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!
My last post included all my high-priority games except for these first two, but I still had a list of games that I might enjoy. I also tried out a couple games simply because they were about to be removed; it’s not like I was gonna run out of time to play the other games, what with the three-month offer.
I was hoping against hope that this game would have some puzzle elements, but no, it’s a straight point-and-click. Click a box to open it, click it again to be given a random item (who puts a keyboard in the same box as toiletries??), and then you just…place the item wherever so you can click the box again and be given another random item. It isn’t until after you’ve gotten absolutely everything out of every box when the game decides to put a glowing red outline around the items that are in the “wrong” locations, and at this point, it’s just a matter of trial-and-erroring your way to victory. Why can some stuffed animals go on the ground but others can’t? How come these books can go on this one bookshelf but not this other bookshelf? Why am I even allowed to put a washcloth on the washcloth hook if it’s not supposed to go there? The game also doesn’t get harder; just more bloated. I stopped playing on level 3, when there were about six different rooms I’d have to deal with. Not recommended.
This is, first and foremost, a management game; the tower defense and twinstick shooter elements are afterthoughts at best. There are dozens of different buildings you can build, three completely separate upgrade trees with dozens of their own upgrades, and a grand total of two different enemy types: run-straight-at-you and shoot-at-you (three if you consider arc-projectile-shooters to be different than straight-projectile-shooters). There was a miniboss at one point that had a low-spread shot that dissipated after a bit, but that was it. Level design isn’t even developed enough to have rooms and halls; it’s just isolated rocks you walk around (sometimes, if you’re lucky, the rocks will be together in the shape of a wall or a circle). Outside of the bland combat, the game is just waiting on buildings to be built, waiting on resources to be gathered, just a lot of waiting. I made it far enough to unlock other areas, the game promising to show me enemies “unlike anything we’ve seen before,” and then it just turned out to be reskins of the enemies I’d already fought (the same generic, bland enemies that have plagued shovelware for decades). I quit not long after that. Not recommended.
At this point, on June 1st 2022, an internet technician came to my house and installed fiber optic cables. Finally, I don’t have to wait an hour for a single gigabyte to download! Apparently, the company’s reason for finally doing so is that the main cable or whatever for the entire area got damaged, so they figured they might as well upgrade the infrastructure while they’re at it. Now, I’m not advocating for you to damage your own area’s internet infrastructure if you still have crappy internet, but I think it’s safe to say that I’d still have 450kbps download speeds if it weren’t for that damage.
Children of Morta:
Yup, that’s an action-roguelike, all right. No permadeath, but you still get sent back quite a bit on death. The game has different characters with different weapons, but I tried the archer and the dagger-kid, and the game felt like it just wasn’t designed around either of them. I was better off with the swordsman since his attacks actually have recoil/knockback (which is kinda necessary since, as ever, level design is just hall/room with enemies moving towards you). Despite how little I played before giving up (I didn’t make it much further than the first boss, the spider), I did notice environmental hazards: spikes that come up from the floor shortly after you step on them (they don’t add much, though).
I’m not a fan of farming simulators, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the farming aspect is quick and simple: you dig a hole, plant the seed, and it gets watered/pollinated automatically; then, you just push the button to harvest it. That meant I could focus more on the twinstick elements of the game: level design isn’t much better than The Riftbreaker (just being isolated rocks), but the enemy shot patterns are more SHMUP-based, so it’s still pretty enjoyable. There are two major issues though: 1) as you fix bridges to unlock new areas, enemies quickly get more and more damage-spongy, to the point where you won’t be able to fight off the massive number of enemies that invade your farm at night (you just have to wait the clock out). I only barely beat the second boss before the night ended and I was automatically teleported back to town. There do exist better guns, but they can cost 800-1200 in-game currency, whereas even if you have enough seeds to spend all day farming, you won’t get much more than 100 in-game currency at the end of the day. 2) The game has permadeath. I never made it to day 9 and thus never saw the third boss, and the only way to try again was to start a new game, so I didn’t bother.
Another permadeath roguelike? Ugh, this is why I can’t bring myself to buy games anymore; there’s always something major I’m missing. You can teleport to any room you’ve cleared so you don’t have to backtrack across empty rooms, which is nice. Combat is okay (maybe a bit sluggish), but the first boss is unnecessarily slow: it usually keeps its distance and shoots at you, and to finally deal damage, you have to wait until it swims around the arena when mines pop up; you have to attack a mine, then wait a few seconds for it to explode and hope the boss’s variable speed puts it in-range of the blast. Also, being a permadeath roguelike, this is the boss you have to refight each time you die, so when I finally beat it and died on the second boss, I didn’t bother doing another run.
The Artful Escape:
I put off my free trial of Apple Arcade specifically because I was waiting for this game to come out, and then it ends up being a walking simulator instead of a platformer! Whenever a pit does come up, it’s just jump, double jump, dash forward, and you’ll make it. The only time this wasn’t the case was when you had to hold the X button to make a bridge appear. For crying out loud, Bug Fables has more challenging platforming! The narrative keeps implying there will be challenge, but there never is. There’s also some minor rhythm game elements, but it’s just about pushing the buttons displayed instead of timing (the game even says as much); the trickiest I saw this get was when you have to push two buttons at once, and only one of them is a shoulder button. I quit around when the protagonist decides not to have his music broadcast around the world and he gets sent back to the hub.
