Releases, Demos and Upcoming Stuff #2

I missed out on posting something last week because I was too busy working on projects and studying for mid-terms. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to put out a proper game review this week. And so, let’s take another look at interesting stuff I got in my inbox that I’ll probably never get around to but still think is worth talking about!

Trancelation

Developer: MythicOwl
Early Access Date: October 17, 2018
Default Price: $14.99

Trancelation is a game now up on early access. You are thrown into a neon world with synthwave music and instead of doing some ultraviolence like this aesthetic typically implies, you’re off to do some word association games. It’s a game aimed at teaching you languages, though if you don’t care about the learning part, you can turn it off for a purely arcade experience. Personally, I think it’s an interesting concept and I feel that the world can never have enough learning games.

Train Valley 2

Developer: Flazm
Early Access Date: March 29, 2018
Default Price: $9.99

Another game up on Steam Early Access is Train Valley 2. Train Valley 2 is a puzzle tycoon game where you map out and maintain railroads, meeting the needs of cities and making sure the trains run on time. Engage in low poly versions of different historical settings to create the best train experiences, choo choo!

In the PR email I got, Train Valley 2 had a big update back on the 16th, the Electric Age. This update promised to shake the game up with the introduction of electricity as a mechanic, making it so that you have to construct and maintain power plants to keep the other buildings on the map running. New levels were added alongside this, so it’s a rather sizeable update.

Quantum Replica

Developer: ON3D Studios
Release Date: May 31, 2018
Default Price: $15.99

Quantum Replica is a top-down stealth action game in a cyberpunk world. Investigating a hellish corporate alliance, you use time manipulation powers to sneak around and get the drop on enemies. This game seems to be one of many that just flies under the radar.

The Witch’s House MV

Developer: Fummy
Release Date: October 31, 2018

So this one isn’t actually one from my inbox, but me being the RPG Maker Stan, it’s up my alley enough that I think it warrants mention. This is a remake of The Witch’s House, a popular RPG Maker horror game that I actually enjoyed and I was rather surprised to see this announcement. I’m a bit wary because I don’t trust the RPG Maker MV engine, but hey, let’s be optimistic here.

Solid Aether

If you missed the last post, I decided to start doing weekly masterposts pointing at games that were sent to my inbox that I thought were worthwhile but didn’t have the time or competent enough computer to play.

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And Solid Aether was one of them! Solid Aether is a shoot em’ up by FAL Works (or just FAL), aiming to be a bullet hell with minimalist aesthetics. Characters and bullets are represented as simple black shapes, there is no complex scoring system –  just the core, shoot em’ up experience.

Continue reading “Solid Aether”

Releases, Demos and Upcoming Stuff #1

So if you checked out my about page, I put up an e-mail for people to hit me up about game stuff and I’ve been getting a lot of requests to play things. Unfortunately, due to my limited free time, I can’t find the time to cover things, even the stuff I’d be personally invested in, and there’s some stuff I actually can’t run. As the about page also mentions, Indie Hell Zone is a one-person joint and I currently don’t make money on it, so I can’t just hire people to write stuff and asking people to write for free goes against my personal ethics unless they insist on it. Please give me money.

However, after a few e-mails I started feeling awful about just leaving people to dry. So, I’ve decided that for some future game promo e-mails I get, regardless of whether or not I play them, I’ll make a weekly masterpost of things I think are worthwhile to at least spread the word on them!

Dream Car Builder

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Press kit screenshots

Developer: RoKo0
Release: September 21, 2018
Price: $14.99

Dream Car Builder was a game that was in Early Access at the time I was e-mailed but formally released September 21. With many Steam reviewers comparing the game to Besieged, you spend your time in Dream Car Builder constructing cars in a complex editor before testing it in the elements. There is a multiplayer component to the game where you and your friends can race alongside each other, but as the developer puts it, it’s not a real-time multiplayer game, which may be a sore point for people that want to crash cars with other players.

