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).

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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.

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LiEat

Now that tests are out of the way, I can finally look forward to clearing through my backlog of stuff. This particular game is outside of my comfort zone of playing RPG Maker games. Because this is made in Wolf RPG Editor, which is technically different.

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LiEat is a a game by Miwashiba, translated by vgperson and published by Playism. The release of LiEat on Steam is actually three games in a launcher, acting as different chapters.

The world of LiEat is a weird modern-fantasy mix where dragons are humanoid with different, specialized powers. In the case of the main protagonist Efina (or Efi), she has the power to eat the manifestations of lies. She is adopted by a swindler named Theo that changes his name and identity wherever he goes, selling information to people. While each chapter has a standalone story, there’s an overarching story about the nature of dragons in the world and what the deal is with Theo.

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Preview: Patchman vs Blue Squares

Enkian Games wasn’t the only developer that emailed me about checking out their game. I also got an email from Naturally Intelligent Inc, who talked about the game they got up on Kickstarter and I thought, “sure, let’s check this out.”

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Patchman vs. Blue Squares is the upcoming second game of a series called Don’t Be Patchman. You play as Patchman, but, you also don’t want to. I don’t know the specifics, but apparently Patchman caused the drone-filled dystopia tormenting people (called “Sheeple”), so that’s a pretty good reason why he doesn’t want to be him. But, I guess Patchman’s taking responsibility to fix the mess that he apparently made. The plot seems to be going in the direction of fighting corporate entities and if that idea’s approached sincerely, I’m all for that.

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The demo consists of one level, running around a junkyard on the outskirts of some facility to help a drifter. While there’s platforming elements, Patchman’s more of an adventure/stealth game. From the trailer, you can do stuff like putting on disguises to fool drones, but it doesn’t show up here. It’s mainly just dodging around and running like hell. The gameplay is just sorta alright to me. I’m not exactly wowed, but everything works fine. Gotta say though, isometric platforming is usually hell for me, but it works out fine in this game, so props for that.

Personally, the strongest aspect of the game is the art style. The character designs themselves are simple, but their pixel work is pretty detailed. On Patchman’s design, him being mostly purple helps him stand against the environment, which I appreciate. I also think the environments are done well and I especially love how dirty and decrepit the junkyard is. There’s also a lot of minor details to the game that I appreciate. For instance, Patchman’s facial expression shifts for a bit after a cutscene, like running and crying in despair after seeing a picture of the new villain to fight before eventually collecting himself. There’s a whole lot of debris in the junkyard that adds detail, with a lot of it being capable of being kicked around for some interactivity. Stand near one of those blue square posters for long enough and Patchman rips it off the wall and crumples it into another object to kick around. I really love these kinds of details, it adds more life to the game.

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Development of Patchman vs Blue Squares is being funded on Kickstarter and has 26 days to go, as of this writing. Personally, I feel that the demo needs to be longer. Looking at the trailer and some of the promotional stuff for the first game, there’s a whole lot of mechanics beyond what’s shown in the demo and if that stuff’s going to carry into the new game, I feel that Kickstarter backers should have a taste of some of that. I like the look of the game, but I don’t think the demo is a sufficient taste, if that makes sense.

The Golden Pearl

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The Golden Pearl is by The Mighty Palm, a game that’s very much in the vein of Link’s Awakening and the Zelda Oracle games. Your character, a blue-haired caped fellow by the default name of Arty, decides to go look for the powerful wish-granting Golden Pearl. For some reason. To gain access to it, however, Arty must clear through the temples of fire, water and earth and get their rings. And so, he sets out to look for them.

…That’s pretty much the general plot, actually. The story’s mainly an excuse plot, at least until near the end. How’s the setting? Is this place a mythical dream land? Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter, let’s go exploring.

