Tag Archives: PC

Nakawak – Kickstarter Spotlight

Who doesn’t want more adventure games inspired by the heydays of the GameBoy? Probably not many, but after stumbling upon the Kickstarter campaign for Nakawak, I can’t help but be impressed by the lone developers attempt at creating a GameBoy inspired Metroidvania title coming to Steam hopefully sooner than later.

NakawakTitleScreen

With only 7 days left in the campaign, Nakawak has well exceeded its goal of $250 and is only a few pledges away from hitting the third stretch goal. The game is actually fully developed, but the developer, Sean Filkins, is hoping to include an alternate, color version of the game. This version of the game is advertised to have exclusive levels and bosses. Its interesting to note that the goal behind this is to replicate Nintendo’s older practices of releasing different version of their titles.

MainCharacter

Gameplay looks solid and the graphics perfectly match the feel of the original GameBoy. Inspiration is heavily founded from the original two Metroid games and the environments and character sprites make this very apparent. Look into backing this game over the next week as just a few more pledges will afford the developer to add even more unique concepts and content to the color version. Two great games is always better then one.  Checkout the Kickstarter Campaign.

Nakawak Color

Necrocosmos – Kickstarter Spotlight

 August 1st marked the beginning of an exciting new Kickstarter campaign in the announcement of Necrocosmos. To be released on PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, Necrocosmos is bringing a new spin to the Metroid formula, introducing survival elements with a splash of randomized progression. Put simply, players will be challenged to explore multiple planets with unique environments and inhabitants, but the developers claim that progression will be randomly generated from player-to-player. An ambitious idea that I hope can be delivered upon. Thankfully the developers have made it very clear that planets will not be procedurally generated, but handcrafted with care.

 

NecrocosmosTreasure

The masterminds behind Necrocosmos, Andromeda Project3, have designed a very thorough and intriguing campaign full of images, gameplay snippets, lore, and detailed explainations of gameplay features and stretch goals. Little is left to backer imagination and the project looks to be quite polished already. Even better is the option of playing a pretty meaty demo without having to pledge a dime. I’ve spent several hours with the demo and still haven’t completed it, for better or for worse.

NecrocosmosGameplay2

Exploration of the planet on showcase in the demo is a treat and the narrative told through scavenged journal entries and the player character’s reactions to events is surprisingly entertaining. Not to spoil any of the events, but Metroid veterans will appreciate and feel right at home with the events that ultimately lead to exploring and meeting much more of the planet’s inhabitants than expected. Suffice it to say that gamers looking for a fair bit of lore to sink their teeth into will find a lot to love about Necrocosmos assuming the developers put as much effort and detail into the final product’s writing as they have crammed into the demo.

NecrocosmosGameplay3

Exploration and gameplay is pretty vanilla out of the gate. Starting off with nothing but a short ranged rifle and jet pack, our hero isn’t particularly well equipped which allows for the tension of well designed survival games to shine through. A currency known simply as resource is collected through defeating enemies and destroying certain parts of the environment. Resources must be rationed wisely as they have heavy implications throughout. Upgrades to your suit are the most obvious use and can make a huge difference in empowering the players survivability in this inhospitable environment. Consider these upgrades a bonus as they shouldn’t be your first priority. Only through the expending of resources can players repair damage, save their progress, and even continue after death. The extra reliance on resources for such simple factors of gameplay adds a layer of tension that some players will enjoy, while others will no doubt loathe.