The Corridor: On Behalf of the Dead

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My own screenshots from the minute I was able to play of the game

Developer: Desktop Daydreams Studio
Release: August 30, 2018
Price: $14.99

This is a game I actually attempted to play because I liked the premise and the e-mail pitch I got, but alas, my laptop is awful. The Corridor’s main conceit is that you’re a government agent in a dystopic setting that can dive into the minds of accused criminals. You are thrust into the first-person horror worlds of these minds, searching for the truth while trying to maintain your form in these worlds.

Solid Aether

Promotional screenshot

Developer: FAL Works
Release: September 27, 2018
Price: $6.99

FAL Works makes their debut on the indie scene with Solid Aether. It aims to be a minimalist bullet hell experience, nothing but bullet patterns in a black and white world.

Log Jammers

Developer: Mega Cat Studios
Kickstarter End Date: October 12

Log Jammers is a wacky take on Windjammers, people flinging axes toward each other’s sides to score goals or chop up unfortunate cheerleaders. This is an expansion of a game of the same name that’s playable on an NES cartridge, as per much of Mega Cat Studio’s works. The Kickstarter goes toward funding console ports and online multiplayer functionality.

If you’re interested in backing the game, check it out here.

Giraffe Town

Screenshot by @bfod

Developer: Samer Khatib
Release: October 2, 2018
Price: $14.99

Giraffe Town is a game about a giraffe on a grand quest to find love. Unfortunately, the giraffe is rather bad at walking, and so, much like people with bad personalities, his greatest obstacle to finding love is himself. It also may or may not be a horror game amidst its Octodad-esque madness.

Anodyne (PS4 Version)

Before getting into this, allow me to get a bit personal.

Many years ago, I had a netbook, a cheap laptop aimed for basic internet use and nothing more. The netbook’s lack of power and me being a teen without the autonomy or money to just buy things really limited my options to get games. So I looked around the Internet for free things that I could play that wasn’t from Newgrounds (I wasn’t really into the flash game scene), which led me to getting into RPG Maker games, and I’ve been in RPG Maker hell ever since.

But I wanted more. And that’s when I read an interesting Kotaku article: a game called Anodyne was up on the Pirate Bay, which the creators stood by and used as promotion. I thought the game looked cool and if the creators were cool with it, I might as well go for it.

And so, outside of RPG Maker games, Anodyne became the first indie game I ever played. It’s a game that I hold close to my heart because it really showed me what a handful of people were capable of putting together. I remember reading through the game development thread a bunch. I remember reading through the Even the Ocean thread a few years later when it was still Even and Ocean. When I was able to buy things I finally formally bought the game off Steam and recently, I won a giveaway for the newly released PS4 port. Sure, I have a backlog and a bunch of e-mail requests to check out games, but if I’m getting one of my favorite games for free, you sure as hell can bet I’m on that.

Anodyne is a game made by Analgesic Productions, consisting of Sean Han-Tani and Marina Ayano Kittaka (note: the opening credits uses a previous name she went by), with the PS4 port done by Nnooo. Anodyne throws you into the Land, the dream world of Young, a youth armed with nothing but a broom on a grand quest to save the Briar (maybe).

Continue reading “Anodyne (PS4 Version)”

Plug & Play and Games & YouTube

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Plug & Play is a game by Michael Frei and Mario von Rickenbach, based off of a short film the former did that can be watched here. “Based off of” might be the wrong phrase, though, as the game is essentially an interactive version of the film.

Plug & Play is about connections, whether they’re created or severed. Humanoid creatures with plugs and sockets for heads interact, trying to find love sometimes, other times acting hostile to each other. The interactive nature adds a layer to the game’s themes that the animation lacks, with you acting as a facilitator, a matchmaker in a weird world.

…After playing this, I realized that I’d have a hard time writing about this. This is mainly because the game is pretty much 10 minutes long. To go in-depth would ruin your own experience playing it. In fact, by linking the short film, I fear that you’d be turned away from the game to watch the film, since you’re essentially getting the same takeaways.

But that line of thinking led me to thinking about people watching other people play this and YouTube in general.

