My New Year’s resolution was to clear through my backlog of games, and I’ve been making good on that so far. Helen’s Mysterious Castle, Space Moth DX and Monolith were part of that list and I consider them cleared. And so, I continue moving on through that backlog with Artifact Adventure.
Artifact Adventure is an RPG Maker game made by Bluffman, published by your friends at Playism. A nefarious Swamp King is threatening the world and so the king calls on a bunch of heroes to deal with him! …And that’s pretty much the main plot.
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.
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.
So, I finally finished Persona 5 after 160+ hours. Beat new game plus, beat the bonus boss, got that shiny platinum trophy, etc. I thought that to celebrate, I should write about it.
I know that this is probably off-brand for this blog and is probably the most mainstream thing I’ve written about on here. However, with the absurd amount of time I’ve spent on it, I feel that it’s something I should blog about and, sometimes, just hollering on Twitter isn’t enough.
This is pretty much a spoiler article. If you’re concerned about spoilers, please head on and do something else with your time. Maybe finish Persona 5 yourself and form your own thoughts on it.
All pictures in this article are assorted camera photos I took while playing the game. Pretty cool that Atlus still isn’t letting anyone take direct PS4 screenshots even though this game’s been out for a year.
Yume Nikki – Dream Diary- was announced, rebooting the cult classic into a 3D horror game set to come out in February. Yume Nikki‘s something that’s important to me, which you can see given how often I mention the game on here. It’s been with me since middle school and it was one of the first indie games I’ve ever played, along with Cave Story, and they were a gateway for me into this whole scene. As somebody invested in Yume Nikki and its community, I’m excited to see Yume Nikki coming out for a bigger audience in a new way.
Now, the upcoming game isn’t the first time its main character Madotsuki ran around on a 3D plane. Within Yume Nikki’s vibrant fangame community, there was an attempt to make a 3D fangame.
Yume Nikki 3D is by Zykoveddy, who published the game sometime in 2014. Like the game it’s based off of, you explore Madotsuki’s dreams – but now in 3D! Along with recreations of areas from the original game, there’s a whole bunch of new areas. To beat the game, you’d have to seek out Madotsuki’s effects (items that let her change appearance and sometimes gives abilities) along with keys that were added to the game.
3D really adds to Yume Nikki‘s original exploration. There’s this greater sense of scale that 3D can grant that 2D space cannot, Madotsuki a tiny entity in her strange dream worlds. I think this sense of scale is best appreciated in the game’s original tower area. As you walk on the tower’s walkways, you can look up and down and you can see the tower stretch on into forever, its expressed scale making the area feel more of a labyrinth than it already is.
Being a 3D game, draw distance also becomes a factor that the creator plays with as an aesthetic. You can see everything in some areas plain as day, while others don’t have objects come into view until you get close enough, usually in areas that’s meant to be more unnerving. It’s sort of how like Silent Hill’s fog was there to limit draw distance and wound up being part of the game’s horror atmosphere.
The areas that are recreations are pretty faithful while the game’s original areas are generally good. Some of these areas have different moods than what Yume Nikki tries to convey, like the black-and-white area feeling playful compared to the usual loneliness and unease. However, I think variety is good. It’s a dream world and dreams aren’t 100% nightmares, which I feel is something that a lot of Yume Nikki fangames don’t get.
Now, an addition to the game that I kinda don’t like are the platforming aspects. Yume Nikki 3D grants Madotsuki the ability to jump and adds a few platforming segments to her dreamscape. My thing with that though is that they feel out of place for the game. I wouldn’t mind platforming as a thing to facilitate exploration, but when you do actually have to platform, it’s just a sudden obstacle course that doesn’t go with the game’s flow. It felt like the creator felt obligated to put these sections and I felt that they were sort of unnecessary. Doesn’t help that you can’t jump while you’re using the bicycle effect, and since that speeds up your walking speed, why wouldn’t you be using it?
Speaking of unnecessary, the keys. You have to get all three keys to gain access to a doorway. What’s past the door? Why, another locked door. To get past this one, you need to have all the effects. But if that’s the case… why even have the keys in the game to begin with? You collect them the same way as the effects, so why not simplify things and just have the effects or make the keys into more additional cosmetic effects? Like the platforming elements, it’s not bad, but unnecessary.
A later update to Yume Nikki 3D introduced the “Isolated” DLC. Taking place after that game, Isolated is a short linear romp in… wherever the hell Madotsuki ended up in.
Gotta be honest, it’s not as enjoyable as the main attraction, considering that you’re going from an exploration game to something where you’re railroaded. The original areas crafted for this DLC also doesn’t feel as strong or captivating as the stuff in the main game. The Isolated DLC sort of looks like the creator adding his own canon to the fangame and while I appreciate the ideas, the execution felt lackluster.
