When you think of France*, you think of ennui, of world weariness, of mimes, of overly verbose stories that still leave you staring at the remnants of raw extruded humanity (some of it yours) on the floor as you wonder if you’ve wasted your entire life on flights of triviality.
It’s true. You’ve only made horrible choices thus far. But that’s okay. You can give that child back and play some unWorded. It’s fun. I mean as fun as this bleak existence will allow.
Bento Studio, based in Lyon, have recently released unWorded for Steam, having come out late last year for Android and iOS. It’s a sweeping narrative with themes mentioned above, that is connected through the drawing pictures with letters. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky and McGuffiny, but it’s simple, elegant, and it works, really making for an enjoyably different game experience, as long as your mind’s eye is in line with the creators’, which is really is the only thing I’d call a downside. For example, there’s this one scene where you have to make a boat, but I thought certain pieces were waves instead of an upper deck, and the thing ground to a halt. Of course when I saw what the answer should have been it was obvious, but I just wasn’t thinking along those lines.
On the reverse, it’s a really beautiful game. Every cut scene could be a wallpaper. I mean look at this from near the beginning.
Gorgeous. It’s weird, and weird games need more attention. I only went through a few levels, but I’m going to go back into it now. I’ll update if I find anything cool.
*Maybe this is reminding me of Illumine, and hence the French connection? Maybe I’m just a bigot.
Hey, so @curttheinvert and I went to Seoul Indies this month and they actually had games. Like 5 of them! I forgot to bring my camera, but I’ll scavenge some stuff of the Internet.
Her Knights – Byulbaram
First up was Byulbaram, the godfather of Korean indie, featuring 그녀의 기시단 (Her Knights) in English from back in like 2004 for the GP32, and old Korean handheld system that I’d never heard of. According to Wikipedia, it’s similar to the first edition of the Game Boy Advance. I should look for one the next time I’m in Yongsan.
The game had early 2000s anime pixel art and a bit of a story. It played kinda like Turtles in Time, but with hand drawn cutscenes, and a fantasy sort of vibe. What’s notable are how well the characters and enemies react to what’s happening on screen. In fact, in a response to Gon Lee, from Total Battery, who asked about the most important characteristic of a fighting game, Byulbaram explained that every attack would bring out a distinct animation in enemies, that made sense with what was happening to them. Like, a right handed punch would push a person left, etc. I know that seems obvious now, but watching the game one more time after hearing this really made me appreciate just how many animations were actually in the game.
Oh, I should note, that this guy had to find the old source, and then rewrite everything for OpenGL so he could bring it to BIC and Seoul Indies. Hard core.
Bouncing Hero – ZPink + zniq.co
Bouncing Hero, a collaboration with ZPink and zniq.co, was also at BIC. It’s a puzzle-platformer, where you’re constantly bouncing, and you have to time your movements to each bounce. The developers wanted to create something that was challenging, but also was easy to control with a touch screen interface.
The point of the game is to touch all of the red star emblems on the screen to either open the door or to defeat the boss. The concept and design are simple, but crazy challenging. Each level is not randomly generated, but has a number of different permutations that can occur, which adds replayability as well. I could see myself getting frustrated with this, but it’s a solid concept.
Superstream – zniq.co
Superstream is a vamped up version of Pipe Dream, but with a Tetris style piece delivery system. The water (in this case a pulse of light) starts flowing as soon as you’ve laid 6 pieces on the board, removing the original pieces in place. When the pulse goes through a piece on the board, including one you’ve placed, it randomly regenerates, and gives you the ability to place one more piece from your tray. The difficulty comes from only being able to have a maximum of six delivered pieces on the board, meaning you can’t just throw what you don’t want away.
Superstream is free to play on zniq.co, and on Telegram apparently?
Hwasal – Jang Wonsun
Hwasal looks like a roguelike, but it’s more of a puzzler. Basically you’re an archer and you have to set up your arrows to hit every enemy on the screen in a number of turns. As you progress you can unlock upgrades and other things to use in the levels.
Ninja Issen – Jang Wonsun
This is another game by Jang Wonsun. The goal of the game is to defeat all the enemies on the screen in one go. The gimmick is that the entire level (with the enemies in them) shifts around in front of you, meaning you have to wait until everything lines up correctly to strike.
It’s a bit hard to explain, and I can’t find anything else on the game online, so I’ll just leave this one here for now.
Seoul Indies is the last Thursday of every month, and we’re usually located between Daeheung and Gwangheungchang stations on Line 6. If you have a game, or want to see some new stuff, come check it out!
