My backlog extends beyond Steam... devonrv’s profile

In other words, you’ll occasionally see me post about…maybe not obscure, but perhaps unexpected games. I’ve already brought up such titles as Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean as well as Fluidity, and you can expect more in the future.

As for my BLAEO wheel: whenever I buy a game on Steam, I always play it a little bit right then so that nobody can say that I bought a bunch of Steam games I’ve never played. That said, I’m going to keep a game labeled as “never played” until I reach it in my backlog and plan on playing it actively.

Also, since there are some games I never plan on 100%ing, I’ll probably just use “beaten” for all the games that I’ve beaten, even if I’ve technically “completed” them as well. I’ll use “unfinished” for when I plan on going back to play all of a game’s content, even if I’ve technically beaten it already.

Lastly, here’s my review of my favorite game, as well as an explanation of differences between all of puzzle’s sub-genres (something not many people seem to know): https://www.backlog-assassins.net/posts/db8kgjb Now edited to include a link to my review of its GB version and its postgame!


I was going to play Darksiders, but my first impression of it is a bland beat ‘em up with little variety outside which of the 5-6 enemies get spammed at you in the flat arena. I finally gave up when I made it to the (first?) Gryphon section and realized I couldn’t move the aiming reticle, meaning I couldn’t attack enemies on the edges of the screen, so I went ahead and uninstalled it and played one of the games from that 1700+ itch.io bundle from a while back.

The boxart perfectly represents the overworld, in that there's nothing there.

This is a Zeldaclone. You can move in the cardinal directions (including diagonally), and not long into the game, you get a weapon that stabs directly in front of you like in the original Legend of Zelda (no broad slashes like in Link’s Awakening or Oracle of Ages/Seasons). Later on, you get the ability to jump, and this soon becomes another staple of gameplay as you’ll need to jump over pits, spikes, and even enemies. However, the top-down perspective combined with the lack of a consistent drop-shadow (absent when you’re standing, tiny when you’re at the peak of your jump, and invisible when you’re over a pit) does make it tricky to know where you are in relation to everything. The game does have controller support, but it wouldn’t let me map movement to the D-pad on my Xbox 360 controller; I had to use the left stick, which didn’t help with accuracy (for one, lack of a proper deadzone meant letting go of forward would sometimes have me facing backwards, away from the hazard I was trying to hit).

If you read some of my previous posts, you might remember I’ve been waiting for a proper top-down level design game, and this one certainly delivers. There are a decent variety of enemies, but you’re not just fighting the enemies; there can often be spikes in the room you’ll need to avoid, or even moving hazards like a spike-roller or rotating sparks. EDIT: You don’t even always have to kill all the enemies in a room to progress; often, just avoiding the hazards is enough of a challenge (unlike many hack ‘n’ slashes where you can just run/dodge past them if you’re not forced to confront them). Unfortunately, there are some less-than-intuitive moments, like how you can’t jump over the light-blue-green lasers in the beach/ocean dungeon (despite most other hazards being jumpable), meaning you just have to stand there and wait for them to disappear. There are also enemies that’ll spray projectiles in the air in random directions, and their projectiles’ drop-shadows have the same issues as yours, which can make it hard to track and avoid them (especially during the hotel dungeon’s boss when the arena gets crowded with airborne projectiles; I can’t help but wonder if you’re supposed to tank damage for some of these bosses).

I can forgive some of those issues since I know how rare having-level-design is for a hack ‘n’ slash, but then we get to the Adventure Game part of this Action-Adventure. For one thing, the overworld you need to explore in order to reach the dungeons in the first place is unnecessarily large and empty. Towns with NPCs you can talk to are one thing, and you could even argue the grassland works as a sort-of hub to branch towards the dungeons, but the forest and cliffs are also filled with empty screens (maybe you’ll fight a couple slimes or a dog occasionally). Even within dungeons, the adventure side of things isn’t developed nearly as well as the action: most of it is just baiting enemies onto a switch so you can stand on the other one and open the door, and the game only “builds” on this by having you manipulate different enemies. Sometimes, it isn’t even that; the enemy is already on a set path and you just have to hit the (delayed) switch in time to swap the blocks; it’s really boring. Worse still is those cards you thought were optional are actually required to reach the final dungeon, and quite a few of those cards are obtained from wandering around the empty overworld (some of which are only accessible from easily-missable one-tile-wide paths that blend into nearby solid tiles).

