Indie Royale Debut 12 Bundle

We have ourselves a little Indie gaming time again with a bunch of Steam Greenlight-aspiring gems by courtesy of Indie Royale‘s Debut 12 Bundle.


This includes colorful tower defense fantasy RPG Yrminsul, defending-against-hordes-of-enemies with a comic strategy touch Selknam Defense, arcade space puzzler Luna’s Wandering Stars, and turn-based historical strategy title Storm over the Pacific for the brainy crowd. Those who like some more action will get their thrilling experience with jump-and-gunner in a film-noir style Rot Gut, bullet-hell-shooter Pester and top-down cyberpunk shooter GEARCRACK Arena. There’s also some quirkiness and weirdness to be found in hard-to-classify-let’s-see-what-happens adventure You Are Not A Banana: Chapter 1 and physics-based platforming boss-fighter David.

In addition to the free soundtracks of Rot Gut and GEARCRACK Arena (plus You Are Not A Banana), one can also get the technobeats-heavy Glowsticks & Special Brew by gwEm when paying 4 Euros or more. Personally, I’d prefer the jazzy soundtrack of Rot Gut, but fans of the other music styles will still like this.

It seems that the Debut-series is pretty common for Indie Royale, but I found this compilation particularly interesting, not only because of the various genres and gameplay ideas, but also the different loving visuals of the individual titles. So don’t wait any longer and get this before the offer expires tomorrow.

(France 2014, developer/publisher: Studio Blag Flag, platform: PC)


Official Website

Selknam Defense
(Chile 2014, developer/publisher: Bad Games, platform: PC)


Official Website

Luna’s Wandering Stars
(USA 2014, developer/publisher: Serenity Forge, platform: PC)


Official Website

Rot Gut
(USA 2014, developer/publisher: NinjaxGames, platform: PC)


Official Website

Storm over the Pacific
(Poland 2012, developer: Wastelands Interactive, publisher: Matrix Games platform: PC)


Official Website

You Are Not A Banana: Chapter 1
(Canada 2014, developer/publisher: Brian Cullen, platform: PC)


Official Website

(UK 2013, developer/publisher: Flump Studios, platforms: PC, Xbox 360)


Official Website

(Brazil 2014, developer/publisher: Walter Machado, platform: PC)


Official Website

(USA 2014, developer/publisher: Fermenter, platforms: PC, iOS)


Official Website

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Mobile Gaming: Review of “Droidscape: Basilica” (iOS)

Puzzle games are aplenty in the Appstore, so how does Kyttaro Games, known for their Bundle In A Box compilations, stick out of the crowd with their innovative Droidscape: Basilica?

Droidscape: Basilica (iOS)
(UK 2013, developer/publisher: Kyttaro Games, platform: iOS)


The fate of humanity lies in the hands of a time-manipulating man (a chronomancer) and his small droid Bishop 7 who has to free his master from prison on a spaceship.

Almost epic time travel story with not so stellar presentation
For a puzzle game, the background story and world building is rather impressive. However, the plot development is pretty slow and only happens after each stage with its many levels is completed. Identification with both the droid and its mentor remains difficult throughout the game, which is too bad, as there’s quite some potential. But as it stands, one could even play through it without giving the whole narrative a second thought, making it of course a bit problematic for the gameplay to motivate the player with a less than engaging story.


Record, play, fast forward, rewind the time
The goal of the game is very simple: Guide a small droid through levels with various obstacles to reach the exit while picking up keys for the doors’ respective colors. But the main gameplay idea is as interesting as it is frustratingly executed: In contrast to directly control the droid, its path has first to be planned/recorded and then replayed. This means that one has to move it via touch control, while this planning phase can then be used when everything moves in the real-time phase. It’s a mix of careful strategic and quick-reflexes thinking, because pressing the play-button (like watching a movie) is not enough. Only the path the droid takes is fixed, but the timed actions have again to be performed by the player.


