By Mento 5 Comments
|01/12/12 - Ballistic||05/12/12 - Mutant Mudds||09/12/12 - Slydris|
|02/12/12 - Band of Bugs||06/12/12 - Oniken||10/12/12 - Soulcaster|
|03/12/12 - Escape Goat||07/12/12 - Outpost Kaloki||11/12/12 - Squids|
|04/12/12 - MiniFlake||08/12/12 - Reprisal||12/12/12 - UnEpic|
December the Fourth
The source: The Indie Royale Getaway Bundle
The pre-amble: MiniFlake is a retro-styled Roguelike - of the classic interpretation, rather than this newfangled wave of "Roguelikelikes" - that is currently still in its Alpha build. As such, I was a little hesitant giving it any sort of critique in its unfinished state, but then if I was going to bother with integrity or any of that junk I might actually go so far to beat all the games I'm covering for this feature. Screw that; misguided first impressions after a few hours of play is clearly the best way to go about these mini-reviews. But seriously, since you can purchase MiniFlake now, the developer clearly feels it's "complete enough" for public consumption and I'm content to feature it here.
The playthrough: But yeah, Alpha builds. It can be pretty rough. MiniFlake seems like a pretty neat idea on the surface: When the game says retro-styled, they're not just talking 8-bit pixel sprites here. The whole thing appears to be about as advanced (aesthetically speaking) as an early Game Boy game. Back when everything was gray (well, green) and sprites were rarely bigger than a 10x10 approximation of whatever the hell it was supposed to represent. The various graphics the player can select for their main character actually remind me of the, uh, "economical" characters of Mercenary Force, which still managed to talk a spirited spiel in spite of its sprites. I suppose graphical minimalism is germane to the philosophy behind traditional Roguelikes, but it's an unusual area of gaming history to draw an art style from. Do people really harbor nostalgic feelings for that particular console? For its graphics specifically?
Grayscale grousing aside, the core gameplay seems very reminiscent of early console Roguelikes, such as Fatal Labyrinth or the early Mystery Dungeon games. A lot of concessions have to be made for the sake of the limited number of buttons available, which is to say two buttons and a D-pad in this case specifically. To use a lot of the different functions a Roguelike requires, the player has to press and hold one button while using another. Let me give you an example of how crazy this gets: To pick up an item, hit the first button. To equip it, hold the second button while tapping left or right to select it from the scrolling inventory. Then tap the second button again. Hit the right direction from the mini-menu that pops up to equip, unequip, drop or examine the item. To attack with a spell, you have to hold the first button while hitting a direction. I don't even know how to enter buildings, but some combination of the two buttons and D-pad managed it. Hitting Escape to check the "Crawler's Tome" - presumably some sort of manual - will instantly crash the game (yo, Alpha build). I get that the developers would want to stick to their guns and maintain a control scheme that's as appropriately downgraded as the graphical style, but it never did any of the aforementioned console Roguelikes any favors to be crippled like this and it seems almost inexplicable to insist upon the same handicap for a PC game. Albeit a PC game that thinks its a Game Boy game.
If I sound overly critical of this product, I do urge folk to keep in mind that it is an Alpha build and so much of it (one hopes) is subject to change as it nears a completed state. But as cool an idea as it might be, it's just really not worth the hassle. Especially when the PC gaming market is already lousy with great (and often free) Roguelikes that ought to be played, in both of the traditional and "Roguelike-in-name-only" varieties.
The verdict: Honestly, I probably won't play this again. But if its finished form shows up in my games list, I may well renege on that decision.