Hack ‘n’ slash. No level design, just combat; room after hall after room of combat. The challenge is all in reacting to the quick enemy attacks (whether by blocking, dodging, or parrying) and subsequently pushing the attack buttons at the right time to chain combos. The most this has for level design is that, sometimes, the borders of the room/hall are pits instead of walls, meaning you can fall off and take damage (one enemy type can be tricked into dashing off the cliff as well). Half the text prompts in the game don’t actually pause the game; they just appear, and then you get attacked while trying to read them. I actually missed a crucial detail in the first level because enemies swarm you right when the text appears, telling you that you have to knock an enemy into the water to progress (I wondered why the enemies kept spawning until I died). Bosses are unique, but still just reaction-based hack ‘n’ slash fare (the first boss can even punch the ground to damage you wherever you are). The second level tries to add some variety by having a part where you get chased up a hall by a rock, but the cutscene ends with the rock on the top of the screen, moving upward, with you above it; unless you’re holding up and tapping the dodge button, you’re gonna get killed by the rock before the camera puts you back into view. I finally quit when I made it to the forest maze in level 3: not only is it just room after room of more combat, but there are dead ends that force you to go back, and dying sends you back to the entrance of the maze. Not recommended.
Skul: The Hero Slayer:
Roguelite. Still sends you back to the beginning when you die (even making you refight all previous bosses you’ve beaten again), but there are permanent upgrades, and levels are chosen form pre-set rooms instead of being procedurally-generated. The gameplay is one of those hybrid platformer/hack ‘n’ slash games like Flynn: Son of Crimson; barely noticeable during combat segments, but there are some tricky jumps every now and then (although I thought maybe hitboxes were a bit too big). Could’ve been an okay game if it weren’t for the whole “having to start over from the first level each time you die” aspect.
Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition:
Level design is still fairly bland (as to be expected for procedurally-generated games), but it’s not flat like other games; there’s regular verticality. Bosses are absolutely massive damage-sponges, especially considering how little there is to their patterns. I died on the second boss (the face that moves back and forth, alternating between a downward laser and horizontal lasers) solely because I got impatient, and since this is a roguelike, you get sent back to the beginning when you die, having to fight the bosses over again as well. Not recommended.
I thought this might be more of a shooter, but it’s actually predominantly a stealth game. I’ve never been much of a fan of stealth games due to all the waiting, so I gave up shortly after making it to the first base (with lots of guards roaming around); I was behind a wall standing still with a guard facing the other side of the wall, but as soon as I quick-saved (and did nothing else), the guard apparently heard something and came running over to see me.
A metroidvania with very empty areas; some of my (one-hit) deaths were simply because I fell down what looked like an empty shaft and happened to land on top of the one enemy in the room. Difficulty selection is unique because it’s literally just toggling reaction speed (the hardest difficulty, 250ms, is the default). Boss fights have potential, but they also have cheap elements like the squid/octopus moving faster than you (and you move slower underwater), or the flying boss in the upper-left being able to go invulnerable every few seconds. The main gimmick is that beating each boss unlocks different enemies to appear throughout the map, but you only have three lives to beat the game; get game over and you have to start over from the beginning. Nothing is procedurally generated or anything; it’s just permadeath for the sake of permadeath. What’s extra annoying is that your three lives get refreshed when you bring a red crystal (which you get from beating bosses) back to the central hub, but if you game over after that point, you still have to redo everything. I was originally planning on at least beating all the bosses before giving up, but the area directly below the hub is dark, and your light is positioned in front of you, so if a flying enemy (especially the faster ones that unlock after beating the aforementioned flying boss) happens to be chasing you just outside your spotlight when you reach a dead end and have to turn around, you won’t have enough time to react, even on the easiest difficulty (500ms). Not recommended.
Well, that was pretty much all the games on my list, and I still have around a month and a half of Game Pass left, so…any suggestions? Feel free to recommend something you like instead of trying to think of something I’d like. Who knows? I might end up enjoying it, too.
They say that if something is free, you’re the product, but I’m gonna be honest: being the product is pretty great so far. I’ve been getting Microsoft Rewards points by using Bing (and not getting points in any other way) and I’ve already ammased more than enough points for Game Pass a few times over–not counting Game Pass’s regular discounts to one dollar, not counting the recent offer of two months free (which I got because I was already planning on getting Game Pass this month anyway), not even counting the recent(?) addition of a $1.25 Microsoft Store gift card as one of the Microsoft Rewards rewards (meaning I don’t even have to “waste” points on the $5 gift card like I did a couple years ago). Sure, they have my personal data, but if that’s something you care about, you’re probably already using something like Duck Duck Go instead; if you’re still using Google and you’re interested in Game Pass, I definitely recommend switching over so that in a few months you can be like “whoa, I have enough points for Game Pass now!” Worst thing that happened was the internet in my area went out on the 15th (came back on the 16th, but I already had most of this post drafted, so I figured I’d go ahead and finish it).
TO BE CONTINUED….
Top-down grid movement, but enemies move in real time (not turn-based). All you can do is move, so you have to watch the enemies to learn their pattern in order to avoid them. Besides that, you activate computer monitors to shut off a barrier somewhere, so there’s a bit of backtracking. You have one-hit deaths, and dying sends you back to the first screen, but there are only 9 or 10 screens in the game (and the barriers you disabled stay disabled), so it’s not too annoying. There are also some optional stars you can collect (they don’t do anything except slightly change the “ending” and give you an achievement), but they can be a bit annoying since some are hidden past fake walls.
It’s like Pitcher and the Whale: not bad, there just isn’t much to it.
Since that game didn’t have much content, I decided to wait until I beat the next game in my backlog to make a post, and oh boy, did this game have more content:
Ice-sliding Puzzle game. Once again, all you can do is move in the four cardinal directions, except in this game, you keep moving until you collide with another object (and there’s no controller support). The game is divided into nine “packs” which each contain 50 levels, and each level has a turn limit; beat the level in the turn limit, and you get three stars; get 50 stars in the pack to unlock its 49th level and 125 stars to unlock its 50th level (all other levels in each pack are unlocked from the start). The first two packs are “How to Play” packs, which include tutorials and explanations for the game’s various mechanics. For the most part, the game does a pretty good job of making everything clear, but the switches always involve trial-and-error since you’ll never know what they do until after you hit them (Jade 23 is the worst level since it’s nothing but switches toggling other switches into and out of existence).