So, Yume Nikki 3D‘s an interesting take on Yume Nikki. It’s certainly got original ideas mixed in, and while I think a lot of it’s good, there’s some ideas that are extraneous that sorta drags the experience down a bit, on top of having a weak follow up. You know how in Cutthroat Kitchen where the chef nails the main dish perfectly but adds something extra for no good reason and gets kicked because of it? That’s what I feel about extraneous stuff.
Still though, it’s an interesting fangame and it takes around half an hour to play through. If you’re a Yume Nikki fan waiting around for that fancy new game to show up, maybe check this out while you wait.
A little bit ago, I wrote about Glorious Trainwrecks, that site that embraces the messy do what you want” attitude of early indie game development. I mentioned that thecatamites, also known as Stephen Gill Murphy, was a frequent contributor to the site. Alas, if only there was a way his works for the site were in one neat package, it’d be troublesome to find them one-by-one!
Not to worry, 50 Short Games is here!
The 50 Short Gamescollection popped up on itch.io in 2014, its contents made throughout 2013. What you’re getting with the collection is a program that acts as a launcher for all the games within, along with accompanying notes. 50 Short Games is normally $4, though, I got it during his Disintegrating Commerce Sale for $2. Well, technically speaking, the games are all free, but in this case, you’re supporting the dev, which is good.
“What is a game?” “What should be counted as a game?” Questions such as this have been seen all over games discourse for the past several years, especially with the emergence of “walking simulator” games.
But today, I pose a related question: “what makes up a game?” Is a game, no matter how you define it, made in a studio of hundreds with state of the art technology? Does each individual aspect of a game need to have meaning, does it have to be fun, does it all have to have hours of effort?
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.
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.
Happy New Year! I’ve decided for once to take on a New Year’s resolution and my resolution for this year is to get through my backlog of games. I think that it’s a reasonable goal and hey, I can write about some of that stuff for this blog. So, let’s ring in the New Year with the first game I decided to get out of the way, Helen’s Mysterious Castle.
Helen’s Mysterious Castle is a game made by a developer named Satsu, published and translated under Japanese indie game publisher PLAYISM. Helen, our silent protagonist, lives in the eponymous castle, holed up on a high floor with her brother, Ardin. She also wants to leave the castle all of a sudden, so it goes.
It’s that time of the year folks! It’s that time when we look at lists and shit to either: A) appreciate the hard work of developers that brought us cool games in this past year or B) to glorify the game industry in spite of its many flaws, inflating our egos as we declare ourselves to be better than other media! A bunch of game sites are doing their year-end list, and you know what, I decided that I should too!
So, welcome to Indie Hell Zone’s first annual game awards, where I look back at the stuff I played this year and declare them winners of arbitrary categories! Let’s take a look at our judging panel!
…And it’s me, the sole writer of this site! When I was thinking up of dumb lists to make, I thought about doing a Top 10 type deal, but I thought that was hard to decide. And besides, I want to have fun with this. So anyway, let’s wing it!
Game of the Year: ???
Oh, jeez. I don’t know. I can’t even decide on a proper order for a top 10 list and I don’t score games to better organize things like this because review scores are arbitrary and people will always find a way to get mad about them. Like, say, you rank a game with a score that’s perceived to be too high. You get accused of being a shill, paid-off, a corrupt game journo. Rank a game for what is perceived to be too low and you’ll instead be accused of trying to incite drama for clicks; doesn’t even matter if you don’t have ads on your site, you’re a corrupt journo in the eyes of the public.
I could look toward other, more contemporary game reviewers for help, but that creates its own problems. Too many reviewers reach a consensus? People will decide that its a conspiracy, a net of money tying us all together. If you review outside of the norm? You’re a contrarian looking for clicks, one that’ll probably be accused of being a shill on top of that if your contrarian opinion is high above the norm. Basically, the reactionary gamer crowd will be unhappy with scores, let alone rankings. God forbid you criticize one aspect of a game, or you’ll be accused of trying to destroy the game, even if you’re positive on all other aspects.
The awful social structure around scores does not allow for actual criticism. Nay, scores have stopped being a marker of a game’s actual merit in the eyes of crowds such as this, but affirmation, for they only want to hear what they want to hear. People will just look at the vague number, without looking at the more specific praises and complaints. Screw scores, we read here, in this land of hell.
Anyway, I’m off-topic. Maybe I’d have an actual list if I had co-judges to deliberate with me, but alas, I am all alone.
Best RPG: ???