If this all sounds a bit confusing, it certainly is at first and the gameplay needs some getting used to. It also requires nerves of steel when circumventing moving enemies. Usually, these have a certain movement pattern which is indicated by the direction of arrows. But there are also some who simply follow the droid wherever it goes. If this wasn’t enough frustration, the developers decided to implement an energy meter which depletes with each movement. Even if this can be filled again by standing on certain platforms, it’s still frustrating to fail a level just because one didn’t have enough time when enemies closed in on the droid.


Frustrations come back and new problems turn up
It’s worth mentioning, though, that the new enemy types and various puzzle elements are introduced in small doses, so that the player usually gets a sense of seeing something new in each stage. Still, some ideas make proceedings simply too difficult and further highlight the fact that the controls aren’t perfect. For example, one can destroy certain enemies with explosives, but this can only be achieved by first walking over these platforms and then clicking on them again to set a timer. Taking into account that the enemies move pretty fast and one has to do more click-work than necessary, restarts are common. Even more aggravating are performance problems the game showed in various levels, resulting in situations when animations were skipped and the precise timing necessary was made redundant.


For a casual puzzle game, there are way too many instances when pixel-perfect movement saves the day more than lateral thinking. Granted, there’s a rewarding bonus system which can give the player extras to make the levels easier or skip them altogether. But the unnecessary difficulty spikes are annoying nonetheless. One can even crank up the difficulty by completing levels as quickly as possible and pick up additional gems along the way, which rewards bronze, silver or gold medals at the end. These provide the player with coins, a currency which can then be used to unlock specials like energy boosts or offer the chance to skip levels. Of course, this system is also flawed, because those who are in desperate need for some help will most likely not be able to be so fast (although one can make some IAPs to get the fake money for real money). And those who like to better themselves in the score-attack-way won’t make use of these options anyway.


Visual excellence and auditory perceptions
Despite the aforementioned technical difficulties, the game looks quite good with interesting hand-sculpted stop-motion animated graphics and a distinct hand-drawn art style in the few still cutscenes. The soundtrack is also of high quality, even if the atmospheric tunes could have done with more variety. The same holds true for the level design. Except for the intermissions and the addition of more gameplay elements, the backgrounds are almost indistinguishable, making progression less motivating or rewarding for the player.


Innovation needs a more polished game
Kyttaro Games’ Droidscape: Basilica is a brave attempt to try something new in the puzzle-heavy mobile gaming market. To a certain degree, it succeeds in offering an interesting gameplay idea which only suffers from the high difficulty curve and control issues. It certainly has a unique style as well, but the way how the story is told is rather detached from the game itself. As it is, the game provides quite a lot of fun with many levels to complete.

Another plus is that the IAPs are not really necessary, so it’s no pay-to-win model, as one can easily buy it for 1,99 Dollars and be happy with the game. Although some more chapters seem to be added in the future. If they will just come with an update or require additional cash remains to be seen.

There’s also an experimental head tracking control system which might not be the easiest way to success, but it shows the developer’s ambition to innovate. If you’re still not sure if the gameplay suits you, why not try out the free Droid Arcade?

Rating: 7/10

Buy the game on
the iTunes store

Official Website

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Mobile Gaming: Review of “Nakama” (iOS)

Mobile gaming has always been about simple ideas executed in an easy-to-pick-up way and usually left hardcore gamers out in the cold. Does Chi Trung Tran’s arcade brawler Nakama have the ingredients for a satisfying meal of 2D fighting to please casual and arcade gamers alike?

