Sometimes, we just gotta get our minds off of things and turn to our favorite hobbies. Let’s ignore the nihilism of Twitter to play some video games. Today, let’s look at short happy games that I played that you could try out, all pay-what-you-want (of course, it doesn’t hurt to spread the joy to developers with money).
A drifter wakes up from a nap in a coffee shop, suddenly feeling ill. As he heads to the restroom, he stumbles upon the body of a dead woman. His sickness is connected to this, as for whatever reason, he can sense whenever somebody nearby dies and he can feel what victims felt in their last moments. In feeling her last moments, he discovers that the woman had not died in a way that the crime scene suggests, which adds to the mystery that begins to unfold.
My visual novel kick from playing Zero Escape continues, so I decided to check out one called Jisei. Jisei is published under Sakevisual, the writing by Ayu Sakata, art by M. Beatriz Garcia, music by Marc Conrad Tabula and a bunch of other fellas providing voice work. The game normally goes for an asking price of $9.99. However, the game will be for pay-what-you-want on itch.io (with suggested price of $6.99) for a short period, with all proceeds being donated to efforts in Harvey.
I’ve spent the last month of my summer trying to get through the last two Zero Escape games: Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma. If you’re into visual novels or want to get into them, I really recommend getting into this series – like, check out that Nonary Games collection. Forget Danganronpa, this shit is more my speed. I’d like to talk more about Zero Escape, but given the scope of this blog, I cannot, as niche Japanese releases don’t count as indie games. Life is simply unfair. However, it has gotten me on a visual novel kick so I decided to look at a short visual novel that found its way on itch.io’s front page.
Dr. Darley and the Case of the Deboned Children is a visual novel by Lars Martinson, an artist known for the graphic novel series Tonoharu. It’s billed as a sort of crossover between Sherlock Holmes and Grimm Fairy Tales, or at least, a crossover of their general ideas. This game is sort of a prototype, a step into the pool of making visual novels.
A Holmes-esque Dr. Darley and Watson counterpart Mr. Homain head to the mining town of Pelso, on a doctor’s call to check on the son of Mayor Cunderfore. To the shock of Dr. Darley, he finds that the bones in the boy’s arm has disappeared. In fact, he’s not the only victim – the children of the entire town have been losing their bones. What seems like an epidemic turns into a mystery as the setting takes a turn for the supernatural.
Going into Dr. Darley, you shouldn’t be expecting a straight laced mystery. The game kinda does that thing where the culprit is somebody that hasn’t been seen until the reveal, which is iffy for mysteries if we’re going by Knox’s Ten Commandments. In fact, if we’re going by that, the culprit being supernatural (I mean come on, that’s not a spoiler – but the exact cause is) is also a violation. That’s not to mention the bizarre leaps of logic Darley makes to justify the motives behind said supernatural cause.
But, being a crossover with Grimm Fairy Tales, some suspension of disbelief is welcome. In fact, it’d be better off if you view Dr. Darley as a general story rather than as a mystery to be solved. As a story, Dr. Darley is entertaining, the mystery aspects giving it intrigue and fantasy elements keeping things unique. There’s also a lot of humor, as the story isn’t afraid to not take itself too seriously. A lot of it comes from Darley, who, while wise and well-intentioned, really doesn’t understand stuff that is considered normal. The story even wraps up in a way that I did not expect – even knowing the fairy tale angle – which is a great thing.
The art of the game is nice and clean, as you would expect from a cartoonist. The character designs avoid being samey and the backgrounds set the scene nicely. The game’s color palette adds to the Victorian mystery feel of the story, while not being too muted, inviting the occasional lighthearted shifts (usually through humor). It also does well in communicating Dr. Darley‘s small bits of horror – this is a story revolving around children without bones, after all.
The biggest problem of Dr. Darley, one that you would notice immediately and something the author acknowledges himself, is the complete lack of sound. Visual novels give that audio-visual quality to a reading experience and with no audio, the experience feels empty. Granted, the creator makes graphic novels, not music, and he was operating under a short timeframe as well. If this story were to be updated in the future though, audio stuff is an absolute must. If the need for music is a big requirement for you to read this, itch.io user RexTGun suggests some jazzy easy listening.
Dr. Darley and the Case of the Deboned Children‘s a nice story, though one that lacks a fundamental aspect of visual novels. It’s about the length of a short story, being around 10,000 words long, so it doesn’t take long to read through. There are hints that there could be more Dr. Darley stories, both in the story and the fact that the URL is “darley01.” If more ever does come to fruition, I’d be interested to read them (though hopefully with audio).