Plug & Play, even if it wasn’t intended to be, is YouTube let’s player bait. It’s got the bizarre imagery for people to react to, it has that subtle horror atmosphere for them to be comically scared by. Look the game up on YouTube and you’re guaranteed to get a bunch of thumbnails of let’s players in full “what the hell is this” mode (as well as videos for plug and play consoles).

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Let’s plays normally act as advertisements for games to a let’s player’s audience, but, when it comes to linear narrative games, it might be a different story. With games focused entirely on narrative and nothing else to engage with, potential players might instead turn to watch a playthrough. This became a sore point for the developers of That Dragon, Cancer, who felt that let’s plays hurt the game’s profitability, believing that many are satisfied merely watching a let’s play than getting the game and experiencing it for themselves. Looking Plug & Play up on YouTube, you can see videos on that game having millions of views (like Markiplier, above) – but you can probably guess that actual sales are less than one percent of the views for a single video.

Another thing that I feel works against games like Plug & Play is Steam’s refund policy. The policy, if you don’t already know, allows people to refund games if they’ve played for less than 2 hours. While this policy lets people demo big games, the policy gets abused when it comes to shorter games. This sort of thing infamously cropped up with the narrative game Firewatch, with people abusing the game’s short length to finish it and get refunds – even if they enjoyed it. Of course, with Plug & Play being about ten minutes long, it’s easily suspect to being refunded, another potential victim of the value of games being cheapened.

Reading through this, you might be wondering: is the game worth it, do I think it’s worth it? Well, Plug & Play is inexpensive and I do think it’s interesting. However, ignoring the let’s plays that easily show off the entire game, there’s the fact that simply watching the original short movie cheapens your personal experience with the game.

But that led me to thinking: has the original animator seen money for the original Plug & Play animation? It was acclaimed, yes, but did he ever get financial gain from it? Surely, he could put the short film up on YouTube and rake in views from crowds interested in this kind of stuff.

However, back on the subject of YouTube screwing people over, there’s little appreciation for animators. The Algorithm(TM) favors videos with long watch times, which puts animators at a disadvantage, as long videos mean way more work for them. Changes in YouTube monetization at the beginning of the year didn’t help things either, only allowing channels to be monetized if a collective of 4000 hours was watched within 12 months. Chances are, the only animators that can see success in this system were already successful to begin with.

The way I see it, the game adaptation provides an avenue for the animation to be supported, exposing it to new audiences that might otherwise not have seen it. According to Steam Spy statistics, Plug & Play is owned by 100,000 – 200,000 users, which is still respectable, even if there’s a huge disparity between that and YouTube views on videos of Plug & Play. Of course, it helps that it was previously part of a Humble Bundle and it is still pretty cheap – and come on, you’d have to be pretty stingy to refund $3.

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To summarize: playing Plug & Play somehow led me to thinking about how these big content platforms suck ass for small creatives. The game’s interesting, yeah, but I think Plug & Play‘s place in this online culture that can easily devalue it is also interesting. Ultimately, I feel that people should support interesting animation/games any way they can in a brutal web hellscape filled with gamers that flip their shit over puddles.

Danmaku Unlimited 2

Writing about this was on the back burner for a while. Like, a long while. I even recorded a video back when my computer could actually handle that well. But then my computer had some weird nonsense happening and I kept getting distracted by stuff, you know how it is. It was only recently that I started looking at my backlog of stuff I had that I could play for this blog that I remembered that I should have written about Danmaku Unlimited 2 by now.

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Danmaku Unlimited 2 is by Doragon Entertainment, a one man indie studio. As the name indicates, it’s a bullet hell game. It’s a generic title, but thinking about it, it’s rather fitting.

Continue reading “Danmaku Unlimited 2”

Alice mare

The Cheshire Cat appears before you, making snide comments and mocking you as you go. “Alice,” he keeps calling you, as he does to everyone, because all people are the same to him. You dismiss his nonsense and he disappears, with the inevitable promise of coming back to harass you later. You turn your focus to the doors before you and they beckon you to delve into the dreams of their occupants.

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Alice mare is a game made in Wolf RPG Maker, made by Miwashiba, translated by vgperson. I previously played Miwashiba’s LiEat games, which I thought were okay adventure games with a charming style. If the dates for the original freeware games on Vector is accurate, Alice mare was actually made before the LiEat games, so I tried going into this without preconceptions from playing them.