Nakama (iOS)
(Germany 2013, developer: Chi Trung Tran/Crescent Moon Games, publisher: Crescent Moon Games, platforms: iOS, Android)


Classic story of revenge
The story of the game is structured as simple as the gameplay itself: Rescue each fighter of your village from small bosses and defeat the big boss with their unique abilities. There isn’t much of a plot or character development, but it fits the retro arcade style and is also reminiscent of old-school martial arts movies when beating up the bad guys to save someone was enough. Still, there’s a bit of personality in the individual nakamas, the people one saves, although these are more about the different looks and skills than actual relationships. Unlike most RPGs or action-adventures, there’s no banter between the main character and those who accompany him. Except for some often funny one-liners of the bosses, there’s simply no talking involved, as fists and feet fly around.


Classic fighting and frustrations
The combat system is also extremely simple, which has its advantages and disadvantages. For one thing, only four buttons are required: the left and right buttons for movement, and the A and B button for jumping and fighting respectively. Holding the B button a bit longer unleashes a stronger attack, while jumping and kicking makes the character move faster. It’s an easy-to-learn system but obviously lacks the deeper understanding of combos the beat-em-up genre is usually associated with. Of course it’s totally fine to have a two-button system, but when enemies are as unforgiving and unpredictable as in this game, the button-bashing can get pretty frustrating. The best way to progress is usually to use the stronger attack, but if one gets hit by an enemy and thrown back into another crowd of nasties without having any chance of striking back or even knowing where one’s own fighter is because of too much going on, there’s simply something very wrong with the system.


Despite the various backgrounds, the level structure never changes. While new antagonists are introduced and some boss fights require a bit more reflexes (not really thinking, as these encounters usually turn out to be even more hectic and unpredictable), the gameplay only consists of clearing one screen after another and beating a boss. Failure means restarting the level with no checkpoints in between, making it often a frustrating experience, especially since the difficulty isn’t well-balanced: One level might pose a challenge due to certain enemy types, while others can be breezed through.


We need more Nakamas
More variety to the fighting system is how the nakamas’ unique abilities come into play. Unfortunately, it’s again a nice idea badly executed: After each defeated boss, the rescued village fighter joins the hero, but he or she can’t be selected individually. Most have their own fighting style and therefore stronger attacks, while one (a female) throws around hearts which fill up the player’s life energy (usually only to be collected after defeating some enemies). It’s only too bad that the latter is found near the ending and shows up after all the others are killed. A menu system to arrange the order in which they fight and more variety in their attacks and explanations would have made this more than just a nice idea. As it stands, the inclusion of additional fighters simply means one uses them as cannon fodder, waiting until they kill some enemies, and not get in the way. A bit of strategy is involved by picking up hearts which not only fill the player’s life energy but also the ones of his companions. But other than that, this adds to more cluttering of the chaotic fighting screen than is necessary.


Change of place and pace
Also included is an endless score attack mode called the Ghost Forest which is only one screen on which the hero and his nakamas battle it out against a wave of ever-increasing and stronger baddies. This is even more chaotic, as not one fighter, but all of them are onscreen at the same time. However, this is strangely quite a lot of fun, further enhanced by the possibility to upgrade strength and life energy in a shop mid-game after collecting a certain amount of coins enemies leave behind. One can also buy instant hearts to fill up one’s life energy or boost attacks for a short amount of time. Why this upgrade system hasn’t made it into the main story mode or at least influenced its design is difficult to understand, as it would definitely have made proceedings less frustrating and progression more satisfying.


Tranquility and silence is not found here
The visual presentation of the game offers some wonderful pixel art which is great in motion, especially with small details like blossom petals flying around or how the enemies burst into a shower of pixels after being defeated. Despite the occasional slowdown with too many fighters on screen, the animations are usually fluid, while the sound effects and music also add to the hectic proceedings, but in a good way. Maybe there are a few too many pan flutes involved, but the score still conveys the feeling of playing an old-school martial arts movie.


A fighter with style against the masses
The one-man project Nakama by Chi Trun Tran is a joy to look at and listen to. While its gameplay mechanics are sound for a while, they’re also flawed and suffer from repetitiveness. The harsh difficulty and lack of a deeper combo system in addition to the less successful implementation of having other characters fight side by side also make it something of a missed opportunity.