But the worst part of the game is right before the final dungeon(s?): you get the ability to swap two tiles, and the riddle tells you to swap the four colored blocks (red, blue, green, and purple) with the four tiles representing past bosses (super low-res and hard to make out), and the swaps have to be according to their “spirit color” or something. Thing is, three of the six bosses are blue, one is red, one is red and blue, and the last one is orange! No green…well, the final boss is green, but you wouldn’t know that at this point. Also, while I was trial-and-erroring my way through, the gate opened once I had all boss tiles in front of it, even though one of the boss tiles started in front of it. So, was I supposed to swap it with its color and swap it back, or do wrong swaps just not count against me if I don’t leave the screen? This part just makes no sense.

Overall, this one’s hard to recommend. Yeah, it’s a top-down action game with actual level design and a progressive difficulty curve, but it also has quite a few cheap hits, along with an empty overworld and arbitrary riddles to boot. If you got that itch.io bundle, I say it’s worth a playthrough; just keep a walkthrough handy and don’t bother with postgame content (I saw Nitrorad’s review; it’s just more cards and riddles). Otherwise, wait for a really good sale.

  • The Dweller

    2 hours playtime

    10 of 11 achievements

This is a puzzle game. The protagonist follows the mouse, but can only move through ground tiles. If there’s a rock next to the ground you’re in, you can click it to go inside the rock, at which point you can move left and right and fall off ledges (your character still follows the mouse, but now speed is variable depending on how far away the mouse is). The goal of each level is to get rid of all NPCs on screen, whether by killing them or simply having them run away.

It’s a decent concept for a puzzle game, though I found it to be too easy. It has a few tricky levels, but when you think it’s about to start getting really challenging, it introduces a new gimmick and resets the difficulty curve. First it’s just 1x1 rocks and wooden platforms that won’t let you move through them (but can hold NPCs), but then it’ll introduce 1x3 rocks and 3x1 rocks, and even introduce levels that require you to exit from a rock as it’s falling. Level 37 (of 59) was the first one where I was really stumped, but just when I thought I might be able to recommend the game after all, the difficulty faltered for the proceeding levels, and then level 44 introduced teleporters, and then level 48 introduced green towers that let you place (a limited number of) teleporters in whatever ground tiles you want, and then level 53 introduced a red tower that just straight up lets you ignore the initial restriction and fly wherever you want on screen. This is also where the game decides to introduce soldiers, who’ll shoot you if they see you. You can only kill them if you approach them from behind, unless they’re walking, in which case they can see behind them as well. They can even see into the ground a little bit. There’s also a final boss despite the game only having had hazards for a grand total of 7 screens, and while the boss doesn’t move, it’ll just spawn hazards randomly around the screen and you just have to react to them as they appear.

Not recommended.

P.S. Also, there’s a bug where, sometimes, if a rock is only one level below the one you’re moving, it’ll get stuck on the one pixel where they connect and get pushed instead of having the rock go on top of it like it’s supposed to.

EDIT: Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about that one achievement I’m missing: it’s for skipping a level. Too bad I beat all the levels already.

I can play games during lunch break.

As you probably guessed, this is a metroidvania. Along with your standard left/right movement and jump, you have regular shots that you can shoot in the 8 cardinal directions by holding the circle pad in that direction, or you can shoot in full 360-degrees by holding the L button to go into “free aim” mode. You also begin with the iconic Morph Ball already, as well as around 20 missiles (fired by holding R and shooting), but bomb-jumping was removed (or at least made waaayy harder to do) and wall-jumping was nerfed so you’re forced away from the wall until the peak of your jump (no more scaling sheer-face cliffs without the Space Jump, or the Spider Ball in some cases) and is disabled entirely if the vertical shaft is only one unit wide. Also, new to the Metroid games are honey-covered walls, which disable both wall-jumps and the Spider Ball, because apparently that power was just too broken to design a modern Metroid game around (there are also red spikes that will also knock you off a wall/ceiling if touched in Spider Ball mode, not to be confused with the red plants that simply need the green shield power to get past).

