Releases, Demos and Upcoming Things #3

It’s been a while since I did this and kinda long overdue. Been having some anxiety checking out new games because as somebody trying to make something myself, I’d hate to discourage another person if I think their thing isn’t good, because I feel that. But uh, we gotta get around to doing things eventually, so here’s some of the best stuff sent to my inbox!

The Magnet Trials

Developer: Tri Pie Interactive
Release: Feb. 22 2019
Price: $17.99

This is a first-person action puzzle game where you play as a scientist armed with a magnet gun. The magnet gun is used to pull together magnetic objects and invoke the laws of physics to fight hostile robots and solve puzzles. Hopefully the game makes the most out of its concept!

Game Soup

Developer: Game Soup LLC
Release: Feb 11. 2019
Price: $2.99

YouTube channel Game Soup gets into the game making fray themselves with their self-titled game. This is a WarioWare-esque collection of games that parody a whole bunch of games in general and man, there needs to be more WarioWare-type stuff out there.

This was one I actually wanted to play and was capable of playing but the download code they sent me was already used? I felt that I should have asked them to send me another but I didn’t want them thinking I was trying to finesse them for game keys. WarioWare experiences are good though so I’ll probably pick it up anyway some day.

Dictionary to the Known World

Developer: thecatamites
Release: Feb. 17, 2019

If you’re familiar with this blog, you know that I’m a fan of thecatamites and RPG Maker games. Both of those things have converged with his entry to the Lost Histories Jam, Dictionary to the Known World, which is a text dump of old RPG Maker experiences. As somebody that wrote an article on RPG Maker game preservation, it’s extremely my shit. Don’t come at me with the “this is not a game” nonsense, it’s good.

Bugs Must Die

Developer: DG Games Workshop
Release: March 29

A while ago I covered the demo of a twin-stick shooter called Bugs Must Die. I thought that it had a solid foundation but there were a lot of things I thought was messy about it.

This game was originally going to come out in January, but the developers actually decided to delay it to March so that they can polish it up, which I think is a good move on their part! As I said earlier, I’m scared of upsetting up-and-coming developers, so I’m glad that they’re taking my criticisms to heart!

Overcome

Developer: Overcome Studios
Release: Feb. 27

A 2D platformer made after the creator’s own traumatic incidents, Overcome is a platformer where you’re attacked by your inner demons. However, you may not have to fight them. With a shield in hand, you’re encouraged to push on through and jump over whatever adversities are in your way in a metaphorical journey about, well, overcoming.

Tetris 99 – let’s make it esports ™

99 players enter an arena and only one may leave a winner. That is the standard formula of the battle royale genre that’s gripped the esports world in the past few years. Am I talking about Fortnite in this instance? Or maybe I’m talking about recent esports up-and-comer Apex Legends? Fools. I’m not talking about shooters. Battle royales don’t necessarily have to be shooters and recent newcomer Tetris 99 proves that.

Tetris 99 is a recently introduced Tetris spin-off available for free exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. In that game, you play a game of Tetris alongside 98 other people in hopes of being the last one standing. As you play, you can target other players so that when you clear a line, you can drop debris on their playing field and prevent people targeting you from building debris against you. As more people drop out, the game becomes faster and people are more likely to target you (especially if you’ve got kills under your belt), turning it into the game of fast reflexes and thinking that competitive Tetris players can appreciate.

Tetris 99 has been well-received on release. On Twitch, the game enjoys a healthy viewership in the thousands. However, can Tetris 99 spin-off into something bigger?

Tetris on its own already enjoys a moderate competitive scene, being one of the oldest games there is. Small local tournaments can be found for the various versions of Tetris, from score competitions for the original Nintendo Entertainment System to head-to-head matches of Puyo Puyo Tetris.

In 2010, a bigger, more formal tournament popped up. The first Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) was held, with professional players competing in the original version of Tetris. The tournament’s foundations is interesting, as the tournament was originally devised alongside a documentary called Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, which focused on the history of Tetris, its pro-players and the tournament to see who was the best out of all of them.

Since then however, CTWC has stuck around with yearly tournaments. More than 10,000 people watched the 2018 finals live, its YouTube video sitting at a healthy 3.6 million views. With the interest generated by Tetris 99 and the 2018 release of Tetris Effect, viewership for the next CTWC will likely top those numbers.

So, Tetris 99 has a base as a spectator sport. However, while it has the base, what it currently lacks is the means.

What Tetris 99 needs is a lobby system. As it currently stands, people that play Tetris 99 are sent into random lobbies. A method of creating private lobbies would greatly benefit the game. Not only would it make organizing tournament play possible, but it can help casual play in that it can let friends play together; datamining of the game revealed that a mode with computer players will be added, so computer players could take up the blank spaces if need be.

If tournaments only want the cream of the crop to participate, tournament organizers could limit participation based on player level. Players of Tetris 99 can level up, but as it currently stands, it’s there as bragging rights, acting as an indicator to show off who has spent a lot of time playing the game. Player level can be put to practical use to filter in top players (or at least, ones with a lot of experience) to participate in tournaments.

