Twinkle Witch ~save the sweets!!~

How about that Deltarune? I played it, you probably played it, probably a good chunk of the internet’s played it – which is why I won’t be talking about it! I usually try to avoid talking about extremely popular indie games because I’m all about bringing attention to lesser known ones. So, I decided to take a look at something that was floating around during Halloween that I thought looked really cool!

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For the Halloween season, Jocelyn Kim brought us Twinkle Witch ~Save the Sweets!!~, a cute em’ up. Twinkle Witch is sleeping in on Halloween when, alas, three fiends decide to take candy away from the local village! The kind witch doesn’t want the children’s Halloween to get ruined (and wants to make Crystal Witch happy), so she sets off to fight the monsters responsible!

The game is presented in a small window, graphics mimicking old shmup games. As a cute em’ up, the art style is bright and cutesy, with the standard monsters having this “ugly cute” vibe to them. Tying the cute Halloween aesthetic together is the jaunty chiptune soundtrack. It carries this mood of going out trick-or-treating with friends and just having a good time, which is a mood that I feel is underrepresented in Halloween media.

Twinkle Witch is divided into horizontal stage sections and vertical boss battles. The stages are super straightforward, with the stage’s local enemies charging at you. Aside from flight patterns, enemies don’t pose much threat, since they don’t shoot bullets. With each stage only having one enemy type, there is little variety.

The game does get harder if you try for score. For whatever reason, these fiends have stuck candy caches into clouds. Shooting clouds causes the candy to bounce out for you to catch. Suddenly those flying formations of enemies seem much more dangerous, blocking your valiant efforts to catch the candy. The game also gives you a shield that lets you ram through enemies, though you won’t gain candy from defeated enemies.

While the stage sections are super simple, the boss battles are more involved. While the enemies of the stage enemies seem to kinda be minding their own business, the bosses and the enemies they summon actively gun for you, making the game more frantic. Dracula in particular uses some unusual moves that makes for an engaging climax.

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I love the cutscenes for giving a better look at the character designs; Twinkle Witch’s is extremely good.

Twinkle Witch is a short and sweet time. I wished that there was more to the experience, but it’s good for what it is and it nails down the cutesy Halloween look.

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.

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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.

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7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack

I’ve mainly played visual novels for the past few weeks and I do love them, even though it makes me “a weeb, a gamer and a fucking nerd all at once.” But sometimes, I like to sit down with something more arcade-y, so I decided to hit up something I saw in my feed a while back.

The 7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack is by Morning Toast, a developer that mainly dabbles in Pico-8. The mega pack is a collection of arcade games that they have previously released in one package, plus a game that they haven’t released before.

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Monolith

I talk about RPG Maker games a lot on this blog and I’ve spent a lot of personal time on those, but the other type of game I’ve spent lots of time on are roguelikes. More specifically, those twin-stick roguelike shooters. Well, you’d probably call them “roguelites,” but man, I’m not getting into that terminology argument.

There’s an addictive appeal to these games and their action means that they don’t have the slowness of a lot more traditional roguelikes. According to my Steam, I’ve spent almost 300 hours on Nuclear Throne, probably 50 on Enter the Gungeon (between Steam and PS4) and 200 on The Binding of Isaac; there’s a lot of things about the latter that frustrate me, but the fact that I ended up spending so much time on that anyway is a testament to how much I get into these games.

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So, it’s no surprise that I picked up Monolith, which is also a twin-stick roguelike; more specifically, it’s the dungeon crawling type where you advance room to room. The game is by Team D-13, who describes themselves as a trio of roguelike and shoot em’ up appreciators, their love of the genres uniting into this game.

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Space Moth DX

I’ve played a few shoot em’ ups, though I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert. From what I’ve seen, there are two archetypes of shmups: one where you fight spaceships and one where you fight anime girls. Today, I’m looking at a member of the secret third archetype, one that Mushihimesama crosses into: the one where you fight giant bugs.

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Today’s game is Space Moth DX, released January 22, 2016 by 1CC Games, published by Black Shell Media. You are the almighty Space Moth and you want to go to space, but alas, a whole bunch of other bullet shooting bugs want to stop you. Also, according to the game’s dev log, our hero is a bitter moth that’s jealous of how pretty the other bugs are, so they can also “soul-drain” the color out of them, which is pretty sick.

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Highwind

I’m planning on looking at more IGMC games, but first, let’s take a look at a game type I haven’t wrote about yet: a mobile game. Besides, when I started taking blogging more seriously, I promised myself that this blog wouldn’t just become an RPG Maker enthusiast site and with like a month of that ahead, I need something to prevent my dark future from happening.

We’re looking at Highwind, a dollar game on the App Store that’s made by Selva Interactive, who you may remember as the people behind Nanuleu. For disclosure, the studio and one of its developers followed me on Twitter, which is how I learned about it. However, I got and chose to review this game out of my own volition, because it looked like something my speed.

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Highwind is a sort of different take on a shooter, the dodging and shooting aspects of the genre divided up into two separate sections. In the first section of a level, you are stationary but capable of shooting, which is then followed up by a section where you dodge stuff, but otherwise helpless; unless you’re playing with a certain playstyle, in which case, you only get a longer version of the first section.

As you’re stationary in the shooting sections, downing enemies is more of a matter of timing than anything. Tapping the right side of the screen fires, with a bar dictating how much you can shoot at a given time, emphasizing timing your shots over firing like crazy. Meanwhile, as you can’t dodge enemies, you get a shield that you can control with the left side of the screen, with similar management to shooting. Timing when to shield is initially easy, but in later levels where enemy shots are more relentless, timing becomes more about management so that you don’t run out and get hit.

