Handsome Ransom

Today we’re looking at Handsome Ransom, by blankd. You are a 21-year old kobold that is turned into a princess by her Fairy Kobmother to fulfill her dream of attending a royal party. Naming herself Kosette in a cursed reminder of the Bowsette era, she attempts to attend a party, but is quickly seen through as not being actual royalty. In order to become royalty, she decides to conspire with a dragon to kidnap actual princes and princesses to acquire the wealth needed to be considered legitimate!

There’s one big issue with the game that’s glaring from the start and it’s that there’s little to no music. The sound is clearly there, there’s just no music set to anything – either that or RPG Maker MV has tried my patience for the last time (like how it’s erasing text on subsequent playthroughs, for me). It’s just kinda weird that there isn’t even RTP music, considering that the creator has no problem using the RTP graphics alongside their original art (which, by the way, is pretty cute).

Going in though, you’re greeted with some fun writing. After Kosette accidentally kills a man, she becomes a wacky, arrogant cartoon villain – in a good way. She meets up with other kinds of kobolds that will lend their aid, all of them offering amusing dialogue as they negotiate pay; there’s even a few interludes where they get to babble as you storm the castle of the demo’s royal. Said royal, the Rose Prince, also turns out to be a huge likable weirdo, which makes his knight upset. Handsome Ransom‘s writing is generally full of character and charm and was easily the best part of the game.

As you meet up with your teammates for the first time, an overwhelming weight is placed on your shoulders: team customization. There’s a whole bunch of characters to recruit and there’s a whole lot of skills to buy. Your shadow kobold friend could be built up as a poison expert or into a glass cannon that could wipe the floor with anyone you set them against; your chef can easily become a healer, but can also be retooled to be a strong attacker based on the amount of meat they have. There’s plenty to play around with, though the demo, covering a plant based area, encourages you to bring fire and cutting skills. The team building potential actually reminded me a lot of YOMOTSU, which was the winner of the last IGMC, so I went in with high expectations.

Unfortunately, going into the demo proper, I’m going to have to be honest: this does not seem like a game that was playtested.

You enter the Land of Roses and go into the next room. But it’s not the next room, because for some reason the teleporter takes you to the next room over. Enemies approach you. But their conditions are set up wrong and they only fight you when you touch them, not when they touch you, making them chasing you feel pointless. You get into a battle and you get poisoned during the battle. The poison carries on after battle and for some reason healing at save points does not remove it.

And the fights themselves are poorly balanced. The Busy Bees can attack with a move called Dazzling Speed that hits in the hundreds. Multiple times. And you typically encounter them in groups of four. To contrast, they’re paired up with Shine Flowers that have mundane attacks, only good for finishing you off if the bees haven’t already. The final boss of the demo has an attack called Thorn that does 0 damage, while also having a group attack that can hit into the hundreds.

Your attacks are no different. As Argeth, a commenter on Handsome Ransom‘s page says, the bees seem to ignore damage randomly. For me, this was a general problem. I brought out the fire breathing party member against the plant monsters and for some reason, attacks either did high damage or no damage whatsoever. On the plus side (in a bad way), if you have the cook and a bunch of regen spells to stack, you can pretty much heal all damage after every turn, as long as you aren’t just flat-out killed during the enemy turns (…which is entirely possible).

I had high hopes for Handsome Ransom. It had the set-up to be really engaging and I dig the original art and fun writing, but it is perhaps the most poorly balanced game I’ve ever personally played. I know that it’s supposed to be a prototype, but this is supposed to be a prototype representative of a bigger experience and I’m sorry to say that it leaves a poor impression. I can personally see myself playing this as a visual novel because as I said, I dig the art and writing, but as an RPG in this state, I wouldn’t rank it highly.

Junkdogs

Junkdogs is a Cowboy Bebop inspired IGMC 2018 entry by sudobeats where you are part of a team of space scavengers that gets on the wrong side of the law. Wanting to get the bounty off their heads, Joe scavenges through an abandoned ship but ends up getting the gang on the wrong side of the wrong side of the law.