Full Disclosure: I’m still a fucking pleb paying full price for games. I mean, intellectually, I know I’ve nothing to deserve free games, but I still feel like I should be getting them somehow? #NorthAmerican #WhiteMale #EvenStillIWantFreeGames
Snakebird is quite possibly the most adorable puzzle game I’ve ever played.* Bright colours, adorable birds that react to the environment around them with such a wide range of expression, and sublime music all come all come together to create a memorable experience that almost masks the sheer frustration and torment you’ll face at every stage as you juggle two to four birds in a graceful and delicate dish spin, only to have everything come crashing down on you with less than a moment’s notice.
Yeah, I couldn’t make it a paragraph just talking about how well polished it looks. This game is crazy hard. To the developers’ credit, it never feels unfair, the difficulty is purely due to your (my) inability to recognize the pattern in a situation. There is a curve, from easy to moderate, to throwing a Molotov while screaming “Hahaha, good luck bastards!” and I seem to have been caught off guard for the last bit.
So yeah… I’m still stuck on level 7… out of like 80, like a year later. Which is kinda why I’m writing about it now. I still like the game. When one of he birds is stuck up against the wall or itself it still makes me smile. Mostly because I want someone or something else to feel the pain that I’ve felt, but also because it’s totes adorbs. Mostly because it’s totes adorbs. Honest. I mean look at this.
See? It’s so cute and also so painfully obvious that ol’ Reddy only has a few seconds of oxygen left to live. Schadenfreude much? Yes. Yes, indeed. Maybe if I could get past level 7, I’d feel better for him/her/it.
And don’t you go thinking that that Undo button is going to help you. It’s fool’s gold. You’re on your own here. It’s you and your raw Snakebird machismo/a.
Right, so mechanics. Snakebird is a game about eating fruit to grow longer, which is both a blessing and a curse. Being longer means it can stretch out further from the land, and it have more room for other Snakebirds to rest and move about, but it also means it has more body to get in the way of junk. Like, in the image above. When you have multiple birds, it means you can use them to crawl all up and over each other’s mix, slowly boosting each other to victory.
Sounds simple right? You try it. You see if you can get past level 7 in like less than an hour. And if you can, you come here and message me, and make me feel bad, and make me have to play it more so I get a divorce and lose custody of my 18 nonexistent kids. Great. Glad we’ve established that you’re a dick and my love life is in shambles.
Uh… what was I on about? Snakebird is good. Go play it. Yeah. That’s all.
Full Disclosure: As seems to be a trend these days, I bought this game like the rest of the plebs. WTF man. Where has all my game street cred gone?
Forma.8 is the newest release from the somewhat-unreassuringly-named Mixed Bag Games, out a few weeks ago on Steam, but earlier on other platforms. It’s a highly metroidvanic joint, with oodles of physical puzzles, and psychological terrors to deal with. You’re this little black blobbed floaty Samus-like, which I’ma call Smookles. Poor Smookles, praying to what gods may exist, is one of many little black blobby bits shot out of the front of this gun-looking ship towards an unknown planet. Smookles lands and starts its journey in an earth-toned shadowy room with only one exit (for now, I guess).
The game initially feels like Metroid. There are puzzles you have to float through. You need certain power-ups in certain places to advance. There is a lot of area to explore. The biggest difference would that Smookles does not feel the effects of gravity. The controls felt really… for lack of a better word… floaty, but after I got used to how Smookles bobs around they felt pretty good. I will say I did notice I was really pressing on the d-pad harder trying to push the little dude faster (to no avail of course), which was kind of annoying. That could be because I was using PS2 controllers with it too though.
Controllers are expensive.
The graphics are simple, but are really nice to look at. While most of the characters and enemies are mostly solid black with glowing dots on them, the backgrounds are grainy textured oranges, reds, and browns that create an idea of a dark deep descent without actually blacking out the screen. I particularly liked the menu screen, not just because you can operate it and play the game at the same time, but because of how it “powers up.” The image below doesn’t really do it justice, but it kinda reminded me of turning on and off an old CRT screen. So satisfying.
I don’t really have an idea of what the greater picture of Forma.8 encompasses yet, but it seems to be bigger than just Smookles. You meet Smookles’ dead friends along the way, and they give you power ups to help you survive longer on the planet. The power ups and items are a mixed bag. So far they’re all pretty cool, but sometimes the level design is very reminiscent of a Skyrim dungeon in that at the start of some levels you can see what if effectively the equivalent of the famous exit only barred door. While I understand it’s important to have power ups that let you overcome certain situations, I’d like to see more games stretch beyond this type level design. Is there an alternative to this that doesn’t involve excessive backtracking or warping? I guess that’s the question we all have to think about.
I’m nitpicking. It’s good. I’m gonna play it some more.
Full disclosure: I know the developers of this game at Turtle Cream, but I purchased my copy of 6180 the Moon like the rest of the plebs. ㅠㅠ
This is a bit of a weird one. You’re the moon, and you’ve suddenly realized that the sun has disappeared. So, you, as the moon, decide to embark on a trip all the way to the centre of the solar system to see what’s up. As moons are known to do.