The potential of a fun game which lasts longer is definitely there, but in this form, it needs more polishing to really convince both the casual mobile gaming crowd and arcade classics aficionados to choose it over other titles on the platforms. Although with the small entry price, one could do worse than at least give this a try, if only for style over substance reasons.

Rating: 6.5/10

Buy the game on
the iTunes store
Google Play

Official Website

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Indie Royale Atomic Bundle

Another quick interruption of the reviewing flow, I’d like to point you in the direction of the weekly Indie Royale update with the Atomic Bundle.


This time it’s mostly all about arcade gaming made apparent in the side-scrolling space shooter Humans Must Answer, horizontal shmup Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection, top-down classic blaster The Chaos Engine, and space-sim Solar Struggle. But there’s also some dipping into other genres in the 3D planet-hopping puzzler Cube & Star: An Arbitrary Love, customizable mutiplayer mechwarrior third-person shooter Fields of War, and sci-fi FPS with RPG elements Livalink.

In addition to the Warped Edition of Cube and Star and the awesome soundtrack of The Chaos Engine, you can also get the Classics, too album by Remute when paying more than 5 Euros. But be warned, this one is pretty heavy on techno sounds, and for my taste, it’s a bit too repetitive and annoying to listen to.

Indie Royale’s newest bundle showcases a high degree of quality this time around with the timeless but brutally difficult The Chaos Engine and also some beautifully realized arcade shooters. Humans Must Answer and Solar Struggle are of particular interest here. So what’re you waiting for? Get the bundle before the offer expires tomorrow.

Humans Must Answer
(Ukraine 2013, developer/publisher: SumomGames, platform: PC)


Official Website

Cube & Star: An Arbitrary Love
(Australia 2014, developer/publisher: Doppler Interactive, platform: PC)


Official Website

The Chaos Engine
(UK 1993/Netherlands 2014, developer: The Bitmap Brothers/Abstraction Games, publisher: Renegade Software/Mastertronic, platforms: Amiga, PC)


Official Website

Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection
(UK 2014, developer: Flump Studios, publisher: Kiss Ltd., platforms: PC, Xbox 360)


Official Website

Fields of War
(Israel 2014, developer/publisher: Virtual Mirror Game Studios Ltd., platform: PC)


Official Website

(Australia 2013, developer/publisher: Ben Massey, platform: PC)


Official Website

Solar Struggle
(Germany 2012, developer/publisher: Z-Software GmbH, platform: PC)


Official Website

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Daedalic Steam Weekend Deal Sale

Taking a short break from reviews (with more coming up soon), I’d like to draw your attention to a pretty cool Steam sale, including games developed and/or published by Daedalic Entertainment. As most of their titles have already been reviewed here with generally high scores, this might be the best time to experience them yourselves for a cheap price.


The following games can be bought separately, and if available I’ll provide the corresponding score they received here:

1954 Alcatraz: 9,99 EUR
A New Beginning – Final Cut: 2,49 EUR
Blackguards: 19,99 EUR
Blackguards Untold Legends DLC: 2,49 EUR
Blackguards Deluxe Edition: 29,99 EUR
Chaos on Deponia: 6,79 EUR (Score: 8/10)
Deponia: 1,99 EUR (Score: 7/10)
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout: 7,49 EUR
Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes: 4,99 EUR
Gomo: 2,71 EUR
Goodbye Deponia: 9,99 EUR (Score: 7.5/10)
Journey of a Roach: 2,99 EUR (Score: 9/10)
Memoria: 9,99 EUR (Score: 8/10)
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav: 4,99 EUR (Score: 9/10)
The Night of the Rabbit: 6,79 EUR (Score: 8.5/10)
The Whispered World: 1,99 EUR

If you want to have all of them, you can also get the Daedalic Super Bundle for 49,99 EUR.

The offers expire tomorrow, Monday April 13, at 6:59 pm CET.