While I’m not too into the story, I’m into the game’s atmosphere. Even with a criminal organization chasing after you, there’s this laid-back mood to it all that that gives off this tone that this is just another day of being a space outlaw. This is largely enforced by the game’s original soundtrack, which is a mix of jazz and chill beats to study to that I really got into. The soundtrack, for me, is what makes the game. It made the game’s writing more engaging than it really was with the mood it brings and sets the tone of the game quite nicely. While I personally think the battle theme could be more energetic, the soundtrack is overall a defining part of Junkdogs.

The game is split up into a big adventure segment and a battle segment. The adventure game part has Joe checking around the abandoned spaceship. On top of the usual adventure game puzzle stuff found in adventure RPG Maker games, you can also smash crates to get items for the upcoming battles and hunt down CDs to play the game’s soundtrack, which also includes music that doesn’t play in the game proper for a nice bonus, giving incentive to poke around a bit more.

After you accidentally piss off the local crime syndicate, you’re thrown into the seat of your scouting ship and head into battle. The battle system is your standard turn-based RPG stuff, but framed around spaceship battles. Skills defy the standard in that they’re limited use, with only the combat ones being replenishable. To be honest, the battles didn’t feel engaging to me, but this is likely a result of having only one playable character, which typically closes off variety in what you can do. Like, maybe one of the other characters could have flown in to back Joe up in the second phase of the fighting and have the Arc Cannon as a unique aspect of their ship instead of Joe just suddenly remembering he has it. Personally, I feel that while the game was generally good at presentation, it falters with the battles. It doesn’t fully capture the “cool space battles” image it tries to go for, with its plain scrolling background and mostly simple animations.

On the note of presentation, Junkdogs uses assets from the POP collection of RPG Maker assets for most of the game. The packs are actually geared more toward horror games and are almost always used for that purpose, but I think Junkdogs succeeds in putting them toward a different direction, which I admire.

Junkdogs is an alright game, though it’s one that knows what direction it’s going. While the battles could have been better, I think the demo acts as a good showcase of what a full version of the game would be like and the effort put into the soundtrack indicates a strong direction, to me. It’s definitely an entry that carries itself with confidence.

Jailbirds

It’s finally time to check out some of the games from Indie Game Making Contest 2018!  With a large prize pool and the possibility of some games being taken on to be made into a big commercial game, 330+ entries have stepped up to the plate! There’s obviously no way for me to look at all the entries, so I’ll just be looking at a few that caught my eye. If you want some to check out other coverage on IGMC 2018 games, Indra LadyPotato is doing some videos (including one on my game) on the games; I warn that she’s a Harsh YouTube Critic but she gives credit where it’s due. So without further ado…

Jailbirds is by seaphoenix and it’s a game that reminds me of The Rock and the Rose, the second place winner in Judge’s Choice for IGMC 2017, in that it’s a simple simulation RPG. Hm? Oh, seaphoenix made both of them, I guess this kind of thing is in their wheelhouse.

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Bugs Must Die

Finals is finally done and IGMC 2018 finished up, with its games in the review process. I finished Let’s Make a Game and I plan on checking out the games of my fellow participants and I’m also planning on doing a proper “Game of the Year” list for this year, which you can vote on here. But first, I want to get back into the swing of things with Bugs Must Die!

Bugs Must Die is a twin-stick shooter by DG Games Workshop where you are a member of the Galactic Pests Control Company, a secret paramilitary aimed at wiping out a bug alien menace. Oh don’t worry, the aliens take their own civilians hostage, so I guess you’re the good guy. You play as Agent-M to pilot war machines to take on this threat, which apes human culture for whatever reason.

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SUFFER (demo)

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It’s been a while, but I’m finally looking at another game in my inbox. Today we’re looking at the demo for SUFFER, by Anarchy Softworks, a one-man studio.  The title screen might not give the best first impression, being some busty ninja lady on a fuzzy background, but stick with me here.