Gravity be damned, I say!
On the way, you make some planet friends (or frenemies? Looking at you, Venus!), hang out, learn some different mechanics, and finally witness a big revelation at the end. It’s an emotional tour-de-force. Yellow jackets for all!
In 6180 (which better not be either of your birthdays Turtle Cream!), you guide the moon through a series of puzzle platformer levels in space. As the moon, you can do the usual move left and right, jump, and you’re also affected by normal Earth-like platformer gravity. Let’s pretend there’s a large planet just out of view pulling you down. It’ll be fun. We can call it Willis.
The “gimmick” for the game though is based on the lack of top and bottom level bounds. If you fall through the bottom, you’ll shoot around the other side of Willis and pop back out the top, Portal style, forever and ever, accelerating until you reach terminal velocity, which I suppose is a thing, even in space. Monitoring your speed becomes a crucial factor in later levels when you need to make some tight slow-speed maneuvers between blocks, spikes, long spikes, and one-time-use blocks that fling you right into other sets of spikes. It’s like this delicate space dance from beginning to end.
Aww, look at me trying to be poetic. So cute. Seriously though, I was enchanted and stuff.
There are a lot of levels, about 50 or so, and there’s a decent progression through the game. And then when you’re done (SPOILERS!), you can do all the levels backwards for an extra challenge.
I decided not to do that one. I might come back to it though.
In short, a good puzzle game that’s not too short that you can pick up and put down easily on the go.
Straight up, Gon Lee of Total Battery is a frickin’ machine. Dude, has like a wife and two kids, a full time job (at his father’s battery company aptly named, you guessed it, Total Battery), and he still manages to put out a game every few months.
I, on the other hand, woke up at 12 today, spent 4 hours changing up like 100 yuan at the bank, and then I came home to take a nap. I even took a 30 minute break to watch YouTube after writing that sentence. Fuck me, I’m wasting my life. (Ten more minutes after this one.)
I digress, again. Total Battery puts out some crazy cool games. Most of them use that old LCD Game and Watch aesthetic, with simple well-tuned controls and gameplay to match. None of them are large enough to do a whole article on each, so lucky you, you get a gameography. Here’s every title I know they’ve put out so far.
In Identified Flying Object, out just last week, you pilot an old-school prop plane, and get into Snoopy vs Red Baron style dog flights with aliens pulling Defender-style lifts of cattle, and power-ups, and power-up cattle from the planet. Shoot the aliens, save the cows and absorb their sweet sweet buffy innards, kill the bosses to get ahead.
I have mixed feelings about this game. Hear me out. What if the “aliens” are actually just trying to save the cows from prop plane absorption or ending their lives on a dinner plate? What if they’re actually from the Alpha Centaurian branch of PETA, trying to save one of Earth’s most peaceful and intelligent species from destruction to give them a life of dignity and grace?? And you’re SHOOTING THEM FROM THE SKY!?!
Escape! Skeleton.J is a runner, and a boss battler? You gotta take your weird little skeleton dude, and outrun a mob of angry townspeople as they chase you down for collecting all of their purple poo. The more poo you collect, the better… for some knight dude anyway, because at the end of the level you get shot and your spirit and collected purple poo gets absorbed so that the knight dude can try to defeat some other dude. It’s kinda like an 80s soap opera, you know where Jill and Katherine duke it out only to find out that they’re actually mother and daughter…for a bit? You know, plot twists. Yeah, I don’t get the end part, but it’s fun. Gon tried to explain it to me, but I was too busy playing to listen.
Try it yourself and see if you can figure it out. You can also fart in it. I’m down with that.
Nightmare is a run and shoot that behaves a lot like 1943 or Galaga but with a running dude trying to kill a bunch of enemies and escape some sort of nightmare. I can really relate to the dude, being 40 and still Skyping into my parent’s basement every week or so. (Yes, I’ll cut my hair, mom. No, I haven’t joined another cult, mom.)
There’s a wide variety of enemies and bosses and it doesn’t feel restrictive like an actual Game and Watch game does. Controls are tighter on I.F.O., but give this one a shot too.
Okay this one is clever, but I wish it had the same Game and Watch feel. You play as R.Hood (abbreviated for copyright reasons? Maybe to avoid the Diznee hounds?) walking through the woods, violently swinging around a woodsman or other characters to beat the ever loving shit out of some hungry bouncily attacking wolf heads. Spin your dude too fast and they’ll get dizzy, and they won’t be able to save you. If things get intense you do have a board wipe or two, but for the most part, you’re just going to get mobbed and eaten alive.
Older fairy tales are the best. So family friendly.
This is the last title I know about. I think Gon belted this out in a week for a game jam at some point. If think society is not doing enough to help the war on Christmas, then you’re int he right place. In I Hate Santa!, your job is to destroy santa before he can enter your small, poorly drawn, one room house to give you a present. You have three traps at your disposal and you need to mash on them to keep Santa at bay.
