunch of previous sessions that builds up his backstory and the world’s backstory presented in this game, with the game’s ending essentially setting up for a future tabletop session. Will we ever see a game of this hypothetical session? Probably not, but I can consider this game session as one that stands on its own.

I didn’t play as much games this week because of my agonies and lack of free time, but that didn’t stop me from finding some good games. Hopefully I can find the time to check out more games next week, and hopefully I’m not melting alive in this coffin.

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