Each pack more-or-less has its own difficulty curve. On one hand, this means you’ll start encountering tricky puzzles as early as the How to Play packs (assuming you’re trying to get three stars on every level); on the other hand, this means you’ll have to deal with a bunch of super-easy levels at the beginning of the next few packs, even though they’re not teaching you anything new. The packs themselves are supposed to be in order of difficulty, but I found the Ruby Pack to be easier than the pack before it. The sheer number of easy levels makes it seem like the dev was just trying to pad out the game, and cutting out most of them would benefit the end product.
Unfortunately, even when the puzzles themselves are challenging and fair, the game manages to have problems. Notably, the controls can be unresponsive: if you’re holding one arrow key and you push a different arrow key, you won’t move, even if you’re at a standstill. This makes it very easy to move in the wrong direction by accident, often costing you a move and preventing you from getting three stars. The game does have an undo mechanic, but it costs moves to use, so if you’re trying to get three stars and you mess up, you have to reset the entire puzzle.
Exacerbating this issue is the fact that levels can be absolutely bloated, having a turn limit over 100 or even 200 (Gold 48’s turn limit is 402!!!). The game is super blatant about this, too; there are several levels that are clearly divided into sections, where it’s obvious that once you enter one area, you won’t be able to go back, nor is it possible to bring objects from one segment to another. In other words, they’re just a bunch of tiny levels stitched together into one massive level, so when you reach the end and realize you missed the turn limit by one move, you’ll have to reexamine each section to try to find where you’re messing up. It’s more tedious than fun. I normally consider myself pro-turn-limits, but this game helped me understand why others don’t like them. Seriously, there are only one or two of those sectioned levels where part of the solution involves bringing an object from one quadrant to another; the only other reason to have sections combined like that is more padding.
Oh, but it gets even more frustrating when you finally start encountering levels that are challenging on their own merits instead of solely because of the turn limit. You’d think this is where the undo mechanic would be useful, but no: you can only undo your previous two moves, and that’s it. Again, that’s 2 out of 100 or 200 or even 300+, and if you need more than that, you have to reset the entire puzzle. You’re honestly better off just taking a screenshot and moving the sprites around in Paint.net than you are trying to solve the puzzles in the game itself. Sutte Hakkun also has some lengthy puzzles, and you could even argue that some of them are divided into two or three sections (not four, not nine, not twelve), but the crucial difference is that Sutte Hakkun has mid-level quick-saves: at any point, you could effectively save-state so if you messed up on the later parts, you didn’t have to redo the earlier parts. Yes, quick-saving costs points, but points were never the focal point of solutions like the turn limits are in this game.
(speaking of Sutte Hakkun, apparently the Satellaview versions have exclusive levels, so I’ll have to remember to play them at some point, too).
And then, on top of all that (or perhaps because of it), it can be quite ambiguous how to get the turn limit in certain levels. I lost count of how many times I’d beat a level one or two moves shy of the limit, then do what I swear is the exact same solution and somehow get all three stars. Emerald 44 and Sapphire 30 are especially irksome because they’re two of those levels that are split into distinct sections, but even if you figure out how to get all the gems with the lowest moves possible per section, you still won’t beat the level’s turn limit because–SOMEHOW–changing the order of which section you complete first results in using fewer moves. I didn’t really solve those levels so much as I stumbled upon the solution with–you guessed it–trial and error.
Because of ALL that, I admit, I broke down and used the in-game solution for eight levels. Seven of those times ended up being entirely my fault, a path I was overlooking somewhere. The eighth, Gold 39, I maintain is another ambiguous one; I’m still not sure how hitting the grey blocks on my way down while pushing the green blocks saves three moves compared to what I was doing. Besides that, I got three stars on every level on my own…except Gold 48. Not only is the turn limit over 400, but it’s another one of those levels that’s blatantly split into four distinct quadrants. I don’t even have the patience to watch and regurgitate the solution, let alone try to figure out where I messed up on my own; I’ll just settle for the two stars I got from my own solution to that level.
Overall, this game is surprisingly hard to recommend. Yes, it’s free, and yes, there are a lot of genuinely challenging puzzles here that don’t deserve to be ignored…but even if you overlook all the padding, there’s still the unresponsive controls, butchered undo mechanic, and bloated level sizes that make the game much more frustrating than it otherwise would be. I can’t even say “just ignore the turn limits” since that’s where most of the challenge is (and a lot of it is genuine, fair challenge). I guess…just know what you’re getting yourself into.
P.S. You may be wondering: what’s your reward for getting all three stars in every level in one pack? The answer: your character changes color…in that pack only. Gotta hand it to the dev; he took an already cheap reward and managed to make it even cheaper.
I consider myself to be a pretty big fan of the Mega Man and Mega Man X series, so when I found out this game was a permadeath roguelike, I was pretty disappointed. Still, it went free on Epic, so I figured I’d give it a chance.
Procedurally-generated platformer. Left/right move, A jumps, X shoots, and RB dashes. The game plays just like the Mega Man X games, so when you let go of forward, you stop moving forward, even if you’re mid-dash-jump. Heck, if you hold the dash button and jump without holding forward, you stop moving forward as soon as you stop touching the ground. It’s perfect…except for one issue I had: one of the power-ups lets you dash in mid-air, and sometimes when I’d try to air-dash, it would cut off almost immediately after I pushed the button. This only ever happened when I tried air-dashing (never when I tried regular-dashing), so I’m pretty sure it isn’t my controller messing up.
The tutorial level is designed pretty well, having the button icons show you what does what, as well as using level design to teach things more subtly, like how you can continually wall-jump up walls. The tileset it uses sucks, though: two different colored blocks for solid tiles, and then slightly darker versions of those same two blocks are background tiles. I thought there was a secret behind me, but it was just a differently-colored background tile and I nearly fell into lava. This tileset is even reused for one of the main levels, where it still sucks.
