A Little Bit Of: Retrovirus

Scanning for targets.

Forgot to post this yesterday. Oops! Anyway back on topic, this is a bit of a weird game because there really isn't much like it these days. It's a call back to games like Descent where you play a shooter with full range of motion in all axes. The most similar game I've played in recent memory is Shattered Horizon. I really like their fake computer look to the game, the first level also has a pretty great fake Windows desktop to start the game off with.

The shooting itself is decent, I haven't got deep enough into see how many more weapons there are or how complex the upgrade system gets. But it does look like there's going to be some variety in there. Playing a few other shooters recently and there's an odd lack of weight behind the gunfire in Retrovirus, which while it makes sense in context of the game makes it stand out a bit from more modern shooters. Enemies being able to attack you from all directions also makes the concept of taking cover a little tough. I would've liked some way to mitigate damage that didn't involve just running into a pipe to choke point the enemies. Some of the combat spaces give you lots of room to manoeuvre in but some are fairly small which makes dealing with the more punchy enemies rather tough.

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A Little Bit Of: No Time To Explain

Raptor heads.

Well this is a rather big swing from the abstract Proteus. This is a platformer that gets away on humour, randomness and just general madness. Mechanically it's decent, it's not the best platformer out there. There isn't a whole lot of precision when using the gun to boost you to different places, usually the level design works to compensate for this but in a couple of places it asks you to do too much precisely without really giving you the tools to do it and it ends up with one or two really terrible levels. The same goes for checkpointing, usually it's great but there are a couple of instances later in the game where it's just terrible and just ends up being horribly frustrating.

On the flip side you end up travelling through time shooting a spaceship piloted by a giant crab. A shark that grows tentacles when you blow up it's tail and for some reason there's a side scrolling shooter with dinosaurs. It goes through each of these quickly and fluidly and it keeps up that pace of progression that you just kind of go with it. Suddenly being a bullet hell shooter, makes sense in the world of No Time To Explain.

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A Little Bit Of: Antichamber

Combine with equal quantity of chamber.

A game that has been in development for a long time. I'm sure there were some real doubts that this game would ever come out but it's out now and is rather excellent. It's kind of a really cool looking world, very minimalistic with bold single colours around the place. The soundtrack isn't standout but the ambient nature of it is really important at leading you on in the right direction as well as giving you information about this world that you're in.

The puzzles themselves haven't been massively taxing, but they all require a bit of a knack to it. You have to expect to try things and use what you've learnt before. The most important of which is don't trust what you see and that the space of the world won't be the same just because you stand in it. It's hard to say more without spoiling the game but you should go play this one. I don't know how long the game is, from the size of the wall probably longer than the timer of 90 minutes which makes me wonder what the heck that thing is on about. So yeah that's Antichamber, one great big mystery to mess with your head.


A Little Bit Of: Strike Suit Zero

No one can hear you explode.

More Kickstarter games are being released. So that's awesome. Still lots more that are still in the works but things like this, FTL and Giana Sisters are showing that this is a totally viable way of getting your games funded and finished. That said this game suffers from having some really dull missions. It's mechanically sound, the act of flying a ship and transforming into a mech to destroy hordes of enemies is great fun. Having missions that have you escort a frigate against an almost unstoppable hoard of enemies that while pose no threat to your tiny little strike craft enjoy blowing up your frigate long before you can deal with them all.

Escort missions sucking is nothing new, but I certainly wish that Born Ready games had put a bit more thought into it. It also doesn't help that the missions go on for a long time. Some of this is in part of how missiles are balanced so that you conserve ammo while you're doing your objective. If you do die you're restocked at the checkpoint in theory making it easier to complete that particular section.

Overall I think that it's a good game, I'm still only about half way through, I've gone back to re-do some of the older missions to get those unlocks. The mission I got stuck on seems to be neigh impossible at the moment and there's no menu thing I can change that will tell my ally to die less. Maybe none of the later missions have escort parts in them and are totally awesome and there have been missions that were a good deal of fun. But there have been too many sections that drag down the fact that the combat is rather a lot of fun and that's a bit of a shame.


A Little Bit Of: 10,000,000

Three's a match.

This game is also on iOS and Android and ultimately I think those platforms fit 10,000,000 far better than the PC. So if you're looking to get this game and can get it there you should probably do so. That said, it works totally fine on PC, the problem really is just one of depth. You're probably not going to get a whole lot out of the game compared to something else just sitting at your PC but as a game to play for 10-15 minutes put down and then pick up again later it's a good time.

It's a very simple game, beyond the match 3 game there isn't a whole lot more. A lot of the rest of the mechanics and systems are all just background, to be good at 10,000,000 you just have to be good at matching 3. That part of the game is really well done and the way that the way that the top screen adds a great deal in terms of getting you to think really quickly. But in the end it just doesn't compare to something like Puzzle Quest which was just a much better combination. 10,000,000 is just a match 3 game plus a little bit, which makes it a really good way to kill a shot break every now and then but not so great for a prolonged sit down.


A Little Bit Of: Conquest Of Elysium 3

And the dead shall rise.

Probably one of the worst looking games I've done in this series. Behind the fairly bad looking graphics is a fairly deep strategy game. The aspect of managing your empire is fairly light, you just walk an army over a key location like a town or farm and it'll be captured and it'll pay you resources every turn. But most of the different commanders have their own specific resources, the undead can capture graveyards to expand their undead hoard whereas demonologists will also collect sacrifices from local towns.

It makes it fairly interesting in that a lot of the races aren't competing directly for a lot of the same resources. So if you're the undead you want to raise more undead to bolster your forces but if you spot a dwarven empire nearby it might be worth capturing and holding mines which while not directly useful for your forces are incredibly valuable for the dwarves.