Another thing new to the Metroid franchise is a parry mechanic: almost every enemy has a charge attack (foreshadowed by a spark visual and shwing sound effect), and you have less than a second to hit the top face button to prevent them from ramming straight into you. This mechanic singlehandedly made me hesitant to get the game in the first place, but I also didn’t see too many promising 3DS games get physical copies recently, so I figured “what the heck, I’ll try it.” Sure enough, I found it annoying, but luckily, you don’t have to use it as much later on (for example, once you get the ice beam, you can just freeze enemies instead).

The game also adds some unnecessary fluff where there wasn’t any before. For example, in the original game, saving your progress only involved jumping on the save pillar and pushing the button; you didn’t even have to stop moving forward if you timed your jump right. In contrast, this game makes you stand on a switch for a solid second, then it brings up the “wanna save” choice, then you gotta wait several seconds for it to save. I can understand some of that, but why the switch? It’s not like it’ll prevent interrupting you while fighting enemies because there was one part in Area 2 where I accidentally stood on the save switch for too long while free-aiming my shots at an airborne enemy. Another example: in the original, when you killed all the area’s Metroids, the earthquake would happen less than a second after the last “Metroid killed” jingle, draining the acid without even interrupting your movement. In this game, each evolved-Metroid death triggers a brief cutscene showing Samus gathering the DNA evidence, and when the last one in the area is dead, it’s followed by another brief cutscene reminding you where the drainage tower is (which you always come across shortly after entering the area and is always marked on your map), then you gotta go there and stand on the drainage tower’s switch for a second before yet another not-so-brief cutscene plays, showing all the DNAs slowly stamp the tower (especially annoying when the area had 6+ Metroids), at which point the acid finally recedes.

Now, something a lot of you are probably wondering is “Is the game better than AM2R?” The answer is yes because Zeta Metroids won’t parry 75% of your missiles in this game, but there are other major differences as well. For one, AM2R was more like a graphical upgrade with some updated AI for the Alpha and Gamma Metroids, as well as throwing out the original AI of Zeta and Omega Metroids in favor of Metroid Fusion influence. In contrast, this game takes the Zero Mission route and almost completely redesigns all the rooms with new level design, only really referencing the original with its basic map layout (sometimes even going further than that and adding new/larger rooms). The AI for the Metroids was also given a complete overhaul: for example, instead of Alphas just beelining towards you like in the original (or sine-curving towards you like in AM2R), they have a half-pipe charge attack and can also carpet-bomb the arena with little electric projectiles. Later Alphas can even drop a super-projectile that’ll turn the whole platform hazardous for a couple seconds. The game really turned the evolved Metroids into proper bosses and mini-bosses, as well as threw out the original AI of Zeta and Omega Metroids in favor of Metroid Fusion influence (even Gamma Metroids crawl on the ground half the time). Dang it Nintendo, I trusted you! The main thing I wanted from this remake was flying Zetas and Omegas! That, more than anything, tells me they took direct “inspiration” from AM2R instead of just going “Oh no, people are playing a free, fan-made remake of our game! Quick, put a stop to it and make our own!”

That said, there’s a bit of a problem with fleshing out the Metroids’ AI: just like in the original, you have to kill 40 them, but the level design doesn’t change all that much between arenas. Most of the Metroids you fight (well over half) are Alphas and Gammas, and there are a grand total of three arena types: flat ground, square-wave, and flat platforms over hazards (poor Zetas and Omegas don’t even get those last two). That last one might’ve actually meant something if you couldn’t just use free-aim to hit them wherever you stand. Really, game? You couldn’t have had, like, one Alpha arena have moving platforms over a hazard so the player couldn’t just stand on the same platform the whole time without being pushed off by the wall? The Alphas and Gammas DO have one trick up their sleeve, though: running away. Not to a trickier arena, mind you; there are still only just those three (and sometimes the new arena is easier). Plus, most of the time, rather than being able to follow them, they’ll just crawl into the wall and you gotta rely on the radar sound to track where their new location is. It just makes an already-repetitive part of the game more annoying.