And then, of course, the main game has no consistent level design, being procedurally generated and all. This means new enemies won’t always be introduced safely (something the Mega Man series is known for), which can lead to some cheap hits. The walk-on-ceiling tiles are the worst example: they barely stand out from ordinary ceiling tiles (being a same-color oval right below them), and they’re always introduced over hazard pits, so you’re gonna come across what looks like a dead end and have no idea what to do (discovering how to progress by pure accident, if at all). Plus, they’re only used in three of the game’s ten levels, so you’re gonna forget about them by the time they show up again.
When you beat a level, you can choose either the boss’s power or a stat upgrade. All the powers use the same weapon-energy bar, making it difficult to test which boss is weak to which power. I wasn’t even sure they had weaknesses until I saw a loading screen tip saying as much…after I beat the game (I played on normal mode).
After you’ve made that choice, you’re given a choice of which of three levels to play next until you’ve beaten the first eight, at which point you go to the ninth level, then the tenth level. Thing is, no matter which order you play the first eight stages in, the game still makes sure to get harder by giving enemies more health, speed, and even attacks in some cases. Fine in theory, but this leads to more cheap hits in practice, like how the red flying enemies suddenly gain a dodge and dash attack of their own, or when the purple ones suddenly generate a massive shockwave upon crash-landing. Plus, the HP increase just makes things more tedious; I always got as many attack upgrades as I could, but still found even basic enemies taking longer and longer to kill.
Bosses also get the speed/HP boost, and I’m pretty sure certain bosses become impossible to dodge if left too long (made all the more frustrating by being limited to 3 stage choices each time). For example, one of the dragon’s attacks is to send walls of projectiles from one side of the screen to the other, and there isn’t enough space to get through the gaps if you’re wall-jumping. Turns out, what you have to do is stand on the platforms near the center of the arena, but this was the seventh boss on my first run, and the projectiles came too quickly for me to get back to the center. Meanwhile, the level 9 boss has a similar attack, but with larger gaps in the projectile walls, letting you easily jump through them. On my second run, the
wall-bird (EDIT: I meant the wall-mask, “Vile Visage”) was the eighth boss, and it kept spawning crowds of enemies (including self-detonating ones), making it hard to see anything through all the explosions.
Oh yeah, enemy explosions obscure everything, including other enemy shots, so there’s some more cheap hits for you.
The ninth level has a lot of jumping across moving platforms, and with all the enemies and hazards, you’d really want to know where those platforms stop and turn around. It is indicated by a black background object, but the level’s background is also very black, making it hard to see them. The last level has lots of vertical shafts where you have to move quickly to avoid being hit by icicle shooters, but then if you move too quickly, you’ll run into the enemies at the top of the shaft/lava at the bottom. Then, at the end of the level, it flattens out and just has enemies…or at least that’s how my final level was generated. Still, kinda weak finisher. The final boss is actually mostly more level segments: you jump through a bit of platforming with a few enemies, then you climb up some more platforms (avoiding more icicle shooters) and shoot the boss, who just stands there. After a bit, all the platforms explode (which I don’t think damages you) and the boss runs away, generating some more platforming segments. It’s not bad, but it can take a while, and you’ll start to see the same segments show up multiple times (even on the same run).
Overall, this game is okay. It does a lot of things right, but the procedurally-generated levels and workaround-difficulty-curve result in some subpar levels and unfair bosses. If you like platformer-roguelikes, you’ll like this game, but if you’re like me and you’re just a Mega Man X fan with a history of not liking roguelikes, wait for a good sale.
When I first downloaded my DRM-free copy of Overgrowth from Humble, I tested it for a bit and it worked just fine. However, when I went back to play it recently, it was somehow missing a dll file, and after I downloaded that, I got another error. All I can think to do to fix it would be to redownload all 20GB of the game, and I’m not up for that now, so I just deleted it and went back to my Steam backlog:
Yes, this platformer is only 11 minutes long. It’s not a demo. Besides standard left/right movement and jump, you carry a bucket that can carry water or be thrown at enemies to stun them. Well, I say “enemies,” but they can only stun you, too. The goal is to go around to different puddles of water, wait for your bucket to refill, then head back to the whale at the start and throw the bucket at the whale so it doesn’t dehydrate. At first, I thought I had to get the whale’s water meter to a certain level, but then I realized it was constantly decreasing. Instead, you just have to keep it from dying until the timer runs out, and that timer is why the game takes so long to beat. There’s only the one level (which is maybe 3x3 screens large), and while it’s designed okay, it only takes about 30 seconds or so to get from one end to the other. Once the timer runs out, the game is over and you see the ending. The biggest challenge is walking slow enough that your bucket doesn’t tilt backward and spill the water before you get back to the whale.
Anyway, since that game was surprisingly short, I decided to play another one before making another post.
First, more shoddy port job issues. As soon as you try to run the game, it flips through some images and closes. To run the game properly, you have to right click -> properties -> set compatibility mode to Windows 95 (that said, this is the first time compatibility mode actually solved the problems I was having with an old game, so maybe they did do some maintenance this time). Even with that, there’s still one screen that gets blown by quickly; luckily, it’s of no importance. Once you’re in the game, you’ll see it has an option to view an “online” manual, and as crucial as the manual was for the first game, you’d think they’d maintain this one, right? Nope; trying to access it gives you an error saying either you don’t have enough memory (unlikely) or that you don’t have the CD inserted. Again, this is the digitally-distributed version of the game from Humble Trove (and probably GOG as well); there’s no CD for me to insert, or even an ISO to mount. Oh, and you can’t increase the size of the playfield’s window; it’s stuck at 568x378, which is awfully tiny on a 1440p monitor.
