Thursday, December 25, 2014

Game Night Episode 1- The eShop Price Drop Special

Game Night posts are based around the rare times when I get three or more games at the same time and I get some time to try each one. Since my excited mind, giddy over getting new games I've been looking forward to playing, is unlikely to allow me to sit down and play these games in depth, I'll be posting my impressions based on the first 20 minutes to an hour of play. You'll also notice some randomly attributed quotes by each review. I've also collected quotes from friends after asking them to try the games out for a couple minutes.

Today's Game Night post is based on three indie games I've had my eye on- Another World 20th Anniversary Edition, Armillo, and Master Reboot. With the recent Nintendo eShop sale on these games, and some recently gifted eShop credits, it was the perfect time to grab them. I'm really excited to share the experience I had with each of these games, so let's jump right in.

1- Another World 20th Anniversary Edition

"Everything in this world can kill you" -Trevor
"What the hell is that, a chupacabra?" -Christian

Another World was the first to complete, so I loaded it up as the other two titles finished downloading. My first impressions were of fascination and frustration in equal measure. As I watched the introduction load and the music begin, my mind started getting pulled into the unique art style and atmosphere. Unfortunately, my mind didn't stay there. This game has a few minor flaws that can jar you right out of the experience if you're not expecting them. First off, this game only supports the Wii U Gamepad for control inputs. There is no option to switch to the Wii U Pro Controller to play the game. Now, I love the Gamepad, and the option to play the game off-TV is a blessing, but for an immersive experience, nothing tops playing on the TV with the lights off and given the option, that's what I prefer. I would feel differently if there were added options that used the Gamepad's features, but there aren't any. So whenever I am playing it, I am now forced to either play on the Gamepad screen, or play on the TV with a glowing light under my face. I got used to it, but I shouldn't have to. Also, the controls are imprecise. Tapping the D-pad or control stick moves your character one vaguely defined step left or right. Tapping B sends your character into a vaguely defined jump over low (very low) obstacles. However, once I got used to the controls, I really started enjoying myself and wondering what was going to happen next. Like any true adventure game, Another World uses trial and error style gameplay. Hop here, shoot here at just the right time, climb here, and you get to the next chapter. Deviate from that script and you die. I died several times just trying to figure out how to get past some basic obstacles. You might think this is a complaint about the game but it's not. The tension resulting from knowing that one could die at a moment's notice are what allows this game to transform it's simple puzzle mechanics into something that truly feels like an adventure. I recommend this game for anyone who thinks they would enjoy an otherworldly adventure experience with little or no direction as to what to do next. 

2- Armillo - Fuzzy Wuzzy Games

"He's a space armadillo that is basically Sonic." -Nani
"Kind of reminds me of, like, Sonic" -Christian

To summarize Armillo is, as my lovely wife put it, a "space armadillo" who rolls around maze-like planets, dodging obstacles and enemies on a quest to rescue his brother and save the universe from evil robots. Armillo is kind of an obstacle-course action game, and, despite the repeated comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog, is really closer to Super Monkey Ball than anything else (Thanks Trevor for the apt comparison). Armillo shoots forward from boost pads, rolls along tracks or bounces around like a pinball. The levels are fun and intuitive, and I never had trouble figuring out what to do. Playing on Normal difficulty was definitely challenging for me, although admittedly I'm not very good at action games, and I had a few game over screens as I attempted to beat the first few levels. However, at no point did I feel the game was unfair or artificially difficult. I knew exactly where I had screwed up, and knew exactly what to do next time (Even if it took a few tries to actually do it). The music is another great part of this game. Instead of going with the usual bouncy melodies normally found in these sorts of action games with cute animal characters, Fuzzy Wuzzy Games went with an intense techno score that pulls the action aspect to the forefront. Good thing too, as this game takes lots of concentration. This is a great example of a polished, creative, indie title, and it's something I'll be playing again and again, both by myself and to show off to friends. Unfortunately, Armillo came out only a week after the Hype Juggernaut that was Shovel Knight and I think a lot of people missed it as a result. Check this game out if you get a chance.

3- Master Reboot -Wales Interactive

"That's pleasant; an axe" -Trevor
"I don't want to find out what happens" -Christian

As I started up Master Reboot for the first time, I could already tell I was about to see something unique. So far, I haven't been disappointed as this game is definitely making an impression. It hasn't helped that I watched the trailer on the eShop, which featured doll-like girls with glowing eyes lifelessly stalking the player. The art of this game takes a very simple approach, with flat textures and simple shapes, giving the environments a sterile, alien aesthetic that I found very off-putting. Areas are small and keep the player from wandering off, and I began to find them claustrophobic, I felt as if I was being pulled along, no matter how much I wanted to put off moving to the next area and finding out what might be waiting for me. I also had a very distinct sense of being watched throughout the short time I spent with the game. Basic noises, like a crow cawing in the background, began to put me on edge. I think this is a great example of what a small studio can do using well-applied aesthetics. Simply being pulled along from area to area without any clue as to what will happen next is truly an unnerving experience. I am really enjoying this game and I'm looking forward to uncovering more of the mystery. I would recommend Master Reboot to anyone who prefers atmosphere over jump scares and gore.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this first Game Night. My writing skills are really rusty, so any feedback, positive or negative, is appreciated. If you liked what I wrote, tune in next time for a more in-depth review, as I take on Circle-Entertainment's Fairune. Thanks to Trevor, Christian, and of course my lovely wife Nani for testing these games out and allowing me to steal their precious words, and thank you for reading! See you next time.

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