NecrocosmosBoss
I have mixed opinions on the matter. I quite like the idea of juggling the importance of gaining a permanent upgrade, healing and saving. Getting a chance to save after a lengthy session of exploration actually provided a rush of satisfaction that most other games in the genre don’t. Every mistake has bigger implications as a player can’t simply farm a room of enemies to replenish health. Actually on more then one occasion I found myself having to chose between healing or saving, without the resources to do both. Necrocosmos is punishing at times, but ultimately smart allocation of resources will reward a player just as much as skilled play. I can appreciate this, but I can not appreciate the way resources are tied into continuing gameplay after death. Upon death, a certain amount of resources are required to continue from the last save point. This system did not bother me in the least for my first few hours.
NecrocosmosSaving
But after several hours of exploration, gaining all of my suit’s upgrades and only a few objectives away from what I can imagine would be the demo’s conclusion, I died. No big deal. This had happened many times and it was my own fault for exploring while on low health. The game asked if I wanted to continue and of course my response was yes. I was having a blast and wanted to continue playing. It turns out that I didn’t have quite enough resources to continue. At this point I was placed at the beginning of the planet with all of my progress reset. No upgrades, zero map completion, nothing. To just lose that much progress, I had to turn the game off for a moment. Hoping to continue again, I booted up the game and found to my horror that the Continue option wasn’t selectable from the menu screen. All of my progress gone. Unfortunately I couldn’t gather the motivation to start again. I hope this isn’t a feature that will make it into the final build of the game.
NecrocosmosGameplay1
This left a permanent bad taste in my mouth after several hours of very enjoyable gameplay. I can’t imagine that having to restart the entire game will be an issue with the final product. Even expecting players to re-explore entire planets/levels is not going to sit well for most gamers. Sure, keeping enough resources stashed away can afford a guaranteed continue, but what about situations where a player finds themselves in a tough situation where they are facing death-after-death? Resources will eventually run dry and they’ll have to potentially replay a good portion of your game? Certain players will feel rewarded by replaying and overcoming the odds, but others will likely walk away in frustration. That’s exactly what I did, even if I tend to find myself in the first camp. Replaying 15-20 minutes worth of a game is acceptable, replaying several hours isn’t.
NecrocosmosSpaceBattle
Necrocosmos does so much else right that it’s hard to not recommend it to any fan of the older generation of exploration games. Fun touches like the vertical space shooter segments when traveling between planets and the collection of journal entries to solve some of the more insidious riddles are just great bonuses. One of the games most touted features hasn’t even been touched upon yet, the DNA gun. Destroying adversaries doesn’t simply reward resources, but also, on occasion, the enemy’s DNA. By collecting and combining different DNA types, the player can wield various forms of firepower. While only a handful were available to test, most create unique firing patterns and even the ability to bypass certain barriers found throughout the map. Alien vegetation blocking your passage? Create a flamethrower and clear the path. Players will only have a limited amount of shots per combination, but the ability to switch between two weapons on the fly will allow for saving precious ammo until the time is right. Yet another flaky layer of survival and problem solving.
As of the publishing of this article, Necrocosmos has 16 more days to hit its $53,000 goal and is almost halfway there. Necrocosmos has a wonderful premise and clearly a very passionate, talented team behind it. If you are at all a fan of the Metroid franchise and want to support more games like it, I highly advise you to look further into the Kickstarter campaign, spend some time with the demo, and take a chance by backing a worthy project.
Check out the Kickstarter and let us know what you think of Necrocosmos in the comments section below.

Unformed – Kickstarter Spotlight

Unformed is a Dark Souls and H.P. Lovecraft inspired 2D adventure game who’s Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up on June 22nd, 2017. I’ve recently played through a good amount of the demo available from the campaign page and I’ve got more then a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

Unformed - Save Point

Unformed is a quite beautiful game and gave me flashbacks to my time playing Guacamelee, but with a much more somber tone. It possesses a beautifully colorful art style and if there is one thing I have to give the developers, Blackfire Games, credit for are the environments. The graphics are crisp, clean, and easily the high point.

Unformed - Dark Cave Gameplay

Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn’t quite as polished, or at least not in the demo provided. Inspirations from the Souls series are abundant within both combat and leveling. A stamina gauge is used to enforce careful decision making during combat. All action besides running take some mount of stamina and combat is, for the most part, fast paced and responsive. Jumping, rolling and blocking are all available in the players toolkit. Anyone who has played Salt and Sanctuary will feel right at home with how Unformed weaves these maneuvers into moment-to-moment gameplay. These tools are great, but not overly helpful when enemies have very little in the way startup animations before attacks. Enemies seem to dash forward and assault the player character without warning. This nearly almost always requires players to guess as apposed to respond. Guessing correctly, dodging through an enemy, and backstabbing them is an adrenaline rush, but not overly rewarding as the player isn’t getting better at the game, but simply getting lucky.

Unformed - Boss Battle 1

Offensively, the player feels strangely limited. Having a basic sword and the temporary use of both a two-handed greatsword and daggers seems interesting in theory, but I had a few issues with this system. To gain access to temporary weapons the player must allow a gauge to fill up and then upon use of these weapons it will deplete. That’s reasonable. Actually using these weapons is where everything goes downhill. Activation requires pressing up or down on the d-pad. That’s already bad design as I have to remove my hand from the left joystick and lose the ability to move my character for a moment. I don’t even like it that much in the Souls series, but the pace and feel of combat doesn’t translate here. Why not map this to the left bumper and left trigger? They aren’t used for anything except bringing up the control scheme, which can be accessed just as easily through the menu. These weapons also don’t feel powerful enough to prove useful in most cases. The daggers might be quicker then the basic sword, but don’t afford the player any more substantial damage over the course of a combo or quicker reflexes to avoid enemy assaults. Add either one of these benefits and the daggers could see some solid use during boss battles. The greatsword is slow and actually quite a bit more powerful then the other two weapons, but cleaving an enemy doesn’t even phase the weakest of them. Knocking back opponents or even stunning them would add a bit more weight and usability to this weapon. These are just suggestions though and this system may very well be refined later on in development.