As for the game itself, there are some improvements over the first game. For example, your inventory is a separate window, so you can see all the parts available at once instead of having to flip through several pages. There’s a magnifying glass icon that you can click to read a blurb about different objects and what they do/how they interact with other objects. Objects like seesaws no longer have box collision for random objects, so anything can be placed on top of the transparent pixels. They expanded the level editor so you can add actual win-states instead of having to rely on the honor system. Heck, there’s even a multiplayer mode with exclusive levels where you take (timed) turns with someone else placing an object in the playfield (you can’t take out a second object until your next turn, even if you put your first object back), and whoever’s turn it is when the level is solved wins. Lastly, the score system is gone.
That said, there are some drawbacks. Notably, the magnifying glass icon only shows up on inventory items; if an object is pre-placed in the level, you have to go to the level editor and find the object there in order to read up on it. Pipe tiles also stretch one pixel past unit boundaries, so you won’t be able to put things directly on top/below/beside them unless the object has pixel-placement instead of unit-placement (this issue was also in the first game, but wasn’t as prevalent). The difficulty curve is a bit better, but still pretty wonky despite levels being grouped into “easy,” “medium,” etc.; the first level says to “knock the eight ball off the screen” and there are eight balls grouped together to the left of the eight ball, so it’s easy to misread it and get the wrong idea. There are even moments of trial and error: Easy 24 seems like it wouldn’t be that hard (light the rocket and connect the slopes so it’s pushed up), but it kept exploding mid-slope. I even activated hints, but they only told me what I already knew: use the inclines to adjust the missile’s trajectory. Eventually, I figured it out: instead of connecting the slopes directly, I had to use slopes of gradually-increasing steepness. A potentially-bigger issue is despite the apparent improvement with seesaws, Medium 28 still requires the same unintuitive tactic as level 71 from the first game, and despite the blurbs, this mechanic was once again neglected to be mentioned (it’s arguably worse since you have to place the Tin Snips in the field on your own, unlike how the first game had the bellows pre-set). Meanwhile, Hard 1 can be easily and quickly sequence-broken by–you guessed it–putting an unlit rocket above a flashlight. Heck, there were even a couple times where moving an object screwed up the physics in an unrelated area: the first time wasn’t too bad (failed attempt at Medium 30), but the second time was after I had a fan blow the soccer ball (center-right) in Very Hard 16: when I moved the flint-rocks up a bit so the flame would reach the kettle (bottom-right), suddenly the soccer ball wouldn’t budge, even though it blew just fine last time.
Despite all of that, the worst offender is Very Hard 24. All the directions say is to get the guy off the right side of the screen. That’s it. So I create a path for the guy to walk across, but even though the guy gets 3-4 units past the right side, the solution doesn’t take; I hear the sound for the guy falling down, and the scene keeps running. Okay, maybe I didn’t get him far enough; maybe I need to get him to ride a blimp past the right side, so that’s what I do: I readjust my setup so the guy falls on a blimp and rides it across the right side of the screen…
…AND IT STILL. DIDN’T. TAKE. I even looked up a walkthrough (the only time I did so for this game), and while the walkthrough’s solution was quite a bit different than mine, it still ended with the guy riding a blimp! After a bit more trial-and-error, I figured it out: he had to ride the blimp straight right, not angled. Would’ve been nice to know that ahead of time, game.
Not recommended. Again, there are a few genuinely tricky puzzles here (Very Hard 1, 2, 13, 21, and maybe Hard 31), but it’s not worth putting up with the trial and error.
I could’ve sworn I got this game from the Humble Trove, but now I’m not so sure.
This game is bad. Its main gimmick is also its greatest flaw: you can’t control your character. Once you launch yourself, the only thing you can do is hold left-click to orbit any nearby nodes (and right-click to pause), but even that isn’t consistent since your orbit path could be different from last time you had this same trajectory in this same location, or you could end up locking onto a node off-screen, much further away from yourself and your mouse cursor than other nodes. Because of this, any time the game tries to have some sort of challenge instead of being mind-numbingly boring, it ends up going too far in the other direction and being unfair. You have much, much less time to react to hazards than it looks like due to your limited movement options, to the point where many levels quickly devolve into trial and error as it’s already too late to do anything by the time the hazard shows up on screen. Maybe you launch yourself to the next node only to come across some mines in the way (mines and normal enemies don’t show up on your map), or maybe you see the spike wall in time but the only node you can lock onto still has you curve into the spikes anyway. Maybe you didn’t even see the necessary node due to visual clutter and speed-up pipes.
I will say: on the last level, I discovered that pausing and unpausing the game slows the game down for a bit, and that helped me beat the game, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.
I’ve known about this game for a while, but I only just now got around to playing it.
Physics-puzzle game. Time is stopped while you take objects in reserve and place them in the level, and you click the icon in the upper-right to start time and see if your setup accomplishes the stated goal. Left clicking at any point during the sequence returns every object to their starting positions and goes back to object-placing mode. You can only see five object-types in reserve at a time and have to click the arrows above them to switch between sets of 5, but they automatically shift together as you take them out so you won’t have to keep flipping through if there are 5 or fewer types of objects in reserve. As is well known about physics-puzzles by now, much of the challenge isn’t so much figuring out what to do as it is getting the physics to work properly, just constantly going back to tweak things slightly until it does what it’s supposed to do. Crazy to think how this issue is older than I am, yet physics-puzzles are still dealing with it to this day. There’s also a score system, but your bonus points only tick down while you’re in object-placing mode, i.e. while you’re solving the puzzle, which is dumb not just because timing how long it takes to solve a puzzle is antithetical to the foundational idea of puzzles, but also because it’s easy to cheese (run the puzzle early and then start thinking about what to do, or solve the puzzle ahead of time before reentering your password and regurgitating the solution). The score should’ve been based on how long the puzzle solution takes, or how few parts you use.