An arcade game screen greets you, flashing messages urging at least one player to start the game. An attract mode plays underneath boxes, holding high scores and what little context there is for the world shown underneath, wobbly landmasses growing forth as enemies unnaturally walk upon said boxes. From what you can glean, an awful wizard has taken control of the psi crystals and Repletes have a fiery disposition. Say no more. You hit “1” and hop right into the game.
luminous corridor 0 is a pay-what-you-want twin-stick shooter by Loren Schmidt (or, vacuumflowers), because I haven’t talked enough about shooters this month. luminous corridor 0 is a sequel to, uh, luminous corridor 2, adding and improving a bunch of things from that game.
You are the almighty Psi Guy, blasting away at waves of enemies with your psionic powers. The main goal isn’t to beat these waves, rather, the goal is to collect the psi crystals that occasionally appear. Collecting them seems simple, yes, but they’re a force to be reckoned with if you’re not careful. If you’re firing without care and hit one, it begins to violently shake, doomed to explode in a telegraphed radius. The now explosive crystal can be diffused if you pick it up before it does so, but if you don’t, not only can the explosion hurt you, but it can also set off nearby crystals to explode, causing a chain reaction if you’re not quick and careful about things.
Characterizing the game is its cellular terrain system. Atop the black void background, paths for monsters called sowers appear on the screen (either as checkerboard patterns or a plain red, depending on settings). These faces begin streaking across the screen, planting cells behind them. These cells grow and connect, forming structures across the playing field. The line-based structures in particular, as seen in the screenshot below, are especially beautiful with how they weave and connect together to form a large mass.
The land drawn into the world by the sowers is harmful to touch, which can be somewhat frustrating if you touch a small chunk and die. The generated land ultimately poses the problem of limiting your space, which can be a problem as enemy waves get more threatening. Thankfully, the land is destructible, the cellular land breaking away to shots; the mighty Chew Chew enemies will also chew away through land in their path, building tunnels that you can take advantage of. It may also be beneficial to rig a crystal to explode; sure, you’ll lose out on points, but the explosion also clears out a lot of land, which is handy for when the screen gets too crowded. This and how the terrain builds itself makes the game’s arena feel very dynamic, which isn’t something I can say for a lot of twin-stick games I played for this blog.
Aside from structure generation, I feel that the game’s music – by Katie Rose Pipkin – helps define it. Instead of something high energy, the game’s music feels calm. It gives an adventurous mood, but the adventure is that of an archaeological dig, carefully combing through dirt to unearth the psi crystals hidden within. Certainly gives a different feel from other twin-sticks, at least.
There is a co-op mode and while I couldn’t rope my sister in to play this with me, I dared myself to play both characters. Needless to say, I was bad at it, but the co-op seems to work. Two heads certainly seem better than one, but these two heads also share lives, so there’s also that greater risk of getting a game over.
luminous corridor 0 is a nice shooter with an interesting aesthetic that’s in line with vacuumflower’s other works. Though, that aesthetic may be troubling to those that are photosensitive, so the game includes accessibility features that hopefully helps some players out and the instructions suggest reaching out to the creator for accessibility feedback. It’s always great to have games more open to people, ya know?
I’m going to veer offtrack from my usual content today, but it’s going to be perfectly on brand. Today, I’m looking at Indie Game: The Movie, directed and produced by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot.
I remember watching the movie years ago, back at an old apartment. My memories on it are fuzzy, so I thought that it warranted a rewatch. Another thing that called me to rewatch it was Indie Game: Life After, a separate listing released in 2014 that includes a bunch of supplementary material that came later, which wasn’t around back when I first watched it, its running time rivaling the original movie.
Also as you may see, there are no screenshots of the movie. Movies exist in a different realm of legality so I might get in trouble posting stuff from it. If you want to see the movie, hop onto Netflix or hit up a friend with a Netflix password. Maybe I could make a rabb.it room for ya’ll to watch it? But anyway, here’s my ramblings on the movie.
I debated whether I should look at stuff from LD Jam 39 or Hydorah for this week. As you can see from the title, I ended up doing neither. I remembered that I saw this neat thing on itch.io, an engine for bullet hell games. I’ve previously tried making a Yume Nikki-themed shooter and while I’m happy that I made it, I still think it’s mediocre. So I look into this a bit and I see that the creator, Yal/Yaru, has made a whole bunch games, engines and asset packs. In looking into this bullet hell engine, I decided to look into her other shmup works, so let’s dive into this together.