Continue reading “Alice mare”

Ara Fell

I’ve had this game on my backlog for a while now from some hedonistic RPG Maker spending spree. I got Helen’s Mysterious Castle from that and thought it was cool but found the ending to be really unsatisfying and I also got Artifact Adventure, which, I’ll be blunt, holds the dishonor of being one of the few games on here I just didn’t like. I didn’t spend any time on Ara Fell for months, perhaps due to my disappointments.

At least until recently! I was listening to a podcast hosted by one of my friends’, the Sockscast, and they briefly talked about Ara Fell, which finally ignited my interest in digging into this game to see if I had the same thoughts they had. So, without further ado:

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Ara Fell is by Stegosoft Games, released in 2016, one of those indie RPGs trying to evoke old 16-bit JRPGs in a sincere fashion, rather than one of those indie RPGs by condescending western devs believing that they can “fix” a genre based on their limited experiences. Ara Fell actually has a long history to it, originally made years ago as an overly ambitious project, to briefly being revived in RPG Maker XP and eventually getting picked back up and reworked for a formal commercial release after RPG Maker 2003’s official localization.

Continue reading “Ara Fell”

LUCAH: Born of a Dream

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Nightmares advance toward Lucah, abstract limbs prepared to strike. Lucah chants a mantra and takes a fighting stance more befitting of the situation. They break through a nightmare’s guard and their familiar companion shoots it apart as a finisher. The nightmares are gone.

The darkness creeps up behind Lucah, urging them forward. A corruption grows within them, but it’s still too early for them to worry.

They walk over to a statue depicting a divine mother and present her with her sword. The world shifts. The statue has become a Harbringer with the same energies as the nightmares, striking with scythe like swipes that mimic Lucah’s own. They brace themself to stand against the horror.

But Lucah is not strong enough. They were foolish to even try.

And so, you, as Lucah, are unceremoniously tossed to the side and you descend, further into a world of nightmares and despair.

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Lucah: Born of a Dream is a game made by melessthanthree, led by Colin Horgan. Lucah is the result of what happens when you plop a character action game into a survival horror setting, where your best tools against an unrelenting world is flashy combat.

Continue reading “LUCAH: Born of a Dream”

Running out of Space – a few Ludum Dare 42 games

It’s that time of the year again, it’s Ludum Dare baby!! The latest Ludum Dare, which ran from August 10 to 13, had the theme of “running out of space,” which I thought left a lot of room for interpretation. So, I checked out a bunch of games and here are a few that stuck with me!

Edgy Fantasy Battle Deluxe

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You know how Sephiroth had that really cool Supernova move that blasted through the entire solar system, only to do negligible damage? Edgy Fantasy Battle Deluxe, by Yanrishatum, Zeusdex, Theodote, and Shess, is what happens when moves like that actually had consequences!

The entire game has endgame JRPG protagonists facing off a “villain,” using devastating limit break like magic to fuck her shit up. To do this, you have to sacrifice land tiles to perform your feats of destruction. The game is sort of half puzzle game, with you choosing batches of land to sacrifice and you have to make efficient decisions, lest you’re unable to get a patch to sacrifice and have to make do with your (comparatively far weaker) normal attacks.

The game is an interesting idea and I like the models, they’re very reminiscent of an early PS1 RPG. I think that if the team ever returned to this idea, they could use more varied battlefields or maybe even randomized battlefields for your party to draw magic from.

TrackBlasters

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TrackBlasters, by  Noojsan, Kokonaught and My Sweet Whomp, has you driving around a racetrack for the best time. The catch is that for some reason your car likes to leave bombs behind as it goes, blowing Bomberman patterns into the track that you could fall into on the next lap. The game thus becomes about careful driving, trying to go as fast as you can while navigating to ensure that you still have space to drive through on your next go-around.

I mean, you could always drive off-road so that bombs could explode harmlessly away from the main track, but where’s the fun in that?