My current high score is 2. (The controls are horrific, but then again it only took one week of dev.)
Right, so that’s Total Battery. They’re on Facebook or something. Go check them out. I’m going to work on my game now. I feel like I need to… actually do something. #motivated #butforhowlong?
*That’s a joke, PETA, a mildly humourous JOKE. You remember, humour? From back before you ascended to not eating anything that casts a shadow? No? Tough room.
FREEview is our weekly review of totally free shit.All honey, no money!
It is stupidly hard to review a game you can’t stop playing.I boot it up and promise to only play for five more minutes.I have a review to write after all!Two fucking hours later, I haven’t written shit.Not a stupid useless word.Fuck this game for being so dang good.But let’s just slow down here for a minute.What in god’s name is Super Crate Box?
Single Screen Rogue-like Platform Shooter?
So those were a lot of words but I’m sticking with them.Imagine the old original Mario Bros.You know the one before it was called SUPER.Yeah that one.Single screen and tons of shit comes flooding in from the top.And just like in Mario Bros, the enemies don’t even care about killing you.They just want to get to the bottom of the screen.Except for the damn ghosts… oh fuck those are in both games!Starting to see some patterns here.
Look at these dumb ass ghosts.
Rogue-like might be a bit of stretch but lemme try it anyway ya lousy ingrate:Randomly spawning enemies attack you while you pick up have random boxes with random weapons in them.Then you dieYou lose everything and have to start right the fuck over.Oh goddamn it is a rogue-like.Every time you play and kill more shit, you get access to more levels, weapons, characters and modes but only after you die.YOU MUST DIE.
Wait just a goddamn minute, I don’t need to review a game from 2010. I’m done, so go and download it right the fuck here.Man, why didn’t somebody tell me this thing was released back then?Thanks for nothing jerkass!Well, enough of this “reviewing” and back to the game.Seriously I have died like over 1000 times at least.It is just that good. Thanks a ton my homies at Vlambeer for making a great lil thingy.
In this, the year of two-thousand-fuck-you-and-everything-you-love, with the US and Europe slip-sliding haphazardly ever towards the extreme right, you might think to yourself while in a definitely-not-purple,-Officer haze on a late Sunday afternoon, “How can I capture a portion of this horrific experience in a video game?”
And if you do, you’re a real sick freak for doing so. Shame on you. Shame. How is Mexico going to pay for that wall by themselves? Tsk tsk tsk.*
Enter the world of Replica, where the government of some unnamed Americkesque country of the nearish future now relies on teenagers to hack into the phones of potential terror suspects and look for clues that point towards a clandestine assembly’s association with terror, all while hoping said teens never learn the concept of the prisoners’ dilemma.
Umm, that was meant to sound ridiculous, but rereading it, it kinda seems like something that could happen in real life, doesn’t it? Or at least something that could happen on FOX. Huh. Maybe Somi is on to something here. Maybe he knows too much… he’s been a little too fair and balanced these days…
Replica is a point-and-click adventure, entirely set in someone else’s phone. Basically, the interface is kinda like your own phone except this one doesn’t have your duck face all over it.
The actual game starts when you figure out how to unlock the phone. (Luckily everyone in the game is kinda terrible with passwords, and numbers larger than 9999 don’t seem to exist.) When you get in, you’ll get a call from 4885 telling you what and what not to do. Listen or don’t listen, it’s up to you, but know that your choices directly determine what ending, bascially who’s bed you’ll end up in. Throughout the game you have a large number of choices to make, and honestly most of them seem pretty bad. You kinda get stuck in their weird catch-22 where by exploring the phone to see the story, you’re helping the government, and yet by refusing, you’re helping the other guy, but the game might end without finding out what’s really going on.
Now I know what it feels like to be a rubbernecker at a car accident. Well, at least aware of the fact that I’m rubbernecking.
The story overall is fairly heavy handed, but the main plot points feel realistic within the game world. There are 12 endings in total. It’s designed to be replayed, so it’s okay to mess around with all the shiz the game tries to hide from you. The endings vary a lot, so there is incentive to try to find at least a couple.
Or is that what Replica wants you to think? Somi! Tell me! You’re really a secret operative performing experiments on consumers to see how easily it is to create model citizens, aren’t you?!? Oh, I’m on to you buddy. Why else would you have multiple endings and encourage users to dime out the deplorables all from the comfort of their own computers and mobile devices? Hmm? HMM?
I have come to believe that this is not true. Enjoy playing games. Everyone enjoys playing games. Enjoy. Play. Games.
*Get at me later when they’re not looking. It’s too hot. I gotta play dumb for a bit. Yeah, yeah, it’s easy because I am dumb. I get it. I get it. Just get the jokes out of your system now, okay?