An improved way of spectating would also make the game more suitable for watching. On the sides of the playing field, players can see miniaturized versions of other players’ games and the shots crossing between them from successful line clears. Upon death, a player gets a live feed which players are forced out, allowing spectators to see who lives on and ultimately wins the game. However, spectators don’t know who’s who until they’re out, which makes it difficult to gauge how a match progresses. A way to switch between the views of different players could fix this.

Tetris continues to be a competitive darling decades on. As the 35th anniversary of the original Tetris approaches, Tetris 99 presents new possibilities for people to engage in the series’ competitive scene and could potentially be something more serious.

The Endless Empty

Middens, by John Clowder, is considered a quintessential RPG Maker game, throwing players into a collage world that’s almost sandboxy in letting you run around to talk to people and kill whoever for the sake of a talking revolver. It was a game that I loved, even though it lacked any real story. Then it turned out its creator was a bit of a creep.

The Endless Empty, by Erik Sheader, fills the space that Middens used to take in my heart, while filling in its narrative flaws.

Normally, I don’t like to compare games to other games too much, but also, Middens does not deserve nice things and I’d like to point to an alternative for it.

In The Endless Empty, you are a manifestation of identity in the dying thoughts of a song writer that committed suicide. Teaming up with Trigger Finger, the neuron that willed the finger that pulled the trigger, you travel through the surrealistic, fragmented mindscape of your host, gathering a crew of powerful aspects of his mind while Death stalks you in hopes of finding escape – or at least, proper closure.

Continue reading “The Endless Empty”

Nepenthe

I was wary going into this game because it described itself as something “inspired by Earthbound.” A lot of indie RPGs that claim to follow in the vein of Earthbound tend to fall flat. For this blog, I played an RPG Maker game called Tantibus and Citizens of Earth, both of which disappointed me in different ways. And of course, there was the discourse over YIIK (or, the YIIKscoruse), a game that had a huge asshole protagonist walking around in a world full of bad game design decisions. However, this game, Nepenthe, looked unusual, so I decided to give it a chance.

Nepenthe is an RPG Maker MV game made by a fellow that goes by Yitz. I don’t quite remember how I found this game. It might have been something that was in my Steam explore queue. I bought the game in a bundle called the Surreal RPG Collection, which also contains the game The Endless Empty, which I’m excited to also try out.

In Nepenthe, you play as a hero tasked to save the world from the apocalyptic threat of Nepenthe. Well, not quite. You actually play as a mailman that was supposed to deliver the letter to warn someone of the threat, but after a shipwreck, you lose all your memory and you just sorta fall into the role.

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Kio’s Adventure

You ever dove into something thinking that it’d be good but end up bailing on it because it absolutely disgusted you? That’s what Kio’s Adventure is and Kio’s Adventure is a personal lesson to me to actually read Steam user reviews.

Kio’s Adventure is an adventure horror game by Spacelight Studio. You play as a young girl named Kio, awaiting to start school with her friends named, uh, Illusion and Domini. However, while eating out at a restaurant, an earthquake happens and Kio finds herself locked up in a dungeon in a world turned upside-down.

So: content warning for pedophilia and rape. Yeah.

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FORGET-ME-NOT R

Imagine an arcade game that descends into hell, where the horde of enemies that tries to kill you hates each other as much as they hate you.

This game is called <a rel="noreferrer noopener" aria-label="Forget-Me-NotForget-Me-Not<R, developed by ERYNGI. I was attracted to the game because of its cover art, which looked like the official art for Mementos from Persona 5 that looks way better than the real Mementos. In this game you wander around mazes picking up flowers, which all goes downhill pretty quickly.

Starting on the main Quest mode, you’re thrown into what looks like a standard Pac-Man looking maze, making it feel deceptively straightforward. There are flowers scattered around the maze like pellets and there are enemies roaming about, get to it.

Then the illusion is shattered when you see that your character is constantly shooting. Okay, maybe that’s helpful. Except it’s not. Like a traditional arcade game the screen wraps so your shots will wrap around – and hit you in the back. A first-time player’s first death might come from them accidentally shooting themselves apart. So, your first priority becomes getting the key. Aside from opening the gate that appears upon collecting the majority of the flowers on a level (getting all is a heal), keys protect you from back shots.

The problem is that enemies can also pick up the keys for themselves and use them as shields. This just adds to the peculiar nature of Forget-Me-Not<R’s enemies: they feel like player characters in their own right. Enemies are capable of harming other enemies and can also hurt themselves. Some variants of enemies can actually pick up flowers and other collectibles as well. I will have the nerve to say this: imagine 100 characters spawning into a Pac-Man maze for a battle royale game. That’s what this is.

Forgive the audio quality

The nature of the game’s enemies gives a chaotic feel to the game in that while you’re collecting flowers, enemies can be off killing each other on the other side of the map. There is no peace in this world, even between fellows. You can try sitting yourself out of the action, but screw around for too long and the screen is consumed by darkness as a Spelunky-like ghost roams around, making things significantly harder. For a quick glimpse of hell, try playing on a mode besides quest mode, where the monster spawn rate is hideous and everything will quickly spiral into madness. Pondskum mode is the best demonstration of this, as it’s essentially a survival mode.