First thing you’ll notice is that the game is blatantly running on DOSBox 0.74. You’d think with it being a custom build modified into a launcher for one specific game, the game would at least run without issue, but there are so many instances of severe slowdown in this game (and I’m convinced the slowdown is specifically DOSBox’s fault because the latest stable build STILL lags while running Impulse Tracker). For real, how hard would it be to increase the emulator’s emulated CPU or RAM or whatever the artificial bottleneck is? There’s even a glitch that sometimes happens when entering fullscreen during a puzzle’s preview screen: when you try to click on the play-area’s window to play the level, the game keeps automatically going back to preview mode (to fix the bug, just exit fullscreen). Also, as you may have noticed, there’s a version with CD-quality audio, but the version from Humble Trove (which looks to be the same version on GOG) only has the Genesis/Mega Drive-esque music (is it too much to ask to be able to switch between them?). Just to drive home how slap-dash this…“port” is, according to this article, there’s another version of the game on 3DO that has all the same levels as this, plus extra exclusive levels. They could’ve used the then-open-source FreeDO emulator, added mouse support for the cursor, upped the resolution (so puzzles would all fit on screen), and fixed the slow-down. Then, they’d actually have a reason to sell their emulator frontend because it’d be the definitive version of the game. Hell, they could’ve just recreated those extra levels and injected them into the DOS version! The game literally already has a built-in editor for making custom levels, for crying out loud! Instead, the only change they made was defeating the copy-protection so you don’t have to check the manual each time you run the game, and I admit, that’s a positive change.
Oh, but you’re still gonna need that manual. Despite the massive number of “tutorial” levels, the level design doesn’t show you how most things work ahead of time, nor do the levels’ descriptions tell you much of how things work, either. As early as the very first level, there are bowling balls on unmoving conveyor belts, and you have to figure out how mouse cages will get those conveyor belts to move (fun fact: in the 3DO version, this particular level is the second one; they added a level beforehand that better introduces what you have to do). A few levels later, you’re told that gears can pop balloons, but there are several levels where you need to pop balloons without any gears available; the only way to know what else pops them besides trial-and-error is to check the manual. Luckily, the manual is included as a PDF, but it shows up crowded among the rest of the game’s files after installation, so I didn’t notice it until it was too late.
Even with the manual, there are a bunch of idiosyncrasies that never get explained to you. For example, you’re told that attaching rope to a gun, then attaching the other end of the rope to something that moves (like a seesaw) will fire the gun when the moving object pulls on the rope. Same for light bulbs: attach and pull the rope to turn the light on. This happens…sometimes. Other times, connecting the seesaw to the gun or bulb via rope turns the seesaw into an immovable object, causing other objects to bounce off of it. Once again, it’s back to trail-and-error to figure out what’s wrong. It’s not weight, because light objects have made the seesaws pull ropes before, and the heavy bowling ball is what’s bouncing off right now. It’s not rope length; longer ropes have been pulled just fine before. It’s not falling speed, as shorter drops have also pulled ropes before. What actually causes the problem–which, again, is never mentioned either in-game or the manual–is the angle of the rope: the gun’s trigger has to be pulled backwards, and the bulb’s string has to be pulled down. To add insult to injury, this mechanic is never made use of in the entire game; in fact, it’s worked around by having pulleys, an object with no collision or purpose besides redirecting a rope’s path (and blocking placement of other objects on top of it).
Stuff like that comes up throughout the whole game, but the worst offender is level 71. See, one of the things you have to do is activate a bellows, and the only object either in-play or in reserve that can reach it is a balloon. Problem is, the bellows is just barely sticking out from behind a ceiling, and if the balloon hits that part, it just bounces off without activating the bellows. I was stuck here for a while before finally breaking down and looking up a walkthrough for this game for the first time. Turns out, you need to hit the bellows with a seesaw to activate it. There’s still a problem, though: despite the seesaw being little more than a thin diagonal line, it still has box-based collision, and you can’t have the seesaw “overlap” the bellows, even if it’s just the transparent part. So, how are you supposed to get the seesaw to hit the bellows if you can’t put the bellows in the seesaw’s path? Get this: you have to place the seesaw directly below the bellows, so when it tilts up and doesn’t hit the bellows, it hits the bellows. I’m not even joking; you can clearly see the gaps in their sprites before the bellows activates:
In-freaking-credible. There isn’t even so much as a brief extra frame to show the seesaw going further up to visualize the existence of this mechanic; that’s as far up as the seesaw goes.
Oh, and the physics are bad even by physics-puzzle standards. Level 149 seems really simple at first glance: put the trampolines at the edges and use the seesaws to cover the rest of the gaps so the two guys can get to the top. Problem is, there’s a glitch where instead of the ceiling slope knocking the guy to the right, it knocks the guy down and right, trapping him in an endless loop, eventually getting him stuck in a gap that definitely did not need to be there:
As you can see, it’s completely arbitrary as well. One guy made it through just fine, but the other guy got stuck, even though nothing about the setup alludes to any potential differences. There isn’t even anywhere else the trampoline could go; up, and it conflicts with the steep slope or is too high; right, and it conflicts with the gentle slope; down, and it conflicts with the guy’s starting position; all of which place a giant red X on the trampoline indicating it can’t go there. After much trial-and-error with repositioning the first seesaw (the only one that actually moves), I managed to get both guys stuck in that gap. What finally got both of them through was repositioning the second seesaw so they don’t fall directly on the slope. How did that work? No idea.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, many levels can easily and obviously be sequence-broken and completed much faster than intended. At least, I assume so; the manual does mention “decoy parts,” but there are levels (even in late-game) that have a ton of pre-set objects where all you have to do is place a rocket above a trampoline or a flashlight, and the level is over in three seconds. It’s as if the game-engine developer and level designer had no communication with each other; it’s the only explanation I can think of for such a spastic difficulty curve.