The thing that has bugged me most about the game is how little in game help there is in the way of just how to play the game. Yes there is a pdf manual that comes with the game but it's lengthy and complex and full of a whole lot of stuff that when you're first starting out don't need to care about at all. So spending the first 10 games or so just losing in the first 20 turns without really learning anything, not so awesome. But after learning the basics and playing a whole bunch after that it's pretty fun.


My Top 5 Indie Games of 2012

I'm pretty much going to let this video stand alone as it is but as I also said there are some honourable mentions that did not make it to my top 5 but definitely worth mention. In fairness I probably could've got them all into a top 10 but that would've made the job of picking through them a bit too easy so I decided to make it that much harder for myself.

Honourable Mentions

Hotline Miami

The psychedelic frantic paced action of Hotline Miami makes for some great gameplay. Moving through the levels in a haze of blood and when you kill the last person in an area the music cuts out. And you then have to move through just the destruction and death that you've just brought about just because someone on the end of a phone asked you to. That message is there and while you may not pick up on what exactly it is at first you definitely feel it. It would matter a whole lot less if the game wasn't any good but the moment to moment action has that precise frantic pace that makes that part of the game so compelling.

Orcs Must Die 2

An improvement on the original in pretty much every way, it also includes the levels from the original game so there is just a whole lot of content here. If you're totally uninterested in tower defence games then this probably isn't for you but it does a good job of blending third person action, co-op and that classic tower defence gameplay fantastically well. There are definitely some levels that seem like they were built a bit too much around co-op such that it's a pain to do them alone but all in all it is a fantastically made tower defence game.

Mark of the Ninja

Stealth games, I kind of have a weird thing about them where a forced stealth game I really hate. But if you give me the choice to go stealth in a game like with Deus Ex that will totally be the option I choose. Mark of the Ninja does a really good job with marking out everything in the environment you're in so that you can really clearly see how much noise you're making and also if you're visible or not. The scoring system also reinforces what you should be doing in a level and penalises you smartly for just fumbling around the place. I still think the dragging of the mouse to do kills is a bit awkward but the game has lots of great tools to use and smart level design that it's just a small problem in the grand scheme of things.

I might also do another blog roundup of other games I've loved this year that happen to not be indie games, but it's been a good year for indies so I thought that it was worth having something dedicated just to them. And hopefully we'll get more awesome games of all shapes and sizes coming next year.


A Little Bit Of: Stealth Bastard Deluxe

From the shadows.

Oh game, how you love to kill my clones and then mock me for my lack of ability. That's actually one of the best parts of the game, just the pointed remarks just nudging you along. And there are plenty of ways that you can die, mostly lasers from various things, robots, floaty eyes. But not to worry there are also fast moving blocks to turn you into paste and sharp blades to make tasty gibs out of your body. This is in service of trying to get through each test chamber and while stealth is in the name it's really more of a puzzle game and the stealth elements are there for the purposes of those puzzles and forcing you to find solutions.

I've only gotten completely stuck once, and there is a handy skip level button if you get really stuck but there's a limit of 3 skips which I'm guessing you get back as you complete levels. Each chapter has been adding new mechanics, so it's been steadily adding different challenges. I'm guessing that it'll mix in each of the different things in more as I get further, it's started to do so but only a little bit.

In any case I've really enjoyed playing it, I don't think that it quite makes my cut for a best of indie video I'm working on but there have been some great indie games this year and trying to get it down to my top 5. So yeah that's going to be fun to make but real hard to choose between some fantastic games.


A Little Bit Of: Reprisal

Making plains.

I actually wanted to do a different game this week only to find out that the framerate is terrible. Not entirely sure why but I'm going to be doing a new PC build next year for numerous reasons so maybe I'll do that then. Anyway this is a game I got off one of the Indie Royale bundles which has numerous bundles that have run this year and there are plenty of good games that come up on there.

This one is a little bit weird though in that this was originally a flash game. There is some new content in the way of challenge maps, but I haven't gotten to that part of the game yet. The game itself on the other hand is pretty fun, it's pretty simplistic right now and it'll get more complicated as I get access to more spells but some of it does rely on the enemy tribe AI. As I said in the video it's pretty passive right now, so I've just been massively expanding to start and then just steam rolling them at the end without even using a waypoint to gather my forces.

It's nice to have a new god style game to mess around with especially as the pair of Kickstarter god games Maia and Godus getting as much attention as they have been. This is probably the penultimate episode for this year I'm going to try to do a slightly more complicated to edit (NOO!) video for my end of year, but that depends on how much real work I need to get done before then.


A Little Bit Of: Thomas Was Alone

Rectangle Squared.

Okay next week I won't do a puzzle platformer, promise! This one is lovely though, it originated as a Flash game and the most interesting thing about that game was the story and the characters. When I say characters I of course mean tiny little squares and rectangles. They are really brought to life by some rather excellent narration, so far it seems to focus on each of the characters as they turn up, so now that Claire has popped up it's going to be a lot about her and presumably that'll continue for a while as more of them get introduced.

None of the puzzles have been super challenging so far, it's still early days so that's pretty much what I would want right now. The characters move well, there's a weird amount of air control so you can pretty much stop mid air instantly which took a bit of getting used to. The narration subtitles so far are the only thing that I have found distracting, the text repeatedly trying to word wrap while on the edge of the screen keeps drawing my attention away from everything else. Is probably nitpicky of me but everything else fits so well together with so little, that seeing some text off to the side that seems like it's freaking out draws the eye.