Speaking of annoying, this game really likes putting collectibles behind roadblocks you won’t get until later. For the record, Metroid 2 is probably the most linear Metroid game: the hub is basically just a vertical shaft that branches off into the different areas (and this game sectioned off the hub and joined them with their nearby areas so it could shoehorn in the iconic Metroid elevators). This means you won’t find yourself going through an old area to get to a new area: the only reason you’d backtrack is to get the items you missed, and the only reason later-game roadblocks are put in earlier-game areas is to force you to miss items. For crying out loud, several items are blocked by blue crystals, and as anyone who’s played the original Metroid 2 will tell you: those crystals can only be destroyed with the Metroid larva you get after beating the final boss! Now, you might be thinking “oh, that’s probably foreshadowing a brand new area after the original final boss, like what Zero Mission did,” except no, the brand new area is Area 4; there’s no additional area after the original final boss.

However, there is an extra boss fight after the original final one: it’s Ridley, because of course it is (maybe Metroid 5 can be about Samus killing all the Ridleys? ☺). Although it’s tired from a narrative perspective, the extra boss does have a unique AI (even when compared to previous Ridleys) and is much more in-line with what I expected from the Zetas and Omegas. Oh, but if you thought this extra boss would give you a reason to go back and get all those items you missed, it turns out this Ridley is immune to missiles and super missiles; you can only damage it with the plasma beam. I swear, I don’t think I’ve seen a Metroidvania actively discourage exploration as much as this one; it’s almost like they’re just seeing what they can get away with. Seriously, there’s a difference between “new power in a Metroidvania lets you access previously inaccessible areas” and “here’s a late-game roadblock in an early game area that leads to a dead-end and a useless collectible exclusively to force backtracking for those who want 100% completion.” It’s not even like you can get it on the way to a new area because of how linear Metroid 2 is: once you make it to Area 2, you’re not gonna go back to Area 1, and so on. Ironically, this is something the original Metroid 2 understood (or at least got right by accident): every item in the original can be gotten with the powerups you find in that area or previous areas; no backtracking from later areas required.

Just to give you an idea of how bad it is: the game starts you off with a radar power: push the A button with it equipped and it reveals nearby rooms (map) and destructible blocks (in-game), but even with that and with me trying to get as many items as I could without backtracking between areas, I only had 61% of items when I beat the game.

Lastly, some nitpicks about boss AI. There’s a second new boss, located in Area 6 (before the final boss). It’s pretty good for the most part, but there’s one attack where it summons a wind vortex to try to suck you into it, and it isn’t very intuitive that you have to lay bombs in the vortex’s path to damage it (I only figured that out after watching the pattern loop a couple times and doing some trial-and-error). After you stun the boss doing that, it starts rotating and generating electricity for a bit, but shooting it does nothing and laying bombs against it also does nothing, not even against the dark-blue lines. After some more trial and error, it turns out laying bombs against the dark-blue lines WAS what I was supposed to do; I just had to wait until they were lined up with some other dark-blue lines in the center.

The final boss isn’t immune from bad conveyance, either. A couple of its attacks will make you think “I can avoid this with Space Jump/Time Slow/etc.” and it isn’t until after that doesn’t work and you take damage when you realize “oh, the game wanted me to use the Spider Ball.” On one hand, it’s kinda neat they tried to incorporate the Spider Ball into a boss, but the game gives you so many abilities that the attacks should be less ambiguous. Ridley also has a tail-stab move, which is one thing, but on the second phase, it suddenly gets a ground-shockwave added to it that you won’t expect or have much time to react to when it first happens.

