The game describes itself as an action-adventure, but the whole “action” part is very…underdeveloped, and I’m not just saying that because you don’t have combos and stuff like in hack ‘n’ slash games. Each of the game’s four levels only has one enemy type throughout (except the last which just reuses the previous 3 enemies, and not even at the same time), and there’s no level design to make the fights any different from each other. Instead, the game is more focused on its switch-hunts, some of which are so basic they’re basically just padding (instead of “go across the bridge,” it’s “go two steps past the bridge to push a button so you can access the bridge, and then go across”). There are a few brief moments where the game starts to have actual puzzle mechanics, but they all fall victim to the “abandon gimmick before it’s fully explored” trend, some not even making past tutorial difficulty before never being seen again. Worse still is that the game is slow; slow movement can work if the levels are compact, but the game likes to have long paths with either nothing or a single switch-hunt item. This even affects the action parts, since the level 3 enemy type can jump pretty far and pretty fast, while you can only shamble after them (and if they happen to jump at you, that’s damage you won’t be able to avoid or react to).
You’d think bosses would be more on the action side, but the first boss is just more switch-hunts, only now you have to bait the boss to attack certain things to progress. The second boss has more direct attacks (having flasks fall on different points of the arena, even foreshadowed by, well, drop-shadows), but you also don’t fight this boss directly; you just wait until it starts stomping, then you bait it into stomping the gears. The final boss has more projectile-focused attacks, and while I do think it’s the best boss in the game, it’s still pretty basic and another “wait until it’s vulnerable to attack” boss (and once you notice that, you’re not gonna get hit).
Speaking of the final boss, it’d honestly be quicker for me to point out what few moments I liked. The third level’s enemy is a spider that’ll shoot you, and while most of the time you just fight them head-on in flat, empty arenas, there are a couple parts of the game where they’re on separate platforms and you just have to avoid their shots, meaning the game does have some level design here and there. Unfortunately, since they always target you, you can literally just keep moving forward to avoid their shots, resulting in little variety from all the other empty halls in the game. Similarly, the clock-hands in level 3 and the shooting flowers in level 2 are notable as being “when an action-adventure almost had level design,” but the flowers are just used for a quickly-abandoned mirror-reflecting gimmick, and the clock hands are never used with anything else, so you’re just waiting on the slow hand to get around so you can move through without getting hit.
P.S. There are some optional collectibles in the game, and while I admit I didn’t get all of them, I blame that more on the game not making it clear that they’re there than them being hard to get (many are on what appear to be ordinary split paths, and going the wrong way just has you go forward with the campaign). I was easily able to get all the ones I noticed.
Report #320: Puzzle and Walking
Just quickly finished three short games from Winter Sale 2019. Motivated by the current monthly theme and also because I kind of avoided my currently long playing game (Horizon Zero Dawn). aMaze was kind of difficult for the eye due to camera position. Hex two was as good as the previous one. Drizzlepath was very very short. Crashed two times as I was adjusting the graphics to my WQHD display, keeping it on 1280x720 resolution avoided further crashes.
The end of Batch #31
Jul 23 2021
Weekly Games #151
Jul 22 2021
Over two months since my last post. I’m not getting through my backlog very fast… but I did beat some games since last time!
So, how about those reviews?
So many games starting with W for some reason.
I also wrote reviews for some DLCs
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Fortification Pack
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Lord of Skulls
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Assault Pack
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Reinforcement Pack
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Specialist Pack
Eagle Island: Twist (only reviewed the free DLC)
Jul 21 2021
Well well well, haven’t posted in here in a looong while. But, finally time to come back. In the meantime i’ve mostly been clearing my PS4 and PS3 backlog, and managed to take it down between the both of them to only 4 games left! Quite happy about that, but in the meantime my Steam library has been passively growing, and it’s time to take it down :)
Just Cause 3
Just Cause 3 Bavarium Sea Heist DLC
Just Cause 3 Sky Fortress DLC
Mirror's Edge Catalyst
Sea of Solitude
The Crew 2
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone DLC
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine DLC
Stats (July 2021)
85% never played (937)
5% unfinished (51)
1% beaten (10)
0% completed (1)
10% won’t play (108)
Platformer. Left/right move, A jumps, X shoots, down ducks. You can shoot in the cardinal directions, but since left/right also move, you need to hold the “aim” button to stay still. There’s also the “wpn” button which switches your weapons, but only two of the four stage-select levels give you a new weapon when you beat them. Also of note is that not only is your jump arc a trapezoid, but you fall faster than you rise. Lastly, your character has the ability to climb walls, but unlike Little Samson, you can’t just grab onto any wall (not that the game makes this clear or anything); only the walls that have gradients next to them are climbable. If a wall is just a thin line, you can’t grab it.