Do not let the title alarm you, my friends. Sure, there are a lot of dangerous things going on in the world, but I’m an optimist. A depressive optimist, but an optimist. Everything will be okay.
WE ARE DOOMED is not another fatalist creed, but the name of a game! I was going through my stuff from itch.io’s A Good Bundle and decided to pick this up for review. Hey, remember when this bundle and a bunch of other game stuff helped raise the ACLU like millions of dollars and then they went on to help give white supremacists a big platform that resulted in injuries and a death? Anyway.
Ludum Dare 39 finished up a while ago and is currently in the phase where people can play and rate the games. The jam’s theme was “Running Out of Power,” which has resulted in a bunch of games revolving around, well, power. I would like to look at some stuff from this jam soon, preferably the stuff I got real excited about.
But I won’t be looking at a Ludum Dare 39 game today! Once again, we’re looking at an entry from the 38th jam. I’ve previously looked at Bureaucratic Deity Simulator 2018 and Little Lands, games that revolved around the theme of “A Small World.” Today, we look at a simple RPG that itch.io recommended to me called A Growing Adventure.
So first off, big thanks to my pal Alwyn, who decided to help out with this blog. I asked him if he wanted to see anything on this site and he suggested that I should write an article on how Nuclear Throne came to be. Seeing as most of the articles on this blog are sort of reviews, it’d be nice to have some variety, so I decided I should do that. Also I have almost 300 hours into this game, ahead of Binding of Isaac and before Clicker Heroes (the finest clicking game of our generation), so I’m kind of invested in doing this anyway.
In Incredible Ape’s Slime Time, you are the world’s richest CEO and one of your companies has created a horrible toxic mess that’s made mutants in the sewers. What happens to you? Do you just shrug off any accusations of wrongdoing, pay the fines that are incredible minuscule to your wealth and go back to what you were already doing? Do you pretend to make a stand for the environment and condemn the average person for ruining the planet when it’s actually your own fault?
No. Apparently, this is a world where CEO crimes have consequences and your character is actually taking responsibility. In fact, you don’t even rely on some middle-man to fix the problem. You take a suit capable of shooting lasers in all directions that your company was working on and head off to the sewers to fix the slime creature problem your own damn self. Truly this is a game rooted in fantasy.
Slime Time is an arcadey bullet hell type game where you try to destroy as much of the waste as possible before your inevitable death. The controls are real simple, requiring only the use of arrow keys. You move around by propelling yourself with bullets like a three-directional Downwell, pressing up or down pushing you up with a downward blast, pressing left causing you to shoot right and vice-versa.
There are four threats to deal with in the sewer. Pipes poke through the sides of the wall and they blast a wave of toxic energy, which is an instant kill like the toxic waste at the bottom, forcing you to always keep yourself hovering. Then there are the sewer monsters, who fire off a ring of bullets – they don’t kill you instantly, but they also interrupt your combos. Lastly, there are vials that hop out of the sludge, that burst into a bullet pattern when shattered. This last threat can easily be broken, even by accident, but it simultaneously makes it the most dangerous as you can inadvertently create a ring of bullets to dodge when you’re just trying to get around.
The game gets real frantic as the threats start stacking up with each other, unattended pipes choking off the space you can fly through as you inadvertently break vials, their bullets combining with the sewer monsters. Failure is inevitable, but the real challenge is getting the highest scores possible. To get higher scores, you have to build up a combo by consecutively breaking things without taking any damage – the true bullet hell experience. I feel that you have less control than you would have in an ordinary bullet hell game, with gravity constantly dragging you down and all, but it’s still pretty good.
There’s also that Extreme mode you can try out. Instead of just sort of easing you into things with a pipe like the normal game, it immediately starts throwing multiple threats at you, pretty much becoming a bullet hell from the start. I mean, it’s Extreme alright, but ultimately it isn’t too different from playing the normal mode for a minute.
I really like the palette of this game, I’m not sure why, but a combination of green and purple just makes things come off as alien. Is this a universal thing, is that why aliens are sometimes imagined as strange green men? There’s a lot of polish in the visual department, like with how gooey the waste under you and the background look when its animated and how your shots colliding into the wall blink into light while enemy projectiles splatters.
Slime Time‘s a fun time that looks good and feels good. It’s also pay-what-you-want, so I see no reason to not pick it up and give it a try.