Despite all these problems, I can’t help but think the game still has potential for really good puzzles. There were a few that managed to be tricky without requiring anything new: 30, 55, and 156 (and maybe 109, but I did look up a walkthrough for that one to discover that certain objects CAN be placed overlapping the seesaw, but only if the seesaw is facing a certain way. UGH). It’s just that none of the other 160 levels ever came close to realizing that potential.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this game. The vast majority of the levels are either really easy or require some ambiguous mechanic that’s never shown or explained (and in some cases, never used again). Even if you’re still interested, just emulate it; that’s what they did. You can even pick a different DOS emulator if you want, one that’s actually had a major update in the last 12 years (though FYI, I can’t seem to get Impulse Tracker running on them except the DOSBox forks, and those ones STILL LAG).
I figured the Humble Trove games I got wouldn’t all be winners, but I had four games in a row I gave up on. First, I found out that Knight Club is only competitive-multiplayer (there’s not even a single player campaign like Street Fighter or Tekken or…most fighting games, honestly). Then, I gave Starseed Pilgrim a chance, only to get stuck very early on because the seeds you get are randomized (on top of the green one’s path being randomized), and there doesn’t appear to be a way to save certain seeds for later. Even when I found the first key, I still could never quite reach it before running out of seeds and having to start over. Starward Rogue could have been a good game (first couple floors seem to have decent enemy variety without being unfair), but it sends you back to the first floor each time you die.
Next, I tried Spoolside, and to its credit, the gimmick of rotating the cube to align platforms in 2D space could work for a platformer. Problem is, this isn’t a platformer; it’s a trading-quest Adventure game. You’ve got the same four locations on each of the cube’s four sides (no top or bottom, as far as I could tell), and going around the cube sends you into the future (going right) or the past (going left); no matter how the future turns out, it’s the exact same platforming (same-size platforms in the same locations) each time, which gets tedious very quickly. More irritating, you can’t get certain trades “out of the way” because if you go even a single screen to the left, your actions in the screens to the right get undone. In other words, the core gameplay (which itself you have to discover via trial and error) is going back and forth through time to figure out which actions result in the best outcomes, then loop back once you have all the necessary items to make it happen–and remember, each loop is the exact same not-that-hard-but-not-that-simple tedious platforming. I don’t even know if this game can be “beaten” or if you’re just expected to experiment with the different timelines until you get bored (two different characters ask for a coin, but you can’t have two coins!).
So, after giving up on so many games, I decided to play one that I was sure would at least be tolerable enough for me to beat:
First, a correction on my post about the first game: you can send minions back into reserve (in both games) by locking-onto the appropriate hive and holding the charge-forward button (RT on Xbox controllers). Neither game mentions this, by the way. Besides that, controls and gameplay in this game are identical to what I wrote about the previous game.
As you might expect of a sequel, many issues from the first game have been addressed, but unfortunately, they each have drawbacks. For example, there’s a minimap (just the map, no enemy radar)…but there’s no way to see the full map. Also, any terrain-changes don’t get reflected on said minimap (notably, the earthquake right before you reach the red hive), which is especially irritating since this game isn’t as good as the first game at making walkable paths obvious (and the first game wasn’t perfect in that regard, either). There’s a line of dialogue letting you know to “destroy the igloos or you’ll be overrun,” which is more than what the first game told you about enemy spawners…but this is after you’ve already had to go past several non-igloo enemy spawners. Plus, since igloos can be destroyed from any angle (as opposed to all the other spawners only being destructible from inside), this could lead newcomers to believe that igloos are the only enemy spawner that can be destroyed. Forgeable items have differences right out of the gate instead of having to sacrifice massive numbers of minions for marginal gain…but the descriptions won’t tell you what most of those differences are. Are they more powerful? Are they faster? The most you’ll be told are any bonus effects they come with, like mana-drain or health-drain.
Enemies can’t be swarmed by your standard brown minions anymore…because there’s an arbitrary limit on how many melee minions can attack a single enemy, so you just swarm with red (ranged) minions instead. Some enemy mobs no longer just mindlessly rush you (others still do, though); there are defensive formations you either need to encircle, tediously break through, or attack the nearby commander to break them…but now there’s even less emphasis on different enemy types! There are the exterminators (who can suck up any minion type, so you have to attack from behind) and sentinels (who just sweep spotlights around that you need to avoid until you kill them)…but that’s basically it, and they don’t show up any more often than the differing enemy types in the first game (maybe even less).
You have free camera control by pushing the right stick horizontally instead of having to rely on LT to face the camera in the direction you’re facing…but now, camera controls and minion sweeping are botched. For one thing, to sweep, you have to push the right stick up first, which sends your minions forward, which you won’t always want to do immediately. For another thing, LT no longer locks onto the closest enemy in the direction you’re facing; I never quite figured out what it prioritized, as sometimes I’d lock onto a far away enemy that my character was facing (when there were plenty of enemies much closer), and sometimes, I’d re-lock-on to something the camera was already facing (something I turned my character away from in order to avoid locking onto it).
All that said, the worst drawback has to be the fact that there’s even less feedback for when you get attacked. The first game had a distinct, loud clank sound that stood out from the rest of the combat sound effects (which already isn’t much), but in this game, whatever sound used instead (if any) gets drowned out by the clanks of your minions attacking the enemies. The first two times I died, I didn’t even know I had taken damage, much less that I was low on health! It wasn’t until my third or fourth death where I happened to look up and see my health draining without any other visual or audio indication.
The gimmicks in this game are slightly more utilized than the gimmicks in the first game. The boat segments are mainly just holding RT to trudge forward, tapping the A button to spend stamina to go faster, stopping the three or four times your ship gets boarded (total, throughout the whole game), and finally trying to parallel-park next to docks so the button-prompt to park your ship appears. The trebuchet segments have you aim at roadblocks and slowly-approaching enemies, then holding RT to slowly pull back, releasing the button to throw the rock. It’s not intuitive exactly how far the rock will be thrown (only that it’s relative to how long you hold the button), so there’s some trial-and-error with the aiming. Also, these already-short-lived trebuchet segments only show up five times (with three of them bunched together at the end), so it’s not something you’ll have time to get used to. Lastly, there are three minion-possessing segments, two of which are just short treks to a switch, but the other one is an entire stealth segment where you have to avoid exterminators and sentinels. It gave me hope that the game would be more strategic than the first, but the rest of the game squandered that potential.