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Indie Adventures: “Journey of a Roach” (PC)

Cockroaches in real life are no fun, and maybe that’s why there aren’t so many games with them in the lead roles. But Swiss developer Koboldgames’ Journey of a Roach might just be what the adventure genre and the misunderstood creatures need to survive.

Journey of a Roach (PC)
(Switzerland 2013, developer: Koboldgames, publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)


Cockroach Jim has to help find his new friend Bud in a maze-like underground tunnel system and discover the secrets of a postnuclear world.

The story of a survivor
A cockroach as a main protagonist is an interesting idea, and even if Bad Mojo did it first with an FMV approach, the story still delivers a unique experience and succeeds in making the player sympathize with the crawlies he encounters. The plot seems simplistic at first, but soon introduces more mature themes other than the danger of a nuclear fallout. It’s also about obedience and hierarchy, while compassion and love for the small things in life are celebrated. If this sounds like too much environmentalist talk, it turns out to be less telling and more showing due to the lack of spoken dialogues. Except for some sounds the characters make, everything is told in images contained in speech bubbles, which is especially refreshing, considering how much time is spent in adventure games listening to endless conversations. The overall story development is a bit predictable, and there’s not much time to really get to know Jim and Bud with a rather abrupt ending, but the plot is engaging enough to walk or crawl from one environment to the other.


The world of fallout fighters
What is also surprising is how well the actions of the individual characters and a few image bubbles turn each NPC into a memorable person regardless of what one usually associates with the critters. Taking into account how hard it is for a comic adventure to have humorous and believable characters nowadays, it’s all the more gratifying to see the debut of a small indie developer achieve what so few others fail with their pseudo-funny writing. Just as an example, there’s a spider mom who cares so much for her babies who each have their pet peeves (no pun intended), while an old army general in the form of a cockroach with a cane remembers the good old times and wants to start a revolution. It’s these moments when one is simply lost in the world the developers created and wants to spend more and more time there. It’s only too bad that the playtime is just 4-5 hours.


Puzzling upside down
The puzzles are just as crazy as the characters who Jim interacts with. While they require a fair bit of obscure thinking, they’re generally a lot of fun to solve, while the additional third dimension makes them even more difficult. Despite the direct-control-system either by keyboard or gamepad, the game is still a classic point-and-click adventure with objects to pick up, to combine and to use with the environment or characters. Going up walls and walking on the ceiling adds another dimension and often requires thinking about how to reach areas after performing certain actions. This obviously means backtracking, and it isn’t always clear what to do or where to go, which becomes more of a problem in the last part of the game with quite a few rooms to visit and items to collect. Another issue of the puzzle design is that the objects are picked up without a comment of the character and one has to pay close attention to what the thought bubble says when looking at them in the inventory, as the hints are just as obscure to figure out.


Even if navigating the environment can be tricky and the solutions to problems are not always obvious, the imagination of object combinations and character interaction makes for a fun gaming experience, which is greatly helped by the way multiple goals can be achieved at the same time, something classic point-and-clickers have done so well. Getting stuck in one situation simply means other things can be done which can then again also open up more possibilities or paths. The way these individual tasks are connected in the game world and how the story plays out is encouragement enough to try out even the strangest ideas.


Stumbling blocks with falling down gameplay
Unfortunately, the unique control system makes navigating Jim’s surroundings cumbersome and fiddly. The camera movement can also be disorienting and to some degree nauseating for people with motion sickness when moving from the ground to walls and the ceiling. A hotspot key is helpful to find the right points of interaction or items which can be easily overlooked, although it’s often the case that some objects have to be circumvented. This is extremely annoying in some parts of the game when pixel-perfect movement is required. Avoiding traps is another problem which is not made easier by throwing the player back to the beginning.