The general gameplay is a sort of distilled version of the Game Boy Zelda games, with a larger emphasis on exploration and puzzles. A good chunk of the map’s open to you and the items required to access the rest are easy enough to get. There are plenty of small quests from the game’s quirky NPCs, a lot of them offering Power Pommes (the game’s Heart Container equivalent), so there’s a good amount of stuff to do. You can gun straight for the dungeons, but you’ll be missing out on a bunch of content that easily puts the game over the contest’s one hour limit.

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There are enemies in the game’s overworld, but for the most part, you can’t properly fight them. Thus, confrontations typically have you, the guy decked with unlimited bombs and arrows, running away from a boar. That said, there are boss battles that you can properly fight, which were kinda hit-or-miss for me. Watching the boss of the earth temple repeatedly get stuck certainly showed me that having proper combat throughout the game would feel kinda off. A later boss also throws out a whole bunch of projectiles during the fight, which ended up slowing my game down, which I feel also could have been a concern if combat was prevalent through the game. Other bosses do try to work within the engine’s limitations. My favorite’s definitely the one for the water temple, mainly because it does something I didn’t expect and gives a creative use for one of your tools.

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As for the game’s puzzles, they’re pretty easy to get, especially if you’re a veteran of these Zelda-type games. If you’re looking for some real challenging puzzles, forget about it. But if you just want to have a good time, they’re welcoming and won’t be a frustration.

The game is buggy, which you can expect from a jam game, especially one that defies the engine’s limitations. Now, focusing on the game’s main goals, you aren’t likely to run into bugs, at least, ones that would obstruct you. A lot of the concerning bugs that I did run into were relegated to the game’s side areas, the most frustrating of which being a transfer bug taking me out of a cave immediately after I entered it and pretty much rendering it inaccessible.

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As for the presentation of the game, it’s real solid, its art staying true to the Game Boy games it’s inspired by. The music is also pretty nice and I love the contrast of between the adventurous overworld music and the oppressive, slower dungeon stuff. The track for the final dungeon’s probably my favorite, carrying a nice sense of finality and hyping you up for the end.

Also, the opening animations with the title screen and a nice pixel version of IGMC’s mascot are real good and a nice thing to open the game with.

The Golden Pearl is a nice game and it does try its best to follow the spirits of the Game Boy Zelda games. Exploration and puzzles were great, while the fighting that wasn’t non-existent’s hit-or-miss. Some bugs might make going for 100% completion frustrating (and impossible), but I generally had a good time with The Golden Pearl and I think it’s a nice contender for IGMC.

PALETTA

And so, I continue looking through IGMC stuff. You know, when I first started this blog, I promised myself that this wouldn’t just become an RPG Maker appreciation blog, but as that meme says, life comes at you fast. So anyway.
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PALETTA is brought to us by Cosmic Latte/Team Cola. Now, this game showed up in my feed when it first released because I’d been following the development team beforehand. The development team had previously made the demo of XV, an entry from the Dream Diary Jam and it managed to be one of my standouts. This is the first game the team had finished, so I was excited to hop into it.

A quick opening eases you in. A king ruled over the land, wearing a crown blessed with magical powers. However, a thief  tried to steal it and ended up breaking the crown into shards that scattered across the land, causing the death of the king, the disappearance of his daughter and creating unrest. A girl named Paletta, born of the moon, is told to head down to the world and look for the scattered shards to reunite the land and make things right.

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The story has Paletta heading through the formerly colorful towns, seeking out the denizens who were fortunate (or cursed) to get one of the shards. You get a shard, the shard gives Paletta a nice new power to use, and you head out to the next place – simple structure. Paletta’s adventure initially starts pretty friendly, but soon devolves into something more hostile. Get a shard by gifting a town with a golden goose egg? How whimsical! Some shard holders offering you their shards in exchange for getting a cure that involves the blood of a shapeshifter? How ominous. For the most part, the story’s cutesy, but it knows when to be dark without being overly dark.

From a gameplay standpoint, PALETTA‘s an easy adventure game, which is perfectly okay. The puzzles aren’t very challenging and it’s easy to figure out what powers you need, but I’m not really complaining. PALETTA had a relaxed pace that feels matching of the game’s mood and aesthetics and I feel that any harder puzzle would throw that pace out of wack.