The game has you play one level before taking you to the stage select, and it’s bland. The only reason I took damage is because the speeder-bike part in the second half doesn’t give you a clear hitbox, and when you have to jump over a wide boss moving across the ground, intuitive hitboxes are kinda necessary.
In fact, the level design throughout the whole game is quite bland (every platforming section is either flat planes or a row of single tile platforms above a pit), and at first, I thought the dev was being extra careful to introduce enemies in ways that wouldn’t result in cheap hits, but then the miniboss of the green level comes at you and shoots a fast horizontal laser quickly while ALSO introducing flying enemies that’ll beeline to your last known position, so maybe the dev just really sucks at level design. For the record, this level is second from the left in the stage select, and the miniboss doesn’t show up in the far-left level, so if you go from left-to-right like I did, this is your introduction both to the miniboss and the homing enemies. Ironically, all the other times the miniboss shows up (including later in this same level!) put it on a platform below you, allowing you to shoot down at it and kill it from safety. THAT should’ve been how the enemy was introduced, but the game got it backwards. The boss of the green level is a spiderbot that walks left/right and abruptly jumps high and shoots lasers down, but once you learn its pattern, you can avoid damage by just waiting on the edge of the screen and only jumping when it comes near.
The far-left level is another speeder-bike level and isn’t really noteworthy beyond the hitbox issue mentioned earlier (the boss is a giant flying bug with little bugs around it like a shield, and like the first boss, I could never jump over it without taking damage). It does introduce an enemy that flies overhead and drops a hazard on you that can only be avoided if you’re moving left cuz it falls so fast, so the game has some trial and error as well. The center-right level (the yellow one) introduces a scorpion that shoots fast horizontal lasers, but it’s introduced on a platform above you, so the game actually got it right this time. The boss is a snake thing that’ll fly above and shoot fast lasers down, but even though it’s random where it’ll shoot, I got lucky and was never hit (also, you can shoot enemy lasers to cancel them out like in Mobile Astro, so that helped). After it’s done flying, it’ll come out of the holes in the ground and shoot lasers down at your platform, but even if you can’t jump away to another platform, you can still jump over the lasers, so it’s not a bad boss.
The far-right level was when things started to go south. The platforming parts weren’t anything different, but this level also has auto-scrolling parts where you’re wall-climbing (until now, that mechanic was only used to get over slightly-higher-than-you-can-jump platforms). Thing is, even though you’ll slowly move down while staying still, your up and down movements weren’t adjusted to account for the scrolling (like a conveyor belt that shuts off while you hold a direction), making it unnecessarily more difficult to avoid enemies since you have no true “staying still” state; you’re either moving up, moving down, or slowly moving down. The stage boss stops the scrolling, but it has a fast 3-way shot, and since you’re on a wall for the fight, you can’t jump. This was the first time it felt like the game wasn’t designed around its controls, that forced damage was intentional, and it didn’t get any better later.
The first level after the stage-select levels are beaten is another speeder-bike level, and it’s only notable for two reasons: 1) the hazard-dropping enemies that can only be avoided if you’re moving left are combined with enemies that spawn from the left without warning, and 2) it reuses the first boss, except now when you kill it, it splits into two smaller versions of itself, and those split into two smaller versions of themselves, so on top of your unintuitive speeder-bike hitbox, the arena can get a bit crowded with enemies flying around in random directions.
The next level is a downward-scrolling level where you can move anywhere on screen, but it’s also this late in the game where the dev decides to introduce an enemy that uses the exact same sprite as the flying enemies that just go straight, except these enemies will instantly bank 90 degrees and come straight for you when you get beside them, so not only is there some more trial and error for you, but due to your tall hitbox, it’s really difficult to avoid them even when you know they’re coming (especially since they spawn from both the top and bottom of the screen in different locations with no warning). Plus, unlike you, the flying enemies are small enough to slip between your 3-way lasers. The boss is the large bug with bug shields again, though it does have a new attack where it just shoots its bugs away from itself for a while. After shooting it a bunch, it went to the right side of the screen and started going up and down; I think it was supposed to do something when I got in front of it, but since I already happened to be on the far right side of the screen, I was able to stay behind it without taking any damage.