Unformed - Greatsword

Unformed has a plethora of potential and Soulsborne and Salt and Sanctuary fans should take note of it’s inspirations not just in combat, but also in the similarly inspired bonfire, health flasks, and experience systems. Not to even mention the “You Died” game over screen.  There is also plans for implementing a Final Fantasy X inspired sphere grid system for customization. I know I sound down on Unformed. I’m critical because I see potential, not because I want to see the game fail. With a few tweaks to enemy and special weapon mechanics Unformed could be something special that I’m sure Blackfire Games wants to deliver. Unfortunately without the help of the Metroidvania community it doesn’t look promising that Unformed will see the light of day. With a little more then 2 days left in the campaign, only 20% of the $20,000 goal has been raised. I behoove anyone interested to take a trip over to the Kickstarter page and pledge whatever you feel comfortable with over the next 48 hours.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1737913494/unformed/description

I sincerely hope that Blackfire Games, if this first attempt at a campaign fails, doesn’t give up on this project as they have created a solid foundation for what could be something special.

Unformed - You Died

Unformed - Boss Battle 2

Planned platforms for release: PC and eventually consoles

 

 

Xeodrifter Review

Quality Metroid clones don’t come around everyday and Xeodrifter, even for it’s flaws, is one of the most fun I’ve experienced. For some the 10 dollar price tag and relatively short 3-4 hours worth of gameplay might be off putting, but Xeodrifter provides an unoriginal, but enjoyable few hours of exploring various alien worlds while it lasts.

Xeodrifter is light on story and that’s okay. Our hero’s ship gets damaged during flight and it’s up to the player to help them recover their ships lost hyper drive. Simple enough, but the challenge comes from exploring the nearby planets, fending off each one’s fauna, and collecting many power-ups and abilities along the way. It doesn’t get more Metroid esque then that, but that’s where the majority of the similarities stop and Xeodrifter offers up a few of it’s own original ideas.

Gameplay5

Xeodrifter’s ace in the hole is it’s customizable weapon loadouts. While checking each nook and cranny along your adventure, players are sure to stumble upon a few weapon power-up nodes. These can be used on the inventory/map screen to customize the fire pattern, speed, and power of your main weapon. This system really isn’t that deep as you only have one weapon to actually upgrade throughout the entire game and most players will quickly come to find out that simply upgrading power and rate of fire is easily the best choice for any situation. Still, it’s fun to mess around with and the ability to save up to three different loadouts is a nice touch. I do want to give the designers credit for designing the weapon power-ups in such a way as the player does feel truly empowered throughout the game if they search high and low for most or all of the upgrades.

Gameplay3

This is important due to Xenodrifter being difficult in the beginning stages. Probably too difficult actually. Enemies don’t do a ton of damage, but with such a low life pool starting out and very few opportunities to refill during stages, most players will die a few times starting out. I appreciate the concept of making the player feel somewhat helpless. Enemies and platforming are not particularly challenging, but I wasted a lot of time within the first hour of playing simply losing all of my progress and restarting the level due to either a couple of mistakes or not knowing what to expect around the next corner. This will turn some players away and I can’t blame them.

Gameplay1

Xeodrifter’s four different planets are a cool idea on paper. Each is vibrant accompanied with unique assets and color schemes, but it turns out that exploring isn’t quite as exciting as it should be. Creative level and enemy design is severally lacking. Most rooms aren’t even rooms, but linear horizontal or vertical hallways. Poorly designed map layouts force players to retread old ground for new power-up, but unlike well designed exploration based games, shortcuts aren’t sprinkled throughout each area. Backtracking is part of the genre, but never make the player navigate back through a level multiple times the exact same way. In theory the developers probably thought dividing the world up into four different, smaller areas would alleviate the need, but it isn’t fun or interesting to navigate a level and then immediately have to retrace the exact same steps in reverse just to go to another level. You’ll be doing this a lot in Xenodrifter and that’s a shame, especially for a game this short.

Status Screen

That all aside, Xeodrifter does have it’s merits. Gameplay is quick and frenetic throughout, more akin to Mega Man then Metroid. This helps exploration feel more engaging as it’s fun to zip around levels as fast as possible and many of the new abilities earned, such as a rocket jump and speed dash, help somewhat alleviate the poor level design and unlock new areas and power boosts. One of the more interesting abilities allows for players to jump in and out of certain background layers. Some of the more dastardly areas of the game will have the player taxed to speed across treacherous terrain while simultaneously hopping from background to foreground at a moments notice. It’s a novel idea that the developers of Xeodrifter first implemented in an earlier title, Mutant Mudds.