Comic(al) 3D with groovy sounds to crawl to
Like the unusual characters and fun storytelling, the visual presentation of the game is original as well with a comic look refreshingly unlike the typical 2D hand-drawn backgrounds and static characters Daedalic is usually associated with. It might not showcase the best in 3D graphics, but the engine is strong enough to bring a vibrant world to life on even older computers with only few instances of slowdown. The animations don’t reach the same level of quality other 3D(-action)-adventures have, but they weirdly fit the critters’ own restricted movements.


The color palette is not as drab as one might expect from most 3D-adventures and the subterranean surroundings, but more varied, while the mix of cheerful jazz music and sometimes scary minimalistic piano sounds add immensely to the atmosphere. Cutscenes are presented in a doodle-style one has to get used to, but which again set the unique tone for this game, making it different from so many other comic adventures.


A roach to like and a game to love
Daedalic Entertainment has proven itself to be a developer with the knack for crazy comic and also some more serious point-and-click adventures over the years. Now it shows its publishing skills by introducing Kobold Games’ Journey of a Roach to the gaming world with much success in the process. The art style might not be for everyone, and the puzzle design can be a bit too obscure. But then again, when the solutions are just as much fun as the problems, sometimes even reaching the level of quality LucasArts games had back in the days, it shows the developer’s love for the genre and the understanding of what made those games so great.

It’s too bad then that the lovely crafted world and its characters with their own unique graphics style are let down by the lack of hints and a cumbersome control system whose problems become apparent in unnecessarily difficult sequences which require both timing and patience, something found in platformers, but which are out of place in this puzzle-heavy adventure game.

Even if the playtime is pretty short and the story isn’t particularly new, this is a title to recommend to all adventure game fans who prefer solving fun puzzles and being immersed in a memorable world with whacky characters over endless dialogues and cutscenes. Koboldgames is definitely a developer to keep a close eye on in the future.

Rating: 9/10

Buy the PC game on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK (Import)
Amazon USA (Download)

Official Website

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Indie Royale Florida Bundle

It’s time for a short break from reviewing bigger game titles and to have a look at what Indie Royale has come up with their Florida Bundle.


Variety in genres and gameplay is the name of the game this time around with futuristic hi-tech tower-defense title Defense Technica, oozing with graffiti-hip-hop style action game Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, medieval RTS Stronghold Crusader HD, dark survival horror BlackSoul: Extended Edition, colorful platformer Angvik, score-attack action awesomely titled Zombies On A Plane, and arcade shooter with customization Space Ranger – Arcade Shooter Kit.

There’s only one extra with the soundtrack of Zombies On A Plane which is actually just one MP3, but if you want some more music to listen to, you can unlock the fast-paced chiptune album Lost Tapes 1 (DATA034) by Zabutom.

After a rather questionable Steam-only affair with the last bundle, the newest one shows some more strength. Even though Stronghold Crusader HD has already been featured in another Indie Royale Bundle, the mix of various genres is refreshing, and the compilation is simply worth to buy just for the addictive Zombies On A Plane. So don’t wait and get it before the offer expires tomorrow.

Defense Technica
(Korea 2014, developer: Kuno Interactive, publisher: Devolver Digital, platform: PC)


Official Website

Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
(USA 2006, developer: The Collective, Inc. (now Double Helix Games), publisher: Devolver Digital, platforms: PC, PS2, Xbox)


Official Website

Stronghold Crusader HD
(UK 2012, developer: Firefly Studios, publisher: Take-Two Interactive, platform: PC)


Official Website

BlackSoul: Extended Edition
(Italy 2013, developer/publisher: XeniosVisions, platform: PC)


Official Website

(Australia 2013, developer/publisher: alastair john jack, platform: PC)


Official Website

Zombies On A Plane
(UK 2014, developer/publisher: Shangri-la Game Studios, platforms: PC, iOS)


Official Website

Space Ranger – Arcade Shooter Kit
(Denmark 2013, developer/publisher: The Mojo Collective, platform: PC)


Official Website

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