After this is a level with more bland platforming, though I’ll give it credit for this one part where a scorpion was on a platform below some stationary floating hazards, and the platform before it was on-level with a pit between them, so you had to fight the scorpion head-on and remember its cue for when it’s gonna shoot its laser. Yup, there’s actually some level design here, finally. The boss’s weak point bounces around the screen slowly, but it has one of those ball-necks that’s always attached to the center, so you won’t know if the neck itself is a hazard. The boss can also summon enemies from the sides of the screen, and it shoots more of those really fast lasers you won’t be able to dodge.
The final boss is its own level and is composed of two enemies: a floating soldier that just floats in random directions and shoots you not only with fast lasers, but sometimes with fast 3-way lasers as well; and the weak point, which just fades in and out of existence every several seconds and shoots 5 shots in the cardinal directions, so there’s no way to hit it without being in its line of fire yourself (I tried shooting them down like before, but it didn’t work this time; maybe the lasers just barely missed each other). The boss’s second phase happens very abruptly after its first, and while it’s way easier than the first phase (it just moves across the ground and jumps occasionally), its jump isn’t foreshadowed, and since you’ll need to jump over it when it doesn’t jump, that could also get you hit. The ending implies postgame content (or at least a sequel), but I didn’t see any evidence of either.
Not recommended, not even if it goes free again.
Jul 20 2021
Twinstick SHMUP. D-pad moves, face buttons shoot in their direction. Even if you use the left stick and right stick instead, you can still only move/shoot in 8 directions. It starts off slow, only three enemy types, but it also eases you into what sets the game apart from other SHMUPs: you can shoot enemy shots, though they cancel out yours. Still, even by the first level, you’ll start to notice cheap stuff since enemy shots can slip directly between your twin-shots and hit you, and the enemies that spawn from the bottom still spawn without warning. Level 2 introduces a giant damage-sponge enemy while also introducing parts where you have to kill a specific enemy to progress the stage. When encountering the damage-sponge enemy in all other scenarios, there’s absolutely no way you’ll be able to kill it before it walks away, even if you focus fire on it. This level also ends in a boss, who goes offscreen and comes in from random sides of the screen while flinging bullets everywhere. I first died here, and when I respawned, it was under the boss without any fanfare so it took me a bit to even realize it happened (getting your ship hit also doesn’t draw attention to itself). By level 3, you’ll notice that the enemies you’ve been fighting are starting to move faster, but that’s not the only thing that’ll increase the difficulty since enemies also start spawning from the left and right (even though the screen is very tall and narrow). The game also starts spawning more enemies that take several hits to kill, and spawning more of them at once, but since you shooting their shots cancels both bullets, it’ll take much longer than you’d think to take them out, even after you figure out you can hit the L button to use a bomb (doesn’t screen-clear, just damages, and you only have 2 max). Level 4 goes a bit further and has many parts where a bunch of several-hits-to-kill squids spawn from both left and right. The boss, a giant squid, has little squids surrounding it like a shield, and when you kill all of them, the giant squid shoots large, superfast lasers at you that you can only dodge if you were already moving (and even then, it’s a toss up). Yup, can’t shoot these lasers down; way to ruin your whole gimmick, game. Level 5 might be the introduction of the little walking ships that shoot several shots directly at you (rather than straight ahead of them), but even if they were introduced earlier, this is definitely the level where two of them spawn from opposite ends of the screen and shoot you at the same time, making me convinced the game has unavoidable damage. The level 6 boss is a spiderbot that not only shoots the unshootable large lasers while it moves (the squid would stop for a split second at least), but also hops directly onto you a few times before going back to its normal pattern, and of course it moves faster than you. Ironically, the level 8 boss tones things down by just having it spin saws around itself and slide around the arena. Sure, its landmines shoot projectiles even faster than the large lasers, but I never got hit. Level 9 was where I first got game over (you can only see your lives left if you look in the upper-left corner when you respawn from death), and that’s where I learned you have to start the whole level over if that happens. After two game overs on level 10, which is even more spammy than earlier levels, I gave up.
Not recommended. Games like this make me wonder if I actually even like SHMUPs and I’ve just been extremely unlucky, or if it’s all Gradius III/Guerilla War nostalgia.
Jul 19 2021
Ok. So after the initial categorization I concluded that I will do a VR Journey with my Oculus quest 2 to understand the medium and the possibilities. I have bought too many VR games to support developers doing VR games. Now I will learn about it myself, by playing. In the end, I will try to make a VR game. Stay tuned!