The art’s got a nice cute style, using limited palettes to represent the areas. While Paletta herself is monochrome, so are the different towns, the latter of which explained in-story as being the result of the crown being destroyed. Upon clearing the area’s problems, the area lights up with the colors that corresponded to the crystal you just got.

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While the music isn’t original, the music selection for the game is pretty good. Generally for the areas before you get their shard, the music kinda has this depressive vibe, to reflect the whole state of the world. Then that music becomes something more joyful as you get a shard, accompanying the world filling with color, creating a hopeful mood as you head on. The music selection definitely does a good job with establishing how the game should feel.

The music also sort of carries this fairy tale like-vibe, if that makes sense. Think of some fantasy cartoon that’s made for kids. I think this vibe is most felt with the game’s opening and closing cutscenes. And you know what? Looking back, PALETTA kinda felt like a fairy tale to me. I can picture the stuff in the game, especially the visuals for the cutscenes, in some book.

So, PALETTA. It’s a cute game with a simple story wrapped in a nice, feel-good presentation. I honestly don’t have any complaints with it, except maybe wishing there was more. I enjoyed this and I think that it’s a strong contender for winning something from IGMC.

ZIZ

IGMC 2017 has ended, which means that this site will go back to its normal schedule. Grasshoppermask and I released our game, To Crime Nirvana, and while I doubt that we’ll win anything, we had a fun time making this. If you’re interested, check that out!

But enough about me! To start off November, we’ll look at one last game from IGMC 2015 before I maybe start looking at IGMC 2017 stuff? That might be conflict of interest, I dunno, but anyway:

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ZIZ is a sci-fi adventure game made by nerdvsgame. It’s made in RPG Maker VX Ace and it was the winner of the adventure genre.

A woman named Motoko awakens on the research ship Ziz, an unknown disaster calling her to the ship’s bridge. To assist her, she turns on a maintenance android, who dubs himself Seven as he quickly develops sentience. It’s very much one of those, “can robots be people?” stories, told rather quickly within the constraints of the game jam.

The game’s theme is actually expressed in a neat way toward the end. At one point, you’re controlling Seven and you’re presented with dialogue options. However, you don’t actually get to choose what he says. Symbolizing his growing sentience and independence, he automatically chooses what he wants with no input from you. It’s also him that decides which of the two endings you’ll get, which depends on how you treated him during your playthrough. It’s a simple but neat way to express the idea of robot sentience.

Gameplay has you controlling Motoko and Seven, with the ability to split them up and switch between them. The most basic use for them is to split them up so that they can simultaneously turn on separate panels to proceed. Seven gets a later mechanic, capable of moving through electrical fields that Motoko can’t pass through.

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The game’s puzzles? They’re just okay. Some puzzles felt arbitrary but they weren’t annoying, either. My favorite is probably the one in the screenshot above, where you’re switching around electric fields so that Motoko can get around safely, which makes the most use out of the character switching mechanic. For the most part though, the puzzles didn’t wow me nor did they have a sense of personality to them. I feel that without the sci-fi aesthetics, this stuff could easily be pushed into a different setting and context. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t stand out, either.

On the game’s aesthetics, it’s pretty nice, clean, sci-fi stuff. ZIZ has a nice look to it and I appreciate the ambient “spacey” music that follows for most of the game. The strongest, most unique part of the game’s aesthetics shows up when the ship’s AI speaks. Instead of just being a text box, a computerized voice speaks out its lines. While this isn’t the case for its extended conversation toward the end of the game, hearing the AI voice out actions while you’re doing things kinda gave an immersive feel to the game.

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Overall, ZIZ was pretty okay, if pretty standard for adventure games made in RPG Maker. I kinda feel that it’s one of those things that could have better set itself apart and have more to if if it wasn’t a game jam. While lacking, the game still managed to tell the story it wanted to tell and its aesthetics were pretty on point, so that’s something to appreciate.