What is the story in SUFFER? There really isn’t one. SUFFER prides itself in being a retro styled shooter, just sorta throwing you into a demon infested world. Thematically, anarchy is the name of the game, mixing in anti-capitalist imagery with cops being a frequent enemy alongside the demons, while WWII era propaganda posters from all sides of the war dot the land to set up a general anti-authority atmosphere. But it’s also a game that appeals to the more generic notion of anarchy, which is to revel in chaos and fuck shit up.

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Door (Demo Version)

 

 

Door is a game by svgames, with a demo up on itch.io and a full version of the game available on Steam for $6.99. This article is based off my impressions from the demo.

You start out surrounded by four doors, though you can only go through two of them for the demo. Each door leads to a set of doors with a basic puzzle to figure out which one to go through, and that one leads to another set of doors and so on and so forth. This is wrapped up in a colorful, simple environment with atmospheric music.

Puzzles start out simple, with panels saying stuff like “go through X door” and the doors will have placards. It’s initially straightforward stuff like simply going through the door with 1 on it when told, then going through a door with a circle on it if given the same hint for a set of doors with shapes on them. Later puzzles are more complicated, requiring you to pay more attention to the environment.

Going into this game, you may expect that it’s one of those puzzle games where you build up knowledge from previous puzzles to solve later ones. However, the puzzles in Door are largely self-contained or feel like puzzles that can stand on their own without the others. For example, there’s one puzzle with multiple signs, with the first saying that some signs lie. This sets up the expectation that you may have to figure out which signs tell the truth in the future. Turned out though, this rule only ever applied to this puzzle and all the others ones are legitimate.

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Like what the fuck

The problem of puzzles being self-contained is that it leads to some puzzles with solutions that seem to come out of left field. A notable one is the puzzle whose hint is “door number ERROR,” whose answer is to always go through the fourth door, which seems like a nonsensical progression from the previous doors and in fact seems nonsensical in general, because there isn’t much in the room that hints at the answer being the fourth door. There were some puzzles that I thought were nice, but they get mixed in with some annoying puzzles, some of them giving little to go off of.

Part of my annoyance stemmed from the fact that picking the wrong door locks you off from moving forward or back, forcing you to reset at the beginning of the chain of puzzles. Locking the path ahead is something I get, but the game keeping you from going back is annoying because you can’t go back to re-examine your choice or surrounding environment to see why you got it wrong.

I actually did think about getting the full version of the game, though. I thought that maybe some of these issues were addressed in the full game and $6.99 felt like a fair price for a puzzle game and hey, I need to play more puzzle games. However:

door

I don’t know if it’s a false positive or not, but my computer is already crummy enough, so I’m not taking my chances.

From looking at Steam, the general consensus on Door is mixed, which is a consensus that I agree with. If you plan on picking up a puzzle game, I recommend checking out the demo to figure out if this is something you’d be down for.

TYPOCRYPHA – An Interview/Postmortem

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Typocrypha is an experimental typing JRPG visual novel about social and cultural alienation. Armed with the Typocrypha spellcasting device, a young member of the EVE-IRIS Counter-Demon Force confronts the demonic forces of the Evil Eye, an unknown enemy whose gaze is felt everywhere – including in themself.

I would have liked to write about it, but also, Hughe, the game’s lead developer, is also my friend, which would really cloud my judgement. I even made him fanart for his birthday, dangit. But I thought, hey, since I know him, I should hit him up to answer some questions on the game.

And so here we are today with an interview that’s also effectively a postmortem on the game and the experiences making it. Hughe’s responses are joined by James (producer, programmer, writer), Valentino/Tino (designer, programmer, writer), Herman (artist, animator) and Paige (artist). Many of these responses are pretty long, though I found them insightful and hopefully, you will too.

On the questions regarding the future of the game, please note that as the game is still in development, things may not be set in stone.

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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.