The aesthetics of Forget-Me-Not<R reminds me of the remixed retro look found in Pac-Man Championship Edition and Space Invaders Extreme, though not as flashy. There isn’t any music, though as the game goes on, you don’t really need it, as everything becomes a chorus of sound effects anyway.

Forget-Me-Not<R is a cool arcade experience that distinguishes itself with a chaotic game world. It’s available on Windows, Mac and Linux, though my impressions are based on the Windows version. It used to be available as an iOS game, but because new iOS updates love to leave games in the dust, it unfortunately no longer exists. Thanks Apple.

Hidden Folks

Do you appreciate hidden object games? Do you want a hidden object game with the sense of whimsy that you got from the antics of Waldo and searching the intricate photographs of I Spy? Do you like funny noises? Then I have a game for you.

Hidden Folks is a take on the hidden object game genre primarily led by game designer Adriaan de Jongh and illustrator Sylvain Tegroeg . With hand drawn graphics that gives the game the impression of a hidden objects picture book, you are tasked to find certain people and objects across increasingly elaborate worlds.

There are six themed worlds in the game with different numbers of levels. The flow of the game has you starting each world with a small, introductory level that you could blast through in a minute before deciding that you’re ready to go on to the more complex levels of the set. As custom, you’re given a list of things to find before you can move on the next level.

You might end up resorting to clicking on everything while playing, but that’s okay, because you’re encouraged to. Misclicks don’t punish you, but reward you with the game’s sound design. All of the sound effects in Hidden Folks are made by the glorious instrument called the mouth, giving a goofy feel as you click around. Clicking on ground creates a poofing noise, cars make “vroom vroom” noises or mouthed out beeps, notable NPCs give excited grunts, worried moans, etc. Native Americans do chants, though I’m not sure if it’s bad, as it’s not my lane.

The game does not have music, but it has a lot of chatter depending on where your screen is positioned. Move over the scene of a busy street and you hear the cars come and go in a chorus of mouth noises, go over a crowd and you hear a bunch of people make a variety of wacky noises, etc. The sound design of Hidden Folks is excellent and gives a whimsical atmosphere that instills this child-like joy in me. It makes me think back to poring over I Spy books, which, in my opinion, are superior to Where’s Waldo. You too can harness the power of these mouth noises as the developers put out a pack of sound effects to use, good for any non-commercial use.

Hidden Folks is also a puzzle game to some degree. While there’s figuring out somebody’s location through their description, some characters and objects need some work to appear. For instance, there are several characters that need to be in a certain state to be clicked. For example, you can spot a rock fan you’re looking for in a crowd, but they have to be rocking out first to be clicked, so you need to poke around to get some music playing. These simple puzzles and the lack of punishment for clicking on the wrong things encourages you to engage with the game’s world more closely than you would with a standard game in the genre.

There are also a few levels in the game that bizarrely turns into an escort mission, with you clicking around to get rid of things in your subject’s way. I kinda got stuck in the first type of this mission because you need to click and drag things, which is something that doesn’t immediately occur to you and it’s something that you need to know to get some things in the game.

Otherwise, Hidden Folks is a solid, short time. It’s a goofy game where you can just kinda click around to hear things make funny noises and I found it to be a nice game to relax with. I got my copy of the game through itch.io, but it’s also available on mobile devices and the Switch, which I see as perfect fits for this game.

Citizens of Earth

As we start swinging into 2019, I wanted to start things off with a longer game, something that I’ve had in my backlog for a while. Today we look at Citizens of Earth, a game by Eden Industries. It was a Kickstarter project that originally failed, but Atlus picked it up and got it released in 2015. It was released on PC, PS4, Vita and 3DS, but for the sake of this review, we’re talking about the PC version.

You are the Vice President of Earth, who has returned home after a successful election cycle. After being woken up by his Mom in standard JRPG fashion, he finds a whole bunch of protesters rallying against him. Enlisting his own family and some locals to help get rid of them, he decides to swing by the local Moonbucks and winds up stumbling on a bizarre alien base that sets the game’s plot into motion.

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Indie Hell Zone – Game of the Year 2018!!

Gamers! Gamers. Gamers…. welcome. It’s that time of year where video game blogs put out their lists of their top games of the year. Whether it’s to validate the the opinions of readers or to sincerely show appreciation for the things they like, these lists are one of the Video Game Outlet Traditions.

Last year, my article was mainly nonsense because in the end, Indie Hell Zone is a one-person joint and that one person goes to school, has a horrible job and wants to work on their own games, so experiences were limited. This year, instead of letting my dumb ass be the judge, jury and executioner, I put the role into the hands of you, the people, since there’s no way I can play everything. Of course, considering the scope of this blog, only indie games that were made or had a substantial update this year were valid to be voted on.

And so, let’s get to it. For these categories, I will also put which games won second and third place – you’ll understand why. All screenshots are mine unless stated otherwise.

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