Overall, I’d say this is definitely better than the original Metroid 2, and even better than AM2R, but is it worth $40 USD? I don’t know about that. It’s definitely a stretch to say the least, what with the repetitive boss fights, mediocre backtracking excuses, ambiguous attacks, and parry mechanic. Unfortunately, it hasn’t had a price-drop since 2018, and it doesn’t look like the price of physical copies will go down any time soon.

P.S. Despite the many tutorial messages near the beginning, the game never tells you how to get a larva Metroid off of you once it latches on (there’s a cinematic showing you struggling the first time it happens, but no text or visual showing how to escape), meaning Metroid Prime is still the only game that actually tells you this. Also, even though the only difference between normal mode and hard mode is enemies dealing more damage, it’s still locked until you beat normal mode for some reason.

  • Rex: Another Island

    58 minutes playtime

    3 of 3 achievements

This game is advertised as an “open world platformer,” presumably because metroidvania implies gradually getting additional powers as the game progresses (which this game doesn’t do). Instead, you can only ever move left, move right, double-jump, and drop-down thin platforms by holding down and pushing jump.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that, despite the game having controller support in-game, you’ll need to use the mouse to get through the menus. The next thing you’ll notice is that the default camera is awful, snapping forward when you start moving and promptly snapping back to the center whenever you stop. Luckily, there’s an option to change it to a “fixed” camera, so you’ll want to enable that option from the start.

After that hiccup, the rest of the game is pretty solid. The HUD tells you how many coins are in the area, and whenever you reach a checkpoint, it totals them up and shows how much you’ve currently gotten in said area. The reason it doesn’t do this automatically whenever you get another coin is because dying resets the coins you got since your last checkpoint, meaning you need to get them again. Areas are also interconnected pretty well so that you never have to do much backtracking if you intend to get all the coins (and if that fails, there are 5 teleportation spheres spread throughout the map which you can teleport to at any time after unlocking them). The game even gets some tricky platforming near the end, but despite the game having one hit deaths, none of the segments overstay their welcome because checkpoints are always very close together (honestly, I wouldn’t mind if they were a bit further apart).

I only have three main issues with the game: 1) Movement has a bit of momentum, even outside of ice physics, so I found myself pushing backward to stabilize myself to make some of the trickier jumps. 2) Three coins in the Summit are almost completely obscured by background objects; I completely missed them on my first go-around and only stumbled across them later because I collected them by accident. 3) The two secret-ending doors are hidden a bit too well. I had no clue where to look for the gem door and I only found the coin door by pure chance. The normal ending hints that there are other endings, but I wish it gave a more specific hint, like “look near the teleportation spheres,” or better yet, just unlocked their respective endings as soon as you collected all the required items.

But still, those are minor issues, and for only $3, I can easily recommend this decent little game.

Okay, I’m gonna go ahead and call it: the “first person puzzle” genre is inherently inferior to 2D puzzles because, by nature of the first-person camera, info is always hidden from the player; you can’t see the whole arena at once or even pan the camera around it like in Toki Tori 1. No more first person puzzle games for me.

cat

This is a first person puzzle game. Move yourself with left stick, aim/move camera with right stick, grab/use item with A, run with RB.