This is also hard. Playing RPG Maker games have pretty much been the bread and butter of this blog and I played a bunch of non-indie RPGs this year too. Well, I can certainly say that Persona 5 doesn’t deserve RPG of the year. It’s stylish, has great music, has refined mechanics of the past games and has my favorite side-characters in the series, but it’s also insincere about its main themes and the first arc is honestly the story’s high point until the end. If the main thrust of an RPG is weak, can it truly be called a good RPG? How this was even a nominee for game of the year for that Game Awards thing is beyond me. I could probably write a longer, more rambling thing about this but a lot of other people have written their own takes on Persona 5.
But yeah, let’s not do genre categories. I either played too many games of a genre that it’s hard for me to choose and for some genres, I played too little of them, so some games could win automatically. Not to mention, I need better genre sorting for the stuff on this blog… Hm, I’m getting distracted again. Well okay, after looking at examples of game award lists, I did find a few categories that I will engage in.
Best Art Direction: Even the Ocean
Finally, an actual award is given out! This probably means nothing to Even the Ocean‘s developers, Analgesic Productions, but I’m giving it out!
Even the Ocean uses a mix of art styles: paintings and pixel art. The painted aspects of the game are gorgeous, but a large reason why I suggest this game to be the one with the best art direction is how it ties in with the game’s narrative. When pixel art and tilesets show up in the game, they’re associated with the human NPCs and the man-made power plants, contrasting with the natural world represented through paintings. Even the Ocean is a game about balance, of human industry and the environment. The art styles represent this balance, with the paintings looking more natural and the game’s pixel art style being more artificial looking, tileset power plants rising out of softly brushed earth. The game’s art direction is ultimately meaningful, on top of looking nice, and its that sense of meaning that’s led me to declare it winner of this category.
Best Music: LISA the Pointless
I remember seeing a tweet that described LISA‘s music to be a mix of Earthbound music and Death Grips instrumentals. It’s kinda right, especially in The Joyful. This fangame, LISA the Pointless, continues LISA‘s tradition of bringing an odd variety of tunes that surprisingly goes hard at times.
“But wait! RPG music shouldn’t be like this!” one might say. Fools, if Persona 4 and spin-offs can do its bubble-gum J-Pop soundtrack for years and get away with it, why the hell not? There’s no AP style guide for what should pass as RPG music, no platonic ideal. Music’s a subjective thing anyway and I am now glad that I have no co-judges, because nobody can yell at me for having bad ideas. I will die on this rock.
Most Addicting: Pixel Session Vol 1
If there’s a game that I really got into, it’s Pixel Session Vol. 1, by trasevol_dog. It was a game that itch.io suggested to me, a nice collection of experiments made in Pico-8. I’m not sure what kinda genre this game is since it’s actually a bunch of games. I guess I would say “Minigame Collection”? But also, I didn’t play any other games like this this year, so it’d just win that category on default. See, I chose not to do genre awards for a reason.
What makes the games in Pixel Session Vol 1 engaging is that they all play and feel differently from each other, the only connecting factor being these tiny stick people roaming around the multi-colored game space. If I got too bored of one game, I just switched to another to see if I could beat my high-score and then came back to that later. Without variety, I’d probably would have gotten tired of it.
My favorite out of the collection was Charging Panic, this sort of RTS game where you frantically try to manage a small army of little people to keep batteries charged while protecting them from vague menacing orbs. It was a very frantic game that felt energizing to play and is the one that held my attention the longest.
(B1gBr0th3r kinda sucks though but shhhhhhh, Pixel Session was very engaging as a whole. I recommend checking it out, but I warn you that the collection is not friendly to the photosensitive.)
Most… Best… Hmm…
I’m not sure what other category to cover. Like honestly, I sort of went into this as a sort of joke thing mixed in with some sincerity. And as a single judge and sole content writer for this site, a proper award show based on the content Indie Hell Zone currently has is out of the question.
At the very least, I’m serious about the winners of the few categories I’ve chosen. The people who made these games probably don’t know or care about this shindig, but they’re winners to me. Check those games out, if you haven’t already. Heck, check many of the games I’ve covered out, there’s been a lot of small interesting stuff that I’ve played this year!
So, that’s it for the first annual Indie Hell Zone Game Awards! (blows that party horn) If I’m still doing this next year, it’ll probably be along the same lines as this year. Unless I somehow get more people on board with what I’m doing, in which case, next year could be a more proper celebration of indie games!
Indie Game Maker Contest 2017 is officially over, now that the results are out. My game didn’t get very far, but there was a lot of cool stuff in that jam so it’s not as if I expected to win. Out of the games I previously looked at, PALETTA managed to place 7th while Dungeon Down took 11th. The Golden Pearl didn’t place – as it turns out, some people had a way worse time with bugs than I did and marked it down heavily (though it was still blessed with four judge reviews because of a judging system that I think is dumb).
So, what did take the top three spots? Let’s take a look, assuming that you haven’t just checked on the IGMC page and seen yourself.