It’s a simple and neat idea, though it’s a bit frustrating that the game sets your respawn point far from where you fall. Though, given that you’re destroying the land as you play, I understand how it’d be hard to account for spawn points.

The Flesh Pit

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The Flesh Pit is a game brought to us by FrankieSmileShow. I previously looked at A Growing Adventure, his entry for Ludum Dare 39 that I really liked and after missing his last few Ludum Dare stuff, I was excited to hop into this one.

You are fighting for the glory of the Flesh God and it demands meat! This is a score-attack game where you fight waves of enemies to accumulate their meat. However, the meat isn’t just shoved into some hyperspace inventory, but it manifests physically, enemies exploding into chunks of flesh, propelling you around and making the arena claustrophobic. It’s kinda nauseating if you think about it. Given the backing sound, this would probably be a horror game if it weren’t for the grotesque silliness/cuteness of the enemy designs.

I think the game needs some polish, because I feel that knockback is too small (to the point that using knives feels like a liability) and jumping feels iffy, but what’s there is pretty cool and I appreciate that there’s different weapon types and I like the enemy designs, even if they’re not fully detailed.

TINY TOWNS

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TINY TOWNS is a city building puzzle game by Bearish. You are given limited space, urging you to make the most of the room given to you to build a town that fulfills all of the objectives.

Like all puzzle games, it starts out easy. Sure, just gotta plop the garbage dump and electric plant over here and put all these houses and trees there, easy. But then the objectives just get more demanding. Put down all these houses? Got it. Oh, they’re too close to the power plant? Okay, let’s plant some trees and – oh jeez, there’s no more room for road. It’s all simple, but the game tries to run with the most it can with its rules.

Out of the Ludum Dare 42 games I looked at, this one might be my favorite. It’s polished, aesthetically pleasing, doesn’t really have major flaws and it keeps throwing puzzles at you. Definitely a must play.

You May Live

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You May Live is by AnlaXix, Draigius, and SachaY, mixing management game with moral dilemmas. You are the chief doctor of a field hospital low on supplies during the midst of a war and you have limited space for patients, either because of lack of beds or because lack of funds to accept more.

Patient requests come in, with a brief description on how long they’re going to stay and whatever funds they bring. You can expect the moral dilemma of “person is heavily injured but has nothing to offer,” but you can also expect getting random assholes that you probably wouldn’t want to serve but hey, they have money on them.

I feel that the game being so quick to play through kinda mitigates whatever emotional impact it has. Like, some comments compare this to Papers Please, but the game lacks those long stretches of time for the impact of your decisions to set in or the hoops that you have to go through to make a confirmation or denial that makes your decision feel more important. For me it’s one of those things that couldn’t reach its full potential on account of a time limit, but you know what, I still appreciate what it was trying to go for.

There is Never Enough Space

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There Is Never Enough Space is by Jamie Rollo, who decided to tackle the subject of the jam through multiple minigames. Navigate through this space! Fit things into this confined space!

If your microgame busting are excellent, the game will be very brief, but it’s a sweet time, and as a WarioWare appreciator, it’s always good to see games like this. Cute art, fun times, no complaints from me.

Owned By

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Owned By is a visual game poem by etrohar and arctic_allosaurus. You roam around a metaphorical mindscape while a voice demands that you accept your role in life. Aside from the close shave chases from manifestations of judgement, the jam’s theme is embodied by the idea of being restricted by society into fitting a certain role, which is an interesting narrative take on the theme.

The sketchy art style lends an interesting atmosphere. Getting caught by the mindscape’s manifestations gives you a lovely scene of a horrible eye opening up and staring at you, with more eyes staring you down for every time you’re caught, which is, well, actually kinda creepy. Sure, the gameplay is simple, but, it’s one of those games where the game part is a vehicle for everything else, if that makes sense.


That is only a mere handful of games made for the jam. In fact, there were 3066 submissions for this jam between the main game jam and the compo, which is just wild to me. Of course, there’s plenty of time to check out games beyond the mere handful I’m presenting to you, as the rating period ends September 4, so check those out and remember to give some votes to the games you enjoyed!