It starts off boring, which is one thing since puzzle games need to introduce their mechanics before getting difficult, but all it does is spin its wheels until it introduces its next mechanic, and then the biggest challenge is figuring out that’s what it’s doing. First, it introduces drones (they explode when you get close), turrets, and jammers, so you think “oh, I use the jammers to disable the turrets and bombs,” but then suddenly there’s a couple turrets that have to be disabled by hitting a switch, and those switches only appear twice in the first 7 worlds. There are also stairs that lead to elevated platforms, and the game won’t let you pick up an item from a lower floor while you’re standing on an upper floor…except for this one level in world 3 where part of the lower floor is ever-so-slightly raised from the rest of the ground, and if you put the item there, you CAN pick it up from the higher platform! Then you get to world 4, which introduces a new item…except it’s transparent. You have to backtrack to the hub and find a pillar to unlock the new gimmick so you can progress (same thing with world 5’s gimmick). It also doesn’t take much longer to run into yet another example where info is obscured from the player: you start with a red-laser-node, then have 2 red locks and 2 blue locks that run in a circle (with the blue-laser-node around the half-way point), leading back to the entrance room where a blue lock blocks the goal. Thing is, locks are unlocked with lasers, and you have to use a connecter to connect the node to the lock, but you can’t cross multiple lasers without disabling them. Plus, in this level, there aren’t enough laser connectors to complete the circle (and of course, you can’t just retrace your steps with the blue laser because then it’d cross the red laser), so you walk back while thinking you’d come across something in another level that’d tell you the solution…except when you get back to the entrance room, you see a dead-end staircase in the corner, behind where you’d be looking when you first walk into the level, and you instantly realize “oh, I can just put a connecter up there and bring the blue laser under it.” If I’m stumped on a puzzle, I want it to be because I’m missing something on my own, not because the game is making me miss something. Despite this, I kept going and encountered another example in world 5: for the level with the red piece, there’s a jammable gate in the distance, and if you aren’t looking at it when the drone hits the gate (which creates a shockwave), you’d never know it’s there because it’s in the distance (guarded by some turrets) and behind a wall. Also, the first level in world 5 (that I played) had just one connecter and a box to put it on, and the whole level was just a hidden-object game, with you looking around for where there’s both a hole to the laser-node and a hole to the gate so you can connect both of them. Then, the game continues to spin its wheels (because when it isn’t cheap, it’s boring) except this one level where once again, you have to exploit elevation differences with the laser-connecters and the nodes/gates to let the lasers cross paths without colliding with each other.

Then, when you finally beat all 7 kinda-boring worlds, you unlock the tower, so I went in, solved the first level, then hit a roadblock saying I hadn’t beaten enough levels. Wait, what? So I went back down, and that’s when I saw that the game, once again, had placed stuff outside the camera’s view: in this case, two more sets of worlds. So I went to the B set, entered world 1 of set B, then made it to the north level (I started counterclockwise, so this was the third level I played). I was stumped for a bit, until I accidentally figured out you could place blocks on top of drones, and that was the whole puzzle. Another gimmick! And to add insult to injury, the upper-right level (which I started afterward) already had the box on the drone from the start. Why have the levels selectable in the first place if the gimmicks are introduced in one and utilized in another?

So that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, and I finally decided I had enough. Sure, I’d only made it probably 1/4th through the game, but it had already shown me enough problems besides being boring to make me want to quit. Not recommended.

  • Mekabolt

    39 minutes playtime

    14 of 14 achievements

This is a platformer. Along with your standard left/right movement and jump (which is always a fixed height in this game), you can shoot horizontally, with only one bullet allowed onscreen at a time. It’s not as bad as it seems, though: enemies are sparse, and rather than bullets killing them, bullets toggle them between moving (hurt you) and stationary (can be used as platforms).

With those mechanics, you might think the game is trying to be a puzzle game, but the only times you’ll be tripped up regarding what you’re supposed to do are when the game has blind drops into hazards.

As an action platformer, it fares better, but the difficulty is quite low throughout the whole game. Like far too many games before it, the game tries to mask its lackluster level design by giving each world its own gimmick: world 1 has grass blocks that can only be destroyed by enemy shots, world 2 has blocks that disappear when you stand on them, world 3 has stalactites that fall when you walk under them or shoot them (and they look identical to stalactites that don’t fall under any circumstances, so have fun with that), and world 4 has switches that’ll disable lasers or toggle other blocks. The game is good about introducing the gimmicks safely, but it neglects to build on them that much. The one standout level design moment in the game was when you had to drop a stalactite into lava, then stand on it as it sunk until it was low enough that you could make the jump to the goal without the low ceiling cutting your jump too short. The game needed more moments like that.

The graphics are also misleading. The protagonist’s sprite is just barely taller than one block (by only a couple pixels, and it’s all hair), but unlike every other game with similar sprite discrepancies, you’re unable to enter a one-block-tall tunnel. This is especially frustrating if the point you figure this out is when you’re standing on a disappearing block above some spikes.