The final boss is handled better, though: you have to use a blue minion to clear away the blue goop, then use red and green to attack the boss’s weak spots. Meanwhile, the boss moves around and occasionally creates more goo or spawns enemies. It’s an improvement over the first game where the boss just sits there and lets the spawned enemies attack you.
Overall, despite the changes, this game isn’t much better than the first game (it’s even a bit worse in some regards). Not recommended.
This is a SHMUP. Similar to the original Space Invaders, you can move side-to-side and shoot forward (and even do both at the same time!), but you can also toss a screen-clearing grenade with Y and spawn two shot-reflecting orbs with X (shooting them ricochets your shots directly to a seemingly-random enemy). EDIT: apparently, each character’s X-button move is different (I only played the game as one character, and the game doesn’t tell you their differences on the character select screen). You shoot faster if you tap the shoot button than if you hold it, but your rate of fire is still limited; you can tap the button faster than your character will shoot, which lets certain fast-moving enemies slip between your shots. EDIT: To clarify, these enemies normally just slowly shamble towards you, and it isn’t until you shoot at them when they abruptly bolt to the side before immediately going back to shambling; it’s not like the original Space Invaders where you can time your shots despite their speed. Also unlike the original Space Invaders, you don’t lose if an enemy reaches your side of the arena; instead, you can still attack them by dodge-rolling into them with L or R. As a dodge-roll, though, it kinda sucks; you don’t get much distance and it’s tough to figure out when the i-frames are (or if certain attacks just hit you regardless). Plus, you can’t move for a bit when it ends, making it extra difficult to avoid even regular attacks (especially since there are some attacks that can only be avoided by dodging, but they can happen among other, asynchronous attacks).
Side note: Wikipedia says that there’s “limited movement both into and away from the screen,” but I tried pushing up, down, the D-pad, Z, B, and the C-stick, but none of them seemed to do anything; I still could only move side-to-side. I even tried looking up scans of the instruction manual so I could find out what I was missing, but couldn’t even find that.
There isn’t much level design aside from the walls on each side of you and the destructible barriers that block both your and enemies’ attacks, but the game makes up for it with enemy variety. On top of having different shot patterns, there are even different bullet types: yellow ones can be shot and destroyed, blue ones split into two yellow ones when shot…and I think all the others just go through your shots. There are still issues, as it can be difficult to discern hitboxes, especially with the purple lasers and the wavy ground electricity (and maybe partly because of the camera’s forward perspective). Plus, the boss of level four has purple shots that are somewhat transparent and hard to track.
There are also a bunch of times where the enemies’ projectiles move faster than you can react, so you have to rely on foreshadow animations. Problem is, those animations can happen off-screen since most levels scroll far enough to the side for it to happen. What especially irritated me is that the second boss has the foreshadow+fast shots at you, but then right afterward it moves to the side and immediately fires the fast moving projectiles again! No second foreshadow; it just happens. The only way to dodge the second volley is to know that’s coming ahead of time. Other fast attacks, like the cars in level 2, rely on audio cues, which can be tough to notice among the explosions and other sounds.
There were many times where it really felt like attacks couldn’t be dodged, but I still wasn’t sure if it was the game or if I was just missing something…but then I made it to level 6. See, before this level, there’s an enemy that has its shield up, and if you shoot it enough, it drops its shield and charges at you. Normally, you can kill it before it can hit you, but in level 6, all the enemies are giant and have more HP, so you won’t be able to kill the enemy before it reaches your side. So yeah, I’m convinced the game has unavoidable attacks now, but the game’s continue system also respawns you right where you died, even stunning/hurting all enemies (merely resetting your score), so you’ll never have to worry about losing progress.
At the end of level 6 (the final level), you have to fight the bosses of level 1, 2, and 4 again, in a row, which is especially annoying since bosses have a bit too much health (and the level 4 boss has two phases). They do have slightly different attacks than before, though, so it’s not all bad. The final boss changes things up by the arena being circular, with the boss in the center and you always walking around, always facing the boss. Now, you won’t get trapped between projectiles and the wall again since there is no wall, but there are still a few fast shot patterns that’ll get you. The boss of level 3 also shows up here, but you don’t have to re-fight that boss; you can just keep running away from it since the arena is circular. The final boss’s final phase took me a moment to figure out because I thought I just had to shoot the shield like I did with the enemies from before, but you actually have to shoot and destroy one of the little orbs at the vertices, as they’re what’s powering the shield.
Overall, this game is hard to recommend. There are some neat ideas, and it’s easily better than a lot of other games I’ve played, but I can also see why it didn’t review so well. Don’t pay more than a couple dollars for it.
Another short post, but as I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t played many free itch.io games that really deserve to be spotlighted.
This is an avoid-em-up. There are four bosses, and they each shoot waves of bullets at you. To avoid the bullets, you can move in any of the 8 cardinal directions, and you can also dash through bullets by pushing space bar. There’s no way to counterattack; you just have to survive until they give up.
There isn’t much to say about this one; controls are responsive, graphics are intuitive, and the bullet patterns are fair without being repetitive (unless you die and have to replay them). My only major issue is that the third boss spawns the cars a bit too quickly to react; near the end of the fight, I happened to be close to where one was about to spawn, and by the time I noticed it happening, it was too late and I got hit. The dash move also isn’t necessary until the second half of the second boss, so I kinda forgot about it and thought I was just stuck in the corner for a couple deaths. The boss fights can also be quite long, and if you die, you have to start the boss fight over, which can be rather tedious if it happens. Extra HP can sometimes spawn, though it always spawns away from where you are, making it tough to reach in time without getting hit, thus making the trip moot.
Still, I recommend it. You can play it here: https://spicy-chicken.itch.io/space-raiders