Gameplay4

Early game difficulty and poor map design hold Xeodrifter back from being a top-tier 2D adventure game. These issues aside, I still had a fun first playthrough. I even found myself oddly drawn toward going for 100% completion afterwards. So why is that? It comes down to the polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay combined with great empowerment of the player character as you explore each planet discovering that previously dangerous foes now kneel to your power. I’ll even defend the games recycled bosses as I found it interesting to see what new attacks I’d have to deal with in the next encounter. Xeodrifter may not be a must play at the full retail price of $10, but if you are looking to fill the void until Metroid: Samus Returns for an afternoon or a good sale comes around, you could do a lot worse.

+Polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay
+Great player empowerment
+Short gameplay time might appeal to some players
-Uninspired level design, too much forced backtracking
-Difficulty not well balanced toward the beginning
-Only 3-4 hours of gameplay

Game: Xeodrifter
Release Date: Decemeber 11th, 2014
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Steam
Developer and Publisher: Renegade Kid

Blasphemous – Kickstarter Spotlight

This week I wanted to highlight an interesting non-linear action platformer called Blasphemous that is nearing the end of it’s Kickstarter campaign and is worthy of the attention of any Metroidvania fan. One look at the pixel art and smooth animation is enough to get any fan of the genre on board with what this dark and grisly title has to offer.

Blasphemous Gameplay

Fast-paced, skilled combat and a deep and evocative narrative are the central focus of the player experience. While we don’t have a ton of narrative to go off of, its more then apparent from environmental aesthetics to character designs that players are in for dark, creepy, and truly unsettling adventure. The pixel art design and animation of enemies is phenomenal and the creative team, The Game Kitchen, deserves a lot of credit for putting such imagination, passion and talent toward creating some of the most unique enemy designs in gaming.

Blasphemous Enemy Design Example

Environmental design is also top notch. From dark dungeons, to deserts, to apocalyptic wastelands no area looks the same, but most importantly interesting and detailed. The developers even claim that environmental hazards can be used against your enemies. A pretty cool addition that could help  keep combat fresh throughout the course of a playthrough. While combat basically boils down to fast paced dodging, hack-n-slash action, players will be able to acquire various beads that can be used to customize playstyle. Not much is known about these, but creating unique beads that impart new special moves or sub-weapons would  be engrossing.

Overall there isn’t much to not like here. There are only 5 days left in the campaign and The Game Kitchen has already more then quadrupled their $50,000 dollar goal. Quite a few stretch goals have been met and if you are interested in supporting this game, team, or simply further development of metroidvania style games, then I highly advise you to check out the Kickstarter page and pledge if you are so inclined. I for one am going to back this project as I can’t help but stare in amazement at the masterfully done pixel art and quick, visceral gameplay.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/828401966/blasphemous-dark-and-brutal-2d-non-linear-platform/description

Planned platforms for release: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux

 

 

Bloodstained E3 2017 Demo Gameplay Analysis

 

Thanks to Gematsu’s Youtube channel the community has access to 12 minutes of gameplay from this year’s playable demo at E3. There’s a lot to take in, but it looks like the development team has brought back many more staple weapons and abilities that should make fans feel right at home.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - New Environment

As mentioned in my previous post on the E3 Trailer, the level on showcase for the demo is a combination of a church and clock tower. Much of the platforming is far more vertically focused than last year’s demo and is the perfect environment to empower players with a double jump.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Church Gameplay

A handful of new skills were seen in action, including a familiar  and some old favorites. Miriam can be seen leveraging returning staples such as bones and spears from range, as well as summoning speedy canine and hopping ape companions. These abilities are by no means game-changers, but they certainly provide interesting additions to a player’s toolkit.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Clock Tower and Familiar

The most interesting was the unveiling of the first summon-able familiar, the Dullahammer Head. A common enemy found throughout the church, the Dullahammer Head doesn’t operate too differently then your average Medusa Head, but if the player is lucky they can bring one along on their journey. Familiars have existed in the Castlevania series since Symphony of the Night, but haven’t seen much use since as they are rarely powerful enough to consider. From the gameplay we can see that this might still be the case, as Miriam’s new friend rarely attacks and dishes out fairly poor numbers.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Underground Cave Environment