Then come the dodging segments, which come in three quick to play varieties. You tap the left and right parts of the screen to shift around, dodging obstacles. If you get hit, you don’t lose health – rather, you lose some of the coins that you got from shooting enemies from the previous segment.

The brief dodging segment then goes into a shopping menu. You use your coins to buy health, shot and shield upgrades for your plane. I  recommend focusing on maxing out your shield as soon as possible, because I really can’t imagine doing the end game stuff without maxed out shields. Also, at the end of a world, you’re given a short level where the goal is to break some orb, which gives you perk list to choose from that includes things such as having shields absorb bullets to increase your ammo or making your projectiles capable of hitting two enemies in one shot.

Also in the shop menu, you can use your coins to heal. Why is there no between level healing? It’s because Highwind is an endurance test. Rather than being a game where you take stages on individually, it’s a game where you have to go through as many of the stages as possible in one go. Lose all of your health? Gotta start over from the beginning, no upgrades or anything.

After a run, your score gets added up to a meter and upon passing a threshold, you unlock different things to play around with. One type of unlock lets you start out with a different ship that gives different starting stats while the second unlock type gives you different modes, or, play styles. I personally prefer the laser play style, which replaces your normal shots with an instant but ammo-inefficient laser beam; it’s real fun to use combined with that perk that lets you hit two enemies.

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So, the presentation of the shooting sections of the game is a nice take on the genre, stressing resource management and timing. The game plays around with the timing aspect by placing all sorts of objects on screen, such as a rotating arrow that redirects your shots to wherever its pointing to a sort of energy field that slows/speeds up the shots of your ship’s and the enemies depending on which way it’s pointing, which throws off your ordinary timing of shooting and shielding. Later worlds go on to screw with you with more enemy types, like planes that randomly warp ahead in their path, ramping up the challenge and keeping things fresh.

(Those manta ray-like ships with their own deflecting shields can fuck off, though.)

I just kinda wished that the dodging segments that happen after them were just as unique or got harder as you progressed. There’s the variant where you control two planes at once, but there aren’t any curveballs thrown at you after that in the terms of more mechanics or more difficult patterns. If these segments got any harder later in the game, I honestly didn’t notice.

The stylings definitely reminds me of Nanuleu with its bright minimalist visuals and calm instruments on top of increasingly frantic gameplay. It’s a contrast that I really enjoy and I guess is something that I can expect from Selva Interactive. Its aesthetics also sort of feels fitting for the platform, its design reflecting the sleek and clean style that Apple tries to position itself with.

Highwind is a pretty neat iPhone game and while I wish that there was more to the dodging segments, the overall experience is still pretty enjoyable and it’s hard to argue against its reasonable $0.99 price. A version of the game’s coming out soon for Android too, so if you have that instead of an iPhone, maybe keep your eye out for that.

Bosstardian

After a year hiatus, the Indie Game Maker Contest is back, geared toward RPG Maker games to accompany the Humble Bundle sale. I’m actually working with a friend to make something for it and I guess you can check on progress of that on my Twitter.

But Indie Hell Zone is here to talk about other games and in honor of IGMC, I’m spending the rest of this month to look at past IGMC games. I’ve previously looked at Grist of Flies, an RPG Maker game that I wish hasn’t disappeared into the ether. Today, let’s take a look at a shmup game, Bosstardian.

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Bosstardian is by Ricardo Baeza, who won the genre prize for shooter games for the 2015 IGMC. The game as it is has two stages with boss fights at the end.

The main gimmick of Bosstardian is collecting the absurd amount of gems that the game throws at you. Blue gems makes your shots stronger and increases your spread on the current life and green gems create shields that get bigger the more you collect (which… I actually kinda consider to not be much of an advantage). Collect 100 pink gems and you get an extra life. Collect enough orange gems and you can go into Bosstardian mode, your ship suddenly morphing into an invincible colossus armed with fully powered shots and spread. It’s one of those cathartic things where you can just tear the shit out of everything. Also, a thing I like is that the gems automatically float toward you, so you’ll never have to stress about catching them.

If you get a game over and choose to continue, you’re presented with two choices: either halve your gems or halve your score. Honestly, halving your number of gems is a slap on the wrist. Unless you get a game over during one of the boss fights, it’s kinda easy to recoup your losses and if you’re the kind of player that aims for highscores, the choice is easy with that in mind. It’s an interesting idea, but the dilemma’s kind of a no-brainer.

I like the look of the game, but I also wish that enemy bullets looked more distinct.  I found that it was hard to distinguish them from the sea of gems you keep pulling in and they could easily hide in them with how small they are. I also found them getting lost in my own shots, which isn’t a concern at low power but grows to be more of an issue as spread increases.

 

My other issue is that the levels just went on for Too Long and felt kinda tedious to play through. I feel that it was like that so that you could gather more gems, but the game throws enough at you that it makes stretches of the game feel unnecessary. A consequence is that the music, which I thought was just sorta okay, got grating, especially since both levels use the same tune. I will say that they end off with neat bosses, though. I like how they’re just the enemy version of you when you go into Bosstardian mode. Actually, it’s more like that Bosstardian mode is you ascending to the same level as a boss ship; seeing the bosses honestly gave a sort of thematic appreciation for this mechanic.

I feel that Bosstardian is one of those games with interesting ideas that just needs balance and polish. As a game made in a month though, it’s pretty neat. It’s stated to be a demo, so hopefully it might show up again in an improved state? Unfortunately, like Grist of Flies, the game seems to have disappeared, which is a shame.