Oh, and despite having 14 progression-based achievements, often having multiple ones for reaching the same point in the game, there’s no achievement for beating the game or beating all the levels.

But yeah, this game is kinda mediocre overall. It doesn’t have any major issues, but it also doesn’t really do much and is kinda boring at times (especially when you need to wait for an enemy to shoot so it’ll destroy the blocks blocking your path). Wait for a really good sale.

Well, after almost four years of rejections and not-even-hearing-back, I finally got my first job this week. Yay income, boo less free time. I was able to beat one game after hours, though:

  • Death Fungeon

    59 minutes playtime

    no achievements

This is a platformer. Along with your standard left/right movement and jump, you can wall jump and hide in cauldrons. A notable chunk of the game is stealth; you can’t kill enemies, so you’ll have to wait for their patrol to reach certain points before you can make your move. You’ll often have to go to a dead end and push a block off a ledge just to cause a noise that triggers a stationary enemy to start a patrol, allowing an opening for you to progress (but only if you wait until the right time).

Your character’s forward movement also has momentum, so even if you just slightly tap forward, you’ll still slide forward further than you’d think, even if done in midair.

The game has bad graphics, too. See, there’s no visual indication for when your character is close enough to a wall to wall-jump: rather than swap the player’s sprite to show a new adjacent-to-the-wall pose like in New Super Mario Bros., this game just continues to display the ordinary jumping sprite, and when the game also requires you to make split-second wall-jumps after falling down a spike shaft, it can be hard to tell when it’s too early and when it’s too late. Similarly, the game will also put ordinary walls among the spike wall, but even though the spikes appear to be sunken into the wall, their hitbox is parallel to the wall, so if the lower half of your sprite touches the wall, the upper half will touch the spikes and you’ll die.

As a side note, the game has optional chests scattered throughout the game. I don’t know if collecting all of them does anything, though; they don’t stand out that much, so I almost missed a few (and did miss others), though there were a couple I skipped on purpose. One of them is underwater; for reference, water kills you, and nothing in the main game even hints that the water level can be adjusted, so I don’t know how the game expects you to figure that one out.

Also, the trampolines introduced in level 2 won’t bounce you if you land on their edges.

Overall, I don’t think I’d recommend this one. Not only am I not fond of stealth, but the platforming also has its share of problems. Plus, there’s a free version on ArmorGames, but that version’s speed is tied to your refresh rate and it has worse music and sound effects (gameplay’s the same, though).

I recently found myself playing a bunch of free browser games on itch io, and while most of them are okay at best, I found one worth spotlighting:

This is a puzzle game. The board has different colored circles, and you duplicate them by clicking and dragging. If three or more of the same color circles are together in a row, they disappear. The objective flip-flops between just outright filling the board and getting the correct colored circles on the right units, but the mechanics stay the same throughout. Rather, the game uses level design to create new challenges, and several of the levels here are pretty tricky. The difficulty curve can be wonky at times (even as you get near the end, there will be a few levels in a row you’ll be able to solve pretty quickly), but that’s really the only flaw the game has. I did find it kinda annoying that the stage select only shows half of the levels until after you beat the first half (which made me think the game was shorter than it really is), but that’s just a minor nitpick. Everything else about the gameplay is perfect, and the best part is that it’s free! Once again, the universe continues to justify my decision not to buy any more games.

But I digress; I highly recommend this game. You can get it here:

https://le-slo.itch.io/mitoosis

  • Gamma Bros

    32 minutes playtime

    4 of 6 achievements

This is a SHMUP. You move with the D-pad and shoot down with A, but after a few minutes, you’ll realize you can shoot in all the cardinal directions by using the other face buttons as well. Level design just consists of waves of enemies coming at you from various sides of the screen and their varied flight formations; it’s almost like Galaga since the ships will often just come to a standstill after grouping up (though you also get plenty of the more common fly-by enemies). It’s not bad, but I did start to wonder if it was an endless roguelike until I made it to the first boss: three slightly larger ships that take many more hits to defeat. They have different attacks to choose from when they fly in, and when they leave, you can see their shadows in the background, indicating where they’ll fly in from next. After that, it goes back to the enemy waves (even the background is the same as last time), though there are some new enemy types, and I think more enemies come in at once. After a while, you’ll make it to the second boss, which is just a drone that can shoot a spread shot and spawn more enemies; it takes much less time to defeat than the first boss. Then there are some more enemy waves, though at one point, it just kinda starts spamming them from all directions; you’ll almost certainly get hit and take damage, but the extra enemies mean more get killed, which means more health pickups spawn, so I still didn’t die here. Finally, you reach the final boss; it has around three different phases or so (and can even spawn regular enemies at times), but the most annoying part is that this fight introduces tiny + shaped projectiles that chase you. You can shoot down enemy missiles, but not these things that only just got introduced at the very end. I did die against the final boss, but the game just respawned me (with no indication of how many lives I had), so I was still able to beat the game on my first run.

Overall, this one’s okay for a free game. I can recommend giving it a chance if you don’t have much else to play.

  • Velocity®Ultra

    3 hours playtime

    10 of 31 achievements

This is a vertical collectathon SHMUP. You can move around the screen and fire straight up by holding A, though what you’ll be doing most is collecting blue pods scattered throughout each stage; if you make it to the end without getting enough, you straight-up lose and have to retry the stage. There’s also a time limit, but for the most part, you can get all the pods and reach the end of the stage without running out of time. You can hold R to speed up the autoscroll, but it makes the screen scroll absurdly fast (is its speed based on the monitor’s refresh rate?), to the point where the only way to survive with it on is memorization or tool assistance, so you won’t be using it often. Similarly, controls are also much too sensitive to match the breakneck speed of the scroll boost: the tiniest, quickest tap of the left stick sends your ship several ship-lengths in the direction you pushed, so it isn’t uncommon to for you to try to move out of the way of enemy shots, only to slam directly into another enemy or turret and die before you even know what just happened.

This all comes to a head in the lightning-bolt stages: all of them have super-low time limits that force you to keep the scroll-boost active for basically the whole level (except one of them where I guess the dev just forgot to lower the time limit). Not only does this mean you have to memorize where all the ceilings are so that you don’t crash into them, but the game also has a teleport mechanic: hold X to bring up the cursor, move it to another spot on the screen (with the left stick, meaning your ship is completely stationary during this process), and release to teleport there…unless the cursor was overlapping a wall (even slightly), at which point nothing will happen. Plus, the cursor’s movement is just as sensitive as the ship’s, which means you’d want to line the ship up first since the ship can’t go in walls, but the cursor will still register as being in front of the wall if the ship is too close to the wall when you hit the button, adding extra headache to what would appear to be a straight shot. By the way, not only do you have to avoid regular ceilings and teleport past full ceilings without disabling the too-fast-to-react scroll boost for too long, the game also has force fields you need to disable: shoot the numbered blocks in the right order, or else the force field stays up (and force fields kill you on contact, as opposed to ceilings which just crush you between the bottom of the screen). Also, you have to hit the number blocks from the correct side (whichever side has the exposed blue electricity), and to do that, you need to shoot bombs with the right stick. In other words, the lightning-bolt stages not only require several retries just to memorize the layout, but they also require switching between twinstick mode and face-button mode at near-instantaneous speeds.

But that isn’t even the worst part of the game. Turns out, you can’t just take your time collecting the blue pods in the regular levels either because progression isn’t based on how many blue pods you’ve collected, but on your total points. Even if you’ve technically beaten levels 1 through 39, you can’t play level 40 until you’ve gotten 4000 points. For reference, getting all the blue pods in a level only gets you 60 points, and just beating a level under the given time limit is 20 points. You could try for getting a high score within individual levels, but that only gets you 30 points max per level. The only other way to get more points is to beat levels in a time only attainable through tool assistance. This is the kind of crap that makes me not want to buy games anymore; how was I supposed to anticipate a SHMUP would have grinding?

If it weren’t for the progression system or the lightning-bolt stages, this game would’ve been okay at best, but as it is, I can’t recommend it.

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