This bothered me at first, but there are a couple of things to consider. Outside of Symphony of the Night, familiars always took up the slot of a potentially more useful skill, but in Bloodstained they have their own dedicated slot. One could simply just consider them a bit of free extra damage and cosmetic flair. The developers also haven’t stated whether skills will be able to be powered up via farming or experience gain. If so, familiars may have the opportunity to evolve and become more aggressive and provide unique boons to the player. Time will tell, but they are certainly one of the features of Bloodstained that has me most curious.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Leather Whip

All of the new weapons showcased in the E3 trailer had me excited enough, but there are several others that didn’t make the cut. Obviously the leather whip stole the show and appeared to have some of the best range, speed, and attack area of all the weapons. The remaining weapons seem to act much like you would expect. The claymore is slow, but powerful  and can attack enemies directly above Miriam. Spears provide superior range and the rapier provides quick, close range bursts of damage. The demo does a great job at balancing the weapons so that players are encouraged to try them all out as apposed to replacing previously attained armaments quickly.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Harpy  and Summoned Dog Skill

(Confirmed weapons thus far)

  • Shortsword
  • Kung Fu Shoes
  • Leather Whip
  • Katana
  • Rapier
  • Claymore
  • Spear
  • Knife

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Bloodless Boss

The final boss, Bloodless, challenges Miriam as she rudely interrupts bath time. Bloodless has a plethora of blood based magical attack at her disposal along with the telekinetic control of two umbrellas that dance around the room.The combination of the two give the player plenty to consider while trying to get in a few hits after each casting. Of most interest is her ability to evoke a blood rain that covers half the room and deals heavy damage to the player if they are unwise enough to stick around and enjoy the drizzle. Vacating the area is one option, but the more noteworthy strategy is to take cover under an umbrella and get in a few free strikes in the process. This battle is more technically challenging on the player then the sea monster from last year’s demo and is a fitting testing ground for all that the player has learned.

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It’s safe to say that I can’t wait to get my hands on this demo and more fully explore all it has to offer, assuming the studio provides this to backers of the project after E3 has finished. A release date can’t come soon enough, but I’m willing to wait for a game that hopefully surpasses even the best that Castlevania had to offer in its prime. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter get to get updates on the status of development throughout E3 and up till release.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer Analysis

E3 2017 is well underway and there has been a handful of surprises already, but my most anticipated game of 2018 recently had a new trailer drop and thought I’d take some time to do a bit of analysis on some of the details. Checkout the trailer below.

The most promising aspect of the trailer has to be the preview of many new environments, hopefully meaning that Igarashi and his team are now working on vastly expanding the scope of playable game areas. Each area has a lot of depth and surprising amounts of detail considering environmental backgrounds are designed to be somewhat randomly generated. Most of the trailer shows off snippets of gameplay from the E3 demo this year that showcases what appears to be a church and clock tower of sorts. A must for a spiritual successor to Castlevania.

More interesting then even the new environments is a short showcase of a few new weapons and abilities. First and foremost, that was a whip in the trailer and it appears to work much like any other weapon at this time. There is no indication in the gameplay of being able to flail around the whip after an attack, but I can’t imagine the developers not adding that feature down the line. Katana and rapier weapons were also shown off and allow for more graceful and rapid attacks.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - New Environment

No shortage of new abilities were shown and the most interesting was our first introduction to familiars. Familiars are their own spell slot in the players inventory and there were none available to play around with in the 2016 demo, but early on in the trailer we can see our heroine being followed by a strange looking creature that would appear to be exactly that. Not much else was seen, but we can expect that the familiar either boosts our characters stats or performs occasional attacks as seen from familiars in the Castlevania series. Other standard skills like the ever useful double-jump and several varieties of projectiles made the cut as well. The skills shown in the trailer are less interesting then what was available in last year’s demo, but I’m glad to see the return of several fan favorites and some familiar faces to use them on.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Clock Tower and Familiar

Rounding out the trailer was a glimpse at a new boss and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. After intruding on a relaxing  blood bath, our heroine is faced with what appears to be a vampire evoking deadly blood magic. While appearing to be a fairly standard boss encounter, there does seem to be an interesting interaction between the boss’s magic and floating parasols, allowing for the player to take cover during certain segments of the battle. The animation of various attacks is also quite impressive.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Boss Fight

This year’s trailer thankfully proves to me that the Bloodstained team is making great strides toward building the game we were promised and that the fans have been craving. For one I’d rather Bloodstained continue to be delayed and give Igarashi and his team the time to polish and expand upon what they’ve already shared with the community. Check back tomorrow for further analysis as I cover some E3 demo gameplay in more detail and continue to cover up coming news on more announced Metroidvanias and related games.